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U.S.

Supreme Court
Chavez v. United States, 175 U.S. 552 (1899)

Chavez v. United States

No. 14

Argued October 17-18, 1899

Decided December 22, 1899

175 U.S. 552

APPEAL FROM THE COURT

OF PRIVATE LAND CLAIMS

Syllabus

In Mexico, in 1831, a departmental assembly or territorial deputation had no power or


authority to make a grant of lands, and the fact that the governor presided at a meeting
of the territorial deputation at the time such a grant was made, makes no difference, as
the power to make the grant was exclusively in the governor, and the territorial
deputation had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The statement of the case will be found in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of Private Land Claims refusing to
confirm the title of the appellant to

Page 175 U. S. 553

some 5,000 acres of land in New Mexico, about one league from the Manzano grant.
The title is evidenced by a grant by the territorial deputation of New Mexico, made in
1831, and the first question in the case relates to the authority of that body to make the
grant.

It is also contended that if the territorial deputation did not have the power to make the
grant, and that power rested with the governor of the department, his presence in the
territorial deputation as its ex officio president when the grant was made, and, so far as
the record shows, his not protesting but acquiescing in its action, was equivalent to and
the same as a grant made by himself in his official character as governor.
It is further stated that, by reason of the action of the governor in writing the letter dated
December 22, 1831, and hereinafter set forth, that officer ratified and confirmed the
grant, and in effect made it his own.

It appears from the record that, on February 28, 1831, citizen Nerio Antonio Montoya
petitioned the honorable corporation of Tome, and asked it that it would append to his
petition its own report to the most excellent deputation, so that that body should grant
him the land described in the petition. The corporation of Tome, on the 19th of March,
1831, granted the prayer of the petitioner, and adopted a resolution which provided that
his petition should

"go before the most excellent territorial deputation, which, as the authority competent,
may accede to the donation of the land prayed for by the said petitioner without injuring
the pastures and watering places for the passers-by."

The resolution was accordingly forwarded to the territorial deputation, and that body on
November 12, 1831, took action as follows:

"(Extract from record of proceedings of the territorial deputation,"

"session of November 12, 1831)"

"The foregoing record having been read and approved, a petition of citizen Nerio
Montoya, a resident of Valencia, in which he asks for the donation, for agricultural
purposes, of a tract of vacant land in the Manzano within the limits of the Ojo de en
Medio as far as the rancheria, was taken up and the

Page 175 U. S. 554

report of the respectable corporation council of Tome, in which it is set forth that there is
no objection to the concession of the said land, having been heard it was ordered that it
be granted."

"* * * *"

"The session was adjourned."

"Santiago Abreu, President (Rubrick)"

"Juan Rafael Ortiz (Rubrick)"

"Anto. Jose Martinez (Rubrick)"

"Jose Manl. Salazar (Rubrick)"

"Teodosio Quintana (Rubrick)"


"Ramon Abreu, Secretary (Rubrick)"

In accordance with this action, the following direction by the deputation, signed by its
secretary, was given the alcalde of the proper jurisdiction:

"Santa Fe, November 12, 1831"

"The honorable the deputation of this territory, having received the report of the
constitutional council of Tome, appended to this petition, has resolved in this day's
session to grant the land prayed for by the petitioner, charging the alcalde of said
jurisdiction to execute the document that will secure the grantee in the grant hereby
made to him."

"Abreu, Secretary"

The alcalde thereupon executed a document which, after reciting that,

"In obedience to the decree of the most excellent deputation of this territory made under
date of November 12 of the current year on the margin of the petition which, under date
of February 28, the citizen Nerio Antonio Montoya, resident of this said jurisdiction,
presented to this honorable council, and on which petition is recorded the report made
by this council, in accordance with which report its excellency has deemed it proper to
accede to the petition of Montoya, granting him full and formal possession of the tract
he prayed for,"

etc., declared that

"Montoya, whenever he may choose or think best to do, may notify me to proceed with
him to the locality to place him in possession of the property

Page 175 U. S. 555

granted him, with all the customary formality,"

etc. This was dated December 7, 1831, and signed by the alcalde.

On December 12 in the same year, the same alcalde,

"in compliance with the provision made by this most excellent deputation of this territory
and the notification given me by the citizen Nerio Antonio Montoya,"

proceeded with Montoya to the tract of land granted him and placed him in possession
thereof, the act being signed by the alcalde.

There was also put in evidence on the trial of the action in the court below, on the
question of ratification, the following:
"Office of the Political Chief of New Mexico"

"By your official communication of the 20th instant, I am advised of your having
executed the decree of the most excellent deputation granting to the citizen Nerio
Antonio Montoya a tract of land."

"But in regard to the inquiry you make of me, as to how much your fee should be, I
inform you that I am ignorant in the premises, and that you may, if you choose to do, put
the question to the assessor (asesor), who is the officer to whom it belongs, to advise
the justices of first instance in such cases."

"God and Liberty. Santa Fe, December 22, 1831."

"Jose Antonio Chavez"

"To Alderman Miguel Olona"

Various mesne conveyances were put in evidence on the trial, showing the transfer to
the appellant of whatever title Montoya had to the land described, and it was then
admitted that the appellant herein has succeeded to all the rights of the original grantee,
if any, in this case. Evidence of possession under this grant was also given.

The court below held that the departmental assembly or territorial deputation had no
power or authority to make a grant of lands at the time the grant in this case was
attempted to be made, and that the fact that the governor may have presided at the
meeting at the time the action was taken made no difference, as the power to make the

Page 175 U. S. 556

grant was exclusively in the governor, and the territorial deputation had no jurisdiction in
the matter. The claim was therefore rejected.

We think that in thus deciding, the court below was right.

We refer to some of the cases which show the territorial deputation did not have the
power to make a grant, but only the power to subsequently approve it.

In United States v. Vallejo, 1 Black 541, it was held that the Mexican law of 1824 and
the regulations of 1828 altered and repealed the Spanish system of disposing of public
lands, and that the law and the regulations from the time of their passage were the only
laws of Mexico on the subject of granting public lands in the territories. It was also held
that the governor did not possess any power to make grants public lands independently
of that conferred by the act of 1824 and the regulations of 1828. Mr. Justice Nelson,
who delivered the opinion of the Court in that case, refers to the various sections of the
law of 1824, and also to the regulations of November, 1828, for the purpose of showing
that the governors of the territories were authorized to grant vacant lands within their
respective territories with the object of cultivation or settlement, and that the grants
made by them to individuals or families were not to be definitively valid without the
previous consent of the departmental assembly, and when the grant petitioned for had
been definitively made a patent, signed by the governor, was to be issued, which was to
serve as a title to the party. This case did not decide that the territorial deputation could
not make a valid grant, because the grant was made by the governor, but the various
extracts from the law and regulations indicate very plainly that the authority to initiate a
grant of public lands existed in the governor alone, and not in the assembly.

In United States v. Vigil, 13 Wall. 449, it was held that departmental assemblies
(territorial deputations) had no power to make a grant.

In his argument at the bar, counsel for this appellant contended that the territorial
deputation had lawful power and

Page 175 U. S. 557

authority to make the grant to Montoya, and in order to maintain that proposition, stated
that it was necessary to discuss the effect of the decision of this Court in United States
v. Vigil. He claimed that what was said as to the lack of power in the territorial
deputation to make a grant was not necessary to the decision of the Court in that case,
and that such expressions as were therein used regarding the question would not
therefore constitute a precedent now binding on this Court.

In Vigil's case, there was a petition to the departmental assembly, through the Governor
of New Mexico, asking for a grant of land which in fact amounted to over two million, the
grantees binding themselves, if the grant were made, to construct two wells for the relief
and aid of travelers, and to establish two factories for the use of the state, and to protect
them from hostile invasion. The governor transmitted the petition to the assembly, but
declined to recommend that favorable action should be taken upon it. The assembly,
notwithstanding this refusal, granted the tract on January 10, 1846, for the purpose of
constructing wells and cultivating the land, etc., and the question was as to the validity
of this grant.

The opinion was delivered by Mr. Justice Davis, who stated that it had been repeatedly
decided by this Court that the only laws in force in the territories of Mexico, for the
disposition of public lands, with the exception of those relating to missions and towns,
were the act of the Mexican Congress of 1824 and the regulations of 1828. In the
course of his opinion, he said:

"These regulations conferred on the governors of the territories, 'the political chiefs,' as
they are called, the authority to grant vacant lands, and did not delegate it to the
departmental assembly. It is true the grant was not complete until the approval of the
assembly, and in this sense the assembly and governor acted concurrently, but the
initiative must be taken by the governor. He was required to act in the first instance -- to
decide whether the petitioner was a fit person to receive the grant, and whether the land
itself could be granted without prejudice to the public or individuals. In case the

Page 175 U. S. 558

information was satisfactory on these points, he was authorized to make the grant, and
at the proper time to lay it before the assembly, who were required to give or withhold
their consent. They were in this respect an advisory body to the governor, and
sustained the same relation to him that the Senate of the United States does to the
President in the matter of appointments and treaties."

A subsequent portion of the opinion dealt with the case upon the assumption that the
grant had been made by the governor, and even in that case it was said the grant would
have been invalid because it violated the fundamental rule on which the right of
donation was placed by the law; that the essential element of colonization was wanting,
and that the number of acres granted was enormously in excess of the maximum
quantity grantable under the law. This in nowise affected the prior ground upon which
the opinion was based, that the departmental assembly had no power to make the
grant. That was the essential and material question directly involved in the case, while
the second ground mentioned was based upon an assumption that, even if the governor
had made the grant, it would still have been void for the reason stated. The court did not
base its decision that the departmental assembly had no power to make the grant
because of its enormous extent. It held that the assembly had no power to make any
grant, no matter what its size. It is, as we think, a decision covering this case.

In Hayes v. United States, 170 U. S. 637, the grant was by the territorial deputation of
New Mexico, and it was stated by MR. JUSTICE WHITE, speaking for the Court, that

"it cannot be in reason held that a title to land derived from a territory which the territorial
authorities did not own, over which they had no power of disposition, was regularly
derived from either Spain or Mexico or a State of the Mexican nation."

No presumption that the territorial deputations had authority to make grants can arise
from the fact that in some instances those bodies assumed to make them. The case in
this respect bears no resemblance to United States v. Percheman, 7 Pet. 51, 32 U. S.
96, or to United States v. Clarke, 8 Pet. 436, 33 U. S. 447, 33 U. S. 453. In those cases,
it was not denied that the governor had authority in

Page 175 U. S. 559

some circumstances to make grants, and it was therefore held that a grant made by him
was prima facie evidence that he had not exceeded his power in making it, and that he
who denied it took upon himself the burden of showing that the officer by making the
grant had transcended the power reposed in him. There is in the case before us no
evidence that the territorial deputation had the power, in any event, to make grants
other than the fact that in some instances it assumed to make them.
The cases heretofore decided in this Court, and some of which have been above
referred to, show that such fact is inadequate to prove the existence of the authority.

It is, however, urged that the record of the action of the territorial deputation in regard to
this grant shows that the governor and ex officio president of the deputation was
present when the deputation decided to make the grant as petitioned for, and that his
being so present and attesting the action of the deputation was equivalent to the making
of the grant himself as governor. We do not think so. He did not assume to make any
grant whatever, and certainly none in his character as governor. It does not even
appear beyond doubt that he was present when the deputation made the grant. His
signature is perfectly consistent with a mere authentication of the previous action of that
body.

The petition of Montoya was addressed primarily to the corporation of Tome, and he
requested that corporation to send his petition, approved by it, to the deputation to make
him a grant of the land described in his petition. Acting under that request, the
corporation of Tome sent his petition to the "most excellent territorial deputation," and
asked that body to accede to the donation of the land prayed for. In conformity to the
petition, the territorial deputation itself made the grant. The fact that the governor,
being ex officio a member of the deputation, signed as president of that body the record
of the act of the deputation is not the equivalent of a grant by him in his official character
of governor, nor does such act bear any resemblance to a grant by him. No one on
reading the record would get the idea that the governor

Page 175 U. S. 560

was himself making the grant, or that he thereby intended so to do. It does not even
show that he was in favor of the grant as made by the deputation. His signing the record
constituted nothing more than an authentication of the act of the deputation. It purported
to be nothing else. He might have properly signed the record if in fact he had voted
against the grant, and had been opposed to the action of the assembly. He might have
signed the record as an authentication, and yet have been absent at the time of the
action of the assembly. In any event, it was his signature as an ex officio member or
presiding officer of the deputation, attesting or perhaps assenting to its action, and it
was not his action as governor making a grant in that capacity. The signature by the
secretary alone, to the instrument (above set forth, dated November 12, 1831) which
recites the previous action of the deputation, and charges the alcalde of the jurisdiction
to execute the document which will secure the grantee in the grant, is simply a direction
to the alcalde, and has no materiality upon this branch of the case other than as
confirming the view that the grant was solely that of the deputation.

We cannot hold that, when the power was given under the laws of Mexico to the
governor to make grants of lands, he in any manner exercised that power, or performed
an act equivalent to its exercise, by presiding ex officio at a meeting of the territorial
deputation which made a grant of lands in conformity to a petition solely addressed to it
and by authenticating as president the action of the deputation in deciding that the grant
should be made.

The two positions, president of the deputation and governor, are separate and distinct,
and the action of a governor merely as president of the deputation, and of the nature
above described is not in any sense and does not purport to be his separate and
independent action as governor, making a grant of lands pursuant to a petition
addressed to him officially. As governor, he might refuse the grant upon a petition
addressed to himself, when as president of the deputation he might sign the record
authenticating its action in regard to a petition

Page 175 U. S. 561

addressed solely to that body. And it is obvious from the wording of the record that the
president of the deputation was not assuming to act as governor upon a petition
addressed to himself, but only as the president of the deputation. It might have been
that he acquiesced in the assumption by the deputation of the right to make the grant,
but his act of signing the record cannot be tortured into a grant or as the equivalent of a
grant by himself.

It is further urged that there has been what amounts to a grant by the governor by
reason of his letter of December 22, 1831, signed by him and above set forth, thus, as
is claimed, ratifying the grant of the deputation and making it his own.

The only evidence that the person who signed the letter was the governor at that time is
the heading of the letter, "Office of the Political Chief of New Mexico." It will be also
noted that the person signing it is not the same one who signed the record of November
12, 1831, as president of the deputation. But, assuming that Chavez was governor in
December, 1831, when he signed the letter, he therein simply acknowledged the receipt
of the official communication of the alcalde, in which that officer reports that he had
executed the decree "of the most excellent deputation, granting to the citizen Nerio
Antonio Montoya a tract of land." In reply to the question as to how much the alcalde's
fee should be, he answered that he was ignorant of the premises, and advised the
alcalde to put the question to the assessor, the officer to whom it belonged to advise the
justices in the first instances in such cases.

Now what does the governor ratify by this letter? Nothing.

The contention in favor of the grant, based upon the letter, is that, assuming the
governor had power to make the grant, it was his duty when he learned from the report
of the alcalde that one had been made by the deputation, and that possession had been
delivered under it, to protest against and to deny the power of the deputation to make
such grant, and unless he did so, his silence was evidence of the fact that he not only
approved the act of the deputation in making the grant, but that he approved it as his
own, and that such
Page 175 U. S. 562

approval was the same as if the governor had himself made the grant, and in substance
and effect it was his grant.

This contention, we think, is not founded upon any legal principle, and is in itself
unreasonable. The writer of the letter is not the same person who signed the record of
the proceedings of the deputation. The report of the alcalde gave him the information
which, it is true, he may have had before, that the deputation had assumed the power to
grant the land. His protest as to the legality of such action would not have altered the
fact that it had occurred, while, on the other hand, his silence might simply be construed
as evidence of his unreadiness at that time to dispute, or possibly of his belief in the
validity of the action of the deputation. Or his silence might have been simply the result
of his approval of the act of the alcalde in obeying the commands of the deputation,
while he thought it was not the proper occasion upon which to contest or deny the
validity of the grant which the deputation had actually made. Many reasons for his
silence might be suggested, but the claim that it equaled in law a positive grant by the
governor is, as we think, untenable.

While such silence is entirely consistent with other views that might have been held by
the governor, it certainly cannot properly be ascribed, as a legal inference from the facts
stated, to his desire to make the grant himself, nor could it be said that his desire (if he
had it) was the legal equivalent of an actual grant.

His knowledge that another body had assumed to make a grant is not equivalent to the
making of the grant himself, and he was the person who alone had power to make it.
There is nothing in the letter which aids the plaintiff herein.

Finally, it distinctly appears that the possession of the parties is insufficient in length of
time to prove a valid title. In United States v. Chaves, 159 U. S. 452, the possession
was under the claim of a grant made by the governor of New Mexico to the alleged
grantees. The grant had been lost, but it had been seen and read by witnesses, and its
existence had been proved by evidence sufficient, as was stated in the opinion

Page 175 U. S. 563

(page 159 U. S. 460), to warrant

"the finding of the court below that the complainants' title was derived from the Republic
of Mexico, and was complete and perfect at the date when the United States acquired
sovereignty in the Territory of New Mexico, within which the land was situated."

We do not question the correctness of the remarks made by MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS in
regard to evidence of possession and the presumptions which may under certain
circumstances be drawn as to the existence of a grant.
We do not deny the right or the duty of a court to presume its existence in a proper
case, in order to quiet a title and to give to long continued possession the quality of a
rightful possession under a legal title. We recognize and enforce such rule in the case
of United States v. Chavez, decided at this term, in which the question is involved. We
simply say in this case that the possession was not of a duration long enough to justify
any such inference.

There is no proof of any valid grant, but, on the contrary, the evidence offered by the
plaintiff himself and upon which he bases the title that he asks the court to confirm,
shows the existence of a grant from a body which had no legal power to make it, and
which therefore conveyed no title whatever to its grantee, and the evidence is, as given
by the plaintiff himself, that it was under this grant alone that possession of the lands
was taken. We cannot presume (within the time involved in this case) that any other and
valid grant was ever made. The possession of the plaintiff and of his grantors up to the
time of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848, had not been long enough to
presume a grant. Crespin v. United States, 168 U. S. 208; Hayes v. United States, 170
U. S. 637, 170 U. S. 649; Hays v. United States, ante, 175 U. S. 248. The possession
subsequently existing, we cannot notice. Same authorities.

We think the judgment of the court below should be

Affirmed.
G.R. No. 1413 March 30, 1904

ANDRES VALENTON, ET AL., plaintiffs-appellants,


vs.
MANUEL MURCIANO, defendant-appellee.

Montagne and Dominguez for appellants.


Del Pan, Ortigas and Fisher for appellee.

WILLARD, J.:

I. The findings of fact made by the court below in its decision are as follows:

First. That in the year 1860, the plaintiffs, and each one of them, entered into the peaceful
and quiet occupation and possession of the larger part of the lands described in the
complaint of the plaintiffs, to wit [description]:

Second. That on the date on which the plaintiffs entered into the occupation and possession
of the said lands, as above set forth, these lands and every part thereof were public, untilled,
and unoccupied, and belonged to the then existing Government of the Philippine Islands.
That immediately after the occupation and possession of the said lands by the plaintiffs, the
plaintiffs began to cultivate and improve them in a quiet and peaceful manner.

Third. That from the said year 1860, the plaintiffs continued to occupy and possess the said
lands, quietly and peacefully, until the year 1892, by themselves, by their agents and
tenants, claiming that they were the exclusive owners of said lands.

Fourth. That on or about the 16th day of January, 1892, Manuel Murciano, defendant in this
proceeding, acting on behalf of and as attorney in fact of Candido Capulong, by occupation a
cook, denounced the said lands to the then existing Government of the Philippine Islands,
declaring that the said lands every part thereof were public, untilled, and unoccupied lands
belonging to the then existing Government of the Philippine Islands, and petitioned for the
sale of the same to him.

Fifth. That before the execution of the sale heretofore mentioned, various proceedings were
had for the survey and measurement of the lands in question at the instance of the
defendant, Murciano, the latter acting as agent and attorney in fact of said Candido
Capulong, a written protest, however, having been entered against these proceedings by the
plaintiff Andres Valenton.

Sixth. That on the 14th day of July, 1892, Don Enrique Castellvie Ibarrola, secretary of the
treasury of the Province of Tarlac, in his official capacity as such secretary, executed a
contract of purchase and sale, by which said lands were sold and conveyed by him to the
defendant, Manuel Murciano, as attorney for the said Candido Capulong.

Seventh. That on the 19th day of July, 1892, said Candido Capulong executed a contract of
purchase and sale, by which he sold and conveyed the said lands to the defendants, Manuel
Murciano.

Eight. That from the said 14th day of July, 1892, Manuel Murciano has at no time occupied
or possessed all of the land mentioned, but has possessed only certain in distinct and
indefinite portions of the same. That during all this time the plaintiffs have opposed the
occupation of the defendant, and said plaintiffs during all the time in question have been and
are in the possession and occupation of part of the said lands, tilling them and improving
them by themselves and by their agents and tenants.

Ninth. That never, prior to the said 14th day of July,, 1892, has the defendant, Manuel
Murciano, been in the peaceful and quiet possession and occupation of the said lands, or in
the peaceful and quiet occupation of any part thereof.

Upon these facts the Court of First Instance ordered judgment for the defendant on the ground that
the plaintiffs had lost all right to the land by not pursuing their objections to the sale mentioned in the
sixth finding. The plaintiffs excepted to the judgment and claim in this court that upon the facts found
by the court below judgment should have been entered in their favor. Their contention is that in 1890
they had been in the adverse possession of the property for thirty years; that, applying the extra
ordinary period of prescription of thirty years, found as well in the Partidas as in the Civil Code, they
then became the absolute owners of the land as against everyone, including the State, and that
when the State in 1892 deeded the property to the defendant, nothing passed by the deed because
the State had nothing to convey.

The case presents, therefore, the important question whether or not during the years from 1860 to
1890 a private person, situated as the plaintiffs were, could have obtained as against the State the
ownership of the public lands of the State by means of occupation. The court finds that at the time of
the entry by the plaintiff in 1860 the lands were vacant and were public lands belonging to the then
existing Government. The plaintiffs do not claim to have ever obtained from the Government any
deed for the lands, nor any confirmation of their possession.

Whether in the absence of any special legislation on the subject a general statute of limitations in
which the State was not expressly excepted would run against the State as to its public lands we do
not find it necessary to decide. Reasons based upon public policy could be adduced why it should
not, at least as to such public lands as are involved in this case. (See Act No. 926, sec. 67.) We are,
however, of the opinion that the case at bar must be decided, not by the general statute of limitation
contained in the Partidas, but by those special laws which from the earliest times have regulated the
disposition of the public lands in the colonies.

Did these special laws recognize any right of prescription against the State as to these lands; and if
so, to what extend was it recognizes? Laws of very early date provided for the assignment of public
lands to the subjects of the Crown. Law 1, title 12, book 4 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las
Indias is an example of them, and is as follows:

In order that our subjects may be encouraged to undertake the discovery and settlement of
the Indies, and that they may live with the comfort and convenience which we desire, it is our
will that there shall be distributed to all those who shall go out to people the new territories,
houses, lots, lands, peonias, and caballerias in the towns and places which may be assigned
to them by the governor of the new settlement, who in apportioning the lands, will distinguish
between gentlemen and peasants, and those of lower degree and merit, and who will add to
the possessions and better the condition of the grantees, according to the nature of the
services rendered by them, and with a view to the promotion of agriculture and stock raising.
To those who shall have labored and established a home on said lands and who shall have
resided in the said settlement for a period of four years we grant the right thereafter to sell
and in every other manner to exercise their free will over said lands as over their own
property. And we further command that, in accordance with their rank and degree, the
governor, or whoever may be invested with our authority, shall allot the Indians to them in
any distribution made, so that they may profit by their labor and fines in accordance with the
tributes required and the law controlling such matters.

And in order that, in allotting said lands, there may be no doubt as to the area of each grant,
we declare that apeonia shall consist of a tract fifty feet in breadth by one hundred in length,
with arable land capable of producing one hundred bushels of wheat or barley, ten bushels
of maize, as much land for an orchard as two yokes of oxen may plough in a day, and for the
planting of other trees of a hardy nature as much as may be plowed with eight yokes in a
day, and including pasture for twenty cows, five mares, one hundred sheep, twenty goats,
and ten breeding pigs. A caballeria shall be a tract one hundred feet in breadth and two
hundred in length, and in other respects shall equal five peonias that is, it will include
arable land capable of producing five hundred bushels of wheat or barley and fifty bushels of
maize, as much land for an orchard as may be ploughed with ten yokes of oxen in a day, and
for the planting of other hardy trees as much as forty yokes may plough in a day, together
with pasturage for one hundred cows, twenty mares, five hundred sheep, one hundred goats,
and fifty breeding pigs. And we order that the distribution be made in such a manner that all
may receive equal benefit therefrom, and if this be impracticable, then that each shall be
given his due.

But it was necessary, however, that action should in all cases be taken by the public officials before
any interest was acquired by the subject.

Law 8 of said title 12 is as follows:

We command that if a petition shall be presented asking the grant of a lot or tract of land in a
city or town in which one of our courts may be located, the presentation shall be made to the
municipal council. If the latter shall approve the petition, two deputy magistrates will be
appointed, who will acquaint the viceroy or municipal president with the council's judgment in
the matter. After consideration thereof by the viceroy or president and the deputy
magistrates, all will sign the grants, in the presence of the clerk of the council, in order that
the matter may be duly recorded in the council book. If the petition shall be for the grant of
waters and lands for mercantile purpose, it shall be presented to the viceroy or municipal
president, who will transmit it to the council. If the latters shall vote to make the grant, one of
the magistrates will carry its decision to the viceroy or president, to the end that, upon
consideration of the matter by him, the proper action may be taken.

It happened, in the course of time, that tracts of the public land were found in the possession of
persons who either had no title papers therefor issued by the State, or whose title papers were
defective, either because the proper procedure had not been followed or because they had been
issued by persons who had no authority to do so. Law 14, title 12 book 4 of said compilation
(referred to in the regulations of June 25, 1880, for the Philippines) was the first of a long series of
legislative acts intended to compel those in possession of the public lands, without written evidence
of title, or with defective title papers, to present evidence as to their possession or grants, and obtain
the confirmation of their claim to ownership. That law is as follows:

We having acquitted full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands territories, and possession
not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by, or in our name, still pertaining
to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper and
true deeds of grants be restored to us according as they belong to us, in order that after
reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may seem
necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are
peopled, taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also the future and
their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage
and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary,
all the rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may
wish.

We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts
designated, at such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period within
which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them, and to
the court officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those who
are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts, or by virtue of just prescriptive right
shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will.

While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to deed if he proves a possession
for a sufficient length of time, yet it has always insisted that he must make that proof before the
proper administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed, and until he did that the State
remained the absolute owner.

In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct statement that all those lands belong to the
Crown which have not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who proceeded him.
This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands no so granted, that did not being to the
king. It excludes the idea that the king was not still the owner of all ungranted lands, because some
private person had been in the adverse occupation of them. By the mandatory part of the law all the
occupants of the public lands are required to produce before the authorities named, and within a
time to be fixed by them, their title papers. And those who had good title or showed prescription were
to be protected in their holdings. It is apparent that it was not the intention of the law that mere
possession for a length of time should make the possessors the owners of the lands possessed by
them without any action on the part of the authorities. It is plain that they were required to present
their claims to the authorities and obtain a confirmation thereof. What the period of prescription
mentioned in this law was does not appear, but latter, in 1646, law 19 of the same title declared "that
no one shall be 'admitted to adjustment' unless he has possessed the lands for ten years."

In law 15, title 12, book 4 of the same compilation, there is a command that those lands as to which
there has been no adjustment with the Government be sold at auction to the highest bidder. That law
is as follows:

For the greater good of our subjects, we order and command that our viceroys and
governing presidents shall do nothing with respect to lands the claims to which have been
adjusted by their predecessors, tending to disturb the peaceful possession of the owners
thereof. As to those who shall have extended their possession beyond the limits fixed in the
original grants, they will be admitted to a moderate adjustment with respect to the excess,
and new title deeds will be issued therefor. And all those lands as to which no adjustment
has been made shall, without exception, be sold at public auction to the highest bidder, the
purchase price therefor to be payable either in cash or in the form of quitrent, in accordance
with the laws and royal ordinances of the kingdoms of Castile. We leave to the viceroys and
president the mode and from in which what is here ordered shall be carried into effect in
order that they may provide for it at the least possible cost; and in order that all unnecessary
expense with respect to the collections for said lands may be avoided, we command that the
same be made by our royal officers in person, without the employment of special collectors,
and to that end availing themselves of the services of our royal courts, and, in places where
courts shall not have been established, of the town mayors.
And whereas, title deeds to lands have been granted by officers not authorized to issue
them, and such titles have been confirmed by us in council, we command that those holding
such a certificate of confirmation may continue to possess the lands to which it refers, and
will, within the limits stated in the confirmation certificate, be protected in their possession;
and with respect to any encroachment beyond such limits will be admitted to the benefits of
this law.

Another legislative act of the same character was the royal cedula of October 15, 1754
(4 Legislacion Ultramarina, Rodriguez San Pedro, 673). Articles 3, 4, and 5 of this royal cedula as
follows:

3. Upon each principal subdelegate's appointment, which will be made in the manner
prescribed in article 1 of this cedula, and upon his receipts of these instructions, of which
every principal subdelegate already designated or who may hereafter be appointed shall be
furnished a copy, said subdelegate will in his turn issue a general order to the courts in the
provincial capitals and principal towns of his district, directing the publication therein, in the
manner followed in connection with the promulgation or general orders of viceroys,
presidents, and administrative courts in matters connected with my service, of these
instructions, to the end that any and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date
of the promulgation and publication of said order, shall have occupied royal lands, whether or
not the same shall be cultivated of tenanted, may, either in person or through their attorneys
or representatives, appear and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and patents by virtue of
which said lands are occupied. Said subdelegates will designate as the period within which
such documents must be presented a term sufficient in length and proportionate to the
distance the interested party may have to travel for the purpose of making the presentation.
Said subdelegates will at the same time warn the parties interested that in case of their
failure to present their title deeds within the term designated, without a just and valid reason
therefor, they will be deprived of an evicted from their lands, and they will be granted to
others.

4. If it shall appear from the titles or instruments presented, or if it shall be shown in any
other legal manner that said persons are in possession of such royal lands by virtue of a sale
or adjustment consummated by duly authorized subdelegates prior to the said year 1700,
although such action may not have been confirmed by my royal person, or by a viceroy or
president, they shall in no wise be molested, but shall be left in the full and quiet possession
of the same; nor shall they be required to pay any fee on account of these proceedings, in
accordance with law 15, title 12, book 4 of the Recopilacion de los Indias, above cited. A
note shall be made upon said title deeds to the effect that his obligation has been complied
with, to the end that the owners of such rival lands and their successors may hereafter be
free from denunciation, summons, or other disturbance in their possession.

Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds it shall be sufficient if they
shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription; provided, however, that if
the lands shall not be in state of cultivation or tillage, the term of three months prescribed by
law 11 of the title and book cited, or such other period as may be deemed adequate, shall be
designated as the period within which the lands must be reduced to cultivation, with the
warning that in case of their failure so to do the lands will be granted, with the same
obligation to cultivate them, to whomsoever may denounce them.

5. Likewise neither shall possessors of lands sold or adjusted by the various subdelegates
from the year 1700 to the present time be molested, disturbed, or denounced, now or at any
other time, with respect to such possession, if such sales or adjustments shall have been
confirmed by me, or by the viceroy or the president of the court of the district in which the
lands are located while authorized to exercise this power. In cases where the sales of
adjustments shall not have been so confirmed, the possessors will present to the courts of
their respective district and to the other officials hereby empowered to receive the same, a
petition asking for the confirmation of said sales and adjustments. After the proceedings
outlined by the subdelegates in their order with respect to the measurement and valuation of
the said lands, and with reference to the title issued therefor, shall have been duly
completed, said courts and officials will make an examination of the same for the purpose of
ascertaining whether the sale or adjustment has been made without fraud and collusion, and
for an adequate and equitable price, and a similar examination shall be made by the
prosecuting attorney of the district, to the end that, in view of all the proceedings and the
purchase or adjustment price of the land, and the media anata having been duly, etc., paid
into the royal treasury, as well as such additional sum as may be deemed proper, there will
be issued to the possessor, in my royal name, a confirmation of his title, by virtue of which
his possession and ownership of lands and waters which it represents will be fully legalized,
to the end that at no time will he or his heirs or assigns be disturbed or molested therein.

The wording of this law is much stronger than that of law 14. As is seen by the terms of article 3, any
person whatever who occupied any public land was required to present the instruments by virtue of
which he was in possession, within a time to be fixed by the authorities, and he was warned that if
he did not do so he would be evicted from his land and it would be granted to others. By terms of
article 4 those possessors to whom grants had been made prior to 1700, were entitled to have such
grants confirmed, and it was also provided that not being able to prove any grants it should be
sufficient to prove "that ancient possession," as a sufficient title by prescription, and they should be
confirmed in their holdings. "That ancient possession" would be at least fifty-four years, for it would
have to date from prior to 1700. Under article 5, where the possession dated from 1700, no
confirmation could be granted on proof of prescription alone.

The length of possession required to be proved before the Government would issue a deed has
varied in different colonies and at different times. In the Philippines, as has been seen, it was at one
time ten years, at another time fifty-four years at least. In Cuba, by the royal cedula of April 24, 1833,
to obtain a deed one had to prove, as to uncultivated lands, a possession of one hundred years, and
as to cultivated lands a possession of fifty years. In the same islands, by the royal order of July 16,
1819, a possession of forty years was sufficient.

In the Philippines at a later date royal of September 21, 1797 (4 Legislacion Ultramarina, Rodriguez
San Pedro, p. 688), directed the observation of the said royal cedula of 1754, but apparently without
being subject to the period of prescription therein assigned.

The royal order of July 5, 1862 (Gaceta de Manila, November 15, 1864), also ordered that until
regulations on the subject could be prepared the authorities of the Islands should follow strictly the
Laws of the Indies, the Ordenanza of the Intendentes of 1786, and the said royal cedula of 1754.

The royal order of November 14, 1876 (Guia del Comprador de Terrenos, p. 51), directed the
provincial governors to urge those in unlawful possession of public lands to seek an adjustment with
the State in accordance with the existing laws. The regulations as to the adjustment (composicion) of
the titles to public lands remained in this condition until the regulations of June 25, 1880. This is the
most important of the modern legislative acts upon the matter of "adjustment" as distinguished from
that of the sale of the public lands.

The royal degree approving these regulations is dated June 25, 1880, and is as follows:1
Upon the suggestion of the colonial minister, made in conformity with the decree of the full
meeting of the council of state, I hereby approve the attached regulations for the adjustment
of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands.

Articles 1, 4, 5, 8, and part of article 6 are as follows:

ART. 1. For the purpose of these regulations and in conformity with law 14, title 12, book 4 of
the Recompilation of Laws of the Indies, the following will be regarded as royal lands: All
lands whose lawful ownership is not vested in some private, persons, or, what is the same
thing, which have never passed to private ownership by virtue of cession by competent
authorities, made either gratuitously or for a consideration.

ART. 4. For all legal effects, those will be considered proprietors of the royal lands herein
treated who may prove that they have possessed the lands without interruption during the
period of ten years, by virtue of a good title and in good faith.

ART. 5. In the same manner, those who without such title deeds may prove that they have
possessed their said lands without interruption for a period of twenty years if in a state of
cultivation, or for a period of thirty years if uncultivated, shall be regarded as proprietors
thereof. In order that a tract of land may be considered cultivated, it will be necessary to
show that it has been broken within the last three years.

ART. 6. Interested parties not included within the two preceding articles may legalize their
possession and thereby acquire the full ownership of the said lands, by means of adjustment
proceedings, to be conducted in the following manner: . . .

(5) Those who, entirely without title deeds, may be in possession of lands belonging to the
State and have reduced said lands to a state of cultivation, may acquire the ownership
thereof by paying into the public treasury the value of the lands at the time such possessors
or their representatives began their unauthorized enjoyment of the same.

(6) In case said lands shall never have been ploughed, but are still in a wild state, or covered
with forest, the ownership of the same may be acquired by paying their value at the time of
the filing of the claim, as stated in the fourth paragraph."

ART. 8. If the interested parties shall not ask an adjustment of the lands whose possession
they are unlawfully enjoying within the time of one year, or, the adjustment having been
granted by the authorities, they shall fail to fulfill their obligation in connection with the
compromise, by paying the proper sum into the treasury, the latter will, by virtue of the
authority vested in it, reassert the ownership of the State over the lands, and will, after fixing
the value thereof, proceed to sell at public auction that part of the same which either because
it may have been reduced to cultivation or is not located within the forest zone is not deemed
advisable to preserve as the State forest reservation.

The other articles of the regulations state the manner in which applications should be made for
adjustment, and the proceedings thereon.

Do these regulations declare that those who are included in article 4 and 5 are the absolute owners
of the land occupied by them without any action on their part, or that of the State, or do they declare
that such persons must seek an adjustment and obtain a deed from the State, and if they do not do
so within the time named in article 8 they lose all interest in the lands?
It must be admitted from the wording of the law that the question is not free from doubt. Upon a
consideration, however, of the whole matter, that doubt must, we think, be resolved in favor of the
State. The following are some of the reasons which lead us to that conclusion:

(1) It will be noticed that article 4 does not say that those persons shall be considered as owners
who have occupied the lands for ten years, which would have been the language naturally used if an
absolute grant had been intended. It says, instead, that those shall be considered owners who may
prove that they have been in possession ten years. Was this proof to be made at any time in the
future when the question might arise, or was it to be made in the proceedings which these very
regulations provided for that purpose? We think that the latter is the proper construction.

(2) Article 1 declares in plain terms that all those lands as to which the State has never executed any
deeds are the property of the State that is, that on June 25, 1880, no public lands belonged to
individuals unless they could exhibit a State deed therefor. This is entirely inconsistent with the idea
that the same law in its article 4 declares that the lands in question in this case became the property
of the plaintiffs in 1870, and were not in 1880 the property of the State, though the State had never
given any deed for them.

(3) The royal decree, by its terms, relates to lands wrongfully withheld by private persons. The
word detentados necessarily implies this. This is inconsistent with the idea that by article 4 of the
plaintiffs, in 1870, became the absolute owners of the lands in question, and were not therefore, in
1880, withholding what did not belong to them.

(4) In the preface to this decree and regulations, the following language is used:

SIR: The uncertain, and it may be said the precarious, state of real property in various parts
of the Philippine Islands, as yet sparsely populated; the necessity for encouraging the
cultivation of these lands; the advantage of increasing the wealth and products of the
Archipelago; the immense and immediate profit which must result to all classes of interests,
public as well as private, from the substitution of full ownership, with all the privileges which
by law accompany this real right, for the mere possession of the lands, have long counseled
the adoption of the provisions contained in the following regulations, which, after consulation
with the Philippine council, and in conformity with an order passed at a full meeting of the
council of state, the subscribing minister has the honor to submit for the royal approval.
These regulations refer not only to tenants of royal lands in good faith and by virtue of a valid
title, but also to those who, lacking these, may, either by themselves reducing such lands to
cultivation or by the application of intelligence and initiative, causing their cultivation by
others who lack these qualities, be augmenting the wealth of the Archipelago.2

This preface is the most authoritative commentary on the law, and shows without doubt that those
who held with color of title and good faith were, notwithstanding, holding wrongfully, and that true
ownership should be substituted for their possession.

(5) This doubt suggested by the wording of the law was the subject of inquiries directed to the
officers in Manila charged with its execution. These inquiries were answered in the circular of August
10, 1881, published in the Gaceta de Manila August 11, 1881, as follows:

Should possessors of royal lands under color of title and in good faith seek adjustment?

It is evident that they must do so, for it is to them that article 4 of the regulations refers, as
also the following article covers other cases of possession under different circumstances. It
should be well understood by you, and you should in turn have it understood by other, that
the adjustment of lands whose ownership has not passed to private individuals by virtue of
cession by competent authorities, is optional only for those within the limits of the common
district (legua comunal) as provided by article 7. In all other cases where the interested
parties shall fail to present themselves for the adjustment of the lands occupied by them shall
suffer the penalties set forth in article 8 of said regulations.

In determining the meaning of a law where a doubt exists the construction placed upon it by the
officers whose duty it is to administer it is entitled to weight.

(6) There is, moreover, legislative construction of these regulations upon this point found in
subsequent laws. The royal decree of December 26, 1884, (Berriz Anuario, 1888, p. 117), provides
in articles 1 that

All those public lands wrongfully withheld by private person in the Philippines which, in
accordance with the regulations of June 25, 1880, are subject to adjustment with the
treasury, shall be divided into three groups, of which the first shall include those which,
because they are included in articles 4 and 5, and the first paragraph of article 7, are entitled
to free adjustment.

There were exceptions to this rule which are not here important. Article 10 provides that if the
adjustment is free for those mentioned in articles 4 and 5, who are included in the second group, the
deed shall be issued by the governor of the province. Article 11 says that if the adjustment is not
free, because the applicant has not proved his right by prescription, then no deed can be issued until
the proper payment has been made. The whole decree shows clearly that the legislator intended
that those mentioned in article 4 and 5 should apply for a confirmation of their titles by prescription,
as well as those mentioned in article 6. In fact, for the adjustment of those of the first group, which
necessarily included only those found within articles 4 and 5, a board was organized (art. 15) in each
pueblo whose sole duty it was to dispatch applications made said two articles.

(7) The royal decree of August 31, 1888 (Berriz Anuario, 1888, p. 120), is another legislative
construction of this regulation. That decree repealed the decree of 1884, and divided all lands
subjects to adjustment under the regulations of June 25, 1880, into two groups. In the first group
were all those lands which bordered at any points on other State lands, and those which, though not
bordering on State lands, measured more than 30 hectares. In the second group were those which
were bounded entirely by lands of private persons and did not exceed 30 hectares. For the second
group a provincial board was organized, and article 10 provides a hearing before this board, and
declares

If no protest or claim shall be filed, and the adjustment must be free because the occupant
has proved title by prescription, as provided in articles 4 and 5 of the regulations
promulgated June 25, 1880, the proceedings shall be duty approved, and the head officer of
the province will, in his capacity of deputy director general of the civil administration, issue
the corresponding title deed.

The policy pursued by the Spanish Government from the earliest times, requiring settlers on the
public lands to obtain deeds therefor from the State, has been continued by the American
Government in Act No. 926, which takes effect when approved by Congress. Section 54, sixth
paragraph of that act, declares that the persons named in said paragraph 6 "shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and to have
received the same." Yet such persons are required by section 56 to present a petition to the Court of
Land Registration for a confirmation of these titles.
We have considered the regulations relating to adjustment that is, those laws under which
persons in possession might perfect their titles. But there were other laws relating to the sale of
public lands which contained provisions fatal to the plaintiff's claims. The royal decree of January 26,
1889 (Gaceta de Manila, March 20, 1889), approved the regulations for the sale of public lands in
the Philippines, and it was in accordance with such regulations that the appellee acquired his title.
Article 4 of those regulations required the publication in the Gaceta de Manila of the application to
purchase, with a description of the lands, and gave sixty days within which anyone could object to
the sale. A similar notice in the dialect of the locality was required to be posted on the municipal
building of the town in which the land was situated, and to be made public by the crier. Articles 5 and
6 declared to whom such objections shall be made and the course which they should take. Article 8
is as follows:

ART. 8. In no case will the judicial authorities take cognizance of the suit against the decrees
of the civil administration concerning the sale of royal lands unless the plaintiff shall attach to
the complaint documents which show that he has exhausted the administrative remedy. After
the proceeding in the executive department shall have been terminated and the matter finally
passed upon, anyone considering his interests prejudiced thereby may commence a suit in
the court against the State; but in no case shall an action be brought against the proprietor of
the land.

Similar provisions are found in the regulations of 1883, approved the second time by royal order of
February 16 (Gaceta de Manila, June 28, 1883). Articles 18 and 23 of said regulations are as
follows:

ART. 18. Possessors of such lands as may fall within the class of alienable royal lands shall
be obliged to apply for the ownership of the same, or for the adjustment thereof within the
term of sixty days from the time of the publication in the bulletin of Sales of the notice of sale
thereof.

ART. 23. The judicial authorities shall take cognizance of no complaint against the decrees
of the treasury department concerning the sale of lands pertaining to the state unless the
complainant shall attached to the complaint documents which proved that he has exhausted
the administrative remedy.

This prohibition appears also in the royal order of October 26, 1881 (Gaceta de Manila, December
18, 1881) which relates evidently both to sales of public lands and also to the adjustments with the
occupants.

Article 5 of this royal order is as follows:

During the pendency of proceedings in the executive department with respect to grants of
land, interested parties may present through executive channels such protest as they may
deemed advisable for the protection of their right and interests. The proceeding having once
been completed, and the grant made, those who consider their interests prejudiced thereby
may proceed in court against the State, but under no circumstances against the grantees of
the land.

The American legislation creating the Court of Land Registration is but an application of this same
principle. In both systems the title is guaranteed to the petitioner, after examination by a tribunal. In
Spanish system this tribunal was called an administrative one, in the American a judicial one.
The court finds that the plaintiffs made a written protest against the sale to the defendants while the
proceedings for the measurements and survey of the land were being carried on, but that they did
not follow up their protest. This, as held by the court below, is a bar their recovery in this action,
under the articles above cited.

The plaintiff state in their brief that a great fraud was committed on them and the State by the
defendant in applying for the purchase of this lands as vacant and belonging to the public, when they
were in the actual adverse possession of the plaintiffs.

We have seen nothing in the regulations relating to the sale of the public lands which limited their
force to vacant lands. On the contrary there are provisions which indicate the contrary. In the
application for the purchase the petitioner is article 3 of the regulations of 1889 required to state
whether any portion of the land sought has been broken for cultivation, and to whom such
improvements belong. Article 9 provides that if one in possession applies to purchase the land, he
renounces his right to a composicion under the laws relating to that subject. By article 13 the report
of the officials making the survey must contain a statement as to whether any part of the land is
cultivated or not and if the applicant claims to be the owner of such cultivated part.

In the regulations of January 19, 1883 (Gaceta de Manila, June 28, 1883) is the following article:

ART. 18. Possessors of such lands as may fall within the class of royal alienable lands shall
be obliged to apply for the ownership of the same, or for the adjustment thereof, within the
term of sixty days from the time of the publication in the Bulletin of Sales of the notice of sale
thereof.

In view of all these provisions it seems impossible to believe that the legislators even intended to
leave the validity of any sale made by the State to be determined at any time in the future by the
ordinary courts on parol testimony. Such would be the result if the contention of the plaintiffs is to be
sustained. According to their claim, this sale and every other sale made by the State can be set
aside if at any time in the future it can be proved that certain persons had been in possession of the
land for the term then required for prescription.

If this claim is allowed it would result that even though written title from the State would be safe from
such attack by parol evidence, by means of such evidence damages could have been recovered
against the State for lands sold by the State to which third persons might thereafter prove ownership
but prescription. The unreliability of parol testimony on the subject of possession is well known. In
this case in the report which the law required to be made before a sale could be had it is stated by
an Ayudante de Montes that the tract had an area of 429 hectares, 77 ares, and 96 centares
uncultivated, and 50 hectares, 19 ares, and 73 centares broken for cultivation. The official report
also says (1890) that the breaking is recent. Notwithstanding this official report, the plaintiffs
introduced evidence from which the court found that the greater part of the tract had been occupied
and cultivated by the plaintiffs since 1860.

It is hardly conceivable that the State intended to put in force legislation under which its property
rights could be so prejudiced.

We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force in these Islands by which the plaintiffs
could obtain the ownership of these lands by prescription, without any action by the State, and that
the judgment below declaring the defendant the owner of the lands must be affirmed.

II. What has been said heretofore makes it unnecessary to consider the motion for a new trial, made
by the defendant on the ground that the findings of fact are not supported by the evidence.
III. The exception of the defendant to the order vacating the appointment of the receiver can not be
sustained. The defendant at no time made any showing sufficient to authorize the appointment of a
receiver.

The case does not fall under No. 4 of section 174 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Neither party in his
pleadings asked any relief as to the crops. They were not, therefore, "the property which is the
subject of litigation."

Neither does the case fall under No. 2 of section 174, for the same reason.

Moreover, under No. 2 it must be shown that the property is in danger of being lost. There was no
showing of that kind. The pleadings say nothing upon the subject. In the motion for the appointment
of the receiver it said that the plaintiffs are insolvent. There is no evidence, by affidavit or otherwise,
to support this statement. A bare, unsworn statement in a motion that the adverse party is insolvent
is not sufficient to warrant a court in appointing a receiver for property in his possession.

The judgment of the court below is affirmed. Neither party can recover costs in this court.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Cooper, McDonough and Johnson, JJ., concur.


U.S. Supreme Court
Carino v. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449 (1909)

Carino v. Insular Government of the Philippine Islands

No. 72

Argued January 13, 1909

Decided February 23, 1909

212 U.S. 449

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS

Syllabus

Writ of error is the general, and appeal the exceptional, method of bringing Cases to this
Court. The latter method is in the main confined to equity cases, and the former is
proper to bring up a judgment of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands affirming a
judgment of the Court of Land Registration dismissing an application for registration of
land.

Although a province may be excepted from the operation of Act No. 926 of 1903 of the
Philippine Commission which provides for the registration and perfecting of new titles,
one who actually owns property in such province is entitled to registration under Act No.
496 of 1902, which applies to the whole archipelago.

While, in legal theory and as against foreign nations, sovereignty is absolute, practically
it is a question of strength and of varying degree, and it is for a new sovereign to decide
how far it will insist upon theoretical relations of the subject to the former sovereign and
how far it will recognize actual facts.

Page 212 U. S. 450

The acquisition of the Philippines was not for the purpose of acquiring the lands
occupied by the inhabitants, and under the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, c. 1369, 32 Stat.
691, providing that property rights are to be administered for the benefit of the
inhabitants, one who actually owned land for many years cannot be deprived of it for
failure to comply with certain ceremonies prescribed either by the acts of the Philippine
Commission or by Spanish law.
The Organic Act of the Philippines made a bill of rights embodying safeguards of the
Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all.

Every presumption of ownership is in favor of one actually occupying land for many
years, and against the government which seeks to deprive him of it, for failure to comply
with provisions of a subsequently enacted registration act.

Title by prescription against the crown existed under Spanish law in force in the
Philippine Islands prior to their acquisition by the United States, and one occupying land
in the Province of Benguet for more than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris is entitled
to the continued possession thereof.

7 Phil. 132 reversed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 212 U. S. 455

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was an application to the Philippine Court of Land Registration for the registration
of certain land. The application was granted by the court on March 4, 1904. An appeal
was taken to the Court of First Instance of the Province of Benguet on behalf of the
government of the Philippines, and also on behalf of the United States, those
governments having taken possession of the property for public and military purposes.
The Court of First Instance found the facts and dismissed the application upon grounds
of law. This judgment was affirmed by the supreme court, 7 Phil. 132, and the case then
was brought here by writ of error.

The material facts found are very few. The applicant and plaintiff in error is an Igorot of
the Province of Benguet, where the land lies. For more than fifty years before the Treaty
of

Page 212 U. S. 456

Paris, April 11, 1899, as far back as the findings go, the plaintiff and his ancestors had
held the land as owners. His grandfather had lived upon it, and had maintained fences
sufficient for the holding of cattle, according to the custom of the country, some of the
fences, it seems, having been of much earlier date. His father had cultivated parts and
had used parts for pasturing cattle, and he had used it for pasture in his turn. They all
had been recognized as owners by the Igorots, and he had inherited or received the
land from his father in accordance with Igorot custom. No document of title, however,
had issued from the Spanish Crown, and although, in 1893-1894 and again in 1896-
1897, he made application for one under the royal decrees then in force, nothing seems
to have come of it, unless, perhaps, information that lands in Benguet could not be
conceded until those to be occupied for a sanatorium, etc., had been designated -- a
purpose that has been carried out by the Philippine government and the United States.
In 1901, the plaintiff filed a petition, alleging ownership, under the mortgage law, and the
lands were registered to him, that process, however, establishing only a possessory
title, it is said.

Before we deal with the merits, we must dispose of a technical point. The government
has spent some energy in maintaining that this case should have been brought up by
appeal, and not by writ of error. We are of opinion, however, that the mode adopted was
right. The proceeding for registration is likened to bills in equity to quiet title, but it is
different in principle. It is a proceeding in rem under a statute of the type of the Torrens
Act, such as was discussed in Tyler v. Court of Registration, 175 Mass. 71. It is nearer
to law than to equity, and is an assertion of legal title; but we think it unnecessary to put
it into either pigeon hole. A writ of error is the general method of bringing cases to this
Court, an appeal the exception, confined to equity in the main. There is no reason for
not applying the general rule to this case. Ormsby v. Webb, 134 U. S. 47, 134 U. S.
65; Campbell v. Porter, 162 U. S. 478; Metropolitan R. Co. v. District of Columbia, 195
U. S. 322.

Page 212 U. S. 457

Another preliminary matter may as well be disposed of here. It is suggested that, even if
the applicant have title, he cannot have it registered, because the Philippine
Commission's Act No. 926, of 1903, excepts the Province of Benguet among others
from its operation. But that act deals with the acquisition of new titles by homestead
entries, purchase, etc., and the perfecting of titles begun under the Spanish law. The
applicant's claim is that he now owns the land, and is entitled to registration under the
Philippine Commission's Act No. 496, of 1902, which established a court for that
purpose with jurisdiction "throughout the Philippine Archipelago," 2, and authorized in
general terms applications to be made by persons claiming to own the legal estate in
fee simple, as the applicant does. He is entitled to registration if his claim of ownership
can be maintained.

We come, then, to the question on which the case was decided below -- namely,
whether the plaintiff owns the land. The position of the government, shortly stated, is
that Spain assumed, asserted, and had title to all the land in the Philippines except so
far as it saw fit to permit private titles to be acquired; that there was no prescription
against the Crown, and that, if there was, a decree of June 25, 1880, required
registration within a limited time to make the title good; that the plaintiff's land was not
registered, and therefore became, if it was not always, public land; that the United
States succeeded to the title of Spain, and so that the plaintiff has no rights that the
Philippine government is bound to respect.

If we suppose for the moment that the government's contention is so far correct that the
Crown of Spain in form asserted a title to this land at the date of the Treaty of Paris, to
which the United States succeeded, it is not to be assumed without argument that the
plaintiff's case is at an end. It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the
universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the
general attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled to the
treatment accorded to those

Page 212 U. S. 458

in the same zone of civilization with themselves. It is true also that, in legal theory,
sovereignty is absolute, and that, as against foreign nations, the United States may
assert, as Spain asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the
inhabitants of the Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain had such power.
When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of strength, and may vary in
degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects
to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to
decide.

The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor General, in his
argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or
military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the
Spanish officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration to
which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish laws, and which would have
made his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical position of
Spain, it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and
was a mere trespasser when the present government seized his land. The argument to
that effect seems to amount to a denial of native titles throughout an important part of
the island of Luzon, at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not
have permitted and had not the power to enforce.

The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the
United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American
Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy the land. It is
obvious that, however stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was
different. No one, we suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount
necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to
the natives, not to exploit their country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1,
1902, c. 1369, 12, 32 Stat. 691, all the property and rights acquired there by the

Page 212 U. S. 459

United States are to be administered "for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof." It is
reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard
to what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its
own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of the
Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It provides that
"no law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection
of the laws."

5. In the light of the declaration that we have quoted from 12, it is hard to believe
that the United States was ready to declare in the next breath that "any person" did not
embrace the inhabitants of Benguet, or that it meant by "property" only that which had
become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never
had heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and
by long association -- one of the profoundest factors in human thought -- regarded as
their own.

It is true that, by 14, the government of the Philippines is empowered to enact rules
and prescribe terms for perfecting titles to public lands where some, but not all, Spanish
conditions had been fulfilled, and to issue patents to natives for not more than sixteen
hectares of public lands actually occupied by the native or his ancestors before August
13, 1898. But this section perhaps might be satisfied if confined to cases where the
occupation was of land admitted to be public land, and had not continued for such a
length of time and under such circumstances as to give rise to the understanding that
the occupants were owners at that date. We hesitate to suppose that it was intended to
declare every native who had not a paper title a trespasser, and to set the claims of all
the wilder tribes afloat. It is true again that there is excepted from the provision that we
have quoted as to the administration of the property and rights acquired by the United
States such land and property as shall be designated by the President for military or
other reservations,

Page 212 U. S. 460

as this land since has been. But there still remains the question what property and rights
the United States asserted itself to have acquired.

Whatever the law upon these points may be, and we mean to go no further than the
necessities of decision demand, every presumption is and ought to be against the
government in a case like the present. It might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say
that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by
individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in
the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land.
Certainly, in a case like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought
to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. Whether justice to the natives and the
import of the organic act ought not to carry us beyond a subtle examination of ancient
texts, or perhaps even beyond the attitude of Spanish law, humane though it was, it is
unnecessary to decide. If, in a tacit way, it was assumed that the wild tribes of the
Philippines were to be dealt with as the power and inclination of the conqueror might
dictate, Congress has not yet sanctioned the same course as the proper one "for the
benefit of the inhabitants thereof."
If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear
proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin
with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to
indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands,
irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the
native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers, or even into tenants at will. For
instance, Book 4, Title 12, Law 14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a
contrary conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Phil. 537, while it commands viceroys
and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to
confirm those who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it

Page 212 U. S. 461

begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all titles in
the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles
were admitted to exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition
in their books.

Prescription is mentioned again in the royal cedula of October 15, 1754, cited in 3 Phil.
546:

"Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds, it shall be sufficient if
they shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription."

It may be that this means possession from before 1700; but, at all events, the principle
is admitted. As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of
Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was recognized in the
Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty.

The question comes, however, on the decree of June 25, 1880, for the adjustment of
royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. This
begins with the usual theoretic assertion that, for private ownership, there must have
been a grant by competent authority; but instantly descends to fact by providing that, for
all legal effects, those who have been in possession for certain times shall be deemed
owners. For cultivated land, twenty years, uninterrupted, is enough. For uncultivated,
thirty. Art. 5. So that, when this decree went into effect, the applicant's father was owner
of the land by the very terms of the decree. But, it is said, the object of this law was to
require the adjustment or registration proceedings that it described, and in that way to
require everyone to get a document of title or lose his land. That purpose may have
been entertained, but it does not appear clearly to have been applicable to all. The
regulations purport to have been made "for the adjustment of royal lands wrongfully
occupied by private individuals." (We follow the translation in the government's brief.) It
does not appear that this land ever was royal land or wrongfully occupied. In Article 6, it
is provided that

"interested parties not included within the two preceding


Page 212 U. S. 462

articles [the articles recognizing prescription of twenty and thirty years] may legalize
their possession, and thereby acquire the full ownership of the said lands, by means of
adjustment proceedings, to be conducted in the following manner."

This seems, by its very terms, not to apply to those declared already to be owners by
lapse of time. Article 8 provides for the case of parties not asking an adjustment of the
lands of which they are unlawfully enjoying the possession, within one year, and
threatens that the treasury "will reassert the ownership of the state over the lands," and
will sell at auction such part as it does not reserve. The applicant's possession was not
unlawful, and no attempt at any such proceedings against him or his father ever was
made. Finally, it should be noted that the natural construction of the decree is confirmed
by the report of the council of state. That report puts forward as a reason for the
regulations that, in view of the condition of almost all property in the Philippines, it is
important to fix its status by general rules on the principle that the lapse of a fixed period
legalizes completely all possession, recommends in two articles twenty and thirty years,
as adopted in the decree, and then suggests that interested parties not included in
those articles may legalize their possession and acquire ownership by adjustment at a
certain price.

It is true that the language of Articles 4 and 5 attributes title to those "who may prove"
possession for the necessary time, and we do not overlook the argument that this
means may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer
would have recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it
was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family
possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words "may prove"
(acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean
when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was
expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually
gained would be lost.

Page 212 U. S. 463

The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it,
as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. The royal decree of February
13, 1894, declaring forfeited titles that were capable of adjustment under the decree of
1880, for which adjustment had not been sought, should not be construed as a
confiscation, but as the withdrawal of a privilege. As a matter of fact, the applicant never
was disturbed. This same decree is quoted by the Court of Land Registration for
another recognition of the common law prescription of thirty years as still running
against alienable Crown land.

It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a
problem not without difficulties for courts of a different legal tradition. We have deemed
it proper on that account to notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and
the act of Congress establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a
consideration of the whole case, we are of opinion that law and justice require that the
applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the
practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined
interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain.

Judgment reversed.
G.R. No. L-2506 April 16, 1906

F. STEWART JONES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, defendant-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor-General, for appellant.


Pillsbury and Sutro, for appellee.

WILLARD, J.:

On the 16th day of January, 1904 F. Stewart Jones presented a petition to the Court of Land
Registration asking that he be inscribed as the owner of a certain tract of land situatd in the Province
of Benguet, and within the reservation defined in Act No. 636. The Solicitor-General appeared in the
court below and opposed the inscription upon the ground that the property was public land. At the
trial he objected to any consideration of the case on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction to
register land situated in that reservation. The objections were overruled and judgment entered in
favor of the petitioner, from which judgment the Government appealed to this court.

The act creating the Court of Land Registration (No. 496) gave it jurisdiction throughout the
Archipelago. By Act No. 1224, which was approved August 31, 1904, and which applied to pending
cases, the court was deprived of jurisdiction over lands situated in the Province of Benguet. That act,
however, contained a proviso by which the court was given jurisdiction over applications for
registration of title to land in all cases coming within the provisions of Act No. 648. Act No. 648
provides in its first section that

The Civil Governor is hereby authorized and empowered by executive order to reserve from
settlement or public sale and for specific public uses any of the public domain in the
Philippine Islands the use of which is not otherwise directed by law.

Section 2 provides: "Whenever the Civil Governor, in writing, shall certify that all public lands within
limits by him described in the Philippine Islands are reserved for civil public uses, either of the
Insular Government, or of any provincial or municipal government, and shall give notice thereof to
the judge of the Court of Land Registration, it shall be the duty of the judge of said court" to proceed
in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 627. Act No. 627, which relates to military reservations,
provides that when notice is given to the Court of Land Registration of the fact that any land has
been so reserved, it shall be the duty of the court to issue notice that claims for all private lands
within the limits of the reservation must be presented for registration under the Land Registration Act
within six months from the date of issuing such notice, and that all lands not so presented within said
time would be conclusively adjudged to be public lands, and all claims on the part of private
individuals for such lands, not so presented, would be forever barred.

On the 26th day of August, 1903, the following letter was directed by Governor Taft to the judge of
the Court of Land Registration:

SIR: You are hereby notified, in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 648, entitled "An
act authorizing the Civil Governor to reserve for civil public purposes, and from sale or
settlement, any part of the public domain not appropriated by law for special public purposes,
until otherwise directed by law, and extending the provisions of Act Numbered Six hundred
and twenty-seven so that public lands desired to be reserved by the Insular Government for
public uses, or private lands desired to be purchased by the Insular Government for such
uses, may be brought under the operation of the Land Registration Act;" that the Philippine
Commission has reserved for civil public uses of the Government of the Philippine Islands
the lands described in Act No. 636, entitled "An act creating a Government reservation at
Baguio, in the Province of Benguet," enacted February 11, 1903.

It is therefore requested that the land mentioned be forthwith brought under the operation of
the Land Registration Act and become registered land in the meaning thereof, and that you
proceed in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 648.

Very respectfully,
(Signed)WM. H. TAFT,
"Civil Governor."

The court of Land Registration, acting upon this notice from the Governor, issued the notice required
by Act No. 627, and in pursuance of that notice Jones, the appellee, within the six months referred to
in the notice, presented his petition asking that the land be registered in his name.

The first claim of the Government is that the provisions of Act No. 648 were not complied with in the
respect that this letter of the Governor did not amount to a certificate that the lands had been
reserved. The Solicitor-General says in his brief:

To bring these lands within the operation of section 2 of Act No. 648 it was necessary for the
Civil Governor first to certify that these lands were reserved for public uses, and second to
give notice thereof to the Court of Land Registration.

We do not think that this contention can be sustained. Act No. 648 conferred power upon the
Governor to reserve lands for public purposes, but it did not make that power exclusive. The
Commission did not thereby deprive itself of the power to itself make reservations in the future, if it
saw fit; neither did it intend to annul any reservations which it had formerly made. The contention of
the Government is true when applied to a case where the land has not been reserved by the
Commission. In such a case it would be the duty of the Governor to first reserve it by an executive
order, and then to give notice to the Court of Land Registration, but where the land had already been
reserved by competent authority, it not only was not necessary for the Governor to issue any
executive order reserving the land but he had no power to do so. In such cases the only duty
imposed upon him was to give notice to the Court of Land Registration that the land had been
reserved. This notice was given in the letter above quoted. The court had jurisdiction to try the case.

The petitioner Jones, on the 1st day of May, 1901, bought the land in question from Sioco Cario, an
Igorot. He caused his deed to the land to be recorded in the office of the registrar of property on the
8th day of May of the same year. Prior thereto, and while Sioco Cario was in possession of the
land, he commenced proceedings in court for the purpose of obtaining a possessory information in
accordance with the provisions of the Mortgage Law. This possessory information he caused to be
recorded in the office of the registrar of property on the 12th day of March, 1901.

The evidence shows that Sioco Cario was born upon the premises in question; that his grandfather,
Ortega, during the life of the latter, made a gift of the property to Sioco. This gift was made more
than twelve years before the filing of the petition in this case that is, before the 16th day of
January, 1904. Sioco's grandfather, Ortega, was in possession of the land at the time the gift was
made, and has been in possession thereof for many years prior to said time. Upon the gift being
made Sioco took possession of the property, and continued in such possession until his sale to
Jones, the petitioner. Since such sale Jones has been in possession of the land, and is now in such
possession. For more than twelve years prior to the presentation of the petition the land had been
cultivated by the owners thereof, and the evidence is sufficient, in our opinion, to bring the case
within section 41 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and to show such an adverse possession thereof
for ten years as is required by the section. The evidence of Sioco Carino shows that what he did in
the way of presenting a petition to the Spanish Government in regard to a deed of the land was done
by order of the then comandante, and was limited to securing a measurement thereof, as he then
believed. These acts did not interrupt the running of the statute of limitations.

Acts Nos. 627 and 648 provide that the provisions of section 41 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall
be applicable to all proceedings taken under either one of these acts. These acts in effect provide
that in determining whether the applicant is the owner of the land or not, the general statute of
limitations shall be considered, and shall be applied against the Government. The evidence showing,
as we have said, such an adverse possession, the petitioner proved his ownership of the land if the
Commission had authority to make the statute of limitations applicable to these proceedings.

The claim of the Government is that this provision is void; that the act thereby disposes of public
lands; that Congress is the only authority that can take such action, and that it has never authorized
or approved the action of the Commission in applying the statute of limitations to proceedings under
Acts Nos. 648 and 627. We do not think that this contention can be sustained. Section 12 of the act
of Congress of July 1, 1902, provides as follows:

SEC. 12. That all the property and rights which may have been acquired in the Philippine
Islands by the United States under the treaty of peace with Spain, signed December tenth,
eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, except such land or other property as shall be designated
by the President of the United States for military and other reservations of the Government of
the United States, are hereby placed under the control of the Government of said Islands, to
be administered for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof, except as provided in this act.

This gives the Government of the Philippine Islands power to dispose of these lands, and of all
public lands, and to pass the law in question, unless there is some provision in other parts of the act
of July 1, 1902, which takes away or limits that power. The government says that such limitation is
found in section 13 of the act. That section and sections 14 and 15 are as follows:

SEC. 13. That the Gonvernment of the Philippine Islands, subject to the provisions of this Act
and except as herein provided, shall classify according to its agricultural character and
productiveness, and shall immediately make rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or
other disposition of the public lands other than timber or mineral lands, but such rules and
regulations shall not go into effect or have the force of law until they have received the
approval of the President, and when approved by the President they shall be submitted by
him to Congress at the beginning of the next ensuing session thereof and unless
disapproved or amended by Congress at said session they shall at the close of such period
have the force and effect of law in the Philippine Islands: Provided, That a single homestead
entry shall not exceed sixteen hectares in extent.

SEC. 14. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and
empowered to enact rules and regulations and to prescribe terms and conditions to enable
persons to perfect their title to public lands in said Islands, who, prior to the transfer of
sovereignty from Spain to the United States, had fulfilled all or some of the conditions
required by the Spanish laws and royal decrees of the Kingdom of Spain for the acquisition
of legal title thereto, yet failed to secure conveyance of title; and the Philippine Commission
is authorized to issue patents, without compensation, to any native of said Islands, conveying
title to any tract of land not more than sixteen hectares in extent, which were public lands
and had been actually occupied by such native or his ancestors prior to and on the thirteenth
of August, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight.

SEC. 15. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and
empowered, on such terms as it may prescribe, by general legislation, to provide for the
granting or sale and conveyance to actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of said
Islands such parts and portions of the public domain, other than timber and mineral lands, of
the United States in said Islands as it may deem wise, not exceeding sixteen hectares to any
one person, and for the sale and conveyance of not more than one thousand and twenty-four
hectares to any corporation or association of persons: Provided, That the grant or sale of
such lands, whether the purchase price be paid at once or in partial payments, shall be
conditioned upon actual and continued occupancy, improvement, and cultivation of the
premises sold for a period of not less than five years, during which time the purchaser or
grantee can not alienate or encumber said land or the title thereto; but such restriction shall
not apply to transfers of rights and title of inheritance under the laws for the distribution of the
estates of decedents.

It is first to be noted that section 13 does not apply to all lands. Timber and mineral lands are
expressly excluded. If the Commission should pass laws relating to mineral lands without submitting
them to Congress, as it has done (Act No. 624), their validity would not be determined by inquiring if
they had been submitted to Congress under section 13, but rather by inquiring if they were
inconsistent with other provisions of the act relating to mineral lands. In other words, the fact that
such laws were not submitted to Congress would not necessarily make them void.

The same is true of legislation relating to coal lands, as to which sections 53 and 57 contain
provisions. By section 57 this Government is authorized to issue all needful rules and regulations for
carrying into effect this and preceding sections relating to mineral lands. Such regulations need not
be submitted to Congress for its approval. Act No. 1128, relating to coal lands, was not submitted.

The act of Congress also contains provisions regarding the purchase of lands beloning to religious
orders. Section 65 provides as to those lands as follows:

SEC. 65. That all lands acquired by virtue of the preceding section shall constitute a part and
portion of the public property of the Government of the Philippine Islands, and may be held,
sold, and conveyed, or leased temporarily for a period not exceeding three years after their
acquisition by said Government, on such terms and conditions as it may prescribe, subject to
the limitations and conditions provided for in this Act. . . . Actual settlers and occupants at the
time said lands are acquired by the Government shall have the preference over all others to
lease, purchase, or acquire their holdings within such reasonable time as may be determined
by said Government.

Does the clause "subject to the limitations and conditions of this act" require a submission to
Congress of legislation concerning such land? If it does, then Act No. 1120, which contains such
provisions, is void, because it was never so submitted.

Section 18 of the act of Congress provides as follows:

That the forest laws and regulations now in force in the Philippine Islands, with such
modifications and amendments as may be made by the Government of said Islands, are
hereby continued in force.
Must these modifications and amendments be submitted to Congress for its approval? If they must
be, then Act No. 1148, relating thereto, is void, because it was not so submitted.

It seems very clear that rules and regulations concerning mineral, timber, and coal lands, and lands
bought from religious orders need not be submitted to Congress. If they are not inconsistent with the
provisions of the act of Congress relating to the same subjects, they are valid.

Congress, by section 12 of the act, gave to the Philippine Government general power all property
acquired from Spain. When it required the Commision to immediately classify the agricultural lands
and to make rules and regulations for their sale, we do not think that it intended to virtually repeal
section 12. Such, however, would be the effect of the rule contended for by the Govenrment. If,
notwithstanding the provisions of section 12, any law which in any way directly or indirectly affects
injuriously the title of the Government to public lands must be submitted to the President and
Congress for approval, the general power given by section 12 is taken away. An examination of
some of the laws of the Commission will show that a holding such as is contended for by the
Government in this case would apparently require a holding that such other laws were also void. Act
No. 496, which established the Court of Land Registration, the court that tried this case, provides in
section 38 that the decrees of the court shall be conclusive on and against all persons, including the
Insular Government, and all the branches thereof. Neither the President nor Congress ever gave
their consent to this law. They never consented that the title of the Government to public lands
should be submitted to the judgment of the courts of the Islands. That this law provides a means by
which the Government may be deprived of its property in such lands is apparent. In this very case, if
the Government had not appealed from the judgment, or if it should withdraw its appeal, the lands
would be lost to it--lands which the Attorney-General claims are public lands. The land could not be
more effectually lost by the law shortening the statute of limitations than by this law making the
decrees of the Court of Land Registration binding on the Government. In fact, the former law could
not in any way prejudice the Government if it were not for the latter law making the judgments of this
court binding upon it. Both of these laws in an indirect way affect the title to public lands, but we do
not think that for that reason they are included in the terms "rules and regulations" used in section 13
of the act of Congress.

Act No. 1039 granted to the Province of Cavite and to the pueblo of Cavite certain public lands. This
act never was submitted either to the President or Congress. Acts Nos. 660 and 732 authorized the
leasing of parts of the San Lazaro estate. The Government leased the sanitarium at Benguet, and
provided for its sale. None of these acts were ever submitted to the President or Congress, which
authorized such disposition. The Government owns many isolated tracts of land, such as the Oriente
Hotel, for example. It has reclaimed from the sea a large tract of land in connection with the works of
the port of Manila. If the Government should desire to sell this reclaimed land or to lease a part of it
for the site of an hotel, or should desire to sell the Oriente Hotel building, we do not think legislation
to accomplish such purposes would require the previous approval of the President and of Congress.
The general purpose of section 13 was to require the Government to classify agricultural lands and
to pass a homestead law that is, a law which would state the rules and regulations by virtue of
which title to the public lands of which it can be decided in every case whether an act of the
Commission constitutes a rule or regulation within the meaning of section 13. It is sufficient to say
that the law in question (Act No. 648), making a statute of limitations run against the Government
when the title to few scattered tracts of land throughout the Archipelago is under consideration, is not
such a rule or regulations as required previous submission to the President and Congress. It will be
observed that be section 86 of the act of Congress of July 1, 1902, Congress reserves the right to
annul all legislation of the Commission.

There is nothing in section 14 which requires the rules and regulations therein mentioned to be
submitted to Congress. But it is said that although as to Act No. 648 submission to Congress was
not required, it is nevertheless void when applied to one not a native of the Islands, because
forbidden by this section; and that this section limits the power of the Commission to declare
possession alone sufficient evidence of title to cases in which the claimant is native and in which the
amount of land does not exceed 16 hectares.

Section 14 is not limited to agricultural lands, as are sections 13 and 15. It includes mineral and
timber lands. So far as it relates to proceedings theretofore taken under Spanish laws its benefits are
not limited to natives of the Islands nor to tracts not more than 16 hectares in extent. Where the only
claim is possession, no possession for any definite time prior to August 13, 1898, is required, nor is
proof of any possession whatever after that date demanded. According to the strict letter of the
section a native would be entitled to a patent who proved that he had been in possession for the
months of July and August only of 1898. It is not stated whether or not one who receives such a
patent must occupy the land for five years thereafter, as required by section 15. Neither is it stated
whether or not a person who was in possession for the month of August, 1898, would be entitled to a
patent in preference to the actual settler spoken of in section 6. When legislating upon the subject-
matter of section 14, the Commission, in Act No. 926, did not make such a limitation as has been
suggested. Section 54, paragraph 6, of that act is as follows:

All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public land,
as defined by said act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona
fide claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next
preceding the taking effect of this act, except when prevented by war or force majeure, shall
be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government
grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to such land
under the provision of this chapter.

It is seen that this section does not exclude foreigners, nor is it limited to tracts not exceeding 16
hectares in extent. To adopt the view that the power of the Commission is so limited would require a
holding that this section is void as to foreigners and as to all tracts of land over 16 hectares in extent.

This paragraph of section 54 of Act No. 926 is in substance a continuation of Act No. 648 and an
extension of its provisions to all the lands of the Islands.

To adopt the construction contended for would lead to an unjust result. By the terms of the first part
of section 14 the Commission has the power to perfect the title to 100 hectares of land as to which a
Spaniards may have done nothing more than to file an application relating thereto, and of which he
never was in possession, while by the last party of the section the Commission would be entirely
without power to make any rules by which a native who by himself and his ancestors had been in
possession of 100 hectares. Such a discrimination in favor of foreigners and against the natives
could not have been intended. It could not have been the purpose of Congress to give the
Commission ample power to legislate for the benefit of foreigners and to limit its power to legislate
for the benefit of natives.

The meaning of these sections is not clear, and it is difficult to give to them a construction that will be
entirely free from objection. But we do not think that authority given by the Commission to issue to a
native a patent for 16 hectares of land of which he was in possession during the month of August,
1898, was intended to limit the general power of control which by section 12 is given to the
Commission.

The judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this instance the appellant. After the
expiration of twenty days let final judgment be entered in accordance herewith and ten days
thereafter let the cause be remanded to the lower court for proper procedure. So ordered.
G.R. No. L-24066 December 9, 1925

VALENTIN SUSI, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ANGELA RAZON and THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, defendants. THE DIRECTOR OF
LANDS, appellant.

Acting Attorney-General Reyes for appellant.


Monico R. Mercado for appellee.

VILLA-REAL, J.:

This action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga by a complaint filed by
Valentin Susi against Angela Razon and the Director of Lands, praying for judgment: (a) Declaring
plaintiff the sole and absolute owner of the parcel of land described in the second paragraph of the
complaint; (b) annulling the sale made by the Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, on the
ground that the land is a private property; (c) ordering the cancellation of the certificate of title issued
to said Angela Razon; and (d) sentencing the latter to pay plaintiff the sum of P500 as damages,
with the costs.

For his answer to the complaint, the Director of Lands denied each and every allegation contained
therein and, as special defense, alleged that the land in question was a property of the Government
of the United States under the administration and control of the Philippine Islands before its sale to
Angela Razon, which was made in accordance with law.

After trial, whereat evidence was introduced by both parties, the Court of First Instance of Pampanga
rendered judgment declaring the plaintiff entitled to the possession of the land, annulling the sale
made by the Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, and ordering the cancellation of the
certificate of title issued to her, with the costs against Angela Razon. From this judgment the Director
of Lands took this appeal, assigning thereto the following errors, to wit: (1) The holding that the
judgment rendered in a prior case between the plaintiff and defendant Angela Razon on the parcel of
land in question is controlling in this action; (2) the holding that plaintiff is entitled to recover the
possession of said parcel of land; the annulment of the sale made by the Director of Lands to Angela
Razon; and the ordering that the certificate of title issued by the register of deeds of the Province of
Pampanga to Angela Razon by virtue of said sale be cancelled; and (3) the denial of the motion for
new trial filed by the Director of Lands.

The evidence shows that on December 18, 1880, Nemesio Pinlac sold the land in question, then a
fish pond, tho Apolonio Garcia and Basilio Mendoza for the sum of P12, reserving the right to
repurchase the same (Exhibit B). After having been in possession thereof for about eight years, and
the fish pond having been destroyed, Apolonio Garcia and Basilio Mendoza, on September 5, 1899,
sold it to Valentin Susi for the sum of P12, reserving the right to repurchase it (Exhibit A). Before the
execution of the deed of sale, Valentin Susi had already paid its price and sown "bacawan" on said
land, availing himself of the firewood gathered thereon, with the proceeds of the sale of which he
had paid the price of the property. The possession and occupation of the land in question, first, by
Apolonio Garcia and Basilio Mendoza, and then by Valentin Susi has been open, continuous,
adverse and public, without any interruption, except during the revolution, or disturbance, except
when Angela Razon, on September 13, 1913, commenced an action in the Court of First Instance of
Pampanga to recover the possession of said land (Exhibit C), wherein after considering the evidence
introduced at the trial, the court rendered judgment in favor of Valentin Susi and against Angela
Razon, dismissing the complaint (Exhibit E). Having failed in her attempt to obtain possession of the
land in question through the court, Angela Razon applied to the Director of Lands for the purchase
thereof on August 15, 1914 (Exhibit C). Having learned of said application, Valentin Susi filed and
opposition thereto on December 6, 1915, asserting his possession of the land for twenty-five years
(Exhibit P). After making the proper administrative investigation, the Director of Lands overruled the
opposition of Valentin Susi and sold the land to Angela Razon. By virtue of said grant the register of
deeds of Pampanga, on August 31, 1921, issued the proper certificate of title to Angela Razon.
Armed with said document, Angela Razon required Valentin Susi to vacate the land in question, and
as he refused to do so, she brought and action for forcible entry and detainer in the justice of the
peace court of Guagua, Pampanga, which was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, the case being one
of title to real property (Exhibit F and M). Valentin Susi then brought this action.

With these facts in view, we shall proceed to consider the questions raised by the appellant in his
assignments of error. lawphi1.net

It clearly appears from the evidence that Valentin Susi has been in possession of the land in
question openly, continuously, adversely, and publicly, personally and through his predecessors,
since the year 1880, that is, for about forty-five years. While the judgment of the Court of First
Instance of Pampanga against Angela Razon in the forcible entry case does not affect the Director
of Lands, yet it is controlling as to Angela Razon and rebuts her claim that she had been in
possession thereof. When on August 15, 1914, Angela Razon applied for the purchase of said land,
Valentin Susi had already been in possession thereof personally and through his predecessors for
thirty-four years. And if it is taken into account that Nemesio Pinlac had already made said land a
fish pond when he sold it on December 18, 1880, it can hardly be estimated when he began to
possess and occupy it, the period of time being so long that it is beyond the reach of memory. These
being the facts, the doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of
Cario vs. Government of the Philippine Islands (212 U. S., 449 1), is applicable here. In favor of
Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of
section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by
the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally
and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously,
exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1894, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the
provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor,
Valentin Susi had already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the
Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant
may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is sufficient, under the provisions of
section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a
grant of the State, it had already ceased to be the public domain and had become private property,
at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently,
in selling the land in question to Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which
he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela
Razon did not thereby acquire any right.

The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the public domain, the plaintiff-
appellee cannot maintain an action to recover possession thereof. lawphi1.net

If, as above stated, the land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become, by
operation of law, private property of the plaintiff, there lacking only the judicial sanction of his title,
Valentin Susi has the right to bring an action to recover possession thereof and hold it.
For the foregoing, and no error having been found in the judgment appealed from, the same is
hereby affirmed in all its parts, without special pronouncement as to costs. So ordered.

Avancea, C.J., Malcolm, Street, Villamor, Ostrand, Johns, and Romualdez, JJ., concur.
Johnson, J., took no part.
G.R. No. L-3793 February 19, 1908

CIRILO MAPA, petitioner-appellee,


vs.
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellant.

Attorney-General Araneta for appellant.


Basilio R. Mapa for appellee.

WILLARD, J.:

This case comes from the Court of Land Registration. The petitioner sought to have registered a
tract of land of about 16 hectares in extent, situated in the barrio of San Antonio, in the district of
Mandurriao, in the municipality of Iloilo. Judgment was rendered in favor of the petitioner and the
Government has appealed. A motion for a new trial was made and denied in the court below, but no
exception was taken to the order denying it, and we therefore can not review the evidence.

The decision of that court was based upon Act No. 926 section 54, paragraph 6 which follows:

All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open,
continuous exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public lands,
as defined by said act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide
claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next
preceding the taking effect of this act, except when prevented by war, or force majeure, shall
be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government
grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to such land
under the provisions of this chapter.

The only question submitted to the court below or to this court by the Attorney-General is the
question whether the land in controversy is agricultural land within the meaning of the section above
quoted. The findings of the court below upon that point are as follows:

From the evidence adduced it appears that the land in question is lowland, and has been
uninterruptedly, for more than twenty years, in the possession of the petitioner and his
ancestors as owners and the same has been used during the said period, and up to the
present, as fish ponds, nipa lands, and salt deposits. The witnesses declare that the land is
far from the sea, the town of Molo being between the sea and the said land.

The question is an important one because the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined by said
act of Congress of July 1, is found not only in section 54 above quoted but in other parts of Act No.
926, and it seems that the same construction must be given to the phrase wherever it occurs in any
part of that law.

The claim of the Attorney-General seems to be that no lands can be called agricultural lands unless
they are such by their nature. If the contention of the Attorney-General is correct, and this land
because of its nature is not agricultural land, it is difficult to see how it could be disposed of or what
the Government could do with it if it should be decided that the Government is the owner thereof. It
could not allow the land to be entered as a homestead, for Chapter I of Act No. 926 allows the entry
of homesteads only upon "agricultural public lands" in the Philippine Islands, as defined by the act of
Congress of July 1, 1902. It could not sell it in accordance with the provisions of Chapter II of Act No.
926 for section 10 only authorizes the sale of "unreserved nonmineral agricultural public land in the
Philippine Islands, as defined in the act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two." It could
not lease it in accordance with the provisions of Chapter III of the said act, for section 22 relating to
leases limits them to "nonmineral public lands, as defined by section eighteen and twenty of the act
of Congress approved July first, nineteen hundred and two." It may be noted in passing that there is
perhaps some typographical or other error in this reference to sections 18 and 20, because neither
one of these sections mentions agricultural lands. The Government could not give a free patent to
this land to a native settler, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV, for that relates only to
"agricultural public land, as defined by act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two."

In fact, by virtue of the provisions of Act No. 926, the Government could do nothing with this land
except to lay out a town site thereon in accordance with the provisions of Chapter V, for section 36
relating to that matter, says nothing about agricultural land.

The question before us is not what is agricultural land, but what definition has been given to that
phrase by the act of Congress. An examination of that act will show that the only sections thereof
wherein can be found anything which could be called a definition of the phrase are sections 13 and
15. Those sections are as follows:

SEC. 13. That the Government of the Philippine Islands, subject to the provisions of this act
and except as herein provided, shall classify according to its agricultural character and
productiveness, and shall immediately make rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or
other disposition of the public lands other than timber or mineral lands, but such rules and
regulations shall not go into effect of have the force of law until they have received the
approval of the President, and when approved by the President they shall be submitted by
him to Congress at the beginning of the next ensuing session thereof and unless
disapproved or amended by Congress at said session they shall at the close of such period
have the force and effect of law in the Philippine Islands: Provided, That a single homestead
entry shall not exceed sixteen hectares in extent.

SEC. 15. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and
empowered on such terms as it may prescribe, by general legislation, to provide for the
granting or sale and conveyance to actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of said
Islands such parts and portions of the public domain, other than timber and mineral lands, of
the United States in said Islands as it may deem wise, not exceeding sixteen hectares to any
one person and for the sale and conveyance of not more than one thousand and twenty-four
hectares to any corporation or association of persons: Provided, that the grant or sale of
such lands, whether the purchase price be paid at once or in partial payments shall be
conditioned upon actual and continued occupancy, improvement, and cultivation of the
premises sold for a period of not less than five years, during which time the purchaser or
grantee can not alienate or encumber said land or the title thereto; but such restriction shall
not apply to transfers of rights and title of inheritance under the laws for the distribution of the
estates of decedents.

It is seen that neither one of these sections gives any express definition of the phrase "agricultural
land." In fact, in section 15 the word "agricultural" does not occur.

There seem to be only three possible ways of deciding this question. The first is to say that no
definition of the phrase "agricultural land" can be found in the act of Congress; the second, that there
is a definition of that phrase in the act and that it means land which in its nature is agricultural; and,
third, that there is a definition in the act and that the phrase means all of the public lands acquired
from Spain except those which are mineral or timber lands. The court below adopted this view, and
held that the land, not being timber or mineral land, came within the definition of agricultural land,
and that therefore Section 54 paragraph 6, Act No. 926 was applicable thereto.
1. There are serious objections to holding that there is no definition in the act of the phrase
"agricultural land." The Commission in enacting Act No. 926 expressly declared that such a definition
could be found therein. The President approved this act and it might be said that Congress, by failing
to reject or amend it, tacitly approved it. Moreover, if it should be said that there is no definition in the
act of Congress of the phrase "agricultural land," we do not see how any effect could be given to the
provisions of Act No. 916, to which we have referred. If the phrase is not defined in the act of
Congress, then the lands upon which homesteads can be granted can not be determined. Nor can it
be known what land the Government has the right to sell in accordance with the provisions of
Chapter II, nor what lands it can lease in accordance with the provisions of Chapter III, nor the lands
for which it can give free patents to native settlers in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV,
and it would seem to follow, necessarily, that none of those chapters could be put into force and that
all that had up to this time been done by virtue thereof would be void.

2. The second way of disposing of the question is by saying that Congress has defined agricultural
lands as those lands which are, as the Attorney-General says, by their nature agricultural. As has
been said before, the word "agricultural" does not occur in section 15. Section 13 says that the
Government "shall classify according to its agricultural character and productiveness and shall
immediately make rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or other disposition of the public lands
other than timber or mineral land." This is the same thing as saying that the Government shall
classify the public lands other than timber or mineral lands according to its agricultural character and
productiveness; in other words, that it shall classify all the public lands acquired from Spain, and that
this classification shall be made according to the agricultural character of the land and according to
its productiveness.

One objection to adopting this view is that it is so vague and indefinite that it would be very difficult to
apply it in practice. What lands are agricultural in nature? The Attorney-General himself in his brief in
this case says:

The most arid mountain and the poorest soil are susceptible of cultivation by the hand of
man.

The land in question in this case, which is used as a fishery, could be filled up and any kind of crops
raised thereon. Mineral and timber lands are expressly excluded, but it would be difficult to say that
any other particular tract of land was not agricultural in nature. Such lands may be found within the
limits of any city. There is within the city of Manila, and within a thickly inhabited part thereof an
experimental far. This land is in its nature agricultural. Adjoining the Luneta, in the same city, is a
large tract of land, Camp Wallace, devoted to sports. The land surrounding the city walls of Manila,
between them and the Malecon Drive on the west, the Luneta on the south, and Bagumbayan Drive
on the south and east, is of many hectares in extent and is in nature agricultural. The Luneta itself
could at any time be devoted to the growing of crops.

The objection to adopting this construction on account of its uncertainty is emphasized when we
consider that whether certain land was or was not agricultural land, as defined by the act of
Congress, and therefore subject to homestead entry, to sale, or to lease in accordance with the
provisions of Act No. 926, would be a question that would finally have to be determined by the
courts, unless there is some express provision of the law authorizing the administrative officers to
determine this question for themselves. Section 2 of Act No. 926 relating to homesteads provides
that the Chief of The Bureau of Public Lands shall summarily determine whether the land described
isprima facie under the law subject to homestead settlement. Section 13, relating to the sale of
public lands, provides simply that the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall determine from the
certificate of the Chief of the Bureau of Forestry whether the land applied for is more valuable for
agricultural than for timber purposes, but it says nothing about his decisions as to whether it is or is
not agricultural land in its nature. Section 26 relating to the lease of public lands provides that the
Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall determine from the certificate of the Chief of the Bureau of
Forestry whether the land applied for is more valuable for agricultural than for timber purposes and
further summarily determine from available records whether the land is or is not mineral and does
not contain deposits of coal or salts. Section 34 relating to fee patents to native settlers makes no
provision for any determination by the Chief of Bureau of Public Lands in regard to the character of
the land applied for.

After homesteads have been entered, lands, sold, and leases made by the administrative officers on
the theory that the lands were agricultural lands by their nature, to leave the matter of their true
character open for subsequent action by the courts would be to produce an evil that should if
possible be avoided.

3. We hold that there is to be found in the act of Congress a definition of the phrase "agricultural
public lands," and after a careful consideration of the question we are satisfied that the only definition
which exists in said act is the definition adopted by the court below. Section 13 says that the
Government shall "Make rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or other disposition of the public
lands other than timber or mineral lands." To our minds, that is the only definition that can be said to
be given to acricultural lands. In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No.
926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. As was
said in the case of Jones vs. The Insular Government (6 Phil Rep., 122, 133) where these same
section of the act of Congress were under discussion:

The meaning of these sections is not clear and it is difficult to give to them a construction that
would be entirely free from objection.

But the construction we have adopted, to our minds, is less objectionable than any other one that
has been suggested.

There is nothing in this case of Jones vs. The Insular Government which at all conflicts with the
result here arrived at. The question as to whether the lands there involved were or were not
agricultural lands within the meaning of the sections was neither discussed nor decided. In fact, it
appears from the decision that those lands, which were in the Province of Benguet, were within the
strictest definition of the phrase "agricultural lands." It appears that such lands had been cultivated
for more than twelve years. What that case decided was, not that the lands therein involved and
other lands referred to in the decision by way of illustration were not agricultural lands but that the
law there in question and the other laws mentioned therein were not rules and regulations within the
meaning of section 13.

The judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this instance against the appellant. So
ordered.

Arellano, C.J., and Torres, J., concur.


Johnson, J., concurs in the result.

Separate Opinions

TRACEY, J., concurring:


By its title as well as throughout its text Act No. 926 is restricted to the "Public domain of the
Philippine Islands" and to "public lands" in said Islands. This act, drawn in furtherance of an act of
Congress, must be interpreted according to the American understanding of the words employed and
the meaning of these terms as definitely fixed by decisions of the United States Supreme Court.

"Public domain" and "public lands" are equivalent terms. (Barker vs. Harvey, 181, U.S., 481, 490.

The words "public lands" are habitually used in our legislation to describe such as are
subject to sale or other disposal under general laws. (Newhall vs. Sanger, 92 U.S., 761)

A grant of public lands applies only to lands which at the time are free from existing claims.
(Bardon vs. Northern Pacific R.R. Co., 145 U.S., 535, 543.)

These words do not include land reserved for the use of certain Indian tribes, although still the
property of the United States (Leavenworth, etc., vs. United States, 92 U.S., 733), nor lands covered
and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the tide. (Mann vs. Tacoma Land Co., 153 U.S., 273.) And the
same was held of the words "unoccupied and unappropriated public lands." (Shively vs. Bowlby, 152
U.S., 1.)

In Wilcox vs. Jackson (13 Peters, 498, 513) it was held that whenever a tract of land has been
legally appropriated to any purpose, from that moment it becomes severed from the mass of public
lands and no subsequent law will be construed to embrace it, although no express reservation is
made. There have been similar rulings in regard to reservations for military purposes, for town sites,
educational purposes, and for mineral and forest uses. Consequently Act No. 926 applies only to the
lands of the United States in these Islands not already devoted to public use or subject to private
right, and this construction necessarily excludes from its scope lands devoted to the use of
municipalities, including public buildings and such tracts as Wallace Field and the strip surrounding
the walls of the City of Manila. As the act has no application to them, they are not public lands in this
sense, and can not be included within the term "agricultural public lands."

In referring to agricultural lands as being defined in the act of Congress of July 1, 1902, the
Philippine Commission must have had in mind this well-settled meaning of the terms employed and
have used the word "agricultural" to distinguish and include such public lands, not otherwise
appropriated as, were not devoted to forestry and mining which is consistent with the direction of
section 13 of the act of Congress that public lands, other than timber or mineral lands, should be
classified according to their agricultural character and productiveness.

In view of the restricted scope of these statutes under the decisions of the United States Supreme
Court, this direction as to the classification of all remaining lands not forest or mineral in character,
"according to their agricultural nature and productiveness," may fairly be considered a definition of
them as agricultural lands, with the result of freeing the act of the Commission from ambiguity.

It was apparently the intention of Congress that such classification, in a general way, should be
immediately made, but the fact that it has been delayed does not prevent the designation of any
particular parcel of land, upon being granted by the Government, as coming under one of these
heads.

For these reason, I concur in the interpretation put upon this act in the majority opinion.

Carson, J., concurs.


G.R. No. L-13298 November 19, 1918

CORNELIO RAMOS, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, objector-appellee.

Basilio Aromin for appellant.


Office of the Solicitor-General Paredes for appellee.

MALCOLM, J.:

This is an appeal by the applicant and appellant from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of
Nueva Ecija, denying the registration of the larger portion of parcel No. 1 (Exhibit A of the petitioner),
marked by the letters A, B, and C on the plan, Exhibit 1, of the Government.

One Restituto Romero y Ponce apparently gained possession of a considerable tract of land located
in the municipality of San Jose, Province of Nueva Ecija, in the year 1882. He took advantage of the
Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, to obtain a possessory information title to the land, registered as
such on February 8, 1896. Parcel No. 1, included within the limits of the possessory information title
of Restituto Romero, was sold in February, 1907, to Cornelio Ramos, the instant petitioner, and his
wife Ambrosia Salamanca.

Ramos instituted appropriate proceedings to have his title registered. Opposition was entered by the
Director of Lands on the ground that Ramos had not acquired a good title from the Spanish
government and by the Director of Forestry on the ground that the first parcel was forest land. The
trial court agreed with the objectors and excluded parcel No. 1 from registration. So much for the
facts.

As to the law, the principal argument of the Solicitor-General is based on the provisions of the
Spanish Mortgage Law and of the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, commonly known as the
Maura Law. The Solicitor-General would emphasize that for land to come under the protective gis
of the Maura Law, it must have been shown that the land was cultivated for six years previously, and
that it was not land which pertained to the "zonas forestales." As proof that the land was, even as
long ago as the years 1894 to 1896, forestal and not agricultural in nature is the fact that there are
yet found thereon trees from 50 to 80 years of age.

We do not stop to decide this contention, although it might be possible, following the doctrine laid
down by the United States Supreme Court with reference to Mexican and Spanish grantes within the
United States, where some recital is claimed to be false, to say that the possessory information,
apparently having taken cognizance of the requisites for title, should not now be disturbed.
(Hancock vs. McKinney [1851], 7 Tex., 192; Hornsby and Roland vs.United States [1869], 10 Wall.,
224.) It is sufficient, as will later appear, merely to notice that the predecessor in interest to the
petitioner at least held this tract of land under color of title.

Subsection 6 of section 54, of Act No. 926, entitled The Public Land Law, as amended by Act No.
1908, reads as follows:
6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors and interest have been in the open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public lands,
as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide
claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next
preceding the twenty-sixth day of July, nineteen hundred and four, except when prevented
by war or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a government grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a
certificate of title to such land under the provisions of this chapter.

There are two parts to the above quoted subsection which must be discussed. The first relates to the
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of what, for present
purposes, can be conceded to be agricultural public land, under a bona fide claim of ownership.

Actual possession of land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature
as a party would naturally exercise over his own property. Relative to actuality of possession, it is
admitted that the petitioner has cultivated only about one fourth of the entire tract. This is graphically
portrayed by Exhibit 1 of the Government, following:

The question at once arises: Is that actual occupancy of a part of the land described in the
instrument giving color of title sufficient to give title to the entire tract of land?
lawphil.net

The doctrine of constructive possession indicates the answer. The general rule is that the
possession and cultivation of a portion of a tract under claim of ownership of all is a constructive
possession of all, if the remainder is not in the adverse possession of another. (Barr vs. Gratz's Heirs
[1819], 4 Wheat., 213; Ellicott vs. Pearl [1836], 10 Pet., 412; Smith vs. Gale [1892], 144 U. S., 509.)
Of course, there are a number of qualifications to the rule, one particularly relating to the size of the
tract in controversy with reference to the portion actually in possession of the claimant. It is here only
necessary to apply the general rule.

The claimant has color of title; he acted in good faith; and he has had open, peaceable, and
notorious possession of a portion of the property, sufficient to apprise the community and the world
that the land was for his enjoyment. (See arts. 446, 448, Civil Code.) Possession in the eyes of the
law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be
said that he is in possession. Ramos and his predecessor in interest fulfilled the requirements of the
law on the supposition that he premises consisted of agricultural public land.

The second division of the law requires consideration of the term "agricultural public land." The law
affirms that the phrase is denied by the Act of Congress of July 1st, 1902, known as the Philippine
bill. Turning to the Philippine Bill, we find in sections 13 to 18 thereof that three classes of land are
mentioned. The first is variously denominated "public land" or "public domain," the second "mineral
land," and the third "timber land." Section 18 of the Act of Congress comes nearest to a precise
definition, when it makes the determination of whether the land is more valuable for agricultural or for
forest uses the test of its character.

Although these sections of the Philippine Bill have come before the courts on numerous occasions,
what was said in the case of Jones vs. Insular Government ([1906], 6 Phil., 122), is still true, namely:
"The meaning of these sections is not clear and it is difficult to give to them a construction that will be
entirely free from objection." In the case which gave most serious consideration to the subject
(Mapa vs. Insular Government [1908], 10 Phil., 175), it was found that there does exist in the Act of
Congress a definition of the phrase "agricultural public lands." It was said that the phrase
"agricultural public lands" as used in Act No. 926 means "those public lands acquired from Spain
which are not timber or mineral lands."

The idea would appear to be to determine, by exclusion, if the land is forestal or mineral in nature
and, if not so found, to consider it to be agricultural land. Here, again, Philippine law is not very
helpful. For instance, section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917 provides: "For the purposes of
this chapter, 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public
land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character." This
definition of "public forest," it will be noted, is merely "for the purposes of this chapter." A little further
on, section 1827 provides: "Lands in public forests, not including forest reserves, upon the
certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for
agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest,
shall be declared by the Department Head to be agricultural lands." With reference to the last
section, there is no certification of the Director of Forestry in the record, as to whether this land is
better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes.

The lexicographers define "forest" as "a large tract of land covered with a natural growth of trees and
underbrush; a large wood." The authorities say that he word "forest" has a significant, not an
insignificant meaning, and that it does not embrace land only partly woodland. It is a tract of land
covered with trees, usually of considerable extent. (Higgins vs. Long Island R. Co. [1908], 114 N. Y.
Supp., 262; People vs. Long Island R. Co. [1908], 110 N. Y. Supp., 512.)

The foresters say that no legal definition of "forest" is practicable or useful. B. H. Baden-Powell, in
his work on Forest Law of India, states as follows:

Every definition of a forest that can be framed for legal purposes will be found either to
exclude some cases to which the law ought to apply, or on the other hand, to include some
with which the law ought not to interfere. It may be necessary, for example, to take under the
law a tract of perfectly barren land which at present has neither trees, brushwood, nor grass
on it, but which in the course f time it is hoped will be "reboise;" but any definition wide
enough to take in all such lands, would also take in much that was not wanted. On the other
hand, the definition, if framed with reference to tree-growth, might (and indeed would be
almost sure to) include a garden, shrubbery, orchard, or vineyard, which it was not designed
to deal with.

B. E. Fernow, in his work on the Economics of Forestry, states as follows:

A forest in the sense in which we use the term, as an economic factor, is by no means a
mere collection of trees, but an organic whole in which all parts, although apparently
heterogeneous, jumbled together by accident as it were and apparently unrelated, bear a
close relation to each other and are as interdependent as any other beings and conditions in
nature.

The Director of Forestry of the Philippine Islands has said:

During the time of the passage of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, this question of forest
and agricultural lands was beginning to receive some attention and it is clearly shown in
section 18 of the above mentioned Act; it leaves to the Bureau of Forestry the certification as
to what lands are for agricultural or forest uses. Although the Act states timber lands, the
Bureau has in its administration since the passage of this act construed this term to mean
forest lands in the sense of what was necessary to protect, for the public good; waste lands
without a tree have been declared more suitable for forestry in many instances in the past.
The term 'timber' as used in England and in the United States in the past has been applied to
wood suitable for construction purposes but with the increase in civilization and the
application of new methods every plant producing wood has some useful purpose and the
term timber lands is generally though of as synonymous with forest lands or lands producing
wood, or able to produce wood, if agricultural crops on the same land will not bring the
financial return that timber will or if the same land is needed for protection purposes.

xxx xxx xxx

The laws in the United States recognize the necessity of technical advice of duly appointed
boards and leave it in the hands of these boards to decide what lands are more valuable for
forestry purposes or for agricultural purposes.

In the Philippine Islands this policy is follows to as great an extent as allowable under the
law. In many cases, in the opinion of the Bureau of Forestry, lands without a single tree on
them are considered as true forest land. For instance, mountain sides which are too steep for
cultivation under ordinary practice and which, if cultivated, under ordinary practice would
destroy the big natural resource of the soil, by washing, is considered by this bureau as
forest land and in time would be reforested. Of course, examples exist in the Mountain
Province where steep hillsides have been terraced and intensive cultivation practiced but
even then the mountain people are very careful not to destroy forests or other vegetative
cover which they from experience have found protect their water supply. Certain chiefs have
lodged protests with the Government against other tribes on the opposite side of the
mountain cultivated by them, in order to prevent other tribes from cutting timber or destroy
cover guarding their source of water for irrigation.

Dr. M. S. Shaler, formerly Dean of the Lawrence Scientific School, remarked that if mankind
could not devise and enforce ways dealing with the earth, which will preserve this source of
like "we must look forward to the time, remote it may be, yet equally discernible, when out kin
having wasted its great inheritance will fade from the earth because of the ruin it has
accomplished."

The method employed by the bureau of Forestry in making inspection of lands, in order to
determine whether they are more adapted for agricultural or forest purposes by a technical
and duly trained personnel on the different phases of the conservation of natural resources,
is based upon a previously prepared set of questions in which the different characters of the
land under inspection are discussed, namely:

Slope of land: Level; moderate; steep; very steep.

Exposure: North; South; East; West.

Soil: Clay; sandy loam; sand; rocky; very rocky.

Character of soil cover: Cultivated, grass land, brush land, brush land and timber mixed,
dense forest.

If cultivated, state crops being grown and approximate number of hectares under cultivation.
(Indicate on sketch.)

For growth of what agricultural products is this land suitable?

State what portion of the tract is wooded, name of important timber species and estimate of
stand in cubic meters per hectare, diameter and percentage of each species.

If the land is covered with timber, state whether there is public land suitable for agriculture in
vicinity, which is not covered with timber.

Is this land more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes? (State reasons in full.)

Is this land included or adjoining any proposed or established forest reserve or communal
forest? Description and ownership of improvements.

If the land is claimed under private ownership, give the name of the claimant, his place of
residence, and state briefly (if necessary on a separate sheet) the grounds upon which he
bases his claim.

When the inspection is made on a parcel of public land which has been applied for, the
corresponding certificate is forwarded to the Director of Lands; if it is made on a privately
claimed parcel for which the issuance of a title is requested from the Court of Land
Registration, and the inspection shows the land to be more adapted for forest purposes, then
the Director of Forestry requests the Attorney-General to file an opposition, sending him all
data collected during the inspection and offering him the forest officer as a witness.

It should be kept in mind that the lack of personnel of this Bureau, the limited time
intervening between the notice for the trial on an expediente of land and the day of the trial,
and the difficulties in communications as well as the distance of the land in question greatly
hinder the handling of this work.
In the case of lands claimed as private property, the Director of Forestry, by means of his
delegate the examining officer, submits before the court all evidence referring to the present
forest condition of the land, so that the court may compare them with the alleged right by the
claimant. Undoubtedly, when the claimant presents a title issued by the proper authority or
evidence of his right to the land showing that he complied with the requirements of the law,
the forest certificate does not affect him in the least as such land should not be considered
as a part of the public domain; but when the alleged right is merely that of possession, then
the public or private character of the parcel is open to discussion and this character should
be established not simply on the alleged right of the claimant but on the sylvical condition
and soil characteristics of the land, and by comparison between this area, or different
previously occupied areas, and those areas which still preserve their primitive character.

Either way we look at this question we encounter difficulty. Indubitably, there should be conservation
of the natural resources of the Philippines. The prodigality of the spendthrift who squanders his
substance for the pleasure of the fleeting moment must be restrained for the less spectacular but
surer policy which protects Nature's wealth for future generations. Such is the wise stand of our
Government as represented by the Director of Forestry who, with the Forester for the Government of
the United States, believes in "the control of nature's powers by man for his own good." On the other
hand, the presumption should be, in lieu of contrary proof, that land is agricultural in nature. One
very apparent reason is that it is for the good of the Philippine Islands to have the large public
domain come under private ownership. Such is the natural attitude of the sagacious citizen.

If in this instance, we give judicial sanction to a private claim, let it be noted that the Government, in
the long run of cases, has its remedy. Forest reserves of public land can be established as provided
by law. When the claim of the citizen and the claim of the Government as to a particular piece of
property collide, if the Government desires to demonstrate that the land is in reality a forest, the
Director of Forestry should submit to the court convincing proof that the land is not more valuable for
agricultural than for forest purposes. Great consideration, it may be stated, should, and undoubtedly
will be, paid by the courts to the opinion of the technical expert who speaks with authority on forestry
matters. But a mere formal opposition on the part of the Attorney-General for the Director of
Forestry, unsupported by satisfactory evidence will not stop the courts from giving title to the
claimant.

We hold that the petitioner and appellant has proved a title to the entire tract of land for which he
asked registration, under the provisions of subsection 6, of section 54, of Act No. 926, as amended
by Act No. 1908, with reference to the Philippine Bill and the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894,
and his possessory information.

Judgment is reversed and the lower court shall register in the name of the applicant the entire tract
in parcel No. 1, as described in plan Exhibit A, without special finding as to costs. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson, Street and Fisher, JJ., concur.


G.R. No. L-25010 October 27, 1926

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
PAULINO ABELLA, ET AL., claimants;
MARIA DEL ROSARIO, petitioner-appellant.

Francisco, Lualhati and Lopez for appellant.


Attorney-General Jaranilla for appellee.

JOHNSON, J.:

This is a petition for the registration of a certain parcel or tract of land located in the municipality of
San Jose, Province of Nueva Ecija, Philippine Islands. It appears from the record that on the 21st
day of September, 1915, the appellant Maria del Rosario presented a petition in the Court of First
Instance for the registration under the Torrens system, of the very land now in question by virtue of
her appeal. In that case, after issue joined and after hearing the evidence, the Honorable Vicente
Nepomuceno, judge, denied the registration of all of the northern portion of the land included in her
petition represented by Exhibit 1, which was the plan presented in that action, upon the ground that
said portion was more valuable for timber purposes than for agricultural purposes. From that
judgment Maria del Rosario appealed.

The Supreme Court after a consideration of the evidence affirmed the decision of the lower court. In
the course of that decision the Supreme Court, speaking through Mr. Justice Moir, said: "We have
examined the plans and all the evidence presented in this case and are of the opinion that the trial
court was correct in its declaration that this send a did not mean the old road to Bogabon. The fact
that nearly all the northern property is forestry land is a further indication that the applicant's
possessory information title did not include the land running up to the road to Bongabon, because all
the papers which the applicant has regarding this property call the land palayero." 1

Judge Nepomuceno in his decision directed that the appellant herein present an amended plan in
that case, showing the particular part or parcel of the land in question which she was entitled to have
registered. We have no evidence before us showing that order of Judge Nepomuceno was ever
complied with.

Nothing further seems to have occurred with reference to the registration of the land included in the
former case until the 26th day of April, 1921, when the Acting Director of Lands presented the
petition in the present case for the registration, under the cadastral survey, of a portion of land
located in the municipality of San Jose, which included the very land claimed by Maria del Rosario in
the former action. She presented her opposition in the present action, claiming the very land which
she claimed in the former action. The only proof which she presented in support of her claim in the
present action was the proof which she had presented in the former action. No proof was adduced in
addition thereto, which in the slightest degree showed that she was entitled to the registration of any
other parcel of land than those which had been conceded to her in the first action.

Upon the issue and the proof adduced in the present case the Honorable C. Carballo, Auxiliary
Judge of the Sixth Judicial District, ordered registered in the name of Maria del Rosario, under the
cadastral survey, lots 3238, 3240, 3242 and 3243, which are the very lots which had been ordered
registered in her name in the former action. From that judgment she appealed to this court upon the
ground that the lower court committed an error in not registering all of the land included in her
opposition in her name. 1aw ph!l.net

In this court she presented a motion for rehearing and in support thereof presents some proof to
show that the northern portion of the land in question is not forestry land but that much of it is
agricultural land. With reference to said motion for rehearing, it may be said that all of the proof
which is presented in support thereof existed at the time of the trial and might, with reasonable
diligence, have been presented. It cannot, therefore, be considered now. It is not newly discovered
evidence. And moreover if it should be accepted it would not be sufficient to justify the granting of a
new trial.

After a careful examination of the entire record and the evidence adduced during the trial of this
cause as well as that adduced during the trial of the first cause, we are fully persuaded that no error
has been committed. Whether particular land is more valuable for forestry purposes than for
agricultural purposes, or vice-versa, is a question of fact and must be established during the trial of
the cause. Whether the particular land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral is a question to be settled
in each particular case, unless the Bureau of Forestry has, under the authority conferred upon it,
prior to the intervention of private interest, set aside for forestry or mineral purposes the particular
land in question. (Ankron vs. Government of the Philippine Islands, 40 Phil., 10.) During the trial of
the present cause the appellant made no effort to show that the land which she claimed, outside of
that which had been decreed in her favor, was more valuable for agricultural than forestry purposes.
For all of the foregoing, the judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed, with costs. So ordered.

Avancea, C. J., Street, Villamor, Ostrand, Johns, Romualdez and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.
G.R. No. L-48321 August 31, 1946

OH CHO, applicant-appellee,
vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, oppositor-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta and Assistant Solicitor General Rafael Amparo for
appellant.
Vicente Constantino for appellee.
Ferrier, Gomez and Sotelo and J. T. Chuidian as amici curiae.

PADILLA, J.:

This is an appeal from a judgment decreeing the registration of a residential lot located in the
municipality of Guinayangan, Province of Tayabas in the name of the applicant.

The opposition of the Director of Lands is based on the applicant's lack of title to the lot, and on his
disqualification, as alien, from acquiring lands of the public domain.

The applicant, who is an alien, and his predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession of the lot from 1880 to filing of the application for registration on
January 17, 1940.

The Solicitor General reiterates the second objection of the opponent and adds that the lower court,
committed an error in not declaring null and void the sale of the lot to the applicant.

The applicant invokes the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496), or should it not be applicable to the
case, then he would apply for the benefits of the Public Land Act (C.A. No. 141).

The applicant failed to show that he has title to the lot that may be confirmed under the Land
Registration Act. He failed to show that he or any of his predecessors in interest had acquired the lot
from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, under the laws, orders and decrease
promulgated by the Spanish Government in the Philippines, or by possessory information under the
Mortgaged Law (section 19, Act 496). All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either
by purchase or by grant below to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that
should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time
immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of
the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest.
(Cario vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S., 449; 53 Law. Ed., 594.) The applicant does not come
under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessors in interest begun
in 1880.

As the applicant failed to show title to the lot, the next question is whether he is entitled to decree or
registration of the lot, because he is alien disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain
(sections 48, 49, C.A. No. 141).

As the applicant failed to show the title to the lot, and has invoked the provisions of the Public Land
Act, it seems unnecessary to make pronouncement in this case on the nature or classifications of
the sought to be registered.
It may be argued that under the provisions of the Public Land Act the applicant immediate
predecessor in interest would have been entitled to a decree of registration of the lot had they
applied for its registration; and that he having purchased or acquired it, the right of his immediate
predecessor in interest to a decree of registration must be deemed also to have been acquired by
him. The benefits provided in the Public Land Act for applicant's immediate predecessors in interest
should comply with the condition precedent for the grant of such benefits. The condition precedent is
to apply for the registration of the land of which they had been in possession at least since July 26,
1894. This the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest failed to do. They did not have any
vested right in the lot amounting to the title which was transmissible to the applicant. The only right, if
it may thus be called, is their possession of the lot which, tacked to that of their predecessors in
interest, may be availed of by a qualified person to apply for its registration but not by a person as
the applicant who is disqualified.

It is urged that the sale of the lot to the applicant should have been declared null and void. In a suit
between vendor and vendee for the annulment of the sale, such pronouncement would be
necessary, if the court were of the opinion that it is void. It is not necessary in this case where the
vendors do not even object to the application filed by the vendee.

Accordingly, judgment is reversed and the application for registration dismissed, without costs.

Moran, C.J., Feria, Pablo, Hilado and Bengzon, JJ., concur.


G.R. No. 167707 October 8, 2008

THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES,


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

x--------------------------------------------------x

G.R. No. G.R. No. 173775 October 8, 2008

DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY
SIMILARLY SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST, ANNEX "A" OF THIS PETITION, petitioners,
vs.
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES,
THE REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU,
REGION VI, PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO,
AKLAN, respondents.

DECISION

REYES, R.T., J.:

AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of Boracay Island to
secure titles over their occupied lands.

There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition for review
on certiorari of the Decision1of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that2 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by respondents-
claimants Mayor Jose Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes. The second
is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No.
10645">[3] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest
and agricultural land.

The Antecedents

G.R. No. 167707

Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white sand beaches and warm
crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine tourist destination. The island is also home to
12,003 inhabitants4 who live in the bone-shaped islands three barangays.5

On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) approved the
National Reservation Survey of Boracay
Island,6 which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named persons.7

On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 18018 declaring
Boracay Island, among other islands, caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as tourist zones and
marine reserves under the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). President
Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-829 dated September 3, 1982, to implement
Proclamation No. 1801.

Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded them from filing an
application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes,
respondents-claimants
Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap filed a petition for
declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo, Aklan.

In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-
82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over their occupied lands. They declared that they
themselves, or through their predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June 12, 1945, or earlier since time
immemorial. They declared their lands for tax purposes and paid realty taxes on them.10

Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its implementing Circular did not
place Boracay beyond the commerce of man. Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone, it
was susceptible of private ownership. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141,
otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the right to have the lots registered in their names
through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.

The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the petition for declaratory
relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was an unclassified land of the public domain. It
formed part of the mass of lands classified as "public forest," which was not available for disposition
pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code,11 as
amended.

The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants reliance on PD No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-
82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation of title was governed by CA No. 141 and PD
No. 705. Since Boracay Island had not been classified as alienable and disposable, whatever
possession they had cannot ripen into ownership.

During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the following facts: (1)
respondents-claimants were presently in possession of parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2) these
parcels of land were planted with coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the coconut
trees had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less fifty (50) years
ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land they were occupying for tax purposes.12

The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely legal: whether Proclamation
No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. They
decided to forego with the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of their
respective memoranda.13

The RTC took judicial notice14 that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island, more particularly Lots 1
and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the
name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S. Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262
filed before the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.15 The titles were issued on
August 7, 1933.16

RTC and CA Dispositions

On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents-claimants, with
a fallo reading:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA
Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle to the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire title
to their lands in Boracay, in accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner prescribed
therein; and to have their lands surveyed and approved by respondent Regional Technical Director
of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself constitute a title to the land.

SO ORDERED.17

The RTC upheld respondents-claimants right to have their occupied lands titled in their name. It
ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA Circular No. 3-82 mentioned that lands in Boracay
were inalienable or could not be the subject of disposition.18 The Circular itself recognized private
ownership of lands.19 The trial court cited Sections 8720 and 5321 of the Public Land Act as basis for
acknowledging private ownership of lands in Boracay and that only those forested areas in public
lands were declared as part of the forest reserve.22

The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.23 The Republic then appealed to the
CA.

On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us DENYING the
appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court.24

The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration that the lands they
occupied since time immemorial were part of a forest reserve.

Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.25 Hence, the present petition
under Rule 45.

G.R. No. 173775

On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
issued Proclamation No. 106426 classifying Boracay Island into four hundred (400) hectares of
reserved forest land (protection purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96)
hectares of agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation likewise provided for a
fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of roads and trails, reserved for right-of-way
and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.

On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,27 Wilfredo Gelito,28 and other
landowners29 in Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for prohibition, mandamus, and
nullification of Proclamation No. 1064.30 They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their "prior
vested rights" over portions of Boracay. They have been in continued possession of their respective
lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have also invested billions of pesos in developing their
lands and building internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots.31
Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation reclassifying Boracay into
agricultural land. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber land, the island
is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first
Public Land Act.32 Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required period entitled
them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.

Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a vested right over
their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section
3(a) of PD No. 705. Being public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot
be the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only the executive department, not the
courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable
lands. There is a need for a positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition.

On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two petitions as they principally
involve the same issues on the land classification of Boracay Island.33

Issues

G.R. No. 167707

The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose
any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those similarly situated, to acquire title to their occupied
lands in Boracay Island.34

G.R. No. 173775

Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely:

I.

AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN CONCEPT OF


OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY, SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT
THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR TO THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY
RELIEF ON NOV. 19, 1997, WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL
LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT
TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS DEFINED BY SEC. 3a, PD 705?

II.

HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF PRIVATE


OWNERSHIPOVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE FACT
THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE?

III.

IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE AND


DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN] INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR
PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLEUNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM?

IV.
IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006, VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR
VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN
BORACAY, PROTECTED BY THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS
PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF RA 6657.

V.

CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE SURVEY AND TO


APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE
LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN BORACAY?35 (Underscoring supplied)

In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-claimants in G.R. No. 167707
and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775) have a right to secure titles over their occupied
portions in Boracay. The twin petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial confirmation of
imperfect title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not involve their right to secure title under
other pertinent laws.

Our Ruling

Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive

to reclassify lands of the public domain

Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for judicial confirmation of
imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 190236 in relation to Act No. 926, later amended and/or
superseded by Act No. 2874 and CA No. 141;37 (b) Proclamation No. 180138 issued by then
President Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No. 106439issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under
these laws and executive acts.

But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to reclassify lands of the
public domain.

The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural, forest or
timber.40 Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following divisions: agricultural, industrial or
commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest and grazing lands, and such other
classes as may be provided by law,41 giving the government great leeway for classification.42 Then
the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution classification with one addition: national
parks.43 Of these, only agricultural lands may be alienated.44 Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May
22, 2006, Boracay Island had never been expressly and administratively classified under any of
these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain.

The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, that the State
is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged with the conservation of such
patrimony.45 The doctrine has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987
Constitutions.46

All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to
the State.47Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the government, either by purchase or
by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable public domain.48 Necessarily, it is up to the
State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for private ownership. The
government, as the agent of the state, is possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to
determine who shall be the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may
be granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what
otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.49

Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the Spanish conquest of the
Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in the Philippines passed to the
Spanish Crown.50 The Regalian doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of
the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the foundation that "all lands that were not acquired
from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain."51

The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The
Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as
possessory claims.52

The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law53 partly amended the Spanish Mortgage Law and
the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory information as the method of legalizing possession
of vacant Crown land, under certain conditions which were set forth in said decree.54 Under Section
393 of the Maura Law, an informacion posesoria or possessory information title,55 when duly
inscribed in the Registry of Property, is converted into a title of ownership only after the lapse of
twenty (20) years of uninterrupted possession which must be actual, public, and adverse,56 from the
date of its inscription.57 However, possessory information title had to be perfected one year after the
promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17, 1895. Otherwise, the lands would revert to the
State.58

In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be founded on royal
concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo real or royal grant; (2) concesion especial or
special grant; (3) composicion con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de compra or title by
purchase; and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information title.59>

The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines under American rule was
embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.60 By this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine
Islands were classified into three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest
lands.61 The act provided for, among others, the disposal of mineral lands by means of absolute
grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold system).62 It also provided the definition by
exclusion of "agricultural public lands."63 Interpreting the meaning of "agricultural lands" under the
Philippine Bill of 1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:64

x x x In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. 926 means those
public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. x x x65 (Emphasis
Ours)

On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land
Registration Act. The act established a system of registration by which recorded title becomes
absolute, indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system.66

Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 926, which was the
first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the homestead system and made provisions for judicial and
administrative confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It permitted
corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning the controlling stock to lease or
purchase lands of the public domain.67 Under the Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26, 1904
was sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.68

On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874, otherwise known as the
second Public Land Act. This new, more comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural
lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same
privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession and occupation en concepto dueo since time
immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was required.69

After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No. 2874 on December 1,
1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains as the existing general law governing the
classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands,70 and
privately owned lands which reverted to the State.71

Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of possession and
occupation of lands of the public domain since time immemorial or since July 26, 1894. However,
this provision was superseded by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942,72 which provided for a simple thirty-
year prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The provision was last amended
by PD No. 1073,73 which now provides for possession and occupation of the land applied for since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.74

The issuance of PD No. 89275 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of Spanish titles as
evidence in land registration proceedings.76 Under the decree, all holders of Spanish titles or grants
should apply for registration of their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity
of the decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter, the recording of all unregistered lands77 shall be
governed by Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344.

On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529, known as the Property
Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the various laws relative to registration of property.78 It
governs registration of lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including
chattel mortgages.79

A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In keeping with the
presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and again emphasized that there must be a
positive act of the government, such as an official proclamation,80 declassifying inalienable public
land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.81 In fact, Section 8 of CA No. 141 limits
alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have been "officially delimited and
classified."82

The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public
domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove that the
land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.83 To overcome this presumption,
incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is
alienable or disposable.84 There must still be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as
alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable,
the applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential
proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of
Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.85 The applicant may also secure a certification
from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the required number of years
is alienable and disposable.86
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action, report, statute, or
certification was presented to the Court. The records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to
2006, the portions of Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government
proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such well-nigh incontrovertible
evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission that lands occupied by private claimants were
already open to disposition before 2006. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be
assumed. They call for proof.87

Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or portions of it,
agricultural lands.Private claimants posit that Boracay was already an agricultural land pursuant to
the old cases Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands (1919)88 and De Aldecoa v. The Insular
Government (1909).89 These cases were decided under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902
and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old cases that "in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."90

Private claimants reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These cases did not have the
effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or portions of it into agricultural lands. It should be
stressed that the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 merely provided the manner through which
land registration courts would classify lands of the public domain. Whether the land would be
classified as timber, mineral, or agricultural depended on proof presented in each case.

Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the Philippines had no power
to classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber, and agricultural. At that time, the courts
were free to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit
power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence.91 This was the Courts ruling
in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v.
Republic,92 in which it stated, through Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:

x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be formally released by an act of
the Executive before it can be deemed open to private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v.
Director of Lands and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.

xxxx

Petitioners reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v. Government is misplaced.
These cases were decided under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926
enacted by the Philippine Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no legal provision
vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the Philippines the power to classify lands of the public
domain into mineral, timber and agricultural so that the courts then were free to make corresponding
classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending upon the
preponderance of the evidence.93

To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it was then necessary to
devise a presumption on land classification. Thus evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts have
a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."94

But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to an argument that all
lands of the public domain had been automatically reclassified as disposable and alienable
agricultural lands. By no stretch of imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public
domain into agricultural lands.
If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 would have
automatically made all lands in the Philippines, except those already classified as timber or mineral
land, alienable and disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State ownership and worse,
would be utterly inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the long-entrenched Regalian doctrine.

The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration cases brought under
the provisions of Act No. 926, or more specifically those cases dealing with judicial and
administrative confirmation of imperfect titles. The presumption applies to an applicant for judicial or
administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act No. 926. It certainly cannot apply to
landowners, such as private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, who failed to avail
themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As to them, their land remained unclassified and, by virtue
of the Regalian doctrine, continued to be owned by the State.

In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute. Land classification was, in
the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof that the land was better suited for non-agricultural
uses, the courts could adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption. In Ankron, this
Court stated:

In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the Attorney-General admitted in effect that
whether the particular land in question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The
mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to
declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of the extent
and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just said, many
definitions have been given for "agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that in each case it
is a question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry or mineral land the proof
must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it contains than it is for
agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees
upon the land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral today,
and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be classified as agricultural land tomorrow.
And vice-versa, by reason of the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands
classified as agricultural today may be differently classified tomorrow. Each case must be decided
upon the proof in that particular case, having regard for its present or future value for one or
the other purposes. We believe, however, considering the fact that it is a matter of public
knowledge that a majority of the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the courts
have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular land
registration case is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior
value for one purpose or the other is a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each
particular case. The fact that the land is a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts
to decide whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may perchance belong to one or the
other of said classes of land. The Government, in the first instance, under the provisions of Act No.
1148, may, by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be considered forestry
land, unless private interests have intervened before such reservation is made. In the latter case,
whether the land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until private interests
have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148), may decide for itself
what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land.
(Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, supra)95(Emphasis ours)

Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands from the facts of each
case, except those that have already became private lands.96 Act No. 2874, promulgated in 1919
and reproduced in Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the President,
the exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral
or forest.96-a Since then, courts no longer had the authority, whether express or implied, to determine
the classification of lands of the public domain.97

Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their title in 1933,98 did not
present a justiciable case for determination by the land registration court of the propertys land
classification. Simply put, there was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the
Boracay occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was supplanted by
Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application for judicial confirmation having been filed by private
claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, the courts were no longer authorized to determine the
propertys land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No. 926.

We note that the RTC decision99 in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v. Register of Deeds of
Manila,100 which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141, vesting the Executive with the sole power to
classify lands of the public domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v.
Insular Government,101 De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government,102 and Ankron v. Government of the
Philippine Islands.103

Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally different issue. The pertinent
issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots were included in the general classification of
agricultural lands; and if so, whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This Court ruled that as
an alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution104 from acquiring agricultural land, which
included residential lots. Here, the issue is whether unclassified lands of the public domain are
automatically deemed agricultural.

Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned in Krivenko relied on the old cases
decided prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874, including Ankron and De Aldecoa.105 As We have
already stated, those cases cannot apply here, since they were decided when the Executive did not
have the authority to classify lands as agricultural, timber, or mineral.

Private claimants continued possession under Act No. 926 does not create a presumption
that the land is alienable. Private claimants also contend that their continued possession of
portions of Boracay Island for the requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No. 926106 ipso
facto converted the island into private ownership. Hence, they may apply for a title in their name.

A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of


Appeals.107 Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno in Cruz v.
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,107-a ruled:

"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the Philippine
Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and
regulations for the homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the
Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their titles to
public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon
public lands," for the establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of
imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the
Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the
Philippine Islands remained in the government; and that the governments title to public land sprung
from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the United States. The
term "public land" referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the
government and are thrown open to private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the
patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands."
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public
Land Act No. 926, mere possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal
presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable.108 (Emphasis Ours)

Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an unclassified land of the
public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064. Such unclassified lands are considered public
forest under PD No. 705. The DENR109 and the National Mapping and Resource Information
Authority110 certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public domain.

PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the public domain as
public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a public forest as "a mass of lands of the public
domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for the determination
of which lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not." Applying PD No. 705, all
unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island, are ipso factoconsidered public forests. PD No.
705, however, respects titles already existing prior to its effectivity.

The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD No. 705 may seem to
be out of touch with the present realities in the island. Boracay, no doubt, has been partly stripped of
its forest cover to pave the way for commercial developments. As a premier tourist destination for
local and foreign tourists, Boracay appears more of a commercial island resort, rather than a forest
land.

Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach resorts on the
island;111 that the island has already been stripped of its forest cover; or that the implementation of
Proclamation No. 1064 will destroy the islands tourism industry, do not negate its character as
public forest.

Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution112 classifying lands of the
public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks," do not
necessarily refer to large tracts of wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees and
underbrushes.113 The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry114 is particularly
instructive:

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply
because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as
forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas
covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also
be classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and
does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land
classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of
the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do
not apply.115 (Emphasis supplied)

There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and "forest or timber land" as a
classification of lands of the public domain as appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive of what
appears on the land while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes.116 At any
rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legalstatus of Boracay Island, and not look into its physical
layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other
commercial establishments, it has not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable
agricultural land.
Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for judicial confirmation of
imperfect title. The proclamation did not convert Boracay into an agricultural land. However,
private claimants argue that Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978 entitles
them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The Proclamation classified Boracay, among other
islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of
private ownership.

Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of Boracay into an
agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular which made Boracay Island an
agricultural land. The reference in Circular No. 3-82 to "private lands"117 and "areas declared as
alienable and disposable"118 does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural. Notably,
Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private lands and areas but also to public forested
lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides:

No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior authority from the PTA. All forested areas
in public lands are declared forest reserves. (Emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely recognizes that the
island can be classified by the Executive department pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141. In
fact, Section 5 of the Circular recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Developments authority to
declare areas in the island as alienable and disposable when it provides:

Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the Bureau of Forest
Development.

Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to classify Boracay
Island as alienable and disposable land. If President Marcos intended to classify the island as
alienable and disposable or forest, or both, he would have identified the specific limits of each, as
President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not done in Proclamation No. 1801.

The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind the declaration of
Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist
zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA to ensure the concentrated efforts of the
public and private sectors in the development of the areas tourism potential with due regard for
ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the proclamation is aimed at
administering the islands for tourism and ecological purposes. It does not address the areas
alienability.119

More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but sixty-four (64) other
islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas,
Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto
Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro, and Misamis
Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and
disposable by virtue of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be
declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the
intent of the proclamation.

It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of Boracay as alienable
and opened the same to private ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141120 provide that it is
only the President, upon the recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority
to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands.121
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely exercised the authority
granted to her to classify lands of the public domain, presumably subject to existing vested rights.
Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, through the
Office of the President. Courts have no authority to do so.122 Absent such classification, the land
remains unclassified until released and rendered open to disposition.123

Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest land and 628.96
hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each
side of the center line of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which shall form
part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.

Contrary to private claimants argument, there was nothing invalid or irregular, much less
unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay Island made by the President through
Proclamation No. 1064. It was within her authority to make such classification, subject to existing
vested rights.

Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Private
claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the provision of the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or RA No. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into agricultural
lands. They claim that since Boracay is a public forest under PD No. 705, President Arroyo can no
longer convert it into an agricultural land without running afoul of Section 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus:

SEC. 4. Scope. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of
tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided
in Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain
suitable for agriculture.

More specifically, the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program:

(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or suitable for agriculture.
No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the
approval of this Act until Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity
considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the public domain.

That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did not bar the Executive
from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay Island still remained an unclassified land of the
public domain despite PD No. 705.

In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. Republic,124 the Court
stated that unclassified lands are public forests.

While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically state that the islands
are public forests, the fact that they were unclassified lands leads to the same result. In the
absence of the classification as mineral or timber land, the land remains unclassified land until
released and rendered open to disposition.125 (Emphasis supplied)

Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a "reclassification" of land. If the land had
never been previously classified, as in the case of Boracay, there can be no prohibited
reclassification under the agrarian law. We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice126 on
this point:
Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the prohibition in Section 4(a) is the word
"reclassification." Where there has been no previous classification of public forest [referring, we
repeat, to the mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of
classification for purposes of determining which are needed for forest purposes and which are not]
into permanent forest or forest reserves or some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry Code,
there can be no "reclassification of forest lands" to speak of within the meaning of Section 4(a).

Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the reclassification of forest
lands to agricultural lands without a prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and
cannot, apply to those lands of the public domain, denominated as "public forest" under the Revised
Forestry Code, which have not been previously determined, or classified, as needed for forest
purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Forestry Code.127

Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA
No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights over the occupied lands under the said law. There
are two requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely:
(1) open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by
himself or through his predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time
immemorial or from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable
land of the public domain.128

As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801 did not convert
portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The island remained an unclassified land of the
public domain and, applying the Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.

Private claimants bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on the Philippine Bill of 1902,
Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail because of the absence of the second element of
alienable and disposable land. Their entitlement to a government grant under our present Public
Land Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is already alienable and disposable.
This is clear from the wording of the law itself.129Where the land is not alienable and disposable,
possession of the land, no matter how long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights.130

Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Proclamation No.
1064, with respect to those lands which were classified as agricultural lands. Private claimants failed
to prove the first element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of their lands in
Boracay since June 12, 1945.

We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory relief that private
claimants complied with the requisite period of possession.

The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to prove the first element of
possession. We note that the earliest of the tax declarations in the name of private claimants were
issued in 1993. Being of recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this Court
that the period of possession and occupation commenced on June 12, 1945.

Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having been in possession of the
island for a long time. They have invested millions of pesos in developing the island into a tourist
spot. They say their continued possession and investments give them a vested right which cannot
be unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064.

The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically
give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land
they are presently occupying. This Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the
evidence presented and the laws applicable. As the law and jurisprudence stand, private claimants
are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even
with their continued possession and considerable investment in the island.

One Last Note

The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the development of Boracay Island,
making it a by-word in the local and international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a
number of years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the Court
commiserates with private claimants plight, We are bound to apply the law strictly and judiciously.
This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang batas at ito ang dapat umiral.

All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141, as amended, this does not denote
their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial, and other areas they possess now classified
as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied
alienable lands. Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess.

For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements. They
can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another, they may look into other modes
of applying for original registration of title, such as by homestead131 or sales patent,132 subject to the
conditions imposed by law.

More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their
occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the present land laws. There is one
such bill133 now pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill will
become a law is for Congress to decide.

In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step necessary to open up the
island to private ownership. This gesture may not be sufficient to appease some sectors which view
the classification of the island partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no longer
overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision to protect its remaining forest cover and to
strike a healthy balance between progress and ecology. Ecological conservation is as important as
economic progress.

To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nations survival. Their promotion and protection are
not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and activists. These are needs that become more urgent as
destruction of our environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by Justice
Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:134

The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public policy that should be
followed with respect to forest lands. Many have written much, and many more have spoken, and
quite often, about the pressing need for forest preservation, conservation, protection, development
and reforestation. Not without justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment of any country's
natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that absence of the necessary green cover on
our lands produces a number of adverse or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees,
watersheds dry up; rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents. The fish
disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to function, so will hydroelectric
plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed away; geological erosion results. With erosion
come the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property crops, livestock, houses,
and highways not to mention precious human lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations should be
written down in a lumbermans decalogue.135

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:

1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of Appeals Decision in
CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.

2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-3894 March 12, 1909

JUAN IBAEZ DE ALDECOA, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee.

Del-Pan, Ortigas and Fisher for appellant.


Attorney-General Villamor for appellee.

TORRES, J.:

On the 8th of March, 1904, in accordance with the new Land Registration Act, Juan Ibaez de
Aldecoa applied for the registration of his title to a parcel of land, 3,375 square meters in extent,
situated in the town of Surigao; a plan and technical description of said parcel was attached to his
application.

After the formalities of the law were complied with, and an opinion of the examiner of titles opposing
the request of the applicant, had been rendered, the Attorney-General by a writing dated March 21,
1905, objected to the registration applied for, alleging that the land in question was the property of
the Government of the United States, and is now under the control of the Insular Government; that
the title of ownership issued by the politico-militargovernor of Surigao, Mindanao, issued on the 19th
of June, 1889, to Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa, antecessor of the petitioner with respect to the land
in question, was entirely null and void, for the reason that said grant had not been made in
accordance with the laws then in force on the subject, and because the said governor had no
authority to make such a grant; he prayed the court below to dismiss the application with costs.

As the case stood the applicant, Aldecoa, on the 8th of April, 1905, amended his former petition, and
relying upon the provisions of paragraph 5 and 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926, alleged that at the
time he requested the registration of the land in question, comprised in the plan then submitted, the
aforesaid Act No. 926 was not yet in force, and as the latter affords better facilities for securing titles
to property unprovided with them, as in the case with the land in question, the applicant availing
himself of the benefits granted by the said Act, prayed that the same be applied to the inscription of
his land, inasmuch as it was included within paragraphs 5 and 6 of section 54, Chapter VI, thereof,
and prayed the court to take into consideration the amendment of his petition.

Evidence was adduced by the petitioner at the trial of the case, and on February 2, 1907, the judge
of the Court of Land Registration entered his decision in the matter and, in view of the opposition
offered by the Insular Government denied the petition without costs, and ordered the cancellation of
the entry made of the said property in the record under No. 408, folio 206 of volume 2 of the
municipality of Surigao.

The applicant excepted to this decision and moved for a new trial; his motion was overruled to which
he also excepted and presented the corresponding bill of exceptions which was approved and
submitted to this court.

The question set up in these proceedings by virtue of the appeal interposed by counsel for Juan
Ibaez de Aldecoa, is whether or not a parcel of land that is susceptible of being cultivated, and,
ceasing to be agricultural land, was converted into a building lot, is subject to the legal provisions in
force regarding Government public lands which may be alienated in favor of private individuals or
corporations. While from the remote time of the conquest of this Archipelago the occupation or
material possession together with the improvement and cultivation for a certain number of years, as
fixed by the laws of the Indies, of given portions of vacant Government lands, was the method
established by the Government to facilitate the acquisition thereof by private persons, later, by the
royal decrees of June 25, 1880, and December 26, 1884, the system of composition with the State
and that of sales by public auction were instituted as the means of acquiring such lands.

In view of the difficulties which prevented the rapid dispatch of the proceedings instituted for this
purpose, the royal decree of February 13, 1894, was promulgated, establishing the possessory
information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land, under certain conditions
which were set out in said decree.

After the change of sovereignty, the Commission enacted Act No. 926, relating to public lands, in
accordance with the provisions of sections 13, 14, and 15 of the Act of the Congress of the United
States of July 1, 1902, section 54, paragraph 6 of which (Act No. 926) is as follows:

SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal successors in right, occupying public
lands in the Philippine Islands, or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but
whose titles to such lands have not been perfected, may apply to the Court of Land
Registration of the Philippine Islands for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public lands,
as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide
claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next
preceding the taking effect of this Act, except when prevented by a war or force majeure,
shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a
government grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of title
to such land under the provisions of this chapter.

All applicants for lands under paragraph one, two, three, four, and five of this section must
establish by proper official records or documents that such proceedings as are therein
required were taken and the necessary conditions complied with: Provided, however, That
such requirements shall not apply to the fact of adverse possession.

Given the above legal provisions and the data contained in the record, it is seen that the land, the
registration of which is claimed, was of the class of vacant crown or public land which the State
could alienate to private persons, and being susceptible of cultivation, since at any time the person
in possession desired to convert it into agricultural land he might do so in the same manner that he
had made a building lot of it, it undoubtedly falls within the terms of the said Act of Congress, as well
as the provisions of the abovecited section 54 and paragraph 6 thereof of Act No. 926, for the
reason that the said land is neither mining nor timber land.

We refrain from mentioning herein what originally was the nature of the land whereon was built the
greatest cities of the world; and confining ourselves to that on which the cities and towns in these
Islands were erected, it can not be denied that, at the commencement of the occupation of this
Archipelago by the Spaniards, and at the time of the distribution of lands, the latter were rural and
agricultural in their nature. Rural also were the old towns, the cradle and foundation of the present
cities and large towns of the Philippines, and as the inhabitants increased, and added to the number
of their dwellings, the farms gradually became converted into town lots.
In provincial towns, and in the suburbs of Manila, many houses are to be seen that are erected on
lots that form part of land used for agricultural purposes. If for the time being, and to the advantage
of the possessors thereof, they have ceased to be such agricultural lands, they may later on again
become transformed into farming land and, by the industry of the owner, again be made to yield fruit.

Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may be converted into a
field, and planted with all kind of vegetation; for this reason, where land is not mining or forestall in
its nature, it must necessarily be included within the classification of agricultural land, not because it
is actually used for the purposes of agriculture, but because it was originally agricultural and may
again become so under other circumstances; besides, the Act of Congress contains only three
classifications, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots or urban lands that have
ceased to be agricultural land.

In the decision rendered by this court in the case of Mapa vs. The Insular Government, No. 3793 (10
Phil. Rep., 175), the legislation in force was interpreted in a similar sense.

It is not to be believed that it was the sense of the two sovereign powers that have successively
promulgated the said laws, to place those in possession of building lots under title of ownership in an
anomalous, uncertain and insecure position, rendering it impossible for them to obtain legal titles to
the lands appropriated by them, and denying them the care and protection of the law to which they
were certainly entitled on account of the efforts they have made, both in their behalf, and for the
benefit of the cities and towns in which they reside, contributing to the wealth and increase of the
country.

In the case at bar we have to deal with laws that were enacted after almost all the towns of this
Archipelago were established, and it must be assumed that the lawmakers have started from the
supposition that titles to the building lots within the confines of such towns had been duly acquired;
therefore, in special cases like the present one, wherein is sought the registration of a lot situated
within a town created and acknowledged administratively, it is proper to apply thereto the laws in
force and classify it as agricultural land, inasmuch as it was agricultural prior to its conversion into a
building lot, and is subject at any time to further rotation and cultivation; moreover, it does not appear
that it was ever mining or forest land.

It should be noted that article 1 of the royal decree and regulation of the 25th of June, 1880, says: "In
the Philippine Islands, all vacant lands, soils, and grounds without a lawful private owner, or, which
have never been under private control, shall be deemed to be alienable crown lands for the effects
of the regulation, and in accordance with law 14, title 12, book 4, of the Novsima Recopilacin;" that
article 1 of the royal decree of the 14th of February, 1894, states: "Vacant lands, soils, grounds, and
mountains in the Philippine Islands shall be deemed to be alienable Crown lands, provided they are
not included within the following exceptions: (1) Those of private ownership; (2) those belonging to
the forest zone; (3) those comprised in the communal laws, or within zones reserved for the use in
common by residents of the community; and (4) those lands which are susceptible of private
appropriation by means of composition or possessory information;" and that although section 13 of
the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, directs the Government of the Philippine Islands to classify
public lands that are neither forest nor mining lands according to their agricultural character and
productiveness, section 14 authorizes and empowers the said Government "to enact rules and
regulations and to prescribe terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their title to public
lands in said Islands, who, prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, had
fulfilled all or some of the conditions required by the Spanish laws and royal decrees of the Kingdom
of Spain for the acquisition of legal title thereto, yet failed to secure conveyance of title, etc.;" and
section 15 authorizes and empowers the said Government of the Philippine Islands "on such terms
as it may prescribed, by general legislation, to provide for the granting, or sale and conveyance to
actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of said Islands such parts and portions of the public
domain, other than timber and mineral lands of the United States on said Islands, as it may deem
wise, etc."

From the language of the foregoing provisions of the law, it is deduced that, with the exception of
those comprised within the mineral and timber zone, all lands owned by the State or by the
sovereign nation are public in character, and per se alienable and, provided they are not destined to
the use of the public in general or reserved by the Government in accordance with law, they may be
acquired by any private or judicial person; and considering their origin and primitive state and the
general uses to which they were accorded, they are called agricultural lands, urban lands or building
lots being included in this classification for the purpose of distinguishing rural and urban estates from
mineral and timber lands; the transformation they may have undergone is no obstacle to such
classification as the possessors thereof may again convert them into rural estates.

If the land sought to be registered is neither mineral nor timber land, and on the other hand is
susceptible of cultivation the Act of Congress contains no provision whatever that would exclude it
from being classified as agricultural land, and assuming that it falls within that classification, the
benefits of paragraph 6, section 54, of Act No. 926, must forthwith be applied for the reason that it
has been fully proven that the applicant was in possession thereof for more than 13 years prior to
the 26th of July, 1904, when the said Act went into effect. Furthermore, there is no legal reason or
cause to exclude urban lands from the benefits of the aforesaid Act; on the contrary, the
interpretation that urban real estate, that is not mineral or forestall in character, be understood to fall
within the classification of agricultural land, is deemed to be most rational and beneficial to public
interests.

Therefore, in view of the foregoing, it is our opinion that the judgment appealed from should be
reversed, and that it should be, as it is, hereby ordered, that, after holding in general default all such
persons as may have any interest in the said parcel of land, the registration of the same shall be
granted in accordance with the Land Registration Act. No special ruling is made as to costs. So
ordered.

Willard, J., concurs.


Carson, J., concurs in the result.

Separate Opinions

ARELLANO, C. J., concurring:

The land that is the subject of the petition in this case, is described in the judgment of the court
below, whose conclusions of fact are of the following tenor:

The object of registration in this case is a lot situated on McKinley Avenue, in the municipality
of Surigao, province of the same name; it comprises an area of 3,375 square meters, and is
bounded on the north by the seashore; on the east by the land of the heirs of the late Andres
Ojeda; on the south by the aforesaid street; and on the west by the premises of the
government building.
In order to acquire the said property, which is a building lot situated in the inhabited portion of
the said municipality of Surigao, Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa on June 11, 1889, filed a
petition with the politico-militargovernor of the 3d District of Mindanao to whom then
belonged the municipality and Province of Surigao, claiming the said lot as being
abandoned, and requesting that he be granted a title of ownership thereto. In view of the said
petition, D. Juan Cirlot y Butler, major of Infantry, who at the time was governor,
directed bandillos (proclamations) to be published for three successive nights in the said
municipality of Surigao, calling on all persons who considered that they were entitled to the
said lot; after the bandillos had so been published, and no one appearing to claim the lot,
and it appearing from the report of the governadorcillo andprincipales of said municipality
that the lot was unoccupied and that no one had ever been known to own the same, the
governor, on the 19th of the said month of June, granted to the said Telesforo Ibaez de
Aldecoa title of ownership to the said lot in order that he might forthwith build a house
thereon. The document setting forth the said concession was a certificate issued on the
same date, the 19th, by the aforesaid governor; and by order of the Court of First Instance of
Surigao, the same was entered in the record of public instruments of the said court
corresponding to said year on the 22d of October. A certified copy of the document so
recorded was obtained and attached to the record of the case, and was recorded on the 23d
of March, 1896, in the registry of property of the said Province of Surigao, lot No. 408, first
entry.

After the title of ownership to the lot in question had been granted in the manner above
stated, the grantee, Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa, immediately took possession and within a
short time had it fenced in and took care to keep the fence in good repair; and thus keeping
the land constantly fenced in he continued to possess it publicly, in his own name and as the
owner thereof, without any interruption or opposition from anyone until he died in the year
1902. "After the death of the said Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa, his widow succeeded him in
the possession of one-half of the lot in question for the reason that it pertained to the bienes
gananciales(property acquired during marriage), and his son, the petitioner herein, as sole
heir of the deceased, inherited the other half. He also has kept the land fenced in, and lately
replaced the fence with a wire one. Toward the month of March or April, 1903, the provincial
board of Surigao, in spite of the opposition and protests on the part of the aforesaid
possessors, ordered the removal of and did remove the fence around the lot above referred
to, claiming that the said lot belonged to the Province of Surigao; that for this reason their
possession was interrupted until March, 1904, when the said possessors, after having filed
their application for registration in these proceedings, erected monuments on the lot. And
that lot has never been devoted to cultivation, neither is it by its nature suitable for any kind
of cultivation.

Such are the facts that should be considered as proven in these proceedings.

From the facts set forth it evidently appears:

First. That the land in question is a building lot situated within the inhabited portion of the town of
Surigao.

Second. That since June, 1889, the said lot had been possessed with the knowledge and consent of
the said municipality, peacefully and without any opposition up to March or April, 1903, to-wit,
approximately fourteen years; that prior to the said adjudication, the gobernadorcillo and
the principales of said municipality had been cited and heard on the subject.
Third. That the little of ownership issued by the provincial official of Surigao was entered in the
registry of property of said province on the 23d of March, 1896.

Fourth. That from March or April, 1903, until March, 1904, the material possession suffered
interruption on account of an abusive and arbitrary act of intrusion of the provincial board of Surigao
which had absolutely no authority to commit such an act of spoliation; and,

Fifth. That in March, 1904, after the peaceful and quiet possession was resumed, the petitioner
instituted these proceedings for the purpose of obtaining a new title of ownership in accordance with
the Acts of the Philippine Commission that created the new registry of property.

The present opposition is based on the supposition that the said lot was a parcel of land subject to
composition, as if it were vacant Government land; that as such vacant and Government land, it had
not been duly granted by composition when in June, 1889, Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa obtained his
title of ownership from the politico-militargovernor of said province, who was not the person called
upon to grant titles by composition after the promulgation of the royal decree of June 25, 1880, and
that of December 26, 1884; and the Court of Land Registration, assuming on the contrary that the
said land is not vacant crown land, it not being devoted to agriculture but to building purposes, and
because "by reason of its nature it is not suitable for agriculture but is destined exclusively to building
purposes, and is therefore not agricultural, it believes that the same can not be the subject of
adjudication under the provisions of the Act of Congress and Act No. 926 of the Philippine
Commission, and that in the opinion of the court, paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926 is not
applicable to urban real estate."

An established rule which has been repeatedly laid down by this court, is that only the vacant Crown
lands were subject to composition; that is, rural lands devoted to cultivation. In the present case the
petitioner finds himself between the horns of a dilemma: As to whether the land in question is urban
or rural property; if it is rural, the Attorney-General argues that it has not been subjected to
composition, and that the possession thereof is consequently illegal; and if it is urban, the lower
court rejects it as not being susceptible of acquisition under the title of ownership that has been
newly created and organized. In conclusion it appears: First, that the owners of urban real estate can
not obtain Torrens titles through possession for ten years, nor by a possessory information recorded
for that or a longer period of time. Second, that urban real estate, possessed for more than fourteen
years with knowledge and consent of the authorities of the town wherein it is located, may be
recovered by the Government on the ground that it is public land that had not been alienated by it,
for the reason that it is not agricultural, nor is it mineral or timber land.

It would be necessary to demonstrate that this building lot, which was recorded in the registry of
property with possessory information, and continuously and materially possessed as private property
since June, 1889, until the 11th of April, 1899, without opposition from the Spanish Government, was
public land transferred by the treaty of Paris to the public domain of the present sovereignty, and that
under said character of public land it is not agricultural land that may be conveyed to private
dominion according to section 13 of the Act of Congress, and section 54 of Act No. 926.

It is true that at the time above referred to, June of 1889, the politico-militar governor of Surigao had
no authority to issue titles by composition. And as a matter of fact, at that time, the said governor did
not issue to Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa a title by composition. So that this is not the question.

What he did was to adjudicate to Telesforo Ibaez de Aldecoa a building lot in the town of Surigao,
and to that effect he issued to him a title of ownership to the said lot. And this is a question anent
which absolutely no argument has been made in the whole proceedings.
It is argued that the said provincial governor had no authority to issue the title, and that the said title
is null on the unwarranted supposition, that it was a title of composition such as was provided for by
the royal decrees of 1880 and 1884, which is entirely incorrect.

What should have been proven was, either that the said lot, though a building or town site (not rural
property or arable land) could not be acquired otherwise than by composition, in accordance with the
aforesaid royal decrees of 1880 and 1884, or, that the politico-militar governor of a province could
not adjudicate the ownership of land situated within the town to a resident thereof as such building
lot or urban real estate, and still less as vacant Crown land, although within the inhabited portion of
the town, as it is desired to consider the same. And in this sense nothing has been proven or sought
to be proven in the whole case.

The question is merely one supposition. The Attorney-General has supposed that it was vacant
Crown land, and as such, agricultural land which was possessed without title by composition. The
court below has supposed it to be a building lot or urban property, not agricultural land, entirely
excluded from the benefits of Act No. 926 of the Commission. And in either form the said land or
building lot possessed as private property prior to the enactment of Act No. 926, can not be recorded
in the new registry of property.

Was it an illegal possession? Was the possession held from 1889 to the 11th of April, 1899, usurped
from the Spanish Government so that at the latter date, the land thus possessed should be
considered as part of the public property which Spain transferred to the United States by the treaty
of Paris?

According to Article VIII of said treaty, Spain cede all real property which under the law was of public
domain, and as such belonged to Spain. It was held that this cession could in no way affect the
ownership or rights which, in accordance with law, corresponded to the peaceful possessor of
property of every class, that is to say, the property of private individuals.

Ever since the year 1889, the land in question has been owned by a private individual, and was not
public property belonging to the Spanish Government. It was possessed as such, and in order to
deprive it of this status it was necessary that the Spanish Government or its assignee should recover
possession of the same by due process of law. And in order to recover it, it would be necessary to
prove that the said lot, which formed a part of the inhabited portion of Surigao, belonged to the
Spanish Government on the 11th of April, 1899. This has not been advanced by the opposition;
recovery of possession has not been sought, but the title adjudicated in 1889 is repudiated on the
ground that the provincial governor of Surigao had no authority to adjudicate it to the said private
individual.

But, from the enforcement of the Laws of the Indies, provincial governors were authorized to
organize towns and distribute land for building purposes. Law 1, title 12, book 4, of
the Recopilacin of the Laws of the Indies, reads:

It is our will that there shall be distributed to all those who shall go out to people the new
territories, houses, building lots, lands peonias and caballerias in the towns and places which
may be assigned to them by the governor of the new settlement . . . . After selecting the
territory, province and locality where the new community is to be founded, and after
ascertaining the conveniences and resources that may exist thereon, the governor within
whose district the same is located shall announce whether it is to be a city, town or village. . .
. (Law 2, title 81 of the same book.)
First let there be set aside whatever land may be necessary for solares (building lots) for the
people, commons, and abundant pastures whereon the cattle owned by the residents may
graze, and as much again for the use of the natives; the rest of the territory shall be divided
into four parts, one of them, which he may select, shall be for the person who obliged to form
the town, and the other three parts shall be distributed among settlers in equal parts. (Law 7
of the same title and book.)2

Law 8 provides as to how temples shall be constructed:

"Somewhat distant from the plaza, where it will be separated from any other building not necessary
for its use or adornment." . . . . "Building lots being assigned near it but not in continuation, for the
erection of casas reales(government buildings) and booths in the plaza for public use . . ." it seems
that the lot in question in the case at bar is contiguous to the government building or casa real of
Surigao.

Law 14 of the same title 7, book 4, is a fundamental law which, as a complement to the foregoing
organic laws of towns, provides for the separation of the land constituting the inhabited portion of the
town from land properly called vacant (baldos), of which so much is spoken in these land
registration cases. It reads as follows:

Sufficient land having been set aside for the town common, and to allow for the growth of the
town as already provided, let all persons authorized to discover and establish new townships
indicate pasture lands adjoining the common in order that work cattle, horses, and cattle for
slaughtering purposes, together with other cattle which by ordinance the settlers are bound
to have, may graze thereon, together with an additional amount, all of which shall be the
property of the council, and the balance shall be farm lands to be drawn by lot; there shall be
as many of the latter as there are building lots in the township; and if there should be
irrigated lands, they shall likewise be divided and distributed by lot in the same proportion
among the original settlers. All other lands are to remain vacant in order that we may grant
them to new settlers. From said lands the viceroys shall reserve such as they may think
advisable to assign to towns unprovided with any, to assist them to pay the salaries of their
mayors; they shall provide commons and sufficient pasture grounds, as provided by law, and
they shall act accordingly.

Building lots are not vacant lands, and the building lots used to be distributed and adjudicated by the
governor of the province or district to which the town belonged, after hearing the gobernadorcillo and
the notables of such town. As urban property, building lots forming part of the inhabited portion of a
town, passed beyond the sphere of the administrative laws to enter that of the civil law. Thus, all
questions arising in connection with them, after they had been ceded or granted, could only be
decided by the civil law, even though raised by the Government, through action brought before the
ordinary courts of justice, and not before the administration, nor the contentious tribunals which the
Government itself had established in its relations with persons under its administration, as has
already been held by this court in the case of Roura vs. The Insular Government (8 Phil. Rep., 214).

Vacant lands were those which remained at the disposition of the King or the supreme government
at the capital of the nation after due assignment and distribution of what was needed for the newly
formed town; such vacant lands were adjudicated by sale or by composition, or in the form of free
grants to new settlers.

We can not affirm the reason given for denying the title of ownership applied for in this case, that the
subject of the petition was a building lot, which, not being agricultural land was not entitled to the
benefits of section 54 of the Act No. 926.
Paragraph 6 of section 54, which determines the persons who may obtain confirmation of their
rights, reads: "All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and the occupation of agricultural public
lands, as defined by said Act of Congress of July 1, 1902," and what are agricultural lands as
defined by the said Act of Congress has already been declared by this court (Mapa vs. The Insular
Government, 10 Phil. Rep., 175).

On this ground the confirmation and title applied for herein should be granted.

Mapa, J., concurs.


G.R. No. L-630 November 15, 1947

ALEXANDER A. KRIVENKO, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS, CITY OF MANILA, respondent and appellee.

Gibbs, Gibbs, Chuidian and Quasha of petitioner-appellant.


First Assistant Solicitor General Reyes and Solicitor Carreon for respondent-appellee.
Marcelino Lontok appeared as amicus curies.

MORAN, C.J.:

Alenxander A. Kriventor alien, bought a residential lot from the Magdalena Estate, Inc., in December
of 1941, the registration of which was interrupted by the war. In May, 1945, he sought to accomplish
said registration but was denied by the register of deeds of Manila on the ground that, being an
alien, he cannot acquire land in this jurisdiction. Krivenko then brought the case to the fourth branch
of the Court of First Instance of Manila by means of a consulta, and that court rendered judgment
sustaining the refusal of the register of deeds, from which Krivenko appealed to this Court.

There is no dispute as to these facts. The real point in issue is whether or not an alien under our
Constitution may acquire residential land.

It is said that the decision of the case on the merits is unnecessary, there being a motion to withdraw
the appeal which should have been granted outright, and reference is made to the ruling laid down
by this Court in another case to the effect that a court should not pass upon a constitutional question
if its judgment may be made to rest upon other grounds. There is, we believe, a confusion of ideas in
this reasoning. It cannot be denied that the constitutional question is unavoidable if we choose to
decide this case upon the merits. Our judgment cannot to be made to rest upon other grounds if we
have to render any judgment at all. And we cannot avoid our judgment simply because we have to
avoid a constitutional question. We cannot, for instance, grant the motion withdrawing the appeal
only because we wish to evade the constitutional; issue. Whether the motion should be, or should
not be, granted, is a question involving different considerations now to be stated.

According to Rule 52, section 4, of the Rules of Court, it is discretionary upon this Court to grant a
withdrawal of appeal after the briefs have been presented. At the time the motion for withdrawal was
filed in this case, not only had the briefs been prensented, but the case had already been voted and
the majority decision was being prepared. The motion for withdrawal stated no reason whatsoever,
and the Solicitor General was agreeable to it. While the motion was pending in this Court, came the
new circular of the Department of Justice, instructing all register of deeds to accept for registration all
transfers of residential lots to aliens. The herein respondent-appellee was naturally one of the
registers of deeds to obey the new circular, as against his own stand in this case which had been
maintained by the trial court and firmly defended in this Court by the Solicitor General. If we grant the
withdrawal, the the result would be that petitioner-appellant Alexander A. Krivenko wins his case, not
by a decision of this Court, but by the decision or circular of the Department of Justice, issued while
this case was pending before this Court. Whether or not this is the reason why appellant seeks the
withdrawal of his appeal and why the Solicitor General readily agrees to that withdrawal, is now
immaterial. What is material and indeed very important, is whether or not we should allow
interference with the regular and complete exercise by this Court of its constitutional functions, and
whether or not after having held long deliberations and after having reached a clear and positive
conviction as to what the constitutional mandate is, we may still allow our conviction to be silenced,
and the constitutional mandate to be ignored or misconceived, with all the harmful consequences
that might be brought upon the national patromony. For it is but natural that the new circular be
taken full advantage of by many, with the circumstance that perhaps the constitutional question may
never come up again before this court, because both vendors and vendees will have no interest but
to uphold the validity of their transactions, and very unlikely will the register of deeds venture to
disobey the orders of their superior. Thus, the possibility for this court to voice its conviction in a
future case may be remote, with the result that our indifference of today might signify a permanent
offense to the Constitution.

All thse circumstances were thoroughly considered and weighted by this Court for a number of days
and the legal result of the last vote was a denial of the motion withdrawing the appeal. We are thus
confronted, at this stage of the proceedings, with our duty, the constitutional question becomes
unavoidable. We shall then proceed to decide that question.

Article XIII, section 1, of the Constitutional is as follows:

Article XIII. Conservation and utilization of natural resources.

SECTION 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, water, minerals,
coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural
resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or
associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens,
subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of the inaguration of the
Government established uunder this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of
public agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and no licence, concession, or lease for the
exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a
period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years, except as to
water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the
development of water "power" in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the
limit of the grant.

The scope of this constitutional provision, according to its heading and its language, embraces all
lands of any kind of the public domain, its purpose being to establish a permanent and fundamental
policy for the conservation and utilization of all natural resources of the Nation. When, therefore, this
provision, with reference to lands of the public domain, makes mention of only agricultural, timber
and mineral lands, it means that all lands of the public domain are classified into said three groups,
namely, agricultural, timber and mineral. And this classification finds corroboration in the
circumstance that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, that was the basic classification
existing in the public laws and judicial decisions in the Philippines, and the term "public agricultural
lands" under said classification had then acquired a technical meaning that was well-known to the
members of the Constitutional Convention who were mostly members of the legal profession.

As early as 1908, in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil., 175, 182), this Court said
that the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined in the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, which
phrase is also to be found in several sections of the Public Land Act (No. 926), means "those public
lands acquired from Spain which are neither mineral for timber lands." This definition has been
followed in long line of decisions of this Court. (See Montano vs.Insular Government, 12 Phil., 593;
Ibaez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government, 13 Phil., 159; Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil.,
175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil., 560; Ankron vs. Government of the Philippines, 40
Phil., 10.) And with respect to residential lands, it has been held that since they are neither mineral
nor timber lands, of necessity they must be classified as agricultural. In Ibaez de
Aldecoa vs. Insular Government (13 Phil., 159, 163), this Court said:
Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may be converted
into a field, and planted with all kinds of vegetation; for this reason, where land is not mining
or forestal in its nature, it must necessarily be included within the classification of agricultural
land, not because it is actually used for the purposes of agriculture, but because it was
originally agricultural and may again become so under other circumstances; besides, the Act
of Congress contains only three classification, and makes no special provision with respect
to building lots or urban lands that have ceased to be agricultural land.

In other words, the Court ruled that in determining whether a parcel of land is agricultural, the test is
not only whether it is actually agricultural, but also its susceptibility to cultivation for agricultural
purposes. But whatever the test might be, the fact remains that at the time the Constitution was
adopted, lands of the public domain were classified in our laws and jurisprudence into agricultural,
mineral, and timber, and that the term "public agricultural lands" was construed as referring to those
lands that were not timber or mineral, and as including residential lands. It may safely be presumed,
therefore, that what the members of the Constitutional Convention had in mind when they drafted the
Constitution was this well-known classification and its technical meaning then prevailing.

Certain expressions which appear in Constitutions, . . . are obviously technical; and where
such words have been in use prior to the adoption of a Constitution, it is presumed that its
framers and the people who ratified it have used such expressions in accordance with their
technical meaning. (11 Am. Jur., sec. 66, p. 683.) AlsoCalder vs. Bull, 3 Dall. [U.S.], 386; 1
Law. ed., 648; Bronson vs. Syverson, 88 Wash., 264; 152 P., 1039.)

It is a fundamental rule that, in construing constitutions, terms employed therein shall be


given the meaning which had been put upon them, and which they possessed, at the time of
the framing and adoption of the instrument. If a word has acquired a fixed, technical meaning
in legal and constitutional history, it will be presumed to have been employed in that sense in
a written Constitution. (McKinney vs. Barker, 180 Ky., 526; 203 S.W., 303; L.R.A., 1918 E,
581.)

Where words have been long used in a technical sense and have been judicially construed
to have a certain meaning, and have been adopted by the legislature as having a certain
meaning prior to a particular statute in which they are used, the rule of construction requires
that the words used in such statute should be construed according to the sense in which they
have been so previously used, although the sense may vary from strict literal meaning of the
words. (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction, p. 758.)

Therefore, the phrase "public agricultural lands" appearing in section 1 of Article XIII of the
Constitution must be construed as including residential lands, and this is in conformity with a
legislative interpretation given after the adoption of the Constitution. Well known is the rule that
"where the Legislature has revised a statute after a Constitution has been adopted, such a revision
is to be regarded as a legislative construction that the statute so revised conforms to the
Constitution." (59 C.J., 1102.) Soon after the Constitution was adopted, the National Assembly
revised the Public Land Law and passed Commonwealth Act No. 141, and sections 58, 59 and 60
thereof permit the sale of residential lots to Filipino citizens or to associations or corporations
controlled by such citizens, which is equivalent to a solemn declaration that residential lots are
considered as agricultural lands, for, under the Constitution, only agricultural lands may be alienated.

It is true that in section 9 of said Commonwealth Act No. 141, "alienable or disposable public lands"
which are the same "public agriculture lands" under the Constitution, are classified into agricultural,
residential, commercial, industrial and for other puposes. This simply means that the term "public
agricultural lands" has both a broad and a particular meaning. Under its broad or general meaning,
as used in the Constitution, it embraces all lands that are neither timber nor mineral. This broad
meaning is particularized in section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 which classifies "public
agricultural lands" for purposes of alienation or disposition, into lands that are stricly agricultural or
actually devoted to cultivation for agricultural puposes; lands that are residential; commercial;
industrial; or lands for other purposes. The fact that these lands are made alienable or disposable
under Commonwealth Act No. 141, in favor of Filipino citizens, is a conclusive indication of their
character as public agricultural lands under said statute and under the Constitution.

It must be observed, in this connection that prior to the Constitution, under section 24 of Public Land
Act No. 2874, aliens could acquire public agricultural lands used for industrial or residential puposes,
but after the Constitution and under section 23 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the right of aliens to
acquire such kind of lands is completely stricken out, undoubtedly in pursuance of the constitutional
limitation. And, again, prior to the Constitution, under section 57 of Public Land Act No. 2874, land of
the public domain suitable for residence or industrial purposes could be sold or leased to aliens, but
after the Constitution and under section 60 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, such land may only be
leased, but not sold, to aliens, and the lease granted shall only be valid while the land is used for the
purposes referred to. The exclusion of sale in the new Act is undoubtedly in pursuance of the
constitutional limitation, and this again is another legislative construction that the term "public
agricultural land" includes land for residence purposes.

Such legislative interpretation is also in harmony with the interpretation given by the Executive
Department of the Government. Way back in 1939, Secretary of Justice Jose Abad Santos, in
answer to a query as to "whether or not the phrase 'public agricultural lands' in section 1 of Article XII
(now XIII) of the Constitution may be interpreted to include residential, commercial, and industrial
lands for purposes of their disposition," rendered the following short, sharp and crystal-clear opinion:

Section 1, Article XII (now XIII) of the Constitution classifies lands of the public domain in the
Philippines into agricultural, timber and mineral. This is the basic classification adopted since
the enactment of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill. At the
time of the adoption of the Constitution of the Philippines, the term 'agricultural public lands'
and, therefore, acquired a technical meaning in our public laws. The Supreme Court of the
Philippines in the leading case of Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, held that the
phrase 'agricultural public lands' means those public lands acquired from Spain which are
neither timber nor mineral lands. This definition has been followed by our Supreme Court in
many subsequent case. . . .

Residential commercial, or industrial lots forming part of the public domain must have to be
included in one or more of these classes. Clearly, they are neither timber nor mineral, of
necessity, therefore, they must be classified as agricultural.

Viewed from another angle, it has been held that in determining whether lands are
agricultural or not, the character of the land is the test (Odell vs. Durant, 62 N.W., 524;
Lorch vs. Missoula Brick and Tile Co., 123 p.25). In other words, it is the susceptibility of the
land to cultivation for agricultural purposes by ordinary farming methods which determines
whether it is agricultural or not (State vs. Stewart, 190 p. 129).

Furthermore, as said by the Director of Lands, no reason is seen why a piece of land, which
may be sold to a person if he is to devote it to agricultural, cannot be sold to him if he intends
to use it as a site for his home.

This opinion is important not alone because it comes from a Secratary of Justice who later became
the Chief Justice of this Court, but also because it was rendered by a member of the cabinet of the
late President Quezon who actively participated in the drafting of the constitutional provision under
consideration. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine Constitution, p. 598.) And the opinion of the
Quezon administration was reiterated by the Secretary of Justice under the Osmea administration,
and it was firmly maintained in this Court by the Solicitor General of both administrations.

It is thus clear that the three great departments of the Government judicial, legislative and
executive have always maintained that lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural,
mineral and timber, and that agricultural lands include residential lots.

Under section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution, "natural resources, with the exception of public
agricultural land, shall not be aliented," and with respect to public agricultural lands, their alienation
is limited to Filipino citizens. But this constitutional purpose conserving agricultural resources in the
hands of Filipino citizens may easily be defeated by the Filipino citizens themselves who may
alienate their agricultural lands in favor of aliens. It is partly to prevent this result that section 5 is
included in Article XIII, and it reads as follows:

Sec. 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land will be transferred
or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold
lands of the public domain in the Philippines.

This constitutional provision closes the only remaining avenue through which agricultural resources
may leak into aliens' hands. It would certainly be futile to prohibit the alienation of public agricultural
lands to aliens if, after all, they may be freely so alienated upon their becoming private agricultural
lands in the hands of Filipino citizens. Undoubtedly, as above indicated, section 5 is intended to
insure the policy of nationalization contained in section 1. Both sections must, therefore, be read
together for they have the same purpose and the same subject matter. It must be noticed that the
persons against whom the prohibition is directed in section 5 are the very same persons who under
section 1 are disqualified "to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines." And the
subject matter of both sections is the same, namely, the non-transferability of "agricultural land" to
aliens. Since "agricultural land" under section 1 includes residential lots, the same technical meaning
should be attached to "agricultural land under section 5. It is a rule of statutory construction that "a
word or phrase repeated in a statute will bear the same meaning throughout the statute, unless a
different intention appears." (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction, p. 758.) The only difference
between "agricultural land" under section 5, is that the former is public and the latter private. But
such difference refers to ownership and not to the class of land. The lands are the same in both
sections, and, for the conservation of the national patrimony, what is important is the nature or class
of the property regardless of whether it is owned by the State or by its citizens.

Reference is made to an opinion rendered on September 19, 1941, by the Hon. Teofilo Sison, then
Secretary of Justice, to the effect that residential lands of the public domain may be considered as
agricultural lands, whereas residential lands of private ownership cannot be so considered. No
reason whatsoever is given in the opinion for such a distinction, and no valid reason can be adduced
for such a discriminatory view, particularly having in mind that the purpose of the constitutional
provision is the conservation of the national patrimony, and private residential lands are as much an
integral part of the national patrimony as the residential lands of the public domain. Specially is this
so where, as indicated above, the prohibition as to the alienable of public residential lots would
become superflous if the same prohibition is not equally applied to private residential lots. Indeed,
the prohibition as to private residential lands will eventually become more important, for time will
come when, in view of the constant disposition of public lands in favor of private individuals, almost
all, if not all, the residential lands of the public domain shall have become private residential lands.
It is maintained that in the first draft of section 5, the words "no land of private ownership" were used
and later changed into "no agricultural land of private ownership," and lastly into "no private
agricultural land" and from these changes it is argued that the word "agricultural" introduced in the
second and final drafts was intended to limit the meaning of the word "land" to land actually used for
agricultural purposes. The implication is not accurate. The wording of the first draft was amended for
no other purpose than to clarify concepts and avoid uncertainties. The words "no land" of the first
draft, unqualified by the word "agricultural," may be mistaken to include timber and mineral lands,
and since under section 1, this kind of lands can never be private, the prohibition to transfer the
same would be superfluous. Upon the other hand, section 5 had to be drafted in harmony with
section 1 to which it is supplementary, as above indicated. Inasmuch as under section 1, timber and
mineral lands can never be private, and the only lands that may become private are agricultural
lands, the words "no land of private ownership" of the first draft can have no other meaning than
"private agricultural land." And thus the change in the final draft is merely one of words in order to
make its subject matter more specific with a view to avoiding the possible confusion of ideas that
could have arisen from the first draft.

If the term "private agricultural lands" is to be construed as not including residential lots or lands not
strictly agricultural, the result would be that "aliens may freely acquire and possess not only
residential lots and houses for themselves but entire subdivisions, and whole towns and cities," and
that "they may validly buy and hold in their names lands of any area for building homes, factories,
industrial plants, fisheries, hatcheries, schools, health and vacation resorts, markets, golf courses,
playgrounds, airfields, and a host of other uses and purposes that are not, in appellant's words,
strictly agricultural." (Solicitor General's Brief, p. 6.) That this is obnoxious to the conservative spirit
of the Constitution is beyond question.

One of the fundamental principles underlying the provision of Article XIII of the Constitution and
which was embodied in the report of the Committee on Nationalization and Preservation of Lands
and other Natural Resources of the Constitutional Convention, is "that lands, minerals, forests, and
other natural resources constitute the exclusive heritage of the Filipino nation. They should,
therefore, be preserved for those under the sovereign authority of that nation and for their posterity."
(2 Aruego, Framing of the Filipino Constitution, p. 595.) Delegate Ledesma, Chairman of the
Committee on Agricultural Development of the Constitutional Convention, in a speech delivered in
connection with the national policy on agricultural lands, said: "The exclusion of aliens from the
privilege of acquiring public agricultural lands and of owning real estate is a necessary part of the
Public Land Laws of the Philippines to keep pace with the idea of preserving the Philippines for the
Filipinos." (Emphasis ours.) And, of the same tenor was the speech of Delegate Montilla who
said: "With the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources it is to be understood that
our God-given birthright should be one hundred per cent in Filipino hands . . .. Lands and natural
resources are immovables and as such can be compared to the vital organs of a person's body, the
lack of possession of which may cause instant death or the shortening of life. If we do not completely
antionalize these two of our most important belongings, I am afraid that the time will come when we
shall be sorry for the time we were born. Our independence will be just a mockery, for what kind of
independence are we going to have if a part of our country is not in our hands but in those of
foreigners?" (Emphasis ours.) Professor Aruego says that since the opening days of the
Constitutional Convention one of its fixed and dominating objectives was the conservation and
nationalization of the natural resources of the country. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine
Constitution, p 592.) This is ratified by the members of the Constitutional Convention who are now
members of this Court, namely, Mr. Justice Perfecto, Mr. Justice Briones, and Mr. Justice
Hontiveros. And, indeed, if under Article XIV, section 8, of the Constitution, an alien may not even
operate a small jitney for hire, it is certainly not hard to understand that neither is he allowed to own
a pieace of land.
This constitutional intent is made more patent and is strongly implemented by an act of the National
Assembly passed soon after the Constitution was approved. We are referring again to
Commonwealth Act No. 141. Prior to the Constitution, there were in the Public Land Act No. 2874
sections 120 and 121 which granted aliens the right to acquire private only by way of reciprocity.
Said section reads as follows:

SEC. 120. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any
permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or transferred,
except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the
public domain under this Act; to corporations organized in the Philippine Islands authorized
therefor by their charters, and, upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to
citizens of countries the laws of which grant to citizens of the Philippine Islands the same
right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land, or permanent
improvements thereon, or any interest therein, as to their own citizens, only in the manner
and to the extent specified in such laws, and while the same are in force but not thereafter.

SEC. 121. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of the former
Public Land Act or of any other Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other
provision of law formerly in force in the Philippine Islands with regard to public
lands, terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or
presumptively of the public domain or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent
improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons,
corporations, or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act; to
corporate bodies organized in the Philippine Islands whose charters may authorize them to
do so, and, upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of the
countries the laws of which grant to citizens of the Philippine Islands the same right to
acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land or pemanent improvements
thereon or any interest therein, as to their own citizens, and only in the manner and to the
extent specified in such laws, and while the same are in force, but not thereafter: Provided,
however, That this prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by
reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and legalized by competent courts, nor
to lands and improvements acquired or held for industrial or residence purposes, while used
for such purposes: Provided, further, That in the event of the ownership of the lands and
improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding section being transferred
by judicial decree to persons,corporations or associations not legally capacitated to acquire
the same under the provisions of this Act, such persons, corporations, or associations shall
be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to others so capacitated within the precise
period of five years, under the penalty of such property reverting to the Government in the
contrary case." (Public Land Act, No. 2874.)

It is to be observed that the pharase "no land" used in these section refers to all private lands,
whether strictly agricultural, residential or otherwise, there being practically no private land which
had not been acquired by any of the means provided in said two sections. Therefore, the prohibition
contained in these two provisions was, in effect, that no private land could be transferred to aliens
except "upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of Philippine Islands the
same right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land." In other words, aliens
were granted the right to acquire private land merely by way of reciprocity. Then came the
Constitution and Commonwealth Act No. 141 was passed, sections 122 and 123 of which read as
follows:

SEC. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any
permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or transferred,
except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the
public domain under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized
thereof by their charters.

SEC. 123. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of any previous
Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the
Philippines with regard to public lands terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other
denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain, or by royal grant or in
any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered,
alienated, or conveyed, except to persons, corporations or associations who may acquire
land of the public domain under this Act or to corporate bodies organized in the Philippines
whose charters authorize them to do so: Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not be
applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly
acknowledged and legalized by competent courts: Provided, further, That in the event of the
ownership of the lands and improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding
section being transferred by judicial decree to persons, corporations or associations not
legally capacitated to acquire the same under the provisions of this Act, such persons,
corporations, or associations shall be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to
others so capacitated within the precise period of five years; otherwise, such property shall
revert to the Government.

These two sections are almost literally the same as sections 120 and 121 of Act No. 2874, the only
difference being that in the new provisions, the right to reciprocity granted to aliens is completely
stricken out. This, undoubtedly, is to conform to the absolute policy contained in section 5 of Article
XIII of the Constitution which, in prohibiting the alienation of private agricultural lands to aliens,
grants them no right of reciprocity. This legislative construction carries exceptional weight, for
prominent members of the National Assembly who approved the new Act had been members of the
Constitutional Convention.

It is said that the lot question does not come within the purview of sections 122 and 123 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141, there being no proof that the same had been acquired by one of the
means provided in said provisions. We are not, however, diciding the instant case under the
provisions of the Public Land Act, which have to refer to land that had been formerly of the public
domain, otherwise their constitutionality may be doubtful. We are deciding the instant case under
section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which is more comprehensive and more absolute in the
sense that it prohibits the transfer to alien of any private agricultural land including residential land
whatever its origin might have been.

And, finally, on June 14, 1947, the Congress approved Republic Act No. 133 which allows mortgage
of "private real property" of any kind in favor of aliens but with a qualification consisting of expressly
prohibiting aliens to bid or take part in any sale of such real property as a consequence of the
mortgage. This prohibition makes no distinction between private lands that are strictly agricultural
and private lands that are residental or commercial. The prohibition embraces the sale of private
lands of any kind in favor of aliens, which is again a clear implementation and a legislative
interpretation of the constitutional prohibition. Had the Congress been of opinion that private
residential lands may be sold to aliens under the Constitution, no legislative measure would have
been found necessary to authorize mortgage which would have been deemed also permissible
under the Constitution. But clearly it was the opinion of the Congress that such sale is forbidden by
the Constitution and it was such opinion that prompted the legislative measure intended to clarify
that mortgage is not within the constitutional prohibition.

It is well to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the
Constitution as it is and not as we may desire it to be. Perhaps the effect of our construction is to
preclude aliens, admitted freely into the Philippines from owning sites where they may build their
homes. But if this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution, we will not attempt to compromise it
even in the name of amity or equity. We are satisfied, however, that aliens are not completely
excluded by the Constitution from the use of lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in
the Philippines is temporary, they may be granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is
not forbidden by the Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes
and misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire.

For all the foregoing, we hold that under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public
agricultural lands, including residential lands, and, accordingly, judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Feria, Pablo, Perfecto, Hilado, and Briones, JJ., concur.


G.R. Nos. L-31666, L-31667 and L-31668 April 30, 1979

LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, petitioner,


vs.
MANUEL DUMYUNG, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BAGUIO CITY, and the COURT OF FIRST
INSTANCE OF BAGUIO CITY (BRANCH I), respondents.

LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, petitioner,


vs.
FORTUNATO DUMYUNG, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BAGUIO CITY , and the COURT OF
FIRST INSTANCE OF BAGUIO CITY (BRANCH I), respondents.

LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, petitioner,


vs.
DUMYUNG BONAYAN, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BAGUIO CITY, and the COURT OF
FIRST INSTANCE OF BAGUIO CITY (BRANCH I), respondents.

Sycip, Salazar, Luna, Manalo & Feliciano, Jesus B. Santos and Hill & Associates for petitioner.

Floro B. Bugnosen for private respondents.

FERNANDEZ, J.:

This is a petition to review the order of the Court of First Instance of Baguio City, Branch I,
dismissing the three complaints for annulment of titles in Civil Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070
entitled "Republic of the Philippines, Plaintiff, versus, Manuel Dumyung, et al., Defendants, Lepanto
Consolidated Mining Company, Intervenor" for being without merit. 1

The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of Lands, commenced in the Court of
First Instance of Baguio City Civil Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070 for annulment of Free Patents
Nos. V-152242, V-155050 and V-152243, and of the corresponding Original Certificates of Title Nos.
P-208, P-210 and P-209, on the ground of misrepresentation and false data and informations
furnished by the defendants, Manuel Dumyung, Fortunate Dumyung and Dumyung Bonayan,
respectively. the land embraced in the patents and titles are Identified as Lots 1, 2 and 3 of survey
plan Psu-181763 containing a total area of 58.4169 hectares, more or less, and situated in the
Municipal District of Mankayan, Sub-province of Benguet, Mountain Province. The Register of Deeds
of Baguio City was made a formal party defendant.

The complaints in Civil Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070 are all dated September 22, 196 l. 2

The defendants filed their respective answers. 3

The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, petitioner herein, filed motions for intervention dated
February 5, 1962 in the three (3) civil cases 4 which were granted. 5

The complaints in intervention alleged that a portion of the titled lands in question-.ion is within the
intervenor's ordinary timber license No. 140-'62 dated July 7, 1961 expiring and up for renewal on
June 30, 1962 and another portion of said lands is embraced in its mineral claims. 6
The defendants in the three (3) civil cases filed an amended joint answer with counterclaim to the
complaint in intervention. 7 The said amended joint answer was admitted in an order dated
September 10, 1972. 8

Before the hearing on the merits of the three (3) civil cases, the plaintiff, Republic of the Philippines
represented by the Director of Lands, filed in the Court of First Instance of Baguio City three (3)
criminal cases for falsification of public document. 9, docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 2358, 2359
and 2360, against the defendants Manuel Dumyung, Fortunato Dumyung and Dumyung Bonayan,
private respondents herein, for allegedly making untrue statements in their applications for free
patents over the lands in question. The proceedings on the three (3) civil cases were suspended
pending the outcome of the criminal cases.

After the presentation of evidence by the prosecution in the three (3) criminal cases, the defense
filed a motion to dismiss the same on the ground that the accused had complied with all the legal
requirements in the acquisition of their patents which were duly issued by the Director of Lands and
that they are not guilty of the alleged falsification of public documents.

In an order dated December 6, 1967, the trial court sustained the theory of the defense and
dismissed the three (3) criminal cases, with costs de officio, for insufficiency of evidence to sustain
the conviction of the three (3) accused. 9

Thereupon, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss dated October 12, 1968 in Civil Cases Nos.
1068, 1069 and 1070 on the following grounds: (1) extinction of the penal action carries with it the
extinction of the civil action when the extinction proceeds from a declaration that the fact from which
the civil might arise did not exist; (2) the decision of the trial court acquitting the defendants of the
crime charged renders these civil cases moot and academic, (3) the trial court has no jurisdiction to
order cancellation of the patents issued by the Director of Lands; (4) the certificates of title in
question can no longer be assailed; and (5) the intervenor Lepanto has no legal interest in the
subject matter in litigation. 10

The Court of First Instance of Baguio, Branch I, dismissed the three (3) civil cases because:

After a careful examination and deliberation of the MOTION TO DISMISS, these civil
cases filed by the defendants as well as the two OPPOSITIONS TO MOTION TO
DISMISS filed by both plaintiff and intervenor Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company
and the of all the three civil cases, it clearly shows that upon the issuance of said
Free Patents on November 26, 1960, the same were duly registered with the office of
the Register of Deeds of Baguio and Benguet, pursuant to the provisions of Sec. 122
of Act 496, as amended, and consequently, these properties became the private
properties of the defendants, under the operation of Sec. 38 of said Act; hence, these
titles enjoy the same privileges and safeguards as Torrens titles (Director of Lands
vs. Heirs of Ciriaco Carle, G. R. No. L-12485, July 31, 1964). It is therefore clear that
OCT Nos. P-208, P-209 and P-210 belonging to the defendants are now indefeasible
and this Court has no power to disturb such indefeasibility of said titles, let alone
cancel the same.

The records of this case further disclose that the defendants are ignorant natives of
Benguet Province and are members of the so-called Cultural Minorities of Mountain
Province, who are the same persons accused in the dismissed criminal cases, based
on the same grounds. It should be noted that these cases fall squarely under Sec. 3
of Rule III of the New Rules of Court. 11
They plaintiff, Republic of the Philippines represented by the Director of Lands, and the intervenor,
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company,, filed separate motions for reconsideration of the order
dismissing Civil Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070. 12 Both motion for reconsideration were denied by
the trial court. 13 Thereupon the intervenor, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, filed the instant
petition.

The petitioner assigns the following errors:

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE


OF TITLE OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS WERE 'INDEFEASIBLE' SIMPLY
BECAUSE THEY WERE ISSUED PURSUANT TO THE REGISTRATION OF THE
FREE PATENTS OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS


ARE ENTITLED TO THE BENEFITS OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 3872.

III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ACQUITTAL OF THE


PRIVATE RESPONDENTS IN THE CRIMINAL CASES FOR FALSIFICATION OF
PUBLIC DOCUMENTS BARRED THE CIVIL ACTIONS FOR ANNULMENT OF THE
FREE PATENTS AND CANCELLATION OF THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATES OF
TITLE OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS. 14

Timber and mineral lands are not alienable or disposable. The pertinent provisions of the Public
Land Act, Commonwealth Act No. 141, provide:

Sec. 2. The provisions of this Act shall apply to the lands of the public domain; but
timber and mineral lands shag be governed by special laws and nothing in this Act
provided shall be understood or construed to change or modify the administration
and disposition of the lands commonly called 'friar lands' and those which being
privately owned, have reverted to or become the property of the Commonwealth of
the Philippines, which administration and disposition shall be governed by the laws at
present in force or which may hereafter be enacted.

Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Commerce, shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain into

(a) Alienable or disposable,

(b) Timber, and

(c) Mineral lands,

and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to
another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition.
The principal factual issue raised by the plaintiff, Republic of the Philippines represented by the
Director of Lands, and the intervenor, petitioner herein, is that the lands covered by the patents and
certificates of title are timber lands and mineral lands and, therefore, not alienable. Without receiving
evidence, the trial court dismissed the three (3) cases on the ground that upon the issuance of the
free patents on November 26, 1960, said patents were duly registered in the Office of the Registry of
Deeds of Baguio pursuant to Section 122 of Act 496, as amended, and said properties became the
private properties of the defendants under the operation of Section 38 of the Land Registration Act.
The trial court concluded that these titles enjoy the same privileges and safeguards as the torrens
title, and Original Certificates of Title Nos. P-208, P-209 and P-210 of the defendants are now
indefeasible.

In its order denying the motion for reconsideration the trial court said,

On the ground of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Director of Lands to dispose of
the properties since they are within the forest zone, the court finds Republic Act No.
3872, to clear this point. Section 1, amending Section 44 of the Land Act in its
second paragraph states:

A member of the national cultural, minorities who has continuously


occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his
predecessors-in- interest, a tract or tracts of land, whether disposable
or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right granted in the
preceding paragraph of this section: PROVIDED, that at the time he
files his free patent application, he is not the owner of any real
property secured or disposable under this provision of the Public
Land Law.

The 'preceding paragraph' refers to the right of a person to have a free patent issued
to him, provided he is qualified, which in this case the Director of Lands has the
jurisdiction to dispose, whether the land be disposable or not. This provision of law,
certainly, applies to herein defendants. The reason for this law is explicit and could
very well be seen from its EXPLANATORY NOTE, which reads:

'Because of the aggresiveness of our more enterprising Christian


brothers in Mindanao, Mountain Province, and other places inhabited
by members of the National Cultural Minorities, there has be-en an
exodus of the poor and less fortunate non-christians from their
ancestral homes during the t ten years to the fastnesses of the
wilderness where they have settled in peace on portions of
agricultural lands, unfortunately, in most cases, within the forest
zones. But this is not the end of the tragedy of the national cultural
minorities. Because of the grant of pasture leases or permits to the
more agressive Christians, these National Cultural Minorities who
have settled in the forest zones for the last ten years have been
harassed and jailed or threatened with harassment and
imprisonment.

The thesis behind the additional paragraph to Section 44 of the Public


Land Act is to give the national culture, minorities a fair chance to
acquire lands of the public domain' ...
It is for this reason that is, to give these national cultural minorities who were
driven from their ancestral abodes, a fair chance to acquire lands of the public
domain that Republic Act 3872 was passed. This is the new government policy on
liberation of the free patent provisions of the Public Land Act emphasizing more
consideration to and sympathy on the members of the national cultural minorities,
which our courts of justice must uphold. 15

The trial court assumed without any factual basis that the private respondents are entitled to the
benefits of Republic Act 3872. The pertinent provision of Republic Act No, 3872 reads:

SECTION 1. A new paragraph is hereby added 1--o Section 44 of Commonwealth


Act Numbered One Hundred-d forty-one, to read as follows:

SEC. 44. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more
than twenty-four hectares and who since July fourth, ninth hundred and twenty-six or
prior thereto, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by, himself' or through
his predecessors-in-interest. a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to
disposition- or who shall have paid the real estate tax thereon while the same has,
not been occupied by any person shall be entitled, under the provision of this
chapter, to have a free patent issued to him for such tract or tracts of such land not to
exceed twenty-four hectares.

A member of the national cultural minorities who has continuously occupied and
cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in- interest, a tract or tracts
of land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right
granted in the preceding paragraph of this section: Provided, That at the time he files
his free patent application he is not the owner of any real property secured or
disposable under this provision of the Public Land Law.

There is no evidence that the private respondents are members of the National Cultural Minorities;
that they have continously occupied and cultivated either by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest the lands in question since July 4, 1955; and that they are not the owner of
any land secured or disposable under the Public Land Act at the time they filed the free patent
applications. These qualifications must be established by evidence. Precisely, the intervenor,
petitioner herein, claims that it was in possession of the lands in question when the private
respondents applied for free patents thereon.

It was premature for the trial court to rule on whether or not the titles based on the patents awarded
to the private respondents have become indefeasible. It is well settled that a certificate of title is void
when it covers property of public domain classified as forest or timber and mineral lands. Any title
issued on non-disposable lots even in the hands of alleged innocent purchaser for value, shall be
cancelled. 16 In Director of lands vs. Abanzado 17 this Court said:

4. To complete the picture, reference may be made to the learned and scholarly
opinion of Justice Sanchez in Director of Forestry v. Muoz, a 1968 decision. After a
review of Spanish legislation, he summarized the present state of the law thus: 'If a
Spanish title covering forest land is found to be invalid, that land is public forest land,
is part of the public domain, and cannot be appropriated. Before private interests
have intervened, the government may decide for i what Portions of the public domain
shall be set aside and reserved as forest land. Possession of forest lands, however
long, cannot ripen into private ownership.' Nor is this all He reiterated the basic state
objective on the matter in clear and penetrating language: 'The view this Court takes
of the cages at bar is but in adherence to public policy that should be followed with
respect to forest lands. many have written much, and many more have spoken, and
quite often, above the pressing need for forest preservation, conservation. protection,
development and reforestation. Not without justification For, forests constitute a vital
segment of any country's natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that
absence of the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number Of adverse
or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees, watersheds dry up; rivers and
lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents. The fish disappears. Denuded
areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to function, so will hydroelectric
plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed away; geological erosion results.
With erosion come the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property
crops, livestock, houses and highways not to mention precious human lives, ...'

The acquittal of the private respondents in the criminal cases for falsification is not a bar to the civil
cases to cancel their titles. The only issue in the criminal cases for falsification was whether there
was evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the private respondents had committed the acts of
falsification alleged in the informations. The factual issues of whether or not the lands in question are
timber or mineral lands and whether or not the private respondents are entitled to the benefits of
Republic Act No. 3872 were not in issue in the criminal case.

There is need to remand these cases to the trial court for the reception of evidence on (1) whether or
not the lands in question are timber and mineral lands; and (2) whether the private respondents
belong to the cultural minorities and are qualified under Republic Act 3872 to be issued free patents
on said lands.

WHEREFORE, the order dismissing Civil Cases Nos. 1968, 1969 and 1970 of the Court of First
Instance of Baguio City is hereby set aside and said cases are remanded to the trial court for further
proceedings, without pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Teehankee (Chairman), Makasiar, Guerrero, De Castro and Melencio-Herrera, JJ., concur.


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

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (DIRECTOR OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT), petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS (THIRD DIVISION) and JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents.

G.R. No. L-44081 April 15, 1988

BENGUET CONSOLIDATED, INC., petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORIA, BENJAMIN and EDUARDO, all
surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by their father JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents.

G.R. No. L-44092 April 15, 1988

ATOK-BIG WEDGE MINING COMPANY, petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORlA, BENJAMIN and EDUARDO, all
surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by their father, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents.

CRUZ, J.:

The Regalian doctrine reserves to the State all natural wealth that may be found in the bowels of the earth even if the land where the
discovery is made be private. 1 In the cases at bar, which have been consolidated because they pose a common issue, this doctrine was not
correctly applied.

These cases arose from the application for registration of a parcel of land filed on February 11,
1965, by Jose de la Rosa on his own behalf and on behalf of his three children, Victoria, Benjamin
and Eduardo. The land, situated in Tuding, Itogon, Benguet Province, was divided into 9 lots and
covered by plan Psu-225009. According to the application, Lots 1-5 were sold to Jose de la Rosa
and Lots 6-9 to his children by Mamaya Balbalio and Jaime Alberto, respectively, in 1964. 2

The application was separately opposed by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. as to Lots 1-5, Atok Big
Wedge Corporation, as to Portions of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9, and by the Republic of the
Philippines, through the Bureau of Forestry Development, as to lots 1-9. 3

In support of the application, both Balbalio and Alberto testified that they had acquired the subject
land by virtue of prescription Balbalio claimed to have received Lots 1-5 from her father shortly after
the Liberation. She testified she was born in the land, which was possessed by her parents under
claim of ownership. 4 Alberto said he received Lots 6-9 in 1961 from his mother, Bella Alberto, who
declared that the land was planted by Jaime and his predecessors-in-interest to bananas, avocado,
nangka and camote, and was enclosed with a barbed-wire fence. She was corroborated by Felix
Marcos, 67 years old at the time, who recalled the earlier possession of the land by Alberto's
father. 5 Balbalio presented her tax declaration in 1956 and the realty tax receipts from that year to
1964, 6 Alberto his tax declaration in 1961 and the realty tax receipts from that year to 1964. 7

Benguet opposed on the ground that the June Bug mineral claim covering Lots 1-5 was sold to it on
September 22, 1934, by the successors-in-interest of James Kelly, who located the claim in
September 1909 and recorded it on October 14, 1909. From the date of its purchase, Benguet had
been in actual, continuous and exclusive possession of the land in concept of owner, as evidenced
by its construction of adits, its affidavits of annual assessment, its geological mappings, geological
samplings and trench side cuts, and its payment of taxes on the land. 8

For its part, Atok alleged that a portion of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9 were covered by the Emma
and Fredia mineral claims located by Harrison and Reynolds on December 25, 1930, and recorded
on January 2, 1931, in the office of the mining recorder of Baguio. These claims were purchased
from these locators on November 2, 1931, by Atok, which has since then been in open, continuous
and exclusive possession of the said lots as evidenced by its annual assessment work on the
claims, such as the boring of tunnels, and its payment of annual taxes thereon. 9

The location of the mineral claims was made in accordance with Section 21 of the Philippine Bill of
1902 which provided that:

SEC. 21. All valuable mineral deposits in public lands in the philippine Islands both
surveyed and unsurveyed are hereby declared to be free and open to exploration,
occupation and purchase and the land in which they are found to occupation and
purchase by the citizens of the United States, or of said islands.

The Bureau of Forestry Development also interposed its objection, arguing that the land sought to be
registered was covered by the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve under Proclamation No. 217 dated
February 16, 1929. Moreover, by reason of its nature, it was not subject to alienation under the
Constitutions of 1935 and 1973. 10

The trial court * denied the application, holding that the applicants had failed to prove their claim of possession and ownership of the
land sought to be registered. 11 The applicants appealed to the respondent court, * which reversed the trial court and recognized the claims of
the applicant, but subject to the rights of Benguet and Atok respecting their mining claims. 12 In other words, the Court of Appeals affirmed
the surface rights of the de la Rosas over the land while at the same time reserving the sub-surface rights of Benguet and Atok by virtue of
their mining claims.

Both Benguet and Atok have appealed to this Court, invoking their superior right of ownership. The
Republic has filed its own petition for review and reiterates its argument that neither the private
respondents nor the two mining companies have any valid claim to the land because it is not
alienable and registerable.

It is true that the subject property was considered forest land and included in the Central Cordillera
Forest Reserve, but this did not impair the rights already vested in Benguet and Atok at that time.
The Court of Appeals correctly declared that:

There is no question that the 9 lots applied for are within the June Bug mineral claims
of Benguet and the "Fredia and Emma" mineral claims of Atok. The June Bug
mineral claim of plaintiff Benguet was one of the 16 mining claims of James E. Kelly,
American and mining locator. He filed his declaration of the location of the June Bug
mineral and the same was recorded in the Mining Recorder's Office on October 14,
1909. All of the Kelly claims ha subsequently been acquired by Benguet
Consolidated, Inc. Benguet's evidence is that it had made improvements on the June
Bug mineral claim consisting of mine tunnels prior to 1935. It had submitted the
required affidavit of annual assessment. After World War II, Benguet introduced
improvements on mineral claim June Bug, and also conducted geological mappings,
geological sampling and trench side cuts. In 1948, Benguet redeclared the "June
Bug" for taxation and had religiously paid the taxes.

The Emma and Fredia claims were two of the several claims of Harrison registered in
1931, and which Atok representatives acquired. Portions of Lots 1 to 5 and all of Lots
6 to 9 are within the Emma and Fredia mineral claims of Atok Big Wedge Mining
Company.

The June Bug mineral claim of Benguet and the Fredia and Emma mineral claims of
Atok having been perfected prior to the approval of the Constitution of the Philippines
of 1935, they were removed from the public domain and had become private
properties of Benguet and Atok.

It is not disputed that the location of the mining claim under


consideration was perfected prior to November 15, 1935, when the
Government of the Commonwealth was inaugurated; and according
to the laws existing at that time, as construed and applied by this
court in McDaniel v. Apacible and Cuisia (42 Phil. 749), a valid
location of a mining claim segregated the area from the public
domain. Said the court in that case: The moment the locator
discovered a valuable mineral deposit on the lands located, and
perfected his location in accordance with law, the power of the United
States Government to deprive him of the exclusive right to the
possession and enjoyment of the located claim was gone, the lands
had become mineral lands and they were exempted from lands that
could be granted to any other person. The reservations of public
lands cannot be made so as to include prior mineral perfected
locations; and, of course, if a valid mining location is made upon
public lands afterwards included in a reservation, such inclusion or
reservation does not affect the validity of the former location. By such
location and perfection, the land located is segregated from the public
domain even as against the Government. (Union Oil Co. v. Smith,
249 U.S. 337; Van Mess v. Roonet, 160 Cal. 131; 27 Cyc. 546).

"The legal effect of a valid location of a mining claim is not only to


segregate the area from the public domain, but to grant to the locator
the beneficial ownership of the claim and the right to a patent therefor
upon compliance with the terms and conditions prescribed by law.
Where there is a valid location of a mining claim, the area becomes
segregated from the public domain and the property of the locator."
(St. Louis Mining & Milling Co. v. Montana Mining Co., 171 U.S. 650;
655; 43 Law ed., 320, 322.) "When a location of a mining claim is
perfected it has the effect of a grant by the United States of the right
of present and exclusive possession, with the right to the exclusive
enjoyment of all the surface ground as well as of all the minerals
within the lines of the claim, except as limited by the extralateral right
of adjoining locators; and this is the locator's right before as well as
after the issuance of the patent. While a lode locator acquires a
vested property right by virtue of his location made in compliance with
the mining laws, the fee remains in the government until patent
issues."(18 R.C.L. 1152) (Gold Creek Mining Corporation v. Hon.
Eulogio Rodriguez, Sec. of Agriculture and Commerce, and Quirico
Abadilla, Director of the Bureau of Mines, 66 Phil. 259, 265-266)

It is of no importance whether Benguet and Atok had secured a patent for as held in
the Gold Creek Mining Corp. Case, for all physical purposes of ownership, the owner
is not required to secure a patent as long as he complies with the provisions of the
mining laws; his possessory right, for all practical purposes of ownership, is as good
as though secured by patent.

We agree likewise with the oppositors that having complied with all the requirements
of the mining laws, the claims were removed from the public domain, and not even
the government of the Philippines can take away this right from them. The reason is
obvious. Having become the private properties of the oppositors, they cannot be
deprived thereof without due process of law. 13

Such rights were not affected either by the stricture in the Commonwealth Constitution against the
alienation of all lands of the public domain except those agricultural in nature for this was made
subject to existing rights. Thus, in its Article XIII, Section 1, it was categorically provided that:

SEC. 1. All agricultural, timber and mineral lands of the public domain, waters,
minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy and
other natural resources of the Philipppines belong to the State, and their disposition,
exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines
or to corporations or associations at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by
such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease or concession at the time of
the inauguration of the government established under this Constitution. Natural
resources with the exception of public agricultural lands, shall not be alienated, and
no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development or utilization of any
of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding 25 years, except as
to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the
development of water power, in which case beneficial use may be the measure and
the limit of the grant.

Implementing this provision, Act No. 4268, approved on November 8, 1935, declared:

Any provision of existing laws, executive order, proclamation to the contrary


notwithstanding, all locations of mining claim made prior to February 8, 1935 within
lands set apart as forest reserve under Sec. 1826 of the Revised Administrative
Code which would be valid and subsisting location except to the existence of said
reserve are hereby declared to be valid and subsisting locations as of the date of
their respective locations.

The perfection of the mining claim converted the property to mineral land and under the laws then in
force removed it from the public domain. 14 By such act, the locators acquired exclusive rights over
the land, against even the government, without need of any further act such as the purchase of the
land or the obtention of a patent over it. 15As the land had become the private property of the
locators, they had the right to transfer the same, as they did, to Benguet and Atok.

It is true, as the Court of Appeals observed, that such private property was subject to the
"vicissitudes of ownership," or even to forfeiture by non-user or abandonment or, as the private
respondents aver, by acquisitive prescription. However, the method invoked by the de la Rosas is
not available in the case at bar, for two reasons.

First, the trial court found that the evidence of open, continuous, adverse and exclusive possession
submitted by the applicants was insufficient to support their claim of ownership. They themselves
had acquired the land only in 1964 and applied for its registration in 1965, relying on the earlier
alleged possession of their predecessors-in-interest. 16The trial judge, who had the opportunity to
consider the evidence first-hand and observe the demeanor of the witnesses and test their credibility
was not convinced. We defer to his judgment in the absence of a showing that it was reached with
grave abuse of discretion or without sufficient basis. 17

Second, even if it be assumed that the predecessors-in-interest of the de la Rosas had really been in
possession of the subject property, their possession was not in the concept of owner of the mining
claim but of the property as agricultural land, which it was not. The property was mineral land, and
they were claiming it as agricultural land. They were not disputing the lights of the mining locators
nor were they seeking to oust them as such and to replace them in the mining of the land. In fact,
Balbalio testified that she was aware of the diggings being undertaken "down below" 18 but she did
not mind, much less protest, the same although she claimed to be the owner of the said land.

The Court of Appeals justified this by saying there is "no conflict of interest" between the owners of
the surface rights and the owners of the sub-surface rights. This is rather doctrine, for it is a well-
known principle that the owner of piece of land has rights not only to its surface but also to
everything underneath and the airspace above it up to a reasonable height. 19 Under the aforesaid
ruling, the land is classified as mineral underneath and agricultural on the surface, subject to
separate claims of title. This is also difficult to understand, especially in its practical application.

Under the theory of the respondent court, the surface owner will be planting on the land while the
mining locator will be boring tunnels underneath. The farmer cannot dig a well because he may
interfere with the operations below and the miner cannot blast a tunnel lest he destroy the crops
above. How deep can the farmer, and how high can the miner, go without encroaching on each
other's rights? Where is the dividing line between the surface and the sub-surface rights?

The Court feels that the rights over the land are indivisible and that the land itself cannot be half
agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be categorical; the land must be either
completely mineral or completely agricultural. In the instant case, as already observed, the land
which was originally classified as forest land ceased to be so and became mineral and completely
mineral once the mining claims were perfected. 20 As long as mining operations were being
undertaken thereon, or underneath, it did not cease to be so and become agricultural, even if only
partly so, because it was enclosed with a fence and was cultivated by those who were unlawfully
occupying the surface.

What must have misled the respondent court is Commonwealth Act No. 137, providing as follows:

Sec. 3. All mineral lands of the public domain and minerals belong to the State, and
their disposition, exploitation, development or utilization, shall be limited to citizens of
the Philippines, or to corporations, or associations, at least 60% of the capital of
which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease or
concession at the time of the inauguration of government established under the
Constitution.

SEC. 4. The ownership of, and the right to the use of land for agricultural, industrial,
commercial, residential, or for any purpose other than mining does not include the
ownership of, nor the right to extract or utilize, the minerals which may be found on or
under the surface.

SEC. 5. The ownership of, and the right to extract and utilize, the minerals included
within all areas for which public agricultural land patents are granted are excluded
and excepted from all such patents.
SEC. 6. The ownership of, and the right to extract and utilize, the minerals included
within all areas for which Torrens titles are granted are excluded and excepted from
all such titles.

This is an application of the Regalian doctrine which, as its name implies, is intended for the benefit
of the State, not of private persons. The rule simply reserves to the State all minerals that may be
found in public and even private land devoted to "agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential or
(for) any purpose other than mining." Thus, if a person is the owner of agricultural land in which
minerals are discovered, his ownership of such land does not give him the right to extract or utilize
the said minerals without the permission of the State to which such minerals belong.

The flaw in the reasoning of the respondent court is in supposing that the rights over the land could
be used for both mining and non-mining purposes simultaneously. The correct interpretation is that
once minerals are discovered in the land, whatever the use to which it is being devoted at the time,
such use may be discontinued by the State to enable it to extract the minerals therein in the exercise
of its sovereign prerogative. The land is thus converted to mineral land and may not be used by any
private party, including the registered owner thereof, for any other purpose that will impede the
mining operations to be undertaken therein, For the loss sustained by such owner, he is of course
entitled to just compensation under the Mining Laws or in appropriate expropriation proceedings. 21

Our holding is that Benguet and Atok have exclusive rights to the property in question by virtue of
their respective mining claims which they validly acquired before the Constitution of 1935 prohibited
the alienation of all lands of the public domain except agricultural lands, subject to vested rights
existing at the time of its adoption. The land was not and could not have been transferred to the
private respondents by virtue of acquisitive prescription, nor could its use be shared simultaneously
by them and the mining companies for agricultural and mineral purposes.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent court dated April 30, 1976, is SET ASIDE and that of
the trial court dated March 11, 1969, is REINSTATED, without any pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Teehankee, C.J., Narvasa, Gancayco and Grio-Aquino, JJ., concur.


G.R. No. 150327 June 18, 2003

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILS., represented by the Secretary of Department of Environment and


Natural Resources, the Regional Executive Director, (DENR Region XI) and MARION V.
ABUNDO, SR., Conservation Officer (DENR Region XI), Petitioners,
vs.
MARILYN A. PERALTA, ROSIE A. LAVALAN, GRACE A. REYES, ALBERTO B. ALONDAY,
MERCY B. ALONDAY, RICHELIEU B. ALONDAY, AZUCENA B. ALONDAY AND JANETA A.
BALURAN, and the Register of Deeds of Davao City, Respondents.

DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
53440 which upheld the orders, dated February 5, 1999 and May 6, 1999, of the Regional Trial
Court of Davao City, Branch 13.2

The Antecedents

On September 26, 1994, Marilyn A. Peralta, Rosie A. Lavalan, Grace A. Reyes, Alberto B. Alonday,
Mercy B. Alonday, Rochelieu B. Alonday, Azucena B. Alonday, Benedicto B. Alonday, and Janeta A.
Baluran filed a complaint for recovery of possession and ownership of real property with the
Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 13, against the defendants Republic of the Philippines,
the Regional Executive Director of Region XI of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) and the Conservation Officer in said region. The plaintiffs alleged therein, inter
alia, that they are the heirs of Benedicto B. Alonday who applied for and was granted Homestead
Patent No. V-11244 by the then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DENR) over Lot
3561 with an area of 237,898 square meters; the said lot was a portion of Lot 2988 of the Guiang
Cadastre located in Guiang, Davao City and that on the basis of said patent, Benedicto Alonday was
issued Original Certificate of Title No. P-275 over the said property by the Register of Deeds; they
purchased the said property from their father Benedicto and were issued on April 25, 1988 Transfer
Certificate of Title No. T-134231 in their names; the property was allegedly alienable and disposable
property within Project 1-B, certified on January 13, 1931 as per LC Map No. 1412 approved by the
Director of Bureau of Forestry, as confirmed by the letter of the petitioner Regional Director, dated
February 15, 1994; they had been in possession of the said property as owner thereof since
November 1965 and that some time in 1969, officers of the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD)
sought his permission to use a portion of said property with an area of five hectares; the BFD caused
the construction of a big concrete building on said portion of the property; on June 28, 1971,
Benedictos lawyer wrote a letter to the BFD demanding that it vacate the said portion of his property
on which the building was constructed but said letter was ignored; on February 24, 1979, Forest
Conservation Officer Marion Abundio, Sr. asked permission from Benedicto to allow the BFD to
install on a portion of the subject property consisting of twenty-five square meters a small generator
to provide electricity to the existing building and compound of the Philippine Eagles Acclimatization
and Breeding Center; Benedicto did not give his assent to these requests of the aforenamed
government officials despite which they still caused the construction of the building and installation of
the generator unit; the plaintiffs demanded that the defendants vacate the property on July 14, 1994
but the latter refused. The plaintiffs prayed that after due proceedings judgment be rendered in their
favor and that the defendants be ordered to vacate the subject property and pay the plaintiffs
damages and litigation expenses.
The plaintiffs appended as annexes to their petition copies of the aforesaid title and letters of the
BFD officials. In their answer to the complaint, the defendants, through the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG), interposed the special and affirmative defenses that: (a) the complaint did not state
a cause of action against them; (b) the building constructed by the defendants was within the
perimeter of the Mt. Apo National Park, a forest reserve under Proclamation No. 59, as amended, of
the President of the Philippines, and not on the plaintiffs property; (c) the installation of a generator
unit did not push through; (d) Project 1-B, under which the subject property was declassified as
alienable and disposable property per Land Classification Map No. 1412, should not prevail over
Proclamation No. 59, as amended; (e) the suit was against the State which cannot be sued without
its consent; (f) the plaintiffs failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing their
complaint.3 The defendants prayed that the complaint be dismissed.

The parties filed their respective pre-trial briefs. After the requisite pre-trial conference, the RTC
issued an Order, dated August 29, 1995, constituting a panel of commissioners composed of
Engineer Roderick R. Calapardo, as Team Leader, and Gregorio Cenabre and Engineer Rogelio
Zantua, as members, to conduct a relocation survey and determine if the respondents property is
part of the Mt. Apo National Park. After the survey, the panel submitted its report to the trial court,
dated November 7, 1995, stating that: "the land in case is 92,216 square meters within the certified
Alienable and Disposable (A & D) Lands while the remaining portion of 145,682 square meters is
within the Mt. Apo National Park Reservation."4

In their comment on the report, the plaintiffs claimed that the survey team altered the boundary line
of their property in the course of the survey and that the team did not take into account Project 1-B
per Land Classification Map No. 1412 approved by the Director of the Bureau of Forestry. The
defendants, on the other hand, insisted that the survey team did not alter the boundary line of the
property and that it took into account Project 1-B and Land Classification Map No. 1412 in
conducting the survey and preparing its report. On motion of the plaintiffs and with the conformity of
the defendants, through Assistant Solicitor General Aurora P. Cortez, the RTC issued an order on
March 7, 1997 declaring that there were no factual issues involved in the case and that it would
decide the case on the basis of the pleadings and memoranda of the parties as well as the
commissioners report.

On May 6, 1997, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants
finding and declaring that the property occupied by the defendants was part of the plaintiffs property.
The RTC ordered the defendants to vacate the property, restore possession thereof to the plaintiffs
and remove all the improvements thereon made by them. The decretal portion of the decision reads:

In view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered sustaining the validity and legality of the
plaintiffs right of ownership and possession over that parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate
of Title No. T-134231 of the Registry of Davao City. Defendants are hereby ordered to vacate the
portion of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-134231 of the Registry of Deeds of
Davao City alluded to by the plaintiffs and to restore peaceful possession of the same to them.
Defendants are further ordered to remove all the improvements they have introduced thereon.5

The RTC declared that the report of the panel did not take into account Property 1-B for LC Map
1412; hence, the said report had no probative weight. According to the RTC, the torrens title of the
property prevails over the relocation survey of the panel of commissioners and that the Director of
Forestry declassified the respondents property pursuant to Section 1827 of the 1987 Revised
Administrative Code.

On May 30, 1997, five days before the expiration of the period to file an appeal, the defendants filed,
through registered mail, a motion for the reconsideration of the RTC decision. On June 11, 1997, the
RTC issued ex parte an order expunging the said motion for reconsideration on the ground that it
was a mere scrap of paper for failure of the defendants to incorporate any notice of hearing as
required by Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. Unaware of the June 11, 1997 Order of
the RTC, the defendants filed on July 14, 1997 a Manifestation with Notice of Hearing on Motion for
Reconsideration dated July 7, 1997 appending thereto a notice of hearing of their May 30, 1997
Motion for Reconsideration.

In the meantime, on July 18, 1997, the defendants received a copy of the June 11, 1997 Order of the
trial court expunging their motion for reconsideration. On July 22, 1997, the defendants filed their
notice of appeal from the decision of the court. The plaintiffs, for their part, filed a motion to dismiss
the appeal of the defendants on the ground that their May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration was
a mere scrap of paper; hence, the motion did not toll the running of the reglementary period for
appeal. Thus, the defendants allegedly failed to perfect their appeal from the decision of the court
within the reglementary period. On August 11, 1997, the RTC received the defendants notice of
appeal.

Meanwhile, the presiding judge of Branch 13 retired, and for a time, the said RTC branch remained
vacant. On January 28, 1999, the RTC, through the newly-appointed judge, issued an order giving
due course to the defendants appeal declaring that they still had a period of five days from July 18,
1997 when they received a copy of the order expunging their notice of appeal or until July 23, 1997
within which to perfect their appeal from the June 11, 1997 Order. Since the defendants filed their
notice of appeal on July 22, 1997, they had perfected their appeal within the reglementary period.
The RTC further declared that although the defendants May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration
was defective, the Rules of Court should be liberally construed. The RTC forthwith directed the
branch clerk of court to forward the records of the case to the Court of Appeals.

On February 5, 1999, however, the RTC issued an ex parte order dismissing the defendants appeal
on its finding that in light of jurisprudence brought to its attention, they failed to perfect their appeal
within the reglementary period. When the defendants received the February 5, 1999 Order of the
RTC, they filed a motion for reconsideration thereof, set for hearing on February 19, 1999. On
February 8, 1999, the RTC issued an order declaring that the hearing set on February 19, 1999 was
mooted by its Order dated February 5, 1999 which dismissed the defendants appeal. The plaintiffs
filed on February 10, 1999 a motion for execution, claiming that the RTC decision had become final
and executory. On February 18, 1999, the RTC issued an order granting the plaintiffs motion and
ordered the issuance of a writ of execution. The defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated
February 26, 1999 of the February 5, 1999 Order of the RTC dismissing their appeal and their
opposition to the issuance of a writ of execution. The defendants were unaware that in the interim,
the RTC had already granted the plaintiffs motion for a writ of execution on February 18, 1999. The
plaintiffs opposed the defendants Motion for Reconsideration dated February 26, 1999.

On May 6, 1999, the RTC issued an order denying the defendants motion for reconsideration and at
the same time denying the plaintiffs motion for execution on the ground that public policy prohibited
the issuance of a writ of execution against the government. The RTC recalled the writ of execution it
earlier issued.

Thereafter, the defendants, now the petitioners, filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari
under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court, as amended, for the nullification of the February 5, 1999
and May 6, 1999 Orders of the RTC alleging that the:

I
RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK
OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN ISSUING ITS ORDER DATED FEBRUARY 5, 1999 AND
ORDER DATED MAY 6, 1999.

II

RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK


OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN SUSTAINING THE VALIDITY AND LEGALITY OF
OWNERSHIP OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS OVER A PARCEL OF LAND COVERED BY
TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 134231.6

On April 27, 2001, the CA rendered its decision denying due course and dismissing the petition for
certiorari. The appellate court held that petitioners May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration of the
RTC decision did not comply with Section 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, as amended; hence, a
mere scrap of paper which did not toll the running of the reglementary period for appeal. Thus, the
RTC decision had already become final and executory. According to the appellate court, the RTC did
not commit any grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the petitioners appeal therein. As such, they
were not entitled to a writ of certiorari. The CA further held that the petitioners, through the
negligence of the OSG, failed to perfect their appeal. The CA opined that to nullify the title of
respondents over the subject property, the petitioners should have instituted a petition for reversion,
and not a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court, as amended.

The petitioners filed the instant petition for review on certiorari seeking to reverse and set aside the
decision of the CA. The petitioners allege that the appellate court committed reversible error in
finding and declaring that they failed to perfect their appeal from the decision of the trial court within
the reglementary period. The CA likewise allegedly erred when it held that the RTC did not commit
grave abuse of its discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction when it dismissed the
petitioners appeal via its February 5, 1999 Order. The petitioners contend that by dismissing their
petition, the CA thereby sustained the validity of the respondents title despite strong evidence that
the said property is part of the public forest and, therefore, inalienable. The petitioners further argue
that even if their notice of appeal was belatedly filed, the rule on perfection of appeals should be
suspended and that their appeal should be given due course on grounds of equity and substantial
justice. They submit that if their appeal is not reinstated, the Republic of the Philippines will be
deprived of a part of the Mt. Apo National Park consisting of no less than 145,682 square meters.
The petitioners cite the ruling of this Court in Republic v. Court of Appeals.7

The petition is meritorious.

The Court agrees with the CA that the OSG was negligent when it filed on May 30, 1997 the
defective motion for reconsideration. Section 2, Rule 37 of the Rules of Court provides that a motion
for reconsideration or a motion for a new trial shall be made in writing stating the ground or grounds
therefor, a written notice of which shall be served by the movant on the adverse party. Such written
notice is that prescribed in Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. Under Section 4,
paragraph 2 of said rule, a notice of hearing on a motion shall be served by the movant to all the
parties concerned at least three days before the date of hearing. Section 5 of the same rule requires
1wphi 1

that the notice of hearing shall be directed to the parties concerned and shall state the time and
place of the hearing of the motion. The requirements, far from being merely technical and procedural
as claimed by the petitioners, are vital elements of procedural due process.8

Since the Rules of Court do not fix any period within which the said party may file his reply or
opposition, the trial court would have no way of determining whether the adverse party agrees or
objects to the motion and, if he objects, to hear him on his objection. Hence, the need for the movant
to set the time and place of hearing of its motion.9 The requirements entombed in Sections 4 and 5 of
Rule 15 of the Rules of Court are mandatory and non-compliance therewith is fatal and renders the
motion pro forma; a worthless piece of paper which the clerk of court has no right to receive and
which the court has no authority to act upon.10 In cases of motions for a new trial or for the
reconsideration of a judgment, the running of the period for appeal is not tolled by the mere filing or
pendency of said motion.11

In this case, the petitioners, through the OSG, received on May 20, 1997 the decision of the RTC;
hence, they had until June 4, 1997 within which to file their motion for reconsideration or for a new
trial or to perfect their appeal from said adverse decision. Although the petitioners filed the motion for
reconsideration dated May 30, 1997 within the reglementary period, said motion failed to comply
with Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15. The records show that there is no proof that the respondents were
actually served with a copy of said motion, as required by Section 10, Rule 13 of the Rules of
Court. The OSG did not bother to file an amended motion for reconsideration containing the
1avv phi 1

requirements of Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court.

The OSG offered no valid justification for its failure to comply with Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the
Rules of Court except the self-serving claim of Solicitor Evaristo M. Padilla that his omission was
sheer inadvertence, caused by heavy pressure of work in preparing numerous pleadings and in the
almost daily attendance in court for naturalization cases and those for nullity of marriage, among
others. Other than the barefaced allegations of Solicitor Padilla, he offered no specific details as to
what pleadings he prepared and the hearings he attended which prevented him from complying with
Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. Moreover, if Solicitor Padilla was able to prepare
within the reglementary period the May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration, he offered no valid
justification for his failure to incorporate in said motion or append thereto a simple one-paragraph
notice of hearing which could have been accomplished in a few minutes. What is so nettlesome is
that the May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration of petitioners was signed not only by Solicitor
Padilla but also by Assistant Solicitor General Aurora P. Cortes. Even if Solicitor Padilla, through his
negligence, failed to incorporate in said motion for reconsideration the requisite notice of hearing, the
Assistant Solicitor General should have noticed the omission before she affixed her signature
thereon and sought the immediate rectification thereof by Solicitor Padilla before said motion was
filed. She did not. She offered no valid explanation for her faux pas either. The general rule is that
the clients are bound by the mistakes and negligence of their counsel.12

In a case of recent vintage, the Court took to task the OSG for its lackadaisical attitude and
complacency in the handling of its cases for the government and reminded the OSG that:

just like other members of the Bar, the canons under the Code of Professional Responsibility
apply with equal force on lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks. These
ethical duties are rendered even more exacting as to them because, as government counsel, they
have the added duty to abide by the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in public
service. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon the OSG, as part of the government bureaucracy, to
perform and discharge its duties with the highest degree of professionalism, intelligence and skill
and to extend prompt, courteous and adequate service to the public.13

Trite to state, this Court is impelled to do so anew in this case. The CA cannot be faulted for ruling
1w phi 1

that having lost their right of appeal through the negligence of the OSG the petitioners are not
entitled to a writ of certiorari under Rule 65 of 1987 Rules of Civil Procedure.14

However, prescinding from all the foregoing, this Court grants not only petitioners plea that it
suspend its own rule on the perfection of appeals but also directs the reopening of the trial of the
case for the parties to adduce their respective evidence. The Court excepts this case from the said
rule in the interest of justice, to avert a grave miscarriage of justice to the State through the
negligence of the OSG. The State has the right to adduce its evidence, testimonial and
documentary. Courts should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of this right but,
instead, afford every party litigant the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of its
cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.15 The trial court no less declared in its January 28,
1999 Order that although the petitioners May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration was defective,
the Rules of Court should be liberally construed only to make a volte face and issue ex parte an
order dismissing the appeal of the petitioners and canceling the hearing on the petitioners motion for
reconsideration set on February 19, 1999.

What is involved in this case is a portion of land consisting of no less than 145,682 square meters or
less than fifteen hectares which they claim is part of the Mt. Apo National Park as shown by the
relocation survey of the panel of commissioners. The case is one of public interest. If the aforesaid
property is, indeed, part of the forest reserve as claimed by the petitioners but their right to adduce
their evidence is foreclosed by the dismissal of the present petition, the said property would be
forever lost to the prejudice of the State. In Republic v. Imperial,16 this Court held that:

The need, therefore, to determine once and for all whether the lands subject of petitioners reversion
efforts are foreshore lands constitutes good and sufficient cause for relaxing procedural rules and
granting the third and fourth motions for extension to file appellants brief. Petitioners appeal
presents an exceptional circumstance impressed with public interest and must then be given due
course.17

The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the respondents as it ordered the petitioners to vacate
that portion of the subject property occupied by them and to return possession thereof to the
respondents, without requiring the parties to adduce evidence on the factual issues of (a) whether or
not the property covered by the title of the respondents is part of the Mt. Apo National Park (a forest
reserve); (b) whether or not the building constructed by the petitioners is inside the forest reserve;
and (c) whether or not the petitioners installed a generator unit in the respondents property.

It bears stressing that the trial court formed a panel of commissioners to conduct a relocation survey
of the subject property. The panel of commissioners found that 145,682 square meters which is a
portion of the Mt. Apo National Park had been included in the respondents title to the subject
property. The trial court ignored this and did not even bother to receive the parties respective
evidence on the said report. The panel of commissioners was not even called to testify on its
findings. The appellate court will be able to review on appeal the decision of the trial court and
ascertain whether there has been a travesty of justice to the gross prejudice of the State.

The respondents will not suffer substantial prejudice if the trial is reopened. The records show that
the trial court denied respondents motion for a writ of execution although the trial court had
dismissed the appeal of the petitioners. The respondents did not even assail the order of the trial
court.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
53440 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The Orders of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City,
Branch 13, dated February 5, 1999 and May 5, 1999 in Civil Case No. 23,168-94 are SET ASIDE.
The said Regional Trial Court is DIRECTED to reopen the trial to enable the parties to adduce their
respective evidence. The Office of the Solicitor General is hereby directed to represent the
petitioners during the trial. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 83290 September 21, 1990

STA. MONICA INDUSTRIAL AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner,


vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

Ocampo, Dizon & Domingo for petitioner.

CORTES, J.:

This case arose from proceedings to annul a 1912 decision of the land registration court.

In 1912, the Tribuna del Registro de la Propiedad (Court of Land Registration) of Zambales, through
Judge James Ostrand, in Land Registration Case (LRC) No. 6431, confirmed the title of Justo de
Perio over two (2) parcels of land in Zambales. On August 28, 1912, Decree No. 9328 was issued by
the court ordering the registration of the two (2) parcels of land in the name of De Perio. On
December 6, 1912, Original Certificate of Title No. 48 of the Registry of Deeds of Zambales was
issued to De Perio. Parcel No. 1 consists of an area of eleven thousand six hundred ninety-seven
square meters (11,697 sq.m.) while Parcel No. 2 consists of three hundred forty thousand eight
hundred twenty square meters (340,820 sq.m.). In 1936, a portion consisting of ten thousand four
hundred square meters (10,400 sq.m.) of Parcel No. 2 was sold to the Province of Zambales. The
sale was annotated at the back of OCT No. 48. In 1954, OCT No. 48 was cancelled and TCT No. T-
1369 was issued to Mercedes de Valencia pursuant to an extrajudicial settlement of De Perio's
estate. In 1962, De Valencia sold Parcel No. 1 to Ricardo Baloy. Baloy was issued TCT No. T-7696
in 1966. In 1967, De Valencia subdivided Parcel No. 2 into five (5) lots (Lots 2-A to 2-E). TCT No. T-
1369 was cancelled and TCT Nos. 11865, 11866, 11867, and 11869 were issued to De Valencia.
TCT No. 11 868, corresponding to the portion previously sold to the Province of Zambales, was
issued to the Republic of the Philippines. In 1970, De Valencia sold the lots covered by TCT Nos.
11865 and 11866 to petitioner Sta. Monica Industrial and Development Corporation. TCT Nos.
11865 and 11866 were cancelled and TCT Nos. T-12054 and T-12055 were issued to petitioner.
Petitioner consolidated the two (2) parcels of land and subdivided them into five hundred thirty-six
(536) residential lots which it sold to individual buyers.

In 1985, respondent Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, filed with the Court of
Appeals a complaint for the annulment of the decree in LRC No. 6431, OCT No. 48 (issued to De
Perio), TCT No. T-1369 (issued to De Valencia) and TCT No. T-7696 (issued to Baloy). Respondent
alleged that the decree in LRC No. 6431 was null and void for lack of jurisdiction because the land
was inside the U.S. naval reservation and that it was still within the forest zone in 1912, having been
released therefrom only in 1961, and hence cannot be the subject of disposition or alienation as
private property. Named defendants were De Valencia and her husband, Baloy and his wife and the
Register of Deeds of Zambales. The case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 06259.

The Baloy spouses filed their answer to the complaint.

With leave of court, petitioner intervened and filed an answer-in-intervention. Later, petitioner filed its
first motion for preliminary hearing on the affirmative defense of res judicata, which the Court of
Appeals denied. Petitioner did not seek reconsideration thereof.

Trial on the merits ensued. The Republic offered its evidence, consisting of a land classification map
prepared by the Director of Forestry in 1961 to prove that the land became alienable and disposable
only in 1961, and rested its case. Petitioner then proceeded to present its evidence. This was,
however, cut short when the Republic moved to amend its complaint to include as party defendants
all the other transferees of the land and, thereafter, filed its amended complaint. Petitioner again
moved for a preliminary hearing on its affirmative defense of res judicata in an effort to shorten the
proceedings.

The Court of Appeals, holding that res judicata cannot be invoked as a bar to an action for
annulment of judgment on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, denied the motion. Petitioner's motion
for reconsideration was also denied, hence this petition.

After the comment and reply were filed, the Court gave due course to the petition and, as required,
the parties filed their respective memoranda.

On April 2, 1990, the Court set the case for hearing on May 7, 1990 because, as stated in the
resolution:

...after deliberating extensively on it, the Court finds the need to hear the oral
arguments of the parties on issues which are considered determinative of the case,
including the following:

1. the nature and classification, under the pertinent laws traced back to the turn of
the century, of the two parcels of land decreed and originally titled in 1912 to De
Perio; and

2. the legal considerations that compelled the Government to seek the annulment of
the decree of the Court of Land Registration issued in favor of De Perio, his title, and
the titles of his successors-in-interest.

The parties were heard in oral argument and thereafter they were required to submit their
memoranda in amplification of their arguments.

The question presented before the Court is whether or not respondent CA committed reversible error
of law in denying petitioner's motion for preliminary hearing on its affirmative defense of res judicata.

As iterated in a long line of cases, the following requisites must concur for a prior judgment to
constitute a bar to a subsequent case: (1) the judgment must be final; (2) the judgment must have
been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the
judgment must be on the merits; and (4) there must be between the first and second actions, Identity
of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action [San Diego v. Cardona, 70 Phil. 281 (1940);
Ipekdjian Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, G.R. No. L-15430, September 30, 1963,
9 SCRA 72; Yusingco v. Ong Hing Lian, G. R. No. L-26523, December 24, 1971, 42 SCRA 589;
Aroc v. People's Homesite and Housing Corporation, G.R. No. L-39674, January 31, 1978, 81 SCRA
350; Republic v. Alagad, G.R. No. 66807, January 26, 1989, 169 SCRA 455; Vencilao v. Vano G.R.
No.
L-25660, February 23, 1990].

In contending that the judgment in LRC No. 6431 should be annulled because the land registration
court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case, the respondent Republic puts in issue
the presence of the second requisite. Therefore, the ultimate issue before the Court is whether or not
the land registration court had jurisdiction over the two (2) parcels of land claimed by De Perio, the
predecessor-in-interest of the petitioner herein.
Necessarily, the resolution of this issue requires an inquiry into the nature of the subject parcels of
land in light of the laws prevailing at the time the judgment in the land registration case was
rendered.

Petitioner's primary argument, as summarized in its memorandum, was as follows:

17. It must, therefore, be presumed that in LRC Case No. 6431, the court found from
the evidence adduced by the parties that (1) the two parcels of land in question were
agricultural lands as the phrase is used in Act No. 926, (2) Justo de Perio had been
in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession thereof for at least 10
years, before July 26, 1912, and (3) his possession of the said parcels of land was in
the concept of owner; and thus the court confirmed Justo de Perio's title thereto and
ordered their registration in his name. If the Attorney General, the Director of
Forestry, the Director of Lands and the Director of Public Works opposed the
application, then it must be presumed that the court declared the said two parcels of
land to be agricultural lands over their opposition. If they did not oppose, then it must
be presumed that they agreed with the court that the said lands were really
agricultural lands. It must be pointed out that the question as to whether the two
parcels of land in question are agricultural lands and not timber lands is a question of
fact and the finding of Judge Ostrand that they are agricultural can not be reviewed
by this Honorable Court at this point in time [Petitioner's Memorandum, pp. 8-9;
Rollo, pp. 211-212].

Additionally, petitioner argued that the boundaries of the two parcels of land, as described in Decree
No. 9328, debunk the contention that they are forest lands. The parcels of land were bounded by
privately owned property. Moreover, they were described in the notice published in the March 1912
issue of the Official Gazette, pp. 766-767 as "lying within the Civil Reservation, town site of
Olongapo, situated in the municipality of Olongapo, Province of Zambales, P. I." [Annex "A" of
Petitioner's Memorandum; Rollo, pp. 222-223].

On the other hand, the public respondent, through the Office of the Solicitor General, contended:

Records disclose that by virtue of Proclamation dated November 11, 1908, then
Governor-General James F. Smith reserved for naval purposes certain lands of the
public domain in Subic, Zambales which included the parcels of land embraced
under Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 48 secured by De Perio in 1912. It was
only in 1961 that such Proclamation was revoked by a subsequent issuance,
Proclamation No. 731, issued by then President Garcia on February 2, 1961 and
such portions already classified as alienable and disposable and not needed for
government purposes were declared open for disposition under R.A. No. 274, in
relation to C.A. 141 and Act No. 3038. This means that the lands, subject matter of
the case, were portions of the U.S. naval reservation and were declared open for
disposition only on February 2, 1961 [Public Respondent's Memorandum, p. 3; Rollo,
p. 230].

Public respondent then reiterated that "[a]t the time Original Certificate of Title No. 48 was issued on
December 9, 1912, the parcel of land covered by the title was still within the forest zone and it was
not until January 31, 1961 that said land was released by the Bureau of Forest Development as
alienable and disposable under Land Classification Map No. 2427" [Ibid].
It also added that "Land Classification Map No. 665 dated June 7, 1927 ... shows that the parcels of
land covered by OCT No. 48 were still part of the unclassified public forest at the time of the
registration" [Public Respondent's Memorandum, p. 4; Rollo, p. 231].

Weighing the arguments raised by the parties, we find that the Republic has failed to make out a
convincing case for the annulment of the decree in Land Registration Case No. 6431. It has been
established that the land registration court had jurisdiction over the two (2) parcels of land, and that
OCT No. 48 and the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) derived from OCT No. 48 are valid.

Act No. 926, known as the Public Land Act, which was enacted into law on October 7, 1903 but
which took effect on July 26, 1904, was the law applicable to De Perio's petition for confirmation of
his title to the two (2) parcels of land. It provided:

SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal successors in right,


occupying public lands in the Philippine Islands, or claiming to own any such lands or
an interest therein, but whose titles to such lands have not been perfected, may
apply to the Court of Land Registration of the Philippine Islands for confirmation of
their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural
public lands, as defined by said act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and
two, under a bona fide claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a
period of ten years next preceding the taking effect of this Act, except when
prevented by war or force majeure shall be conclusively presumed to have
performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and to have received
the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to such land under the
provisions of this chapter.

xxx xxx xxx

In other words, a person who had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious session and
occupation of public agricultural land for a period of at least ten (10) years prior to July 24, 1904
could petition for the confirmation of his title over the land he had so possessed and occupied.

The land registration court confirmed De Perio's title to the two (2) parcels of land after due notice
and hearing. From this, the following conclusions may be derived:

1. that the two (2) parcels of land are agricultural as defined by law, i.e., that they are neither timber
land nor mineral land [Mapa v. Insular Government, 10 Phil. 175 (1908)];

2. that De Perio had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
of the two (2) parcels of land for at least ten (10) years prior to 1904;

3. that his possession and occupancy was under a bona fide claim of ownership; and

4. that under the law De Perio had title to the land as of 1904, although it was confirmed only later in
1912.
These conclusions serve as premises to arrive at other conclusions determinative of the case.

If the land is agricultural as defined by law, and as confirmed by Judge Ostrand, it could not have
been forest land as claimed by public respondent, the subsequent land classification map
notwithstanding. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the two (2) parcels of land were in the
Olongapo townsite and were bounded by privately-owned land.

If De Perio had title to the land in 1904, although still imperfect, then it could not have been
prejudiced by the proclamation of Governor-General Smith in 1908 which reserved for naval
purposes land in Subic, Zambales. Said proclamation recognized the existence of private rights,
thus:

xxx xxx xxx

...por la presente exceptuo de venta o colonizacion hasta nueva orden y separo para
reserva naval, salvo los derechos privados, todos y cada uno de los terrenos
publicos comprendidos dentro de los siguientes limites, a saber: [Proclamation del
Gobernador General de las Islas Filipinos, 11 Noviembre 1908, para. 2, 6 O.G. 1885
(2 December 1908)].

Public respondent has also failed to explain the Republic's sudden interest in the annulment of the
decree and the certificate of title issued to De Perio and the subsequent titles issued to his
successors after some seventy-three (73) years of inaction and after a portion of the land has been
developed by petitioner into a subdivision and hundreds of residences have been built thereon. At
this point in time, that portion of land developed into a subdivision cannot, by any stretch of
imagination, be conceived as forest land. Anyway, the area wherein the two (2) parcels of land are
found, were released from the unclassified public forest and the territory comprising the Subic naval
reservation way back in 1961.

Moreover, it is now almost thirty (30) years since the land was released in 1961. In a few more
months, the possessors of the land would acquire title to the portions they adversely possess
through acquisitive prescription, without need of title or of good faith, pursuant to the Civil Code [Art.
1137].

Finally, we find the need to emphasize that in an action to annul a judgment, the burden of proving
the judgment's nullity rests upon the petitioner. The petitioner must establish by clear and convincing
evidence that the judgment is fatally defective. When the proceedings were originally filed by the
Republic before the Court of Appeals, the petitioner contended that when the decree in favor of De
Perio was issued by Judge Ostrand in 1912 the parcels of land were still part of the inalienable
public forests. However, petitioner's case rested solely on land classification maps drawn several
years after the issuance of the decree in 1912. These maps fail to conclusively establish the actual
classification of the land in 1912 and the years prior to that. Before this Court, petitioner reiterates
said 'contention and refers, for the first time, to a 1908 proclamation reserving the land in Zambales
as a naval reservation and alleging that the subject parcels of land are parts thereof. These, for
reasons discussed earlier, are insufficient to overcome the legal presumption in favor of the decree's
regularity, more so when we consider that notice of the application for registration and the date of
hearing thereof, addressed to the Attorney General, the Director of Lands, the Director of Public
Works and the Director of Forestry, among others, was published in the Official Gazette and that
Governor General Smith's Proclamation of 1908 itself recognizes private rights.

WHEREFORE, the petition is granted and the Court of Appeals is ordered to DISMISS CA-G.R. SP
No. 06259.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989

THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner


vs.
RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent.

The Solicitor General for petitioner.

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

CRUZ, J.:

The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove swamps, or manglares,
as they are commonly known. If they are part of our public forest lands, they are not alienable under
the Constitution. If they are considered public agricultural lands, they may be acquired under private
ownership. The private respondent's claim to the land in question must be judged by these criteria.

The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps located in the municipality of
Sapian, Capiz. Ruperto Villareal applied for its registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and
his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than forty years. He was
opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines.
After trial, the application was approved by the Court of First Instance. of Capiz. 1 The decision was
affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 2 The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for
review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature and not subject to private
appropriation. He asks that the registration be reversed.

It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private respondent agree that the
land is mangrove land. There is no dispute as to this. The bone of contention between the parties is
the legal nature of mangrove swamps or manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal and therefore
not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as agricultural land. The issue before
us is legal, not factual.

For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine Bill of 1902, one of the
earlier American organic acts in the country. By this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine
Islands were classified into three grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and timber or forest
lands. This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the Commonwealth, promulgated in
1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973. That new charter expanded the
classification of public lands to include industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and
grazing lands and even permitted the legislature to provide for other categories. 3 This provision has
been reproduced, but with substantial modifications, in the present Constitution. 4

Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when this case arose, only
agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. 5 Their disposition was provided for under C.A. No.
141. Mineral and timber or forest lands were not subject to private ownership unless they were first
reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation.

In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, 6 promulgated in 1909, mangrove swamps
or manglareswere defined by the Court as:
... mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in which grows various
kindred plants which will not live except when watered by the sea, extending their
roots deep into the mud and casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These
constitute the mangrove flats of the tropics, which exist naturally, but which are also,
to some extent cultivated by man for the sake of the combustible wood of the
mangrove and like trees as well as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon.
Although these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that they cannot
be so regarded in the sense in which that term is used in the cases cited or in
general American jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not available for
purpose of navigation, and they may be disposed of without impairment of the public
interest in what remains.

xxx

Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of the law, the custom
had grown of converting manglares and nipa lands into fisheries which became a
common feature of settlement along the coast and at the same time of the change of
sovereignty constituted one of the most productive industries of the Islands, the
abrogation of which would destroy vested interests and prove a public disaster.

Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so susceptible of private ownership.

Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the above-cited case, that
mangrove swamps form part of the public forests of this country. This it did in the Administrative
Code of 1917, which became effective on October 1 of that year, thus:

Section 1820. Words and phrase defined. - For the purpose of this chapter 'public
forest' includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public land,
including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character.

It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court maintained the doctrine in the
Montano case when two years later it held in the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: 7

...the words timber land are always translated in the Spanish translation of that Act
(Act of Congress) as terrenos forestales. We think there is an error in this translation
and that a better translation would be 'terrenos madereros.' Lumber land in English
means land with trees growing on it. The mangler plant would never be called a tree
in English but a bush, and land which has only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants
growing on it cannot be called 'timber land.

xxx xxx xxx

The fact that there are a few trees growing in a manglare or nipa swamps does not
change the general character of the land from manglare to timber land.

More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820, the Court declared:

'In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175), this Court said that
the phrase agricultural lands as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands
acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.
Whatever may have been the meaning of the term 'forestry' under the Spanish law,
the Act of Congress of July 1st 1902, classifies the public lands in the Philippine
Islands as timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and all public lands that are not
timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are
used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands.

The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the Administrative Code of


1917 cannot affect rights which vested prior to its enactment.

These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the trial court should have
considered them agricultural lands. If they are agricultural lands, then the rights of
appellants are fully established by Act No. 926.

The doctrine was reiterated still later in Garchitorena Vda. de Centenera v. Obias, 8 promulgated on
March 4, 1933, more than fifteen years after the effectivity of the Administrative Code of 1917.
Justice Ostrand declared for a unanimous Court:

The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land covered by the
application there are mangrove lands as shown in his opponent's Exh. 1, but we think
this opposition of the Director of Forestry is untenable, inasmuch as it has been
definitely decided that mangrove lands are not forest lands in the sense in which this
phrase is used in the Act of Congress.

No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the cases of Montano and
Jocson. And in 1977, the above ruling was reaffirmed in Tongson v. Director of Forestry, 9 with
Justice Fernando declaring that the mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in nature. The decision
even quoted with approval the statement of the trial court that:

... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species grow, where the trees
are small and sparse, fit only for firewood purposes and the trees growing are not of
commercial value as lumber do not convert the land into public land. Such lands are
not forest in character. They do not form part of the public domain.

Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, 10 the Court, citing Krivenko v. Register of
Deeds, 11 reiterated the ruling in the Mapa case that "all public lands that are not timber or mineral
lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa
swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands.

But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of decisions holding the
contrary view.

In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 12 promulgated in 1983, the Court ruled
"that the Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands
forming part of the public domain while such lands are still classified as forest lands.

Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, 13 the Court was more positive
when it held, again through Justice Gutierrez:

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified as
forest land because it is not thickly forested but is a 'mangrove swamps.' Although
conceding that 'mangrove swamp' is included in the classification of forest land in
accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code, the petitioners
argue that no big trees classified in Section 1821 of the said Code as first, second
and third groups are found on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that
Lot 885, even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration
proceedings because the property had been in actual possession of private persons
for many years, and therefore, said land was already 'private land' better adapted
and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the
public interests to be kept under forest classification.

The petition is without merit.

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such
classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest
cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or
planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. 'Forested lands' do not have
to be on mountains or in out-of-the-way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove
trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be
classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status
and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and
until the land classsified as 'forest' is released in an official proclamation to that effect
so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the
rules on confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply.'

The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 14 where this Court agreed with
the Solicitor General's submission that the land in dispute, which he described as "swamp mangrove
or forestal land," were not private properties and so not registerable. This case was decided only
twelve days after the De Porkan case.

Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for a categorical
pronouncement that should resolve once and for all the question of whether mangrove swamps are
agricultural lands or forest lands.

The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the legislature, which has the
authority to implement the constitutional provision classifying the lands of the public domain (and is
now even permitted to provide for more categories of public lands). The legislature having made
such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of their own role, administer
our public lands pursuant to their constitutional duty " to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed'
and in accordance with the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will step into the picture if the
rules laid down by the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are valid, it is claimed that they
are not being correctly observed by the executive. Thus do the three departments, coordinating with
each other, pursue and achieve the objectives of the Constitution in the conservation and utilization
of our natural resources.

In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the Philippines the function of
making periodic classifications of public lands, thus:

Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain
into:

(a) Alienable or disposable,


(b) Lumber, and

(c) Mineral lands,

and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to
another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition.

Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or


disposable lands, the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare what lands are
open to disposition or concession under this Act.

With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law provides:

For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the public domain
alienable or open to disposition shall be classified, according to the use or purposes
to which such lands are destined, as follows:

(a) Agricultural;

(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes;

(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and

(d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public uses.

The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural


Resources, shall from time to time make the classifications provided for in this
section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class
to another.

As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as follows:

Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reserves- Revocation of same. - Upon
there commendation of the Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department
Head, the President of the Philippines may set apart forest reserves from the public
lands and he shall by proclamation declare the establishment of such reserves and
the boundaries thereof, and thereafter such forest reserves shall not be entered,
sold, or otherwise disposed of, but shall remain as such for forest uses, and shall be
administered in the same manner as public forest.

The President of the Philippines may in like manner by proclamation alter or modify
the boundaries of any forest reserve from time to time, or revoke any such
proclamation, and upon such revocation such forest reserve shall be and become
part of the public lands as though such proclamation had never been made.

Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes. - Lands in public
forest, not including forest reserves, upon the certification of the Director of Forestry
that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest
purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be
declared by the Department Head to be agricultural lands.
With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion:

Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of the
Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917. The
legislature having so determined, we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect
veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged to date and,
no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More importantly, the said
provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional assuming the
requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed valid
and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the Amunategui case that the classification of
mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be
descriptive of what the land actually looks like. That determination having been made and no cogent
argument having been raised to annul it, we have no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall.

Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our agricultural lands should be
understood as covering only those lands over which ownership had already vested before the
Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated as
forest lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right protected by the due
process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of
Appeals, 15 where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it was
much later classified as timberland.

It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part of the mangrove
swamps of Sapian, and for which a minor forest license had in fact been issued by the Bureau of
Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be considered forest land. It could therefore not be the subject of
the adverse possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent in support of
his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released as forest land and reclassified as
agricultural land pursuant to the certification the Director of Forestry may issue under Section 1827
of the Revised Administrative Code.

The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps approved by the Director
of Lands, 16 to prove that the land is registerable. It should be plain, however, that the mere existence
of such a plan would not have the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into
agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly in officious. The Director of Lands
was not authorized to act in the premises. Under the aforecited law, it is the Director of Forestry who
has the authority to determine whether forest land is more valuable for agricultural rather than
forestry uses, as a basis for its declaration as agricultural land and release for private ownership.

Thus we held in the Yngson case:

It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the public domain that
until timber or forest lands are released as disposable and alienable neither the
Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has authority to lease, grant, sell or
otherwise dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing
or other purposes, fishpond leases and other modes of utilization.

The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamp


lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still
classified as forest land or timber land and not released for fishery or other purposes.

The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus:


It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be
owned by private persons. It is not registerable. The adverse possession which can
be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot
commence until after the forest land has been declared alienable and disposable.
Possession of forest land, no matter bow long cannot convert it into private property.'

We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the proof the private
respondent offers of prescriptive possession thereof is remarkably meager and of dubious
persuasiveness. The record contains no convincing evidence of the existence of
the informacion posesoria allegedly obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone the
fact that the conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it been shown
that the informacion posesoria has been inscribed or registered in the registry of property and that
the land has been under the actual and adverse possession of the private respondent for twenty
years as required by the Spanish Mortgage Law. 17 These matters are not presumed but must be
established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case.

Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were practically the only basis
used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim of possession over the land in question. Tax
declarations are, of course, not sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in favor
of the declarant, as we have held in countless cases. 18

We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not established his right to the registration of the
subject land in his name. Accordingly, the petition must be granted.

It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition embodied in Section 1820
of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, which remains unamended up to now, mangrove
swamps or manglares form part of the public forests of the Philippines. As such, they are not
alienable under the Constitution and may not be the subject of private ownership until and unless
they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the application for
registration of title of private respondent is DISMISSED, with cost against him. This decision is
immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 155450 August 6, 2008

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by the Regional Executive


Director, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Regional
Office No. 2, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF ANTONIO CARAG AND VICTORIA
TURINGAN, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF CAGAYAN, and the COURT
OF FIRST INSTANCE OF CAGAYAN,respondents.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a petition for review1 of the 21 May 20012 and 25 September


20023 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 47965. The

21 May 2001 Resolution dismissed petitioner Republic of the Philippines


(petitioner) amended complaint for reversion, annulment of decree,
cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles. The 25 September 2002
Resolution denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.

The Facts

On 2 June 1930, the then Court of First Instance of Cagayan (trial court)
issued Decree No. 3819284in favor of spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria
Turingan (spouses Carag), predecessors-in-interest of private respondents
Heirs of Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan (private respondents), covering
a parcel of land identified as Lot No. 2472, Cad. 151, containing an area of
7,047,673 square meters (subject property), situated in Tuguegarao,
Cagayan. On 19 July 1938, pursuant to said Decree, the Register of Deeds of
Cagayan issued Original Certificate of Title No. 115855 (OCT No. 11585) in
the name of spouses Carag.

On 2 July 1952, OCT No. 11585 was cancelled to discharge the encumbrance
expressly stated in Decree No. 381928. Two transfer certificates of title were
issued: Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-1277,6 issued in the name of the
Province of Cagayan, covering Lot 2472-B consisting of 100,000 square
meters and Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-1278,7 issued in the name of the
private respondents, covering Lot 2472-A consisting of 6,997,921 square
meters.

On 19 May 1994, Bienvenida Taguiam Vda. De Dayag and others filed with
the Regional Office No. 2 of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), Tuguegarao, Cagayan, a letter-petition requesting the
DENR to initiate the filing of an action for the annulment of Decree No.
381928 on the ground that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate
a portion of the subject property which was allegedly still classified as timber
land at the time of the issuance of Decree No. 381928.

The Regional Executive Director of the DENR created an investigating team


to conduct ground verification and ocular inspection of the subject property.

The investigating team reported that:

A) The portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151 as shown in the Plan prepared for
spouses Carag, and covered under LC Project 3-L of Tuguegarao,
Cagayan, was found to be still within the timberland area at the time of
the issuance of the Decree and O.C.T. of the spouses Antonio Carag
and Victoria Turingan, and the same was only released as alienable and
disposable on February 22, 1982, as certified by USEC Jose G. Solis of
the NAMRIA on 27 May 1994.

B) Petitioner Bienvenida Taguiam Vda. De Dayag and others have


possessed and occupied by themselves and thru their predecessors-in-
interest the portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151, covered by LC Project 3-L of
LC Map 2999, since time immemorial.8

Thus, the investigating team claimed that "a portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151" was
"only released as alienable and disposable on 22 February 1982."

In a Memorandum dated 9 September 1996, the Legal Division of the Land


Management Bureau recommended to the Director of Lands that an action for
the cancellation of OCT No. 11585, as well as its derivative titles, be filed with
the proper court. The Director of Lands approved the recommendation.

On 10 June 1998, or 68 years after the issuance of Decree No. 381928,


petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a complaint for annulment of
judgment, cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles9 on the ground that in
1930 the trial court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate a portion of the subject
property, which portion consists of 2,640,000 square meters (disputed
portion). The disputed portion was allegedly still classified as timber land at
the time of issuance of Decree No. 381928 and, therefore, was not alienable
and disposable until 22 February 1982 when the disputed portion was
classified as alienable and disposable.

On 19 October 1998, private respondents filed a motion to dismiss.10 Private


respondents alleged that petitioner failed to comply with Rule 47 of the Rules
of Court because the real ground for the complaint was mistake, not lack of
jurisdiction, and that petitioner, as a party in the original proceedings, could
have availed of the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or
other appropriate remedies but failed to do so. Private respondents added that
petitioner did not attach to the complaint a certified true copy of the decision
sought to be annulled. Private respondents also maintained that the complaint
was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and law of the case and by Section
38 of Act No. 496.11 Private respondents also stated that not all the heirs of
spouses Carag were brought before the Court of Appeals for an effective
resolution of the case. Finally, private respondents claimed that the real party
in interest was not petitioner but a certain Alfonso Bassig, who had an ax to
grind against private respondents.12

On 3 March 1999, petitioner filed an amended complaint for reversion,


annulment of decree, cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles.13

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

On 21 May 2001, the Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint because of


lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. The Court of Appeals
declared:

The rule is clear that such judgments, final orders and resolutions in civil
actions which this court may annul are those which the "ordinary
remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate
remedies are no longer available." The Amended Complaint contains no
such allegations which are jurisdictional neither can such circumstances
be divined from its allegations. Furthermore, such actions for Annulment
may be based only on two (2) grounds: extrinsic fraud and lack of
jurisdiction. Neither ground is alleged in the Amended Complaint which
is for Reversion/Annulment of Decree, Cancellation and Declaration of
Nullity of Titles. It merely alleges that around 2,640,000 square meters
of timberland area within Lot 2472 Cad. 151, had been erroneously
included in the title of the Spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan
under Decree No. 381928 and O.C.T. No. 11585 issued on June 2,
1930 and July 19, 1938, respectively; that hence, such adjudication
and/or Decree and Title covering a timberland area is null and void ab
initio under the provisions of the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.

Finally, it is clear that the issues raised in the Amended Complaint as well as
those in the Motion to dismiss are factual in nature and should be threshed
out in the proper trial court in accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land
Act.14 (Citations omitted)

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. In its 25 September 2002


Resolution, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration.

Hence, this petition.

The Issues

Petitioner raises the following issues:

1. Whether the allegations of the complaint clearly stated that the


ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief and other
appropriate remedies are no longer available;

2. Whether the amended complaint clearly alleged the ground of lack of


jurisdiction;

3. Whether the Court of Appeals may try the factual issues raised in the
amended complaint and in the motion to dismiss;

4. Whether the then Court of First Instance of Cagayan had jurisdiction


to adjudicate a tract of timberland in favor of respondent spouses
Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan;

5. Whether the fact that the Director of Lands was a party to the original
proceedings changed the nature of the land and granted jurisdiction to
the then Court of First Instance over the land;

6. Whether the doctrine of res judicata applies in this case; and

7. Whether Section 38 of Act No. 496 is applicable in this case.

The Ruling of the Court


While the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the complaint on procedural
grounds, we will still deny the petition because the complaint for annulment of
decree has no merit.

Petitioner Complied with Rule 47 of the Rules of Court

First, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner failed to allege either of the
grounds of extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction in the complaint for annulment
of decree.15

We find otherwise. In its complaint and amended complaint, petitioner stated:

11. In view of the fact that in 1930 or in 1938, only the Executive Branch
of the Government had the authority and power to declassify or
reclassify land of the public domain, the Court did not, therefore, have
the power and authority to adjudicate in favor of the spouses
Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan the said tract of timberland,
portion of the Lot 2472 Cad-151, at the time of the issuance of the
Decree and the Original Certificate of Title of the said spouses; and
such adjudication and/or Decree and Title issued covering the
timberland area is null and void ab initio considering the provisions of
the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Philippine constitution.

xxxx

15. The issuance of Decree No. 381928 and O.C.T. No. 11585 in the
name of spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan, and all the
derivative titles thereto in the name of the Heirs and said spouses,
specifically with respect to the inclusion thereto of timberland area, by
the then Court of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court), and the
Register of Deeds of Cagayan is patently illegal and erroneous for the
reason that said Court and/or the Register of Deeds of Cagayan did
not have any authority or jurisdiction to decree or adjudicate the
said timberland area of Lot 2472 Cad-151, consequently, the same
are null and void ab initio, and of no force and effect
whatsoever.16 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted)

Petitioner clearly alleged in the complaint and amended complaint that it was
seeking to annul Decree No. 381928 on the ground of the trial courts lack of
jurisdiction over the subject land, specifically over the disputed portion, which
petitioner maintained was classified as timber land and was not alienable and
disposable.
Second, the Court of Appeals also dismissed the complaint on the ground of
petitioners failure to allege that the "ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal,
petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available."

In Ancheta v. Ancheta,17 we ruled:

In a case where a petition for annulment of judgment or final order of the


RTC filed under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is grounded on lack of
jurisdiction over the person of the defendant/respondent or over the
nature or subject of the action, the petitioner need not allege in the
petition that the ordinary remedy of new trial or reconsideration of the
final order or judgment or appeal therefrom are no longer available
through no fault of her own. This is so because a judgment rendered or
final order issued by the RTC without jurisdiction is null and void and
may be assailed any time either collaterally or in a direct action or by
resisting such judgment or final order in any action or proceeding
whenever it is invoked, unless barred by laches.18

Since petitioners complaint is grounded on lack of jurisdiction over the subject


of the action, petitioner need not allege that the ordinary remedies of new trial,
appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available
through no fault of petitioner.

Third, the Court of Appeals ruled that the issues raised in petitioners
complaint were factual in nature and should be threshed out in the proper trial
court in accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act.19

Section 6, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 6. Procedure. - The procedure in ordinary civil cases shall be


observed. Should a trial be necessary, the reception of evidence may
be referred to a member of the court or a judge of a Regional Trial
Court.

Therefore, the Court of Appeals may try the factual issues raised in the
complaint for the complete and proper determination of the case.

However, instead of remanding the complaint to the Court of Appeals for


further proceedings, we shall decide the case on the merits.

Complaint for Annulment of Decree Has No Merit


Petitioner contends that the trial court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate to
spouses Carag the disputed portion of the subject property. Petitioner claims
that the disputed portion was still classified as timber land, and thus not
alienable and disposable, when Decree No. 381928 was issued in 1930. In
effect, petitioner admits that the adjacent 4,407,673 square meters of the
subject property, outside of the disputed portion, were alienable and
disposable in 1930. Petitioner argues that in 1930 or in 1938, only the
Executive Branch of the Government, not the trial courts, had the power to
declassify or reclassify lands of the public domain.

Lack of jurisdiction, as a ground for annulment of judgment, refers to either


lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defending party or over the subject
matter of the claim.20 Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred by law
and is determined by the statute in force at the time of the filing of the action.21

Under the Spanish regime, all Crown lands were per se alienable. In Aldecoa
v. Insular Government,22 we ruled:

From the language of the foregoing provisions of law, it is deduced that,


with the exception of those comprised within the mineral and timber
zone, all lands owned by the State or by the sovereign nation are
public in character, and per se alienable and, provided they are not
destined to the use of the public in general or reserved by the
Government in accordance with law, they may be acquired by any
private or juridical person x x x23 (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, unless specifically declared as mineral or forest zone, or reserved by


the State for some public purpose in accordance with law, all Crown lands
were deemed alienable.

In this case, petitioner has not alleged that the disputed portion had been
declared as mineral or forest zone, or reserved for some public purpose in
accordance with law, during the Spanish regime or thereafter. The land
classification maps24 petitioner attached to the complaint also do not show
that in 1930 the disputed portion was part of the forest zone or reserved for
some public purpose. The certification of the National Mapping and
Resources Information Authority, dated 27 May 1994, contained no statement
that the disputed portion was declared and classified as timber land.25

The law prevailing when Decree No. 381928 was issued in 1930 was Act No.
2874,26 which provides:
SECTION 6. The Governor-General, upon the recommendation of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time
classify the lands of the public domain into -

(a) Alienable or disposable

(b) Timber and

(c) Mineral lands

and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one
class to another, for the purposes of their government and disposition.

Petitioner has not alleged that the Governor-General had declared the
disputed portion of the subject property timber or mineral land pursuant to
Section 6 of Act No. 2874.

It is true that Section 8 of Act No. 2874 opens to disposition only those lands
which have been declared alienable or disposable. Section 8 provides:

SECTION 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or


concession which have been officially delimited and classified and,
when practicable, surveyed, and which have not been reserved for
public or quasi-public uses, not appropriated by the Government, nor in
any manner become private property, nor those on which a private
right authorized and recognized by this Act or any other valid law
may be claimed, or which, having been reserved or appropriated, have
ceased to be so. However, the Governor-General may, for reasons of
public interest, declare lands of the public domain open to disposition
before the same have had their boundaries established or been
surveyed, or may, for the same reasons, suspend their concession or
disposition by proclamation duly published or by Act of the Legislature.
(Emphasis supplied)

However, Section 8 provides that lands which are already private lands, as
well as lands on which a private claim may be made under any law, are not
covered by the classification requirement in Section 8 for purposes of
disposition. This exclusion in Section 8 recognizes that during the Spanish
regime, Crown lands were per se alienable unless falling under timber or
mineral zones, or otherwise reserved for some public purpose in accordance
with law.
Clearly, with respect to lands excluded from the classification requirement in
Section 8, trial courts had jurisdiction to adjudicate these lands to private
parties. Petitioner has not alleged that the disputed portion had not become
private property prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874. Neither has petitioner
alleged that the disputed portion was not land on which a private right may be
claimed under any existing law at that time.

In Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals,27 the Republic sought to


annul the judgment of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, sitting as a
land registration court, because when the application for land registration was
filed in 1927 the land was alleged to be unclassified forest land. The Republic
also alleged that the CFI of Rizal had no jurisdiction to determine whether the
land applied for was forest or agricultural land since the authority to classify
lands was then vested in the Director of Lands as provided in Act Nos.
92628 and 2874. The Court ruled:

We are inclined to agree with the respondent that it is legally doubtful if


the authority of the Governor General to declare lands as alienable and
disposable would apply to lands that have become private property or
lands that have been impressed with a private right authorized and
recognized by Act 2874 or any valid law. By express declaration of
Section 45 (b) of Act 2874 which is quoted above, those who have been
in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide
claim of acquisition of ownership since July 26, 1894 may file an
application with the Court of First Instance of the province where the
land is located for confirmation of their claims and these applicants shall
be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential
to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title. When
the land registration court issued a decision for the issuance of a
decree which was the basis of an original certificate of title to the
land, the court had already made a determination that the land was
agricultural and that the applicant had proven that he was in open
and exclusive possession of the subject land for the prescribed
number of years. It was the land registration court which had the
jurisdiction to determine whether the land applied for was
agricultural, forest or timber taking into account the proof or
evidence in each particular case. (Emphasis supplied)

As with this case, when the trial court issued the decision for the issuance of
Decree No. 381928 in 1930, the trial court had jurisdiction to determine
whether the subject property, including the disputed portion, applied for was
agricultural, timber or mineral land. The trial court determined that the land
was agricultural and that spouses Carag proved that they were entitled to the
decree and a certificate of title. The government, which was a party in the
original proceedings in the trial court as required by law, did not appeal the
decision of the trial court declaring the subject land as agricultural. Since the
trial court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action, its decision
rendered in 1930, or 78 years ago, is now final and beyond review.

The finality of the trial courts decision is further recognized in Section 1,


Article XII of the 1935 Constitution which provides:

SECTION 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public


domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all
forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines
belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation, development, or
utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to
corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of
which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant,
lease, or concession at the time of the inauguration of the
Government established under this Constitution. (Emphasis
supplied)

Thus, even as the 1935 Constitution declared that all agricultural, timber and
mineral lands of the public domain belong to the State, it recognized that
these lands were "subject to any existing right, grant, lease or
concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government
established under this Constitution."29 When the Commonwealth
Government was established under the 1935 Constitution, spouses Carag
had already an existing right to the subject land, including the disputed
portion, pursuant to Decree No. 381928 issued in 1930 by the trial court.

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We DISMISS petitioner Republic of the


Philippines complaint for reversion, annulment of decree, cancellation and
declaration of nullity of titles for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 127245

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DIRECTOR, LAND MANAGEMENT


BUREAU, petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, LORENZO J. GANA, PATROCNIO E. MARGOLLES, ALICE E.
SOTTO, VIRGINIA E. VILLONGCO, EDGARDO C. ESPINOSA, LUCIA A. LAPERAL, NORMA C.
ESPINOSA, TERESITA E. CASAL, PELTAN DEVELOPMENT INC., THE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT (formerly CFI) of RIZAL, and THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF LAS PIAS, respondents.

RESOLUTION

PURISIMA, J.:

This resolves petitioners' Motions to Refer to the Court En Banc these consolidated cases, which the
Third Division decided on September 2, 1999. The motions for reconsideration seasonably filed by
the petitioners, Republic of the Philippines and Firestone Ceramics, Inc., et al., are pending.

Under Supreme Court Circular No. 2-89, dated February 7, 1989, as amended by the Resolution of
November 18, 1993:

. . ., the following are considered en banc cases:

1. Cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or


executive agreement, law, executive order, or presidential decree, proclamation,
order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question;

2. Criminal cases in which the appealed decision imposes the death penalty;

3. Cases raising novel questions of law;

4. Cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;

5. Cases involving decisions, resolutions or orders of the Civil Service Commission,


Commission on Elections, and Commission on Audit;

6. Cases where the penalty to be imposed is the dismissal of a judge, officer or


employee of the judiciary, disbarment of a lawyer, or either the suspension of any of
them for a period of more than one (1) year or a fine exceeding P10,000.00 or both;

7. Cases where a doctrine or principle laid down by the court en banc or in division
may be modified or reversed;

8. Cases assigned to a division which in the opinion of at least three (3) members
thereof merit the attention of the court en banc and are acceptable to a majority of
the actual membership of the court en banc; and

9. All other cases as the court en banc by a majority of its actual membership may
deem of sufficient importance to merit its attention.
The cases at bar involve a vast tract of land with an area of around ninety-nine (99) hectares
presumptively belonging to the Republic of the Philippines, which land had been adjudicated
to private individuals by a court alleged to be without jurisdiction. Since the validity of the said
decision and the original certificate of title as well as transfer certificates of title issued
pursuant thereto hinges on the classification of subject area at the time it was so adjudicated,
determination of the validity of the disposition thereof is in order.

The assailed decision does not indicate the classification of the land in question, when the
herein private respondents obtained their decree of registration thereover.

In Limketkai Sons Milling, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, the Court conceded that it is not
infallible. Should any error of judgment be perceived, it does not blindly adhere to such error,
and the parties adversely affected thereby are not precluded from seeking relief therefrom,
by way of a motion for reconsideration. In this jurisdiction, rectification of an error, more than
anything else, is of paramount importance.

Here, there was submitted to the Court en consulta, petitioners' Motions to Refer to the
Court En Banc these consolidated cases for the consideration of the Court. A pleading,
entitled "FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF THE COURT EN BANC, EN CONSULTA," was
presented but when the same was first brought to its attention on March 7, 2000, the Court
opined that since the Third Division had not yet acted on subject motions to refer the cases
to the Banc, it was then premature for the Court to resolve the consulta. However, the Court
succinctly cautioned that the action of the Third Division on the matter would just be
tentative.

On March 8, 2000, the Third Division voted 4-1 to deny petitioners' motion to transfer these
cases to the Banc. Thus, on March 14, 2000, the Court deliberated on the consulta and
thereafter, voted 9-5 to accept the cases for the Banc to pass upon in view of the finding that
the cases above entitled are of sufficient importance to merit its attention. Evidently, the
action of the Court under the premises is a legitimate and valid exercise of its RESIDUAL
POWER within the contemplation of paragraph 9 of the Resolution En Banc of November 18,
1993, which reads: "All other cases as the court en banc by a majority of its actual
membership may deem of sufficient importance to merit its attention." (emphasis supplied)

Untenable is the contention of Justice Panganiban that the Chief Justice and the eight (8)
Associate Justices who voted to treat these consolidated cases as En Banc cases, have not
given any cogent or compelling reason for such action. Considering that paragraph 9 of the
Resolution of this Court dated November 18, 1993, has been cited to support the majority
opinion, it is decisively clear that these consolidated cases have been found to be of
sufficient importance to merit the attention and disposition of the entire Court en banc and
therefore, the prayer of the Republic of the Philippines and the private petitioners for the
Court en banc to hear and resolve their pending motions for reconsideration, is meritorious.
The aforesaid finding by the Court constitutes a reason cogent and compelling enough to
warrant the majority ruling that the Court En Banc has to act upon and decide petitioners'
motions for reconsideration. 1w phi1.nt

It bears stressing that where, as in the present cases, the Court En Banc entertains a case
for its resolution and disposition, it does so without implying that the Division of origin is
incapable of rendering objective and fair justice. The action of the Court simply means that
the nature of the cases calls for en banc attention and consideration. Neither can it be
concluded that the Court has taken undue advantage of sheer voting strength. It was merely
guided by the well-studied finding and sustainable opinion of the majority of its actual
membership that, indeed, subject cases are of sufficient importance meriting the action
and decision of the whole Court. It is, of course, beyond cavil that all the members of this
highest Court of the land are always embued with the noblest of intentions in interpreting and
applying the germane provisions of law, jurisprudence, rules and Resolutions of the Court
to the end that public interest be duly safeguarded and rule of law be observed.

Reliance by Justice Panganiban on the ruling of the Court in the Sumilao case is misplaced.
The said case is not on all fours with these cases. In the Sumilao case, before it was brought
to the Banc en consulta, the motion for reconsideration of the decision therein rendered had
been voted upon by the Second Division with a vote of 2-2. The Court ruled that the
stalemate resulting from the said voting constituted a denial of the motion for
reconsideration.

In the two consolidated cases under consideration, however, the Motions for
Reconsideration of the petitioners, Republic of the Philippines and Firestone Ceramics,
Inc., et al., are pending and unresolved.

Taking into account the importance of these cases and the issues raised, let alone the
enormous value of the area in litigation, which is claimed as government property, there is
merit in the prayer of petitioners that their pending motions for reconsideration should be
resolved by the Court En Banc.

WHEREFORE, these consolidated cases are considered and treated as en banc cases; and
petitioners' motions for reconsideration are hereby set for oral argument on July 18, 2000, at
11:00 a.m. Let corresponding notices issue.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-47491 May 4, 1989

GALICANO GOLLOY, petitioner,


vs.
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE VALDEZ, JR., CONSOLACION VALDEZ, LOURDES
VALDEZ, SOLEDAD VALDEZ and BENNY MADRIAGA, respondents. respondents. respondents. .

Crispulo B. Ducusin for petitioner. Celso M. Alviar for private respondents. .

PARAS, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari of the September 29, 1977 Decision ** of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. No. L-43359R, entitled, Galicano Golloy vs. Jose J. Valdez Jr., et. al., affirming the judgment of the then Court of First Instance of
Tarlac; and the November 29,1977 Resolution of the same court denying the motion for reconsideration. .

Herein petitioner, for more than twenty (20) years, has been the registered owner and in possession
of a 41,545-square meter parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 45764. The
Southwest portion of this land is bounded by herein private respondents' land which is covered by
Certificate of Title No. 8565. Sometime in February, 1966, private respondents subdivided their land
among themselves. In the course of the subdivision, private respondents caused to be placed two
(2) monuments inside the Southwest, portion of petitioner's land. Hence, petitioner filed with the then
Court of First Instance of Tarlac, presided over by Judge Arturo B. Santos an action to quiet title.
The same was docketed therein as Civil Case No. 4312. .

Private respondents, in their filed motion to dismiss with counterclaim, alleged that they never
encroached upon the landholding of petitioner and nothing has been placed on his land which would
create any cloud thereon; and that the truth of the matter was that they merely subdivided their own
land according to their title and therefore there was nothing for petitioner to quiet or remove cloud on
his title. .

In the pre-trial of December 12, 1967, the parties agreed that inasmuch as the only issue in dispute
referred ultimately to the question of the boundaries of their respective lots, the same might be
resolved by appointing a public surveyor of the Bureau of Lands to relocate the disputed area with
the end in view of determining the true and correct boundaries of their parcels. .

The trial court, in line with the above-said agreement, in an Order dated December 13, 1968,
ordered the Director of Lands to appoint an impartial public land surveyor to conduct the relocation
survey on the disputed area. .

On May 20, 1968, Jovino B. Dauz, Surveyor of the Bureau of Lands, Dagupan City, submitted his
Report (Record on Appeal, pp. 21-28, Rollo, p. 34), which states in substance, that petitioner's land
is Lot A of the Subdivision plan, Psd-1413, being a portion of the land described in Original
Certificate of Title No. 126 in the name of Agustin Golloy (No. 11, Record on Appeal, p. 23); that the
land titled under OCT No. 126 was surveyed on March 18, 1918 and subsequently titled and
registered on August 15, 1919 (No. 12, Ibid); that on the other hand, private respondents' land is Lot
No. 1, 11-8218 in the name of Domingo Balanga, surveyed on March 11, 1913 and originally titled
and registered on March 1, 1918 (No. 15, Ibid.); that there are overlappings on the boundaries of the
two (2) lands (Nos. 226, 27, 28 and 29, Ibid.); and that the overlappings are due to the defect in the
survey on petitioner's land since it did not duly conform with the previously approved survey of Lot 1,
11-3218 under OCT 8565 (No. 25, lbid). He ended his report by submitting that private respondents'
land, TCT No. 8565, prevails over petitioner's land, TCT No. 45764, since the former was surveyed
and titled ahead. .

On July 8, 1968, petitioner filed a Memorandum (Record on Appeal, pp. 28-35). .

On October 21, 1968, the trial court ruled in favor of private respondents. The decretal portion of the
decision, reads: .

WHEREFORE, conformably to the agreement of the parties during the pre-trial on December 12,
1967, this Court renders judgment in accordance with the aforesaid surveyor's Report and
Relocation Plan; and the plaintiff and the defendants are accordingly directed to abide by and
respect the boundaries indicated on the relocation plan of Surveyor Dauz which he found to be the
true and correct boundaries of the properties covered by TCT Nos. 8567 and 45764 of the land
records of Tarlac. .

For lack of proof, the claim for damages by plaintiff and the defendants are both denied. .

No pronouncement on costs. .

SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 14) .

Petitioner, after his motion for reconsideration was denied by the trial court, appealed the said
decision, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, in a Decision promulgated on September 29,
1977 (Rollo, pp. 22-29). A motion for reconsideration was filed, but the same was denied in a
Resolution promulgated on November 29, 1977 (Ibid., pp. 30-32). Hence, the instant petition. .

The Second Division of this Court, in a Resolution dated January 4, 1978, resolved to require the
respondents to comment (lbid., p. 36); which comment was filed on February 14, 1978 (Ibid., pp. 41-
42). Petitioners filed a reply thereto on March 27, 1978 (lbid., p. 47) in compliance with the resolution
of February 14, 1978 (Ibid., p. 44). .

In a Resolution dated April 5, 1978 the Court gave due course to the petition (Ibid., p. 52). Petitioner
filed his Brief on January 10, 1981 (Ibid., p. 60). Private respondents having failed to file their brief
within the required period, the case was considered submitted for decision without private
respondents' brief in the resolution of February 8, 1981 (Ibid., p. 66). .

The sole issue in this case is who between the two title holders is entitled to the land in dispute? .

The instant petition is impressed with merit. .

It must be stated that private respondents and their predecessor or predecessors never possessed,
much less, claimed the overlapped portions. Petitioner has been always in possession of the same
in the concept of an owner, and his possession was disturbed only in February, 1966, when the
private respondents caused to be placed two (2) monuments inside his land. It will be recalled that,
as per report of Surveyor Jovino B. Dauz (Record on Appeal, pp. 21-28), private respondents' land
(TCT-8565 is Lot No. 1, 11- 8218) was surveyed on March 11, 1913 and originally titled and
registered on March 1, 1918 in the name of Dominga Balanga. On the other hand, petitioner's land
(TCT No. 45764) is Lot-A of Subdivision plan, Psd-14013, a portion of land described in OCT No.
126) was surveyed on March 18, 1918 and subsequently titled and registered in the name of Agustin
Golloy. The said lands, having been surveyed and thereafter registered, it follows that monuments
were placed therein to indicate their respective boundaries. It is hardly persuasive that private
respondents' predecessor, Dominga Balanga, believing that she has a rightful claim to the
overlapped portions, did not make any move to question the placement of the monuments. She
could have easily objected to the placement and pointed out that the placement of the monuments
excluded the overlapped portions from her property. However, no such objection was made. These
facts could only be construed to mean that private respondents' predecessor, Dominga Balanga,
never believed that she has a right and legal claim to the overlapped portion. There appears to be no
evidence to support claims of repeated demands against petitioner to refrain from cultivating the
contested portion, much less an action filed in court to enforce such demands. .

Besides, considering that petitioner and his predecessor or predecessors have been in continuous
possession in the concept of an owner, for almost fifty (50) years (from August 15, 1919, when the
property was registered, up to February, 1966, when the private respondents caused the placement
of two (2) monuments inside his land), the latter if they have any right at all to the overlapped
portion, are guilty of laches. .

In the case of Caragay-Layno vs. Court of Appeals (133 SCRA 718, 723- 724 [1984], this Court
stated- .

Of significance is the fact, as disclosed by the evidence, that for twenty (20) years from the date of
registration of title in 1947 up to 1967 when this suit for recovery of possession was instituted,
neither the deceased DE VERA up to the time of his death in 1951, nor his successors-in-interest,
had taken steps to possess or lay adverse claim to the disputed portion. They may, therefore be said
to be guilty of laches as would effectively derail their cause of action. Administrator ESTRADA took
interest in recovering the said portion only when he noticed the discrepancy in areas in the Inventory
of Property and in the title. .

The foregoing conclusion does not necessarily wreak havoc on the indefeasibility of a Torrens title.
For, mere possession of certificate of title under the Torrens System is not conclusive as to the
holder's true ownership of all the property described therein for he does not by virtue of said
certificate alone become the owner of the land illegally included. In a more recent case, the case of
Lola vs. Court of Appeals (145 SCRA 439, 449 [1986]), this Court ruled: .

We also agree with the petitioners that laches effectively bars the respondent from recovering the lot
in dispute. .

Although the defense of prescription is unavailing to the petitioners because, admittedly, the title to
Lot No. 5517 is still registered in the name of respondent, still the petitioners have acquired title to it
by virtue of the equitable principle of laches due to respondent's failure to assert her claims and
ownership for thirty two (32) years. .

There are precedents for this ruling. In the following cases, we upheld the equitable defense of
laches and ruled that the long inaction and delay of the title holder in assertings right over the
disputed lot bars him from recovering the same. .

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the decision of the Court of Appeals under review is REVERSED and
SET ASIDE and a new one rendered ordering, private respondents to cause the segregation of the
disputed portion presently occupied by the petitioner Galicano Golloy and reconvey the same to the
latter and after the segregation to order the Register of Deeds of Tarlac to issue a new certificate of
title covering said portion in favor of the petitioner. .

SO ORDERED. .
G.R. No. 152445 July 4, 2008

CAMBRIDGE REALTY AND RESOURCES CORP., petitioner,


vs.
ERIDANUS DEVELOPMENT, INC. and CHITON REALTY CORP., respondents.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Petition for Review on Certiorari1 assails the October 17, 2001 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 51967 reversing and setting aside the October 10, 1995 Decision3 of the Regional
Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 96 in Civil Case Nos. Q-89-2636 and Q-89-2750, which
dismissed the complaints filed by respondents Eridanus Development Inc. (ERIDANUS) and Chiton
Realty Corporation (CHITON) against petitioner Cambridge Realty and Resources Corporation
(CAMBRIDGE). Also assailed is the March 1, 2002 Resolution4 denying the Motion for
Reconsideration.5

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Petitioner CAMBRIDGE is the registered owner of a 9,992-square meter lot, covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 367213 (the CAMBRIDGE title/property),6 in the Registry of Deeds
of Quezon City.

Respondent ERIDANUS is the registered owner of a 2,794 square meter parcel of land covered
by Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) RT-38481 (the ERIDANUS title/property),7 in the
Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. A portion of the covering title thereof partially reads, as follows:

IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the ___23rd__ day
of______________, in the year nineteen hundred and ____Veinte____ in the Registration
Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of ___Rizal___, Volume ___T-27___, page ___,
as Original Certificate of Title No. __________, pursuant to Decree No. __Case no.
917__, issued in L.R.C. ___________ Record No. ____________, in the name of
______________.

This certificate is a transfer from __Trans.__ Certificate of Title No. __346380/T-1736__


which is cancelled by virtue hereof in so far as the above-described land is concerned.

On the other hand, respondent CHITON is the registered owner of a 2,563 square meter lot, covered
by Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 12667 (the CHITON title/property),8 in the Registry of
Deeds of Quezon City. A portion of the covering title thereof reads in part, as follows:

IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the ___23rd__ day
of_____Sept._____, in the year nineteen hundred and ____veinte____ in the Registration
Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of ___Rizal___, Volume ___T-27___, page _6__,
as Original Certificate of Title No. __________, pursuant to Decree No. __Case no.
917__, issued in L.R.C. ___________ Record No. ____________, in the name of
______________.

This certificate is a transfer from __Trans.__ Certificate of Title No. __346381/T-1736__


which is cancelled by virtue hereof in so far as the above-described land is concerned.
The CAMBRIDGE title has a covering title that reads in part, thus -

IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the ___21st__ day of
___August___, in the year nineteen hundred and ____seven____ in the Registration Book of
the Office of the Register of Deeds of ___RIZAL___, Volume ___A-4___, page __56_, as
Original (sic) of Title No. _____355____, pursuant to Decree No. __1425__, issued in L.R.C.
Rec. No. ____917___.

This certificate is a transfer from __Trans.__ Certificate of Title No. __363717/T-1823__


which is cancelled by virtue hereof in so far as the above-described land is concerned.9

The foregoing properties are adjoining lots located in Barangay Valencia, Quezon City, and
constitute the subject matter of the present controversy.

Original Certificate of Title No. (OCT) 36210 was issued under Act 496 (The Land Registration Act)
by virtue of Decree of Registration 1425, GLRO No. 917, based on the original survey conducted on
November 17, 1906. It was subdivided into three portions: Lots 27-A, 27-B and 27-C. Lot 27-C was
titled in the name of Rafael Reyes, under Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 550611 issued on
September 23, 1920. TCT 5506, in turn, appears to have been transferred in the name of Susana
Realty, Inc. (SUSANA) under Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 18250.12 TCT 18250 was then
subdivided into eight (8) lots, of which the ERIDANUS lot is claimed to be Lot 3 thereof and
CHITON's is Lot 4.

The subdivision of TCT 18250 (or Lot 27-C) was claimed to have been made by geodetic surveyor
Jaime V. Nerit (Nerit). Nerit said he began computing the boundaries based on the SUSANA title. He
noticed that the tie point13 of the property was not fixed and there were no fixed or permanent
markers, so he conducted research and obtained from the Bureau of Lands the approved
consolidated subdivision plan of an adjoining property, Gilmore Townhouses14 - located on the
western side and owned by Ayala Investments and Development Corporation (the AYALA property)
- which had fixed monuments to which Nerit could establish and connect with those of TCT 18250.
He found a fixed tie point therein, BLLM 1, Marikina15 ("S. 68'19 W. Pt. 6785 from BLLM Marikina I,
Marikina, Rizal"), and from there he next computed the relation between corner 1 as described in the
technical description of TCT 18250, and corner 1 as described in that of the Ayala property. In this
manner, Nerit said he was able to establish the position of respondents' property and prepare the
subdivision plan of TCT 18250, which was subsequently approved by the Land Registration
Commission.16

Original Certificate of Title No. (OCT) 35517 was registered under Act 496 on August 21, 1907,
based on the original survey conducted on June 16 to August 16, 1907. It was registered in the
name of La Compania Agricola de Ultramar (AGRICOLA). Lot 21 thereof was subdivided and a
portion thereof - Lot 21-A - was covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 578,18 from
which TCT 367213, the CAMBRIDGE title, was allegedly derived.

On May 30, 1989, ERIDANUS filed Civil Case No. Q-89-2636 to enjoin CAMBRIDGE from pursuing
the planned subdivision and development of its property, which ERIDANUS claims encroached upon
its own. The Complaint prays for a writ of injunction; the removal of an alleged encroaching wall
CAMBRIDGE constructed; that the encroached portion be vacated and surrendered to it; that it be
paid P3,500.00 per month, from the time of filing of the complaint to surrender of possession, as
reasonable value for the use and occupation by CAMBRIDGE of the encroached portion; and
litigation expenses, attorney's fees and costs of suit.
On June 15, 1989, CHITON instituted Civil Case No. Q-89-2750, with a similar prayer for relief as in
Civil Case No. Q-89-2636, except that CHITON seeks a lower monthly charge of P1,700.00 for the
use and occupation of the alleged encroached portion, and a lesser amount for attorney's fees.

Both complaints were subsequently consolidated in Civil Case No. Q-89-2636 upon motion of
CHITON.

The civil complaints were triggered by a previous verification survey conducted on respondents'
respective properties, where the results allegedly showed that the CAMBRIDGE property
encroached or overlapped upon respondents' lots, to the extent of 357 square meters for
ERIDANUS and 177 square meters for CHITON.

Upon motion of the respondents, surveyors from the Survey Division of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Lands Management Services conducted a relocation
survey of the subject properties, pursuant to an Order of the trial court dated May 8, 1992. On
February 10, 1993, they prepared a two-page Report,19 finding in part thus -

1. That the Verification/Relocation Survey has been conducted on October 1, 2 and


November 5, 1992.

2. At the outset, corresponding Technical Descriptions along the two (2) properties TCT
18250 and TCT 367213, supposedly common to both has already a difference of 3 degrees
10 minutes (3-0-00) as described on their respective titles inspite of the deficiency of TCT
No. 18250 (Susana Realty Inc.) for not having any tie line.

3. That a subdivision of the lot covered by TCT No. 18250 under (LRC) Psd-335633 had
been approved, June 19, 1986 referring to Lot 27-C, Psd -13458 as the source which
records when researched could not be made available at hand, has established its tie line.

4. That the lot covered by TCT No. 367213 (Cambridge Realty and Resource Corporation)
has also been subdivided under Psd-13-005784 approved by the Lands Management
Services of this Region last May 3, 1988.

5. That the Technical Descriptions of TCT No. 367213 under Psd-13-005784 boundary
referred from Lot 1, Sub-Block 1-A, Psd-225 was also researched and could not be made
available at hand.

xxxx

8. Party litigants has not paid corresponding survey deposit in the amount of ONE
THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED PESOS (P1,600.00).

xxxx

(signed)
ELPIDIO T. DE LARA
Chief, Technical Services Section

The trial court received the evidence of both parties, which in the main consisted of the expert
testimonies of practicing private geodetic surveyors. Thus, respondents, as plaintiffs a quo,
presented Nerit, who claimed to have conducted a survey of the respondents' properties, as well as
a study of the CAMBRIDGE property and its alleged predecessor title (TCT 578). He testified that in
the course of his work, he found out that the CAMBRIDGE property overlapped that of ERIDANUS
at the north with a distance of eight (8) linear meters;20 that although the CAMBRIDGE property was
formerly a portion of TCT 578, the former does not conform to the latter;21 that when it was
segregated from TCT 578, the bearings on the side abutting the respondents' property were
altered;22 that TCT 578 was issued in 1907, yet the original survey of the property covered by the
CAMBRIDGE title was made in 1920;23 that there is no record of the subdivision plan of the
CAMBRIDGE lot;24 and that it does not appear that the CAMBRIDGE lot came from TCT 578
(despite stating previously that the former used to be a portion of the latter).25

On cross-examination, Nerit stated that there is no basis for him to say that the CAMBRIDGE lot
came from TCT 578,26 because there is nothing in the title thereof that indicates that it was derived
from the latter;27 that when he first surveyed the SUSANA property (TCT 18250) in 1960, he did not
discover any overlapping, and he did so only in 1990;28 that he found out that there was a
discrepancy between the tie point in the respondents' titles and their predecessor's, the SUSANA
title;29 that the tie point of the SUSANA property was just a PLS monument (i.e., technically, there is
no tie point - meaning that the property's geographical position could not be found, such that there
could be no starting point for the conduct of a survey), which he could not rely on for the survey;30 so,
he had to find a solution by creating a new one, BLLM 1 Marikina.31

Likewise, Nerit testified on cross-examination that there is no evidence to show that the
CAMBRIDGE property was derived from OCT 355 (the AGRICOLA property, or the mother
title);32 that the CAMBRIDGE property came from TCT 578 but the common azimuth of the two titles
do not conform to each other;33 that the overlapping of titles could have occurred during the original
survey of the CAMBRIDGE property on November 10, 1920;34 that when he conducted the
subdivision survey of the SUSANA property (TCT 18250), he certified that he did not find any
overlapping;35 that the blank spaces in the SUSANA title36 were mere typographical errors or
inadvertent mistakes;37 that, knowing that these blank spaces existed, he did not endeavor to
determine the reasons or causes thereof.38

On re-direct examination, Nerit testified that as to the respondents' properties, notwithstanding that
they have no tie points, the boundaries thereof may still be determined and identified.39 Nerit made a
sketch of how he went about changing the floating (or "not fixed") tie point to a fixed one.40

Respondents next presented Engineer Oliver A. Morales, a licensed appraiser of real estate
properties, for the purpose of establishing the fair market value of the ERIDANUS and CHITON
properties in connection with the prayer for indemnification of fair rental value for the use of the
alleged encroached property.

Respondents thereafter presented Ernesto Vidal, Clerk III of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal, who
testified that he was specifically sent to testify in court by the Register of Deeds of Rizal, and he
brought with him the original copies of OCTs 362 and 355 on file with the Registry. Said titles,
however, have been rendered, by the passage of time, incapable of being read and deciphered for
the most part.

Another witness, Elpidio T. De Lara, geodetic engineer and Chief (Engineer IV) of the Technical
Services Sector of the Land Management Services, DENR, has been with the office since 1960 and
had served as chief of the Technical Services Sector for five (5) years at the time of the taking of his
testimony. He testified that he conducted an actual verification survey of the CAMBRIDGE,
ERIDANUS and CHITON properties on October 1, 2, and November 5, 1992;41 in connection
therewith, he prepared a relocation/verification plan42 which was duly approved by his superiors; he
found out that there is an overlapping of the boundaries of the petitioner and respondents'
properties.43

De Lara likewise testified that in the preparation of the relocation plan, he used as basis the
SUSANA title for the respondents' properties, and for the petitioner, the CAMBRIDGE title;44 but that
with regard to the SUSANA title, there is no tie point;45 there being no tie point, it would be difficult
and impossible to make a relocation plan;46 being so, respondents' properties were plotted on the
basis of the technical descriptions in the title of an adjoining property, the AYALA property;47 that if
he plotted the respondents' properties on the basis of the common boundary (lines 1 to 2) between
the adjacent AYALA and SUSANA properties as stated in the technical description of the SUSANA
title, there would be no overlapping of boundaries between petitioner and respondents' titles;48 on the
other hand, if the survey were conducted based on the respondents' respective titles which do not
have a tie line or tie point, there would be an overlap;49 interestingly, he claims that he discovered an
overlapping but that it is a "technical overlapping." Thus:

Atty. Bilog:

Did you research on the title of the plaintiffs and defendant, have you examined this
title TCT No. 18250?

A Yes, your honor.

xxxx

Q This TCT No. 18250, showing to you this copy of TCT No. 18250 which has been
previously marked as Exhibit "O" for the plaintiffs and as Exhibit "1" for the defendant, will
you look at this title and point to us, what is the reference point of the property described on
this title?

xxxx

Q Is there a reference point or tie point?

A Well, actually, there is no reference point

Q So, if you had used this title, Exhibit "O", for the plaintiff in the plotting of this relocation
plan, marked as Exhibit "11" for the defendant, you would not be able to plot on this Exhibit
"11", the property of the plaintiff because the title of the plaintiff has no reference point or tie
point?

Witness:

A But you can do this through its adjoining properties, on the basis of this title.

Q Witness did not answer my question, your honor

Court What is the purpose of having reference or tie point?...Is it essential?

Atty. Bilog:

Very essential, your honor.


Court (to the witness)

Q Without it, as the Court gathers from your answer, it would be difficult and impossible for
you to make the relocation plan?

A Yes, sir.

Q When you make a relocation plan, as you did in this Exhibit "11", you used the technical
description of other properties?

A Yes, your honor.

Q Is that an accepted alternative?

A Yes, your honor, this determine the corresponding relations

Atty. Bilog

Q Without thinking of the question of overlapping, when you are supposed to plot in the
relocation plan the property of the plaintiff, the plaintiff's property is not connected to any tie
line or tie point in the description of the title?

A I cannot use the common point, this is connected with the corresponding tie line, sir.

Q The technical descriptions which you narrated belong to other surveys?

A Yes, sir.

Q And that survey which is now in your possession, the plaintiff's property is adjacent to
other property?

A It is not actually adjacent to this property except this portion, sir.

Court:

Witness pointing to lines between 1 and 2 on Exhibit "Y" and "11" within the plan of
plaintiff's property.

Q Now, these lines between 1 and 2, representing perimeter or boundary, that is adjacent to
the boundary of an adjoining property and this survey was used for plotting this relocation
plan?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, is this line between 1 and 2 of plaintiff's property, in any way described in the
technical description of the property, this survey is also used in this relocation plan?

A It is prescribed, sir.
Q Now, you are talking about common boundary line, what do you mean by common
boundary line, will you point in this plan, what is this common boundary line?

A The two surveys coincide with each other or tangent with each other, sir.

Q Can you point out to this plan, what is the common boundary?

A 1 and 2 of the plaintiff's technical description and 16 and 15, sir.

(Witness pointing to the figure on the plan)

Q Why do you say it is a common boundary?

A Well, the technical description of the plaintiff's title and the adjacent property which is the
Ayala property are the same

Q You are saying that they are common?

A Yes, common sir.

xxxx

A It is a common boundary as the survey stated, sir.

xxxx

Q Can you say, in a reasonable certainty that the boundaries, which you are referring to
point 1 and 2 of plaintiff's TCT No. 18250 is a common boundary with that of Ayala property
that you are stating?

A It is a common boundary otherwise, you will not

Q Now, Mr. Witness, if you will only plotted (sic) the plaintiff's property on the basis of the
technical description of TCT 18250, in this relocation plan, there would be no overlapping of
boundaries between plaintiff's and defendant's properties?

Atty. Barcelona

Objection, your honor.

Atty. Bilog

Assuming, your honor, he is an expert

Court

Yes, he is an expert, he knows that

Atty. Bilog
There would be no overlapping, is it not?

A As stated in the survey, the overlapping of the property has already been discovered but it
is a technical overlapping, sir.

Atty. Bilog

I move that the testimony be strickened off the record, your honor, it is not
responsive

Court

Just answer yes or no?

A Yes, sir.

Q When the intention is to determine the degrees of overlapping of the two adjoining
properties, can you not use the technical descriptions contained in their respective TCT's for
that purpose?

A If we use it

Court

They will overlap, is that what you want to say?

A They will overlap, your honor because the plaintiff's property does not carry the tie line or
tie point, your honor.50

Another geodetic engineer, William G. Lim, was presented by the respondents. He stated that he
performed a verification survey of the respondents' properties, using as basis the SUSANA title, TCT
578, and the technical description of the CAMBRIDGE property.51 He likewise testified that, for the
survey of respondents' properties, he used as tie point "1 Marikina Rizal."52 He prepared a
verification survey plan (Exh. "BB") duly approved by the proper government authority.53

On cross-examination, Lim testified that the reference point for the respondents' properties for
purposes of survey was "N. 60 gds. 23'30'E., 23.69 m.s. de un mojon de concreto marcado PLS yes
mismo punto 86 de la parcela No. 21";54 that said reference point was located "in the intersection of
the road" and could no longer be located, or it could have been lost or destroyed, and because the
BLLM reference point already exists;55 that in surveying the respondents' properties, he used instead
as reference point BLLM 1, not the PLS monument, because the government has been requiring
that all subdivisions or surveys now should be tied with approved tie lines of the BLLM;56 that if the
property has no tie point or reference point, the surveyor may tie the same to the nearest reference
point of other adjoining lots that have a tie point;57 that even if the property has no reference point, its
exact location could be determined in a survey;58 that even if there is no reference point or BLLM
monument, an overlapping of properties could still be detected on the basis of the title alone.59

On re-direct examination, Lim testified that he conducted at least two surveys on the ERIDANUS
and CHITON properties, and for the first survey he found a difference in the overlap by the
CAMBRIDGE lot of about 21 or 22 square meters compared to the 552 square meter overlap found
by De Lara;60 that with regard to the tie line, a change thereof does not affect the location of the
surveyed property;61 that when the reference point or tie point is changed, the azimuth lines and
azimuth tie lines of the property are likewise changed, but not the location thereof.62In his written
report, however, Lim computes the CAMBRIDGE overlap at 541 sq. m.63

The petitioner, as defendant a quo, presented geodetic engineer Emilia Rivera Sison, who testified
that the ERIDANUS and CHITON titles lack material data in their covering titles, such that it appears
that they did not undergo proper registration proceedings and that they do not have a mother
title;64 the CAMBRIDGE title, on the other hand, has a complete covering title, showing that it has a
mother title (OCT 355) and that it underwent registration proceedings;65 that it is impossible to plot
the relative position of the ERIDANUS and CHITON properties using the SUSANA title because the
tie point appearing in the latter title is a PLS which has no known geographic position, or is "floating",
which means that the property could not be located in a fixed place;66 that Engr. Lim's verification
survey plan (Exh. "BB") did not use tie points, nor did it indicate what titles were plotted therein as to
show the fact of overlapping, since the said plan could not be compared with the titles plotted
therein.67

Sison further testified that when she conducted a fixed survey of the properties in question, she
found CAMBRIDGE to be in possession of the alleged overlapping portion, and that there was an
existing adobe stone wall, which appeared to be old, within the claimed overlapping portion. She
also saw townhouse units belonging to CAMBRIDGE on said portion.68

On cross-examination, Sison testified that as a surveyor, she would tie the properties she surveys to
a BLLM reference (tie) point by computing the same to the nearest property that already has a
reference (tie) point, in cases where the property she is surveying has no tie (reference) point;69 but
that when a tie point is changed, an overlapping is caused;70 that it was error for the respondents'
surveyors to have conducted their respective surveys without thorough research and without
securing the titles to adjoining properties, as well as following certain processes of
computation;71 that she conducted these processes of computation on the SUSANA title, and she
found that the technical description thereof contains an error, such that its actual area is either
smaller or bigger, making reference to the said SUSANA title as an "open polygon" in surveying
parlance, which means that the technical description is not correct (i.e., the "polygon" should "close",
and when it does, the technical description is then presumed to be correct).72

On October 10, 1995, the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 96 rendered a Decision, the
dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. Dismissing the complaints;

2. Dismissing the counterclaim, except that plaintiffs shall pay to defendant attorney's fees of
P50,000.00; and

3. Ordering the plaintiffs to pay the costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED.73

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the Decision of the trial court, thus:
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises and finding the appeal to be meritorious,
the judgment appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is remanded to the
lower court with the direction to:

(1) allow the plaintiffs-appellants to elect whether to (a) appropriate as its own the buildings
and improvements on the encroached property, subject to payment of indemnity or (b) oblige
the defendant-appellee to pay the fair market value of the encroached property, within the
time the lower court shall fix;

(2) if the plaintiffs-appellants shall elect to oblige the defendant-appellee to pay the fair
market value of the encroached property, to refer the matter to a commissioner who shall be
appointed by the lower court to receive evidence on the fair market value of the encroached
property;

(3) if the value of the land is considerably more than that of the building and improvements,
and the defendant-appellee cannot be obliged to buy the land pursuant to Article 448 of the
New Civil Code, and the plaintiffs-appellants also do not choose to appropriate the buildings
or improvements after proper indemnity, the lower court shall order the defendant-appellee to
pay reasonable rent as agreed upon by the parties. In case of disagreement on the terms of
the lease, the lower court shall fix the terms thereof; and

(4) to render judgment on the basis of the election of the plaintiffs-appellants.

SO ORDERED.74

On March 1, 2002, the appellate court denied the Motion for Reconsideration; hence, this petition
based on the following grounds:

WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENTS WERE ABLE TO PROVE OVERLAP AND


ENCROACHMENT OF PETITIONER'S PROPERTY ON RESPONDENTS' PROPERTIES.

II

WHETHER OR NOT THE TIE POINT OF A REGISTERED PROPERTY MAY BE ALTERED


WITHOUT NOTICE TO THE ADJOINING OWNERS AND WITHOUT OBSERVING THE
REQUIREMENTS OF SECTION 389 OF THE MANUAL OF LAND SURVEYS IN THE
PHILIPPINES, SECTION 108 OF P.D. 1529, AND JURISPRUDENCE.

III

WHETHER OR NOT THE PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY AND/OR THE APPROVAL


OF GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES IS SUFFICIENT TO VALIDATE A SURVEY PLAN
AND/OR AMENDED TECHICAL DESCRIPTION WHICH DID NOT COMPLY WITH THE
REQUIREMENTS OF LAW.

IV

WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENTS ARE GUILTY OF LACHES.


V

WHETHER OR NOT A TORRENS CERTIFICATE OF TITLE, COMPLETE AND VALID ON


ITS FACE MAY BE DEFEATED BY ANOTHER TORRENS CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
WHICH, ON ITS FACE, IS IRREGULAR, AND WHICH CONTAINS DEFECTIVE
TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION.

A review of the factual backdrop is proper for the resolution of the issues presented. The findings of
fact of the Court of Appeals are ordinarily not subject to review by this Court as they are deemed
conclusive; but not when the findings of fact of the trial and appellate courts are conflicting.75

There is one serious flaw that the trial court committed: its failure to require the court-appointed
surveyors - considering that there are quite a number of irregularities in the certificates of title of the
parties - to conduct an extensive investigation of the titles of the parties.

The case of overlapping of titles necessitates the assistance of experts in the field of
geodetic engineering. The very reason why commissioners were appointed by the trial court,
upon agreement of the parties, was precisely to make an evaluation and analysis of the titles
in conflict with each other. Given their background, expertise and experience, these
commissioners are in a better position to determine which of the titles is valid. Thus, the trial
court may rely on their findings and conclusions.76

It was the duty of the trial court, considering the magnitude and extent of the issues presented and
the questions that arose from a careful examination of the parties' respective certificates of title, to
have required the appointed surveyors of the DENR to investigate and trace the parties' respective
titles, conduct a comprehensive survey, study and analysis of the boundaries, distances and
bearings thereof, and submit an exhaustive report thereon. Given their expertise and experience,
they would have been able to satisfactorily perform the required task. Yet the court did not. As a
matter of fact, the services of the government surveyors were not even secured by court initiative;
the trial court even threatened to do away with the testimonies of the state surveyors when their
presence in court could not be guaranteed. It was through the auspices of the respondents that they
were brought to court. To make matters worse, the parties did not even pay the required fees for the
survey; the court did not compel them.

In overlapping of titles disputes, it has always been the practice for the court to appoint a surveyor
from the government land agencies - the Land Registration Authority or the DENR - to act as
commissioner. Given that the trial court here did not, we are now left to make do with the two-page
report of the state surveyors and decide the case with what evidence is made available to us by the
parties' respective expert witnesses as well, which - for the most part - must be received with caution
as their testimonies are understandably self-serving.

The crux of the matter, however, lies in ascertaining whether there really is overlapping of
boundaries of the properties of the movants for intervention and that of the private
respondent. As We scrutinize carefully the claim of each party based on survey readings and
plottings appearing on the plans submitted as annexes, We find that the same have not
passed the rigid test of accuracy and authenticity as should be determined by precision
instruments duly verified by accredited surveyors. Indeed, each claim may appear to be as
good and self-serving as the other. And since the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, the
veracity and correctness of the alleged overlapping is better left to those scientifically
qualified, trained and experienced and whose integrity is beyond question and
dispute.77 (Italics supplied)
The present petition calls only for the settlement of the overlapping issue, barring direct and
collateral attacks on each of the parties' respective certificates of title, which require different
proceedings for the ventilation thereof.78

The trial court, in dismissing the case, held primarily that respondents failed to overcome the burden
of establishing their claim of overlapping. It stated that the respondents' titles - whose tie points are
based on mere PLS monuments (which are not fixed, and are therefore not in accordance with Sec.
36 of the Manual for Land Surveys in the Philippines79) cannot prevail as against the petitioner's,
which has a fixed tie or reference point. Simply put, a PLS monument is not one of the reference
points enumerated in Section 36 of the Manual, and cannot be used to defeat petitioner's title.
Secondly, the trial court held that Nerit, given his training and expertise as surveyor, should have
detected the overlap - if there was one - in his 1960 survey of TCT 18250, and not suddenly discover
it only in 1990. Thirdly, the presence of the old adobe wall as early as the 1960s and the absence of
any protest or objection from Nerit or the Madrigals (then owner of the SUSANA title) militate against
the present claim of overlap and encroachment.

The appellate court, however, found that there is an encroachment, and the cause thereof may be
traced to a change in the technical description of the petitioner's title (which was derived from TCT
578) when it was subdivided on November 10, 1920. The appellate court held that the respective
northeastern boundaries of the ERIDANUS, CHITON and CAMBRIDGE titles should be
"S.21'deg.56'55"E" but the CAMBRIDGE title indicates "N.25 deg. 07'W". Yet TCT 578 carries the
same bearing as the ERIDANUS and CHITON properties, "S.21'deg.56'55"E". This change in the
technical description, according to the appellate court, caused the encroachment by the petitioner's
property on the respondents' land. The appellate court ratiocinated that it was precisely for this
reason that in 1960, Nerit found no encroachment during his subdivision survey of the SUSANA lot:
because TCT 578 still carried the bearing "S.21'deg.56'55"E". When he conducted his 1990 survey,
which among others included the petitioner's title (with the new and different bearing "N.25 deg.
07'W") as basis, he naturally found an overlap.

What the trial and appellate courts overlooked, however, was that out of the four expert witnesses
presented, three of them (the government surveyor De Lara, respondents' witness Lim, and
petitioner's witness Sison) categorically admitted that a change in the tie or reference point results in
an overlap; or, more accurately, that a change in the tie or reference point has a
corresponding effect on the survey.

What has been made clear by the law and practice is that PLS monuments have given way to
Bureau of Lands Location Monument (BLLM) No. 1, which shall "always be used as the tie
point."80 In so doing (disregarding PLS monuments for the BLLM), such process somehow affects
the integrity of the survey.

Thus, De Lara testified that if he plotted the respondents' properties on the basis of the common
boundary (lines 1 to 2) between the adjacent AYALA and SUSANA properties as stated in the
technical description of the SUSANA title, there would be no overlapping of boundaries between
petitioner's and respondents' titles;81 on the other hand, if the survey were conducted based on the
respondents' respective titles which do not have a tie line or tie point, there would be an
overlap.82 De Lara claims, moreover, that the alleged encroachment is really a "technical
overlapping."83 Lim, on the other hand, testified - on re-direct examination - that when the reference
point or tie point is changed, the azimuth lines and azimuth tie lines of the (respondents') property
are likewise changed, but not the location thereof.84 Sison, witness for the petitioner, testified on
cross-examination that when a tie point is changed, an overlapping is caused.85
A case of overlapping of boundaries or encroachment depends on a reliable, if not accurate,
verification survey; barring one, no overlapping or encroachment may be proved successfully, for
obvious reasons. In the wake of the majority expert opinion that by changing the tie or reference
point from a PLS to a BLLM 1 monument, a corresponding effect on the survey occurs - which can
include a change in boundaries and, at worst, an overlap - the Court is not prepared to declare that
an accurate survey of the respondents' properties has been made as to be a proper basis of the
present claim of encroachment or overlap.

Likewise, we cannot see how a change in the bearings of the CAMBRIDGE property from
"S.21'deg.56'55"E" in TCT 578 to "N.25 deg. 07'W" in the CAMBRIDGE title can cause an overlap of
respondents' properties. This has not been sufficiently shown by respondents' evidence to be the
cause of the overlap. Respondents' key witness Nerit does not believe that the CAMBRIDGE title
was a derivative of TCT 578, because there is nothing in the title thereof which indicates that it was
derived from the latter; he was ambivalent, if not ambiguous, and definitely far from categorical, in
this respect.86 State surveyor De Lara's testimony and Report - inconclusive and incomplete as it is -
does not help or indicate any. Likewise, a thorough examination of TCT 578 shows that it has no
similar boundary and bearings with the CAMBRIDGE title. Finally, the CAMBRIDGE title explicitly
declares that it is derived from TCT No. 363717/T-1823, and not TCT 578.

Thus, for failure of the respondents to prove that the CAMBRIDGE title is a derivative of TCT 578,
the conclusionthat a change in the technical description of the former - as compared to that of the
latter - is the reason for the overlap, simply does not follow. The appellate court is in clear error.

Finally, we agree with the trial court's observation that the continuous presence of the old adobe wall
diminishes the case for the respondents. It was only in 1989 that the wall became an ungainly sight
for respondents. Previous owners of what now constitutes the respondents' respective lots did not
complain of its presence. The wall appears to have been built in the 1960s, and yet the Madrigals
(SUSANA title owners) did not complain about it; if they did, Nerit would have known and testified to
the same since he was responsible for the subdivision of the lot. Only respondents complain about it
now. In one overlapping of boundaries case,87 the Court held that a land owner may not now claim
that his property has been encroached upon when his predecessor did not register any objections at
the time the monuments were being placed on the claimed encroached area; nor did the latter make
any move to question the placement of said monuments at the time.

Courts exist to dispense justice through the determination of the truth to conflicting claims. A party
comes to court equipped with the tools that will convince the court that his position is more viable
than the other's. He may not hesitate to employ any method, means or artifice of persuasion that will
sway the sympathies of the court in his favor. As we have said before, indeed, each claim may
appear to be as good and self-serving as the other.88

In the quest for truth, a court often encounters concerns that necessitate not only the application of
the various principles of law, but likewise precepts of the exact sciences, various disciplines of study
or fields of human endeavour about which the judge may not be knowledgeable or skilled, and which
concerns he is not prepared to resolve, unless with the aid and intervention of or through the
medium of learned and experienced disinterested experts.

An example lies precisely in the area of land boundary disputes. The first step in the resolution of
such cases is for the court to direct the proper government agency concerned (the Land Registration
Authority,89 or LRA, or the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR) to conduct
a verification or relocation survey and submit a report to the court,90 or constitute a panel of
commissioners for the purpose.91
In every land dispute, the aim of the courts is to protect the integrity of and maintain inviolate the
Torrens system of land registration, as well as to uphold the law; a resolution of the parties' dispute
is merely a necessary consequence. Taking this to mind, we cannot grant the respondents' prayer
without violating the very principles of the Torrens system. They have failed to lay the proper
foundation for their claim of overlap. This is precisely the reason why the trial court should have
officially appointed a commissioner or panel of commissioners and not leave the initiative to secure
one to the parties: so that a thorough investigation, study and analysis of the parties' titles could be
made in order to provide, in a comprehensive report, the necessary information that will guide it in
resolving the case completely, and not merely leave the determination of the case to a consideration
of the parties' more often than not self-serving evidence.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The appealed Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,
Branch 96, in Civil Case Nos. Q-89-2636 and Q-89-2750 dismissing the complaints filed by
respondents is REINSTATED and AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-6609 December 2, 1911

FELIPE DE GUZMAN, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
MANUEL DE SANTOS Y CABRERA, opponent-appellee.

Pedro Fragante, for appellant.


Chicote & Miranda, for appellee.

TRENT, J.:

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of Land Registration, the Hon. Pedro Concepcion
presiding, sustaining the opposition interposed by Manuel de Santos to the registration of a small
portion of land embraced within the respective claims of the original petitioner, Felipe de Guzman,
and that of the oppositor, Manuel de Santos.

The appellant filed a petition in the Land Court, case No. 5706, asking for the registration of the
following described lot or parcel of land:

A lot of ground situated in Calle Santa Maria (formerly unnamed) of the barrio of Bancaso of
the District of Tondo, of this city of Manila, Philippine Islands, bounded on the east (used for
its entrance) by the said Calle Santa Maria; on the north (the right side as one enters) by the
property of Francisco Toribio and Lucio Buzon; on the south (also the left side one enters)
with the property of Manuel Santos; and on the west (the rear side) with the property of
Isabel Tambuenco and Miguel Gatpandan.

In petitioner's Exhibit A (a lot showing the ground together with the technical description) and the
land is technically described below as follows: beginning at a point marked 1 on the corrected plan,
being N. (9 30' W., 59.20 m. from the intersection of the north side of Calle Moriones and the east
side of Calle Santa Maria; thence N. 83 48' W., 17.15 m. to point 2; thence N. 9 25' W., 33 meters
to point 3; thence N. 89 30' E., 26.30 m. to point 4; thence S. 6 25' W., 34.87 m. to the point of
beginning; containing 727.66 square meters.

The appellee and petitioner, Expediente No. 6026, describes the land which he sought in that case
to have registered as follows: beginning at a point marked 1 on his plan, N. 22 33' W., 257.31 m.
from the northwest corner of the Tondo Church; thence N. 5 16' E., 10.55 m. to point 2; Thence S.
89 22' W., 21.47 m. to point 3; thence S. 8 55' E., 4.65 m. point 4; thence S. 77 09' W., 12.10
meters to point 5; thence S. 12 16' E., 7.91 meters to point 6; thence N. 81 00' E., 30.27 m. to the
starting point; containing 336 square meters. Bounded on the north by Felipe de Guzman, on the
southeast by Calle Santa Maria and property of Agustin Inocencio, on the southwest by Calle
Velasquez, and on the northwest by Isabel Tambueco. 1aw phil.net

The parties to this action are adjacent property owners and from the record it appears that there is a
strip of 154 square meters which is included within the alleged boundaries of both litigants. This
small parcel in dispute lies north of the land of Santos and south of that of Guzman and is described
as follows: beginning at a point marked 2 on the plan presented by the appellee, which is identical
with point 2 in the description of the land sought to be registered to Santos, thence S. 89 22' W.,
21.47 m.; thence S. 11 27' E., 7.36 m.; thence S. 88 21' E., 19.28 m.; thence N. 5 16' E., 8.04 m.
to point of beginning. Bounded on the north by Felipe de Guzman, on the east by Calle Santa Maria,
on the south by Manuel de Santos, and on the west by Isabel Tambuenco.

The court below founded that this disputed tract was not included within the lands of Guzman, and
was of the opinion that his southern line had been advanced over on to Santos and now embraces a
part of his (Santos') land.

In the old deeds which describe the land of Guzman, the courses of the boundary lines are not
given, but only the distances, with the bounding limits stated in general terms; while in the plot of the
land filed with the petition (Exhibit A), both the courses and distances are shown. The distances are
given in the plot filed with the petition do not coincide in all respects with the distances given in the
old deeds, but we do not consider this in itself a fatal defect for the reason that in many instances the
distances in the old deeds were doubtless intended as approximations and the boundary lines were
not always given with the same scientific accuracy as those at the present time.

The lower court stated that the several descriptions given in the deeds and records offered by
Guzman in support of his title were all at variance with each other and that it was not possible to the
true description of the land of Felipe de Guzman. It is true that in some particulars the old deeds are
not in harmony with later descriptions, but we think a careful examination of these descriptions
shows that they evidently relate to one and the same plot of ground, and that in most essential
respects they are in accord with the description of the land as shown in the registered title and in the
petition.

The petitioner (the word petitioner, Felipe de Guzman) files as his Exhibit D a certified transcript
taken from the registrar's book, in which the history of the property claimed by the petitioner is given
in so far as the same appears of record, and from this Exhibit D there appear various references and
descriptions relating to this property. In one of the oldest references a deed executed in 1876
the measurements are given as follows:

38 varas (31.75 meters) on the east side, on which it is bounded by the closed canal; on the
south 30 varas (25.7 meters) bounded by the convent lands; on the west side 28 2/3 varas
(23.97 meters) and bounded by the lands of the convent; on the north side 42 varas (35.1
meters) and bounded by a closed canal, Buhat-Buhat. . . . Belonging also to the land
a callejon used for entrance. (The figures in meters are inserted.)

For the purpose of this decision this will be referred to as description No. 1.

In another part of Exhibit D we find this statement with reference to the callejon above mentioned:
"The callejon (used for entrance) to said land has disappeared through having been converted
together with the closed canal Buhat-Buhat into a public street." It will be observed that Calle Santa
Maria lying on the east side of said land is the only public street adjacent thereto, and consequently
this must be the street to which reference is made in this descriptions. This last reference also
places the callejon and the closed canal on the east side of the land the same side as the public
street. From these descriptions it will be seen that the land has the form of an irregular quadrilateral.

The petitioner files a deed of sale, Exhibit B, executed June 8, 1909, by Don Rafael Reyes, as
managing agent of the corporation "Varadero de Manila," to himself (the petitioner) and also a deed
of sale, Exhibit C, executed October 19, 1906, by the sheriff of Manila, Mr. James J. Peterson, to the
said Don Rafael Reyes. In both of these deeds we find the land described as follows: itc-alf

A vacant lot of ground in the barrio of Bancaso of the District of Tondo of this city, whose
number, if it has any, is not given, bounded on the front side (east) by an unnamed public
street; on the right side as one enters (north side), formerly with a closed canal, now
changed into unnumbered lots belonging to the heirs of Doa Sotera Trinidad and Don
Ramon Lopez; on the left side (south side) by an unnumbered lot which was formerly the
property of the parochial convent of Tondo and now that of Isabel Sinquingco (Sumpingco);
and on the rear (west side) by an inside lot which formerly belonged to the said convent and
is now owned by Don Manuel Santos. It (the lot herein described) measures 42 varas
(equivalent to 35 meters and 10 centimeters) on the front side (east side, now Calle Santa
Maria); 38 varas, (equivalent to 31 meters and 76 centimeters) on the right side (the north
side); 28 varas and 2 feet (equivalent to 23 meters and 97 centimeters) on the left side (the
south side); and 30 varas (equivalent to 25 meters and 7 centimeters) on the rear side (the
west side), forming a total area of 838.6 squares meters.

For the purpose of this decision this will be referred to as description No. 2

The true description of the property of Felipe de Guzman with reference to the adjacent property ow