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THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 175746. March 12, 2008.]

CHARLES L. ONG, petitioner, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:

This petition for review on certiorari assails the April 25, 2006 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 76085, which
reversed and set aside the January 16, 2002 Decision 2 of the Municipal Trial Court of Mangaldan, Pangasinan in Land Registration Case
No. 99-023, and the November 20, 2006 Resolution3 which denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

The antecedent facts are as follows.

On July 1, 1999, petitioner Charles L. Ong (petitioner) in his behalf and as duly authorized representative of his brothers, namely, Roberto,
Alberto and Cesar, filed an Application for Registration of Title 4 over Lot 15911 (subject lot) situated in Barangay Anolid, Mangaldan,
Pangasinan with an area of five hundred seventy four (574) square meters, more or less. They alleged that they are the co-owners of the
subject lot; that the subject lot is their exclusive property having acquired the same by purchase from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia
Villamil on August 24, 1998; that the subject lot is presently unoccupied; and that they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in
open, continuous and peaceful possession of the subject lot in the concept of owners for more than thirty (30) years.

After due notice and publication, only respondent Republic of the Philippines (respondent), represented by the Office of the Solicitor
General, opposed the application for registration of title. Respondent asserted that neither applicants nor their predecessors-in-interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject lot since June 12, 1945 or earlier as
required by Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1073; that applicants failed to
adduce any muniment of title to prove their claims; that the tax declaration appended to the application does not appear genuine and
merely shows pretended possession of recent vintage; that the application was filed beyond the period allowed underP.D. No. 892; and
that the subject lot is part of the public domain which cannot be the subject of private appropriation.

On January 16, 2002, the trial court rendered a Decision in favor of petitioner and his brothers, viz:

The foregoing evidences presented by the applicant indubitably established sufficient basis to grant the applicant
(sic) for registration. Originally, the whole parcel of land was owned by spouses Teofilo Abellera and Abella Charmine
who acquired the same by virtue of a Deed of Sale from Cynthia Cacho, Agustin Cacho, Jr., Jasmin Cacho, Jover Cacho
and Lauro Cacho. Later, they sold the same parcel of land to spouses Tony C. Villamil and Alicia Bautista, who in turn
sold the same land to herein applicants.

The same parcel of land has been declared in the name of the applicant and her predecessors-in-interest and its taxes
has (sic) been religiously paid.

The said circumstances further show that the possession and ownership of the applicant and her (sic) predecessors-
in-interest over the same parcel of land has (sic) been continuous and peaceful under bona fide claim of ownership
before the filing of the instant application for registration on [July 1, 1999].

WHEREFORE, after confirming the Order of General Default, the Court hereby orders and decrees the registration of a
parcel of land as shown on plan ap-01-004897 approved by the Bureau of Land(s) situated in Barangay Anolid,
Mangaldan, Pangasinan, containing an area of Five Hundred Seventy Four (574) square meters, subject of the
application for registration of title, in accordance with Presidential Decree No. 1529, in favor of CHARLIE L. ONG in his
behalf and as representative of his brothers namely, ROBERTO L. ONG, ALBERTO L. ONG and CESAR L. ONG.

Furnish copies of this Decision to the Office of the Solicitor General, Makati City, Metro Manila, the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor, Dagupan City, Atty. Celestino Domingo Jr., the Office of the Land Registration Authority,
Quezon City, as well as the applicant.

SO ORDERED. 5

Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. Accordingly, the decision of the court a quo granting the application for
registration of title of applicants-appellees is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED. 6

In reversing the decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals found that the subject lot is part of the alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain. Thus, it was incumbent upon petitioner to prove that they possessed the subject lot in the nature and for
the duration required by law. However, petitioner failed to prove that he or his predecessors-in-interest have been in adverse
possession of the subject lot in the concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or earlier as mandated by Section 14 (1) of P.D. 1529. It
noted that the earliest tax declaration which petitioner presented is dated 1971. Consequently, petitioner could not fairly claim
possession of the land prior to 1971. Neither was petitioner able to prove that he or his predecessors-in-interest actually occupied the
subject lot prior to the filing of the application. Thus, the trial court erred in granting the application for registration of title over the
subject lot.
Hence, this petition raising the following issues:

1. WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONER, TOGETHER WITH HIS BROTHERS, NAMELY, ROBERTO L. ONG, ALBERTO L. ONG AND
CEZAR L. ONG, HAVE REGISTRABLE OWNERSHIP OVER THE REAL PROPERTY SUBJECT MATTER OF LAND
REGISTRATION CASE NO. 99-023, AND

2. WHETHER OR NOT THE FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION OF THE FORMER SPECIAL FOURTH DIVISION OF THE COURT OF
APPEALS THAT THE SUBJECT REAL PROPERTY IS A PUBLIC LAND IS CORRECT. 7

The petition lacks merit.

Section 14 (1) of P.D. 1529 ("Property Registration Decree"), as amended, provides —

SEC. 14. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

Thus, pursuant to the aforequoted provision of law, applicants for registration of title must prove: (1) that the subject land forms part
of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain, and (2) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. 8 These requisites
involve questions of fact which are not proper in a petition for review oncertiorari. Factual findings of the court a quo are generally
binding on this Court except for certain recognized exceptions, as is the case here, where the trial court and the Court of Appeals
arrived at conflicting findings. 9 After a careful review of the records, we sustain the findings and conclusions of the Court of
Appeals.
There is no dispute that the subject lot is classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. The Report 10 dated January
17, 2000 of the Bureau of Lands stated that the subject lot is "within the alienable and disposable zone as classified under Project 50 L.C.
Map No. 698 and released and classified as such on November 21, 1927." 11 This finding is, likewise, embodied in the Report 12 dated
January 7, 1999 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-
CENRO) and the blue print Copy 13 of the plan covering the subject lot. However, petitioner failed to prove that he or his predecessors-in-
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject lot since June 12, 1945 or
earlier.

The records show that petitioner and his brothers bought the subject lot from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil on August 24,
1998, 14 who in turn purchased the same from spouses Teofilo Abellera and Abella Sarmen on January 16, 1997. 15 The latter bought the
subject lot from Cynthia, Agustin Jr., Jasmin, Omir and Lauro, all surnamed Cacho, on July 10, 1979. 16 The earliest tax declaration which
was submitted in evidence was Tax Declaration No. 25606 17 issued in 1971 in the names of spouses Agustin Cacho and Eufrosinia
Bautista. While tax declarations are not conclusive proof of ownership, they constitute goodindicia of possession in the concept of owner
and a claim of title over the subject property. 18 Even if we were to tack petitioner's claim of ownership over the subject lot to that of their
alleged predecessors-in-interest, spouses Agustin Cacho and Eufrosinia Bautista in 1971, still this would fall short of the required
possession from June 12, 1945 or earlier.

Further, as correctly pointed by the Court of Appeals, possession alone is not sufficient to acquire title to alienable lands of the public
domain because the law requires possession and occupation. As held in Republic v. Alconaba: 19

The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear
intention of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it
includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the wordoccupation, it seeks to delimit the all
encompassing effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not
be a mere fiction. Actual possession of a 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. 20

Petitioner admitted that after he and his brothers bought the subject lot from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil in 1998, neither he
nor his brothers actually occupied the subject lot. 21 No improvements were made thereon and the most that they did was to visit the lot
on several occasions. 22 Petitioner's predecessor-in-interest, Tony Bautista testified that he and his wife never actually occupied the
subject lot from the time they bought the same from spouses Teofilo Abellera and Abella Sarmen in 1997. 23 Aside from these two
testimonies, no other evidence was presented to establish the character of the possession of the subject lot by petitioner's other alleged
predecessors-in-interest. Clearly, petitioner's evidence failed to establish specific acts of ownership to substantiate the claim that he and
his predecessors-in-interest possessed and occupied the subject lot in the nature and duration required by law.

The burden of proof in land registration cases rests on the applicant who must show by clear, positive and convincing evidence that his
alleged possession and occupation of the land is of the nature and duration required by law. 24 Unfortunately, petitioner's evidence do
not constitute the "well-nigh incontrovertible" evidence necessary in cases of this nature. 25 Accordingly, the Court of Appeals did not err
in reversing the Decision of the trial court and in denying his application for registration of title over the subject lot.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED. The April 25, 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
76085 which reversed and set aside the January 16, 2002 Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Mangaldan, Pangasinan in Land
Registration Case No. 99-023, and the November 20, 2006 Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario, Nachura and Reyes, JJ., concur.

Footnotes
1.Rollo, pp. 10-21. Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and concurred in by Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and
Vicente S. E. Veloso.
2.Id. at 29-32. Penned by Judge Genoveva Coching-Maramba.
3.Id. at 27-28. Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and concurred in by Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and Vicente
S. E. Veloso.
4.Records, pp. 1-13.
5.Rollo, pp. 31-32.
6.Id. at 20.
7.Id. at 4.
8.Republic v. Enciso, G.R. No. 160145, November 11, 2005, 474 SCRA 700, 711.
9.Abejaron v. Court of Appeals, 411 Phil. 552, 571 (2001).
10.Records, pp. 99-101.
11.Id. at 99.
12.Exhibit "N", records, pp. 28-30.
13.Exhibit "B", records, p. 8.
14.Exhibit "S", records, p. 12.
15.Exhibit "T", records, p. 85.
16.Exhibit "U", records, p. 86.
17.Exhibit "V", records, p. 87.
18.Tan v. Mueco, 420 Phil. 497, 503 (2001).
19.G.R. No. 155012, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 611.
20.Id. at 619-620.
21.TSN, June 20, 2000, pp. 15-16; records, pp. 127-128.
22.Id.
23.TSN, October 3, 2000, p. 6; records, p. 135.
24.Republic v. Enciso, supra note 8 at 713.
25.Abejaron v. Court of Appeals, supra note 9 at 572.

||| (Ong v. Republic, G.R. No. 175746, [March 12, 2008], 571 PHIL 588-596)
THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 154080. January 22, 2008.]

NELSIE B. CAÑETE, RONA ANAS, MILAGROSA APUAN, ERLINDA AQUINO, GODOFREDO AQUINO, CORITA
BARREDO, TESSIE BARREDO, JESUS BATRINA, ALBERTO BUENAVENTURA, BONIFACIO BUENAVENTURA, EUSEBIO
CAPIRAL, MARIO CAPIRAL, LOLITA CAPIRAL, ELENA CAPIRAL, LETICIA CAPIRAL, RENATO CAPIRAL, ELY
CABANGON, ERWIN CATALUNA, JESSIE CONRADO, JOEL CONRADO, NARCISIO CONRADO, RICARDO
CALAMPIANO, ALUMNIO CORSANES, NILO COLATOY, MARJETO DAYAN, HENRY DIAZ, SALVACION ESMANDE,
REYNALDO FUENTEBELLA, GERRY GEQUILLANA, DELSIE GARCIA, NERISSA GONZALES, VISITACION JUNSAY,
ESTELA JOVEN, JOSE LANZUELA, MARLON MALANGAYON, RENATO MARCELO, ANITA MARZONIA, MARCELINO
MONTALBO, AMADO MULI, JR., LEONITA MULI, EDUARDO OLVIDO, ALMARIO PACON, ASUNCION PACON,
SALVACION PAGAYUNAN, ESTER PANTALEON, SHERLITA RABE, ANITA REYES, MEDELYN RIOS, BERTITO RIVAS,
ENGRACIA RIVERA, GERALYN RIVERA, ARMANDO RIVERA, MA. MERCY SHERVA, ALEXANDER SANGALAN,
ERNESTO SANTIAGO, JOY SANTIAGO, ELENA TALION, JOE RANDY TRESVALLES, ELIAS VALENZUELA, GERRY
VALENZUELA, LILIBETH VALENZUELA, JOSEPHINE VICTORINO, JOJO VICTORINO, MAXIMINO VICTORINO, NOEL
VICTORINO, REYNANTE VICTORINO, ROBERTO VICTORINO and JOVITO VILLAREAL, represented by NELSIE B.
CAÑETE, petitioners, vs. GENUINO ICE COMPANY, INC., respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:

This petition for review on certiorari seeks to set aside the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals dated January 9, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No.
64337 entitled "Genuino Ice Company, Inc. vs. Hon. Victorino P. Evangelista, Nelsie B. Cañete, et al.," and its Resolution 2 dated June 26,
2002, dismissing petitioners' "Second Amended Complaint" in Civil Case No. Q-99-36483 filed in Branch 223 of the Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City. TaCDcE

Records show that on January 11, 1999, petitioners filed a complaint for cancellation of title to property covered by Transfer Certificate of
Title (TCT) Nos. N-140441; 3 14399; 4 RT-94384 (292245); 5 RT-94794 (292246); 6 and 292247. 7 Petitioners alleged that said titles are
spurious, fictitious and were issued "under mysterious circumstances," considering that the holders thereof — including their
predecessors-in-interest — were never in actual, adverse and physical possession of the property, rendering them ineligible to acquire title
to the said property under the Friar Lands Act. 8 Petitioners also sought to nullify Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 614 from which
the foregoing titles sought to be cancelled originated or were derived.

Respondent Genuino Ice Co., Inc. filed a motion to dismiss 9 on the ground that the complaint states no cause of action because
petitioners are not real parties-in-interest; that no relief may be granted as a matter of law; and that petitioners failed to exhaust
administrative remedies, but it was denied by the trial court. Respondent moved for reconsideration but the same was denied.

On November 4, 1999, petitioners filed a "Second Amended Complaint" 10 which sought to annul, in addition to the titles already alleged
in the original complaint, TCT Nos. 274095 and 274096; 11 274097 and 274098; 12 and 274099. 13

The Second Amended Complaint alleged the following causes of action, as well as the remedy sought to be obtained, thus:

4. That plaintiffs (petitioners) and their predecessors-in-interest are among those who have been in actual, adverse,
peaceful and continuous possession in concept of owners of unregistered parcels of land situated at Sitio Mabilog,
Barangay Culiat, Quezon City, Metro Manila, which parcels of land are more particularly described as follows: aCIHcD

(1) "A parcel of unregistered land known as Lot 668, situated at Barangay Culiat, Quezon City . . . ."

(2) "A parcel of unregistered land known as Lot 669, situated at Barangay Culiat, Quezon City . . . ."

5. That the above-described real property is a portion of a friar land known as "Piedad Estate," which property is
intended for distribution among the bona fide occupants thereof pursuant to the Friar Lands Act.

6. That transfer certificates of title allegedly having originated or derived from Original Certificate of Title No. 614
were issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, which transfer certificates of title are in truth and in fact
fictitious, spurious and null and void, for the following reasons: (a) that no record of any agency of the government
shows as to how and in what manner was OCT 614 issued; (b) that no record of any proceedings whatsoever, whether
judicial or administrative, can support defendants' claim that the above-described property originated from OCT 614;
and (c) that the transfer certificates of title over the above-described property were issued under mysterious
circumstances for the above-named defendants and their so-called predecessors-in-interest never had any actual,
adverse, physical possession of the said property, thus, not allowed to acquire title over the property in litigation
pursuant to the Friar Lands Act.

7. That defendants are holders of transfer certificates of title of the above-described property, which transfer
certificates of title are null and void, for reasons specifically mentioned in Paragraph 6 hereof . . .; CAIHaE

8. That the acts in acquiring and keeping the said transfer certificates of title in violation of the Friar Lands Act and
other existing laws are prejudicial to plaintiffs' rights over the above-described property.

9. That equity demands that defendants' transfer certificates of title as specified in Paragraph 7 hereof be declared
fictitious, spurious and null and void ab initio.

PRAYER

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that judgment be rendered
in favor of plaintiffs and against defendants:

(1) Declaring as null and void ab initio OCT 614 and all transfer certificates of title derived therefrom;

(2) Declaring as null and void defendants' transfer certificates of title over the property in litigation;

(3) Ordering defendant Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel defendants' transfer certificates of title and all
transfer certificates of title derived therefrom;

(4) Declaring the plaintiffs as bona fide occupants of the property in litigation pursuant to the provisions of the Friar
Lands Act and other existing laws. 14

Respondent moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint on the following grounds:

a) The complaint states no cause of action because: (1) on the allegations alone, plaintiffs (petitioners) are not real
parties in interest who may bring suit to cancel defendants' (including respondent) titles; (2) based on the allegations
and prayer of the complaint, no relief, as a matter of law, may be granted; CaDATc
b) Prescription has set in;

c) There are earlier similar complaints (Civil Case Nos. Q-95-22834 and Q-95-23111) filed by a different set of
plaintiffs against a different set of defendants but which involve the same subject matter, cause of action and
allegations of the plaintiffs, with respect to the cancellation of OCT 614 and succeeding titles derived from it. Said
complaints have since been dismissed by Branch 93 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, the dismissal of
which is the subject of a pending certiorari proceeding in the appellate court. 15

On January 3, 2001, 16 the trial court denied respondent's motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Its motion for
reconsideration was likewise denied hence respondent filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals.

The appellate court granted respondent's petition for certiorari and dismissed petitioners' Second Amended Complaint for failure to state
a cause of action. Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues:

A. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE COMPLAINT FILED BY THE PETITIONERS WITH THE
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON CITY IN CIVIL CASE NO. Q-99-36483 DOES NOT STATE A VALID CAUSE
OF ACTION;

B. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE PETITIONERS ARE NOT REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST;

C. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN APPLYING THE DOCTRINE OF "EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE
REMEDIES"; and,

D. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AND DENIED PETITIONERS' RIGHT TO
DUE PROCESS WHEN IT DISMISSED THEIR COMPLAINT. 17

We deny the petition.

The subject lots are part of the Piedad Estate, Quezon City, a Friar Land acquired on December 23, 1903 by the Philippine Government
from the Philippine Sugar Estates Development Company, Ltd., La Sociedad Agricola de Ultramar, the British-Manila Estate Company, Ltd.,
and the Recoleto Order of the Philippine Islands, as indicated in Public Act No. 1120 (Friar Lands Act) enacted on April 26,
1904. 18 CAHaST

After the Piedad Estate was registered in OCT No. 614 in the name of the Philippine Government in 1910 under the provisions of Act 496,
the area was subdivided originally into 874 lots. As a result of subsequent surveys executed in the course of disposition, the number of
lots increased to 1,305. Disposition of these lots was made by the Bureau of Lands thru sales, under the Friar Lands Act, as early as 1910
and records show that even before the Second World War, all lots in the Piedad Estate have been disposed of. 19 The Piedad Estate has
long been segregated from the mass of the public domain and has become private land duly registered under the Torrens system
following the procedure for the confirmation of private lands prescribed in Act 496. Thus the lands inside the Piedad Estate are no longer
lands of the public domain. 20

One who acquires land under the Friar Lands Act, as well as his successors-in-interest, may not claim successional rights to purchase by
reason of occupation from time immemorial, as this contravenes the historical fact that friar lands were bought by the Government of the
Philippine Islands, pursuant to an Act of Congress of the United States, approved on July 1, 1902, not from individual persons but from
certain companies, a society and a religious order. Under the Friar Lands Act, only "actual settlers and occupants at the time said lands are
acquired by the Government" were given preference to lease, purchase, or acquire their holdings, in disregard of the settlement and
occupation of persons before the government acquired the lands. 21

The basic rules of proper pleading and procedure require that every pleading shall contain in a methodical and logical form, a plain,
concise and direct statement of the ultimate facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defense, as the case may be, omitting
the statement of mere evidentiary facts.22 And in all averments of fraud or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake must
be stated with particularity. 23

It is axiomatic that the averments of the complaint determine the nature of the action, and consequently, the
jurisdiction of the courts. This is because the complaint must contain a concise statement of the ultimate facts
constituting the plaintiff's cause of action and must specify the relief sought. No rule is better established than that
which requires the complaint to contain a statement of all the facts constituting the plaintiff's cause of action.
Additionally, Section 5, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court provides that in all averments of fraud or mistake, the
circumstances constituting fraud or mistake must be stated with particularity. In the case at bar, while there are
allegations of fraud in the above quoted complaints, the same are not particular enough to bring the controversy
within the SEC's jurisdiction. The said allegations are not statements of ultimate facts but are mere conclusions of
law. DTaSIc

A pleading should state the ultimate facts essential to the rights of action or defense asserted, as distinguished from
mere conclusions of fact, or conclusions of law. General allegations that a contract is valid or legal, or is just, fair and
reasonable, are mere conclusions of law. Likewise, allegations that a contract is void, voidable, invalid, illegal, ultra
vires, or against public policy, without stating facts showing its invalidity, are mere conclusions of law. 24

"Ultimate facts" means the essential facts constituting the plaintiff's cause of action, or such facts as are so essential that they cannot be
stricken out without leaving the statement of the cause of action inadequate. 25 "Cause of action" has been defined as an act or omission
of one party in violation of the legal right or rights of the other; 26 and its essential elements are: 1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by
whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created; 2) an obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to
violate such right; and 3) an act or omission on the part of the named defendant violative of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a
breach of the obligation of defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages. If these
elements are not extant, the complaint becomes vulnerable to a motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of
action. 27 In the resolution of a motion to dismiss based on failure to state a cause of action, only the facts alleged in the complaint as
well as its annexes must be considered. 28The test in such case is whether a court can render a valid judgment on the complaint based
upon the facts alleged and pursuant to the prayer therein. 29

Corollarily, the question of whether or not a complaint states a cause of action against a defendant or the action is premature is one of
law. The trial court can consider all the pleadings filed, including annexes, motions and the evidence on record. However in so doing, the
trial court does not rule on the truth or falsity of such documents. It merely includes such documents in the hypothetical admission. Any
review of a finding of lack of cause of action based on these documents would not involve a calibration of the probative value of such
pieces of evidence but would only limit itself to the inquiry of whether the law was properly applied given the facts and these supporting
documents. Therefore, what would inevitably arise from such a review are pure questions of law, and not questions of fact. HEISca

The trial court must likewise apply relevant statutes and jurisprudence in determining whether the allegations in a complaint establish a
cause of action. While it focuses on the complaint, a court clearly cannot disregard decisions material to the proper appreciation of the
questions before it. In resolving a motion to dismiss, every court must take cognizance of decisions this Court has rendered because they
are proper subjects of mandatory judicial notice. The said decisions, more importantly, form part of the legal system, and failure of any
court to apply them shall constitute an abdication of its duty to resolve a dispute in accordance with law, and shall be a ground for
administrative action against an inferior court magistrate. 30

Considering the foregoing, it is not difficult to see the need for particularity and incipient substantiation in the petitioners' Second
Amended Complaint.

First, their initial claim that OCT 614 — of which all the other subject titles are derivatives — is null and void, has been proven wrong. As
has been held in Pinlacand other cases, OCT 614 did legally exist and was previously issued in the name of the Philippine Government in
1910 under the provisions of Act 496.
Second, the Ad Hoc Committee of the then Ministry of Natural Resources, which was specifically tasked to investigate the historical
background of the Piedad Estate, found that as early as the period prior to the Second World War, all lots in the Piedad Estate had already
been disposed of.

Third, the Piedad Estate has been placed under the Torrens system of land registration, which means that all lots therein are
titled. IEaATD

Fourth, as held in the Balicudiong case, one who acquires land under the Friar Lands Act, as well as his successors-in-interest, may not
claim successional rights to purchase by reason of occupation from time immemorial, which means that petitioners' claimed actual,
adverse, peaceful and continuous possession of the subject property is really of no moment unless it is shown that their predecessors-in-
interest were actual settlers and occupants at the time said lands were acquired by the Government, and whose rights were not
disregarded even though they were in occupation of the same before the government acquired the land; yet, no period of time in relation
to adverse possession is alleged.

Petitioners' Second Amended Complaint betrays no more than an incomplete narration of facts unsupported by documentary or other
exhibits; the allegations therein partake of conclusions of law unsupported by a particular averment of circumstances that will show why
or how such inferences or conclusions were arrived at. It is replete with sweeping generalizations and inferences derived from facts that
are not found therein. While there are allegations of fraud upon the claim that the subject titles were fictitious, spurious and obtained
under "mysterious circumstances," the same are not specific to bring the controversy within the trial court's jurisdiction. There is no
explanation or narration of facts as would show why said titles are claimed to be fictitious or spurious, contrary to the requirement of the
Rules that the circumstances constituting fraud must be stated with particularity; otherwise, the allegation of fraud would simply be an
unfounded conclusion of law. In the absence of specific averments, the complaint is defective, for it presents no basis upon which the
court should act, or for the defendant to meet it with an intelligent answer.

As to the second issue raised, petitioners claim that they are bona fide occupants of the subject property within the contemplation of the
Friar Lands Act, having allegedly been in actual, adverse, peaceful and continuous possession of the property, although it is not stated for
how long and since when. In their second amended complaint, they seek judgment —

(4) Declaring the plaintiffs as bona fide occupants of the property in litigation pursuant to the provisions of the Friar
Lands Act and other existing laws. (Emphasis supplied) TADCSE

They do not pray to be declared owners of the subject property — despite their alleged adverse possession — but only to be
adjudged as the "bona fideoccupants" thereof. In other words, petitioners concede the State's ownership of the property.
Being so, petitioners may not be considered the real parties in interest for the purpose of maintaining the suit for cancellation of the
subject titles. The Court of Appeals is correct in declaring that only the State, through the Solicitor General, may institute such suit.
Jurisprudence on the matter has been settled and the issue need not be belabored. Thus —

The Court also holds that private respondents are not the proper parties to initiate the present suit. The complaint,
praying as it did for the cancellation of the transfer certificates of title of petitioners on the ground that they were
derived from a "spurious" OCT No. 4216, assailed in effect the validity of said title. While private respondents did not
pray for the reversion of the land to the government, we agree with the petitioners that the prayer in the complaint
will have the same result of reverting the land to the government under the Regalian doctrine. Gabila vs.
Barriga ruled that only the government is entitled to this relief. The Court in that case held:

"The present motion to dismiss is actually predicated on Section 1 (g), Rule 16 of the Revised Rules of
Court, i.e., failure of the complaint to state a cause of action, for it alleges in paragraph 12 thereof that the
plaintiff admits that he has no right to demand the cancellation or amendment of the defendant's title,
because, even if the said title were canceled or amended, the ownership of the land embraced therein, or of
the portion thereof affected by the amendment, would revert to the public domain. In his amended
complaint the plaintiff makes no pretense at all that any part of the land covered by the defendant's title was
privately owned by him or by his predecessors-in-interest. Indeed, it is admitted therein that the said land
was at all times a part of the public domain until December 18, 1964, when the government issued a title
thereon in favor of defendant. Thus, if there is any person or entity to relief, it can only be the
government. aHTCIc

In the case at bar, the plaintiff's own averments negate the existence of such right, for it would appear
therefrom that whatever right might have been violated by the defendant belonged to the government, not
to the plaintiff. Plaintiff-appellant argues that although his complaint is captioned as one for cancellation of
title, he has nevertheless stated therein several causes of action based on his alleged rights of possession
and ownership over the improvements, on defendant-appellees alleged fraudulent acquisition of the land,
and on the damages allegedly incurred by him (plaintiff-appellant) in relation to the improvements. These
matters are merely ancillary to the central issue of whether or not defendant-appellee's title should be
canceled or amended, and they may not be leaned upon in an effort to make out a cause of action in
relation to the said focal issue. Indeed, the principal relief prayed for in the amended complaint is the
cancellation or amendment of defendant-appellee's title." 31

Under Rule 3, Section 2 of the Rules of Court, a real party in interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in
the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. "Interest" within the meaning of the rule means material interest, an interest in issue
and to be affected by the decree, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest. The interest
of the party must also be personal and not one based on a desire to vindicate the constitutional right of some third and unrelated party.
Real interest, on the other hand, means a present substantial interest, as distinguished from a mere expectancy or a future, contingent,
subordinate, or consequential interest. 32

If petitioners are to be believed, they would possess a mere inchoate interest in the properties covered by the subject titles, a mere
expectancy conditioned upon the fact that if the questioned titles are cancelled and the property is reverted to the State, they
would probably or possibly be given preferential treatment as qualified buyers or lessees of the property under the Friar Lands Act. But
this certainly is not the "interest" required by law that grants them license or the personality to prosecute their case. Only to the State does
the privilege belong. SACHcD

On the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies, suffice it to state that since petitioners do not possess the necessary interest to
prosecute the case for cancellation of title in the courts, neither do they have the right to pursue administrative remedies outside thereof.
They are not the owners; nor are they qualified applicants therefor. It has not been shown by their complaint that they have previously
taken steps to avail of the benefits under the Friar Lands Act, since all they seek, should the questioned titles be nullified, is to be
declared bona fide occupants of the property covered by the questioned titles. Neither is there any indication that they possess the
qualifications necessary to enable them to avail of the preference granted under the Act.

Finally, there is no merit in petitioners' contention that respondent belatedly filed the petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, and
that the appellate court gravely abused its discretion when it entertained and resolved the same.

The Order of the trial court dated January 3, 2001 denying respondent's motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint was received
by the respondent on January 16, 2001. Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration on January 18, 2001 which was denied on February
28, 2001. Respondent received the order denying its motion for reconsideration on March 27, 2001. On the same day, it filed a Notice to
File Petition for Certiorari. On April 2, 2001, the petition forcertiorari was filed with the Court of Appeals. Clearly, the same was timely
filed hence, the appellate court correctly entertained the same.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 9, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No. 64337 dismissing
petitioners' "Second Amended Complaint" in Civil Case No. Q-99-36483 and the Resolution dated June 26, 2002 denying the motion for
reconsideration, are AFFIRMED. cda
SO ORDERED.

Austria-Martinez, Corona, * Nachura and Reyes, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1.Penned by Associate Justice Alicia L. Santos and concurred in by Associate Justices Buenaventura J. Guerrero and Marina L. Buzon;
CA rollo, pp. 232-240.
2.Penned by Associate Justice Marina L. Buzon and concurred in by Associate Justices Buenaventura J. Guerrero and Eubulo G.
Verzola; Id. at 250-251.
3.Registered in the name of herein respondent Genuino Ice Company, Inc., Sheila Culata, Rosario Navarro, Erlinda Calleja, Jose de
Guzman and Rommel Ng.
4.Registered in the name of Felicidad Magsaysay and Labrador Devt. Corp.
5.Registered in the name of Antonio Arambulo.
6.Registered in the name of Angel Arambulo.
7.Registered in the name of Rosita Valle Arambulo.
8.Act No. 1120 (1904).
9.CA rollo, pp. 134-144.
10.Rollo, pp. 34-42.
11.Registered in the name of Mariano Tiaoqui.
12.Registered in the name of Manuel Tiaoqui.
13.Registered in the name of Marcelino Escueta and Aurora de Santos Escueta.
14.Rollo, pp. 36-39.
15.Id. at 132-135.
16.Id. at 150-152.
17.Id. at 22.
18.Liao v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 102961-62, 107625 & 108759, January 27, 2000, 323 SCRA 430, 442.
19.Pinlac v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 91486, January 19, 2001, 349 SCRA 635, 646, citing the Comments and Recommendations of
the Ad Hoc Committee created by the then Ministry of Natural Resources, as embodied in its Special Order No. 426, Series of
1986.
20.Id. at 647.
21.Balicudiong v. Balicudiong, G.R. No. L-29603, June 7, 1971, 39 SCRA 386, 390.
22.RULES OF COURT, Rule 8, Sec. 1.
23.Id., Sec. 5.
24.Abad v. Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, G.R. Nos. 58507-08, February 26, 1992, 206 SCRA 567, 579-580.
25.Vda. de Daffon v. Court of Appeals, 436 Phil. 233, 240 (2002).
26.Davao Light & Power Co., Inc. v. Judge, Regional Trial Court, Davao City, Branch 8, G.R. No. 147058, March 10, 2006, 484 SCRA
272, 284.
27.Ceroferr Realty Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 426 Phil. 522, 528 (2002).
28.Francia, Jr. v. Power Merge Corp., G.R. No. 162461, November 23, 2005, 476 SCRA 62, 70.
29First Bancorp., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 151132, June 22, 2006, 496 SCRA 221, 239.
30Peltan Development, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 117029, March 19, 1997, 270 SCRA 82, 91-92.
31.Id. at 94-95.
32.VSC Commercial Enterprises, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 442 Phil. 269, 276-277 (2002).
*In lieu of Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario, per Special Order No. 484 dated January 11, 2008.
||| (Cañete v. Genuino Ice Co., Inc., G.R. No. 154080, [January 22, 2008], 566 PHIL 204-224)

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 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.
SYLLABUS
1. PUBLIC LANDS; ACQUISITION BY OCCUPANCY. — An open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the
public domain from time immemorial by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said
possessor, whereby the land ceases to be public, to become private, property.
2. ID.; ID.; REQUISITES. — To acquire a right to a certificate of title over a land of the public domain, under the provisions of
Chapter VI of Act No. 926, as amended by Chapter VIII of Act No. 2874, an open, adverse, public and continuous possession from July
26,1894, is sufficient, provided the possessor makes application therefor under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. The
possessor under such circumstances acquires by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the government, and the
actual issuance of a title is not necessary in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; RECOVERY OF PROPERTY. — As the possessor of a public land under the circumstances mentioned in the
preceding paragraphs acquires the land by operation of law as a grant from the State, the land ceasing to be of public domain, to
become private property, at least by presumption, it follows that it can no longer be sold by the Director of Lands to another person,
and if he does, the sale is void, and the said possessor may recover the land from any person holding it against his will.
DECISION
VILLA-REAL, J p:
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 that 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, to 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 an 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 (Exhibit S). 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 an 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 (Exhibits 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.
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 Cariilo vs.Government of the Philippine Islands (212 U. S., 449 1 ), is applicable here. In favor of Valentin
Susi, there is, more over, the presumption juris et de jureestablished 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 therefor 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 of 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.
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
the 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.
Avanceña, C.J., Malcolm, Street, Villamor, Ostrand, Johns and Romualdez, JJ., concur.
Johnson, J., did not take part.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 73002. December 29, 1986.]

THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD & VENEER CO.
INC., ETC., respondents.

D. Nacion Law Office for private respondent.

DECISION

NARVASA, J p:

The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court affirming a decision of
the Court of First Instance of Isabela, which ordered registration in favor of Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc. of five parcels of land
measuring 481, 390 square meters, more or less, acquired by it from Mariano and Acer Infiel, members of the Dumagat tribe.

The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (The Public Land Act). as
amended; and the appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial court in said proceedings in this wise:

"1. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly organized in
accordance with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and registered with the Securities and Exchange
Commission on December 23, 1959;

2. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties pursuant to
the provisions of the Articles of Incorporation particularly on the provision of its secondary purposes (paragraph (9),
Exhibit 'M-1');

3. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood & Veneer Co.,
Inc., on October 29, 1962, from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel, both members of the Dumagat tribe and as such are
cultural minorities;

4. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale took place on October 29,
1962;

5. That the possession of the Infiels over the land relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., dates
back before the Philippines was discovered by Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have possessed and occupied
the land from generation to generation until the same came into the possession of Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel;

6. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., is continuous, adverse and public from
1962 to the present and tacking the possession of the Infiels who were granted from whom the applicant bought said
land on October 29, 1962, hence the possession is already considered from time immemorial;
7. That the land sought to be registered is a private land pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No.
3872 granting absolute ownership to members of the non-Christian Tribes on land occupied by them or their
ancestral lands, whether with the alienable or disposable public land or within the public domain;

8. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., has introduced more than Forty-Five Million (P45,000,000.00)
Pesos worth of improvements, said improvements were seen by the Court during its ocular investigation of the land
sought to be registered on September 18, 1982;

9. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to be registered by the applicant was duly recognized by
the government when the Municipal Officials of Maconacon, Isabela, have negotiated for the donation of the townsite
from Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., and the negotiation came to reality when the Board of Directors of the Acme
Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., had donated a part of the land bought by the Company from the Infiels for the townsite
of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N') on November 15, 1979, and which donation was accepted by the Municipal
Government of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N-1'), during their special session on November 22, 1979."

The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution to the matter at
hand. Concerning this, he asserts that, the registration proceedings have been commenced only on July 17, 1981, or long after the 1973
Constitution had gone into effect, the latter is the correctly applicable law; and since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private
corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public domain, except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares (a
prohibition not found in the 1935 Constitution which was in force in 1962 when Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels), it
was reversible error to decree registration in favor of Acme.

Section 48, paragraphs (b) and (c), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, reads:

"SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation
of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of the
chapter.

(c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable
to agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be entitled
to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof."

The Petition for Review does not dispute — indeed, in view of the quoted findings of the trial court which were cited and affirmed by the
Intermediate Appellate Court, it can no longer controvert before this Court — the fact that Mariano and Acer Infiel, from whom Acme
purchased the lands in question on October 29, 1962, are members of the national cultural minorities who had, by themselves and
through their progenitors, possessed and occupied those lands since time immemorial, or for more than the required 30-year period and
were, by reason thereof, entitled to exercise the right granted in Section 48 of the Public Land Actto have their title judicially confirmed.
Nor is there any pretension that Acme, as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels, is disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said
lands under any provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article XIV already referred to.

Given the foregoing, the question before this Court is whether or not the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme in 1962 could be
confirmed in favor of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in 1981 when the 1973 Constitution was already in effect, having in mind
the prohibition therein against private corporations holding lands of the public domain except in lease not exceeding 1,000 hectares.

The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings in 1981. If
they were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the other hand, they were then already private
lands, the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private corporations or associations obviously does not apply.

In this regard, attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, et al, 1 where a similar set of facts prevailed. In
that case, Manila Electric Company, a domestic corporation more than 60% of the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned, had purchased
in 1947 two lots in Tanay, Rizal from the Piguing spouses. The lots had been possessed by the vendors and, before them, by their
predecessor-in-interest, Olimpia Ramos, since prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941. On December 1, 1976, Meralco applied to
the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Makati Branch, for confirmation of title to said lots. The court, assuming that the lots were public land,
dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco, a juridical person, was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b)
of the Public Land Act which allows only Filipino citizens or natural persons to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to public
land. Meralco appealed, and a majority of this Court upheld the dismissal. It was held that:

". . ., the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title
to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b). Because it is still public land and the Meralco, as a juridical
person, is disqualified to apply for its registration under section 48(b), Meralco's application cannot be given due
course or has to be dismissed.

xxx xxx xxx

"Finally, it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on the one hand)
alienable agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect title and (on the other hand) alienable
lands of the public domain as to which an occupant has an imperfect title subject to judicial confirmation.

Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we should not make any distinction or qualification. The
prohibition applies to alienable public lands as to which a Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b). The
proceeding under section 48(b) `presupposes that the land is public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L-19535, July
30, 1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644)."

The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent, tracing the line of cases beginning with Cariño in 1909 2 thru Susi in 1925 3 down
to Herico in 1980, 4 which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable
public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso
jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. That said dissent
expressed what is the better — and, indeed, the correct, view — becomes evident from a consideration of some of the principal rulings
cited therein.

The main theme was given birth, so to speak, in Cariño, involving the Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880 for adjustment of royal lands
wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. It was ruled that:

"It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 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. 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. . . ."

That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language, in Susi:

". . . 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, 1984, 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 a certificate of title should be issued in
order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefor 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 of 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 of 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. 6

Succeeding cases, of which only some need be mentioned, like Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 7 Mesina vs. Vda. de Sonza, 8 Manarpac vs.
Cabanatuan, 9 Miguel vs. Court of Appeals 10 and Herico vs. Dar, supra, by invoking and affirming the Susi doctrine have firmly rooted it
in jurisprudence.

Herico, in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: 11

". . . Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to
the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by
himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land
from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. . . .

xxx xxx xxx

As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the
possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the
necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the
authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which
does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued
upon the strength of said patent." 12

Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and
duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself 13 that the
possessor(s) ". . . shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title . . ." No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in
truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and
length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would
not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from
the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cariño, ". . . (T)here are indications that
registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. 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."

If it is accepted — as it must be — that the land was already private land to which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and transferable title
on October 29, 1962 when Acme acquired it from said owners, it must also be conceded that Acme had a perfect right to make such
acquisition, there being nothing in the 1935 Constitution then in force (or, for that matter, in the 1973 Constitution which came into
effect later) prohibiting corporations from acquiring and owning private lands.

Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors,
until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land Act, there can be no serious question of
Acme's right to acquire the land at the time it did, there also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit
corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called
"incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only limitation then extant was that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural
lands in excess of 1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of
the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain cannot defeat a right already vested before that
law came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper, This Court has already held, in analogous circumstances,
that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights.

"We hold that the said constitutional prohibition 14 has no retroactive application to the sales application of Biñan
Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973
Constitution took effect.

That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of
the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand
and twenty-four hectares. Petitioner' prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law.

xxx xxx xxx

The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. `A state may not impair vested rights by legislative
enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a change in
the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police power' (16 C.J.S. 1177-78).

xxx xxx xxx

In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation
to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy.

Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating
the said land from the public domain. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for the land is protected by law. It
cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919)." 15

The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another
accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right
of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings, there being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is unquestionable
that in the light of the undisputed facts, the Infiels, under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in themselves
confirmed and registered, only a rigid subservience to the letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor-in-
interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate.

The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no
longer deemed to be binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the line of cases already referred to, is that alienable public
land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed
statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of
said period, ipso jure. Following that rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts, the land subject of this appeal was already private
property at the time it was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby acquired a registrable title, there being at the time no
prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a juridical person, Acme is not qualified to
apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather than substantial and, again, finds its
answer in the dissent in Meralco:

"6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows
only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical
and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error in not having filed
the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is
conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any
prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and
vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable
acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should
not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and
adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See
Francisco vs. City of Davao)

The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to
conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to
apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public
Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified
to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired
and sold or exchanged."

There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for
confirmation of title and, after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names, deeding the lands back to Acme. But this would be
merely indulging in empty charades, whereas the same result is more efficaciously and speedily obtained, with no prejudice to
anyone, by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco.
While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no precedent, but only
reaffirms and re-established, as it were, doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and inquiry in
many past cases. Indeed, it is worth noting that the majority opinion, as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and
Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly on the proposition that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from
applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973
Constitution and its Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential, limited to a brief paragraph in the main opinion, and may, in that context,
be considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no constitutional question.

WHEREFORE, there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court, the same is hereby affirmed,
without costs in this instance.

SO ORDERED.

Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ ., concur.

Gutierrez, Jr., J ., I reiterate my concurrence in Meralco v. Castro-Bartolome, and, therefore, dissent here.

Separate Opinions

TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring:

I am honored by my brethren's judgment at bar that my dissenting opinion in the June, 1982 Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases, 1 which
is herein upheld, "expressed what is the better . . . and indeed the correct view." My dissent was anchored on the landmark 1909 case
of Cariño 2 through the 1925 case of Susi 3and the long line of cases cited therein to the latest 1980 case of Herico 4 that "it is
established doctrine . . . that an open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided
in the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law [this period was reduced to 'at least
thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title' by amendment ofCommonwealth Act No. 141,
equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription 5 ]) by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective
title on said possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property." I hereby reproduce the
same by reference for brevity's sake. But since we are reverting to the old above-cited established doctrine and precedents and discarding
the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases which departed therefrom in the recent past, I feel constrained to write this concurrence in
amplification of my views and ratio decidendi.

Under the express text and mandate of the cited Act, such possessors "shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter."

The Court thus held in Susi that under the presumption juris et de jure established in the Act, the rightful possessor of the public land for
the statutory period "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 an order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefor is
sufficient . . . 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 of the
public domain, and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands
[and beyond his authority to sell to any other person]." 6

The root of the doctrine goes back to the pronouncement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1909 case
of Cariño (the Igorot chief who would have been deprived of ancestral family lands by the dismissal of his application for registration)
which reversed the dismissal of the registration court (as affirmed by the Supreme Court) and adopted the liberal view that under the
decree and regulations of June 25, 1880, "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. The effect of the proof, whenever made, was not to confer
title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law."

The Court's decision at bar now expressly overturns the Meralco and related cases subsequent thereto which failed to adhere to the
aforecited established doctrine dating back to 1909 and was consistently applied up to June 29, 1982 (when the Meralco decision was
promulgated). We reaffirm the established doctrine that such acquisitive prescription of alienable public lands takes place ipso jure or by
operation of law without the necessity of a prior issuance of a certificate of title. The land ipso jure ceases to be of the public domain and
becomes private property, which may be lawfully sold to and acquired by qualified corporations such as respondent corporation. (As
stressed in Herico, supra, "the application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does notaffect the legal sufficiency of the
title.")

Such ipso jure conversion into private property of public lands publicly held under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership is the
public policy of the Act and is so expressly stated therein. By virtue of such conversion into private property, qualified corporations may
lawfully acquire them and there is no "alteration or defeating" of the 1973 Constitution's prohibition against corporations holding or
acquiring title to lands of the public domain, as claimed in the dissenting opinion, for the simple reason that no public lands are involved.

It should be noted that respondent corporation purchased the land from the Infiels on October 16, 1962 under the aegis of the 1935
Constitution which contained no prohibition against corporations holding public lands (except a limit of 1,024 hectares) unlike the
later 1973 Constitution which imposed an absolute prohibition, Even on the erroneous assumption that the land remained public land
despite the Infiels' open possession thereof as owners from time immemorial, respondent corporation's lawful purchase from them of the
land in 1962 and P45 million investments redounding presumably to the welfare and progress of the community, particularly the
municipality of Maconacon, Isabela to which it donated part of the land for the townsite created a vested right which could not be
impaired by the prohibition adopted eleven years later. But as sufficiently stressed, the land of the Infiels had been ipso jure converted
into privateland and they had a legally sufficient and transferable title conferred by the conclusive presumption of the Public Land
Act (which needed only to be establishedin confirmation of title proceedings for formalization and issuance of the certificate of title) which
they lawfully and validly transferred to respondent corporation.

In fact, the many amendments to the Act extending the period for the filing of such applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect and
incomplete titles to alienable and disposable public lands expressly reiterate that it has always been the "policy of the State to hasten the
settlement, adjudication and quieting of titles to [such] unregistered lands," i.e. to recognize that such lands publicly and notoriously
occupied and cultivated under bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership have ipso jure been converted into private property and grant
the possessors the opportunity to establish and record such fact. Thus, the deadline for the filing of such application which would have
originally expired first on December 31, 1938 was successively extended to December 31, 1941, then extended to December 31, 1957,
then to December 31, 1968, further extended to December 31, 1976 and lastly extended to December 31, 1987. 7

The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may apply thereunder for confirmation of title is in effect a technicality of procedure
and not of substance. My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is properly applicable: "The ends of justice would best be served,
therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the
original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by
conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly
Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private
lands so acquired and sold or exchanged." 8 Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented along the same line from
the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the Court would characterize such jurisdictional defect that the
applicant was Meralco, a juridical person rather than the natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an
insurmountable obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be distinguished, the approach followed
by us in Francisco v. City of Davao, where the legal question raised, instead of being deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was
resolved. By legal fiction and in the exercise of our equitable jurisdiction, I feel that the realistic solution would be to decide the matter as
if the application under Section 48(b) were filed by the Piguing spouses, who I assume suffer from no such disability." 9Justice Vicente
Abad Santos, now retired, while concurring in the procedural result, likewise, in effect dissented from the therein majority ruling on the
question of substance, and stated his opinion that "the lots which are sought to be registered have ceased to be lands of the public
domain at the time they were acquired by the petitioner corporation. They are already private lands because of acquisitive prescription by
the predecessors of the petitioner and all that is needed is the confirmation of the title. Accordingly, the constitutional provision that no
private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain is inapplicable." 10

To my mind, the reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who may prove their undisputed and open
possession of public lands for the required statutory thirty-year period, tacking on their predecessors'-in-interest possession is that only
natural persons, to the exclusion of juridical persons such as corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for
the required statutory 30-year period. That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious. But when the natural persons have
fulfilled the required statutory period of possession, the Act confers on them a legally sufficient and transferable title. It is preferable to
follow the letter of the law that they file the applications for confirmation of their title, although they have lawfully transferred their title to
the land. But such procedural failure cannot and should not defeat the substance of the law, as stressed in the above-cited opinions, that
the lands are already private lands because of acquisitive prescription by the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would
be to consider the application for confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the evidence, confirm
their title to the private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully transferred by them to the corporation. The law, after all,
recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale of the private land to the corporation. It should not be necessary to go in a round-about
way and have the corporation reassign its rights to the private land to natural persons — (as I understand), was done after the decision in
the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases) just for the purpose of complying on paper with the technicality of having natural persons file the
application for confirmation of title to the private land.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:

Section 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides:

"SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or in interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

(a) . . .

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation
of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
this chapter.

(c) . . .

Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution, in part, provides:

"SEC. 11. . . . No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not
to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred
hectares . . ."

It has to be conceded that, literally, statutory law and constitutional provision prevent a corporation from directly applying to the Courts
for the issuance of Original Certificates of Title to lands of the public domain (Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA
799; Republic vs. Villanueva, 114 SCRA 875; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 119 SCRA 449; Iglesia ni Cristo vs. Hon. Judge, CFI of Nueva
Ecija, Br. 1). It is my opinion that the literalism should be adhered to in this case.

The reasoning of the majority can be restated in simple terms as follows:

(a) The INFIELS can successfully file an application for a certificate of title over the land involved in the case.

(b) After the INFIELS secure a certificate of title, they can sell the land to ACME.

(c) As ACME can eventually own the certificate of title, it should be allowed to directly apply to the Courts for the
Certificate of Title, thus avoiding the circuituous "literal" requirement that the INFIELS should first apply to
the courts for the titles, and afterwards transfer the title to ACME.

The majority opinion, in effect, adopted the following excerpt from a dissent in Manila Electric Company vs. Castro Bartolome (114 SCRA
799, 823 [1982].

"To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only
citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and
would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error in not having filed the
application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors,
still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco.

and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name
of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being
granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive
presumption therein provided in their favor.

It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their
names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and
now." (Paragraphing supplied)

The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the statutory provision that only citizens (natural persons) can apply for certificates of
title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the constitutional provision (Article XIV, Section 11) which prohibits
corporations from acquiring title to lands of the public domain. That interpretation or construction adopted by the majority cannot be
justified. "A construction adopted should not be such as to nullify, destroy or defeat the intention of the legislature" (New York State Dept.
of Social Services v. Dublino [UST 37 L. Ed 2d 688, 93 S Ct 2507; United States v. Alpers, 338 US 680, 94 L Ed 457, 70 S Ct 352; cited in
73 Am. Jur. 2nd., p. 351).

It has also been said that:

"In the construction of statutes, the courts start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an
effective law, and the legislature is not to be presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a statute.
Hence, it is a general principle that the courts should, if reasonably possible to do so interpret the statute, or the
provision being construed, so as to give it efficient operation and effect as a whole. An interpretation should, if
possible, be avoided, under which the statute or provision being construed is defeated, or as otherwise expressed,
nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative, or
nugatory. If a statute is fairly susceptible of two constructions, one of which will give effect to the act, while the other
will defeat it, the former construction is preferred, One part of a statute may not be construed so as to render
another part nugatory, or of no effect. Moreover, notwithstanding the general rule against the enlargement of
extension of a statute by construction, the meaning of a statute may be extended beyond the precise words used in
the law, and words or phrases may be altered or supplied, where this is necessary to prevent a law from becoming a
nullity. Wherever the provision of a statute is general, everything which is necessary to make such provision effectual
is supplied by implication." (Pliakos vs. Illinois Liquor Control Com. 11 III 2d 456, 143 NE 2d 47; cited in 73 Am. Jur.
2d pp. 422-423).

The statutory provision and the constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for the Court to take is to promote in
the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a construction which would alter or defeat that policy.

In fine, I confirm my adherence to the ruling of this Court in Meralco vs. Hon. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799 [1982] and related cases.

Footnotes

1.114 SCRA 799.


2.Cariño vs. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 935, 944.
3.Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil. 424.
4.Herico vs. Dar, 95 SCRA 437.
5.Of said Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880.
6.underscoring supplied.
7.63 Phil. 654.
8.108 Phil. 251.
9.21 SCRA 743.
10.29 SCRA 760.
11.There was withal a later attempt by the ponente in Herico (Castro, J.) to somewhat soften the import of the doctrine, in his
concurrence in Meralco (114 SCRA 799, 810-813).
12.Underscoring supplied; the provision referred to is Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141.
13.Sec. 48(b).
14.Referring, precisely, to Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution.
15.Ayog vs. Cusi, Jr., 118 SCRA 492.

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 144057. January 17, 2005.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and CORAZON
NAGUIT, respondents.

DECISION

TINGA, J p:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to review the Decision 1 of the Sixth
Division of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 51921. The appellate court affirmed the decisions of both the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), 2 Branch 8, of Kalibo, Aklan dated February 26, 1999, and the 7th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) 3 of
Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan dated February 18, 1998, which granted the application for registration of a parcel of land of Corazon Naguit (Naguit),
the respondent herein.

The facts are as follows:

On January 5, 1993, Naguit, a Filipino citizen, of legal age and married to Manolito S. Naguit, filed with the MCTC of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan, a
petition for registration of title of a parcel of land situated in Brgy. Union, Nabas, Aklan. The parcel of land is designated as Lot No.
10049, Cad. 758-D, Nabas Cadastre, AP-060414-014779, and contains an area of 31,374 square meters. The application seeks judicial
confirmation of respondent's imperfect title over the aforesaid land. aTEACS

On February 20, 1995, the court held initial hearing on the application. The public prosecutor, appearing for the government, and Jose
Angeles, representing the heirs of Rustico Angeles, opposed the petition. On a later date, however, the heirs of Rustico Angeles filed a
formal opposition to the petition. Also on February 20, 1995, the court issued an order of general default against the whole world except
as to the heirs of Rustico Angeles and the government.
The evidence on record reveals that the subject parcel of land was originally declared for taxation purposes in the name of Ramon Urbano
(Urbano) in 1945 under Tax Declaration No. 3888 until 1991. 4 On July 9, 1992, Urbano executed a Deed of Quitclaim in favor of the heirs
of Honorato Maming (Maming), wherein he renounced all his rights to the subject property and confirmed the sale made by his father to
Maming sometime in 1955 or 1956. 5 Subsequently, the heirs of Maming executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of respondent Naguit
who thereupon started occupying the same. She constituted Manuel Blanco, Jr. as her attorney-in-fact and administrator. The administrator
introduced improvements, planted trees, such as mahogany, coconut and gemelina trees in addition to existing coconut trees which were
then 50 to 60 years old, and paid the corresponding taxes due on the subject land. At present, there are parcels of land surrounding the
subject land which have been issued titles by virtue of judicial decrees. Naguit and her predecessors-in-interest have occupied the land
openly and in the concept of owner without any objection from any private person or even the government until she filed her application
for registration.

After the presentation of evidence for Naguit, the public prosecutor manifested that the government did not intend to present any
evidence while oppositor Jose Angeles, as representative of the heirs of Rustico Angeles, failed to appear during the trial despite notice.
On September 27, 1997, the MCTC rendered a decision ordering that the subject parcel be brought under the operation of the Property
Registration Decree or Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 and that the title thereto registered and confirmed in the name of Naguit. 6

The Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a motion for reconsideration. The OSG
stressed that the land applied for was declared alienable and disposable only on October 15, 1980, per the certification from Regional
Executive Director Raoul T. Geollegue of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Region VI. 7 However, the court denied
the motion for reconsideration in an order dated February 18, 1998.8

Thereafter, the Republic appealed the decision and the order of the MCTC to the RTC, Kalibo, Aklan, Branch 8. On February 26, 1999, the
RTC rendered its decision, dismissing the appeal. 9

Undaunted, the Republic elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. On July 12, 2000, the
appellate court rendered a decision dismissing the petition filed by the Republic and affirmed in toto the assailed decision of the RTC.

Hence, the present petition for review raising a pure question of law was filed by the Republic on September 4, 2000. 10

The OSG assails the decision of the Court of Appeals contending that the appellate court gravely erred in holding that there is no need for
the government's prior release of the subject lot from the public domain before it can be considered alienable or disposable within the
meaning of P.D. No. 1529, and that Naguit had been in possession of Lot No. 10049 in the concept of owner for the required period. 11

Hence, the central question for resolution is whether it is necessary under Section 14(1) of the Property. Registration Decree that the
subject land be first classified as alienable and disposable before the applicant's possession under a bona fide claim of ownership could
even start.

The OSG invokes our holding in Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court 12 in arguing that the property which is in open,
continuous and exclusive possession must first be alienable. Since the subject land was declared alienable only on October 15, 1980,
Naguit could not have maintained a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, as required by Section 14 of the Property
Registration Decree, since prior to 1980, the land was not alienable or disposable, the OSG argues.

Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, governing original registration proceedings, bears close examination. It expressly
provides:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application
for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

(2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing
laws. ASEcHI

xxx xxx xxx

There are three obvious requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title under Section 14(1) — that the property in
question is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; that the applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation, and; that such possession is under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.

Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been established since
June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). "Since June 12, 1945," as used in the provision,
qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bonafide claim of ownership." Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the
words or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or remotely located. 13 Ad proximum antecedents fiat
relation nisi impediatur sentencia.

Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner's position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule
would be, adopting the OSG's view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable before June 12,
1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such
interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it
decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would even be
aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not yet even considered an independent state.

Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as already
alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not
yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the
right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if
in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an
intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property.

This reading aligns conformably with our holding in Republic v. Court of Appeals. 14 Therein, the Court noted that "to prove that the land
subject of an application for registration is alienable, an 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." 15 In that case, the subject land had been certified by the DENR as alienable and disposable in 1980, thus the
Court concluded that the alienable status of the land, compounded by the established fact that therein respondents had occupied the land
even before 1927, sufficed to allow the application for registration of the said property. In the case at bar, even the petitioner admits that
the subject property was released and certified as within alienable and disposable zone in 1980 by the DENR. 16

This case is distinguishable from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals, 17 wherein the Court noted that while the claimant had been in
possession since 1908, it was only in 1972 that the lands in question were classified as alienable and disposable. Thus, the bid at
registration therein did not succeed. In Bracewell, the claimant had filed his application in 1963, or nine (9) years before the property was
declared alienable and disposable. Thus, in this case, where the application was made years after the property had been certified as
alienable and disposable, the Bracewell ruling does not apply.

A different rule obtains for forest lands, 18 such as those which form part of a reservation for provincial park purposes 19 the possession
of which cannot ripen into ownership. 20 It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by
private persons. As held in Palomo v. Court of Appeals, 21 forestland is not registrable and possession thereof, no matter how lengthy,
cannot convert it into private property, unless such lands are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable. 22 In the case at bar,
the property in question was undisputedly classified as disposable and alienable; hence, the ruling in Palomo is inapplicable, as correctly
held by the Court of Appeals. 23

It must be noted that the present case was decided by the lower courts on the basis of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree,
which pertains to original registration through ordinary registration proceedings. The right to file the application for registration derives
from a bona fide claim of ownership going back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, by reason of the claimant's open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.

A similar right is given under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which reads:

Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own
any such land or an interest therein, but those titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of
First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation
of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
this chapter.

When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest the right to register their title
to agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894. However, this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which
provided that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least thirty (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land
Act was again amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date at June 12, 1945. This new starting point is
concordant with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.

Indeed, there are no material differences between Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree and Section 48(b) of the Public Land
Act, as amended. True, the Public Land Act does refer to "agricultural lands of the public domain," while the Property Registration
Decree uses the term "alienable and disposable lands of the public domain." It must be noted though that the Constitution declares that
"alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands." 24Clearly, the subject lands under Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act and Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree are of the same type.

Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for registration of
alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section 14(2) of
the Property Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the application of "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by
prescription under the provisions of existing laws."

Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. 25 There is a consistent jurisprudential rule that properties
classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at
least thirty (30) years. 26 With such conversion, such property may now fall within the contemplation of "private lands" under Section
14(2), and thus susceptible to registration by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the
alienable public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such possession being been open, continuous and exclusive,
then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.

The land in question was found to be local in nature, it having been planted with coconut trees now over fifty years old. 27 The inherent
nature of the land but confirms its certification in 1980 as alienable, hence agricultural. There is no impediment to the application of
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, as correctly accomplished by the lower courts.

The OSG posits that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Naguit had been in possession in the concept of owner for the required
period. The argument begs the question. It is again hinged on the assertion shown earlier to be unfounded-that there could have been
no bona fide claim of ownership prior to 1980, when the subject land was declared alienable or disposable.

We find no reason to disturb the conclusion of both the RTC and the Court of Appeals that Naguit had the right to apply for registration
owing to the continuous possession by her and her predecessors-in-interest of the land since 1945. The basis of such conclusion is
primarily factual, and the Court generally respects the factual findings made by lower courts. Notably, possession since 1945 was
established through proof of the existence of 50 to 60-year old trees at the time Naguit purchased the property as well as tax declarations
executed by Urbano in 1945. Although tax declarations and realty tax payment of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership,
nevertheless, they are good indicia of the possession in the concept of owner for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a
property that is not in his actual or at least constructive possession. They constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over
the property. The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not only one's sincere and honest desire to
obtain title to the property and announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties, but also the intention to
contribute needed revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens one's bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership. 28

Considering that the possession of the subject parcel of land by the respondent can be traced back to that of her predecessors-in-interest
which commenced since 1945 or for almost fifty (50) years, it is indeed beyond any cloud of doubt that she has acquired title thereto
which may be properly brought under the operation of the Torrens system. That she has been in possession of the land in the concept of
an owner, open, continuous, peaceful and without any opposition from any private person and the government itself makes her right
thereto undoubtedly settled and deserving of protection under the law.

WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 is hereby AFFIRMED. No
costs.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr. and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

Footnotes
1.Penned by Justice P. Alino-Hormachuelos, concurred in by Justices A. Austria-Martinez and E.J. Asuncion.
2.Penned by Judge E. Terencio.
3.Penned by Judge R. Barrios.
4.Rollo, p. 31.
5.Ibid.
6.Id. at 50.
7.Id. at 40.
8.Id, at 16; but see 103.
9.Id. at 77.
10.Id. at 10.
11.Id. at 19.
12.G.R. No. 65663, 16 October 1992, 214 SCRA 604.
13.R. AGPALO, STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION, 3rd ed., 1995 at 182.
14.G.R. No. 127060, 19 November 2002, 392 SCRA 190.
15.Id. at 201.
16.Rollo, p. 21.
17.380 Phil. 156 (2000).
18.See e.g., Almeda v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 85322, 30 April 1991, 196 SCRA 476, 480; Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 218
Phil. 666,674 (1984); Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, 211 Phil 260 (1983); Pagkatipunan v. Court of Appeals, 429
Phil. 377 (2002).
19.See Palomo v. Court of Appeals, 334 Phil 357 (1997).
20.Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, supra note 12 citing Director of Forestry v. Muñoz, G.R. No. 24796, 28 June 1968, 23 SCRA
1183.
21.Supra note 19.
22.Id. citing Vano v. Government of P.I., 41 Phil. 161 [1920]; Li Seng Giap y CIAA v. Director, 55 Phil. 693 [1931]; Fernandez Hermanos
v. Director, 57 Phil. 929 [1931];Military Reservations v. Marcos, 52 SCRA 238 [1973]; Republic v. Court of Appeals, 154 SCRA
476; Vallarta v. IAC, 152 SCRA 679; Director of Forest Administration v. Fernandez, 192 SCRA 121.
23.See Rollo, at 35.
24.Section 3, Article XII, Constitution.
25.See Article 1113, Civil Code, which states: "All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless
otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of
prescription."

26.See e.g., Director of Lands v. IAC, G.R. No. 65663, 16 October 1992, 214 SCRA 604, 611; Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
108998, 24 August 1994, 235 SCRA 567, 576; Group Commander, Intelligence and Security Group v. Dr. Malvar, 438 Phil.
252, 275 (2002).
27.Rollo, p. 35.
28.Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 367 Phil. 597 (1999); Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 70825,
March 11, 1991, 195 SCRA 38; Rivera v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 130876, January 31, 2002, 244 SCRA 218; Republic v.
Court of Appeals, 325 Phil. 674 (1996); Heirs of Placido Miranda v. Court of Appeals, 255 SCRA 368; Alonso v. Cebu Country
Club, Inc., 375 SCRA 390.

||| (Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 144057, [January 17, 2005], 489 PHIL 405-420)

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 156117. May 26, 2005.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. JEREMIAS AND DAVID HERBIETO, respondents.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J p:

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking the reversal of the
Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 67625, dated 22 November 2002, 1 which affirmed the Judgment of the Municipal
Trial Court (MTC) of Consolacion, Cebu, dated 21 December 1999, 2 granting the application for land registration of the respondents.

Respondents in the present Petition are the Herbieto brothers, Jeremias and David, who filed with the MTC, on 23 September 1998, a
single application for registration of two parcels of land, Lots No. 8422 and 8423, located in Cabangahan, Consolacion, Cebu (Subject
Lots). They claimed to be owners in fee simple of the Subject Lots, which they purchased from their parents, spouses Gregorio Herbieto
and Isabel Owatan, on 25 June 1976. 3 Together with their application for registration, respondents submitted the following set of
documents:

(a) Advance Survey Plan of Lot No. 8422, in the name of respondent Jeremias; and Advance Survey Plan of Lot No.
8423, in the name of respondent David; 4

(b) The technical descriptions of the Subject Lots; 5

(c) Certifications by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) dispensing with the need for
Surveyor's Certificates for the Subject Lots;6

(d) Certifications by the Register of Deeds of Cebu City on the absence of certificates of title covering the Subject
Lots; 7

(e) Certifications by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR on its finding
that the Subject Lots are alienable and disposable, by virtue of Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1063,
dated 25 June 1963; 8

(f) Certified True Copies of Assessment of Real Property (ARP) No. 941800301831, in the name of Jeremias, covering
Lot No. 8422, issued in 1994; and ARP No. 941800301833, in the name of David, covering Lot No. 8423,
also issued in 1994; 9 and TEHDIA

(g) Deed of Definite Sale executed on 25 June 1976 by spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan selling the
Subject Lots and the improvements thereon to their sons and respondents herein, Jeremias and David, for
P1,000. Lot No. 8422 was sold to Jeremias, while Lot No. 8423 was sold to David. 10

On 11 December 1998, the petitioner Republic of the Philippines (Republic) filed an Opposition to the respondents' application for
registration of the Subject Lots arguing that: (1) Respondents failed to comply with the period of adverse possession of the Subject Lots
required by law; (2) Respondents' muniments of title were not genuine and did not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of bona
fide acquisition of the Subject Lots; and (3) The Subject Lots were part of the public domain belonging to the Republic and were not
subject to private appropriation. 11

The MTC set the initial hearing on 03 September 1999 at 8:30 a.m. 12 All owners of the land adjoining the Subject Lots were sent copies
of the Notice of Initial Hearing. 13 A copy of the Notice was also posted on 27 July 1999 in a conspicuous place on the Subject Lots, as
well as on the bulletin board of the municipal building of Consolacion, Cebu, where the Subject Lots were located. 14 Finally, the Notice
was also published in the Official Gazette on 02 August 1999 15 and The Freeman Banat News on 19 December 1999. 16

During the initial hearing on 03 September 1999, the MTC issued an Order of Special Default, 17 with only petitioner Republic opposing
the application for registration of the Subject Lots. The respondents, through their counsel, proceeded to offer and mark documentary
evidence to prove jurisdictional facts. The MTC commissioned the Clerk of Court to receive further evidence from the respondents and to
submit a Report to the MTC after 30 days.

On 21 December 1999, the MTC promulgated its Judgment ordering the registration and confirmation of the title of respondent Jeremias
over Lot No. 8422 and of respondent David over Lot No. 8423. It subsequently issued an Order on 02 February 2000 declaring its
Judgment, dated 21 December 1999, final and executory, and directing the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue
a decree of registration for the Subject Lots. 18
Petitioner Republic appealed the MTC Judgment, dated 21 December 1999, to the Court of Appeals. 19 The Court of Appeals, in its
Decision, dated 22 November 2002, affirmed the appealed MTC Judgment reasoning thus:

In the case at bar, there can be no question that the land sought to be registered has been classified as within the
alienable and disposable zone since June 25, 1963. Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137 of the Civil Code,
respectively provides that "All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless
otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its subdivisions of patrimonial character shall not be the object of
prescription" and that "Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted
adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith."2005cdtai

As testified to by the appellees in the case at bench, their parents already acquired the subject parcels of lands,
subject matter of this application, since 1950 and that they cultivated the same and planted it with jackfruits,
bamboos, coconuts, and other trees (Judgment dated December 21, 1999, p. 6). In short, it is undisputed that herein
appellees or their predecessors-in-interest had occupied and possessed the subject land openly, continuously,
exclusively, and adversely since 1950. Consequently, even assuming arguendo that appellees' possession can be
reckoned only from June 25, 1963 or from the time the subject lots had been classified as within the alienable and
disposable zone, still the argument of the appellant does not hold water. CTacSE

As earlier stressed, the subject property, being alienable since 1963 as shown by CENRO Report dated June 23, 1963,
may now be the object of prescription, thus susceptible of private ownership. By express provision of Article 1137,
appellees are, with much greater right, entitled to apply for its registration, as provided by Section 14(4) of P.D.
1529 which allows individuals to own land in any manner provided by law. Again, even considering that possession of
appellees should only be reckoned from 1963, the year when CENRO declared the subject lands alienable, herein
appellees have been possessing the subject parcels of land in open, continuous, and in the concept of an owner, for
35 years already when they filed the instant application for registration of title to the land in 1998. As such, this court
finds no reason to disturb the finding of the court a quo. 20

The Republic filed the present Petition for the review and reversal of the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 22 November 2002, on
the basis of the following arguments:

First, respondents failed to establish that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, and adverse possession of
the Subject Lots in the concept of owners since 12 June 1945 or earlier. According to the petitioner Republic, possession of the Subject
Lots prior to 25 June 1963 cannot be considered in determining compliance with the periods of possession required by law. The Subject
Lots were classified as alienable and disposable only on 25 June 1963, per CENRO's certification. It also alleges that the Court of Appeals,
in applying the 30-year acquisitive prescription period, had overlooked the ruling inRepublic v. Doldol, 21 where this Court declared
that Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, as amended and as it is presently phrased, requires that
possession of land of the public domain must be from 12 June 1945 or earlier, for the same to be acquired through judicial confirmation
of imperfect title.

Second, the application for registration suffers from fatal infirmity as the subject of the application consisted of two parcels of land
individually and separately owned by two applicants. Petitioner Republic contends that it is implicit in the provisions of Presidential Decree
No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, as amended, that the application for registration of title to land shall be
filed by a single applicant; multiple applicants may file a single application only in case they are co-owners. While an application may cover
two parcels of land, it is allowed only when the subject parcels of land belong to the same applicant or applicants (in case the subject
parcels of land are co-owned) and are situated within the same province. Where the authority of the courts to proceed is conferred by a
statute and when the manner of obtaining jurisdiction is mandatory, it must be strictly complied with or the proceedings will be utterly
void. Since the respondents failed to comply with the procedure for land registration under the Property Registration Decree, the
proceedings held before the MTC is void, as the latter did not acquire jurisdiction over it.

I
Jurisdiction
Addressing first the issue of jurisdiction, this Court finds that the MTC had no jurisdiction to proceed with and hear the application for
registration filed by the respondents but for reasons different from those presented by petitioner Republic.

A. The misjoinder of causes of action and parties does not affect the jurisdiction of the MTC to hear and proceed with respondents'
application for registration.
Respondents filed a single application for registration of the Subject Lots even though they were not co-owners. Respondents Jeremias and
David were actually seeking the individual and separate registration of Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively. CSEHcT

Petitioner Republic believes that the procedural irregularity committed by the respondents was fatal to their case, depriving the MTC of
jurisdiction to proceed with and hear their application for registration of the Subject Lots, based on this Court's pronouncement
in Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 22 to wit:

. . . In view of these multiple omissions which constitute non-compliance with the above-cited sections of the Act, We
rule that said defects have not invested the Court with the authority or jurisdiction to proceed with the case because
the manner or mode of obtaining jurisdiction as prescribed by the statute which is mandatory has not been strictly
followed, thereby rendering all proceedings utterly null and void.

This Court, however, disagrees with petitioner Republic in this regard. This procedural lapse committed by the respondents should not
affect the jurisdiction of the MTC to proceed with and hear their application for registration of the Subject Lots.

The Property Registration Decree 23 recognizes and expressly allows the following situations: (1) the filing of a single application by
several applicants for as long as they are co-owners of the parcel of land sought to be registered; 24 and (2) the filing of a single
application for registration of several parcels of land provided that the same are located within the same province. 25 The Property
Registration Decree is silent, however, as to the present situation wherein two applicants filed a single application for two parcels of land,
but are seeking the separate and individual registration of the parcels of land in their respective names.

Since the Property Registration Decree failed to provide for such a situation, then this Court refers to the Rules of Court to determine the
proper course of action. Section 34 of the Property Registration Decree itself provides that, "[t]he Rules of Court shall, insofar as not
inconsistent with the provisions of this Decree, be applicable to land registration and cadastral cases by analogy or in a suppletory
character and whenever practicable and convenient."

Considering every application for land registration filed in strict accordance with the Property Registration Decree as a single cause of
action, then the defect in the joint application for registration filed by the respondents with the MTC constitutes a misjoinder of causes of
action and parties. Instead of a single or joint application for registration, respondents Jeremias and David, more appropriately, should
have filed separate applications for registration of Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively.

Misjoinder of causes of action and parties do not involve a question of jurisdiction of the court to hear and proceed with the case. 26 They
are not even accepted grounds for dismissal thereof. 27 Instead, under the Rules of Court, the misjoinder of causes of action and parties
involve an implied admission of the court's jurisdiction. It acknowledges the power of the court, acting upon the motion of a party to the
case or on its own initiative, to order the severance of the misjoined cause of action, to be proceeded with separately (in case of
misjoinder of causes of action); and/or the dropping of a party and the severance of any claim against said misjoined party, also to be
proceeded with separately (in case of misjoinder of parties).

The misjoinder of causes of action and parties in the present Petition may have been corrected by the MTC motu propio or on motion of
the petitioner Republic. It is regrettable, however, that the MTC failed to detect the misjoinder when the application for registration was
still pending before it; and more regrettable that the petitioner Republic did not call the attention of the MTC to the fact by filing a motion
for severance of the causes of action and parties, raising the issue of misjoinder only before this Court.

B. Respondents, however, failed to comply with the publication requirements mandated by the Property Registration Decree, thus, the
MTC was not invested with jurisdiction as a land registration court.
Although the misjoinder of causes of action and parties in the present Petition did not affect the jurisdiction of the MTC over the land
registration proceeding, this Court, nonetheless, has discovered a defect in the publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing, which bars the
MTC from assuming jurisdiction to hear and proceed with respondents' application for registration. ASDTEa

A land registration case is a proceeding in rem, 28 and jurisdiction in rem cannot be acquired unless there be constructive seizure of the
land through publication and service of notice. 29

Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree requires that the public be given Notice of the Initial Hearing of the application for land
registration by means of (1) publication; (2) mailing; and (3) posting. Publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing shall be made in the
following manner:

1. By publication. —

Upon receipt of the order of the court setting the time for initial hearing, the Commissioner of Land Registration shall
cause a notice of initial hearing to be published once in the Official Gazette and once in a newspaper of general
circulation in the Philippines: Provided, however, that the publication in the Official Gazette shall be sufficient to
confer jurisdiction upon the court. Said notice shall be addressed to all persons appearing to have an interest in the
land involved including the adjoining owners so far as known, and "to all whom it may concern." Said notice shall also
require all persons concerned to appear in court at a certain date and time to show cause why the prayer of said
application shall not be granted. CEDHTa

Even as this Court concedes that the aforequoted Section 23(1) of the Property Registration Decree expressly provides that publication in
the Official Gazette shall be sufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the land registration court, it still affirms its declaration in Director of
Lands v. Court of Appeals 30 that publication in a newspaper of general circulation is mandatory for the land registration court to validly
confirm and register the title of the applicant or applicants. That Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree enumerated and described
in detail the requirements of publication, mailing, and posting of the Notice of Initial Hearing, then all such requirements, including
publication of the Notice in a newspaper of general circulation, is essential and imperative, and must be strictly complied with. In the
same case, this Court expounded on the reason behind the compulsory publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in a newspaper of
general circulation, thus —

It may be asked why publication in a newspaper of general circulation should be deemed mandatory when the law
already requires notice by publication in the Official Gazette as well as by mailing and posting, all of which have
already been complied with in the case at hand. The reason is due process and the reality that the Official Gazette is
not as widely read and circulated as newspaper and is oftentimes delayed in its circulation, such that the notices
published therein may not reach the interested parties on time, if at all. Additionally, such parties may not be owners
of neighboring properties, and may in fact not own any other real estate. In sum, the all encompassing in rem nature
of land registration cases, the consequences of default orders issued against the whole world and the objective of
disseminating the notice in as wide a manner as possible demand a mandatory construction of the requirements for
publication, mailing and posting. 31

In the instant Petition, the initial hearing was set by the MTC, and was in fact held, on 03 September 1999 at 8:30 a.m. While the Notice
thereof was printed in the issue of the Official Gazette, dated 02 August 1999, and officially released on 10 August 1999, it was published
in The Freeman Banat News, a daily newspaper printed in Cebu City and circulated in the province and cities of Cebu and in the rest of
Visayas and Mindanao, only on 19 December 1999, more than three months after the initial hearing.

Indubitably, such publication of the Notice, way after the date of the initial hearing, would already be worthless and ineffective. Whoever
read the Notice as it was published in The Freeman Banat News and had a claim to the Subject Lots was deprived of due process for it was
already too late for him to appear before the MTC on the day of the initial hearing to oppose respondents' application for registration, and
to present his claim and evidence in support of such claim. Worse, as the Notice itself states, should the claimant-oppositor fail to appear
before the MTC on the date of initial hearing, he would be in default and would forever be barred from contesting respondents'
application for registration and even the registration decree that may be issued pursuant thereto. In fact, the MTC did issue an Order of
Special Default on 03 September 1999.

The late publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in the newspaper of general circulation is tantamount to no publication at all, having
the same ultimate result. Owing to such defect in the publication of the Notice, the MTC failed to constructively seize the Subject Lots and
to acquire jurisdiction over respondents' application for registration thereof. Therefore, the MTC Judgment, dated 21 December 1999,
ordering the registration and confirmation of the title of respondents Jeremias and David over Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively; as
well as the MTC Order, dated 02 February 2000, declaring its Judgment of 21 December 1999 final and executory, and directing the LRA
Administrator to issue a decree of registration for the Subject Lots, are both null and void for having been issued by the MTC without
jurisdiction.

II
Period of Possession

Respondents failed to comply with the required period of possession of the Subject Lots for the judicial confirmation or legalization of
imperfect or incomplete title.
While this Court has already found that the MTC did not have jurisdiction to hear and proceed with respondents' application for
registration, this Court nevertheless deems it necessary to resolve the legal issue on the required period of possession for acquiring title
to public land. TAEDcS

Respondents' application filed with the MTC did not state the statutory basis for their title to the Subject Lots. They only alleged therein
that they obtained title to the Subject Lots by purchase from their parents, spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan, on 25 June
1976. Respondent Jeremias, in his testimony, claimed that his parents had been in possession of the Subject Lots in the concept of an
owner since 1950. 32

Yet, according to the DENR-CENRO Certification, submitted by respondents themselves, the Subject Lots are "within Alienable and
Disposable, Block I, Project No. 28 per LC Map No. 2545 of Consolacion, Cebu certified under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1063,
dated June 25, 1963. Likewise, it is outside Kotkot-Lusaran Mananga Watershed Forest Reservation per Presidential Proclamation No.
932 dated June 29, 1992." 33 The Subject Lots are thus clearly part of the public domain, classified as alienable and disposable as of 25
June 1963.

As already well-settled in jurisprudence, no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the
government; 34 and it is indispensable that the person claiming title to public land should show that his title was acquired from the State
or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. 35

The Public Land Act, as amended, governs lands of the public domain, except timber and mineral lands, friar lands, and privately-owned
lands which reverted to the State. 36 It explicitly enumerates the means by which public lands may be disposed, as follows:

(1) For homestead settlement;

(2) By sale;

(3) By lease;
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;

(a) By judicial legalization; or

(b) By administrative legalization (free patent). 37

Each mode of disposition is appropriately covered by separate chapters of the Public Land Act because there are specific
requirements and application procedure for every mode. 38 Since respondents herein filed their application before the MTC, 39 then
it can be reasonably inferred that they are seeking the judicial confirmation or legalization of their imperfect or incomplete title over
the Subject Lots.
Judicial confirmation or legalization of imperfect or incomplete title to land, not exceeding 144 hectares, 40 may be availed of by persons
identified under Section 48 of the Public Land Act, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, which reads —

Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

(a) [Repealed by Presidential Decree No. 1073].

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain,
under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately
preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war
or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
this chapter. TIAEac

(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the
public domain suitable to agriculture whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945 shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof.

Not being members of any national cultural minorities, respondents may only be entitled to judicial confirmation or legalization of their
imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. Section 48(b), as amended, now requires adverse
possession of the land since 12 June 1945 or earlier. In the present Petition, the Subject Lots became alienable and disposable only on 25
June 1963. Any period of possession prior to the date when the Subject Lots were classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential
and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession; such possession can never ripen into ownership and unless
the land had been classified as alienable and disposable, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title shall not apply thereto. 41 It is very
apparent then that respondents could not have complied with the period of possession required by Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as
amended, to acquire imperfect or incomplete title to the Subject Lots that may be judicially confirmed or legalized.

The confirmation of respondents' title by the Court of Appeals was based on the erroneous supposition that respondents were claiming
title to the Subject Lots under the Property Registration Decree. According to the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 22 November
2002, Section 14(4) of the Property Registration Decree allows individuals to own land in any other manner provided by law. It then ruled
that the respondents, having possessed the Subject Lots, by themselves and through their predecessors-in-interest, since 25 June 1963 to
23 September 1998, when they filed their application, have acquired title to the Subject Lots by extraordinary prescription under Article
1113, in relation to Article 1137, both of the Civil Code. 42

The Court of Appeals overlooked the difference between the Property Registration Decree and the Public Land Act. Under the Property
Registration Decree, there already exists a title which is confirmed by the court; while under the Public Land Act, the presumption always
is that the land applied for pertains to the State, and that the occupants and possessors only claim an interest in the same by virtue of
their imperfect title or continuous, open, and notorious possession.43 As established by this Court in the preceding paragraphs, the
Subject Lots respondents wish to register are undoubtedly alienable and disposable lands of the public domain and respondents may have
acquired title thereto only under the provisions of the Public Land Act.

However, it must be clarified herein that even though respondents may acquire imperfect or incomplete title to the Subject Lots under the
Public Land Act, their application for judicial confirmation or legalization thereof must be in accordance with the Property Registration
Decree, for Section 50 of the Public Land Actreads —

SEC. 50. Any person or persons, or their legal representatives or successors in right, claiming any lands or interest in
lands under the provisions of this chapter, must in every case present an application to the proper Court of First
Instance, praying that the validity of the alleged title or claim be inquired into and that a certificate of title be issued
to them under the provisions of the Land Registration Act. 44

Hence, respondents' application for registration of the Subject Lots must have complied with the substantial requirements under Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act and the procedural requirements under the Property Registration Decree.

Moreover, provisions of the Civil Code on prescription of ownership and other real rights apply in general to all types of land, while the
Public Land Actspecifically governs lands of the public domain. Relative to one another, the Public Land Act may be considered a special
law 45 that must take precedence over the Civil Code, a general law. It is an established rule of statutory construction that between a
general law and a special law, the special law prevails — Generalia specialibus non derogant. 46

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the instant Petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 67625,
dated 22 November 2002, is REVERSED. The Judgment of the MTC of Consolacion, Cebu in LRC Case No. N-75, dated 21 December 1999,
and its Order, dated 02 February 2000 are declared NULL AND VOID. Respondents' application for registration is DISMISSED. EAIcCS

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Austria-Martinez and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.

Tinga, J., is out of the country.

Footnotes
1.Penned by Associate Justice Mercedes Gozo-Dadole with Associate Justices B.A. Adefuin-De La Cruz and Mariano C. Del Castillo
concurring, Rollo, pp. 52-58.
2.Penned by Judge Wilfredo A. Dagatan, Records, pp. 100-108.
3.Records, pp. 1-6.
4.Ibid., pp. 7-8.
5.Ibid., pp. 9-10.
6.Ibid., pp. 11-12.
7.Ibid., pp. 13-14.
8.Ibid., pp. 15-18.
9.Ibid., pp. 19-20.
10.Ibid., p. 21.
11.Ibid., pp. 27-29.
12.Order, dated 29 April 1999, penned by Judge Wilfredo A. Dagatan, Ibid., p. 41.
13.Ibid., p. 59.
14.Ibid., p. 52.
15.Ibid., p. 58.
16.Ibid., pp. 96-97.
17.Penned by Judge Wilfredo A. Dagatan, Ibid., 62-65.
18.Penned by Judge Wilfredo A. Dagatan, Records, p. 109.
19.CA Rollo, pp. 20-38.
20.Supra, note 1, pp. 57-58.
21.G.R. No. 132963, 10 September 1998, 295 SCRA 359.
22.G.R. No. L-45168, 27 January 1981, 102 SCRA 370, 438, also quoted and/or reiterated in subsequent cases of Alabang Development
Corporation v. Valenzuela, G.R. No. L-54094, 30 August 1982, 116 SCRA 261, 271; Tahanan Development Corporation v.
Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-55771, 15 November 1982, 118 SCRA 273, 309; Register of Deeds of Malabon, G.R. No. 88623,
05 February 1990, 181 SCRA 788, 791; Allama v. Republic, G.R. No. 88226, 26 February 1992, 206 SCRA 600, 605.

23.Presidential Decree No. 1529.


24.Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree provides that, "Where the land is owned in common, all the co-owners shall file the
application jointly."
25.Section 18 of the Property Registration Decree reads —
SEC. 18. Application covering two or more parcels. — An application may include two or more parcels of land belonging to the
applicant/s provided they are situated within the same province or city. The court may at any time order an application to be
amended by striking out one or more of the parcels or by a severance of the application.
26.Katipunan v. Zandueta, 60 Phil 220 (1934).
27.Significant provisions of the Rules of Court are quoted below —
RULE 2, SEC. 6. Misjoinder of causes of action. — Misjoinder of causes of action is not a ground for dismissal of an action. A misjoined
cause of action may, on motion of a party or on the initiative of the court, be severed and proceeded with separately.
RULE 3, SEC. 11. Misjoinder and non-joinder of parties. — Neither misjoinder nor non-joinder of parties is ground for dismissal of
action. Parties may be dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or on its own initiative at any stage of
the action and on such terms as are just. Any claim against a misjoined party may be severed and proceeded with separately.
28.Section 2 of the Property Registration Decree.
29.Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113549, 05 July 1996, 258 SCRA 223, 236.
30.G.R. No. 102858, 28 July 1997, 276 SCRA 276.
31.Ibid., p. 286.
32.TSN, 24 September 1999, p. 28.
33.Records, pp. 15, 17.
34.Padilla v. Reyes, 60 Phil 967, 969 (1934).
35.Lee Hong Hok v. David, G.R. No. L-30389, 27 December 1972, 48 SCRA 372, 379.
36.Section 2.
37.Section 11.
38.Del Rosario-Igtiben v. Republic, G.R. No. 158449, 22 October 2004, p. 11.
39.Section 34 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended, allows the
inferior courts (i.e., Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts), duly assigned by the
Supreme Court, to hear and determine cadastral and land registration cases covering lots where there is no controversy or
opposition, or contested lots with values not exceeding P100,000. Decisions of the inferior courts in such cases shall be
appealable in the same manner as decisions of the Regional Trial Courts. Accordingly, the Supreme Court issued
Administrative Circular No. 6-93-A, dated 15 November 1995, authorizing the inferior courts to hear and decide the cadastral
or land registration cases as provided for by the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended.
40.Section 47 of the Public Land Act, as amended.
41.Almeda v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 85322, 30 April 1991, 196 SCRA 476; Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. L-
74957, 30 June 1987, 151 SCRA 679;Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-40402, 16 March 1987, 148 SCRA 480.
42.The complete text of these provisions are reproduced below, for reference —
ART. 1113. All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property of
the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.
ART. 1137. Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for
thirty years, without need of title or of good faith.
43.Aquino v. Director of Lands, 39 Phil 850, 858 (1919).
44.Now the provisions of the Property Registration Decree.
45.This Court is not unaware that there are decisions by this Court declaring the Public Land Act as a general law [Republic v. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 106673, 09 May 2001, 357 SCRA 608, 616; Oliva v. Lamadrid, 128 Phil 770, 775 (1967)]. These cases,
however, involve the Public Land Act in relation to statutes other than the Civil Code. The pronouncement made in the present
Petition is particular to the nature of the Public Land Act vis-à-vis the Civil Code.
46.Manila Railroad Co. v. Rafferty, 40 Phil 224 (1919).
||| (Republic v. Herbieto, G.R. No. 156117, [May 26, 2005], 498 PHIL 227-247)

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 179987. April 29, 2009.]

HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, petitioner, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

TINGA, J p:

One main reason why the informal sector has not become formal is that from Indonesia to Brazil, 90 percent of the
informal lands are not titled and registered. This is a generalized phenomenon in the so-called Third World. And it
has many consequences. STHDAc

xxx xxx xxx

The question is: How is it that so many governments, from Suharto's in Indonesia to Fujimori's in Peru, have wanted
to title these people and have not been able to do so effectively? One reason is that none of the state systems in Asia
or Latin America can gather proof of informal titles. In Peru, the informals have means of proving property ownership
to each other which are not the same means developed by the Spanish legal system. The informals have their own
papers, their own forms of agreements, and their own systems of registration, all of which are very clearly stated in
the maps which they use for their own informal business transactions.

If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru, and you walk by field after field — in each field a
different dog is going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only one who does not
know it is the government. The issue is that there exists a "common law" and an "informal law" which the Latin
American formal legal system does not know how to recognize.

Hernando De Soto 1
This decision inevitably affects all untitled lands currently in possession of persons and entities other than the Philippine government. The
petition, while unremarkable as to the facts, was accepted by the Court en banc in order to provide definitive clarity to the applicability
and scope of original registration proceedings under Sections 14 (1) and 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree. In doing so, the Court
confronts not only the relevant provisions of the Public Land Act and the Civil Code, but also the reality on the ground. The countrywide
phenomenon of untitled lands, as well as the problem of informal settlement it has spawned, has unfortunately been treated with benign
neglect. Yet our current laws are hemmed in by their own circumscriptions in addressing the phenomenon. Still, the duty on our part is
primarily to decide cases before us in accord with the Constitution and the legal principles that have developed ourpublic land law, though
our social obligations dissuade us from casting a blind eye on the endemic problems.

I.
On 20 February 1998, Mario Malabanan filed an application for land registration covering a parcel of land identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-
452-D, Silang Cadastre, 2situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang Cavite, and consisting of 71,324 square meters. Malabanan claimed that he
had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco,3 and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, notorious, and
continuous adverse and peaceful possession of the land for more than thirty (30) years. HaSEcA

The application was raffled to the Regional Trial Court of (RTC) Cavite-Tagaytay City, Branch 18. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)
duly designated the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Cavite, Jose Velazco, Jr., to appear on behalf of the State. 4 Apart from presenting
documentary evidence, Malabanan himself and his witness, Aristedes Velazco, testified at the hearing. Velazco testified that the property
was originally belonged * to a twenty-two hectare property owned by his great-grandfather, Lino Velazco. Lino had four sons — Benedicto,
Gregorio, Eduardo and Esteban — the fourth being Aristedes's grandfather. Upon Lino's death, his four sons inherited the property and
divided it among themselves. But by 1966, Esteban's wife, Magdalena, had become the administrator of all the properties inherited by the
Velazco sons from their father, Lino. After the death of Esteban and Magdalena, their son Virgilio succeeded them in administering the
properties, including Lot 9864-A, which originally belonged to his uncle, Eduardo Velazco. It was this property that was sold by Eduardo
Velazco to Malabanan. 5

Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jose Velazco, Jr. did not cross-examine Aristedes Velazco. He further manifested that he "also [knew] the
property and I affirm the truth of the testimony given by Mr. Velazco." 6 The Republic of the Philippines likewise did not present any
evidence to controvert the application.

Among the evidence presented by Malabanan during trial was a Certification dated 11 June 2001, issued by the Community Environment &
Natural Resources Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO-DENR), which stated that the subject property was
"verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established under Project No. 20-A and
approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982." 7

On 3 December 2002, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Malabanan, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the operation of Act
141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in Plan Csd-04-
0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324)
Square Meters, as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to
other proofs adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, and with residence
at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite. HcDaAI

Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.

SO ORDERED.

The Republic interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that the property belonged to the
alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC had erred in finding that he had been in possession of the property
in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect title.

On 23 February 2007, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision 8 reversing the RTC and dismissing the application of Malabanan. The
appellate court held that under Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree any period of possession prior to the classification of the
lots as alienable and disposable was inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession. Thus, the
appellate court noted that since the CENRO-DENR certification had verified that the property was declared alienable and disposable only on
15 March 1982, the Velazcos' possession prior to that date could not be factored in the computation of the period of possession. This
interpretation of the Court of Appeals of Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree was based on the Court's ruling in Republic v.
Herbieto. 9

Malabanan died while the case was pending with the Court of Appeals; 10 hence, it was his heirs who appealed the decision of the
appellate court. Petitioners, before this Court, rely on our ruling in Republic v. Naguit, 11 which was handed down just four months prior
to Herbieto. Petitioners suggest that the discussion in Herbieto cited by the Court of Appeals is actually obiter dictum since the
Metropolitan Trial Court therein which had directed the registration of the property had no jurisdiction in the first place since the requisite
notice of hearing was published only after the hearing had already begun. Naguit, petitioners argue, remains the controlling doctrine,
especially when the property in question is agricultural land. Therefore, with respect to agricultural lands, any possession prior to the
declaration of the alienable property as disposable may be counted in reckoning the period of possession to perfect title under the Public
Land Act and the Property Registration Decree.

The petition was referred to the Court en banc, 12 and on 11 November 2008, the case was heard on oral arguments. The Court
formulated the principal issues for the oral arguments, to wit: HICEca

1. In order that an alienable and disposable land of the public domain may be registered under Section 14(1)
of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, should the land be classified
as alienable and disposable as of June 12, 1945 or is it sufficient that such classification occur at any time prior to
the filing of the applicant for registration provided that it is established that the applicant has been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945
or earlier?

2. For purposes of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree may a parcel of land classified as alienable and
disposable be deemed private land and therefore susceptible to acquisition by prescription in accordance with the
Civil Code?

3. May a parcel of land established as agricultural in character either because of its use or because its slope is below
that of forest lands be registrable under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to the provisions
of the Civil Code on acquisitive prescription?

4. Are petitioners entitled to the registration of the subject land in their names under Section 14(1) or Section 14(2)
of the Property Registration Decree or both? 13

Based on these issues, the parties formulated their respective positions.

With respect to Section 14 (1), petitioners reiterate that the analysis of the Court in Naguit is the correct interpretation of the provision.
The seemingly contradictory pronouncement in Herbieto, it is submitted, should be considered obiter dictum, since the land registration
proceedings therein was void ab initiodue to lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing. Petitioners further point out that
in Republic v. Bibonia, 14 promulgated in June of 2007, the Court applied Naguit and adopted the same observation that the preferred
interpretation by the OSG of Section 14 (1) was patently absurd. For its part, the OSG remains insistent that for Section 14 (1) to apply, the
land should have been classified as alienable and disposable as of 12 June 1945. Apart from Herbieto, the OSG also cites the subsequent
rulings in Buenaventura v. Republic, 15 Fieldman Agricultural Trading v. Republic 16 and Republic v. Imperial Credit Corporation, 17as
well as the earlier case of Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals. 18 ACTEHI
With respect to Section 14 (2), petitioners submit that open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of an alienable land of the
public domain for more than 30 years ipso jure converts the land into private property, thus placing it under the coverage of Section 14
(2). According to them, it would not matter whether the land sought to be registered was previously classified as agricultural land of the
public domain so long as, at the time of the application, the property had already been "converted" into private property through
prescription. To bolster their argument, petitioners cite extensively from our 2008 ruling inRepublic v. T.A.N. Properties. 19

The arguments submitted by the OSG with respect to Section 14 (2) are more extensive. The OSG notes that under Article 1113 of the Civil
Code, the acquisitive prescription of properties of the State refers to "patrimonial property", while Section 14 (2) speaks of "private lands".
It observes that the Court has yet to decide a case that presented Section 14 (2) as a ground for application for registration, and that the
30-year possession period refers to the period of possession under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, and not the concept of
prescription under the Civil Code. The OSG further submits that, assuming that the 30-year prescriptive period can run against public
lands, said period should be reckoned from the time the public land was declared alienable and disposable.

Both sides likewise offer special arguments with respect to the particular factual circumstances surrounding the subject property and the
ownership thereof.

II.
First, we discuss Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree. For a full understanding of the provision, reference has to be made
to the Public Land Act. HSEIAT

A.
Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, has, since its enactment, governed the classification and disposition of
lands of the public domain. The President is authorized, from time to time, to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable and
disposable, timber, or mineral lands. 20Alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are further classified according to their uses
into (a) agricultural; (b) residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; (c) educational, charitable, or other similar
purposes; or (d) reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses. 21

May a private person validly seek the registration in his/her name of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain? Section 11
of the Public Land Actacknowledges that public lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of "by confirmation of imperfect
or incomplete titles" through "judicial legalization". 22 Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073, supplies the
details and unmistakably grants that right, subject to the requisites stated therein:

Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own
any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court
of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim
of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the
provisions of this chapter. DEHcTI

Section 48 (b) of Com. Act No. 141 received its present wording in 1977 when the law was amended by P.D. No. 1073. Two significant
amendments were introduced by P.D. No. 1073. First, the term "agricultural lands" was changed to "alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain". The OSG submits that this amendment restricted the scope of the lands that may be registered. 23 This is not actually the
case. Under Section 9 of the Public Land Act, "agricultural lands" are a mere subset of "lands of the public domain alienable or open to
disposition." Evidently, alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are a larger class than only "agricultural lands".

Second, the length of the requisite possession was changed from possession for "thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of the
application" to possession "since June 12, 1945 or earlier". The Court in Naguit explained:

When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest the right
to register their title to agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894. However, this period
was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least
thirty (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073,
which pegged the reckoning date at June 12, 1945. . . .

It bears further observation that Section 48 (b) of Com. Act No, 141 is virtually the same as Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration
Decree. Said Decree codified the various laws relative to the registration of property, including lands of the public domain. It is Section 14
(1) that operationalizes the registration of such lands of the public domain. The provision reads:

SEC. 14. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. SDTIaE

Notwithstanding the passage of the Property Registration Decree and the inclusion of Section 14 (1) therein, the Public Land Act has
remained in effect. Both laws commonly refer to persons or their predecessors-in-interest who "have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945, or earlier." That circumstance may have led to the impression that one or the other is a redundancy, or that Section
48 (b) of the Public Land Act has somehow been repealed or mooted. That is not the case.

The opening clauses of Section 48 of the Public Land Act and Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree warrant comparison:

Sec. 48 [of the Public Land Act]. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public
domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

Sec. 14 [of the Property Registration Decree]. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper Court of
First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
representatives:

xxx xxx xxx

It is clear that Section 48 of the Public Land Act is more descriptive of the nature of the right enjoyed by the possessor than Section 14 of
the Property Registration Decree, which seems to presume the pre-existence of the right, rather than establishing the right itself for the
first time. It is proper to assert that it is the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073 effective 25 January 1977, that has primarily
established the right of a Filipino citizen who has been "in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945" to perfect
or complete his title by applying with the proper court for the confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of the corresponding
certificate of title. DCSETa

Section 48 can be viewed in conjunction with the afore-quoted Section 11 of the Public Land Act, which provides that public lands suitable
for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and given the notion that both provisions
declare that it is indeed the Public Land Act that primarily establishes the substantive ownership of the possessor who has been in
possession of the property since 12 June 1945. In turn, Section 14 (a) of the Property Registration Decree recognizes the substantive right
granted under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as well provides the corresponding original registration procedure for the judicial
confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete title.

There is another limitation to the right granted under Section 48 (b). Section 47 of the Public Land Act limits the period within which one
may exercise the right to seek registration under Section 48. The provision has been amended several times, most recently by Rep. Act
No. 9176 in 2002. It currently reads thus:

Section 47. The persons specified in the next following section are hereby granted time, not to extend beyond
December 31, 2020 within which to avail of the benefits of this Chapter: Provided, That this period shall apply only
where the area applied for does not exceed twelve (12) hectares: Provided, further, That the several periods of time
designated by the President in accordance with Section Forty-Five of this Act shall apply also to the lands comprised
in the provisions of this Chapter, but this Section shall not be construed as prohibiting any said persons from acting
under this Chapter at any time prior to the period fixed by the President. 24

Accordingly under the current state of the law, the substantive right granted under Section 48 (b) may be availed of only until 31
December 2020.

B.
Despite the clear text of Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as amended and Section 14 (a) of the Property Registration Decree, the OSG
has adopted the position that for one to acquire the right to seek registration of an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, it
is not enough that the applicant and his/her predecessors-in-interest be in possession under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June
1945; the alienable and disposable character of the property must have been declared also as of 12 June 1945. Following the OSG's
approach, all lands certified as alienable and disposable after 12 June 1945 cannot be registered either under Section 14 (1) of
the Property Registration Decree or Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act as amended. The absurdity of such an implication was discussed
in Naguit. EcTDCI

Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been
established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). "Since June
12, 1945", as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bonafide claim of ownership". Generally
speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately associated,
and not those distantly or remotely located. 25 Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia.

Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner's position. Absent a legislative
amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSG's view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared
alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length
of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually
inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural
lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that
before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not yet even considered an independent state.

Accordingly, the Court in Naguit explained:

[T]he more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered
as already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time
the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the
presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its
ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property
has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the
part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property. EIcSTD

The Court declares that the correct interpretation of Section 14 (1) is that which was adopted in Naguit. The contrary pronouncement
in Herbieto, as pointed out in Naguit, absurdly limits the application of the provision to the point of virtual inutility since it would only
cover lands actually declared alienable and disposable prior to 12 June 1945, even if the current possessor is able to establish open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession under a bona fide claim of ownership long before that date.

Moreover, the Naguit interpretation allows more possessors under a bona fide claim of ownership to avail of judicial confirmation of their
imperfect titles than what would be feasible under Herbieto. This balancing fact is significant, especially considering our forthcoming
discussion on the scope and reach of Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree.

Petitioners make the salient observation that the contradictory passages from Herbieto are obiter dicta since the land registration
proceedings therein is void ab initio in the first place due to lack of the requisite publication of the notice of initial hearing. There is no
need to explicitly overturn Herbieto, as it suffices that the Court's acknowledgment that the particular line of argument used therein
concerning Section 14 (1) is indeed obiter.

It may be noted that in the subsequent case of Buenaventura, 26 the Court, citing Herbieto, again stated that "[a]ny period of possession
prior to the date when the [s]ubject [property was] classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential and should be excluded from
the computation of the period of possession. . ." That statement, in the context of Section 14 (1), is certainly erroneous. Nonetheless, the
passage as cited in Buenaventura should again be considered asobiter. The application therein was ultimately granted, citing Section 14
(2). The evidence submitted by petitioners therein did not establish any mode of possession on their part prior to 1948, thereby
precluding the application of Section 14 (1). It is not even apparent from the decision whether petitioners therein had claimed entitlement
to original registration following Section 14 (1), their position being that they had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of
ownership for over fifty (50) years, but not before 12 June 1945. aCHDST

Thus, neither Herbieto nor its principal discipular ruling Buenaventura has any precedental value with respect to Section 14 (1). On the
other hand, the ratio ofNaguit is embedded in Section 14 (1), since it precisely involved situation wherein the applicant had been in
exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of ownership prior to 12 June 1945. The Court's interpretation of Section 14 (1) therein was
decisive to the resolution of the case. Any doubt as to which betweenNaguit or Herbieto provides the final word of the Court on Section 14
(1) is now settled in favor of Naguit.

We noted in Naguit that it should be distinguished from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals 27 since in the latter, the application for
registration had been filed beforethe land was declared alienable or disposable. The dissent though pronounces Bracewell as the better
rule between the two. Yet two years after Bracewell, itsponente, the esteemed Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, penned the ruling
in Republic v. Ceniza, 28 which involved a claim of possession that extended back to 1927 over a public domain land that was declared
alienable and disposable only in 1980. Ceniza cited Bracewell, quoted extensively from it, and following the mindset of the dissent, the
attempt at registration in Ceniza should have failed. Not so.

To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an 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.
In this case, private respondents presented a certification dated November 25, 1994, issued by Eduardo M. Inting, the
Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Office in Cebu City, stating that the lots involved were "found to be within the alienable and disposable (sic) Block-I,
Land Classification Project No. 32-A, per map 2962 4-I555 dated December 9, 1980". This is sufficient evidence to
show the real character of the land subject of private respondents' application. Further, the certification enjoys a
presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory evidence, which is true in this case. Worth noting also was
the observation of the Court of Appeals stating that:

[n]o opposition was filed by the Bureaus of Lands and Forestry to contest the application of appellees on the
ground that the property still forms part of the public domain. Nor is there any showing that the lots in
question are forestal land. . . . IDASHa

Thus, while the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that mere possession of public land for the period required by law
would entitle its occupant to a confirmation of imperfect title, it did not err in ruling in favor of private respondents
as far as the first requirement in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is concerned, for they were able to overcome the
burden of proving the alienability of the land subject of their application.

As correctly found by the Court of Appeals, private respondents were able to prove their open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession of the subject land even before the year 1927. As a rule, we are bound by the factual
findings of the Court of Appeals. Although there are exceptions, petitioner did not show that this is one of them. 29

Why did the Court in Ceniza, through the same eminent member who authored Bracewell, sanction the registration under Section 48 (b) of
public domain lands declared alienable or disposable thirty-five (35) years and 180 days after 12 June 1945? The telling difference is that
in Ceniza, the application for registration was filed nearly six (6) years after the land had been declared alienable or disposable, while
in Bracewell, the application was filed nine (9) years before the land was declared alienable or disposable. That crucial difference was
also stressed in Naguit to contradistinguish it from Bracewell, a difference which the dissent seeks to belittle.

III.
We next ascertain the correct framework of analysis with respect to Section 14 (2). The provision reads:

SEC. 14. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

xxx xxx xxx

(2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing
laws.

The Court in Naguit offered the following discussion concerning Section 14 (2), which we did even then recognize, and still do, to be
an obiter dictum, but we nonetheless refer to it as material for further discussion, thus:

Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for
registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It
did not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the application
of "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws." DEcSaI

Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. [ 30 ] There is a consistent
jurisprudential rule that properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by
reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years. [ 31 ] With such conversion, such
property may now fall within the contemplation of "private lands" under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to
registration by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the alienable
public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such possession being been open, continuous and
exclusive, then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2) of the Property
Registration Decree.

Naguit did not involve the application of Section 14 (2), unlike in this case where petitioners have based their registration bid primarily on
that provision, and where the evidence definitively establishes their claim of possession only as far back as 1948. It is in this case that we
can properly appreciate the nuances of the provision.

A.
The obiter in Naguit cited the Civil Code provisions on prescription as the possible basis for application for original registration under
Section 14 (2). Specifically, it is Article 1113 which provides legal foundation for the application. It reads:

All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property
of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

It is clear under the Civil Code that where lands of the public domain are patrimonial in character, they are susceptible to acquisitive
prescription. On the other hand, among the public domain lands that are not susceptible to acquisitive prescription are timber lands and
mineral lands. The Constitution itself proscribes private ownership of timber or mineral lands. caTESD

There are in fact several provisions in the Civil Code concerning the acquisition of real property through prescription. Ownership of real
property may be acquired by ordinary prescription of ten (10) years, 32 or through extraordinary prescription of thirty (30)
years. 33 Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession in good faith, 34 as well as just title. 35

When Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree explicitly provides that persons "who have acquired ownership over private lands
by prescription under the provisions of existing laws", it unmistakably refers to the Civil Code as a valid basis for the registration of lands.
The Civil Code is the only existing law that specifically allows the acquisition by prescription of private lands, including patrimonial
property belonging to the State. Thus, the critical question that needs affirmation is whether Section 14 (2) does encompass original
registration proceedings over patrimonial property of the State, which a private person has acquired through prescription.

The Naguit obiter had adverted to a frequently reiterated jurisprudence holding that properties classified as alienable public land may be
converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years. 36 Yet if we ascertain
the source of the "thirty-year" period, additional complexities relating to Section 14 (2) and to how exactly it operates would emerge.
For there are in fact two distinct origins of the thirty (30)-year rule.

The first source is Rep. Act No. 1942, enacted in 1957, which amended Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act by granting the right to seek
original registration of alienable public lands through possession in the concept of an owner for at least thirty years.

The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such
lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of
title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: TDCaSE

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the
provisions of this Chapter. (emphasis supplied) 37

This provision was repealed in 1977 with the enactment of P.D. 1073, which made the date 12 June 1945 the reckoning point for the first
time. Nonetheless, applications for registration filed prior to 1977 could have invoked the 30-year rule introduced by Rep. Act No. 1942.

The second source is Section 14 (2) of P.D. 1529 itself, at least by implication, as it applies the rules on prescription under the Civil Code,
particularly Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137. Note that there are two kinds of prescription under the Civil Code — ordinary
acquisitive prescription and extraordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1137, is completed "through uninterrupted
adverse possession. . . for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith".

Obviously, the first source of the thirty (30)-year period rule, Rep. Act No. 1942, became unavailable after 1977. At present, the only legal
basis for the thirty (30)-year period is the law on prescription under the Civil Code, as mandated under Section 14 (2). However, there is a
material difference between how the thirty (30)-year rule operated under Rep. Act No. 1942 and how it did under the Civil Code.

Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, did not refer to or call into application the Civil Code provisions
on prescription. It merely set forth a requisite thirty-year possession period immediately preceding the application for confirmation of
title, without any qualification as to whether the property should be declared alienable at the beginning of, and continue as such,
throughout the entire thirty (30) years. There is neither statutory nor jurisprudential basis to assert Rep. Act No. 1942 had mandated such
a requirement, 38 similar to our earlier finding with respect to the present language of Section 48 (b), which now sets 12 June 1945 as the
point of reference.

Then, with the repeal of Rep. Act No. 1942, the thirty-year possession period as basis for original registration became Section 14 (2) of
the Property Registration Decree, which entitled those "who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the
provisions of existing laws" to apply for original registration. Again, the thirty-year period is derived from the rule on extraordinary
prescription under Article 1137 of the Civil Code. At the same time, Section 14 (2) puts into operation the entire regime of prescription
under the Civil Code, a fact which does not hold true with respect to Section 14 (1).

B.
Unlike Section 14 (1), Section 14 (2) explicitly refers to the principles on prescription under existing laws. Accordingly, we are impelled to
apply the civil law concept of prescription, as set forth in the Civil Code, in our interpretation of Section 14 (2). There is no similar demand
on our part in the case of Section 14 (1).DSHTaC

The critical qualification under Article 1113 of the Civil Code is thus: "[p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in
character shall not be the object of prescription". The identification what consists of patrimonial property is provided by Articles 420 and
421, which we quote in full:

Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:

(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State,
banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;

(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the
development of the national wealth.

Art. 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is patrimonial
property.

It is clear that property of public dominion, which generally includes property belonging to the State, cannot be the object of prescription
or, indeed, be subject of the commerce of man. 39 Lands of the public domain, whether declared alienable and disposable or not, are
property of public dominion and thus insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.

Let us now explore the effects under the Civil Code of a declaration by the President or any duly authorized government officer of
alienability and disposability of lands of the public domain. Would such lands so declared alienable and disposable be converted, under
the Civil Code, from property of the public dominion into patrimonial property? After all, by connotative definition, alienable and
disposable lands may be the object of the commerce of man; Article 1113 provides that all things within the commerce of man are
susceptible to prescription; and the same provision further provides that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by
prescription. IEcDCa

Nonetheless, Article 422 of the Civil Code states that "[p]roperty of public dominion, when no longer intended for public use or for public
service, shall form part of the patrimonial property of the State". It is this provision that controls how public dominion property may be
converted into patrimonial property susceptible to acquisition by prescription. After all, Article 420 (2) makes clear that those property
"which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national
wealth" are public dominion property. For as long as the property belongs to the State, although already classified as alienable or
disposable, it remains property of the public dominion if when * it is "intended for some public service or for the development of the
national wealth".

Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer intended for public
service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Without such express
declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public dominion, pursuant to
Article 420 (2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable and disposable lands are expressly
declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth that the period of
acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential
Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law.

It is comprehensible with ease that this reading of Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree limits its scope and reach and thus
affects the registrability even of lands already declared alienable and disposable to the detriment of the bona fide possessors or occupants
claiming title to the lands. Yet this interpretation is in accord with the Regalian doctrine and its concomitant assumption that all lands
owned by the State, although declared alienable or disposable, remain as such and ought to be used only by the Government.

Recourse does not lie with this Court in the matter. The duty of the Court is to apply the Constitution and the laws in accordance with
their language and intent. The remedy is to change the law, which is the province of the legislative branch. Congress can very well be
entreated to amend Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree and pertinent provisions of the Civil Code to liberalize the
requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. aATEDS

The operation of the foregoing interpretation can be illustrated by an actual example. Republic Act No. 7227, entitled "An Act Accelerating
The Conversion Of Military Reservations Into Other Productive Uses, etc.", is more commonly known as the BCDA law. Section 2 of the law
authorizes the sale of certain military reservations and portions of military camps in Metro Manila, including Fort Bonifacio and Villamor
Air Base. For purposes of effecting the sale of the military camps, the law mandates the President to transfer such military lands to the
Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) 40 which in turn is authorized to own, hold and/or administer them. 41 The President is
authorized to sell portions of the military camps, in whole or in part. 42 Accordingly, the BCDA law itself declares that the military lands
subject thereof are "alienable and disposable pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and regulations governing sales of government
properties." 43

From the moment the BCDA law was enacted the subject military lands have become alienable and disposable. However, said lands did not
become patrimonial, as the BCDA law itself expressly makes the reservation that these lands are to be sold in order to raise funds for the
conversion of the former American bases at Clark and Subic. 44 Such purpose can be tied to either "public service" or "the development of
national wealth" under Article 420 (2). Thus, at that time, the lands remained property of the public dominion under Article 420 (2),
notwithstanding their status as alienable and disposable. It is upon their sale as authorized under the BCDA law to a private person or
entity that such lands become private property and cease to be property of the public dominion.

C.
Should public domain lands become patrimonial because they are declared as such in a duly enacted law or duly promulgated
proclamation that they are no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, would the period of
possession prior to the conversion of such public dominion into patrimonial be reckoned in counting the prescriptive period in favor of
the possessors? We rule in the negative.

The limitation imposed by Article 1113 dissuades us from ruling that the period of possession before the public domain land becomes
patrimonial may be counted for the purpose of completing the prescriptive period. Possession of public dominion property before it
becomes patrimonial cannot be the object of prescription according to the Civil Code. As the application for registration under Section 14
(2) falls wholly within the framework of prescription under the Civil Code, there is no way that possession during the time that the land
was still classified as public dominion property can be counted to meet the requisites of acquisitive prescription and justify
registration. EHTSCD

Are we being inconsistent in applying divergent rules for Section 14 (1) and Section 14 (2)? There is no inconsistency. Section 14 (1)
mandates registration on the basis of possession, while Section 14 (2) entitles registration on the basis of prescription.
Registration under Section 14 (1) is extended under the aegis of the Property Registration Decree and the Public Land Act while
registration under Section 14 (2) is made available both by the Property Registration Decree and the Civil Code.

In the same manner, we can distinguish between the thirty-year period under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep.
Act No. 1472, and the thirty-year period available through Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to Article 1137 of
the Civil Code. The period under the former speaks of a thirty-year period of possession, while the period under the latter concerns
a thirty-year period of extraordinary prescription. Registration under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act as amended by Rep. Act
No. 1472 is based on thirty years of possession alone without regard to the Civil Code, while the registration under Section 14 (2)
of the Property Registration Decree is founded on extraordinary prescription under the Civil Code.

It may be asked why the principles of prescription under the Civil Code should not apply as well to Section 14 (1). Notwithstanding the
vaunted status of the Civil Code, it ultimately is just one of numerous statutes, neither superior nor inferior to other statutes such as
the Property Registration Decree. The legislative branch is not bound to adhere to the framework set forth by the Civil Code when it enacts
subsequent legislation. Section 14 (2) manifests a clear intent to interrelate the registration allowed under that provision with the Civil
Code, but no such intent exists with respect to Section 14 (1).

IV.
One of the keys to understanding the framework we set forth today is seeing how our land registration procedures correlate with our law
on prescription, which, under the Civil Code, is one of the modes for acquiring ownership over property.

The Civil Code makes it clear that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by private persons through prescription. This is
brought about by Article 1113, which states that "[a]ll things which are within the commerce of man are susceptible to prescription", and
that [p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription".

There are two modes of prescription through which immovables may be acquired under the Civil Code. The first is ordinary acquisitive
prescription, which, under Article 1117, requires possession in good faith and with just title; and, under Article 1134, is completed
through possession of ten (10) years. There is nothing in the Civil Code that bars a person from acquiring patrimonial property of the
State through ordinary acquisitive prescription, nor is there any apparent reason to impose such a rule. At the same time, there are
indispensable requisites — good faith and just title. The ascertainment of good faith involves the application of Articles 526, 527, and
528, as well as Article 1127 of the Civil Code, 45 provisions that more or less speak for themselves.

On the other hand, the concept of just title requires some clarification. Under Article 1129, there is just title for the purposes of
prescription "when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the
acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right". Dr. Tolentino
explains: ITCcAD

Just title is an act which has for its purpose the transmission of ownership, and which would have actually transferred
ownership if the grantor had been the owner. This vice or defect is the one cured by prescription. Examples: sale with
delivery, exchange, donation, succession, and dacion in payment. 46

The OSG submits that the requirement of just title necessarily precludes the applicability of ordinary acquisitive prescription to
patrimonial property. The major premise for the argument is that "the State, as the owner and grantor, could not transmit ownership to
the possessor before the completion of the required period of possession". 47 It is evident that the OSG erred when it assumed that the
grantor referred to in Article 1129 is the State. The grantor is the one from whom the person invoking ordinary acquisitive prescription
derived the title, whether by sale, exchange, donation, succession or any other mode of the acquisition of ownership or other real
rights. SIEHcA

Earlier, we made it clear that, whether under ordinary prescription or extraordinary prescription, the period of possession preceding the
classification of public dominion lands as patrimonial cannot be counted for the purpose of computing prescription. But after the property
has been become patrimonial, the period of prescription begins to run in favor of the possessor. Once the requisite period has been
completed, two legal events ensue: (1) the patrimonial property is ipso jure converted into private land; and (2) the person in possession
for the periods prescribed under the Civil Code acquires ownership of the property by operation of the Civil Code.

It is evident that once the possessor automatically becomes the owner of the converted patrimonial property, the ideal next step is the
registration of the property under the Torrens system. It should be remembered that registration of property is not a mode of acquisition
of ownership, but merely a mode of confirmation of ownership. 48

Looking back at the registration regime prior to the adoption of the Property Registration Decree in 1977, it is apparent that the
registration system then did not fully accommodate the acquisition of ownership of patrimonial property under the Civil Code. What the
system accommodated was the confirmation of imperfect title brought about by the completion of a period of possession ordained
under the Public Land Act (either 30 years following Rep. Act No. 1942, or since 12 June 1945 following P.D. No. 1073).

The Land Registration Act 49 was noticeably silent on the requisites for alienable public lands acquired through ordinary prescription
under the Civil Code, though it arguably did not preclude such registration. 50 Still, the gap was lamentable, considering that the Civil
Code, by itself, establishes ownership over the patrimonial property of persons who have completed the prescriptive periods ordained
therein. The gap was finally closed with the adoption of the Property Registration Decree in 1977, with Section 14 (2) thereof expressly
authorizing original registration in favor of persons who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions
of existing laws, that is, the Civil Code as of now. AcDaEH

V.
We synthesize the doctrines laid down in this case, as follows:

(1) In connection with Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree, Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and confirms
that "those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership,
since June 12, 1945" have acquired ownership of, and registrable title to, such lands based on the length and quality of their possession.
(a) Since Section 48 (b) merely requires possession since 12 June 1945 and does not require that the lands should
have been alienable and disposable during the entire period of possession, the possessor is entitled to
secure judicial confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared alienable and disposable, subject to
the timeframe imposed by Section 47 of the Public Land Act. 51

(b) The right to register granted under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14 (1) of
the Property Registration Decree.

(2) In complying with Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider that under the Civil Code, prescription is recognized as a
mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial property. However, public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only with a
declaration that these are alienable or disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the property is already
patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth, under Article 422 of the Civil Code. And only
when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run.

(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the government. The person acquires ownership of patrimonial
property by prescription under the Civil Code is entitled to secure registration thereof under Section 14 (2)
of the Property Registration Decree.

(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which patrimonial property may be acquired, one ordinary and other
extraordinary. Under ordinary acquisitive prescription, a person acquires ownership of a patrimonial
property through possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with just title. Under extraordinary
acquisitive prescription, a person's uninterrupted adverse possession of patrimonial property for at least
thirty (30) years, regardless of good faith or just title, ripens into ownership.

B.
We now apply the above-stated doctrines to the case at bar.

It is clear that the evidence of petitioners is insufficient to establish that Malabanan has acquired ownership over the subject property
under Section 48 (b) ofthe Public Land Act. There is no substantive evidence to establish that Malabanan or petitioners as his
predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945 or earlier. The earliest that petitioners can date back
their possession, according to their own evidence — the Tax Declarations they presented in particular — is to the year 1948. Thus, they
cannot avail themselves of registration under Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree. EaCDAT

Neither can petitioners properly invoke Section 14 (2) as basis for registration. While the subject property was declared as alienable or
disposable in 1982, there is no competent evidence that is no longer intended for public use service or for the development of the
national evidence, conformably with Article 422 of the Civil Code. The classification of the subject property as alienable and disposable
land of the public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion under Article 420 (2) of the Civil Code. Thus, it is
insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.

VI.
A final word. The Court is comfortable with the correctness of the legal doctrines established in this decision. Nonetheless, discomfiture
over the implications of today's ruling cannot be discounted. For, every untitled property that is occupied in the country will be affected by
this ruling. The social implications cannot be dismissed lightly, and the Court would be abdicating its social responsibility to the Filipino
people if we simply levied the law without comment.

The informal settlement of public lands, whether declared alienable or not, is a phenomenon tied to long-standing habit and cultural
acquiescence, and is common among the so-called "Third World" countries. This paradigm powerfully evokes the disconnect between a
legal system and the reality on the ground. The law so far has been unable to bridge that gap. Alternative means of acquisition of these
public domain lands, such as through homestead or free patent, have proven unattractive due to limitations imposed on the grantee in the
encumbrance or alienation of said properties. 52 Judicial confirmation of imperfect title has emerged as the most viable, if not the most
attractive means to regularize the informal settlement of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, yet even that system, as
revealed in this decision, has considerable limits.

There are millions upon millions of Filipinos who have individually or exclusively held residential lands on which they have lived and raised
their families. Many more have tilled and made productive idle lands of the State with their hands. They have been regarded for generation
by their families and their communities as common law owners. There is much to be said about the virtues of according them legitimate
states. Yet such virtues are not for the Court to translate into positive law, as the law itself considered such lands as property of the public
dominion. It could only be up to Congress to set forth a new phase of land reform to sensibly regularize and formalize the settlement of
such lands which in legal theory are lands of the public domain before the problem becomes insoluble. This could be accomplished, to
cite two examples, by liberalizing the standards for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, or amending the Civil Code itself to ease the
requisites for the conversion of public dominion property into patrimonial.

One's sense of security over land rights infuses into every aspect of well-being not only of that individual, but also to the person's family.
Once that sense of security is deprived, life and livelihood are put on stasis. It is for the political branches to bring welcome closure to the
long pestering problem. caHIAS

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 23 February 2007 and Resolution dated 2 October 2007
are AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio Morales, Velasco, Jr., Nachura, Peralta and Bersamin, JJ., concur.
Puno, C.J., joins J. Nazario.
Quisumbing, J., is on official business.
Corona, J., joins the dissent of Mr. Justice Brion.
Chico-Nazario, J., Pls. see Concurring & Dissenting Opinion.
Leonardo-de Castro, J., joins the concurring and dissenting opinion of Justice Nazario.
Brion, J., dissents — see Opinion.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 179987. September 3, 2013.]

HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN (Represented by Sally A. Malabanan), petitioners, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondent.

RESOLUTION

BERSAMIN, J p:

For our consideration and resolution are the motions for reconsideration of the parties who both assail the decision promulgated on April
29, 2009, whereby we upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) denying the application of the petitioners for the registration of a
parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite on the ground that they had not established by sufficient evidence their right to
the registration in accordance with either Section 14 (1) or Section 14 (2) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration
Decree). SIcEHC

Antecedents
The property subject of the application for registration is a parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite, more particularly
identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, with an area of 71,324-square meters. On February 20, 1998, applicant Mario Malabanan, who had
purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco, filed an application for land registration covering the property in the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) in Tagaytay City, Cavite, claiming that the property formed part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that
he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, public and adverse possession and occupation of the
land for more than 30 years, thereby entitling him to the judicial confirmation of his title. 1

To prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, Malabanan presented during trial a certification
dated June 11, 2001 issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR), which reads:

This is to certify that the parcel of land designated as Lot No. 9864 Cad 452-D, Silang Cadastre as surveyed for Mr.
Virgilio Velasco located at Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite containing an area of 249,734 sq. meters as shown and
described on the Plan Ap-04-00952 is verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification
Map No. 3013 established under Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982. 2

After trial, on December 3, 2002, the RTC rendered judgment granting Malabanan's application for land registration, disposing thusly:

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the operation of Act
141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in Plan Csd-04-
0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324)
Square Meters, as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to
other proofs adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, and with residence
at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite. aDACcH

Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.

SO ORDERED. 3

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the judgment to the CA, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that the property
belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC erred in finding that he had been in possession of
the property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect title.

On February 23, 2007, the CA promulgated its decision reversing the RTC and dismissing the application for registration of Malabanan.
Citing the ruling inRepublic v. Herbieto (Herbieto), 4 the CA declared that under Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree, any
period of possession prior to the classification of the land as alienable and disposable was inconsequential and should be excluded from
the computation of the period of possession. Noting that the CENRO-DENR certification stated that the property had been declared
alienable and disposable only on March 15, 1982, Velazco's possession prior to March 15, 1982 could not be tacked for purposes of
computing Malabanan's period of possession.

Due to Malabanan's intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, his heirs elevated the CA's decision of February 23, 2007 to this
Court through a petition for review on certiorari.

The petitioners assert that the ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals and Corazon Naguit 5 (Naguit) remains the controlling doctrine
especially if the property involved is agricultural land. In this regard, Naguit ruled that any possession of agricultural land prior to its
declaration as alienable and disposable could be counted in the reckoning of the period of possession to perfect title under the Public
Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141) and the Property Registration Decree. They point out that the ruling in Herbieto, to the effect that
the declaration of the land subject of the application for registration as alienable and disposable should also date back to June 12, 1945
or earlier, was a mere obiter dictum considering that the land registration proceedings therein were in fact found and declared void ab
initio for lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing. AacCIT

The petitioners also rely on the ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc. 6 to support their argument that the property had been ipso
jure converted into private property by reason of the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession by their predecessors-in-
interest of an alienable land of the public domain for more than 30 years. According to them, what was essential was that the property
had been "converted" into private property through prescription at the time of the application without regard to whether the property
sought to be registered was previously classified as agricultural land of the public domain.

As earlier stated, we denied the petition for review on certiorari because Malabanan failed to establish by sufficient evidence possession
and occupation of the property on his part and on the part of his predecessors-in interest since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

Petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration


In their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners submit that the mere classification of the land as alienable or disposable should be
deemed sufficient to convert it into patrimonial property of the State. Relying on the rulings in Spouses de Ocampo v. Arlos, 7 Menguito v.
Republic 8 and Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., 9 they argue that the reclassification of the land as alienable or disposable opened it to
acquisitive prescription under the Civil Code; that Malabanan had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco believing in good faith
that Velazco and his predecessors-in-interest had been the real owners of the land with the right to validly transmit title and ownership
thereof; that consequently, the ten-year period prescribed by Article 1134 of the Civil Code, in relation to Section 14 (2) of the Property
Registration Decree, applied in their favor; and that when Malabanan filed the application for registration on February 20, 1998, he had
already been in possession of the land for almost 16 years reckoned from 1982, the time when the land was declared alienable and
disposable by the State. ASTcaE

The Republic's Motion for Partial Reconsideration


The Republic seeks the partial reconsideration in order to obtain a clarification with reference to the application of the rulings
in Naguit and Herbieto.

Chiefly citing the dissents, the Republic contends that the decision has enlarged, by implication, the interpretation of Section 14 (1) of
the Property Registration Decree through judicial legislation. It reiterates its view that an applicant is entitled to registration only when the
land subject of the application had been declared alienable and disposable since June 12, 1945 or earlier.

Ruling
We deny the motions for reconsideration.

In reviewing the assailed decision, we consider to be imperative to discuss the different classifications of land in relation to the existing
applicable land registration laws of the Philippines.

Classifications of land according to


ownership
Land, which is an immovable property, 10 may be classified as either of public dominion or of private ownership. 11 Land is considered of
public dominion if it either: (a) is intended for public use; or (b) belongs to the State, without being for public use, and is intended for
some public service or for the development of the national wealth. 12 Land belonging to the State that is not of such character, or
although of such character but no longer intended for public use or for public service forms part of the patrimonial property of the
State. 13 Land that is other than part of the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities is of private ownership if
it belongs to a private individual.
Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the country from the West by Spain through the Laws
of the Indies and theRoyal Cedulas, 14 all lands of the public domain belong to the State. 15 This means that the State is the source of any
asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the conservation of such patrimony. 16 All lands not appearing to be clearly
under private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Also, public lands remain part of the inalienable land of the public domain
unless the State is shown to have reclassified or alienated them to private persons. 17 HCEcAa

Classifications of public lands


according to alienability
Whether or not land of the public domain is alienable and disposable primarily rests on the classification of public lands made under the
Constitution. Under the1935 Constitution, 18 lands of the public domain were classified into three, namely, agricultural, timber and
mineral. 19 Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into seven, specifically, agricultural,
industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing land, with the reservation that the law might
provide other classifications. The 1987 Constitution adopted the classification under the 1935 Constitution into agricultural, forest or
timber, and mineral, but added national parks. 20 Agricultural lands may be further classified by law according to the uses to which they
may be devoted. 21 The identification of lands according to their legal classification is done exclusively by and through a positive act of
the Executive Department. 22

Based on the foregoing, the Constitution places a limit on the type of public land that may be alienated. Under Section 2, Article XII of
the 1987 Constitution, only agricultural lands of the public domain may be alienated; all other natural resources may not be.

Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two categories, to wit: (a) patrimonial lands of the State, or those classified as lands of
private ownership under Article 425 of the Civil Code, 23 without limitation; and (b) lands of the public domain, or the public lands as
provided by the Constitution, but with the limitation that the lands must only be agricultural. Consequently, lands classified as forest or
timber, mineral, or national parks are not susceptible of alienation or disposition unless they are reclassified as agricultural. 24 A positive
act of the Government is necessary to enable such reclassification, 25 and the exclusive prerogative to classify public lands under existing
laws is vested in the Executive Department, not in the courts. 26 If, however, public land will be classified as neither agricultural, forest or
timber, mineral or national park, or when public land is no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national
wealth, thereby effectively removing the land from the ambit of public dominion, a declaration of such conversion must be made in the
form of a law duly enacted by Congress or by a Presidential proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law to that
effect. 27 Thus, until the Executive Department exercises its prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until Congress or the President
declares that the State no longer intends the land to be used for public service or for the development of national wealth, the Regalian
Doctrine is applicable. cEaACD

Disposition of alienable public lands


Section 11 of the Public Land Act (CA No. 141) provides the manner by which alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, i.e.,
agricultural lands, can be disposed of, to wit:

Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:

(1) For homestead settlement;

(2) By sale;

(3) By lease; and

(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:

(a) By judicial legalization; or

(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).

The core of the controversy herein lies in the proper interpretation of Section 11 (4), in relation to Section 48 (b) of the Public Land
Act, which expressly requires possession by a Filipino citizen of the land since June 12, 1945, or earlier, viz.:

Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim
of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for
confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the
provisions of this chapter. (Bold emphasis supplied) cDCEIA

Note that Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act used the words "lands of the public domain" or "alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain" to clearly signify that lands otherwise classified, i.e., mineral, forest or timber, or national parks, and lands of patrimonial or
private ownership, are outside the coverage of the Public Land Act. What the law does not include, it excludes. The use of the descriptive
phrase "alienable and disposable" further limits the coverage of Section 48 (b) to only the agricultural lands of the public domain as set
forth in Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Bearing in mind such limitations under the Public Land Act, the applicant must
satisfy the following requirements in order for his application to come under Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree, 28 to wit:

1. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, has been in possession and occupation of the
property subject of the application;

2. The possession and occupation must be open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious;

3. The possession and occupation must be under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership;

4. The possession and occupation must have taken place since June 12, 1945, or earlier; and

5. The property subject of the application must be an agricultural land of the public domain.

Taking into consideration that the Executive Department is vested with the authority to classify lands of the public domain, Section 48 (b)
of the Public Land Act,in relation to Section 14 (1) of theProperty Registration Decree, presupposes that the land subject of the application
for registration must have been already classified as agricultural land of the public domain in order for the provision to apply. Thus,
absent proof that the land is already classified as agricultural land of the public domain, the Regalian Doctrine applies, and overcomes the
presumption that the land is alienable and disposable as laid down in Section 48 (b) of thePublic Land Act. However, emphasis is placed
on the requirement that the classification required by Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act is classification or reclassification of a public
land as agricultural. HcaATE

The dissent stresses that the classification or reclassification of the land as alienable and disposable agricultural land should likewise have
been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier, because any possession of the land prior to such classification or reclassification produced no
legal effects. It observes that the fixed date of June 12, 1945 could not be minimized or glossed over by mere judicial interpretation or by
judicial social policy concerns, and insisted that the full legislative intent be respected.
We find, however, that the choice of June 12, 1945 as the reckoning point of the requisite possession and occupation was the sole
prerogative of Congress, the determination of which should best be left to the wisdom of the lawmakers. Except that said date qualified
the period of possession and occupation, no other legislative intent appears to be associated with the fixing of the date of June 12, 1945.
Accordingly, the Court should interpret only the plain and literal meaning of the law as written by the legislators.

Moreover, an examination of Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act indicates that Congress prescribed no requirement that the land subject
of the registration should have been classified as agricultural since June 12, 1945, or earlier. As such, the applicant's imperfect or
incomplete title is derived only from possession and occupation since June 12, 1945, or earlier. This means that the character of the
property subject of the application as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain determines its eligibility for land
registration, not the ownership or title over it. Alienable public land held by a possessor, either personally or through his predecessors-in-
interest, openly, continuously and exclusively during the prescribed statutory period is converted to private property by the mere lapse or
completion of the period. 29 In fact, by virtue of this doctrine, corporations may now acquire lands of the public domain for as long as the
lands were already converted to private ownership, by operation of law, as a result of satisfying the requisite period of possession
prescribed by the Public Land Act. 30 It is for this reason that the property subject of the application of Malabanan need not be classified
as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain for the entire duration of the requisite period of possession. HaTDAE

To be clear, then, the requirement that the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land at the time of
the application for registration is necessary only to dispute the presumption that the land is inalienable.

The declaration that land is alienable and disposable also serves to determine the point at which prescription may run against the State.
The imperfect or incomplete title being confirmed under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act is title that is acquired by reason of the
applicant's possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain. Where all the necessary
requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with through actual physical, open, continuous, exclusive and public possession
of an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, the possessor is deemed to have acquired by operation of law not only a right to
a grant, but a grant by the Government, because it is not necessary that a certificate of title be issued in order that such a grant be
sanctioned by the courts. 31

If one follows the dissent, the clear objective of the Public Land Act to adjudicate and quiet titles to unregistered lands in favor of qualified
Filipino citizens by reason of their occupation and cultivation thereof for the number of years prescribed by law 32 will be defeated.
Indeed, we should always bear in mind that such objective still prevails, as a fairly recent legislative development bears out, when
Congress enacted legislation (Republic Act No. 10023) 33 in order to liberalize stringent requirements and procedures in the adjudication
of alienable public land to qualified applicants, particularly residential lands, subject to area limitations. 34

On the other hand, if a public land is classified as no longer intended for public use or for the development of national wealth by
declaration of Congress or the President, thereby converting such land into patrimonial or private land of the State, the applicable
provision concerning disposition and registration is no longer Section 48 (b) of thePublic Land Act but the Civil Code, in conjunction with
Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree. 35 As such, prescription can now run against the State.

To sum up, we now observe the following rules relative to the disposition of public land or lands of the public domain, namely: EaIDAT

(1) As a general rule and pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State and are
inalienable. Lands that are not clearly under private ownership are also presumed to belong to the State and,
therefore, may not be alienated or disposed;

(2) The following are excepted from the general rule, to wit:

(a) Agricultural lands of the public domain are rendered alienable and disposable through any of the
exclusive modes enumerated under Section 11 of the Public Land Act. If the mode is judicial
confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, the agricultural land
subject of the application needs only to be classified as alienable and disposable as of the time of
the application, provided the applicant's possession and occupation of the land dated back to June
12, 1945, or earlier. Thereby, a conclusive presumption that the applicant has performed all the
conditions essential to a government grant arises, 36 and the applicant becomes the owner of the
land by virtue of an imperfect or incomplete title. By legal fiction, the land has already ceased to be
part of the public domain and has become private property. 37

(b) Lands of the public domain subsequently classified or declared as no longer intended for public use or
for the development of national wealth are removed from the sphere of public dominion and are
considered converted into patrimonial lands or lands of private ownership that may be alienated or
disposed through any of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. If the mode of
acquisition is prescription, whether ordinary or extraordinary, proof that the land has been already
converted to private ownership prior to the requisite acquisitive prescriptive period is a
condition sine qua non in observance of the law (Article 1113, Civil Code) that property of the State
not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription. HaSEcA

To reiterate, then, the petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in
possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without satisfying the requisite character and period of possession — possession and
occupation that is open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious since June 12, 1945, or earlier — the land cannot be considered ipso
jure converted to private property even upon the subsequent declaration of it as alienable and disposable. Prescription never began to run
against the State, such that the land has remained ineligible for registration under Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration Decree.
Likewise, the land continues to be ineligible for land registration under Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decreeunless Congress
enacts a law or the President issues a proclamation declaring the land as no longer intended for public service or for the development of
the national wealth.

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration and the respondent's Partial Motion for Reconsideration for
their lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Peralta, Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Reyes and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

Velasco, Jr., J., took no part due to relationship to a party.

Leonardo-de Castro, J., I submitted my vote joining the separate opinion of Justice Brion.

Brion, J., in the result: see separate opinion.

Leonen, J., see separate concurring and dissenting opinion.

||| (Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic, G.R. No. 179987, [September 3, 2013])


THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 181502. February 2, 2010.]

FLORENCIA G. DIAZ, petitioner, vs. REPUBLIC of the PHILIPPINES, respondent.

RESOLUTION

CORONA, J p:

This is a letter-motion praying for reconsideration (for the third time) of the June 16, 2008 resolution of this Court denying the petition for
review filed by petitioner Florencia G. Diaz.

Petitioner's late mother, Flora Garcia (Garcia), filed an application for registration of a vast tract of land 1 located in Laur, Nueva Ecija and
Palayan City in the then Court of First Instance (CFI), Branch 1, Nueva Ecija on August 12, 1976. 2 She alleged that she possessed the land
as owner and worked, developed and harvested the agricultural products and benefits of the same continuously, publicly and adversely for
more or less 26 years.

The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application because the land in
question was within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR), established by virtue of Proclamation No. 237 (Proclamation 237) 3 in
1955. Thus, it was inalienable as it formed part of the public domain.

Significantly, on November 28, 1975, this Court already ruled in Director of Lands v. Reyes 4 that the property subject of Garcia's
application was inalienable as it formed part of a military reservation. Moreover, the existence of Possessory Information Title No. 216
(allegedly registered in the name of a certain Melecio Padilla on March 5, 1895), on which therein respondent Parañaque Investment and
Development Corporation anchored its claim on the land, was not proven. Accordingly, the decree of registration issued in its favor was
declared null and void.

Reyes notwithstanding, the CFI ruled in Garcia's favor in a decision 5 dated July 1, 1981.

The Republic eventually appealed the decision of the CFI to the Court of Appeals (CA). In its decision 6 dated February 26, 1992, penned
by Justice Vicente V. Mendoza (Mendoza decision), 7 the appellate court reversed and set aside the decision of the CFI. The CA found that
Reyes was applicable to petitioner's case as it involved the same property.

The CA observed that Garcia also traced her ownership of the land in question to Possessory Information Title No. 216. As Garcia's right to
the property was largely dependent on the existence and validity of the possessory information title the probative value of which had
already been passed upon by this Court in Reyes, and inasmuch as the land was situated inside a military reservation, the CA concluded
that she did not validly acquire title thereto. IDASHa

During the pendency of the case in the CA, Garcia passed away and was substituted by her heirs, one of whom was petitioner Florencia G.
Diaz. 8

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the Mendoza decision. While the motion was pending in the CA, petitioner also filed a
motion for recall of the records from the former CFI. Without acting on the motion for reconsideration, the appellate court, with Justice
Mendoza as ponente, issued a resolution 9upholding petitioner's right to recall the records of the case.

Subsequently, however, the CA encouraged the parties to reach an amicable settlement on the matter and even gave the parties sufficient
time to draft and finalize the same.

The parties ultimately entered into a compromise agreement with the Republic withdrawing its claim on the more or less 4,689 hectares
supposedly outside the FMMR. For her part, petitioner withdrew her application for the portion of the property inside the military
reservation. They filed a motion for approval of the amicable settlement in the CA. 10

On June 30, 1999, the appellate court approved the compromise agreement. 11 On January 12, 2000, it directed the Land Registration
Administration to issue the corresponding decree of registration in petitioner's favor. 12 cSATDC

However, acting on a letter written by a certain Atty. Restituto S. Lazaro, the OSG filed a motion for reconsideration of the CA resolution
ordering the issuance of the decree of registration. The OSG informed the appellate court that the tract of land subject of the amicable
settlement was still within the military reservation.

On April 16, 2007, the CA issued an amended resolution (amended resolution) 13 annulling the compromise agreement entered into
between the parties. The relevant part of the dispositive portion of the resolution read:

ACCORDINGLY, the Court resolves to:

(1) . . .

(2) . . .

(3) . . .

(4) . . .

(5) . . .

(6) REVERSE the Resolution dated June 30, 1999 of this Court approving the Amicable Settlement dated May 18,
1999 executed between the Office of the Solicitor General and Florencia Garcia Diaz[;]

(7) ANNUL and SET ASIDE the Amicable Settlement dated May 18, 1999 executed between the Office of the Solicitor
General and Florencia Garcia Diaz; the said Amicable Settlement is hereby DECLARED to be without force
and effect;

(8) GRANT the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General and, consequently, SET
ASIDE the Resolution dated January 12, 2000 which ordered, among other matters, that a certificate of title
be issued in the name of plaintiff-appellee Florencia Garcia Diaz over the portion of the subject property in
consonance with the Amicable Settlement dated May 18, 1999 approved by the Court in its Resolution dated
June 30, 1999;

(9) SET ASIDE the Resolution dated June 30, 1999 approving the May 18, 1999 Amicable Settlement and the
Resolution dated September 20, 1999 amending the aforesaid June 30, 1999 Resolution; and

(10) REINSTATE the Decision dated February 26, 1992 dismissing applicant-appellee Diaz' registration herein.

SO ORDERED.
(Emphasis supplied) DHIaTS

Petitioner moved for reconsideration. For the first time, she assailed the validity of the Mendoza decision — the February 26, 1992
decision adverted to in the CA's amended resolution. She alleged that Justice Mendoza was the assistant solicitor general during the initial
stages of the land registration proceedings in the trial court and therefore should have inhibited himself when the case reached the CA.
His failure to do so, she laments, worked an injustice against her constitutional right to due process. Thus, the Mendoza decision should
be declared null and void. The motion was denied. 14

Thereafter, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari 15 in this Court. It was denied for raising factual issues. 16 She moved for
reconsideration. 17 This motion was denied with finality on the ground that there was no substantial argument warranting a modification
of the Court's resolution. The Court then ordered that no further pleadings would be entertained. Accordingly, we ordered entry of
judgment to be made in due course. 18

Petitioner, however, insisted on filing a motion to lift entry of judgment and motion for leave to file a second motion for reconsideration
and to refer the case to the Supreme Court en banc. 19 The Court denied 20 it considering that a second motion for reconsideration is a
prohibited pleading. 21 Furthermore, the motion to refer the case to the banc was likewise denied as the banc is not an appellate court to
which decisions or resolutions of the divisions may be appealed. 22 We reiterated our directive that no further pleadings would be
entertained and that entry of judgment be made in due course.

Not one to be easily deterred, petitioner wrote identical letters, first addressed to Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing (then Acting Chief
Justice) and then to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno himself. 23 The body of the letter, undoubtedly in the nature of a third motion for
reconsideration, is hereby reproduced in its entirety:

This is in response to your call for "Moral Forces" in order to "redirect the destiny of our country which is suffering
from moral decadence," that to your mind, is the problem which confronts us. (Inquirer, January 15, 2009, page 1)[.]

I recently lost my case with the Supreme Court, G.R. N[o]. 181502, and my lawyer has done all that is humanly
possible to convince the court to take a second look at the miscarriage of justice that will result from the
implementation of the DISMISSAL in a MINUTE RESOLUTION of our Petition for Review.

Pending before your Division (First Division) is a last plea for justice so that the case may be elevated to the
Supreme Court en banc. I hope the Court exercises utmost prudence in resolving the last plea. For ready
reference, a copy of the Motion is hereto attached as Annex "A".

The issue that was brought before the Honorable Supreme Court involves the Decision of then Justice Vicente
Mendoza of the Court of Appeals, which is NULL and VOID, ab initio. EHTSCD

It is null and void because destiny placed Hon. Justice Vicente Mendoza in a position in which it became possible for
him to discharge the minimum requirement of due process, [i.e.] the ability of the court to render "impartial justice,"
because Mr. Justice Mendoza became the ponente of the Court of Appeals Decision, reversing the findings of the trial
court, notwithstanding the fact that he, as Assistant Solicitor General, was the very person who appeared on behalf of
the Republic, as the oppositor in the very same land registration proceedings in which he lost.

In other words, he discharged the duties of prosecutor and judge in the very same case.

In the case of the "Alabang Boys[,]" the public was outraged by the actions of Atty. Verano who admitted having
prepared a simple resolution to be signed by the Secretary of Justice.

In my case, the act complained of is the worst kind of violation of my constitutional right. It is simply immoral, illegal
and unconstitutional, for the prosecutor to eventually act as the judge, and reverse the very decision in which he had
lost.

If leaked to the tri-media[,] my case will certainly evoke even greater spite from the public, and put the Supreme
Court in bad light. I must confess that I was tempted to pursue such course of action. I however believe that such an
action will do more harm than good, and even destroy the good name of Hon. Justice Mendoza.

I fully support your call for "moral force" that will slowly and eventually lead our country to redirect its destiny and
escape from this moral decadence, in which we all find ourselves.

I am content with the fact that at least, the Chief Justice continues to fight the dark forces that surround us everyday.

I only ask that the Supreme Court endeavor to ensure that cases such as mine do not happen again, so that the next
person who seeks justice will not experience the pain and frustration that I suffered under our judicial system.

Thank you, and more power to you, SIR. (Emphasis in the original).

The language of petitioner's letter/motion is unmistakable. It is a thinly veiled threat precisely worded and calculated to intimidate this
Court into giving in to her demands to honor an otherwise legally infirm compromise agreement, at the risk of being vilified in the media
and by the public.

This Court will not be cowed into submission. We deny petitioner's letter/third motion for reconsideration. SHCaEA

APPLICABILITY
OF REYES
The Court agrees with the Republic's position that Reyes is applicable to this case.

To constitute res judicata, the following elements must concur:

(1) the former judgment or order must be final;

(2) the judgment or order must be on the merits;

(3) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and parties; and

(4) there must be between the first and second actions, identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of
action. 24

The first three requisites have undoubtedly been complied with. However, petitioner takes exception to the fourth requisite, particularly
on the issue of identity of parties. In her petition for review filed in this Court, she contends that since the applicants in the two cases are
different, the merits of the two cases should, accordingly, be determined independently of each other. 25

This contention is erroneous.

The facts obtaining in this case closely resemble those in Aquino v. Director of Lands. 26 In that case, Quintin Tañedo endeavored to
secure title to a considerable tract of land by virtue of his possession thereof under CA 141. When the case eventually reached this Court,
we affirmed the trial court's decision to dismiss the proceedings as the property in question was part of the public domain. Quintin's
successor-in-interest, Florencia Tañedo, who despite knowledge of the proceedings did not participate therein, thereafter sold the same
property to Benigno S. Aquino. The latter sought to have it registered in his name. The question in that case, as well as in this one, was
whether our decision in the case in which another person was the applicant constituted res judicata as against his successors-in-interest.
We ruled there, and we so rule now, that in registration cases filed under the provisions of the Public Land Act for the judicial confirmation
of an incomplete and imperfect title, an order dismissing an application for registration and declaring the land as part of the public
domain constitutes res judicata, not only against the adverse claimant, but also against all persons. 27

We also declared in Aquino that:

From another point of view, the decision in the first action has become the "law of the case" or at least falls within the
rule of stare decisis. That adjudication should be followed unless manifestly erroneous. It was taken and should be
taken as the authoritative view of the highest tribunal in the Philippines. It is indispensable to the due administration
of justice especially by a court of last resort that a question once deliberately examined and decided should be
considered as settled and closed to further argument. . . . 28 aIcCTA

Be that as it may, the fact is that, even before the CFI came out with its decision in favor of petitioner on July 1, 1981, this Court,
in Reyes, already made an earlier ruling on November 28, 1975 that the disputed realty was inalienable as it formed part of a military
reservation. Thus, petitioner's argument that the findings of fact of the trial court on her registrable title are binding on us — on the
principle that findings of fact of lower courts are accorded great respect and bind even this Court — is untenable. Rather, it was
incumbent upon the court a quo to respect this Court's ruling in Reyes, and not the other way around.

However, despite having been apprised of the Court's findings in Reyes (which should have been a matter of judicial notice in the first
place), the trial court still insisted on its divergent finding and disregarded the Court's decision in Reyes, declaring the subject land as
forming part of a military reservation, and thus outside the commerce of man.

By not applying our ruling in Reyes, the trial judge virtually nullified the decision of this Court and therefore acted with grave abuse of
discretion. 29 Notably, a judgment rendered with grave abuse of discretion is void and does not exist in legal contemplation. 30

All lower courts, especially the trial court concerned in this case, ought to be reminded that it is their duty to obey the decisions of the
Supreme Court. A conduct becoming of inferior courts demands a conscious awareness of the position they occupy in the interrelation
and operation of our judicial system. As eloquently declared by Justice J.B. L. Reyes, "There is only one Supreme Court from whose
decision all other courts should take their bearings." 31

ACQUISITION OF
PRIVATE RIGHTS
Petitioner, however, argues that Proclamation 237 itself recognizes that its effectivity is "subject to private rights, if any there be."

By way of a background, we recognized in Reyes that the property where the military reservation is situated is forest land. Thus:

Before the military reservation was established, the evidence is inconclusive as to possession, for it is shown by the
evidence that the land involved is largely mountainous and forested. As a matter of fact, at the time of the hearing,
it was conceded that approximately 13,957 hectares of said land consist of public forest. . . . (Emphasis
supplied) 32

Concomitantly, we stated therein, and we remind petitioner now, that forest lands are not registrable under CA 141.

[E]ven more important, Section 48[b] of CA No. 141, as amended, applies exclusively to public agricultural land.
Forest lands or area covered with forest are excluded. It is well-settled that forest land is incapable of
registration; and its inclusion in a title, whether such title be one issued using the Spanish sovereignty or
under the present Torrens system of registration, nullifies the title. (Emphasis supplied). 33

However, it is true that forest lands may be registered when they have been reclassified as alienable by the President in a clear and
categorical manner (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) 34 coupled with possession by the claimant as well as that of her
predecessors-in-interest. Unfortunately for petitioner, she was not able to produce such evidence. Accordingly, her occupation thereof,
and that of her predecessors-in-interest, could not have ripened into ownership of the subject land. This is because prior to the conversion
of forest land as alienable land, any occupation or possession thereof cannot be counted in reckoning compliance with the thirty-year
possession requirement under Commonwealth Act 141 (CA 141) or the Public Land Act. 35 This was our ruling in Almeda v. CA. 36 The
rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released through an official
proclamation to that effect. Then and only then will it form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain. 37 HDTSIE

Coming now to petitioner's contention that her "private rights" to the property, meaning her and her predecessors' possession
thereof prior to the establishment of the FMMR, must be respected, the same is untenable. As earlier stated, we had already recognized
the same land to be public forest even before the FMMR was established. To reiterate:

Before the military reservation was established, the evidence is inconclusive as to possession, for it is shown by the
evidence that the land involved is largely mountainous and forested. As a matter of fact, at the time of the hearing, it
was conceded that approximately 13,957 hectares of said land consist of public forest. . . .

Therefore, even if possession was for more than 30 years, it could never ripen to ownership.
But even assuming that the land in question was alienable land before it was established as a military reservation, there was nevertheless
still a dearth of evidence with respect to its occupation by petitioner and her predecessors-in-interest for more than 30 years. In Reyes, we
noted:

Evidently, Melecio Padilla, having died on February 9, 1900, barely five (5) years after the inscription of
the informacion possessoria, could not have converted the same into a record of ownership twenty (20) years after
such inscription, pursuant to Article 393 of the Spanish Mortgage Law.

xxx xxx xxx

During the lifetime of Melecio Padilla, only a small portion thereof was cleared and cultivated under the 'kaingin'
system, while some portions were used as grazing land. After his death, his daughter, Maria Padilla, caused the
planting of vegetables and had about forty (40) tenants for the purpose. During the Japanese occupation, Maria
Padilla died. . . .

xxx xxx xxx

A mere casual cultivation of portions of the land by the claimant, and the raising thereon of cattle, do not constitute
possession under claim of ownership. In that sense, possession is not exclusive and notorious as to give rise to a
presumptive grant from the State. While grazing livestock over land is of course to be considered with other acts of
dominion to show possession, the mere occupancy of land by grazing livestock upon it, without substantial
inclosures, or other permanent improvements, is not sufficient to support a claim of title thru acquisitive
prescription. The possession of public land, however long the period may have extended, never confers title thereto
upon the possessor because the statute of limitations with regard to public land does not operate against the State
unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same under claim of ownership for the required
number of years to constitute a grant from the State. 38 TcCEDS

xxx xxx xxx

Furthermore, the fact that the possessory information title on which petitioner also bases her claim of ownership was found to be
inexistent in Reyes, 39 thus rendering its probative value suspect, further militates against granting her application for registration.
NULLITY OF COMPROMISE
AGREEMENT
On the compromise agreement between the parties, we agree with the CA that the same was null and void.

An amicable settlement or a compromise agreement is in the nature of a contract and must necessarily comply with the provisions of
Article 1318 of the New Civil Code which provides:

Art. 1318. There is no contract unless the following requisites concur:

(1) Consent of the contracting parties;

(2) Object certain which is the subject matter of the contract;

(3) Cause of the obligation which is established.

Petitioner was not able to provide any proof that the consent of the Republic, through the appropriate government agencies, i.e., the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Land Management Bureau, Land Registration Authority, and the Office of the
President, was secured by the OSG when it executed the agreement with her. 40 The lack of authority on the part of the OSG rendered the
compromise agreement between the parties null and void because although it is the duty of the OSG to represent the State in cases
involving land registration proceedings, it must do so only within the scope of the authority granted to it by its principal, the Republic of
the Philippines. 41

In this case, although the OSG was authorized to appear as counsel for respondent, it was never given the specific or special authority to
enter into a compromise agreement with petitioner. This is in violation of the provisions of Rule 138 Section 23, of the Rules of Court
which requires "special authority" for attorneys to bind their clients.

Section 23. Authority of attorneys to bind clients. — Attorneys have authority to bind their clients in any case by any
agreement in relation thereto made in writing, and in taking appeals, and in all matters of ordinary judicial
procedure. But they cannot, without special authority, compromise their client's litigation, or receive anything in
discharge of a client's claim but the full amount in cash. (Emphasis supplied). ECaITc

Moreover, the land in question could not have been a valid subject matter of a contract because, being forest land, it was inalienable.
Article 1347 of the Civil Code provides:

Art. 1347. All things which are not outside the commerce of men, including future things, may be the object of
a contract. All rights which are not intransmissible may also be the object of contracts.

No contract may be entered into upon future inheritance except in cases expressly authorized by law.

All services which are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy may likewise be the
object of a contract. (Emphasis supplied)

Finally, the Court finds the cause or consideration of the obligation contrary to law and against public policy. The agreement provided
that, in consideration of petitioner's withdrawal of her application for registration of title from that portion of the property located within
the military reservation, respondent was withdrawing its claim on that part of the land situated outside said reservation. The Republic
could not validly enter into such undertaking as the subject matter of the agreement was outside the commerce of man.

PETITIONER'S CONTEMPT
OF COURT
This Court, being the very institution that dispenses justice, cannot reasonably be expected to just sit by and do nothing when it comes
under attack.

That petitioner's letter-motion constitutes an attack against the integrity of this Court cannot be denied. Petitioner started her letter
innocently enough by stating:

This is in response to your call for "Moral Forces" in order to "redirect the destiny of our country which is suffering
from moral decadence," that to your mind, is the problem which confronts us. (Inquirer, January 15, 2009, page 1)[.]

It, however, quickly progressed into a barely concealed resentment for what she perceived as this Court's failure to exercise "utmost
prudence" in rendering "impartial justice" in deciding her case. Petitioner recounted:

I recently lost my case with the Supreme Court, G.R. N[o]. 181502, and my lawyer has done all that is humanly
possible to convince the court to take a second look at the miscarriage of justice that will result from the
implementation of the DISMISSAL in a MINUTE RESOLUTION of our Petition for Review.

Pending before your Division (First Division) is a last plea for justice so that the case may be elevated to the
Supreme Court en banc. I hope the Court exercises utmost prudence in resolving the last plea. For ready
reference, a copy of the Motion is hereto attached as Annex "A". DcaCSE

The issue that was brought before the Honorable Supreme Court involves the Decision of then Justice Vicente
Mendoza of the Court of Appeals, which is NULL and VOID, ab initio.

It is null and void because destiny placed Hon. Justice Vicente Mendoza in a position in which it became possible for
him to discharge the minimum requirement of due process, [i.e.,] the ability of the court to render "impartial
justice," because Mr. Justice Mendoza became the ponente of the Court of Appeals Decision, reversing the findings of
the trial court, notwithstanding the fact that he, as Assistant Solicitor General, was the very person who appeared on
behalf of the Republic, as the oppositor in the very same land registration proceedings in which he lost. (Emphasis
supplied).

Petitioner then indirectly hints that, when push comes to shove, she has no choice but to expose the irregularity concerning the Mendoza
decision to the media. This is evident in her arrogant declaration that:

If leaked to the tri-media[,] my case will certainly evoke even greater spite from the public, and put the Supreme
Court in bad light.

But she hastens to add in the same breath that:

I must confess that I was tempted to pursue such course of action. I however believe that such an action will do more
harm than good, and even destroy the good name of Hon. Justice Mendoza.

Petitioner ends her letter by taking this Court to task:

. . . endeavor to ensure that cases such as mine do not happen again, so that the next person who seeks justice will
not experience the pain and frustration that I suffered under our judicial system.

When required to show cause why she should not be cited for contempt for her baseless charges and veiled threats, petitioner answered:

xxx xxx xxx

The Letter of January 26, 2009 is not a "veiled threat[.] It was written in response to the call of the Chief Justice for a
moral revolution. Juxtaposed against the factual backdrop of the "Alabang Boys" case and the Meralco [c]ase,
involving Mr. Justice Jose L. Sabio which also enjoyed wide publicity over the tri-media, petitioner felt that the facts of
the said cases pale in comparison to the facts of her case where the lawyer of her opponent eventually became justice
of the appellate court and ended up reversing the very decision in which he lost, in clear violation of her
[c]onstitutional [r]ight to fundamental fair play — for no contestant in any litigation can ever serve as a judge without
transgression of the due process clause. This is basic.

Petitioner confesses that she may have been emotional in the delivery of her piece, because correctly or incorrectly[,]
she believes they are irrefutable. If in the course of that emotional delivery, she has offended your honors'
sensibilities, she is ready for the punishment, and only prays that his Court temper its strike with compassion – as
her letter to the Chief Justice was never written with a view of threatening the Court. HEaCcD

xxx xxx xxx

Petitioner wrote the Chief Justice in order to obtain redress and correction of the inequity bestowed upon her by
destiny. It was never meant as a threat.

The Court now puts an end to petitioner's irresponsible insinuations and threats of "going public" with this case. We are not blind to
petitioner's clever and foxy interplay of threats alternating with false concern for the reputation of this Court.

It is well to remind petitioner that the Court has consistently rendered justice with neither fear nor favor. The disposition in this case was
arrived at after a careful and thorough deliberation of the facts of this case and all the matters pertaining thereto. The records of the case,
in fact, show that all the pertinent issues raised by petitioner were passed upon and sufficiently addressed by the appellate court and this
Court in their respective resolutions.

As to petitioner's complaint regarding this Court's denial of her petition through a mere minute resolution (which allegedly deprived her of
due process as the Court did not issue a full-blown decision stating the facts and applicable jurisprudence), suffice it to say that the Court
is not duty-bound to issue decisions or resolutions signed by the justices all the time. It has ample discretion to
formulate ponencias, extended resolutions or even minute resolutions issued by or upon its authority, depending on its evaluation of a
case, as long as a legal basis exists. When a minute resolution (signed by the Clerk of Court upon orders of the Court) denies or dismisses
a petition or motion for reconsideration for lack of merit, it is understood that the assailed decision or order, together with all its findings
of fact and legal conclusions, are deemed sustained. 42

Furthermore, petitioner has doggedly pursued her case in this Court by filing three successive motions for reconsideration, including the
letter-motion subject of this resolution. This, despite our repeated warnings that "no further pleadings shall be entertained in this case."
Her unreasonable persistence constitutes utter defiance of this Court's orders and an abuse of the rules of procedure. This, alongside her
thinly veiled threats to leak her case to the media to gain public sympathy — although the tone of petitioner's compliance with our show-
cause resolution was decidedly subdued compared to her earlier letters — constitutes contempt of court.

In Republic v. Unimex, 43 we held:

A statement of this Court that no further pleadings would be entertained is a declaration that the Court has already
considered all issues presented by the parties and that it has adjudicated the case with finality. It is a directive to the
parties to desist from filing any further pleadings or motions. Like all orders of this Court, it must be strictly
observed by the parties. It should not be circumvented by filing motions ill-disguised as requests for clarification.

A FEW OBSERVATIONS
If petitioner was, as she adamantly insists, only guarding her constitutional right to due process, then why did she question the validity of
the Mendoza decision late in the proceedings, that is, only after her motion for reconsideration in the CA (for its subsequent annulment of
the compromise agreement) was denied? It is obvious that it was only when her case became hopeless that her present counsel frantically
searched for some ground, any ground to resuscitate his client's lost cause, subsequently raising the issue. This is evident from a
statement in her petition to this Court that: CAIaDT

It is this fresh discovery by the undersigned counsel of the nullity of the proceedings of the Court of
Appeals that places in doubt the entire proceedings it previously conducted, which led to the rendition of the
February 26, 1992 Decision, a fact that escaped the scrutiny of applicant for registration Flora L. Garcia, as well
as her lawyer, Atty. Cayetano Dante Diaz, who died in 1993, and the late Justice Fernando A. Santiago, who
stood as counsel for Flora L. Garcia's successor-in-interest, herein petitioner, Florencia G. Garcia. 44 (Emphasis
supplied).

The above cited statement does not help petitioner's cause at all. If anything, it only proves how desperate the case has become for
petitioner and her counsel.

WHEREFORE, the letter-motion dated January 26, 2009 of petitioner is NOTED and is hereby treated as a third motion for reconsideration.
The motion isDENIED considering that a third motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading and the plea utterly lacks merit.

Petitioner is found GUILTY of contempt of court. Accordingly, a FINE of Five Thousand Pesos is hereby imposed on her, payable within ten
days from receipt of this resolution. She is hereby WARNED that any repetition hereof shall be dealt with more severely.

Treble costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, * Velasco, Jr., Nachura and Peralta, JJ., concur.


Footnotes
1.The subject property has an area of around 16,800 hectares.
2.It was docketed as Land Registration Case No. 853 (LRC No. 853).
3.Proclamation Reserving for Military Purposes a Portion of the Public Domain Situated in the Municipalities of Papaya, Sta. Rosa, and
Laur, Province of Nueva Ecija and Portion of Quezon Province.
4.G.R. Nos. L-27594 and 28144, 28 November 1975, 68 SCRA 177.
5.Penned by Judge Virgilio D. Pobre Yñigo. Dated July 1, 1981, rollo, pp. 218-241.
6.Concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar M. Herrera (retired) and Alicia V. Sempio-Diy (retired) of the Former Fourth Division of the
CA. Id., pp. 167-186.
7.He later on became an Associate Justice of this Court.
8.When the CA handed down its decision, petitioner's co-heirs filed a petition for review on certiorari in this Court, entitled Flora L.
Garcia v. CA, et al., docketed as G.R. No. 104561. It was denied for their failure to show that the CA committed reversible
error in the assailed decision warranting the exercise of this Court's discretionary appellate jurisdiction. The motion for
reconsideration they filed suffered the same fate.
9.Concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar M. Herrera (retired) and Alfredo M. Marigomen (retired) of the Former Fourth Division of the
CA. Rollo, pp. 313-319.
10.Id., pp. 351-355.
11.Penned by Associate Justice Bernardo P. Abesamis (retired) and concurred in by Associate Justices Artemon D. Luna (retired) and
Conchita Carpio Morales (now Supreme Court Justice) of the Former Second Division of the CA. Id., pp. 361-368.
12.Penned by Associate Justice Bernardo P. Abesamis (retired) and concurred in by Associate Justices Conchita Carpio Morales (now
Supreme Court Justice) and Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. (now Supreme Court Justice) of the Former Second Division of the
CA. Id., pp. 373-374.
13.Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo V. Cosico (retired) and concurred in by Associate Justices Portia A. Hormachuelos, Marina L.
Buzon (retired), Renato C. Dacudao (retired) and Enrico A. Lanzanas (retired), forming a Special Division of Five of the CA. Id.,
pp. 104-118.
14.Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo V. Cosico (retired) and concurred in by Associate Justices Portia A. Hormachuelos, Marina L.
Buzon (retired), Enrico A. Lanzanas (retired) and Ramon A. Garcia forming a Division of Five of the CA. Rollo, pp. 10-24.
15.Id., pp. 27-79.
16.Resolution dated 16 June 2008, id., p. 411.
17.Id., pp. 412-426.
18.Resolution dated 27 August 2008, id., p. 427. Eventually, in a resolution dated 19 August 2009, the Court certified that its 16 June
2008 resolution, which denied the petition for review, had become final and executory and, as such, was recorded in the book
of entries of judgment.
19.Id., pp. 428-433.
20.Resolution dated 2 February 2009, id., p. 434.
21.Under Section 2, Rule 52 in relation to Section 4, Rule 56 of the 1997 Rules of Procedure, as amended.
22.Per SC Circular 2-89, dated 7 February 1989, as amended by the Resolution dated 18 November 1993.
23.Rollo, pp. 435-439 and 450-451, respectively.
24.PCGG v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 124772, 14 August 2007, 530 SCRA 13, 21.
25.Rollo, p. 65.
26.39 Phil 851 (1919).
27.Id., See also Lopez v. Director of Lands, 48 Phil. 589 (1926).
28.Id., p. 861.
29.Republic v. COCOFED, G.R. Nos. 147062-64, 14 December 2001, 372 SCRA 462, 493, citing Cuison v. CA, G.R. No. 128540, 15 April
1998, 289 SCRA 161, 171, which, in turn, cited People v. CA, No. L-54641, 28 November 1980, 101 SCRA 450, 465.
In Republic, we held that grave abuse of discretion may arise when a lower court or tribunal violates or contravenes the
Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence. (Emphasis supplied).
30.People v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 164185, 23 July 2008, 559 SCRA 449, 460.
31.CHED v. Dasig, G.R. No. 172776, 17 December 2008, 574 SCRA 227.
32.Director of Lands v. Reyes, supra note 4, p. 192.
33.Id., pp. 194-195.
34.Gordula v. CA, G.R. No. 127296, 22 January 1998, 284 SCRA 617, 633.
35.C.A. No. 141, as amended, prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for acquisition of public lands. This law
requires at least thirty (30) years of open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands
of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition, immediately preceding the filing of the application for free
patent. The rationale for the 30-year period lies in the presumption that the land applied for pertains to the State, and that the
occupants and/or possessors claim an interest therein only by virtue of their imperfect title or continuous, open and notorious
possession. (Gordula v. CA, supra at 631. Although this case deals with an application for free patent, it is applicable to this
case as it also involves forest land.)
36.G.R. No. 85322, 30 April 1991, 196 SCRA 476, 480.
37.Republic v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 137887, 28 February 2000, 326 SCRA 574, 580 and Ituralde v. Falcasantos, G.R. No. 128017, 20
January 1999, 301 SCRA 293, 296 which cited Sunbeam Convenience Foods, Inc. v. CA, G.R. No. 50464, 29 January 1990, 181
SCRA 443, 448.
38.Director of Lands v. Reyes, supra note 4, pp. 192-193.
39.We stated therein:
The applicant relies on a purported titulo de informacion posesoria issued in the name of Melecio Padilla (Exh. "T," pp.62-68, Exhibits
of Applicant). However, neither the original of the said titulo de informacion posesoria, nor a duly authenticated copy thereof,
was submitted in evidence, and there are serious flaws on the faces of the alleged copies of the document, as in the
circumstances surrounding their execution. Thus, the two (2) purported photostat copies of the saidinformacion posesoria title
materially differ on the date when said informacion posesoria was issued. One copy showed that the said document was issued
on March 5, 1895 (Exhibit "T"), while the other indicated that it was issued twelve (12) years earlier, or on March 5, 1883
(Exhibit "2").
In this case, we likewise noted that petitioner's possessory information title is also a mere photocopy as per the trial court's decision
enumerating petitioner's evidence. (Rollo, p. 229.) In the Opposition filed by the OSG, it averred that petitioner moved to
reopen the case and asked that she be allowed to present the original of the document as her counsel was not able to
establish the existence thereof at the trial due to oversight. The OSG, however, pointed out that said failure to present this
pertinent piece of evidence was not due to oversight. Rather, the original of the said title could not be presented. This can be
gleaned from the transcript relevant to the matter:
ATTY. BRINGAS:
In any case, Your Honor, we have a typewritten copy which is legible which we will request also to be marked in evidence.
COURT:
If that appears to be a faithful reproduction of the original upon comparison, then why not make the proper manifestation for the
record[?]
FISCAL VILORIA:
But, Your Honor, according to the counsel for the applicant, he has only in his possession the xerox copy or photostat copy and the
typewritten copy of the said document. We have to see the original, Your Honor.
COURT:
Yes.
ATTY. BRINGAS.
We respectfully request, Your Honor, that the photostat copy of the said document be marked in evidence as Exh. Q.
COURT:
Mark it.
ATTY. BRINGAS:
Your Honor, we have the typewritten original copies of this photostat copy which we respectfully request to be marked in evidence as
Exh. R, the second page of Exh. R to be marked as Exh. R-1 and page 3 of said Exh. R to be marked as Exh. R-2.
COURT:
Mark them.
(Transcript of Stenographic Notes, 15 December 1978, pp. 23-25)
A perusal of the enumerated evidence presented by petitioner to the CFI would readily reveal that the aforementioned photocopies
were marked as such. Seerollo, pp. 229-230.
40.CA resolution, id., pp. 14-15.
41.Anacleto v. Twest, G.R. No. 131411, 29 August 2000, 339 SCRA 211, pp. 216-217.
42.Complaint of Mr. Aurelio Indencia Arrienda Against SC Justices Puno, Kapunan, Pardo, Ynares-Santiago, et al., A.M. No. 03-11-30-SC,
9 June 2005, 460 SCRA 1, 13-14.
43.G.R. Nos. 166309-10, 25 November 2008, 571 SCRA 537, 540.
44.Rollo, p. 30.
*Per Special Order No. 818 dated January 18, 2010.
||| (Diaz v. Republic, G.R. No. 181502, [February 2, 2010], 625 PHIL 243-268)
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 173423. March 5, 2014.]

SPS. ANTONIO FORTUNA and ERLINDA FORTUNA, petitioners, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J p:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari 1 filed by the petitioners, spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna, assailing the
decision dated May 16, 2005 2and the resolution dated June 27, 2006 3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 71143. The CA
reversed and set aside the decision dated May 7, 2001 4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Fernando, La Union, Branch 66, in Land
Registration Case (LRC) No. 2372.

THE BACKGROUND FACTS


In December 1994, the spouses Fortuna filed an application for registration of a 2,597-square meter land identified as Lot No. 4457,
situated in Bo. Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. The application was filed with the RTC and docketed as LRC No. 2372.

The spouses Fortuna stated that Lot No. 4457 was originally owned by Pastora Vendiola, upon whose death was succeeded by her
children, Clemente and Emeteria Nones. Through an affidavit of adjudication dated August 3, 1972, Emeteria renounced all her interest in
Lot No. 4457 in favor of Clemente. Clemente later sold the lot in favor of Rodolfo Cuenca on May 23, 1975. Rodolfo sold the same lot to
the spouses Fortuna through a deed of absolute sale dated May 4, 1984.

The spouses Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, have been in quiet, peaceful, adverse and
uninterrupted possession of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and submitted as evidence the lot's survey plan, technical
description, and certificate of assessment. cSEAHa

Although the respondent, Republic of the Philippines (Republic), opposed the application, 5 it did not present any evidence in support of
its opposition. Since no private opposition to the registration was filed, the RTC issued an order of general default on November 11, 1996
against the whole world, except the Republic. 6

In its Decision dated May 7, 2001, 7 the RTC granted the application for registration in favor of the spouses Fortuna. The RTC
declared that "[the spouses Fortuna] have established [their] possession, including that of their predecessors-in-interest of the land sought
to be registered, has been open, continuous, peaceful, adverse against the whole world and in the concept of an owner since 1948, or for
a period of over fifty (50) years." 8

The Republic appealed the RTC decision with the CA, arguing that the spouses Fortuna did not present an official proclamation from the
government that the lot has been classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land. It also claimed that the spouses Fortuna's
evidence — Tax Declaration No. 8366 — showed that possession over the lot dates back only to 1948, thus, failing to meet the June 12,
1945 cut-off period provided under Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree(PD) No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree (PRD).

In its decision dated May 16, 2005, 9 the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision. Although it found that the spouses Fortuna
were able to establish the alienable and disposable nature of the land, 10 they failed to show that they complied with the length of
possession that the law requires, i.e., since June 12, 1945. It agreed with the Republic's argument that Tax Declaration No. 8366 only
showed that the spouses Fortuna's predecessor-in-interest, Pastora, proved that she had been in possession of the land only since 1948.

The CA denied the spouses Fortuna's motion for reconsideration of its decision in its resolution dated June 27, 2006. 11

THE PARTIES' ARGUMENTS


Through the present petition, the spouses Fortuna seek a review of the CA rulings.

They contend that the applicable law is Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141 or the Public Land Act (PLA), as amended by Republic
Act (RA) No. 1942. RA No. 1942 amended the PLA by requiring 30 years of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession to
acquire imperfect title over an agricultural land of the public domain. This 30-year period, however, was removed by PD No. 1073 and
instead required that the possession should be since June 12, 1945. The amendment introduced by PD No. 1073 was carried in Section
14 (1) of the PRD. 12

The spouses Fortuna point out that PD No. 1073 was issued on January 25, 1977 and published on May 9, 1977; and the PRD was
issued on June 11, 1978 and published on January 2, 1979. On the basis of the Court's ruling in Tañada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et
al., 13 they allege that PD No. 1073 and the PRD should be deemed effective only on May 24, 1977 and January 17, 1979, respectively. By
these dates, they claim to have already satisfied the 30-year requirement under the RA No. 1942 amendment because Pastora's possession
dates back, at the latest, to 1947.

They allege that although Tax Declaration No. 8366 was made in 1948, this does not contradict that fact that Pastora possessed Lot No.
4457 before 1948. The failure to present documentary evidence proving possession earlier than 1948 was explained by Filma Salazar,
Records Officer of the Provincial Assessor's Office, who testified that the records were lost beyond recovery due to the outbreak of World
War II. IcESaA

Notwithstanding the absence of documents executed earlier than 1948, the spouses Fortuna contend that evidence exists indicating that
Pastora possessed the lot even before 1948. First, Tax Declaration No. 8366 does not contain a statement that it is a new tax
declaration. Second, the annotation found at the back of Tax Declaration No. 8366 states that "this declaration cancels Tax Nos.
10543[.]" 14 Since Tax Declaration No. 8366 was issued in 1948, the cancelled Tax Declaration No. 10543 was issued, at the latest, in
1947, indicating that there was already an owner and possessor of the lot before 1948. Third, they rely on the testimony of one Macaria
Flores in LRC No. 2373. LRC No. 2373 was also commenced by the spouses Fortuna to register Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and
27098, 15which were also originally owned by Pastora and are adjacent to the subject Lot No. 4457. Macaria testified that she was born in
1926 and resided in a place a few meters from the three lots. She stated that she regularly passed by these lots on her way to school since
1938. She knew the property was owned by Pastora because the latter's family had constructed a house and planted fruit-bearing trees
thereon; they also cleaned the area. On the basis of Macaria's testimony and the other evidence presented in LRC No. 2373, the RTC
granted the spouses Fortuna's application for registration of Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098 in its decision of January 3, 2005. 16 The
RTC's decision has lapsed into finality unappealed.

The spouses Fortuna claim that Macaria's testimony in LRC No. 2373 should be considered to prove Pastora's possession prior to 1948.
Although LRC No. 2373 is a separate registration proceeding, it pertained to lots adjacent to the subject property, Lot No. 4457, and
belonged to the same predecessor-in-interest. Explaining their failure to present Macaria in the proceedings before the RTC in LRC No.
2372, the spouses Fortuna said "it was only after the reception of evidence . . . that [they] were able to trace and establish the identity and
competency of Macaria[.]" 17

Commenting on the spouses Fortuna's petition, the Republic relied mostly on the CA's ruling which denied the registration of title and
prayed for the dismissal of the petition. DEScaT

THE COURT'S RULING


We deny the petition for failure of the spouses Fortuna to sufficiently prove their compliance with the requisites for the acquisition of title
to alienable lands of the public domain.

The nature of Lot No. 4457 as alienable and


disposable public land has not been sufficiently
established
The Constitution declares that all lands of the public domain are owned by the State. 18 Of the four classes of public land, i.e., agricultural
lands, forest or timber lands, mineral lands, and national parks, only agricultural lands may be alienated. 19 Public land that has not been
classified as alienable agricultural land remains part of the inalienable public domain. Thus, it is essential for any applicant for
registration of title to land derived through a public grant to establish foremost the alienable and disposable nature of the land.
The PLA provisions on the grant and disposition of alienable public lands, specifically, Sections 11 and 48 (b), will find application only
from the time that a public land has been classified as agricultural and declared as alienable and disposable.

Under Section 6 of the PLA, 20 the classification and the reclassification of public lands are the prerogative of the Executive Department.
The President, through a presidential proclamation or executive order, can classify or reclassify a land to be included or excluded from the
public domain. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary is likewise empowered by law to approve a land
classification and declare such land as alienable and disposable. 21 Accordingly, jurisprudence has required that an applicant for
registration of title acquired through a public land grant must presentincontrovertible evidence that the land subject of the application is
alienable or disposable by establishing the existence of a positive act of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an
executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.

In this case, the CA declared that the alienable nature of the land was established by the notation in the survey plan, 22 which states:

This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 13 L.C. Map No. 1395 certified August 7,
1940. It is outside any civil or military reservation. 23

It also relied on the Certification dated July 19, 1999 from the DENR Community Environment and Natural Resources
Office (CENRO) that "there is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor title previously issued for the subject
parcel[.]"24 However, we find that neither of the above documents is evidence of a positive act from the government
reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain.
Mere notations appearing in survey plans are inadequate proof of the covered properties' alienable and disposable
character. 25 These notations, at the very least, only establish that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the
approved alienable and disposable area per verification through survey by the proper government office. The applicant, however, must
also present a copy of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable land, as declared by the DENR Secretary
or as proclaimed by the President. 26 In Republic v. Heirs of Juan Fabio, 27 the Court ruled that

[t]he applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and
released the land of the public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for
registration falls within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO 28 or CENRO. In addition,
the applicant must present a copy of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable, as
declared by the DENR Secretary, or as proclaimed by the President.

The survey plan and the DENR-CENRO certification are not proof that the President or the DENR Secretary has reclassified and
released the public land as alienable and disposable. The offices that prepared these documents are not the official repositories or
legal custodian of the issuances of the President or the DENR Secretary declaring the public land as alienable and disposable. 29
For failure to present incontrovertible evidence that Lot No. 4457 has been reclassified as alienable and disposable land of the public
domain though a positive act of the Executive Department, the spouses Fortuna's claim of title through a public land grant under the PLA
should be denied.

In judicial confirmation of imperfect


or incomplete title, the period of
possession should commence, at the
latest, as of May 9, 1947
Although the above finding that the spouses Fortuna failed to establish the alienable and disposable character of Lot No. 4457 serves as
sufficient ground to deny the petition and terminate the case, we deem it proper to continue to address the other important legal issues
raised in the petition. caIEAD

As mentioned, the PLA is the law that governs the grant and disposition of alienable agricultural lands. Under Section 11 of the PLA,
alienable lands of the public domain may be disposed of, among others, by judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title. This
mode of acquisition of title is governed by Section 48 (b) of the PLA, the original version of which states:

Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition or ownership, except as against the Government, since July twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and ninety-
four, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
the conditions essential to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
this chapter. [emphasis supplied]

On June 22, 1957, the cut-off date of July 26, 1894 was replaced by a 30-year period of possession under RA No. 1942. Section 48 (b) of
the PLA, as amended byRA No. 1942, read:

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years, immediately preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. [emphasis and underscore ours]

On January 25, 1977, PD No. 1073 replaced the 30-year period of possession by requiring possession since June 12, 1945. Section 4 of PD
No. 1073 reads:

SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in
the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his
predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945. [emphasis
supplied]

Under the PD No. 1073 amendment, possession of at least 32 years — from 1945 up to its enactment in 1977 — is required. This
effectively impairs the vested rights of applicants who had complied with the 30-year possession required under the RA No.
1942 amendment, but whose possession commenced only after the cut-off date of June 12, 1945 was established by the PD No.
1073 amendment. To remedy this, the Court ruled in Abejaron v. Nabasa 30 that "Filipino citizens who by themselves or their
predecessors-in-interest have been, prior to the effectivity of P.D. 1073 on January 25, 1977, in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for
at least 30 years, or at least since January 24, 1947 may apply for judicial confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title under Sec.
48 (b) of the [PLA]." January 24, 1947 was considered as the cut-off date as this was exactly 30 years counted backward from
January 25, 1977 — the effectivity date of PD No. 1073. cdll

It appears, however, that January 25, 1977 was the date PD No. 1073 was enacted; based on the certification from the National Printing
Office, 31 PD No. 1073was published in Vol. 73, No. 19 of the Official Gazette, months later than its enactment or on May 9, 1977. This
uncontroverted fact materially affects the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of incomplete title under Section 48 (b) of
the PLA.

Although Section 6 of PD No. 1073 states that "[the] Decree shall take effect upon its promulgation," the Court has declared in Tañada, et
al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al. 32 that the publication of laws is an indispensable requirement for its effectivity. "[A]ll statutes, including
those of local application and private laws, shall be published as a condition for their effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after
publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed by the legislature." 33Accordingly, Section 6 of PD No. 1073 should be understood to
mean that the decree took effect only upon its publication, or on May 9, 1977. This, therefore, moves the cut-off date for applications
for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48 (b) of the PLA to May 8, 1947. In other words, applicants
must prove that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of
the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least 30 years, or at least since May 8, 1947.

The spouses Fortuna were unable to prove


that they possessed Lot No. 4457 since May
8, 1947
Even if the Court assumes that Lot No. 4457 is an alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain, the spouses Fortuna's
application for registration of title would still not prosper for failure to sufficiently prove that they possessed the land since May 8, 1947.

The spouses Fortuna's allegation that: (1) the absence of a notation that Tax Declaration No. 8366 was a new tax declaration and (2) the
notation stating that Tax Declaration No. 8366 cancels the earlier Tax Declaration No. 10543 both indicate that Pastora possessed the
land prior to 1948 or, at the earliest, in 1947. We also observe that Tax Declaration No. 8366 contains a sworn statement of the owner
that was subscribed on October 23, 1947. 34 While these circumstances may indeed indicate possession as of 1947, none proves that it
commenced as of the cut-off date of May 8, 1947. Even if the tax declaration indicates possession since 1947, it does not show the nature
of Pastora's possession. Notably, Section 48 (b) of the PLA speaks of possession and occupation. "Since these words are separated by the
conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation
because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing
effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and notorious, the word occupation serves
to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a mere fiction." 35 Nothing in Tax Declaration No. 8366
shows that Pastora exercised acts of possession and occupation such as cultivation of or fencing off the land. Indeed, the lot was
described as "cogonal." 36

The spouses Fortuna seeks to remedy the defects of Tax Declaration No. 8366 by relying on Macaria's testimony in a separate land
registration proceeding, LRC No. 2373. Macaria alleged that she passed by Pastora's lots on her way to school, and she saw Pastora's
family construct a house, plant fruit-bearing trees, and clean the area. However, the Court is not convinced that Macaria's testimony
constituted as the "well-nigh incontrovertible evidence" required in cases of this nature.

The records disclose that the spouses Fortuna acquired adjoining parcels of land, all of which are claimed to have previously belonged to
Pastora. These parcels of land were covered by three separate applications for registration, to wit: ScAIaT

a. LRC No. N-1278, involving Lot Nos. 1 and 2, with a total area of 2,961 sq.m., commenced by Emeteria;

b. LRC No. 2373, involving Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098, with a total area of 4,006 sq.m., commenced by the
spouses Fortuna; and

c. LRC No. 2372 (the subject case), involving Lot No. 4457, with a total area of 2,597 sq.m.

As these cases involved different but adjoining lots that belonged to the same predecessor-in-interest, the spouses Fortuna alleged
that the final rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, 37 upholding Pastora's ownership, be taken into account in resolving the present
case.
Notably, the total land area of the adjoining lots that are claimed to have previously belonged to Pastora is 9,564 sq.m. This is too big an
area for the Court to consider that Pastora's claimed acts of possession and occupation (as testified to by Macaria) encompassed the
entirety of the lots. Given the size of the lots, it is unlikely that Macaria (age 21 in 1947) could competently assess and declare that its
entirety belonged to Pastora because she saw acts of possession and occupation in what must have been but a limited area. As
mentioned, Tax Declaration No. 8366 described Lot No. 4457 as "cogonal," thus, Macaria could not have also been referring to Lot No.
4457 when she said that Pastora planted fruit-bearing trees on her properties.

The lower courts' final rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, upholding Pastora's possession, do not tie this Court's hands into ruling in
favor of the spouses Fortuna. Much to our dismay, the rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373 do not even show that the lots have been
officially reclassified as alienable lands of the public domain or that the nature and duration of Pastora's occupation met the requirements
of the PLA, thus, failing to convince us to either disregard the rules of evidence or consider their merits. In this regard, we reiterate our
directive in Santiago v. De los Santos: 38

Both under the 1935 and the present Constitutions, the conservation no less than the utilization of the natural
resources is ordained. There would be a failure to abide by its command if the judiciary does not scrutinize
with care applications to private ownership of real estate. To be granted, they must be grounded in well-nigh
incontrovertible evidence. Where, as in this case, no such proof would be forthcoming, there is no justification for
viewing such claim with favor. It is a basic assumption of our polity that lands of whatever classification belong to
the state. Unless alienated in accordance with law, it retains its rights over the same as dominus.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision dated May 16, 2005 and the resolution dated June 27, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 71143 are AFFIRMED insofar as these dismissed the spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna's application of registration of
title on the basis of the grounds discussed above. Costs against the spouses Fortuna. LLpr

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, Del Castillo, Perez and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1.Filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court; rollo, pp. 11-A-31.

2.Id. at 36-44. Penned by Associate Justice Rebecca de Guia-Salvador, and concurred in by Associate Justices Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr.
and Aurora Santiago-Lagman.

3.Id. at 46-48.

4.Id. at 49-53; penned by Judge Adolfo F. Alagar.

5.The Government's opposition was filed on December 1, 1995, id. at 38.

6.Id. at 49, 53.

7.Supra note 4.
8.Rollo, p. 53; emphases ours.

9.Supra note 2.

10.The CA relied on the statement in the tracing cloth plan and the blue print copy thereof which stated that "[t]his survey is inside
alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 13 L.C. Map No. 1395 certified August 7, 1940. It is outside any civil or
military reservation." The tracing cloth plan has been approved by the Chief of the Survey Division and the Regional Director of
the Region I Office of the Bureau of Lands. It also relied on the DENR-CENRO certificate dated July 19, 1999, which states that
"there is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor title previously issued for the subject parcel[.]" (Rollo, p. 41.)

11.Supra note 3.

12.Section 14. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of
title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier. [emphasis ours]

13.220 Phil. 422 (1985).

14.Rollo, p. 20-A.

15.The three lots have a total area of 4,006 square meters; id. at 59.

16.Id. at 59.

17.Id. at 27.

18.CONSTITUTION,Article XII, Section 2.

19.CONSTITUTION,Article XII, Section 3.

20.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) 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.

21.Section 13 of PD No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, approved on May 19, 1975, pertaining to the system of
land classification, states:

. . . . The Department Head [now DENR Secretary] shall study, devise, determine and prescribe the criteria, guidelines and methods
for the proper and accurate classification and survey of all lands of the public domain into agricultural, industrial or
commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing lands, and into such other classes as now or may
hereafter be provided by law, rules and regulations.

In the meantime, the Department Head shall simplify through inter-bureau action the present system of determining which of the
unclassified lands of the public domain are needed for forest purposes and declare them as permanent forest to form part of
the forest reserves. He shall decree those classified and determined not to be needed for forest purposes as alienable
and disposable lands, the administrative jurisdiction and management of which shall be transferred to the Bureau of Lands:
Provided, That mangrove and other swamps not needed for shore protection and suitable for fishpond purposes shall be
released to, and be placed under the administrative jurisdiction and management of, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
Resources. Those still to be classified under the present system shall continue to remain as part of the public forest.

22.The Survey Plan was approved by the Regional Chief of the Survey Division and the Regional Director of the Region I Office of the
Bureau of Lands; rollo, p. 41.

23.Id. at 41; italics ours.

24.Id. at 41.

25.Republic of the Philippines v. Tri-Plus Corporation, 534 Phil. 181, 194 (2006); and Republic v. Medida, G.R. No. 195097, August 13,
2012, 678 SCRA 317, 326.

26.Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., 578 Phil. 441, 452-453 (2008).

27.G.R. No. 159589, December 23, 2008, 575 SCRA 51, 77; italics and emphases ours.

28.Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices.

29.Rep. of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., supra note 26, at 490-491.

30.411 Phil. 552, 570; emphases and italics ours.

31.Rollo, p. 55.

32.Supra note 13, at 434; and Tañada v. Hon. Tuvera, 230 Phil. 528, 535 (1986).

33.Tañada v. Hon. Tuvera, supra, at 535.

34.CA Records, p. 94.

35.Republic of the Phils. v. Alconaba, 471 Phil. 607, 620 (2004); italics supplied, citation omitted.

36.Rollo, p. 54.

37.LRC No. N-1278 was granted in favor of Emeteria in a decision dated November 9, 1972 (CA Records, pp. 74-76) and resulted in the
issuance of Original Certificate of Title No. 1337 (id. at 70). LRC No. 2373 was granted in favor of the spouses Fortuna in a
decision dated January 3, 2005 (rollo, pp. 56-59).

38.158 Phil. 809, 816 (1974); citations omitted, emphasis ours, italics supplied.

||| (Spouses Fortuna v. Republic, G.R. No. 173423, [March 5, 2014])


FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 160453. November 12, 2012.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. ARCADIO IVAN A. SANTOS III, and ARCADIO C. SANTOS,
JR., respondents.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J p:

By law, accretion — the gradual and imperceptible deposit made through the effects of the current of the water — belongs to the owner of
the land adjacent to the banks of rivers where it forms. The drying up of the river is not accretion. Hence, the dried-up river bed belongs
to the State as property of public dominion, not to the riparian owner, unless a law vests the ownership in some other person.

Antecedents
Alleging continuous and adverse possession of more than ten years, respondent Arcadio Ivan A. Santos III (Arcadio Ivan) applied on March
7, 1997 for the registration of Lot 4998-B (the property) in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Parañaque City. The property, which had an
area of 1,045 square meters, more or less, was located in Barangay San Dionisio, Parañaque City, and was bounded in the Northeast by
Lot 4079 belonging to respondent Arcadio C. Santos, Jr. (Arcadio, Jr.), in the Southeast by the Parañaque River, in the Southwest by an
abandoned road, and in the Northwest by Lot 4998-A also owned by Arcadio Ivan.1

On May 21, 1998, Arcadio Ivan amended his application for land registration to include Arcadio, Jr. as his co-applicant because of the
latter's co-ownership of the property. He alleged that the property had been formed through accretion and had been in their joint open,
notorious, public, continuous and adverse possession for more than 30 years. 2 aICHEc

The City of Parañaque (the City) opposed the application for land registration, stating that it needed the property for its flood control
program; that the property was within the legal easement of 20 meters from the river bank; and that assuming that the property was not
covered by the legal easement, title to the property could not be registered in favor of the applicants for the reason that the property was
an orchard that had dried up and had not resulted from accretion. 3

Ruling of the RTC


On May 10, 2000, 4 the RTC granted the application for land registration, disposing:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby declares the applicants, ARCADIO IVAN A. SANTOS, III and ARCADIO C. SANTOS, JR.,
both Filipinos and of legal age, as the TRUE and ABSOLUTE OWNERS of the land being applied for which is situated in
the Barangay of San Dionisio, City of Parañaque with an area of one thousand forty five (1045) square meters more or
less and covered by Subdivision Plan Csd-00-000343, being a portion of Lot 4998, Cad. 299, Case 4, Parañaque
Cadastre, LRC Rec. No. and orders the registration of Lot 4998-B in their names with the following technical
description, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

Once this Decision became (sic) final and executory, let the corresponding Order for the Issuance of the Decree be
issued.

SO ORDERED.

The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), appealed. THIAaD

Ruling of the CA
In its appeal, the Republic ascribed the following errors to the RTC, 5 to wit:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE PROPERTY SOUGHT TO BE REGISTERED IS AN ACCRETION TO THE
ADJOINING PROPERTY OWNED BY APPELLEES DESPITE THE ADMISSION OF APPELLEE ARCADIO C. SANTOS JR. THAT THE
SAID PROPERTY WAS NOT FORMED AS A RESULT OF THE GRADUAL FILLING UP OF SOIL THROUGH THE CURRENT OF
THE RIVER.

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION DESPITE APPELLEE'S FAILURE TO
FORMALLY OFFER IN EVIDENCE AN OFFICIAL CERTIFICATION THAT THE SUBJECT PARCEL OF LAND IS ALIENABLE AND
DISPOSABLE.

III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT APPELLEES HAD SUFFICIENTLY ESTABLISHED THEIR CONTINUOUS, OPEN,
PUBLIC AND ADVERSE OCCUPATION OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY FOR A PERIOD OF MORE THAN THIRTY (30) YEARS.

On May 27, 2003, the CA affirmed the RTC. 6

The Republic filed a motion for reconsideration, but the CA denied the motion on October 20, 2003. 7 HAICET

Issues
Hence, this appeal, in which the Republic urges that: 8

RESPONDENTS' CLAIM THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS AN ACCRETION TO THEIR ADJOINING LAND THAT WOULD
ENTITLE THEM TO REGISTER IT UNDER ARTICLE 457 OF THE NEW CIVIL CODE IS CONTRADICTED BY THEIR OWN
EVIDENCE.

II

ASSUMING THAT THE LAND SOUGHT TO BE REGISTERED WAS "PREVIOUSLY A PART OF THE PARAÑAQUE RIVER WHICH
BECAME AN ORCHARD AFTER IT DRIED UP," THE REGISTRATION OF SAID PROPERTY IN FAVOR OF RESPONDENTS
CANNOT BE ALTERNATIVELY JUSTIFIED UNDER ARTICLE 461 OF THE CIVIL CODE.

III
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT THE FAILURE OF RESPONDENTS TO
FORMALLY OFFER IN EVIDENCE AN OFFICIAL CERTIFICATION THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS ALIENABLE AND
DISPOSABLE IS FATAL TO THEIR APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION.

IV

THE FINDING OF THE COURT OF APPEALS THAT RESPONDENTS HAVE CONTINUOUSLY, OPENLY, PUBLICLY AND
ADVERSELY OCCUPIED THE SUBJECT PROPERTY FOR MORE THAN THIRTY (30) YEARS IS NOT SUPPORTED BY WELL-NIGH
INCONTROVERTIBLE EVIDENCE. HSDIaC

To be resolved are whether or not Article 457 of the Civil Code was applicable herein; and whether or not respondents could claim the
property by virtue of acquisitive prescription pursuant to Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree).

Ruling
The appeal is meritorious.

I.
The CA grossly erred in applying Article 457
of the Civil Code to respondents' benefit
Article 457 of the Civil Code provides that "(t)o the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually
receive from the effects of the currents of the waters."

In ruling for respondents, the RTC pronounced as follows:

On the basis of the evidence presented by the applicants, the Court finds that Arcadio Ivan A. Santos III and Arcadio
C. Santos, Jr., are the owners of the land subject of this application which was previously a part of the Parañaque
River which became an orchard after it dried up and further considering that Lot 4 which adjoins the same property is
owned by applicant, Arcadio C. Santos, Jr., after it was obtained by him through inheritance from his mother,
Concepcion Cruz, now deceased.

Conformably with Art. 457 of the New Civil Code, it is provided that:

"Article 457. To the owners of the lands adjoining the bank of rivers belong the accretion which they
gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters." 9 AaSTIH

The CA upheld the RTC's pronouncement, holding:

It could not be denied that "to the owners of the lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they
gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters" (Article 457 New Civil Code) as in this case, Arcadio
Ivan Santos III and Arcadio Santos, Jr., are the owners of the land which was previously part of the Parañaque River
which became an orchard after it dried up and considering that Lot 4 which adjoins the same property is owned by
the applicant which was obtained by the latter from his mother (Decision, p. 3; p. 38 Rollo). 10

The Republic submits, however, that the application by both lower courts of Article 457 of the Civil Code was erroneous in the face of the
fact that respondents' evidence did not establish accretion, but instead the drying up of the Parañaque River.

The Republic's submission is correct.

Respondents as the applicants for land registration carried the burden of proof to establish the merits of their application by a
preponderance of evidence, by which is meant such evidence that is of greater weight, or more convincing than that offered in opposition
to it. 11 They would be held entitled to claim the property as their own and apply for its registration under the Torrens system only if they
established that, indeed, the property was an accretion to their land.

Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited along the banks of rivers. 12 The deposit of soil, to be considered accretion, must
be: (a) gradual and imperceptible; (b) made through the effects of the current of the water; and (c) taking place on land adjacent to the
banks of rivers. 13 Accordingly, respondents should establish the concurrence of the elements of accretion to warrant the grant of their
application for land registration. DAcaIE

However, respondents did not discharge their burden of proof. They did not show that the gradual and imperceptible deposition of soil
through the effects of the current of the river had formed Lot 4998-B. Instead, their evidence revealed that the property was the dried-up
river bed of the Parañaque River, leading both the RTC and the CA to themselves hold that Lot 4998-B was "the land which was previously
part of the Parañaque River . . . (and) became an orchard after it dried up."

Still, respondents argue that considering that Lot 4998-B did not yet exist when the original title of Lot 4 was issued in their mother's
name in 1920, and that Lot 4998-B came about only thereafter as the land formed between Lot 4 and the Parañaque River, the
unavoidable conclusion should then be that soil and sediments had meanwhile been deposited near Lot 4 by the current of the Parañaque
River, resulting in the formation of Lot 4998-B.

The argument is legally and factually groundless. For one, respondents thereby ignore that the effects of the current of the river are not
the only cause of the formation of land along a river bank. There are several other causes, including the drying up of the river bed. The
drying up of the river bed was, in fact, the uniform conclusion of both lower courts herein. In other words, respondents did not establish
at all that the increment of land had formed from the gradual and imperceptible deposit of soil by the effects of the current. Also, it seems
to be highly improbable that the large volume of soil that ultimately comprised the dry land with an area of 1,045 square meters had been
deposited in a gradual and imperceptible manner by the current of the river in the span of about 20 to 30 years — the span of time
intervening between 1920, when Lot 4 was registered in the name of their deceased parent (at which time Lot 4998-B was not yet in
existence) and the early 1950s (which respondents' witness Rufino Allanigue alleged to be the time when he knew them to have occupied
Lot 4988-B). The only plausible explanation for the substantial increment was that Lot 4988-B was the dried-up bed of the Parañaque
River. Confirming this explanation was Arcadio, Jr.'s own testimony to the effect that the property was previously a part of the Parañaque
River that had dried up and become an orchard. AaITCH

We observe in this connection that even Arcadio, Jr.'s own Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44687 confirmed the uniform conclusion of the
RTC and the CA that Lot 4998-B had been formed by the drying up of the Parañaque River. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44687 recited
that Lot 4 of the consolidated subdivision plan Pcs-13-002563, the lot therein described, was bounded "on the SW along line 5-1 by Dried
River Bed." 14 That boundary line of "SW along line 5-1" corresponded with the location of Lot 4998-B, which was described as "bounded
by Lot 4079 Cad. 299, (Lot 1, Psu-10676), in the name of respondent Arcadio Santos, Jr. (Now Lot 4, Psd-13-002563) in the Northeast." 15

The RTC and the CA grossly erred in treating the dried-up river bed as an accretion that became respondents' property pursuant to Article
457 of the Civil Code. That land was definitely not an accretion. The process of drying up of a river to form dry land involved the recession
of the water level from the river banks, and the dried-up land did not equate to accretion, which was the gradual and imperceptible
deposition of soil on the river banks through the effects of the current. In accretion, the water level did not recede and was more or less
maintained. Hence, respondents as the riparian owners had no legal right to claim ownership of Lot 4998-B. Considering that the clear
and categorical language of Article 457 of the Civil Code has confined the provision only to accretion, we should apply the provision as its
clear and categorical language tells us to. Axiomatic it is, indeed, that where the language of the law is clear and categorical, there is no
room for interpretation; there is only room for application. 16 The first and fundamental duty of courts is then to apply the law. 17

The State exclusively owned Lot 4998-B and may not be divested of its right of ownership. Article 502 of the Civil Code expressly declares
that rivers and their natural beds are public dominion of the State. 18 It follows that the river beds that dry up, like Lot 4998-B, continue
to belong to the State as its property of public dominion, unless there is an express law that provides that the dried-up river beds should
belong to some other person. 19 aSAHCE
II
Acquisitive prescription was
not applicable in favor of respondents
The RTC favored respondents' application for land registration covering Lot 4998-B also because they had taken possession of the
property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than 30 years based on their predecessor-in-interest being the adjoining
owner of the parcel of land along the river bank. It rendered the following ratiocination, viz.: 20

In this regard, the Court found that from the time the applicants became the owners thereof, they took possession of
the same property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than thirty (30) years because their
predecessors-in-interest are the adjoining owners of the subject parcel of land along the river bank. Furthermore, the
fact that applicants paid its realty taxes, had it surveyed per subdivision plan Csd-00-000343 (Exh. "L") which was
duly approved by the Land Management Services and the fact that Engr. Chito B. Cainglet, OIC-Chief, Surveys Division
Land Registration Authority, made a Report that the subject property is not a portion of the Parañaque River and that
it does not fall nor overlap with Lot 5000, thus, the Court opts to grant the application.

Finally, in the light of the evidence adduced by the applicants in this case and in view of the foregoing reports of the
Department of Agrarian Reforms, Land Registration Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, the Court finds and so holds that the applicants have satisfied all the requirements of law which are
essential to a government grant and is, therefore, entitled to the issuance of a certificate of title in their favor. So
also, oppositor failed to prove that the applicants are not entitled thereto, not having presented any witness. TEcCHD

In fine, the application is GRANTED.

As already mentioned, the CA affirmed the RTC.

Both lower courts erred.

The relevant legal provision is Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree), which pertinently states:

Section 14. Who may apply. — The following persons may file in the proper [Regional Trial Court] an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona
fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

xxx xxx xxx

Under Section 14 (1), then, applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must prove the following, namely: (a) that the land forms part of
the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or since June 12,
1945. 21

The Republic assails the findings by the lower courts that respondents "took possession of the same property continuously, openly,
publicly and adversely for more than thirty (30) years." 22 ICTacD

Although it is well settled that the findings of fact of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the CA, are accorded the highest degree
of respect, and generally will not be disturbed on appeal, with such findings being binding and conclusive on the Court, 23 the Court has
consistently recognized exceptions to this rule, including the following, to wit: (a) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation,
surmises, or conjectures; (b) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; (c) when there is grave abuse of
discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (e) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (f) when in making
its findings the CA went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the
appellee; (g) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (h) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific
evidence on which they are based; (i) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not
disputed by respondent; and (j) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the
evidence on record. 24

Here, the findings of the RTC were obviously grounded on speculation, surmises, or conjectures; and that the inference made by the RTC
and the CA was manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible. Hence, the Court should now review the findings.

In finding that respondents had been in continuous, open, public and adverse possession of the land for more than 30 years, the RTC
declared:

In this regard, the Court found that from the time the applicant became the owners thereof, they took possession of
the same property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than thirty years because their predecessor
in interest are the adjoining owners of the subject parcel of land along the river banks. Furthermore, the fact that the
applicant paid its realty taxes, had it surveyed per subdivision plan Csd-00-000343 (Exh. "L") which was duly
approved by the Land Management Services and the fact that Engr. Chito B. Cainglet, OIC — Chief, Surveys Division
Land Registration Authority, made a Report that the subject property is not a portion of the Parañaque River and that
it does not fall nor overlap with Lot 5000, thus, the Court opts to grant the application.

The RTC apparently reckoned respondents' period of supposed possession to be "more than thirty years" from the fact that "their
predecessors in interest are the adjoining owners of the subject parcel of land." Yet, its decision nowhere indicated what acts respondents
had performed showing their possession of the property "continuously, openly, publicly and adversely" in that length of time. The decision
mentioned only that they had paid realty taxes and had caused the survey of the property to be made. That, to us, was not enough to
justify the foregoing findings, because, firstly, the payment of realty taxes did not conclusively prove the payor's ownership of the land
the taxes were paid for, 25 the tax declarations and payments being mere indicia of a claim of ownership; 26 and,secondly, the causing of
surveys of the property involved was not itself an of continuous, open, public and adverse possession.

The principle that the riparian owner whose land receives the gradual deposits of soil does not need to make an express act of
possession, and that no acts of possession are necessary in that instance because it is the law itself that pronounces the alluvium to
belong to the riparian owner from the time that the deposit created by the current of the water becomes manifest 27 has no applicability
herein. This is simply because Lot 4998-B was not formed through accretion. Hence, the ownership of the land adjacent to the river bank
by respondents' predecessor-in-interest did not translate to possession of Lot 4998-B that would ripen to acquisitive prescription in
relation to Lot 4998-B.

On the other hand, the claim of thirty years of continuous, open, public and adverse possession of Lot 4998-B was not even validated or
preponderantly established. The admission of respondents themselves that they declared the property for taxation purposes only in 1997
and paid realty taxes only from 199928 signified that their alleged possession would at most be for only nine years as of the filing of their
application for land registration on March 7, 1997. SIaHTD

Yet, even conceding, for the sake of argument, that respondents possessed Lot 4998-B for more than thirty years in the character they
claimed, they did not thereby acquire the land by prescription or by other means without any competent proof that the land was already
declared as alienable and disposable by the Government. Absent that declaration, the land still belonged to the State as part of its public
dominion.

Article 419 of the Civil Code distinguishes property as being either of public dominion or of private ownership. Article 420 of the Civil
Code lists the properties considered as part of public dominion, namely: (a) those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers,
torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character; and (b) those which
belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth.
As earlier mentioned, Article 502 of the Civil Code declares that rivers and their natural beds are of public dominion.

Whether the dried-up river bed may be susceptible to acquisitive prescription or not was a question that the Court resolved in favor of the
State in Celestial v. Cachopero, 29 a case involving the registration of land found to be part of a dried-up portion of the natural bed of a
creek. There the Court held:

As for petitioner's claim of ownership over the subject land, admittedly a dried-up bed of the Salunayan Creek, based
on (1) her alleged long term adverse possession and that of her predecessor-in-interest, Marcelina Basadre, even prior
to October 22, 1966, when she purchased the adjoining property from the latter, and (2) the right of accession under
Art. 370 of the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 and/or Article 461 of the Civil Code, the same must fail.

Since property of public dominion is outside the commerce of man and not susceptible to private appropriation
and acquisitive prescription, the adverse possession which may be the basis of a grant of title in the
confirmation of an imperfect title refers only to alienable or disposable portions of the public domain. It is only
after the Government has declared the land to be alienable and disposable agricultural land that the year of entry,
cultivation and exclusive and adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an imperfect title.

A creek, like the Salunayan Creek, is a recess or arm extending from a river and participating in the ebb and flow of
the sea. As such, under Articles 420(1) and 502(1) of the Civil Code, the Salunayan Creek, including its natural
bed, is property of the public domain which is not susceptible to private appropriation and acquisitive
prescription. And, absent any declaration by the government, that a portion of the creek has dried-up does not,
by itself, alter its inalienable character. IcAaEH

xxx xxx xxx

Had the disputed portion of the Salunayan Creek dried up after the present Civil Code took effect, the subject land
would clearly not belong to petitioner or her predecessor-in-interest since under the aforementioned provision of
Article 461, "river beds which are abandoned through the natural change in the course of the waters ipso
facto belong to the owners of the land occupied by the new course," and the owners of the adjoining lots have the
right to acquire them only after paying their value.

And both Article 370 of the Old Code and Article 461 of the present Civil Code are applicable only when "[r]iver beds
are abandoned through the natural change in the course of the waters." It is uncontroverted, however, that, as found
by both the Bureau of Lands and the DENR Regional Executive Director, the subject land became dry as a result of the
construction an irrigation canal by the National Irrigation Administration. Thus, in Ronquillo v. Court of Appeals, this
Court held:

The law is clear and unambiguous. It leaves no room for interpretation. Article 370 applies only if there is
a natural change in the course of the waters. The rules on alluvion do not apply to man-made or
artificial accretions nor to accretions to lands that adjoin canals or esteros or artificial drainage
systems. Considering our earlier finding that the dried-up portion of Estero Calubcub was actually
caused by the active intervention of man, it follows that Article 370 does not apply to the case at bar
and, hence, the Del Rosarios cannot be entitled thereto supposedly as riparian owners.

The dried-up portion of Estero Calubcub should thus be considered as forming part of the land of the
public domain which cannot be subject to acquisition by private ownership. . . . (Emphasis
supplied) SEAHcT

Furthermore, both provisions pertain to situations where there has been a change in the course of a river, not
where the river simply dries up. In the instant Petition, it is not even alleged that the Salunayan Creek changed its
course. In such a situation, commentators are of the opinion that the dry river bed remains property of public
dominion. (Bold emphases supplied)

Indeed, under the Regalian doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to
the State. 30 No public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the Government. It is
indispensable, therefore, that there is a showing of a title from the State. 31 Occupation of public land in the concept of owner, no matter
how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. 32

Subject to the exceptions defined in Article 461 of the Civil Code (which declares river beds that are abandoned through the natural
change in the course of the waters as ipso facto belonging to the owners of the land occupied by the new course, and which gives to the
owners of the adjoining lots the right to acquire only the abandoned river beds not ipso facto belonging to the owners of the land affected
by the natural change of course of the waters only after paying their value), all river beds remain property of public dominion and cannot
be acquired by acquisitive prescription unless previously declared by the Government to be alienable and disposable. Considering that Lot
4998-B was not shown to be already declared to be alienable and disposable, respondents could not be deemed to have acquired the
property through prescription.

Nonetheless, respondents insist that the property was already classified as alienable and disposable by the Government. They cite as proof
of the classification as alienable and disposable the following notation found on the survey plan, to wit: 33 aSIHcT

NOTE

ALL CORNERS NOT OTHERWISE DESCRIBED ARE OLD BL CYL. CONC. MONS 15 X 60CM

All corners marked PS are cyl. conc. mons 15 x 60 cm

Surveyed in accordance with Survey Authority NO. 007604-48 of the Regional Executive Director issued by the CENR-
OFFICER dated Dec. 2, 1996.

This survey is inside L.C. Map No. 2623, Proj. No. 25 classified as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of Forest
Dev't. on Jan. 3, 1968.

Lot 4998-A = Lot 5883} Cad 299

Lot 4998-B = Lot 5884} Parañaque Cadastre.

Was the notation on the survey plan to the effect that Lot 4998-B was "inside" the map "classified as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of
Forest Development on 03 Jan. 1968" sufficient proof of the property's nature as alienable and disposable public land?

To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must conclusively establish the existence of a
positive act of the Government, such as a presidential proclamation, executive order, administrative action, investigation reports of the
Bureau of Lands investigator, or a legislative act or statute. Until then, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.

As to the proofs that are admissible to establish the alienability and disposability of public land, we said in Secretary of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources v. Yap 34 that: cCaATD

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. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be
established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable. There must still be a
positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an
application for registration is alienable, 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. 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.

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." (Emphasis supplied)

In Menguito v. Republic, 35 which we reiterated in Republic v. Sarmiento, 36 we specifically resolved the issue of whether the notation on
the survey plan was sufficient evidence to establish the alienability and disposability of public land, to wit:

To prove that the land in question formed part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain,
petitioners relied on the printed words which read: "This survey plan is inside Alienable and Disposable Land
Area, Project No. 27-B as per L.C. Map No. 2623, certified by the Bureau of Forestry on January 3, 1968,"
appearing on Exhibit "E" (Survey Plan No. Swo-13-000227).

This proof is not sufficient. Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, provides: "All lands of the public domain,
waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber,
wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. . . . ."

For the original registration of title, the applicant (petitioners in this case) must overcome the presumption that
the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Unless public land is shown to have been
reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Indeed,
"occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a
title." To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant. Absent such
evidence, the land sought to be registered remains inalienable. HISAET

In the present case, petitioners cite a surveyor-geodetic engineer's notation in Exhibit "E" indicating that the survey
was inside alienable and disposable land.Such notation does not constitute a positive government act validly
changing the classification of the land in question. Verily, a mere surveyor has no authority to reclassify lands
of the public domain. By relying solely on the said surveyor's assertion, petitioners have not sufficiently
proven that the land in question has been declared alienable. (Emphasis supplied)

In Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., 37 we dealt with the sufficiency of the certification by the Provincial Environmental Officer (PENRO) or
Community Environmental Officer (CENRO) to the effect that a piece of public land was alienable and disposable in the following
manner, viz.:

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

Only Torres, respondent's Operations Manager, identified the certifications submitted by respondent. The
government officials who issued the certifications were not presented before the trial court to testify on their
contents. The trial court should not have accepted the contents of the certifications as proof of the facts stated
therein. Even if the certifications are presumed duly issued and admissible in evidence, they have no probative value
in establishing that the land is alienable and disposable.

xxx xxx xxx

The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not prove that Lot 10705-B falls within the
alienable and disposable land as proclaimed by the DENR Secretary. Such government certifications do not, by their
mere issuance, prove the facts stated therein. Such government certifications may fall under the class of documents
contemplated in the second sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. As such, the certifications are prima facieevidence of
their due execution and date of issuance but they do not constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.
(Emphasis supplied) ECSaAc

These rulings of the Court indicate that the notation on the survey plan of Lot 4998-B, Cad-00-000343 to the effect that the "survey is
inside a map classified as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of Forest Dev't" did not prove that Lot 4998-B was already classified as
alienable and disposable. Accordingly, respondents could not validly assert acquisitive prescription of Lot 4988-B.

WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on May 27, 2003; DISMISSES the
application for registration of Arcadio C. Santos, Jr. and Arcadio Ivan S. Santos III respecting Lot 4998-B with a total area of 1,045 square
meters, more or less, situated in Barangay San Dionisio, Parañaque City, Metro Manila; and DECLARES Lot 4998-B as exclusively belonging
to the State for being part of the dried-up bed of the Parañaque River.

Respondents shall pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Leonardo-de Castro, Villarama, Jr. and Reyes, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1.Records, Vol. I, pp. 13-15.


2.Id. at 138-142.
3.Id. at 255-258.
4.Records, Vol. II, pp. 519-523.
5.CA Rollo, p. 26.
6.Id. at 99-107, penned by Associate Justice B.A. Adefuin-de la Cruz (retired), concurred by Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr.
(retired/deceased) and Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid.
7.Id. at 155.
8.Rollo, pp. 21-22.
9.Records, Vol. II, pp. 521-522.
10.CA Rollo, p. 105.
11.Rivera v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 115625, January 23, 1998, 284 SCRA 673, 681.
12.Heirs of Emiliano Navarro v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68166, February 12, 1997, 268 SCRA 74, 85.
13.Republic v. Court of Appeals, No. L-61647, October 12, 1984, 132 SCRA 514, 520.
14.Records, Vol. 2, p. 428 (Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44687).
15.Records, Vol. 1, pp. 138-139.
16.Cebu Portland Cement Company v. Municipality of Naga, Cebu, Nos. 24116-17, August 22, 1968, 24 SCRA 708, 712.
17.Quijano v. Development Bank of the Philippines, No. L-26419, October 16, 1970, 35 SCRA 270, 277.
18.The Civil Code states:
Article 502. The following are of public dominion:
(1) Rivers and their natural beds;
xxx xxx xxx
19.II Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, 1994, pp. 137-138, opines:
When River Dries Up. — The present article contemplates a case where a river bed is abandoned by a natural change in the course of
the river, which opens up a new bed. It has no reference to a case where the river simply dries up. In fact, it cannot be applied
at all to the drying up of the river, because there are no persons whose lands are occupied by the waters of the river. Who
shall own the river bed thus left dry? We believe that in such case, the river bed will continue to remain property of
public dominion. Under article 502 of the Code, rivers and their natural beds are property of public dominion. In the
absence of any provision vesting the ownership of the dried up river bed in some other person, it must continue to
belong to the State.
20.Records, Vol. II, p. 522.
21.Republic v. Alconaba, G.R. No. 155012, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 611, 617.
22.Rollo, pp. 32-36.
23.Bulos, Jr. v. Yasuma, G.R. No. 164159, July 17, 2007, 527 SCRA 727, 737.
24.Citibank, N.A. (formerly First National City Bank) v. Sabeniano, G.R. No. 156132, October 16, 2006, 504 SCRA 378, 409.
25.Ebreo v. Ebreo, G.R. No. 160065, February 28, 2006, 483 SCRA 583, 594; Seriña v. Caballero, G.R. No. 127382, August 17, 2004,
436 SCRA 593, 604; Del Rosario v. Republic, G.R. No. 148338, June 6, 2002, 383 SCRA 262, 274; Bartolome v. Intermediate
Appellate Court, G.R. No. 76792, March 12, 1990, 183 SCRA 102, 112.
26.Ebreo v. Ebreo, supra; Heirs of Mariano, Juan, Tarcela and Josefa Brusas v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126875, August 26, 1999,
313 SCRA 176, 184; Rivera v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107903, May 22, 1995, 244 SCRA 218, 222; Director of Lands v.
Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 73246, March 2, 1993, 219 SCRA 339, 348; San Miguel Corporation v. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 57667, May 28, 1990, 185 SCRA 722, 725.
27.I Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, 1994, p. 28.
28.Rollo, p. 88.
29.G.R. No. 142595, October 15, 2003, 413 SCRA 469, 485-489.
30.Republic v. Sayo, G.R. No. 60413, October 31, 1990, 191 SCRA 71, 74.
31.Gordula v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 127296, January 22, 1998, 284 SCRA 617, 630.
32.Pagkatipunan v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 129682, March 21, 2002, 379 SCRA 621, 627.
33.Rollo, pp. 80-81.
34.G.R. No. 167707 and G.R. No. 173775, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 164, 192-193.
35.G.R. No. 134308, December 14, 2000, 348 SCRA 128, 139-140.
36.G.R. No. 169397, March 13, 2007, 518 SCRA 250, 259-260.
37.G.R. No. 154953, June 26, 2008, 555 SCRA 477, 489-491.
||| (Republic v. Santos III, G.R. No. 160453, [November 12, 2012], 698 PHIL 275-297)

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 192896. July 24, 2013.]

DREAM VILLAGE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION, INC., represented by its Incumbent President, GREG
SERIEGO, petitioner, vs. BASES CONVERSION DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J p:

Before us on Petition for Review 1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is the Decision 2 dated September 10, 2009 and Resolution 3 dated
July 13, 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 85228 nullifying and setting aside for lack of jurisdiction the
Resolution 4 dated April 28, 2004 of the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems (COSLAP) in COSLAP Case No. 99-500.
The fallo of the assailed COSLAP Resolution reads, as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

1. Declaring the subject property, covering an area of 78,466 square meters, now being occupied by the members of
the Dream Village Neighborhood Association, Inc. to be outside of Swo-00-0001302 BCDA property.

2. In accordance with the tenets of social justice, members of said association are advised to apply for sales patent
on their respective occupied lots with the Land Management Bureau, DENR-NCR, pursuant to R.A. Nos. 274 and 730.

3. Directing the Land Management Bureau-DENR-NCR to process the sales patent application of complainants
pursuant to existing laws and regulation. EDIHSC

4. The peaceful possession of actual occupants be respected by the respondents.

SO ORDERED. 5

Antecedent Facts
Petitioner Dream Village Neighborhood Association, Inc. (Dream Village) claims to represent more than 2,000 families who have been
occupying a 78,466-square meter lot in Western Bicutan, Taguig City since 1985 "in the concept of owners continuously, exclusively and
notoriously." 6 The lot used to be part of theHacienda de Maricaban (Maricaban), owned by Dolores Casal y Ochoa and registered under a
Torrens title, 7 Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 291, issued on October 17, 1906 by the Registry of Deeds of
Rizal. 8 Maricaban covered several parcels of land with a total area of over 2,544 hectares spread out over Makati, Pasig, Taguig, Pasay,
and Parañaque. 9

Following the purchase of Maricaban by the government of the United States of America (USA) early in the American colonial period, to be
converted into the military reservation known as Fort William Mckinley, Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 192 was issued in the name
of the USA to cancel OCT No. 291. 10 The US government later transferred 30 has. of Maricaban to the Manila Railroad Company, for
which TCT No. 192 was cancelled by TCT Nos. 1218 and 1219, the first in the name of the Manila Railroad Company for 30 has., and the
second in the name of the USA for the rest of the Maricaban property. 11

On January 29, 1914, TCT No. 1219 was cancelled and replaced by TCT No. 1688, and later that year, on September 15, 1914, TCT No.
1688 was cancelled and replaced by TCT No. 2288, both times in the name of the USA. 12 On December 6, 1956, the USA formally ceded
Fort William Mckinley to the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), and on September 11, 1958, TCT No. 2288 was cancelled and replaced
by TCT No. 61524, this time in the name of the Republic. 13 On July 12, 1957, President Carlos P. Garcia issued Proclamation No.
423 withdrawing from sale or settlement the tracts of land within Fort William Mckinley, now renamed Fort Bonifacio, and reserving them
for military purposes. 14 aAEIHC
On January 7, 1986, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Proclamation No. 2476 declaring certain portions of Fort Bonifacio alienable and
disposable 15 in the manner provided under Republic Act (R.A.) Nos. 274 and 730, in relation to the Public Land Act, 16 thus allowing the
sale to the settlers of home lots in Upper Bicutan, Lower Bicutan, Signal Village, and Western Bicutan. 17

On October 16, 1987, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation No. 172 amending Proclamation No. 2476 by limiting to Lots 1
and 2 of the survey Swo-13-000298 the areas in Western Bicutan open for disposition. 18

On March 13, 1992, R.A. No. 7227 was passed 19 creating the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to oversee and
accelerate the conversion of Clark and Subic military reservations and their extension camps (John Hay Station, Wallace Air Station,
O'Donnell Transmitter Station, San Miguel Naval Communications Station and Capas Relay Station) to productive civilian uses. Section
8 20 of the said law provides that the capital of the BCDA will be provided from sales proceeds or transfers of lots in nine (9) military
camps in Metro Manila, including 723 has. of Fort Bonifacio. The law, thus, expressly authorized the President of the Philippines "to sell
the above lands, in whole or in part, which are hereby declared alienable and disposable pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and
regulations governing sales of government properties," 21 specifically to raise capital for the BCDA. Titles to the camps were transferred
to the BCDA for this purpose, 22 and TCT No. 61524 was cancelled on January 3, 1995 by TCT Nos. 23888, 23887, 23886, 22460,
23889, 23890, and 23891, now in the name of the BCDA. 23 DCIEac

Excepted from disposition by the BCDA are: a) approximately 148.80 has. reserved for the National Capital Region (NCR) Security Brigade,
Philippine Army officers' housing area, and Philippine National Police jails and support services (presently known as Camp Bagong Diwa);
b) approximately 99.91 has. in Villamor Air Base for the Presidential Airlift Wing, one squadron of helicopters for the NCR and respective
security units; c) twenty one (21) areas segregated by various presidential proclamations; and d) a proposed 30.15 has. as relocation site
for families to be affected by the construction of Circumferential Road 5 and Radial Road 4, provided that the boundaries and technical
description of these exempt areas shall be determined by an actual ground survey. 24

Now charging the BCDA of wrongfully asserting title to Dream Village and unlawfully subjecting its members to summary demolition,
resulting in unrest and tensions among the residents, 25 on November 22, 1999, the latter filed a letter-complaint with the COSLAP to
seek its assistance in the verification survey of the subject 78,466-sq m property, which they claimed is within Lot 1 of Swo-13-000298
and thus is covered by Proclamation No. 172. They claim that they have been occupying the area for thirty (30) years "in the concept of
owners continuously, exclusively and notoriously for several years," and have built their houses of sturdy materials thereon and
introduced paved roads, drainage and recreational and religious facilities. Dream Village, thus, asserts that the lot is not among those
transferred to the BCDA under R.A. No. 7227, and therefore patent applications by the occupants should be processed by the Land
Management Bureau (LMB).

On August 15, 2000, Dream Village formalized its complaint by filing an Amended Petition 26 in the COSLAP. Among the reliefs it sought
were:

d. DECLARING the subject property as alienable and disposable by virtue of applicable laws; aDHScI

e. Declaring the portion of Lot 1 of subdivision Plan SWO-13-000298, situated in the barrio of Western Bicutan,
Taguig, Metro Manila, which is presently being occupied by herein petitioner as within the coverage of
Proclamation Nos. 2476 and 172 and outside the claim of AFP-RSBS INDUSTRIAL PARK COMPLEX and/or
BASES CONVERSION DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY.

f. ORDERING the Land Management Bureau to process the application of the ASSOCIATION members for the purchase
of their respective lots under the provisions of Acts Nos. 274 and 730. 27 (Underscoring supplied)

Respondent BCDA in its Answer 28 dated November 23, 2000 questioned the jurisdiction of the COSLAP to hear Dream Village's
complaint, while asserting its title to the subject property pursuant to R.A. No. 7227. It argued that under Executive Order (E.O.) No. 561
which created the COSLAP, its task is merely to coordinate the various government offices and agencies involved in the settlement of land
problems or disputes, adding that BCDA does not fall in the enumeration in Section 3 of E.O. No. 561, it being neither a pastureland-lease
holder, a timber concessionaire, or a government reservation grantee, but the holder of patrimonial government property which cannot be
the subject of a petition for classification, release or subdivision by the occupants of Dream Village.

In its Resolution 29 dated April 28, 2004, the COSLAP narrated that it called a mediation conference on March 22, 2001, during which the
parties agreed to have a relocation/verification survey conducted of the subject lot. On April 4, 2001, the COSLAP wrote to the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office-NCR requesting the survey, which
would also include Swo-00-0001302, covering the adjacent AFP-RSBS Industrial Park established by Proclamation No. 1218 on May 8, 1998
as well as the abandoned Circumferential Road 5 (C-5 Road). 30

On April 1, 2004, the COSLAP received the final report of the verification survey and a blueprint copy of the survey plan from Atty. Rizaldy
Barcelo, Regional Technical Director for Lands of DENR. Specifically, Item No. 3 of the DENR report states: TcEaAS

3. Lot-1, Swo-000298 is inside Proclamation 172. Dream Village Neighborhood Association, Inc. is outside Lot-1,
Swo-13-000298 and inside Lot-10, 11 & Portion of Lot 13, Swo-00-0001302 with an actual area of 78,466 square
meters. Likewise, the area actually is outside Swo-00-0001302 of BCDA. 31(Emphasis ours and underscoring
supplied)

COSLAP Ruling
On the basis of the DENR's verification survey report, the COSLAP resolved that Dream Village lies outside of BCDA, and particularly,
outside of Swo-00-0001302, and thus directed the LMB of the DENR to process the applications of Dream Village's members for sales
patent, noting that in view of the length of time that they "have been openly, continuously and notoriously occupying the subject property
in the concept of an owner, . . . they are qualified to apply for sales patent on their respective occupied lots pursuant to R.A. Nos.
274 and 730 in relation to the provisions of the Public Land Act." 32 DHSCEc

On the question of its jurisdiction over the complaint, the COSLAP cited the likelihood that the summary eviction by the BCDA of more
than 2,000 families in Dream Village could stir up serious social unrest, and maintained that Section 3 (2) of E.O. No. 561 authorizes it to
"assume jurisdiction and resolve land problems or disputes which are critical and explosive in nature considering, for instance, the large
number of parties involved, the presence or emergence of social tension or unrest, or other similar critical situations requiring immediate
action," even as Section 3 (2) (d) of E.O. No. 561 also allows it to take cognizance of "petitions for classification, release and/or subdivision
of lands of the public domain," exactly the ultimate relief sought by Dream Village. Rationalizing that it was created precisely to provide a
more effective mechanism for the expeditious settlement of land problems "in general," the COSLAP invoked as its authority the 1990 case
of Bañaga v. COSLAP, 33 where this Court said:

It is true that Executive Order No. 561 provides that the COSLAP may take cognizance of cases which are "critical
and explosive in nature considering, for instance, the large number of parties involved, the presence or emergence
of social tension or unrest, or other similar critical situations requiring immediate action." However, the use of the
word "may" does not mean that the COSLAP's jurisdiction is merely confined to the above mentioned cases. The
provisions of the said Executive Order are clear that the COSLAP was created as a means of providing a more
effective mechanism for the expeditious settlement of land problems in general, which are frequently the source of
conflicts among settlers, landowners and cultural minorities. Besides, the COSLAP merely took over from the
abolished PACLAP whose functions, including its jurisdiction, power and authority to act on, decide and resolve
land disputes (Sec. 2, P.D. No. 832) were all assumed by it. The said Executive Order No. 561 containing said
provision, being enacted only on September 21, 1979, cannot affect the exercise of jurisdiction of the PACLAP
Provincial Committee of Koronadal on September 20, 1978. Neither can it affect the decision of the COSLAP which
merely affirmed said exercise of jurisdiction. 34 SDcITH

In its Motion for Reconsideration 35 filed on May 20, 2004, the BCDA questioned the validity of the survey results since it was conducted
without its representatives present, at the same time denying that it received a notification of the DENR verification survey. 36 It
maintained that there is no basis for the COSLAP's finding that the members of Dream Village were in open, continuous, and adverse
possession in the concept of owner, because not only is the property not among those declared alienable and disposable, but it is a titled
patrimonial property of the State. 37

In the Order 38 dated June 17, 2004, the COSLAP denied BCDA's Motion for Reconsideration, insisting that it had due notice of the
verification survey, while also noting that although the BCDA wanted to postpone the verification survey due to its tight schedule, it
actually stalled the survey when it failed to suggest an alternative survey date to ensure its presence.

CA Ruling
On Petition for Review 39 to the CA, the BCDA argued that the dispute is outside the jurisdiction of the COSLAP because of the land's
history of private ownership and because it is registered under an indefeasible Torrens title; 40 that Proclamation No. 172 covers only
Lots 1 and 2 of Swo-13-000298 in Western Bicutan, whereas Dream Village occupies Lots 10, 11 and part of 13 of Swo-00-0001302, which
also belongs to the BCDA; 41 that the COSLAP resolution is based on an erroneous DENR report stating that Dream Village is outside of
BCDA, because Lots 10, 11, and portion of Lot 13 of Swo-00-0001302 are within the BCDA; 42 that the COSLAP was not justified in
ignoring BCDA's request to postpone the survey to the succeeding year because the presence of its representatives in such an important
verification survey was indispensable for the impartiality of the survey aimed at resolving a highly volatile situation; 43 that the COSLAP is
a mere coordinating administrative agency with limited jurisdiction; 44 and, that the present case is not among those enumerated in
Section 3 of E.O. No. 561. 45 caTIDE

The COSLAP, on the other hand, maintained that Section 3 (2) (e) of E.O. No. 561 provides that it may assume jurisdiction and resolve land
problems or disputes in "other similar land problems of grave urgency and magnitude," 46 and the present case is one such problem.

The CA in its Decision 47 dated September 10, 2009 ruled that the COSLAP has no jurisdiction over the complaint because the question of
whether Dream Village is within the areas declared as available for disposition in Proclamation No. 172 is beyond its competence to
determine, even as the land in dispute has been under a private title since 1906, and presently its title is held by a government agency,
the BCDA, in contrast to the case of Bañaga relied upon by Dream Village, where the disputed land was part of the public domain and the
disputants were applicants for sales patent thereto.

Dream Village's motion for reconsideration was denied in the appellate court's Order 48 of July 13, 2010.

Petition for Review in the Supreme Court


On petition for review on certiorari to this Court, Dream Village interposes the following issues:

IN ANNULLING THE RESOLUTION OF COSLAP IN COSLAP CASE NO. 99-500, THE HONORABLE [CA] DECIDED THE
CASE IN A MANNER NOT CONSISTENT WITH LAW AND APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT; cIDHSC

THE HONORABLE [CA] ERRED IN RULING THAT COSLAP HAD NO JURISDICTION OVER THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN
THE PARTIES HEREIN[.]49

The Court's Ruling


We find no merit in the petition.

The BCDA holds title to Fort


Bonifacio.
That the BCDA has title to Fort Bonifacio has long been decided with finality. In Samahan ng Masang Pilipino sa Makati, Inc. v. BCDA, 50 it
was categorically ruled as follows:

First, it is unequivocal that the Philippine Government, and now the BCDA, has title and ownership over Fort
Bonifacio. The case of Acting Registrars of Land Titles and Deeds of Pasay City, Pasig and Makati is final and
conclusive on the ownership of the then Hacienda de Maricaban estate by the Republic of the Philippines. Clearly, the
issue on the ownership of the subject lands in Fort Bonifacio is laid to rest. Other than their view that the USA is still
the owner of the subject lots, petitioner has not put forward any claim of ownership or interest in them. 51

The facts in Samahan ng Masang Pilipino sa Makati are essentially not much different from the controversy below. There, 20,000 families
were long-time residents occupying 98 has. of Fort Bonifacio in Makati City, who vainly sought to avert their eviction and the demolition of
their houses by the BCDA upon a claim that the land was owned by the USA under TCT No. 2288. The Supreme Court found that TCT No.
2288 had in fact been cancelled by TCT No. 61524 in the name of the Republic, which title was in turn cancelled on January 3, 1995 by
TCT Nos. 23888, 23887, 23886, 22460, 23889, 23890, and 23891, all in the name of the BCDA. The Court ruled that the BCDA's
aforesaid titles over Fort Bonifacio are valid, indefeasible and beyond question, since TCT No. 61524 was cancelled in favor of BCDA
pursuant to an explicit authority under R.A. No. 7227, the legal basis for BCDA's takeover and management of the subject lots. 52 HIaSDc

Dream Village sits on the


abandoned C-5 Road, which lies
outside the area declared in
Proclamation Nos. 2476 and 172 as
alienable and disposable.
Pursuant to Proclamation No. 2476, the following surveys were conducted by the Bureau of Lands to delimit the boundaries of the areas
excluded from the coverage of Proclamation No. 423: AEScHa

Barangay Survey Plan Date Approved

1. Lower Bicutan SWO-13-000253 October 21, 1986


2. Signal Village SWO-13-000258 May 13, 1986
3. Upper Bicutan SWO-13-000258 May 13, 1986
4. Western Bicutan SWO-13-000298 January 15, 1987 53

However, the survey plan for Western Bicutan, Swo-13-000298, shows that Lots 3, 4, 5 and 6 thereof are inside the area segregated for
the Libingan ng mga Bayani under Proclamation No. 208, which then leaves only Lots 1 and 2 of Swo-13-000298 as available for
disposition. For this reason, it was necessary to amend Proclamation No. 2476. Thus, in Proclamation No. 172 only Lots 1 and 2 of Swo-
13-000298 are declared alienable and disposable. 54 DCcHAa

The DENR verification survey report states that Dream Village is not situated in Lot 1 of Swo-13-000298 but actually occupies Lots 10, 11
and part of 13 of Swo-00-0001302: ". . . [Dream Village] is outside Lot 1, SWO-[13]-000298 and inside Lots 10, 11 & portion of Lot 13,
SWO-[00]-0001302 with an actual area of 78466 square meters. The area is actually is [sic] outside SWO-00-0001302 of
BCDA." 55 Inexplicably and gratuitously, the DENR also states that the area is outside of BCDA, completely oblivious that the BCDA holds
title over the entire Fort Bonifacio, even as the BCDA asserts that Lots 10, 11 and 13 of SWO-00-0001302 are part of the abandoned right-
of-way of C-5 Road. This area is described as lying north of Lot 1 of Swo-13-000298 and of Lots 3, 4, 5 and 6 of Swo-13-000298 (Western
Bicutan) inside the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the boundary line of Lot 1 mentioned as C-5 Road is really the proposed alignment of C-5
Road, which was abandoned when, as constructed, it was made to traverse northward into the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Dream Village has
not disputed this assertion.
The mere fact that the original plan for C-5 Road to cross Swo-00-0001302 was abandoned by deviating it northward to traverse the
southern part of Libingan ng mga Bayani does not signify abandonment by the government of the bypassed lots, nor that these lots
would then become alienable and disposable. They remain under the title of the BCDA, even as it is significant that under Section 8 (d)
of R.A. No. 7227, a relocation site of 30.5 has. was to be reserved for families affected by the construction of C-5 Road. It is nowhere
claimed that Lots 10, 11 and 13 of Swo-00-0001302 are part of the said relocation site. These lots border C-5 Road in the
south, 56 making them commercially valuable to BCDA, a farther argument against a claim that the government has abandoned them to
Dream Village.

While property of the State or any


of its subdivisions patrimonial in
character may be the object of
prescription, those "intended for
some public service or for the
development of the national
wealth" are considered property of
public dominion and therefore not
susceptible to acquisition by
prescription.
Article 1113 of the Civil Code provides that "property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the
object of prescription." Articles 420 and 421 identify what is property of public dominion and what is patrimonial property: EScHDA

Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:

(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State,
banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;

(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the
development of the national wealth.

Art. 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is patrimonial
property. aITECD

One question laid before us is whether the area occupied by Dream Village is susceptible of acquisition by prescription. In Heirs of Mario
Malabanan v. Republic,57 it was pointed out that from the moment R.A. No. 7227 was enacted, the subject military lands in Metro Manila
became alienable and disposable. However, it was also clarified that the said lands did not thereby become patrimonial, since the BCDA
law makes the express reservation that they are to be sold in order to raise funds for the conversion of the former American bases in
Clark and Subic. The Court noted that the purpose of the law can be tied to either "public service" or "the development of national wealth"
under Article 420 (2) of the Civil Code,such that the lands remain property of the public dominion, albeit their status is now alienable and
disposable. The Court then explained that it is only upon their sale to a private person or entity as authorized by the BCDA law that they
become private property and cease to be property of the public dominion: 58

For as long as the property belongs to the State, although already classified as alienable or disposable, it remains
property of the public dominion if when it is "intended for some public service or for the development of the
national wealth." 59

Thus, under Article 422 of the Civil Code,public domain lands become patrimonial property only if there is a declaration that these are
alienable or disposable, together with an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial or no longer retained
for public service or the development of national wealth. Only when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for
the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run. Also under Section 14 (2) of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529, it is
provided that before acquisitive prescription can commence, the property sought to be registered must not only be classified as alienable
and disposable, it must also be expressly declared by the State that it is no longer intended for public service or the development of the
national wealth, or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Absent such an express declaration by the State, the land
remains to be property of public dominion. 60 cIHSTC

Since the issuance of Proclamation No. 423 in 1957, vast portions of the former Maricaban have been legally disposed to settlers, besides
those segregated for public or government use. Proclamation No. 1217 (1973)established the Maharlika Village in Bicutan, Taguig to serve
the needs of resident Muslims of Metro Manila; Proclamation No. 2476 (1986), as amended by Proclamation No. 172 (1987), declared
more than 400 has. of Maricaban in Upper and Lower Bicutan, Signal Village, and Western Bicutan as alienable and disposable;
Proclamation No. 518 (1990) formally exempted from Proclamation No. 423 the Barangays of Cembo, South Cembo, West Rembo, East
Rembo, Comembo, Pembo and Pitogo, comprising 314 has., and declared them open for disposition. aECTcA

The above proclamations notwithstanding, Fort Bonifacio remains property of public dominion of the State, because although declared
alienable and disposable, it is reserved for some public service or for the development of the national wealth, in this case, for the
conversion of military reservations in the country to productive civilian uses. 61 Needless to say, the acquisitive prescription asserted by
Dream Village has not even begun to run.

Ownership of a land registered


under a Torrens title cannot be lost
by prescription or adverse
possession.
Dream Village has been unable to dispute BCDA's claim that Lots 10, 11 and part of 13 of Swo-00-0001302 are the abandoned right-of-
way of C-5 Road, which is within the vast titled territory of Fort Bonifacio. We have already established that these lots have not been
declared alienable and disposable under Proclamation Nos. 2476 or 172.

Moreover, it is a settled rule that lands under a Torrens title cannot be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. 62 Section 47
of P.D. No. 1529, theProperty Registration Decree, expressly provides that no title to registered land in derogation of the title of the
registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. And, although the registered landowner may still lose his right
to recover the possession of his registered property by reason of laches, 63 nowhere has Dream Village alleged or proved laches, which
has been defined as such neglect or omission to assert a right, taken in conjunction with lapse of time and other circumstances causing
prejudice to an adverse party, as will operate as a bar in equity. Put any way, it is a delay in the assertion of a right which works
disadvantage to another because of the inequity founded on some change in the condition or relations of the property or parties. It is
based on public policy which, for the peace of society, ordains that relief will be denied to a stale demand which otherwise could be a valid
claim. 64TSacCH

The subject property having been


expressly reserved for a specific
public purpose, the COSLAP
cannot exercise jurisdiction over the
complaint of the Dream Village
settlers.
BCDA has repeatedly asserted that the COSLAP has no jurisdiction to hear Dream Village's complaint. Concurring, the CA has ruled that
questions as to the physical identity of Dream Village and whether it lies in Lots 10, 11 and 13 of Swo-00-0001302, or
whether Proclamation No. 172 has released the disputed area for disposition are issues which are "manifestly beyond the scope of the
COSLAP's jurisdiction vis-Ã -vis Paragraph 2, Section 3 of E.O. No. 561," 65 rendering its Resolution a patent nullity and its
pronouncements void. Thus, the CA said, under Section 3 of E.O. No. 561, the COSLAP's duty would have been to refer the conflict to
another tribunal or agency of government in view of the serious ramifications of the disputed claims: STIcaE

In fine, it is apparent that the COSLAP acted outside its jurisdiction in taking cognizance of the case. It would have
been more prudent if the COSLAP has [sic]just referred the controversy to the proper forum in order to fully thresh
out the ramifications of the dispute at bar. As it is, the impugned Resolution is a patent nullity since the tribunal
which rendered it lacks jurisdiction. Thus, the pronouncements contained therein are void. "We have consistently
ruled that a judgment for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all. It cannot be the source of any right or the
creator of any obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal
effect." 66 (Citation omitted)

We add that Fort Bonifacio has been reserved for a declared specific public purpose under R.A. No. 7227, which unfortunately for Dream
Village does not encompass the present demands of its members. Indeed, this purpose was the very reason why title to Fort Bonifacio has
been transferred to the BCDA, and it is this very purpose which takes the dispute out of the direct jurisdiction of the COSLAP. A review of
the history of the COSLAP will readily clarify that its jurisdiction is limited to disputes over public lands not reserved or declared for a
public use or purpose. cAaDHT

On July 31, 1970, President Marcos issued E.O. No. 251 creating the Presidential Action Committee on Land Problems (PACLAP) to
expedite and coordinate the investigation and resolution of all kinds of land disputes between settlers, streamline and shorten
administrative procedures, adopt bold and decisive measures to solve land problems, or recommend other solutions. 67 E.O. No. 305,
issued on March 19, 1971, reconstituted the PACLAP and gave it exclusive jurisdiction over all cases involving public lands and other
lands of the public domain, 68 as well as adjudicatory powers phrased in broad terms: "To investigate, coordinate, and resolve
expeditiously land disputes, streamline administrative proceedings, and, in general, to adopt bold and decisive measures to solve
problems involving public lands and lands of the public domain." 69

On November 27, 1975, P.D. No. 832 reorganized the PACLAP and enlarged its functions and duties. Section 2 thereof even granted it
quasi judicial functions, to wit:

Sec. 2. Functions and duties of the PACLAP. — The PACLAP shall have the following functions and duties:

1. Direct and coordinate the activities, particularly the investigation work, of the various government agencies and
agencies involved in land problems or disputes, and streamline administrative procedures to relieve small settlers
and landholders and members of cultural minorities of the expense and time-consuming delay attendant to the
solution of such problems or disputes;

2. Refer for immediate action any land problem or dispute brought to the attention of the PACLAP, to any member
agency having jurisdiction thereof:Provided, That when the Executive Committee decides to act on a case, its
resolution, order or decision thereon shall have the force and effect of a regular administrative resolution, order or
decision, and shall be binding upon the parties therein involved and upon the member agency having jurisdiction
thereof;

xxx xxx xxx

4. Evolve and implement a system of procedure for the speedy investigation and resolution of land disputes or
problems at provincial level, if possible. (Underscoring supplied)

On September 21, 1979, E.O. No. 561 abolished the PACLAP and created the COSLAP to be a more effective administrative body to provide
a mechanism for the expeditious settlement of land problems among small settlers, landowners and members of the cultural minorities to
avoid social unrest. 70 Paragraph 2, Section 3 of E.O No. 561 now specifically enumerates the instances when the COSLAP can exercise its
adjudicatory functions:

Sec. 3. Powers and Functions. — The Commission shall have the following powers and functions: SAHIDc

1. Coordinate the activities, particularly the investigation work, of the various government offices and
agencies involved in the settlement of land problems or disputes, and streamline administrative procedures
to relieve small settlers and landholders and members of cultural minorities of the expense and time
consuming delay attendant to the solution of such problems or disputes;

2. Refer and follow-up for immediate action by the agency having appropriate jurisdiction any land problem
or dispute referred to the Commission: Provided, That the Commission may, in the following cases, assume
jurisdiction and resolve land problems or disputes which are critical and explosive in nature considering, for
instance, the large number of the parties involved, the presence or emergence of social tension or unrest, or
other similar critical situations requiring immediate action:

(a) Between occupants/squatters and pasture lease agreement holders or timber


concessionaires;

(b) Between occupants/squatters and government

reservation grantees;

(c) Between occupants/squatters and public land claimants or applicants;

(d) Petitions for classification, release and/or subdivision of lands of the public domain;
and

(e) Other similar land problems of grave urgency and magnitude. cEaCTS

xxx xxx xxx


Citing the constant threat of summary eviction and demolition by the BCDA and the seriousness and urgency of the reliefs sought in its
Amended Petition, Dream Village insists that the COSLAP was justified in assuming jurisdiction of COSLAP Case No. 99-500. But in Longino
v. Atty. General, 71 it was held that as an administrative agency, COSLAP's jurisdiction is limited to cases specifically mentioned in its
enabling statute, E.O. No. 561. The Supreme Court said:

Administrative agencies, like the COSLAP, are tribunals of limited jurisdiction and, as such, could wield only such as
are specifically granted to them by the enabling statutes. . . . . LLphil

xxx xxx xxx

Under the law, [E.O. No. 561], the COSLAP has two options in acting on a land dispute or problem lodged before it,
namely, (a) refer the matter to the agency having appropriate jurisdiction for settlement/resolution; or (b) assume
jurisdiction if the matter is one of those enumerated in paragraph 2(a) to (e) of the law, if such case is critical and
explosive in nature, taking into account the large number of the parties involved, the presence or emergence of social
tension or unrest, or other similar critical situations requiring immediate action. In resolving whether to assume
jurisdiction over a case or to refer the same to the particular agency concerned, the COSLAP has to consider the
nature or classification of the land involved, the parties to the case, the nature of the questions raised, and the need
for immediate and urgent action thereon to prevent injuries to persons and damage or destruction to property. The
law does not vest jurisdiction on the COSLAP over any land dispute or problem. 72 (Citation omitted) ITScHa

The Longino ruling has been consistently cited in subsequent COSLAP cases, among them Davao New Town Development Corp. v.
COSLAP, 73 Barranco v. COSLAP, 74 NHA v. COSLAP, 75 Cayabyab v. de Aquino, 76 Ga, Jr. v. Tubungan, 77 Machado v.
Gatdula, 78 and Vda. de Herrera v. Bernardo. 79

Thus, in Machado, it was held that the COSLAP cannot invoke Section 3 (2) (e) of E.O. No. 561 to assume jurisdiction over "other similar
land problems of grave urgency," since the statutory construction principle of ejusdem generis prescribes that where general words follow
an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their
widest extent but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same kind as those specifically mentioned. 80 Following this
rule, COSLAP's jurisdiction is limited to disputes involving lands in which the government has a proprietary or regulatory interest, 81 or
public lands covered with a specific license from the government such as a pasture lease agreements, a timber concessions, or a
reservation grants, 82 and where moreover, the dispute is between occupants/squatters and pasture lease agreement holders or timber
concessionaires; between occupants/squatters and government reservation grantees; and between occupants/squatters and public land
claimants or applicants.

In Longino, the parties competed to lease a property of the Philippine National Railways. The high court rejected COSLAP's jurisdiction,
noting that the disputed lot is not public land, and neither party was a squatter, patent lease agreement holder, government reservation
grantee, public land claimant or occupant, or a member of any cultural minority, nor was the dispute critical and explosive in nature so as
to generate social tension or unrest, or a critical situation which required immediate action. 83

In Davao New Town Development Corp., it was held that the COSLAP has no concurrent jurisdiction with the Department of Agrarian
Reform (DAR) in respect of disputes concerning the implementation of agrarian reform laws, since "[t]he grant of exclusive and primary
jurisdiction over agrarian reform matters on the DAR implies that no other court, tribunal, or agency is authorized to resolve disputes
properly cognizable by the DAR." 84 Thus, instead of hearing and resolving the case, COSLAP should have simply referred private
respondents' complaint to the DAR or DARAB. According to the Court: cDCSET

The abovementioned proviso [Section (3)(2) of E.O. No. 561], which vests COSLAP the power to resolve land disputes,
does not confer upon COSLAP blanket authority to assume every matter referred to it. Its jurisdiction is confined only
to disputes over lands in which the government has proprietary or regulatory interest. Moreover, the land dispute
in Bañaga involved parties with conflicting free patent applications which was within the authority of PACLAP to
resolve, unlike that of the instant case which is exclusively cognizable by the DAR. 85

In Barranco, COSLAP issued a writ to demolish structures encroaching into private property. The Supreme Court ruled that COSLAP may
resolve only land disputes "involving public lands or lands of the public domain or those covered with a specific license from the
government such as a pasture lease agreement, a timber concession, or a reservation grant." 86 TcSCEa

In NHA, it was held that COSLAP has no jurisdiction over a boundary dispute between two local government units, that its decision is an
utter nullity correctible by certiorari, that it can never become final and any writ of execution based on it is void, and all acts performed
pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect. 87

In Cayabyab, it was held that "the jurisdiction of COSLAP does not extend to disputes involving the ownership of private lands, or those
already covered by a certificate of title, as these fall exactly within the jurisdiction of the courts and other administrative agencies." 88

In Ga, Jr., it was reiterated that the COSLAP has no jurisdiction over controversies relating to ownership and possession of private lands,
and thus, the failure of respondents to properly appeal from the COSLAP decision before the appropriate court was held not fatal to the
petition for certiorari that they eventually filed with the CA. The latter remedy remained available despite the lapse of the period to appeal
from the void COSLAP decision. 89

In Machado, the high court ruled that COSLAP has no jurisdiction in disputes over private lands between private parties, reiterating the
essential rules contained in Section 3 of E.O. No. 561 governing the exercise by COSLAP of its jurisdiction, to wit:

Under these terms, the COSLAP has two different rules in acting on a land dispute or problem lodged before it, e.g.,
COSLAP can assume jurisdiction only if the matter is one of those enumerated in paragraph 2(a) to (e) of the law.
Otherwise, it should refer the case to the agency having appropriate jurisdiction for settlement or resolution. In
resolving whether to assume jurisdiction over a case or to refer it to the particular agency concerned, the COSLAP
considers: (a) the nature or classification of the land involved; (b) the parties to the case; (c) the nature of the
questions raised; and (d) the need for immediate and urgent action thereon to prevent injury to persons and damage
or destruction to property. The terms of the law clearly do not vest on the COSLAP the general power to assume
jurisdiction over any land dispute or problem. Thus, under EO 561, the instances when the COSLAP may resolve land
disputes are limited only to those involving public lands or those covered by a specific license from the government,
such as pasture lease agreements, timber concessions, or reservation grants. 90 (Citations omitted) aSIDCT

In Vda. de Herrera, the COSLAP assumed jurisdiction over a complaint for "interference, disturbance, unlawful claim, harassment and
trespassing" over a private parcel of land. The CA ruled that the parties were estopped to question COSLAP's jurisdiction since they
participated actively in the proceedings. The Supreme Court, noting from the complaint that the case actually involved a claim of title and
possession of private land, ruled that the RTC or the MTC has jurisdiction since the dispute did not fall under Section 3, paragraph 2 (a) to
(e) of E.O. No. 561, was not critical and explosive in nature, did not involve a large number of parties, nor was there social tension or
unrest present or emergent. 91

In the case at bar, COSLAP has invoked Bañaga to assert its jurisdiction. There, Guillermo Bañaga had filed a free patent application with
the Bureau of Lands over a public land with an area of 30 has. Gregorio Daproza (Daproza) also filed a patent application for the same
property. The opposing claims and protests of the claimants remained unresolved by the Bureau of Lands, and neither did it conduct an
investigation. Daproza wrote to the COSLAP, which then opted to exercise jurisdiction over the controversy. The high court sustained
COSLAP, declaring that its jurisdiction is not confined to the cases mentioned in paragraph 2 (a) to (e) of E.O. No. 561, but includes land
problems in general, which are frequently the source of conflicts among settlers, landowners and cultural minorities.

But as the Court has since clarified in Longino and in the other cases aforecited, the land dispute in Bañaga was between private
individuals who were free patent applicants over unregistered public lands. In contrast, the present petition involves land titled to and
managed by a government agency which has been expressly reserved by law for a specific public purpose other than for settlement. Thus,
as we have advised in Longino, the law does not vest jurisdiction on the COSLAP over any land dispute or problem, but it has to consider
the nature or classification of the land involved, the parties to the case, the nature of the questions raised, and the need for immediate
and urgent action thereon to prevent injuries to persons and damage or destruction to property.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED. IaDSEA
Sereno, C.J., Leonardo-de Castro, Bersamin and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1.Rollo, pp. 24-46.


2.Penned by Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla, with Associate Justices Josefina Guevara-Salonga and Celia C. Librea-Leagogo,
concurring; id. at 55-67.
3.Id. at 71-72.
4.Id. at 112-116.
5.Id. at 115-116.
6.Id. at 29.
7.Pursuant to Act No. 496 (1902) or the Land Registration Act.
8.Rollo, p. 56.
9.Samahan ng Masang Pilipino sa Makati, Inc. v. BCDA, 542 Phil. 86 (2007).
10.Rollo, p. 56.
11.Id. at 125; supra note 9, at 93.
12.Id. at 125-126.
13.Id. at 56, 126.
14.Id. at 29, 126.
15.Id. at 29.
16.Under R.A. No. 274, passed on June 15, 1948, and R.A. No. 730, passed on June 18, 1952, the Director of Lands shall cause the
subdivision into agricultural or residential lots of lands within military reservations owned by the RP which may be declared by
the President of the Philippines as no longer needed for military purposes, for sale, first, to bona fide occupants, then to
veterans, etc. The lots shall not be encumbered or alienated prior to the issuance of the patent, or for ten years thereafter, nor
shall they be used to satisfy a debt contracted by the patent holder in the meantime.
17.In a hand-written addendum by President Marcos to Proclamation No. 2476, Western Bicutan was also declared open for disposition,
but in Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Sitio Masigasig, Inc. v. Marine Shrine Services (G.R. No. 187587, June 5, 2013), the
addendum was held as without legal effect for lack of publication.
18.The additional lots declared open for disposition under Proclamation No. 172 were:
LOT 1 (WESTERN BICUTAN)
A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 1 of the subdivision plan Swo-13-000298, being a portion of the Proclamation No. 2476) LRC Record No. —
situated in the Bo. of Western Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila.
Bounded on the SW., and SE., along lines 1-2-3 by Lot 9100 (Manila Technician Institute) Proclamation No. 1160; on the NW., SW., and
NW., along lines 3 to 16 by Circumferential Road, 50 m. wide); on the N.E., along lines 16-17 by Lot 2 of plan Swo-13-000298,
and on the SE., along line 17-1 by Lot 8062 (Veteran's Center Compound) (Proclamation No. 192) of plan MCadm-590-D Taguig
Cadastral Mapping.
NOTE: Lot 2 == Lot 10253, MCadm-590-D, Case 17, Taguig Cadastral Mapping
Beginning at a point marked "1" on plan, being S 63 deg. 25'W., 4346, 11 m. from BLBM No. 1, MCadm-590-D, Taguig Cadastral, thence

xxx xxx xxx
beginning, containing an area of TWO HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED SEVENTY-SIX (252,476) SQUARE METERS. All
points referred to are indicated on the plan and are marked on the ground by PS cyl. conc. wall, and pt 1 17 by nail w/conc.
hallow blocks; bearings grid, date of original survey, April 23, 1978-July 12, 1979, that of special work order, July 5-10, 1986,
approved on Jan. 15, 1987.
LOT 2 SWO-13-000298 (WESTERN BICUTAN)
A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 2 (Western Bicutan) of the subdivision plan Swo-13-000298, being a portion of land described in Proclamation
No. 2476, LRC Record No. PSU-467), situated in the Bo. of Western Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila.
Bounded on the SE., along lines 1-2 by Veteran's Center Compound (Proclamation No. 192) (Lot 8092, MCad-s-90-D); on the SEW, along
lines 3 to 11 by Circumferential Road (5 m. wide); on the NE., along lines 11-12 by Lot 0063 (Military Reservation) (Fort
Bonifacio) portion of Lot 3, Psu-2030 (portion on) MCadm-590-D; on the SE., along lines 12-13 by Lot 1 Swo-13-000258 (Signal
Village) (Lot 00202, MCads-590-D, Case 17, Taguig Cad Mapping and on the SW., along line 1s-1 by Veteran's Center
Compound) (Proclamation No. 192) (Lot 8062, MCadm-590-D, Taguig Cad. Mapping.
NOTE: Lot 2 == Lot 10253, MCadm-590-D, Case 17, Taguig Cadastral Mapping.
Beginning at a point marked "1" on plan, being S. 64 deg. 051' W., 2805.47 m. from BLBM No. 1, MCadm 590-D, Taguig Cadastre;
thence
xxx xxx xxx
beginning, containing an area of Three-Hundred Eighty-Five Thousand Thirty-Two (385,032) Square Meters. All points referred to are
indicated on the plan and the marked on the ground by PS cyl. conc. mons.; except pts. 1 by BGY. No. 38; pt. 2 by nail with
crown; pt. 12 by old PS cyl. conc. mons.; pt. 10 by edge of conc. wall; bearings and rod, date of original survey, April 23, 1978-
July 27, 1979, that of the special work order July 5-10, 1986, approved on January 14, 1987. . . . .
19.An Act Accelerating the Conversion of Military Reservations Into Productive Uses, Creating the Bases Conversion and Development
Authority for This Purpose, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.
20.Sec. 8. Funding Scheme. — The capital of the Conversion Authority shall come from the sales proceeds and/or transfers of certain
Metro Manila military camps, including all lands covered by Proclamation No. 423, series of 1957, commonly known as Fort
Bonifacio and Villamor (Nicholas) Air Base, namely:
Camp Area in has.
(more or less)

Phase I (for immediate disposal)


1. Camp Claudio 2.0
2. Camp Bago Bantay 5.0
3. Part of Villamor Air Base 135.10
4. Part of Fort Bonifacio 498.40
———————
Total 640.50
=======
Phase II
1. Camp Ver 1.9
2. Camp Melchor 1.0
3. Camp Atienza 4.9
4. Part of Villamor Air Base 37.9
5. Part of Fort Bonifacio 224.90
6. Fort Abad .60
———————
Total 271.20
=======
Provided, That the following areas shall be exempt from sale:
(a) Approximately 148.80 hectares in Fort Bonifacio for the National Capital Region (NCR) Security Brigade, Philippine Army (PA)
officers' housing area, and Philippine National Police (PNP) jails and support services (Presently Camp Bagong Diwa);
(b) Approximately 99.91 hectares in Villamor Air Base for the Presidential Airlift Wing, one squadron of helicopters for the NCR and
respective security units;
(c) The following areas segregated by Proclamation Nos.:
(1) 461, series of 1965; (AFP Officers Village)
(2) 462, series of 1965; (AFP Enlisted Men's Village)
(3) 192, series of 1967; (Veterans Center)
(4) 208, series of 1967; (National Shrines)
(5) 469, series of 1969; (Philippine College of Commerce)
(6) 653, series of 1970; (National Manpower and Youth Council)
(7) 684, series of 1970; (University Center)
(8) 1041, series of 1972; (Open Lease Concession)
(9) 1160, series of 1973; (Manila Technical Institute)
(10) 1217, series of 1973; (Maharlika Village)
(11) 682, series of 1970; (Civil Aviation Purposes)
(12) 1048, series of 1975; (Civil Aviation Purposes)
(13) 1453, series of 1975; (National Police Commission)
(14) 1633, series of 1977; (Housing and Urban Development)
(15) 2219, series of 1982; (Ministry of Human Settlements, BLISS)
(16) 172, series of 1987; (Upper, Lower and Western Bicutan and Signal Housing)
(17) 389, series of 1989; (National Mapping and Resource Information Authority)
(18) 518, series of 1990; (CEMBO, SO CEMBO, W REMBO, E REMBO, COMEMBO, PEMBO, PITOGO)
(19) 467, series of 1968; (Greater Manila Terminal Food Market Site)
(20) 347, series of 1968; (Greater Manila Food Market Site)
(21) 376, series of 1968; (National Development Board and Science Community)
(d) A proposed 30.15 hectares as relocation site for families to be affected by circumferential road 5 and radial road 4 construction:
Provided, further, That the boundaries and technical description of these exempt areas shall be determined by an actual
ground survey.
The President is hereby authorized to sell the above lands, in whole or in part, which are hereby declared alienable and disposable
pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and regulations governing sales of government properties: Provided, That no sale
or disposition of such lands will be undertaken until a development plan embodying projects for conversion shall be approved
by the President in accordance with paragraph (b), Section 4, of this Act. However, six (6) months after approval of this Act, the
President shall authorize the Conversion Authority to dispose of certain areas in Fort Bonifacio and Villamor as the latter so
determines. . . . .
xxx xxx xxx
With respect to the military reservations and their extensions, the President upon recommendation of the Conversion Authority or the
Subic Authority when it concerns the Subic Special Economic Zone shall likewise be authorized to sell or dispose those
portions of lands which the Conversion Authority or the Subic Authority may find essential for the development of their
projects. (Underscoring ours)
21.Id.
22.Also transferred to the BCDA were:
Section 7. Transfer of Properties. — Pursuant to paragraph (a), Section 4 hereof, the President shall transfer forthwith to the
Conversion Authority:
(a) Station
Area in has.
(more or less)

John Hay Air Station 570


Wallace Air Station 167
O'Donnell Transmitter Station 1,755
San Miguel Naval Communications Station 1,100
Mt. Sta. Rita Station (Hermosa, Bataan)
(b) Such other properties including, but not limited to, portions of Metro Manila military camps, pursuant to Section 8 of this Act:
Provided, however, That the areas which shall remain as military reservations shall be delineated and proclaimed as such by
the President.
23.Supra note 9, at 98.
24.See R.A. No. 7227, Sec. 8.
25.Section 27 of R.A. No. 7279 authorizes the summary eviction and demolition of professional squatters, thus:
Sec. 27. Action Against Professional Squatters and Squatting Syndicates. — The local government units, in cooperation with the
Philippine National Police, the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), and the PCUP-accredited urban poor
organization in the area, shall adopt measures to identify and effectively curtail the nefarious and illegal activities of
professional squatters and squatting syndicates, as herein defined.
Any person or group identified as such shall be summarily evicted and their dwellings or structures demolished, and shall be
disqualified to avail of the benefits of the Program. A public official who tolerates or abets the commission of the
abovementioned acts shall be dealt with in accordance with existing laws.
26.Rollo, pp. 82-90.
27.Id. at 87.
28.Id. at 107-111.
29.Id. at 112-116.
30.Id. at 125.
31.Id. at 115.
32.Id.
33.260 Phil. 643 (1990).
34.Id. at 653-654.
35.Rollo, pp. 145-149.
36.Id. at 146.
37.Id. at 147-148.
38.Id. at 150-152.
39.Id. at 121-139.
40.Id. at 130, citing Republic v. CA, G.R. No. 84966, November 21, 1991, 204 SCRA 358.
41.Id. at 132-133.
42.Id. at 131.
43.Id. at 130-131.
44.Id. at 127.
45.Id. at 135-136.
46.Executive Order No. 561, Section 3, Paragraph 2 (e).
47.Rollo, pp. 55-67.
48.Id. at 71-72.
49.Id. at 35.
50.542 Phil. 86 (2007).
51.Id. at 97-98.
52.Id. at 98.
53.Rollo, p. 244.
54.Id.
55.Id. at 133.
56.See Sketch Plan; id. at 167.
57.G.R. No. 179987, April 29, 2009, 587 SCRA 172.
58.Id. at 204-205.
59.Id. at 203.
60.Id.
61.Republic v. Ching, G.R. No. 186166, October 20, 2010, 634 SCRA 415, 427, citing Heirs of Mario Malabanan, id. at 210.
62.See Benin v. Tuason, 156 Phil. 525 (1974); Natalia Realty Corporation v. Vallez, 255 Phil. 510 (1989).
63.Isabela Colleges, Inc. v. Heirs of Tolentino-Rivera, 397 Phil. 955, 969 (2000).
64.De Vera-Cruz v. Miguel, 505 Phil. 593, 602-603 (2005).
65.Rollo, p. 65.
66.Id. at 66.
67.Machado v. Gatdula, G.R. No. 156287, February 16, 2010, 612 SCRA 546, 554.
68.Id., citing The United Residents of Dominican Hill, Inc. v. COSLAP, 406 Phil. 354, 366 (2001).
69.Id. at 554-555, citing Davao New Town Development Corporation v. COSLAP, 498 Phil. 530, 545 (2005).
70.Vda. de Herrera v. Bernardo, G.R. No. 170251, June 1, 2011, 650 SCRA 87, 92.
71.491 Phil. 600 (2005).
72.Id. at 618-621.
73.498 Phil. 530 (2005).
74.524 Phil. 533 (2006).
75.535 Phil. 766 (2006).
76.559 Phil. 132 (2007).
77.G.R. No. 182185, September 18, 2009, 600 SCRA 739.
78.G.R. No. 156287, February 16, 2010, 612 SCRA 546.
79.G.R. No. 170251, June 1, 2011, 650 SCRA 87.
80.Supra note 78, at 558, citing Longino v. Atty. General, supra note 71, at 622.
81.Id. at 558, citing Davao New Town Development Corp. v. COSLAP, supra note 73, at 548.
82.Id. at 557, citing Barranco v. COSLAP, supra note 74, at 547.
83.Supra note 71, at 621-622.
84.Supra note 73, at 547.
85.Id. at 548-549.
86.Supra note 74, at 547, citing Davao New Town Development Corp. v. COSLAP, supra note 73, at 546.
87.Supra note 75, at 775.
88.Supra note 76, at 147.
89.Supra note 77, at 748.
90.Supra note 78, at 557.
91.Supra note 79, at 94.
||| (Dream Village Neighborhood Association, Inc. v. Bases Conversion Development Authority, G.R. No. 192896, [July 24, 2013], 715 PHIL
211-244)

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 169397. March 13, 2007.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. RESTITUTO SARMIENTO, represented by his attorney-in-fact,
MAGDALENO SARMIENTO,respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO-MORALES, J p:

Restituto Sarmiento (respondent) through his brother-attorney-in-fact Magdaleno Sarmiento (Magdaleno) filed on November 29, 2000 with
the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Taguig, Metro Manila an application for registration 1 of a parcel of land, delineated as Lot 535-D
under Approved Survey Plan Swo-13-000465 with a total land area of 2,664 square meters and located at Barangay Wawa, Taguig, Metro
Manila (the lot).

Respondent claimed to have acquired the lot through donation under a Kasulatan ng Pagkakaloob 2 dated July 16, 1988 executed by his
father, Placido Sarmiento (Placido), which lot formed part of Lot 535 that was allegedly inherited by Placido from Florentina Sarmiento
(Florentina).

Respondent further claimed that he and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, adverse, and public
possession of the lot in the concept of an owner for more than 30 years. 3

Together with his application for registration, respondent submitted the following documents:

1. Blueprint copy of the Conversion and Subdivision Plan Swo-13-000465 of Lot 535 as surveyed for Magdaleno
Sarmiento, et al; 4

2. Photocopy of Geodetic Engineer's Certificate; 5

3. Technical Description of Lot 535-D; 6

4. Owner's Copy of Tax Declaration No. EL-009-01681 in the name of Restituto A. Sarmiento; 7

5. Photocopy of the Kasulatan ng Pagkakaloob dated July 16, 1988; 8 and

6. Special Power of Attorney executed by Restituto Sarmiento appointing Magdaleno Sarmiento as his attorney-in-
fact. 9

On January 17, 2001, the Solicitor General, through the Prosecutor of Taguig who was deputized to assist in the case, filed, as counsel for
the Republic of the Philippines (petitioner), an Opposition 10 to respondent's application for registration. Contending that (1) neither the
applicant nor his predecessors-in-interest were in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lot since
June 12, 1945 or prior thereto, as required under Section 48 (b) ofCommonwealth Act No. 141 (The Public Land Act), as amended by
Presidential Decree (P.D) No. 1073; 11 (2) respondent's muniments of title and/or tax declarations and tax payment receipts do not
appear to be genuine and do not anyway constitute competent and sufficient evidence of his bona fide acquisition of the lot in the concept
of an owner since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (3) the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of a Spanish title or grant can no
longer be availed of by respondent as he failed to file an appropriate application for registration within six months from February 16,
1976, as required underP.D. No. 892; 12 and (4) the lot is part of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines, hence,
not subject to private appropriation. SCDaET

At the initial hearing of the application on April 4, 2001, respondent offered and marked in evidence documents proving compliance with
jurisdictional requirements, following which the MeTC issued an order of general default against the whole world, except against the
government. 13

After the conclusion of the testimonies of respondent's brother-attorney-in-fact Magdaleno 14 and adjoining lot owner Rodolfo Sta.
Ana, 15 the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Assistant Regional Director for Legal Services and
Public Affairs, filed its Report 16 dated April 16, 2001 reiterating respondent's claims as set forth in his application for registration.

The Land Registration Authority, through the Director of the Department of Registration, also filed a report with the MeTC with the
information that it was not in a position to verify whether the lot was already covered by a land patent or a previously approved isolated
survey. 17

Respondent's formal offer of evidence 18 did not merit comment/opposition from petitioner which in fact waived the presentation of
evidence for the government. 19

By Decision 20 of May 27, 2002, the MeTC granted respondent's application for registration. Thus it disposed:
WHEREFORE, premises considered and finding the allegations in the application to have been sufficiently established
by the applicant's evidence, this Court hereby confirms the title of applicant Restituto Sarmiento, Filipino citizen, of
legal age, married to Betty Sarmiento and a resident of No. 11, Guerrero Street, Wawa, Taguig, Metro Manila over the
subject parcel of agricultural land known as Lot 535-D, MCadm-590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping under Conversion
and Subdivision Plan Swo-13-000465 situated at Barangay Wawa, Municipality of Taguig, Metro Manila, consisting of
Two Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Four (2,664) square meters and hereby order the registration thereof in his name.

After the finality of this Decision and upon payment of the corresponding taxes due on the said lot, let an order for
the issuance of decree of registration be issued.

SO ORDERED. 21

In granting respondent's application, the MeTC found that respondent and his predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the lot
in the concept of an owner for more than 30 years, viz:

The subject lot was a portion of the parcel of land previously declared for taxation purposes in the name of its
original owner Florentina Sarmiento under Tax Declaration (T.D.) No. 4995 (Exhibit "N"). Upon the death of Florentina
Sarmiento, a portion of said land was inherited by Placido Sarmiento, the father of the herein applicant Restituto
Sarmiento, while the other portion went to Placido's [s]ister Teodora Sarmiento. On July 16, 1988, Placido Sarmiento
transferred the portion of the parcel of land inherited by him from Florentina Sarmiento to his children, namely:
herein applicant Restituto Sarmiento, Magdaleno Sarmiento and Conigunda Sarmiento by virtue of a deed
denominated as "Kasulatan ng Pagkakaloob" (Exhibits "O" and "O-5"). (TSN, June 16, 2001).

On April 24 and June 25, 1998, Magdaleno Sarmiento, among others, caused the survey of the entire area of the
parcel of land . . . According to the said plan, the said survey is inside alienable and disposable area, Project No. 27-B,
L.C. Map No. 2623, certified on January 3, 1968 by the Bureau of Forestry (Exhibit "K-2",supra).

The said property was being planted to rice, watermelons, and other vegetables by Florentina Sarmiento and her
successors-in-interest themselves and by their hired helpers for about fifty years (50) years already. It is not tenanted
and there are no other persons having a claim over the said property since the Japanese occupation. The said parcel
of land is about two (2) kilometers away from the Laguna Lake but it gets flooded for about two (2) months during
the rainy season and sometimes up to three (3) months if the town proper (poblacion) of Taguig is itself underwater.
(TSN, June 6, 2001). . . .

Applicant Restituto Sarmiento and his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the subject parcel of land
continuously, uninterruptedly, openly, publicly, adversely and in the concept of owners for more than thirty (30) years
now. . . . 22

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals, faulting the MeTC for granting the application despite respondent's failure to comply with the
mandatory requirement of submitting the original tracing cloth plan in evidence. 23 Petitioner advanced that according to the survey of
the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the lot is located below the reglementary lake elevation of 12.50 meters, hence, a part of
the Laguna Lake bed which is incapable of private appropriation. 24

By Decision 25 of May 20, 2005, the appellate court held that as the lot was sufficiently identified by the blue print copy of the plan and
the technical description, the presentation of the original tracing cloth ceased to become indispensable for the grant of the application. 26

The appellate court further held that petitioner's claim that the lot forms part of the Laguna Lake bed cannot be raised for the first time on
appeal, and even assuming that it was properly raised, the purported ground survey of the LLDA had no probative value since it was not a
certified original copy. 27

The appellate court thus affirmed the decision of the MeTC. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration having been denied by
Resolution 28 of August 19, 2005, petitioner now comes before this Court on a petition for review on certiorari.

It is well settled that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government, and it
is indispensable that the person claiming title to public land should show that his title was acquired from the State or any other mode of
acquisition recognized by law. 29

While respondent did not state in his application the statutory basis of his application, it can reasonably be inferred that he seeks the
judicial confirmation or legalization of his imperfect or incomplete title over the lot 30 which he claims to be a riceland.

Judicial confirmation of imperfect title is, under the Public Land Act, one of the means by which public agricultural lands may be
disposed. 31

Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. 1073, 32 provides:

Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for
confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the
provisions of this chapter.

Under the above-quoted provision, an applicant for confirmation of imperfect title must prove that (a) the land forms part of the
disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (b) he has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or since June 12, 1945. 33

To support its contention that the lot does not form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, petitioner submitted
before the appellate court the technical survey data and topographic map of the LLDA showing that the lot is situated below the
reglementary elevation of 12.50 meters. Since that was the first time petitioner raised the issue, the appellate court correctly glossed over
it, for offending basic rules of fair play, justice, and due process. 34 In any event, an examination of what purports to be the technical
survey data of the LLDA shows that it is not a certified original copy but a mere photocopy, the veracity and genuineness of which cannot
be ascertained by this Court.

The absence or weakness of the evidence for petitioner notwithstanding, respondent still bears the burden of overcoming the
presumption that the lot he seeks to register forms part of the alienable agricultural land of the public domain. 35

To discharge the onus, respondent relies on the blue print copy of the conversion and subdivision plan approved by the DENR Center
which bears the notation of the surveyor-geodetic engineer that "this survey is inside the alienable and disposable area, Project No. 27-B.
L.C. Map No. 2623, certified on January 3, 1968 by the Bureau of Forestry."

Menguito v. Republic 36 teaches, however, that reliance on such a notation to prove that the lot is alienable is insufficient and does not
constitute incontrovertible evidence to overcome the presumption that it remains part of the inalienable public domain.
To prove that the land in question formed part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, petitioners
relied on the printed words which read: "This survey plan is inside Alienable and Disposable Land Area, Project No.
27-B as per L.C. Map No. 2623, certified by the Bureau of Forestry on January 3, 1968," appearing on Exhibit "E"
(Survey Plan No. Swo-13-000227).

This proof is not sufficient. Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, provides: "All lands of the public domain,
waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber,
wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. . . ."

For the original registration of title, the applicant (petitioners in this case) must overcome the presumption that the
land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified
or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Indeed, "occupation
thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title." To
overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant. Absent such evidence, the
land sought to be registered remains inalienable.

In the present case, petitioners cite a surveyor-geodetic engineer's notation in Exhibit "E" indicating that the survey
was inside alienable and disposable land.Such notation does not constitute a positive government act validly
changing the classification of the land in question. Verily, a mere surveyor has no authority to reclassify lands of
the public domain. By relying solely on the said surveyor's assertion, petitioners have not sufficiently proven that the
land in question has been declared alienable. 37 (Citations omitted; Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

But even assuming that respondent has proven that the lot is alienable, his application would still be denied for failure to comply with the
period of possession requirement.

Originally, Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act required applicants to have been in possession and occupation of lands applied for since
July 26, 1894. The law was later amended by Republic Act (RA) 1942 38 which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period. 39 RA
1942 has, however, already been amended byP.D. 1073, approved on January 25, 1977, which requires applicants to have been in
possession and occupation of the lands applied for since June 12, 1945.

At the time respondent filed his application on November 29, 2000, he had only been in possession of the lot for more than 12 years,
following his acquisition of ownership thereof from Placido by Kasulatan ng Pagkakaloob 40 dated July 16, 1988. Respondent seeks to
tack his possession with that of his predecessors-in-interest, however.

From respondent's evidence, his grandmother Florentina (from whom his father allegedly inherited the lot which was in turn donated to
him) registered the lot for estate tax purposes in 1948. 41

From an examination of this 1948 tax declaration, photocopy of which was marked as Exhibit "N" 42 by respondent, not only does it bear
no number or the number is illegible; the area of the "palayero" (riceland) cannot be determined as what is entered under the column
"Area" is "1-25-48" which apparently stands for June 25, 1948, the date of registration for estate tax purposes. While this tax declaration
names Florentina as the owner, there is a notation after her printed name reading DECEASED. And it names Lucio and Jose Buenaflor as
the administrators of the lot.

From the other tax declarations, Exhibits "N-1" up to "N-12" 43 inclusive, presented by respondent, it appears that Lucio and Jose
Buenaflor acted as the property administrators only until February 17, 1966 when Tax Declaration No. 8842 (Exhibit "N-2"), which was
registered on January 14, 1966, was cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 8952 (Exhibit "N-3") whereon, for the first time, Placido and Teodoro
Sarmiento were named administrators of the lot. On March 30, 1966, Tax Declaration No. 8952 was cancelled by Tax Declaration No.
9631 (Exhibit "N-4") on which Placido appears as the owner of Lot No. 535 of which the lot in question forms part.

To this Court, Tax Declaration No. 9631-Exhibit "N-4" does not constitute competent proof of Placido's title over Lot 535. For one,
respondent failed to prove that Placido is an heir of Florentina. For another, respondent failed to prove the metes and bounds of
the "palayero" allegedly owned by Florentina and that the lot actually forms part thereof.

But even assuming arguendo that, as found by the MeTC, Placido was an heir and inherited Lot 535 from Florentina, respondent still failed
to provide proof, nay allege, that Florentina possessed Lot 535 since June 12, 1945 or earlier under a bona fide claim of ownership.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated May 20, 2005 and August 19, 2005,
respectively, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The application for registration filed by respondent, Restituto Sarmiento, over Lot 535-D, with a
total area of Two Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Four (2,664) square meters situated at Barangay Wawa, Taguig, Metro Manila is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, Carpio and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.


Tinga, J., took no part, close relation to a party.
Footnotes
1.Records, pp. 1-3.
2.Id. at 237-238.
3.Id. at 2.
4.Id. at 5.
5.Id. at 6.
6.Id. at 7.
7.Id. at 8.
8.Id. at 237-238.
9.Id. at 12.
10.Id. at 15-17.
11.EXTENDING THE PERIOD OF FILING APPLICATIONS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE LEGALIZATION (FREE PATENT) AND JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION
OF IMPERFECT AND INCOMPLETE TITLES TO ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LANDS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN UNDER CHAPTER VII
AND CHAPTER VIII OF COMMONWEALTH ACT NO. 141, AS AMENDED, FOR ELEVEN (11) YEARS COMMENCING JANUARY 1, 1977.
12.DISCONTINUANCE OF THE SPANISH MORTGAGE SYSTEM OF REGISTRATION AND THE USE OF SPANISH TITLES AS EVIDENCE IN LAND
REGISTRATION PROCEEDINGS.
13.Records, pp. 194-195.
14.Id. at 205. Vide records, pp. 270-279.
15.Id. at 203.
16.Id. at 199-201.
17.Id. at 254.
18.Id. at 206-210.
19.Id. at 257.
20.Id. at 258-266.
21.Id. at 266.
22.Id. at 263-264.
23.CA rollo, p. 17.
24.Id. at 19-22.
25.Id. at 61-71. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso and concurred by Associate Justices Roberto A. Barrios
and Amelita G. Tolentino.
26.Id. at 68-69.
27.Id. at 69-70.
28.Id. at 91.
29.Republic v. Herbieto, G.R. No. 156117, May 26, 2005, 459 SCRA 183, 199-200.
30.Id. at 200-201.
31.Section 11 of the Public Land Act reads:
SECTION 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:
(1) For homestead settlement
(2) By sale
(3) By lease
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:
(a) By judicial legalization
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).
32.Section 4 of P.D. 1073 reads:
SECTION 4. The provisions of Section 48 (b) and Section 48 (c), Chapter VIII of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense
that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest,
under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.

33.Carlos v. Republic, G.R. No. 164823, August 31, 2005, 468 SCRA 709, 714-715.
34.Rollo, p. 46.
35.Director of Lands v. Aquino, G.R. No. 31688, December 17, 1990, 192 SCRA 296, 303.
36.401 Phil. 274 (2000).
37.Id. at 287-288.
38.AN ACT TO AMEND SUBSECTION (B) OF SECTION FORTY-EIGHT OF COMMONWEALTH ACT NUMBER ONE-HUNDRED FORTY-ONE,
OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE PUBLIC LAND ACT.
39.Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 402 Phil. 498, 507 (2001).
40.Records, pp. 237-238.
41.Id. at 275; TSN, September 5, 2001, p. 6.
42.Id. at 211.
43.Id. at 211-235.
||| (Republic v. Sarmiento, G.R. No. 169397, [March 13, 2007], 547 PHIL 157-169)

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 166577. February 3, 2010.]

SPOUSES MORRIS CARPO and SOCORRO CARPO, petitioners, vs. AYALA LAND, INCORPORATED, respondent.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J p:

In the instant petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioners seek to set aside and annul the
Decision 1 dated December 22, 2003 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 61784, which reversed and set aside the Summary
Judgment 2 dated December 22, 1998 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las Piñas City, Branch 255. Also subject of the present petition
is the CA Resolution 3 dated December 16, 2004 which denied the motion for reconsideration of the earlier decision.

A summary of the facts, as culled from the records of the case, follows:

On February 16, 1995, petitioner spouses Morris and Socorro Carpo (Carpos) filed a Complaint for Quieting of Title 4 with the RTC of
Makati City against Ayala Corporation, Ayala Property Ventures Corporation (APVC), and the Register of Deeds of Las Piñas, docketed as
Civil Case No. 95-292.

In their Complaint, the Carpos claimed to be the owners of a 171,209-square meter parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title
(TCT) No. 296463 issued in their names. 5 They further alleged that Ayala Corporation was claiming to have titles (specifically, TCT Nos.
125945, T-4366, T-4367 and T-4368) over the property covered by the Carpos' TCT No. 296463 and that Ayala Corporation had made
such property its equity contribution in APVC to be developed into a residential subdivision. Attached as annexes to the complaint were
photocopies of:

(a) TCT No. 296463 issued on August 13, 1970 in the name of the Carpos, covering a parcel of land (Lot 3, plan Psu-
56007) located in the Barrio of Almanza, Las Piñas with an area of 171,309 square meters;

(b) TCT No. 125945 issued on April 6, 1988 in the name of Ayala Corporation, covering a parcel of land (Lot 3, Plan
Psu-80886) located in Bo. Tindig na Manga, Las Piñas with an area of 171,309 square meters; EcTCAD

(c) TCT No. T-4367 issued on May 18, 1988 in the name of Ayala Corporation, covering a parcel of land (Lot 2, plan
Psu-47035) located in the Sitio of May Kokak, Bo. of Almanza, Las Piñas with an area of 218,523 square
meters; and

(d) TCT No. T-4368 issued on May 18, 1988 in the name of Ayala Corporation, covering a parcel of land (Lot 3, plan
Psu-47035) located in the Sitio of May Kokak, Bo. of Almanza, Las Piñas with an area of 155,345 square
meters.

No copy of TCT No. T-4366 was attached to the complaint.

According to the complaint, TCT Nos. 125945, T-4366, T-4367 and T-4368 and their derivatives "appear to have been issued in the name
of Ayala and purport to cover and embrace the Carpo's property or portion thereof duly covered registered under the already indefeasible
and incontrovertible TCT [No.] 296463 are inherently invalid and enforceable (sic) for not being the duly issued derivatives of the Carpos'
title." 6 The Carpos additionally applied for a restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin Ayala Corporation and APVC
from doing construction and development works on the properties in purported violation of the Carpos' rights.

The complaint prayed that the trial court render judgment:

(1) canceling and declaring void TCT Nos. 125945, T-4366, T-4367, T-4368 and all alleged derivatives thereof, issued
in the name of Ayala Corporation and/or APVC over the properties or portion thereof embraced in the
Carpos' TCT No. 296463 and issuing a writ of possession in favor of the Carpos and/or ordering Ayala
Corporation and APVC to surrender to the Carpos the properties or portion thereof being occupied by the
said corporations under inherently invalid or void titles; (2) declaring TCT No. 296463 issued in their names
as valid and the Carpos as the owners of the property described therein "including the parcels of land being
claimed and occupied by Ayala [Corporation] and APVC withou[t] valid and enforceable titles"; and (3)
ordering Ayala Corporation and APVC to pay jointly and severally the amount of P100,000 as attorney's fees
plus costs of suit and litigation expenses. 7
On March 10, 1995, before defendants could file an answer, petitioners filed an Amended Complaint, impleading respondent Ayala Land,
Incorporated (ALI) in lieu of Ayala Corporation after purportedly verifying with the Register of Deeds of Las Piñas that the title to the
subject property was registered in the name of ALI and not Ayala Corporation. 8

On October 12, 1995 and January 12, 1996, ALI filed its Answer with Counterclaims and Opposition to Application for Restraining Order
and Writ of Preliminary Injunction 9 and Pre-trial Brief with Motion to Admit Amended Answer, 10 respectively. EAHcCT

In its Amended Answer, ALI alleged that APVC no longer exists having been merged with ALI in 1991. ALI pointed out that the areas
covered by TCT Nos. T-4366, T-4367, and T-4368 do not overlap with the Carpos' claimed property and the dispute pertained only to the
land covered by the Carpos' TCT No. 296463 and TCT No. T-5333 in the name of Las Piñas Ventures, Inc. (LPVI) which was derived from
TCT No. 125945 in the name of Ayala Corporation. It appeared that Ayala Corporation contributed the property to LPVI and LPVI had, in
turn, also merged with ALI. Further, ALI alleged that it is the true owner of the property covered by TCT No. T-5333 as it traces back its
title to Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 242 issued in 1950 while the Carpos' title was derived from OCT No. 8575 issued only in
1970. ALI also claimed the Carpos' complaint was barred by res judicata in view of the 1941 decision of this Court in Guico v. San
Pedro 11 which upheld the ownership of a certain Eduardo Guico over the subject property as Lot 3, of Psu-80886 over the claim of a
certain Florentino Baltazar who was asserting ownership of the same under his plan, Psu-56007.

During the pendency of the case, ALI secured a title in its own name, TCT No. T-41262, over the property previously covered by TCT No.
T-5333. 12

In the Order 13 dated March 6, 1996, the Makati RTC ruled that the present case was an action in rem and directed the transfer of the
case to the RTC of Las Piñas where the disputed property is located. The case was thereafter assigned to Branch 255 of the Las Piñas RTC
and docketed as Civil Case No. 96-0082.

On December 17, 1996, ALI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the ground that there was allegedly no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the only issue for the court to resolve was a purely legal one — which of the two (2) titles should be accorded priority.
According to ALI, the parties were relying on their respective TCTs, and since ALI admittedly traces its title to OCT No. 242 which was
issued more than twenty (20) years earlier than the Carpos' predecessor's title (OCT No. 8575), its title is, thus, superior. Expectedly, the
Carpos filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment, arguing that there were "genuine issues and controversies to be
litigated."

In an Order dated April 7, 1997, the RTC denied ALI's motion for summary judgment. This denial was challenged in a petition
for certiorari with the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 44243.

In a decision 14 dated September 25, 1997, the CA granted ALI's petition and ordered the RTC to render a summary judgment. Both
parties moved for reconsideration of the CA Decision. ALI filed a motion for partial reconsideration, entreating the CA itself to render the
summary judgment in the interest of judicial economy and on a claim that the sole issue was legal. The Carpos, in their motion, insisted
that there were genuine issues in this case that must be threshed out in a trial. Both motions were denied in the CA Resolution dated
January 12, 1998. 15 ECISAD

Both parties elevated the matter to this Court in separate petitions for review on certiorari. In G.R. No. 132259, ALI assailed the CA's
refusal to render a summary judgment, while in G.R. No. 132440, the Carpos assailed the CA's ruling that trial was unnecessary.

In separate minute Resolutions, 16 the Court denied both petitions. Both parties' motions for reconsideration were likewise denied.

Accordingly, the RTC rendered a Summary Judgment dated December 22, 1998, finding the Carpos' title superior to that of ALI and ruling,
thus:

Upon the other hand, this Court is not inclined to concur with Ayala's claim of the validity of its TCT No. T-5333 and
alleged OCT No. 242 absent of any admission to that effect by the plaintiffs in their complaint. A reading of the
defendant's answer reveals that OCT No. 242 covers the property surveyed under SWO, but the pleadings on file fail
to allege that the same was approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands, thereby justifying this court to be
skeptical of the validity of the issuance of OCT No. 242. In original land registration cases, it is mandatory that the
application should be accompanied by a survey plan of the property applied for registration, duly approved by the
Director of the Bureau of Lands. A survey plan without the approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands has the
character of being of dubious origin and it is not therefore worthy of being accepted as evidence. The property being
claimed by the defendant ALI, allegedly registered under OCT No. 242, is shown to have been surveyed under SWO
and not bearing the approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands. Any title issued emanating from a survey plan
without the approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands is tainted with irregularity and therefore void, as ruled in
Republic Cement Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 198 SCRA 734. In the said case, the Supreme Court held:
"That unless a survey plan is duly approved by the Director of Lands the same is of dubious value and is not
acceptable as evidence. Indubitably, therefore, the reported survey and its alleged results are not entitled to credit
and should be rejected."

The submission of the plan is a statutory requirement of mandatory character and unless the plan and its technical
description are duly approved by the Director of Lands, the same are not of much value (Republic vs. Vera, 120 SCRA
210). In another case, it was ruled that the Land Registration Commission has no authority to approve original survey
plans (Director of Lands, et al. vs. Honorable Salvador Reyes, et al., 68 SCRA 177).

Evidently, the SWO survey of the property which defendant ALI claimed to have been originated from OCT No. 242
had not been approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands, but was apparently prepared and approved by the
then Land Registration Commissioner and under the law, the same is void.

It will also be noted that aside from the admissions made by defendant ALI in its answer, it clearly appears in its title
TCT No. T-5333 that the date of survey was on July 28, 1930. Plaintiffs' property covered by TCT No. 296463 was
surveyed on January 4-6, 1927. This means that plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest had claimed ownership of the
property ahead of that of defendant ALI's predecessor-in-interest. The principle of prior registration cannot be applied
in this case because the land previously surveyed cannot anymore be the subject of another survey, and there is
already a record of a prior survey in the Bureau of Lands. This is precisely the reason why the survey plan has to be
approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands. This must be the reason why the later survey in favor of Ayala's
predecessor-in-interest did not anymore bear the approval of the Director of Lands because had it been submitted for
approval, the records of the Bureau of Lands will show that an earlier survey of the same land had already been made
and approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands. HTaSEA

Evidently, Ayala's claim of superiority of its title over that of the plaintiffs' cannot therefore be sustained. Be that as it
may, the fact that cannot be disputed on the basis of Ayala's answer is its admission that SWO survey without the
approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands was submitted in the alleged registration proceedings, rendering the
decree and the title issued thereunder to be tainted with irregularity and therefore void.

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing and the prevailing jurisprudence on the matter, judgment is hereby
rendered:

(a) Declaring TCT No. 296463 in the name of the plaintiffs Spouses Morris G. Carpo and Socorro R. Carpo as
valid and legal, and superior to that of defendant Ayala's TCT No. T-5333;

(b) Declaring TCT No. T-5333, TCT No. 125945, TCT No. T-6055, TCT No. 4366, TCT No. 4367 and TCT No.
4368 and their derivatives as null and void;

(c) Ordering the defendant Ayala Land, Inc. to pay the sum of P100,000.00 as attorney's fees; and

(d) To pay the costs. 17


On January 5, 1999, ALI filed a notice of appeal but the same was dismissed by the CA in a Resolution 18 dated May 14, 1999 for failure
to pay the full amount of docket fees. In its motion for reconsideration, ALI pointed out that it paid the full amount assessed by the cash
clerk on duty at the RTC Las Piñas. The motion was also denied, prompting ALI to file with this Court a petition for review docketed as G.R.
No. 140162. Finding ALI's petition meritorious, the Court, in a Decision 19 dated November 22, 2000, reversed the CA's dismissal of ALI's
appeal and remanded the same to the CA for further proceedings.

On December 22, 2003, the CA rendered the herein challenged decision in favor of ALI, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

FOR THE FOREGOING DISQUISITIONS, the instant appeal is GRANTED, the assailed Summary Judgment of the
Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas, Branch 255, dated December 22, 1998, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a
new one is rendered as follows:

(1) TCT No. 41262, formerly TCT No. T-5333, in the name of defendant-appellant Ayala Land, Incorporated is hereby
declared to be the VALID title to the subject property;

(2) TCT No. 296463 issued in the name of plaintiffs-appellees is declared to be NULL and VOID;

(3) The concerned Register of Deeds is hereby ORDERED to cancel plaintiffs-appellees' TCT No. 296463, and any and
all titles issued covering the subject property, for being spurious and void, and of no force and effect. 20

The Carpos filed their motion for reconsideration but the same was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated December 16, 2004. Hence,
the instant petition for review filed by Socorro Carpo and the heirs of Morris Carpo. 21 The Petition contained the following assignment of
errors:

A. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE TITLE OF RESPONDENT IS VALID EVEN WITHOUT THE
REQUISITE SURVEY PLAN APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS.

B. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING PETITIONERS GUILTY OF LACHES AND PRESCRIPTION.

C. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE RTC "RELIED HEAVILY" ON AN ALLEGED "ADMISSION" BY
RESPONDENT OF THE VALIDITY OF THE TITLE OF PETITIONERS OVER THE DISPUTED PARCEL OF LAND.

D. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THERE IS RES JUDICATA AGAINST PETITIONERS BASED ON THE
CASE OF GUICO V. SAN PEDRO, ET AL., 72 PHIL 415, WITHOUT PROPER DETERMINATION OF WHETHER THE FACTS IN
SAID CASE ARE DIRECTLY APPLICABLE TO THIS CASE AND WHETHER THE ELEMENTS OF RES JUDICATA ARE
PRESENT. 22

Petitioners prayed that this Court render a decision: (a) reversing and setting aside the CA Decision dated December 22, 2003 and
Resolution dated December 16, 2004; (b) reinstating and affirming in toto the RTC's Summary Judgment dated December 22, 1998; or in
the alternative (c) remanding the case to the RTC for further proceedings. aDSIHc

After a thorough review of the records, we deny the petition and concur with the CA that the Summary Judgment rendered by the trial
court should be reversed and set aside.

Preliminary discussion regarding subject matter of the controversy


At the outset, it should be noted that the trial court in its Summary Judgment declared null and void (a) TCT No. T-5333 (and its
antecedent, TCT No. [125945] T-6055A) covering a parcel of land with an area of 171,309 square meters; (b) TCT No. T-4366 with a land
area of 254,085 square meters; (c) TCT No. T-4367 with a land area of 218,523 square meters; and (d) TCT No. T-4368 with a land area of
155,345 square meters, despite the lack of evidence of identity of the properties described in TCT Nos. T-4366, T-4367 and T-4368 with
the property covered by the Carpos' TCT No. 296463 or any portion of said property claimed by petitioners. This was grievous and
palpable error on the part of the trial court considering that the property being claimed by the Carpos under their TCT No. 296463 had an
area of only 171,309 square meters and the total area of the properties in the titles invalidated by the trial court was 799,262 square
meters.

It must be emphasized that in CA-G.R. SP No. 44243, involving the same parties, the CA ruled that:

On the other hand, defendant ALI, in its responsive pleading did not deny the existence of a title in the name of the
plaintiffs/private respondents. Instead, it alleged:

"14. The parcel of land described in TCT No. 296463, issued in the name of the plaintiffs, completely
overlaps the property covered by ALI's TCT No. T-5333. But TCT No. T-296463 traces itself to OCT No. 8575
which was issued on August 12, 1970, long after OCT No. 242 (the title from which ALI's TCT No. T-5333
was derived) was issued on May 9, 1950 (on the basis of Decree of Registration No. 2917, Record No.
43516). Hence, ALI's TCT No. T-5333 is superior to TCT No. 296463. . . . ."

This is an admission that the private respondents have a title to the property in question, and that the property
described in private respondents' TCT No. 296463 completely overlaps the title of petitioner ALI. This fact is further
substantiated by an affidavit of Jose Rizal Mercado, a Geodetic Engineer who, after attesting to his
qualifications, competence and experience, declared under oath:

"9. In connection with the subject case, Affiant was requested to find out, based on the technical
descriptions in their respective titles, if the lots described in the title of plaintiffs, TCT No. 296463, overlaps
the lots of ALI covered by TCT No. 41262 (formerly, TCT No. T-5333 of LPVI, and, more previously, TCT No.
T (125945) 6055-A, in the name of Ayala Corporation), TCT No. 4366, TCT No. 4367 and TCT No. 4368, . . .
. HETDAC

'9.1. To accomplish this task, Affiant resorted to the plotting of the technical descriptions found in
the plaintiffs' and ALI's respective titles. The standard operating procedure, adopted by Affiant in
this particular instance, in plotting properties is to study the technical description in the titles and
at the same time, to get all the available survey plans described in the titles for reference.

'9.2. To evidence this plotting that Affiant conducted, Affiant prepared a Sketch Plan reflecting
Plaintiffs' title vis-a-vis ALI's title. Attached hereto as Annex "G" is an original copy of the Sketch
Plan prepared by the Affiant.

'9.3. The orange-shaded portion on the Sketch Plan indicates the area covered by the title of the
plaintiffs and it is clearly shown in this plan that plaintiffs' claimed property entirely overlaps
ALI's property delineated in TCT No. T-41262. Plaintiffs' claimed property (Lot 3, PSU-56007)
is in fact identical to ALI's lot (Lot 3, PSU-80886).

'9.4. The blue, pink and green lines on the Sketch Plan indicate the boundaries of ALI's TCT
Nos. 4366, 4367 and 4368, respectively, and it is clearly shown that these do not overlap with
plaintiffs' claimed property.'"

The Sketch Plan attached thereto clearly indicates the overlapping and identical boundaries between the
private respondents' TCT No. 296463 and petitioner's TCT No. 125945, (formerly TCT No. T-5333). 23 In
addition to the affidavit of the Geodetic Engineer, the petitioner likewise attached to its Motion for Summary
Judgment copies of the following titles:

xxx xxx xxx


In contrast, the private respondents never controverted the petitioner's allegation that their (private respondents')
title, TCT No. 296463 traces its origin to OCT No. 8575, issued on August 12, 1970, while that of the petitioner has
its origin in OCT No. 242, issued on May 9, 1950. Moreover, the private respondents attached no supporting
document to its Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment.

Thus, as matters stand, the requisites for the grant of summary judgment appear to have been satisfied . . . .

xxx xxx xxx

Since the existence of two titles over the same property, as well as the fact of overlapping of the technical
descriptions of the two titles are admitted in the pleadings, and substantiated by the supporting documents
attached by the defendant-movant (petitioner herein) to its Motion for Summary Judgment, there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact. If at all, the sole issue is a legal one, to wit: whose title (as to the conflicting ones)
is superior and must be upheld. This issue may be decided on the basis of the affidavits and supporting
documents submitted by the parties, as well as the applicable law and jurisprudence on the matter. In other
words, there need not be a protracted trial thereon, since all that the trial court should do is to apply the law to the
issue, taking into consideration the documents attached by the parties in their respective pleadings and/or submitted
together with the motion or the opposition thereto. The same is true with the other defenses raised by the
petitioner in its responsive pleading, to wit:res judicata, prescription and laches — which may likewise be
resolved without going to trial. 24 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.) ETHSAI

The foregoing CA decision became final and executory after the separate petitions for review filed with this Court by the parties were
denied with finality. The parties, and even the trial court, were bound by the CA's factual finding therein that the only lots whose
technical descriptions overlap are those covered by the Carpos' TCT No. 296463 and ALI's TCT No. T-5333 which later became TCT No. T-
41262. There was simply no basis for the trial court to invalidate all the ALI titles mentioned in the complaint.

The incorrectness of this sweeping invalidation of ALI titles in the Summary Judgment is even more evident in the case of TCT No. T-4367
(Lot 2, plan Psu-47035) and TCT No. T-4368 (Lot 3, plan Psu-47035). Petitioners' claims with respect to these properties are already
barred by res judicata. In Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 25 petitioner Morris Carpo already asserted his
purported ownership of these two properties based on a transfer certificate of title with the same survey plan number (Psu-56007) as TCT
No. 296463. However, in Realty, his claim was discredited by the Court when it held that Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc. (Realty), ALI's
predecessor in interest, 26 is the one with valid title to these properties. The relevant portions of the Realty Decision are quoted here:

Two (2) adjacent parcels of land located in Almanza, Las Piñas, Metro Manila, having an aggregate area of 373,868
sq. m., situated in the vicinity of the Ayala Alabang Project and BF Homes Parañaque are covered by three (3) distinct
sets of Torrens titles to wit:

1) TCT No. 20408 issued on May 29, 1975 in the name of Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc., which was derived
from OCT No. 1609, issued on May 21, 1958, pursuant to Decree No. N-63394 in LRC Cases Nos.
657, 758 and 976, GLRO Record Nos. N-29882, N-33721 and N-43516, respectively.

2) TCT No. 303961 issued on October 13, 1970 in the name of Morris G. Carpo, which was derived from
OCT No. 8629, issued on October 13, 1970 pursuant to decree No. N-131349 in LRC Case No. N-
11-M (N-6217), GLRO Record No. N-32166.

3) TCTs Nos. 333982 and 333985, issued on July 27, 1971 in the name of Quezon City Development and
Financing Corporation, derived from OCT No. 8931 which was issued on July 27, 1971 pursuant to
LRC Case No. P-206 GLRO Record No. N-31777.

On December 29, 1977, Morris Carpo filed a complaint with the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch XXIII, presided
over by Judge Rizalina Bonifacio Vera (hereafter referred to as Vera Court), for "declaration of nullity of Decree No. N-
63394 and TCT No. 20408." Named defendants were Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc., Macondray Farms, Inc. and the
Commissioner of Land Registration. . . . . TDCaSE

xxx xxx xxx

In the case at bar, it appears that it was Estanislao Mayuga, father of Dominador Mayuga, predecessor-in-interest of
Realty, who originally filed on June 24, 1927 a registration proceeding docketed as LRC Case No. 657, GLRO Record
No. N-29882 in the Court of First Instance of Rizal to confirm his title over parcels of land described as Lots 1, 2
and 3, Plan Psu-47035. (Lots 2 and 3 are the subject of the instant litigation among Carpo, Realty and
QCDFC.) Case No. 657 was jointly tried with two other cases, LRC Case No. 976, GLRO Record No. 43516 filed by
Eduardo Guico and LRC Case No. 758, GLRO Record No. 33721 filed by Florentino Baltazar, as the three cases
involved identical parcels of land, and identical applicants/oppositors.

xxx xxx xxx

Carpo bought the disputed property from the Baltazars, the original registered owners, by virtue of a deed executed
before Iluminada Figueroa, Notary Public of Manila dated October 9, 1970. . . . .

xxx xxx xxx

The Baltazars, predecessors-in-interest of Carpo are heirs of Florentino Baltazar, an oppositor in the original
application filed by Estanislao Mayuga in 1927. As stated earlier, the CFI-Rizal confirmed the title of Estanislao to
Lots 1, 2 and 3 of Plan Psu-47035 "desestimando oposicion de Florentino Baltazar . . . con respeto a dichos lotes . .
." As such successors of Florentino, they could not pretend ignorance of the land registration proceedings over
the disputed parcels of land earlier initiated by Eduardo Guico, Florentino Baltazar and Estanislao Mayuga, as
when as the decisions rendered therein.

Moreover, it is not disputed that the title in the name of Dominador Mayuga, from whom Realty derived its
title, was issued in 1958, or twelve years before the issuance of the title in the name of the Baltazars in 1970.

In this jurisdiction, it is settled that "(t)he general rule is that in the case of two certificates of title, purporting to
include the same land, the earlier in date prevails . . . . In successive registrations, where more than one certificate
is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is entitled
to the estate or interest; and that person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or
whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate
issued in respect thereof . . . ." 27 (Emphasis and underscoring ours; citations omitted.)

We now discuss each assignment of error raised in the petition.

First Assignment of Error


Petitioners alleged that the CA erred in declaring that the title of respondent is valid even without the requisite survey plan approved by
the Director of the Bureau of Lands.

Petitioners clearly misunderstood or deliberately misread the CA's ruling on this point. It is the CA's view that the trial court's
pronouncement that OCT No. 242 was issued without an approved survey plan was unwarranted in view of the presumption of regularity
that said title enjoys. SIcTAC

We cannot but agree with the CA on this point upon perusing the following portion of the Summary Judgment:
Upon the other hand, this Court is not inclined to concur with Ayala's claim of the validity of its TCT No. T-5333 and
alleged OCT No. 242 absent of any admission to that effect by the plaintiffs in their complaint. A reading of the
defendant's answer reveals that OCT No. 242 covers the property surveyed under SWO, but the pleadings on file fail
to allege that the same was approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands, thereby justifying this court to be
skeptical of the validity of the issuance of OCT No. 242. In original land registration cases, it is mandatory that the
application should be accompanied by a survey plan of the property applied for registration, duly approved by the
Director of the Bureau of Lands. A survey plan without the approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands has the
character of being of dubious origin and it is not therefore worthy of being accepted as evidence. The property being
claimed by the defendant ALI, allegedly registered under OCT No. 242, is shown to have been surveyed under SWO
and not bearing the approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands. Any title issued emanating from a survey plan
without the approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands is tainted with irregularity and therefore void, as ruled
in Republic Cement Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 198 SCRA 734. In the said case, the Supreme Court held:
"That unless a survey plan is duly approved by the Director of Lands the same is of dubious value and is not
acceptable as evidence. Indubitably, therefore, the reported survey and its alleged results are not entitled to credit
and should be rejected."

The submission of the plan is a statutory requirement of mandatory character and unless the plan and its technical
description are duly approved by the Director of Lands, the same are not of much value (Republic vs. Vera, 120 SCRA
210). In another case, it was ruled that the Land Registration Commission has no authority to approve original survey
plans (Director of Lands, et al. vs. Honorable Salvador Reyes, et al., 68 SCRA 177).

Evidently, the SWO survey of the property which defendant ALI claimed to have been originated from OCT No. 242
had not been approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands, but was apparently prepared and approved by the
then Land Registration Commissioner and under the law, the same is void. 28

To begin with, a perusal of the defendant's answer or amended answer would show that, contrary to the trial court's allusions thereto,
there is no admission on the part of ALI that OCT No. 242 was issued without a survey plan that was duly approved by the Director of the
Bureau of Lands. There is likewise no evidence on record to support the trial court's finding that the survey plan submitted to support the
issuance of OCT No. 242 in the 1950 land registration proceedings was approved only by the Land Registration Commissioner and not by
the Director of the Bureau of Lands.

It would appear the trial court came to the conclusion that OCT No. 242 was issued without a duly approved survey plan simply because
the notation "SWO" appeared in the technical description of the said title which was attached to the answer and due to ALI's failure to
allege in its pleadings that the survey plan submitted in support of the issuance of OCT No. 242 was approved by the Director of the
Bureau of Lands. 29 cDHAaT

It is incomprehensible how the trial court could conclude that the survey plan mentioned in OCT No. 242 was unapproved by the
appropriate authority all from the notation "SWO" which appeared beside the survey plan number on the face of the title or from a failure
to allege on the part of ALI that a duly approved survey plan exists. We quote with approval the discussion of the CA on this point:

Pursuant to the foregoing, the court a quo erred when, in ruling that the validity of OCT No. 242 is dubious, it gave
emphasis to defendant-appellant's failure to allege that the survey plan of OCT No. 242 was duly approved by the
Director of the Bureau of Lands. It is admitted that a survey plan is one of the requirements for the issuance of
decrees of registration, but upon the issuance of such decree, it can most certainly be assumed that said requirement
was complied with by ALI's original predecessor-in-interest at the time the latter sought original registration of the
subject property. Moreover, the land registration court must be assumed to have carefully ascertained the propriety
of issuing a decree in favor of ALI's predecessor-in-interest, under the presumption of regularity in the performance
of official functions by public officers. The court upon which the law has conferred jurisdiction, is deemed to have all
the necessary powers to exercise such jurisdiction, and to have exercised it effectively. This is as it should be,
because once a decree of registration is made under the Torrens system, and the time has passed within which that
decree may be questioned the title is perfect and cannot later on be questioned. There would be no end to
litigation if every litigant could, by repeated actions, compel a court to review a decree previously issued by another
court forty-five (45) years ago. The very purpose of the Torrens system would be destroyed if the same land may be
subsequently brought under a second action for registration, as what the court a quo did when it faulted ALI's failure
to allege that its predecessor-in-interest submitted a survey plan approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands in
the original land registration case.

The Court need not emphasize that it is not for ALI to allege in its pleadings, much less prove, that its predecessor-in-
interest complied with the requirements for the original registration of the subject property. A party dealing with a
registered land need not go beyond the Certificate of Title to determine the true owner thereof so as to guard
or protect his or her interest. Hence, ALI was not required to go beyond what appeared in the transfer certificate of
title in the name of its immediate transferor. It may rely solely, as it did, on the correctness of the certificate of title
issued for the subject property and the law will in no way oblige it to go behind the certificate of title to
determine the condition of the property. This is the fundamental nature of the Torrens System of land registration,
to give the public the right to rely upon the face of a Torrens certificate of title and to dispense with the need of
inquiring further. 30(Underscoring ours; citations omitted.)

It cannot be gainsaid that the issuance of OCT No. 242 was a result of the registration decree of the Court of First Instance of Rizal,
pursuant to land registration proceedings in Case No. 976. In the absence of proof to the contrary, OCT No. 242 and its derivatives,
including ALI's TCT No. T-41262, enjoy the presumption of regularity and ALI need not allege or prove that its title was regularly issued.
That is precisely the nature of such a presumption, it dispenses with proof. Rule 131, Section 3 of the Rules of Court provides: DCAHcT

Section 3. Disputable presumptions. — The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be
contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

xxx xxx xxx

(m) That official duty has been regularly performed;

(n) That a court, or judge acting as such, whether in the Philippines or elsewhere, was acting in the lawful exercise of
jurisdiction;

(o) That all the matters within an issue raised in a case were laid before the court and passed upon by it; and in like
manner that all matters within an issue raised in a dispute submitted for arbitration were laid before the arbitrators
and passed upon by them; . . . .

Thus, we held in Herce, Jr. v. Municipality of Cabuyao, Laguna: 31

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Ordinary Decree Book, LRC (CLR) Rec. No. 6763, showing
that Decree No. 4244 was issued on March 3, 1911, is presumed to have been regularly issued by the
accountable public officers who enjoy the legal presumption of regularity in the performance of their
functions. Thus, the proceedings that led to the issuance of Decree No. 4244 in favor of the Municipality of
Cabuyao cannot be overturned without any countervailing proof to the contrary. In the words of Tichangco v.
Enriquez: 32

To overturn this legal presumption carelessly — more than 90 years since the termination of the case — will
not only endanger judicial stability, but also violate the underlying principle of the Torrens system. Indeed,
to do so would reduce the vaunted legal indefeasibility of Torrens titles to meaningless verbiage. (Emphasis
supplied.)
The presumption of regularity enjoyed by the registration decree issued in Case No. 976 and OCT No. 242 includes the presumption that
all the requisites for the issuance of a valid title had been complied with. ALI need not allege or prove that a duly approved survey plan
accompanied the issuance of OCT No. 242 in 1950 because it is presumed. It is the party who seeks to overcome the presumption who
would have the burden to present adequate and convincing evidence to the contrary. This, petitioners did not even attempt to do.

We cannot accept petitioners' proposition that they did not have the burden of proof of showing the irregularity of ALI's title since the
burden of proof purportedly did not shift to them since no full-blown trial was conducted by the RTC.

This specious argument deserves scant credit. Rule 131, Section 1 of the Rules of Court provides: ADTCaI

Section 1. Burden of proof. — Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue
necessary to establish his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law.

With the filing of the complaint, petitioners should already have alleged all the bases of their cause of action, particularly their allegation
that ALI's title is null and void and that such title should be cancelled. However, a scrutiny of the complaint would show that petitioners
never alleged the purported lack of an approved survey plan as a defect of ALI's title. All that the complaint alleged is that ALI's titles
should be declared void for not being derivatives of the Carpos' title. Implicit in that allegation is that petitioners were relying solely on
the supposed priority of their own title over ALI's. It stands to reason then that ALI did not have to allege in its Answer that its mother
title, OCT No. 242, was supported by a duly approved survey plan when petitioners did not raise the same as an issue in their complaint
or in any other pleading filed with the trial court.

Indubitably, in view of the CA's Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 44243, this controversy has been reduced to the sole substantive issue of which
between the two titles, purporting to cover the same property, deserves priority. This is hardly a novel issue. As petitioners themselves are
aware, in Realty, it was held that:

In this jurisdiction, it is settled that "(t)he general rule is that in the case of two certificates of title, purporting to
include the same land, the earlier in date prevails . . . . In successive registrations, where more than one certificate
is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is
entitled to the estate or interest; and that person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the
holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest
certificate issued in respect thereof . . . ."33 (Emphasis supplied.)

In Degollacion v. Register of Deeds of Cavite, 34 we held that "[w]here two certificates of title purport to include the same land, whether
wholly or partly, the better approach is to trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title were derived."

In all, we find that the CA committed no reversible error when it applied the principle "Primus Tempore, Portior Jure" (First in Time,
Stronger in Right) in this case and found that ALI's title was the valid title having been derived from the earlier OCT.

Second Assignment of Error


Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches.
According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did
not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by
the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.

In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CA's finding that:

As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALI's predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45)
years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995. As such, it is the Court's firmly held view
that plaintiffs-appellees' claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches. CTSAaH

Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a
decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also
barred. Although plaintiffs-appellees' complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance
based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that
there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALI's predecessor-in-interest. It is
now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has
been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another's name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the
title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice. Since ALI's title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the
ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.

By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption
that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. It does not involve mere lapse or
passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under
the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit. In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their
predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALI's
title was derived, for forty-five (45) years. To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and
inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by
the precise provisions of P.D. 1529, thus:

"SECTION 32. Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value. — The decree of registration
shall not be reopened or revised . . . subject, however, to the right of any person . . . to file in the proper
Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not later than one
year from and after the date of entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be
entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein,
whose rights may be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase innocent purchaser for value or an equivalent phrase
occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include and innocent lessee, mortgagee or other encumbrances
for value." 35

Third Assignment of Error


The next assigned error involves the question of whether the trial court, in rendering the Summary Judgment, indeed relied heavily on the
alleged admission made by ALI on the validity of Carpos' title, as declared by the CA. Specifically, the CA stated as follows:

In its assailed decision, the court a quo relied heavily on the alleged admission by ALI in it[s] Answer of the existence
and validity of plaintiffs-appellees' title. We have read the pertinent pleading and We find ALI's statement to be of no
moment. aTHCSE

Nowhere in ALI's statement was there an admission of the validity of plaintiffs-appellees' title. . . . .

The Court cannot comprehend where and how the court a quo could have gotten the impression that ALI was
admitting not only the existence, but also the validity of plaintiffs-appellees' certificate of title. . . . . 36

An examination of the Summary Judgment of the trial court would readily show that indeed the trial court relied on ALI's supposed
admission of the existence of Carpos' title in ruling which of the conflicting titles was valid. Pertinently, the trial court merely declared:

The existence of plaintiffs' TCT No. 296463 has been admitted by defendant Ayala in its answer to have been
originated from OCT No. 8575 which was issued on August 12, 1970. It is very significant that defendant ALI
admitted it in its answer that OCT No. 8575 and plaintiffs' TCT No. 296463 both originated from Decree No. 131141
issued on October 15, 1969 in the name of Apolonio Sabater as Annex "G" to defendant ALI's answer. This
admission made by the defendant in its answer is conclusive upon it. It cannot therefore take position contrary
to or inconsistent with its answer, and the facts are to be taken as true (Westminister High School vs. Sto.
Domingo, et al., G.R. No. 12666 R-July 5, 1955; McDaniel vs. Apacible, 44 Phil. 248-255).

Upon the other hand, this Court is not inclined to concur with Ayala's claim of the validity of its TCT No. T-5333 and
alleged OCT No. 242 absent of any admission to that effect by the plaintiffs in their complaint. . . . . 37

Although the Summary Judgment did not expressly state that ALI admitted the validity of Carpos' title with its admission of the said title's
existence, that is the unmistakable import of the trial court's statements that ALI's admission of the existence of Carpo's title "are
conclusive upon it" and bars ALI from taking a "position contrary to or inconsistent with its answer" followed by the statement that the
trial court is "not inclined to concur with Ayala's claim of validity of its TCT No. T-5333 and alleged OCT No. 242, absent of (sic) any
admission to that effect by the plaintiffs." This is yet another non sequitur argument on the part of the trial court which the CA correctly
pointed out in its own Decision.

Fourth Assignment of Error


As to the issue of res judicata, the Court of Appeals ruled that the decision in the case of Guico v. San Pedro 38 was binding on the
Carpos as it proceeded to discuss, thus:

In Guico vs. San Pedro, the Supreme Court resolved the conflicting claims over a tract of land situated in barrio Tindig
na Manga, Parañaque, Rizal, which was subdivided into eleven (11) lots. The subject land was sought to be registered
by a certain Eduardo C. Guico on the basis of an accompanying plan Psu-80886, which interestingly is also the basis
of ALI's TCT No. T-5333, now TCT No. 41262. Guico's application was opposed by, among others, Florentino Baltazar,
on the basis of plan Psu 56007, under which plaintiffs-appellees' title was derived. HTCESI

It appears that Lots 2 and 3 were adjudicated to Guico on the basis of Psu-80886 (Lot 3 is the subject matter of the
instant case), Lot 10 in favor of Baltazar on the basis of Psu 56007, under which plaintiffs-appellees' title was based,
and the rest to the heirs of Narciso Mayuga. While Baltazar claimed Lot 3 on the basis of his Psu-56007, his claim was
rejected and the Lot was adjudicated to Guico on the basis of his Psu-80886.

It is clear, therefore, that whatever claim plaintiffs-appellees have on the subject property on the basis of Lot 3 Psu-
56007, through their predecessor-in-interest, Florentino Baltazar, the same had been clearly and finally denied by the
Supreme Court in Guico vs. San Pedro.

For res judicata to apply, four requisites must be met: (1) the former judgment or order must be final; (2) it must be
a judgment or an order on the merits; (3) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject
matter and the parties; and (4) there must be, between the first and the second actions, identity of parties, of subject
matter and of cause of action. Plaintiffs-appellees only have objections with respect to the fourth requisite, offering
the lame excuse that it is not bound by such decision, there being no identity of parties in Guico vs. San Pedro and
the instant case. 39

We agree with petitioners that it is not apparent from an examination of Guico and the evidence on record that indeed the predecessors-
in-interest of ALI and the Carpos with respect to the subject property are Eduardo Guico and Florentino Baltazar, especially since the
parties' respective OCTs were not issued in these persons' names but rather a certain Alberto Yaptinchay and Apolonio Sabater. It cannot
be categorically said that there was identity of parties between theGuico case and the instant case. Clearly, one of the elements of res
judicata, i.e., that there must be, between the first and the second actions, identity of parties, is lacking. In any event, the CA's questioned
Decision had sufficient basis in fact and law even without relying on the Guico case.

In conclusion, we find that the Court of Appeals committed no reversible error in setting aside the patently erroneous Summary Judgment
of the trial court.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals' Decision dated December 22, 2003 and the Resolution dated December 16,
2004 are herebyAFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
Puno, C.J., Carpio Morales, Bersamin and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.
Footnotes
1. Penned by Associate Justice Danilo B. Pine (ret.), with then Associate Justice (now Retired Associate Justice of this Court) Cancio C.
Garcia and Associate Justice Renato C. Dacudao (ret.) concurring; rollo, pp. 9-27.
2. Id. at 90-94.
3. Id. at 29-31.
4. Records, pp. 1-7.
5. In the Complaint, the area of the subject property was alleged to be 171,209 square meters but in TCT No. 296463, the property was
described as having an area of 171,309 square meters.
6. Paragraph 3.03 of the Complaint; records, p. 3.
7. Id. at 5.
8. Plaintiffs' Manifestation dated March 7, 1995; id. at 91.
9. Id. at 97-128.
10. Id. at 133-A to 161.
11. 72 Phil 415 (1941).
12. Records, p. 133-A.
13. Id. at 166.
14. Id. at 282-292.
15. Id. at 305-306.
16. G.R. No. 132259, id. at 472; G.R. No. 132440, id. at 406.
17. Rollo, pp. 92-94.
18. CA rollo, p. 9.
19. Id. at 177-194.
20. Rollo, p. 27.
21. Morris Carpo passed away on December 12, 1999 as shown by the death certificate attached to the Petition; id. at 87.
22. Id. at 40.
23. This should read "subsequently TCT No. T-5333" instead of "formerly TCT No. T-5333."
24. CA rollo, pp. 166-169.
25. G.R. No. L-67451, September 28, 1987, 154 SCRA 328.
26. From the annotations on TCT Nos. T-4367 and T-4368, it would appear that Ayala Corporation acquired the properties from Realty
Sales Enterprise, Inc.
27. Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra note 25 at 330-346.
28. Rollo, pp. 92-93.
29. The technical description in OCT No. 242 began with the words: "A parcel of land (Lot 2, plan Psu-80886, SWO-20609, Case No.
976, G.L.R.O. Record No. 43516)."
30. Rollo, pp. 19-20.
31. G.R. No. 166645, November 11, 2005, 474 SCRA 797, 808.
32. G.R. No. 150629, June 30, 2004, 433 SCRA 324.
33. Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra note 25 at 346.
34. G.R No. 161433, August 29, 2006, 500 SCRA 108, 115.
35. Rollo, pp. 23-24.
36. Rollo, p. 14.
37. Id. at 92.
38. Supra note 11.
39. Rollo, pp. 24-25.
||| (Spouses Carpo v. Ayala Land, Inc., G.R. No. 166577, [February 3, 2010], 625 PHIL 277-304)