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Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. McIntosh, 21 U.S. 8 Wheat.

543 543 (1823)

Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. McIntosh

21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543

Syllabus

A title to lands under grants to private individuals made by Indian tribes or nations
northwest of the River Ohio in 1773 and 1775 cannot be recognized in the courts of the
United States.

Discovery the original foundation of titles to land on the American continent as between
the different European nations by whom conquests and settlements were made here.

Recognition of the same principle in the wars, negotiations, and treaties between the
different European powers.

Adoption of the same principle by the United States.

The exclusive right of the British government to the lands occupied by the Indians has
passed to that of the United States.

Foundation and limitation of the right of conquest.

Application of the principle of the right of conquest to the case of the Indian savages.
Nature of the Indian title, as subordinate to the absolute ultimate title of the government.

Effect of the proclamation of 1763.

Titles in New England under Indian grants.

This was an action of ejectment for lands in the State and District of Illinois, claimed by
the plaintiffs under a purchase and conveyance from the Piankeshaw Indians and by
the defendant under a grant from the United States. It came up on a case stated upon
which there was a judgment below for the defendant. The case stated set out the
following facts:

1st. That on 23 May, 1609, James I, King of England, by his letters patent of that date,
under the great seal of England, did erect, form, and establish Robert, Earl of Salisbury,
and others, his associates, in the letters patent named and their successors into a body
corporate and politic by the name and style of "The Treasurer and Company of
Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the first Colony in Virginia," with
perpetual succession and power to make, have, and use a common seal, and did give,
grant, and confirm unto this company, and their successors,
Page 21 U. S. 544

under certain reservations and limitations in the letters patent expressed,

"All the lands, countries, and territories situate, lying, and being in that part of North
America called Virginia, from the point of land called Cape or Point Comfort all along the
seacoast to the northward two hundred miles, and from the said Cape or Point Comfort
all along the seacoast to the southward two hundred miles, and all that space and circuit
of land lying from the seacoast of the precinct aforesaid up into the land throughout from
the sea, west and northwest, and also all the islands lying within one hundred miles
along the coast of both seas of the precinct aforesaid, with all the soil, grounds, rights,
privileges, and appurtenances to these territories belonging and in the letters patent
particularly enumerated,"

and did grant to this corporation and their successors various powers of government in
the letters patent particularly expressed.

2d. That the place called in these letters patent Cape or Point Comfort is the place now
called and known by the name of Old Point Comfort, on the Chesapeake Bay and
Hampton Roads, and that immediately after the granting of the letters patent, the
corporation proceeded under and by virtue of them to take possession of parts of the
territory which they describe and to form settlements, plant a colony, and exercise the
powers of government therein, which colony was called and known by the name of the
Colony of Virginia.

3d. That at the time of granting these letters patent and of the discovery of the continent
of

Page 21 U. S. 545

North America by the Europeans, and during the whole intermediate time, the whole of
the territory in the letters patent described, except a small district on James River,
where a settlement of Europeans had previously been made, was held, occupied, and
possessed in full sovereignty by various independent tribes or nations of Indians, who
were the sovereigns of their respective portions of the territory and the absolute owners
and proprietors of the soil and who neither acknowledged nor owed any allegiance or
obedience to any European sovereign or state whatever, and that in making settlements
within this territory and in all the other parts of North America where settlements were
made under the authority of the English government or by its subjects, the right of soil
was previously obtained by purchase or conquest from the particular Indian tribe or
nation by which the soil was claimed and held, or the consent of such tribe or nation
was secured.
4th. That in the year 1624, this corporation was dissolved by due course of law and all
its powers, together with its rights of soil and jurisdiction under the letters patent in
question were revested in the Crown of England, whereupon the colony became a royal
government with the same territorial limits and extent which had been established by
the letters patent, and so continued until it became a free and independent state, except
so far as its limits and extent were altered and curtailed by the Treaty of February 10,
1763, between Great Britain and France and by the letters patent granted by the King of
England

Page 21 U. S. 546

for establishing the Colonies of Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

5th. That sometime previous to the year 1756, the French government, laying a claim to
the country west of the Alleghany or Appalachian Mountains on the Ohio and
Mississippi Rivers and their branches, took possession of certain parts of it with the
consent of the several tribes or nations of Indians possessing and owning them, and
with the like consent established several military posts and settlements therein,
particularly at Kaskaskias, on the River Kaskaskias, and at Vincennes, on the River
Wabash, within the limits of the Colony of Virginia, as described and established in and
by the letters patent of May 23, 1609, and that the government of Great Britain, after
complaining of these establishments as encroachments and remonstrating against
them, at length, in the year 1756, took up arms to resist and repel them, which produced
a war between those two nations wherein the Indian tribes inhabiting and holding the
countries northwest of the Ohio and on the Mississippi above the mouth of the Ohio
were the allies of France, and the Indians known by the name of the Six Nations or the
Iroquois and their tributaries and allies were the allies of Great Britain, and that on 10
February, 1763, this war was terminated by a definitive treaty of peace between Great
Britain and France and their allies by which it was stipulated and agreed that the River
Mississippi, from its source to the Iberville, should forever after form the boundary
between the dominions of

Page 21 U. S. 547

Great Britain and those of France in that part of North America and between their
respective allies there.

6th. That the government of Virginia, at and before the commencement of this war and
at all times after it became a royal government, claimed and exercised jurisdiction, with
the knowledge and assent of the government of Great Britain, in and over the country
northwest of the River Ohio and east of the Mississippi as being included within the
bounds and limits described and established for that colony, by the letters patent of May
23, 1609, and that in the year 1749, a grant of six hundred thousand acres of land within
the country northwest of the Ohio and as part of Virginia was made by the government
of Great Britain to some of its subjects by the name and style of the Ohio Company.

7th. That at and before the commencement of the war in 1756 and during its whole
continuance and at the time of the Treaty of February 10, 1763, the Indian tribes or
nations inhabiting the country north and northwest of the Ohio and east of the
Mississippi as far east as the river falling into the Ohio called the Great Miami were
called and known by the name of the Western Confederacy of Indians, and were the
allies of France in the war, but not her subjects, never having been in any manner
conquered by her, and held the country in absolute sovereignty as independent nations,
both as to the right of jurisdiction and sovereignty and the right of soil, except a few
military posts and a small territory around each,

Page 21 U. S. 548

which they had ceded to France, and she held under them, and among which were the
aforesaid posts of Kaskaskias and Vincennes, and that these Indians, after the treaty,
became the allies of Great Britain, living under her protection as they had before lived
under that of France, but were free and independent, owing no allegiance to any foreign
power whatever and holding their lands in absolute property, the territories of the
respective tribes being separated from each other and distinguished by certain natural
marks and boundaries to the Indians well known, and each tribe claiming and exercising
separate and absolute ownership in and over its own territory, both as to the right of
sovereignty and jurisdiction and the right of soil.

8th. That among the tribes of Indians thus holding and inhabiting the territory north and
northwest of the Ohio, east of the Mississippi, and west of the Great Miami, within the
limits of Virginia, as described in the letters patent of May 23, 1609, were certain
independent tribes or nations called the Illinois or Kaskaskias and the Piankeshaw or
Wabash Indians, the first of which consisted of three several tribes united into one and
called the Kaskasias, the Pewarias, and the Cahoquias; that the Illinois owned, held,
and inhabited, as their absolute and separate property, a large tract of country within the
last mentioned limits and situated on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Kaskaskias Rivers and
on the Ohio below the mouth of the Wabash, and the Piankeshaws another large tract
of country within the same

Page 21 U. S. 549

limits, and as their absolute and separate property, on the Wabash and Ohio Rivers,
and that these Indians remained in the sole and absolute ownership and possession of
the country in question until the sales made by them in the manner herein after set forth.
9th. That on the termination of the war between Great Britain and France, the Illinois
Indians, by the name of the Kaskaskias tribes of Indians, as fully representing all the
Illinois tribes then remaining, made a treaty of peace with Great Britain and a treaty of
peace, limits, and amity, under her mediation, with the Six Nations, or Iroquois, and their
allies, then known and distinguished by the name of the Northern Confederacy of
Indians, the Illinois being a part of the confederacy then known and distinguished by the
name of the Southern Confederacy, and sometimes by that of the Western
Confederacy.

10th. That on 7 October, 1763, the King of Great Britain made and published a
proclamation for the better regulation of the countries ceded to Great Britain by that
treaty, which proclamation is referred to and made part of the case.

11th. That from time immemorial and always up to the present time, all the Indian tribes
or nations of North America, and especially the Illinois and Piankeshaws and other
tribes holding, possessing, and inhabiting the said countries north and northeast of the
Ohio east of the Mississippi and west of the Great Miami held their respective lands and
territories each in common, the individuals

Page 21 U. S. 550

of each tribe or nation holding the lands and territories of such tribe in common with
each other, and there being among them no separate property in the soil, and that their
sole method of selling, granting, and conveying their lands, whether to governments or
individuals, always has been from time immemorial and now is for certain chiefs of the
tribe selling to represent the whole tribe in every part of the transaction, to make the
contract, and execute the deed, on behalf of the whole tribe, to receive for it the
consideration, whether in money or commodities, or both, and finally to divide such
consideration among the individuals of the tribe, and that the authority of the chiefs so
acting for the whole tribe is attested by the presence and assent of the individuals
composing the tribe, or some of them, and by the receipt by the individuals composing
the tribe of their respective shares of the price, and in no other manner.

12th. That on 5 July, 1773, certain chiefs of the Illinois Indians, then jointly representing,
acting for, and being duly authorized by that tribe in the manner explained above, did by
their deed poll, duly executed and delivered and bearing date on that day, at the post of
Kaskaskias, then being a British military post, and at a public council there held by them
for and on behalf of the said Illinois nation of Indians with William Murray, of the Illinois
country, merchant, acting for himself and for Moses Franks and Jacob Franks, of
London, in Great Britain, David Franks, John Inglis, Bernard Gratz, Michael

Page 21 U. S. 551
Gratz, Alexander Ross, David Sproat, and James Milligan, all of Philadelphia, in the
p\Province of Pennsylvania; Moses Franks, Andrew Hamilton, William Hamilton, and
Edmund Milne of the same place; Joseph Simons otherwise called Joseph Simon and
Levi Andrew Levi of the Town of Lancaster in Pennsylvania; Thomas Minshall of York
County in the same province; Robert Callender and William Thompson, of Cumberland
County in the same province; John Campbell of Pittsburgh in the same province; and
George Castles and James Ramsay of the Illinois country, and for a good and valuable
consideration in the said deed stated grant, bargain, sell, alien, lease, enfeoff, and
confirm to the said William Murray, Moses Franks, Jacob Franks, David Franks, John
Inglis, Bernard Gratz, Michael Gratz, Alexander Ross, David Sproat, James Milligan,
Andrew Hamilton, William Hamilton, Edmund Milne Joseph Simons, otherwise called
Joseph Simon Levi Andrew Levi, Thomas Minshall, Robert Callender, William
Thompson, John Campbell, George Castles, and James Ramsay, their heirs and
assigns forever, in severalty, or to George the Third, then King of Great Britain and
Ireland, his heirs and successors, for the use, benefit, and behoof of the grantees, their
heirs and assigns, in severalty, by whichever of those tenures they might most legally
hold, all those two several tracts or parcels of land situated, lying, and being within the
limits of Virginia on the east of the Mississippi, northwest of the Ohio, and west of the
Great Miami, and thus butted

Page 21 U. S. 552

and bounded:

Beginning for one of the said tracts on the east side of the Mississippi at the mouth of
the Heron Creek, called by the French the River of Mary, being about a league below
the mouth of the Kaskaskias River, and running thence a northward of east course in a
direct line back to the Hilly Plains, about eight leagues more or less; thence the same
course in a direct line to the Crab Tree Plains, about seventeen leagues more or less;
thence the same course in a direct line to a remarkable place known by the name of the
Big Buffalo Hoofs, about seventeen leagues more or less; thence the same course, in a
direct line to the Salt Lick Creek, about seven leagues more or less; then crossing the
Salt Lick Creek, about one league below the ancient Shawanese town in an easterly or
a little to the north of east course in a direct line to the River Ohio, about four leagues
more or less; then down the Ohio by its several courses until it empties into the
Mississippi, about thirty-five leagues more or less; and then up the Mississippi, by its
several courses, to the place of beginning, about thirty-three leagues more or less; and
beginning for the other tract on the Mississippi at a point directly opposite to the mouth
of the Missouri and running up the Mississippi by its several courses to the mouth of the
Illinois, about six leagues more or less; and thence up the Illinois, by its several courses,
to Chicagou or Garlic Creek, about ninety leagues, more or less; thence nearly a
northerly course, in a direct line, to a certain remarkable place, being the ground on
which a

Page 21 U. S. 553

battle was fought about forty or fifty years before that time between the Pewaria and
Renard Indians, about fifty leagues more or less; thence by the same course in a direct
line to two remarkable hills close together in the middle of a large prairie or plain, about
fourteen leagues more or less; thence a north of east course, in a direct line, to a
remarkable spring known by the Indians by the name of "Foggy Spring," about fourteen
leagues more or less; thence the same course in a direct line to a great mountain, to the
northwest of the White Buffalo Plain, about fifteen leagues more or less; and thence
nearly a southwest course to the place of beginning, about forty leagues more or less:

To have and to hold the said two tracts of land, with all and singular their
appurtenances, to the grantees, their heirs and assigns, forever in severalty or to the
King, his heirs and successors, to and for the use, benefit, or behoof of the grantees,
their heirs and assigns, forever in severalty, as will more fully appear by the said deed
poll, duly executed under the hands and seals of the grantors and duly recorded at
Kaskaskias on 2 September, 1773, in the office of Vicerault Lemerance, a notary public,
duly appointed and authorized. This deed, with the several certificates annexed to or
endorsed on it, was set out at length in the case.

13th. That the consideration in this deed expressed, was of the value of $24,000 current
money of the United States and upwards, and was paid and delivered, at the time of the
execution of the deed, by William Murray, one

Page 21 U. S. 554

of the grantees, in behalf of himself and the other grantees, to the Illinois Indians, who
freely accepted it and divided it among themselves; that the conferences in which the
sale of these lands was agreed on and made and in which it was agreed that the deed
should be executed were publicly held for the space of a month at the post of
Kaskaskias, and were attended by many individuals of all the tribes of Illinois Indians,
besides the chiefs, named as grantors in the deed; that the whole transaction was open,
public, and fair, and the deed fully explained to the grantors and other Indians by the
sworn interpreters of the government and fully understood by the grantors and other
Indians before it was executed; that the several witnesses to the deed and the grantees
named in it were such persons and of such quality and stations, respectively, as they
are described to be in the deed, the attestation, and the other endorsements on it; that
the grantees did duly authorize William Murray to act for and represent them in the
purchase of the lands and the acceptance of the deed, and that the two tracts or parcels
of land which it describes and purports to grant were then part of the lands held,
possessed, and inhabited by the Illinois Indians from time immemorial in the manner
already stated.

14th. That all the persons named as grantees in this deed were, at the time of its
execution and long before, subjects of the Crown of Great Britain and residents of the
several places named in the deed as their places of residence, and that

Page 21 U. S. 555

they entered into the land under and by virtue of the deed and became seized as the
law requires.

15th. That on 18 October, 1775, Tabac and certain other Indians, all being chiefs of the
Piankeshaws and jointly representing, acting for, and duly authorized by that nation in
the manner stated above, did, by their deed poll, duly executed and bearing date on the
day last mentioned at the post of Vincennes, otherwise called post St. Vincent, then
being a British military post, and at a public council there held by them for and on behalf
of the Piankeshaw Indians, with Louis Viviat, of the Illinois country, acting for himself
and for the Right Honorable John, Earl of Dunmore, then Governor of Virginia, the
Honorable John Murray, son of the said Earl, Moses Franks and Jacob Franks, of
London, in Great Britain, Thomas Johnson, Jr., and John Davidson, both of Annapolis,
in Maryland, William Russel, Matthew Ridley, Robert Christie, Sr., and Robert Christie,
Jr., of Baltimore Town, in the same province, Peter Compbell, of Piscataway in the
same province, William Geddes, of Newtown Chester in the same province, collector of
his Majesty's customs, David Franks and Moses Franks, both of Philadelphia in
Pennsylvania, William Murray and Daniel Murray, of the Illinois country, Nicholas St.
Martin and Joseph Page, of the same place, Francis Perthuis, late of Quebec, in
Canada, but then of post St. Vincent, and for good and valuable consideration, in the
deed poll mentioned and enumerated, grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, release, ratify,
and

Page 21 U. S. 556

confirm to the said Louis Viviat and the other persons last mentioned, their heirs and
assigns, equally to be divided, or to George III, then King of Great Britain and Ireland,
his heirs and successors, for the use, benefit, and behoof of all the above mentioned
grantees, their heirs and assigns, in severalty, by whichever of those tenures they might
most legally hold, all those two several tracts of land in the deed particularly described
situate, lying,

brk:
and being northwest of the Ohio, east of the Mississippi, and west of the Great Miami,
within the limits of Virginia and on both sides of the Ouabache, otherwise called the
Wabash, which two tracts of land are contained respectively within the following metes
and bounds, courses and distances, that is to say, beginning for one of the said tracts at
the mouth of a rivulet called Riviere du Chat, or Cat River, where it empties itself into
the Ouabache or Wabash, by its several courses, to a place called Point Coupee, about
twelve leagues above post St. Vincent, being forty leagues, or thereabouts, in length, on
the said river Ouabache, from the place of beginning, with forty leagues in width or
breadth on the east side, and thirty leagues in breadth or width on the west side of that
river, to be continued along from the place of beginning to Point Coupee. And beginning
for the other tract at the mouth of White River where it empties into the Ouabache,
about twelve leagues below post St. Vincent, and running thence down the Ouabache
by its several courses until it empties into the Ohio, being from White River to the Ohio,
about fifty-three leagues in length, more or less, with forty

Page 21 U. S. 557

leagues in width or breadth on the east side and thirty in width or breadth on the west
side of the Ouabache, to be continued along from the White River to the Ohio, with all
the rights, liberties, privileges, hereditaments, and appurtenances to the said tract
belonging, to have and to hold to the grantees, their heirs and assigns, forever in
severalty or to the King, his heirs and successors, for the use, benefit, and behoof of the
grantees, their heirs and assigns, as will more fully appear by the deed itself, duly
executed under the hands and seals of the grantors, and duly recorded at Kaskaskias,
on 5 December, 1775, in the office of Louis Bomer, a notary public, duly appointed and
authorized. This deed, with the several certificates annexed to or endorsed on it, was
set out at length.

16th. That the consideration in this deed expressed was of the value of $31,000 current
money of the United States and upwards, and was paid and delivered at the time of the
execution of the deed by the grantee, Lewis Viviat, in behalf of himself and the other
grantees, to the Piankeshaw Indians, who freely accepted it and divided it among
themselves; that the conferences in which the sale of these two tracts of land was
agreed on and made, and in which it was agreed that the deed should be executed
were publicly held for the space of a month at the post of Vincennes or post St. Vincent,
and were attended by many individuals of the Piankeshaw nation of Indians besides the
chiefs named as grantors in the deed; that the whole

Page 21 U. S. 558

transaction was open, public, and fair, and the deed fully explained to the grantors and
other Indians by skillful interpreters, and fully understood by them before it was
executed; that it was executed in the presence of the several witnesses by whom it
purports to have been attested, and was attested by them; that the grantees were all
subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, and were of such quality, station, and residence,
respectively, as they are described in the deed to be; that the grantees did duly
authorize Lewis Viviat to act for and represent them in the purchase of these two tracts
of land and in the acceptance of the deed; that these tracts of land were then part of the
lands held, possessed, and inhabited by the Piankeshaw Indians from time immemorial,
as is stated above; and that the several grantees under this deed entered into the land
which it purports to grant and became seized as the law requires.

17th. That on 6 May, 1776, the Colony of Virginia threw off its dependence on the
Crown and government of Great Britain and declared itself an independent state and
government with the limits prescribed and established by the letters patent of May 23,
1609, as curtailed and restricted by the letters patent establishing the Colonies of
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Carolina and by the Treaty of February 10, 1763, between
Great Britain and France, which limits, so curtailed and restricted, the State of Virginia,
by its Constitution and form of government, declared should be and remain the limits of
the state and should bound its western and northwestern extent.

Page 21 U. S. 559

18th. That on 5 October, 1778, the General Assembly of Virginia, having taken by arms
the posts of Kaskaskias and Vincennes, or St. Vincent, from the British forces, by whom
they were then held, and driven those forces from the country northwest of the Ohio,
east of the Mississippi, and west of the Great Miami, did, by an act of assembly of that
date, entitled "An act for establishing the County of Illinois and for the more effectual
protection and defense thereof," erect that country, with certain other portions of territory
within the limits of the state and northwest of the Ohio into a county, by the name of the
County of Illinois.

19th. That on 29 December, 1783, the State of Virginia, by an act of assembly of that
date, authorized their delegates in the Congress of the United States, or such of them,
to the number of three at least, as should be assembled in Congress on behalf of the
state and by proper deeds or instruments in writing under their hands and seals, to
convey, transfer, assign, and make over to the United States, in Congress assembled,
for the benefit of the said states, all right, title, and claim, as well of soil as jurisdiction,
which Virginia had to the territory or tract of country within her limits, as defined and
prescribed by the letters patent of May 23, 1609, and lying to the northwest of the Ohio;
subject to certain limitations and conditions in the act prescribed and specified, and that
on 1 March, 1784, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Hardy, Arthur Lee, and James Monroe,
then being four of the delegates
Page 21 U. S. 560

of Virginia to the Congress of the United States, did, by their deed poll, under their
hands and seals, in pursuance and execution of the authority to them given by this act
of assembly, convey, transfer, assign, and make over to the United States, in Congress
assembled, for the benefit of the said states, all right, title, and claim, as well of soil as
jurisdiction which that state had to the territory northwest of the Ohio, with the
reservations, limitations, and conditions in the act of assembly prescribed, which
cession the United States accepted.

20th. That on 20 July, 1818, the United States, by their officers duly authorized for that
purpose did sell, grant, and convey to the defendant in this action, William McIntosh, all
those several tracts or parcels of land, containing 11,560 acres, and butted, bounded,
and described, as will fully appear in and by the patent for the said lands, duly executed,
which was set out at length.

21st. That the lands described and granted in and by this patent are situated within the
State of Illinois and are contained within the lines of the last or second of the two tracts
described and purporting to be granted and conveyed to Louis Viviat and others by the
deed of October 18, 1775, and that William McIntosh, the defendant, entered upon
these lands under and by virtue of his patent and became possessed thereof before the
institution of this suit.

22d. That Thomas Johnson, one of the grantees

Page 21 U. S. 561

in and under the deed of October 18, 1775, departed this life on or about 1 October,
1819, seized of all his undivided part or share of and in the two several tracts of land
described and purporting to be granted and conveyed to him and others by that deed,
having first duly made and published his last will and testament in writing, attested by
three credible witnesses, which he left in full force and by which he devised all his
undivided share and part of those two tracts of land to his son, Joshua Johnson and his
heirs, and his grandson, Thomas J. Graham, and his heirs, the lessors of the plaintiff in
this action, as tenants in common.

23d. That Joshua Johnson and Thomas J. Graham, the devisees, entered into the two
tracts of land last above mentioned under and by virtue of the will, and became thereof
seized as the law requires. That Thomas Johnson, the grantee and devisor, during his
whole life and at the time of his death, was an inhabitant and citizen of the State of
Maryland; that Joshua Johnson and Thomas J. Graham, the lessors of the plaintiff, now
are and always have been citizens of the same state; that the defendant, William
McIntosh, now is and at and before the time of bringing this action was a citizen of the
State of Illinois, and that the matter in dispute in this action is of the value of $2,000
current money of the United States and upwards.

24th. And that neither William Murray nor any other of the grantees under the deed of
July 5, 1773, nor Louis Viviat nor any other of the

Page 21 U. S. 562

grantees under the deed of October 8, 1775, nor any person for them or any of them
ever obtained or had the actual possession under and by virtue of those deeds or either
of them of any part of the lands in them or either of them described and purporting to be
granted, but were prevented by the war of the American Revolution, which soon after
commenced, and by the disputes and troubles which preceded it, from obtaining such
possession, and that since the termination of the war and before it, they have
repeatedly and at various times from the year 1781 till the year 1816 petitioned the
Congress of the United States to acknowledge and confirm their title to those lands
under the purchases and deeds in question, but without success.

Judgment being given for the defendant on the case stated, the plaintiffs brought this
writ of error.

Page 21 U. S. 571

Primary Holding

Land transfers from Native Americans to private individuals are void.

Facts

This action for ejectment was based on a land dispute after Thomas Johnson, a
Supreme Court Justice, bought land from Native Americans in the Piankeshaw tribe. His
descendants inherited the land after Johnson's death and leased it to individuals who
brought the action against William M'Intosh. The federal government had given M'Intosh
a land patent to allegedly the same land, although in reality it appears that the
properties were actually separate. The parties thus brought this litigation in order to
obtain a judgment on priority rights to property more generally.

Ruling that the Native American tribe did not have the right to convey the land, the
federal district court held that Johnson's initial purchase and the chain of title stemming
from it were invalid.

Note:Marshall;s reliance on international law as basis for disco very doxtrine.

U.S. Supreme Court


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

Chavez v. United States

No. 14

Argued October 17-18, 1899

Decided December 22, 1899

175 U.S. 552

Syllabus

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


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

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

APPEAL FROM THE COURT

OF PRIVATE LAND CLAIMS

Syllabus

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


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

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

MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM delivered the opinion of the Court.

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

Page 175 U. S. 553

some 5,000 acres of land in New Mexico, about one league from the Manzano grant.
The title is evidenced by a grant by the territorial deputation of New Mexico, made in
1831, and the first question in the case relates to the authority of that body to make the
grant.
It is also contended that if the territorial deputation did not have the power to make the
grant, and that power rested with the governor of the department, his presence in the
territorial deputation as its ex officio president when the grant was made, and, so far as
the record shows, his not protesting but acquiescing in its action, was equivalent to and
the same as a grant made by himself in his official character as governor.

It is further stated that, by reason of the action of the governor in writing the letter dated
December 22, 1831, and hereinafter set forth, that officer ratified and confirmed the
grant, and in effect made it his own.

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

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

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

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

"session of November 12, 1831)"

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

Page 175 U. S. 554

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

"* * * *"

"The session was adjourned."

"Santiago Abreu, President (Rubrick)"


"Juan Rafael Ortiz (Rubrick)"

"Anto. Jose Martinez (Rubrick)"

"Jose Manl. Salazar (Rubrick)"

"Teodosio Quintana (Rubrick)"

"Ramon Abreu, Secretary (Rubrick)"

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

"Santa Fe, November 12, 1831"

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

"Abreu, Secretary"

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

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

etc., declared that

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

Page 175 U. S. 555

granted him, with all the customary formality,"

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

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


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

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

There was also put in evidence on the trial of the action in the court below, on the
question of ratification, the following:

"Office of the Political Chief of New Mexico"

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

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

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

"Jose Antonio Chavez"

"To Alderman Miguel Olona"

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

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

Page 175 U. S. 556

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

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

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

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

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

Page 175 U. S. 557

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

In Vigil's case, there was a petition to the departmental assembly, through the Governor
of New Mexico, asking for a grant of land which in fact amounted to over two million, the
grantees binding themselves, if the grant were made, to construct two wells for the relief
and aid of travelers, and to establish two factories for the use of the state, and to protect
them from hostile invasion. The governor transmitted the petition to the assembly, but
declined to recommend that favorable action should be taken upon it. The assembly,
notwithstanding this refusal, granted the tract on January 10, 1846, for the purpose of
constructing wells and cultivating the land, etc., and the question was as to the validity
of this grant.
The opinion was delivered by Mr. Justice Davis, who stated that it had been repeatedly
decided by this Court that the only laws in force in the territories of Mexico, for the
disposition of public lands, with the exception of those relating to missions and towns,
were the act of the Mexican Congress of 1824 and the regulations of 1828. In the
course of his opinion, he said:

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

Page 175 U. S. 558

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

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

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

"it cannot be in reason held that a title to land derived from a territory which the territorial
authorities did not own, over which they had no power of disposition, was regularly
derived from either Spain or Mexico or a State of the Mexican nation."
No presumption that the territorial deputations had authority to make grants can arise
from the fact that in some instances those bodies assumed to make them. The case in
this respect bears no resemblance to United States v. Percheman, 7 Pet. 51, 32 U. S.
96, or to United States v. Clarke, 8 Pet. 436, 33 U. S. 447, 33 U. S. 453. In those cases,
it was not denied that the governor had authority in

Page 175 U. S. 559

some circumstances to make grants, and it was therefore held that a grant made by him
was prima facie evidence that he had not exceeded his power in making it, and that he
who denied it took upon himself the burden of showing that the officer by making the
grant had transcended the power reposed in him. There is in the case before us no
evidence that the territorial deputation had the power, in any event, to make grants
other than the fact that in some instances it assumed to make them.

The cases heretofore decided in this Court, and some of which have been above
referred to, show that such fact is inadequate to prove the existence of the authority.

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

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

Page 175 U. S. 560

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

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

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

Page 175 U. S. 561

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

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

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

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

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

Page 175 U. S. 562

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

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

While such silence is entirely consistent with other views that might have been held by
the governor, it certainly cannot properly be ascribed, as a legal inference from the facts
stated, to his desire to make the grant himself, nor could it be said that his desire (if he
had it) was the legal equivalent of an actual grant.
His knowledge that another body had assumed to make a grant is not equivalent to the
making of the grant himself, and he was the person who alone had power to make it.
There is nothing in the letter which aids the plaintiff herein.

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

Page 175 U. S. 563

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

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

We do not question the correctness of the remarks made by MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS in
regard to evidence of possession and the presumptions which may under certain
circumstances be drawn as to the existence of a grant.

We do not deny the right or the duty of a court to presume its existence in a proper
case, in order to quiet a title and to give to long continued possession the quality of a
rightful possession under a legal title. We recognize and enforce such rule in the case
of United States v. Chavez, decided at this term, in which the question is involved. We
simply say in this case that the possession was not of a duration long enough to justify
any such inference.

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

We think the judgment of the court below should be

Affirmed.
VALENTON v MURCIANO

G.R. No. 1413 March 30, 1904

ANDRES VALENTON, ET AL., plaintiffs-appellants,


vs.
MANUEL MURCIANO, defendant-appellee.

Montagne and Dominguez for appellants.


Del Pan, Ortigas and Fisher for appellee.

WILLARD, J.:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law 8 of said title 12 is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And whereas, title deeds to lands have been granted by officers not authorized to issue
them, and such titles have been confirmed by us in council, we command that those
holding such a certificate of confirmation may continue to possess the lands to which it
refers, and will, within the limits stated in the confirmation certificate, be protected in
their possession; and with respect to any encroachment beyond such limits will be
admitted to the benefits of this law.

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

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

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

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

5. Likewise neither shall possessors of lands sold or adjusted by the various


subdelegates from the year 1700 to the present time be molested, disturbed, or
denounced, now or at any other time, with respect to such possession, if such sales or
adjustments shall have been confirmed by me, or by the viceroy or the president of the
court of the district in which the lands are located while authorized to exercise this
power. In cases where the sales of adjustments shall not have been so confirmed, the
possessors will present to the courts of their respective district and to the other officials
hereby empowered to receive the same, a petition asking for the confirmation of said
sales and adjustments. After the proceedings outlined by the subdelegates in their order
with respect to the measurement and valuation of the said lands, and with reference to
the title issued therefor, shall have been duly completed, said courts and officials will
make an examination of the same for the purpose of ascertaining whether the sale or
adjustment has been made without fraud and collusion, and for an adequate and
equitable price, and a similar examination shall be made by the prosecuting attorney of
the district, to the end that, in view of all the proceedings and the purchase or
adjustment price of the land, and the media anata having been duly, etc., paid into the
royal treasury, as well as such additional sum as may be deemed proper, there will be
issued to the possessor, in my royal name, a confirmation of his title, by virtue of which
his possession and ownership of lands and waters which it represents will be fully
legalized, to the end that at no time will he or his heirs or assigns be disturbed or
molested therein.

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

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

In the Philippines at a later date royal of September 21, 1797 (4 Legislacion


Ultramarina, Rodriguez San Pedro, p. 688), directed the observation of the said royal
cedula of 1754, but apparently without being subject to the period of prescription therein
assigned.

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

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

The royal degree approving these regulations is dated June 25, 1880, and is as
follows:1

Upon the suggestion of the colonial minister, made in conformity with the decree of the
full meeting of the council of state, I hereby approve the attached regulations for the
adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine
Islands.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other articles of the regulations state the manner in which applications should be
made for adjustment, and the proceedings thereon.
Do these regulations declare that those who are included in article 4 and 5 are the
absolute owners of the land occupied by them without any action on their part, or that of
the State, or do they declare that such persons must seek an adjustment and obtain a
deed from the State, and if they do not do so within the time named in article 8 they lose
all interest in the lands?

It must be admitted from the wording of the law that the question is not free from doubt.
Upon a consideration, however, of the whole matter, that doubt must, we think, be
resolved in favor of the State. The following are some of the reasons which lead us to
that conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The policy pursued by the Spanish Government from the earliest times, requiring
settlers on the public lands to obtain deeds therefor from the State, has been continued
by the American Government in Act No. 926, which takes effect when approved by
Congress. Section 54, sixth paragraph of that act, declares that the persons named in
said paragraph 6 "shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a Government grant and to have received the same." Yet such persons are
required by section 56 to present a petition to the Court of Land Registration for a
confirmation of these titles.

We have considered the regulations relating to adjustment — that is, those laws under
which persons in possession might perfect their titles. But there were other laws relating
to the sale of public lands which contained provisions fatal to the plaintiff's claims. The
royal decree of January 26, 1889 (Gaceta de Manila, March 20, 1889), approved the
regulations for the sale of public lands in the Philippines, and it was in accordance with
such regulations that the appellee acquired his title. Article 4 of those regulations
required the publication in the Gaceta de Manila of the application to purchase, with a
description of the lands, and gave sixty days within which anyone could object to the
sale. A similar notice in the dialect of the locality was required to be posted on the
municipal building of the town in which the land was situated, and to be made public by
the crier. Articles 5 and 6 declared to whom such objections shall be made and the
course which they should take. Article 8 is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Article 5 of this royal order is as follows:

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

The American legislation creating the Court of Land Registration is but an application of
this same principle. In both systems the title is guaranteed to the petitioner, after
examination by a tribunal. In Spanish system this tribunal was called an administrative
one, in the American a judicial one.

The court finds that the plaintiffs made a written protest against the sale to the
defendants while the proceedings for the measurements and survey of the land were
being carried on, but that they did not follow up their protest. This, as held by the court
below, is a bar their recovery in this action, under the articles above cited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. What has been said heretofore makes it unnecessary to consider the motion for a
new trial, made by the defendant on the ground that the findings of fact are not
supported by the evidence.

III. The exception of the defendant to the order vacating the appointment of the receiver
can not be sustained. The defendant at no time made any showing sufficient to
authorize the appointment of a receiver.

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

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

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

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

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

CANSINO v VALDEZ
G.R. No. L-2468 July 16, 1906

MAGDALENA CANSINO, ET AL., plaintiffs-appellees,


vs.
GERVASIO VALDEZ, ET AL., defendants-appellants.

Wade H. Kitchens, for appellants.


Isabelo Artacho, for appellees.

WILLARD, J.:

The decision in this case was announced on the 30th of April, 1906. The grounds of that
decision are as follows: The case is almost identical with the case of Valenton vs.
Murciano1 (2 Off Gaz., 434), decided on the 30th of March, 1904. The similarity extends
even to the dates and to the location of the land, for we judge from the description of the
property involved in this suit and the description of the property involved in the case of
Valenton vs. Murciano that they are two adjoining tracts of land, one situated in the
Province of Pangasinan and the other in the Province of Tarlac, the boundary line
between the two tracts of land.

In the case of Valenton vs. Murciano, the defendant bought the land from the Spanish
Government by a deed dated the 14th of July, 1892. In this case the plaintiff,
Magdalena Cansino, bought the property in question, as public lands of the State from
the Spanish Government and received a deed therefor on the 27th of October, 1893. In
the former case the plaintiffs went into possession of the land in 1860 and claimed
ownership thereof by the extraordinary prescription of thirty years. In this case some of
the defendants testified that they went into possession in 1862 and they claimed the
ownership of this land by the same extraordinary prescription. In either one of the cases
did the occupants have any written title to the land.

In Valenton vs. Murciano we decided that title to lands such as were involved in that
case could not be acquired by prescription while they were the property of the State.
The decision in that case governs and controls this case and upon its authority
judgment in this case was affirmed.

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

CARINO v INSULAR GOVT

U.S. Supreme Court

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


Carino v. Insular Government of the Philippine Islands

No. 72

Argued January 13, 1909

Decided February 23, 1909

212 U.S. 449

Syllabus

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

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 450

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

The Organic Act of the Philippines made a bill of rights embodying safeguards of the
Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all.

Every presumption of ownership is in favor of one actually occupying land for many
years, and against the government which seeks to deprive him of it, for failure to comply
with provisions of a subsequently enacted registration act.
Title by prescription against the crown existed under Spanish law in force in the
Philippine Islands prior to their acquisition by the United States, and one occupying land
in the Province of Benguet for more than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris is entitled
to the continued possession thereof.

7 Phil. 132 reversed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 212 U. S. 455

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS

Syllabus

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

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 450

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

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

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

7 Phil. 132 reversed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 212 U. S. 455

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 456

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 457

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

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 458

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

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

The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the
United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American
Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy the land. It is
obvious that, however stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was
different. No one, we suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount
necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to
the natives, not to exploit their country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1,
1902, c. 1369, § 12, 32 Stat. 691, all the property and rights acquired there by the
Page 212 U. S. 459

United States are to be administered "for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof." It is
reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard
to what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its
own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of the
Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It provides that

"no law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection
of the laws."

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 460

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

Whatever the law upon these points may be, and we mean to go no further than the
necessities of decision demand, every presumption is and ought to be against the
government in a case like the present. It might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say
that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by
individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in
the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land.
Certainly, in a case like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought
to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. Whether justice to the natives and the
import of the organic act ought not to carry us beyond a subtle examination of ancient
texts, or perhaps even beyond the attitude of Spanish law, humane though it was, it is
unnecessary to decide. If, in a tacit way, it was assumed that the wild tribes of the
Philippines were to be dealt with as the power and inclination of the conqueror might
dictate, Congress has not yet sanctioned the same course as the proper one "for the
benefit of the inhabitants thereof."

If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear
proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin
with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to
indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands,
irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the
native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers, or even into tenants at will. For
instance, Book 4, Title 12, Law 14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a
contrary conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Phil. 537, while it commands viceroys
and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to
confirm those who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it

Page 212 U. S. 461

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

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

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

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

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

"interested parties not included within the two preceding

Page 212 U. S. 462

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

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

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

Page 212 U. S. 463

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

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

Judgment reversed.

JONES v INSULAR GOVERNMENT

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

F. STEWART JONES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, defendant-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor-General, for appellant.


Pillsbury and Sutro, for appellee.

WILLARD, J.:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 18 of the act of Congress provides as follows:

That the forest laws and regulations now in force in the Philippine Islands, with such
modifications and amendments as may be made by the Government of said Islands, are
hereby continued in force.

Must these modifications and amendments be submitted to Congress for its approval? If
they must be, then Act No. 1148, relating thereto, is void, because it was not so
submitted.
It seems very clear that rules and regulations concerning mineral, timber, and coal
lands, and lands bought from religious orders need not be submitted to Congress. If
they are not inconsistent with the provisions of the act of Congress relating to the same
subjects, they are valid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this instance the
appellant. After the expiration of twenty days let final judgment be entered in
accordance herewith and ten days thereafter let the cause be remanded to the lower
court for proper procedure. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Mapa, Johnson and Tracey, JJ., concur.

SUSI v RAZON and THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS

G.R. No. L-24066 December 9, 1925

VALENTIN SUSI, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ANGELA RAZON and THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, defendants. THE DIRECTOR OF
LANDS, appellant.
Acting Attorney-General Reyes for appellant.
Monico R. Mercado for appellee.

VILLA-REAL, J.:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If, as above stated, the land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become,
by operation of law, private property of the plaintiff, there lacking only the judicial
sanction of his title, Valentin Susi has the right to bring an action to recover possession
thereof and hold it.

For the foregoing, and no error having been found in the judgment appealed from, the
same is hereby affirmed in all its parts, without special pronouncement as to costs. So
ordered.

Avanceña, C.J., Malcolm, Street, Villamor, Ostrand, Johns, and Romualdez, JJ.,
concur.
Johnson, J., took no part.

MAPA v INSULAR GOVERNMENT

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. L-3793. February 19, 1908. ]

CIRILO MAPA, Petitioner-Appellee, v. THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, Respondent-


Appellant.

Attorney-General Araneta, for Appellant.

Basilio R. Mapa, for Appellee.

SYLLABUS

1. AGRICULTURAL PUBLIC LANDS DEFINED. — The phrase "agricultural public


lands" defined by the act of Congress of July 1, 1902, which phrase is also to be found
in several sections of the Public Land Act (No. 926), means those public lands acquired
from Spain which are neither mineral nor timber lands.

DECISION

WILLARD, J. :

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

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

"All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open,
continuous exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public
lands, as defined by said act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under
a bona fide claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten
years next preceding the taking effect of this act, except when prevented by war, or
force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a Government grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to
a certificate of title to such land under the provisions of this chapter."cralaw virtua1aw
library

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

"From the evidence adduced it appears that the land in question is lowland, and has
been uninterruptedly, for more than twenty years, in the possession of the petitioner and
his ancestors as owners and the same has been used during the said period, and up to
the present, as fish ponds, nipa lands, and salt deposits. The witnesses declare that the
land is far from the sea, the town of Molo being between the sea and the said
land."cralaw virtua1aw library

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

The claim of the Attorney-General seems to be that no lands can be called agricultural
lands unless they are such by their nature. If the contention of the Attorney-General is
correct, and this land because of its nature is not agricultural land, it is difficult to see
how it could be disposed of or what the Government could do with it if it should be
decided that the Government is the owner thereof. It could not allow the land to be
entered as a homestead, for Chapter I of Act No. 926 allows the entry of homesteads
only upon "agricultural public lands" in the Philippine Islands, as defined by the act of
Congress of July 1, 1902. It could not sell it in accordance with the provisions of
Chapter II of Act No. 926 for section 10 only authorizes the sale of "unreserved
nonmineral agricultural public land in the Philippine Islands, as defined in the act of
Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two." It could not lease it in accordance
with the provisions of Chapter III of the said act, for section 22 relating to leases limits
them to "nonmineral public lands, as defined by section eighteen and twenty of the act
of Congress approved July first, nineteen hundred and two." It may be noted in passing
that there is perhaps some typographical or other error in this reference to sections 18
and 20, because neither one of these sections mentions agricultural lands. The
Government could not give a free patent to this land to a native settler, in accordance
with the provisions of Chapter IV, for that relates only to "agricultural public land, as
defined by act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two."cralaw virtua1aw
library

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

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

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

"SEC. 15. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and
empowered on such terms as it may prescribe, by general legislation, to provide for the
granting or sale and conveyance to actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of
said Islands such parts and portions of the public domain, other than timber and mineral
lands, of the United States in said Islands as it may deem wise, not exceeding sixteen
hectares to any one person and for the sale and conveyance of not more than one
thousand and twenty-four hectares to any corporation or association of persons:
Provided, that the grant or sale of such lands, whether the purchase price be paid at
once or in partial payments shall be conditioned upon actual and continued occupancy,
improvement, and cultivation of the premises sold for a period of not less than five
years, during which time the purchaser or grantee can not alienate or encumber said
land or the title thereto; but such restriction shall not apply to transfers of rights and title
of inheritance under the laws for the distribution of the estates of
decedents."cralaw virtua1aw library
It is seen that neither one of these sections gives any express definition of the phrase
"agricultural land." In fact, in section 15 the word "agricultural" does not occur.

There seem to be only three possible ways of deciding this question. The first is to say
that no definition of the phrase "agricultural land" can be found in the act of Congress;
the second, that there is a definition of that phrase in the act and that it means land
which in its nature is agricultural; and, third, that there is a definition in the act and that
the phrase means all of the public lands acquired from Spain except those which are
mineral or timber lands. The court below adopted this view, and held that the land, not
being timber or mineral land, came within the definition of agricultural land, and that
therefore Section 54 paragraph 6, Act No. 926 was applicable thereto.

1. There are serious objections to holding that there is no definition in the act of the
phrase "agricultural land." The Commission in enacting Act No. 926 expressly declared
that such a definition could be found therein. The President approved this act and it
might be said that Congress, by failing to reject or amend it, tacitly approved it.
Moreover, if it should be said that there is no definition in the act of Congress of the
phrase "agricultural land," we do not see how any effect could be given to the provisions
of Act No. 916, to which we have referred. If the phrase is not defined in the act of
Congress, then the lands upon which homesteads can be granted can not be
determined. Nor can it be known what land the Government has the right to sell in
accordance with the provisions of Chapter II, nor what lands it can lease in accordance
with the provisions of Chapter III, nor the lands for which it can give free patents to
native settlers in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV, and it would seem to
follow, necessarily, that none of those chapters could be put into force and that all that
had up to this time been done by virtue thereof would be void.

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

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

"The most arid mountain and the poorest soil are susceptible of cultivation by the hand
of man."cralaw virtua1aw library

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

The objection to adopting this construction on account of its uncertainty is emphasized


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

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

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

"The meaning of these sections is not clear and it is difficult to give to them a
construction that would be entirely free from objection."cralaw virtua1aw library

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

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

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

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

Johnson, J., concurs in the result.

Separate Opinions
TRACEY, J., with whom concurs CARSON, J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw
library

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

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

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

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

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

In Wilcox v. Jackson (13 Peters, 498, 513) it was held that whenever a tract of land has
been legally appropriated to any purpose, from that moment it becomes severed from
the mass of public lands and no subsequent law will be construed to embrace it,
although no express reservation is made. There have been similar rulings in regard to
reservations for military purposes, for town sites, educational purposes, and for mineral
and forest uses. Consequently Act No. 926 applies only to the lands of the United
States in these Islands not already devoted to public use or subject to private right, and
this construction necessarily excludes from its scope lands devoted to the use of
municipalities, including public buildings and such tracts as Wallace Field and the strip
surrounding the walls of the City of Manila. As the act has no application to them, they
are not public lands in this sense, and can not be included within the term "agricultural
public lands."cralaw virtua1aw library

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

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

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

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

RAMOS v DIRECTOR OF LANDS

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

CORNELIO RAMOS, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, objector-appellee.

Basilio Aromin for appellant.


Office of the Solicitor-General Paredes for appellee.

MALCOLM, J.:

This is an appeal by the applicant and appellant from a judgment of the Court of First
Instance of Nueva Ecija, denying the registration of the larger portion of parcel No. 1
(Exhibit A of the petitioner), marked by the letters A, B, and C on the plan, Exhibit 1, of
the Government.
One Restituto Romero y Ponce apparently gained possession of a considerable tract of
land located in the municipality of San Jose, Province of Nueva Ecija, in the year 1882.
He took advantage of the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, to obtain a possessory
information title to the land, registered as such on February 8, 1896. Parcel No. 1,
included within the limits of the possessory information title of Restituto Romero, was
sold in February, 1907, to Cornelio Ramos, the instant petitioner, and his wife Ambrosia
Salamanca.

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

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

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

Subsection 6 of section 54, of Act No. 926, entitled The Public Land Law, as amended
by Act No. 1908, reads as follows:

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

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

Actual possession of land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Director of Forestry of the Philippine Islands has said:

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

xxx xxx xxx

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

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

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

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

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

Exposure: North; South; East; West.

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


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

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

For growth of what agricultural products is this land suitable?

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

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

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

Is this land included or adjoining any proposed or established forest reserve or


communal forest? Description and ownership of improvements.

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

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

It should be kept in mind that the lack of personnel of this Bureau, the limited time
intervening between the notice for the trial on an expediente of land and the day of the
trial, and the difficulties in communications as well as the distance of the land in
question greatly hinder the handling of this work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS v ABELLA


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

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, plaintiff-appellee,


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

Francisco, Lualhati and Lopez for appellant.


Attorney-General Jaranilla for appellee.

JOHNSON, J.:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avanceña, C. J., Street, Villamor, Ostrand, Johns, Romualdez and Villa-Real, JJ.,
concur.
JOCSON v DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY

G.R. No. L-13756 January 30, 1919

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, ET AL., petitioners.


VICENTE JOCSON, ET AL., appellants,
vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, objector-appellee.

Mariano Locsin Rama and J. E. Blanco for appellants.


Attorney-General Paredes for appellee.

MOIR, J.:

In the cadastral land registration for the town of Hinigaran, Occidental Negros, the
appellants sought to register the three lots or parcels of land involved in this appeal,
which registration was opposed by the Director of Forestry.

The trial court found that lot 1104 was almost entirely "forestry" land, that a small portion
of lot 1154 and all of lots 1158 were "forestry" lands, to which appellants had no title,
and declared the lots public lands, and refused registration of the parts of these lots to
which opposition had been filed by the Forestry Bureau. The claimants excepted and
perfected their bill of exceptions and brought the case to this court for review, setting up
the following assignments of error:

1. The court erred in not holding to have been proven the facts that the lots 1104, 1154,
and 1158 of the cadastral survey of Hinigaran were possessed by Bibiano Jocson as
owner during his lifetime and from a time prior to the year 1880, and, after his death, by
his heirs, on which lots nipa plants were planted and now exists and that these latter are
not spontaneous plants utilized by said heirs.

2. The court erred in not holding to have been proven the a part of lot No. 1158 is rice
and pasture land that was possessed as owner by Bibiano Jocson during his lifetime
and peaceably long before 1880, a possession continued by his heirs who still enjoy the
use of the land up to the present time.

3. The court erred in not holding to have been proven that on that same lot 1158, there
has existed since the year 1890, and still exists, a fish hatchery which has been
possessed and enjoyed by the heirs of Bibiano Jocson, as owners, for more than 27
years, not counting the prior possession of their predecessor in interest.

4. The court erred in holding that lot No. 1158 and part of lots 1104 and 1154 are forest
land, finding this fact as sufficiently proven by the sole and absurd testimony of the
ranger to the effect that nipa is a plant of spontaneous growth and in not planted; and ,
as the photographs only refer to small portions of the area of the lot, the court also erred
in holding that the whole lot was covered with firewood trees, while in fact but a very
small portion of it is covered with trees which protect the nipa plants and the fish
hatchery, it having been proven that a large part of the lot was sown with rice and used
as pasture land.

5. The court erred in not holding that the parts of lots 1104, 1154 and 1158, covered by
mangrove swamps, are agricultural land, and in not holding to have been proven that
these swamp are not available, inasmuch as they are drained at low tide; errors
committed with manifest violation of law and disregard of the jurisprudence established
by the Honorable Supreme Court of the Philippine.

6. The court erred in not holding that the claimants and appellants, by their peaceable,
public, and continuous possession for more than forty years, as owners, including that
held by their predecessors in interests, had acquired by prescription lots 1104, 1154,
and 1158, in conformity with act No. 190, section 41, which, without exception, is
applicable to the State as well as to private parties, and by extraordinary prescription of
thirty years.

7. The court erred in not adjudicating said lots to the claimants and appellants, in
consideration of the possession they have had for more than forty years, form the time
of their predecessor in interest to the present time, thus violating the legal provision
whereby the holders of land who have been in its possession for ten years prior to the
enactment of the land law, Act No. 926, by the United States Philippine Commission,
are to be deemed the absolute owners of such land, and to be presumed to have
applied for the same and to have complied with the Spanish laws and all the
proceedings required by the Royal Decrees on the composition of titles; and, therefore,
pursuant to said Act now in force, the land in question should be adjudicated to the
possessors thereof.

8. The court erred in not granting the new trial requested by the appellants, the motion
therefor being based on the ground that his findings of facts, if there are any, are openly
and manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence.

It is not necessary to consider all these assignments of error, for the main question
involved is whether manglares[mangroves] are agricultural lands or timber lands. If they
are timber lands the claimants cannot acquire them by mere occupation for ten years
prior to July 26, 1904; if not, they can so acquire them under the Public Land Act, and
no grant or title is necessary.

This being a cadastral case there are no findings of fact, but the trial court states that lot
1104 was in possession of claimants and their ancestors for more than thirty years and
lot 1154 for more than twenty-five years. Lot 1158 is declared to be wholly "forestal."
The are of the lots does not appear.

The evidence fully sustains the contention of the claimants that they have been in
possession of all of those lots quietly, adversely and continuously under a claim of
ownership for more than thirty years prior to the hearing in the trial court. There is not a
word of proof in the whole record to the contrary. They set up no documentary title.
They do claim the parts of the lands denied registration are "mangles" with nipa and
various other kinds of aquatic bushes or trees growing on them, and that in 1890 on lot
1158 they constructed a fishpond (vivero de peces) which was later abandoned as
unprofitable, and that part of this lot is pasture land, part palay and part "mangles."

The attorney-General contends in his brief that the parts of the lands denied registration
are public forest and cannot be acquired by occupation, and that all "manglares are
public forests."

In the Act of Congress of July 1st, 1902, there is a classification of all public lands of the
Philippine Islands, and in mentioning forestry land the Act of Congress used the words
"timber land." These words are always translated in the Spanish translation of that Act
as "terrenos forestales." We think there is an error in this translation and that a better
translation would be "terrenos madereros." Timber land in English means land with
trees growing on it. The manglar plant would never be called a tree in English but a
bush, and land which has only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it can not be
called "timber land."

The photographs filed by the Government as exhibits in this case show that at two
places there were trees growing on this land, but the forester who testified for the
Government always calls these lots "mangles," and he says the trees which are growing
on the lands are of no value except for firewood. The fact that there are a few trees
growing in a manglar or nipa swamp does not change the general character of the land
from manglar to timber land.

That manglares are not forestry lands within the meaning of the words "Timber lands" in
the Act of Congress has been definitely decided by this Court in the case of
Montano vs. Insular Government (12 Phil. Rep., 572). In that case the court said:

Although argued at different times, five of these cases have been presented
substantially together, all being covered by one brief of the late Attorney-General in
behalf of the Government in which, with many interesting historical and graphic citations
he described that part of the marginal seashore of the Philippine Islands known
as manglares, with their characteristic vegetation. In brief, it may be said that they are
mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in which grow various kindered
plants which will not live except when watered by the sea, extending their roots deep
into the mud and casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These constitute the
mangrove flats of the tropics, which exists naturally, but which are also, to some extent,
cultivated by man for the sake of the combustible wood of the mangrove, like trees, as
well as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon. Although these flats are literally
tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that they can not be so regarded in the sense in
which the term is used in the cases cited or in general American jurisprudence. The
waters flowing over them are not available for purpose of navigation, and they "may be
disposed of without impairment of the public interest in what remains."

The court on page 573 further said:

It is a kindred case to Cirilo Mapa vs. The Insular Government . . . (10 Phil. Rep., 175).

As some discussion has arisen as to the scope of that decision, it appears opportune to
reaffirm the principle there laid down. The issue was, whether lands used as a
fishery, for the growth of nipa, and as salt deposits, inland some desistance from the
sea, and asserted, thought not clearly proved, to be overflowed at high tide, could be
registered as private property on the strength of ten years' occupation, under paragraph
6 of section 54 of Act No. 926 of the Philippine Commission. The point decided was that
such land within the meaning of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, was agricultural,
the reasoning leading up to that conclusion being that Congress having divided all the
public lands of the Islands into three classes it must be included in tone of the three,
and being clearly neither forest nor mineral, it must of necessity fall into the division of
agricultural land.

In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175), this court said that the
phrase "agricultural lands" as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired
from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.

Whatever may have been the meaning of the term "forestry" under the Spanish law, the
Act of Congress of July 1st, 1902, classified the public lands in the Philippine Islands as
timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and all public lands that are not timber or mineral
lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa
swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands.

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


1917 cannot affect rights which vested prior to its enactment.

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

Paragraph 6 of section 54 of that Act provides as follows:


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

xxx xxx xxx

This Act went into effect July 26th, 1904. Therefore, all persons who were in possession
of agricultural public lands under the conditions mentioned in the above section of Act
No. 926 on the 26th of July, 1894, are conclusively presumed to have a grant to such
lands and are entitled to have a certificate of title issued to them. (Pamintuan vs.Insular
Government, 8 Phil., Rep., 485.)

While we hold that manglares as well as nipa lands are subject to private acquisition
and ownership when it is fully proved that the possession has been actual, complete
and adverse, we deem it proper to declare that each case must stand on its own merits.

One cannot acquire ownership of a mangrove swamp by merely cutting a few loads of
firewood from the lands occasionally. The possession must be more complete than
would be required for other agricultural lands.

The appellants were in actual possession of the lots in question from 18821, and their
ancestors before that date, and they should have been declared the owners and title
should have been issued to them.

There is no need to consider the other points raised on appeal.

The judgment of the lower court is reversed and the case is returned to the lower court,
with instruction to enter a decree in conformity with this decision. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson, Street, Araullo and Avanceña, JJ., concur.

OH CHO v DIRECTOR OF LANDS

G.R. No. L-48321 August 31, 1946

OH CHO, applicant-appellee,
vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, oppositor-appellant.
Office of the Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta and Assistant Solicitor General Rafael
Amparo for appellant.
Vicente Constantino for appellee.
Ferrier, Gomez and Sotelo and J. T. Chuidian as amici curiae.

PADILLA, J.:

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the applicant failed to show title to the lot, the next question is whether he is entitled
to decree or registration of the lot, because he is alien disqualified from acquiring lands
of the public domain (sections 48, 49, C.A. No. 141).
As the applicant failed to show the title to the lot, and has invoked the provisions of the
Public Land Act, it seems unnecessary to make pronouncement in this case on the
nature or classifications of the sought to be registered.

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

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

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

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

Separate Opinions

PERFECTO, J., concurring:

Oh Cho, a citizen of the Republic of China, purchased in 1938 from Antonio, Luis and
Rafael Lagdameo a parcel of land located in the residential district of Guinayangan,
Tayabas, which has been in the continuous, public, and adverse possession of their
predecessors in interest as far back as 1880. on June 17, 1940, Oh Cho applied for the
registration of said parcel of land. The Director of Lands opposed the application
because, among other grounds, the Constitution prohibits aliens from acquiring public or
private agricultural lands.
One of the witnesses for the applicant, on cross-examination, expressly admitted that
the land in question is susceptible of cultivation and may be converted into an orchard
or garden. Rodolfo Tiquia, inspector of the Bureau of Lands, testifying as a witness for
the government, stated that the land, notwithstanding the use to which it is actually
devoted, is agricultural land in accordance with an opinion rendered in 1939 by the
Secretary of Justice. The pertinent part of said opinion, penned by Secretary Jose Abad
Santos, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is as follows:

1. Whether or not the "public agricultural land" in section 1, Article XII, of the
Constitution may be interpreted to include residential, commercial or industrial lots for
purposes of their disposition.

1. Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution classifies lands of the public domain in the
Philippines into agricultural, timber and mineral. This is the basic classification adopted
since the enactment of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill.
At the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the Philippines, the term "agricultural
public lands" had, therefor, acquired a technical meaning in our public laws. The
Supreme Court of the Philippines in the leading case of Mapa vs.
Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, held that the phrase "agricultural public lands"
means those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither timber nor mineral
lands. This definition has been followed by our Supreme Court in many subsequent
cases. (Montano vs. Ins. Gov't 12 Phil., 572, 574; Santiago vs. Ins. Gov't., 12, Phil., 593;
Ibañes de Aldecoa vs. Ins. Gov't., 13 Phil., 159; Ins. Gov't., vs. Aldecoa & Co., 19 Phil.,
505, 516 Mercado vs. Collector of Internal Revenue, 32 Phil., 271, 276; Molina 175,
181; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil., 560, 564; and Ankron vs. Government of
the Philippines, 40 Phil., 10, 14.)

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

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

Judge Pedro Magsalin, of the Court First Instance of Tayabas, rendered a decision on
August 15, 1940, overruling the opposition without must explanation and decreeing the
registration prayed for the applicant. The Director of Lands appealed from the decision,
and the Solicitor General appearing for appellant, maintains that the applicant, not being
a citizen of the Philippines, is disqualified to buy or acquire the parcel of land in question
and that the purchase made in question and that the purchase made in 1938 is null and
void.

This is the question squarely reversing to us for decision. The majority, although
reversing the lower court's decision and dismissing the application with we agree,
abstained from the declaring null and void the purchase made by Oh Cho in 1938 as
prayed for the appellant. We deem it necessary to state our opinion on the important
question raised, it must be squarely decided.

The Solicitor General argued in his brief as follows:

I. The lower court erred decreeing the registration of the lot in question in favor of the
applicant who, according to his own voluntary admission, is a citizen of the Chinese
Republic.

(a) The phrase "agricultural land" as used in the Act of the Congress of July 1, 1902, in
the Public Land Act includes residential lots.

In this jurisdiction lands of public domain suitable for residential purposes are
considered agricultural lands under the Public Land Law. The phrase "agricultural public
lands" has well settled judicial definition. It was used for the first time in the Act of
Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill. Its means those public lands
acquired form Spain which are neither mineral nor timber lands (Mapa vs. Insular
Government, 12 Phil., 572; Ibañes de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government 13 Phil., 159;
Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil., 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil.,
560; Ankron vs. Government of the Philippine Islands, 40 Phil., 10). In the case of
Mapa vs. Insular Government, supra, the Supreme Court, in defining the meaning and
scope of that phrase from the context of the sections 13 and 15 of that Act, said:

The phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined by the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902,
which phrase is also to be found in several sections of the Public Land Act (No. 926)
means those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither mineral timber lands.

xxx xxx xxx

"We hold that there is to be found in the act of Congress a definition of the phrase
"agricultural public lands," and after careful consideration of the question we are
satisfied that only definition which exists in said Act is the definition adopted by the court
below. Section 13 say that the Government shall "make and rules and regulations for
the lease, sale, or other dispositions of public lands other than timber or mineral lands,"
To our minds that is only definition that can be said to be given agricultural lands. In
other words, that the phrase "agricultural lands" as used in Act No. 926 means those
public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. . . ."
Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, 178, 182, emphasis added.)

"This phrase "agricultural public lands" was subsequently used in Act No. 926, which is
the first public land law of the Philippines. As therein used, the phrase was expressly
given by the Philippine Commission the same meaning intended for it by Congress as
interpreted in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government, supra. This is a self-evident
from a reading of section 1, 10, 32, and 64 (subsection 6 of Act No. 926). Whenever the
phrase "agricultural public lands" is used in any of said sections, it is invariably by the
qualification "as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and
two."

"More specially, in the case of Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government, supra, the
Supreme Court held that a residential or building lot, forming part of the public domain,
is agricultural land, irrespective of the fact that it is not actually used for purposes of
agriculture for the simple reason that it is susceptible of cultivation and may be
converted into a rural estate, and because when a land is not mineral or forestal in its
nature it must necessarily be included within the classification of a agricultural land.
Because of the special applicability of the doctrine laid down in said case, we quote at
some length from the decision therein rendered:

"The question set up in these proceedings by virtue of the appeal interposed by counsel
for Juan Ibañez de Aldecoa, is whether or not a parcel of land that is susceptible of
being cultivated, and ceasing to be agricultural land, was converted into a building lot, is
subject to the legal provisions in force regarding Government public lands which may be
alienated in favor of private individuals or corporations. . . .

xxx xxx xxx

"Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may
converted into a field, and planted with all kinds of vegetation ; for this reason, where
land is not mining or forestal in its nature, it must necessarily be included within the
classification of agriculture land, not because it is actually used for the purposes of
agriculture, but because it was originally agricultural and may again become so under
other circumstances; besides the Act of Congress (of July 1, 1902) contains only three
classifications, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots or urban
land that have ceased to be agricultural land. . . .

xxx xxx xxx

"From the language of the foregoing provisions of the law, it is deduced that, with the
exception of those comprised within the mineral and timber zone, all lands owned by
State or by the sovereign nation are public in character, and per se alienable and,
provided they are not destine to the use of public in general or reserved by the
Government in accordance with law, they may be acquired by any private or juridical
person; and considering their origin and primitive state and the general uses to which
they are accorded, they are called agricultural lands, urbans lands and building lots
being included in this classification for the purpose of distinguishing rural and urban
estates from mineral and timber lands; the transformation they may have undergone is
no obstacle to such classification as the possessors thereof may again convert them
into rural estates." (Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government 13 Phil., 161, 163 164,
165, 166; emphasis added.).

(b) Under the Constitution and Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Public Land Act), the
phrase (Public Land Act), the phrase "public agricultural land" includes lands of the
public domain suitable for residential purposes.

"Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution, reads as follows:

"All agricultural timber, and mineral lands of the public domain waters, minerals, coal,
petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural
resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and disposition, exploitation,
development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to
corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by
such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant lease, or concession at the time of the
inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution. Natural resources,
with the exception of publicagricultural land, shall not be alienated . . ." (Emphasis
added.).

"Under the above-quote provision, the disposition exploitation, development or


utilization of the natural resources, including agricultural lands of the public domain is
limited to citizens of the Philippines or to the corporations or associations therein
mentioned. It also clearly appears from said provision that natural resources, with the
exception of public agricultural land, are not subject to alienation.

"On November 7, 1936, or more than one year after the adoption of the Constitution,
Commonwealth Act No. 141, known as the Public Land Act, was approved. Under this
Act the lands of the public have been classified into three divisions: (a) alienable or
disposable, (b) timber, and (c) mineral lands. The lands designated alienable or
disposable correspond to lands designated in the Constitution as public agricultural
lands, because under section 1, Article XII, public agricultural lands are the only natural
resources of the country which are the only natural resources of the country which are
subject to alienation or deposition.

"Section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 provide that the alienable or disposable public
lands shall be classified, according to use or purposes to which they are destined, into a
agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, etc., lands. At first blush it would seem
that under this classification residential land is different from agricultural land. The
difference however, is more apparent than real. 'Public agricultural land ' as that phrase
is used in the Constitution means alienable lands of the public domain and therefore this
phrase is equivalent to the lands classified by the Commonwealth Act No. 141 as
alienable or disposable. The classification provided in section 9 is only for purposes
administration and disposition, according to the purposes to which said lands are
especially adopted. But notwithstanding this of all said lands are essentially agricultural
public lands because only agricultural public lands are subject to alienation or
disposition under section 1, Article XII of the Constitution. A contrary view would
necessarily create a conflict between Commonwealth Act No. 141 and section 1 of
Article XII of the Constitution, and such conflict should be avoided , if possible, and said
Act construed in the light of the fundamental provisions of the Constitution and in entire
harmony therewith.

"Another universal principles applied in considering constitutional question is, that an


Act will be so construed, if possible, as to avoid conflict with the Constitution, although
such a construction may not be the most obvious or natural one. "The Court may resort
to an implication to sustain a statute, but not to destroy it." But the courts cannot go
beyond the province of legitimate construction, in order to save a statute; and where the
meaning is plain, words cannot to be read into it or out of it for that purpose." ( 1
Sutherland, Statutory Construction, pp. 135, 136.)

"In view of the fact that more than one than one year after the adoption of the
Constitution the National Assembly revised the Public Land Law and passed
Commonwealth Act No. 141, which a compilation of the laws relative to the lands of the
public domain and the amendments thereto, form to the Constitution.

"Where the legislature has revised a statute after a Constitution has been adopted, such
a revision is to be regarded as a legislative construction that the statute so revised
conforms to the Constitution." (59 C.J., 1102; emphasis added.)

"By the way of illustration, let us supposed that a piece or tract of public land has been
classified pursuant to section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as residential land. If, by
reason of this classification, it is maintained that said land has ceased to be agricultural
public land, it will no longer be subject to alienation or disposition by reason of the
constitutional provision that only agricultural lands are alienable; and yet such
residential lot is alienable under section 58, 59, and 60 of Commonwealth Act No. 141
to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations mentioned in section 1,
Article XII of the Constitution. Therefore, the classification of public agricultural lands
into various subdivisions is only for purposes of administration, alienation or disposition,
but it does not destroy the inherent nature of all such lands as a public agricultural
lands.

"(c) Judicial interpretation of doubtful clause or phrase use in the law, controlling.

"The judicial interpretation given to the phrase "public agricultural land" is a sufficient
authority for giving the same interpretation to the phrase as used in subsequent
legislation, and this is especially so in view of the length of time during which this
interpretation has been maintained by the courts. On this point Sutherland has the
following to say:

"When a judicial interpretation has once been put upon a clause, expressed in a vague
manner by the legislature, and difficult to be understood, that ought of itself to be
sufficient authority for adopting the same construction. Buller J., said: "We find solemn
determination of these doubtful expressions in the statute, and as that now put another
construction has since prevailed, there is no reason why we should now put another
construction of the act on account of any suppose change of convenience." This rule of
construction will hold good even if the court be opinion that the practical erroneous; so
that if the matter were res integra the court would adopt a different construction. Lord
Cairns said: "I think that with regard to statutes ... it is desirable not so much that the
principle of the decision should be capable at all times of justification, as that the law
should be settled, and should, when once settled, be maintained without any danger of
vacillation or uncertainty. "Judicial usage and practice will have weight, and when
continued for a long time will be sustained though carried beyond the pair purport of the
statute."(II Lewis' Sutherland Statutory Construction, pp. 892, 893.) .

"An important consideration affecting the weight of contemporary judicial construction is


the length of time it has continued. It is adopted, and derives great force from being
adopted, soon after the enactment of the law. It may be, and is presumed, that the
legislative sense of its policy, and of its true scope and meaning, permeates the
judiciary and controls its exposition. Having received at that time a construction which is
for the time settled, accepted, and thereafter followed or acted upon, it has the sanction
of the of the authority appointed to expound the law, just and correct conclusions, when
reached, they are, moreover, within the strongest reasons on which founded the maxim
of stare decisis. Such a construction is public given, and the subsequent silence of the
legislature is strong evidence of acquiescence, though not conclusive. . . . (II Lewis
Sutherland Statutory Construction, pp. 894, 895.)

"Furthermore, when the phrase "public agricultural land" was used in section 1 of Article
XII of the Constitution, it is presumed that it was so used with the same judicial meaning
therefor given to it and therefor the meaning of the phrase, as used in the Constitution,
includes residential lands and another lands of the public domain, but excludes mineral
and timber lands.

"Adoption of provisions previously construed — ad. Previous construction by Courts. —


Where a statute that has been construed by the courts of the last resort has been
reenacted in same, or substantially the same, terms, the legislature is presumed to have
been familiar with its construction, and to have adopted it is part of the law, unless a
contrary intent clearly appears, or a different construction is expressly provided for; and
the same rule applies in the construction of a statute enacted after a similar or cognate
statute has been judicially construed. So where words or phrases employed in a new
statute have been construed by the court to have been used in a particular sense in a
previous statute on the same subject, or one analogous to it, they are presumed, in the
a absence of clearly expressed intent to the contrary, to be used in the same sense in
the statute as in the previous statute." (59 C.J., 1061-1063.).

"Legislative adoption of judicial construction. — In the adoption of the code, the


legislature is presumed to have known the judicial construction which have been placed
on the former statutes; and therefore the reenactment in the code or general revision of
provisions substantially the same as those contained in the former statutes is a
legislative adoption of their known judicial constructions, unless a contrary intent is
clearly manifest. So the fact that the revisers eliminated statutory language after it had
been judicially construed shows that they had such construction in view." (59 C. J.,
1102.)

"II. The lower court erred in not declaring null and void the sale of said land to the
appellant (appellee).

"Granting that the land in question has ceased to be a part of the lands of the public
domain by reason of the long continuous,, public adverse possession of the applicant's
predecessors in interest, and that the latter had performed all the conditions essential to
a Government grant and were entitled to a certificate of title under section 48,
subsection (b), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, still the sale of said land of December 8,
1938, to the applicant as evidenced by Exhibits B and C, was null and void for being
contrary to section 5, Article XII of the Constitution, which reads as follows:

"Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred


or assignedexcept to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or
hold lands of the public domain of the Philippines."

"The applicant, being a Chinese citizen, is disqualified to acquire or hold lands of the
public domain (section 1, Article XII of the Constitution; section 12, 22, 23, 33, 44, 48,
Commonwealth Act No. 141 ), and consequently also disqualified to buy and acquire
private agriculture land.
"In view of the well settled judicial meaning of the phrase public agricultural land,' as
hereinbefore demonstrated, the phrase 'private agricultural land,' as used in the above
quoted provision, can only mean land of private ownership, whether agricultural,
residential, commercial or industrial. And this necessarily so, because the phrase
'agricultural land used in the Constitution and in the Public Land Law must be given the
same uniform meaning to wit, any land of the public domain or any land of private
ownership, which is neither mineral or forestal.

"A word or phrase repeated in a statute will bear the same meaning throughout the
statute, unless a different intention appears. ... Where words have being long used in a
technical sense and have been judicially construed to have a certain meaning, and have
been adopted by the legislature as having a certain meaning prior to a particular statute
in which they are used, the rule of construction requires that the words used in such
statute should be construed according to the sense may vary from the strict literal
meaning of the words." (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction., p. 758.) .

"This interpretation is in harmony with the nationalistic policy, spirit and purpose of our
Constitution and laws, to wit, `to conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation,' as
solemnly enunciated in the preamble to the Constitution.

"A narrow and literal interpretation of the phrase 'private agriculture land' would impair
and defeat the nationalistic aim and general policy of our laws and would allow a
gradual, steady, and unlimited accumulation in alien hands of a substantial portion of
our patrimonial estates, to the detriment of our national solidarity, stability, and
independence. Nothing could prevent the acquisition of a great portion or the whole of a
city by subjects of a foreign power. And yet a city or urban area is more strategical than
a farm or rural land.

"The mere literal construction of section in a statute ought not to prevail if it is opposed
to the intention of the legislature apparent by the statute; and if the words are sufficiently
flexible to admit of some other construction it is to be adopted to effectuate that
intention. The intent prevails over the letter, and the letter will, if possible be so read as
to conform to the spirit of the act. While the intention of the legislature must be
ascertained from the words used to express it, the manifest reason and the obvious
purpose of the law should not be sacrificed to a liberal interpretation of such words." (II
Sutherland, Stat. Construction, pp. 721, 722.)

"We conclude, therefore, that the residential lot which the applicant seeks to register in
his name falls within the meaning of private agricultural land as this phrase is used in
our Constitution and, consequently, is not subject to acquisition by foreigners except by
hereditary succession."
The argument hold water. It expresses a correct interpretation of the Constitution and
the real intent of the Constitutional Convention.

One of our fellow members therein, Delegate Montilla, said:

The constitutional precepts that I believe will ultimately lead us to our desired goal are;
(1) the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources; (2) the
nationalization of our commerce and industry compatible with good international
practices. With the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources it is to be
understood that our God-given birthright should be one hundred per cent in Filipino
hands. ... Lands and natural resources are immovable and as such can be compared to
the vital organs of a person's body, the lack of possession of which may cause instant
death or the shortening of life. If we do not completely nationalize these two of our most
important belongings, I am afraid that the time will come when we shall be sorry for the
time we were born. Our independence will be just a mockery, for what kind of
independence are we going to have if a part of our country is not in our hands but in
those of foreigner? (2 Aruego, The Framing of the Philippine Constitution, p. 592.).

From the same book of Delegate Aruego, we quote:

The nationalization of the natural resources of the country was intended (1) to insure
their conservation for Filipino posterity; (2) to serve as an instrument of national
defense, helping prevent the extension into the country of foreign control through
peaceful economic penetration; and (3) to prevent making the Philippines a source of
international conflict with the consequent danger to its internal security and
independence.

xxx xxx xxx

. . . In the preface to its report, the committee on nationalization and preservation of


lands and other natural resources said;

"International complications have often resulted from the existence of alien ownership of
land and natural resources in a weak country. Because of this danger, it is best that
aliens should be restricted in the acquisition of land and other natural resources. An
example is afforded by the case of Texas. This state was originally province of Mexico.
In order to secure its rapid settlements and development, the Mexican government
offered free land to settlers in Texas. Americans responded more rapidly than the
Mexicans, and soon they organized a revolt against Mexican rule, and then secured
annexation to the United States. A new increase of alien landholding in Mexico has
brought about the desire a prevent a repetition of the Texas affair. Accordingly the
Mexican constitution of 1917 contains serious limitation on the right of aliens to hold
lands and mines in Mexico. The Filipinos should profit from this example."
xxx xxx xxx

It was primarily for these reasons that the Convention approved readily the proposed
principle of prohibiting aliens to acquire, exploit, develop, or utilize agricultural, timber,
and mineral lands of the public domain, waters minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the
Philippines. For the same reasons the Convention approved equally readily the
proposed principle of prohibiting the transfer of assignment to aliens of private
agricultural land, save in the case of hereditary succession. (2 Aruego, Framing of the
Philippine Constitution, pp. 604, 605, 606.).

All the foregoing show why we, having been a member of the Constitutional Convention,
agree with Solicitor General's position and concur in the result in this case, although we
would go as far as the outright pronouncement that the purchase made by appelle is
null and void.

BRIONES, M., con quien estan conformes PARAS y TUASON, MM., disidente:

El solicitante en este expediente pide el registro del solar de que se trata como terreno
de propiedad privada, y tan solo con caracter supletorio invoca las disposiciones del
capitulo 8.º de la Ley No. 2874 sobre terrenos publicos (Pieza de Excepciones, pag. 3.)

Por su parte el Director de Terrenos se opone a la solicitud en virtud de tres


fundamentos, a saber: (1) porque ni el solicitante ni sus predecesores en interes
pueden demonstrar titulo suficiente sobre dicha parcela de terreno, no habiendose
adquirido la misma ni por titulo de composicion con el Estado bajo la soberania de
España, ni por titulo de informacion posesoria bajo el Real Decreto de 13 de Febrero de
1894; (2) porque el citado solar es una porcion de los terrenos de dominio publico
pertenecientes al Commonwealth de Filipinas; (3) porque siendo el solicitante un
ciudadano chino, no esta capacitado bajo las disposiciones de la Constitucion de
Filipinas para adquirir terrenos de caracter publico o privado (idem, pags. 5 y 6).

Tanto el solicitante como el Director de Terrenos practicaron sus pruebas ante un


arbitro nombrado por el Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Tayabas. Con vista de tales
pruebas, el Juez Magsalin, del referido Juzgado, dicto sentencia a favor del solicitante,
de la cual transcribimos las siguientes porciones pertinentes:

La representacion del opositor Director de Terrenos trata de probar por medio del
testimonio del Inspector del Buro de Terrenos que, el terreno objeto de la solicitud es
parte del dominio publico y ademas el solicitante es ciudadano chino, pero dicho testigo
afirmo que el terreno objeto de la presente solicitud es un solar situado dentro de la
poblacion del municipio de Guinayanga, Tayabas, y en el mismo existe una casa de
materiales fuertes y careciendo de merito esta oposicion debe desestimarse la misma.
Por tanto, previa desestimacion de la oposicion del Director de Terrenos, se adjudica
con sus mejoras la parcela de terreno objeto de la presente solicitud descrito en el
plano Psu-109117, a favor del solicitante Oh Cho, ciudadano chino, mayor de edad,
casado con Yee Shi, y residente en el municipio de Guinayanga, Tayabas, Islas
Filipinas. (Decision, pag. 8, Record on Appeal.)

De lo transcrito se infiere de una manera forzosa lo siguiente: (a) que el tribunal inferior
desestimo de plano la oposicion del Director de Terrenos fundada en el supuesto de
que el solar cuestionado es parte del dominio publico; (b) que el mismo tribunal rechazo
el otro fundamento de la oposicion, esto es, que siendo el solicitante ciudadano chino
esta incapacitado bajo nuestra Constitucion para adquirir terreno, ya publico, ya
privado, aunque sea un solar de caracter urbano; (c) que, segun el fallo del Juez a quo,
no siendo publico el terreno cuestionado, es necesariamente terreno privado.

El Director de Terrenos, no estando conforme con la sentencia, apelo de ella para ante
el Tribunal de Apelacion y hace en su alegato dos señalamientos de error, ninguno de
los cuales pone en tela de juicio la calidad de privado del terreno cuestionado. El
apelante no plantea ninguna cuestion de hecho; plantea solo una cuestion de derecho.
Por eso que en la reconstitucion de este expediente — el original se quemo durante la
guerra — no ha habido necesidad de incluir las notas taquigraficas ni las pruebas
documentales, y de hecho hemos considerado y decidido este asunto sin dichas notas
y pruebas. El abogado Constantino, del apelado, en la audiencia para la reconstitucion
de los autos, hizo esta manifestacion; "In view also of the fact that the questions
involved here are only questions of law, this representation waives the right to present
the evidence presented in the trial court . . . ." Por su parte, el Procurador General, al
explanar el caso en representacion del apelante Director de Terrenos, principia su
alegato con la siguiente declaracion:

This appeal is a test case. There are now several cases of exactly the same nature
pending in the trial courts.

Whether or not an alien can acquire a residential lot and register it in his name is
the only question raised in this appeal from a decision of the Court of First Instance of
Tayabas which sustained the affirmance and decreed the registration of the said
property in favor of the applicant who, by his own voluntary admission, is a citizen of the
Chinese Republic. This question is raised in connection with the constitutional provision
that no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned to foreigners except in
cases of hereditary succession. (Pags. 1, 2, alegato del apelante.)

Habiendose apelado de la sentencia para ante el Tribunal de Apelacion ¿por que se


elevo este asunto al Tribunal Supremo, ante el cual ya estaba pendiente aun antes de
la guerra, y sin resolverse durante la ocupacion japonesa? La razon no consta
especificamente en autos, pero como no se trata de una alzada del Tribunal de
Apelacaion a la Corte Suprema, la unica explicacion que cabe es que aquel, la
percatarse de que en la apelacion no se planteaba mas que una cuestion de derecho,
ordeno, como era de rigor, el traslado del asunto a esta Corte por ser de su jurisdiccion
y competencia.

Hemos estimado necesario sentar las anteriores premisas porque las mismas sirven de
base a la argumentacion que a seguida vamos a desenvolver para fundamentar esta
disidencia.

I. De lo expuesto resulta evidente que el Director de Terrenos se ha opuesto al registro


solicitado, entre otros fundamentos, porque el terreno es publico; que el tribunal inferior
ha desestimado este fundamento por "carecer de merito," fallando que el terreno
es privado; que el Director de Terrenos, en su apelacion ante nosotros, no cuestiona
esta conclusion del Juez a quo, sino que dando por admitido que el terreno es de
propiedad privada, arguye, sin embargo, que bajo la seccion 5, Articulo XII de la
Constitucion de Filipinas el solicitante, por ser extranjero, no puede adquirir terreno
agricula privado, estando incluido en este concepto un solar urbano como el de que se
trata en este expediente. Planteado el asunto en tales terminos ¿puede esta Corte
considerar y resolver un punto no contendido entre las partes — un punto que esta
firme y definitivamente resuelto y no es objeto de apelacion? Dicho de otra manera:
¿puede esta Corte, como hace la mayoria en su opinion, revocar una conclusion del
tribunal-inferior que no esta discutida en el alegato del apelante? ¿Podemos, en buena
ley procesal, declarar publico el terreno en cuestion por nuestra propia iniciativa,
cuando el mismo Procurador General, que representa al Estado, admite en su alegato
el caracter privado del solar, y solo suscita una cuestion, de derecho, a saber: que bajo
nuestra Constitucion ningun acto traslativo de dominio a favor de un extranjero es
valido, asi se trata de predio urbano, porque la frase "terreno agricola privado" qe se
contiene en la Constitucion abarca no solo las fincas rusticas sino tambien las urbanas?
Y, sobre todo, ¿podemos, en equidad y justicia, considerar y revisar un punto que no
solo no esta discutido por las partes, pues lo dan por admitido y establecido, sino que
es de derecho y dehecho al propio tiempo? ¿Que base tenemos para hacerlo cuando
no tenemos delante las pruebas tanto testificales como documentales? Nuestra
contestacion es, en absoluto, negativo.

La competencia de esta Corte para revisar las sentencias de los tribunales inferiores,
de las cuales se ha interpuesto apelacion, se basa en el principio de que dicha
competencia, en su ejercicio, tiene que limitarse a las cuestiones controvertidas, y esto
se determina mediante el señalamiento de errores que el apelante hace en su alegato.
El articulo 19 del antiguo reglamento de los procedimientos en este Tribunal Supremo
decia en su primer parrafo lo siguiente:
Anexo al alegato del apelante y en pliego separado, se acompañara una relacion de los
errores de derecho que han de discutirse. La especificacion de cada uno de estos
errores se hara por parrafos separados, con toda claridad, de una manera concisa, y
sin incurrir en repeticiones, y seran numerados por orden correlativo.

El articulo 20 del mismo reglamento preceptuaba:

Ningun error de derecho fuera del relativo a competencia sobre la materia de un litigio,
sera tomado en consideracion como no se halle puntualizado en la relacion de los
errores y presentado como uno de los fundamentos en el alegato.

Interpretando estas disposiciones reglamentarias, la Corte hizo en el asunto de


Santiago contra Felix (24 Jur. Fil., 391), los siguientes pronunciamientos doctrinales:

1. APELACION; EFECTO DE DEJAR DE PRESENTAR RELACION DE ERRORES;


REGLA FIRMEMENTE ESTABLECIDA. — Es regla establecida por la jurisprudencia de
los Tribunales de estas Islas, en virtud de repetidas y uniformes sentencias de esta
Corte, la de que si en una apelacione el recurrente dejare de hacer señalamiento de los
errores en que haya incurrido el Tribunal inferior, y se limitare a discutir cuestiones de
hecho en general, no es posible que este Tribunal pueda considerar ni revisar la
resolucion adversa a la parte apelante, por el motivo de haberse dictado contra la ley y
el peso de las pruebas, sino que es necesario que se señale y se especifique el error o
errores que determinaron la decision apelada que el apelante califica de ilegal e injusta.

2. Id.; Id.; Regla Igual a la Adoptada por los Tribunales de los Estados Unidos. — Igual
doctrina legal se halla en observancia en los Tribunales de los Estados Unidos de
America del Norte, toda vez que una manifestacion general de que el Juzgado erro en
dictar sentencia a favor de una de las partes, no es suficiente como base para que la
Corte pueda revisar la sentencia apelada, pues que a no ser que la apreciacion hecha
por un Juez de los hechos alegados y probados en juicio sea manifestamente contraria
al resultado y peso de las pruebas, el Tribunal de alzada suela aceptar el juicio y
criterio del Juez sobre las cuestiones de hecho, y no procede revocar sin motivo
fundado la sentencia apelada. (Enriquez contraEnriquez, 8 Jur. Fil., 574; Capellania de
Tambobong contra Antonio, 8 Jur. Fil., 693; Paterno contra la Ciudad de Manila, 17 Jur.
Fil., 26)" (Santiago contra Felix, 24 Jur. Fil., 391.)

Esta doctrina se reitero posteriormente en los siguientes asuntos: Tan Me


Nio contra Administrador de Aduanas, 34 Jur. Fil., 995, 996;
Hernaez contra Montelibano, 34 Jur. Fil., 1011.

La regla 53, seccion 6, del actual reglamento de los tribunales, dispone lo siguiente:
SEC. 5. Questions that may be decided. — No error which does not affect the
jurisdiction over the subject matter will be considered unless stated in the assignment of
errors and properly argued in the brief, save as the court, at its option, may notice plain
errors not specified, and also clerical errors.

No se dira que la cuestion de si el terreno cuestionado es publico o privado,


considerada y resuelta por la mayoria en su decision sin previo señalamiento de error ni
apropiada argumentacion en el alegato del Procurador General, esta comprendida
entre las salvedades de que habla la regla arriba transcrita porque ni afecta a la
jurisdiccion sobre la materia del litigio, ni es un "plain error," o "clerical error."

Se notara que en el antiguo reglamento no habia eso de "plain errors not specified"
(errores patentes o manifiestos no especificados en el alegato). Pero ¿cabe invocar
esta reserva en el caso que nos ocupa Indudablemente que no, por las siguientes
razones: (a) los autos no demuestran que el Juez a quo cometio un error patente y
manifiesto al declarar en su sentencia que el terreno no es publico sino privado; no
tenemos mas remedio que aceptar en su faz la conclusion del Juez sentenciador sobre
este respecto por la sencilla razon de que no tenemos ante nosotros las pruebas ni
testificales ni documentales, y, por tanto, no hay base para revisar, mucho menos para
revocar dicha conclusion, habiendose interpretado esta reserva en el sentido de que
solo se puede tomar "conocimiento judicial del error palpable con vista de los autos y
procedimientos"; (b) aun admitiendo por un momento, a los efectos de la
argumentacion, que Su Señoria el Juez padecio error palpable al sentar dicha
conclusion, como quiera que el Procurador General no suscita la cuestion en su alegato
debe entenderse que ha renunciado a su derecho de hacerlo, optando por fundamentar
su caso en otros motivos y razones; por tanto, no estamos facultados para
considerar motu proprio el supuesto error, pues evidentemente no se trata de un
descuido u oversight del representante del Estado, sino de una renuncia deliberada, y
la jurisprudencia sobre el particular nos dice que "el proposito subyacente, fundamental
de la reserva en la regla es el de prevenir el extravio de la justicia en virtud de un
descuido." He aqui algunas autoridades pertinentes:

Purpose of exception as to plain errors. — The proviso in the rule requiring assignments
of error, permitting the court, at its option, to notice a plain error not assigned, "was and
in intended, in the interest of justice, to reserve to the appellate court the right, resting in
public duty, to take cognizance of palpable error on the face of the record
and proceedings, especially such as clearly demonstrate that the suitor has no cause of
action." Santaella vs. Otto F. Lange Co. (155 Fed., 719, 724; 84 C. C. A., 145).

The rules does not intend that we are to sift the record and deal with questions which
are of small importance, but only to notice errors which are obvious upon inspection and
of a controlling character. The underlying purpose of this reservation in the rule is
to prevent the miscarriage of justice from oversight. Mast vs. Superior Drill Co. (154
Fed., 45, 51; 83 C. C. A. 157).

II. Hasta aqui hemos desarrollado nuestra argumentacion bajo el supuesto de que la
calidad de privado del terreno litigioso no es controversia justiciable en esta instancia
por no estar suscitada la cuestion en el alegato del Procurador General ni ser materia
de disputa entre las partes en la apelacion pendiente ante nosotros; por lo que,
consiguientemente, no estamos facultados para revisar, mucho menos revocar motu
proprio la conclusion del tribunal a quo sobre el particular. Ahora vamos a laborar bajo
otro supuesto — el de que el Procurador General haya hecho el correspondiente
señalamiento de error y la cuestion este, por tanto, propiamente planteada ante esta
Corte Suprema para los efectos de la revision. La pregunta naturalmente en orden es la
siguiente: ¿cometio error el Juez a quo al declarar y conceptuar como privado el
terreno en cuestion, o es, por el contrario, acertada su conclusion a este respecto?
Somos de opinion que el Juez no cometio error, que el terreno de que se trata reune
las condiciones juridicas necesarias para calificarlo como privado y diferenciarlo de una
propiedad de dominio publico, y que, por tanto, el solicitante tiene sobre la propiedad
un titulo confirmable bajo las disposiciones de la Ley de Registro de Terrenos No. 496.

Afirmase en la decision de la mayoria que el solicitante no ha podido demostrar que el


o cualquiera de sus causantes en derecho adquirio el lote del Estado mediante compra
o concesion bajo las leyes, ordenanzas y decretos promulgados por el Gobierno
Español en Filipinas, o en virtud de los tramites relativos a informacion posesoria bajo
la ley hipotecaria en tiempo de España. De esto la mayoria saca la conclusion de que el
terreno cuestionado no es privado porque, segun su criterio, "todos los terrenos que no
fueron adquiridos del Gobierno (Gobierno Español, se quiere decir), ya mediante
compra, ya por concesion, pertenecen al dominio publico"; y citando como autoridad el
asunto clasico de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular la ponencia no admite mas
excepcion a la regla que el caso en que un terreno ha estado en la posesion del
ocupante y de sus predecesores en interes desde tiempo inmemorial, pues semejante
posesion justificaria la presuncion de que el terreno nunca habia sido parte del dominio
publico, o que habia sido propiedad privada aun antes de la conquista española."

Lo que, en primer lugar, no parece correcto es la seguridad con que en la ponencia se


afirma que el terreno no se adquirio bajo la soberania española en virtud de cualquiera
de los modos conocidos en la legislacion de entonces, pues como no tenemos delante
las pruebas, no hay naturalmente manera de comprobar la certeza de la proposicion. Si
se tiene en cuenta que el Director deTerrenos se opuso a la solicitud de registro por el
fundamento de que el terreno es de dominio publico, y que el tribunal inferior desestimo
este fundamento, la presuncion es que la calidad de privado del terreno se probo
satisfactoriamente, presuncion que queda robustecida si se considera que el
Procurador General, al sostener la apelacion del Gobierno, no discute ni cuestiona en
su alegato la conclusion de que el referido terreno es de propiedad particular.

Por otro lado, la mayoria parece dar un caracter demasiado absoluto y rigido a la
proposicion de que "todos los terrenos que no fueron adquiridos del Gobierno (en
tiempo de España), mediante compra o por concesion, pertenecen al dominio publico."
Interpretando estrictamente la ley, esta Corte Suprema denego el registro solicitado en
el celebre asunto de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular que cita la mayoria en su
opinion, por eso mismo que se acentua en la ponencia — por el fundamento de que
Cariño no pudo demostrar titulo de compra, concesion o informacion posesoria
expedido por el Gobierno en tiempo de España, siendo por consiguiente el terreno
parte del dominio publico. Pero al elevarse el asunto en grado de apelacion a la Corte
Suprema de los Estados Unidos, la misma revoco la sentencia de esta Corte,
declarando el terreno como propiedad privada y decretando su registro a nombre del
solicitante. En la luminosa ponencia del Magistrado Holmes se sientan conclusiones
que proclama el espiritu liberal de aquel gran jurista y reafirman con vigor democratico
los derechos de propiedad de los nativos de estas Islas sobre sus predios en contra del
concepto y teoria feudales de que la Corona de España era la dueña absoluta hasta del
ultimo palmo de tierra y de que ningun habitante podia ser dueño de nada, a menos
que tuviese en sus manos un titulo o papel expedido por aquel Gobierno. He aqui lo
que dice el Magistrado Holmes:

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

If we suppose for the moment that the government's contention is so far correct that the
Crown of Spain in form asserted a title to this land at the date of the treaty of Paris, to
which the United States succeeded, it is not to be assumed without argument that the
plaintiff's case is at an end. It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees,"embodied the
universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the
general attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled to the
treatment accorded to those in the same zone of civilization with themselves. It is true,
also that, in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute, and that, as against foreign nations,
the United States may assert, as Spain asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow
that, as against the inhabitants of the Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain
had such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of strength,
and may vary in degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical
relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual
facts, are matters for it to decide. (U. S. Supreme Court Reports, Vol. 212, p. 596.)

Mas adelante se dice lo siguiente en la citada sentencia de la Corte Suprema Federal:

It is true that, by section 14, the Government of the Philippines is empowered to enact
rules and prescribe terms for perfecting titles to public lands were some, but not all,
spanish conditions has been fulfilled, and to issue patents to natives for not more than
16 hectares of public lands actually occupied by the native or his ancestors before
August 13, 1898. But this section perhaps might be satisfied if confined to cases where
the occupation was of land admitted to be public land, and had not continued for such a
length of time and under such circumstances as to give rise to the understanding that
the occupants were owners at that date. We hesitate to suppose that it was intended to
declare every native who had not a paper title a trespasser, and to set the claims of all
the wilder tribes afloat.

xxx xxx xxx

If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear
proof that it was bas by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin
with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to
indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands,
irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the
native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at will. For
instance, Book 4, title 12, Law 14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a
contrary conclusion in Valenton vs. Murciano (3 Phil., 537), while it commands viceroys
and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to
confirm those who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it begins by
the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all titles in the King or
his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles were admitted
to exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their books.

Prescription is mentioned again in the royal cedula of October 15, 1754, cited in (3 Phil.,
546): "Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds, it shall be
sufficient if they shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription." It
may be that this means possession from before 1700; but, at all events, the principle is
admitted. As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of
Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was recognized in the
Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty.
It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 attributes title to those "who may prove"
possession for the necessary time, and we do not overlook the argument that this
means may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer
would have recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it
was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family
possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words "may prove"
(acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean
when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was
expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually
gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, as not to confer title, but
simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. The royal
decree of February 13, 1894, declaring forfeited titles that were capable of adjustment
under the decree of 1880, for which adjustment had not been sought, should not be
construed as a confiscation, but as the withdrawal of a privilege. As a matter of fact, the
applicant never was disturbed. This same decree is quoted by the court of land
registration for another recognition of the common-law prescription of thirty years as still
running against alienable Crown land.

xxx xxx xxx

. . . Upon a consideration of the whole case we are of opinion that law and justice
require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived
of what, by the practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was his property,
through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain. (U. S. Supreme
Court Reports, Vol. 212, pp. 597-599.)

Resulta evidente de la jurisprudencia sentada en el citado asunto de Cariño contra el


Gobierno Insular que cualquiera que fuese la teoria acerca del superdominio feudal que
la Corona de España asumia sobre todos los terrenos en Filipinas, en la practica y en la
realidad se reconocia que el mero lapso de tiempo en la posesion (20 o 30 años, segun
el caso) podia establecer y de hecho establecia derechos privados de propiedad
por justaprescripcion, y el titulo presuntivo asi adquirido era para todos los efectos
equivalente a una concesion expresa o un titulo escrito expedido por el Gobierno. Pero
de todas maneras — parafraseando lo dicho por el Magistrado Holmes — aun
suponiendo que España tenia semejante soberania o superdominio feudal sobre todas
las tierras en este archipielago, y que contra otras naciones los Estados Unidos, al
suceder a España, afirmaria dicha suberania, de ello no se sigue que contra los
habitantes de Filipinas el Gobierno americano (ahora la Republica filipina) tomaria la
posicion de que España tenia tal poder absoluto. Historicamente se sabe que el cambio
de soberania tuvo el efecto de liquidar muchas instituciones y leyes españolas que
vinieron a ser obsoletas, arcaicas en el nuevo estado de cosas, e incompatibles con el
espiritu del nuevo regimen. No habia ninguna razon para que este cambio no produjese
tambien sus saludables efectos en las normas juridicas del regimen de la propiedad
sobre la tierra. Parafraseando otra vez al Magistrado Holmes, y aplicando la doctrina al
presente caso, no hay razon por que, medinate "una refinada interpretacion de una casi
olvidada ley de España," se considere como terreno publico lo que evidentemente, bajo
todos los conceptos y normas, es un terreno privado.

La jurisprudencia sentada en el asunto de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular ha venido


a establecer la norma, la autoridad basica en los asuntos de registro ante nuestros
tribunales. Al socaire de su sentido y tendencia genuinamente liberal se han registrado
bajo el sistema Torrens infinidad de terrenos privados. En casos mucho menos
meritorios que el que nos ocupa se ha reconocido por nuestros tribunales el caracter o
condicion de propiedad privada de los terrenos sobre que versaban las solicitudes,
aplicandose no las habilitadoras y supletorias clausulas de las leyes sobre terrenos
publicos — primeramente la Ley No. 926, despues la No. 2874, y finalmente la No. 141
del Commonwealth — sino las disposiciones mas estrictas de la Ley No. 496 sobre
registro de terrenos privados, bajo el sistema Torrens. No existe motivo para que esa
tendencia liberal y progresiva sufra una desviacion en el presente caso.

Pero aun bajo la legislacion española interpretada estrictamente, creemos que el


terreno en cuestion es tan privado como el terreno en el asunto de Cariño, si no mas.
Segun la sentencia del inferior — el unido dato para este examen, pues ya se ha dicho
repetidas veces que no tenemos delante las pruebas — "el terreno objeto de la
presente solicitud era primitivamente de Capitana Gina y que esta estuvo en posesion
desde el año 1880, despues paso a ser de Francisco Reformado hasta el año 1885,
mas tarde o sea en 1886 fue de Claro Lagdameo, a la muerte de este le sucedio en la
posesion su viuda Fortunata Olega de Lagdameo, esta en 1929 lo vendio a sus tres
hijos Antonio, Luis y Rafael appellidados Lagdameo, segun los Exhibitos F y G, y estos
ultimos a su vez lo vendieron en 1938 al solicitante Oh Cho, segun los Exhibitos B 1-y
C-1." " ... Este terreno es un solar residencial dentro de la poblacion del municipio de
Guinayangan, Tayabas, y en el mismo existe una casa de materiales fuertes que ocupa
casi todo el terreno ..." (Pieza de Excepciones, pag. 8).

Como se ve, por lo menos desde 1880 habia un conocido propietario y poseedor del
terreno — la Capitana Gina. Ahora bien, coincide que el 25 de Junio de aquel año que
precisamente cuando se expidio el Decreto "para el ajuste y adjudicacion de los
terrenos realengos ocupados indebidamente por individuos particulares en las Islas
Filipinas." Si bien es cierto que el objeto del Decreto o ley era el ordenar que se
cumpliesen y practicasen los procedimientos de ajuste y registro descritos en el mismo,
y en tal sentido el requirir que cada cual obtuviese un documento de titulo o, en su
defecto, perder su propiedad. Tambien es cierto que en el Decreto se expresaban
ciertas salvedades que paracian denotar que estos tramites formanes no eran de
rigurosa aplicacion a todo el mundo. Una de dicha salvedades, por ejemplo, proveia
(articulo 5) que, para todos los efectos legales, "todos aquellos que han estado en
posesion por ciento periodo de tiempo serian considerados como dueños — para
terreno cultivado, 20 20 años sin interrupcion, es suficiente, y para terreno no cultivado,
30 años." Y el articulo 6 dispone que "las partes interesadas no incluidas en los dos
articulos anteriores (los articulos que reconocen la prescripcion de 20 y 30 años)
podran legalizar su posesion, y consiguientemente adquirir pleno dominio sobre dichos
terrenos, mediante procedimientos de ajuste y adjudicacion tramitados de la siguiente
manera." Esta ultima disposicion parece indicar, por sus terminos, que no es aplicable a
aquellos que ya han sido declarados dueños en virtud del simple transcurso de cierto
lapso de tiempo (Vease Cariño contra Gobierno Insular, supra, 598).

No consta en la sentencia del inferior que Capitana Gina se haya acogido a las
disposiciones del referido Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880, obteniendo un documento
de titulo para legalizar su posesion, pero tampoco consta positivamente lo contrario,
pues no tenemos ante nosotros las pruebas. Pero aun suponiendo que no se hayan
cumplido los tramites formales prescritos en el Decreto, de ello no se sigue que el
terreno no era ya privado entonces, pues la presuncion es que no hubo menester de
semejante formalidad porque la Capitana Gina o sus causantes en derecho ya habian
sido declarados dueños del predio por el mero transcurso de un lapso de tiempo, a
tenor de las salvedades de que se ha hecho mencion. Esta presuncion es tanto mas
logica cuanto que el articulo 8 del Decreto proveia para el caso de partes que no
solicitaban dentro del plazo de un año el ajuste y adjudicacion de terrenos de cuya
posesion disfrutaban indebidamente, y conminaba que el Tesoro "reasumira el dominio
del Estado sobre los terrenos" y vendera en subasta la parte que no se reserva para si;
y no solo no consta en autos que la posesion de Capitata Gina o de sus
causahabientes en derecho se haya considerado jamas como ilegal o que el Estao y
sus agentes hayan adoptado y practicado contra ellos las diligencias y procedimientos
de que trata el cittado articulo 8 del Decreto, sino que, por el contrario, consta en la
sentencia que desde Capitana Gina en 1880 hubo sucesivas transmisiones de
derechos primeramente a Francisco Reformado en 1885 y despues a Claro Lagdameo
en 1886, y a la muerte de este ultimo a su viuda Fortunata Olega de Lagdameo, de
quien pase el titulo en virtud de compraventa a sus hijos Antonio, Luis y Rafael
apellidados Lagdameo, y la ultima transaccion sobre el solar tuvo lugar en fecha
bastante reciente, en 1938, cuando los ultimamente nombrados lo vendieron a Oh Cho
el solicitante en el presente expediente de registro. De todo lo cual se deduce que el
solar en cuestion fue considerado siempre como propiedad privada — por lomenos alli
donde la memoria alcanza — desde 1880 hasta que fenecio la soberania americana en
Filipinas, y que ni el Estado ni sus agentes se entrometieron jamas en el hecho de su
posesion exclusiva, continua y publica a titulo de dueño por diferentes personas no solo
bajo el Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880 tantas veces mencionado, sino aun bajo el
Decreto de 13 de Febrero de 1894 (informacion posesoria) que fue practicamente el
ultimo decreto expedido en las postrimerias de la soberania española en relacion con el
ajuste y adjudicacion de terrenos realengos o publicos. Y no se diga que ello habria
sido por inadvertencia de las autoridades, particularmente del Fisco, porque tratandose
de un solar situado en la misma poblacion de Guinayangan, uno de los pueblos mas
antiguos de la provincia de Tayabas, es indudable que si no reuniera las condiciones y
requisitos para ser conceptuado como propiedad privada y la posesion de sus
ocupantes sucesivos fuese indebida e ilegal, ya los agentes del Fisco y Tesoro lo
hubiesen prestamente confiscado a tenor del articulo 8 ya citado del Decreto de 25 de
Junio de 1880 (Vease Cariño contra Gobierno Insular, ut supra598.) El que nada de
esto haya acontecido es la mejor prueba de que en tiempo de España los diferentes y
sucesivos ocupantes de este solar ya tenian titulo dominical perfecto, y es
sencillamente absurdo, ridiculo que ahora, al cabo de 66 años, se declare publico el
terreno; y todo ¿por que y para que — para rendir sometimiento, repitiendo de nuevo la
sutil ironia del Magistrado Homles, a la "refinada interpretacion de una casi olvidada ley
de Espana." Y resulta mas la futilidad de este tardio tributo a un anacronismo, a una
momia juridica de un pasado cada vez mas remoto, si se considera que cuando el
Magistrado Homes pronuncio su sentencia a todas luces libera y progresiva (23 de
Enero de 1909) estabamos tan solo a escasamente 10 años desde la caida de la
soberania española en Filipinas mientras que ahora que se intenta una radical
desviacion del surco trazado por la solida reja de dicha sentencia estamos ya casi a
medio siglo de distancia, con pleno dominio republicano sobre el territorio nacional.
Esto no debiera preocuparnos si no fuese porque esta decision de ahora puede ser
interpretada como una abrogacion de tantos precedentes moldeados en la turquesa de
la doctrina holmesiana, y al propio tiempo como la demarcacion del punto de partida de
una nueva ruta en nuestra jurisprudencia sobre registro de terrenos.

Sin embargo, en la opinion de la mayoria se dice que el solicitante no puede alegar con
exito que su lote es terreno privado porque la posesion de su primer predecessor
(Capitana Gina) comenzo solo en 1880, mientras que en el asunto de Cariño contra El
gobierno Insular, es exige como requisito la posesion desde tiempo inmemorial,
posesion que, segun la mayoria. "justificaria la presuncion de que el terreno nunca
habia sido parte del dominio publico, o que habia sido propiedad privada aun antes de
la conquista española." No parece sino que se quiere señalar una fecha, un año, como
norma para determinar la inmemorialidad del comienzo posesorio. Pero ¿que fecha,
que año seria este? ¿1870, '60, '50? ¿No seria suficiente v. gr. 1875, '65, o '55? En el
asunto de Cariño la fecha conocida y recordada de la posesion inicial podia fijarse
alrededor de la mitad del siglo pasado, o sea 1849, pues segun las pruebas, Cariño y
sus antecesores habian poseido el terreno algo mas de 50 años hasta el tratado de
Paris — Abril 11, 1899. En el presente caso, desde Capitana Gina hasta que el
solicitante presento su solicitud de registro el 17 de Enero, 1940, habian transcurrido
60 años; de suerte que en cuanto al tiempo de la posesion ambos casos son identicos.
Con una ventaja a favor del presente caso, a saber: mientras en el asunto de Cariño las
tierras objeto de la solicitud eran pasto, en gran parte, y solo cultivadas unas cuantas
porciones, en el que nos ocupa el lote es urbano, sino en uno de los pueblos mas
antiguos de Filipinas, con una casa de materiales fuertes enclavada en el. Es innegabl
que la posesion de un solar urbano es mas concreta, mas terminante y mas adversa a
todo el mundo, sin excluir el Estado.

Pero aun limitandonos a la posesion bajo la soberania española para los efectos de la
calificacion del terreno como propiedad privada, todavia se puede sosener que el
presente caso es tan bueno si no mejor que el de Cariño. En el asunto de Cariño el
punto de partida conocido es alrededor de 1849; en el nuestro, 1880, en que comenzo
la posesion de Capitana Gina, segun la sentencia apelada. Pero esto no quiere decir
que antes de Capitana Gina el solar no fuese ya finca urbana, habida por algun otro
como propiedad particular. Hay que tener en cuenta que se trata de un solar ubicado
en la poblacion de Guinayangan, uno de los mas antiguos en Tayabas. No tenemos
delante la fecha exacta de la fundacion de dicho pueblo, y no tenemos tiempo ahora
para hacer investigacion historica. Pero afortunadamente hemos logrado salvar de la
devastacion causada por la reciente guerra una parte sustancial de nuestra biblioteca
privada, y uno de los libros salvados es el celebrado Diccionario Geografico, Estadistico
e Historico de las Islas Filipinas publicado en Madrid por Fr. Manuel Buzeta y Fr. Felipe
Bravo en 1950, segun el pie de imprenta, de dos volumenes. En el 2.º tomo, pp. 70 y
71, se da una descripcion del pueblo de Guinayanga, con buena copia de datos
historicos, geograficos, sociales y economicos. Comienza la descripcion de esta
manera: "Pueblo con cura y gobernadorcillo, en la Isla de Luzon, provincia de Tayabas,
dioc, de Nueva caceres"; . . "tiene como unas 1,500 casas, en general de sencilla
construccion, distinguiendose como de mejor fabrica la casa parroquial y la llamada
tribunal de justicia, donde esta la carcel. ." Considerando que podemos tomas
conocimiento judicial de que en tiempo de España el municipio y la parroquia eran la
culminacion de un lento y largo proceso de civilizacion y cristianizacion, podemos, por
tanto, presumir que mucho antes de 1850 — 50, 70 o 100 años — el pueblo de
Guinayangan ya era una unidad geografiva, civil y espiritual, en toda regla, y con
caracteres definitivos de viabilidad urbana. Tambien cabe perfectamente presumir que
sus habitantes poseian sus respectivos solares a titulo de dueños, al igual que lo que
ocurria en otros municipios debidamente organizados. No cabe presumir que el Estado
les permitiera ocupar indebidamente sus solares, sin que tomase contra ellos la accion
de que habla el articulo 8 del referido Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880; y ya hemos visto
que no consta en autos que el solar en cuestion haya sido jamas confiscado por los
agentes del Fisco o Tesoro, o declarada ilegal la posesion sobre el mismo, a tenor de lo
ordenado en el mencionado Decreto. Asi que desde cualquier angulo que se vea el
presente asunto, cae perfectamente bajo las normas de posesion inmemorial
establecidas en el asunto de Cariño.
III. Demostrado ya que el terreno en cuestion es privado, resulta forzosa la conclusion
de que el solicitante tiene derecho a que se confirme su titulo bajo las disposiciones de
la Ley de Registro de Terrenos No. 496, de acuerdo con el sistema Torrens. Es
doctrina firmemente establecida en esta jurisdiccion que un extranjero tiene perfecto
derecho a que se registre a su nombre un terreno privado, bajo el sistema Torrens, y
que las disposiciones de la ley de terrenos publicos son inaplicables a terrenos
privados (veanse Agari contra Gobierno de las Islas Filipinas, 42 Jur. Fil., 150; Tan
Yungquip contra Director de Terrenos, 42 Jur. Fil., 134; Central Capiz contra Ramirez,
40 Jur. Fil., 926). En el primer asunto citado el solicitante era un japones llamado
Ichisuke Agari y la solicitud se estimo por tratarse de un terreno privado, adquirido en
tiempo de España mediant composicion con el estado. En el segundo asunto el
solicitante era un chino y se estimo la solicitud por la misma razon, habiendose probado
una posesion conocida y recordada de 30 a 40 años con anteriorida a la presentacion
de la solicitud, es decir, un tiempo mas corto que el del presente caso. Lo propio
sucedio en el tercer asunto citado, siendo españoles los dueños de la finca.
Confirmese, por tanto, la sentencia apelada.

MINDANAO v DIRECTOR OF LANDS

G.R. No. L-19535 July 10, 1967

HEIRS OF PELAGIO ZARA; PIO, CLEMENTE, SERAFIA, PORFIRIO and ESTEBAN,


all surnamed MINDANAO; MARIA and GLICERIA, both surnamed SEDARIA;
DULCE CORDERO, VICTORIA DE LOS REYES and JOSE GARCIA, applicants-
appellants,
vs.
DIRECTOR OF LANDS, DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, Government oppositor-
appellees.
VICENTE V. DE VILLA, JR., and VICENTE S. DE VILLA, SR., private oppositors-
appellees.

Jose L. Matias and H. A. Jambora for applicants-appellants.


Francisco Villanueva, Jr. and Gregorio L. Oquitania for private oppositors-appellees.
Manuel Reyes Castro for oppositor-appellee Director of Forestry.

MAKALINTAL, J.:

Appeal from an order of the Court of First Instance of Batangas (Lipa City) dismissing
appellants' "application for registration of the parcel of land consisting of 107 hectares,
more or less, situated in the barrio of Sampiro, Municipality of San Juan, Province of
Batangas, and designated in amended plan PSU-103696 as Lot A."
The proceedings in the court a quo are not disputed.

On August 4, 1960 appellants filed an application for registration of the land above
described pursuant to the provisions of Act 496. They alleged that the land had been
inherited by them from their grandfather, Pelagio Zara, who in turn acquired the same
under a Spanish grant known as "Composicion de Terrenos Realengos" issued in 1888.
Alternatively, should the provisions of the Land Registration Act be not applicable,
applicants invoke the benefits of the provisions of Chapter VIII, Section 48, subsection
(b) of C.A. 141 as amended, on the ground that they and their predecessor-in-interest
had been in continuous and adverse possession of the land in concept of owner for
more than 30 years immediately preceding the application.

Oppositions were filed by the Director of Lands, the Director of Forestry and by Vicente
V. de Villa, Jr. The latter's opposition recites:

x x x that the parcel of land sought to be registered by the applicants consisting of 107
hectares, more or less, was included in the area of the parcel of land applied for
registration by Vicente S. de Villa, Sr. in Civil Case No. 26, L.R. Case No. 601 in this
Court, which was decided by this same Court through the then incumbent Judge, the
Honorable Juan P. Enriquez, on September 30, 1949; that the parcel sought to be
registered by the applicants was declared public land in said decision; that they (the
oppositors Vicente V. de Villa, Jr. and Vicente S. de Villa, Sr.) have an interest over the
land in question because for a period more than sixty (60) years, the de Villas have
been in possession, and which possession, according to them, was open continuous,
notorious and under the claim of ownership; that the proceeding being in rem, the failure
of the applicants to appear at the case No. 26, L.R. Case No. 601 to prove their
imperfect and incomplete title over the property, barred them from raising the same
issue in another case; and that as far as the decision in Civil Case No. 26, L.R. Case
No. 601 which was affirmed in the appellate court in CA-G.R. No. 5847-R is concerned,
there is already "res-adjudicata" — in other words, the cause of action of the applicant is
now barred by prior judgment; and that this Court has no more jurisdiction over the
subject matter, the decision of the Court in said case having transferred to the Director
of Lands.

On November 15, 1960 the De Villas (De Villa, Sr. was subsequently included as
oppositor) filed a motion to dismiss, invoking the same grounds alleged in its opposition,
but principally the fact that the land applied for had already been declared public land by
the judgment in the former registration case.

The trial court, over the objection of the applicants, granted the motion to dismiss by
order dated January 27, 1961, holding, inter alia, that "once a parcel of land is declared
or adjudged public land by the court having jurisdiction x x x it cannot be the subject
anymore of another land registration proceeding x x x (that) it is only the Director of
Lands who can dispose of the same by sale, by lease, by free patent or by homestead."

In the present appeal from the order of dismissal neither the Director of Lands nor the
Director of Forestry filed a brief as appellee. The decisive issue posed by applicants-
appellants is whether the 1949 judgment in the previous case, denying the application
of Vicente S. de Villa, Sr., and declaring the 107 hectares in question to be public land,
precludes a subsequent application by an alleged possessor for judicial confirmation of
title on the basis of continuous possession for at least thirty years, pursuant to Section
48, subsection (b) of the Public Land Law, C.A. 141, as amended. This provision reads
as follows:

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 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.1äwphï1.ñët

The right to file an application under the foregoing provision has been extended by
Republic Act No. 2061 to December 31, 1968.

It should be noted that appellants' application is in the alternative: for registration of their
title of ownership under Act 496 or for judicial confirmation of their "imperfect" title or
claim based on adverse and continuous possession for at least thirty years. It may be
that although they were not actual parties in that previous case the judgment therein is a
bar to their claim as owners under the first alternative, since the proceeding was in rem,
of which they and their predecessor had constructive notice by publication. Even so this
is a defense that properly pertains to the Government, in view of the fact that the
judgment declared the land in question to be public land. In any case, appellants'
imperfect possessory title was not disturbed or foreclosed by such declaration, for
precisely the proceeding contemplated in the aforecited provision of Commonwealth Act
141 presupposes that the land is public. The basis of the decree of judicial confirmation
authorized therein is not that the land is already privately owned and hence no longer
part of the public domain, but rather that by reason of the claimant's possession for
thirty years he is conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential
to a Government grant.

On the question of whether or not the private oppositors-appellees have the necessary
personality to file an opposition, we find in their favor, considering that they also claim to
be in possession of the land, and have furthermore applied for its purchase from the
Bureau of Lands.1äwphï1.ñët

Wherefore, the order appealed from is set aside and the case is remanded to the
Court a quo for trial and judgment on the merits, with costs against the private
oppositors-appellees.

Reyes, J.B.L., Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Castro, Angeles and Fernando, JJ., concur.
Concepcion, C.J. and Dizon, J., took no part.