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Oh Cho vs.

Director of Lands

Lessons Applicable: (Land Titles and Deeds)


Sec. 2 Art. XII, 1987 Constitution

FACTS:

 Oh Cho is appealing from the rejection of his application based


on disqualification as alien (Chinese) from acquiring lands of the public domain.
 He had open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the lot from
1880 to filing of the application for registration on January 17, 1940
ISSUE: W/N Oh Cho entitled to decree or registration of the lot.

HELD: NO.
 GR: All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or
by grant below to the public domain
 Exception: 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 v. Insular Government) - not applicable
since only from 1880
 His immediate possesor failed to comply with the condition precedent to apply for
the registration of the land of which they had been in possession at least since July
26, 1894 so what was transferred to Oh Cho is merely possesory right which cannot
ripen to ownership by prescription (aliens disqualified to own by prescription)

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

o GR: All lands are acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant.
o EXCEPTION: Lands under private ownership since time immemorial.
o Application for decree of registration is a condition precedent to acquisition of
title. Non-compliance gives rise to mere possessory right.
o An alien cannot acquire title to lands of the public domain by prescription.

FACTS:

Oh Cho, a Chinese citizen, purchased from the Lagdameos a parcel of land in Tayabas,
which they openly, continuously and adversely possessed since 1880. On January 17,
1940, Oh Cho applied for registration of this land. The Solicitor General opposed on the
ground that Oh Cho lacked title to said land and also because he was an alien.

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ISSUEs:

o Whether or not Oh Cho had title


o Whether or not Oh Cho is entitled to a decree of registration

HELD:

Oh Cho failed to show that he has title to the lot, which may be confirmed under the
Land Registration Act.

All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant,
belong 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.

The applicant does not come under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot
by his first predecessor in interest began in 1880.

Under the Public Land Act, Oh Cho is not entitled to a decree of registration of the lot,
because he is an alien disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain.

Oh Cho's predecessors in interest would have been entitled toa decree of registration
had they applied for the same. The application for the registration of the land was a
condition precedent, which was not complied with by the Lagmeos. Hence, the most
they had was mere possessory right, not title. This possessory right was what was
transferred to Oh Cho, but since the latter is an alien, the possessory right could never
ripen to ownership by prescription. As an alien, Oh Cho is disqualified from acquiring
title over public land by prescription.

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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

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

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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.

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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

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(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

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"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

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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.

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"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.)

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"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

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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

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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

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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;

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"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.

14
Director of Lands vs. Santiago

Director of Lands vs. Santiago


G.R. No. L-41278
April 15, 1988
FACTS: this is a petition for certiorari, to nullify and set aside the orders and decision of
the respondent Judge, and mandamus to order the respondent Judge to give due
course to the petitioner’s Motion for New Trial. The petitioner also prays for the
dismissal of the respondent corporation’s application for registration.
On Sept. 8, 1973, an application for land registration was filed by respondent Garcia in
the CFI of Bataan. A copy of the application was forwarded to the SolGen thru the
director of Lands. On Feb. 19, 1974, the Director of lands filed an opposition to this
application, and at the same time the SolGen entered his appearance and authorized
the Provincial Fiscal to appear on his behalf at the hearing of the same. Subsequently,
respondent IMPERIAL DEVELOPMENT CORP., with the conformity of the respondent
Garcia, filed a Motion to Substitute Party Applicant from Maria Garcia to Imperial Corp
without amending the boundaries of the area stated in the original application. Said
motion was granted by the respondent Judge Santiago.

A notice of initial hearing was sent by respondent Judge to all parties concerned, with
the warning that a party who failed to appear would be declared in default. The same
notice was likewise published in the Official Gazette and posted by the sheriff as
required by law.

On Jan. 23, 1975, the date of the initial hearing, neither petitioner nor his counsel was
present; an order of general default was issued by the respondent Judge on the same
date. After the reception of the evidence for the applicant before the clerk of court, the
respondent Judge rendered the questioned decision and adjudicated the lands in favor
of the respondent corporation.

Thereafter, petitioner filed a Motion for New Trial on the grounds that the failure of his
counsel to appear at the initial hearing was excusable,a nd that the decision was
contrary to facts and to law. The motion was however denied.

15
ISSUE: WON respondent Judge Santiago erred in decreeing the following orders and
decisions:
1. Admitting the Amended Application for Registration and adjudicating the parcels of
land in favor of respondent corporation,

2. Declaring the Director of Lands in default,

3. Denying the petitioner’s Motion for New Trial.;

HELD: The petition is GRANTED; the Order of general default against the petitioner,
and the Order denying the Motion for New Trial, the Decision dated February 17, 1975,
as well as the decree of registration issued pursuant thereto, if any, are all declared
VOID and SET ASIDE. The respondent corporation’s subject application for land
registration is hereby DISMISSED. This decision is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.
1. The lower court gravely abused its discretion when it granted the respondent
corporation’s application for registration, without sufficient proof that the applicant
possessed an imperfect and incomplete title that is registrable under Sec. 48, par. b,
of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended by Republic Act 6236, otherwise known as
the Public Land Act.
The Supreme Court is not convinced with the conclusion of the respondent Judge and
with the arguments of the respondent corporation that the latter, through its
predecessors-in- interest, has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years.
First, it appears that Maria Garcia and Vicente Obdin, from whom the respondent
corporation purchased the subject lots, have pending sales applications as evidenced in
the plans submitted to the land registration court by Maria Garcia herself. As such sales
applicants, they manifestly acknowledge that they do not own the land and that
the same is a public land under the administration of the Bureau of Lands, to
which the applications were submitted. Therefore, their possession was not that of
an owner, as required by law. (The private respondents were conspicuously silent on
this point, as if they were trying to conceal this vital fact)

16
More than anything else, however, registration in this instance can not be granted on
the basis of Section 48, paragraph b, of the Public Land Act as said provision applies
exclusively to agricultural lands of the public domain. It appears from Forestry
Administrative Order No. 4-1157, dated April 28, 1971, that the subject lands…were
forest lands and only later declared as alienable or disposable by the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources. Thus, even on the assumption that the applicant
herein, through its predecessors-in-interest, had been in possession for at least thirty
years, such possession never ripened into private ownership. The respondent
Garcia and Vicente Obdin must have applied for sales patents precisely because they
wanted to acquire ownership over the subject lands. An examination of the dates will
show that the filing of the sales applications, apparently on October 24, 1971, was done
after the lands had been declared as alienable and disposable.
1. The opposition or answer filed by the Director of Lands, which is based on
substantial grounds, having been formally filed prior to the issuance of the Notice of
Initial Hearing, it was improper for the respondent Judge taking cognizance of such
registration case to declare the oppositor in default simply because he failed to
appear on the day set for the initial hearing. The declaration of default against the
petitioner was patently invalid because when the same was made, he had already
entered an appearance and filed his opposition or answer.
The pertinent provision of law which states: “If no person appears and answers within
the time allowed, the court may at once upon motion of the applicant, no reason to the
contrary appearing, order a general default to be recorded …,” cannot be interpreted to
mean that the court can just disregard the answer before it, which has long been
filed, for such an interpretation would be nothing less than illogical, unwarranted, and
unjust
Especially in this case where the greater public interest is involved as the land sought to
be registered is alleged to be public land, the respondent Judge should have received
the applicant’s evidence and set another date for the reception of the oppositor’s
evidence. The oppositor in the Court below and petitioner herein should have been
accorded ample opportunity to establish the government’s claim.

17
3. The respondent Judge, in denying the petitioner’s Motion for New Trial, ignored the
established rule that courts should be liberal in setting aside a default judgment. “The
Court, in the exercise of wise discretion, could have restored their standing in court and
given them an even chance to face their opponents.

Tthe Supreme Court no longer deem it imperative to order a new trial of this case which
would only prolong the litigation unnecessarily, for as it said in a recent case, the
remand of a case to the lower court for Lither reception of evidence is not necessary
where the court is in a position to resolve the dispute based on the records before on
the records before it.

In view of the basic presumption that lands of whatever classification belong to the
State, courts must scrutinize with care applications to private ownership of real estate.
But this the respondent Judge sadly failed to heed; the tax declarations and plans
submitted by the private respondents were not carefully analyzed, and the allegations in
the petitioner’s opposition to the application were so casually ignored.

NOTES:
1. The respondent corporation maintains that the appropriate remedy in this instance is
appeal, which is expressly provided in Section 2, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, and not
certiorari. In Omico Mining and Industrial Corporation vs. Vallejos the Supreme Court
laid down the doctrine that appeal is not an adequate remedy where a party is illegally
declared in default. Thus, it stated:
The remedy provided for in the above-quoted rule (i.e. Sec. 2, Rule 41) is properly,
though not exclusively, available to a defendant who has been validly declared in
default. It does not preclude a defendant who has been illegally declared in default from
pursuing a more speedy and efficacious remedy, like a petition for certiorari to have the
judgment by default set aside as a nullity.

2. Section 48, paragraph b, of the Public Land Act, to wit:

18
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the
public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles
have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the
province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:…

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in


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

19
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. L-41278 April 15, 1988

DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,


vs.
HON. PEDRO T. SANTIAGO, Presiding Judge, Court of First Instance of Bataan,
Branch II, MARIA O. GARCIA, and IMPERIAL DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, respondents.

The Solicitor General for petitioner.

Filoteo T. Banzon for respondents.

SARMIENTO, J.:

On September 8, 1973, an application for land registration was filed by respondent


Maria O. Garcia in the Second Branch of the Court of First Instance of Bataan; 1 a copy
of the application was forwarded to the Solicitor General thru the Director of Lands. On
February 19, 1974, the Director of Lands filed an opposition to this application, and at
the same time the Solicitor General entered his appearance and authorized the
Provincial Fiscal to appear on his behalf at the hearings of the same. Subsequently,
respondent Inperial Development Corporation, with the conformity of respondent
Garcia, filed a Motion to Substitute Party Applicant from Maria O. Garcia to Imperial
Development Corporation without amending the boundaries and the area of the parcels
of land stated in the original application, which motion was granted by the respondent
Judge. A Notice of Initial Hearing was sent by the respondent Judge to all parties
concerned, with the warning that a party who failed to appear would be declared in
default. The same notice was likewise published in the Official Gazette and posted by
the sheriff as required by law. On January 23, 1975, the date of the initial hearing,
neither petitioner nor his counsel was present; an order of general default was issued by
the respondent Judge on the same date. After the reception of evidence for the
applicant before the clerk of court, the respondent Judge rendered the questioned
decision and adjudicated the lands in favor of the respondent corporation.

Thereafter, the petitioner filed a Motion for New Trial on the grounds that the failure of
his counsel to appear at the initial hearing was excusable, and that the decision was
contrary to the facts and to law. The motion was, however, denied.

20
The instant petition is for certiorari, to nullify and set aside the following orders and
decision of the respondent Judge:

a) Order of the respondent Judge dated September 30, 1974, admitting the Amended
Application for Registration;

b) Order of the respondent Judge dated January 23, 1975 declaring, in effect, the
Director of Lands in default;

c) Decision of the respondent Judge dated February 17, 1975, adjudicating the parcels
of land in favor of the respondent corporation; and

d) Order of the respondent Judge dated August 7, 1976, denying the petitioner's Motion
for New Trial;

and for mandamus, to order the respondent Judge to give due course to the petitioner's
Motion for New Trial; alternatively, the petitioner prays for the dismissal of the
respondent corporation's application for registration. 2

According to Sec. 34 of the Land Registration Act, and as adopted in Sec. 151 of the
Public Land Act:

Any person claiming an interest, whether named in the notice or not, may
appear and file an answer on or before the return day, or within such
further time as may be allowed by the court. The answer shall state all the
objections to the application, and shall set forth the interest claimed by the
party filing the same and apply for the remedy desired, and shall be
signed and sworn to by him or by some person in his behalf. (As amended
by Sec. 1, Act No. 3621.)

It is undisputed that on February 19, 1974, or prior to the issuance of the Notice of Initial
Hearing, an opposition was filed by the petitioner Director of Lands to the original
application for land registration of respondent Garcia. 3 That verified opposition was
precisely the answer referred to in the above-quoted section, for, as therein alleged by
the Director of Lands, neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in-interest possess
sufficient title to acquire ownership in fee simple of the parcels of land applied for;
neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in-interest, have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question for at least
30 years immediately preceding the filing of the present application; that the said
parcels of land are a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the
Philippines, and that, therefore, the same should be declared part of the public
domain. 4 As a matter of fact, under the Property Registration Decree, issued on June
11, 1978, which supersedes all other laws relative to registration of property, the word
used is "opposition" and not "answer." 5

21
Thus, the opposition or answer, which is based on substantial grounds, having been
formally filed, it was improper for the respondent Judge taking cognizance of such
registration case to declare the oppositor in default simply because he failed to appear
on the day set for the initial hearing. The pertinent provision of law which states: "If no
person appears and answers within the time allowed, the court may at once upon
motion of the applicant, no reason to the contrary appearing, order a general default to
be recorded ...," 6 cannot be interpreted to mean that the court can just disregard the
answer before it, which has long been filed, for such an interpretation would be nothing
less than illogical, unwarranted, and unjust. Had the law intended that failure of the
oppositor to appear on the date of the initial hearing would be a ground for default
despite his having filed an answer, it would have been so stated in unmistakable terms,
considering the serious consequences of an order of default. Especially in this case
where the greater public interest is involved as the land sought to be registered is
alleged to be public land, the respondent Judge should have received the applicant's
evidence and set another date for the reception of the oppositor's evidence. The
oppositor in the Court below and petitioner herein should have been accorded ample
opportunity to establish the government's claim.

True, an amended application was submitted but it is admitted by the respondents


themselves that no significant alterations were made therein, hence, the opposition
already filed should have been considered as the answer to the amended application as
well. Parenthetically, since the amendment in the application consisted merely in the
substitution of the name of the applicant, it was not absolutely necessary to furnish the
Solicitor General with a copy of the amended application, and it sufficed that the
substitution was stated in the Notice of Initial Hearing. 7

The respondent corporation maintains that the appropriate remedy in this instance is
appeal, which is expressly provided in Section 2, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, and not
certiorari. We do not agree. The declaration of default against the petitioner was
patently invalid because when the same was made, he had already entered an
appearance and filed his opposition or answer. In Omico Mining and Industrial
Corporation vs. Vallejos we laid down the doctrine that appeal is not an adequate
remedy where a party is illegally declared in default. Thus, we stated:

The remedy provided for in the above-quoted rule (i.e. Sec. 2, Rule 41) is
properly, though not exclusively, available to a defendant who has been
validly declared in default. It does not preclude a defendant who has been
illegally declared in default from pursuing a more speedy and efficacious
remedy, like a petition for certiorari to have the judgment by default set
aside as a nullity. 8
9
Indeed, for the above reason, we gave due course to this petition.

Additionally, the respondent Judge, in denying the petitioner's Motion for New Trial,
ignored the established rule that courts should be liberal in setting aside a default

22
judgment. "The Court, in the exercise of wise discretion, could have restored their
standing in court and given them an even chance to face their opponents." 10

Further, we hold that the lower court gravely abused its discretion when it granted the
respondent corporation's application for registration, without sufficient proof that the
applicant possessed an imperfect and incomplete title that is registrable under Sec. 48,
par. b, of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended by Republic Act 6236, otherwise known
as the Public Land Act. Verily, we said in Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate
Court that: "No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption,
confirmation proceedings would, in truth, be little more than formality, at the most limited
to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length
of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title
already vested." 11 But precisely we are not convinced with the conclusion of the
respondent Judge and with the arguments of the respondent corporation that the latter,
through its predecessors-in- interest, has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under
a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years.

First, it appears that Maria Garcia and Vicente Obdin, from whom the respondent
corporation purchased the subject lots, have pending sales applications as evidenced in
the plans submitted to the land registration court by Maria Garcia herself which contain
the following footnotes: "This survey is covered by S.A. (x-5) 582" ... "This is covered by
S.A. No. (x-5) 583," S.A. being the short form for Sales Application. As such sales
applicants, they manifestly acknowledge that they do not own the land and that the
same is a public land under the administration of the Bureau of Lands, to which the
applications were submitted. 12 Therefore, their possession was not that of an owner, as
required by law. We note that the private respondents were conspicuously silent on this
point, as if they were trying to conceal this vital fact.

Secondly, if it is true that the original owner and possessor, Generosa Santiago, had
been in possession since 1925, why were the subject lands declared for taxation
purposes for the first time only in 1968, and in the names of Garcia and Obdin? For
although tax receipts and declarations of ownership for taxation purposes are not
incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute at least proof that the holder had
a claim of title over the property. 13

More than anything else, however, registration in this instance can not be granted on
the basis of Section 48, paragraph b, of the Public Land Act, to wit:

SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying


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

23
xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest


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

as the above provision applies exclusively to agricultural lands of the public domain. It
appears from Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1157, dated April 28, 1971, 14 that the
subject lands, with an approximate area of 56,598 square meters and situated at Sitio
Babuyan, Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan, under Project No. 4-A, were forest lands and
only later, declared as alienable or disposable by the Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources. Thus, even on the assumption that the applicant herein, through its
predecessors-in-interest, had been in possession for at least thirty years, such
possession never ripened into private ownership. The respondent Garcia and Vicente
Obdin must have applied for sales patents precisely because they wanted to acquire
ownership over the subject lands. An examination of the dates will show that the filing of
the sales applications, apparently on October 24, 1971, was done after the lands had
been declared as alienable and disposable.

In view of the basic presumption that lands of whatever clasification belong to the State,
courts must scrutinize with care applications to private ownership of real estate. But this
the respondent Judge sadly failed to heed; the tax declarations and plans submitted by
the private respondents were not carefully analyzed, and the allegations in the
petitioner's opposition to the application were so casually ignored.

We no longer deem it imperative to order a new trial of this case which would only
prolong the litigation unnecessarily, for as we said in a recent case, the remand of a
case to the lower court for Lither reception of evidence is not necessary where the court
is in a position to resolve the dispute based on the records before on the records before
it. 15

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED; the Order of general
default, dated January 23, 1975, as against the petitioner, and the Order dated August
7, 1975 denying the Motion For New Trial, the Decision dated February 17, 1975, as
well as the decree of registration issued pursuant thereto, if any, are all declared VOID
and SET ASIDE. The respondent corporation's subject application for land registration
is hereby DISMISSED. No costs.

This decision is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.

SO ORDERED. Yap, (Chairman), Melencio-Herrera, Paras and Padilla, JJ., concur.

24
Alba vs. Dela Cruz

Alba vs. Dela Cruz


G.R. No. 5246Posts
Sept. 16, 1910
FACTS: The petitioners herein are the he only heirs of Doña Segunda Alba Clemente and
Honorato Grey. The four petitioners, as co-owners, on Dec. 18, 1906 sought to have registered a
parcel of agricultural land in Bulacan. The petition was accompanied by a plan and technical
description of the said lot. After hearing the court, on Feb. 12, 1908, entered a decree directing
that described in the petition be registered in the names of the 4 petitioners.
On Jun, 1908, Anacleto Ratilla de la Cruz filed a motion in the Court of Land Registration
(CLR) asking for a revision of the case, including the decision, upon the ground that he is the
absolute owner of the 2 parcels of land described in said motion and which he alleges to be
included in the lands decreed to the petitioners. He alleges that the decree of Feb. 12, 1908 was
obtained maliciously and fraudulently by the petitioners, thereby depriving him of said
lands. For him, The petitioners deliberately omitted to include in their registration his name as
one of the occupants of the land so as to be given notice of registration. He further alleged
having inherited the 2 lots from his father, Baldomero R. de la Cruz, who had a state grant for the
same (was duly inscribed in the old register of property in Bulacan on April 6, 1895.)
He therefore asked a revision of the case, and that the said decree be modified so as to exclude
the two parcels of land described in said motion. The Land Court upon this motion reopened
the case, and after hearing the additional evidence presented by both parties, rendered, on the
Nov. 23, 1908, its decision modifying the former decree by excluding from the same the two
parcels of land claimed by Anacleto Ratilla de la Cruz.
From this decision and judgment the petitioners appealed.
The court below held that the failure on the part of the petitioners to include the name of the
appellee in their petition, as an occupant of these two parcels of land, was a violation of
section 21 of Act No. 496, and that this constituted fraud within the meaning of section 38 of
said Land Registration Act. The trial court further held that the grant from the estate should
prevail over the public document of purchase of 1864.

25
ISSUE:
1. Did the court below commit an error in reopening this case in June, 1908, after its decree
had been entered in February of the same year?
2. Whether or not,the petitioners did obtain the decree of Feb 12, 1908, by means of fraud.

HELD: The judgment appealed from should be, and the same is hereby reversed and judgment
entered in favor of the petitioners in conformity with the decree of the lower court of February
12, 1908.
1. The said decree of February 12, 1908, should not have been opened on account of the absence,
infancy, or other disability of any person affected thereby, and could have been opened only on
the ground that the said decree had been obtained by fraud.
2. The application for the registration is to be in writing, signed and sworn to by the applicant, or
by some person duly authorized in his behalf. It is to contain, among other things, the names
and addresses of all occupants of land and of all adjoining owners, if known.
The subject land was first rented to Baldomero de la Cruz by petitioners’ uncle Jose Grey and
this contract was duly executed in writing. (While the appellee admits that his father and brother
entered into these rental contracts and did, in fact, cultivate the petitioners’ land, nevertheless he
insists that the two small parcels in question were not included in these contracts)

The subsequent State grant was obtained by Baldomero after the death of the petitioners’ parents
and while he petitioners were minors. So it is clear that the petitioners honestly believed that the
appellee was occupying the said parcels as their lessee at the time they presented their
application for registration. They did not act in bad faith, nor with any fraudulent intent, when
they omitted to include in their application the name of the appellee as one of the occupants of
the land. They believed that it was not necessary nor required that they include in their
application the names of their tenants.

Indeed, the Land Registration Act requires that all occupants be named in the petition and given
notice by registered mail. However, this did not do the appellee any good, as he was not notified;
but he was made a party defendant, as we have said, by means of the publication “to all whom it
may concern.”Every decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto, subject only
to the [given] exceptions. It shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the

26
Insular Government, and all the branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application,
notice, or citation, or included in the general description “to all whom it may concern.”
As to whether or not the appellee can succesfully maintain an action under the provisions of
sections 101 and 102 of the Land Registration Act (secs. 2365, 2366, Compilation) we do not
decide.

NOTES:
1. The main principle of registration is to make registered titles indefeasible.
1. The element of intention to deprive another of just rights constitutes the essential
characteristics of actual – as distinguished from legal-fraud
1. Looked at either from the point of view of history or of the necessary requirements of
justice, a proceeding in rem dealing with a tangible res may be instituted and carried to
judgment without personal service upon claimants within the State or notice by name to those
outside of it, and not encounter any provision of either constitution. Jurisdiction is secured by
the power of the court over the res. As we have said, such a proceeding would be impossible,
were this not so, for it hardly would do to make a distinction between the constitutional rights
of claimants who were known and those who were not known to the plaintiff, when the
proceeding is to bar all. (Tyler vs. Judges, supra.)
1. action in rem vs. action in personam:
If the technical object of the suit is to establish a claim against some particular person, with a
judgment which generally, in theory at least, binds his body, or to bar some individual claim or
objection, so that only certain persons are entitled to be heard in defense, the action is in
personam, although it may concern the right to or possession of a tangible thing. If, on the other
hand, the object is to bar indifferently all who might be minded to make an objection of any sort
against the right sought to be established, and if anyone in the world has a right to be heard on
the strenght of alleging facts which, if true, show an inconsistent interest, the proceeding is in
rem. (Tyler vs. Judges, supra.)
5. Proof of constructive fraud is not sufficient to authorize the Court of Land Registration to
reopen a case and modify its decree. Specific, intentional acts to deceive and deprive anther of
his right, or in some manner injure him, must be alleged and proved; that is, there must be actual
or positive fraud as distinguished from constructive fraud

27
6. Advantages of the Torrens System:

1. It has substituted security for insecurity. law library

2. It has reduced the costs of conveyances from pounds to shillings, and the time occupied from
months to days. law library

3. It has exchanged brevity and clearness for obscurity and verbiage. law library

4. It has so simplified ordinary dealings that he who has mastered the “three R’s” can transact
his own conveyancing. law library

5. It affords protection against fraud.

6. It has restored to their just value many estates held under good holding titles, but depreciated
in consequence of some blur or technical defect, and has barred the reoccurrence of any similar
faults. (Sheldon on Land Registration, pp. 75, 76.)

28
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 5246 September 16, 1910

MANUELA GREY ALBA, ET AL., petitioners-appellants,


vs.
ANACLETO R. DE LA CRUZ, objector-appellee.

Ramon Salinas, for appellants.


Aniceto G. Reyes, for appellee.

TRENT, J.:

These petitioners, Manuela, Jose, Juan, and Francisco, surnamed Grey y Alba, are the
only heirs of Doña Segunda Alba Clemente and Honorato Grey, deceased. Remedios
Grey y Alba, a sister of the petitioners, was married on the 21st day of March, 1903, to
Vicente Reyes and died on the 13th of July, 1905, without leaving any heirs except her
husband. The four petitioners, as coowners, sought to have registered the following-
described property:

A parcel of land situated in the barrio of Talampas, municipality of Baliuag,


Province of Bulacan, upon which are situated three houses and one camarin of
light material, having a superficial area of 52 hectares, 51 ares, and 22 centares;
bounded on the north by the highway (calzada) of Talampas and the lands of
Rita Ruiz Mateo; on the east by the lands of the said Rita Ruiz Mateo,
Hermenegildo Prado, Policarpo de Jesus, and a stream called Sapang Buslut; on
the south by the same stream and the lands of the capellania; and on the west by
the stream called Sapang Buslut, and the lands of Vicente de la Cruz, Jose
Camacho and Domingo Ruiz Mateo.

This parcel of agricultural land is used for the raising of rice and sugar cane and is
assessed at $1,000 United States currency. The petition, which was filed on the 18th of
December, 1906, was accompanied by a plan and technical description of the above-
described parcel of land.

After hearing the proofs presented, the court entered, on the 12th of February, 1908, a
decree in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926,
directing that the land described in the petitioner be registered in the names of the four

29
petitioners, as coowners, subject to the usufructuary right of Vicente Reyes, widower of
Remedios Grey.

On the 16th of June, 1908, Anacleto Ratilla de la Cruz filed a motion in the Court of
Land Registration asking for a revision of the case, including the decision, upon the
ground that he is the absolute owner of the two parcels of land which are described in
said motion, and which, according to his allegations, are included in the lands decreed
to the petitioners. He alleged that the decree of February 12, 1908, was obtained
maliciously and fraudulently by the petitioners, thereby depriving him of said two parcels
of land. He further alleged that he was the absolute owner of the two parcels of land,
having inherited them from his father, Baldomero R. de la Cruz, who had a state grant
for the same. He therefore asked, under the provisions of section 38 of the Land
Registration Act (No. 496), a revision of the case, and that the said decree be modified
so as to exclude the two parcels of land described in said motion. The Land Court upon
this motion reopened the case, and after hearing the additional evidence presented by
both parties, rendered, on the 23rd of November, 1908, its decision modifying the
former decree by excluding from the same the two parcels of land claimed by Anacleto
Ratilla de la Cruz. From this decision and judgment the petitioners appealed and now
insist, first, that the trial court erred in reopening the case and modifying its decree
dated the 12th of February, 1908, for the reason that said decree was not obtained by
means of fraud; and, second, that the court erred in holding that the two parcels of land
described in the appellee's motion are not their property.

It was agreed by counsel that the two small parcels now in dispute forma part of the
land described in the petition and were included in the decree of February 12, 1908, and
that the petitioners are the owners of the remainder of the land described in the said
decree.

The petitioners inherited this land from their parents, who acquired the same, including
the two small parcels in question, by purchase, as is evidenced by a public document
dated the 26th of November, 1864, duly executed before Francisco Iriarte, alcalde
mayor and judge of the Court of First Instance of the Province of Bulacan.

Baldomero R. de la Cruz, father of the appellee, obtained in march, 1895, a state grant
for several parcels of land, including the two parcels in question. This grant was duly
inscribed in the old register of property in Bulacan on the 6th of April of the same year.

It is admitted that at the time the appellants presented their petition in this case the
appellee was occupying the two parcels of land now in question. It is also admitted that
the name of the appellee does not appear in the said petition as an occupant of the said
two parcels. The petitioners insist that the appellee was occupying these parcels as
their tenant and for this reason they did not include his name in their petition, as an
occupant, while the appellee contends that he was occupying the said parcels as the
absolute owner under the estate grant by inheritance.

30
The court below held that the failure on the part of the petitioners to include the name of
the appellee in their petition, as an occupant of these two parcels of land, was a
violation of section 21 of Act No. 496, and that this constituted fraud within the meaning
of section 38 of said Land Registration Act. The trial court further held that the grant
from the estate should prevail over the public document of purchase of 1864.

The mother of the petitioners died on November 15, 1881; their father died prior to that
time. Manuela, the oldest of the petitioners, was about six years of age when their
mother died. So these children were minors when the father of the appellee obtained
the estate grant.

On the 13th of June, 1882, Jose Grey, uncle and representative of the petitioners, who
were then minors, rented the land owned by the petitioners' deceased parents to one
Irineo Jose for a period of three years. On the 23d of March, 1895, the said Jose Grey,
as the representative of the petitioners, rented the same land for a period of six years to
Baldomero R. de la Cruz, father of the appellee. This rental contract was duly executed
in writing. This land was cultivated during these six years by Baldomero R. de la Cruz
and his children, one of whom is the appellee. On the 14th of December, 1905, Jose
Grey, for himself and the other petitioners, rented the same land to Estanislao R. de la
Cruz for a period of two years. Estanislao de la Cruz on entering into this rental contract
with Jose Grey did so for himself and his brothers, one of whom is the appellee. While
the appellee admits that his father and brother entered into these rental contracts and
did, in fact, cultivate the petitioners' land, nevertheless he insists that the two small
parcels in question were not included in these contracts. In the rental contract between
the uncle of the petitioners and he father of the appellee the land is not described. In the
rental contract between Jose Grey, one of the petitioners, and Estanislao R. de la Cruz,
brother of the appellee, the two small parcels of land in question are included, according
to the description given therein. This was found to be true by the court below, but the
said court held that as this contract was made by Estanislao R. de la Cruz it was not
binding upon Anacleto R. de la Cruz, the appellee.

The two small parcels of land in question were purchased by the parents of the
petitioners in 1864, as is evidenced by the public document of purchase and sale of that
year. The same two parcels of land are included in the state grant issued in favor of
Baldomero Ratilla de la Cruz in 1895. This grant was obtained after the death of the
petitioners' parents and while they were minors. So it is clear that the petitioners
honestly believed that the appellee was occupying the said parcels as their lessee at
the time they presented their application for registration. They did not act in bad faith,
nor with any fraudulent intent, when they omitted to include in their application the name
of the appellee as one of the occupants of the land. They believed that it was not
necessary nor required that they include in their application the names of their tenants.
Under these circumstances, did the court below commit an error in reopening this case
in June, 1908, after its decree had been entered in February of the same year?

The application for the registration is to be in writing, signed and sworn to by the
applicant, or by some person duly authorized in his behalf. It is to contain an accurate

31
description of the land. It shall contain the name in full and the address of the applicant,
and also the names and addresses of all occupants of land and of all adjoining owners,
if known; and, if not known, it shall state what search has been made to find them. In
the form of notice given by statute, which shall be sworn to, the applicant is required to
state and set forth clearly all mortgages or encumbrances affecting said land, if any, the
rights and interests, legal or equitable, in the possession, remainder, reversion, or
expectancy of all persons, with their names in full, together with their place of residence
and post office addresses. Upon receipt of the application the clerk shall cause notice of
the filling to be published twice in the Official Gazette. This published notice shall be
directed to all persons appearing to have an interest in the land sought to be registered
and to the adjoining owners, and also "to all whom it may concern." In addition to the
notice in the Official Gazette the Land Court shall, within seven days after said
publication, cause a copy of the notice, in Spanish, to be mailed by the clerk to every
person named in the application whose address is known; to cause a duly attested copy
of the notice, in Spanish, to be posted in a conspicuous place on every parcel of land
included in the application, and in a conspicuous place on the chief municipal building of
the town in which the land is situated. The court may also cause other or further notice
of the application to be given in such manner and to such persons as it may deem
proper. The certificate of the clerk that he has served the notice as directed by the court
by publication or mailing shall be conclusive proof of such service. Within the time
allowed in the notices, if no person appears and answers, the court may at once, upon
motion of the applicant, no reason to the contrary appearing, order a general default. By
the description in the published notice "to all whom it may concern," and by express
provisions of law "all the word are made parties defendant and shall be concluded by
the default an order." If the court, after hearing, finds that the applicant has title, as
stated in his application, a decree or registration shall be entered.

Every decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto, subject
only to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be conclusive upon
and against all persons, including the Insular Government, and all the branches
thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application, notice, or citation, or
included in the general description "to all whom it may concern." Such decree
shall not be opened by reason of the absence, infancy, or other disability of any
person affected thereby, nor by any proceedings in any court for reversing
judgments or decrees; subject, however, to the right of any person deprived of
land or of any estate or interest therein by decree of registration obtained by
fraud to file in the Court of Land Registration a petition for review within one year.
. . . (Sec. 38 of Act No. 496.)

The appellee is not included in any of the exceptions named in section 38 referred to
above.

It will be seen that the applicant is required to mention not only the outstanding interest
which he admits but also all claims of interest, though denied by him. By express
provision of law the world are made parties defendant by the description in the notice "to
all whom it may concern."

32
Although the appellee, occupying the two small parcels of land in question under the
circumstances as we have set forth, was not served with notice, he was made a party
defendant by publication; and the entering of a decree on the 12th of February, 1908,
must be held to be conclusive against all persons, including the appellee, whether his
(appellee's) name is mentioned in the application, notice, or citation.

The said decree of February 12, 1908, should not have been opened on account of the
absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected thereby, and could have
been opened only on the ground that the said decree had been obtained by fraud. That
decree was not obtained by fraud on the part of the applicants, inasmuch as they
honestly believed that the appellee was occupying these two small parcels of land as
their tenant. One of the petitioner went upon the premises with the surveyor when the
original plan was made.

Proof of constructive fraud is not sufficient to authorize the Court of Land Registration to
reopen a case and modify its decree. Specific, intentional acts to deceive and deprive
anther of his right, or in some manner injure him, must be alleged and proved; that is,
there must be actual or positive fraud as distinguished from constructive fraud.

The question as to the meaning of the word "fraud" in the Australian statutes has been
frequently raised. Two distinctions have been noted by the Australian courts; the first is
the distinction between the meaning of the word "fraud" in the sections relating to the
conclusive effect of certificates of title, and its meaning in the sections relating to the
protection of bona fide purchasers from registered proprietors. The second is the
distinction between "legal," "equitable," or "constructive" fraud, and "actual" or "moral"
fraud. In none of the groups of the sections of the Australian statutes relating to the
conclusive effect of certificates of title, and in which fraud is referred to, is there any
express indication of the meaning of "fraud," with the sole exception of that of the South
Australian group. (Hogg on Australian Torrens System, p. 834.)

With regard to decisions on the sections relating to the conclusive effect of


certificates of title, it has been held in some cases that the "fraud" there
mentioned means actual or moral fraud, not merely constructive or legal fraud. In
other cases "fraud" has been said to include constructive, legal, and every kind of
fraud. In other cases, against, knowledge of other persons' right, and the
deliberate acquisition of registered title in the face of such knowledge, has been
held to be "fraud" which rendered voidable the certificates of title so obtained;
and voluntary ignorance is, for this purpose, the same as knowledge. But in none
of these three classes of cases was there absent the element of intention to
deprive another of just rights, which constitutes the essential characteristics of
actual — as distinguished from legal-fraud. (Id., p. 835, and cases cited in notes
Nos. 85, 86, 87, 88, and 89 at bottom of pages 835 and 836.)

By "fraud" is meant actual fraud-dishonesty of some sort. (Judgment of Privy Council in


Assets Co. vs. Mere Roihi, and Assets Co. vs. Panapa Waihopi, decided in March,
1905, cited by Hogg in his Supplementary Addendum to his work on Australian Torrens

33
System, supra.) The same meaning should be given to the word "fraud" used in section
38 of our statutes (Act No. 496).

The question as to whether any particular transaction shows fraud, within the meaning
of the word as used in our statutes, will in each case be a question of fact. We will not
attempt to say what acts would constitutes this kind of fraud in other cases. This must
be determined from the fact an circumstances in each particular case. The only
question we are called upon to determine, and have determined, is whether or not,
under the facts and circumstances in this case, the petitioners did obtain the decree of
February 12, 1908, by means of fraud.

It might be urged that the appellee has been deprived of his property without due
process of law, in violation of section 5 of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as
the Philippine Bill," which provides "that no law shall be enacted in the said Islands
which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

The Land Registration Act requires that all occupants be named in the petition and
given notice by registered mail. This did not do the appellee any good, as he was not
notified; but he was made a party defendant, as we have said, by means of the
publication "to all whom it may concern." If this section of the Act is to be upheld this
must be declared to be due process of law.

Before examining the validity of this part of the Act it might be well to note the history
and purpose of what is known as the "Torrens Land Registration System." This system
was introduced in South Australia by Sir Robert Torrens in 1857 and was there worked
out in its practicable form.

The main principle of registration is to make registered titles indefeasible. As we have


said, upon the presentation in the Court of Land Registration of an application for the
registration of the title to lands, under this system, the theory of the law is that all
occupants, adjoining owners, adverse claimants, and other interested persons are
notified of the proceedings, and have have a right to appear in opposition to such
application. In other words, the proceeding is against the whole word. This system was
evidently considered by the Legislature to be a public project when it passed Act No.
496. The interest of the community at large was considered to be preferred to that of
private individuals.

At the close of this nineteenth century, all civilized nations are coming to
registration of title to land, because immovable property is becoming more and
more a matter of commercial dealing, and there can be no trade without security.
(Dumas's Lectures, p. 23.)

The registered proprietor will no longer have reasons to fear that he may evicted
because his vendor had, unknown to him, already sold the and to a third person.
. . The registered proprietor may feel himself protected against any defect in his
vendor's title. (Id., p. 21.)

34
The following summary of benefits of the system of registration of titles, made by
Sir Robert Torrens, has been fully justified in its use:

First. It has substituted security for insecurity.

Second. It has reduced the costs of conveyances from pounds to shillings, and
the time occupied from months to days.

Third. It has exchanged brevity and clearness for obscurity and verbiage.

Fourth. It has so simplified ordinary dealings that he who has mastered the "three
R's" can transact his own conveyancing.

Fifth. It affords protection against fraud.

Sixth. It has restored to their just value many estates held under good holding
titles, but depreciated in consequence of some blur or technical defect, and has
barred the reoccurrence of any similar faults. (Sheldon on Land Registration, pp.
75, 76.)

The boldest effort to grapple with the problem of simplification of title to land was
made by Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Torrens, a layman, in South Australia in
1857. . . . In the Torrens system title by registration takes the place of "title by
deeds" of the system under the "general" law. A sale of land, for example, is
effected by a registered transfer, upon which a certificate of title is issued. The
certificate is guaranteed by statute, and, with certain exceptions, constitutes
indefeasible title to the land mentioned therein. Under the old system the same
sale would be effected by a conveyance, depending for its validity, apart from
intrinsic flaws, on the correctness of a long series of prior deeds, wills, etc. . . .
The object of the Torrens system, them, is to do away with the delay, uncertainty,
and expense of the old conveyancing system. (Duffy & Eagleson on The Transfer
of Land Act, 1890, pp. 2, 3, 5, 7.)

By "Torrens" system generally are meant those systems of registration of


transactions with interest in land whose declared object . . . is, under
governmental authority, to establish and certify to the ownership of an absolute
and indefeasible title to realty, and to simplify its transfer. (Hogg on Australian
Torrens system, supra, pp. 1, 2.)

Compensation for errors from assurance funds is provided in all countries in which the
Torrens system has been enacted. Cases of error no doubt will always occur. The
percentage of errors, as compared with the number of registered dealings in Australia,
is very small. In New South Wales there were, in 1889, 209, 894 registered dealings,
the average risk of error being only 2 ½ cents for each dealing. In Queensland the risk
of error was only 1 ½ cents, the number of registered dealings being 233,309. In
Tasmania and in Western Australia not a cent was paid for compensation for errors

35
during the whole time of operation, (Dumas's Lectures, supra, p. 96.) This system has
been adopted in various countries of the civilized world, including some of the States of
the American Union, and practical experience has demonstrated that it has been
successful as a public project.

The validity of some of the provisions of the statutes adopting the Torrens system has
been the subject of judicial decision in the courts of the United States. (People vs.
Chase, 165 Ill., 527; State vs. Guilbert, 56 Ohio St., 575; People vs. Simon, 176 Ill., 165;
Tyler vs. Judges, 175 Mass., 71.)

Act No. 496 of the Philippine Commission, known as the "Land Registration Act," was
copied substantially from the Massachussetts law of 1898.

The Illinois and Massachusetts statutes were upheld by the supreme courts of those
States.

It is not enough to show a procedure to be unconstitutional to say that we never


heard of it before. (Tyler vs. Judges, supra; Hurtado vs. California, 110 U. S.,
516.)

Looked at either from the point of view of history or of the necessary


requirements of justice, a proceeding in rem dealing with a tangible res may be
instituted and carried to judgment without personal service upon claimants within
the State or notice by name to those outside of it, and not encounter any
provision of either constitution. Jurisdiction is secured by the power of the court
over the res. As we have said, such a proceeding would be impossible, were this
not so, for it hardly would do to make a distinction between the constitutional
rights of claimants who were known and those who were not known to the
plaintiff, when the proceeding is to bar all. (Tyler vs. Judges, supra.)

This same doctrine is annunciated in Pennoyer vs. Neff (95 U. S., 714); The Mary (9
Cranch, 126); Mankin vs. Chandler (2 Brock., 125); Brown vs. Levee Commission (50
Miss., 468); 2 Freeman, Judgments, 4th ed., secs. 606, 611.

If the technical object of the suit is to establish a claim against some particular
person, with a judgment which generally, in theory at least, binds his body, or to
bar some individual claim or objection, so that only certain persons are entitled to
be heard in defense, the action is in personam, although it may concern the right
to or possession of a tangible thing. If, on the other hand, the object is to bar
indifferently all who might be minded to make an objection of any sort against the
right sought to be established, and if anyone in the world has a right to be heard
on the strenght of alleging facts which, if true, show an inconsistent interest, the
proceeding is in rem. (Tyler vs. Judges, supra.)

In the case of Hamilton vs. Brown (161 U. S., 256) a judgment of escheat was held
conclusive upon persons notified by advertisement to all persons interested. In this

36
jurisdiction, by the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, Act No. 190, a decree
allowing or disallowing a will binds everybody, although the only notice of the
proceedings given is by general notice to all persons interested.

The supreme court Massachusetts, in the case of Tyler vs. Judges (supra), did not rest
its judgment as to the conclusive effect of the decree upon the ground that the State has
absolute power to determine the persons to whom a man's property shall go at his
death, but upon the characteristics of a proceeding in rem. So we conclude that the
proceedings had in the case at bar, under all the facts and circumstances, especially
the absolute lack on the part of the petitioners of any dishonest intent to deprive the
appellee of any right, or in any way injure him, constitute due process of law.

As to whether or not the appellee can succesfully maintain an action under the
provisions of sections 101 and 102 of the Land Registration Act (secs. 2365, 2366,
Compilation) we do not decide.

For these reasons we are of the opinion, and so hold, that the judgment appealed from
should be, and the same is hereby reversed and judgment entered in favor of the
petitioners in conformity with the decree of the lower court of February 12, 1908, without
special ruling as to costs. It is so ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson and Moreland, JJ., concur.

37
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-19615 December 24, 1964

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION OF LAND. LEONOR


DE LOS ANGELES, FEDERICO DE LOS ANGELES, ET AL., applicants-appellants,
vs.
ISIDORO O. SANTOS, ANTONIO ASTUDILLO, ET AL., THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS
and THE PROVINCE OF RIZAL, oppositors-appellees.

Antonio G. Ibarra and H. I. Benito for other oppositors-appellees.


Jose W. Diokno for applicants-appellants
Office of the Solicitor General for oppositors-appellees Director of Lands and Province
of Rizal.

BENGZON, JP, J.:

Squarely before this Court in this appeal is the important and fundamental question of
whether a land registration court which has validly acquired jurisdiction over a parcel of
land for registration of title thereto could be divested of said jurisdiction by
a subsequent administrative act consisting in the issuance by the Director of Lands of a
homestead patent covering the same parcel of land.

The court a quo held in effect that it could be, as it dismissed the application to register
title to the land in its order brought here on appeal.

On November 21, 1959 an application for registration of title to 12 parcels of land in


Ampid San Mateo Rizal was filed in the Court of First Instance of Rizal by Leonor de los
Angeles and seven co-applicants. Among other things it alleged that "applicants are
owners pro-indiviso and in fee simple of the aforesaid land."

The required notices were given in which May 27, 1960 was set for the initial hearing.
On March 3, 1960 the Director of Lands filed an opposition stating that the land "is a
portion of the public domain". The Province of Rizal also interposed an opposition on
May 24, 1960, asserting "the required 3.00 meters strips of public easement" on lots
along Ampid River and a creek.

At the initial hearing on May 27, 1960 an order of general default was issued except as
against the Director of Lands, the Province of Rizal and eleven private oppositors who
appeared therein. On July 10, 1960 the aforesaid private oppositors, Julio Hidalgo
among them, filed their written opposition claiming they "are the lawful owners of the
parcels of land in question for having acquired homestead patents over said lots".

38
On July 25, 1961 a "Report" was filed in court by the Land Registration Commissioner,
stating:

1. That the parcel of land described as Lot 11 of plan Psu-158857, applied for in
the above-entitled land registration case, is a portion of that described on plan
Psu-148997, previously patented on June 12, 1961 under Patent No. 95856 in
the name of Julio Hidalgo; and

2. That Case No. N-2671, LRC Record No. N-18332, was set for hearing on May
27, 1960 but no decision has as yet been received by this Commissioner.

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended to this Honorable Court that Case


No. N-2671, LRC Record No. N-18332, be dismissed with respect to Lot 11 of
plan Psu-158857 only, giving due course, however, to the other lots in the
application.

Acting thereon, the court required applicants in its order of July 29, 1961, to show cause
why their application should not be dismissed as to Lot 11 (10.6609 hectares). On
August 15, 1961 applicants filed an "opposition to motion to dismiss". But on September
18, 1961 the court issued an order dismissing the application with respect to Lot 11
"without prejudice on the part of applicants to pursue the corresponding remedy in any
ordinary action". After a motion for reconsideration was filed and denied, applicants
appealed to this Court.

As lone assignment of error it is alleged that "the lower, court grievously erred in
dismissing the application for registration as regards Lot No. 11, over which a
homestead patent was issued by the Director of Lands during the pendency of
the registration proceeding". (Emphasis supplied.)

To start with, it is well settled that the Director of Lands' jurisdiction, administrative
supervision and executive control extend only over lands of the public domain and not
to lands already of private ownership. (Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil. 424; Vital vs. Anore 53
O.G. 3739; Republic vs. Heirs of Carle L-12485, July 31, 1959; Director of Lands vs. De
Luna, L-1441, Nov. 23, 1960.) Accordingly, a homestead patent issued by him over
land not of the public domain is a nullity, devoid of force and effect against the owner
(Zarate vs. Director of Lands, 34 Phil. 416; Vital vs. Anore supra).

Now, in the land registration proceedings applicants contended that as of November 21,
1959 — the date they applied for registration — they were already "owners pro-indiviso
and in fee simple of the aforesaid land". As a result, if applicants were to successfully
prove this averment, and thereby show their alleged registrable title to the land, it could
only result in the finding that when Julio Hidalgo's homestead patent was issued over
Lot 11 on June 12, 1961 said lot was no longer public. The land registration court, in
that event, would have to order a decree of title issued in applicants' favor and declare
the aforesaid homestead patent a nullity which vested no title in the patentee as against

39
the real owners (Rodriguez vs. Director of Lands, 31 Phil. 273; Zarate vs. Director of
Lands, supra; Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 63 Phil. 654).

Since the existence or non-existence of applicants' registrable title to Lot 11 is decisive


of the validity or nullity of the homestead patent issued as aforestated on said lot the
court a quo's jurisdiction in the land registration proceedings could not have been
divested by the homestead patent's issuance.

Proceedings for land registration are in rem whereas proceedings for acquisition of
homestead patent are not (De los Reyes vs. Razon, 38 Phil. 480; Philippine National
Bank vs. Ortiz Luis, 53 Phil. 649). A homestead patent, therefore, does not finally
dispose of the public or private character of the land as far as courts upon
proceedings in rem are concerned (De los Reyes vs. Razon, supra). Applicants should
thus be given opportunity to prove registrable title to Lot 11.

WHEREFORE, we hereby set aside the orders appealed from and remand the case to
the court a quo for further proceedings, without costs. So ordered.

Bengzon, C.J., Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L. Barrera, Paredes, Dizon,
Regala, Makalintal, and Zaldivar, JJ., concur.

40
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. L-35744 September 28, 1984

WENCESLAO JUNIO, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
FELICIANO DE LOS SANTOS and REGISTER OF DEEDS OF
PANGASINAN, respondents-appellees.

Julian U. De Vera for petitioner-appellant.

The Solicitor General and Juan C. Austria for respondents-appellees.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:

The question involved being purely one of law, the then Court of Appeals certified to us
petitioner's appeal from the Decision of the former Court of First Instance of Pangasinan
in Case No. 16362, G.L.R.O. Record No. 52512, dismissing his Petition for the
cancellation of the Adverse Claim annotated on his transfer certificate of title. The case
is being decided under the provisions of the former Land Registration Act (Act No. 496).

Petitioner-appellant, Wenceslao Junio, is the registered owner of a parcel of land


situated at Bayambang, Pangasinan, with an area of 7.65 hectares, more or less,
covered by TCT No. 1004 of the Registry of Deeds of Pangasinan.

By virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale allegedly executed by petitioner over the said
parcel of land in favor of respondent Feliciano de los Santos and his co-vendees,
Guillermo de la Cruz and Jose Junio, an Affidavit of Adverse Claim was executed by
respondent, Feliciano de los Santos, claiming a one-third undivided portion of
petitioner's property, which claim was annotated on petitioner's title.

Petitioner denies having sold any portion of his property to private respondent. hence,
his Petition for the cancellation of said adverse claim. Petitioner disputes the
appropriateness of the annotation alleging that under Section 110 of the Land
Registration Act (Act No. 496), such inscription may be resorted to only when there is
no other means of registering an interest or right; that Section 57 of the same statute
provides for the registration of a documented sale involving a titled property; and that
the Register of Deeds acted negligently in registering the document without the formal
legal requisities.

41
Opposing, respondent de los Santos countered that he had tried to avail himself of
Section 57 by requesting petitioner to surrender his owner's duplicate certificate of title
but since the latter refused to do so he was compelled to present an adverse claim
pursuant to Section 110 of the Land Registration Act.

The case was submitted for decision, without the presentation of evidence, and based
on the pleadings, the lower Court denied the petition for cancellation for lack of merit
and because "petitioner has his own remedy but not in this summary proceedings." The
provision on adverse claim reads in part:

Sec. 110. Whoever claims any right or interest in registered land adverse
to the registered owner, arising subsequent to the date of the original
registration, may, if no other provision is made in this Act for registering
the same, make a statement in writing setting forth fully his alleged right or
interest, and how or under whom acquired, and a reference to the volume
and page of the certificate of title of the registered owner, and a
description of the land in which the right or interest is claimed. The
statement shall be signed and sworn to, and shall state the adverse
claimant's residence and designate a place at which all notices may be
served upon him. This statement shall be entitled to registration as an
adverse claim, and the court, upon a petition of any party in interest, shall
grant a speedy hearing upon the question of the validity of such adverse
claim and shall enter such decree therein as justice and equity may
require. If the claim is adjudged to be invalid the registration shall be
cancelled. If in any case the court after notice and hearing shall find that a
claim thus registered was frivolous or vexatious, it may tax the adverse
claimant double or treble costs in its discretion.

... (Emphasis ours)

The "other provision for registering" referred to above is, indeed, provided for in Section
57, thus:

Sec. 57. An owner desiring to convey in fee his registered land or any
portion thereof shall execute a deed of conveyance, which the grantor or
grantee may present to the register of deeds in the province where the
land lies. The grantor's duplicate certificate shall be produced and
presented at the same time. The register of deeds shall thereupon, in
accordance with the rules and instructions of the court, make out in the
registration book a new certificate of title to the grantee, and shall prepare
and deliver to him an owner's duplicate certificate. The register of deeds
shall note upon the original and duplicate certificates the date of transfer,
the volume and page of the registration book where the new certificate is
registered, and a reference by number to the last prior certificate.
The grantor's duplicate certificate shall be surrendered and the word
'canceled' stamped upon it. The original certificate shall also be stamped

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'canceled'. The deed of conveyance shall be filed and indorsed with the
number and place of registration of the certificate of title of the land
conveyed. (Emphasis supplied).

However, considering that petitioner had refused to surrender the title, private
respondent could not avail of Section 57. Hence, the latter correctly resorted to the
annotation of an adverse claim. Where the vendor fails to deliver to the vendee the
duplicate certificate of title, the vendee should file men." with the Register of Deeds an
adverse claim under Section 110 of Act No. 496, as amended. 1

Petitioner, however, calls attention to the case of Register of Deeds of Quezon City vs.
Nicandro, 2 which held that when a claim is based on a perfected contract of sale
executed in their favor by the lawful owner of the land, the remedy provided in Section
110 would be ineffective considering that the Land Registration Act specifically provides
the procedure for registration in Section 57 thereof. The factual milieu in that case,
however, is completely different, for, therein there was no question about the existence
of a perfected contract of sale, unlike in the case at bar, where the sale between the
parties is contested. Moreover, as already adverted to, private respondent could not
register the document of sale under Section 57 because of petitioner's refusal to
surrender the duplicate certificate of title.

But petitioner additionally submits that because of such refusal, it is Section 111 of the
same Act No. 496, which provides the proper remedy, and we quote:

Sec. 111. In every case where the clerk or any register of deeds is
requested to enter a new certificate in pursuance of an instrument
purporting to be executed by the registered owner, or by reason of any
instrument or proceedings which divests the title of the registered owner
against his consent, if the outstanding owner's duplicate certificate is not
presented for cancellation when such request is made, the clerk or
register of deeds shall not enter a new certificate, but the person claiming
to be entitled thereto may apply by petition to the court. The court, after
hearing, may order the registered owner or any person withholding the
duplicate to surrender the same, and direct the entry of a new certificate
upon such surrender.

If in any case the person withholding the duplicate certificate is not


amenable to the process of the court, or if for any reason the outstanding
owner's duplicate certificate cannot be delivered up, the court may by
decree annul the same and order a new certificate of title to be entered.
Such new certificate and all duplicates thereof shall contain a
memorandum of the annulment of the outstanding duplicate.

If in any case an outstanding mortgagee's or lessee's duplicate certificate


is not produced and surrendered when the mortgage is discharged or
extinguished or the lease is terminated, like proceedings may be had to

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obtain registration as in the case of the nonproduction of an owner's
duplicate.

We find that contention again bereft of merit as said Section 111 can be availed of only
if controversial issues are not involved. 3 In this case, the genuineness and due
execution of the sale between the parties is in controversy.

Although the grounds relied upon by petitioner for cancellation of the adverse claim
were unmeritorious, it behooved the lower Court to have conducted a speedy hearing
upon the question of validity of the adverse claim pursuant to the second paragraph of
Section 110 of the Land Registration Act, reading:

The statement shall be signed and sworn to, and shall state the adverse
claimant's residence, and designate a place at which all notices may be
served upon him. This statement Shall be entitled to registration as an
adverse claim, and the court, upon a petition of any party in interest, shall
grant a speedy hearing upon the question of the validity of such adverse
claim and shall enter such decree therein as justice and equity may
require. If the claim is adjudged to be invalid, the registration shall be
cancelled. If in any case the court after notice and hearing shall find that a
claim thus registered was frivolous or vexatious, it may tax the adverse
claimant double or treble costs in its discretion. (Emphasis ours)

In fact, the lower Court, instead of confining itself to the propriety of the registration of
the adverse claim should already have decided the controversy between the parties on
the merits thereof. Doctrinal jurisprudence holds that the Court of First Instance (now
the Regional Trial Court), as a Land Registration Court, can hear cases otherwise
litigable only in ordinary civil actions, since the Courts of First Instance are at the same
time, Courts of general jurisdiction and could entertain and dispose of the validity or
invalidity of respondent's adverse claim, with a view to determining whether petitioner is
entitled or not to the relief that he seeks. 4 That doctrine is based on expediency. In fact,
petitioner has also prayed in his Brief that the case be returned to the lower Court for
further proceedings. Note should also be taken of the fact that an adverse claim may be
cancelled only after it is adjudged invalid or unmeritorious by the Court acting either as
a land registration Court or a Court of general jurisdiction. 5 The two other co-vendees,
however, should be impleaded as parties so that the entire controversy as to ownership
may be threshed out in a single action to prevent multiplicity of suits.

WHEREFORE, this case is hereby ordered remanded to the Regional Trial Court
corresponding to the former Court of First Instance of Pangasinan for hearing and for
passing upon the controversy on the merits between petitioner, as the registered owner,
and private respondent, who had filed the adverse claim, impleading for that purpose
the alleged co-vendees, Guillermo de la Cruz and Jose Junio.

Costs against petitioner.

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SO ORDERED.

Teehankee (Chairman), Plana, Relova, Gutierrez, Jr. and De la Fuente, JJ., concur.

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