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REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the Director of Lands, petitioner-appellant, vs.

JUDGE CANDIDO P. VILLANUEVA, of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Malolos Branch
VII, and IGLESIA NI CRISTO, as a corporation sole, represented by ERAÑO G. MANALO, as
Executive Minister, respondents-appellees.
G.R. No. L-55289. June 29, 1982

In 1933, Iglesia ni Cristo, private respondent, a corporation sole duly existing under Philippine laws,
acquired two lots with a total area of 313 square meters from Andres Perez, who had possessed the
property since 1933 and had declared the same for tax purposes. On September 13, 1977, private
respondent filed an application for registration of the two lots pursuant to Section 48(b) of the Public Land
Law alleging that it and its predecessor-in-interest had possessed the land for more than 30 years. The
Republic of the Philippines opposed the application on the ground that the Iglesia Ni Cristo, as a
corporation sole, is disqualified under the Constitution to hold alienable lands of the public domain and that
the land applied for is a public land. After hearing, the trial court ordered the registration of the two lots in
the name of private respondent. Hence, this appeal by the Republic.

Whether or not Iglesia ni Cristo may acquire or hold lands of public domain.

The Supreme Court held that the Constitution prohibits a corporation sole or a juridical person like
the Iglesia Ni Cristo from acquiring or holding lands of the public domain; that said church is not entitled to
avail of the benefits of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Law which applies only to Filipino citizens or natural
persons; and that the subject lots are not private lands because possession by the applicant and his
predecessors-in-interest has not been since time immemorial and because land registration proceeding
under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Law presupposes that the land is public.
The provision in the Constitution that "No private corporation or association may hold alienable
lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; Art. XIV, Sec. II of
the Constitution is not the decisive consideration for the denial of the registration in favor of appellee. It is
the view that the Bill of Rights provision on religious freedom which bans the enactment of any law
prohibiting its free exercise, the "enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or
preference. (being) forever . . . allowed." Here the Iglesia Ni Cristo, as a corporation sole, seeks the
registration. The area involved in the two parcels of land in question is 313 square meters. As admitted in
the opinion of the Court, a chapel is therein located. It is that basic consideration that leads to the
conclusion that the balancing process, which finds application in constitutional law adjudication, equally
requires that when two provisions in the Constitution maybe relevant to a certain factual situation, it calls for
the affirmance of the decision of respondent Judge allowing the registration.