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G.R. No.

135385 December 6, 2000


ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners,
vs.
SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, et.al.

PER CURIAM:
Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for prohibition and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the
constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997
(IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules).
In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to comment. 1 In compliance, respondents Chairperson and
Commissioners of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under the IPRA to implement
its provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 their Comment to the Petition, in which they defend the constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that
the petition be dismissed for lack of merit.
On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) filed through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is of the
view that the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership over natural resources to indigenous peoples and prays
that the petition be granted in part.
On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen,
a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier, et. al), filed
their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the constitutionality of IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition.
On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a Motion to Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The
CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression of the principle of parens patriae and that the State has the responsibility to protect and guarantee
the rights of those who are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it prays that the petition be dismissed.
On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People and the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of
Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP and
Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition for prohibition and mandamus be dismissed.
The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were granted.
Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and intervenors filed their respective memoranda in which they reiterate
the arguments adduced in their earlier pleadings and during the hearing.
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA and its Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to
an unlawful deprivation of the State’s ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other natural resources therein, in
violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution:
"(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral domains, and Section 3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands;
"(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral domains including inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral
and other resources found within ancestral domains are private but community property of the indigenous peoples;
"(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the composition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
"(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the ancestral domains;
(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the ancestral lands;
"(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of
minerals and other natural resources within the areas claimed to be their ancestral domains, and the right to enter into agreements with
nonindigenous peoples for the development and utilization of natural resources therein for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for
not more than 25 years; and
"(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to maintain, develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains and
portions thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest
cover or reforestation."2
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition of "ancestral domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even
include private lands found within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners. 3
In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law
applicable to the settlement of disputes involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions violate the due
process clause of the Constitution.4
These provisions are:
"(1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and recognition of ancestral domains and which vest on the
NCIP the sole authority to delineate ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
"(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a particular area is an ancestral domain and upon
notification to the following officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local
Governments, Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the National Development Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials
over said area terminates;
"(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect
to property rights, claims of ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in
the interpretation thereof shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples;
"(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used to resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples;
and
"(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving rights of the indigenous peoples." 5
Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides
that "the administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for
purposes of policy and program coordination." They contend that said Rule infringes upon the President’s power of control over executive
departments under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.6
Petitioners pray for the following:
"(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and other related provisions of R.A. 8371 are
unconstitutional and invalid;
"(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and Commissioners of the NCIP to cease and desist from
implementing the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371 and its Implementing Rules;
"(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cease
and desist from implementing Department of Environment and Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998;
"(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget and Management to cease and desist from disbursing
public funds for the implementation of the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and
"(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with his
duty of carrying out the State’s constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and
conservation of Philippine natural resources." 7
After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows:
Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and
Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all
challenged provisions of the law with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the
Rules and Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with the
large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the
other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners
do not have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.
Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that
Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of
Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been
violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are
unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate opinions of Justices Panganiban and
Vitug.
As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after
redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the petition is
DISMISSED.
Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Panganiban JJ., see separate opinion

SEPARATE OPINION
PUNO, J.:
PRECIS
A classic essay on the utility of history was written in 1874 by Friedrich Nietzsche entitled "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for
Life." Expounding on Nietzsche's essay, Judge Richard Posner 1 wrote:2
"Law is the most historically oriented, or if you like the most backward-looking, the most 'past-dependent,' of the professions. It venerates
tradition, precedent, pedigree, ritual, custom, ancient practices, ancient texts, archaic terminology, maturity, wisdom, seniority, gerontocracy,
and interpretation conceived of as a method of recovering history. It is suspicious of innovation, discontinuities, 'paradigm shifts,' and the
energy and brashness of youth. These ingrained attitudes are obstacles to anyone who wants to re-orient law in a more pragmatic direction.
But, by the same token, pragmatic jurisprudence must come to terms with history."
When Congress enacted the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), it introduced radical concepts into the Philippine legal system which
appear to collide with settled constitutional and jural precepts on state ownership of land and other natural resources. The sense and
subtleties of this law cannot be appreciated without considering its distinct sociology and the labyrinths of its history. This Opinion attempts
to interpret IPRA by discovering its soul shrouded by the mist of our history. After all, the IPRA was enacted by Congress not only to fulfill
the constitutional mandate of protecting the indigenous cultural communities' right to their ancestral land but more importantly, to correct a
grave historical injustice to our indigenous people.
This Opinion discusses the following:
I. The Development of the Regalian Doctrine in the Philippine Legal System.
A. The Laws of the Indies
B. Valenton v. Murciano
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System
D. The Philippine Constitutions
II. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
A. Indigenous Peoples
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History
2. Their Concept of Land
III. The IPRA is a Novel Piece of Legislation.
A. Legislative History
IV. The Provisions of the IPRA Do Not Contravene the Constitution.
A. Ancestral domains and ancestral lands are the private property of indigenous peoples and do not constitute part of the land of
the public domain.
1. The right to ancestral domains and ancestral lands: how acquired
2. The concept of native title
(a) Cariño v. Insular Government
(b) Indian Title to land
(c) Why the Cariño doctrine is unique
3. The option of securing a torrens title to the ancestral land
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains is a limited form of ownership and does not
include the right to alienate the same.
1. The indigenous concept of ownership and customary law
C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA do not violate the Regalian Doctrine enshrined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution.
1. The rights of ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domains and lands
2. The right of ICCs/IPs to develop lands and natural resources within the ancestral domains does not deprive the State
of ownership over the natural resources, control and supervision in their development and exploitation.
(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond the parameters of Section 7(a) of the law
on ownership of ancestral domains and is ultra vires.
(b) The small-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 7 (b) of the IPRA is allowed under Paragraph 3,
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Consitution.
(c) The large-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 57 of the IPRA may be harmonized with Paragraphs
1 and 4, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
V. The IPRA is a Recognition of Our Active Participation in the International Indigenous Movement.
DISCUSSION
I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE IN THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL SYSTEM.
A. The Laws of the Indies
The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power of dominium.3 This was the foundation for the early Spanish
decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regalia is a Western legal concept that was first
introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas. The Laws of the Indies, i.e.,
more specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Novisima Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, set the policy of the Spanish Crown with
respect to the Philippine Islands in the following manner:
"We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal
predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without
proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys,
audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled,
taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives
what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of
said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish.
We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts designate at such time as shall to them seem most
expedient, a suitable period within which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them and to the court
officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts,
or by virtue of just prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will."4
The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of "discovery" and conquest. Consequently, all lands became the exclusive patrimony and
dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish Government took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to
Spaniards, both military and civilian.5 Private land titles could only be acquired from the government either by purchase or by the various
modes of land grant from the Crown.6
The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the Mortgage Law of 1893.7 The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the
systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. The law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal
Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the "Maura Law," was partly an amendment of the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the
Indies, as already amended by previous orders and decrees.8 This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required
the "adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert to the state.
Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the government of the United States all rights, interests
and claims over the national territory of the Philippine Islands. In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the Philippine
Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act.
B. Valenton v. Murciano
In 1904, under the American regime, this Court decided the case of Valenton v. Murciano.9
Valenton resolved the question of which is the better basis for ownership of land: long-time occupation or paper title. Plaintiffs had entered
into peaceful occupation of the subject land in 1860. Defendant's predecessor-in-interest, on the other hand, purchased the land from the
provincial treasurer of Tarlac in 1892. The lower court ruled against the plaintiffs on the ground that they had lost all rights to the land by not
objecting to the administrative sale. Plaintiffs appealed the judgment, asserting that their 30-year adverse possession, as an extraordinary
period of prescription in the Partidas and the Civil Code, had given them title to the land as against everyone, including the State; and that
the State, not owning the land, could not validly transmit it.
The Court, speaking through Justice Willard, decided the case on the basis of "those special laws which from earliest time have regulated
the disposition of the public lands in the colonies."10 The question posed by the Court was: "Did these special laws recognize any right of
prescription as against the State as to these lands; and if so, to what extent was it recognized?"
Prior to 1880, the Court said, there were no laws specifically providing for the disposition of land in the Philippines. However, it was
understood that in the absence of any special law to govern a specific colony, the Laws of the Indies would be followed. Indeed, in the Royal
Order of July 5, 1862, it was decreed that until regulations on the subject could be prepared, the authorities of the Philippine Islands should
follow strictly the Laws of the Indies, the Ordenanza of the Intendentes of 1786, and the Royal Cedula of 1754.11
Quoting the preamble of Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, the court interpreted it as follows:
"In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct statement that all those lands belong to the Crown which have not been granted
by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who preceded him. This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands not so granted,
that did not belong to the king. It excludes the idea that the king was not still the owner of all ungranted lands, because some
private person had been in the adverse occupation of them. By the mandatory part of the law all the occupants of the public lands are
required to produce before the authorities named, and within a time to be fixed by them, their title papers. And those who had good title or
showed prescription were to be protected in their holdings. It is apparent that it was not the intention of the law that mere possession for a
length of time should make the possessors the owners of the land possessed by them without any action on the part of the authorities."12
The preamble stated that all those lands which had not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who preceded him, belonged
to the Crown.13 For those lands granted by the king, the decree provided for a system of assignment of such lands. It also ordered that all
possessors of agricultural land should exhibit their title deed, otherwise, the land would be restored to the Crown. 14
The Royal Cedula of October 15, 1754 reinforced the Recopilacion when it ordered the Crown's principal subdelegate to issue a general
order directing the publication of the Crown's instructions:
"x x x to the end that any and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date of the promulgation and publication of said order,
shall have occupied royal lands, whether or not x x x cultivated or tenanted, may x x x appear and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and
patents by virtue of which said lands are occupied. x x x. Said subdelegates will at the same time warn the parties interested that in case of
their failure to present their title deeds within the term designated, without a just and valid reason therefor, they will be deprived of and
evicted from their lands, and they will be granted to others."15
On June 25, 1880, the Crown adopted regulations for the adjustment of lands "wrongfully occupied" by private individuals in the Philippine
Islands. Valenton construed these regulations together with contemporaneous legislative and executive interpretations of the law, and
concluded that plaintiffs' case fared no better under the 1880 decree and other laws which followed it, than it did under the earlier ones.
Thus as a general doctrine, the Court stated:
"While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to a deed if he proves a possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it has
always insisted that he must make that proof before the proper administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed, and until
he did that the State remained the absolute owner."16
In conclusion, the Court ruled: "We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force in these Islands by which the plaintiffs could obtain
the ownership of these lands by prescription, without any action by the State." 17 Valenton had no rights other than those which accrued to
mere possession. Murciano, on the other hand, was deemed to be the owner of the land by virtue of the grant by the provincial secretary.
In effect, Valenton upheld the Spanish concept of state ownership of public land.
As a fitting observation, the Court added that "[t]he policy pursued by the Spanish Government from earliest times, requiring settlers
on the public lands to obtain title deeds therefor from the State, has been continued by the American Government in Act No.
926."18
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System
Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the
disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading, selling, and leasing of portions of the
public domain of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their titles to public lands in
the Islands. It also provided for the "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the establishment of town sites and
sale of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the
Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the
government;19 and that the government's title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain
and the United States.20 The term "public land" referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the government and
are thrown open to private appropriation and settlement, 21 and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands. 22
Act No. 926 was superseded in 1919 by Act 2874, the second Public Land Act. This new law was passed under the Jones Law. It was
more comprehensive in scope but limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries
which gave Filipinos the same privileges.23 After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, Act 2874 was amended in 1936 by Commonwealth
Act No. 141. Commonwealth Act No. 141 remains the present Public Land Law and it is essentially the same as Act 2874. The main
difference between the two relates to the transitory provisions on the rights of American citizens and corporations during the Commonwealth
period at par with Filipino citizens and corporations.24
Grants of public land were brought under the operation of the Torrens system under Act 496, or the Land Registration Law of
1903. Enacted by the Philippine Commission, Act 496 placed all public and private lands in the Philippines under the Torrens system. The
law is said to be almost a verbatim copy of the Massachussetts Land Registration Act of 1898, 25 which, in turn, followed the principles and
procedure of the Torrens system of registration formulated by Sir Robert Torrens who patterned it after the Merchant Shipping Acts in South
Australia. The Torrens system requires that the government issue an official certificate of title attesting to the fact that the person named is
the owner of the property described therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or the law warrants or reserves.26 The
certificate of title is indefeasible and imprescriptible and all claims to the parcel of land are quieted upon issuance of said certificate. This
system highly facilitates land conveyance and negotiation. 27
D. The Philippine Constitutions
The Regalian doctrine was enshrined in the 1935 Constitution. One of the fixed and dominating objectives of the 1935 Constitutional
Convention was the nationalization and conservation of the natural resources of the country. 28There was an overwhelming sentiment in
the Convention in favor of the principle of state ownership of natural resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine. 29 State
ownership of natural resources was seen as a necessary starting point to secure recognition of the state's power to control their disposition,
exploitation, development, or utilization.30 The delegates to the Constitutional Convention very well knew that the concept of State ownership
of land and natural resources was introduced by the Spaniards, however, they were not certain whether it was continued and applied by the
Americans. To remove all doubts, the Convention approved the provision in the Constitution affirming the Regalian doctrine. 31
Thus, the 1935 Constitution, in Section 1 of Article XIII on "Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources," reads as follows:
"Sec. 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils,
all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations at least sixty per
centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of
the inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public
agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the
natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries,
or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant."
The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine in Section 8, Article XIV on the "National Economy and the Patrimony of the Nation,"
to wit:
"Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial
or commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license,
concession, or lease for the exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted
for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water
supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the
limit of the grant."
The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed the Regalian doctrine in Section 2 of Article XII on "National Economy and Patrimony," to wit:
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development and utilization of natural
resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities or it may
enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations
at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five
years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water
rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure
and limit of the grant.
x x x."
Simply stated, all lands of the public domain as well as all natural resources enumerated therein, whether on public or private land,
belong to the State. It is this concept of State ownership that petitioners claim is being violated by the IPRA.
II. THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT.
Republic Act No. 8371 is entitled "An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous
Peoples, Creating a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor,
and for Other Purposes." It is simply known as "The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997" or the IPRA.
The IPRA recognizes the existence of the indigenous cultural communities or indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) as a distinct sector in
Philippine society. It grants these people the ownership and possession of their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, and defines
the extent of these lands and domains. The ownership given is the indigenous concept of ownership under customary law which
traces its origin to native title.
Other rights are also granted the ICCs/IPs, and these are:
- the right to develop lands and natural resources;
- the right to stay in the territories;
- the right in case of displacement;
- the right to safe and clean air and water;
- the right to claim parts of reservations;
- the right to resolve conflict;32
- the right to ancestral lands which include
a. the right to transfer land/property to/among members of the same ICCs/IPs, subject to customary laws and traditions
of the community concerned;
b. the right to redemption for a period not exceeding 15 years from date of transfer, if the transfer is to a non-member of
the ICC/IP and is tainted by vitiated consent of the ICC/IP, or if the transfer is for an unconscionable consideration. 33
Within their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, the ICCs/IPs are given the right to self-governance and empowerment,34 social justice
and human rights,35 the right to preserve and protect their culture, traditions, institutions and community intellectual rights, and the right to
develop their own sciences and technologies.36
To carry out the policies of the Act, the law created the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The NCIP is an independent
agency under the Office of the President and is composed of seven (7) Commissioners belonging to ICCs/IPs from each of the ethnographic
areas- Region I and the Cordilleras; Region II; the rest of Luzon; Island groups including Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon, Panay and the rest
of the Visayas; Northern and Western Mindanao; Southern and Eastern Mindanao; and Central Mindanao. 37 The NCIP took over the
functions of the Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office for Southern Cultural Communities created by former President
Corazon Aquino which were merged under a revitalized structure. 38
Disputes involving ICCs/IPs are to be resolved under customary laws and practices. When still unresolved, the matter may be brought
to the NCIP, which is granted quasi-judicial powers.39 The NCIP's decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeals by a petition for
review.
Any person who violates any of the provisions of the Act such as, but not limited to, unauthorized and/or unlawful intrusion upon ancestral
lands and domains shall be punished in accordance with customary laws or imprisoned from 9 months to 12 years and/or fined from
₱100,000.00 to ₱500,000.00 and obliged to pay damages.40
A. Indigenous Peoples
The IPRA is a law dealing with a specific group of people, i.e., the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) or the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).
The term "ICCs" is used in the 1987 Constitution while that of "IPs" is the contemporary international language in the International Labor
Organization (ILO) Convention 16941 and the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.42
ICCs/IPs are defined by the IPRA as:
"Sec. 3 [h]. Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples- refer to a group of people or homogeneous societies identified by self-
ascription and ascription by others, who have continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory,
and who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed and utilized such territories, sharing common bonds
of language, customs, traditions and other distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural inroads
of colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos. ICCs/IPs shall likewise
include peoples who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, at the time
of conquest or colonization, or at the time of inroads of non-indigenous religions and cultures, or the establishment of present state
boundaries, who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions, but who may have been displaced from
their traditional domains or who may have resettled outside their ancestral domains."
Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples refer to a group of people or homogeneous societies who have
continuously lived as an organized community on communally bounded and defined territory. These groups of people have actually
occupied, possessed and utilized their territories under claim of ownership since time immemorial. They share common bonds of language,
customs, traditions and other distinctive cultural traits, or, they, by their resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of colonization,
non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the Filipino majority. ICCs/IPs also include descendants of
ICCs/IPs who inhabited the country at the time of conquest or colonization, who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural
and political institutions but who may have been displaced from their traditional territories or who may have resettled outside their ancestral
domains.
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History
Presently, Philippine indigenous peoples inhabit the interiors and mountains of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Samar, Leyte, and the
Palawan and Sulu group of islands. They are composed of 110 tribes and are as follows:
1. In the Cordillera Autonomous Region- Kankaney, Ibaloi, Bontoc, Tinggian or Itneg, Ifugao, Kalinga, Yapayao, Aeta or Agta or
Pugot, and Bago of Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan; Ibanag of Isabela, Cagayan; Ilongot of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya; Gaddang of
Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Itawis of Cagayan; Ivatan of Batanes, Aeta of Cagayan, Quirino and Isabela.
2. In Region III- Aetas.
3. In Region IV- Dumagats of Aurora, Rizal; Remontado of Aurora, Rizal, Quezon; Alangan or Mangyan, Batangan, Buid or Buhid,
Hanunuo and Iraya of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro; Tadyawan of Occidental Mindoro; Cuyonon, Palawanon, Tagbanua and
Tao't bato of Palawan.
4. In Region V- Aeta of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur; Aeta-Abiyan, Isarog, and Kabihug of Camarines Norte; Agta, and
Mayon of Camarines Sur; Itom of Albay, Cimaron of Sorsogon; and the Pullon of Masbate and Camarines Sur.
5. In Region VI- Ati of Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Antique, Capiz; the Magahat of Negros Occidental; the Corolano and Sulod.
6. In Region VII- Magahat of Negros Oriental and Eskaya of Bohol.
7. In Region IX- the Badjao numbering about 192,000 in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur; the Kalibugan of Basilan, the Samal,
Subanon and Yakat.
8. Region X- Numbering 1.6 million in Region X alone, the IPs are: the Banwaon, Bukidnon, Matigsalog, Talaanding of Bukidnon;
the Camiguin of Camiguin Island; the Higa-unon of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis Occidental; the
Tigwahanon of Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and and Misamis Occidental, the Manobo of the Agusan provinces, and the
Umayamnon of Agusan and Bukidnon.
9. In Region XI- There are about 1,774,065 IPs in Region XI. They are tribes of the Dibabaon, Mansaka of Davao del Norte; B'laan,
Kalagan, Langilad, T'boli and Talaingod of Davao del Sur; Mamamanua of Surigao del Sur; Mandaya of the Surigao provinces and
Davao Oriental; Manobo Blit of South Cotabato; the Mangguangon of Davao and South Cotabato; Matigsalog of Davao del Norte
and Del Sur; Tagakaolo, Tasaday and Ubo of South Cotabato; and Bagobo of Davao del sur and South Cotabato.
10. In Region XII- Ilianen, Tiruray, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Yakan/Samal, and Iranon. 43
How these indigenous peoples came to live in the Philippines goes back to as early as 25,000 to 30,000 B.C.
Before the time of Western contact, the Philippine archipelago was peopled largely by the Negritos, Indonesians and Malays.44 The
strains from these groups eventually gave rise to common cultural features which became the dominant influence in ethnic reformulation in
the archipelago. Influences from the Chinese and Indian civilizations in the third or fourth millenium B.C. augmented these ethnic strains.
Chinese economic and socio-cultural influences came by way of Chinese porcelain, silk and traders. Indian influence found their way into
the religious-cultural aspect of pre-colonial society.45
The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water. Hunting and food gathering became supplementary activities as reliance on them
was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the soil. 46 From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved an
essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a primary factor. Community life throughout the
archipelago was influenced by, and responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform flora and
fauna favored similarities, not differences. 47 Life was essentially subsistence but not harsh.48
The early Filipinos had a culture that was basically Malayan in structure and form. They had languages that traced their origin to the
Austronesian parent-stock and used them not only as media of daily communication but also as vehicles for the expression of their literary
moods.49 They fashioned concepts and beliefs about the world that they could not see, but which they sensed to be part of their lives.50 They
had their own religion and religious beliefs. They believed in the immortality of the soul and life after death. Their rituals were based on
beliefs in a ranking deity whom they called Bathalang Maykapal, and a host of other deities, in the environmental spirits and in soul spirits.
The early Filipinos adored the sun, the moon, the animals and birds, for they seemed to consider the objects of Nature as something to be
respected. They venerated almost any object that was close to their daily life, indicating the importance of the relationship between man
and the object of nature.51
The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which
transported them to these shores.52 The barangay was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families.
Each barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to rule and govern his subjects and promote
their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator
and judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.53
Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from generation to generation and constituted
the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the
community.54 The written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the necessity arose. 55 The
oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D. Other old codes are the Muslim Code of
Luwaran and the Principal Code of Sulu.56 Whether customary or written, the laws dealt with various subjects, such as inheritance, divorce,
usury, loans, partnership, crime and punishment, property rights, family relations and adoption. Whenever disputes arose, these were
decided peacefully through a court composed by the chieftain as "judge" and the barangay elders as "jury." Conflicts arising between
subjects of different barangays were resolved by arbitration in which a board composed of elders from neutral barangays acted as arbiters.57
Baranganic society had a distinguishing feature: the absence of private property in land. The chiefs merely administered the lands
in the name of the barangay. The social order was an extension of the family with chiefs embodying the higher unity of the community. Each
individual, therefore, participated in the community ownership of the soil and the instruments of production as a member of the
barangay.58 This ancient communalism was practiced in accordance with the concept of mutual sharing of resources so that no individual,
regardless of status, was without sustenance. Ownership of land was non-existent or unimportant and the right of usufruct was what
regulated the development of lands.59 Marine resources and fishing grounds were likewise free to all. Coastal communities depended for
their economic welfare on the kind of fishing sharing concept similar to those in land communities. 60 Recognized leaders, such as the
chieftains and elders, by virtue of their positions of importance, enjoyed some economic privileges and benefits. But their rights, related to
either land and sea, were subject to their responsibility to protect the communities from danger and to provide them with the leadership and
means of survival.61
Sometime in the 13th century, Islam was introduced to the archipelago in Maguindanao. The Sultanate of Sulu was established and
claimed jurisdiction over territorial areas represented today by Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and Zamboanga. Four ethnic groups were
within this jurisdiction: Sama, Tausug, Yakan and Subanon. 62The Sultanate of Maguindanao spread out from Cotabato toward Maranao
territory, now Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.63
The Muslim societies evolved an Asiatic form of feudalism where land was still held in common but was private in use. This is
clearly indicated in the Muslim Code of Luwaran. The Code contains a provision on the lease of cultivated lands. It, however, has no
provision for the acquisition, transfer, cession or sale of land.64
The societies encountered by Magellan and Legaspi therefore were primitive economies where most production was geared to the use of
the producers and to the fulfillment of kinship obligations. They were not economies geared to exchange and profit. 65 Moreover, the family
basis of barangay membership as well as of leadership and governance worked to splinter the population of the islands into numerous small
and separate communities.66
When the Spaniards settled permanently in the Philippines in 1565, they found the Filipinos living in barangay settlements
scattered along water routes and river banks. One of the first tasks imposed on the missionaries and the encomenderos was to collect
all scattered Filipinos together in a reduccion.67 As early as 1551, the Spanish government assumed an unvarying solicitous attitude towards
the natives.68 The Spaniards regarded it a sacred "duty to conscience and humanity to civilize these less fortunate people living in the
obscurity of ignorance" and to accord them the "moral and material advantages" of community life and the "protection and vigilance afforded
them by the same laws."69
The Spanish missionaries were ordered to establish pueblos where the church and convent would be constructed. All the new Christian
converts were required to construct their houses around the church and the unbaptized were invited to do the same. 70 With the reduccion,
the Spaniards attempted to "tame" the reluctant Filipinos through Christian indoctrination using the convento/casa real/plaza complex as
focal point. The reduccion, to the Spaniards, was a "civilizing" device to make the Filipinos law-abiding citizens of the Spanish Crown, and
in the long run, to make them ultimately adopt Hispanic culture and civilization. 71
All lands lost by the old barangays in the process of pueblo organization as well as all lands not assigned to them and the pueblos,
were now declared to be crown lands or realengas, belonging to the Spanish king. It was from the realengas that land grants were
made to non-Filipinos.72
The abrogation of the Filipinos' ancestral rights in land and the introduction of the concept of public domain were the most
immediate fundamental results of Spanish colonial theory and law. 73 The concept that the Spanish king was the owner of
everything of value in the Indies or colonies was imposed on the natives, and the natives were stripped of their ancestral rights
to land.74
Increasing their foothold in the Philippines, the Spanish colonialists, civil and religious, classified the Filipinos according to their religious
practices and beliefs, and divided them into three types . First were the Indios, the Christianized Filipinos, who generally came from the
lowland populations. Second, were the Moros or the Muslim communities, and third, were the infieles or the indigenous communities.75
The Indio was a product of the advent of Spanish culture. This class was favored by the Spaniards and was allowed certain status although
below the Spaniards. The Moros and infieles were regarded as the lowest classes.76
The Moros and infieles resisted Spanish rule and Christianity. The Moros were driven from Manila and the Visayas to Mindanao; while
the infieles, to the hinterlands. The Spaniards did not pursue them into the deep interior. The upland societies were naturally outside the
immediate concern of Spanish interest, and the cliffs and forests of the hinterlands were difficult and inaccessible, allowing the infieles, in
effect, relative security.77 Thus, the infieles, which were peripheral to colonial administration, were not only able to preserve their own
culture but also thwarted the Christianization process, separating themselves from the newly evolved Christian community.78 Their own
political, economic and social systems were kept constantly alive and vibrant.
The pro-Christian or pro-Indio attitude of colonialism brought about a generally mutual feeling of suspicion, fear, and hostility between the
Christians on the one hand and the non-Christians on the other. Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally and historically
related populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues and vices of the Filipinos. 79
President McKinley, in his instructions to the Philippine Commission of April 7, 1900, addressed the existence of the infieles:
"In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands, the Commission should adopt the same course followed by Congress in
permitting the tribes of our North American Indians to maintain their tribal organization and government, and under which many of
those tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by civilization to which they are unable or unwilling to conform. Such tribal
government should, however, be subjected to wise and firm regulation; and, without undue or petty interference, constant and active effort
should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices and introduce civilized customs." 80
Placed in an alternative of either letting the natives alone or guiding them in the path of civilization, the American government chose "to
adopt the latter measure as one more in accord with humanity and with the national conscience." 81
The Americans classified the Filipinos into two: the Christian Filipinos and the non-Christian Filipinos. The term "non-Christian"
referred not to religious belief, but to a geographical area, and more directly, "to natives of the Philippine Islands of a low grade of civilization,
usually living in tribal relationship apart from settled communities." 82
Like the Spaniards, the Americans pursued a policy of assimilation. In 1903, they passed Act No. 253 creating the Bureau of Non-
Christian Tribes (BNCT). Under the Department of the Interior, the BNCT's primary task was to conduct ethnographic research among
unhispanized Filipinos, including those in Muslim Mindanao, with a "special view to determining the most practicable means for bringing
about their advancement in civilization and prosperity." The BNCT was modeled after the bureau dealing with American Indians. The
agency took a keen anthropological interest in Philippine cultural minorities and produced a wealth of valuable materials about them.83
The 1935 Constitution did not carry any policy on the non-Christian Filipinos. The raging issue then was the conservation of the
national patrimony for the Filipinos.
In 1957, the Philippine Congress passed R.A. No. 1888, an "Act to effectuate in a more rapid and complete manner the economic, social,
moral and political advancement of the non-Christian Filipinos or national cultural minorities and to render real, complete, and permanent
the integration of all said national cultural minorities into the body politic, creating the Commission on National Integration charged with
said functions." The law called for a policy of integration of indigenous peoples into the Philippine mainstream and for this purpose created
the Commission on National Integration (CNI).84 The CNI was given, more or less, the same task as the BNCT during the American
regime. The post-independence policy of integration was like the colonial policy of assimilation understood in the context of a
guardian-ward relationship.85
The policy of assimilation and integration did not yield the desired result. Like the Spaniards and Americans, government attempts at
integration met with fierce resistance. Since World War II, a tidal wave of Christian settlers from the lowlands of Luzon and the Visayas
swamped the highlands and wide open spaces in Mindanao. 86Knowledge by the settlers of the Public Land Acts and the Torrens
system resulted in the titling of several ancestral lands in the settlers' names. With government initiative and participation, this
titling displaced several indigenous peoples from their lands. Worse, these peoples were also displaced by projects undertaken by the
national government in the name of national development. 87
It was in the 1973 Constitution that the State adopted the following provision:
"The State shall consider the customs, traditions, beliefs, and interests of national cultural communities in the formulation and
implementation of State policies."88
For the first time in Philippine history, the "non-Christian tribes" or the "cultural minorities" were addressed by the highest law of
the Republic, and they were referred to as "cultural communities." More importantly this time, their "uncivilized" culture was given some
recognition and their "customs, traditions, beliefs and interests" were to be considered by the State in the formulation and implementation
of State policies. President Marcos abolished the CNI and transferred its functions to the Presidential Adviser on National Minorities
(PANAMIN). The PANAMIN was tasked to integrate the ethnic groups that sought full integration into the larger community, and at the
same time "protect the rights of those who wish to preserve their original lifeways beside the larger community." 89 In short, while still
adopting the integration policy, the decree recognized the right of tribal Filipinos to preserve their way of life. 90
In 1974, President Marcos promulgated P.D. No. 410, otherwise known as the Ancestral Lands Decree. The decree provided for the
issuance of land occupancy certificates to members of the national cultural communities who were given up to 1984 to register their
claims.91 In 1979, the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems was created under E.O. No. 561 which provided a mechanism
for the expeditious resolution of land problems involving small settlers, landowners, and tribal Filipinos. 92
Despite the promulgation of these laws, from 1974 to the early 1980's, some 100,000 Kalingas and Bontoks of the Cordillera region were
displaced by the Chico River dam project of the National Power Corporation (NPC). The Manobos of Bukidnon saw their land bulldozed by
the Bukidnon Sugar Industries Company (BUSCO). In Agusan del Sur, the National Development Company was authorized by law in 1979
to take approximately 40,550 hectares of land that later became the NDC-Guthrie plantation in Agusan del Sur. Most of the land was
possessed by the Agusan natives.93 Timber concessions, water projects, plantations, mining, and cattle ranching and other projects of the
national government led not only to the eviction of the indigenous peoples from their land but also to the reduction and destruction of their
natural environment.94
The Aquino government signified a total shift from the policy of integration to one of preservation. Invoking her powers under the
Freedom Constitution, President Aquino created the Office of Muslim Affairs, Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office
for Southern Cultural Communities all under the Office of the President.95
The 1987 Constitution carries at least six (6) provisions which insure the right of tribal Filipinos to preserve their way of life.96 This
Constitution goes further than the 1973 Constitution by expressly guaranteeing the rights of tribal Filipinos to their ancestral
domains and ancestral lands. By recognizing their right to their ancestral lands and domains, the State has effectively upheld
their right to live in a culture distinctly their own.
2. Their Concept of Land
Indigenous peoples share distinctive traits that set them apart from the Filipino mainstream. They are non-Christians. They live in less
accessible, marginal, mostly upland areas. They have a system of self-government not dependent upon the laws of the central administration
of the Republic of the Philippines. They follow ways of life and customs that are perceived as different from those of the rest of the
population.97 The kind of response the indigenous peoples chose to deal with colonial threat worked well to their advantage by making it
difficult for Western concepts and religion to erode their customs and traditions. The "infieles societies" which had become peripheral to
colonial administration, represented, from a cultural perspective, a much older base of archipelagic culture. The political systems were still
structured on the patriarchal and kinship oriented arrangement of power and authority. The economic activities were governed by the
concepts of an ancient communalism and mutual help. The social structure which emphasized division of labor and distinction of functions,
not status, was maintained. The cultural styles and forms of life portraying the varieties of social courtesies and ecological adjustments were
kept constantly vibrant.98
Land is the central element of the indigenous peoples' existence. There is no traditional concept of permanent, individual, land
ownership. Among the Igorots, ownership of land more accurately applies to the tribal right to use the land or to territorial control. The people
are the secondary owners or stewards of the land and that if a member of the tribe ceases to work, he loses his claim of ownership, and the
land reverts to the beings of the spirit world who are its true and primary owners. Under the concept of "trusteeship," the right to possess
the land does not only belong to the present generation but the future ones as well. 99
Customary law on land rests on the traditional belief that no one owns the land except the gods and spirits, and that those who work the
land are its mere stewards.100 Customary law has a strong preference for communal ownership, which could either be ownership by a
group of individuals or families who are related by blood or by marriage, 101 or ownership by residents of the same locality who may not be
related by blood or marriage. The system of communal ownership under customary laws draws its meaning from the subsistence and highly
collectivized mode of economic production. The Kalingas, for instance, who are engaged in team occupation like hunting, foraging for forest
products, and swidden farming found it natural that forest areas, swidden farms, orchards, pasture and burial grounds should be
communally-owned.102 For the Kalingas, everybody has a common right to a common economic base. Thus, as a rule, rights and obligations
to the land are shared in common.
Although highly bent on communal ownership, customary law on land also sanctions individual ownership.The residential lots and
terrace rice farms are governed by a limited system of individual ownership. It is limited because while the individual owner has the right
to use and dispose of the property, he does not possess all the rights of an exclusive and full owner as defined under our Civil Code.103 Under
Kalinga customary law, the alienation of individually-owned land is strongly discouraged except in marriage and succession and except to
meet sudden financial needs due to sickness, death in the family, or loss of crops. 104 Moreover, and to be alienated should first be offered
to a clan-member before any village-member can purchase it, and in no case may land be sold to a non-member of the ili.105
Land titles do not exist in the indigenous peoples' economic and social system. The concept of individual land ownership under
the civil law is alien to them. Inherently colonial in origin, our national land laws and governmental policies frown upon indigenous
claims to ancestral lands. Communal ownership is looked upon as inferior, if not inexistent. 106
III. THE IPRA IS A NOVEL PIECE OF LEGISLATION.
A. The Legislative History of the IPRA
It was to address the centuries-old neglect of the Philippine indigenous peoples that the Tenth Congress of the Philippines, by their
joint efforts, passed and approved R.A. No. 8371, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. The law was a consolidation of
two Bills- Senate Bill No. 1728 and House Bill No. 9125.
Principally sponsored by Senator Juan M. Flavier,107 Senate Bill No. 1728 was a consolidation of four proposed measures referred to the
Committees on Cultural Communities, Environment and Natural Resources, Ways and Means, as well as Finance. It adopted almost en
toto the comprehensive version of Senate Bill Nos. 1476 and 1486 which was a result of six regional consultations and one national
consultation with indigenous peoples nationwide.108 At the Second Regular Session of the Tenth Congress, Senator Flavier, in his
sponsorship speech, gave a background on the situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, to wit:
"The Indigenous Cultural Communities, including the Bangsa Moro, have long suffered from the dominance and neglect of government
controlled by the majority. Massive migration of their Christian brothers to their homeland shrunk their territory and many of the tribal Filipinos
were pushed to the hinterlands. Resisting the intrusion, dispossessed of their ancestral land and with the massive exploitation of their natural
resources by the elite among the migrant population, they became marginalized. And the government has been an indispensable party to
this insidious conspiracy against the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs). It organized and supported the resettlement of people to their
ancestral land, which was massive during the Commonwealth and early years of the Philippine Republic. Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine
first introduced to our system by Spain through the Royal Decree of 13 February 1894 or the Maura Law, the government passed laws to
legitimize the wholesale landgrabbing and provide for easy titling or grant of lands to migrant homesteaders within the traditional areas of
the ICCs."109
Senator Flavier further declared:
"The IPs are the offsprings and heirs of the peoples who have first inhabited and cared for the land long before any central government was
established. Their ancestors had territories over which they ruled themselves and related with other tribes. These territories- the land-
include people, their dwelling, the mountains, the water, the air, plants, forest and the animals. This is their environment in its totality. Their
existence as indigenous peoples is manifested in their own lives through political, economic, socio-cultural and spiritual practices. The IPs
culture is the living and irrefutable proof to this.
Their survival depends on securing or acquiring land rights; asserting their rights to it; and depending on it. Otherwise, IPs shall cease to
exist as distinct peoples."110
To recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples effectively, Senator Flavier proposed a bill based on two postulates: (1) the concept of
native title; and (2) the principle of parens patriae.
According to Senator Flavier, "[w]hile our legal tradition subscribes to the Regalian Doctrine reinstated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution," our "decisional laws" and jurisprudence passed by the State have "made exception to the doctrine." This exception was first
laid down in the case of Cariño v. Insular Government where:
"x x x the court has recognized long occupancy of land by an indigenous member of the cultural communities as one of private ownership,
which, in legal concept, is termed "native title." This ruling has not been overturned. In fact, it was affirmed in subsequent cases."111
Following Cariño, the State passed Act No. 926, Act No. 2874, C.A. No. 141, P.D. 705, P.D. 410, P.D. 1529, R.A. 6734 (the Organic Act
for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao). These laws, explicitly or implicitly, and liberally or restrictively, recognized "native title" or
"private right" and the existence of ancestral lands and domains. Despite the passage of these laws, however, Senator Flavier continued:
"x x x the executive department of government since the American occupation has not implemented the policy. In fact, it was more honored
in its breach than in its observance, its wanton disregard shown during the period unto the Commonwealth and the early years of the
Philippine Republic when government organized and supported massive resettlement of the people to the land of the ICCs."
Senate Bill No. 1728 seeks to genuinely recognize the IPs right to own and possess their ancestral land. The bill was prepared also under
the principle of parens patriae inherent in the supreme power of the State and deeply embedded in Philippine legal tradition. This principle
mandates that persons suffering from serious disadvantage or handicap, which places them in a position of actual inequality in their relation
or transaction with others, are entitled to the protection of the State.
Senate Bill No. 1728 was passed on Third Reading by twenty-one (21) Senators voting in favor and none against, with no
abstention.112
House Bill No. 9125 was sponsored by Rep. Zapata, Chairman of the Committee on Cultural Communities. It was originally authored and
subsequently presented and defended on the floor by Rep. Gregorio Andolana of North Cotabato.113
Rep. Andolana's sponsorhip speech reads as follows:
"This Representation, as early as in the 8th Congress, filed a bill of similar implications that would promote, recognize the rights of indigenous
cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development.
Apart from this, Mr. Speaker, is our obligation, the government's obligation to assure and ascertain that these rights shall be well-preserved
and the cultural traditions as well as the indigenous laws that remained long before this Republic was established shall be preserved and
promoted. There is a need, Mr. Speaker, to look into these matters seriously and early approval of the substitute bill shall bring into reality
the aspirations, the hope and the dreams of more than 12 million Filipinos that they be considered in the mainstream of the Philippine society
as we fashion for the year 2000." 114
Rep. Andolana stressed that H.B. No. 9125 is based on the policy of preservation as mandated in the Constitution. He also emphasized
that the rights of IPs to their land was enunciated in Cariño v. Insular Government which recognized the fact that they had vested rights
prior to the establishment of the Spanish and American regimes.115
After exhaustive interpellation, House Bill No. 9125, and its corresponding amendments, was approved on Second Reading with
no objections.
IV. THE PROVISIONS OF THE IPRA DO NOT CONTRAVENE THE CONSTITUTION.
A. Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands are the Private Property of Indigenous Peoples and Do Not Constitute Part of the Land
of the Public Domain.
The IPRA grants to ICCs/IPs a distinct kind of ownership over ancestral domains and ancestral lands.Ancestral lands are not the
same as ancestral domains. These are defined in Section 3 [a] and [b] of the Indigenous Peoples Right Act, viz:
"Sec. 3 a) Ancestral Domains. - Subject to Section 56 hereof, refer to all areas generally belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland
waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by themselves
or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to the present except when interrupted by war,
force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered
into by government and private individuals/corporations, and which are necessary to ensure their economic, social and cultural welfare. It
shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable
or otherwise, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources, and lands which may
no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities,
particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators;
b) Ancestral Lands.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, refers to land occupied, possessed and utilized by individuals, families and clans who
are members of the ICCs/IPs since time immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, under claims of individual or
traditional group ownership, continuously, to the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit,
stealth, or as a consequence of government projects and other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private
individuals/corporations, including, but not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots."
Ancestral domains are all areas belonging to ICCs/IPs held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by themselves
or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously until the present, except when interrupted by
war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings
with government and/or private individuals or corporations. Ancestral domains comprise lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and
natural resources therein and includes ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands individually
owned whether alienable or not, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural
resources. They also include lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they traditionally had access
to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators.116
Ancestral lands are lands held by the ICCs/IPs under the same conditions as ancestral domains except that these are limited to lands and
that these lands are not merely occupied and possessed but are also utilized by the ICCs/IPs under claims of individual or traditional group
ownership. These lands include but are not limited to residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots.117
The procedures for claiming ancestral domains and lands are similar to the procedures embodied in Department Administrative Order (DAO)
No. 2, series of 1993, signed by then Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Angel Alcala.118 DAO
No. 2 allowed the delineation of ancestral domains by special task forces and ensured the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims
(CALC's) and Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC's) to IPs.
The identification and delineation of these ancestral domains and lands is a power conferred by the IPRA on the National Commission on
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).119 The guiding principle in identification and delineation is self-delineation.120 This means that the ICCs/IPs
have a decisive role in determining the boundaries of their domains and in all the activities pertinent thereto. 121
The procedure for the delineation and recognition of ancestral domains is set forth in Sections 51 and 52 of the IPRA. The identification,
delineation and certification of ancestral lands is in Section 53 of said law.
Upon due application and compliance with the procedure provided under the law and upon finding by the NCIP that the application is
meritorious, the NCIP shall issue a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the name of the community concerned. 122 The allocation
of lands within the ancestral domain to any individual or indigenous corporate (family or clan) claimants is left to the ICCs/IPs concerned
to decide in accordance with customs and traditions.123 With respect to ancestral lands outside the ancestral domain, the NCIP issues a
Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT).124
CADT's and CALT's issued under the IPRA shall be registered by the NCIP before the Register of Deeds in the place where the property is
situated.125
(1) Right to Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands: How Acquired
The rights of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands may be acquired in two modes: (1) by native title over both
ancestral lands and domains; or (2) by torrens title under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act with respect to
ancestral lands only.
(2) The Concept of Native Title
Native title is defined as:
"Sec. 3 [l]. Native Title- refers to pre-conquest rights to lands and domains which, as far back as memory reaches, have been held under a
claim of private ownership by ICCs/IPs, have never been public lands and are thus indisputably presumed to have been held that way
since before the Spanish Conquest."126
Native title refers to ICCs/IPs' preconquest rights to lands and domains held under a claim of private ownership as far back as memory
reaches. These lands are deemed never to have been public lands and are indisputably presumed to have been held that way since before
the Spanish Conquest. The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains (which also include ancestral lands) by virtue of native title shall
be recognized and respected.127 Formal recognition, when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned, shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral
Domain Title (CADT), which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories identified and delineated.128
Like a torrens title, a CADT is evidence of private ownership of land by native title. Native title, however, is a right of private ownership
peculiarly granted to ICCs/IPs over their ancestral lands and domains. The IPRA categorically declares ancestral lands and domains held
by native title as never to have been public land. Domains and lands held under native title are, therefore, indisputably presumed to have
never been public lands and are private.
(a) Cariño v. Insular Government129
The concept of native title in the IPRA was taken from the 1909 case of Cariño v. Insular Government.130 Cariñofirmly established a
concept of private land title that existed irrespective of any royal grant from the State.
In 1903, Don Mateo Cariño, an Ibaloi, sought to register with the land registration court 146 hectares of land in Baguio Municipality, Benguet
Province. He claimed that this land had been possessed and occupied by his ancestors since time immemorial; that his grandfather built
fences around the property for the holding of cattle and that his father cultivated some parts of the land. Cariño inherited the land in
accordance with Igorot custom. He tried to have the land adjusted under the Spanish land laws, but no document issued from the Spanish
Crown.131 In 1901, Cariño obtained a possessory title to the land under the Spanish Mortgage Law. 132 The North American colonial
government, however, ignored his possessory title and built a public road on the land prompting him to seek a Torrens title to his property
in the land registration court. While his petition was pending, a U.S. military reservation133 was proclaimed over his land and, shortly
thereafter, a military detachment was detailed on the property with orders to keep cattle and trespassers, including Cariño, off the land. 134
In 1904, the land registration court granted Cariño's application for absolute ownership to the land. Both the Government of the Philippine
Islands and the U.S. Government appealed to the C.F.I. of Benguet which reversed the land registration court and dismissed Cariño's
application. The Philippine Supreme Court135 affirmed the C.F.I. by applying the Valenton ruling. Cariño took the case to the U.S. Supreme
Court.136 On one hand, the Philippine government invoked the Regalian doctrine and contended that Cariño failed to comply with the
provisions of the Royal Decree of June 25, 1880, which required registration of land claims within a limited period of time. Cariño, on the
other, asserted that he was the absolute owner of the land jure gentium, and that the land never formed part of the public domain.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the U.S. Supreme Court held:
"It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the
general attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled to the treatment accorded to those in the same zone of
civilization with themselves. It is true, also, that in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute, and that, as against foreign nations, the United
States may assert, as Spain asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of the Philippines, the United
States asserts that Spain had such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of strength, and may vary in degree.
How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual
facts, are matters for it to decide."137
The U.S. Supreme Court noted that it need not accept Spanish doctrines. The choice was with the new colonizer. Ultimately, the matter had
to be decided under U.S. law.
The Cariño decision largely rested on the North American constitutionalist's concept of "due process" as well as the pronounced policy "to
do justice to the natives."138 It was based on the strong mandate extended to the Islands via the Philippine Bill of 1902 that "No law shall be
enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein
the equal protection of the laws." The court declared:
"The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the United States. Whatever consideration may have been
shown to the North American Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy land. It is obvious that, however stated,
the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount
necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to exploit their country for private
gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, chapter 1369, section 12 (32 Statutes at Large, 691), all the property and rights acquired there by
the United States are to be administered 'for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof.' It is reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed
by the United States with regard to what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its own. The same
statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of the Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It
provides that 'no law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,
or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws.' In the light of the declaration that we have quoted from section 12, it is hard
to believe that the United States was ready to declare in the next breath that "any person" did not embrace the inhabitants of Benguet, or
that it meant by "property" only that which had become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never had
heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and by long association,- of the profoundest factors in human
thought,- regarded as their own."139
The Court went further:
"Every presumption is and ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to
say that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership,
it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public
land. Certainly in a case like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt."140
The court thus laid down the presumption of a certain title held (1) as far back as testimony or memory went, and (2) under a claim of
private ownership. Land held by this title is presumed to "never have been public land."
Against this presumption, the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed the Spanish decrees upheld in the 1904 decision ofValenton v. Murciano. The
U.S. Supreme Court found no proof that the Spanish decrees did not honor native title. On the contrary, the decrees discussed
in Valenton appeared to recognize that the natives owned some land, irrespective of any royal grant. The Regalian doctrine declared in the
preamble of the Recopilacion was all "theory and discourse" and it was observed that titles were admitted to exist beyond the powers of the
Crown, viz:
"If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear proof that it was bad by that law as to
satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error
seem to indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands, irrespective of any royal grant. In other
words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at will. For instance,
Book 4, title 12, Law 14 of the the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a contrary conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Philippine
537, while it commands viceroys and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those who
hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin
of all titles in the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles were admitted to exist that
owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their books." (Emphasis supplied).141
The court further stated that the Spanish "adjustment" proceedings never held sway over unconquered territories. The wording of the
Spanish laws were not framed in a manner as to convey to the natives that failure to register what to them has always been their own would
mean loss of such land. The registration requirement was "not to confer title, but simply to establish it;" it was "not calculated to convey to
the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it."
By recognizing this kind of title, the court clearly repudiated the doctrine of Valenton. It was frank enough, however, to admit the possibility
that the applicant might have been deprived of his land under Spanish law because of the inherent ambiguity of the decrees and
concomitantly, the various interpretations which may be given them. But precisely because of the ambiguity and of the strong "due
process mandate" of the Constitution, the court validated this kind of title. 142 This title was sufficient, even without government
administrative action, and entitled the holder to a Torrens certificate. Justice Holmes explained:
"It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a problem not without difficulties for courts of a legal
tradition. We have deemed it proper on that account to notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act of Congress
establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a consideration of the whole case we are of the opinion that law and
justice require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those
among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain." 143
Thus, the court ruled in favor of Cariño and ordered the registration of the 148 hectares in Baguio Municipality in his name. 144
Examining Cariño closer, the U.S. Supreme Court did not categorically refer to the title it upheld as "native title." It simply said:
"The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor-General, in his argument, characterized as a savage tribe that
never was brought under the civil or military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the Spanish
officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration to which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the
Spanish Laws, and which would have made his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical position of Spain
it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and was a mere trespasser when the present government
seized his land. The argument to that effect seems to amount to a denial of native titles through an important part of the Island of Luzon,
at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted and had not the power to enforce." 145
This is the only instance when Justice Holmes used the term "native title" in the entire length of the Cariño decision. It is observed that the
widespread use of the term "native title" may be traced to Professor Owen James Lynch, Jr., a Visiting Professor at the University of the
Philippines College of Law from the Yale University Law School. In 1982, Prof. Lynch published an article in the Philippine Law
Journal entitled Native Title, Private Right and Tribal Land Law.146 This article was made after Professor Lynch visited over thirty tribal
communities throughout the country and studied the origin and development of Philippine land laws. 147 He discussed Cariño extensively
and used the term "native title" to refer to Cariño's title as discussed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in said case.
(b) Indian Title
In a footnote in the same article, Professor Lynch stated that the concept of "native title" as defined by Justice Holmes in Cariño "is
conceptually similar to "aboriginal title" of the American Indians.148 This is not surprising, according to Prof. Lynch, considering that during
the American regime, government policy towards ICCs/IPs was consistently made in reference to native Americans.149 This was clearly
demonstrated in the case of Rubi v. Provincial Board of Mindoro.150
In Rubi, the Provincial Board of Mindoro adopted a Resolution authorizing the provincial governor to remove the Mangyans from their
domains and place them in a permanent reservation in Sitio Tigbao, Lake Naujan. Any Mangyan who refused to comply was to be
imprisoned. Rubi and some Mangyans, including one who was imprisoned for trying to escape from the reservation, filed for habeas corpus
claiming deprivation of liberty under the Board Resolution. This Court denied the petition on the ground of police power. It upheld government
policy promoting the idea that a permanent settlement was the only successful method for educating the Mangyans, introducing civilized
customs, improving their health and morals, and protecting the public forests in which they roamed.151 Speaking through Justice Malcolm,
the court said:
"Reference was made in the President's instructions to the Commission to the policy adopted by the United States for the Indian Tribes.
The methods followed by the Government of the Philippine Islands in its dealings with the so-called non-Christian people is said, on
argument, to be practically identical with that followed by the United States Government in its dealings with the Indian tribes. Valuable
lessons, it is insisted, can be derived by an investigation of the American-Indian policy.
From the beginning of the United States, and even before, the Indians have been treated as "in a state of pupilage." The recognized relation
between the Government of the United States and the Indians may be described as that of guardian and ward. It is for the Congress to
determine when and how the guardianship shall be terminated. The Indians are always subject to the plenary authority of the United
States.152
x x x.
As to the second point, the facts in the Standing Bear case and the Rubi case are not exactly identical. But even admitting similarity of facts,
yet it is known to all that Indian reservations do exist in the United States, that Indians have been taken from different parts of the country
and placed on these reservations, without any previous consultation as to their own wishes, and that, when once so located, they have been
made to remain on the reservation for their own good and for the general good of the country. If any lesson can be drawn from the Indian
policy of the United States, it is that the determination of this policy is for the legislative and executive branches of the government and that
when once so decided upon, the courts should not interfere to upset a carefully planned governmental system. Perhaps, just as many
forceful reasons exist for the segregation of the Manguianes in Mindoro as existed for the segregation of the different Indian tribes in the
United States."153
Rubi applied the concept of Indian land grants or reservations in the Philippines. An Indian reservation is a part of the public domain set
apart by proper authority for the use and occupation of a tribe or tribes of Indians. 154 It may be set apart by an act of Congress, by treaty, or
by executive order, but it cannot be established by custom and prescription. 155
Indian title to land, however, is not limited to land grants or reservations. It also covers the "aboriginal right of possession or
occupancy."156 The aboriginal right of possession depends on the actual occupancy of the lands in question by the tribe or nation as their
ancestral home, in the sense that such lands constitute definable territory occupied exclusively by the particular tribe or nation. 157 It is a right
which exists apart from any treaty, statute, or other governmental action, although in numerous instances treaties have been negotiated
with Indian tribes, recognizing their aboriginal possession and delimiting their occupancy rights or settling and adjusting their boundaries.158
American jurisprudence recognizes the Indians' or native Americans' rights to land they have held and occupied before the
"discovery" of the Americas by the Europeans. The earliest definitive statement by the U.S. Supreme Court on the nature of
aboriginal title was made in 1823 in Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. M'Intosh.159
In Johnson, the plaintiffs claimed the land in question under two (2) grants made by the chiefs of two (2) Indian tribes. The U.S. Supreme
Court refused to recognize this conveyance, the plaintiffs being private persons. The only conveyance that was recognized was that made
by the Indians to the government of the European discoverer. Speaking for the court, Chief Justice Marshall pointed out that the potentates
of the old world believed that they had made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new world by bestowing civilization and
Christianity upon them; but in addition, said the court, they found it necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war,
to establish the principle that discovery gives title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, the discovery was
made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession. 160 The exclusion of all other
Europeans gave to the nation making the discovery the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives and establishing settlements upon
it. As regards the natives, the court further stated that:
"Those relations which were to exist between the discoverer and the natives were to be regulated by themselves. The rights thus acquired
being exclusive, no other power could interpose between them.
In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no instance, entirely disregarded; but were necessarily,
to a considerable extent, impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to
retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations,
were necessarily diminished, and their power to dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the
fundamental principle that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it.
While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives as occupants, they asserted the ultimate dominion to be
in themselves; and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in
possession of the natives. These grants have been understood by all to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian
right of occupancy."161
Thus, the discoverer of new territory was deemed to have obtained the exclusive right to acquire Indian land and extinguish Indian titles.
Only to the discoverer- whether to England, France, Spain or Holland- did this right belong and not to any other nation or private person.
The mere acquisition of the right nonetheless did not extinguish Indian claims to land. Rather, until the discoverer, by purchase or conquest,
exercised its right, the concerned Indians were recognized as the "rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain
possession of it." Grants made by the discoverer to her subjects of lands occupied by the Indians were held to convey a title to the grantees,
subject only to the Indian right of occupancy. Once the discoverer purchased the land from the Indians or conquered them, it was only then
that the discoverer gained an absolute title unrestricted by Indian rights.
The court concluded, in essence, that a grant of Indian lands by Indians could not convey a title paramount to the title of the United States
itself to other parties, saying:
"It has never been contended that the Indian title amounted to nothing. Their right of possession has never been questioned. The claim
of government extends to the complete ultimate title, charged with this right of possession, and to the exclusive power of acquiring
that right."162
It has been said that the history of America, from its discovery to the present day, proves the universal recognition of this principle. 163
The Johnson doctrine was a compromise. It protected Indian rights and their native lands without having to invalidate conveyances made
by the government to many U.S. citizens.164
Johnson was reiterated in the case of Worcester v. Georgia.165 In this case, the State of Georgia enacted a law requiring all white persons
residing within the Cherokee nation to obtain a license or permit from the Governor of Georgia; and any violation of the law was deemed a
high misdemeanor. The plaintiffs, who were white missionaries, did not obtain said license and were thus charged with a violation of the
Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Act as unconstitutional for interfering with the treaties established between the United States and the
Cherokee nation as well as the Acts of Congress regulating intercourse with them. It characterized the relationship between the United
States government and the Indians as:
"The Indian nations were, from their situation, necessarily dependent on some foreign potentate for the supply of their essential wants, and
for their protection from lawless and injurious intrusions into their country. That power was naturally termed their protector. They had been
arranged under the protection of Great Britain; but the extinguishment of the British power in their neighborhood, and the establishment of
that of the United States in its place, led naturally to the declaration, on the part of the Cherokees, that they were under the protection of
the United States, and of no other power. They assumed the relation with the United States which had before subsisted with Great Britain.
This relation was that of a nation claiming and receiving the protection of one more powerful, not that of individuals abandoning their national
character, and submitting as subjects to the laws of a master." 166
It was the policy of the U.S. government to treat the Indians as nations with distinct territorial boundaries and recognize their right of
occupancy over all the lands within their domains. Thus:
"From the commencement of our government Congress has passed acts to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indians; which treat
them as nations, respect their rights, and manifest a firm purpose to afford that protection which treaties stipulate. All these acts, and
especially that of 1802, which is still in force, manifestly consider the several Indian nations as distinct political communities, having
territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which
is not only acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States.
x x x.
"The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political communities, retaining their original natural
rights, as the undisputed possessors of the soil from time immemorial, with the single exception of that imposed by irresistible power,
which excluded them from intercourse with any other European potentate than the first discoverer of the coast of the particular region
claimed: and this was a restriction which those European potentates imposed on themselves, as well as on the Indians. The very term
"nation," so generally applied to them, means "a people distinct from others." x x x. 167
The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of
Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves or in
conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation is, by our
Constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States." 168
The discovery of the American continent gave title to the government of the discoverer as against all other European governments.
Designated as the naked fee,169 this title was to be consummated by possession and was subject to the Indian title of occupancy. The
discoverer acknowledged the Indians' legal and just claim to retain possession of the land, the Indians being the original inhabitants of the
land. The discoverer nonetheless asserted the exclusive right to acquire the Indians' land- either by purchase, "defensive" conquest, or
cession- and in so doing, extinguish the Indian title. Only the discoverer could extinguish Indian title because it alone asserted ultimate
dominion in itself. Thus, while the different nations of Europe respected the rights of the natives as occupants, they all asserted the ultimate
dominion and title to be in themselves.170
As early as the 19th century, it became accepted doctrine that although fee title to the lands occupied by the Indians when the
colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign- first the discovering European nation and later the original 13 States and the
United States- a right of occupancy in the Indian tribes was nevertheless recognized. The Federal Government continued the policy
of respecting the Indian right of occupancy, sometimes called Indian title, which it accorded the protection of complete ownership.171 But
this aboriginal Indian interest simply constitutes "permission" from the whites to occupy the land, and means mere possession not specifically
recognized as ownership by Congress.172 It is clear that this right of occupancy based upon aboriginal possession is not a property right. 173 It
is vulnerable to affirmative action by the federal government who, as sovereign, possessed exclusive power to extinguish the right of
occupancy at will.174 Thus, aboriginal title is not the same as legal title. Aboriginal title rests on actual, exclusive and continuous use
and occupancy for a long time.175 It entails that land owned by Indian title must be used within the tribe, subject to its laws and customs,
and cannot be sold to another sovereign government nor to any citizen. 176 Such title as Indians have to possess and occupy land is in the
tribe, and not in the individual Indian; the right of individual Indians to share in the tribal property usually depends upon tribal membership,
the property of the tribe generally being held in communal ownership. 177
As a rule, Indian lands are not included in the term "public lands," which is ordinarily used to designate such lands as are subject to sale or
other disposal under general laws.178 Indian land which has been abandoned is deemed to fall into the public domain. 179 On the other hand,
an Indian reservation is a part of the public domain set apart for the use and occupation of a tribe of Indians. 180 Once set apart by proper
authority, the reservation ceases to be public land, and until the Indian title is extinguished, no one but Congress can initiate any preferential
right on, or restrict the nation's power to dispose of, them.181
The American judiciary struggled for more than 200 years with the ancestral land claims of indigenous Americans. 182 And two
things are clear. First, aboriginal title is recognized. Second, indigenous property systems are also recognized. From a legal point of view,
certain benefits can be drawn from a comparison of Philippine IPs to native Americans.183 Despite the similarities between native title and
aboriginal title, however, there are at present some misgivings on whether jurisprudence on American Indians may be cited authoritatively
in the Philippines. The U.S. recognizes the possessory rights of the Indians over their land; title to the land, however, is deemed to have
passed to the U.S. as successor of the discoverer. The aboriginal title of ownership is not specifically recognized as ownership by action
authorized by Congress.184 The protection of aboriginal title merely guards against encroachment by persons other than the Federal
Government.185 Although there are criticisms against the refusal to recognize the native Americans' ownership of these lands, 186 the power
of the State to extinguish these titles has remained firmly entrenched. 187
Under the IPRA, the Philippine State is not barred form asserting sovereignty over the ancestral domains and ancestral lands. 188 The IPRA,
however, is still in its infancy and any similarities between its application in the Philippines vis-à-vis American Jurisprudence on aboriginal
title will depend on the peculiar facts of each case.
(c) Why the Cariño doctrine is unique
In the Philippines, the concept of native title first upheld in Cariño and enshrined in the IPRA grants ownership, albeit in limited form, of the
land to the ICCs/IPs. Native title presumes that the land is private and was never public. Cariño is the only case that specifically and
categorically recognizes native title. The long line of cases citing Cariño did not touch on native title and the private character of
ancestral domains and lands. Cariñowas cited by the succeeding cases to support the concept of acquisitive prescription under
the Public Land Act which is a different matter altogether. Under the Public Land Act, land sought to be registered must be public
agricultural land. When the conditions specified in Section 48 [b] of the Public Land Act are complied with, the possessor of the land is
deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant of the land. 189 The land ceases to be part of the public domain, 190 ipso
jure,191 and is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of the prescribed statutory period.
It was only in the case of Oh Cho v. Director of Lands192 that the court declared that the rule that all lands that were not acquired from the
government, either by purchase or grant, belong to the public domain has an exception. This exception would be any land that should have
been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors-in-interest since time immemorial. It is this kind of possession that would
justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been private property even before the Spanish
conquest.193 Oh Cho, however, was decided under the provisions of the Public Land Act and Cariño was cited to support the applicant's
claim of acquisitive prescription under the said Act.
All these years, Cariño had been quoted out of context simply to justify long, continuous, open and adverse possession in the concept of
owner of public agricultural land. It is this long, continuous, open and adverse possession in the concept of owner of thirty years both for
ordinary citizens194 and members of the national cultural minorities195 that converts the land from public into private and entitles the registrant
to a torrens certificate of title.
(3) The Option of Securing a Torrens Title to the Ancestral Land Indicates that the Land is Private.
The private character of ancestral lands and domains as laid down in the IPRA is further strengthened by the option given to individual
ICCs/IPs over their individually-owned ancestral lands. For purposes of registration under the Public Land Act and the Land
Registration Act, the IPRA expressly converts ancestral land into public agricultural land which may be disposed of by the State.
The necessary implication is that ancestral land is private. It, however, has to be first converted to public agricultural land simply
for registration purposes. To wit:
"Sec. 12. Option to Secure Certificate of Title Under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or the Land Registration Act 496- Individual
members of cultural communities, with respect to their individually-owned ancestral lands who, by themselves or through their predecessors-
in-interest, have been in continuous possession and occupation of the same in the concept of owner since time immemorial or for a period
of not less than thirty (30) years immediately preceding the approval of this Act and uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs
shall have the option to secure title to their ancestral lands under the provisions of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or the Land
Registration Act 496.
For this purpose, said individually-owned ancestral lands, which are agricultural in character and actually used for agricultural, residential,
pasture, and tree farming purposes, including those with a slope of eighteen percent (18%) or more, are hereby classified as alienable and
disposable agricultural lands.
The option granted under this section shall be exercised within twenty (20) years from the approval of this Act." 196
ICCs/IPs are given the option to secure a torrens certificate of title over their individually-owned ancestral lands. This option is limited to
ancestral lands only, not domains, and such lands must be individually, not communally, owned.
Ancestral lands that are owned by individual members of ICCs/IPs who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have
been in continuous possession and occupation of the same in the concept of owner since time immemorial 197 or for a period of not less than
30 years, which claims are uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs, may be registered under C.A. 141, otherwise known as the
Public Land Act, or Act 496, the Land Registration Act. For purposes of registration, the individually-owned ancestral lands are classified as
alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, provided, they are agricultural in character and are actually used for
agricultural, residential, pasture and tree farming purposes. These lands shall be classified as public agricultural lands regardless of whether
they have a slope of 18% or more.
The classification of ancestral land as public agricultural land is in compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Act and the Land
Registration Act. C.A. 141, the Public Land Act, deals specifically with lands of the public domain. 198 Its provisions apply to those lands
"declared open to disposition or concession" x x x "which have not been reserved for public or quasi-public purposes, nor appropriated by
the Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by this Act or
any other valid law x x x or which having been reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so." 199 Act 496, the Land Registration Act,
allows registration only of private lands and public agricultural lands. Since ancestral domains and lands are private, if the ICC/IP wants
to avail of the benefits of C.A. 141 and Act 496, the IPRA itself converts his ancestral land, regardless of whether the land has a
slope of eighteen per cent (18%) or over,200 from private to public agricultural land for proper disposition.
The option to register land under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act has nonetheless a limited period. This option must be
exercised within twenty (20) years from October 29, 1997, the date of approval of the IPRA.
Thus, ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of the lands of the public domain. They are private and belong to the
ICCs/IPs. Section 3 of Article XII on National Economy and Patrimony of the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into
four categories: (a) agricultural, (b) forest or timber, (c) mineral lands, and (d) national parks. Section 5 of the same Article XII mentions
ancestral lands and ancestral domains but it does not classify them under any of the said four categories. To classify them as public
lands under any one of the four classes will render the entire IPRA law a nullity. The spirit of the IPRA lies in the distinct concept of
ancestral domains and ancestral lands. The IPRA addresses the major problem of the ICCs/IPs which is loss of land. Land and space are
of vital concern in terms of sheer survival of the ICCs/IPs. 201
The 1987 Constitution mandates the State to "protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands" and
that "Congress provide for the applicability of customary laws x x x in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral
domain."202 It is the recognition of the ICCs/IPs distinct rights of ownership over their ancestral domains and lands that breathes
life into this constitutional mandate.
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs of their ancestral domains is a limited form of ownership and does not
include the right to alienate the same.
Registration under the Public Land Act and Land Registration Act recognizes the concept of ownership under the civil law. This ownership
is based on adverse possession for a specified period, and harkens to Section 44 of the Public Land Act on administrative legalization (free
patent) of imperfect or incomplete titles and Section 48 (b) and (c) of the same Act on the judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete
titles. Thus:
"Sec. 44. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more than twenty-four hectares and who since July fourth, 1926
or prior thereto, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of
agricultural public lands subject to disposition, or who shall have paid the real estate tax thereon while the same has not been occupied by
any person shall be entitled, under the provisions of this chapter, to have a free patent issued to him for such tract or tracts of such land not
to exceed twenty-four hectares.
A member of the national cultural minorities who has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his
predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right granted
in the preceding paragraph of this section: Provided, That at the time he files his free patent application he is not the owner of
any real property secured or disposable under the provision of the Public Land Law. 203
x x x.
"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:
(a) [perfection of Spanish titles] 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.
(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to
agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be entitled to the
rights granted in sub-section (b) hereof."204
Registration under the foregoing provisions presumes that the land was originally public agricultural land but because of adverse possession
since July 4, 1955 (free patent) or at least thirty years (judicial confirmation), the land has become private. Open, adverse, public and
continuous possession is sufficient, provided, the possessor makes proper application therefor. The possession has to be confirmed
judicially or administratively after which a torrens title is issued.
A torrens title recognizes the owner whose name appears in the certificate as entitled to all the rights of ownership under the civil law. The
Civil Code of the Philippines defines ownership in Articles 427, 428 and 429. This concept is based on Roman Law which the Spaniards
introduced to the Philippines through the Civil Code of 1889. Ownership, under Roman Law, may be exercised over things or rights. It
primarily includes the right of the owner to enjoy and dispose of the thing owned. And the right to enjoy and dispose of the thing includes
the right to receive from the thing what it produces,205 the right to consume the thing by its use,206 the right to alienate, encumber, transform
or even destroy the thing owned,207 and the right to exclude from the possession of the thing owned by any other person to whom the owner
has not transmitted such thing.208
1. The Indigenous Concept of Ownership and Customary Law.
Ownership of ancestral domains by native title does not entitle the ICC/IP to a torrens title but to a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title
(CADT). The CADT formally recognizes the indigenous concept of ownership of the ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domain. Thus:
"Sec. 5. Indigenous concept of ownership.- Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains and all resources
found therein shall serve as the material bases of their cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership generally holds that ancestral
domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property which belongs to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or
destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional resource rights."
The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains is held under the indigenous concept of
ownership. This concept maintains the view that ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property. It is private
simply because it is not part of the public domain. But its private character ends there. The ancestral domain is owned in common
by the ICCs/IPs and not by one particular person. The IPRA itself provides that areas within the ancestral domains, whether delineated
or not, are presumed to be communally held.209 These communal rights, however, are not exactly the same as co-ownership rights
under the Civil Code.210 Co-ownership gives any co-owner the right to demand partition of the property held in common. The Civil Code
expressly provides that "no co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership." Each co-owner may demand at any time the partition
of the thing in common, insofar as his share is concerned. 211 To allow such a right over ancestral domains may be destructive not only of
customary law of the community but of the very community itself.212
Communal rights over land are not the same as corporate rights over real property, much less corporate condominium rights. A
corporation can exist only for a maximum of fifty (50) years subject to an extension of another fifty years in any single ins tance.213 Every
stockholder has the right to disassociate himself from the corporation. 214 Moreover, the corporation itself may be dissolved voluntarily or
involuntarily.215
Communal rights to the land are held not only by the present possessors of the land but extends to all generations of the ICCs/IPs,
past, present and future, to the domain. This is the reason why the ancestral domain must be kept within the ICCs/IPs themselves. The
domain cannot be transferred, sold or conveyed to other persons. It belongs to the ICCs/IPs as a community.
Ancestral lands are also held under the indigenous concept of ownership. The lands are communal. These lands, however, may be
transferred subject to the following limitations: (a) only to the members of the same ICCs/IPs; (b) in accord with customary laws and
traditions; and (c) subject to the right of redemption of the ICCs/IPs for a period of 15 years if the land was transferred to a non-member of
the ICCs/IPs.
Following the constitutional mandate that "customary law govern property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of
ancestral domains,"216 the IPRA, by legislative fiat, introduces a new concept of ownership. This is a concept that has long existed
under customary law.217
Custom, from which customary law is derived, is also recognized under the Civil Code as a source of law.218 Some articles of the
Civil Code expressly provide that custom should be applied in cases where no codal provision is applicable. 219 In other words, in the absence
of any applicable provision in the Civil Code, custom, when duly proven, can define rights and liabilities. 220
Customary law is a primary, not secondary, source of rights under the IPRA and uniquely applies to ICCs/IPs. Its recognition does not
depend on the absence of a specific provision in the civil law. The indigenous concept of ownership under customary law is specifically
acknowledged and recognized, and coexists with the civil law concept and the laws on land titling and land registration. 221
To be sure, the indigenous concept of ownership exists even without a paper title. The CADT is merely a "formal recognition" of native
title. This is clear from Section 11 of the IPRA, to wit:
"Sec. 11. Recognition of Ancestral Domain Rights.- The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains by virtue of Native Title shall be
recognized and respected. Formal recognition, when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral Domain
Title, which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories identified and delineated."
The moral import of ancestral domain, native land or being native is "belongingness" to the land, being people of the land- by sheer force
of having sprung from the land since time beyond recall, and the faithful nurture of the land by the sweat of one's brow. This is fidelity of
usufructuary relation to the land- the possession of stewardship through perduring, intimate tillage, and the mutuality of blessings between
man and land; from man, care for land; from the land, sustenance for man.222
C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA Do Not Violate the Regalian Doctrine Enshrined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution.
1. The Rights of ICCs/IPs Over Their Ancestral Domains and Lands
The IPRA grants the ICCs/IPs several rights over their ancestral domains and ancestral lands. Section 7 provides for the rights over
ancestral domains:
"Sec. 7. Rights to Ancestral Domains.- The rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains shall be recognized
and protected. Such rights include:
a) Right of Ownership.- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by
ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within
the domains;
b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, the right to develop, control and use lands
and territories traditionally occupied, owned, or used; to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories
and uphold the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of
the natural resources found therein; the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural
resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures,
pursuant to national and customary laws; the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and
implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and
fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; and the right to effective measures by the
government to prevent any interference with, alienation and encroachment upon these rights;"
c) Right to Stay in the Territories.- The right to stay in the territory and not to be removed therefrom. No ICCs/IPs will be relocated
without their free and prior informed consent, nor through any means other than eminent domain. x x x;
d) Right in Case of Displacement.- In case displacement occurs as a result of natural catastrophes, the State shall endeavor to
resettle the displaced ICCs/IPs in suitable areas where they can have temporary life support systems: x x x;
e) Right to Regulate the Entry of Migrants.- Right to regulate the entry of migrant settlers and organizations into their domains;
f) Right to Safe and Clean Air and Water.-For this purpose, the ICCs/IPs shall have access to integrated systems for the
management of their inland waters and air space;
g) Right to Claim Parts of Reservations.- The right to claim parts of the ancestral domains which have been reserved for various
purposes, except those reserved and intended for common and public welfare and service;
h) Right to Resolve Conflict.- Right to resolve land conflicts in accordance with customary laws of the area where the land is
located, and only in default thereof shall the complaints be submitted to amicable settlement and to the Courts of Justice whenever
necessary."
Section 8 provides for the rights over ancestral lands:
"Sec. 8. Rights to Ancestral Lands.- The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral lands shall be recognized and
protected.
a) Right to transfer land/property.- Such right shall include the right to transfer land or property rights to/among members of the
same ICCs/IPs, subject to customary laws and traditions of the community concerned.
b) Right to Redemption.- In cases where it is shown that the transfer of land/property rights by virtue of any agreement or devise,
to a non-member of the concerned ICCs/IPs is tainted by the vitiated consent of the ICCs/IPs, or is transferred for an
unconscionable consideration or price, the transferor ICC/IP shall have the right to redeem the same within a period not exceeding
fifteen (15) years from the date of transfer."
Section 7 (a) defines the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over their ancestral domains which covers (a) lands, (b) bodies of water
traditionally and actually occupied by the ICCs/IPs, (c) sacred places, (d) traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and (e) all improvements
made by them at any time within the domains. The right of ownership includes the following rights: (1) the right to develop lands and
natural resources; (b) the right to stay in the territories; (c) the right to resettlement in case of displacement; (d) the right to regulate the entry
of migrants; (e) the right to safe and clean air and water; (f) the right to claim parts of the ancestral domains as reservations; and (g) the
right to resolve conflict in accordance with customary laws.
Section 8 governs their rights to ancestral lands. Unlike ownership over the ancestral domains, Section 8 gives the ICCs/IPs also the right
to transfer the land or property rights to members of the same ICCs/IPs or non-members thereof. This is in keeping with the option given to
ICCs/IPs to secure a torrens title over the ancestral lands, but not to domains.
2. The Right of ICCs/IPs to Develop Lands and Natural Resources Within the Ancestral Domains Does Not Deprive the State of Ownership
Over the Natural Resources and Control and Supervision in their Development and Exploitation.
The Regalian doctrine on the ownership, management and utilization of natural resources is declared in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution, viz:
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources
shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or, it may enter into
co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least
sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years,
renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights
for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use
may be the measure and limit of the grant.
The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its
use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming,
with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons.
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale
exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions
provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the state shall
promote the development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its
execution."223
All lands of the public domain and all natural resources- waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential
energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources- are owned by the State. The Constitution provides
that in the exploration, development and utilization of these natural resources, the State exercises full control and supervision, and may
undertake the same in four (4) modes:
1. The State may directly undertake such activities; or
2. The State may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or qualified
corporations;
3. Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens;
4. For the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, the President may
enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving technical or financial assistance.
As owner of the natural resources, the State is accorded primary power and responsibility in the exploration, development and
utilization of these natural resources. The State may directly undertake the exploitation and development by itself, or, it may allow
participation by the private sector through co-production,224joint venture,225 or production-sharing agreements.226 These agreements may
be for a period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The State, through Congress, may allow the small-scale utilization of natural
resources by Filipino citizens. For the large-scale exploration of these resources, specifically minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, the
State, through the President, may enter into technical and financial assistance agreements with foreign-owned corporations.
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, (R.A. 7942) and the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 (R.A. 7076) the three types of
agreements, i.e., co-production, joint venture or production-sharing, may apply to both large-scale227 and small-scale mining.228 "Small-
scale mining" refers to "mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives
or heavy mining equipment."229
Examining the IPRA, there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs ownership over the natural resources within their
ancestral domains. The right of ICCs/IPs in their ancestral domains includes ownership, but this "ownership" is expressly defined
and limited in Section 7 (a) as:
"Sec. 7. a) Right of ownership- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs,
sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains;"
The ICCs/IPs are given the right to claim ownership over "lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred
places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains." It will be noted that
this enumeration does not mention bodies of water not occupied by the ICCs/IPs, minerals, coal, wildlife, flora and fauna in the traditional
hunting grounds, fish in the traditional fishing grounds, forests or timber in the sacred places, etc. and all other natural resources found
within the ancestral domains. Indeed, the right of ownership under Section 7 (a) does not cover
"waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential
energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, floraand fauna and all other natural resources" enumerated in Section 2, Article XII of
the 1987 Constitution as belonging to the State.
The non-inclusion of ownership by the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in Section 7(a) complies with the Regalian doctrine.
(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules Goes Beyond the Parameters of Sec. 7 (a) of the IPRA And is
Unconstitutional.
The Rules Implementing the IPRA230 in Section 1, Part II, Rule III reads:
"Section 1. Rights of Ownership. ICCs/IPs have rights of ownership over lands, waters, and natural resources and all improvements made
by them at any time within the ancestral domains/ lands. These rights shall include, but not limited to, the right over the fruits, the right to
possess, the right to use, right to consume, right to exclude and right to recover ownership, and the rights or interests over land and natural
resources. The right to recover shall be particularly applied to lands lost through fraud or any form or vitiated consent or transferred for an
unconscionable price."
Section 1 of the Implementing Rules gives the ICCs/IPs rights of ownership over "lands, waters and natural resources." The term "natural
resources" is not one of those expressly mentioned in Section 7 (a) of the law. Our Constitution and jurisprudence clearly declare that the
right to claim ownership over land does not necessarily include the right to claim ownership over the natural resources found on or under
the land.231 The IPRA itself makes a distinction between land and natural resources. Section 7 (a) speaks of the right of ownership
only over the land within the ancestral domain. It is Sections 7 (b) and 57 of the law that speak of natural resources, and these
provisions, as shall be discussed later, do not give the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over these resources.
The constitutionality of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules was not specifically and categorically challenged by petitioners.
Petitioners actually assail the constitutionality of the Implementing Rules in general.232Nevertheless, to avoid any confusion in the
implementation of the law, it is necessary to declare that the inclusion of "natural resources" in Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing
Rules goes beyond the parameters of Section 7 (b) of the law and is contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
(b) The Small-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Sec. 7 (b) of the IPRA Is Allowed Under Paragraph 3, Section 2 of Article
XII of the Constitution.
Ownership over natural resources remain with the State and the IPRA in Section 7 (b) merely grants the ICCs/IPs the right to manage
them, viz:
"Sec. 7 (b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, right to develop, control and use lands and
territories traditionally occupied, owned, or used; to manage and conserve natural resourceswithin the territories and uphold the
responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein;
the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological,
environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; the right to an informed and intelligent
participation in the formulation and implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral
domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; and the right to
effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with, alienation and encroachment upon these rights;"
The right to develop lands and natural resources under Section 7 (b) of the IPRA enumerates the following rights:
a) the right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied;
b) the right to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories and uphold the responsibilities for future generations;
c) the right to benefit and share the profits from the allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein;
d) the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources for the purpose of ensuring ecological,
environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws;
e) the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation of any project, government or private,
that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages which they may
sustain as a result of the project;
f) the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with, alienation and encroachment upon these
rights.233
Ownership over the natural resources in the ancestral domains remains with the State and the ICCs/IPs are merely granted the
right to "manage and conserve" them for future generations, "benefit and share" the profits from their allocation and utilization,
and "negotiate the terms and conditions for their exploration" for the purpose of "ensuring ecological and environmental
protection and conservation measures." It must be noted that the right to negotiate the terms and conditions over the natural resources
covers only their exploration which must be for the purpose of ensuring ecological and environmental protection of, and conservation
measures in the ancestral domain. It does not extend to the exploitation and development of natural resources.
Simply stated, the ICCs/IPs' rights over the natural resources take the form of management or stewardship. For the ICCs/IPs may
use these resources and share in the profits of their utilization or negotiate the terms for their exploration. At the same time, however, the
ICCs/IPs must ensure that the natural resources within their ancestral domains are conserved for future generations and that the "utilization"
of these resources must not harm the ecology and environment pursuant to national and customary laws. 234
The limited rights of "management and use" in Section 7 (b) must be taken to contemplate small-scale utilization of natural
resources as distinguished from large-scale. Small-scale utilization of natural resources is expressly allowed in the third
paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution "in recognition of the plight of forest dwellers, gold panners, marginal fishermen
and others similarly situated who exploit our natural resources for their daily sustenance and survival." 235 Section 7 (b) also expressly
mandates the ICCs/IPs to manage and conserve these resources and ensure environmental and ecological protection within the domains,
which duties, by their very nature, necessarily reject utilization in a large-scale.
(c) The Large-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Section 57 of the IPRA Is Allowed Under Paragraphs 1 and 4, Section 2,
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Section 57 of the IPRA provides:
"Sec. 57. Natural Resources within Ancestral Domains.- The ICCs/IPs shall have priority rights in the harvesting, extraction,
development or exploitation of any natural resources within the ancestral domains. A non-member of the ICCs/IPs concerned may be
allowed to take part in the development and utilization of the natural resources for a period of not exceeding twenty-five (25) years renewable
for not more than twenty-five (25) years: Provided, That a formal and written agreement is entered into with the ICCs/IPs concerned or that
the community, pursuant to its own decision-making process, has agreed to allow such operation: Provided finally, That the NCIP may
exercise visitorial powers and take appropriate action to safeguard the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the same contract."
Section 57 speaks of the "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of natural resources within ancestral domains" and "gives
the ICCs/IPs 'priority rights' therein." The terms "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation" of any natural resources within
the ancestral domains obviously refer to large-scale utilization. It is utilization not merely for subsistence but for commercial or other
extensive use that require technology other than manual labor. 236 The law recognizes the probability of requiring a non-member of the
ICCs/IPs to participate in the development and utilization of the natural resources and thereby allows such participation for a period of not
more than 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. This may be done on condition that a formal written agreement be entered into by the
non-member and members of the ICCs/IPs.
Section 57 of the IPRA does not give the ICCs/IPs the right to "manage and conserve" the natural resources. Instead, the law only grants
the ICCs/IPs "priority rights" in the development or exploitation thereof. Priority means giving preference. Having priority rights over the
natural resources does not necessarily mean ownership rights. The grant of priority rights implies that there is a superior entity that owns
these resources and this entity has the power to grant preferential rights over the resources to whosoever itself chooses.
Section 57 is not a repudiation of the Regalian doctrine. Rather, it is an affirmation of the said doctrine that all natural resources found within
the ancestral domains belong to the State. It incorporates by implication the Regalian doctrine, hence, requires that the provision be read
in the light of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. Interpreting Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution 237 in relation to
Section 57 of IPRA, the State, as owner of these natural resources, may directly undertake the development and exploitation of
the natural resources by itself, or in the alternative, it may recognize the priority rights of the ICCs/IPs as owners of the land on
which the natural resources are found by entering into a co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreement with them.
The State may likewise enter into any of said agreements with a non-member of the ICCs/IPs, whether natural or juridical, or enter
into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for the large-scale exploration,
development and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, or allow such non-member to participate in its
agreement with the ICCs/IPs. If the State decides to enter into an agreement with a non-ICC/IP member, the National Commission on
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) shall ensure that the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the agreement shall be protected. The agreement shall be for
a period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.
To reiterate, in the large-scale utilization of natural resources within the ancestral domains, the State, as owner of these resources, has four
(4) options: (1) it may, of and by itself, directly undertake the development and exploitation of the natural resources; or (2) it may recognize
the priority rights of the ICCs/IPs by entering into an agreement with them for such development and exploitation; or (3) it may enter into an
agreement with a non-member of the ICCs/IPs, whether natural or juridical, local or foreign; or (4) it may allow such non-member to
participate in the agreement with the ICCs/IPs.
The rights granted by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their ancestral domains merely gives the ICCs/IPs,
as owners and occupants of the land on which the resources are found, the right to the small-scale utilization of these resources,
and at the same time, a priority in their large-scale development and exploitation. Section 57 does not mandate the State to
automatically give priority to the ICCs/IPs. The State has several options and it is within its discretion to choose which option to
pursue. Moreover, there is nothing in the law that gives the ICCs/IPs the right to solely undertake the large-scale development of the natural
resources within their domains. The ICCs/IPs must undertake such endeavour always under State supervision or control. This indicates
that the State does not lose control and ownership over the resources even in their exploitation. Sections 7 (b) and 57 of the law simply give
due respect to the ICCs/IPs who, as actual occupants of the land where the natural resources lie, have traditionally utilized these resources
for their subsistence and survival.
Neither is the State stripped of ownership and control of the natural resources by the following provision:
"Section 59. Certification Precondition.- All departments and other governmental agencies shall henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing,
renewing or granting any concession, license or lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement. without prior certification from
the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. Such certification shall only be issued after a field-based
investigation is conducted by the Ancestral Domains Office of the area concerned: Provided, That no certification shall be issued by the
NCIP without the free and prior informed and written consent of the ICCs/IPs concerned: Provided, further, That no department, government
agency or government-owned or -controlled corporation may issue new concession, license, lease, or production sharing agreement while
there is a pending application for a CADT: Provided, finally, That the ICCs/IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in accordance with
this Act, any project that has not satisfied the requirement of this consultation process."
Concessions, licenses, lease or production-sharing agreements for the exploitation of natural resources shall not be issued, renewed or
granted by all departments and government agencies without prior certification from the NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does
not overlap with any ancestral domain. The NCIP certification shall be issued only after a field-based investigation shall have been conducted
and the free and prior informed written consent of the ICCs/IPs obtained. Non-compliance with the consultation requirement gives the
ICCs/IPs the right to stop or suspend any project granted by any department or government agency.
As its subtitle suggests, this provision requires as a precondition for the issuance of any concession, license or agreement over natural
resources, that a certification be issued by the NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does not lie within any ancestral domain. The
provision does not vest the NCIP with power over the other agencies of the State as to determine whether to grant or deny any concession
or license or agreement. It merely gives the NCIP the authority to ensure that the ICCs/IPs have been informed of the agreement and that
their consent thereto has been obtained. Note that the certification applies to agreements over natural resources that do not necessarily lie
within the ancestral domains. For those that are found within the said domains, Sections 7(b) and 57 of the IPRA apply.
V. THE IPRA IS A RECOGNITION OF OUR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE INDIGENOUS INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT.
The indigenous movement can be seen as the heir to a history of anti-imperialism stretching back to prehistoric times. The movement
received a massive impetus during the 1960's from two sources. First, the decolonization of Asia and Africa brought into the limelight the
possibility of peoples controlling their own destinies. Second, the right of self-determination was enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human
Rights.238 The rise of the civil rights movement and anti-racism brought to the attention of North American Indians, Aborigines in Australia,
and Maori in New Zealand the possibility of fighting for fundamental rights and freedoms.
In 1974 and 1975, international indigenous organizations were founded, 239 and during the 1980's, indigenous affairs were on the
international agenda. The people of the Philippine Cordillera were the first Asians to take part in the international indigenous movement. It
was the Cordillera People's Alliance that carried out successful campaigns against the building of the Chico River Dam in 1981-82 and they
have since become one of the best-organized indigenous bodies in the world.240
Presently, there is a growing concern for indigenous rights in the international scene. This came as a result of the increased publicity focused
on the continuing disrespect for indigenous human rights and the destruction of the indigenous peoples' environment, together with the
national governments' inability to deal with the situation. 241Indigenous rights came as a result of both human rights and environmental
protection, and have become a part of today's priorities for the international agenda. 242
International institutions and bodies have realized the necessity of applying policies, programs and specific rules concerning IPs in some
nations. The World Bank, for example, first adopted a policy on IPs as a result of the dismal experience of projects in Latin America. 243 The
World Bank now seeks to apply its current policy on IPs to some of its projects in Asia. This policy has provided an influential model for the
projects of the Asian Development Bank.244
The 1987 Philippine Constitution formally recognizes the existence of ICCs/IPs and declares as a State policy the promotion of their rights
within the framework of national unity and development. 245 The IPRA amalgamates the Philippine category of ICCs with the international
category of IPs,246 and is heavily influenced by both the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 and the United Nations (UN)
Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 247
ILO Convention No. 169 is entitled the "Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries" 248 and was
adopted on June 27, 1989. It is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and many other international instruments on the prevention of
discrimination.249 ILO Convention No. 169 revised the "Convention Concerning the Protection and Integration of Indigenous and Other Tribal
and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries" (ILO No. 107) passed on June 26, 1957. Developments in international law made it
appropriate to adopt new international standards on indigenous peoples "with a view to removing the assimilationist orientation of the earlier
standards," and recognizing the aspirations of these peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic
development."250
CONCLUSION
The struggle of the Filipinos throughout colonial history had been plagued by ethnic and religious differences. These differences were carried
over and magnified by the Philippine government through the imposition of a national legal order that is mostly foreign in origin or
derivation.251 Largely unpopulist, the present legal system has resulted in the alienation of a large sector of society, specifically, the
indigenous peoples. The histories and cultures of the indigenes are relevant to the evolution of Philippine culture and are vital to the
understanding of contemporary problems.252 It is through the IPRA that an attempt was made by our legislators to understand Filipino
society not in terms of myths and biases but through common experiences in the course of history. The Philippines became a democracy a
centennial ago and the decolonization process still continues. If the evolution of the Filipino people into a democratic society is to truly
proceed democratically, i.e., if the Filipinos as a whole are to participate fully in the task of continuing democratization, 253 it is this Court's
duty to acknowledge the presence of indigenous and customary laws in the country and affirm their co-existence with the land laws in our
national legal system.
With the foregoing disquisitions, I vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.

SEPARATE OPINION
VITUG, J.:
An issue of grave national interest indeed deserves a proper place in any forum and, when it shows itself in a given judicial
controversy, the rules of procedure, like locus standi, the propriety of the specific remedy invoked, or the principle of hierarchy
of courts, that may ordinarily be raised by party-litigants, should not be so perceived as good and inevitable justifications for
advocating timidity, let alone isolationism, by the Court.
A cardinal requirement, to which I agree, is that one who invokes the Court’s adjudication must have a personal and substantial interest in
the dispute;1 indeed, the developing trend would require a logical nexus between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated
in order to ensure that one is the proper and appropriate party to invoke judicial power.2 The rule requires a party to aptly show a personal
stake in the outcome of the case or an injury to himself that can be redressed by a favorable decision so as to warrant his invocation of the
Court’s jurisdiction and to render legally feasible the exercise of the Court’s remedial powers in his behalf. If it were otherwise, the exercise
of that power can easily become too unwieldy by its sheer magnitude and scope to a point that may, in no small measure, adversely affect
its intended essentiality, stability and consequentiality.
Nevertheless, where a most compelling reason exits, such as when the matter is of transcendental importance and paramount interest to
the nation,3 the Court must take the liberal approach that recognizes the legal standing of nontraditional plaintiffs, such as citizens and
taxpayers, to raise constitutional issues that affect them.4 This Court thus did so in a case5 that involves the conservation of our forests for
ecological needs. Until and exact balance is struck, the Court must accept an eclectic notion that can free itself from the bondage
of legal nicety and hold trenchant technicalities subordinate to what may be considered to be of overriding concern.
The petition seeks a declaration by the Court of unconstitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371, a law that obviously is yet
incapable of exact equation in its significance to the nation and its people now and in the generations yet to come. Republic Act No. 8371,
otherwise also known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 ("IPRA"), enacted into law in 1997 and made effective on 22 November
1997, is apparently intended to be a legislative response to the 1987 Constitution which recognizes the rights of indigenous cultural
communities "within the framework of national unity and development" 6 and commands the State, "subject to the provisions of this
Constitution and national development policies and programs," to protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral
lands in order to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being.7
Among the assailed provisions in IPRA is its Section 3(a) which defines "ancestral domains" to embrace "all areas generally belonging to
ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources" including "ancestral lands, forest, pasture,
residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable or otherwise," over which
indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples ("ICCs/IPs") could exercise virtual ownership and control.
IPRA effectively withdraws from the public domain the so-called ancestral domains covering literally millions of hectares. The
notion of community property would comprehend not only matters of proprietary interest but also some forms of self-governance
over the curved-out territory. This concept is elaborated in Section 7 of the law which states that the "rights of ownership and possession
of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains shall be recognized and protected," subsumed under which would encompass the right of
ownership(paragraph a); the right to develop, control and use lands and natural resources, including "the right to negotiate the
terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental
protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws;" (par. b); the right to stay in the territories (par. c);
the right to return to their abandoned lands in case of displacement (par. d); the right to regulate entry of migrants (par. e); the
right to claim parts of ancestral domains previously reserved (par. g); and the right to resolve land conflicts in accordance
primarily with customary law (par. h). Concurrently, Section 57 states that ICCs/IPs shall be given "priority rights in the harvesting,
extraction, development or exploitation of any natural resources within the ancestral domains." These provisions of IPRA, in their totality,
are, in my view, beyond the context of the fundamental law and virtually amount to an undue delegation, if not an unacceptable
abdication, of State authority over a significant area of the country and its patrimony.
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution expresses that all "lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral
oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forest or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by
the State," and, with the exception of agricultural lands, "shall not be alienated." It ordains that the "exploration, development, and
utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State." 8
These provisions had roots in the 1935 Constitution which, along with some other specific mandates in the 1935 Constitution, forming Article
XII under the title "Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources", were derived largely from the report of the Committee on
Nationalization and Preservation of Lands and other Natural Resources. 9 According to the Committee report, among the principles upon
which these provisions were based, was "that the land, minerals, forest and other natural resources constitute the exclusive heritage of the
Filipino Nation," and should thereby "be preserved for those under the sovereign authority of the Nation and for their posterity." 10 The
delegates to the 1934 Constitutional Convention were of the unanimous view that the "policy on natural resources, being fundamental to
the nation’s survival should not be left to the changing mood of the lawmaking body." 11
The 1987 Constitution, like the precursor provisions in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, thus expresses this regalian doctrine of the old,
and the domainial doctrine of the new, that all lands and natural resources belong to the state other than those which it recognizes to be of
private ownership. Except for agricultural lands of the public domain which alone may be alienated, forest or timber, and mineral
lands, as well as all other natural resources, of the country must remain with the state, the exploration, development and utilization
of which shall be subject to its full control and supervision albeit allowing it to enter into co-production, joint venture or production-
sharing agreements, or into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving technical or financial assistance for large-scale
exploration, development and utilization.12
The decision of the United States Supreme Court in Cariño vs. Insular Government,13 holding that a parcel of land held since time
immemorial by individuals under a claim of private ownership is presumed never to have been public land and cited to downgrade the
application of the regalian doctrine, cannot override the collective will of the people expressed in the Constitution. It is in them that
sovereignty resides and from them that all government authority emanates.14 It is not then for a court ruling or any piece of legislation to be
conformed to by the fundamental law, but it is for the former to adapt to the latter, and it is the sovereign act that must, between them,
stand inviolate.
The second paragraph of Section 5 of Article XII of the Constitution allows Congress to provide "for the applicability of customary laws
governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains." I do not see this statement as saying
that Congress may enact a law that would simply express that "customary laws shall govern" and end it there. Had it been so, the Constitution
could have itself easily provided without having to still commission Congress to do it. Mr. Chief Justice Davide has explained this authority
of Congress, during the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Convention, thus:
"Mr. Davide. x x x Insofar as the application of the customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and
extent of the ancestral domain is concerned, it is respectfully submitted that the particular matter must be submitted to Congress. I
understand that the idea of Comm. Bennagen is for the possibility of the codification of these customary laws. So before these are codified,
we cannot now mandate that the same must immediately be applicable. We leave it to Congress to determine the extent of the ancestral
domain and the ownership thereof in relation to whatever may have been codified earlier. So, in short, let us not put the cart ahead of the
horse."15
The constitutional aim, it seems to me, is to get Congress to look closely into the customary laws and, with specificity and by
proper recitals, to hew them to, and make them part of, the stream of laws. The "due process clause," as I so understand it in Tanada
vs. Tuvera16 would require an apt publication of a legislative enactment before it is permitted to take force and effect. So, also, customary
laws, when specifically enacted to become part of statutory law, must first undergo that publication to render them correspondingly binding
and effective as such.
Undoubtedly, IPRA has several good points, and I would respectfully urge Congress to re-examine the law. Indeed, the State is
exhorted to protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands, a task that would entail a balancing of
interest between their specific needs and the imperatives of national interest.
WHEREFORE, I vote to grant the petition.
SEPARATE OPINION
KAPUNAN, J.:
You ask if we own the land. . . How can you own that which will outlive you? Only the race own the land because only the race lives forever.
To claim a piece of land is a birthright of every man. The lowly animals claim their place; how much more man? Man is born to live. Apu
Kabunian, lord of us all, gave us life and placed us in the world to live human lives. And where shall we obtain life? From the land. To work
(the land) is an obligation, not merely a right. In tilling the land, you possess it. And so land is a grace that must be nurtured. To enrich it
and make it fructify is the eternal exhortation of Apu Kabunian to all his children. Land is sacred. Land is beloved. From its womb springs
…life.
- Macli-ing Dulag, Chieftain of the Kalinga Tribe (quoted in Ponciano L. Bennagen, "Tribal Filipinos" in Indigenous View of Land and the
Environment, ed. Shelton H. Davis, the World Bank Discussion Papers, No. 188, pp. 71-72.)
It is established doctrine that a statute should be construed whenever possible in harmony with, rather than in violation of, the
Constitution.1 The presumption is that the legislature intended to enact a valid, sensible and just law and one which operates no further than
may be necessary to effectuate the specific purpose of the law. 2
The challenged provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) must be construed in view of such presumption of constitutionality.
Further, the interpretation of these provisions should take into account the purpose of the law, which is to give life to the constitutional
mandate that the rights of the indigenous peoples be recognized and protected.
The struggle of our indigenous peoples to reclaim their ancestral lands and domains and therefore, their heritage, is not unique. It is one
that they share with the red-skinned "Indians" of the United States, with the aborigines of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand and the Sazmi
of Sweden, to name a few. Happily, the nations in which these indigenous peoples live all have enacted measures in an attempt to heal an
oppressive past by the promise of a progressive future. Thus has the international community realized the injustices that have been
perpetrated upon the indigenous peoples. This sentiment among the family of nations is expressed in a number of documents, the most
recent and most comprehensive of which is the Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was adopted
by the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities by its resolution on August 26, 1994. Among the
rights recognized by the UN Draft is the restitution of lands, territories and even the resources which the indigenous peoples have traditionally
owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, occupied, used or damaged without the free and informed consent
of the indigenous peoples.
A Historical Backdrop on the Indigenous Peoples
The term "indigenous" traces its origin to the Old Latin word indu, meaning "within." In the sense the term has come to be used, it is nearer
in meaning to the Latin word indigenus, which means "native."3 "Indigenous" refers to that which originated or has been produced naturally
in a particular land, and has not been introduced from the outside. 4In international law, the definition of what constitutes "indigenous peoples"
attains some degree of controversy. No definition of the term "indigenous peoples" has been adopted by the United Nations (UN), although
UN practice has been guided by a working definition in the 1986 Report of UN Special Rapporteur Martinez Cobo: 5
Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies
that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sections of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or
parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sections of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future
generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their
own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.
This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period reaching into the present, of one or more of the following
factors:
(a) Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them;
(b) Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands;
(c) Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership of an indigenous
community, dress, means of livelihood, life-style, etc.);
(d) Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual means of communication at home or in the
family, or as the main, preferred, habitual, general or normal language);
(e) Residence in certain parts of the country; or in certain regions of the world;
(f) Other relevant facts.6
In Philippine constitutional law, the term "indigenous peoples" pertains to those groups of Filipinos who have retained a high degree of
continuity from pre-Conquest culture.7 Philippine legal history, however, has not been kind to the indigenous peoples, characterized them
as "uncivilized,"8 "backward people,"9 with "barbarous practices"10and "a low order of intelligence."11
Drawing inspiration from both our fundamental law and international law, IPRA now employs the politically-correct conjunctive term
"indigenous peoples/indigenous cultural communities" as follows:
Sec. 3. Definition of Terms.- For purposes of this Act, the following terms shall mean:
xxx
(h) Indigenous peoples/Indigenous cultural communities. - refer to a group of people or homogenous societies identified by self-ascription
and ascription by others, who have continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory, and who
have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed and utilized such territories, sharing common bonds of
language, customs, traditions, and other distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of
colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos. Indigenous peoples shall
likewise include peoples who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country at
the time of conquest or colonization, or at the time of inroads of non-indigenous religions and cultures, or the establishment of present State
boundaries, who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions, but who may have been displaced from
their traditional domains or who may have resettled outside their ancestral domains x x x.
Long before the Spaniards set foot in these islands, the indigenous peoples were already plowing our soil and hunting in our forests. The
Filipinos of Aeta and Malay stock, who were the original inhabitants of our archipelago, were, at that time, practicing a native culture. From
the time the Spaniards arrived up to the early part of the American regime, 12 these native inhabitants resisted foreign invasion, relentlessly
fighting for their lands. Today, from the remote uplands of Northern Luzon, to Palawan, Mindoro and Mindanao, the indigenous peoples
continue to live on and cultivate their ancestral lands, the lands of their forefathers.
Though Filipinos today are essentially of the same stock as the indigenous peoples, our national culture exhibits only the last vestiges of
this native culture. Centuries of colonial rule and neocolonial domination have created a discernible distinction between the cultural majority
and the group of cultural minorities.13 The extant Philippine national culture is the culture of the majority; its indigenous roots were replaced
by foreign cultural elements that are decidedly pronounced, if not dominant. 14 While the culture of the majority reoriented itself to Western
influence, the culture of the minorities has retained its essentially native character.
One of every six Filipinos is a member of an indigenous cultural community. Around twelve million Filipinos are members of the one hundred
and ten or so indigenous cultural communities, 15 accounting for more than seventeen per centum of the estimated seventy million
Filipinos16 in our country. Sadly, the indigenous peoples are one of the poorest sectors of Philippine society. The incidence of poverty and
malnutrition among them is significantly higher than the national average. The indigenous peoples are also among the most powerless.
Perhaps because of their inability to speak the language of law and power, they have been relegated to the fringes of society. They have
little, if any, voice in national politics and enjoy the least protection from economic exploitation.
The Constitutional Policies on Indigenous Peoples
The framers of the 1987 Constitution, looking back to the long destitution of our less fortunate brothers, fittingly saw the historic opportunity
to actualize the ideals of people empowerment and social justice, and to reach out particularly to the marginalized sectors of society,
including the indigenous peoples. They incorporated in the fundamental law several provisions recognizing and protecting the rights and
interests of the indigenous peoples, to wit:
Sec. 22. The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous peoples within the framework of national unity and development. 17
Sec. 5. The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of
indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being.
The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights and relations in determining the ownership and
extent of ancestral domains.18
Sec. 1. The Congress shall give the highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to
human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political
power for the common good.
To this end, the State shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use and disposition of property and its increments. 19
Sec. 6. The State shall apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship, whenever applicable in accordance with law, in the disposition
and utilization of other natural resources, including lands of the public domain under lease or concession, subject to prior rights, homestead
rights of small settlers, and the rights of indigenous communities to their ancestral lands. 20
Sec. 17. The State shall recognize, respect, and protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures,
traditions, and institutions. It shall consider these rights in the formulation of national plans and policies. 21
Sec. 12. The Congress may create a consultative body to advise the President on policies affecting indigenous cultural communities, the
majority of the members of which shall come from such communities. 22
IPRA was enacted precisely to implement the foregoing constitutional provisions. It provides, among others, that the State shall recognize
and promote the rights of indigenous peoples within the framework of national unity and development, protect their rights over the ancestral
lands and ancestral domains and recognize the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the
ownership and extent of the ancestral domains.23 Moreover, IPRA enumerates the civil and political rights of the indigenous peoples;24 spells
out their social and cultural rights;25 acknowledges a general concept of indigenous property right and recognizes title thereto;26 and creates
the NCIP as an independent agency under the Office of the President. 27
Preliminary Issues
A. The petition presents an actual controversy.
The time-tested standards for the exercise of judicial review are: (1) the existence of an appropriate case; (2) an interest personal and
substantial by the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the plea that the function be exercised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the
necessity that the constitutional question be passed upon in order to decide the case. 28
Courts can only decide actual controversies, not hypothetical questions or cases. 29 The threshold issue, therefore, is whether an
"appropriate case" exists for the exercise of judicial review in the present case.
An "actual case or controversy" means an existing case or controversy which is both ripe for resolution and susceptible of judicial
determination, and that which is not conjectural or anticipatory, 30 or that which seeks to resolve hypothetical or feigned constitutional
problems.31 A petition raising a constitutional question does not present an "actual controversy," unless it alleges a legal right or power.
Moreover, it must show that a conflict of rights exists, for inherent in the term "controversy" is the presence of opposing views or
contentions.32 Otherwise, the Court will be forced to resolve issues which remain unfocused because they lack such concreteness provided
when a question emerges precisely framed from a clash of adversary arguments exploring every aspect of a multi-faceted situation
embracing conflicting and demanding interests. 33 The controversy must also be justiciable; that is, it must be susceptible of judicial
determination.34
In the case at bar, there exists a live controversy involving a clash of legal rights. A law has been enacted, and the Implementing Rules and
Regulations approved. Money has been appropriated and the government agencies concerned have been directed to implement the statute.
It cannot be successfully maintained that we should await the adverse consequences of the law in order to consider the controversy actual
and ripe for judicial resolution. It is precisely the contention of the petitioners that the law, on its face, constitutes an unconstitutional
abdication of State ownership over lands of the public domain and other natural resources. Moreover, when the State machinery is set into
motion to implement an alleged unconstitutional statute, this Court possesses sufficient authority to resolve and prevent imminent injury and
violation of the constitutional process.
B. Petitioners, as citizens and taxpayers, have the requisite standing to raise the constitutional questions herein.
In addition to the existence of an actual case or controversy, a person who assails the validity of a statute must have a personal and
substantial interest in the case, such that, he has sustained, or will sustain, a direct injury as a result of its enforcement.35 Evidently, the
rights asserted by petitioners as citizens and taxpayers are held in common by all the citizens, the violation of which may result only in a
"generalized grievance".36 Yet, in a sense, all citizen’s and taxpayer’s suits are efforts to air generalized grievances about the conduct of
government and the allocation of power.37
In several cases, the Court has adopted a liberal attitude with regard to standing. 38 The proper party requirement is considered as merely
procedural,39 and the Court has ample discretion with regard thereto.40 As early as 1910, the Court in the case of Severino vs. Governor
General 41 held:
x x x When the relief is sought merely for the protection of private rights, the relator must show some personal or special interest in the
subject matter, since he is regarded as the real party in interest and his right must clearly appear. Upon the other hand, when the question
is one of public right and the object of the mandamus is to procure the enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the
real party in interest, and the relator at whose instigation the proceedings are instituted need not show that he has any legal or
special interest in the result, it being sufficient to show that he is a citizen and as such interested in the execution of the laws.42
This Court has recognized that a "public right," or that which belongs to the people at large, may also be the subject of an actual case or
controversy. In Severino, we ruled that a private citizen may enforce a "public right" in behalf of other citizens. We opined therein that:
… The right which [petitioner] seeks to enforce is not greater or different from that of any other qualified elector in the municipality of Silay.
It is also true that the injury which he would suffer in case he fails to obtain the relief sought would not be greater or different from that of
the other electors; but he is seeking to enforce a public right as distinguished from a private right. The real party in interest is the
public, or the qualified electors of the town of Silay. Each elector has the same right and would suffer the same injury. Each elector
stands on the same basis with reference to maintaining a petition whether or not the relief sought by the relator should be granted. 43
In Tañada v. Tuvera,44 the Court enforced the "public right" to due process and to be informed of matters of public concern.
In Garcia vs. Board of Investments,45 the Court upheld the "public right" to be heard or consulted on matters of national concern.
In Oposa v. Factoran,46 the Court recognized the "public right" of citizens to "a balanced and healthful ecology which, for the first time in our
nation’s constitutional history, is solemnly incorporated in the fundamental law." 47 Mr. Justice (now Chief Justice) Hilario G. Davide, Jr.,
delivering the opinion of the Court, stated that:
Such a right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation-
aptly and fittingly stressed by petitioners-the advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. As a
matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of
humankind.48
Petitioners, as citizens, possess the "public right" to ensure that the national patrimony is not alienated and diminished in violation of the
Constitution. Since the government, as the guardian of the national patrimony, holds it for the benefit of all Filipinos without distinction as to
ethnicity, it follows that a citizen has sufficient interest to maintain a suit to ensure that any grant of concessions covering the national
economy and patrimony strictly complies with constitutional requirements. Thus, the preservation of the integrity and inviolability of the
national patrimony is a proper subject of a citizen’s suit.
In addition, petitioners, as taxpayers, possess the right to restrain officials from wasting public funds through the enforcement of an
unconstitutional statute. It is well-settled that a taxpayer has the right to enjoin public officials from wasting public funds through the
implementation of an unconstitutional statute,49 and by necessity, he may assail the validity of a statute appropriating public funds. 50 The
taxpayer has paid his taxes and contributed to the public coffers and, thus, may inquire into the manner by which the proceeds of his taxes
are spent. The expenditure by an official of the State for the purpose of administering an invalid law constitutes a misapplication of such
funds.51
The IPRA appropriates funds as indicated in its title: "An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Cultural
Communities/Indigenous Peoples, Creating the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing
Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes." In the same manner, Section 79 authorizes for the expenditure of
public funds by providing that "the amount necessary to finance [its] initial implementation shall be charged against the current year's
appropriation for the Office for Northern Cultural Communities (the "ONCC") and the Office for Southern Cultural Communities (the
"OSCC"),"52which were merged as organic offices of the NCIP.53 Thus, the IPRA is a valid subject of a taxpayer’s suit.
C. The petition for prohibition and mandamus is not an improper remedy.
Prohibition is an extraordinary writ directed against any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person, whether exercising judicial, quasi-
judicial or ministerial functions, ordering said entity or person to desist from further proceedings when said proceedings are without or in
excess of said entity’s or person’s jurisdiction, or are accompanied with grave abuse of discretion, and there is no appeal or any other plain,
speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. 54 Mandamus, on the other hand, is an extraordinary writ commanding a tribunal,
corporation, board, officer or person, immediately or at some other specified time, to do the act required to be done, when said entity or
person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station, or
when said entity or person unlawfully excludes another from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled, and
there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.55
In this case, the petitioners pray that respondents be restrained from implementing the challenged provisions of the IPRA and its
Implementing Rules and the assailed DENR Circular No. 2, series of 1998, and that the same officials be enjoined from disbursing public
funds for the implementation of the said law and rules. They further ask that the Secretary of the DENR be compelled to perform his duty to
control and supervise the activities pertaining to natural resources.
Prohibition will lie to restrain the public officials concerned from implementing the questioned provisions of the IPRA and from disbursing
funds in connection therewith if the law is found to be unconstitutional. Likewise, mandamus will lie to compel the Secretary of the DENR to
perform his duty to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and conservation of the country’s natural resources.
Consequently, the petition for prohibition and mandamus is not an improper remedy for the relief sought.
D. Notwithstanding the failure of petitioners to observe the hierarchy of courts, the Court assumes jurisdiction over the petition in view of the
importance of the issues raised therein.
Between two courts of concurrent original jurisdiction, it is the lower court that should initially pass upon the issues of a case. That way, as
a particular case goes through the hierarchy of courts, it is shorn of all but the important legal issues or those of first impression, which are
the proper subject of attention of the appellate court. This is a procedural rule borne of experience and adopted to improve the administration
of justice.
This Court has consistently enjoined litigants to respect the hierarchy of courts. Although this Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the
Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and
injunction,56 such concurrence does not give a party unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. The resort to this Court’s primary
jurisdiction to issue said writs shall be allowed only where the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where
exceptional and compelling circumstances justify such invocation. 57 We held in People v. Cuaresma58 that:
A becoming regard for judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level
("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation
of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only where there are special and important
reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate
demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent
further over-crowding of the Court’s docket x x x.59 (Emphasis supplied.)
IPRA aims to rectify the historical injustice inflicted upon indigenous peoples. Its impact upon the lives not only of the indigenous peoples
but also upon the lives of all Filipinos cannot be denied. The resolution of this case by the Court at the earliest opportunity is necessary if
the aims of the law are to be achieved. This reason is compelling enough to allow petitioners’ invocation of this Court’s jurisdiction in the
first instance.
Substantive Issues
Primary Issue
The issue of prime concern raised by petitioners and the Solicitor General revolves around the constitutionality of certain provisions of IPRA,
specifically Sections 3(a), 3(b), 5, 6, 7, 8, 57, 58 and 59. These provisions allegedly violate Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, which
states:
Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all
other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full
control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or
production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by
such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and
under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses
other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.
The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its
use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
The Congress, may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with
priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons.
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale
exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions
provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall
promote the development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its execution.
Under IPRA, indigenous peoples may obtain the recognition of their right of ownership 60 over ancestral lands and ancestral domains by
virtue of native title.61 The term "ancestral lands" under the statute refers to lands occupied by individuals, families and clans who are
members of indigenous cultural communities, including residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree
lots. These lands are required to have been "occupied, possessed and utilized" by them or through their ancestors "since time immemorial,
continuously to the present".62 On the other hand, "ancestral domains" is defined as areas generally belonging to indigenous cultural
communities, including ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential and agricultural lands, hunting grounds, worship areas, and lands no
longer occupied exclusively by indigenous cultural communities but to which they had traditional access, particularly the home ranges of
indigenous cultural communities who are still nomadic or shifting cultivators. Ancestral domains also include inland waters, coastal areas
and natural resources therein.63 Again, the same are required to have been "held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by
ICCs/IPs, by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to the present".64 Under
Section 56, property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon effectivity of said law "shall be recognized and
respected."
Ownership is the crux of the issue of whether the provisions of IPRA pertaining to ancestral lands, ancestral domains, and natural resources
are unconstitutional. The fundamental question is, who, between the State and the indigenous peoples, are the rightful owners of these
properties?
It bears stressing that a statute should be construed in harmony with, and not in violation, of the fundamental law. 65The reason is that the
legislature, in enacting a statute, is assumed to have acted within its authority and adhered to the constitutional limitations. Accordingly,
courts should presume that it was the intention of the legislature to enact a valid, sensible, and just law and one which operates no further
than may be necessary to effectuate the specific purpose of the law. 66
A. The provisions of IPRA recognizing the ownership of indigenous peoples over the ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not
unconstitutional.
In support of their theory that ancestral lands and ancestral domains are part of the public domain and, thus, owned by the State, pursuant
to Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, petitioners and the Solicitor General advance the following arguments:
First, according to petitioners, the King of Spain under international law acquired exclusive dominion over the Philippines by virtue of
discovery and conquest. They contend that the Spanish King under the theory of jura regalia, which was introduced into Philippine law upon
Spanish conquest in 1521, acquired title to all the lands in the archipelago.
Second, petitioners and the Solicitor General submit that ancestral lands and ancestral domains are owned by the State. They invoke the
theory of jura regalia which imputes to the State the ownership of all lands and makes the State the original source of all private titles. They
argue that the Philippine State, as successor to Spain and the United States, is the source of any asserted right of ownership in land.
Third, petitioners and the Solicitor General concede that the Cariño doctrine exists. However, petitioners maintain that the doctrine merely
states that title to lands of the public domain may be acquired by prescription. The Solicitor General, for his part, argues that the doctrine
applies only to alienable lands of the public domain and, thus, cannot be extended to other lands of the public domain such as forest or
timber, mineral lands, and national parks.
Fourth, the Solicitor General asserts that even assuming that native title over ancestral lands and ancestral domains existed by virtue of
the Cariño doctrine, such native title was extinguished upon the ratification of the 1935 Constitution.
Fifth, petitioners admit that Congress is mandated under Section 5, Article XII of the Constitution to protect that rights of indigenous peoples
to their ancestral lands and ancestral domains. However, they contend that the mandate is subject to Section 2, Article XII and the theory
of jura regalia embodied therein. According to petitioners, the recognition and protection under R.A. 8371 of the right of ownership over
ancestral lands and ancestral domains is far in excess of the legislative power and constitutional mandate of Congress.
Finally, on the premise that ancestral lands and ancestral domains are owned by the State, petitioners posit that R.A. 8371 violates Section
2, Article XII of the Constitution which prohibits the alienation of non-agricultural lands of the public domain and other natural resources.
I am not persuaded by these contentions.
Undue reliance by petitioners and the Solicitor General on the theory of jura regalia is understandable. Not only is the theory well recognized
in our legal system; it has been regarded, almost with reverence, as the immutable postulate of Philippine land law. It has been incorporated
into our fundamental law and has been recognized by the Court. 67
Generally, under the concept of jura regalia, private title to land must be traced to some grant, express or implied, from the Spanish Crown
or its successors, the American Colonial government, and thereafter, the Philippine Republic. The belief that the Spanish Crown is the origin
of all land titles in the Philippines has persisted because title to land must emanate from some source for it cannot issue forth from nowhere.68
In its broad sense, the term "jura regalia" refers to royal rights,69 or those rights which the King has by virtue of his prerogatives. 70 In Spanish
law, it refers to a right which the sovereign has over anything in which a subject has a right of property or propriedad.71 These were rights
enjoyed during feudal times by the king as the sovereign.
The theory of the feudal system was that title to all lands was originally held by the King, and while the use of lands was granted out to
others who were permitted to hold them under certain conditions, the King theoretically retained the title. 72 By fiction of law, the King was
regarded as the original proprietor of all lands, and the true and only source of title, and from him all lands were held. 73 The theory of jura
regalia was therefore nothing more than a natural fruit of conquest. 74
The Regalian theory, however, does not negate native title to lands held in private ownership since time immemorial. In the landmark case
of Cariño vs. Insular Government75 the United States Supreme Court, reversing the decision76of the pre-war Philippine Supreme Court,
made the following pronouncement:
x x x Every presumption is and ought to be taken against the Government in a case like the present. It might, perhaps, be proper and
sufficient to say that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private
ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been
public land. x x x.77 (Emphasis supplied.)
The above ruling institutionalized the recognition of the existence of native title to land, or ownership of land by Filipinos by virtue of
possession under a claim of ownership since time immemorial and independent of any grant from the Spanish Crown, as an exception to
the theory of jura regalia.
In Cariño, an Igorot by the name of Mateo Cariño applied for registration in his name of an ancestral land located in Benguet. The applicant
established that he and his ancestors had lived on the land, had cultivated it, and had used it as far they could remember. He also proved
that they had all been recognized as owners, the land having been passed on by inheritance according to native custom. However, neither
he nor his ancestors had any document of title from the Spanish Crown. The government opposed the application for registration, invoking
the theory of jura regalia. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court held that the applicant was entitled to the registration of his native
title to their ancestral land.
Cariño was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1909, at a time when decisions of the U.S. Court were binding as precedent in our
jurisdiction.78 We applied the Cariño doctrine in the 1946 case of Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands,79where we stated that "[a]ll lands that were
not acquired from the Government either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain, but [a]n 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 private property even before the
Spanish conquest."80
Petitioners however aver that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Cariño was premised on the fact that the applicant had complied with the
requisites of acquisitive prescription, having established that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the property
since time immemorial. In effect, petitioners suggest that title to the ancestral land applied for by Cariño was transferred from the State, as
original owner, to Cariño by virtue of prescription. They conclude that the doctrine cannot be the basis for decreeing "by mere legislative
fiat…that ownership of vast tracts of land belongs to [indigenous peoples] without judicial confirmation." 81
The Solicitor General, for his part, claims that the Cariño doctrine applies only to alienable lands of the public domain and, as such, cannot
be extended to other lands of the public domain such as forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks.
There is no merit in these contentions.
A proper reading of Cariño would show that the doctrine enunciated therein applies only to lands which have always been considered
as private, and not to lands of the public domain, whether alienable or otherwise. A distinction must be made between ownership of land
under native title and ownership by acquisitive prescription against the State. Ownership by virtue of native title presupposes that the land
has been held by its possessor and his predecessors-in-interest in the concept of an owner since time immemorial. The land is not acquired
from the State, that is, Spain or its successors-in-interest, the United States and the Philippine Government. There has been no transfer of
title from the State as the land has been regarded as private in character as far back as memory goes. In contrast, ownership of land by
acquisitive prescription against the State involves a conversion of the character of the property from alienable public land to private land,
which presupposes a transfer of title from the State to a private person. Since native title assumes that the property covered by it is private
land and is deemed never to have been part of the public domain, the Solicitor General’s thesis that native title under Cariño applies only
to lands of the public domain is erroneous. Consequently, the classification of lands of the public domain into agricultural, forest or timber,
mineral lands, and national parks under the Constitution82 is irrelevant to the application of the Cariño doctrine because the Regalian
doctrine which vests in the State ownership of lands of the public domain does not cover ancestral lands and ancestral domains.
Legal history supports the Cariño doctrine.
When Spain acquired sovereignty over the Philippines by virtue of its discovery and occupation thereof in the 16th century and the Treaty
of Tordesillas of 1494 which it entered into with Portugal, 83 the continents of Asia, the Americas and Africa were considered as terra
nullius although already populated by other peoples. 84 The discovery and occupation by the European States, who were then considered
as the only members of the international community of civilized nations, of lands in the said continents were deemed sufficient to create title
under international law.85
Although Spain was deemed to have acquired sovereignty over the Philippines, this did not mean that it acquired title to all lands in the
archipelago. By virtue of the colonial laws of Spain, the Spanish Crown was considered to have acquired dominion only over the unoccupied
and unclaimed portions of our islands.86
In sending the first expedition to the Philippines, Spain did not intend to deprive the natives of their property. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was
under instruction of the Spanish King to do no harm to the natives and to their property. In this regard, an authority on the early Spanish
colonial period in the Philippines wrote:
The government of [the King of Spain] Philip II regarded the Philippines as a challenging opportunity to avoid a repetition of the sanguinary
conquests of Mexico and Peru. In his written instructions for the Adelantado Legazpi, who commanded the expedition, Philip II envisaged
a bloodless pacification of the archipelago. This extraordinary document could have been lifted almost verbatim from the lectures of the
Dominican theologian, Francisco de Vitoria, delivered in the University of Salamanca. The King instructed Legazpi to inform the natives that
the Spaniards had come to do no harm to their persons or to their property. The Spaniards intended to live among them in peace and in
friendship and "to explain to them the law of Jesus Christ by which they will be saved." Although the Spanish expedition could defend
themselves if attacked, the royal instructions admonished the commander to commit no aggressive act which might arouse native hostility.87
Spanish colonial laws recognized and respected Filipino landholdings including native land occupancy. 88 Thus, the Recopilación de Leyes
de las Indias expressly conferred ownership of lands already held by the natives.89 The royal decrees of 1880 and 1894 did not extinguish
native title to land in the Philippines. The earlier royal decree, dated June 25, 1880, provided that all those in "unlawful possession of royal
lands" must legalize their possession by means of adjustment proceedings, 90 and within the period specified. The later royal decree, dated
February 13, 1894, otherwise known as the Maura Law, declared that titles that were capable of adjustment under the royal decree of 1880,
but for which adjustment was not sought, were forfeited. Despite the harsh wording of the Maura Law, it was held in the case of Cariño that
the royal decree of 1894 should not be construed as confiscation of title, but merely as the withdrawal of the privilege of registering such
title.91
Neither was native title disturbed by the Spanish cession of the Philippines to the United States, contrary to petitioners’ assertion that the
US merely succeeded to the rights of Spain, including the latter’s rights over lands of the public domain. 92 Under the Treaty of Paris of
December 10, 1898, the cession of the Philippines did not impair any right to property existing at the time. 93 During the American colonial
regime, native title to land was respected, even protected. The Philippine Bill of 1902 provided that property and rights acquired by the US
through cession from Spain were to be administered for the benefit of the Filipinos. 94 In obvious adherence to libertarian principles,
McKinley’s Instructions, as well as the Philippine Bill of 1902, contained a bill of rights embodying the safeguards of the US Constitution.
One of these rights, which served as an inviolable rule upon every division and branch of the American colonial government in the
Philippines,95 was that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." 96 These vested rights safeguarded
by the Philippine Bill of 1902 were in turn expressly protected by the due process clause of the 1935 Constitution. Resultantly, property
rights of the indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands and ancestral domains were firmly established in law.
Nonetheless, the Solicitor General takes the view that the vested rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and domains were
"abated by the direct act by the sovereign Filipino people of ratifying the 1935 Constitution." 97 He advances the following arguments:
The Sovereign, which is the source of all rights including ownership, has the power to restructure the consolidation of rights inherent in
ownership in the State. Through the mandate of the Constitutions that have been adopted, the State has wrested control of those portions
of the natural resources it deems absolutely necessary for social welfare and existence. It has been held that the State may impair vested
rights through a legitimate exercise of police power.
Vested rights do not prohibit the Sovereign from performing acts not only essential to but determinative of social welfare and existence. To
allow otherwise is to invite havoc in the established social system. x x x
Time-immemorial possession does not create private ownership in cases of natural resources that have been found from generation to
generation to be critical to the survival of the Sovereign and its agent, the State. 98
Stated simply, the Solicitor General’s argument is that the State, as the source of all titles to land, had the power to re-vest in itself, through
the 1935 Constitution, title to all lands, including ancestral lands and ancestral domains. While the Solicitor General admits that such a
theory would necessarily impair vested rights, he reasons out that even vested rights of ownership over ancestral lands and ancestral
domains are not absolute and may be impaired by the legitimate exercise of police power.
I cannot agree. The text of the provision of the 1935 Constitution invoked by the Solicitor General, while embodying the theory of jura regalia,
is too clear for any misunderstanding. It simply declares that "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."99 Nowhere does it state that certain lands which are "absolutely necessary for social welfare and existence," including those which
are not part of the public domain, shall thereafter be owned by the State. If there is any room for constitutional construction, the provision
should be interpreted in favor of the preservation, rather than impairment or extinguishment, of vested rights. Stated otherwise, Section 1,
Article XII of the 1935 Constitution cannot be construed to mean that vested right which had existed then were extinguished and that the
landowners were divested of their lands, all in the guise of "wrest[ing] control of those portions of the natural resources [which the State]
deems absolutely necessary for social welfare and existence." On the contrary, said Section restated the fundamental rule against the
diminution of existing rights by expressly providing that the ownership of lands of the public domain and other natural resources by the State
is "subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concessions." The "existing rights" that were intended to be protected must, perforce, include
the right of ownership by indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands and domains. The words of the law should be given their ordinary
or usual meaning,100 and the term "existing rights" cannot be assigned an unduly restrictive definition.
Petitioners concede that Congress is mandated under Section 5, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution 101to protect the rights of indigenous
peoples to their ancestral lands and ancestral domains. Nonetheless, they contend that the recognition and protection under IPRA of the
right of ownership of indigenous peoples over ancestral lands and ancestral domains are far in excess of the legislative power and
constitutional mandate of the Congress,102 since such recognition and protection amount to the alienation of lands of the public domain,
which is proscribed under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution.
Section 5, Article XII of the Constitution expresses the sovereign intent to "protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands."
In its general and ordinary sense, the term "right" refers to any legally enforceable claim. 103It is a power, privilege, faculty or demand inherent
in one person and incident upon another. 104 When used in relation to property, "right" includes any interest in or title to an object, or any just
and legal claim to hold, use and enjoy it. 105 Said provision in the Constitution cannot, by any reasonable construction, be interpreted to
exclude the protection of the right of ownership over such ancestral lands. For this reason, Congress cannot be said to have exceeded its
constitutional mandate and power in enacting the provisions of IPRA, specifically Sections 7(a) and 8, which recognize the right of ownership
of the indigenous peoples over ancestral lands.
The second paragraph of Section 5, Article XII also grants Congress the power to "provide for the applicability of customary laws governing
property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains." In light of this provision, does Congress have the
power to decide whether ancestral domains shall be private property or part of the public domain? Also, does Congress have the power to
determine whether the "extent" of ancestral domains shall include the natural resources found therein?
It is readily apparent from the constitutional records that the framers of the Constitution did not intend Congress to decide whether ancestral
domains shall be public or private property. Rather, they acknowledged that ancestral domains shall be treated as private property, and that
customary laws shall merely determine whether such private ownership is by the entire indigenous cultural community, or by individuals,
families, or clans within the community. The discussion below between Messrs. Regalado and Bennagen and Mr. Chief Justice Davide,
then members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, is instructive:
Thus, the phrase "subject to the provisions of this Constitution" was intended by the framers of the Constitution as a reiteration of the
constitutional guarantee that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law.
There is another reason why Section 5 of Article XII mandating the protection of rights of the indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands
cannot be construed as subject to Section 2 of the same Article ascribing ownership of all public lands to the State. The Constitution must
be construed as a whole. It is a rule that when construction is proper, the whole Constitution is examined in order to determine the meaning
of any provision. That construction should be used which would give effect to the entire instrument.111
Thus, the provisions of the Constitution on State ownership of public lands, mineral lands and other natural resources should be read
together with the other provisions thereof which firmly recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples. These, as set forth
hereinbefore,112 include: Section 22, Article II, providing that the State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous peoples within
the framework of national unity and development; Section 5, Article XII, calling for the protection of the rights of indigenous cultural
communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being, and for the applicability of customary laws
governing property rights and relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains; Section 1, Article XIII, directing the
removal or reduction of social, economic, political and cultural inequities and inequalities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power
for the common good; Section 6, Article XIII, directing the application of the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship in the disposition
and utilization of other natural resources, subject to prior rights, homestead rights of small settlers, and the rights of indigenous communities
to their ancestral lands; Section 17, Article XIV, decreeing that the State shall recognize, respect, and protect the rights of indigenous
cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions; and Section 12, Article XVI, authorizing the
Congress to create a consultative body to advise the President on policies affecting indigenous cultural communities.
Again, as articulated in the Constitution, the first goal of the national economy is the more equitable distribution of opportunities, income,
and wealth.113 Equity is given prominence as the first objective of national economic development. 114 The framers of the Constitution did
not, by the phrase "subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs," intend to establish a
hierarchy of constitutional norms. As explained by then Commissioner (now Chief Justice) Hilario G. Davide, Jr., it was not their objective
to make certain interests primary or paramount, or to create absolute limitations or outright prohibitions; rather, the idea is towards the
balancing of interests:
BISHOP BACANI. In Commissioner Davide’s formulation of the first sentence, he says: "The State, SUBJECT TO THE provisions of this
Constitution AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS shall guarantee the rights of cultural or tribal communities to
their ancestral lands to insure their economic, social and cultural well-being." There are at least two concepts here which receive different
weights very often. They are the concepts of national development policies and programs, and the rights of cultural or tribal communities to
their ancestral lands, et cetera. I would like to ask: When the Commissioner proposed this amendment, which was the controlling concept?
I ask this because sometimes the rights of cultural minorities are precisely transgressed in the interest of national development policies and
programs. Hence, I would like to know which is the controlling concept here. Is it the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands or
is it national development policies and programs.
MR. DAVIDE. It is not really a question of which is primary or which is more paramount. The concept introduced here is really the
balancing of interests. That is what we seek to attain. We have to balance the interests taking into account the specific needs and the
specific interests also of these cultural communities in like manner that we did so in the autonomous regions.115 (Emphasis supplied.)
B. The provisions of R.A. 8371 do not infringe upon the State’s ownership over the natural resources within the ancestral domains.
Petitioners posit that IPRA deprives the State of its ownership over mineral lands of the public domain and other natural resources,116 as
well as the State’s full control and supervision over the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources. 117 Specifically,
petitioners and the Solicitor General assail Sections 3 (a), 118 5,119and 7120 of IPRA as violative of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution
which states, in part, that "[a]ll lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential
energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State." 121 They would have the
Court declare as unconstitutional Section 3(a) of IPRA because the inclusion of natural resources in the definition of ancestral domains
purportedly results in the abdication of State ownership over these resources.
I am not convinced.
Section 3(a) merely defines the coverage of ancestral domains, and describes the extent, limit and composition of ancestral domains by
setting forth the standards and guidelines in determining whether a particular area is to be considered as part of and within the ancestral
domains. In other words, Section 3(a) serves only as a yardstick which points out what properties are within the ancestral domains. It does
not confer or recognize any right of ownership over the natural resources to the indigenous peoples. Its purpose is definitional and not
declarative of a right or title.
The specification of what areas belong to the ancestral domains is, to our mind, important to ensure that no unnecessary encroachment on
private properties outside the ancestral domains will result during the delineation process. The mere fact that Section 3(a) defines ancestral
domains to include the natural resources found therein does not ipso facto convert the character of such natural resources as private
property of the indigenous peoples. Similarly, Section 5 in relation to Section 3(a) cannot be construed as a source of ownership rights of
indigenous people over the natural resources simply because it recognizes ancestral domains as their "private but community property."
The phrase "private but community property" is merely descriptive of the indigenous peoples’ concept of ownership as distinguished from
that provided in the Civil Code. In Civil Law, "ownership" is the "independent and general power of a person over a thing for purposes
recognized by law and within the limits established thereby." 122 The civil law concept of ownership has the following attributes: jus utendi or
the right to receive from the thing that which it produces, jus abutendi or the right to consume the thing by its use, jus disponendi or the
power to alienate, encumber, transform and even destroy that which is owned and jus vidicandi or the right to exclude other persons from
the possession the thing owned.123 In contrast, the indigenous peoples’ concept of ownership emphasizes the importance of communal or
group ownership. By virtue of the communal character of ownership, the property held in common "cannot be sold, disposed or
destroyed"124 because it was meant to benefit the whole indigenous community and not merely the individual member. 125
That IPRA is not intended to bestow ownership over natural resources to the indigenous peoples is also clear from the deliberations of the
bicameral conference committee on Section 7 which recites the rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral domains, to wit:
CHAIRMAN FLAVIER. Accepted. Section 8126 rights to ancestral domain, this is where we transferred the other provision but here itself -
HON. DOMINGUEZ. Mr. Chairman, if I maybe allowed to make a very short Statement. Earlier, Mr. Chairman, we have decided to remove
the provisions on natural resources because we all agree that that belongs to the State. Now, the plight or the rights of those
indigenous communities living in forest and areas where it could be exploited by mining, by dams, so can we not also provide a provision
to give little protection or either rights for them to be consulted before any mining areas should be done in their areas, any logging done in
their areas or any dam construction because this has been disturbing our people especially in the Cordilleras. So, if there could be, if our
lawyers or the secretariat could just propose a provision for incorporation here so that maybe the right to consultation and the right to be
compensated when there are damages within their ancestral lands.
CHAIRMAN FLAVIER. Yes, very well taken but to the best of my recollection both are already considered in subsequent sections which we
are now looking for.
HON. DOMINGUEZ. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN FLAVIER. First of all there is a line that gives priority use for the indigenous people where they are. Number two, in terms of
the mines there is a need for prior consultation of source which is here already. So, anyway it is on the record that you want to make sure
that the secretariat takes note of those two issues and my assurance is that it is already there and I will make sure that they cross check.
HON. ADAMAT. I second that, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN FLAVIER. Okay, thank you. So we now move to Section 8, there is a Senate version you do not have and if you agree we will
adopt that.127 (Emphasis supplied.)
Further, Section 7 makes no mention of any right of ownership of the indigenous peoples over the natural resources. In fact, Section 7(a)
merely recognizes the "right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by indigenous peoples, sacred
places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains." Neither does Section
7(b), which enumerates certain rights of the indigenous peoples over the natural resources found within their ancestral domai ns, contain
any recognition of ownership vis-a-vis the natural resources.
What is evident is that the IPRA protects the indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare in relation to the natural resources found within their
ancestral domains,128 including the preservation of the ecological balance therein and the need to ensure that the indigenous peoples will
not be unduly displaced when State-approved activities involving the natural resources located therein are undertaken.
Finally, the concept of native title to natural resources, unlike native title to land, has not been recognized in the Philippines. NCIP and
Flavier, et al. invoke the case of Reavies v. Fianza129 in support of their thesis that native title to natural resources has been upheld in this
jurisdiction.130 They insist that "it is possible for rights over natural resources to vest on a private (as opposed to a public) holder if these
were held prior to the 1935 Constitution."131However, a judicious examination of Reavies reveals that, contrary to the position of NCIP and
Flavier, et al., the Court did not recognize native title to natural resources. Rather, it merely upheld the right of the indigenous peoples to
claim ownership of minerals under the Philippine Bill of 1902.
While as previously discussed, native title to land or private ownership by Filipinos of land by virtue of time immemorial possession in the
concept of an owner was acknowledged and recognized as far back during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, there was no similar
favorable treatment as regards natural resources. The unique value of natural resources has been acknowledged by the State and is the
underlying reason for its consistent assertion of ownership and control over said natural resources from the Spanish regime up to the
present.132 Natural resources, especially minerals, were considered by Spain as an abundant source of revenue to finance its battles in
wars against other nations. Hence, Spain, by asserting its ownership over minerals wherever these may be found, whether in public or
private lands, recognized the separability of title over lands and that over minerals which may be found therein. 133
On the other hand, the United States viewed natural resources as a source of wealth for its nationals. As the owner of natural resources
over the Philippines after the latter’s cession from Spain, the United States saw it fit to allow both Filipino and American citizens to explore
and exploit minerals in public lands, and to grant patents to private mineral lands. A person who acquired ownership over a parcel of private
mineral land pursuant to the laws then prevailing could exclude other persons, even the State, from exploiting minerals within his
property.134 Although the United States made a distinction between minerals found in public lands and those found in private lands, title in
these minerals was in all cases sourced from the State. The framers of the 1935 Constitution found it necessary to maintain the State’s
ownership over natural resources to insure their conservation for future generations of Filipinos, to prevent foreign control of the country
through economic domination; and to avoid situations whereby the Philippines would become a source of international conflicts, thereby
posing danger to its internal security and independence. 135
The declaration of State ownership and control over minerals and other natural resources in the 1935 Constitution was reiterated in both
the 1973136 and 1987 Constitutions.137
Having ruled that the natural resources which may be found within the ancestral domains belong to the State, the Court deems it necessary
to clarify that the jurisdiction of the NCIP with respect to ancestral domains under Section 52 [i] of IPRA extends only to the lands and not
to the natural resources therein.
Section 52[i] provides:
Turnover of Areas Within Ancestral Domains Managed by Other Government Agencies. - The Chairperson of the NCIP shall certify that the
area covered is an ancestral domain. The secretaries of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, and Department of Justice, the Commissioner of the National Development
Corporation, and any other government agency claiming jurisdiction over the area shall be notified thereof. Such notification shall terminate
any legal basis for the jurisdiction previously claimed.
Undoubtedly, certain areas that are claimed as ancestral domains may still be under the administration of other agencies of the Government,
such as the Department of Agrarian Reform, with respect to agricultural lands, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
with respect to timber, forest and mineral lands. Upon the certification of these areas as ancestral domain following the procedure outlined
in Sections 51 to 53 of the IPRA, jurisdiction of the government agency or agencies concerned over lands forming part thereof ceases.
Nevertheless, the jurisdiction of government agencies over the natural resources within the ancestral domains does not terminate by such
certification because said agencies are mandated under existing laws to administer the natural resources for the State, which is the owner
thereof. To construe Section 52[i] as divesting the State, through the government agencies concerned, of jurisdiction over the natural
resources within the ancestral domains would be inconsistent with the established doctrine that all natural resources are owned by the
State.
C. The provisions of IPRA pertaining to the utilization of natural resources are not unconstitutional.
The IPRA provides that indigenous peoples shall have the right to manage and conserve the natural resources found on the ancestral
domains, to benefit from and share in the profits from the allocation and utilization of these resources, and to negotiate the terms and
conditions for the exploration of such natural resources. 138 The statute also grants them priority rights in the harvesting, extraction,
development or exploitation of any natural resources within the ancestral domains. 139 Before the NCIP can issue a certification for the
renewal, or grant of any concession, license or lease, or for the perfection of any production-sharing agreement the prior informed written
consent of the indigenous peoples concerned must be obtained. 140 In return, the indigenous peoples are given the responsibility to maintain,
develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains or portions thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves,
wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest cover, or reforestation. 141
The Solicitor General argues that these provisions deny the State an active and dominant role in the utilization of our country’s natural
resources. Petitioners, on the other hand, allege that under the Constitution the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources
may only be undertaken by the State, either directly or indirectly through co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing
agreements.142 To petitioners, no other method is allowed by the Constitution. They likewise submit that by vesting ownership of ancestral
lands and ancestral domains in the indigenous peoples, IPRA necessarily gives them control over the use and enjoyment of such natural
resources, to the prejudice of the State.143
Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution provides in paragraph 1 thereof that the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources
must be under the full control and supervision of the State, which may directly undertake such activities or enter into co-production, joint
venture, or production-sharing agreements. This provision, however, should not be read in isolation to avoid a mistaken interpretation that
any and all forms of utilization of natural resources other than the foregoing are prohibited. The Constitution must be regarded as consistent
with itself throughout.144 No constitutional provision is to be separated from all the others, or to be considered alone, all provisions bearing
upon a particular subject are to be brought into view and to be so interpreted as to effectuate the great purposes of the fundamental law.145
In addition to the means of exploration, development and utilization of the country’s natural resources stated in paragraph 1, Section 2 of
Article XII, the Constitution itself states in the third paragraph of the same section that Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization
of natural resources by its citizens.146 Further, Section 6, Article XIII, directs the State, in the disposition and utilization of natural
resources, to apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship. 147 Similarly, Section 7, Article XIII mandates the State to protect the
rights of subsistence fishermen to the preferential use of marine and fishing resources.148 Clearly, Section 2, Article XII, when interpreted
in view of the pro-Filipino, pro-poor philosophy of our fundamental law, and in harmony with the other provisions of the Constitution rather
as a sequestered pronouncement,149 cannot be construed as a prohibition against any and all forms of utilization of natural resources without
the State’s direct participation.
Through the imposition of certain requirements and conditions for the exploration, development and utilization of the natural resources under
existing laws,150 the State retains full control over such activities, whether done on small-scale basis151 or otherwise.
The rights given to the indigenous peoples regarding the exploitation of natural resources under Sections 7(b) and 57 of IPRA amplify what
has been granted to them under existing laws, such as the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 (R.A. 7076) and the Philippine Mining Act of
1995 (R.A. 7942). R.A. 7076 expressly provides that should an ancestral land be declared as a people’s small-scale mining area, the
members of the indigenous peoples living within said area shall be given priority in the awarding of small-scale mining contracts.152 R.A.
7942 declares that no ancestral land shall be opened for mining operations without the prior consent of the indigenous cultural
community concerned153 and in the event that the members of such indigenous cultural community give their consent to mining operations
within their ancestral land, royalties shall be paid to them by the parties to the mining to the contract.154
In any case, a careful reading of Section 7(b) would reveal that the rights given to the indigenous peoples are duly circumscribed. These
rights are limited only to the following: "to manage and conserve natural resources within territories and uphold it for future generations; to
benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein; to negotiate the terms and conditions
for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation
measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation
of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for
any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project, and the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any
interference with, alienation and encroachment of these rights."
It must be noted that the right to negotiate terms and conditions granted under Section 7(b) pertains only to the exploration of natural
resources. The term "exploration" refers only to the search or prospecting of mineral resources, or any other means for the purpose of
determining the existence and the feasibility of mining them for profit. 155 The exploration, which is merely a preliminary activity, cannot be
equated with the entire process of "exploration, development and utilization" of natural resources which under the Constitution belong to the
State.
Section 57, on the other hand, grants the indigenous peoples "priority rights" in the utilization of natural resources and not absolute ownership
thereof. Priority rights does not mean exclusive rights. What is granted is merely the right of preference or first consideration in the award
of privileges provided by existing laws and regulations, with due regard to the needs and welfare of indigenous peoples living in the area.
There is nothing in the assailed law which implies an automatic or mechanical character in the grant of concessions. Nor does the law
negate the exercise of sound discretion by government entities. Several factors still have to be considered. For example, the extent and
nature of utilization and the consequent impact on the environment and on the indigenous peoples’ way of life are important considerations.
Moreover, the indigenous peoples must show that they live in the area and that they are in the best position to undertake the required
utilization.
It must be emphasized that the grant of said priority rights to indigenous peoples is not a blanket authority to disregard pertinent laws and
regulations. The utilization of said natural resources is always subject to compliance by the indigenous peoples with existing laws, such as
R.A. 7076 and R.A. 7942 since it is not they but the State, which owns these resources.
It also bears stressing that the grant of priority rights does not preclude the State from undertaking activities, or entering into co-production,
joint venture or production-sharing agreements with private entities, to utilize the natural resources which may be located within the ancestral
domains. There is no intention, as between the State and the indigenous peoples, to create a hierarchy of values; rather, the object is to
balance the interests of the State for national development and those of the indigenous peoples.
Neither does the grant of priority rights to the indigenous peoples exclude non-indigenous peoples from undertaking the same activities
within the ancestral domains upon authority granted by the proper governmental agency. To do so would unduly limit the ownership rights
of the State over the natural resources.
To be sure, the act of the State of giving preferential right to a particular sector in the utilization of natural resources is nothing new. As
previously mentioned, Section 7, Article XIII of the Constitution mandates the protection by the State of "the rights of subsistence fishermen,
especially of local communities, to the preferential use of communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore."
Section 57 further recognizes the possibility that the exploration and exploitation of natural resources within the ancestral domains may
disrupt the natural environment as well as the traditional activities of the indigenous peoples therein. Hence, the need for the prior informed
consent of the indigenous peoples before any search for or utilization of the natural resources within their ancestral domains is undertaken.
In a situation where the State intends to directly or indirectly undertake such activities, IPRA requires that the prior informed consent of the
indigenous peoples be obtained. The State must, as a matter of policy and law, consult the indigenous peoples in accordance with the intent
of the framers of the Constitution that national development policies and programs should involve a systematic consultation to balance local
needs as well as national plans. As may be gathered from the discussion of the framers of the Constitution on this point, the national plan
presumably takes into account the requirements of the region after thorough consultation. 156 To this end, IPRA grants to the indigenous
peoples the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation of any project, government or private,
and the right not to be removed therefrom without their free and prior informed consent. 157 As to non-members, the prior informed consent
takes the form of a formal and written agreement between the indigenous peoples and non-members under the proviso in Section 57 in
case the State enters into a co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreement with Filipino citizens, or corporations. This
requirement is not peculiar to IPRA. Existing laws and regulations such as the Philippine Environmental Policy, 158the Environmental Impact
System,159 the Local Government Code160 and the Philippine Mining Act of 1995161already require increased consultation and participation
of stakeholders, such as indigenous peoples, in the planning of activities with significant environment impact.
The requirement in Section 59 that prior written informed consent of the indigenous peoples must be procured before the NCIP can issue a
certification for the "issuance, renewal, or grant of any concession, license or lease, or to the perfection of any production-sharing
agreement," must be interpreted, not as a grant of the power to control the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources,
but merely the imposition of an additional requirement for such concession or agreement. The clear intent of the law is to protect the rights
and interests of the indigenous peoples which may be adversely affected by the operation of such entities or licensees.
Corollary Issues
A. IPRA does not violate the Due Process clause.
The first corollary issue raised by petitioners is whether IPRA violates Section 1, Article III of the Constitution, which provides that "no person
shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be deprived the equal protection of the laws."
Petitioners maintain that the broad definition of ancestral lands and ancestral domains under Section 3(a) and 3(b) of IPRA includes private
lands. They argue that the inclusion of private lands in the ancestral lands and ancestral domains violates the due process
clause.162 Petitioners’ contention is erroneous.
Sections 3(a) and 3(b) expressly provide that the definition of ancestral lands and ancestral domains are "subject to Section 56," which
reads:
Sec. 56. Existing Property Rights Regimes. – Property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon effectivity of
this Act, shall be recognized and protected.
Petitioners, however, contend that Section 56 aims to protect only the vested rights of indigenous peoples, but not those who are not
members of such communities. Following their interpretation, IPRA, under Section 56, recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to their
ancestral lands and ancestral domains, subject to the vested rights of the same communities to such ancestral lands and ancestral
domains. Such interpretation is obviously incorrect.
The "property rights" referred to in Section 56 belong to those acquired by individuals, whether indigenous or non-indigenous peoples. Said
provision makes no distinction as to the ethnic origins of the ownership of these "property rights." The IPRA thus recognizes and respects
"vested rights" regardless of whether they pertain to indigenous or non-indigenous peoples. Where the law does not distinguish, the courts
should not distinguish.163 What IPRA only requires is that these "property rights" already exist and/or vested upon its effectivity.
Further, by the enactment of IPRA, Congress did not purport to annul any and all Torrens titles within areas claimed as ancestral lands or
ancestral domains. The statute imposes strict procedural requirements for the proper delineation of ancestral lands and ancestral domains
as safeguards against the fraudulent deprivation of any landowner of his land, whether or not he is member of an indigenous cultural
community. In all proceedings for delineation of ancestral lands and ancestral domains, the Director of Lands shall appear to represent the
interest of the Republic of the Philippines.164 With regard to ancestral domains, the following procedure is mandatory: first, petition by an
indigenous cultural community, or motu proprio by the NCIP; second, investigation and census by the Ancestral domains Office ("ADO") of
the NCIP; third, preliminary report by the ADO; fourth, posting and publication; and lastly, evaluation by the NCIP upon submission of the
final report of the ADO.165 With regard to ancestral lands, unless such lands are within an ancestral domain, the statute imposes the
following procedural requirements: first, application; second, posting and publication; third, investigation and inspection by the
ADO; fourth, delineation; lastly, evaluation by the NCIP upon submission of a report by the ADO. 166 Hence, we cannot sustain the
arguments of the petitioners that the law affords no protection to those who are not indigenous peoples.
Neither do the questioned sections of IPRA on the composition and powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP 167 and the application of customary
law,168 violate the due process clause of the Constitution.
Petitioners point out that IPRA provides that the NCIP shall be composed exclusively of members of indigenous peoples,169 and that the
NCIP shall have jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving indigenous peoples, 170including even disputes between a member of
such communities and one who is not a member, as well as over disputes in the delineation of ancestral domains. 171 Petitioners clarify that
they do not claim that the members of the NCIP are incapable of being fair and impartial judges. They merely contend that the NCIP will
not appear to be impartial, because a party who is not a member of an indigenous cultural community "who must defend his case against
[one who is] before judges who are all members of [indigenous peoples] cannot but harbor a suspicion that they do not have the cold
neutrality of an impartial judge."172
In addition, petitioners claim that IPRA prescribes that customary laws shall be applied first in disputes involving property, succession and
land,173 and that such laws shall likewise be used in disputes involving indigenous peoples. 174 They assert that "[w]hen the dispute involves
a member of an [indigenous cultural community and another who is not], a resolution of such a dispute based on customary laws. . . would
clearly be a denial of due process. . . [because those who are not indigenous peoples] do not know what these customary laws are." 175
Petitioners’ concerns are unfounded. The fact that the NCIP is composed of members of the indigenous peoples does not mean that it (the
NCIP) is incapable, or will appear to be so incapable, of delivering justice to the non-indigenous peoples. A person’s possession of the trait
of impartiality desirable of a judge has nothing to do with his or her ethnic roots. In this wise, the indigenous peoples are as capable of
rendering justice as the non-indigenous peoples for, certainly, the latter have no monopoly of the concept of justice.
In any case, there are sufficient checks in the law against any abuse by the NCIP of its quasi-judicial powers. Section 67 states that the
decision of the NCIP shall be appealable to the Court of Appeals by petition for review. The regular remedies under our rules of procedure
are likewise available to any party aggrieved by the decision of the NCIP.
Anent the use of customary laws in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains, suffice it to say that such is allowed under
paragraph 2, Section 5 of Article XII of the Constitution. Said provision states, "The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary
laws governing property rights and relations in determining the ownership and extent of the ancestral domains." Notably, the use of
customary laws under IPRA is not absolute, for the law speaks merely of primacy of use.176 The IPRA prescribes the application of such
customary laws where these present a workable solution acceptable to the parties, who are members of the same indigenous group. This
interpretation is supported by Section 1, Rule IX of the Implementing Rules which states:
RULE IX. JURISDICTION AND PROCEDURES FOR ENFORCEMENT OF RIGHTS
Section 1. Primacy of Customary Law. All conflicts related to ancestral domains and lands, involving ICCs/IPs, such as but not limited to
conflicting claims and boundary disputes, shall be resolved by the concerned parties through the application of customary laws in the area
where the disputed ancestral domain or land is located.
All conflicts related to the ancestral domains or lands where one of the parties is a non-ICC/IP or where the dispute could not be
resolved through customary law shall be heard and adjudicated in accordance with the Rules on Pleadings, Practice and
Procedures Before the NCIP to be adopted hereafter. (Emphasis supplied.)
The application of customary law is limited to disputes concerning property rights or relations in determining the ownership and
extent of the ancestral domains,177 where all the parties involved are members of indigenous peoples, 178 specifically, of the same
indigenous group. It therefore follows that when one of the parties to a dispute is a non-member of an indigenous group, or when the
indigenous peoples involved belong to different groups, the application of customary law is not required.
Like any other law, the objective of IPRA in prescribing the primacy of customary law in disputes concerning ancestral lands and domains
where all parties involved are indigenous peoples is justice. The utilization of customary laws is in line with the constitutional policy of
recognizing the application thereof through legislation passed by Congress.
Furthermore, the recognition and use of customary law is not a novel idea in this jurisdiction. Under the Civil Code, use of customary law is
sanctioned, as long as it is proved as a fact according to the rules of evidence, 179 and it is not contrary to law, public order or public
policy.180 Moreover, the Local Government Code of 1991 calls for the recognition and application of customary laws to the resolution of
issues involving members of indigenous peoples. This law admits the operation of customary laws in the settling of disputes if such are
ordinarily used in barangays where majority of the inhabitants are members of indigenous peoples. 181
B. Section 1, Part II, Rule VII of the Implementing Rules of IPRA does not infringe upon the President’s power of control over the Executive
Department.
The second corollary issue is whether the Implementing Rules of IPRA violate Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution, which provides
that:
The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed.
The assailed provision of the Implementing Rules provides:
Rule VII. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
xxx
Part II: NCIP as an Independent Agency Under the Office of the President
Section 1. The NCIP is the primary agency of government for the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs to
recognize, promote and protect the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples. It shall be an independent agency under the Office of the
President. As such, the administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but
autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination. This relationship shall be carried out through a system of
periodic reporting. Matters of day-to-day administration or all those pertaining to internal operations shall be left to the discretion of the
Chairperson of the Commission, as the Chief Executive Officer.
Petitioners asseverate that the aforecited rule infringes upon the power of control of the President over the NCIP by characterizing the
relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President as "lateral but autonomous...for purposes of policy and program coordination."
Although both Section 40 of the IPRA and Section 1, Part II, Rule VII of the Implementing Rules characterize the NCIP as an independent
agency under the Office of the President, such characterization does not remove said body from the President’s control and supervision.
The NCIP has been designated under IPRA as the primary government agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of
policies, plans and programs to promote and protect the rights and well being of the indigenous peoples and the recognition of their ancestral
domain as well as their rights thereto.182 It has been granted administrative,183 quasi-legislative184 and quasi-judicial powers185 to carry out
its mandate. The diverse nature of the NCIP’s functions renders it impossible to place said agency entirely under the control of only one
branch of government and this, apparently, is the reason for its characterization by Congress as an independent agency. An "independent
agency" is defined as an administrative body independent of the executive branch or one not subject to a superior head of department, as
distinguished from a "subordinate agency" or an administrative body whose action is subject to administrative review or revision.186
That Congress did not intend to place the NCIP under the control of the President in all instances is evident in the IPRA itself, which provides
that the decisions of the NCIP in the exercise of its quasi-judicial functions shall be appealable to the Court of Appeals, 187 like those of the
National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Nevertheless, the NCIP, although
independent to a certain degree, was placed by Congress "under the office of the President" and, as such, is still subject to the President’s
power of control and supervision granted under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution188 with respect to its performance of administrative
functions, such as the following: (1) the NCIP must secure the President’s approval in obtaining loans to finance its projects; 189 (2) it must
obtain the President’s approval for any negotiation for funds and for the acceptance of gifts and/or properties in whatever from and from
whatever source;190 (3) the NCIP shall submit annual reports of its operations and achievements to the President, and advise the latter on
all matters relating to the indigenous peoples;191 and (4) it shall exercise such other powers as may be directed by the President.192 The
President is also given the power to appoint the Commissioners of the NCIP 193 as well as to remove them from office for cause motu
proprio or upon the recommendation of any indigenous community.194
To recapitulate:
(1) The provisions of the IPRA (specifically Sections 3, paragraphs (a) and (b), 5, 6, 7, and 8) affirming the ownership by the
indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands and domains by virtue of native title do not diminish the State’s ownership of lands of
the public domain, because said ancestral lands and domains are considered as private land, and never to have been part of the
public domain, following the doctrine laid down in Cariño vs. Insular Government;195
(2) The constitutional provision vesting ownership over minerals, mineral lands and other natural resources in the State is not
violated by Sections 3, 5, 7, 56, 57, 58 and 59 of the IPRA which grant certain rights to the indigenous peoples over the natural
resources found within the ancestral domains, e.g., to benefit from and share in the profits from the allocation and utilization of the
same, as well as priority rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation thereof. The State retains full control over
the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources even with the grant of said rights to the indigenous peoples,
through the imposition of requirements and conditions for the utilization of natural resources under existing laws, such as the Small-
Scale Mining Act of 1991196and the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.197 Moreover, the rights granted to indigenous peoples for the
utilization of natural resources within their ancestral domains merely amplify what has been earlier granted to them under the
aforesaid laws;
(3) While the IPRA recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples with regard to their ancestral lands and domains, it also protects
the vested rights of persons, whether indigenous or non-indigenous peoples, who may have acquired rights of ownership lands or
rights to explore and exploit natural resources within the ancestral lands and domains; 198
(4) The Due Process Clause of the Constitution is not violated by the provisions (Sections 40, 51-54, 62, 63, 65 and 66) of the
IPRA which, among others, establish the composition of the NCIP, and prescribe the application of customary law in certain
disputes involving indigenous peoples. The fact the NCIP is composed wholly of indigenous peoples does not mean that it is
incapable of being impartial. Moreover, the use of customary laws is sanctioned by paragraph 2, Section 5 of Article XII of the
Constitution; and
(5) The provision of the Implementing Rules characterizing the NCIP as an independent agency under the Office of the President
does not infringe upon the President’s power of control under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution, since said provision as
well as Section 40 of the IPRA expressly places the NCIP under the Office of the President, and therefore under the President’s
control and supervision with respect to its administrative functions. However, insofar as the decisions of the NCIP in the exercise
of its quasi-judicial powers are concerned, the same are reviewable by the Court of Appeals, like those of the NLRC and the SEC.
In view of the foregoing, I vote to DISMISS the petition.

60 Section 7. Rights to Ancestral Domains.—The rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains shall
be recognized and protected. Such rights shall include:
(a) Right of Ownership. – The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by
ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional
(b) hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains;
xxx
61 Section 3(l) Native Title – refers to pre-conquest rights to lands and domains which, as far back as memory reaches, have been

held under a claim of private ownership by ICCs/IPs, have never been public lands and are thus indisputably presumed to have
been held that way since before the Spanish Conquest; x x x
Section 3(p) Time Immemorial - refers to a period of time when as far back as memory can go, certain ICCs/IPs are known
to have occupied, possessed in the concept of owners, and utilized a defined territory devolved to them, by operation of
customary law or inherited from their ancestors, in accordance with their customs and traditions.
62 Section 3(b) Ancestral Lands – Subject to Section 56 hereof, refers to land occupied, possessed and utilized by individuals,

families and clans who are members of the ICCs/IPs since time immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-
interest, under claims of individual or traditional group ownership, continuously to the present except when interrupted by war,
force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings
entered into by the government and private individuals/corporations, including, but not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or
paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots;
63 Section 3(a) Ancestral Domains – Subject to Section 56 hereof, refer to all areas generally belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising

lands, inland waters, coastal areas and natural resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by
Indigenous peoples, by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to
the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of
government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals/corporations, and
which are necessary to ensure their economic, social and cultural welfare. It shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture,
residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable or otherwise, hunting grounds, burial
grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other resources, and lands which may no longer be exclusively be occupied
by Indigenous peoples but from which they traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly
the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators.
86 Cariño v. Insular Government, supra note 75, at 939.

This point finds significance in light of the distinction between sovereignty and dominion. Sovereignty is the right to
exercise the functions of a State to the exclusion of any other State (Case Concerning the Island of Las Palmas [1928],
UNRIAA II 829, 838). It is often referred to as the power of imperium, which is defined as the government authority
possessed by the State (Bernas, The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary Vol. 2, p. 419). On
the other hand, dominion, or dominium, is the capacity of the State to own or acquire property such as lands and natural
resources.
Dominium was the basis for the early Spanish decrees embracing the theory of jura regalia. The declaration in Section 2,
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution that all lands of the public domain are owned by the State is likewise founded on
dominium (Ibid.). If dominium, not imperium, is the basis of the theory of jura regalia, then the lands which Spain acquired
in the 16th century were limited to non-private lands, because it could only acquire lands which were not yet privately-
owned or occupied by the Filipinos. Hence, Spain acquired title only over lands which were unoccupied and unclaimed,
i.e., public lands.
119 Section 5. Indigenous Concept of Ownership- Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains and

all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership
generally holds that ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property which belongs to all generations and
therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional resource rights.
120 Section 7. Rights to Ancestral Domains.—The rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains

shall be recognized and protected. Such rights shall include:


(a) Right of Ownership. – The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied
by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time
within the domains;
(b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources. – Subject to Section 56 hereof, right to develop, control and use lands
and territories traditionally occupied, owned, or used; to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories and
uphold the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the
natural resources found therein; the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in
the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to
national and customary laws; the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation
of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair
compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; and the right to effective measures by
the government to prevent any interference with, alienation and encroachment upon these rights; x x x (Emphasis
supplied.)

SEPARATE OPINION
MENDOZA, J.:
This suit was instituted to determine the constitutionality of certain provisions of R.A. No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples
Rights Act. Petitioners do not complain of any injury as a result of the application of the statute to them. They assert a right to seek an
adjudication of constitutional questions as citizens and taxpayers, upon the plea that the questions raised are of "transcendental importance."
The judicial power vested in this Court by Art. VIII, §1 extends only to cases and controversies for the determination of such proceedings
as are established by law for the protection or enforcement of rights, or the prevention, redress or punishment of wrongs. 1 In this case, the
purpose of the suit is not to enforce a property right of petitioners against the government and other respondents or to demand compensation
for injuries suffered by them as a result of the enforcement of the law, but only to settle what they believe to be the doubtful character of the
law in question. Any judgment that we render in this case will thus not conclude or bind real parties in the future, when actual litigation will
bring to the Court the question of the constitutionality of such legislation. Such judgment cannot be executed as it amounts to no more than
an expression of opinion upon the validity of the provisions of the law in question. 2
I do not conceive it to be the function of this Court under Art. VIII, §1 of the Constitution to determine in the abstract whether or not there
has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the legislative and executive departments in
enacting the IPRA. Our jurisdiction is confined to cases or controversies. No one reading Art. VIII, §5 can fail to note that, in enumerating
the matters placed in the keeping of this Court, it uniformly begins with the phrase "all cases. . . ."
The statement that the judicial power includes the duty to determine whether there has been a grave abuse of discretion was inserted in
Art. VIII, §1 not really to give the judiciary a roving commission to right any wrong it perceives but to preclude courts from invoking the
political question doctrine in order to evade the decision of certain cases even where violations of civil liberties are alleged.
The statement is based on the ruling of the Court in Lansang v. Garcia,3 in which this Court, adopting the submission of the Solicitor General,
formulated the following test of its jurisdiction in such cases:
[J]udicial inquiry into the basis of the questioned proclamation can go no further than to satisfy the Court not that the President’s decision
is correct and that public safety was endangered by the rebellion and justified the suspension of the writ, but that in suspending the writ, the
President did not act arbitrarily.
That is why Art. VII, §18 now confers on any citizen standing to question the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege
of the writ of habeas corpus. It is noteworthy that Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, who chaired the Committee on the Judiciary of the
Constitutional Commission, was the author of the opinions of the Court in Lopez v. Roxas and Lansang v. Garcia.
Indeed, the judicial power cannot be extended to matters which do not involve actual cases or controversies without upsetting the balance
of power among the three branches of the government and erecting, as it were, the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, as a third
branch of Congress, with power not only to invalidate statutes but even to rewrite them. Yet that is exactly what we would be permitting in
this case were we to assume jurisdiction and decide wholesale the constitutional validity of the IPRA contrary to the established rule that a
party can question the validity of a statute only if, as applied to him, it is unconstitutional. Here the IPRA is sought to be declared void on its
face.
The only instance where a facial challenge to a statute is allowed is when it operates in the area of freedom of expression. In such instance,
the overbreadth doctrine permits a party to challenge the validity of a statute even though as applied to him it is not unconstitutional but it
might be if applied to others not before the Court whose activities are constitutionally protected. Invalidation of the statute "on its face" rather
than "as applied" is permitted in the interest of preventing a "chilling" effect on freedom of expression. But in other cases, even if it is found
that a provision of a statute is unconstitutional, courts will decree only partial invalidity unless the invalid portion is so far inseparable from
the rest of the statute that a declaration of partial invalidity is not possible.
For the Court to exercise its power of review when there is no case or controversy is not only to act without jurisdiction but also to run the
risk that, in adjudicating abstract or hypothetical questions, its decision will be based on speculation rather than experience. Deprived of the
opportunity to observe the impact of the law, the Court is likely to equate questions of constitutionality with questions of wisdom and is thus
likely to intrude into the domain of legislation. Constitutional adjudication, it cannot be too often repeated, cannot take place in a vacuum.
Some of the brethren contend that not deciding the constitutional issues raised by petitioners will be a "galling cop out" 4 or an "advocacy of
timidity, let alone isolationism."5 To decline the exercise of jurisdiction in this case is no more a "cop out" or a sign of "timidity" than it was
for Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison6 to hold that petitioner had the right to the issuance of his commission as justice of the
peace of the District of Columbia only to declare in the end that after all mandamus did not lie, because §13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789,
which conferred original jurisdiction on the United States Supreme Court to issue the writ of mandamus, was unconstitutional as the court’s
jurisdiction is mainly appellate.
Today Marbury v. Madison is remembered for the institution of the power of judicial review, and so that there can be no doubt of this power
of our Court, we in this country have enshrined its principle in Art. VIII, §1. Now, the exercise of judicial review can result either in the
invalidation of an act of Congress or in upholding it. Hence, the checking and legitimating functions of judicial review so well mentioned in
the decisions7 of this Court.
To decline, therefore, the exercise of jurisdiction where there is no genuine controversy is not to show timidity but respect for the judgment
of a coequal department of government whose acts, unless shown to be clearly repugnant to the fundamental law, are presumed to be
valid. The polestar of constitutional adjudication was set forth by Justice Laurel in the Angara case when he said that "this power of judicial
review is limited to actual cases and controversies to be exercised after full opportunity of argument by the parties, and limited further to the
constitutional question raised or the very lis mota, presented."8 For the exercise of this power is legitimate only in the last resort, and as a
necessity in the determination of real, earnest, and vital controversy between individuals.9 Until, therefore, an actual case is brought to test
the constitutionality of the IPRA, the presumption of constitutionality, which inheres in every statute, must be accorded to it.
Justice Kapunan, on the other hand, cites the statement in Severino v. Governor General,10 reiterated in Tanada v. Tuvera,11 that "when
the question is one of public right and the object of mandamus to procure the enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the
real party in interest, and the relator at whose instigation the proceedings are instituted need not show that he has any legal or special
interest in the result, it being sufficient that he is a citizen and as such is interested in the execution of the laws." On the basis of this
statement, he argues that petitioners have standing to bring these proceedings. 12
In Severino v. Governor General,13 the question was whether mandamus lay to compel the Governor General to call a special election on
the ground that it was his duty to do so. The ruling was that he did not have such a duty. On the other hand, although mandamus was issued
in Tanada v. Tuvera, it was clear that petitioners had standing to bring the suit, because the public has a right to know and the failure of
respondents to publish all decrees and other presidential issuances in the Official Gazette placed petitioners in danger of violating those
decrees and issuances. But, in this case, what public right is there for petitioners to enforce when the IPRA does not apply to them except
in general and in common with other citizens.
For the foregoing reasons I vote to dismiss the petition in this case.

SEPARATE OPINION
(Concurring and Dissenting)
PANGANIBAN, J.:
I concur with the draft ponencia of Mr. Justice Santiago M. Kapunan in its well-crafted handling of the procedural or preliminary issues. In
particular, I agree that petitioners have shown an actual case or controversy involving at least two constitutional questions of transcendental
importance,1 which deserve judicious disposition on the merits directly by the highest court of the land. 2 Further, I am satisfied that the
various aspects of this controversy have been fully presented and impressively argued by the parties. Moreover, prohibition and mandamus
are proper legal remedies3 to address the problems raised by petitioners. In any event, this Court has given due course to the Petition,
heard oral arguments and required the submission of memoranda. Indeed, it would then be a galling copout for us to dismiss it on mere
technical or procedural grounds.
Protection of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Must Be Within the Constitutional Framework
With due respect, however, I dissent from the ponencia’s resolution of the two main substantive issues, which constitute the core of this
case. Specifically, I submit that Republic Act (RA) No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, violates
and contravenes the Constitution of the Philippines insofar as -
1. It recognizes or, worse, grants rights of ownership over "lands of the public domain, waters, x x x and other natural resources"
which, under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, "are owned by the State" and "shall not be alienated." I respectfully reject
the contention that "ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not public lands and have never been owned by the State." Such
sweeping statement places substantial portions of Philippine territory outside the scope of the Philippine Constitution and beyond
the collective reach of the Filipino people. As will be discussed later, these real properties constitute a third of the entire Philippine
territory; and the resources, 80 percent of the nation's natural wealth.
2. It defeats, dilutes or lessens the authority of the State to oversee the "exploration, development, and utilization of natural
resources," which the Constitution expressly requires to "be under the full control and supervision of the State."
True, our fundamental law mandates the protection of the indigenous cultural communities’ right to their ancestral lands, but such mandate
is "subject to the provisions of this Constitution."4 I concede that indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) may
be accorded preferential rights to the beneficial use of public domains, as well as priority in the exploration, development and utilization of
natural resources. Such privileges, however, must be subject to the fundamental law.
Consistent with the social justice principle of giving more in law to those who have less in life, Congress in its wisdom may grant preferences
and prerogatives to our marginalized brothers and sisters, subject to the irreducible caveat that the Constitution must be respected. I
personally believe in according every benefit to the poor, the oppressed and the disadvantaged, in order to empower them to equally enjoy
the blessings of nationhood. I cannot, however, agree to legitimize perpetual inequality of access to the nation's wealth or to stamp the
Court's imprimatur on a law that offends and degrades the repository of the very authority of this Court - the Constitution of the Philippines.
The Constitution Is a Compact
My basic premise is that the Constitution is the fundamental law of the land, to which all other laws must conform. 5 It is the people's
quintessential act of sovereignty, embodying the principles upon which the State and the government are founded. 6 Having the status of a
supreme and all-encompassing law, it speaks for all the people all the time, not just for the majority or for the minority at intermittent times.
Every constitution is a compact made by and among the citizens of a State to govern themselves in a certain manner. 7 Truly, the Philippine
Constitution is a solemn covenant made by all the Filipinos to govern themselves. No group, however blessed, and no sector, however
distressed, is exempt from its compass.
RA 8371, which defines the rights of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples, admittedly professes a laudable intent. It
was primarily enacted pursuant to the state policy enshrined in our Constitution to "recognize and promote the rights of indigenous cultural
communities within the framework of national unity and development."8Though laudable and well-meaning, this statute, however, has
provisions that run directly afoul of our fundamental law from which it claims origin and authority. More specifically, Sections 3(a) and (b),
5, 6, 7(a) and (b), 8 and other related provisions contravene the Regalian Doctrine - the basic foundation of the State's property regime.
Public Domains and Natural Resources Are Owned by the State and Cannot Be Alienated or Ceded
Jura regalia was introduced into our political system upon the "discovery" and the "conquest" of our country in the sixteenth century. Under
this concept, the entire earthly territory known as the Philippine Islands was acquired and held by the Crown of Spain. The King, as then
head of State, had the supreme power or exclusive dominion over all our lands, waters, minerals and other natural resources. By royal
decrees, though, private ownership of real property was recognized upon the showing of (1) a title deed; or (2) ancient possession in the
concept of owner, according to which a title could be obtained by prescription. 9 Refusal to abide by the system and its implementing laws
meant the abandonment or waiver of ownership claims.
By virtue of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the Philippine archipelago was ceded to the United States. The latter assumed administration of the
Philippines and succeeded to the property rights of the Spanish Crown. But under the Philippine Bill of 1902, the US Government allowed
and granted patents to Filipino and US citizens for the "free and open x x x exploration, occupation and purchase [of mines] and the land in
which they are found."10 To a certain extent, private individuals were entitled to own, exploit and dispose of mineral resources and other
rights arising from mining patents.
This US policy was, however, rejected by the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935 when it crafted and ratified our first Constitution. Instead,
the said Constitution embodied the Regalian Doctrine, which more definitively declared as belonging to the State all lands of the public
domain, waters, minerals and other natural resources. 11 Although respecting mining patentees under the Philippine Bill of 1902, it restricted
the further exploration, development and utilization of natural resources, both as to who might be entitled to undertake such activities and
for how long. The pertinent provision reads:
"SECTION 1 [Art. XIII]. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral
oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the
capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of the inauguration of the
Government established under this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and
license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period
exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or
industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant."
The concept was carried over in the 1973 and the 1987 Constitutions. Hence, Sections 8 and 9, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution, state:
"SEC. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
wildlife, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or commercial,
residential, and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated and no license, concession, or lease for
the exploration, development, exploitation, utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five
years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other
than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant.
SEC. 9. The disposition, exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources of the Philippines 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. The National Assembly, in the national interest, may allow such citizens, corporations, or associations to enter into service contracts
for financial, technical, management, or other forms of assistance with any foreign person or entity for the exploration, development,
exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources. Existing valid and binding service contracts for financial, technical, management,
or other forms of assistance are hereby recognized as such."
Similarly, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, provides:
"SEC. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all
other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full
control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or
production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizen, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by
such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and
under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses
other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.
"The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its
use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
"The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with
priority to subsistence fishermen and fish workers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons.
"The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale
exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions
provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall
promote the development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
"The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its execution."
The adoption of the Regalian Doctrine by the Philippine Commonwealth was initially impelled by the desire to preserve the nation's wealth
in the hands of the Filipinos themselves. Nationalism was fervent at the time, and our constitutional framers decided to embody the doctrine
in our fundamental law. Charging the State with the conservation of the national patrimony was deemed necessary for Filipino posterity.
The arguments in support of the provision are encapsulated by Aruego as follows: "[T]he natural resources, particularly the mineral resources
which constituted a great source of wealth, belonged not only to the generation then but also to the succeeding generation and consequently
should be conserved for them."12
Thus, after expressly declaring that all lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, all forces of energy and other natural resources belonged
to the Philippine State, the Commonwealth absolutely prohibited the alienation of these natural resources. Their disposition, exploitation,
development and utilization were further restricted only to Filipino citizens and entities that were 60 percent Filipino-owned. The present
Constitution even goes further by declaring that such activities "shall be under the full control and supervision of the State." Additionally, it
enumerates land classifications and expressly states that only agricultural lands of the public domain shall be alienable. We quote below
the relevant provision:13
"SEC. 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Agricultural lands of
the public domain may be further classified by law according to the uses to which they may be devoted. Alienable lands of the public domain
shall be limited to agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by
lease, for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and not to exceed one thousand hectares
in area. x x x."
Mr. Justice Kapunan upholds private respondents and intervenors in their claim that all ancestral domains and lands are outside the
coverage of public domain; and that these properties - including forests, bodies of water, minerals and parks found therein - are private and
have never been part of the public domain, because they have belonged to the indigenous people’s ancestors since time immemorial.
I submit, however, that all Filipinos, whether indigenous or not, are subject to the Constitution. Indeed, no one is exempt from its all-
encompassing provisions. Unlike the 1935 Charter, which was subject to "any existing right, grant, lease or concession," the 1973 and the
1987 Constitutions spoke in absolute terms. Because of the State’s implementation of policies considered to be for the common good, all
those concerned have to give up, under certain conditions, even vested rights of ownership.
In Republic v. Court of Appeals,14 this Court said that once minerals are found even in private land, the State may intervene to enable it to
extract the minerals in the exercise of its sovereign prerogative. The land is converted into mineral land and may not be used by any private
person, including the registered owner, for any other purpose that would impede the mining operations. Such owner would be entitled to
just compensation for the loss sustained.
In Atok Big-Wedge Mining Company v. IAC,15 the Court clarified that while mining claim holders and patentees have the exclusive right to
the possession and enjoyment of the located claim, their rights are not absolute or strictly one of ownership. Thus, failure to comply with the
requirements of pertinent mining laws was deemed an abandonment or a waiver of the claim.
Verily, as petitioners undauntedly point out, four hundred years of Philippine political history cannot be set aside or ignored by IPRA, however
well-intentioned it may be. The perceived lack of understanding of the cultural minorities cannot be remedied by conceding the nation’s
resources to their exclusive advantage. They cannot be more privileged simply because they have chosen to ignore state laws. For having
chosen not to be enfolded by statutes on perfecting land titles, ICCs/IPs cannot now maintain their ownership of lands and domains by
insisting on their concept of "native title" thereto. It would be plain injustice to the majority of Filipinos who have abided by the law and,
consequently, deserve equal opportunity to enjoy the country’s resources.
Respondent NCIP claims that IPRA does not violate the Constitution, because it does not grant ownership of public domains and natural
resources to ICCs/IPs. "Rather, it recognizes and mandates respect for the rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands and
domains that had never been lands of the public domain." 16 I say, however, that such claim finds no legal support. Nowhere in the
Constitution is there a provision that exempts such lands and domains from its coverage. Quite the contrary, it declares that all lands of the
public domain and natural resources "are owned by the State"; and "with the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall
not be alienated."
As early as Oh Cho v. Director of Lands,17 the Court declared as belonging to the public domain all lands not acquired from the government,
either by purchase or by grant under laws, orders or decrees promulgated by the Spanish government; or by possessory information under
Act 496 (Mortgage Law).
On the other hand, Intervenors Flavier et al.18 differentiate the concept of ownership of ICCs/IPs from that which is defined in Articles 427
and 428 of the Civil Code. They maintain that "[t]here are variations among ethnolinguistic groups in the Cordillera, but a fair synthesis of
these refers to ‘x x x the tribal right to use the land or to territorial control x x x, a collective right to freely use the particular territory x x x [in]
the concept of trusteeship.'"
In other words, the "owner" is not an individual. Rather, it is a tribal community that preserves the property for the common but nonetheless
exclusive and perpetual benefit of its members, without the attributes of alienation or disposition. This concept, however, still perpetually
withdraws such property from the control of the State and from its enjoyment by other citizens of the Republic. The perpetual and exclusive
character of private respondents’ claims simply makes them repugnant to basic fairness and equality.
Private respondents and intervenors trace their "ownership" of ancestral domains and lands to the pre-Spanish conquest. I should say that,
at the time, their claims to such lands and domains was limited to the surfaces thereof since their ancestors were agriculture-based. This
must be the continuing scope of the indigenous groups’ ownership claims: limited to land, excluding the natural resources found within.
In any event, if all that the ICCs/IPs demand is preferential use - not ownership - of ancestral domains, then I have no disagreement. Indeed,
consistent with the Constitution is IPRA’s Section 5719- without the too-broad definitions under Section 3 (a) and (b) - insofar as it grants
them priority rights in harvesting, extracting, developing or exploiting natural resources within ancestral domains.
The concerted effort to malign the Regalian Doctrine as a vestige of the colonial past must fail. Our Constitution vests the ownership of
natural resources, not in colonial masters, but in all the Filipino people. As the protector of the Constitution, this Court has the sworn duty
to uphold the tenets of that Constitution - not to dilute, circumvent or create exceptions to them.
Cariño v. Insular Government Was Modified by the Constitution
In this connection, I submit that Cariño v. Insular Government20 has been modified or superseded by our 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
Its ratio should be understood as referring only to a means by which public agricultural land may be acquired by citizens. I must also stress
that the claim of Petitioner Cariño refers to land ownership only, not to the natural resources underneath or to the aerial and cosmic space
above.
Significantly, in Director of Land Management v. Court of Appeals,21 a Decision handed down after our three Constitutions had taken effect,
the Court rejected a cultural minority member's registration of land under CA 141, Section 48 (c). 22 The reason was that the property fell
within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve. This Court quoted with favor the solicitor general’s following statements:
"3. The construction given by respondent Court of Appeals to the particular provision of law involved, as to include even forest reserves as
susceptible to private appropriation, is to unconstitutionally apply such provision. For, both the 1973 and present Constitutions do not include
timber or forest lands as alienable. Thus, Section 8, Article XIV of 1973 Constitution states that ‘with the exception of agricultural, industrial
or commercial, residential and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated.’ The new Constitution, in
its Article XII, Section 2, also expressly states that ‘with the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated’."
Just recently, in Gordula v. Court of Appeals,23 the Court also stated that "forest land is incapable of registration, and its inclusion in a title
nullifies that title. To be sure, the defense of indefeasiblity of a certificate of title issued pursuant to a free patent does not lie against the
state in an action for reversion of the land covered thereby when such land is a part of a public forest or of a forest reservation, the patent
covering forest land being void ab initio."
RA 8371 Violates the Inalienability of Natural Resources and of Public Domains
The ponencia theorizes that RA 8371 does not grant to ICCs/IPs ownership of the natural resources found within ancestral domains.
However, a simple reading of the very wordings of the law belies this statement.
Section 3 (a)24 defines and delineates ancestral domains as "all areas generally belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters,
coastal areas, and natural resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs, by themselves or through
their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to the present except when interrupted by war, force
majeure or displacement x x x. It shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned
whether alienable and disposable or otherwise, hunting grounds x x x bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources x x x." (Emphasis
ours.)
Clearly, under the above-quoted provision of IPRA, ancestral domains of ICCs/IPs encompass the natural resources found therein. And
Section 7 guarantees recognition and protection of their rights of ownership and possession over such domains.
The indigenous concept of ownership, as defined under Section 5 of the law, "holds that ancestral domains are the ICC’s/IP’s private but
community property which belongs to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed." Simply put, the law declares
that ancestral domains, including the natural resources found therein, are owned by ICCs/IPs and cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed.
Not only does it vest ownership, as understood under the Civil Code; it adds perpetual exclusivity. This means that while ICCs/IPs could
own vast ancestral domains, the majority of Filipinos who are not indigenous can never own any part thereof.
On the other hand, Section 3 (b)25 of IPRA defines ancestral lands as referring to "lands occupied, possessed and utilized by individuals,
families and clans of the ICCs/IPs since time immemorial x x x, under claims of individual or traditional group ownership, x x x including, but
not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots." Section 8 recognizes and protects "the
right of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral lands." Such ownership need not be by virtue of a certificate of title, but
simply by possession since time immemorial.
I believe these statutory provisions directly contravene Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, more specifically the declaration that the
State owns all lands of the public domain, minerals and natural resources – none of which, except agricultural lands, can be alienated. In
several cases, this Court has consistently held that non-agricultural land must first be reclassified and converted into alienable or disposable
land for agricultural purposes by a positive act of the government. 26 Mere possession or utilization thereof, however long, does not
automatically convert them into private properties. 27 The presumption is that "all lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership
are presumed to belong to the State. Hence, x x x all applicants in land registration proceedings have the burden of overcoming the
presumption that the land thus sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by clear
and convincing evidence that the property involved was acquired by him or his ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish
Government or by possessory information title, or any other means for the proper acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to
be part of the public domain. The applicant must present competent and persuasive proof to substantiate his claim; he may not rely on
general statements, or mere conclusions of law other than factual evidence of possession and title."28
Respondents insist, and the ponencia agrees, that paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sections 3 are merely definitions and should not be construed
independently of the other provisions of the law. But, precisely, a definition is "a statement of the meaning of a word or word group."29 It
determines or settles the nature of the thing or person defined. 30Thus, after defining a term as encompassing several items, one cannot
thereafter say that the same term should be interpreted as excluding one or more of the enumerated items in its definition. For that would
be misleading the people who would be bound by the law. In other words, since RA 8371 defines ancestral domains as including the natural
resources found therein and further states that ICCs/IPs own these ancestral domains, then it means that ICCs/IPs can own natural
resources.
In fact, Intervenors Flavier et al. submit that everything above and below these ancestral domains, with no specific limits, likewise belongs
to ICCs/IPs. I say that this theory directly contravenes the Constitution. Such outlandish contention further disregards international law
which, by constitutional fiat, has been adopted as part of the law of the land. 31
No Land Area Limits Are Specified by RA 8371
Under Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, Filipino citizens may acquire no more than 12 hectares of alienable public land, whether by
purchase, homestead or grant. More than that, but not exceeding 500 hectares, they may hold by lease only.
RA 8371, however, speaks of no area or term limits to ancestral lands and domains. In fact, by their mere definitions, they could cover vast
tracts of the nation's territory. The properties under the assailed law cover everything held, occupied or possessed "by themselves or through
their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial." It also includes all "lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied
by [them] but from which they traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home ranges of
ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators."
Nomadic groups have no fixed area within which they hunt or forage for food. As soon as they have used up the resources of a certain area,
they move to another place or go back to one they used to occupy. From year to year, a growing tribe could occupy and use enormous
areas, to which they could claim to have had "traditional access." If nomadic ICCs/IPs succeed in acquiring title to their enlarging ancestral
domain or land, several thousands of hectares of land may yet be additionally delineated as their private property.
Similarly, the Bangsa Moro people's claim to their ancestral land is not based on compounded or consolidated title, but "on a collective stake
to the right to claim what their forefathers secured for them when they first set foot on our country." 32 They trace their right to occupy what
they deem to be their ancestral land way back to their ancient sultans and datus, who had settled in many islands that have become part of
Mindanao. This long history of occupation is the basis of their claim to their ancestral lands. 33
Already, as of June 1998, over 2.5 million hectares have been claimed by various ICCs/IPs as ancestral domains; and over 10 thousand
hectares, as ancestral lands.34 Based on ethnographic surveys, the solicitor general estimates that ancestral domains cover 80 percent of
our mineral resources and between 8 and 10 million of the 30 million hectares of land in the country. 35 This means that four fifths of its
natural resources and one third of the country's land will be concentrated among 12 million Filipinos constituting 110 ICCs, 36 while over 60
million other Filipinos constituting the overwhelming majority will have to share the remaining. These figures indicate a violation of the
constitutional principle of a "more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, and wealth" among Filipinos.
RA 8371 Abdicates the State Duty to Take Full Control and Supervision of Natural Resources
Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, further provides that "[t]he exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be
under the full control and supervision of the State." The State may (1) directly undertake such activities; or (2) enter into co-production, joint
venture or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or entities, 60 percent of whose capital is owned by Filipinos.37 Such
agreements, however, shall not exceed 25 years, renewable for the same period and under terms and conditions as may be provided by
law.
But again, RA 8371 relinquishes this constitutional power of full control in favor of ICCs/IPs, insofar as natural resources found within their
territories are concerned. Pursuant to their rights of ownership and possession, they may develop and manage the natural resources, benefit
from and share in the profits from the allocation and the utilization thereof. 38 And they may exercise such right without any time limit, unlike
non-ICCs/IPs who may do so only for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for a like period. 39 Consistent with the Constitution, the
rights of ICCs/IPs to exploit, develop and utilize natural resources must also be limited to such period.
In addition, ICCs/IPs are given the right to negotiate directly the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resou rces,40 a right
vested by the Constitution only in the State. Congress, through IPRA, has in effect abdicated in favor of a minority group the State's power
of ownership and full control over a substantial part of the national patrimony, in contravention of our most fundamental law.
I make clear, however, that to the extent that ICCs/IPs may undertake small-scale utilization of natural resources and cooperative fish
farming, I absolutely have no objection. These undertakings are certainly allowed under the third paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the
Constitution.
Having already disposed of the two major constitutional dilemmas wrought by RA 8371 – (1) ownership of ancestral lands and domains and
the natural resources therein; and (2) the ICCs/IPs' control of the exploration, development and utilization of such resources – I believe I
should no longer tackle the following collateral issues petitioners have brought up:
1. Whether the inclusion of private lands within the coverage of ancestral domains amounts to undue deprivation of private property
2. Whether ICCs/IPs may regulate the entry/exit of migrants
3. Whether ancestral domains are exempt from real property taxes, special levies and other forms of exaction
4. Whether customary laws and traditions of ICCs/IPs should first be applied in the settlements of disputes over their rights and
claims
5. Whether the composition and the jurisdiction of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) violate the due process
and equal protection clauses
6. Whether members of the ICCs/IPs may be recruited into the armed forces against their will
I believe that the first three of the above collateral issues have been rendered academic or, at least, no longer of "transcendental importance,"
in view of my contention that the two major IPRA propositions are based on unconstitutional premises. On the other hand, I think that in the
case of the last three, it is best to await specific cases filed by those whose rights may have been injured by specific provisions of RA 8371.
Epilogue
Section 5, Article XII of the Constitution, provides:
"SEC. 5. The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of
indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well being.
"The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights and relations in determining the ownership and
extent of ancestral domain."
Clearly, there are two parameters that must be observed in the protection of the rights of ICCs/IPs: (1) the provisions of the 1987 Constitution
and (2) national development policies and programs.
Indigenous peoples may have long been marginalized in Philippine politics and society. This does not, however, give Congress any license
to accord them rights that the Constitution withholds from the rest of the Filipino people. I would concede giving them priority in the use, the
enjoyment and the preservation of their ancestral lands and domains. 41 But to grant perpetual ownership and control of the nation's
substantial wealth to them, to the exclusion of other Filipino citizens who have chosen to live and abide by our previous and present
Constitutions, would be not only unjust but also subversive of the rule of law.
In giving ICCs/IPs rights in derogation of our fundamental law, Congress is effectively mandating "reverse discrimination." In seeking to
improve their lot, it would be doing so at the expense of the majority of the Filipino people. Such short-sighted and misplaced generosity will
spread the roots of discontent and, in the long term, fan the fires of turmoil to a conflagration of national proportions.
Peace cannot be attained by brazenly and permanently depriving the many in order to coddle the few, however disadvantaged the y may
have been. Neither can a just society be approximated by maiming the healthy to place them at par with the injured. Nor can the nation
survive by enclaving its wealth for the exclusive benefit of favored minorities.
Rather, the law must help the powerless by enabling them to take advantage of opportunities and privileges that are open to all and by
preventing the powerful from exploiting and oppressing them. This is the essence of social justice – empowering and enabling the poor to
be able to compete with the rich and, thus, equally enjoy the blessings of prosperity, freedom and dignity.
WHEREFORE, I vote to partially GRANT the Petition and to DECLARE as UNCONSTITUTIONAL Sections 3(a) and (b), 5, 6, 7(a) and (b),
8 and related provisions of RA 8371.

G.R. No. 208450


SPS. ROBERTO ABOITIZ AND MARIA CRISTINA CABARRUS, Petitioners
vs.
SPS. PETER L. PO AND VICTORIA L. PO, Respondents
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 208497
SPS. PETER L. PO AND VICTORIA L. PO, Petitioners,
vs.
SPS. ROBERTO ABOITIZ AND MARIA CRISTINA CABARRUS, JOSE MARIA MORAZA, AND ERNESTO ABOITIZ AND
ISABEL ABOITIZ, Respondents
DECISION
LEONEN, J.:
This resolves two (2) Petitions for Review on Certiorari 1 assailing the Court of Appeals' October 31, 2012 Decision 2and its
June 17, 2013 Resolution3 in CA-G.R. CV No. 03803. The assailed decision affirmed the Regional Trial Court's
Decision,4 which declared the spouses Peter Po and Victoria Po (Spouses Po) as the rightful owners of the parcel of land.
However, the Court of Appeals ruled that respondents Jose Maria Moraza (Jose), spouses Ernesto Aboitiz (Ernesto), and
Isabel Aboitiz (Isabel) were innocent buyers in good faith whose titles were entitled to protection. 5 The assailed resolution
denied the Motion for Partial Reconsideration of the spouses Roberto Aboitiz and Maria Cristina Cabarrus (Spouses Aboitiz).6
The Spouses Aboitiz filed the Petition7 docketed as G.R. No. 208450. The Spouses Po filed the Petition 8 docketed as G.R.
No. 208497. These cases are consolidated in the case at bar.
This case involves a parcel of land located in Cabancalan, Mandaue City, 9 initially registered as Original Certificate of Title
No. 0-887, and titled under the name of Roberto Aboitiz (Roberto). 10 The land is referred to as Lot No. 2835. 11
This parcel of land originally belonged to the late Mariano Seno (Mariano). 12
On July 31, 1973, Mariano executed a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of his son, Ciriaco Seno (Ciriaco), over a 1.0120-hectare
land in Cebu covered by Tax Declaration No. 43358. 13 This property included two (2)
lots: Lot No. 2807 and the land subject of this case, Lot No. 2835.14
On May 5, 1978, Ciriaco sold the two (2) lots to Victoria Po (Victoria). 15 The parties executed a Deed of Absolute Sale. 16
On July 15, 1982, Mariano died and was survived by his five (5) children (Mariano Heirs): Esperanza Seno V da. De Kuizon,
Ramon Seno, 17 Benita Seno Vda. De Lim, Simeon Seno,18 and Ciriaco.19
In 1990, Peter Po (Peter) discovered that Ciriaco "had executed a [q]uitclaim dated August 7, 1989 renouncing [his] interest
over Lot [No.] 2807 in favor of [petitioner] Roberto."20 In the quitclaim, Ciriaco stated that he was "the declared owner of Lot
[Nos.] 2835 and 2807."21
The Spouses Po confronted Ciriaco.22 By way of remedy, Ciriaco and the Spouses Po executed a Memorandum of Agreement
dated June 28, 1990 in which Ciriaco agreed to pay Peter the difference between the amount paid by the Spouses Po as
consideration for the entire property and the value of the land the Spouses Po were left with after the quitclaim. 23
However, also in 1990, Lot No. 2835 was also sold to Roberto. 24 The Mariano Heirs, including Ciriaco, executed separate
deeds of absolute sale in favor of Roberto.25 Thereafter, Roberto immediately developed the lot as part of a subdivision called
North Town Homes.26
In 1991, the Spouses Po declared Lot No. 2835 for taxation purposes and was issued Tax Declaration No. 0634-A.27
In 1992, Roberto also declared Lot No. 2835 for taxation purposes and was issued Tax Declaration No. 1100, annotated
with: "This tax declaration is also declared in the name of Mrs. VICTORIA LEE PO married to PETER PO under [T]ax
[Declaration] [N]o. 0634-A so that one may be considered a duplicate to the other. "28
On April 19, 1993, Roberto filed an application for original registration of Lot No. 2835 with the Mandaue City Regional Trial
Court, acting as land registration court. 29 The case was raffled to Branch 28 and docketed as LRC Case No. N-208.30
In its Decision dated October 28, 1993, the trial court granted the issuance of Original Certificate of Title No. 0-887 in the
name of Roberto.31 The lot was immediately subdivided with portions sold to Ernesto and Jose. 32
On November 19, 1996, the Spouses Po filed a complaint to recover the land and to declare nullity of title with damages.33
The complaint was docketed in Branch 55, Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City. 34
The trial court ruled in favor of the Spouses Po in its Decision dated November 23, 2009:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered in favor of plaintiffs, and against defendants, declaring the
plaintiffs as owner of subject land and ordering the defendants reconvey and/or return to plaintiffs Lot No. 2835; declaring as
absolute nullity all the documents of sale involving Lot 283 5 executed by the Heirs of Mariano Seno in favor of defendant
Roberto Aboitiz and such other documents used in the improvident issuance of titles in the name of defendants, and to cancel
the said titles.35
The Spouses Aboitiz appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated October 31, 2012, partially
affirmed the trial court decision, declaring the Spouses Po as the rightful owner of the land. However, it ruled that the titles
issued to respondents Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel should be respected. 36
The Court of Appeals discussed the inapplicability of the rules on double sale and the doctrine of buyer in good faith since the
land was not yet registered when it was sold to the Spouses Po. 37 However, it ruled in favor of the Spouses Po on the premise
that registered property may be reconveyed to the "rightful or legal owner or to the one with a better right if the title [was]
wrongfully or erroneously registered in another person's name." 38 The Court of Appeals held that the Mariano Heirs were no
longer the owners of the lot at the time they sold it to Roberto in 1990 because Mariano, during his lifetime, already sold this
to Ciriaco in 1973. 39
It found that the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ciriaco and the Spouses Po was duly notarized and was thus presumed
regular on its face.40 Their Memorandum of Agreement did not cancel or rescind the Deed of Absolute Sale but rather
strengthened their claim that they "entered into a contract of [s]ale. "41
It likewise ruled that, contrary to the assertion of the Spouses Aboitiz, there was no showing that Ciriaco merely held the
property in trust for the Mariano Heirs. 42
It held that the action of the Spouses Po had not yet prescribed because their complaint in 1996 was within the 10-year
prescriptive period as the title in favor of the Spouses Aboitiz was issued in 1994. 43
However, the Court of Appeals ruled that the certificates of title of Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel were valid as they were innocent
buyers in good faith.44
The Spouses Aboitiz thus filed their Petition for Review, which was docketed as G.R. No. 208450.1âwphi1
45 They argue that the Decision of Branch 55, Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City granting the complaint of the Spouses Po

is void for lack of jurisdiction over the matter.46 They claim that a branch of the Regional Trial Court has no jurisdiction to nullify
a final and executory decision of a co-equal branch;47 it is the Court of Appeals that has this jurisdiction. 48
They likewise assert that the Spouses Po's cause of action has prescribed 49 and allegedly accrued when the Deed of Absolute
Sale between the Spouses Po and Ciriaco was executed on May 5, 1978.50 They maintain that more than 10 years had
elapsed when the complaint was filed on November 12, 1996, thus barring the action through prescription.51
The Spouses Aboitiz further insist that "estoppel and laches have already set in." 52 They claim that they have been "in open,
public, continuous, uninterrupted, peaceful[,] and adverse possession" in the concept of owners over the property for "46 years
as of 1993," without the Spouses Po acting on the Deed of Absolute Sale.53 They attest that the development of North Town
Homes Subdivision "was covered by utmost publicity," but the Spouses Po did not immediately question the development or
interpose any objection during the registration proceedings. 54
They posit that the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ciriaco and the Spouses Po is "clearly fake and fraudulent" 55 as evidenced
by certifications of its non-existence in the notarial books and the Spouses Po's failure to enforce their rights over the property
until 18 years later. 56 They also affirm that the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ciriaco and the Spouses Po is inadmissible
as no documentary stamp was paid and affixed. 57
Lastly, they contend that the Mariano Heirs should have been impleaded in the action as they are indispensable parties. 58
The Spouses Po filed a Comment59 where they argued that the Regional Trial Court had jurisdiction when it granted their
complaint because the case filed by the Spouses Aboitiz was for the registration of the land, while the case they filed was for
reconveyance.60 They insisted that their action had not prescribed because an action for reconveyance prescribes in 10 years
from the "date of issuance of the certificate of title over the property."61 They argued that "laches ha[d] not set in."62 They
claimed that the notarized Deed of Absolute Sale between them and Ciriaco was not fake or fraudulent and was admissible
in evidence63 whereas the Spouses Aboitiz failed "to overcome [its] presumption of regularity and due execution."64 They
asserted that "the documentary stamps tax ha[d] been paid"65 and that the Mariano Heirs were not indispensable parties.66
Spouses Aboitiz filed a Reply67 reiterating their arguments in the Petition.
The Spouses Po also filed a Petition for Review, which was docketed as G.R. No. 208497. They claim that respondents Jose,
Ernesto, and Isabel are not "innocent purchasers for value."68 They allegedly knew of the defective title of Roberto because
his tax declaration had the following annotation: "This tax declaration is also declared in the name of Mrs. VICTORIA LEE PO,
married to PETER PO under tax dec. No. 0634-A so that one may be considered a duplicate to the other. (Section 89
Paragraph H PD 464)."69
Spouses Aboitiz filed a Comment.70 Aside from reiterating their assertions in their Petition for Review in G.R No. 208450, they
argued that there was no evidence that they acted in bad faith as "subdivision lot buyers [were] not obliged to go beyond the
[T]orrens title."71
Spouses Po filed a Reply. 72
For resolution are the following issues:
First, whether the Regional Trial Court has jurisdiction over the Spouses Peter and Victoria Po's complaint;
Second, whether the action is barred by prescription,
Third, whether the doctrines of estoppel and laches apply;
Fourth, whether the land registration court's finding that Ciriaco Seno only held the property in trust for the Mariano Heirs is
binding as res judicata in this case;
Fifth, whether the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ciriaco Seno and the Spouses Peter and Victoria Po should be considered
as evidence of their entitlement to the property;
Sixth, whether the Mariano Heirs, as sellers in a deed of conveyance of realty, are indispensable parties; and
Finally, whether the respondents Jose Maria Moraza, Ernesto Aboitiz, and Isabel Aboitiz are innocent purchasers in good
faith.
I
The Spouses Aboitiz argue that Branch 55, Regional Trial Court did not have jurisdiction to nullify the final and executory
Decision of Branch 28, Regional Trial Court in LRC Case No. N-208.73 They claim that that it is the Court of Appeals that has
jurisdiction to annul judgments of the Regional Trial Court.74
However, the instant action is not for the annulment of judgment of a Regional Trial Court. It is a complaint for reconveyance,
cancellation of title, and damages.75
A complaint for reconveyance is an action which admits the registration of title of another party but claims that such registration
was erroneous or wrongful. 76 It seeks the transfer of the title to the rightful and legal owner, or to the party who has a superior
right over it, without prejudice to innocent purchasers in good faith. 77 It seeks the transfer of a title issued in a valid proceeding.
The relief prayed for may be granted on the basis of intrinsic fraud-fraud committed on the true owner instead of fraud
committed on the procedure amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
An action for annulment of title questions the validity of the title because of lack of due process of law. There is an allegation
of nullity in the procedure and thus the invalidity of the title that is issued.
The complaint of the Spouses Po asserted that they were the true owners of the parcel of land which was registered in the
name of the
Spouses Aboitiz.78 They alleged that they acquired the property from Ciriaco, who acquired it from Mariano. 79 They claimed
that the Spouses Aboitiz had the property registered without their knowledge and through fraud. 80 Thus, they sought to
recover the property and to cancel the title of the Spouses Aboitiz. 81 Thus the prayer in their Complaint stated:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Honorable Court is respectfully prayed to render judgment in favor of plaintiffs and
against defendants, ordering the latter as follows:
1. To reconvey and/or return to plaintiffs Lot No. 2835 which is the subject matter of this complaint;
2. To declare as absolute nullity all the documents of sale involving Lot 2835 in favor of defendants and such
other documents used in the improvident issuance of the Title in the name of defendants, and to cancel said
Title;
3. To pay jointly and severally the amount of ₱ 1,000,000.00 as moral damages; ₱500,000.00 as actual
damages; ₱ 100,000.00 as attorneys fees and ₱ 20,000.00 as litigation expenses.
Plaintiffs further pray for such other reliefs and remedies just and equitable in the premises. 82
Except for actions falling within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Courts, the Regional Trial Courts have exclusive original
jurisdiction over actions involving "title to, or possession of, real property." 83 Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 provides:
Section 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, except actions for forcible
entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial
Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts[.]
An action for reconveyance and annulment of title is an action involving the title to real property. 84
The complaint of the Spouses Po is clearly an action for reconveyance and annulment of title. Thus, the Regional Trial Court
has jurisdiction to hear the case.
The Spouses Aboitiz claim that it is the Court of Appeals that has jurisdiction over the annulment of Regional Trial Court
judgments. 85
The jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals is provided in Section 9 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129:
Section 9. Jurisdiction. - The Intermediate Appellate Court shall exercise:
(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over actions for annulment of judgments of Regional Trial Courts[.]
While the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to annul judgments of the Regional Trial Courts, the case at bar is not for the
annulment of a judgment of a Regional Trial Court. It is for reconveyance and the annulment of title.
The difference between these two (2) actions was discussed in Toledo l 86 v. Court of Appeals:
An action for annulment of judgment is a remedy in equity so exceptional in nature that it may be availed of only when other
remedies are wanting, and only if the judgment, final order or final resolution sought to be annulled was rendered by a court
lacking jurisdiction or through extrinsic fraud. An action for reconveyance, on the other hand, is a legal and equitable remedy
granted to the rightful owner of land which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in the name of another for the
purpose of compelling the latter to transfer or reconvey the land to him. The Court of Appeals has exclusive original jurisdiction
over actions for annulment of judgments of Regional Trial Courts whereas actions for reconveyance of real property may be
filed before the Regional Trial Courts or the Municipal Trial Courts, depending on the assessed value of the property involved.
Petitioners allege that: first, they are the owners of the land by virtue of a sale between their and respondents' predecessors-
in-interest; and second, that respondents Ramoses and ARC Marketing illegally dispossessed them by having the same
property registered in respondents' names. Thus, far from establishing a case for annulment of judgment, the foregoing
allegations clearly show a case for reconveyance. 87 (Citations omitted)
As stated, a complaint for reconveyance is a remedy where the plaintiff argues for an order for the defendant to transfer its
title issued in a proceeding not otherwise invalid. The relief prayed for may be granted on the basis of intrinsic rather than
extrinsic fraud; that is, fraud committed on the real owner rather than fraud committed on the procedure amounting to lack of
jurisdiction.
An action for annulment of title, on the other hand, questions the validity of the grant of title on grounds which amount to lack
of due process of law. The remedy is premised in the nullity of the procedure and thus the invalidity of the title that is issued.
Title that is invalidated as a result of a successful action for annulment against the decision of a Regional Trial Court acting
as a land registration court may still however be granted on the merits in another proceeding not infected by lack of jurisdiction
or extrinsic fraud if its legal basis on the merits is properly alleged and proven.
Considering the Spouses Aboitiz's fraudulent registration without the Spouses Po's knowledge and the latter's assertion of
their ownership of the land, their right to recover the property and to cancel the Spouses Aboitiz' s88 title, the action is for
reconveyance and annulment of title and not for annulment of judgment.
Thus, the Regional Trial Court has jurisdiction to hear this case.
II
The Spouses Aboitiz argue that the Spouses Po's cause of action has prescribed. 89 They claim that prescription has set in
because the original complaint was filed only on November 12, 1996, after more than 10 years after the Deed of Absolute
Sale between Ciriaco and Spouses Po was executed on May 5, 1978. 90
The Spouses Po's action has not prescribed.
"[A]n action for reconveyance ... prescribes in [10] years from the issuance of the Torrens title over the property." 91The basis
for this is Section 53, Paragraph 392 of Presidential Decree No. 152993 in relation to Articles 145694 and 1144(2)95 of the Civil
Code.96
Under Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree), the owner of a property may avail of legal remedies
against a registration procured by fraud:
SECTION 53. Presentation of Owner's Duplicate Upon Entry of New Certificate. - ...
In all cases of registration procured by fraud, the owner may pursue all his legal and equitable remedies against the parties
to such fraud without prejudice, however, to the rights of any innocent holder for value of a certificate of title ...
Article 1456 of the Civil Code provides that a person acquiring a property through fraud becomes an implied trustee of the
property's true and lawful owner.97
An implied trust is based on equity and is either (i) a constructive trust, or (ii) a resulting trust. 98 A resulting trust is created by
implication of law and is presumed as intended by the parties.99 A constructive trust is created by force of law 100 such as when
a title is registered in favor of a person other than the true owner. 101
The implied trustee only acquires the right "to the beneficial enjoyment of [the] property." 102 The legal title remains with the
true owner. 103 In Crisostomo v. Garcia, J,r., .: 104
Art. 1456 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 1456. If property is acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by force of law, considered a trustee of
an implied trust for the benefit of the person from whom the property comes.
Thus, it was held that when a party uses fraud or concealment to obtain a certificate of title of property, a constructive trust is
created in favor of the defrauded party.
Constructive trusts are "created by the construction of equity in order to satisfy the demands of justice and prevent unjust
enrichment. They arise contrary to intention against one who, by fraud, duress or abuse of confidence, obtains or holds the
legal right to property which he ought not, in equity and good conscience, to hold."
When property is registered in another's name, an implied or constructive trust is created by law in favor of the true owner.
The action for reconveyance of the title to the rightful owner prescribes in 10 years from the issuance of the title. 105 (Citations
omitted)
Thus, the law creates a trust in favor of the property's true owner.
The prescriptive period to enforce this trust is 10 years from the time the right of action accrues. Article 1144 of the Civil Code
provides:
Article 1144. The following actions must be brought within ten years from the time the right of action accrues:
(1) Upon a written contract;
(2) Upon an obligation created by law;
(3) Upon a judgment.
In an action for reconveyance, the right of action accrues from the time the property is registered . 106
In Crisostomo, 107 the petitioners were able to transfer the property under their names without knowledge of the
respondent. 108 The respondent filed an action for reconveyance. 109 In arguing that the action for reconveyance had
prescribed, the petitioners claimed that the cause of action of the respondent should be based on the latter's Deed of Sale
and thus the respondent's right of action should have accrued from its execution.110 This Court, however, ruled that the right
of action accrued from the time the property was registered because registration is the act that signifies that the adverse party
repudiates the implied trust:
In the case at bar, respondent's action which is for Reconveyance and Cancellation of Title is based on an implied trust under
Art. 1456 of the Civil Code since he averred in his complaint that through fraud petitioners were able to obtain a Certificate of
Title over the property. He does not seek the annulment of a voidable contract whereby Articles 1390 and 1391 of the Civil
Code would find application such that the cause of action would prescribe in four years.
An action for reconveyance based on implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten years from the alleged fraudulent
registration or date of issuance of the certificate of title over the property.
It is now well-settled that the prescriptive period to recover property obtained by fraud or mistake, giving rise to an implied
trust under Art. 1456 of the Civil Code, is 10 years pursuant to Art. 1144. This tenyear prescriptive period begins to run from
the date the adverse party repudiates the implied trust, which repudiation takes place when the adverse party registers the
land. 111 (Citations omitted, emphasis supplied)
Likewise, in Duque v. Domingo: 112
The registration of an instrument in the Office of the Register of Deeds constitutes constructive notice to the whole world, and,
therefore, discovery of the fraud is deemed to have taken place at the time of registration. Such registration is deemed to be
a constructive notice that the alleged fiduciary or trust relationship has been repudiated. It is now settled that an action on an
implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten (10) years from the date the right of action accrued. The issuance of Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 7501 in 1931 to Mariano Duque commenced the effective assertion of adverse title for the purpose of
the statute of limitations. 113 (Citations omitted)
Registration of the property is a "constructive notice to the whole world."114 Thus, in registering the property, the adverse party
repudiates the implied trust. 115 Necessarily, the cause of action accrues upon registration. 116
An action for reconveyance and annulment of title does not seek to question the contract which allowed the adverse party to
obtain the title to the property. 117 What is put on issue in an action for reconveyance an d cancellation of title is the ownership
of the property and its registration. 118 It does not question any fraudulent contract. 119 Should that be the case, the applicable
provisions are Articles 1390120 and 1391 121 of the Civil Code. 122
Thus, an action for reconveyance and cancellation of title prescribes in 10 years from the time of the issuance of the Torrens
title over the property. 123
Considering that the Spouses Po's complaint was filed on November 19, 1996, less than three (3) years from the issuance of
the Torrens title over the property on April 6, 1994, it is well within the 10-year prescriptive period imposed on an action for
reconveyance.
III
The Spouses Aboitiz insist that estoppel and laches have already set in. 124 They claim that they have been in "open,
continuous, public, peaceful, [and] adverse" possession in the concept of owners over the property for "46 years as of 1993,"
without the Spouses Po acting on their Deed of Absolute Sale. 125 Moreover, the development of North Town Homes
Subdivision "was covered by utmost publicity" but the Spouses Po did not promptly question the development. 126 In fact, they
did not interpose any objection during the registration proceedings. 127
There is laches when a party was negligent or has failed "to assert a right within a reasonable time," thus giving rise to the
presumption that he or she has abandoned it. 128 Laches has set in when it is already inequitable or unfair to allow the party
to assert the right. 129 The elements of laches were enumerated in Ignacio v. Basilio:
There is laches when: (1) the conduct of the defendant or one under whom he claims, gave rise to the situation complained
of; (2) there was delay in asserting a right after knowledge of the defendant's conduct and after an opportunity to sue; (3)
defendant had no knowledge or notice that the complainant would assert his right; (4) there is injury or prejudice to the
defendant in the event relief is accorded to the complainant. 130 (Citation omitted)
"Laches is different from prescription."131 Prescription deals with delay itself and thus is an issue of how much time has
passed. 132 The time period when prescription is deemed to have set in is fixed by law. 133 Laches, on the other hand, concerns
itself with the effect of delay and not the period of time that has lapsed. 134 It asks the question whether the delay has changed
"the condition of the property or the relation of the parties" such that it is no longer equitable to insist on the original
right. 135 In Nielson & Co., Inc. v. Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co.: 136
Appellee is correct in its contention that the defense of laches applies independently of prescription. Laches is different from
the statute of limitations. Prescription is concerned with the fact of delay. Whereas laches is concerned with the effect of delay.
Prescription is a matter of time; laches is principally a question of inequity of permitting a claim to be enforced, this inequity
being founded on some change in the condition of the property or the relation of the parties. Prescription is statutory; laches
is not. Laches applies in equity, whereas prescription applies at law. Prescription is based on fixed time, Laches is not. 137
The defense of laches is based on equity. 138 It is not based on the title of the party invoking it, but on the right holder's "long
inaction or inexcusable neglect" to assert his claim. 139
This Court rules that the Spouses Po is not barred by laches. There is no showing that they abandoned their right to the
property. The factual findings reveal that the Spouses Po had their rights over the property registered in the assessor's
office. 140 They testified that they introduced improvements by cultivating fruit trees after they purchased the lots.141 When the
Spouses Po discovered that Ciriaco executed a quitclaim renouncing his interest over Lot No. 2807 in favor of Roberto, the
Spouses Po executed a Memorandum of Agreement with Ciriaco to protect their interest in Lot No. 2835. 142
The Spouses Po also had the property declared for taxation purposes in their names and Tax Declaration No. 0634-A was
issued. 143 Thus, when the Spouses Aboitiz also had the property declared for taxation purposes, it had the annotation: "This
tax declaration is also declared in the name of Mrs. Victoria Lee Po, married to Peter Po under tax dee. no. 0634-A so that
one may be considered a duplicate to the other." 144
The Spouses Aboitiz only acquired their alleged rights over the property in 1990, when the Mariano Heirs executed the Deeds
of Sale in their favor. 145 Assuming the Spouses Aboitiz immediately took possession and began construction in 1990, it cannot
be said that the Spouses Po were in delay in asserting their right. In the Spouses Po's complaint, they asserted that they
made demands upon the Spouses Aboitiz to reconvey to them the property. 146 They also referred the matter to the barangay
for conciliation:
11) That demands were made upon the defendants to reconvey to plaintiffs Lot 2835 unlawfully and feloniously acquired by
defendants, but to no avail, thereby compelling the plaintiffs to elevate the matter for barangay conciliation, and for failure of
the parties to effect a settlement, the proper Certification to file action was then issued, a copy of which is hereto attached as
Annex "L." 147
In their Answer with Counterclaim, the Spouses Aboitiz did not deny that demands were made upon them and that the matter
was elevated for barangay conciliation:
8. Par. 11 is denied as regards the all[e]gation that Lot 2835 was feloniously and un[l]awfully acquired by defendants, for being
false. The truth is that defendants were in good faith in acquiring same property. Defendants refused to meet the demands of
settlement by plaintiffs because they are strangers to the property in question. 148
When they discovered that the property was registered in the name of the Spouses Aboitiz in 1993, the Spouses Po then filed
the instant complaint to recover the property sold to them by Ciriaco, alleging that it was done without their knowledge, through
evident bad faith and fraud. 149 The Spouses Po filed this case in less than three (3) years from the time of registration.
Based on these circumstances, the elements of laches are clearly lacking in this case. There was no delay in asserting their
right over the property, and the Spouses Aboitiz had knowledge that the Spouses Po would assert their right.
Thus, it cannot be said that they are barred by laches.
IV
The Spouses Aboitiz insist that there is already a finding by the Regional Trial Court in LRC Case No. N-208 that Ciriaco
merely held the property "in trust for the [Mariano Heirs]." 150 Thus, Ciriaco could not have validly sold the property to the
Spouses Po. 151 They claim that these findings are binding on the whole world because land registration proceedings are
actions in rem. 152
In the Decision in LRC Case No. N-208, no one opposed the application for registration. 153 Moreover, the Spouses Aboitiz
presented only one (I) witness, Gregorio Espina (Espina), an employee of Roberto, 154 whotestified:
That this parcel of land is covered by tax declarations, to wit: 1) Tax Dec. No. 43174 in the name of Ciriaco Seno for the year
1953 (Exh. "T");
11) Tax Dec. No. 2835 in the name of applicant, Roberto Aboitiz for the year 1991 (Exh. "DD").
That the tax declarations covering Lot No. 2835 are in the name of Ciriaco Seno because the heirs of Mariano Seno have
agreed that Lot No. 2835 be held in trust by Ciriaco Seno in favor of the heirs. 155
This Court rules that this cannot be binding in this action for reconveyance.
Res judicata embraces two (2) concepts: (i) bar by prior judgment and (ii) conclusiveness of judgment, respectively covered
under Rule 39, Section 47 of the Rules of Court, paragraphs (b) and (c): 156
Section 47. Effect of judgments or final orders. - The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a court of the Philippines,
having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as follows:
(b) In other cases, the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that
could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent
to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the
same capacity; and
(c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged
in a former judgment or final order which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or which was actually and
necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.
Res judicata in the concept of bar by prior judgment proscribes the filing of another action based on "the same claim, demand,
or cause of action."157 It applies when the following are present: (a) there is a final judgment or order; (b) it is a judgment or
order on the merits; (c) it was "rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and parties"; and (d) there is
"identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action" between the first and second actions. 158
Res judicata in the concept of conclusiveness of judgment applies when there is an identity of issues in two (2) cases between
the same parties involving different causes of action. 159 Its effect is to bar "the relitigation of particular facts or issues" which
have already been adjudicated in the other case. 160 In Calalang v. Register of Deeds of Quezon City:161
The second concept - conclusiveness of judgment - states that a fact or question which was in issue in a former suit and was
there judicially passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusively settled by the judgment
therein as far as the parties to that action and persons in privity with them are concerned and cannot be again litigated in any
future action between such parties or their privies, in the same court or any other court of concurrent jurisdiction on either the
same or different cause of action, while the judgment remains unreversed by proper authority. It has been held that in order
that a judgment in one action can be conclusive as to a particular matter in another action between the same parties or their
privies, it is essential that the issue[s] be identical. If a particular point or question is in issue in the second action, and the
judgment will depend on the determination of that particular point or question, a former judgment between the same parties
or their privies will be final and conclusive in the second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the first
suit (Nabus vs. Court of Appeals, 193 SCRA 732 [1991]). Identity of cause of action is not required but merely identity of
issues. 162
However, in Racoma v. Fortich, 163 this Court held that res judicata could not be a defense in an action for reconveyance
based on fraud where the complainant had no knowledge of the application for registration:
The other ground upon which the lower court dismissed the complaint is res judicata. It is stated in the order of dismissal that
the plaintiff had admitted that the property in controversy was applied for by defendant Maximina Fortich in a cadastral
proceeding and under Act 496; that the proceedings were in rem and, therefore, the whole world, including the plaintiff, were
parties thereto and bound by the judgment thereon ... [I]t is obvious that the lower court was referring to the legal effect of the
conclusiveness against all persons of the in rem decision in the cadastral case rather than the actual fact that the plaintiff was
a claimant who appeared in the said case, for he alleged in his complaint that he "has no knowledge whatsoever of the
application for registration filed by defendant Maximina Fortich and the order of decree of registration issued in favor of the
defendant Maximina Fortich by this Honorable Court until on February 25, 1967 ... " (Record on Appeal, page 30). Such being
the case, then an action for reconveyance is available to the plaintiff, the decree of registration notwithstanding, for ...
" ... , it is now a well-settled doctrine in this jurisdiction that the existence of a decree of registration in favor of one party is no
bar to an action to compel reconveyance of the property to the true owner, which is an action in personam, even if such action
be instituted after the year fixed by Section 38 of the Land Registration Act as a limit to the review of the registration decree,
provided it is shown that the registration is wrongful and the property sought to be reconveyed has not passed to an innocent
third party holder for value.["] 164 (Emphasis supplied)
The reason for this rule is to prevent the unjust deprivation of rights over real property. As discussed in People v. Cainglet: 165
It is fundamental and well-settled that a final judgment in a cadastral proceeding - a proceeding in rem - is binding and
conclusive upon the whole world.1âwphi1 Reason is that public policy and public order demand not only that litigations must
terminate at some definite point but also that titles over lands under the Torrens system should be given stability for on it
greatly depends the stability of the country's economy. Interest republicae ut sit finis litium. However, this conclusiveness of
judgment in the registration of lands is not absolute. It admits of exception. Public policy also dictates that those unjustly
deprived of their rights over real property by reason of the operation of our registration laws be afforded remedies. Thus, the
aggrieved party may file a suit for reconveyance of property or a personal action for recovery of damages against the party
who registered his property through fraud, or in case of insolvency of the party who procured the registration through fraud,
an action against the Treasurer of the Philippines for recovery of damages from the Assurance Fund. Through these remedial
proceedings, the law, while holding registered titles indefeasible, allows redress calculated to prevent one from enriching
himself at the expense of other. Necessarily, without setting aside the decree of title, the issues raised in the previous
registration case are relit1ated, for purposes of reconveyance of said title or recovery of damages. 166 (Citations omitted,
emphasis supplied)
In this case, the Spouses Po allege that the registration was done through fraud. They contend that they were unaware and
were thus unable to contest the registration and prove their claim over the property. Aside from several tax receipts, the
Spouses Po formally offered as evidence, among others, the Deed of Sale executed by Mariano in Ciriaco's favor, the Deed
of Absolute Sale executed by Ciriaco in their favor, and the Tax Declaration under Victoria's name. Additionally, they also
submitted their Memorandum of Agreement with Ciriaco and the Quitclaim executed by Ciriaco in favor of the Spouses
Aboitiz.167 These documents were not considered by the land registration court when it issued the title in favor of the Spouses
Aboitiz. The Spouses Po also offered the Application of Original Registration of Title of the Spouses Aboitiz to prove that the
Spouses Aboitiz only submitted to the land registration court the cancelled tax declarations of Ciriaco, instead of the tax
declaration of the Spouses Po. 168
Thus, the ruling of the land registration court cannot be so conclusive as to deny the Spouses Po the remedy afforded to them
by law. The action for reconveyance allows them to prove their ownership over the property. Hence, they are not precluded
from presenting evidence that is contrary to the findings in the land registration case.
The factual findings of the land registration court are not being questioned. An action for reconveyance based on an implied
trust seeks to compel the registered owner to transfer the property to its true owner. 169 In Hortizuela v. Tagufa: 170
[A]n action for reconveyance is a recognized remedy, an action in personam, available to a person whose property has been
wrongfully registered under the Torrens system in another's name. In an action for reconveyance, the decree is not sought to
be set aside. It does not seek to set aside the decree but, respecting it as incontrovertible and no longer open to review, seeks
to transfer or reconvey the land from the registered owner to the rightful owner. Reconveyance is always available as long as
the property has not passed to an innocent third person for value.
There is no quibble that a certificate of title, like in the case at bench, can only be questioned through a direct proceeding. The
MCTC and the CA, however, failed to take into account that in a complaint for reconveyance, the decree of registration is
respected as incontrovertible and is not being questioned. What is being sought is the transfer of the property wrongfully or
erroneously registered in another's name to its rightful owner or to the one with a better right. If the registration of the land is
fraudulent, the person in whose name the land is registered holds it as a mere trustee, and the real owner is entitled to file an
action for reconveyance of the property.
Likewise in Naval v. Court of Appeals:172
Ownership is different from a certificate of title. The fact that petitioner was able to secure a title in her name did not operate
to vest ownership upon her of the subject land. Registration of a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or
vest title, because it is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over
the particular property described therein. It cannot be used to protect a usurper from the true owner; nor can it be used as a
shield for the commission of fraud; neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the expense of others. Its issuance in favor
of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be coowned with persons not named in the
certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.
As correctly held by the Court of Appeals, notwithstanding the indefeasibility of the Torrens title, the registered owner may still
be compelled to reconvey the registered property to its true owners. The rationale for the rule is that reconveyance does not
set aside or re-subject to review the findings of fact of the Bureau of Lands. In an action for reconveyance, the decree of
registration is respected as incontrovertible. What is sought instead is the transfer of the property or its title which has been
wrongfully or erroneously registered in another person's name, to its rightful or legal owner, or to the one with a better
right. 173 (Citations omitted, emphasis supplied)
The rationale for allowing reconveyance despite the finality of the registration is that the issuance of a certificate of title does
not create or vest ownership to a person over the property. 174 Registration under the Torrens system "is not a mode of
acquiring ownership."175 A certificate is only a proof of ownership. 176 Thus, its issuance does not foreclose the possibility of
having a different owner, and it cannot be used against the true owner as a shield for fraud. 177
In an action for reconveyance, the parties are obliged to prove their ownership over the property. Necessarily, the parties may
present evidence to support their claims. The court must weigh these pieces of evidence and decide who between the parties
the true owner is. Therefore, it cannot be bound simply by the factual findings of the land registration court alone.
An exception to this rule is if the party claiming ownership has already had the opportunity to prove his or her claim in the land
registration case. 178 In such a case, res judicata will then apply. 179 When an issue of ownership has been raised in the land
registration proceedings where the adverse party was given full opportunity to present his or her claim, the findings in the land
registration case will constitute a bar from any other claim of the adverse party on the property. 180
However, this is not the circumstance in the case at bar. The Spouses Po were not able to prove their claim in the registration
proceedings. Thus, res judicata cannot apply to their action for reconveyance.
V
The Spouses Aboitiz posit that the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ciriaco and the Spouses Po is fake and fraudulent. 181 They
argue that this is evidenced by certifications of the document's non-existence in the notarial books and the Spouses Po's
failure to enforce their rights over the property until 18 years later. 182 They also claim that the Deed of Absolute Sale is
inadmissible as no documentary stamp was paid and affixed. 183
This Court notes that the Spouses Aboitiz are raising questions of fact which are not within the scope of a review
on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. 184 An appeal under Rule 45 must raise only questions of law, unless the
factual findings are not supported by evidence or the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts. 185Absent these
exceptions, the factual findings of the lower courts are accorded respect and are beyond the review of this Court.186
The Spouses Aboitiz failed to prove that these exceptions exist in the case at bar. The Regional Trial Court lent credence to
documents presented by the Spouses Po, Peter's testimony about Mariano's sale of the property to Ciriaco, 187 Ciriaco's sale
of the property to the Spouses Po, and the issuance of a Tax Declaration in the name of Victoria. 188
During trial, Peter also testified that after they bought the land, they had a caretaker who cultivated the property by planting
fruit trees. 189 He claimed that when they subsequently discovered the quitclaim executed by Ciriaco in favor of the Spouses
Aboitiz, they executed a Memorandum of Agreement to protect their interests in the property. 190 He stated that they filed a
complaint in the barangay when the Spouses Aboitiz started cutting down their improvements and that they subsequently
discovered that Ciriaco was forced by the Mariano Heirs to sell the property to the Spouses Aboitiz. 191
The Spouses Aboitiz presented as their first witness Armando Avenido, who testified according to the records only. 192 He
claimed that he was familiar with the land which was being developed by Aboitiz Land. He testified that Roberto acquired the
land through separate Deeds of Sale from the Mariano Heirs, had the tax declaration transferred in his name, paid the taxes
on the property, applied for the property's registration, and developed the property into a subdivision. 193 During cross-
examination it was revealed that the tax declaration of the Spouses Po was issued before the tax declaration of the Spouses
Aboitiz and that the Spouses Po acquired from Ciriaco the entire land, while the Spouses Aboitiz purchased only one-fifth
(1/5) of the property. 194
The Spouses Aboitiz's second witness, Bienvenido Escoton, testified that he was a mason working in the subdivision on the
road lot and that he knew no person claiming ownership of the land since 1989. 195
The Regional Trial Court thus held:
Analyzing the adduced and admitted evidence of both parties, Art. 1544 of the Civil Code cannot be aptly applied in the case
at bar, for reason that only the sale of Ciriaco Seno (Exh. "A" Exh. All" Exh. 2"/ A, A-1 and A-2) has the validating elements of
sale, whereas the rest of the Deeds of Sale (Exhs 1 to 5) executed by the Heirs of Mariano Seno in favor of the Defendants
are void, for containing untruthful statements as pleaded and proven. They are no longer the owners of the subject property
when they executed the several Deeds of Conveyance to defendant Roberto Aboitiz.
On the first issue on the identity and location of the land, the sale of Ciriaco Seno to Plaintiffs (Exh. "A") reflected in the Tax
Declarations that the Defendants used in their titling proceeding is the very same lot as certified by the Barangay Captain
dated July 28, 1999 under Plaintiff's Request for Admission. Concerning the second formulated issue, only the Deed of Sale
executed by Ciriaco Seno was valid with all the attending requisites of sale. It was sold by the legitimate owner of the land,
Ciriaco Seno to the Plaintiffs. The sale (Exh. A, Exhibit "X") enjoyed preferential date of execution, being dated or executed
in 1978 by the lawful owner Ciriaco Seno who was first to register the sale in the Registry of Property office, and due to such
registration, the Tax Declaration of Ciriaco Seno, was cancelled and a new Tax Declaration was issued in the name of Victoria
Po for as shown in Exh. E the said tax declaration succeeded in canceling the Tax Declaration of Mariano Seno (Exh. C) and
was issued thereafter a Tax Declaration in the name of C[i]riaco Seno (Exh. D). So, when the latter sold the subject land to
plaintiffs in 1978, the same was already owned by C[i]riaco Seno.
When Mariano Seno died in 1982, the subject land owned by C[i]riaco Seno, naturally, is not part of the estate of Mariano
Seno, for at that point in time, the subject land is now owned by plaintiffs Sps. Po, and the same was declared in their names
(Exh. "D" "E" & "E-1 ").
As to the issue whether defendant Roberto Aboitiz was a purchaser in good faith and for value, the Court holds that defendant
Roberto Aboitiz was not a purchaser in good faith and for value for he was already informed of the ownership of plaintiffs over
the subject land during the conciliation proceedings before the barangay official when plaintiffs filed a barangay case against
him.
In this case, the Court believes that defendant Roberto Aboitiz is aware of the proprietary rights of the plaintiffs considering
the land was already declared for taxation purposes in plaintiffs' names after the tax declaration of said land, first in the name
of Mariano Seno was cancelled and another one issued in the name of C[i]riaco Seno when the latter bought the said land
from his father Mariano Seno, and after the said tax declaration in the name of C[i]riaco Seno was cancelled and another one
issued in the name of plaintiffs herein.
So, defendant Roberto Aboitiz purchased the subject land from the Heirs of Mariano Seno who are no longer the owners
thereof and the tax declaration of subject land was no longer in the name of Mariano Seno nor in the name of Heirs of Mariano
Seno.
The City Assessor of Mandaue City even issued a Certification (Exh. X) to the effect that Tax Declaration No. 0634-A in the
name of Mrs. Victoria Lee Po married to Peter Po was issued prior to the issuance of T.D. No. 1100 in the name of Roberto
Aboitiz married to Maria Cristina Cabarruz.
Buyers of any untitled parcel of land for that matter, to protect their interest, will first verify from the Assessor's Office that
status of said land whether it has clean title or not. 196
With the exception of its ruling regarding respondents Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel being purchasers in good faith, these factual
findings were affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Thus, there is no showing that the factual findings are not supported by evidence or that the judgment seems to be based on
a misapprehension of facts. Therefore, the factual findings of the lower courts are binding.
Furthermore, this Court finds that the Spouses Aboitiz failed to prove their claim of fraud. The Spouses Aboitiz attempted to
prove that the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ciriaco and the Spouses Po was fake and fraudulent by presenting certifications
of its non-existence in the notarial books of the notary public who notarized the document. 197
However, a review of the certifications does not even state that the document does not exist in the notarial books.
The Certification dated April 1, 1997 of the Records Management and Archives Office of the Department of Education, Culture
and Sports states:
This is to certify that per records of this Office, Deed of Sale executed by and between Ciriaco Seno and Victoria Lee known
as Doc. No. 66; Page No. 14; Book No. I; Series of 1978 entered in the Notarial Register of Notary Public Jesus Pono is not
among the documents transferred by the Regional Trial Court of Cebu for safekeeping. 198
Likewise, the Certification dated April 4, 1997 of the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu, 7th Judicial
Region, Cebu City provides:
This is to certify that as per notarial records on file with this office, available and found as of this date, Atty. Jesus M. Pono
had been issued a Notarial Commission for the term 1978-1979.
It is further certifie[d] that said Notary Public has not submitted his notarial reports for the year 1978-1979 in this office wherein
the Deed of Sale as stated on the letter dated March 31, 1997 designated as Doc. no. 66; Page no. 14; Book no. I and Series
of 1978 is allegedly included. 199 (Emphasis supplied)
These Certifications do not declare that the Deed of Absolute Sale does not exist. They only state that at the time of their
issuance, the Notary Public had not submitted his notarial reports or that the document had not been transferred to the archives
for safekeeping. It cannot logically be concluded from these certifications that the document is inexistent, false, or fraudulent.
In any case, the Notary Public's failure to submit his or her notarial report does not affect the act of notarization. 200
Rule 132, Section 30 of the Rules of Court provides that:
Section 30. Proof of notarial documents. - Every instrument duly acknowledged or proved and certified as provided by law,
may be presented in evidence without further proof, the certificate of acknowledgment being prima facie evidence of the
execution of the instrument or document involved.
When a private document is notarized, the document is converted to a public document which is presumed regular, admissible
in evidence without need for proof of its authenticity and due execution, and entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. 201
To overturn the presumption in favor of a notarized document, the party questioning it must present "clear, convincing, and
more than merely preponderant evidence."202
Thus, parties who appear before a Notary Public should not be prejudiced by the failure of the Notary Public to follow rules
imposed by the Notarial Law.203 They are not obliged to ensure that the Notary Public submits his or her notarial reports. 204
The Spouses Aboitiz failed to present clear and convincing evidence to overturn the presumption. The notarized Deed of
Absolute Sale between Ciriaco and the Spouses Po is, thus, presumed regular and authentic.
Consequently, this Court can affirm the finding that the property was sold to Ciriaco in 1973, and that Ciriaco, as the owner of
the property, had the right to sell it to the Spouses Po. Hence, the lot did not form part of the estate of Mariano, and the
Mariano Heirs did not have the capacity to sell the property to the Spouses Aboitiz later on.
VI
The Spouses Aboitiz argue that the Mariano Heirs are indispensable parties who should have been impleaded in this case.205
The Mariano Heirs are not indispensable parties.
Rule 3, Section 7 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:
Section 7. Compulsory Joinder of Indispensable Parties. - Parties in interest without whom no final determination can be had
of an action shall be joined either as plaintiffs or defendants.
An indispensable party is the party whose legal presence in the proceeding is so necessary that "the action cannot be finally
determined" without him or her because his or her interests in the matter and in the relief "are so bound up with that of the
other parties."206
The property owners against whom the action for reconveyance is filed are indispensable parties. 207 No relief can be had, and
the court cannot render a valid judgment, without them. 208 The property has been sold to respondents Jose, Ernesto, and
Isabel.209 Thus, they are indispensable parties.
However, the seller of the property is not an indispensable party.210 In Spring Homes Subdivision Co., Inc. v. Spouses Tablada,
Jr.: 211
Similarly, by virtue of the second Deed of Absolute Sale between Spring Homes and the Spouses Lumbres, the Spouses
Lumbres became the absolute and registered owner of the subject property herein. As such, they possess that certain interest
in the property without which, the courts cannot proceed for settled is the doctrine that registered owners of parcels of land
whose title is sought to be nullified should be impleaded as an indispensable party. Spring Homes, however, which has already
sold its interests in the subject land, is no longer regarded as an indispensableparty, but is, at best, considered to be a
necessary party whose presence is necessary to adjudicate the whole controversy, but whose interests are so far separable
that a final decree can be made in its absence without affecting it. This is because when Spring Homes sold the property in
question to the Spouses Lumbres, it practically transferred all its interests therein to the said Spouses. In fact, a new title was
already issued in the names of the Spouses Lumbres. As such, Spring Homes no longer stands to be directly benefited or
injured by the judgment in the instant suit regardless of whether the new title registered in the names of the Spouses Lumbres
is cancelled in favor of the Spouses Tablada or not. Thus, contrary to the ruling of the RTC, the failure to summon Spring
Homes does not deprive it of jurisdiction over the instant case for Spring Homes is not an indispensable party. 212 (Citations
omitted, emphasis supplied).
The Mariano Heirs, as the alleged sellers of the property, are not indispensable parties. They are at best necessary parties,
which are covered by Rule 3, Section 8 of the Rules of Court:
Section 8. Necessary Party. - A necessary party is one who is not indispensable but who ought to be joined as a party if
complete relief is to be accorded as to those already parties, or for a complete determination or settlement of the claim subject
of the action.
Necessary parties may be joined in the case "to adjudicate the whole controversy," but the case may go on without them
because a judgment may be rendered without any effect on their rights and interests. 213
The Mariano Heirs may likewise be considered material witnesses to the action. A material matter to which a witness can
testify on can be a "main fact which was the subject of the inquiry" or any circumstance or fact "which tends to prove" the fact
subject of the inquiry, "which tends to corroborate or strengthen the testimony relative to such inquiry," and "which legitimately
affects the credit of any witness who testifies."214
The validity of the Deeds of Sale allegedly executed by the parties in this case is a material matter in determining who the true
owner of the property is. Thus, the Mariano Heirs, including Ciriaco, may testify as to the Deeds of Sale they executed to
prove which sale is the valid one.
However, it is clear that the Mariano Heirs are not indispensable parties. They have already sold all their interests in the
property to the Spouses Aboitiz. They will no longer be affected, benefited, or injured byany ruling of this Court on the matter,
whether it grants or denies the complaint for reconveyance. The ruling of this Court as to whether the Spouses Po are entitled
to reconveyance will not affect their rights. Their interest has, thus, become separable from that of Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel.
Thus, the Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the Mariano Heirs are not indispensable parties.
VII
Despite these findings, the Spouses Po cannot recover the property. Respondents Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel are innocent
purchasers for value.
An innocent purchaser for value refers to the buyer of the property who pays for its full and fair price without or before notice
of another person's right or interest in it. 215 He or she buys the property believing that "the [seller] [i]s the owner and could
[transfer] the title to the property."216
The Spouses Po argue that respondents Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel are not innocent purchasers for value because the tax
declaration over the property has the following annotation:
This tax declaration is also declared in the name of Mrs. Victoria Lee Po, married to Peter Po under tax dee. no. 0634-A so
that one may be considered a duplicate to the other.
However, if a property is registered, the buyer of a parcel of land is not obliged to look beyond the transfer certificate of title
to be considered a purchaser in good faith for value.217
Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1529218 states:
Section 44. Statutory liens affecting title. - Every registered owner receiving a certificate of title in pursuance of a decree of
registration, and every subsequent purchaser of registered land taking a certificate of title for value and in good faith, shall
hold the same free from all encumbrances except those noted in said certificate and any of the following encumbrances which
may be subsisting, namely:
First. Liens, claims or rights arising or existing under the laws and Constitution of the Philippines which are not by law required
to appear ofrecord in the Registry of Deeds in order to be valid against subsequent purchasers or encumbrancers of record.
Second. Unpaid real estate taxes levied and assessed within two years immediately preceding the acquisition of any right
over the land by an innocent purchaser for value, without prejudice to the right of the government to collect taxes payable
before that period from the delinquent taxpayer alone.
Third. Any public highway or private way established or recognized by law, or any government irrigation canal or lateral thereof,
if the certificate of title does not state that the boundaries of such highway or irrigation canal or lateral thereof have been
determined.
Fourth. Any disposition of the property or limitation on the use thereof by virtue of, or pursuant to, Presidential Decree No. 27
or any other law or regulations on agrarian reform. (Emphasis supplied)
In Cruz v. Court of Appeals:219
The real purpose of the Torrens system of registration is to quiet title to land and to put a stop to any question of legality of
the title except claims which have been recorded in the certificate of title at the time of registration or which may arise
subsequent thereto. Every registered owner and every subsequent purchaser for value in good faith holds the title to the
property free from all encumbrances except those noted in the certificate. Hence, a purchaser is not required to explore further
what the Torrens title on its face indicates in quest for any hidden defect or inchoate right that may subsequently defeat his
right thereto.
Where innocent third persons, relying on the correctness of the certificate of title thus issued, acquire rights over the property
the court cannot disregard such rights and order the total cancellation of the certificate. The effect of such an outright
cancellation would be to impair public confidence in the certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under
the Torrens system would have to inquire in every instance whether the title has been regularly or irregularly issued. This is
contrary to the evident purpose of the law. Every person dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the
certificate of title issued therefor and the law will in no way oblige him to go behind the certificate to determine the condition
of the property. Even if a decree in a registration proceeding is infected with nullity, still an innocent purchaser for value relying
on a Torrens title issued in pursuance thereof is protected. 220
The rationale for this rule is the public's interest in sustaining "the indefeasibility of a certificate of title, as evidence of the
lawful ownership of the land or of any encumbrance" on it.221 In Leong v. See:222
One need not inquire beyond the four comers of the certificate of title when dealing with registered property ...
The protection of innocent purchasers in good faith for value grounds on the social interest embedded in the legal concept
granting indefeasibility of titles.1âwphi1 Between the third party and the owner, the latter would be more familiar with the
history and status of the titled property. Consequently, an owner would incur less costs to discover alleged invalidities relating
to the property compared to a third party. Such costs are, thus, better borne by the owner to mitigate costs for the economy,
lessen delays in transactions, and achieve a less optimal welfare level for the entire society. 223 (Citations omitted)
Thus, respondents were not obliged to look beyond the title before they purchased the property. They may rely solely on the
face of the title.
The only exception to the rule is when the purchaser has actual knowledge of any defect or other circumstance that would
cause "a reasonably cautious man" to inquire into the title of the seller.224 If there is anything which arouses suspicion, the
vendee is obliged to investigate beyond the face of the title. 225 Otherwise, the vendee cannot be deemed a purchaser in good
faith entitled to protection under the law.226
In this case, there is no showing that respondents Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel had any knowledge of the defect in the title.
Considering that the annotation that the Spouses Po are invoking is found in the tax declaration and not in the title of the
property, respondents Jose, Ernesto, and Isabel cannot be deemed purchasers in bad faith.
WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals' October 31, 2012 Decision227 and its June 17, 2013 Resolution228 in CA-G.R. CV No.
03803 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 195825 February 27, 2013


SPOUSES ALFONSO AND MARIA ANGELES CUSI, Petitioners,
vs.
LILIA V. DOMINGO, Respondent.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 195871
RAMONA LIZA L. DE VERA, Petitioner,
vs
LILIA V. DOMINGO AND SPOUSES RADELIA AND ALFRED SY, Respondents.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Under the Torrens system of land registration, the registered owner of realty cannot be deprived of her property through fraud,
unless a transferee acquires the property as an innocent purchaser for value. A transferee who acquires the property covered
by a reissued owner's copy of the certificate of title without taking the ordinary precautions of honest persons in doing business
and examining the records of the proper Registry of Deeds, or who fails to pay the full market value of the property is not
considered an innocent purchaser for value.
Under review in these consolidated appeals is the Decision promulgated on July 16, 2010, 1 whereby the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 90452 affirmed the revised decision rendered on March 1, 2007 by the Regional Trial Court in Quezon
City (RTC) against the petitioners and their seller.2
Antecedents
The property in dispute was a vacant unfenced lot situated in White Plains, Quezon City and covered by Transfer Certificate
of Title (TCT) No. N-165606 issued in the name of respondent Lilia V. Domingo by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. It
had an area of 658 square meters.3 In July 1999, Domingo learned that construction activities were being undertaken on her
property without her consent. She soon unearthed the series of anomalous transactions affecting her property.
On July 18, 1997, one Radelia Sy (Sy),4 representing herself as the owner of the property, petitioned the RTC for the issuance
of a new owner’s copy of Domingo’s TCT No. N-165606, appending to her petition a deed of absolute sale dated July 14,
1997 purportedly executed in her favor by Domingo;5 and an affidavit of loss dated July 17, 1997,6 whereby she claimed that
her bag containing the owner’s copy of TCT No. N-165606 had been snatched from her on July 13, 1997 while she was at the
SM City in North EDSA, Quezon City. The RTC granted Sy’s petition on August 26, 1997. 7 The Registry of Deeds of Quezon
City then issued a new owner’s duplicate copy of TCT No. N-165606, which was later cancelled by virtue of the deed of
absolute sale dated July 14, 1997, and in its stead the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City issued TCT No. 186142 in Sy’s
name.8
Sy subsequently subdivided the property into two, and sold each half by way of contract to sell to Spouses Edgardo and
Ramona Liza De Vera and to Spouses Alfonso and Maria Angeles Cusi. The existence of the individual contracts to sell was
annotated on the dorsal portion of Sy’s TCT No. 186142 as Entry No. PE-8907/N-186142,9stating that the consideration of
the sale was ₱1,000,000.00 for each set of buyers, or for a total of ₱2,000,000.00 for the entire property that had an actual
worth of not less than ₱14,000,000.00. TCT No. 186142 in the name of Sy was then cancelled by virtue of the deeds of sale
executed between Sy and Spouses De Vera, and between Sy and Spouses Cusi, to whom were respectively issued TCT No.
18956810 and TCT No. 189569.11 All the while, the transactions between Sy and the De Veras, and between Sy and the Cusis
were unknown to Domingo, whose TCT No. N-165606 remained in her undisturbed possession.12
It turned out that the construction activities taking place on the property that Domingo learned about were upon the initiative
of the De Veras in the exercise of their dominical and possessory rights.
Domingo commenced this action against Sy and her spouse, the De Veras and the Cusis in the RTC, the complaint being
docketed as Civil Case No. Q-99-39312 and entitled Lilia V. Domingo v. Spouses Radelia and Alfred Sy, Spouses Alfonso G.
and Maria Angeles S. Cusi, Spouses Edgardo M. and Ramona Liza L. De Vera, BPI Family Savings Bank and The Register
of Deeds of Quezon City, seeking the annulment or cancellation of titles, injunction and damages. Domingo applied for the
issuance of a writ of preliminary prohibitory and mandatory injunction, and a temporary restraining order (TRO). 13 The RTC
granted Domingo’s application for the TRO enjoining the defendants from proceeding with the construction activities on the
property. The RTC later granted her application for the writ of preliminary injunction.
Ruling of the RTC
On September 30, 2003, the RTC rendered a decision, 14 disposing:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing judgment is hereby rendered:
(a) declaring the sale between Lilia V. Domingo and Radella Sy void and of (sic) effect;
(b) declaring the Sps. Edgardo and Ramona Liza De Vera and Sps. Alfonso and Maria Angeles Cusi to be purchasers
in good faith and for value;
(c) lifting the writ of preliminary injunction;
(d) finding defendant Radella Sy liable to the plaintiff Lilia Domingo liable (sic) for damages, as follows:
1. Fourteen Million Pesos (₱14,000,000.00) representing the value of the property covered by TCT No.
165606 plus legal rate of interest until fully paid;
2. One Million Pesos (₱1,000,000.00) representing moral damages;
3. Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱500,000.00) representing exemplary damages;
4. Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱500,000.00) representing attorney’s fees;
5. Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱200,000.00) representing litigation expenses; and
6. Costs of Suit.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Acting on the motions for reconsideration separately filed by Sy and Domingo, 15 the RTC reconsidered and set aside its
September 30, 2003 decision, and allowed the presentation of rebuttal and sur-rebuttal evidence.
On March 1, 2007, the RTC rendered a new decision, 16 ruling:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, Judgment is hereby rendered:
(a) Declaring the sale between Lilia Domingo and Radelia Sy void and of no effect;
(b) Declaring the Sps. Edgardo and Ramona Liza De Vera and Sps. Alfonso and Maria Angeles Cusi not purchasers
in good faith and for value;
(c) TCT Nos. 189568 and 189569 are hereby cancelled and declared Null and Void Ab Initio;
(d) Directing the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to annotate this Order on TCT No. 189568 and 189569;
(e) TCT No. 165606 in the name of Lilia Domingo is hereby revalidated; and,
(f) Finding defendant Radelia Sy liable to the plaintiff Lilia V. Domingo liable (sic) for damages, as follows:
1. One Million Pesos (₱1,000,000.00) representing moral damages;
2. Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱500,000.00) representing exemplary damages;
3. Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱500,000.00) representing attorney’s fees;
4. Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱200,000.00) representing litigation expenses; and,
5. Costs of suit.
This Decision is without prejudice to whatever civil action for recovery and damages, the defendants Sps. De Vera and Sps.
Cusi may have against defendant Spouses Radelia and Alfred Sy.
SO ORDERED.
Ruling of the CA
On appeal, the assignment of errors each set of appellants made was as follows:
Spouses Cusi
a) THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT DEFENDANTS SPOUSES ALFONSO
AND MARIA ANGELES CUSI ARE NOT PURCHASERS IN GOOD FAITH AND FOR VALUE.
b) THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FAILING TO RESOLVE THE ISSUE OF WHETHER OR
NOT CODEFENDANTS SPOUSES RADELIA SY AND ALFRED SY ARE LIABLE FOR SPOUSES CUSI’S CROSS-
CLAIM.
c) THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO AWARD DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY’S FEES TO
DEFENDANTS SPOUSES CUSI.17
Spouses Sy
a) THE TRIAL COURT A QUO ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE SALE BETWEEN LILIA DOMINGO AND RADELIA
SY VOID AND OF NO EFFECT AND WAS PROCURRED (sic) THROUGH FRAUDULENT MEANS.
b) THAT THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN AWARDING ACTUAL MORAL DAMAGES, EXEMPLARY
DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY’S FEES AND LITIGATION EXPENSES THE SAME BEING NULL AND VOID FOR
BEING CONTRARY TO LAW.
c) THAT THE SAID DECISION IS CONTRARY TO LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE AND IS NOT SUPPORTED BY
EVIDENCE, AS THE SAME CONTAIN SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERRORS WHEN THE COURT A QUO DECLARED
THAT TCT NOS. 189568 AND 189569 CANCELLED AND DECLARED NULL AND VOID AB INITIO.
d) THE INSTANT ASSAILED DECISION OF THE HONORABLE COURT HAVE (sic) DEPRIVED DEFENDANT[S]
SPOUSES SY OF THEIR BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW.18
Spouses De Vera
a) THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE DE VERA SPOUSES ARE NOT PURCHASERS IN GOOD
FAITH AND NOT ENTITLED TO THE POSSESSION OF THE PROPERTY COVERED BY TCT NO. N-189568.
b) THE LOWER COURT ALSO ERRED IN NOT AWARDING DEFENDANT-APPELLANT DE VERA HER
COUNTERCLAIMS AGAINST PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE.19
As stated, the CA promulgated its decision on July 16, 2010, affirming the RTC with modification of the damages to be paid
by the Sys to Domingo, viz:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is denied. Accordingly, the Decision dated March 1, 2007 of the
Regional Trial Court is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification on the award of damages to be paid by defendants-appellants
Spouses Radelia and Alfred Sy in favor of the plaintiff-appellee Lilia V. Domingo, to wit;
1. ₱500,000.00 by way of moral damages;
2. ₱200,000.00 by way of exemplary damages;
3. ₱100,000.00 as attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.
SO ORDERED.20
The CA held that the sale of the property from Domingo to Sy was null and void and conveyed no title to the latter for being
effected by forging the signature of Domingo; that Sy thereby acquired no right in the property that she could convey to the
Cusis and De Veras as her buyers; that although acknowledging that a purchaser could rely on what appeared on the face of
the certificate of title, the Cusis and De Veras did not have the status of purchasers in good faith and for value by reason of
their being aware of Sy’s TCT No. 186142 being a reconstituted owner’s copy, thereby requiring them to conduct an inquiry
or investigation into the status of the title of Sy in the property, and not simply rely on the face of Sy’s TCT No. 186142; and
that the Cusis and De Veras were also aware of other facts that should further put them on guard, particularly the several
nearly simultaneous transactions respecting the property, and the undervaluation of the purchase price from
₱7,000,000.00/half to only ₱1,000,000.00/half to enable Sy to pay a lesser capital gains tax.
The CA later on denied the motions for reconsideration.21
Issues
Hence, this appeal via petitions for review on certiorari by the Cusis (G.R. No. 195825) and Ramona Liza L. De Vera 22 (G.R.
No. 195871).
In G.R. No. 195825, the Cusis submit the following issues:23
I
WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT TRANSFER
CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 186142 REGISTERED IN THE NAME OF RADELIA SY IS A RECONSTITUTED
TITLE.
II
WHETHER OR NOT THE PETITIONERS ARE BUYERS IN GOOD FAITH AND FOR VALUE.
III
GRANTING, WITHOUT ADMITTING, THAT THE DECISION OF THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS IS
CORRECT WITH RESPECT TO THE SECOND ISSUE, WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONERS ARE ENTITLED TO
REIMBURSEMENT OF ALL THE PAYMENTS MADE BY PETITIONERS TO THEIR CODEFENDANTS SPOUSES
ALFRED AND RADELIA SY IN ADDITION TO DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY’S FEES.
In G.R. No. 195871, De Vera asserts that the primordial issue is whether or not she was an innocent purchaser for value and
in good faith.
Ruling of the Court
The petitions for review are bereft of merit.
Firstly, now beyond dispute is the nullity of the transfer of Domingo’s property to Sy because both lower courts united in so
finding. The unanimity in findings of both the RTC and the CA on this all-important aspect of the case is now conclusive on
the Court in view of their consistency thereon as well as by reason of such findings being fully supported by preponderant
evidence. We consider to be significant that the Sys no longer came to the Court for further review, thereby rendering the
judgment of the CA on the issue of nullity final and immutable as to them.
Secondly, the Cusis and De Vera commonly contend that the CA gravely erred in not considering them to be purchasers in
good faith and for value. They argue that Sy’s TCT No. 186142 was free of any liens or encumbrances that could have excited
their suspicion; and that they nonetheless even went beyond the task of examining the face of Sy’s TCT No. 186142,
recounting every single detail of their quest to ascertain the validity of Sy’s title, but did not find anything by which to doubt her
title.
The Court concurs with the finding by the CA that the Cusis and De Vera were not purchasers for value and in good faith. The
records simply do not support their common contention in that respect.
Under the Torrens system of land registration,24 the State is required to maintain a register of landholdings that guarantees
indefeasible title to those included in the register. The system has been instituted to combat the problems of uncertainty,
complexity and cost associated with old title systems that depended upon proof of an unbroken chain of title back to a good
root of title. The State issues an official certificate of title to attest to the fact that the person named is the owner of the property
described therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or what the law warrants or reserves. 25
One of the guiding tenets underlying the Torrens system is the curtain principle, in that one does not need to go behind the
certificate of title because it contains all the information about the title of its holder. This principle dispenses with the need of
proving ownership by long complicated documents kept by the registered owner, which may be necessary under a private
conveyancing system, and assures that all the necessary information regarding ownership is on the certificate of title.
Consequently, the avowed objective of the Torrens system is to obviate possible conflicts of title by giving the public the right
to rely upon the face of the Torrens certificate and, as a rule, to dispense with the necessity of inquiring further; on the part of
the registered owner, the system gives him complete peace of mind that he would be secured in his ownership as long as he
has not voluntarily disposed of any right over the covered land. 26
The Philippines adopted the Torrens system through Act No. 496,27 also known as the Land Registration Act, which was
approved on November 6, 1902 and took effect on February 1, 1903. In this jurisdiction, therefore, "a person dealing in
registered land has the right to rely on the Torrens certificate of title and to dispense with the need of inquiring
further, except when the party has actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that would impel a reasonably cautious man
to make such inquiry".28
To obtain a grasp of whether a person has actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that would impel a reasonably
cautious man to make such inquiry, an internal matter, necessitates an analysis of evidence of a person’s conduct. 29 That
renders the determination of intent as a factual issue, 30 something that the Court does not normally involve itself in because
of its not being a trier of facts. Indeed, as a rule, the review function of the Court is limited to a review of the law involved.
But the Court now delves into the facts relating to the issue of innocence of the petitioners in their purchase of the property,
considering that the RTC, through its original decision, at first regarded them to have been innocent purchasers who were not
aware of any flaw or defect in Sy’s title based on the fact that the property had been unfenced and vacant. The RTC also
regarded the petitioners’ making of reasonable verifications as their exercise of the due diligence required of an ordinary
buyer.31 The RTC later completely turned around through another decision, however, and it was such decision that the CA
affirmed subject to the modifications of the damages granted to Domingo.
There is no question that the petitioners exerted some effort as buyers to determine whether the property did rightfully belong
to Sy. For one, they did not find any encumbrance, like a notice of lis pendens, being annotated on the TCT of Sy. Nonetheless,
their observance of a certain degree of diligence within the context of the principles underlying the Torrens system
was not their only barometer under the law and jurisprudence by which to gauge the validity of their acquisition of title. As the
purchasers of the property, they also came under the clear obligation to purchase the property not only in good faith but also
for value.
Therein lay the problem. The petitioners were shown to have been deficient in their vigilance as buyers of the property. It was
not enough for them to show that the property was unfenced and vacant; otherwise, it would be too easy for any registered
owner to lose her property, including its possession, through illegal occupation. Nor was it safe for them to simply rely on the
face of Sy’s TCT No. 186142 in view of the fact that they were aware that her TCT was derived from a duplicate owner’s copy
reissued by virtue of the loss of the original duplicate owner’s copy. That circumstance should have already alerted them to
the need to inquire beyond the face of Sy’s TCT No. 186142. There were other circumstances, like the almost simultaneous
transactions affecting the property within a short span of time, as well as the gross undervaluation of the property in the deeds
of sale, ostensibly at the behest of Sy to minimize her liabilities for the capital gains tax, that also excited suspicion, and
required them to be extra-cautious in dealing with Sy on the property.
To the Court, the CA’s treatment of Sy’s TCT No. 186142 as similar to a reconstituted copy of a Torrens certificate of title was
not unwarranted. In doing so, the CA cited the ruling in Barstowe Philippines Corporation v. Republic,32where the Court,
quoting from precedents, opined that "the nature of a reconstituted Transfer Certificate of Title of registered land is similar to
that of a second Owner’s Duplicate Transfer Certificate of Title," in that "both are issued, after the proper proceedings, on the
representation of the registered owner that the original of the said TCT or the original of the Owner’s Duplicate TCT,
respectively, was lost and could not be located or found despite diligent efforts exerted for that purpose;" 33 and that both were
"subsequent copies of the originals thereof," a fact that a "cursory examination of these subsequent copies would show" and
"put on notice of such fact [anyone dealing with such copies who is] thus warned to be extracareful."34
Verily, the Court has treated a reissued duplicate owner’s copy of a TCT as merely a reconstituted certificate of title. In Garcia
v. Court of Appeals,35 a case with striking similarities to this one, an impostor succeeded in tricking a court of law into granting
his petition for the issuance of a duplicate owner’s copy of the supposedly lost TCT. The impostor then had the TCT cancelled
by presenting a purported deed of sale between him and the registered owners, both of whom had already been dead for
some time, and another TCT was then issued in the impostor’s own name. This issuance in the impostor’s own name was
followed by the issuance of yet another TCT in favor of a third party, supposedly the buyer of the impostor. In turn, the
impostor’s transferee (already the registered owner in his own name) mortgaged the property to Spouses Miguel and Adela
Lazaro, who then caused the annotation of the mortgage on the TCT. All the while, the original duplicate owner’s copy of the
TCT remained in the hands of an heir of the deceased registered owners with his co-heirs’ knowledge and consent.
The inevitable litigation ensued, and ultimately ended up with the Court.1âwphi1 The Lazaros, as the mortgagees, claimed
good faith, and urged the Court to find in their favor. But the Court rebuffed their urging, holding instead that they did not deal
on the property in good faith because: (a) "the title of the property mortgaged to the Lazaros was a second owner’s duplicate
TCT, which is, in effect a reconstituted title. This circumstance should have alerted them to make the necessary investigation,
but they did not;" and (b) their argument, that "because the TCT of the property on which their mortgage lien was annotated
did not contain the annotation: "Reconstituted title," the treatment of the reissued duplicate owner’s copy of the TCT as akin
to a reconstituted title did not apply, had no merit considering that: "The nature of a reconstituted Transfer Certificate of Title
of registered land is similar to that of a second Owner's Duplicate Transfer Certificate of Title. Both are issued, after the proper
proceedings, on the representation of the registered owner that the original of the said TCT or the original of the Owner's
Duplicate TCT, respectively, was lost and could not be located or found despite diligent efforts exerted for that purpose. Both,
therefore, are subsequent copies of the originals thereof. A cursory examination of these subsequent copies would show that
they are not the originals. Anyone dealing with such copies are put on notice of such fact and thus warned to be extra-careful.
This warning the mortgagees Lazaros did not heed, or they just ignored it."36
The fraud committed in Garcia paralleled the fraud committed here.1âwphi1 The registered owner of the property was
Domingo, who remained in the custody of her TCT all along; the impostor was Sy, who succeeded in obtaining a duplicate
owner’s copy; and the Cusis and the De Veras were similarly situated as the Spouses Lazaro, the mortgagees in Garcia. The
Cusis and the De Veras did not investigate beyond the face of Sy’s TCT No. 186142, despite the certificate derived from the
reissued duplicate owner’s copy being akin to a reconstituted TCT. Thereby, they denied themselves the innocence and good
faith they supposedly clothed themselves with when they dealt with Sy on the property.
The records also show that the forged deed of sale from Domingo to Sy appeared to be executed on July 14, 1997; that the
affidavit of loss by which Sy would later on support her petition for the issuance of the duplicate owner’s copy of Domingo’s
TCT No. 165606 was executed on July 17, 1997, the very same day in which Sy registered the affidavit of loss in the Registry
of Deeds of Quezon City; that Sy filed the petition for the issuance of the duplicate owner’s copy of Domingo’s TCT No.
165606; that the RTC granted her petition on August 26, 1997; and that on October 31, 1997, a real estate mortgage was
executed in favor of one Emma Turingan, with the mortgage being annotated on TCT No. 165606 on November 10, 1997.
Being the buyers of the registered realty, the Cusis and the De Veras were aware of the aforementioned several almost
simultaneous transactions affecting the property. Their awareness, if it was not actual, was at least presumed, and ought to
have put them on their guard, for, as the CA pointed out, the RTC observed that "[t]hese almost simultaneous transactions,
particularly the date of the alleged loss of the TCT No. 165606 and the purported Deed of Sale, suffice[d] to arouse suspicion
on [the part of] any person dealing with the subject property."37 Simple prudence would then have impelled them as honest
persons to make deeper inquiries to clear the suspiciousness haunting Sy’s title. But they still went on with their respective
purchase of the property without making the deeper inquiries. In that regard, they were not acting in good faith.
Another circumstance indicating that the Cusis and the De Veras were not innocent purchasers for value was the gross
undervaluation of the property in the deeds of sale at the measly price of ₱1,000,000.00 for each half when the true market
value was then in the aggregate of at least ₱14,000,000.00 for the entire property. Even if the undervaluation was to
accommodate the request of Sy to enable her to minimize her liabilities for the capital gains tax, their acquiescence to the
fraud perpetrated against the Government, no less, still rendered them as parties to the wrongdoing. They were not any less
guilty at all. In the ultimate analysis, their supposed passivity respecting the arrangement to perpetrate the fraud was not even
plausible, because they knew as the buyers that they were not personally liable for the capital gains taxes and thus had
nothing to gain by their acquiescence. There was simply no acceptable reason for them to have acquiesced to the fraud, or
for them not to have rightfully insisted on the declaration of the full value of the realty in their deeds of sale. By letting their
respective deeds of sale reflect the grossly inadequate price, they should suffer the consequences, including the inference of
their bad faith in transacting the sales in their favor.
De Vera particularly insists that she and her late husband did not have any hand in the undervaluation; and that Sy, having
prepared the deed of sale, should alone be held responsible for the undervaluation that had inured only to her benefit as the
seller. However, such insistence was rendered of no consequence herein by the fact that neither she nor her late husband
had seen fit to rectify the undervaluation. It is notable that the De Veras were contracting parties who appeared to have
transacted with full freedom from undue influence from Sy or anyone else.
Although the petitioners argue that the actual consideration of the sale was nearly ₱7,000,000.00 for each half of the property,
the Court rejects their argument as devoid of factual basis, for they did not adduce evidence of the actual payment of that
amount to Sy. Accordingly, the recitals of the deeds of sale were controlling on the consideration of the sales.
Good faith is the honest intention to abstain from taking unconscientious advantage of another. It means the "freedom from
knowledge and circumstances which ought to put a person on inquiry."38
Given this notion of good faith, therefore, a purchaser in good faith is one who buys the property of another without notice that
some other person has a right to, or interest in, such property and pays full and fair price for the same. 38As an examination of
the records shows, the petitioners were not innocent purchasers in good faith and for value. Their failure to investigate Sy's
title despite the nearly simultaneous transactions on the property that ought to have put them on inquiry manifested their
awareness of the flaw in Sy's title. That they did not also appear to have paid the full price for their share of the property
evinced their not having paid true value.39
Resultantly, the Court affirms the lower courts, and restores to Domingo her rights of dominion over the propetiy.
WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on July 16, 201 0; and ORDERS the
petitioners to pay the costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No.176549
DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, QUEZON CITY & PABLO MENDOZA, Petitioners,
vs.
ROMEO C. CARRIEDO, Respondent.
DECISION
JARDELEZA, J.:
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 assailing the Court of Appeals Decision dated October 5, 2006 2 and Resolution
dated January 10, 20073 in CA-G.R. SP No. 88935. The Decision and Resolution reversed the Order dated February 22,
20054 issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform-Central Office (DAR-CO) in Administrative Case No. A-9999-03-CV-008-
03 which directed that a 5.0001 hectare piece of agricultural land (land) be placed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
The Facts
The land originally formed part of the agricultural land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 17680, 5which in turn,
formed part of the total of 73.3157 hectares of agricultural land owned by Roman De Jesus (Roman).6
On May 23, 1972, petitioner Pablo Mendoza (Mendoza) became the tenant of the land by virtue of a Contrato King
Pamamuisan7 executed between him and Roman. Pursuant to the Contrato, Mendoza has been paying twenty-five (25) piculs
of sugar every crop year as lease rental to Roman. It was later changed to Two Thousand Pesos (P2, 000.00) per crop year,
the land being no longer devoted to sugarcane.8
On November 7, 1979, Roman died leaving the entire 73.3157 hectares to his surviving wife Alberta Constales (Alberta), and
their two sons Mario De Jesus (Mario) and Antonio De Jesus (Antonio). 9 On August 23, 1984, Antonio executed a Deed of
Extrajudicial Succession with Waiver of Right10 which made Alberta and Mario co-owners in equal proportion of the agricultural
land left by Roman.11
On June 26, 1986, Mario sold12 approximately 70.4788 hectares to respondent Romeo C. Carriedo (Carriedo), covered by the
following titles and tax declarations, to wit:
1. TCT No. 35055
2. (Tax Declaration) TD No. 48354
3. TCT No. 17681
4. TCT No. 56897
5. TCT No. 17680
The area sold to Carriedo included the land tenanted by Mendoza (forming part of the area covered by TCT No. 17680).
Mendoza alleged that the sale took place without his knowledge and consent.
In June of 1990, Carriedo sold all of these landholdings to the Peoples’ Livelihood Foundation, Inc. (PLFI) represented by its
president, Bernabe Buscayno.13 All the lands, except that covered by TCT No. 17680, were subjected to Voluntary Land
Transfer/Direct Payment Scheme and were awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries in 1997. 14
The parties to this case were involved in three cases concerning the land, to wit:
The Ejectment Case (DARAB Case No. 163-T-90 | CAG.R. SP No. 44521 | G.R. No. 143416)
On October 1, 1990, Carriedo filed a Complaint for Ejectment and Collection of Unpaid Rentals against Mendoza before the
Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (PARAD) of Tarlac docketed as DARAB Case No. 163-T-90. He subsequently
filed an Amended Complaint on October 30, 1990.15
In a Decision dated June 4, 1992,16 the PARAD ruled that Mendoza had knowledge of the sale, hence, he could not deny the
fact nor assail the validity of the conveyance. Mendoza violated Section 2 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 816,17 Section 50
of RA No. 119918 and Section 36 of RA No. 3844,19 and thus, the PARAD declared the leasehold contract terminated, and
ordered Mendoza to vacate the premises.20
Mendoza filed an appeal with the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB).1âwphi1 In a Decision dated
February 8, 1996,21 the DARAB affirmed the PARAD Decision in toto. The DARAB ruled that ownership of the land belongs
to Carriedo. That the deed of sale was unregistered did not affect Carriedo’s title to the land. By virtue of his ownership,
Carriedo was subrogated to the rights and obligation of the former landowner, Roman. 22
Mendoza then filed a Petition for Review with the Court of Appeals (CA). The case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 44521.
In a Decision dated September 7, 1998,23 the CA affirmed the DARAB decision in toto. The CA ruled that Mendoza’s reliance
on Section 6 of RA No. 6657 as ground to nullify the sale between De Jesus and Carriedo was misplaced, the section being
limited to retention limits. It reiterated that registration was not a condition for the validity of the contract of sale between the
parties.24 Mendoza’s Motions for Reconsideration and New Trial were subsequently denied. 25
Mendoza thus filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari with this Court, docketed as G.R. No. 143416. In a Resolution dated
August 9, 2000,26 this Court denied the petition for failure to comply with the requirements under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
An Entry of Judgment was issued on October 25, 2000. 27 In effect, the Decision of the CA was affirmed, and the following
issues were settled with finality:
1) Carriedo is the absolute owner of the five (5) hectare land;
2) Mendoza had knowledge of the sale between Carriedo and Mario De Jesus, hence he is bound by the sale; and
3) Due to his failure and refusal to pay the lease rentals, the tenancy relationship between Carriedo and Mendoza
had been terminated.
Meanwhile, on October 5, 1999, the landholding covered by TCT No. 17680 with an area of 12.1065 hectares was divided
into sub-lots. 7.1065 hectares was transferred to Bernabe Buscayno et al. through a Deed of Transfer28under PD No.
27.29 Eventually, TCT No. 17680 was partially cancelled, and in lieu thereof, emancipation patents (EPs) were issued to
Bernabe, Rod and Juanito, all surnamed Buscayno. These lots were identified as Lots C, D and E covered by TCT Nos. 44384
to 44386 issued on September 10, 1999. 30 Lots A and B, consisting of approximately 5.0001 hectares and which is the land
being occupied by Mendoza, were registered in the name of Carriedo and covered by TCT No. 344281 31 and TCT No.
344282.32
The Redemption Case (DARAB III-T-1476-97 | CA-G.R. SP No. 88936)
On July 21, 1997, Mendoza filed a Petition for Redemption33 with the PARAD. In an Order dated January 15, 2001,34the
PARAD dismissed his petition on the grounds of litis pendentia and lack of the required certification against forum-shopping. It
dismissed the petition so that the pending appeal of DARAB Case No. 163-T-90 (the ejectment case discussed above) with
the CA can run its full course, since its outcome partakes of a prejudicial question determinative of the tenability of Mendoza’s
right to redeem the land under tenancy. 35
Mendoza appealed to the DARAB which reversed the PARAD Order in a Decision dated November 12, 2003.36 The DARAB
granted Mendoza redemption rights over the land. It ruled that at the time Carriedo filed his complaint for ejectment on October
1, 1990, he was no longer the owner of the land, having sold the land to PLFI in June of 1990. Hence, the cause of action
pertains to PLFI and not to him.37 It also ruled that Mendoza was not notified of the sale of the land to Carriedo and of the
latter’s subsequent sale of it to PLFI. The absence of the mandatory requirement of notice did not stop the running of the 180
day-period within which Mendoza could exercise his right of redemption.38 Carriedo’s Motion for Reconsideration was
subsequently denied.39
Carriedo filed a Petition for Review with the CA. In a Decision dated December 29, 2006, 40 the CA reversed the DARAB
Decision. It ruled that Carriedo’s ownership of the land had been conclusively established and even affirmed by this Court.
Mendoza was not able to substantiate his claim that Carriedo was no longer the owner of the land at the time the latter filed
his complaint for ejectment. It held that the DARAB erred when it ruled that Mendoza was not guilty of forum-
shopping.41 Mendoza did not appeal the decision of the CA.
The Coverage Case (ADM Case No. A-9999-03-CV-008-03 | CA-G.R. SP No. 88935)
On February 26, 2002, Mendoza, his daughter Corazon Mendoza (Corazon) and Orlando Gomez (Orlando) filed a Petition
for Coverage42 of the land under RA No. 6657. They claimed that they had been in physical and material possession of the
land as tenants since 1956, and made the land productive. 43 They prayed (1) that an order be issued placing the land under
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP); and (2) that the DAR, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) and
the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of Tarlac City be ordered to proceed with the acquisition and distribution of the
land in their favor.44 The petition was granted by the Regional Director (RD) in an Order dated October 2, 2002, 45 the
dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the petition for coverage under CARP filed by Pablo Mendoza, et al[.], is given
due course. Accordingly, the MARO and PARO are hereby directed to place within the ambit of RA 6657 the landholding
registered in the name of Romeo Carriedo covered and embraced by TCT Nos. 334281 and 334282, with an aggregate area
of 45,000 and 5,001 square meters, respectively, and to distribute the same to qualified farmer-beneficiaries.
SO ORDERED.46
On October 23, 2002, Carriedo filed a Protest with Motion to Reconsider the Order dated October 2, 2002 and to Lift
Coverage47 on the ground that he was denied his constitutional right to due process. He alleged that he was not notified of
the filing of the Petition for Coverage, and became aware of the same only upon receipt of the challenged Order.
On October 24, 2002, Carriedo received a copy of a Notice of Coverage dated October 21, 2002 48 from MARO Maximo E.
Santiago informing him that the land had been placed under the coverage of the CARP.49 On December 16, 2002, the RD
denied Carriedo’s protest in an Order dated December 5, 2002. 50 Carriedo filed an appeal to the DAR-CO.
In an Order dated February 22, 2005,51 the DAR-CO, through Secretary Rene C. Villa, affirmed the Order of the RD granting
coverage. The DAR-CO ruled that Carriedo was no longer allowed to retain the land due to his violation of the provisions of
RA No. 6657. His act of disposing his agricultural landholdings was tantamount to the exercise of his retention right, or an act
amounting to a valid waiver of such right in accordance with applicable laws and jurisprudence. 52 However, it did not rule
whether Mendoza was qualified to be a farmer-beneficiary of the land. The dispositive portion of the Order reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. Consequently, the Order
dated 2 October 2002 of the Regional Director of DAR III, is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.53
Carriedo filed a Petition for Review54 with the CA assailing the DAR-CO Order. The appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No.
88935. In a Decision dated October 5, 2006, the CA reversed the DAR-CO, and declared the land as Carriedo’s retained area.
The CA ruled that the right of retention is a constitutionally-guaranteed right, subject to certain qualifications specified by the
legislature.55 It serves to mitigate the effects of compulsory land acquisition by balancing the rights of the landowner and the
tenant by implementing the doctrine that social justice was not meant to perpetrate an injustice against the landowner. 56 It
held that Carriedo did not commit any of the acts which would constitute waiver of his retention rights found under Section 6
of DAR Administrative Order No. 02, S.2003.57 The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered and pursuant to applicable law and jurisprudence on the matter, the present Petition is
hereby GRANTED. Accordingly, the assailed Order of the Department of Agrarian Reform-Central Office, Elliptical Road,
Diliman, Quezon City (dated February 22, 2005) is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one entered—
DECLARING the subject landholding as the Petitioner’s retained area. No pronouncements as to costs.
SO ORDERED.58
Hence, this petition.
Petitioners maintain that the CA committed a reversible error in declaring the land as Carriedo’s retained area.59
They claim that Paragraph 4, Section 6 of RA No. 6657 prohibits any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer
of possession of private lands upon effectivity of the law.60 Thus, Regional Director Renato Herrera correctly observed that
Carriedo’s act of disposing his agricultural property would be tantamount to his exercise of retention under the law. By violating
the law, Carriedo could no longer retain what was left of his property. "To rule otherwise would be a roundabout way of
rewarding a landowner who has violated the explicit provisions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law."61
They also assert that Carriedo waived his right to retain for failure or neglect for an unreasonable length of time to do that
which he may have done earlier by exercising due diligence, warranting a presumption that he abandoned his right or declined
to assert it.62 Petitioners claim that Carriedo has not filed an Application for Retention over the subject land over a considerable
passage of time since the same was acquired for distribution to qualified farmer beneficiaries. 63
Lastly, they argue that Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) already generated in favor of his co-petitioners
Corazon Mendoza and Rolando Gomez cannot be set aside. CLOAs under RA No. 6657 are enrolled in the Torrens system
of registration which makes them indefeasible as certificates of title issued in registration proceedings. 64
The Issue
The sole issue for our consideration is whether Carriedo has the right to retain the land.
Our Ruling
We rule in the affirmative. Carriedo did not waive his right of retention over the land.1âwphi1
The 1987 Constitution expressly recognizes landowner retention rights under Article XIII, Section 4, to wit:
Section 4. The State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular
farmworkers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive
a just share of the fruits thereof. To this end, the State shall encourage and undertake the just distribution of all
agricultural lands, subject to such priorities and reasonable retention limits as the Congress may prescribe, taking
into account ecological, developmental, or equity considerations, and subject to the payment of just compensation. In
determining retention limits, the State shall respect the right of small landowners. The State shall further provide incentives
for voluntary land-sharing. (Emphasis supplied.)
RA No. 6657 implements this directive, thus:
Section 6. Retention Limits. — Except as otherwise provided in this Act, no person may own or retain, directly or indirectly,
any public or private agricultural land, the size of which shall vary according to factors governing a viable family-size farm,
such as commodity produced, terrain, infrastructure, and soil fertility as determined by the Presidential Agrarian Reform
Council (PARC) created hereunder, but in no case shall retention by the landowner exceed five (5) hectares.
xxx
The right to choose the area to be retained, which shall be compact or contiguous, shall pertain to the landowner: Provided,
however, That in case the area selected for retention by the landowner is tenanted, the tenant shall have the option to choose
whether to remain therein or be a beneficiary in the same or another agricultural land with similar or comparable features. In
case the tenant chooses to remain in the retained area, he shall be considered a leaseholder and shall lose his right to be a
beneficiary under this Act. In case the tenant chooses to be a beneficiary in another agricultural land, he loses his right as a
leaseholder to the land retained by the landowner. The tenant must exercise this option within a period of one (1) year from
the time the landowner manifests his choice of the area for retention. In all cases, the security of tenure of the farmers or
farmworkers on the land prior to the approval of this Act shall be respected. xxx (Emphasis supplied.)
In Danan v. Court of Appeals,65 we explained the rationale for the grant of the right of retention under agrarian reform laws
such as RA No. 6657 and its predecessor PD No. 27, to wit:
The right of retention is a constitutionally guaranteed right, which is subject to qualification by the legislature. It serves to
mitigate the effects of compulsory land acquisition by balancing the rights of the landowner and the tenant and by implementing
the doctrine that social justice was not meant to perpetrate an injustice against the landowner. A retained area, as its name
denotes, is land which is not supposed to anymore leave the landowner's dominion, thus sparing the government from the
inconvenience of taking land only to return it to the landowner afterwards, which would be a pointless process. For as long as
the area to be retained is compact or contiguous and does not exceed the retention ceiling of five (5) hectares, a landowner's
choice of the area to be retained must prevail. xxx 66
To interpret Section 6 of RA No. 6657, DAR issued Administrative Order No. 02, Series of 2003 (DAR AO 02-03). Section 6
of DAR AO 02-03 provides for the instances when a landowner is deemed to have waived his right of retention, to wit:
Section 6. Waiver of the Right of Retention. – The landowner waives his right to retain by committing any of the following act
or omission:
6.1 Failure to manifest an intention to exercise his right to retain within sixty (60) calendar days from receipt of notice
of CARP coverage.
6.2 Failure to state such intention upon offer to sell or application under the [Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT)]/[Direct
Payment Scheme (DPS)] scheme.
6.3 Execution of any document stating that he expressly waives his right to retain. The MARO and/or PARO and/or
Regional Director shall attest to the due execution of such document.
6.4 Execution of a Landowner Tenant Production Agreement and Farmer’s Undertaking (LTPA-FU) or Application to
Purchase and Farmer’s Undertaking (APFU) covering subject property.
6.5 Entering into a VLT/DPS or [Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS)] but failing to manifest an intention to exercise his right
to retain upon filing of the application for VLT/DPS or VOS.
6.6 Execution and submission of any document indicating that he is consenting to the CARP coverage of his entire
landholding.
6.7 Performing any act constituting estoppel by laches which is the failure or neglect for an unreasonable length of
time to do that which he may have done earlier by exercising due diligence, warranting a presumption that he
abandoned his right or declined to assert it.
Petitioners cannot rely on the RD’s Order dated October 2, 2002 which granted Mendoza’s petition for coverage on the ground
that Carriedo violated paragraph 4 Section 6 67 of RA No. 6657 for disposing of his agricultural land, consequently losing his
right of retention. At the time when the Order was rendered, up to the time when it was affirmed by the DAR-CO in its Order
dated February 22, 2005, the applicable law is Section 6 of DAR 02-03. Section 6 clearly shows that the disposition of
agricultural land is not an act constituting waiver of the right of retention.
Thus, as correctly held by the CA, Carriedo "[n]ever committed any of the acts or omissions above-stated (DAR AO 02-03).
Not even the sale made by the herein petitioner in favor of PLFI can be considered as a waiver of his right of retention.
Likewise, the Records of the present case is bereft of any showing that the herein petitioner expressly waived (in writing) his
right of retention as required under sub-section 6.3, section 6, DAR Administrative Order No. 02-S.2003."68
Petitioners claim that Carriedo’s alleged failure to exercise his right of retention after a long period of time constituted a waiver
of his retention rights, as envisioned in Item 6.7 of DAR AO 02-03.
We disagree.
Laches is defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising
due diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time,
warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.69 Where a party
sleeps on his rights and allows laches to set in, the same is fatal to his case. 70
Section 4 of DAR AO 02-03 provides:
Section 4. Period to Exercise Right of Retention under RA 6657
4.1 The landowner may exercise his right of retention at any time before receipt of notice of coverage.
4.2 Under the Compulsory Acquisition (CA) scheme, the landowner shall exercise his right of retention within sixty
(60) days from receipt of notice of coverage.
4.3 Under the Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS) and the Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT)/Direct Payment Scheme (DPS),
the landowner shall exercise his right of retention simultaneously at the time of offer for sale or transfer.
The foregoing rules give Carriedo any time before receipt of the notice of coverage to exercise his right of retention, or if under
compulsory acquisition (as in this case), within sixty (60) days from receipt of the notice of coverage. The validity of the notice
of coverage is the very subject of the controversy before this court. Thus, the period within which Carriedo should exercise
his right of retention cannot commence until final resolution of this case.
Even assuming that the period within which Carriedo could exercise his right of retention has commenced, Carriedo cannot
be said to have neglected to assert his right of retention over the land. The records show that per Legal Report dated December
13, 199971 prepared by Legal Officer Ariel Reyes, Carriedo filed an application for retention which was even contested by
Pablo Mendoza’s son, Fernando.72 Though Carriedo subsequently withdrew his application, his act of filing an application for
retention belies the allegation that he abandoned his right of retention or declined to assert it.
In their Memorandum73 however, petitioners, for the first time, invoke estoppel, citing DAR Administrative Order No. 05 Series
of 200674 (DAR AO 05-06) to support their argument that Carriedo waived his right of retention. 75 DAR AO 05-06 provides for
the rules and regulations governing the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands subject of conveyances under Sections
6, 7076 and 73 (a)77 of RA No. 6657. Petitioners particularly cite Item no. 4 of the Statement of Policies of DAR AO 05-06, to
wit:
II. Statement of Policies
4. Where the transfer/sale involves more than the five (5) hectares retention area, the transfer is considered violative of Sec.
6 of R.A. No. 6657.
In case of multiple or series of transfers/sales, the first five (5) hectares sold/conveyed without DAR clearance and the
corresponding titles issued by the Register of Deeds (ROD) in the name of the transferee shall, under the principle of
estoppel, be considered valid and shall be treated as the transferor/s’ retained area but in no case shall the transferee
exceed the five-hectare landholding ceiling pursuant to Sections 6, 70 and 73(a) of R.A. No. 6657. Insofar as the excess area
is concerned, the same shall likewise be covered considering that the transferor has no right of disposition since CARP
coverage has been vested as of 15 June 1988. Any landholding still registered in the name of the landowner after earlier
dispositions totaling an aggregate of five (5) hectares can no longer be part of his retention area and therefore shall be covered
under CARP. (Emphasis supplied.)
Citing this provision, petitioners argue that Carriedo lost his right of retention over the land because he had already sold or
disposed, after the effectivity of RA No. 6657, more than fifty (50) hectares of land in favor of another. 78
In his Memorandum,79 Carriedo maintains that petitioners cannot invoke any administrative regulation to defeat his right of
retention. He argues that "administrative regulation must be in harmony with the provisions of law otherwise the latter
prevails."80
We cannot sustain petitioners' argument. Their reliance on DAR AO 05-06 is misplaced. As will be seen below, nowhere in
the relevant provisions of RA No. 6657 does it indicate that a multiple or series of transfers/sales of land would result in the
loss of retention rights. Neither do they provide that the multiple or series of transfers or sales amounts to the waiver of such
right.
The relevant portion of Section 6 of RA No. 6657 referred to in Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 provides:
Section 6. Retention Limits. – Except as otherwise provided in this Act, no person may own or retain, directly or indirectly, any
public or private agricultural land, the size of which shall vary according to factors governing a viable family-size farm, such
as the commodity produced, terrain, infrastructure, and soil fertility as determined by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council
(PARC) created hereunder, but in no case shall retention by the landowner exceed five (5) hectares. xxx
Upon the effectivity of this Act, any sale, disposition, lease, management, contract or transfer of possession of private
lands executed by the original landowner in violation of the Act shall be null and void: Provided, however, That those
executed prior to this Act shall be valid only when registered with the Register of Deeds within a period of three (3) months
after the effectivity of this Act. Thereafter, all Registers of Deeds shall inform the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) within
thirty (30) days of any transaction involving agricultural lands in excess of five (5) hectares. (Emphasis supplied.)
Section 70 of RA No. 6657, also referred to in Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 partly provides:
The sale or disposition of agricultural lands retained by a landowner as a consequence of Section 6 hereof shall be valid as
long as the total landholdings that shall be owned by the transferee thereof inclusive of the land to be acquired shall not
exceed the landholding ceilings provided for in this Act. Any sale or disposition of agricultural lands after the effectivity
of this Act found to be contrary to the provisions hereof shall be null and void. xxx (Emphasis supplied.)
Finally, Section 73 (a) of RA No. 6657 as referred to in Item No. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 provides,
Section 73. Prohibited Acts and Omissions. – The following are prohibited:
(a) The ownership or possession, for the purpose of circumventing the provisions of this Act, of agricultural lands in excess of
the total retention limits or award ceilings by any person, natural or juridical, except those under collective ownership by
farmer-beneficiaries; xxx
Sections 6 and 70 are clear in stating that any sale and disposition of agricultural lands in violation of the RA No. 6657 shall
be null and void. Under the facts of this case, the reasonable reading of these three provisions in relation to the constitutional
right of retention should be that the consequence of nullity pertains to the area/s which were sold, or owned by the transferee,
in excess of the 5-hectare land ceiling. Thus, the CA was correct in declaring that the land is Carriedo’s retained area.81
Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 attempts to defeat the above reading by providing that, under the principle of estoppel, the sale
of the first five hectares is valid. But, it hastens to add that the first five hectares sold corresponds to the transferor/s’ retained
area. Thus, since the sale of the first five hectares is valid, therefore, the landowner loses the five hectares because it happens
to be, at the same time, the retained area limit. In reality, Item No. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 operates as a forfeiture provision in the
guise of estoppel. It punishes the landowner who sells in excess of five hectares. Forfeitures, however, partake of a criminal
penalty.82
In Perez v. LPG Refillers Association of the Philippines, Inc.,83 this Court said that for an administrative regulation to have the
force of a penal law, (1) the violation of the administrative regulation must be made a crime by the delegating statute itself;
and (2) the penalty for such violation must be provided by the statute itself.84
Sections 6, 70 and 73 (a) of RA No. 6657 clearly do not provide that a sale or disposition of land in excess of 5 hectares
results in a forfeiture of the five hectare retention area. Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 imposes a penalty where none was
provided by law.
As this Court also held in People v. Maceren,85 to wit:
The reason is that the Fisheries law does not expressly prohibit electro fishing. As electro fishing is not banned under the law,
the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Natural Resources and the Commissioner of Fisheries are
powerless to penalize it. In other words, Administrative Order Nos. 84 and 84-1, in penalizing electro fishing, are devoid of
any legal basis.
Had the lawmaking body intended to punish electro fishing, a penal provision to that effect could have been easily embodied
in the old Fisheries Law.86
The repugnancy between the law and Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 is apparent by a simple comparison of their texts. The
conflict undermines the statutorily-guaranteed right of the landowner to choose the land he shall retain, and DAR AO 05-06,
in effect, amends RA No. 6657.
In Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura, Sayoc & De Los Angeles (RMBSA) v. Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF),87 this
Court was confronted with the issue of the validity of the amendments to the rules and regulations implementing PD No.
1752.88 In that case, PD No. 1752 (as amended by RA No. 7742) exempted RMBSA from the Pag-Ibig Fund coverage for the
period January 1 to December 31, 1995. In September 1995, however, the HDMF Board of Trustees issued a board resolution
amending and modifying the rules and regulations implementing RA No. 7742. As amended, the rules now required that for a
company to be entitled to a waiver or suspension of fund coverage, it must have a plan providing for both
provident/retirement and housing benefits superior to those provided in the Pag-Ibig Fund. In ruling against the amendment
and modification of the rules, this Court held that—
In the present case, when the Board of Trustees of the HDMF required in Section 1, Rule VII of the 1995 Amendments to the
Rules and Regulations Implementing R.A. No. 7742 that employers should have both provident/retirement and housing
benefits for all its employees in order to qualify for exemption from the Fund, it effectively amended Section 19 of P.D. No.
1752. And when the Board subsequently abolished that exemption through the 1996 Amendments, it repealed Section 19 of
P.D. No. 1752. Such amendment and subsequent repeal of Section 19 are both invalid, as they are not within the delegated
power of the Board. The HDMF cannot, in the exercise of its rule-making power, issue a regulation not consistent with the law
it seeks to apply. Indeed, administrative issuances must not override, supplant or modify the law, but must remain consistent
with the law they intend to carry out. Only Congress can repeal or amend the law. 89 (Citations omitted; underscoring supplied.)
Laws, as well as the issuances promulgated to implement them, enjoy the presumption of validity. 90 However, administrative
regulations that alter or amend the statute or enlarge or impair its scope are void, and courts not only may, but it is their
obligation to strike down such regulations.91 Thus, in this case, because Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 is patently null and void,
the presumption of validity cannot be accorded to it. The invalidity of this provision constrains us to strike it down for being ultra
vires.
In Conte v. Commission on Audit,92 the sole issue of whether the Commission on Audit (COA) acted in grave abuse of
discretion when it disallowed in audit therein petitioners' claim of financial assistance under Social Security System (SSS)
Resolution No. 56 was presented before this Court. The COA disallowed the claims because the financial assistance under
the challenged resolution is similar to a separate retirement plan which results in the increase of benefits beyond what is
allowed under existing laws. This Court, sitting en banc, upheld the findings of the COA, and invalidated SSS Resolution No.
56 for being ultra vires, to wit:
xxx Said Sec. 28 (b) as amended by RA 4968 in no uncertain terms bars the creation of any insurance or retirement plan —
other than the GSIS — for government officers and employees, in order to prevent the undue and [iniquitous] proliferation of
such plans. It is beyond cavil that Res. 56 contravenes the said provision of law and is therefore invalid, void and of no effect.
xxx
We are not unmindful of the laudable purposes for promulgating Res. 56, and the positive results it must have had xxx. But it
is simply beyond dispute that the SSS had no authority to maintain and implement such retirement plan, particularly in the
face of the statutory prohibition. The SSS cannot, in the guise of rule-making, legislate or amend laws or worse, render them
nugatory.
It is doctrinal that in case of conflict between a statute and an administrative order, the former must prevail. A rule or regulation
must conform to and be consistent with the provisions of the enabling statute in order for such rule or regulation to be valid.
The rule-making power of a public administrative body is a delegated legislative power, which it may not use either to abridge
the authority given it by the Congress or the Constitution or to enlarge its power beyond the scope intended. xxx Though well-
settled is the rule that retirement laws are liberally interpreted in favor of the retiree, nevertheless, there is really nothing to
interpret in either RA 4968 or Res. 56, and correspondingly, the absence of any doubt as to the ultra-vires nature and
illegality of the disputed resolution constrains us to rule against petitioners.93 (Citations omitted; emphasis and
underscoring supplied.)
Administrative regulations must be in harmony with the provisions of the law for administrative regulations cannot extend the
law or amend a legislative enactment.94 Administrative issuances must not override, but must remain consistent with the law
they seek to apply and implement. They are intended to carry out, not to supplant or modify the law. 95 Administrative or
executive acts, orders and regulations shall be valid only when they are not contrary to the laws or the
Constitution.96 Administrative regulations issued by a Department Head in conformity with law have the force of law. 97 As he
exercises the rule-making power by delegation of the lawmaking body, it is a requisite that he should not transcend the bounds
demarcated by the statute for the exercise of that power; otherwise, he would be improperly exercising legislative power in
his own right and not as a surrogate of the lawmaking body.98
If the implementing rules and regulations are issued in excess of the rule-making authority of the administrative agency, they
are without binding effect upon the courts. At best, the same may be treated as administrative interpretations of the law and
as such, they may be set aside by the Supreme Court in the final determination of what the law means. 99
While this Court is mindful of the DAR’s commitment to the implementation of agrarian reform, it must be conceded that
departmental zeal may not be permitted to outrun the authority conferred by statute. 100 Neither the high dignity of the office
nor the righteousness of the motive then is an acceptable substitute; otherwise the rule of law becomes a myth. 101
As a necessary consequence of the invalidity of Item no. 4 of DAR AO 05-06 for being ultra vires, we hold that Carriedo did
not waive his right to retain the land, nor can he be considered to be in estoppel.
Finally, petitioners cannot argue that the CLOAs allegedly granted in favor of his co-petitioners Corazon and Orlando cannot
be set aside. They claim that CLOAs under RA No. 6657 are enrolled in the Torrens system of registration which makes them
indefeasible as certificates of title issued in registration proceedings. 102 Even as these allegedly issued CLOAs are not in the
records, we hold that CLOAs are not equivalent to a Torrens certificate of title, and thus are not indefeasible.
CLOAs and EPs are similar in nature to a Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) in ordinary land registration proceedings. CLTs,
and in turn the CLOAs and EPs, are issued merely as preparatory steps for the eventual issuance of a certificate of title. They
do not possess the indefeasibility of certificates of title. Justice Oswald D. Agcaoili, in Property Registration Decree and
Related Laws (Land Titles and Deeds),103 notes, to wit:
Under PD No. 27, beneficiaries arc issued certificates of land transfers (ClTs) to entitle them to possess lands. Thereafter,
they are issued emancipation patents (EPs) after compliance with all necessary conditions. Such EPs, upon their presentation
to the Register of Deeds, shall be the basis for the issuance of the corresponding transfer certificates of title (TCTs) in favor
of the corresponding beneficiaries.
Under RA No. 6657, the procedure has been simplified. Only certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) are issued, in lieu
of EPs, after compliance with all prerequisites. Upon presentation of the CLOAs to the Register of Deeds, TCTs are issued to
the designated beneficiaries. CLTs are no longer issued.
The issuance of EPs or CLOAs to beneficiaries does not absolutely bar the landowner from retaining the area covered thereby.
Under AO No. 2, series of 1994, an EP or CLOA may be cancelled if the land covered is later found to be part of the
landowner's retained area. (Citations omitted; underscoring supplied.)
The issue, however, involving the issuance, recall or cancellation of EPs or CLOAs, is lodged with the DAR, 104 which has the
primary jurisdiction over the matter.105
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision of the Court of
Appeals dated October 5, 2006 is AFFIRMED. Item no. 4 of DAR Administrative Order No. 05, Series of 2006 is hereby
declared INVALID, VOID and OF NO EFFECT for being ultra vires
November 22, 2017
G.R. No. 222031
EMILIO CALMA, Petitioner
vs.
ATTY. JOSE M. LACHICA, JR.*, Respondent
DECISION
TIJAM, J.:
For Our resolution is a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45, assailing the Decision2 dated April 28, 2015 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 93329, which reversed and set aside the Decision3 dated January 20, 2009 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cabanatuan City, Branch 30 in Civil Case No. 4355.
Factual Antecedents
Respondent Atty. Jose M. Lachica, Jr. filed a complaint for Annulment of Void Deeds of Sale, Annulment of Titles,
Reconveyance, and Damages originally against Ricardo Tolentino (Ricardo) and petitioner Emilio Calma, and later on, Pablo
Tumale (Pablo) was imp leaded as additional defendant in a Second Amended Complaint. 4
Subject of the said complaint was a 20,000-square meter parcel of land situated in Sumacabeste, Cabanatuan City covered
by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-28380.5
Respondent, in his complaint, alleged that he was the absolute owner and actual physical possessor of the subject property,
having acquired the same sometime in 1974 for PhP15,000 through sale from Ceferino Tolentino (Ceferino) married to Victoria
Calderon, who are Ricardo's parents. Consequently, the subject property's title was delivered to respondent also in 1974.
Allegedly, he and his tenant/helper Oscar Justo (Oscar) has been in actual physical possession and cultivation of the said
land continuously since its acquisition up to present.6
Unfortunately, however, the 1974 Deed of Sale was allegedly lost. Hence, sometime in 1979, respondent and Ceferino agreed
to execute another deed of sale. Spouses Tolentino allegedly took advantage of the situation and demanded an additional
PhP15,000 from respondent to which the latter heeded. Thus, in the new Deed of Sale executed on April 29, 1979, the
consideration for the sale of the subject property was increased to PhP30,000. 7
After the notarization of the 1979 Deed of Sale on April 29, 1986, respondent requested Spouses Tolentino to execute an
Affidavit of Non-Tenancy and other documents required by the Department of Agrarian Reform for the transfer of the title in
respondent's name. Again, taking advantage of the situation, Ceferino and his son Ricardo allegedly requested respondent to
allow them to cultivate the 5,000-square meter portion of the subject land. The father and son allegedly offered to process the
transfer of the title to respondent's name to persuade the latter to grant their request. According to the respondent, because
of the trust, confidence, love, and respect that his family had for Ceferino's family, he entrusted the notarized Deed of Sale,
TCT No. T-28380, and the other documents on hand for the transfer of the title to his name and waited for the Tolentinos to
make good on their promise.8
In the meantime, respondent, through Oscar, allegedly continued to possess the entire subject property. 9
Respondent's employment in the government required him to travel to several distant places within the country. 10Hence, on
May 25, 1981, before leaving Nueva Ecija again and being assigned to a far-away province, respondent caused the annotation
of a Notice of Adverse Claim on TCT No. T-28380 to protect his claimed rights and interest in the subject property. 11
Due to respondent's employment and also because of an illness, he lost contact with the Tolentinos for a long period of time.12
Sometime in March 2001, respondent returned to Cabanatuan City and learned that Ceferino had already passed away.
Ricardo, on the other hand, was nowhere to be located despite efforts to do so.13 He also found Pablo to have been placed in
possession of the 5,000-square meter portion of the subject property by the Tolentinos sometime in 1986.14
Upon checking with the Office of the Register of Deeds as regards to the processing of his title over the subject property, he
discovered that the same was transferred under the name of Ricardo, which had been later on transferred to the petitioner
upon Ricardo's sale thereof to the latter. In fine, TCT No. T-28380 under Ceferino's name was cancelled and replaced by TCT
No. T-68769 under Ricardo's name, which was then also cancelled and replaced by TCT No. T-96168 now under petitioner's
name.15
Respondent argued that the sale between Ceferino and Ricardo was null and void for being executed with fraud, deceit,
breach of trust, and also for lack of lawful consideration. Respondent emphasized that not only was Ricardo in full knowledge
of the sale of the subject property to him by Ceferino, but also his adverse claim was evidently annotated in the latter's title
and carried over to Ricardo's title. Respondent also alleged that petitioner is an alien, a full-blooded Chinese citizen, hence,
not qualified to own lands in the Philippines, and is likewise a buyer in bad faith.16
Respondent, thus, prayed for the annulment of the Deed of Sale between Ceferino and Ricardo, as well as the Deed of Sale
between Ricardo and petitioner. TCT No. T-68769 under Ricardo's name and TCT No. T- 96168 under petitioner's name were
likewise sought to be annulled. Respondent further prayed for the ejectment of Pablo from the 5,000-square meter portion of
the subject property and the reconveyance of the entire property to him. Exemplary damages, actual damages, litigation
expenses and attorney's fees were also prayed for.17
To prove his case, respondent presented his testimony, the testimonies of Oscar Justo and Herminiano Tinio, Sr., and
documentary evidence comprising of TCT No. T-28380 with the annotation of his Notice of Adverse Claim dated May 25,
1981, the April 29, 1979 Deed of Sale, TCTT- 68769 with the annotation of the same Notice of Adverse Claim and an entry
regarding the cancellation thereof albeit the validity of such cancellation was challenged by the respondent, TCT No. T-96168
dated December 22, 1998, March 6, 1989 Deed of Absolute Sale, which he alleged to be certified copies thereof, and the
alleged original copy of the certificate to file action.18
For their part, defendants before the trial court averred in their Amended Answer 19 that petitioner is a buyer in good faith and
for value, having acquired the subject property on July 10, 1998 through sale from Ricardo. They argued, among others, that
petitioner, despite merely relying on the correctness of Ricardo's TCT, is duly protected by the law. It was stated in Ricardo's
title that respondent's adverse claim had already been cancelled more than four years before the sale or on April 26, 1994.
Thus, defendants argued that petitioner had no notice of any defect in Ricardo's title before purchase of the subject property.20
Petitioner presented the July 10, 1998 Deed of Absolute Sale, TCT No. T-68769 with the annotation of the cancellation of
respondent's adverse claim, TCT No. T-96168, to prove good faith in the acquisition of the subject property, and a copy of his
passport, Marriage Certificate, and Certificate of Live Birth to prove his Filipino citizenship, contrary to respondent's
allegation.21
The RTC Ruling
The RTC ruled that petitioner is an innocent purchaser for value and that he had already acquired his indefeasible rights over
the title. According to the trial court, while it may be true that respondent's adverse claim was annotated in Ricardo's title, the
same title also shows that such adverse claim had already been cancelled more than four years before he bought the property.
Moreover, the RTC ruled that respondent's cause of action had already prescribed. 22 The trial court also noted that respondent
failed to present any evidence on the alleged fraud in the transfer of the title of subject property to petitioner. 23
Ricardo was, however, held liable for the value of the property, damages, and attorney's fees in favor of respondent as,
according to the RTC, Ricardo cannot claim good faith because of the existence of the adverse claim.24
Lastly, the RTC ruled that respondent has no recourse against Pablo, who is liable to petitioner as the lawful owner.
The RTC disposed, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:
1. In favor of [respondent] and against Defendant Ricardo Tolentino.
The latter is hereby ordered to pay:
a) Forty Thousand Pesos (₱40,000.00), the estimated assessed value of the property formerly covered by TCT No. NT-68769
[sic], as actual damages;
b) One Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱l00,000.00) as moral damages;
c) Fifty Thousand Pesos (₱50,000.00) as exemplary damages;
d) Eighty Thousand Pesos (₱80,000.00) as attorney's fees and litigation expenses; and
2. Against [respondent] and in favor of the [petitioner] Emilio Calma and Pablo Tumale dismissing this complaint against them.
No evidence having been offered by Defendant's [sic] to prove their Counterclaim, the same is, as it is, DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.25
Respondent moved for the reconsideration of the said Decision, but the RTC denied the motion on March 24, 2009.26
Thus, respondent appealed before the CA.
The CA Ruling
In its assailed Decision, the CA reversed the RTC's ruling, finding that both Ricardo and petitioner were in bad faith in their
respective acquisitions of the subject property. Hence, both their titles should be annulled. While upholding the RTC's finding
that the registration of title in Ricardo's name was null and void as he had prior knowledge of the sale between his father and
respondent, the CA added that because of such bad faith, Ricardo's title must be annulled. Consequently, as Ricardo had no
valid title to the subject property, he had nothing to convey to petitioner. 27
The CA then proceeded to discuss its finding of bad faith against petitioner. The appellate court concluded that the
investigation conducted by petitioner on the title of the subject property before purchase was not sufficient to consider him to
be a buyer in good faith. The CA noted petitioner's knowledge of the annotation of an adverse claim on Ricardo's title and that
his act of asking assurance from Ricardo, the Register of Deeds, and the bank where the subject property was mortgaged
prior to the sale to petitioner cannot be considered as diligent efforts to protect his rights as a buyer. 28
The CA explained that petitioner should not have just relied on the face of the title as the notice of adverse claim annotated
on Ceferino's title carried over to Ricardo's title for a total of 13 years before its cancellation should have alerted him to conduct
an actual inspection of the title.29 If only petitioner had conducted an actual inspection of the property, the CA opined, petitioner
would have readily found that Oscar, respondent's alleged tenant, had been occupying and tilling the land. 30 Thus, despite
the fact that petitioner registered his acquisition of the subject property, since he was considered to be in bad faith, such
registration did not confer any right upon him.31 Applying the rule on double sale under Article 154432 of the Civil Code, as his
registration is deemed to be no registration at all because of his bad faith, the buyer who took prior possession of the property
in good faith shall be preferred.33
The CA then disposed of the appeal as follows:
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby GRANTED. The appealed Decision dated January 20, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court
of Cabanatuan City, Branch 30, in Civil Case No. 4355 for Annulment of Void Deeds of Sale, Cancellation of Titles, Re
conveyance, and Damages is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a NEW DECISION is hereby entered to read, thus:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of [respondent] Atty. Jose M Lachica, Jr. and against x x x Ricardo
Tolentino and [petitioner] Emilio Calma, declaring [respondent} as the rightful owner of the subject land covered under Transfer
Certificate of Title No. T- 96168 of the Registry of Deeds of Cabanatuan City, and ordering:
1) the annulment of the Deed of Sale between Ricardo Tolentino and Ceferino Tolentino;
2) the annulment of the Deed of Absolute Sale between Ricardo Tolentino and Emilio Calma dated July 10, 1998;
3) the Register of Deeds of Cabanatuan City to cancel Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-96168 and to issue a new
one in the name of Jose M Lachica, Jr. married to Warlita Ordonio;
4) x x x Ricardo Tolentino to pay [respondent] Atty. Jose M Lachica, Jr. the amounts of One Hundred Thousand Pesos
(₱100,000. 00) as moral damages and Fifty Thousand Pesos (₱50, 000. 00) as exemplary damages, the monetary
awards to earn interest at six percent (6%) per annum from finality of this Decision until fully paid; and
5) costs against x x x Ricardo Tolentino and Emilio Calma."
SO ORDERED.34
Hence, this petition.
The Issue
The resolution of the instant controversy boils down to who between the petitioner and the respondent has better right over
the subject property.
The Ruling of the Court
We rule for the petitioner.
Both the petitioner and the respondent claim ownership over the subject property by virtue of acquisition through sale. To
resolve the present controversy, thus, it is necessary to look into the basis of each party's claimed rights.
Sale from Ceferino to
respondent
Respondent's claimed right over the subject property is grounded upon his alleged acquisition of the same from Ceferino by
sale.
Both the RTC and the CA were convinced that the sale of the subject property by Ceferino to respondent was valid and as
such, the latter has a valid claim of right over the same. This can be gleaned from the RTC's Decision ordering Ricardo to pay
respondent damages due to the former's bad faith in the acquisition of the subject property, recognizing thus the latter's
interest and right over the same. The CA upheld respondent's rights over the subject property even more by ordering, among
others, the cancellation of petitioner's title and the transfer thereof to respondent's name.
For this matter, thus, We adhere to the general rule of refraining to scrutinize further the factual findings of the trial court as
affirmed by the appellate court.35 Besides, it must be noted that Ricardo did not question the liability imposed against him by
the RTC and the CA anymore as only petitioner came before Us in this petition. Hence, the question as to respondent's right
or the lack thereof in connection with Ricardo's liability cannot be dealt with by this Court. Consequently, We are constrained
to uphold respondent's claimed right over the subject property.
Sale from Ricardo to
Petitioner
Petitioner's claimed right over the subject property, on the other hand, is grounded upon his acquisition of the same from
Ricardo by sale. Unlike the sale from Ceferino to respondent, the Deed of Sale in petitioner's favor was registered with the
Registry of Deeds, giving rise to the issuance of a new certificate of title in the name of the petitioner.
However, in ruling that respondent is the rightful owner of the subject property, the CA ruled that no right was conferred upon
the petitioner by such sale primarily due to his predecessor's bad faith in the acquisition of the subject property. The CA also
found that petitioner, like his predecessor, cannot be considered as a buyer in good faith. These findings are grounded on the
fact that respondent's Notice of Adverse Claim appears in Ceferino's title and carried over to Ricardo's title, which according
to the CA is sufficient notice to both Ricardo and the petitioner of respondent's interests over the subject property. The CA
opined that such adverse claim should have alerted petitioner to conduct an actual inspection of the property, otherwise, he
cannot be considered to be a buyer in good faith.
We do not agree.
The Torrens system was adopted to "obviate possible conflicts of title by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of the
Torrens certificate and to dispense, as a rule, with the necessity of inquiring further." 36 From this sprung the doctrinal rule that
every person dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor and is in
no way obliged to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the property.37 To be sure, this Court is not unaware
of the recognized exceptions to this rule, to wit: (1.) when the party has actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that
would impel a reasonably cautious man to make further inquiry; (2.) when the buyer has knowledge of a defect or the lack of
title in his vendor;38 or (3.) when the buyer/mortgagee is a bank or an institution of similar nature as they are enjoined to exert
a. higher degree of diligence, care, and prudence than individuals in handling real estate transactions.39
Complementing this doctrinal rule is the concept of an innocent purchaser for value, which refers to someone who buys the
property of another without notice that some other person has a right to or interest in it, and who pays in full and fair the price
at the time of the purchase or without receiving any notice of another person's claim. 40
Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree 41 recognizes innocent purchasers for value
and their right to rely on a clean title:
Section 44. Statutory liens affecting title. - Every registered owner receiving certificate of title in pursuance of a decree of
registration, and every subsequent purchaser of registered land taking a certificate of title for value and good faith, shall hold
the same free from all encumbrances except those noted in said certificate and any of the following encumbrances which may
be subsisting, namely:
First. Liens, claims or rights arising or existing under the laws and Constitution of the Philippines which are not by law required
to appear of record in the Registry of Deeds in order to be valid against subsequent purchasers or encumbrances of record.
Second. Unpaid real estate taxes levied and assessed within two years immediately preceding the acquisition of any right
over the land by an innocent purchaser for value, without prejudice to the right of the government to collect taxes payable
before that period from the delinquent taxpayer alone.
Third. Any public highway or private way established or recognized by law, or any government irrigation canal or lateral thereof,
if the certificate of title does not state that the boundaries of such highway or irrigation canal or lateral thereof have been
determined.
Fourth. Any disposition of the property or limitation on the use thereof by virtue of, or pursuant to, Presidential Decree No. 27
or any other law or regulations on agrarian reform. (emphasis supplied)
Guided by the foregoing, We find that the circumstances obtaining in this case show that petitioner is an innocent purchaser
for value who exercised the necessary diligence in purchasing the property, contrary to the CA's findings.
The following facts are clear and undisputed: (1) petitioner acquired the subject property through sale from Ricardo as
evidenced by a Deed of Absolute Sale dated July 10, 1998, duly notarized on even date; (2) said sale was registered in the
Registry of Deeds, Cabanatuan City on December 22, 1998 as evidenced by TCT No. T-96168; (3) petitioner made inquiries
with the Register of Deeds and the bank where the subject property was mortgaged by Ricardo as regards the authenticity
and the status of Ricardo's title before proceeding with the purchase thereof; and (4) petitioner was able to ascertain that
Ricardo's title was clean and free from any lien and encumbrance as the said title, together with his inquiries, showed that the
only annotations in the said title were respondent's 1981 adverse claim and its cancellation in 1994.
From the foregoing factual backdrop, there was no indicia that could have aroused questions in the petitioner's mind regarding
the title of the subject property. Hence, We do not find any cogent reason not to apply the general rule allowing the petitioner
to rely on the face of the title.
For one, it is clearly manifest in the records that while respondent's adverse claim appears in Ricardo's title, it also appears
therein that the said adverse claim had already been cancelled on April 26, 1994 or more than four years before petitioner
puchased the subject property. As correctly found by the RTC, thus, Ricardo's title is already clean on its face, way before
petitioner puchased the same.
Further, respondent's allegation of fraud and petitioner's knowledge of the transaction between him and Ceferino are not
supported by any evidence except bare allegations. It is basic that an allegation of fraud must be substantiated. 42 Section 543 ,
Rule 8 provides that in all averments of fraud, the circumstances constituting the same must be stated with particularity.
Moreover, fraud is a question of fact which must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. 44
At any rate, contrary to the CA's ruling, petitioner was never remiss in his duty of ensuring that the property that he was going
to purchase had a clean title. Despite Ricardo's title being clean on its face, petitioner still conducted an investigation of his
own by proceeding to the Register of Deeds, as well as to the bank where said title was mortgaged, to check on the authenticity
and the status of the title. Thus, petitioner was proven to be in good faith when he dealt with Ricardo and relied on the title
presented and authenticated to him by the Register of Deeds and confirmed by the mortgagee-bank. Respondent, on the
other hand, failed to proffer evidence to prove otherwise.
Notably, the CA's conclusions to the contrary are merely based on assumptions and conjectures, such as that the bank's
advice for petitioner to buy the subject property was meant only for the protection of the bank's interest; and that the annotation
of the adverse claim on Ceferino's title and carried over to Ricardo's title for a total of 13 years before it was cancelled should
have aroused suspicion.45 These conclusions have no factual or legal basis. What is essential on the matter of petitioner's
good faith in the acquisition of the subject property is the cancellation of such adverse claim, which clearly appears on the
face of Ricardo's title.
As the fact that petitioner is an innocent purchaser for value had been established, the validity and efficacy of the registration,
as well as the cancellation, of respondent's adverse claim is immaterial in this case. What matters is that the petitioner had no
knowledge of any defect in the title of the property that he was going to purchase and that the same was clean and free of
any lien and encumbrance on its face by virtue of the entry on the cancellation of adverse claim therein. Thus, petitioner may
safely rely on the correctness of the entries in the title.
Even the defect in Ricardo's title due to his bad faith in the acquisition of the subject property, as found by both the RTC and
the CA, should not affect petitioner's rights as an innocent purchaser for value. The CA patently erred in ruling that since
Ricardo had no valid title on the subject property due to his bad faith, he had nothing to convey to the petitioner. It is settled
that a defective title may still be the source of a completely legal and valid title in the hands of an innocent purchaser for
value.46
Petitioner has a better
right of ownership over
the subject property
Applying now the rule on double sale under Article 1544 of the Civil Code, petitioner's right as an innocent purchaser for value
who was able to register his acquisition of the subject property should prevail over the unregistered sale of the same to the
respondent. Article 1544 states:
If the same thing should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership shall be transferred to the person who may have
first taken possession thereof in good faith, if it should be movable property.
Should it be immovable property, the ownership shall belong to the person acquiring it who in good faith first recorded it in the
Registry of Property.
Should there be no inscription, the ownership shall pertain to the person who in good faith was first in the possession; and, in
the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title, provided there is good faith. (emphasis supplied)
With that, We find no necessity to belabor on the other issues raised in the petition.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated April 28, 2015 of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Accordingly, the Decision dated January 20, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City, Branch 30, is
hereby REINSTATED.
G.R. No. 177181 July 7, 2009
RABAJA RANCH DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Petitioner,
vs.
AFP RETIREMENT AND SEPARATION BENEFITS SYSTEM, Respondent.
DECISION
NACHURA, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition1 for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking the reversal of
the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision2 dated June 29, 2006, which reversed and set aside the Decision 3 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 41, dated June 3, 2004.
The Facts
Petitioner Rabaja Ranch Development Corporation (petitioner), a domestic corporation, is a holder of Transfer Certificate of
Title (TCT) No. T-885134 covering the subject property particularly identified as Lot 395, Pls 47, with an area of 211,372 square
meters more or less, and located at Barangay (Brgy.) Conrazon, Bansud, Bongabon, Oriental Mindoro (subject property).
Respondent Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS) is a government
corporation, which manages the pension fund of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and is duly organized under
Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 361,5 as amended by P.D. No. 16566 (respondent). Respondent is a holder of TCT No. T-
513827 covering the same subject property.
On September 1, 1998, petitioner filed a Complaint 8 for Quieting of Title and/or Removal of Cloud from Title before the RTC.
Trial on the merits ensued.
Petitioner averred that on September 6, 1955, Free Patent No. V-195359 (Free Patent) was issued in the name of Jose
Castromero (Jose). On June 1, 1982, the Free Patent was registered, and Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-
261210 covering the subject property was issued in the name of Jose. Sometime in the first half of 1982, Jose sold the subject
property to Spouses Sigfriedo and Josephine Veloso11 (spouses Veloso), and TCT No. T-1710412was issued in favor of the
latter. Spouses Veloso, in turn, sold the subject property to petitioner for the sum of ₱634,116.00 on January 17, 1997, 13 and
TCT No. T-88513 was issued in petitioner’s name. Petitioner alleged that it was the lawful owner and possessor of the subject
property.
Traversing the complaint, respondent, in its Answer, 14 claimed that its title over the subject property was protected by the
Torrens system, as it was a buyer in good faith and for value; and that it had been in continuous possession of the subject
property since November 1989, way ahead of petitioner's alleged possession in February 1997.
Respondent stated that on April 30, 1966, Homestead Patent No. 113074 (Homestead Patent) was issued in the name of
Charles Soguilon (Charles). On May 27, 1966, the Homestead Patent was registered 15 and OCT No. RP-110 (P-6339)16 was
issued in Charles's name, covering the same property. On October 18, 1982, Charles sold the subject property to JMC Farm
Incorporated (JMC), which was then issued TCT No. 18529. 17 On August 30, 1985, JMC obtained a loan from respondent in
the amount of ₱7,000,000.00, with real estate mortgage over several parcels of land including the subject property. 18 JMC
failed to pay; hence, after extra-judicial foreclosure and public sale, respondent, being the highest bidder, acquired the subject
property and was issued TCT No. T-51382 in its name. Respondent contended that from the time it was issued a title, it took
possession of the subject property until petitioner disturbed respondent's possession thereof sometime in 1997. Thus,
respondent sent petitioner a Demand Letter19 asking the latter to vacate the subject property. Petitioner replied that it was not
aware of respondent's claim.20 Presently, the subject property is in the possession of the petitioner.21
The RTC's Ruling
On June 3, 2004, the RTC ruled in favor of the petitioner on the ground that petitioner's title emanated from a title older than
that of the respondent. Moreover, the RTC held that there were substantial and numerous infirmities in the Homestead Patent
of Charles. The RTC found that there was no record in the Bureau of Lands that Charles was a homestead applicant or a
grantee of Homestead Patent No. 113074. Upon inquiry, the RTC also found that a similar Homestead Patent bearing No. V-
113074 was actually issued in favor of one Mariano Costales over a parcel of land with an area of 8.7171 hectares and located
in Bunawan, Agusan in Mindanao, per Certification 22 issued by the Lands Management Bureau dated February 18, 1998.
Thus, the RTC held that Charles's Homestead Patent was fraudulent and spurious, and respondent could not invoke the
protection of the Torrens system, because the system does not protect one who committed fraud or misrepresentation and
holds title in bad faith. The RTC disposed of the case in this wise:
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant, as
follows:
1. DECLARING as valid OCT No. P-2612, in the name of Jose Castromero, and the subsequent TCT No. T-17104 in
the name of the spouses, Siegfriedo A. Veloso and Josephine Sison Veloso and TCT No. T-88513, in the name of
plaintiff Rabaja Ranch & Development Corporation;
2. DECLARING plaintiff as the true and lawful owner of the lot in question covered by TCT No. T-88513;
3. DECLARING as null and void OCT No. RP-110 (P-6339), in the name of Charles Soguilon and its derivative titles,
TCT No. T- 18529 registered in the name of J.M.C. Farm Incorporated and TCT No. T-51392, in the name of the
defendant AFP Retirement Separation and Benefits System;
4. DIRECTING the Register of Deeds, City of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, to cancel TCT No. T-51392, in the name of
defendant AFP Retirement Separation & Benefits System and its registration from the Records of the Registry of
Deeds;
5. NO PRONOUNCEMENT as to damages and attorney's fees for plaintiff and defendant's counterclaim is hereby
dismissed. No Cost.
SO ORDERED.
Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the CA.23
The CA's Ruling
On June 29, 2006, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC's Decision upon the finding that Charles's Homestead Patent was
earlier registered than Jose's Free Patent. The CA held that Jose slept on his rights, and thus, respondent had a better right
over the subject property. Further, the CA opined that while "it is interesting to note that petitioner's claim that Homestead
Patent No. V-113074 was issued to Mariano Costales, per Certification issued by the Lands Management Bureau, there is
nothing on record which would show that said Homestead Patent No. V-113074 and Homestead Patent No. 113074 granted
to Charles were one and the same."
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, 24 which the CA, however, denied in its Resolution25 dated March 26, 2007.
The Issues
Hence, this Petition based on the following grounds:
a) The CA decided a question of substance not in accordance with existing law and jurisprudence.
b) The CA Decision was based on a gross misapprehension or non-apprehension of facts.
Petitioner asseverates that Homestead Patent No. 113074 is not found in the files of the Land Management Bureau, nor does
Charles's name appear as an applicant or a patentee; that, similarly, Homestead Patent No. V-113074 was actually issued to
Mariano Costales over a parcel of land in Mindanao and not in Mindoro; that, being fake and spurious, Charles's Homestead
Patent is void ab initio and, as such, does not produce or transmit any right; that the CA completely ignored the RTC's factual
findings based on documentary and testimonial evidence, particularly of the invalidity and infirmities of the Homestead Patent;
that said Homestead Patent does not legally exist, hence, is not registrable; that respondent's assertion -- that since the
issuance of the Homestead Patent in 1966, records and documents have not been properly kept -- should be discarded, as
petitioner's Free Patent which was issued way back in 1955 is still intact and is of record; that a Homestead Patent, being a
contract between the Government and the grantee, must bear the consent of the Government; and, Charles's Homestead
Patent being a simulation, cannot transmit any right; that the earlier registration of the Homestead Patent has no legal effect,
as the same is merely simulated; and that OCT No. No. RP-110 (P-6339) and all derivative titles issued, including respondent's
title, are null and void.
Petitioner submits that it has a better right over the subject property than respondent. 26
Respondent takes issue with petitioner’s claim that the Homestead Patent is spurious or fake, the same being a question of
fact not proper in a petition for review on certiorari before this Court. Respondent also posits that the factual findings of the
CA are conclusive and binding on this Court, as such findings are based on record; that respondent has a better right over
the subject property because only the certified copy and not the original copy of the Free Patent was transcribed and registered
with the Register of Deeds of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro; that the Homestead Patent was duly transcribed on May 27, 1966,
way ahead of the registration of the Free Patent on June 1, 1982; that the CA was correct in ruling that Section 122 27 of Act
No. 496 (The Land Registration Act) as amended by Section 103 28 of P.D. No. 1529 (The Property Registration Decree)
provides that registration of the Patent with the Register of Deeds is the operative act to affect and convey the land; and that
the fact that the Homestead Patent was duly registered, said Patent became indefeasible as a Torrens Title. Moreover,
respondent avers that the petitioner failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the Homestead Patent is spurious or
fake. Respondent maintains that it is the Free Patent which is spurious since what was registered was only the certified and
not the original copy of the Free Patent.29
The issues may, thus, be summed up in the sole question of ─
WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT'S TITLE WHICH ORIGINATED FROM A FAKE AND SPURIOUS HOMESTEAD
PATENT, IS SUPERIOR TO PETITIONER'S TITLE WHICH ORIGINATED FROM A VALID AND EXISTING FREE PATENT. 30
Simply put, the issue is who, between the petitioner and respondent, has a better right over the subject property.
Our Ruling
The instant Petition is bereft of merit.
While this Court, is not a trier of facts and is not required to examine or contrast the oral and documentary evidence de novo,
nonetheless, it may review and, in proper cases, reverse the factual findings of lower courts when the findings of fact of the
trial court are in conflict with those of the appellate court. 31 In this case, we see the need to review the records.
The special circumstances attending this case cannot be disregarded. Two certificates of title were issued covering the very
same property, deriving their respective authorities from two different special patents granted by the Government. The Free
Patent was issued to Jose on September 6, 1955 as opposed to the Homestead Patent which was issued to Charles on April
30, 1966. The latter was registered on May 27, 1966, ahead of the former which was registered only on June 1, 1982. Each
patent generated a certificate of title issued to a different set of individuals. Over the years, the subject property was eventually
sold to the contending parties herein, who both appear to be buyers in good faith and for value.
Petitioner now seeks relief before this Court on the main contention that the registered Homestead Patent from which
respondent derived its title, is fake and spurious, and is, therefore, void ab initio because it was not issued, at all, by the
Government.
We are not convinced.
Our ruling in Republic v. Guerrero,32 is instructive:
Fraud is of two kinds: actual or constructive. Actual or positive fraud proceeds from an intentional deception practiced by
means of the misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact. Constructive fraud is construed as a fraud because of its
detrimental effect upon public interests and public or private confidence, even though the act is not done with an actual design
to commit positive fraud or injury upon other persons.
Fraud may also be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Fraud is regarded as intrinsic where the fraudulent acts pertain to an issue
involved in the original action, or where the acts constituting the fraud were or could have been litigated therein. The fraud is
extrinsic if it is employed to deprive parties of their day in court and thus prevent them from asserting their right to the property
registered in the name of the applicant.
The distinctions assume significance because only actual and extrinsic fraud had been accepted and is contemplated by the
law as a ground to review or reopen a decree of registration. Thus, relief is granted to a party deprived of his interest in land
where the fraud consists in a deliberate misrepresentation that the lots are not contested when in fact they are; or in willfully
misrepresenting that there are no other claims; or in deliberately failing to notify the party entitled to notice; or in inducing him
not to oppose an application; or in misrepresenting about the identity of the lot to the true owner by the applicant causing the
former to withdraw his application. In all these examples, the overriding consideration is that the fraudulent scheme of the
prevailing litigant prevented a party from having his day in court or from presenting his case. The fraud, therefore, is one that
affects and goes into the jurisdiction of the court.
We have repeatedly held that relief on the ground of fraud will not be granted where the alleged fraud goes into the merits of
the case, is intrinsic and not collateral, and has been controverted and decided. Thus, we have underscored the denial of
relief where it appears that the fraud consisted in the presentation at the trial of a supposed forged document, or a false and
perjured testimony, or in basing the judgment on a fraudulent compromise agreement, or in the alleged fraudulent acts or
omissions of the counsel which prevented the petitioner from properly presenting the case. 33
No actual and extrinsic fraud existed in this case. In our jurisdiction, fraud is never presumed.34 Mere allegations of fraud are
not enough. Intentional acts to deceive and deprive another of his right, or in some manner, injure him must be specifically
alleged and proved.35 The burden of proof rests on petitioner, and the petitioner failed to discharge the burden. Petitioner did
not convincingly show that the Homestead Patent issued to Charles is indeed spurious. More importantly, petitioner failed to
prove that respondent took part in the alleged fraud which dated back as early as 1966 when Charles supposedly secured the
fake and spurious Homestead Patent.
In Estate of the Late Jesus S. Yujuico v. Republic,36 citing Republic v. Court of Appeals,37 this Court stressed the fact that it
was never proven that private respondent St. Jude was a party to the fraud that led to the increase in the area of the property
after it was sub-divided. In the same case, citing Republic v. Umali,38 we held that, in a reversion case, even if the original
grantee of a patent and title has obtained the same through fraud, reversion will no longer prosper as the land had become
private land and the fraudulent acquisition cannot affect the titles of innocent purchasers for value.
This conclusion rests very firmly on Section 32 of P.D. No. 1529, which states:
SECTION 32. Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value. — The decree of registration shall not be
reopened or revised by reason of absence, minority, or other disability of any person adversely affected thereby, nor by any
proceeding in any court for reversing judgment, subject, however, to the right of any person, including the government and
the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by such adjudication or confirmation of title obtained
by actual fraud, to file in the proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not
later than one year from and after the date of the entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be
entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein whose rights may
be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase "innocent purchaser for value" or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be
deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.
Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued shall become
incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for
damages against the applicant or any other person responsible for the fraud. (Underscoring ours)
Settled is the rule that no valid TCT can issue from a void TCT, unless an innocent purchaser for value had intervened. An
innocent purchaser for value is one who buys the property of another, without notice that some other person has a right to or
interest in the property, for which a full and fair price is paid by the buyer at the time of the purchase or before receipt of any
notice of the claims or interest of some other person in the property. The protection given to innocent purchasers for value is
necessary to uphold a certificate of title's efficacy and conclusiveness, which the Torrens system ensures. 39
Clearly, respondent is an innocent purchaser in good faith and for value. Thus, as far as respondent is concerned, TCT No.
18529, shown to it by JMC, was free from any flaw or defect that could give rise to any iota of doubt that it was fake and
spurious, or that it was derived from a fake or spurious Homestead Patent. Likewise, respondent was not under any obligation
to make an inquiry beyond the TCT itself when, significantly, a foreclosure sale was conducted and respondent emerged as
the highest bidder.
In Republic v. Court of Appeals,40 this Court distinguished a Homestead Patent from a Free Patent, to wit:
Homestead Patent and Free Patent are some of the land patents granted by the government under the Public Land Act. While
similar, they are not exactly the same. A Homestead Patent is one issued to: any citizen of this country; over the age of 18
years or the head of a family; who is not the owner of more than twenty-four (24) hectares of land in the Philippines or has not
had the benefit of any gratuitous allotment of more than twenty-four (24) hectares of land since the occupation of the
Philippines by the United States. The applicant must show that he has complied with the residence and cultivation
requirements of the law; must have resided continuously for at least one year in the municipality where the land is situated;
and must have cultivated at least one-fifth of the land applied for.
On the other hand, a Free Patent may be issued where the applicant is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines; not the owner
of more than twelve (12) hectares of land; that he has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his
predecessors-in-interests, a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition for at least 30 years prior to the
effectivity of Republic Act No. 6940; and that he has paid the real taxes thereon while the same has not been occupied by any
person.41
It bears stressing that a Homestead Patent, once registered under the Land Registration Act, becomes as indefeasible as a
Torrens Title.42 Verily, Section 103 of P.D. No. 1529 mandates the registration of patents, and such registration is the operative
act to convey the land to the patentee, thus:
Sec. 103. . . . . . The deed, grant, patent or instrument of conveyance from the Government to the grantee shall not take effect
as a conveyance or bind the land but shall operate only as a contract between the Government and the grantee and as
evidence of authority to the Register of Deeds to make registration. It is the act of registration that shall be the operative act
to affect and convey the land, and in all cases under this Decree, registration shall be made in the office of the Register of
Deeds of the province or city where the land lies. The fees for registration shall be paid by the grantee. After due registration
and issuance of the certificate of title, such land shall be deemed to be registered land to all intents and purposes under this
Decree. (Emphasis supplied)
The Torrens system is not a mode of acquiring titles to lands; it is merely a system of registration of titles to lands. However,
justice and equity demand that the titleholder should not be made to bear the unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence
of the State's agents, in the absence of proof of his complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to third persons. The real
purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and put a stop forever to any question as to the legality of the title, except
claims that were noted in the certificate at the time of the registration or that may arise subsequent thereto. Otherwise, the
integrity of the Torrens system shall forever be sullied by the ineptitude and inefficiency of land registration officials, who are
ordinarily presumed to have regularly performed their duties.43
The general rule that the direct result of a previous void contract cannot be valid will not apply in this case as it will directly
contravene the Torrens system of registration. Where innocent third persons, relying on the correctness of the certificate of
title thus issued, acquire rights over the property, this Court cannot disregard such rights and order the cancellation of the
certificate. The effect of such outright cancellation will be to impair public confidence in the certificate of title. The sanctity of
the Torrens system must be preserved; otherwise, everyone dealing with the property registered under the system will have
to inquire in every instance as to whether the title had been regularly or irregularly issued, contrary to the evident purpose of
the law. Every person dealing with the registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued
therefor,
and the law will, in no way, oblige him to go behind the certificate to determine the condition of the property. 44
Respondent's transfer certificate of title, having been derived from the Homestead Patent which was registered under the
Torrens system on May 27, 1966, was thus vested with the habiliments of indefeasibility.
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is DENIED and the assailed Court of Appeals Decision is AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 184589 June 13, 2013


DEOGENES O. RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS and PHILIPPINE CHINESE CHARITABLE ASSOCIATION, INC., Respondents.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
This Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assails the Decision1 dated May 26, 2008 and Resolution2 dated
September 17, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 101789 for having been rendered with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. Said Decision and Resolution reversed and set aside the Orders dated April 10,
20073 and November 22, 200t of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 75, San Mateo, Rizal, in Land Registration (Reg.)
Case No. N-5098 (LRC Rec. No. N-27619).
The Facts are as follows.
On January 29, 1965, Purita Landicho (Landicho) filed before the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal an Application for
Registration of a piece of land, measuring 125 hectares, located in Barrio Patiis, San Mateo, Rizal (subject property), which
was docketed as Land Reg. Case No. N-5098.5 On November 16, 1965, the CFI rendered a Decision6 evaluating the evidence
presented by the parties as follows:
It has been established by the evidence adduced by Landicho that the parcel of land under consideration was formerly several
smaller parcels owned and possessed by the spouses Felix San Pascual and Juanita Vertudes, Ignacio Santos and Socorro
Santos, Caconto Cayetano and Verneta Bartolome, Gavino Espiritu and Asuncion Cruz, and Lucio Manuel and Justina
Ramos, all of whom in January 1960, executed instruments of conditional sale of their respective parcels of land in favor of
Landicho, x x x, and on July 20, 1965 all of them executed jointly a final deed of absolute sale x x x which superseded the
conditional sale. Gavino Espiritu, one of the vendors, fifty-five years old, farmer, resident of Barrio Geronimo, Montalban,
Rizal, testified that he and his co-vendors have been in possession of the parcel of land since 1930 and that the possession
of Landicho, together with her predecessors in interest, has been open, peaceful, continuous and adverse against the whole
world in the concept of an owner. It has also been established that the parcel of land is within the Alienable or Disposable
Block-I of I.C. Project No. 26 of San Mateo, Rizal, x x x; that the parcel of land is classified as "montañoso" with an assessed
value of ₱12,560.00 under Tax Dec. No. 7081, x x x, taxes due to which for the current year had been paid, x x x; and that
the same is not mortgaged or affected by any encumbrance.
The oppositor did not present testimonial evidence but presented the report of investigation of Land Investigator Pedro R.
Feliciano dated August 23, 1965, x x x which stated substantially that during the investigation and ocular inspection it has
been ascertained that no public land application is involved and that no reservation is affected thereby, and therefore, he
believed that the opposition already filed can be withdrawn; x x x, 1st Indorsement dated August 24, 1965 of the District Land
Officer, District No. 7, Bureau of Lands, to the Director of Lands, recommending that, in view of said report of investigation,
the opposition be withdrawn; and x x x, office memorandum of the Chief, Records Division, Bureau of Land, addressed to the
Chief, Legal Division, dated September 23, 1965, to the effect that according to the records, plan Psu-201023 is not covered
by any kind of public land application or patent.
It is therefore clear from the evidence on record that the applicant is entitled to the benefits provided by Section 48, of C.A.
No. 141, as amended.7
In the end, the CFI decreed:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby confirms the title of the applicant, Purita Landicho, of legal age, married to Teodorico
Landicho, Filipino, resident of 74-A South 19th St., Quezon City, to the parcel of land under consideration and orders the
registration thereof in her name and personal circumstances aforementioned.
The opposition of the Director of Lands is hereby dismissed.
Once this decision becomes final and executory, let the order for the issuance of the decree issue.8
Upon finality of its Decision dated November 16, 1965, the CFI issued an Order 9 on December 22, 1965 directing the
Commissioner of the Land Registration Commission (LRC) "to comply with Section 21 of Act No. 2347" 10 on the issuance of
a decree and original certificate of title (OCT).
Eventually, on July 11, 1966, Jose D. Santos (Santos), Register of Deeds (ROD) for the Province of Rizal, issued Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 16768111 in Landicho’s name covering the subject property. Notably, ROD Santos issued to
Landicho a TCT rather than an OCT for the subject property; and although TCT No. 167681 stated that it was issued pursuant
to Decree No. 1480, no other detail regarding the decree and the original registration of the subject property was filled out.
The subject property was thereafter sold several times, and as the old TCTs of the vendors were cancelled, new TCTs were
accordingly issued to the buyers. The sale of the subject property could be traced from Landicho to Blue Chips Projects, Inc.
(BCPI), which acquired TCT No. 344936 in its own name on November 10, 1971; then to Winmar Poultry Farm, Inc. (WPFI),
TCT No. 425582, November 5, 1973; and finally, to herein respondent Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc.
(PCCAI), TCT No. 482970, July 15, 1975.12
Meanwhile, A. Doronila Resources Dev., Inc. (ADRDI) 13 instituted Civil Case No. 12044, entitled A. Doronila Resources Dev.,
Inc. v. Court of Appeals, which was still pending before the RTC, Branch 167, of Pasig City as of 2008. ADRDI asserted
ownership over the subject property, which was a portion of a bigger tract of land measuring around 513 hectares, covered
by TCT No. 42999, dated February 20, 1956, in the name of said corporation. This bigger tract of land was originally registered
in the name of Meerkamp Co. under OCT No. 301, pursuant to Decree No. 1480, GLRO Record No. 2429, issued on
November 22, 1906. ADRDI caused the annotation of a notice of lis pendens (as regards Civil Case No. 12044) on TCT No.
344936 of BCPI. Subsequently, based on the ruling of this Court in A. Doronila Resources Dev., Inc. v. Court of
Appeals,14 ADRDI was also able to have its notice of adverse claim over the subject property annotated on TCT Nos. 344936
and 425582 of BCPI and WPFI, respectively. ADRDI subsequently transferred the subject property to Amado Araneta
(Araneta) to whom TCT No. 70589 was issued on March 25, 1983.
On November 14, 1996, Landicho executed a Deed of Absolute Sales (sic) over the subject property in favor of herein
petitioner Deogenes O. Rodriguez (Rodriguez). Two years later, on June 1, 1998, Landicho died.
Seven years hence, or on May 18, 2005, Rodriguez filed an Omnibus Motion before the RTC, Branch 75, of San Mateo, Rizal,
in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. Rodriguez alleged therein that the Decision dated November 16, 1965 and Order dated
December 22, 1965 of the CFI in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 which confirmed Landicho’s title over the subject property has
not been executed. Rodriguez specifically stated that no decree of registration had been issued by the LRC Commissioner
(now the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority [LRA]) and that no OCT had been ever issued by the ROD in
Landicho’s name. As Landicho’ssuccessor-in-interest to the subject property, Rodriguez prayed that:
a. Upon the filing of the instant motion, the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City be commanded to
transmit to the Honorable Court the complete records and expediente of LRC No. x x x N-5098 (LRC Rec. No. N-
27619);
b. After hearing, the Honorable Court give due course to the instant motions and issue an Order as follows:
i. Directing the Administrator of the Land Registration [Authority] to issue the Decree of Registration, in
accordance with the tenor of the Decision dated November 16, 1965 x x x and the Order dated December 22,
1965 x x x, in the name of the petitioner [Rodriguez];
ii. Thereafter, ordering the Register of Deeds for Marikina City, through the Administrator of the Land
Registration Administration as having direct supervisory authority there-over, to issue the
Original Certificate of Title containing the Technical Description as duly confirmed in the said Decision and Order x x x in the
name of the herein petitioner [Rodriguez].
PETITIONER further prays for such other measures of relief as may be deemed just and equitable in the premises.15
In the course of the proceedings concerning the aforementioned Omnibus Motion, Rodriguez himself submitted as his Exhibit
"GG" TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI but alleged that said certificate of title was fictitious. Thus, the RTC issued on November 3,
2006 a subpoena commanding PCCAI to appear at the hearing of Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 set on November 8, 2006 at
9:00 a.m.; to bring its TCT No. 482970 and Tax Declaration No. SM-02-0229; and to testify in connection therewith.
On November 17, 2006, PCCAI filed before the RTC a Verified Motion for Leave to Intervene in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098.
PCCAI justified its intervention by arguing that it was an indispensable party in the case, having substantial legal interest
therein as the registered owner of the subject property under TCT No. 482970. PCCAI likewise pointed out that Rodriguez
himself submitted a copy of TCT No. 482970, only alleging that said certificate was fictitious. PCCAI averred that Rodriguez
maliciously failed to allege in his Omnibus Motion that TCT No. 482970 remains valid and subsisting, there being no direct
action or final court decree for its cancellation. Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion constituted a collateral attack on the title of
PCCAI, which is not sanctioned by law and jurisprudence. Consequently, PCCAI asked the RTC to allow its intervention in
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 so it could protect its vested rights and interests over the subject property; to note and admit its
Answer-in-Intervention; and to deny Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion for utter lack of merit.
The RTC favorably acted on Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion in an Order dated April 10, 2007, reasoning as follows:
Initially, the issue of jurisdiction arose particularly as to whether this Court may take cognizance of the instant case previously
assigned to the CFI Pasig and, subsequently, rule upon the Omnibus Motion of [Rodriguez] despite the lapse of more than
forty (40) years after the finality of the Decision of November 16, 1965.
Clearly, this Court has jurisdiction because, as earlier stated, the proceedings in this Court is merely a continuation of the land
registration proceedings commenced in the CFI Pasig. More importantly, with the creation of this Court under the provisions
of the Judiciary Reorganization Law, all cases involving properties within its territorial jurisdiction, specifically in San Mateo,
Rizal, were transferred to this Court (Sec. 44, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129).
Consequently, there is no legal impediment for this Court to reiterate the Decision dated November 16, 1965 and the Order
dated December 22, 1966 because the Rules on execution of Judgment pertaining to civil cases are not applicable to this
kind of proceedings. A final and executory judgment in a land registration case, being merely declaratory in nature, does not
prescribe. (Sta. Ana vs. Menla, 1 SCRA 1294; Heirs of Cristobal Marcos vs. de Banuvar, 25 SCRA 316; vda. De Barroga vs.
Albano, 157 SCRA 131; Cacho v. Court of Appeals, 269 SCRA 159)
Secondly, a more important issue was put to fore—whether this Court may issue a writ of execution directing the Land
Registration Authority (LRA) to issue a decree of registration over the subject property and the Register of Deeds of the
Province of Rizal to issue an original certificate of title in the name of [Rodriguez].
Consistency dictates and being a mere continuation of the CFI Pasig proceedings, this Court can only reiterate the directives
in the Order dated December 22, 196[5]. It cannot, however, issue, as prayed for, a writ of execution directing the issuance
of a decree of registration and an original certificate of title in the name of [Rodriguez].
Finally, during the proceedings in this case, this Court was made aware of the existence of claimants to the subject property.
However, this Court cannot, at this time and in this proceedings, rule on the legality or illegality of these claims of ownership.
It is best that these claims be ventilated in appropriate proceedings specifically sought to for this purpose. 16 (Underscoring
deleted.)
The RTC decreed thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Order dated December 22, 1966 of the Court of First Instance of Pasig, Branch 6,
is hereby REITERATED. The Land Registration Authority is directed to issue a decree of registration while the Register of
Deeds of the Province of Rizal is likewise directed to issue an original certificate of title of the subject property, both in favor
and in the name of applicant Purita Landicho, of legal age, married to Teodorico Landicho, Filipino and a resident of 74-A
South 19th St., Quezon City, after compliance with issuance requirements and procedures.17
PCCAI filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the aforequoted Order of the RTC. The RTC resolved both the Motion for Leave
to Intervene with the attached Answer-in-Intervention and Motion for Reconsideration of PCCAI in another Order dated
November 22, 2007. The trial court held:
This Court after receiving evidence that a Decision was rendered in favor of the applicants spouses Landicho as owner in fee
simple of the subject parcels of land, and that no title was issued pursuant to the said Decision which has become final and
executory even after an Order to that effect was issued, merely reiterated the said Order for the implementation of the Decision
dated November 16, 1966, signed by the Hon. Andres Reyes as Judge. In other words, Intervention would not be allowed
after the Decision has become final and executory. The issue in the instant Petition is the issuance of a decree of registration
and nothing more is being tried.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion For Leave To Intervene and the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the
PCCAI are both DENIED.18
The LRA, upon receipt of a copy of the RTC Order dated April 10, 2007, filed a Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 informing
the trial court that it cannot comply with said Order since there were already two existing titles covering the subject property,
i.e., TCT No. 70589 of Araneta (traced back to OCT No. 301 of Meerkamp Co.) and TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI (traced back
to Landicho’s TCT No. 167681); and to issue a decree of registration and OCT in Landicho’s name would only further
aggravate the problem of double titling. The LRA also explained that the ROD issued a TCT, rather than an OCT, to Landicho
for the subject property in 1966, following the Order dated July 7, 1966 of then LRC Commissioner Antonio H. Noblejas
(Noblejas), who took cognizance of the fact that the subject property, as part of a bigger parcel of land, was already registered
under OCT No. 301 in the name of Meerkamp Co., pursuant to Decree No. 1480 under GLRO Record No. 2429 issued in
1906. LRC Commissioner Noblejas additionally stated in his Order that:
The new transfer certificate of title to be issued by virtue hereof is deemed to have been derived from Transfer Certificate of
Title No. N-1. (Under Decree No. 1480 dated November 22, 1906) which should be deemed cancelled with respect to the said
property and that the issuance of the same has been effected without the presentation of the owners duplicate of subsisting
certificate of title.19 (Emphasis deleted.)
At around the same time, PCCAI filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition before the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-
G.R. SP No. 101789, assailing the Orders dated April 10, 2007 and November 22, 2007 of the RTC for having been issued
without or in excess of jurisdiction and/or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. PCCAI
acknowledged that it is the ministerial duty of the RTC to issue a writ of execution for a final and executory decision/order;
however, PCCAI argued that when subsequent facts and circumstances transpired which renders the execution of the final
and executory decision/order unjust or inequitable, then the trial court should refrain from issuing a writ of execution. PCCAI
likewise asserted that the RTC, as a land registration court, did not have the jurisdiction to resolve conflicting claims of
ownership over the subject property. PCCAI lastly maintained that it was an indispensable party in Land Reg. Case No. N-
5098 and that it should have been allowed by the RTC to intervene during the hearing of Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion for the
execution of the Decision dated November 16, 1965 and Order dated December 22, 1965 of the CFI.
The Court of Appeals, in a Decision dated May 26, 2008, found merit in the Petition of PCCAI. The appellate court gave great
weight and credence to the Manifestation dated February 8, 2008 of the LRA reporting the double titling and conflicting claims
over the subject property. The Court of Appeals held that:
The Land Registration Authority, being the repository of land registration documents and the administrative agency with the
necessary expertise concerning land registration matters, We cannot but agree with the above-quoted Manifestation.
Moreover, from the above facts admitted by the parties and the LRA, it cannot be denied that there are conflicting claims on
the ownership of the property which cannot be passed upon by the lower court as a land registration court for lack of
jurisdiction.20
The Court of Appeals additionally opined that the intervention of PCCAI in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 was proper given the
circumstances:
Anent the issue of intervention, in the case of Information Technology of the Philippines vs. Comelec, G.R. 159139, August
22, 2006, the following doctrine was enunciated, to wit:
"The basic doctrinal rule is that final judgments may no longer be modified, except only to correct clerical errors or mistakes,
or when the judgment is void, or if supervening events or circumstances that transpire after the finality of the decision render
its execution unjust and inequitable. In the interest of substantial justice, this Court has allowed exceptions to this rule. A
person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the parties, or an interest against both,
or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property in the custody of the court or of
an officer thereof, may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action."
We are not unmindful that [PCCAI] filed its Intervention when the decision of the case was already final and executory and
during the execution stage of the case. However, the supervening event which is the issuance of a decree of registration
which was already implemented and enforced upon the order of the Administrator of the LRC way back in July 11, 1966 when
the LRC issued TCT No. 167861 in the name of Purita Landicho instead of an OCT makes the said intervention proper and
well-taken.
From the foregoing, it appears absurd and senseless that an OCT be issued in favor of Mr. Rodriguez. Furthermore, it is in
the paramount interest of justice that the assailed orders be not implemented, [PCCAI] being an indispensable party in the
execution and/or implementation of the said orders. The non-execution of the said orders will prevent further disarray,
confusion and complexity on the issue of who is or who should be the real owner of the subject land which is a matter that
can be threshed out in a proper case for quieting of title between adverse claimants. 21
Based on the foregoing, the appellate court adjudged:
All told, the assailed orders were issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction.
WHEREFORE, the assailed orders are REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Accordingly, [Rodriguez, RTC Presiding Judge
Josephine ZarateFernandez, the LRA Administrator, and Marikina City ROD] are enjoined to cease and desist from
implementing the said orders pending the outcome of a proper case before an appropriate court where the issue of ownership
of the subject land can be put to rest. 22
Rodriguez moved for reconsideration of the foregoing Decision but was denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated
September 17, 2008.
Aggrieved, Rodriguez sought recourse from this Court through the present Petition, arguing that:
I
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAD ACTED WITHOUT JURISDICTION WHEN IT RENDERED AN OPEN-ENDED
JUDGMENT.
A
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAD ABDICATED ITS JURISDICTION TO RESOLVE DISPUTES ON THE MERE
MANIFESTATION OF THE LRA THAT THERE WERE ISSUES OF OWNERSHIP WHICH HAVE FIRST TO BE
RESOLVED.
B
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAS RESOLVED AN ISSUE WHICH WAS IRRELEVANT AND IMMATERIAL OR HAD
OTHERWISE BEEN RESOLVED.
II
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAD COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OF
JURISDICTION IN RULING THAT THE [PCCAI] HAD LEGAL STANDING TO PREVENT OR SUSPEND THE OPERATION
OF THE LAND REGISTRATION LAWS BY WAY OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE ORDER DIRECTING THE LAND
REGISTRATION ADMINISTRATOR TO COMPLY WITH THE ORDER DATED DECEMBER 16, 1965.
A
THE [PCCAI] HAD NO RIGHT TO INTERVENE IN LRC NO. N-5098.
B.
THE [PCCAI] CANNOT CLAIM BUYER IN GOOD FAITH STATUS AS ITS TITLE WAS DEFECTIVE ON ITS FACE.
III
[RODRIGUEZ] IS ENTITLED TO THE CORRECTIVE AND PREROGATIVE WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO INSURE THAT THE
LAND REGISTRATION LAWS ARE PROPERLY AND FULLY IMPLEMENTED.23
The instant Petition has no merit.
At the outset, the Court finds unmeritorious Rodriguez’s claim that the Court of Appeals rendered an open-ended judgment.
In the dispositive portion of its Decision dated May 26, 2008, the Court of Appeals clearly and categorically "REVERSED AND
SET ASIDE" the Orders dated April 10, 2007 and November 22, 2007 of the RTC in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. The cease
and desist order of the appellate court in the second line of the same dispositive portion is therefore a superfluity. Obviously,
by reversing and setting aside the foregoing Orders, there is nothing more to implement. The phrase "pending the outcome
of a proper case before an appropriate court where the issue of ownership of the subject land can be put to rest," 24 does not
mean that the very same Orders which were reversed and set aside by the Court of Appeals could later on be revived or
reinstated; rather it means that the remedies sought by Rodriguez can be litigated and granted in an appropriate proceeding
by a court with proper jurisdiction.
To clarify matters, it must be stressed that the issue brought before the Court of Appeals did not involve the question of the
ownership. The appellate court only concerned itself with the proper execution of the November 16, 1965 Decision in Land
Reg. Case No. N-5098 but, due to the intricacy of the matter, was compelled to take notice of the controversy between
Rodriguez and PCCAI, both of whom trace back their titles to Landicho. In view of these conflicting claims, Rodriguez now
avers that because ROD Santos issued TCT No. 167681 for the subject property in Landicho’s name, the November 16, 1965
Decision in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 was not validly implemented since no OCT was issued.25 Corollary to this, Rodriguez
posits that PCCAI is not a buyer in good faith of the subject property and that the latter’s TCT No. 482970 is spurious. PCCAI,
on the other hand, insists that the issuance of TCT No. 167681 to Landicho, from which its own TCT No. 482970 may be
traced back, was a valid execution of the said CFI decision.
The LRA, in its Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 filed before the RTC, explained that a TCT was issued to Landicho
because the subject property, as part of a bigger parcel of land, was already covered by Decree No. 1480 and OCT No. 301
dated November 22, 1906 in the name of Meerkamp Co. In other words, Landicho’s TCT No. 167681 is a derivative of Decree
No. 1480 and OCT No. 301 of Meerkamp Co. which were cancelled to the extent of the subject property.
Complicating the matter further is the pendency of Civil Case No. 12044 in the RTC, Branch 167, Pasig City. Not only is
PCCAI questioning the right of Rodriguez to the issuance of an OCT pursuant to the November 16, 1965 Decision and
December 22, 1965 Order of the CFI in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098, it is also defending the validity of TCT No. 482970 (which
is a derivative of TCT No. 167681 issued to Landicho) against Araneta who holds TCT No. 70589 (which is a derivative of
Meerkamp Co.’s OCT No. 301). In view of the foregoing, issuing an OCT covering the subject property to Rodriguez would
give rise to a third certificate of title over the same property. Such act would only cause more confusion and complication,
rather than the preservation, of the Torrens system of registration.
The real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and to stop forever any question as to its legality. Once a title
is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting on the "mirador
su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land. A Torrens title is generally a conclusive evidence of the ownership of the
land referred to therein. A strong presumption exists that Torrens titles are regularly issued and that they are valid. 26 In this
case, PCCAI is the registered owner of the subject property under TCT No. 482970, which could be traced back to TCT No.
16781 issued to Landicho. As between PCCAI and Rodriguez, the former is better entitled to the protection of the Torrens
system. PCCAI can rely on its TCT No. 482970 until the same has been annulled and/or cancelled.
Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, explicitly provides that "a
certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct
proceeding in accordance with law."
In Decaleng v. Bishop of the Missionary District of the Philippine Islands of Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States
of America,27 the Court declared that a Torrens title cannot be attacked collaterally, and the issue on its validity can be raised
only in an action expressly instituted for that purpose. A collateral attack is made when, in another action to obtain a different
relief, the certificate of title is assailed as an incident in said action.
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 was an application for registration of the subject property instituted by Landicho before the CFI,
which was granted by the CFI in its Decision dated November 16, 1965. Rodriguez, asserting that he was Landicho’s lawful
successor-in-interest, filed an Omnibus
Motion before the RTC in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 seeking the issuance of a decree of registration and an OCT in his
name for the subject property pursuant to the said CFI judgment. Rodriguez acknowledged the existence of TCT No. 482970
of PCCAI for the same property, but he simply brushed aside said certificate of title for allegedly being spurious. Still, Rodriguez
did not pray that TCT No. 482970 be declared void and/or cancelled; and even if he did, the RTC had no jurisdiction to grant
such relief in a land registration case. Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098, under the circumstances,
is a collateral attack on said certificate, which is proscribed under Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree.
If Rodriguez wants to have a decree of registration and OCT issued in his (or even in Landicho’s name) for the subject property,
he should have directly challenged the validity of the extant TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI for the very same property in an action
specifically instituted for such purpose (i.e., petition for annulment and/or cancellation of title, petition for quieting of title) and
pray the said certificate of title be annulled or canceled. The proper court in an appropriate action can try the factual and legal
issues involving the alleged fatal defects in Landicho’s TCT No. 167681 and/or its derivative TCTs, including TCT No. 482970
of PCCAI; the legal effects of Landicho’s sale of the subject property to BCPI (the predecessor-in-interest of PCCAI) in 1971
and also to Rodriguez in 1996; and the good faith or bad faith of PCCAI, as well as Rodriguez, in purchasing the subject
property. The resolution of these issues will ultimately be determinative of who between Rodriguez and PCCAI is the rightful
owner of the subject property.
Clearly, the Court of Appeals cannot be faulted for according weight and credence to the Manifestation dated February 4,
2008 of the LRA.
The LRA exists for the sole purpose of implementing and protecting the Torrens system of land titling and registration. 28 In
particular, it is tasked with the following functions:
(1) Issue decrees of registration pursuant to final judgments of the courts in land registration proceedings and cause
the issuance by the Registrars of Land Titles and Deeds of the corresponding certificates of title;
(2) Be the central repository of records relative to original registration of lands titled under the Torrens system,
including subdivision and consolidation plans of titled lands; and
(3) Extend assistance to courts in ordinary and cadastral land registration proceedings and to the other agencies of
the government in the implementation of the land reform program.29
The duty of LRA officials to issue decrees of registration is ministerial in the sense that they act under the orders of the court
and the decree must be in conformity with the decision of the court and with the data found in the record. They have no
discretion in the matter. However, if they are in doubt upon any point in relation to the preparation and issuance of the decree,
these officials ought to seek clarification from the court. They act, in this respect, as officials of the court and not as
administrative officials, and their act is the act of the court. They are specifically called upon to "extend assistance to courts in
ordinary and cadastral land registration proceedings."30
In Ramos v. Rodriguez,31 the LRA filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision and order of the land registration court
respectively granting registration of a parcel of land and directing the issuance of a decree of registration for the same.
According to the LRA, there was already an existing certificate of title for the property. The land registration court granted the
motion for reconsideration of the LRA and set aside its earlier decision and order. On appeal, the Court declared that the land
registration court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in reversing itself because it was merely following the
recommendation of the LRA, which was then acting as an agent of the court.
In another case, Spouses Laburada v. Land Registration Authority, 32 the Court refused to issue a writ of mandamus compelling
the LRA to issue a decree of registration as ordered by a land registration court. The Court took into account the LRA report
that the parcels of land were already registered and held:
That the LRA hesitates in issuing a decree of registration is understandable. Rather than a sign of negligence or nonfeasance
in the performance of its duty, the LRA’s reaction is reasonable, even imperative. Considering the probable duplication of titles
over the same parcel of land, such issuance may contravene the policy and the purpose, and thereby destroy the integrity, of
the Torrens system of registration.33
The LRA, in this case, filed the Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 to inform the RTC that the subject property is already
covered by two TCTs, both "uncancelled and extant[;]" and for this reason, the LRA cannot comply with the RTC Order dated
April 10, 2007, directing the issuance of a decree of registration and an OCT for the same property in Landicho’s name, as it
would "further aggravate the already existing problem of double titling." In filing said Manifestation, the LRA was only faithfully
pursuing its mandate to protect the Torrens system and performing its function of extending assistance to the RTC as regards
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. Contrary to Rodriguez’s assertion, the Court of Appeals did not abdicate its jurisdiction when it
granted the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition of PCCAI largely based on the Manifestation of the LRA, since the LRA filed
such a Manifestation as an officer of the court.
Finally, intervention is governed by Rule 19 of the Rules of Court, pertinent provisions of which read:
SECTION 1. Who may intervene. – A person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success of either of
the parties, or an interest against both, or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of
property in the custody of the court or of an officer thereof may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action. The
court shall consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original
parties, and whether or not the intervenor’s rights may be fully protected in a separate proceeding.
SECTION 2. Time to intervene. – The motion to intervene may be filed at any time before rendition of judgment by the trial
court. A copy of the pleading-in-intervention shall be attached to the motion and served on the original parties.
The subject property is presently covered by TCT No. 482970 in the name of PCCAI.1âwphi1 As the registered owner, PCCAI
clearly has a legal interest in the subject property. The issuance of another certificate of title to Rodriguez will adversely affect
PCCAI, constituting a cloud on its TCT No. 482970.
Although Rule 19 is explicit on the period when a motion to intervene may be filed, the Court allowed exceptions in several
cases, viz:
This rule, however, is not inflexible. Interventions have been allowed even beyond the period prescribed in the Rule, when
demanded by the higher interest of justice. Interventions have also been granted to afford indispensable parties, who have
not been impleaded, the right to be heard even after a decision has been rendered by the trial court, when the petition for
review of the judgment has already been submitted for decision before the Supreme Court, and even where the assailed order
has already become final and executory. In Lim v. Pacquing, the motion for intervention filed by the Republic of the Philippines
was allowed by this Court to avoid grave injustice and injury and to settle once and for all the substantive issues raised by the
parties.
In fine, the allowance or disallowance of a motion for intervention rests on the sound discretion of the court after consideration
of the appropriate circumstances. We stress again that Rule 19 of the Rules of Court is a rule of procedure whose object is to
make the powers of the court fully and completely available for justice. Its purpose is not to hinder or delay, but to facilitate
and promote the administration of justice.34 (Citations omitted.)
The particular circumstances of this case similarly justify the relaxation of the rules of procedure on intervention. First, the
interests of both PCCAI and Rodriguez in the subject property arose only after the CFI Decision dated November 16, 1965 in
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 became final and executory. PCCAI bought the subject property from WPFI on November 13,
1973 and was issued TCT No. 482970 for the same on July 15, 1975; while Rodriguez bought the subject property from
Landicho on November 14, 1996. Second, as previously discussed herein, both PCCAI and Rodriguez trace their titles back
to Landicho. Hence, the intervention of PCCAI could not unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of Landicho,
the original party in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. Third, the latest proceedings in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 involved
Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion, filed before the RTC on May 18, 2005, in which he prayed for the execution of the November
16, 1965 Decision of the CFI. PCCAI moved to intervene in the case only to oppose Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion on the
ground that the subject property is already registered in its name under TCT No. 482970, which originated from Landicho’s
TCT No. 167681. And fourth, after learning of Rodriguez’s Omnibus Motion in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 via the November
3, 2006 subpoena issued by the RTC, PCCAI was reasonably expected to oppose the same. Such action was the most
opportune and expedient remedy available to PCCAI to prevent the RTC from ordering the issuance of a decree of registration
and OCT in Rodriguez’s name. For this reason, the RTC should have allowed the intervention of PCCAI.
ACCORDINGLY, the instant Petition is DISMISSED. The Decision dated May 26, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
SP No. 101789, reversing and setting aside the Orders dated April 10, 2007 and November 22, 2007 of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 75 of San Mateo, Rizal in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION deleting the
second sentence of the dispositive portion for being a superfluity.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 144057 January 17, 2005


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and CORAZON NAGUIT, respondents.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to review the
Decision1 of the Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 51921. The appellate court
affirmed the decisions of both the Regional Trial Court (RTC),2 Branch 8, of Kalibo, Aklan dated February 26, 1999, and the
7th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC)3 of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan dated February 18, 1998, which granted the application for
registration of a parcel of land of Corazon Naguit (Naguit), the respondent herein.
The facts are as follows:
On January 5, 1993, Naguit, a Filipino citizen, of legal age and married to Manolito S. Naguit, filed with the MCTC of Ibajay-
Nabas, Aklan, a petition for registration of title of a parcel of land situated in Brgy. Union, Nabas, Aklan. The parcel of land is
designated as Lot No. 10049, Cad. 758-D, Nabas Cadastre, AP – 060414-014779, and contains an area of 31,374 square
meters. The application seeks judicial confirmation of respondent’s imperfect title over the aforesaid land.
On February 20, 1995, the court held initial hearing on the application. The public prosecutor, appearing for the government,
and Jose Angeles, representing the heirs of Rustico Angeles, opposed the petition. On a later date, however, the heirs of
Rustico Angeles filed a formal opposition to the petition. Also on February 20, 1995, the court issued an order of general
default against the whole world except as to the heirs of Rustico Angeles and the government.
The evidence on record reveals that the subject parcel of land was originally declared for taxation purposes in the name of
Ramon Urbano (Urbano) in 1945 under Tax Declaration No. 3888 until 1991. 4 On July 9, 1992, Urbano executed a Deed of
Quitclaim in favor of the heirs of Honorato Maming (Maming), wherein he renounced all his rights to the subject property and
confirmed the sale made by his father to Maming sometime in 1955 or 1956.5Subsequently, the heirs of Maming executed a
deed of absolute sale in favor of respondent Naguit who thereupon started occupying the same. She constituted Manuel
Blanco, Jr. as her attorney-in-fact and administrator. The administrator introduced improvements, planted trees, such as
mahogany, coconut and gemelina trees in addition to existing coconut trees which were then 50 to 60 years old, and paid the
corresponding taxes due on the subject land. At present, there are parcels of land surrounding the subject land which have
been issued titles by virtue of judicial decrees. Naguit and her predecessors-in-interest have occupied the land openly and in
the concept of owner without any objection from any private person or even the government until she filed her application for
registration.
After the presentation of evidence for Naguit, the public prosecutor manifested that the government did not intend to present
any evidence while oppositor Jose Angeles, as representative of the heirs of Rustico Angeles, failed to appear during the trial
despite notice. On September 27, 1997, the MCTC rendered a decision ordering that the subject parcel be brought under the
operation of the Property Registration Decree or Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 and that the title thereto registered and
confirmed in the name of Naguit.6
The Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a motion for reconsideration.
The OSG stressed that the land applied for was declared alienable and disposable only on October 15, 1980, per the
certification from Regional Executive Director Raoul T. Geollegue of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,
Region VI.7 However, the court denied the motion for reconsideration in an order dated February 18, 1998.81awphi1.nét
Thereafter, the Republic appealed the decision and the order of the MCTC to the RTC, Kalibo, Aklan, Branch 8. On February
26, 1999, the RTC rendered its decision, dismissing the appeal.9
Undaunted, the Republic elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. On July
12, 2000, the appellate court rendered a decision dismissing the petition filed by the Republic and affirmed in toto the assailed
decision of the RTC.
Hence, the present petition for review raising a pure question of law was filed by the Republic on September 4, 2000. 10
The OSG assails the decision of the Court of Appeals contending that the appellate court gravely erred in holding that there
is no need for the government’s prior release of the subject lot from the public domain before it can be considered alienable
or disposable within the meaning of P.D. No. 1529, and that Naguit had been in possession of Lot No. 10049 in the concept
of owner for the required period.11
Hence, the central question for resolution is whether is necessary under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree
that the subject land be first classified as alienable and disposable before the applicant’s possession under a bona fide claim
of ownership could even start.
The OSG invokes our holding in Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court12 in arguing that the property which is in
open, continuous and exclusive possession must first be alienable. Since the subject land was declared alienable only on
October 15, 1980, Naguit could not have maintained a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, as required by
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, since prior to 1980, the land was not alienable or disposable, the OSG argues.
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, governing original registration proceedings, bears close examination. It
expressly provides:
SECTION 14. Who may apply.— The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws.
....
There are three obvious requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title under Section 14(1) – that the property
in question is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; that the applicants by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation, and; that such
possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.
Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been
established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). "Since June 12, 1945,"
as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bonafide claim of ownership." Generally speaking, qualifying
words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or
remotely located.13 Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia.
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner’s position. Absent a legislative amendment,
the rule would be, adopting the OSG’s view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable
before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by
the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government
from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The
unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not
yet even considered an independent state.
Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as
already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application
is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the
government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective
of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable
and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive
prerogative over the property.
This reading aligns conformably with our holding in Republic v. Court of Appeals .14 Therein, the Court noted that "to prove
that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act
of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports
of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute." 15 In that case, the subject land had been certified by the
DENR as alienable and disposable in 1980, thus the Court concluded that the alienable status of the land, compounded by
the established fact that therein respondents had occupied the land even before 1927, sufficed to allow the application for
registration of the said property. In the case at bar, even the petitioner admits that the subject property was released and
certified as within alienable and disposable zone in 1980 by the DENR.16
This case is distinguishable from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals,17 wherein the Court noted that while the claimant had been
in possession since 1908, it was only in 1972 that the lands in question were classified as alienable and disposable. Thus, the
bid at registration therein did not succeed. In Bracewell, the claimant had filed his application in 1963, or nine (9) years before
the property was declared alienable and disposable.1awphi1.nét Thus, in this case, where the application was made years
after the property had been certified as alienable and disposable, the Bracewell ruling does not apply.
A different rule obtains for forest lands,18 such as those which form part of a reservation for provincial park purposes 19 the
possession of which cannot ripen into ownership.20 It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land
cannot be owned by private persons. As held in Palomo v. Court of Appeals,21 forest land is not registrable and possession
thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot convert it into private property, unless such lands are reclassified and considered
disposable and alienable.22 In the case at bar, the property in question was undisputedly classified as disposable and
alienable; hence, the ruling in Palomo is inapplicable, as correctly held by the Court of Appeals.23
It must be noted that the present case was decided by the lower courts on the basis of Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree, which pertains to original registration through ordinary registration proceedings. The right to file the
application for registration derives from a bona fide claim of ownership going back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, by reason of
the claimant’s open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.
A similar right is given under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which reads:
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such
land or an interest therein, but those titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of
the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under
the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for
at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war
or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant
and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest the right to
register their title to agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894. However, this period was amended
by R.A. No. 1942, which provided that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least thirty (30) years. Then in
1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date
at June 12, 1945. This new starting point is concordant with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
Indeed, there are no material differences between Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree and Section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act, as amended. True, the Public Land Act does refer to "agricultural lands of the public domain," while the
Property Registration Decree uses the term "alienable and disposable lands of the public domain." It must be noted though
that the Constitution declares that "alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands." 24 Clearly, the
subject lands under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act and Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree are of the
same type.
Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for
registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not,
considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the application of "those who
have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws."
Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code.25 There is a consistent jurisprudential rule that
properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and
exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.26 With such conversion, such property may now fall within the contemplation
of "private lands" under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to registration by those who have acquired ownership through
prescription. Thus, even if possession of the alienable public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such
possession being been open, continuous and exclusive, then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue
of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.
The land in question was found to be cocal in nature, it having been planted with coconut trees now over fifty years old. 27 The
inherent nature of the land but confirms its certification in 1980 as alienable, hence agricultural. There is no impediment to the
application of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, as correctly accomplished by the lower courts.l^vvphi1.net
The OSG posits that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Naguit had been in possession in the concept of owner for the
required period. The argument begs the question. It is again hinged on the assertion—shown earlier to be unfounded—that
there could have been no bona fide claim of ownership prior to 1980, when the subject land was declared alienable or
disposable.
We find no reason to disturb the conclusion of both the RTC and the Court of Appeals that Naguit had the right to apply for
registration owing to the continuous possession by her and her predecessors-in-interest of the land since 1945. The basis of
such conclusion is primarily factual, and the Court generally respects the factual findings made by lower courts. Notably,
possession since 1945 was established through proof of the existence of 50 to 60-year old trees at the time Naguit purchased
the property as well as tax declarations executed by Urbano in 1945. Although tax declarations and realty tax payment of
property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they are good indicia of the possession in the concept of
owner for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or at least constructive
possession. They constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The voluntary declaration of a
piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not only one’s sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property and
announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties, but also the intention to contribute needed
revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens one’s bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership.28
Considering that the possession of the subject parcel of land by the respondent can be traced back to that of her predecessors-
in-interest which commenced since 1945 or for almost fifty (50) years, it is indeed beyond any cloud of doubt that she has
acquired title thereto which may be properly brought under the operation of the Torrens system. That she has been in
possession of the land in the concept of an owner, open, continuous, peaceful and without any opposition from any private
person and the government itself makes her right thereto undoubtedly settled and deserving of protection under the law.
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 is hereby
AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 179987 September 3, 2013
HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, (Represented by Sally A. Malabanan), Petitioners,
vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
BERSAMIN, J.:
For our consideration and resolution are the motions for reconsideration of the parties who both assail the decision
promulgated on April 29, 2009, whereby we upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) denying the application of the
petitioners for the registration of a parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite on the ground that they had not
established by sufficient evidence their right to the registration in accordance with either Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of
Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree).
Antecedents
The property subject of the application for registration is a parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang Cavite, more
particularly identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, with an area of 71,324-square meters. On February 20, 1998, applicant Mario
Malabanan, who had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco, filed an application for land registration covering the
property in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tagaytay City, Cavite, claiming that the property formed part of the alienable and
disposable land of the public domain, and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous,
uninterrupted, public and adverse possession and occupation of the land for more than 30 years, thereby entitling him to the
judicial confirmation of his title.1
To prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, Malabanan presented during trial a
certification dated June 11, 2001 issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which reads:
This is to certify that the parcel of land designated as Lot No. 9864 Cad 452-D, Silang Cadastre as surveyed for Mr. Virgilio
Velasco located at Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite containing an area of 249,734 sq. meters as shown and described on the
Plan Ap-04-00952 is verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established
under Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.2
After trial, on December 3, 2002, the RTC rendered judgment granting Malabanan’s application for land registration, disposing
thusly:
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the operation of Act 141,
Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in Plan Csd-04-0173123-D,
Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324) Square Meters, as
supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to other proofs adduced in the
name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, and with residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.
Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.
SO ORDERED.3
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the judgment to the CA, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that
the property belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC erred in finding that he had
been in possession of the property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect title.
On February 23, 2007, the CA promulgated its decision reversing the RTC and dismissing the application for registration of
Malabanan. Citing the ruling in Republic v. Herbieto (Herbieto), 4 the CA declared that under Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree, any period of possession prior to the classification of the land as alienable and disposable was
inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession. Noting that the CENRO-DENR
certification stated that the property had been declared alienable and disposable only on March 15, 1982, Velazco’s
possession prior to March 15, 1982 could not be tacked for purposes of computing Malabanan’s period of possession.
Due to Malabanan’s intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, his heirs elevated the CA’s decision of February 23,
2007 to this Court through a petition for review on certiorari.
The petitioners assert that the ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals and Corazon Naguit 5 (Naguit) remains the controlling
doctrine especially if the property involved is agricultural land. In this regard, Naguit ruled that any possession of agricultural
land prior to its declaration as alienable and disposable could be counted in the reckoning of the period of possession to
perfect title under the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141) and the Property Registration Decree. They point out that
the ruling in Herbieto, to the effect that the declaration of the land subject of the application for registration as alienable and
disposable should also date back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, was a mere obiter dictum considering that the land registration
proceedings therein were in fact found and declared void ab initio for lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing.
The petitioners also rely on the ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.6 to support their argument that the property had
been ipso jure converted into private property by reason of the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession by their
predecessors-in-interest of an alienable land of the public domain for more than 30 years. According to them, what was
essential was that the property had been "converted" into private property through prescription at the time of the application
without regard to whether the property sought to be registered was previously classified as agricultural land of the public
domain.
As earlier stated, we denied the petition for review on certiorari because Malabanan failed to establish by sufficient evidence
possession and occupation of the property on his part and on the part of his predecessors-in interest since June 12, 1945, or
earlier.
Petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration
In their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners submit that the mere classification of the land as alienable or disposable
should be deemed sufficient to convert it into patrimonial property of the State. Relying on the rulings in Spouses De Ocampo
v. Arlos,7 Menguito v. Republic8 and Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,9 they argue that the reclassification of the land as
alienable or disposable opened it to acquisitive prescription under the Civil Code; that Malabanan had purchased the property
from Eduardo Velazco believing in good faith that Velazco and his predecessors-in-interest had been the real owners of the
land with the right to validly transmit title and ownership thereof; that consequently, the ten-year period prescribed by Article
1134 of the Civil Code, in relation to Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, applied in their favor; and that when
Malabanan filed the application for registration on February 20, 1998, he had already been in possession of the land for almost
16 years reckoned from 1982, the time when the land was declared alienable and disposable by the State.
The Republic’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration
The Republic seeks the partial reconsideration in order to obtain a clarification with reference to the application of the rulings
in Naguit and Herbieto.
Chiefly citing the dissents, the Republic contends that the decision has enlarged, by implication, the interpretation of Section
14(1) of the Property Registration Decree through judicial legislation. It reiterates its view that an applicant is entitled to
registration only when the land subject of the application had been declared alienable and disposable since June 12, 1945 or
earlier.
Ruling
We deny the motions for reconsideration.
In reviewing the assailed decision, we consider to be imperative to discuss the different classifications of land in relation to
the existing applicable land registration laws of the Philippines.
Classifications of land according to ownership
Land, which is an immovable property,10 may be classified as either of public dominion or of private ownership. 11Land is
considered of public dominion if it either: (a) is intended for public use; or (b) belongs to the State, without being for public
use, and is intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth. 12 Land belonging to the State that
is not of such character, or although of such character but no longer intended for public use or for public service forms part of
the patrimonial property of the State.13 Land that is other than part of the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities
and municipalities is of private ownership if it belongs to a private individual.
Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the country from the West by Spain
through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, 14 all lands of the public domain belong to the State. 15This means that
the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the conservation of such patrimony. 16
All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Also, public lands remain
part of the inalienable land of the public domain unless the State is shown to have reclassified or alienated them to private
persons.17
Classifications of public lands
according to alienability
Whether or not land of the public domain is alienable and disposable primarily rests on the classification of public lands made
under the Constitution. Under the 1935 Constitution,18 lands of the public domain were classified into three, namely,
agricultural, timber and mineral.19 Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into
seven, specifically, agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing land,
with the reservation that the law might provide other classifications. The 1987 Constitution adopted the classification under
the 1935 Constitution into agricultural, forest or timber, and mineral, but added national parks.20 Agricultural lands may be
further classified by law according to the uses to which they may be devoted. 21 The identification of lands according to their
legal classification is done exclusively by and through a positive act of the Executive Department. 22
Based on the foregoing, the Constitution places a limit on the type of public land that may be alienated. Under Section 2,
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, only agricultural lands of the public domain may be alienated; all other natural resources
may not be.
Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two categories, to wit: (a) patrimonial lands of the State, or those classified
as lands of private ownership under Article 425 of the Civil Code,23 without limitation; and (b) lands of the public domain, or
the public lands as provided by the Constitution, but with the limitation that the lands must only be agricultural. Consequently,
lands classified as forest or timber, mineral, or national parks are not susceptible of alienation or disposition unless they are
reclassified as agricultural.24 A positive act of the Government is necessary to enable such reclassification, 25 and the exclusive
prerogative to classify public lands under existing laws is vested in the Executive Department, not in the courts. 26 If, however,
public land will be classified as neither agricultural, forest or timber, mineral or national park, or when public land is no longer
intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, thereby effectively removing the land from the ambit
of public dominion, a declaration of such conversion must be made in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or by a
Presidential proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law to that effect. 27 Thus, until the Executive
Department exercises its prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until Congress or the President declares that the State
no longer intends the land to be used for public service or for the development of national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is
applicable.
Disposition of alienable public lands
Section 11 of the Public Land Act (CA No. 141) provides the manner by which alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain, i.e., agricultural lands, can be disposed of, to wit:
Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:
(1) For homestead settlement;
(2) By sale;
(3) By lease; and
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;
(a) By judicial legalization; or
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).
The core of the controversy herein lies in the proper interpretation of Section 11(4), in relation to Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act, which expressly requires possession by a Filipino citizen of the land since June 12, 1945, or earlier, viz:
Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any
such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation
of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(Bold emphasis supplied)
Note that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act used the words "lands of the public domain" or "alienable and disposable lands
of the public domain" to clearly signify that lands otherwise classified, i.e., mineral, forest or timber, or national parks, and
lands of patrimonial or private ownership, are outside the coverage of the Public Land Act. What the law does not include, it
excludes. The use of the descriptive phrase "alienable and disposable" further limits the coverage of Section 48(b) to only the
agricultural lands of the public domain as set forth in Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Bearing in mind such
limitations under the Public Land Act, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements in order for his application to come
under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree,28 to wit:
1. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, has been in possession and occupation of the
property subject of the application;
2. The possession and occupation must be open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious;
3. The possession and occupation must be under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership;
4. The possession and occupation must have taken place since June 12, 1945, or earlier; and
5. The property subject of the application must be an agricultural land of the public domain.
Taking into consideration that the Executive Department is vested with the authority to classify lands of the public domain,
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, in relation to Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, presupposes that the
land subject of the application for registration must have been already classified as agricultural land of the public domain in
order for the provision to apply. Thus, absent proof that the land is already classified as agricultural land of the public domain,
the Regalian Doctrine applies, and overcomes the presumption that the land is alienable and disposable as laid down in
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. However, emphasis is placed on the requirement that the classification required by
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is classification or reclassification of a public land as agricultural.
The dissent stresses that the classification or reclassification of the land as alienable and disposable agricultural land should
likewise have been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier, because any possession of the land prior to such classification or
reclassification produced no legal effects. It observes that the fixed date of June 12, 1945 could not be minimized or glossed
over by mere judicial interpretation or by judicial social policy concerns, and insisted that the full legislative intent be respected.
We find, however, that the choice of June 12, 1945 as the reckoning point of the requisite possession and occupation was the
sole prerogative of Congress, the determination of which should best be left to the wisdom of the lawmakers. Except that said
date qualified the period of possession and occupation, no other legislative intent appears to be associated with the fixing of
the date of June 12, 1945. Accordingly, the Court should interpret only the plain and literal meaning of the law as written by
the legislators.
Moreover, an examination of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act indicates that Congress prescribed no requirement that the
land subject of the registration should have been classified as agricultural since June 12, 1945, or earlier. As such, the
applicant’s imperfect or incomplete title is derived only from possession and occupation since June 12, 1945, or earlier. This
means that the character of the property subject of the application as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public
domain determines its eligibility for land registration, not the ownership or title over it.
Alienable public land held by a possessor, either personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and
exclusively during the prescribed statutory period is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of the
period.29 In fact, by virtue of this doctrine, corporations may now acquire lands of the public domain for as long as the lands
were already converted to private ownership, by operation of law, as a result of satisfying the requisite period of possession
prescribed by the Public Land Act.30 It is for this reason that the property subject of the application of Malabanan need not be
classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain for the entire duration of the requisite period of
possession.
To be clear, then, the requirement that the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land at
the time of the application for registration is necessary only to dispute the presumption that the land is inalienable.
The declaration that land is alienable and disposable also serves to determine the point at which prescription may run against
the State. The imperfect or incomplete title being confirmed under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is title that is acquired
by reason of the applicant’s possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain.
Where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with through actual physical, open,
continuous, exclusive and public possession of an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, the possessor is
deemed to have acquired by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant by the Government, because it is not
necessary that a certificate of title be issued in order that such a grant be sanctioned by the courts. 31
If one follows the dissent, the clear objective of the Public Land Act to adjudicate and quiet titles to unregistered lands in favor
of qualified Filipino citizens by reason of their occupation and cultivation thereof for the number of years prescribed by law 32 will
be defeated. Indeed, we should always bear in mind that such objective still prevails, as a fairly recent legislative development
bears out, when Congress enacted legislation (Republic Act No. 10023) 33in order to liberalize stringent requirements and
procedures in the adjudication of alienable public land to qualified applicants, particularly residential lands, subject to area
limitations.34
On the other hand, if a public land is classified as no longer intended for public use or for the development of national wealth
by declaration of Congress or the President, thereby converting such land into patrimonial or private land of the State, the
applicable provision concerning disposition and registration is no longer Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act but the Civil
Code, in conjunction with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree. 35 As such, prescription can now run against the
State.
To sum up, we now observe the following rules relative to the disposition of public land or lands of the public domain, namely:
(1) As a general rule and pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State and
are inalienable. Lands that are not clearly under private ownership are also presumed to belong to the State and,
therefore, may not be alienated or disposed;
(2) The following are excepted from the general rule, to wit:
(a) Agricultural lands of the public domain are rendered alienable and disposable through any of the exclusive
modes enumerated under Section 11 of the Public Land Act. If the mode is judicial confirmation of imperfect
title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the agricultural land subject of the application needs only to
be classified as alienable and disposable as of the time of the application, provided the applicant’s possession
and occupation of the land dated back to June 12, 1945, or earlier. Thereby, a conclusive presumption that
the applicant has performed all the conditions essential to a government grant arises, 36 and the applicant
becomes the owner of the land by virtue of an imperfect or incomplete title. By legal fiction, the land has
already ceased to be part of the public domain and has become private property. 37
(b) Lands of the public domain subsequently classified or declared as no longer intended for public use or for
the development of national wealth are removed from the sphere of public dominion and are considered
converted into patrimonial lands or lands of private ownership that may be alienated or disposed through any
of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. If the mode of acquisition is prescription, whether
ordinary or extraordinary, proof that the land has been already converted to private ownership prior to the
requisite acquisitive prescriptive period is a condition sine qua non in observance of the law (Article 1113,
Civil Code) that property of the State not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.
To reiterate, then, the petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that they and their predecessors-in-interest
had been in possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without satisfying the requisite character and period of possession
- possession and occupation that is open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious since June 12, 1945, or earlier - the land
cannot be considered ipso jure converted to private property even upon the subsequent declaration of it as alienable and
disposable. Prescription never began to run against the State, such that the land has remained ineligible for registration under
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. Likewise, the land continues to be ineligible for land registration under
Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree unless Congress enacts a law or the President issues a proclamation
declaring the land as no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth.1âwphi1
WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration and the respondent's Partial Motion for
Reconsideration for their lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 218269, June 06, 2018
IN RE: APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION
SUPREMA T. DUMO, Petitioner, v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:*
The Case
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Petitioner Suprema T. Dumo (Dumo) challenges
the 28 January 2014 Decision1 and the 19 May 2015 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 95732,
which modified the Joint Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 67, Bauang, La Union, in Civil Case No. 1301-
Bg for Accion Reivindicatoria3 and LRC Case No. 270-Bg for Application for Land Registration.4
The Facts
Severa Espinas, Erlinda Espinas, Aurora Espinas, and Virginia Espinas filed a Complaint for Recovery of Ownership,
Possession and Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction against the heirs of Bernarda M. Trinidad (Trinidad),
namely, Leticia T. Valmonte, Lydia T. Nebab, Purita T. Tanag, Gloria T. Antolin, Nilo Trinidad, Elpidio Trinidad, Fresnida T.
Saldana, Nefresha T. Tolentino, and Dumo. The plaintiffs are the heirs of Marcelino Espinas (Espinas), who died intestate on
6 November 1991, leaving a parcel of land (Subject Property) covered by Tax Declaration No. 13823-A, which particularly
described the property as follows:
A parcel of land located [in] Paringao, Bauang, La Union classified as unirrigated Riceland with an area of 1,065 square meters
covered by Tax Declaration No. 13823-A, bounded on the North by Felizarda N. Mabalay; on the East by Pedro Trinidad; on
the South by Girl Scout[s] of the Philippines and on the West by China Sea and assessed at P460.00. 5
The Subject Property was purchased by Espinas from Carlos Calica through a Deed of Absolute Sale dated 19 October 1943.
Espinas exercised acts of dominion over the Subject Property by appointing a caretaker to oversee and administer the
property. In 1963, Espinas executed an affidavit stating his claim of ownership over the Subject Property. Espinas had also
been paying realty taxes on the Subject Property.
Meanwhile, on 6 February 1987, the heirs of Trinidad executed a Deed of Partition with Absolute Sale over a parcel of land
covered by Tax Declaration No. 17276, which particularly described the property as follows:
A parcel of sandy land located [in] Paringao, Bauang, La Union, bounded on the North by Emiliana Estepa, on the South by
Carlos Calica and Girl Scout[s] Camp and on the West by China Sea, containing an area of 1[,]514 square meters more or
less, with an assessed value [of] P130.00.6
Finding that the Deed of Partition with Absolute Sale executed by the heirs of Trinidad included the Subject Property, the heirs
of Espinas filed a Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages to protect their interests (Civil Case No.
1301-Bg). The heirs of Espinas also sought a Temporary Restraining Order to enjoin the Writ of Partial Execution of the
Decision in Civil Case No. 881, a Forcible Entry complaint filed by the heirs of Trinidad against them.
In the Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages, Dumo, one of the defendants therein, filed a Motion
to Dismiss based on res judicata. Dumo argued that Espinas had already applied for the registration of the Subject Property
and that such application had been dismissed. The dismissal of the land registration application of Espinas was affirmed by
the CA, and attained finality on 5 December 1980.
The Motion to Dismiss filed by Dumo was denied by the RTC, which held that the land registration case cannot operate as a
bar to the Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages because the decision in the land registration case
did not definitively and conclusively adjudicate the ownership of the Subject Property in favor of any of the parties.
The heirs of Trinidad thereafter filed their collective Answer, where they denied the material allegations in the complaint.
Additionally, Dumo filed an application for registration of two parcels of land, covered by Advance Plan of Lot Nos. 400398
and 400399 with a total area of 1,273 square meters (LRC Case No. 270-Bg). Dumo alleged that the lots belonged to her
mother and that she and her siblings inherited them upon their mother's death. She further alleged that through a Deed of
Partition with Absolute Sale dated 6 February 1987, she acquired the subject lots from her siblings. Dumo traces her title from
her mother, Trinidad, who purchased the lots from Florencio Mabalay in August 1951. Mabalay was Dumo's maternal
grandfather. Mabalay, on the other hand, purchased the properties from Carlos Calica.
The heirs of Espinas opposed Dumo's application for land registration on the ground that the properties sought to be registered
by Dumo are involved in the accion reivindicatoria case. Thus, the RTC consolidated the land registration case with the
Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages.
The Office of the Solicitor General entered its appearance and filed its opposition for the State in the land registration case.
The Ruling of the RTC
On 2 July 2010, the RTC rendered its Joint Decision, finding that the Subject Property was owned by the heirs of Espinas.
The RTC ordered the dismissal of Dumo's land registration application on the ground of lack of registerable title, and ordered
Dumo to restore ownership and possession of the lots to the heirs of Espinas. The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision
reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered[,] judgment is rendered:
In LRC Case No. 270-Bg: Ordering the dismissal of the land registration on [the] ground of lack of registerable title on the part
of Suprema Dumo.
In Civil Case No. 1301-Bg: Declaring the Heirs of Marcelino Espinas as the owners of the lots subject of [the] application;
ordering the applicant-defendant Suprema Dumo to restore ownership and possession of the lots in question to the Heirs of
Marcelino Espinas.
SO ORDERED.7
The RTC found that based on the evidence presented, the heirs of Espinas had a better right to the Subject Property. In
particular, the RTC found that based on the records of the Bureau of Lands, the lot of Espinas was previously surveyed and
approved by the Bureau of Lands and when the survey was made for Trinidad, there was already an approved plan for
Espinas. Also, the RTC found that the tax declarations submitted by Dumo in support of her application failed to prove any
rights over the land. Specifically, the tax declaration of Mabalay, from whom Dumo traces her title, showed that the land was
first described as bounded on the west by Espinas. The subsequent tax declaration in the name of Trinidad, which cancelled
the tax declaration in the name of Mabalay, showed that the land was no longer bounded on the west by Espinas, but rather,
by the China Sea. The area of the lot also increased from 3,881 to 5,589 square meters. All of the subsequent tax declarations
submitted by Dumo covering the lot in the name of her mother stated that the lot was no longer bounded on the west by
Espinas, but rather, by the China Sea. The RTC held that the only logical explanation to the inconsistency in the description
of the land and the corresponding area thereof is that the lot of Espinas was included in the survey conducted for Trinidad.
The RTC also rejected the theory of Dumo that the lot of Espinas was eaten by the sea. The RTC found that during the ocular
inspection, it was established that the lots adjoining the lot of Espinas on the same shoreline were not inundated by the sea.
To hold the theory posited by Dumo to be true, the RTC reasoned that all the adjoining lots should also have been inundated
by the sea. However, it was established through the ocular inspection that the lots adjoining the property of Espinas on the
same shoreline remained the same, and thus the Subject Property had not been eaten by the sea.
The Ruling of the CA
The CA rendered its Decision dated 28 January 2014, affirming the RTC's decision dismissing the application for land
registration of Dumo, and finding that she failed to demonstrate that she and her predecessors-in interest possessed the
property in the manner required by law to merit the grant of her application for land registration.
The CA, however, modified the decision of the RTC insofar as it found that the Subject Property belonged to the heirs of
Espinas. The CA found that since the property still belonged to the public domain, and the heirs of Espinas were not able to
establish their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of
ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier, it was erroneous for the RTC to declare the heirs of Espinas as the owners of the
Subject Property.
The dispositive portion of the Decision of the CA reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Appeal is PARTLY GRANTED and the assailed Joint Decision issued by the court a
quo is hereby MODIFIED in that the Complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria (Civil Case No. 1301-Bg) filed by plaintiffs-appellees
is DISMISSED for lack of cause of action.
The Decision is AFFIRMED in all other respects.
SO ORDERED.8
Dumo filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration and subsequently, an Omnibus Motion for Entry of Judgment and to Resolve,
asking the CA to issue an entry of judgment insofar as the civil case is concerned and to declare the land registration case
submitted for resolution without any comment/opposition. The CA denied both motions in a Resolution dated 19 May 2015. 9
Hence, this petition.
The Issues
In this petition, Dumo seeks a reversal of the decision of the CA, and raises the following arguments:
A. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION
FOR LAND REGISTRATION, IT WENT BEYOND THE ISSUES RAISED, THEREBY VIOLATING OR CONTRAVENING THE
RULING OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN, AMONG OTHERS, "LAM V. CHUA, 426 SCRA 29; DEPARTMENT OF
AGRARIAN REFORM V. FRANCO, 471 SCRA 74; BERNAS V. COURT OF APPEALS, 225 SCRA 119; PROVINCE OF
QUEZON V. MARTE, 368 SCRA 145 AND FIVE STAR BUS CO., INC. V. COURT OF APPEALS, 259 SCRA 120."
B. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION
FOR LAND [REGISTRATION], IT RULED THAT PETITIONER AND HER PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST FAILED TO
PROVE CONTINUOUS, EXCLUSIVE, AND ADVERSE POSSESSION AND OCCUPATION OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY
IN THE CONCEPT OF [AN] OWNER FROM JUNE 12, 1945 OR EARLIER, THEREBY VIOLATING OR CONTRAVENING
THE RULING OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN "REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES VERSUS COURT OF APPEALS, 448
SCRA 442."
C. THAT, IN ANY EVENT, AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THE FOREGOING, THE HONORABLE COURT OF AP[P]EALS
COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR LAND REGISTRATION, IT FAILED TO
CONSIDER PETITIONER'S EXHIBIT 'A' WHICH WAS FORMALLY OFFERED TO PROVE THAT THE SUBJECT
PROPERTY WAS DISPOSIBLE [sic] AND ALIENABLE TO WHICH THE RESPONDENT MADE NO OBJECTION[.]
D. THAT FURTHER, AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THE FOREGOING, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS
COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR LAND REGISTRATION, IT FAILED TO
CONSIDER THE SUPPORTING EVIDENCE THEREFOR, AGAIN, WITHOUT OBJECTION FROM THE RESPONDENT,
THEREBY DEPRIVING PETITIONER OF HER FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW. 10
The Ruling of the Court
Essentially, Dumo argues that the CA committed a reversible error because (1) the issue of whether she was in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land since 12 June 1945 was not an issue in the RTC; (2) the
requirement of possession and occupation from 12 June 1945 is not essential to her application since she has acquired title
over the land by prescription; (3) she has proven that the land applied for has already been declared alienable and disposable;
and (4) her right to due process was violated since the issues considered by the CA were not properly raised during the trial.
We find that none of Dumo's arguments deserve any merit.
Going beyond the issues raised in the RTC and due process of law
Dumo argues that the issue of whether the possession started on 12 June 1945 or earlier was never raised in the RTC. She
also argues that no issue was raised as to whether or not the land that she seeks to register is alienable and disposable. Thus,
Dumo argues that the CA erred, and also violated her right to due process, when it considered these issues in determining
whether or not the application for land registration should be granted.
We do not agree.
In an application for land registration, it is elementary that the applicant has the burden of proving, by clear, positive and
convincing evidence, that her alleged possession and occupation were of the nature and duration required by law.11 Thus, it
was upon Dumo to prove that she and her predecessors-in-interest possessed and occupied the land sought to be registered
in the nature and duration required by law.
Dumo cannot validly argue that she was not afforded due process when the CA considered to review the evidence she herself
offered to support her application for land registration. On the contrary, she was given every opportunity to submit the
documents to establish her right to register the land. She simply failed to do so.
When Dumo filed with the RTC the application for registration of her land, she was asking the RTC to confirm her incomplete
title. The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title are found in Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (PD
No. 1529), which provides:
Section 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration
of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.
(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under the
existing laws.
(4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for by law.
xxxx
Thus, it is necessary in an application for land registration that the court determines whether or not an applicant fulfills the
requirements under any of the paragraphs of Section 14 of PD No. 1529.
Simply put, when Dumo filed her application for the registration of the lots she claims to have inherited from her mother and
bought from her siblings, the issue of whether she complied with all the requirements was the very crux of the application. It
cannot be argued that because the Republic failed to oppose or raise the issue in the RTC, the CA may no longer consider
this issue. On the contrary, the classification of the land sought to be registered, and the duration and nature of the possession
and occupation have always been, and will always be the issues in an application for land registration. It would truly be absurd
for Dumo, or any other applicant for land registration, to expect the courts to grant the application without first determining if
the requisites under the law have been complied with.
The CA had every right to look into the compliance by Dumo with the requirements for the registration of the land, and we find
that the CA correctly found that Dumo has acquired no registerable title to the lots she seeks to register.
Registration of land under Section 14(1)
To reiterate, under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529, Dumo had the burden of proving the following:
(1) that the land or property forms part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain;

(2) that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of the same; and

(3) that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945, or earlier.12
The first requirement is to prove that the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
This is because under the Regalian Doctrine, as embodied in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, lands which do not clearly
appear to be within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. 13 Thus, in an application for land registration, the
applicant has the burden of overcoming the presumption that the State owns the land applied for, and proving that the land
has already been classified as alienable and disposable. 14 To overcome the presumption that the land belongs to the State,
the applicant must prove by clear and incontrovertible evidence at the time of application that the land has been classified as
alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
Classification of lands of the public domain may be found under Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. More
specifically, Section 3 of Article XII classifies lands of the public domain into (1) agricultural, (2) forest or timber, (3) mineral
lands, and (4) national parks.15 Of these four classifications, only agricultural lands may be alienated and disposed of by the
State.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution also provides that "agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by
law according to the uses to which they may be devoted." 16 Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the classification of lands
of the public domain is first and foremost provided by the Constitution itself. Of the classifications of lands of the public domain,
agricultural lands may further be classified by law, according to the uses it may be devoted to.
The classification of lands of the public domain into agricultural lands, as well as their further classification into alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, is a legislative prerogative which may be exercised only through the enactment of a
valid law. This prerogative has long been exercised by the legislative department through the enactment of Commonwealth
Act No. 141 (CA No. 141) or the Public Land Act of 1936. 17 Section 6 of CA No. 141 remains to this day the existing general
law governing the classification of lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.18
Section 182719of the Revised Administrative Code of 191720 merely authorizes the Department Head to classify as
agricultural lands those forest lands which are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural purposes. Section 1827 does
not authorize the Department Head to classify agricultural lands as alienable and disposable lands as this power is expressly
delegated by the same Revised Administrative Code of 1917 solely to the Governor-General.
The existing administrative code under the 1987 Philippine Constitution is Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code
of 1987. This existing code did not reenact Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917. Nevertheless, in the
absence of incompatibility between Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 and the provisions of the
Administrative Code of 1987, we can grant that Section 1827 has not been repealed. 21 This is in view of the repealing clause
in Section 27, Final Provisions, Book VII of the Administrative Code of 1987, which provides:
Section 27. All laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations, or portions thereof, inconsistent with this Code are hereby
repealed or modified accordingly.
The authority of the Department Head under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 is merely to classify
public forest lands as public agricultural lands. Agricultural lands of the public domain are, by themselves, not alienable and
disposable. Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 provides:
Section 1827. Assignment of Forest Land for Agricultural Purposes. – Lands in public forests, not including forest reserves,
upon the certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for
forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head
to be agricultural lands. (Emphasis supplied)
There is nothing in Section 1827 that authorizes the Department Head to classify agricultural lands into alienable or disposable
lands of the public domain. The power to classify public lands as agricultural lands is separate and distinct from the power to
declare agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The power to alienate agricultural lands of the public domain can never
be inferred from the power to classify public lands as agricultural. Thus, public lands classified as agricultural and used by the
Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture for plant research or plant propagation are not necessarily alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain despite being classified as agricultural lands. For such agricultural lands to be
alienable and disposable, there must be an express proclamation by the President declaring such agricultural lands as
alienable and disposable.
Agricultural land, the only classification of land which may be classified as alienable and disposable under the 1987 Philippine
Constitution, may still be reserved for public or quasi-public purposes which would prohibit the alienation or disposition of such
land. Section 8 of CA No. 141 provides:
Section 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concessionwhich have been officially delimited and
classified and, when practicable, surveyed, and which have not been reserved for public or quasi-public uses, nor
appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor those on which a private right authorized
and recognized by this Act or any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having been reserved or appropriated, have
ceased to be so. However, the President may, for reasons of public interest, declare lands of the public domain open
to disposition before the same have had their boundaries established or been surveyed, or may, for the same reason,
suspend their concession or disposition until they are again declared open to concession or disposition by
proclamation duly published or by Act of the National Assembly. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, to be alienable and disposable, lands of the public domain must be expressly declared as alienable and disposable by
executive or administrative proclamation pursuant to law or by an Act of Congress.
Even if the Department Head has the power to classify public forest lands as agricultural under Section 1827 of the Revised
Administrative Code of 1917, this does not include the power to classify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain. The power to further classify agricultural lands as alienable and disposable has not been granted
in any way to the Department Head under the Revised Administrative Code of 1917. This authority was given only to the
Governor-General under Section 64 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, as superseded by Section 9 of Republic Act
(RA) No. 2874 (Public Land Act of 1919), and as in turn further superseded by Section 6 of CA No. 141 (Public Land Act of
1936), which is the existing specific provision of law governing the classification of lands of the public domain into alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain. This delegated power is a discretionary power, to be exercised based on the sound
discretion of the President.
Under Section 64 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, the classification of lands of the public domain into alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain could only be made by the Governor-General. While Section 1827 of the Revised
Administrative Code of 1917 gave to the Department Head the power to classify public forest lands as public agricultural lands,
the very same law in its Section 64 expressly reserved to the Governor-General the power to declare for "public sale x x x
any of the public domain of the Philippines." Section 64 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 provides:
Section 64. Particular powers and duties of Governor-General of the Philippines. – In addition to his general supervisory
authority, the Governor-General of the Philippines shall have such specific powers and duties as are expressly conferred or
imposed on him by law and also, in particular, the powers and duties set forth in this chapter.
Among such special powers and duties shall be:
(a) x x x
xxxx
(d) To reserve from settlement or public sale and for specific public uses any of the public domain of the (Philippine
Islands) Philippines the use of which is not otherwise directed by law, the same thereafter remaining subject to the
specific public uses indicated in the executive order by which such reservation is made, until otherwise provided by
law or executive order.
(e) To reserve from sale or other disposition and for specific public uses or service, any land belonging to the private domain
of the Government of the (Philippine Islands) Philippines, the use of which is not otherwise directed by law; and thereafter
such land shall not be subject to sale or other disposition and shall be used for the specific purposes directed by such executive
order until otherwise provided by law.
x x x x (Emphasis supplied)
Likewise, under Section 9 of RA No. 2874, the classification of lands of public domain into alienable and disposable lands
could only be made by the Governor-General, thus:
Section 9. For the purposes of their government and disposition, the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition
shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows:
(a) Agricultural
(b) Commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes.
(c) Educational, charitable, and other similar purposes.
(d) Reservations for town sites, and for public and quasi-public uses.
The Governor-General, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time
to time make the classification provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer
lands from one class to another. (Emphasis supplied)
Similarly, under Section 6 of CA No. 141, the existing law on the matter, only the President can classify lands of the public
domain into alienable or disposable lands, thus:
Section 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time
classify the lands of the public domain into —
(a) Alienable or disposable,
(b) Timber, and
(c) Mineral lands,
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their administration
and disposition. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, under all laws during the American regime, from the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 up to and including CA No.
141, only the Governor-General or President could classify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands.
No other government official was empowered by statutory law during the American regime. Under the 1935, 22 197323 and
198724 Philippine Constitutions, the power to declare or classify lands of the public domain as alienable and disposable lands
belonged to Congress. This legislative power is still delegated to the President under Section 6 of CA No. 141 since this
Section 6 was never repealed by Congress despite successive amendments to CA No. 141 after the adoption of the 1935,
1973 and the 1987 Philippine Constitutions.25
Under Section 13 of PD No. 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary has been delegated by law the discretionary power to classify as
alienable and disposable forest lands of the public domain no longer needed for forest reserves. Section 13 of the Revised
Forestry Code of the Philippines, which was enacted on 19 May 1975, provides:
Section 13. System of Land Classification.– The Department Head shall study, devise, determine and prescribe the criteria,
guidelines and methods for the proper and accurate classification and survey of all lands of the public domain into agricultural,
industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing lands, and into such other classes as
now or may hereafter be provided by law, rules and regulations.
In the meantime, the Department Head shall simplify through inter-bureau action the present system of determining which of
the unclassified lands of the public domain are needed for forest purposes and declare them as permanent forest to form part
of the forest reserves. He shall declare those classified and determined not to be needed for forest purposes as
alienable and disposable lands, the administrative jurisdiction and management of which shall be transferred to the Bureau
of Lands: Provided, That mangrove and other swamps not needed for shore protection and suitable for fishpond purposes
shall be released to, and be placed under the administrative jurisdiction and management of, the Bureau of Fisheries and
Aquatic Resources. Those still to be classified under the present system shall continue to remain as part of the public forest.
(Emphasis supplied)
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states: "x x x. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to
agricultural lands. x x x." Thus, the unclassified lands of the public domain, not needed for forest reserve purposes, must first
be declared agricultural lands of the public domain before the DENR Secretary can declare them alienable and disposable.
Under the foregoing Section 13 of PD No. 705, the DENR Secretary has no discretionary power to classify unclassified lands
of the public domain, not needed for forest reserve purposes, into agricultural lands. However, the DENR Secretary can invoke
his power under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 to classify forest lands into agricultural lands. Once
so declared as agricultural lands of the public domain, the DENR Secretary can then invoke his delegated power under Section
13 of PD No. 705 to declare such agricultural lands as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.
This Court has recognized in numerous cases the authority of the DENR Secretary to classify agricultural lands of the public
domain as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. 26 As we declared in Republic of the Philippines v. Heirs of
Fabio,27 "the DENR Secretary is the only other public official empowered by law to approve a land classification and declare
such land as alienable and disposable."
Consequently, as the President's and the DENR Secretary's discretionary power to classify land as alienable and disposable
is merely delegated to them under CA No. 141 and PD No. 705, respectively, they may not redelegate the same to another
office or officer. What has once been delegated by Congress can no longer be further delegated or redelegated by the original
delegate to another, as expressed in the Latin maxim — Delegata potestas non potest delegari.28 Thus, in Aquino-Sarmiento
v. Morato,29 this Court ruled:
The power to classify motion pictures into categories such as "General Patronage" or "For Adults Only" is vested with the
respondent Board itself and not with the Chairman thereof (Sec. 3 [e], PD 1986). As Chief Executive Officer, respondent
Morato's function as Chairman of the Board calls for the implementation and execution, not modification or reversal, of the
decisions or orders of the latter (Sec. 5 [a], Ibid.). The power of classification having been reposed by law exclusively
with the respondent Board, it has no choice but to exercise the same as mandated by law, i.e., as a collegial body,
and not transfer it elsewhere or discharge said power through the intervening mind of another. Delegata potestas
non potest delegari —a delegated power cannot be delegated. And since the act of classification involves an exercise
of the Board's discretionary power with more reason the Board cannot, by way of the assailed resolution, delegate
said power for it is an established rule in administrative law that discretionary authority cannot be a subject of
delegation. (Emphasis supplied)
Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the power to classify agricultural lands of the public domain into alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain is exercised "by law" or through legislative enactment. In accordance with Section 6 of
CA No. 141, this power is delegated to the President who may, based on his sound discretion, classify agricultural lands as
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. This delegated power to so classify public agricultural lands may no
longer be redelegated by the President – what has once been delegated may no longer be delegated to another. Likewise,
the same discretionary power has been delegated "by law" to the DENR Secretary who, of course, cannot redelegate the
same to his subordinates.
As it is only the President or the DENR Secretary who may classify as alienable and disposable the lands of the public domain,
an applicant for land registration must prove that the land sought to be registered has been declared by the President or DENR
Secretary as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. To establish such character, jurisprudence has been clear
on what an applicant must submit to clearly establish that the land forms part of the alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain.
In Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,30 this Court has held that an applicant must present a copy of the
original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records.
Additionally, a certificate of land classification status issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office
(CENRO) or the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the DENR and approved by the DENR
Secretary must also be presented to prove that the land subject of the application for registration is alienable and disposable)
and that it falls within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. 31 In Republic of the
Philippines v. Roche,32 we clearly stated:
[T]he applicant bears the burden of proving the status of the land. In this connection, the Court has held that he must present
a certificate of land classification status issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) or the
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the DENR. He must also prove that the DENR Secretary
had approved the land classification and released the land as alienable and disposable, and that it is within the
approved area per verification through survey by the CENRO or PENRO. Further, the applicant must present a copy of
the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as true copy by the legal custodian of the official
records. These facts must be established by the applicant to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. 33 (Emphasis
supplied)
To repeat, there are two (2) documents which must be presented: first, a copy of the original classification approved by the
Secretary of the DENR and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records, and second, a certificate of
land classification status issued by the CENRO or the PENRO based on the land classification approved by the DENR
Secretary. The requirement set by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc. that both these documents
be based on the land classification approved by the DENR Secretary is not a mere superfluity. This requirement stems from
the fact that the alienable and disposable classification of agricultural land may be made by the President or DENR Secretary.
And while the DENR Secretary may perform this act in the regular course of business, this does not extend to the CENRO or
PENRO – the DENR Secretary may no longer delegate the power to issue such certification as the power to classify lands of
the public domain as alienable and disposable lands is in itself a delegated power under CA No. 141 and PD No. 705.
Moreover, we have repeatedly stated that a CENRO or PENRO certification is not enough to prove the alienable and
disposable nature of the property sought to be registered because the only way to prove the classification of the land is
through the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary or the President himself. This Court has clearly held:
Further, it is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant for land
registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the
public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the
approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition, the applicant for land registration must
present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian
of the official records. These facts must be established to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. Respondent failed
to do so because the certifications presented by respondent do not, by themselves, prove that the land is alienable and
disposable.34(Emphasis supplied)
A CENRO or PENRO certification is insufficient to prove the alienable and disposable nature of the land sought to be registered
it is the original classification by the DENR Secretary or the President which is essential to prove that the land is indeed
alienable and disposable. This has been consistently upheld by this Court in subsequent land registration cases. Recently,
in Republic of the Philippines v. Nicolas,35which cited Republic of the Philippines v. Lualhati,36 the Court rejected the attempt
of the applicant to prove the alienable and disposable character of the land through PENRO or CENRO certifications. The
Court held:
[N]one of the documents submitted by respondent to the trial court indicated that the subject property was agricultural or part
of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. At most, the CENRO Report and Certification stated that the land
was not covered by any kind of public land application. This was far from an adequate proof of the classification of the land.
In fact, in Republic v. Lualhati, the Court rejected an attempt to prove the alienability of public land using similar evidence:
Here, respondent failed to establish, by the required evidence, that the land sought to be registered has been classified as
alienable or disposable land of the public domain. The records of this case merely bear certifications from the DENR-CENRO,
Region IV, Antipolo City, stating that no public land application or land patent covering the subject lots is pending nor are the
lots embraced by any administrative title. Said CENRO certifications, however, do not even make any pronouncement as to
the alienable character of the lands in question for they merely recognize the absence of any pending land patent application,
administrative title, or government project being conducted thereon. But even granting that they expressly declare that
the subject lands form part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, these certifications remain
insufficient for purposes of granting respondent's application for registration. As constantly held by this Court, it is
not enough for the CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant for land registration must
prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as
alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area
per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. Unfortunately for respondent, the evidence submitted clearly
falls short of the requirements for original registration in order to show the alienable character of the lands subject herein.
(Emphasis supplied)
In this case, Dumo failed to submit any of the documents required to prove that the land she seeks to register is alienable and
disposable land of the public domain.
Response to the Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Justice Caguioa
The Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Justice Caguioa suggests that certifications of land classification status issued by
the CENRO and PENRO should be deemed sufficient to prove the alienable and disposable character of the property if these
certifications bear references to the land classification maps and the original classification issued and signed by the DENR
Secretary. This suggestion clearly undermines the requirements set by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N.
Properties, Inc.37where the Court expressly stated that it is not enough for the CENRO or PENRO to certify that the land
sought to be registered is alienable and disposable. What is required from the applicant in a land registration proceeding is to
prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as alienable
and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area per verification
through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. Quite clearly, the Court definitively stated that to prove that the land is alienable
and disposable, the applicant must present a certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary
or the proclamation made by the President. Only the certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary or the President will prove to the courts that indeed, the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable.
That the certifications of the CENRO or PENRO contain references to the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary is not enough to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. Mere references made in the certifications to the
classification of land as approved by the DENR Secretary are simply insufficient. The trial court must be given a certified true
copy of the classification made by the DENR Secretary or the President because it is the only acceptable and sufficient proof
of the alienable and disposable character of the land. In Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,38the Court
required the submission of the certified true copy of the land classification approved by the DENR Secretary precisely
because mere references made by the CENRO and PENRO to the land classification were deemed insufficient. For
instance, CENRO and PENRO may inadvertently make references to an original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary which does not cover the land sought to be registered, or worse, to a non-existent original classification. This is the
very evil that the ruling in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.39 seeks to avoid. Justice Caguioa's suggestion
resurrects the very evil banished by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc. 40
Decisions of this Court form part of the legal system of the Philippines 41 and thus the CENRO, PENRO, and the DENR
must follow the decision made by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc.42The ruling of this Court
requiring the submission of the certified true copy of the original classification as approved by the DENR Secretary
cannot be overturned or amended by the CENRO or PENRO or even by the DENR. The DENR, CENRO, and PENRO
must follow the law as laid down by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.43 It is not this Court that
should amend its ruling in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc.44 to conform to the administrative rules of the
DENR, CENRO, or PENRO reversing the final ruling of this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.45 The
authority given by the Administrative Order of the DENR to the CENRO and PENRO to issue certifications of land classification
status does not and cannot reverse the clear requirement laid down by the Court for applicants of land registration to submit
the certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary to prove the alienable and disposable
character of the land.
To repeat, in a judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529, the applicant has the burden of
proving that the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable land of the public domain. In turn, the best evidence
of the alienable and disposable nature of the land is the certified true copy of the original proclamation made by the President
or DENR Secretary, in accordance with CA No. 141 or PD No. 705. Submitting a mere certification by the CENRO or PENRO
with references to the original classification made by the President or the DENR Secretary is sorely inadequate since it has
no probative value as a public document to prove the alienable and disposable character of the public land.
Under Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, public documents are:
(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public
officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country;
(b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments; and
(c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by law to be entered therein.
In turn, for the record of public documents referred to in paragraph (a) of Section 19, Rule 132 to be admissible, it must be
evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by
his deputy.46Moreover, to be prima facie evidence of the facts stated in public documents, such documents must
consist of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer. 47 This requirement can be
satisfied only if a certified true copy of the proclamation by the President or the order of the DENR Secretary classifying the
land as alienable and disposable is presented to the trial court.
Quite clearly, certifications by the CENRO or PENRO do not comply with the conditions for admissibility of evidence. The
CENRO or the PENRO is not the official repository or legal custodian of the issuances of the President or DENR Secretary
classifying lands as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Thus, the certifications made by the CENRO or
PENRO cannot prove the alienable and disposable character of the land, which can only be ascertained through the
classification made by the President or DENR Secretary, the only public officials who may classify lands into alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain. The Concurring and Dissenting Opinion alleges that the CENRO serves as a repository
of the land classification maps, and as such, authorizes the CENRO to issue certified true copies of the approved land
classification maps. While the CENRO may issue certified true copies of these land classification maps, these maps are not
the required certified true copy of the original proclamation or order classifying the public land as alienable and disposable.
Moreover, these maps are not in the possession of the officials who have custody of the original proclamation or order
classifying the public land as alienable and disposable. Again, the best evidence of the alienable and disposable nature of the
land is the certified true copy of the classification made by the President or the DENR Secretary – not the certified true copy
issued by the CENRO of its land classification maps.
It is also worthy to note that in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,48 we have already discussed the value of
certifications issued by the CENRO or PENRO in land registration cases:
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not fall within the class of public documents
contemplated in the first sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. The certifications do not reflect "entries in public records made
in the performance of a duty by a public officer", such as entries made by the Civil Registrar in the books of registries, or by a
ship captain in the ship's logbook. The certifications are not the certified copies or authenticated reproductions of
original official records in the legal custody of a government office. The certifications are not even records of public
documents. The certifications are conclusions unsupported by adequate proof, and thus have no probative value.
Certainly, the certifications cannot be considered prima facieevidence of the facts stated therein.
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not prove that Lot 10705-B falls within the
alienable and disposable land as proclaimed by the DENR Secretary. Such government certifications do not, by their mere
issuance, prove the facts stated therein. Such government certifications may fall under the class of documents contemplated
in the second sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. As such, the certifications are prima facie evidence of their due execution
and date of issuance but they do not constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.49 (Emphasis supplied)
The certification issued by the CENRO or PENRO, by itself, does not prove the alienable and disposable character of the land
sought to be registered. The certification should always be accompanied by the original or certified true copy of the original
classification approved by the DENR Secretary or the President.
Substantial Compliance with the Requirements of Section 14(1)
Dumo argues that the Certification from the Regional Surveys Division, which was formally offered as Exhibit "A" and not
opposed by the Republic, should be considered substantial compliance with the requirement that the applicant must submit
the certified true copy of the original classification of the land as approved by the DENR Secretary.
We do not agree.
The fact that the Republic did not oppose the formal offer of evidence of Dumo in the RTC does not have the effect of proving
or impliedly admitting that the land is alienable and disposable. The alienable and disposable character of the land must be
proven by clear and incontrovertible evidence. It may not be impliedly admitted, as Dumo vehemently argues. It was the duty
of Dumo to prove that the land she sought to register is alienable and disposable land of the public domain. This burden would
have been discharged by submitting the required documents – a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian thereof, and a certificate of land classification status issued by
the CENRO or the PENRO based on the approved land classification by the DENR Secretary. Without these, the applicant
simply fails to prove that the land sought to be registered forms part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain
and thus, it may not be susceptible to private ownership. As correctly pointed out by the CA, the land is presumed to belong
to the State as part of the public domain.
Another requirement under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 is to prove that the applicant and her predecessors-in-interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bonafide claim of
ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier.
In this case, the CA found that Dumo and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the land only from 1948,
which is the earliest date of the tax declaration presented by Dumo. This fact is expressly admitted by Dumo. Thus, from this
admission alone, it is clear that she failed to prove her and her predecessors-in-interest's possession and occupation of the
land for the duration required by law — from 12 June 1945 or earlier.
Dumo, however, argues that it does not matter that her possession dates only back to 1948 because this Court has allegedly
stated that even if the possession or occupation started after 12 June 1945, this does not bar the grant of an application for
registration of land.
Again, we do not agree with Dumo.
To determine whether possession or occupation from 12 June 1945 or earlier is material, one has to distinguish if the
application for the registration of land is being made under paragraph 1 or paragraph 2 of Section 14 of PD No. 1529. The
relevant paragraphs provide:
Section 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration
of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.
xxxx
Thus, it is clear that if the applicant is applying for the registration of land under paragraph 1, possession and occupation of
the alienable and disposable land of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership should have commenced from
12 June 1945 or earlier. If, however, the applicant is relying on the second paragraph of Section 14 to register the land, then
it is true that a different set of requirements applies, and possession and occupation from 12 June 1945 or earlier are not
required.
The reliance of Dumo on Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals 50 is misplaced. The pronouncement of the Court in
relation to the phrase "June 12, 1945 or earlier" was that the alienable and disposable classification of the land need not b e
from 12 June 1945 or earlier, and that as long as such land is classified as alienable and disposable when the application is
filed, then the first requirement under the law is fulfilled. The Court held:
Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been
established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). "Since June 12, 1945,"
as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bona fide claim of ownership." Generally speaking, qualifying
words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or
remotely located. Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia.
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner's position. Absent a legislative amendment,
the rule would be, adopting the OSG's view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable
before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by
the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government
from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The
unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not
yet even considered an independent state.
Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as
already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application
is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the
government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective
of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable
and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive
prerogative over the property.51
Thus, it did not state that the possession and occupation from 12 June 1945 or earlier are no longer required. It merely
clarified when the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable to meet the requirements of Section 14(1) of
PD No. 1529. The property sought to be registered must be declared alienable and disposable at the time of the filing of the
application for registration.52 This does not require that the land be declared alienable and disposable from 12 June 1945 or
earlier.
Registration of land under Section 14(2)
Dumo also argues that she has the right to register the land because she and her predecessors-in-interest have already
acquired the land through prescription. She states that she and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession and
occupation of the land for fifty-six (56) years, and thus she has already acquired ownership of the land by prescription.
Again, we disagree.
It is true that under Section 14 of PD No. 1529, one may acquire ownership of the land by prescription. Particularly, paragraph
2 of Section 14 provides that "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of
existing laws" may file an application for registration of title to land. The existing law mentioned in PD No. 1529 is the Civil
Code of the Philippines. In Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the Philippines,53 we applied the civil law concept of prescription
as embodied in the Civil Code to interpret Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529. This Court held:
The second source is Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 itself, at least by implication, as it applies the rules on prescription under
the Civil Code, particularly Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137. Note that there are two kinds of prescription under the
Civil Code – ordinary acquisitive prescription and extraordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1137, is
completed "through uninterrupted adverse possession... for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith." 54 (Boldfacing
and underscoring supplied)
Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529 puts into operation the entire regime of prescription under the Civil Code, particularly Article
1113 in relation to Article 1137.55 Article 1113 provides that "[p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial
in character shall not be the object of prescription." Thus, it is clear that the land must be patrimonial before it may be
susceptible of acquisitive prescription. Indeed, Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529 provides that one may acquire ownership
of private lands by prescription.
Land of the public domain is converted into patrimonial property when there is an express declaration by the State that the
public dominion property is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth. 56 Without such
declaration, acquisitive prescription does not start to run, even if such land is alienable and disposable and the applicant is in
possession and occupation thereof. We have held:
Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer intended for
public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Without
such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public dominion,
pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable and disposable
lands are expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national
wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law duly enacted
by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law. 57
Mere classification of agricultural land as alienable and disposable does not make such land patrimonial property of the State
– an express declaration by the State that such land is no longer intended for public use, public service or the development
of national wealth is imperative. This is because even with such classification, the land remains to be part of the lands of the
public domain. In Navy Officers' Village Association, Inc. v. Republic of the Philippines,58 we stated:
Lands of the public domain classified as reservations for public or quasi-public uses are non-alienable and shall not be
subject to disposition, although they are, by the general classification under Section 6 of C.A. No. 141, alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, until declared open for disposition by proclamation of the President.
(Emphasis supplied)
Under CA No. 141, the power given to the President to classify lands as alienable and disposable extends only to lands of
the public domain. Lands of the public domain are public lands intended for public use, or without being for public use, are
intended for some public service or for the development of national wealth. Lands of the public domain, like alienable or
disposable lands of the public domain, are not private lands. Article 420 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:
(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks,
shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;
(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the
development of the national wealth.
Classifying lands as alienable and disposable does not take away from the fact that these lands still belong to the public
domain. These lands belonged to the public domain before they were classified as alienable and disposable and they still
remain to be lands of the public domain after such classification. In fact, these lands are classified in Section 3, Article XII
of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as "[a]lienable lands of the public domain." The alienable and disposable character
of the land merely gives the State the authority to alienate and dispose of such land if it deems that the land is no longer
needed for public use, public service or the development of national wealth.
Alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are those that are to be disposed of to private individuals by sale or
application, because their disposition to private individuals is for the development of the national wealth. Thus, homesteads,
which are granted to individuals from alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, are for the development of
agriculture which would redound to the development of national wealth. However, until the lands are alienated or disposed
of to private individuals, they remain "alienable lands of the public domain," as expressly classified by the 1987
Philippine Constitution.
Lands of the public domain become patrimonial property only when they are no longer intended for public use or public service
or the development of national wealth. Articles 421 and 422 of the Civil Code expressly provide:
Article 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is patrimonial property
Article 422. Property of public dominion, when no longer intended for public use or for public service, shall form part of the
patrimonial property of the State.
In turn, the intention that the property is no longer needed for public use, public service or the development of national wealth
may only be ascertained through an express declaration by the State. We have clearly held:
Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer intended for
public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Without
such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public
dominion, pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable
and disposable lands are expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development
of the national wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law
duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law.59(Emphasis
supplied)
Without an express declaration that the land is no longer needed for public use, public service or the development of national
wealth, it should be presumed that the lands of the public domain, whether alienable and disposable or not, remain belonging
to the State under the Regalian Doctrine. We have already recognized that the classification of land as alienable and
disposable does not make such property patrimonial. In Dream Village Neighborhood Association, Inc. v. Bases Conversion
Development Authority,60 the Court held:
One question laid before us is whether the area occupied by Dream Village is susceptible of acquisition by prescription.
In Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic, it was pointed out that from the moment R.A. No. 7227 was enacted, the subject
military lands in Metro Manila became alienable and disposable. However, it was also clarified that the said lands did not
thereby become patrimonial, since the BCDA law makes the express reservation that they are to be sold in order to raise
funds for the conversion of the former American bases in Clark and Subic. The Court noted that the purpose of the law can
be tied to either "public service" or "the development of national wealth" under Article 420(2) of the Civil Code, such that the
lands remain property of the public dominion, albeit their status is now alienable and disposable. The Court then explained
that it is only upon their sale to a private person or entity as authorized by the BCDA law that they become private
property and cease to be property of the public dominion:
For as long as the property belongs to the State, although already classified as alienable or disposable, it remains
property of the public dominion if x x x it is "intended for some public service or for the development of the national
wealth."
Thus, under Article 422 of the Civil Code, public domain lands become patrimonial property only if there is a declaration that
these are alienable or disposable, together with an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial
or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth. x x x. (Emphasis supplied)
The alienable and disposable character of public agricultural land does not convert the land to patrimonial property. It merely
gives the State the authority to alienate or dispose the agricultural land, in accordance with law. It is only when (1) there is an
express government manifestation that the land is already patrimonial or no longer intended for public use, public service or
the development of national wealth, or (2) land which has been classified as alienable and disposable land is actually
alienated and disposed of by the State, that such land becomes patrimonial.
In the present case, Dumo not only failed to prove that the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable, but also
utterly failed to submit any evidence to establish that such land has been converted into patrimonial property by an express
declaration by the State. To repeat, acquisitive prescription only applies to private lands as expressly provided in Article 1113
of the Civil Code. To register land acquired by prescription under PD No. 1529 (in relation to the Civil Code of the Philippines),
the applicant must prove that the land is not merely alienable and disposable, but that it has also been converted into
patrimonial property of the State. Prescription will start to run only from the time the land has become patrimonial. 61 Unless
the alienable and disposable land of the public domain is expressly converted into patrimonial property, there is no way for
acquisitive prescription to set in under Article 1113 of the Civil Code.
However, another mode of prescription specifically governs the acquisitive prescription of alienable and disposable lands
of the public domain. CA No. 141 provides for the modes of disposing alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the
public domain:
Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:
(1) For homestead settlement;

(2) By sale;

(3) By lease; and

(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:

(a) By judicial legalization; or

(b) By administrative legalization (free patent). (Emphasis supplied)


In turn, Section 48 of the same law provides for those who may apply for confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title by
judicial application:
Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any
such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation
of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(Emphasis supplied)
It is clear from the foregoing provisions that for lands of the public domain, one may apply for an administrative grant from the
government, through homestead, sale, lease or free patent, or apply for the confirmation of their title in accordance with the
conditions provided under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141. PD No. 1529 provides for the original registration procedure for the
judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete title. It must also be noted that the wording in Section 48(b) of CA No. 141
is similar to that found in Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529. The similarity in wording has already been explained by this Court
when it recognized that Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 works in relation to Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 in the registration of
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain:
It is clear that Section 48 of the Public Land Act is more descriptive of the nature of the right enjoyed by the possessor than
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, which seems to presume the pre-existence of the right, rather than establishing
the right itself for the first time. It is proper to assert that it is the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073 effective 25
January 1977, that has primarily established the right of a Filipino citizen who has been in "open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945" to perfect or complete his title by applying with the proper court for the
confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title.
Section 48 can be viewed in conjunction with the afore-quoted Section 11 of the Public Land Act, which provides that public
lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and given the
notion that both provisions declare that it is indeed the Public Land Act that primarily establishes the substantive ownership
of the possessor who has been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945. In turn, Section 14(a) of the Property
Registration Decree recognizes the substantive right granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as
provides the corresponding original registration procedure for the judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete
title.62 (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, the applicant for registration of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain claims his right to register the
land under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 and the procedure for registration is found under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 which
provides that "those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier" may file in the proper court their application for land registration. The basis for
application of judicial confirmation of title over alienable and disposable land of the public domain is not acquisitive prescription
under the Civil Code, but rather, the fulfillment of the requirements under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141.
To summarize the discussion and reiterate the guidelines set by this Court in Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the
Philippines,63 we state:
1. If the applicant or his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the land sought to be registered under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier, the
applicant must prove that the land has been classified by the Executive department as alienable and disposable land of the
public domain. This is covered by Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 in relation to Section 48(b) of CA No. 141.
While it is not necessary that the land has been alienable and disposable since 12 June 1945 or earlier, the applicant must
prove that the President or DENR Secretary has classified the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain at
any time before the application was made.
2. If the occupation and possession of the land commenced at any time after 12 June 1945, the applicant may still register the
land if he or his predecessors-in-interest have complied with the requirements of acquisitive prescription under the Civil
Code afterthe land has been expressly declared as patrimonial property or no longer needed for public use, public service
or the development of national wealth. This is governed by Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529 in relation to the Civil Code.
Under the Civil Code, acquisitive prescription, whether ordinary or extraordinary, applies only to private property. Thus, the
applicant must prove when the land sought to be registered was expressly declared as patrimonial property because it is
only from this time that the period for acquisitive prescription would start to run.
Based on the foregoing, we find that the CA committed no reversible error in finding that Dumo had no registerable title over
the land she seeks to register. She failed to prove her right under either Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529. She
failed to prove that the land she seeks to register was alienable and disposable land of the public domain. She failed to prove
her and her predecessors-in-interest's possession and occupation since 12 June 1945 or earlier. Thus, she has no right under
Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529. While she argues that she and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession and
occupation of the land for 56 years, she failed to prove that the land has been expressly declared as patrimonial property.
Therefore, she also has no right under Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 155012 April 14, 2004


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
vs.
CARMENCITA M. ALCONABA; LUISITO B. MELENDEZ; CONCEPCION M. LAZARO; MAURICIO B. MELENDEZ, JR.;
and MYRNA M. GALVEZ, represented by CONCEPCION M. LAZARO, respondents.
DECISION
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:
To serve the ends of social justice, which is the heart of the 1987 Constitution, the State promotes an equitable distribution of
alienable agricultural lands of the public domain to deserving citizens, especially the underprivileged. A land registration court
must, therefore, exercise extreme caution and prudent care in deciding an application for judicial confirmation of an imperfect
title over such lands so that the public domain may not be raided by unscrupulous land speculators.1
At bar is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to set aside the decision 2 of the Court of
Appeals of 26 August 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No. 64323, which affirmed the decision3 of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Cabuyao, Laguna,4 of 1 September 1998 in MTC LRC Case No. 06 ordering the registration in favor of the respondents of
parcels of land situated at Barangay Sala, Cabuyao, Laguna, designated as Lot 2111-A, 2111-B, 2111-C, 2111-D, and 2111-
E.
The pertinent facts are as follows:
On 14 November 1996, the respondents filed before the MTC of Cabuyao, Laguna, an application 5 for registration of
title over five parcels of land, each with an area of 5,220 square meters, situated in Barangay Sala, Cabuyao, Laguna.
In their application, they stated, among other things, that they are the sole heirs of Spouses Melencio E. Melendez,
Sr., and Luz Batallones Melendez, original owners of Lot 2111 of CAD-455, with an area of 2.6 hectares. Their parents
had been in possession of the said property since 1949, more or less. After the death of their mother and father on
19 February 1967 and 5 May 1976, respectively, they partitioned the property among themselves and subdivided it
into five lots, namely, Lots 2111-A, 2111-B, 2111-C, 2111-D, and 2111-E. Since then they have been in actual
possession of the property in the concept of owners and in a public and peaceful manner.
Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application on the
following grounds: (a) neither the respondents nor their predecessors-in-interest possess sufficient title to the property or have
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question since 1945 or prior
thereto; (b) the muniments of title, i.e., tax declaration and tax receipts, presented by the respondents do not constitute
competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide right to registration of the land under Section 48(b), Commonwealth Act No.
141, otherwise known as The Public Land Act,6 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073; (c) the claim of ownership in
fee simple on the basis of a Spanish title or grant can no longer be availed of by the respondents; and (d) the land is part of
the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines. 7
At the trial on the merits, respondents Mauricio B. Melendez, Jr., and Carmencita M. Alconaba testified to establish their claim
over the subject lots. Mauricio claimed that he and his co-respondents acquired by inheritance from their deceased parents
Lot 2111 of Cad-455, which is an agricultural land. Their parents had been in possession of the said land since 1949 and had
been religiously paying the taxes due thereon. When their parents died, he and his siblings immediately took possession of
said property in the concept of an owner, paid taxes, and continued to plant rice thereon. On 24 June 1996, he and his co-
heirs executed an Extrajudicial Settlement with Partition over the said lot and subdivided it into five lots.8
For her part, Carmencita testified that Lot 2111 of Cad-455 had been in the possession of their parents since 1940 and that
after the death of their parents she and her siblings immediately took possession of it and religiously paid the taxes thereon.
The land is being cultivated by Julia Garal, their tenant. She admitted that no improvements have been introduced by their
family on the lot. On cross examination, she admitted that plans to sell the property were at hand.9
In its decision of 1 September 1998, the trial court found that the respondents have sufficiently established their family's actual,
continuous, adverse, and notorious possession of the subject property for more than fifty-seven years, commencing from the
possession of their predecessors-in-interest in 1940, and that such possession was in an adverse and public manner.
Likewise, it found that the land in question is alienable and disposable and is not within any reservation or forest zone. Thus,
it confirmed the title of the respondents over the said lots; directed the Register of Deeds of Laguna, Calamba Branch, to
cause the registration of said parcels of land in the name of the respondents upon payment of fees; and ordered the issuance
of a Decree of Registration once the decision becomes final and executory.
Upon appeal10 by the petitioner, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. Hence, this petition.
The OSG argues that both the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in (a) giving weight to the self-serving testimonies of
Mauricio and Carmencita that the respondents and their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, and adverse
possession of the lots in question in the concept of an owner for at least thirty years; and (b) holding that respondents' tax
declaration is sufficient proof that they and their parents have been in possession of the property for at least thirty years,
despite the fact that the said tax declaration was only for the year 1994 and the property tax receipts presented by the
respondents were all of recent dates, i.e., 1990, 1991,1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997. Finally, the OSG states that even granting
for the sake of argument that the respondents have been in possession of the property since 1940, their adverse possession
should be reckoned only from 28 September 1981 when the property was declared to be within alienable and disposable
zone.
The petition is meritorious.
While the rule is well settled that the findings of fact of appellate courts are conclusive upon us,11 there are recognized
exceptions thereto, among which is where the findings of fact are not supported by the record or are so glaringly erroneous
as to constitute a serious abuse of discretion.12 This exception is present in this case.
Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942,13 reads as follows:
Section 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
certificate of title 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 of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application
for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed
to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of
title under the provisions of this chapter.
This provision was further amended by P.D. No. 1073 14 by substituting the phrase "for at least thirty years" with "since June
12, 1945"; thus:
SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended
in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or through his
predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.
The date "12 June 1945" was reiterated in Section 14(1) of P. D. No. 1529,15 otherwise known as the Property Registration
Decree, provides:
SEC. 14. Who may apply. – The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance [now Regional Trial
Court] an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain
under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. (Emphasis supplied).
Applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must, therefore, prove the following: (a) that the land forms part of the disposable
and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or since 12 June
1945.
There is no doubt that the subject property is part of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. But
it is not clear as to when it was classified as alienable and disposable by proper authorities.
We do not find merit in OSG's claim that the subject property was classified as within the alienable and disposable zone only
on 28 September 1981, and hence, possession by respondents' predecessors-in-interest before that date cannot be
considered. In support of this claim, the OSG relies on a statement appearing in the survey plan marked as Exhibit "Q," which
reads:
This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 23-A L.C. Map No. 004 certified on September
28, 1981 and is outside any civil or military reservation.
As postulated by the respondents, the phrase "certified on September 28, 1981" could not have meant that Lot 2111 became
alienable and disposable only on 28 September 1981. That date obviously refers to the time that Project No. 23-A L.C. Map
No. 004 was certified.
Neither can we give weight to the contention of the respondents that since Project No. 23-A L.C. Map No. 004 of which Lot
2111 forms part was approved on 31 December 1925 by the then Bureau of Forestry, Lot 2111 must have been disposable
and alienable as early as of that date. There is nothing to support their claim that 31 December 1925 is the date of the approval
of such project or the date of the classification of the subject property as disposable and alienable public land. It is settled that
a person who seeks registration of title to a piece of land must prove his claim by clear and convincing evidence. 16 The
respondents have failed to discharge the burden of showing that Lot 2111 was classified as part of the disposable and
alienable agricultural lands of public domain as of 12 June 1945 or earlier.
Likewise, the respondent have miserably failed to prove that they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject property under a bona fide claim of ownership
either since time immemorial or since 12 June 1945.1awphil.net
The trial court and the Court of Appeals based the finding of fifty-seven years of possession by the respondents and their
predecessors-in-interest on the testimonies of Carmencita and Mauricio. The two were aged 6217 and 60,18respectively, when
they testified in 1997. Thus, they must have been born in 1935 and 1937, respectively. If the asserted possession lasted for
a period of fifty-seven years at the time they testified, the same must have commenced sometime in 1940, or at the time that
Carmencita was just 5 years old and Mauricio, about 3 years old. It is quite impossible that they could fully grasp, before
coming to the age of reason, the concept of possession of such a big tract of land and testify thereon nearly six decades later.
In short their testimonies could not be relied upon to prove the adverse possession of the subject parcel of land by their
parents.
In any case, respondents' bare assertions of possession and occupation by their predecessors-in-interest since 1940 (as
testified to by Carmencita19) or since 1949 (as testified to by Mauricio 20 and declared in respondents' application for
registration) are hardly "the well-nigh incontrovertible" evidence required in cases of this nature. Proof of specific acts of
ownership must be presented to substantiate their claim. They cannot just offer general statements which are mere
conclusions of law than factual evidence of possession. 21 Even granting that the possession by the respondents' parents
commenced in 1940, still they failed to prove that their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership.
The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear intention
of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it includes
constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing effect
of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and notorious, the
word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a mere fiction. 22 Actual
possession of a land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally
exercise over his own property.23
No evidence on record shows that Spouses Mauricio and Luz Melendez cultivated, had control over, or used the whole or
even a greater portion of the tract of land for agricultural purposes.24 Moreover, only one tenant worked on the land, and there
is no evidence as to how big was the portion occupied by the tenant. Moreover, there is no competent proof that the Melendez
Spouses declared the land in their name for taxation purposes or paid its taxes. While tax receipts and declarations are not
incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute, at the least, proof that the holder has a claim of title over the
property.25 The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes not only manifests one's sincere and honest
desire to obtain title to the property, but also announces an adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties
with an intention to contribute needed revenues to the government. Such an act strengthens one's bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership.26
The respondents claim that they immediately took possession of the subject land upon the death of their parents, Mauricio
and Luz Melendez, who died on 5 May 1976 and 19 February 1967, respectively, and that they had been religiously paying
the taxes thereon. If that were so, why had they not themselves introduced any improvement on the land? 27 We even find
unsubstantiated the claim of Carmencita that they had a tenant on the land. They did not present any tenant. In any case, we
wonder how one tenant could have cultivated such a vast tract of land with an area of 2.6 hectares.
The records also reveal that the subject property was declared for taxation purposes by the respondents only for the year
1994. They paid the taxes thereon only for the years 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997. Being of recent dates, we
cannot trust the assertion of the respondents that they immediately took possession of the property in the concept of an owner
after the death of their parents. While belated declaration of a property for taxation purposes does not necessarily negate the
fact of possession,28 tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are, nevertheless, good indicia of possession in the
concept of an owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or, at least,
constructive possession.29
Likewise, it is noteworthy that none of the respondents reside on the subject property. Carmencita even admitted that plans
of selling the property were at hand. Thus, it would be rational to conclude that this move for registration is just but a
camouflage by smart land speculators who saw in the land applied for expected profits from its existence.
In a nutshell, the respondents did not have in their favor an imperfect title over the land subject of the application at the time
MTC LRC Case No. 06 was filed with the trial court. They failed to prove that (1) Lot 2111 was classified as part of the
disposable and alienable agricultural lands of public domain as of 12 June 1945 or earlier; (2) they and their predecessors-in-
interest have been in continuous, exclusive, and adverse possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owners from
12 June 1945 or earlier.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, and the decisions of the Court of Appeals of 26 August 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No.
64323 and of the Municipal Trial Court of Cabuyao, Laguna, of 1 September 1998 in MTC LRC Case No. 06 are
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The land registration case MTC LRC Case No. 06 is hereby ordered DISMISSED.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 218269, June 06, 2018


IN RE: APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION
SUPREMA T. DUMO, Petitioner, v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:*
The Case
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Petitioner Suprema T. Dumo (Dumo) challenges
the 28 January 2014 Decision1 and the 19 May 2015 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 95732,
which modified the Joint Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 67, Bauang, La Union, in Civil Case No. 1301-
Bg for Accion Reivindicatoria3 and LRC Case No. 270-Bg for Application for Land Registration.4
The Facts
Severa Espinas, Erlinda Espinas, Aurora Espinas, and Virginia Espinas filed a Complaint for Recovery of Ownership,
Possession and Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction against the heirs of Bernarda M. Trinidad (Trinidad),
namely, Leticia T. Valmonte, Lydia T. Nebab, Purita T. Tanag, Gloria T. Antolin, Nilo Trinidad, Elpidio Trinidad, Fresnida T.
Saldana, Nefresha T. Tolentino, and Dumo. The plaintiffs are the heirs of Marcelino Espinas (Espinas), who died intestate on
6 November 1991, leaving a parcel of land (Subject Property) covered by Tax Declaration No. 13823-A, which particularly
described the property as follows:
A parcel of land located [in] Paringao, Bauang, La Union classified as unirrigated Riceland with an area of 1,065 square meters
covered by Tax Declaration No. 13823-A, bounded on the North by Felizarda N. Mabalay; on the East by Pedro Trinidad; on
the South by Girl Scout[s] of the Philippines and on the West by China Sea and assessed at P460.00. 5
The Subject Property was purchased by Espinas from Carlos Calica through a Deed of Absolute Sale dated 19 October 1943.
Espinas exercised acts of dominion over the Subject Property by appointing a caretaker to oversee and administer the
property. In 1963, Espinas executed an affidavit stating his claim of ownership over the Subject Property. Espinas had also
been paying realty taxes on the Subject Property.
Meanwhile, on 6 February 1987, the heirs of Trinidad executed a Deed of Partition with Absolute Sale over a parcel of land
covered by Tax Declaration No. 17276, which particularly described the property as follows:
A parcel of sandy land located [in] Paringao, Bauang, La Union, bounded on the North by Emiliana Estepa, on the South by
Carlos Calica and Girl Scout[s] Camp and on the West by China Sea, containing an area of 1[,]514 square meters more or
less, with an assessed value [of] P130.00.6
Finding that the Deed of Partition with Absolute Sale executed by the heirs of Trinidad included the Subject Property, the heirs
of Espinas filed a Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages to protect their interests (Civil Case No.
1301-Bg). The heirs of Espinas also sought a Temporary Restraining Order to enjoin the Writ of Partial Execution of the
Decision in Civil Case No. 881, a Forcible Entry complaint filed by the heirs of Trinidad against them.
In the Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages, Dumo, one of the defendants therein, filed a Motion
to Dismiss based on res judicata. Dumo argued that Espinas had already applied for the registration of the Subject Property
and that such application had been dismissed. The dismissal of the land registration application of Espinas was affirmed by
the CA, and attained finality on 5 December 1980.
The Motion to Dismiss filed by Dumo was denied by the RTC, which held that the land registration case cannot operate as a
bar to the Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages because the decision in the land registration case
did not definitively and conclusively adjudicate the ownership of the Subject Property in favor of any of the parties.
The heirs of Trinidad thereafter filed their collective Answer, where they denied the material allegations in the complaint.
Additionally, Dumo filed an application for registration of two parcels of land, covered by Advance Plan of Lot Nos. 400398
and 400399 with a total area of 1,273 square meters (LRC Case No. 270-Bg). Dumo alleged that the lots belonged to her
mother and that she and her siblings inherited them upon their mother's death. She further alleged that through a Deed of
Partition with Absolute Sale dated 6 February 1987, she acquired the subject lots from her siblings. Dumo traces her title from
her mother, Trinidad, who purchased the lots from Florencio Mabalay in August 1951. Mabalay was Dumo's maternal
grandfather. Mabalay, on the other hand, purchased the properties from Carlos Calica.
The heirs of Espinas opposed Dumo's application for land registration on the ground that the properties sought to be registered
by Dumo are involved in the accion reivindicatoria case. Thus, the RTC consolidated the land registration case with the
Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages.
The Office of the Solicitor General entered its appearance and filed its opposition for the State in the land registration case.
The Ruling of the RTC
On 2 July 2010, the RTC rendered its Joint Decision, finding that the Subject Property was owned by the heirs of Espinas.
The RTC ordered the dismissal of Dumo's land registration application on the ground of lack of registerable title, and ordered
Dumo to restore ownership and possession of the lots to the heirs of Espinas. The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision
reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered[,] judgment is rendered:
In LRC Case No. 270-Bg: Ordering the dismissal of the land registration on [the] ground of lack of registerable title on the part
of Suprema Dumo.
In Civil Case No. 1301-Bg: Declaring the Heirs of Marcelino Espinas as the owners of the lots subject of [the] application;
ordering the applicant-defendant Suprema Dumo to restore ownership and possession of the lots in question to the Heirs of
Marcelino Espinas.
SO ORDERED.7
The RTC found that based on the evidence presented, the heirs of Espinas had a better right to the Subject Property. In
particular, the RTC found that based on the records of the Bureau of Lands, the lot of Espinas was previously surveyed and
approved by the Bureau of Lands and when the survey was made for Trinidad, there was already an approved plan for
Espinas. Also, the RTC found that the tax declarations submitted by Dumo in support of her application failed to prove any
rights over the land. Specifically, the tax declaration of Mabalay, from whom Dumo traces her title, showed that the land was
first described as bounded on the west by Espinas. The subsequent tax declaration in the name of Trinidad, which cancelled
the tax declaration in the name of Mabalay, showed that the land was no longer bounded on the west by Espinas, but rather,
by the China Sea. The area of the lot also increased from 3,881 to 5,589 square meters. All of the subsequent tax declarations
submitted by Dumo covering the lot in the name of her mother stated that the lot was no longer bounded on the west by
Espinas, but rather, by the China Sea. The RTC held that the only logical explanation to the inconsistency in the description
of the land and the corresponding area thereof is that the lot of Espinas was included in the survey conducted for Trinidad.
The RTC also rejected the theory of Dumo that the lot of Espinas was eaten by the sea. The RTC found that during the ocular
inspection, it was established that the lots adjoining the lot of Espinas on the same shoreline were not inundated by the sea.
To hold the theory posited by Dumo to be true, the RTC reasoned that all the adjoining lots should also have been inundated
by the sea. However, it was established through the ocular inspection that the lots adjoining the property of Espinas on the
same shoreline remained the same, and thus the Subject Property had not been eaten by the sea.
The Ruling of the CA
The CA rendered its Decision dated 28 January 2014, affirming the RTC's decision dismissing the application for land
registration of Dumo, and finding that she failed to demonstrate that she and her predecessors-in interest possessed the
property in the manner required by law to merit the grant of her application for land registration.
The CA, however, modified the decision of the RTC insofar as it found that the Subject Property belonged to the heirs of
Espinas. The CA found that since the property still belonged to the public domain, and the heirs of Espinas were not able to
establish their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of
ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier, it was erroneous for the RTC to declare the heirs of Espinas as the owners of the
Subject Property.
The dispositive portion of the Decision of the CA reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Appeal is PARTLY GRANTED and the assailed Joint Decision issued by the court a
quo is hereby MODIFIED in that the Complaint for Accion Reivindicatoria (Civil Case No. 1301-Bg) filed by plaintiffs-appellees
is DISMISSED for lack of cause of action.
The Decision is AFFIRMED in all other respects.
SO ORDERED.8
Dumo filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration and subsequently, an Omnibus Motion for Entry of Judgment and to Resolve,
asking the CA to issue an entry of judgment insofar as the civil case is concerned and to declare the land registration case
submitted for resolution without any comment/opposition. The CA denied both motions in a Resolution dated 19 May 2015.9
Hence, this petition.
The Issues
In this petition, Dumo seeks a reversal of the decision of the CA, and raises the following arguments:
A. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION
FOR LAND REGISTRATION, IT WENT BEYOND THE ISSUES RAISED, THEREBY VIOLATING OR CONTRAVENING THE
RULING OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN, AMONG OTHERS, "LAM V. CHUA, 426 SCRA 29; DEPARTMENT OF
AGRARIAN REFORM V. FRANCO, 471 SCRA 74; BERNAS V. COURT OF APPEALS, 225 SCRA 119; PROVINCE OF
QUEZON V. MARTE, 368 SCRA 145 AND FIVE STAR BUS CO., INC. V. COURT OF APPEALS, 259 SCRA 120."
B. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION
FOR LAND [REGISTRATION], IT RULED THAT PETITIONER AND HER PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST FAILED TO
PROVE CONTINUOUS, EXCLUSIVE, AND ADVERSE POSSESSION AND OCCUPATION OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY
IN THE CONCEPT OF [AN] OWNER FROM JUNE 12, 1945 OR EARLIER, THEREBY VIOLATING OR CONTRAVENING
THE RULING OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN "REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES VERSUS COURT OF APPEALS, 448
SCRA 442."
C. THAT, IN ANY EVENT, AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THE FOREGOING, THE HONORABLE COURT OF AP[P]EALS
COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR LAND REGISTRATION, IT FAILED TO
CONSIDER PETITIONER'S EXHIBIT 'A' WHICH WAS FORMALLY OFFERED TO PROVE THAT THE SUBJECT
PROPERTY WAS DISPOSIBLE [sic] AND ALIENABLE TO WHICH THE RESPONDENT MADE NO OBJECTION[.]
D. THAT FURTHER, AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THE FOREGOING, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS
COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN, IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR LAND REGISTRATION, IT FAILED TO
CONSIDER THE SUPPORTING EVIDENCE THEREFOR, AGAIN, WITHOUT OBJECTION FROM THE RESPONDENT,
THEREBY DEPRIVING PETITIONER OF HER FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW.10
The Ruling of the Court
Essentially, Dumo argues that the CA committed a reversible error because (1) the issue of whether she was in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land since 12 June 1945 was not an issue in the RTC; (2) the
requirement of possession and occupation from 12 June 1945 is not essential to her application since she has acquired title
over the land by prescription; (3) she has proven that the land applied for has already been declared alienable and disposable;
and (4) her right to due process was violated since the issues considered by the CA were not properly raised during the trial.
We find that none of Dumo's arguments deserve any merit.
Going beyond the issues raised in the RTC and due process of law
Dumo argues that the issue of whether the possession started on 12 June 1945 or earlier was never raised in the RTC. She
also argues that no issue was raised as to whether or not the land that she seeks to register is alienable and disposable. Thus,
Dumo argues that the CA erred, and also violated her right to due process, when it considered these issues in determining
whether or not the application for land registration should be granted.
We do not agree.
In an application for land registration, it is elementary that the applicant has the burden of proving, by clear, positive and
convincing evidence, that her alleged possession and occupation were of the nature and duration required by law. 11 Thus, it
was upon Dumo to prove that she and her predecessors-in-interest possessed and occupied the land sought to be registered
in the nature and duration required by law.
Dumo cannot validly argue that she was not afforded due process when the CA considered to review the evidence she herself
offered to support her application for land registration. On the contrary, she was given every opportunity to submit the
documents to establish her right to register the land. She simply failed to do so.
When Dumo filed with the RTC the application for registration of her land, she was asking the RTC to confirm her incomplete
title. The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title are found in Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (PD
No. 1529), which provides:
Section 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration
of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.
(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under the
existing laws.
(4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for by law.
xxxx
Thus, it is necessary in an application for land registration that the court determines whether or not an applicant fulfills the
requirements under any of the paragraphs of Section 14 of PD No. 1529.
Simply put, when Dumo filed her application for the registration of the lots she claims to have inherited from her mother and
bought from her siblings, the issue of whether she complied with all the requirements was the very crux of the application. It
cannot be argued that because the Republic failed to oppose or raise the issue in the RTC, the CA may no longer consider
this issue. On the contrary, the classification of the land sought to be registered, and the duration and nature of the possession
and occupation have always been, and will always be the issues in an application for land registration. It would truly be absurd
for Dumo, or any other applicant for land registration, to expect the courts to grant the application without first determining if
the requisites under the law have been complied with.
The CA had every right to look into the compliance by Dumo with the requirements for the registration of the land, and we find
that the CA correctly found that Dumo has acquired no registerable title to the lots she seeks to register.
Registration of land under Section 14(1)
To reiterate, under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529, Dumo had the burden of proving the following:
(1) that the land or property forms part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain;

(2) that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of the same; and

(3) that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945, or earlier.12
The first requirement is to prove that the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
This is because under the Regalian Doctrine, as embodied in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, lands which do not clearly
appear to be within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. 13 Thus, in an application for land registration, the
applicant has the burden of overcoming the presumption that the State owns the land applied for, and proving that the land
has already been classified as alienable and disposable.14 To overcome the presumption that the land belongs to the State,
the applicant must prove by clear and incontrovertible evidence at the time of application that the land has been classified as
alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
Classification of lands of the public domain may be found under Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. More
specifically, Section 3 of Article XII classifies lands of the public domain into (1) agricultural, (2) forest or timber, (3) mineral
lands, and (4) national parks.15 Of these four classifications, only agricultural lands may be alienated and disposed of by the
State.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution also provides that "agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by
law according to the uses to which they may be devoted." 16 Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the classification of lands
of the public domain is first and foremost provided by the Constitution itself. Of the classifications of lands of the public domain,
agricultural lands may further be classified by law, according to the uses it may be devoted to.
The classification of lands of the public domain into agricultural lands, as well as their further classification into alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, is a legislative prerogative which may be exercised only through the enactment of a
valid law. This prerogative has long been exercised by the legislative department through the enactment of Commonwealth
Act No. 141 (CA No. 141) or the Public Land Act of 1936. 17 Section 6 of CA No. 141 remains to this day the existing general
law governing the classification of lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. 18
Section 182719of the Revised Administrative Code of 191720 merely authorizes the Department Head to classify as
agricultural lands those forest lands which are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural purposes. Section 1827 does
not authorize the Department Head to classify agricultural lands as alienable and disposable lands as this power is expressly
delegated by the same Revised Administrative Code of 1917 solely to the Governor-General.
The existing administrative code under the 1987 Philippine Constitution is Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code
of 1987. This existing code did not reenact Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917. Nevertheless, in the
absence of incompatibility between Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 and the provisions of the
Administrative Code of 1987, we can grant that Section 1827 has not been repealed. 21 This is in view of the repealing clause
in Section 27, Final Provisions, Book VII of the Administrative Code of 1987, which provides:
Section 27. All laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations, or portions thereof, inconsistent with this Code are hereby
repealed or modified accordingly.
The authority of the Department Head under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 is merely to classify
public forest lands as public agricultural lands. Agricultural lands of the public domain are, by themselves, not alienable and
disposable. Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 provides:
Section 1827. Assignment of Forest Land for Agricultural Purposes. – Lands in public forests, not including forest reserves,
upon the certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for
forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head
to be agricultural lands. (Emphasis supplied)
There is nothing in Section 1827 that authorizes the Department Head to classify agricultural lands into alienable or disposable
lands of the public domain. The power to classify public lands as agricultural lands is separate and distinct from the power to
declare agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The power to alienate agricultural lands of the public domain can never
be inferred from the power to classify public lands as agricultural. Thus, public lands classified as agricultural and used by the
Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture for plant research or plant propagation are not necessarily alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain despite being classified as agricultural lands. For such agricultural lands to be
alienable and disposable, there must be an express proclamation by the President declaring such agricultural lands as
alienable and disposable.
Agricultural land, the only classification of land which may be classified as alienable and disposable under the 1987 Philippine
Constitution, may still be reserved for public or quasi-public purposes which would prohibit the alienation or disposition of such
land. Section 8 of CA No. 141 provides:
Section 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concessionwhich have been officially delimited and
classified and, when practicable, surveyed, and which have not been reserved for public or quasi-public uses, nor
appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor those on which a private right authorized
and recognized by this Act or any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having been reserved or appropriated, have
ceased to be so. However, the President may, for reasons of public interest, declare lands of the public domain open
to disposition before the same have had their boundaries established or been surveyed, or may, for the same reason,
suspend their concession or disposition until they are again declared open to concession or disposition by
proclamation duly published or by Act of the National Assembly. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, to be alienable and disposable, lands of the public domain must be expressly declared as alienable and disposable by
executive or administrative proclamation pursuant to law or by an Act of Congress.
Even if the Department Head has the power to classify public forest lands as agricultural under Section 1827 of the Revised
Administrative Code of 1917, this does not include the power to classify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain. The power to further classify agricultural lands as alienable and disposable has not been granted
in any way to the Department Head under the Revised Administrative Code of 1917. This authority was given only to the
Governor-General under Section 64 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, as superseded by Section 9 of Republic Act
(RA) No. 2874 (Public Land Act of 1919), and as in turn further superseded by Section 6 of CA No. 141 (Public Land Act of
1936), which is the existing specific provision of law governing the classification of lands of the public domain into alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain. This delegated power is a discretionary power, to be exercised based on the sound
discretion of the President.
Under Section 64 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, the classification of lands of the public domain into alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain could only be made by the Governor-General. While Section 1827 of the Revised
Administrative Code of 1917 gave to the Department Head the power to classify public forest lands as public agricultural lands,
the very same law in its Section 64 expressly reserved to the Governor-General the power to declare for "public sale x x x
any of the public domain of the Philippines." Section 64 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 provides:
Section 64. Particular powers and duties of Governor-General of the Philippines. – In addition to his general supervisory
authority, the Governor-General of the Philippines shall have such specific powers and duties as are expressly conferred or
imposed on him by law and also, in particular, the powers and duties set forth in this chapter.
Among such special powers and duties shall be:
(a) x x x
xxxx
(d) To reserve from settlement or public sale and for specific public uses any of the public domain of the (Philippine
Islands) Philippines the use of which is not otherwise directed by law, the same thereafter remaining subject to the
specific public uses indicated in the executive order by which such reservation is made, until otherwise provided by
law or executive order.
(e) To reserve from sale or other disposition and for specific public uses or service, any land belonging to the private domain
of the Government of the (Philippine Islands) Philippines, the use of which is not otherwise directed by law; and thereafter
such land shall not be subject to sale or other disposition and shall be used for the specific purposes directed by such executive
order until otherwise provided by law.
x x x x (Emphasis supplied)
Likewise, under Section 9 of RA No. 2874, the classification of lands of public domain into alienable and disposable lands
could only be made by the Governor-General, thus:
Section 9. For the purposes of their government and disposition, the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition
shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows:
(a) Agricultural
(b) Commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes.
(c) Educational, charitable, and other similar purposes.
(d) Reservations for town sites, and for public and quasi-public uses.
The Governor-General, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time
to time make the classification provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer
lands from one class to another. (Emphasis supplied)
Similarly, under Section 6 of CA No. 141, the existing law on the matter, only the President can classify lands of the public
domain into alienable or disposable lands, thus:
Section 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time
classify the lands of the public domain into —
(a) Alienable or disposable,
(b) Timber, and
(c) Mineral lands,
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their administration
and disposition. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, under all laws during the American regime, from the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 up to and including CA No.
141, only the Governor-General or President could classify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands.
No other government official was empowered by statutory law during the American regime. Under the 1935, 22 197323 and
198724 Philippine Constitutions, the power to declare or classify lands of the public domain as alienable and disposable lands
belonged to Congress. This legislative power is still delegated to the President under Section 6 of CA No. 141 since this
Section 6 was never repealed by Congress despite successive amendments to CA No. 141 after the adoption of the 1935,
1973 and the 1987 Philippine Constitutions.25
Under Section 13 of PD No. 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary has been delegated by law the discretionary power to classify as
alienable and disposable forest lands of the public domain no longer needed for forest reserves. Section 13 of the Revised
Forestry Code of the Philippines, which was enacted on 19 May 1975, provides:
Section 13. System of Land Classification.– The Department Head shall study, devise, determine and prescribe the criteria,
guidelines and methods for the proper and accurate classification and survey of all lands of the public domain into agricultural,
industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing lands, and into such other classes as
now or may hereafter be provided by law, rules and regulations.
In the meantime, the Department Head shall simplify through inter-bureau action the present system of determining which of
the unclassified lands of the public domain are needed for forest purposes and declare them as permanent forest to form part
of the forest reserves. He shall declare those classified and determined not to be needed for forest purposes as
alienable and disposable lands, the administrative jurisdiction and management of which shall be transferred to the Bureau
of Lands: Provided, That mangrove and other swamps not needed for shore protection and suitable for fishpond purposes
shall be released to, and be placed under the administrative jurisdiction and management of, the Bureau of Fisheries and
Aquatic Resources. Those still to be classified under the present system shall continue to remain as part of the public forest.
(Emphasis supplied)
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states: "x x x. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to
agricultural lands. x x x." Thus, the unclassified lands of the public domain, not needed for forest reserve purposes, must first
be declared agricultural lands of the public domain before the DENR Secretary can declare them alienable and disposable.
Under the foregoing Section 13 of PD No. 705, the DENR Secretary has no discretionary power to classify unclassified lands
of the public domain, not needed for forest reserve purposes, into agricultural lands. However, the DENR Secretary can invoke
his power under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 to classify forest lands into agricultural lands. Once
so declared as agricultural lands of the public domain, the DENR Secretary can then invoke his delegated power under Section
13 of PD No. 705 to declare such agricultural lands as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.
This Court has recognized in numerous cases the authority of the DENR Secretary to classify agricultural lands of the public
domain as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. 26 As we declared in Republic of the Philippines v. Heirs of
Fabio,27 "the DENR Secretary is the only other public official empowered by law to approve a land classification and declare
such land as alienable and disposable."
Consequently, as the President's and the DENR Secretary's discretionary power to classify land as alienable and disposable
is merely delegated to them under CA No. 141 and PD No. 705, respectively, they may not redelegate the same to another
office or officer. What has once been delegated by Congress can no longer be further delegated or redelegated by the original
delegate to another, as expressed in the Latin maxim — Delegata potestas non potest delegari.28 Thus, in Aquino-Sarmiento
v. Morato,29 this Court ruled:
The power to classify motion pictures into categories such as "General Patronage" or "For Adults Only" is vested with the
respondent Board itself and not with the Chairman thereof (Sec. 3 [e], PD 1986). As Chief Executive Officer, respondent
Morato's function as Chairman of the Board calls for the implementation and execution, not modification or reversal, of the
decisions or orders of the latter (Sec. 5 [a], Ibid.). The power of classification having been reposed by law exclusively
with the respondent Board, it has no choice but to exercise the same as mandated by law, i.e., as a collegial body,
and not transfer it elsewhere or discharge said power through the intervening mind of another. Delegata potestas
non potest delegari —a delegated power cannot be delegated. And since the act of classification involves an exercise
of the Board's discretionary power with more reason the Board cannot, by way of the assailed resolution, delegate
said power for it is an established rule in administrative law that discretionary authority cannot be a subject of
delegation. (Emphasis supplied)
Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the power to classify agricultural lands of the public domain into alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain is exercised "by law" or through legislative enactment. In accordance with Section 6 of
CA No. 141, this power is delegated to the President who may, based on his sound discretion, classify agricultural lands as
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. This delegated power to so classify public agricultural lands may no
longer be redelegated by the President – what has once been delegated may no longer be delegated to another. Likewise,
the same discretionary power has been delegated "by law" to the DENR Secretary who, of course, cannot redelegate the
same to his subordinates.
As it is only the President or the DENR Secretary who may classify as alienable and disposable the lands of the public domain,
an applicant for land registration must prove that the land sought to be registered has been declared by the President or DENR
Secretary as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. To establish such character, jurisprudence has been clear
on what an applicant must submit to clearly establish that the land forms part of the alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain.
In Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,30 this Court has held that an applicant must present a copy of the
original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records.
Additionally, a certificate of land classification status issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office
(CENRO) or the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the DENR and approved by the DENR
Secretary must also be presented to prove that the land subject of the application for registration is alienable and disposable)
and that it falls within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. 31 In Republic of the
Philippines v. Roche,32 we clearly stated:
[T]he applicant bears the burden of proving the status of the land. In this connection, the Court has held that he must present
a certificate of land classification status issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) or the
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the DENR. He must also prove that the DENR Secretary
had approved the land classification and released the land as alienable and disposable, and that it is within the
approved area per verification through survey by the CENRO or PENRO. Further, the applicant must present a copy of
the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as true copy by the legal custodian of the official
records. These facts must be established by the applicant to prove that the land is alienable and disposable.33 (Emphasis
supplied)
To repeat, there are two (2) documents which must be presented: first, a copy of the original classification approved by the
Secretary of the DENR and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records, and second, a certificate of
land classification status issued by the CENRO or the PENRO based on the land classification approved by the DENR
Secretary. The requirement set by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc. that both these documents
be based on the land classification approved by the DENR Secretary is not a mere superfluity. This requirement stems from
the fact that the alienable and disposable classification of agricultural land may be made by the President or DENR Secretary.
And while the DENR Secretary may perform this act in the regular course of business, this does not extend to the CENRO or
PENRO – the DENR Secretary may no longer delegate the power to issue such certification as the power to classify lands of
the public domain as alienable and disposable lands is in itself a delegated power under CA No. 141 and PD No. 705.
Moreover, we have repeatedly stated that a CENRO or PENRO certification is not enough to prove the alienable and
disposable nature of the property sought to be registered because the only way to prove the classification of the land is
through the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary or the President himself. This Court has clearly held:
Further, it is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant for land
registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the
public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the
approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition, the applicant for land registration must
present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian
of the official records. These facts must be established to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. Respondent failed
to do so because the certifications presented by respondent do not, by themselves, prove that the land is alienable and
disposable.34(Emphasis supplied)
A CENRO or PENRO certification is insufficient to prove the alienable and disposable nature of the land sought to be registered
it is the original classification by the DENR Secretary or the President which is essential to prove that the land is indeed
alienable and disposable. This has been consistently upheld by this Court in subsequent land registration cases. Recently,
in Republic of the Philippines v. Nicolas,35which cited Republic of the Philippines v. Lualhati,36 the Court rejected the attempt
of the applicant to prove the alienable and disposable character of the land through PENRO or CENRO certifications. The
Court held:
[N]one of the documents submitted by respondent to the trial court indicated that the subject property was agricultural or part
of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. At most, the CENRO Report and Certification stated that the land
was not covered by any kind of public land application. This was far from an adequate proof of the classification of the land.
In fact, in Republic v. Lualhati, the Court rejected an attempt to prove the alienability of public land using similar evidence:
Here, respondent failed to establish, by the required evidence, that the land sought to be registered has been classified as
alienable or disposable land of the public domain. The records of this case merely bear certifications from the DENR-CENRO,
Region IV, Antipolo City, stating that no public land application or land patent covering the subject lots is pending nor are the
lots embraced by any administrative title. Said CENRO certifications, however, do not even make any pronouncement as to
the alienable character of the lands in question for they merely recognize the absence of any pending land patent application,
administrative title, or government project being conducted thereon. But even granting that they expressly declare that
the subject lands form part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, these certifications remain
insufficient for purposes of granting respondent's application for registration. As constantly held by this Court, it is
not enough for the CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant for land registration must
prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as
alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area
per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. Unfortunately for respondent, the evidence submitted clearly
falls short of the requirements for original registration in order to show the alienable character of the lands subject herein.
(Emphasis supplied)
In this case, Dumo failed to submit any of the documents required to prove that the land she seeks to register is alienable and
disposable land of the public domain.
Response to the Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Justice Caguioa
The Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Justice Caguioa suggests that certifications of land classification status issued by
the CENRO and PENRO should be deemed sufficient to prove the alienable and disposable character of the property if these
certifications bear references to the land classification maps and the original classification issued and signed by the DENR
Secretary. This suggestion clearly undermines the requirements set by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N.
Properties, Inc.37where the Court expressly stated that it is not enough for the CENRO or PENRO to certify that the land
sought to be registered is alienable and disposable. What is required from the applicant in a land registration proceeding is to
prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as alienable
and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area per verification
through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. Quite clearly, the Court definitively stated that to prove that the land is alienable
and disposable, the applicant must present a certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary
or the proclamation made by the President. Only the certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary or the President will prove to the courts that indeed, the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable.
That the certifications of the CENRO or PENRO contain references to the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary is not enough to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. Mere references made in the certifications to the
classification of land as approved by the DENR Secretary are simply insufficient. The trial court must be given a certified true
copy of the classification made by the DENR Secretary or the President because it is the only acceptable and sufficient proof
of the alienable and disposable character of the land. In Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,38the Court
required the submission of the certified true copy of the land classification approved by the DENR Secretary precisely
because mere references made by the CENRO and PENRO to the land classification were deemed insufficient. For
instance, CENRO and PENRO may inadvertently make references to an original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary which does not cover the land sought to be registered, or worse, to a non-existent original classification. This is the
very evil that the ruling in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.39 seeks to avoid. Justice Caguioa's suggestion
resurrects the very evil banished by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc. 40
Decisions of this Court form part of the legal system of the Philippines 41 and thus the CENRO, PENRO, and the DENR
must follow the decision made by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc.42The ruling of this Court
requiring the submission of the certified true copy of the original classification as approved by the DENR Secretary
cannot be overturned or amended by the CENRO or PENRO or even by the DENR. The DENR, CENRO, and PENRO
must follow the law as laid down by this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.43 It is not this Court that
should amend its ruling in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N Properties, Inc.44 to conform to the administrative rules of the
DENR, CENRO, or PENRO reversing the final ruling of this Court in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.45 The
authority given by the Administrative Order of the DENR to the CENRO and PENRO to issue certifications of land classification
status does not and cannot reverse the clear requirement laid down by the Court for applicants of land registration to submit
the certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary to prove the alienable and disposable
character of the land.
To repeat, in a judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529, the applicant has the burden of
proving that the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable land of the public domain. In turn, the best evidence
of the alienable and disposable nature of the land is the certified true copy of the original proclamation made by the President
or DENR Secretary, in accordance with CA No. 141 or PD No. 705. Submitting a mere certification by the CENRO or PENRO
with references to the original classification made by the President or the DENR Secretary is sorely inadequate since it has
no probative value as a public document to prove the alienable and disposable character of the public land.
Under Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, public documents are:
(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public
officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country;
(b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments; and
(c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by law to be entered therein.
In turn, for the record of public documents referred to in paragraph (a) of Section 19, Rule 132 to be admissible, it must be
evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by
his deputy.46Moreover, to be prima facie evidence of the facts stated in public documents, such documents must
consist of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer. 47 This requirement can be
satisfied only if a certified true copy of the proclamation by the President or the order of the DENR Secretary classifying the
land as alienable and disposable is presented to the trial court.
Quite clearly, certifications by the CENRO or PENRO do not comply with the conditions for admissibility of evidence. The
CENRO or the PENRO is not the official repository or legal custodian of the issuances of the President or DENR Secretary
classifying lands as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Thus, the certifications made by the CENRO or
PENRO cannot prove the alienable and disposable character of the land, which can only be ascertained through the
classification made by the President or DENR Secretary, the only public officials who may classify lands into alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain. The Concurring and Dissenting Opinion alleges that the CENRO serves as a repository
of the land classification maps, and as such, authorizes the CENRO to issue certified true copies of the approved land
classification maps. While the CENRO may issue certified true copies of these land classification maps, these maps are not
the required certified true copy of the original proclamation or order classifying the public land as alienable and disposable.
Moreover, these maps are not in the possession of the officials who have custody of the original proclamation or order
classifying the public land as alienable and disposable. Again, the best evidence of the alienable and disposable nature of the
land is the certified true copy of the classification made by the President or the DENR Secretary – not the certified true copy
issued by the CENRO of its land classification maps.
It is also worthy to note that in Republic of the Philippines v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,48 we have already discussed the value of
certifications issued by the CENRO or PENRO in land registration cases:
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not fall within the class of public documents
contemplated in the first sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. The certifications do not reflect "entries in public records made
in the performance of a duty by a public officer", such as entries made by the Civil Registrar in the books of registries, or by a
ship captain in the ship's logbook. The certifications are not the certified copies or authenticated reproductions of
original official records in the legal custody of a government office. The certifications are not even records of public
documents. The certifications are conclusions unsupported by adequate proof, and thus have no probative value.
Certainly, the certifications cannot be considered prima facieevidence of the facts stated therein.
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not prove that Lot 10705-B falls within the
alienable and disposable land as proclaimed by the DENR Secretary. Such government certifications do not, by their mere
issuance, prove the facts stated therein. Such government certifications may fall under the class of documents contemplated
in the second sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. As such, the certifications are prima facie evidence of their due execution
and date of issuance but they do not constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.49 (Emphasis supplied)
The certification issued by the CENRO or PENRO, by itself, does not prove the alienable and disposable character of the land
sought to be registered. The certification should always be accompanied by the original or certified true copy of the original
classification approved by the DENR Secretary or the President.
Substantial Compliance with the Requirements of Section 14(1)
Dumo argues that the Certification from the Regional Surveys Division, which was formally offered as Exhibit "A" and not
opposed by the Republic, should be considered substantial compliance with the requirement that the applicant must submit
the certified true copy of the original classification of the land as approved by the DENR Secretary.
We do not agree.
The fact that the Republic did not oppose the formal offer of evidence of Dumo in the RTC does not have the effect of proving
or impliedly admitting that the land is alienable and disposable. The alienable and disposable character of the land must be
proven by clear and incontrovertible evidence. It may not be impliedly admitted, as Dumo vehemently argues. It was the duty
of Dumo to prove that the land she sought to register is alienable and disposable land of the public domain. This burden would
have been discharged by submitting the required documents – a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian thereof, and a certificate of land classification status issued by
the CENRO or the PENRO based on the approved land classification by the DENR Secretary. Without these, the applicant
simply fails to prove that the land sought to be registered forms part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain
and thus, it may not be susceptible to private ownership. As correctly pointed out by the CA, the land is presumed to belong
to the State as part of the public domain.
Another requirement under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 is to prove that the applicant and her predecessors-in-interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bonafide claim of
ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier.
In this case, the CA found that Dumo and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the land only from 1948,
which is the earliest date of the tax declaration presented by Dumo. This fact is expressly admitted by Dumo. Thus, from this
admission alone, it is clear that she failed to prove her and her predecessors-in-interest's possession and occupation of the
land for the duration required by law — from 12 June 1945 or earlier.
Dumo, however, argues that it does not matter that her possession dates only back to 1948 because this Court has allegedly
stated that even if the possession or occupation started after 12 June 1945, this does not bar the grant of an application for
registration of land.
Again, we do not agree with Dumo.
To determine whether possession or occupation from 12 June 1945 or earlier is material, one has to distinguish if the
application for the registration of land is being made under paragraph 1 or paragraph 2 of Section 14 of PD No. 1529. The
relevant paragraphs provide:
Section 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration
of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.
xxxx
Thus, it is clear that if the applicant is applying for the registration of land under paragraph 1, possession and occupation of
the alienable and disposable land of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership should have commenced from
12 June 1945 or earlier. If, however, the applicant is relying on the second paragraph of Section 14 to register the land, then
it is true that a different set of requirements applies, and possession and occupation from 12 June 1945 or earlier are not
required.
The reliance of Dumo on Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals 50 is misplaced. The pronouncement of the Court in
relation to the phrase "June 12, 1945 or earlier" was that the alienable and disposable classification of the land need not b e
from 12 June 1945 or earlier, and that as long as such land is classified as alienable and disposable when the application is
filed, then the first requirement under the law is fulfilled. The Court held:
Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been
established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). "Since June 12, 1945,"
as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bona fide claim of ownership." Generally speaking, qualifying
words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or
remotely located. Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia.
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner's position. Absent a legislative amendment,
the rule would be, adopting the OSG's view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable
before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by
the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government
from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The
unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not
yet even considered an independent state.
Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as
already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application
is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the
government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective
of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable
and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive
prerogative over the property.51
Thus, it did not state that the possession and occupation from 12 June 1945 or earlier are no longer required. It merely
clarified when the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable to meet the requirements of Section 14(1) of
PD No. 1529. The property sought to be registered must be declared alienable and disposable at the time of the filing of the
application for registration.52 This does not require that the land be declared alienable and disposable from 12 June 1945 or
earlier.
Registration of land under Section 14(2)
Dumo also argues that she has the right to register the land because she and her predecessors-in-interest have already
acquired the land through prescription. She states that she and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession and
occupation of the land for fifty-six (56) years, and thus she has already acquired ownership of the land by prescription.
Again, we disagree.
It is true that under Section 14 of PD No. 1529, one may acquire ownership of the land by prescription. Particularly, paragraph
2 of Section 14 provides that "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of
existing laws" may file an application for registration of title to land. The existing law mentioned in PD No. 1529 is the Civil
Code of the Philippines. In Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the Philippines,53 we applied the civil law concept of prescription
as embodied in the Civil Code to interpret Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529. This Court held:
The second source is Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 itself, at least by implication, as it applies the rules on prescription under
the Civil Code, particularly Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137. Note that there are two kinds of prescription under the
Civil Code – ordinary acquisitive prescription and extraordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1137, is
completed "through uninterrupted adverse possession... for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith."54 (Boldfacing
and underscoring supplied)
Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529 puts into operation the entire regime of prescription under the Civil Code, particularly Article
1113 in relation to Article 1137.55 Article 1113 provides that "[p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial
in character shall not be the object of prescription." Thus, it is clear that the land must be patrimonial before it may be
susceptible of acquisitive prescription. Indeed, Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529 provides that one may acquire ownership
of private lands by prescription.
Land of the public domain is converted into patrimonial property when there is an express declaration by the State that the
public dominion property is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth. 56 Without such
declaration, acquisitive prescription does not start to run, even if such land is alienable and disposable and the applicant is in
possession and occupation thereof. We have held:
Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer intended for
public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Without
such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public dominion,
pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable and disposable
lands are expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national
wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law duly enacted
by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law. 57
Mere classification of agricultural land as alienable and disposable does not make such land patrimonial property of the State
– an express declaration by the State that such land is no longer intended for public use, public service or the development
of national wealth is imperative. This is because even with such classification, the land remains to be part of the lands of the
public domain. In Navy Officers' Village Association, Inc. v. Republic of the Philippines,58 we stated:
Lands of the public domain classified as reservations for public or quasi-public uses are non-alienable and shall not be
subject to disposition, although they are, by the general classification under Section 6 of C.A. No. 141, alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, until declared open for disposition by proclamation of the President.
(Emphasis supplied)
Under CA No. 141, the power given to the President to classify lands as alienable and disposable extends only to lands of
the public domain. Lands of the public domain are public lands intended for public use, or without being for public use, are
intended for some public service or for the development of national wealth. Lands of the public domain, like alienable or
disposable lands of the public domain, are not private lands. Article 420 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:
(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks,
shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;
(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the
development of the national wealth.
Classifying lands as alienable and disposable does not take away from the fact that these lands still belong to the public
domain. These lands belonged to the public domain before they were classified as alienable and disposable and they still
remain to be lands of the public domain after such classification. In fact, these lands are classified in Section 3, Article XII
of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as "[a]lienable lands of the public domain." The alienable and disposable character
of the land merely gives the State the authority to alienate and dispose of such land if it deems that the land is no longer
needed for public use, public service or the development of national wealth.
Alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are those that are to be disposed of to private individuals by sale or
application, because their disposition to private individuals is for the development of the national wealth. Thus, homesteads,
which are granted to individuals from alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, are for the development of
agriculture which would redound to the development of national wealth. However, until the lands are alienated or disposed
of to private individuals, they remain "alienable lands of the public domain," as expressly classified by the 1987
Philippine Constitution.
Lands of the public domain become patrimonial property only when they are no longer intended for public use or public service
or the development of national wealth. Articles 421 and 422 of the Civil Code expressly provide:
Article 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is patrimonial property
Article 422. Property of public dominion, when no longer intended for public use or for public service, shall form part of the
patrimonial property of the State.
In turn, the intention that the property is no longer needed for public use, public service or the development of national wealth
may only be ascertained through an express declaration by the State. We have clearly held:
Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer intended for
public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Without
such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public
dominion, pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable
and disposable lands are expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development
of the national wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law
duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law. 59(Emphasis
supplied)
Without an express declaration that the land is no longer needed for public use, public service or the development of national
wealth, it should be presumed that the lands of the public domain, whether alienable and disposable or not, remain belonging
to the State under the Regalian Doctrine. We have already recognized that the classification of land as alienable and
disposable does not make such property patrimonial. In Dream Village Neighborhood Association, Inc. v. Bases Conversion
Development Authority,60 the Court held:
One question laid before us is whether the area occupied by Dream Village is susceptible of acquisition by prescription.
In Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic, it was pointed out that from the moment R.A. No. 7227 was enacted, the subject
military lands in Metro Manila became alienable and disposable. However, it was also clarified that the said lands did not
thereby become patrimonial, since the BCDA law makes the express reservation that they are to be sold in order to raise
funds for the conversion of the former American bases in Clark and Subic. The Court noted that the purpose of the law can
be tied to either "public service" or "the development of national wealth" under Article 420(2) of the Civil Code, such that the
lands remain property of the public dominion, albeit their status is now alienable and disposable. The Court then explained
that it is only upon their sale to a private person or entity as authorized by the BCDA law that they become private
property and cease to be property of the public dominion:
For as long as the property belongs to the State, although already classified as alienable or disposable, it remains
property of the public dominion if x x x it is "intended for some public service or for the development of the national
wealth."
Thus, under Article 422 of the Civil Code, public domain lands become patrimonial property only if there is a declaration that
these are alienable or disposable, together with an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial
or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth. x x x. (Emphasis supplied)
The alienable and disposable character of public agricultural land does not convert the land to patrimonial property. It merely
gives the State the authority to alienate or dispose the agricultural land, in accordance with law. It is only when (1) there is an
express government manifestation that the land is already patrimonial or no longer intended for public use, public service or
the development of national wealth, or (2) land which has been classified as alienable and disposable land is actually
alienated and disposed of by the State, that such land becomes patrimonial.
In the present case, Dumo not only failed to prove that the land sought to be registered is alienable and disposable, but also
utterly failed to submit any evidence to establish that such land has been converted into patrimonial property by an express
declaration by the State. To repeat, acquisitive prescription only applies to private lands as expressly provided in Article 1113
of the Civil Code. To register land acquired by prescription under PD No. 1529 (in relation to the Civil Code of the Philippines),
the applicant must prove that the land is not merely alienable and disposable, but that it has also been converted into
patrimonial property of the State. Prescription will start to run only from the time the land has become patrimonial. 61 Unless
the alienable and disposable land of the public domain is expressly converted into patrimonial property, there is no way for
acquisitive prescription to set in under Article 1113 of the Civil Code.
However, another mode of prescription specifically governs the acquisitive prescription of alienable and disposable lands
of the public domain. CA No. 141 provides for the modes of disposing alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the
public domain:
Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:
(1) For homestead settlement;

(2) By sale;

(3) By lease; and

(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:

(a) By judicial legalization; or

(b) By administrative legalization (free patent). (Emphasis supplied)


In turn, Section 48 of the same law provides for those who may apply for confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title by
judicial application:
Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any
such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation
of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(Emphasis supplied)
It is clear from the foregoing provisions that for lands of the public domain, one may apply for an administrative grant from the
government, through homestead, sale, lease or free patent, or apply for the confirmation of their title in accordance with the
conditions provided under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141. PD No. 1529 provides for the original registration procedure for the
judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete title. It must also be noted that the wording in Section 48(b) of CA No. 141
is similar to that found in Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529. The similarity in wording has already been explained by this Court
when it recognized that Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 works in relation to Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 in the registration of
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain:
It is clear that Section 48 of the Public Land Act is more descriptive of the nature of the right enjoyed by the possessor than
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, which seems to presume the pre-existence of the right, rather than establishing
the right itself for the first time. It is proper to assert that it is the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073 effective 25
January 1977, that has primarily established the right of a Filipino citizen who has been in "open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945" to perfect or complete his title by applying with the proper court for the
confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title.
Section 48 can be viewed in conjunction with the afore-quoted Section 11 of the Public Land Act, which provides that public
lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and given the
notion that both provisions declare that it is indeed the Public Land Act that primarily establishes the substantive ownership
of the possessor who has been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945. In turn, Section 14(a) of the Property
Registration Decree recognizes the substantive right granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as
provides the corresponding original registration procedure for the judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete
title.62 (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, the applicant for registration of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain claims his right to register the
land under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 and the procedure for registration is found under Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 which
provides that "those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier" may file in the proper court their application for land registration. The basis for
application of judicial confirmation of title over alienable and disposable land of the public domain is not acquisitive prescription
under the Civil Code, but rather, the fulfillment of the requirements under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141.
To summarize the discussion and reiterate the guidelines set by this Court in Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the
Philippines,63 we state:
1. If the applicant or his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the land sought to be registered under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier, the
applicant must prove that the land has been classified by the Executive department as alienable and disposable land of the
public domain. This is covered by Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529 in relation to Section 48(b) of CA No. 141.
While it is not necessary that the land has been alienable and disposable since 12 June 1945 or earlier, the applicant must
prove that the President or DENR Secretary has classified the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain at
any time before the application was made.
2. If the occupation and possession of the land commenced at any time after 12 June 1945, the applicant may still register the
land if he or his predecessors-in-interest have complied with the requirements of acquisitive prescription under the Civil
Code afterthe land has been expressly declared as patrimonial property or no longer needed for public use, public service
or the development of national wealth. This is governed by Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529 in relation to the Civil Code.
Under the Civil Code, acquisitive prescription, whether ordinary or extraordinary, applies only to private property. Thus, the
applicant must prove when the land sought to be registered was expressly declared as patrimonial property because it is
only from this time that the period for acquisitive prescription would start to run.
Based on the foregoing, we find that the CA committed no reversible error in finding that Dumo had no registerable title over
the land she seeks to register. She failed to prove her right under either Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529. She
failed to prove that the land she seeks to register was alienable and disposable land of the public domain. She failed to prove
her and her predecessors-in-interest's possession and occupation since 12 June 1945 or earlier. Thus, she has no right under
Section 14(1) of PD No. 1529. While she argues that she and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession and
occupation of the land for 56 years, she failed to prove that the land has been expressly declared as patrimonial property.
Therefore, she also has no right under Section 14(2) of PD No. 1529.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-12958 May 30, 1960


FAUSTINO IGNACIO, applicant-appellant,
vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and LAUREANO VALERIANO, oppositors-appellees.
Acting Assistant Solicitor General Pacifico P. de Castro and Solicitor Crispin V. Bautista for appellee Director of Lands.
Benjamin H. Aquino for appellee Laureano Veleriano.
MONTEMAYOR, J.:
Faustino Ignacio is appealing the decision of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, dismissing his application for the registration
of a parcel of land.
On January 25, 1950, Ignacio filed an application for the registration of a parcel of land (mangrove), situated in barrio Gasac,
Navotas, Rizal, with an area of 37,877 square meters. Later, he amended his application by alleging among others that he
owned the parcel applied for by right of accretion. To the application, the Director of Lands, Laureano Valeriano and Domingo
Gutierrez filed oppositions. Gutierrez later withdrew his opposition. The Director of Lands claimed the parcel applied for as a
portion of the public domain, for the reason that neither the applicant nor his predecessor-in-interest possessed sufficient title
thereto, not having acquired it either by composition title from the Spanish government or by possessory information title under
the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, and that he had not possessed the same openly, continuously and adversely under
a bona fide claim of ownership since July 26, 1894. In his turn, Valeriano alleged he was holding the land by virtue of a permit
granted him by the Bureau of Fisheries, issued on January 13, 1947, and approved by the President.
It is not disputed that the land applied for adjoins a parcel owned by the applicant which he had acquired from the Government
by virtue of a free patent title in 1936. It has also been established that the parcel in question was formed by accretion and
alluvial deposits caused by the action of the Manila Bay which boarders it on the southwest. Applicant Ignacio claims that he
had occupied the land since 1935, planting it with api-api trees, and that his possession thereof had been continuous, adverse
and public for a period of twenty years until said possession was distributed by oppositor Valeriano.
On the other hand, the Director of Lands sought to prove that the parcel is foreshore land, covered by the ebb and flow of the
tide and, therefore, formed part of the public domain.
After hearing, the trial court dismissed the application, holding that the parcel formed part of the public domain. In his appeal,
Ignacio assigns the following errors:
I. The lower court erred in holding that the land in question, altho an accretion to the land of the applicant-appellant,
does not belong to him but forms part of the public domain.
II. Granting that the land in question forms part of the public domain, the lower court nevertheless erred in not declaring
the same to be the necessary for any public use or purpose and in not ordering in the present registration proceedings.
III. The lower court erred in not holding that the land in question now belongs to the applicant-appellant by virtue of
acquisitive prescription, the said land having ceased to be of the public domain and became the private or patrimonial
property of the State.
IV. The lower court erred in not holding that the oppositor Director of Lands is now in estoppel from claiming the land
in question as a land of the public domain.
Appellant contends that the parcel belongs to him by the law of accretion, having been formed by gradual deposit by action
of the Manila Bay, and he cites Article 457 of the New Civil Code (Article 366, Old Civil Code), which provides that:
To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects
of the current of the waters.
The article cited is clearly inapplicable because it refers to accretion or deposits on the banks of rivers, while the accretion in
the present case was caused by action of the Manila Bay.
Appellant next contends that Articles 1, 4 and 5 of the Law of Waters are not applicable because they refer to accretions
formed by the sea, and that Manila Bay cannot be considered as a sea. We find said contention untenable. A bay is a part of
the sea, being a mere indentation of the same:
Bay. — An opening into the land where the water is shut in on all sides except at the entrance; an inlet of the sea; an
arm of the sea, distinct from a river, a bending or curbing of the shore of the sea or of a lake. 7 C.J. 1013-1014 (Cited
in Francisco, Philippine Law of Waters and Water Rights p. 6)
Moreover, this Tribunal has some cases applied the Law of Waters on Lands bordering Manila Bay. (See the cases of Ker &
Co. vs. Cauden, 6 Phil., 732, involving a parcel of land bounded on the sides by Manila Bay, where it was held that such land
formed by the action of the sea is property of the State; Francisco vs. Government of the P.I., 28 Phil., 505, involving a land
claimed by a private person and subject to the ebb and flow of the tides of the Manila Bay).
Then the applicant argues that granting that the land in question formed part of the public domain, having been gained from
the sea, the trial court should have declared the same no longer necessary for any public use or purpose, and therefore,
became disposable and available for private ownership. Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866 reads thus:
ART. 4. Lands added to the shores by accretions and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the sea, form part of
the public domain. When they are no longer washed by the waters of the sea and are not necessary for purposes of
public utility, or for the establishment of special industries, or for the coastguard service, the Government shall declare
them to be the property of the owners of the estates adjacent thereto and as increment thereof.
Interpreting Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866, in the case of Natividad vs. Director of Lands, (CA) 37 Off. Gaz., 2905, it
was there held that:
Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866 provides that when a portion of the shore is no longer washed by the waters of
the sea and is not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the establishment of special industries, or for
coastguard service, the government shall declare it to be the property of the owners of the estates adjacent thereto
and as an increment thereof. We believe that only the executive and possibly the legislative departments have the
authority and the power to make the declaration that any land so gained by the sea, is not necessary for purposes of
public utility, or for the establishment of special industries, on for coast-guard service. If no such declaration has been
made by said departments, the lot in question forms part of the public domain. (Natividad vs. Director of Lands, supra.)
The reason for this pronouncement, according to this Tribunal in the case of Vicente Joven y Monteverde vs. Director of
Lands, 93 Phil., 134, (cited in Velayo's Digest, VI. I, p. 52).
. . . is undoubtedly that the courts are neither primarily called upon, nor indeed in a position to determine whether any
public land are to be used for the purposes specified in Article 4 of the Law of Waters.
Consequently, until a formal declaration on the part of the Government, through the executive department or the Legislature,
to the effect that the land in question is no longer needed for coast guard service, for public use or for special industries, they
continue to be part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership.
Appellant next contends that he had acquired the parcel in question through acquisitive prescription, having possessed the
same for over ten years. In answer, suffice it to say that land of the public domain is not subject to ordinary prescription. In the
case of Insular Government vs. Aldecoa & Co., 19 Phil., 505 this Court said:
The occupation or material possession of any land formed upon the shore by accretion, without previous permission
from the proper authorities, although the occupant may have held the same as owner for seventeen years and
constructed a wharf on the land, is illegal and is a mere detainer, inasmuch as such land is outside of the sphere of
commerce; it pertains to the national domain; it is intended for public uses and for the benefit of those who live nearby.
We deem it unnecessary to discuss the other points raised in the appeal.
In view of the foregoing, the appealed decision is hereby affirmed, with costs.
G.R. No. 155012 April 14, 2004

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
CARMENCITA M. ALCONABA; LUISITO B. MELENDEZ; CONCEPCION M. LAZARO; MAURICIO B. MELENDEZ, JR.; and
MYRNA M. GALVEZ, represented by CONCEPCION M. LAZARO, respondents.

DECISION

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

To serve the ends of social justice, which is the heart of the 1987 Constitution, the State promotes an equitable distribution of
alienable agricultural lands of the public domain to deserving citizens, especially the underprivileged. A land registration court
must, therefore, exercise extreme caution and prudent care in deciding an application for judicial confirmation of an imperfect
title over such lands so that the public domain may not be raided by unscrupulous land speculators.1

At bar is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to set aside the decision2 of the Court of
Appeals of 26 August 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No. 64323, which affirmed the decision3 of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Cabuyao, Laguna,4 of 1 September 1998 in MTC LRC Case No. 06 ordering the registration in favor of the respondents of
parcels of land situated at Barangay Sala, Cabuyao, Laguna, designated as Lot 2111-A, 2111-B, 2111-C, 2111-D, and 2111-
E.

The pertinent facts are as follows:

On 14 November 1996, the respondents filed before the MTC of Cabuyao, Laguna, an application5 for registration of title over
five parcels of land, each with an area of 5,220 square meters, situated in Barangay Sala, Cabuyao, Laguna. In their
application, they stated, among other things, that they are the sole heirs of Spouses Melencio E. Melendez, Sr., and Luz
Batallones Melendez, original owners of Lot 2111 of CAD-455, with an area of 2.6 hectares. Their parents had been in
possession of the said property since 1949, more or less. After the death of their mother and father on 19 February 1967 and
5 May 1976, respectively, they partitioned the property among themselves and subdivided it into five lots, namely, Lots 2111-
A, 2111-B, 2111-C, 2111-D, and 2111-E. Since then they have been in actual possession of the property in the concept of
owners and in a public and peaceful manner.

Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application on the
following grounds: (a) neither the respondents nor their predecessors-in-interest possess sufficient title to the property or have
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question since 1945 or prior
thereto; (b) the muniments of title, i.e., tax declaration and tax receipts, presented by the respondents do not constitute
competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide right to registration of the land under Section 48(b), Commonwealth Act No.
141, otherwise known as The Public Land Act,6 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073; (c) the claim of ownership in
fee simple on the basis of a Spanish title or grant can no longer be availed of by the respondents; and (d) the land is part of
the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines.7

At the trial on the merits, respondents Mauricio B. Melendez, Jr., and Carmencita M. Alconaba testified to establish their claim
over the subject lots. Mauricio claimed that he and his co-respondents acquired by inheritance from their deceased parents
Lot 2111 of Cad-455, which is an agricultural land. Their parents had been in possession of the said land since 1949 and had
been religiously paying the taxes due thereon. When their parents died, he and his siblings immediately took possession of
said property in the concept of an owner, paid taxes, and continued to plant rice thereon. On 24 June 1996, he and his co-
heirs executed an Extrajudicial Settlement with Partition over the said lot and subdivided it into five lots.8

For her part, Carmencita testified that Lot 2111 of Cad-455 had been in the possession of their parents since 1940 and that
after the death of their parents she and her siblings immediately took possession of it and religiously paid the taxes thereon.
The land is being cultivated by Julia Garal, their tenant. She admitted that no improvements have been introduced by their
family on the lot. On cross examination, she admitted that plans to sell the property were at hand.9

In its decision of 1 September 1998, the trial court found that the respondents have sufficiently established their family's actual,
continuous, adverse, and notorious possession of the subject property for more than fifty-seven years, commencing from the
possession of their predecessors-in-interest in 1940, and that such possession was in an adverse and public manner.
Likewise, it found that the land in question is alienable and disposable and is not within any reservation or forest zone. Thus,
it confirmed the title of the respondents over the said lots; directed the Register of Deeds of Laguna, Calamba Branch, to
cause the registration of said parcels of land in the name of the respondents upon payment of fees; and ordered the issuance
of a Decree of Registration once the decision becomes final and executory.

Upon appeal10 by the petitioner, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. Hence, this petition.

The OSG argues that both the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in (a) giving weight to the self-serving testimonies of
Mauricio and Carmencita that the respondents and their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, and adverse
possession of the lots in question in the concept of an owner for at least thirty years; and (b) holding that respondents' tax
declaration is sufficient proof that they and their parents have been in possession of the property for at least thirty years,
despite the fact that the said tax declaration was only for the year 1994 and the property tax receipts presented by the
respondents were all of recent dates, i.e., 1990, 1991,1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997. Finally, the OSG states that even granting
for the sake of argument that the respondents have been in possession of the property since 1940, their adverse possession
should be reckoned only from 28 September 1981 when the property was declared to be within alienable and disposable
zone.
The petition is meritorious.

While the rule is well settled that the findings of fact of appellate courts are conclusive upon us,11 there are recognized
exceptions thereto, among which is where the findings of fact are not supported by the record or are so glaringly erroneous
as to constitute a serious abuse of discretion.12 This exception is present in this case.

Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942,13 reads as follows:

Section 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any
such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
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 of
ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.

This provision was further amended by P.D. No. 107314 by substituting the phrase "for at least thirty years" with "since June
12, 1945"; thus:

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

The date "12 June 1945" was reiterated in Section 14(1) of P. D. No. 1529,15 otherwise known as the Property Registration
Decree, provides:

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

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

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

There is no doubt that the subject property is part of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. But
it is not clear as to when it was classified as alienable and disposable by proper authorities.

We do not find merit in OSG's claim that the subject property was classified as within the alienable and disposable zone only
on 28 September 1981, and hence, possession by respondents' predecessors-in-interest before that date cannot be
considered. In support of this claim, the OSG relies on a statement appearing in the survey plan marked as Exhibit "Q," which
reads:

This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 23-A L.C. Map No. 004 certified on September 28,
1981 and is outside any civil or military reservation.

As postulated by the respondents, the phrase "certified on September 28, 1981" could not have meant that Lot 2111 became
alienable and disposable only on 28 September 1981. That date obviously refers to the time that Project No. 23-A L.C. Map
No. 004 was certified.

Neither can we give weight to the contention of the respondents that since Project No. 23-A L.C. Map No. 004 of which Lot
2111 forms part was approved on 31 December 1925 by the then Bureau of Forestry, Lot 2111 must have been disposable
and alienable as early as of that date. There is nothing to support their claim that 31 December 1925 is the date of the approval
of such project or the date of the classification of the subject property as disposable and alienable public land. It is settled that
a person who seeks registration of title to a piece of land must prove his claim by clear and convincing evidence.16 The
respondents have failed to discharge the burden of showing that Lot 2111 was classified as part of the disposable and
alienable agricultural lands of public domain as of 12 June 1945 or earlier.

Likewise, the respondent have miserably failed to prove that they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject property under a bona fide claim of ownership
either since time immemorial or since 12 June 1945.1awphil.net

The trial court and the Court of Appeals based the finding of fifty-seven years of possession by the respondents and their
predecessors-in-interest on the testimonies of Carmencita and Mauricio. The two were aged 62 and 60,respectively, when
they testified in 1997. Thus, they must have been born in 1935 and 1937, respectively. If the asserted possession lasted for
a period of fifty-seven years at the time they testified, the same must have commenced sometime in 1940, or at the time that
Carmencita was just 5 years old and Mauricio, about 3 years old. It is quite impossible that they could fully grasp, before
coming to the age of reason, the concept of possession of such a big tract of land and testify thereon nearly six decades later.
In short their testimonies could not be relied upon to prove the adverse possession of the subject parcel of land by their
parents.

In any case, respondents' bare assertions of possession and occupation by their predecessors-in-interest since 1940 (as
testified to by Carmencita19) or since 1949 (as testified to by Mauricio20 and declared in respondents' application for
registration) are hardly "the well-nigh incontrovertible" evidence required in cases of this nature. Proof of specific acts of
ownership must be presented to substantiate their claim. They cannot just offer general statements which are mere
conclusions of law than factual evidence of possession.21 Even granting that the possession by the respondents' parents
commenced in 1940, still they failed to prove that their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership.

The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear intention
of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it includes
constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing effect
of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and notorious, the word occupation
serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a mere fiction.22 Actual possession of
a land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his
own property.23

No evidence on record shows that Spouses Mauricio and Luz Melendez cultivated, had control over, or used the whole or
even a greater portion of the tract of land for agricultural purposes. Moreover, only one tenant worked on the land, and there
is no evidence as to how big was the portion occupied by the tenant. Moreover, there is no competent proof that the Melendez
Spouses declared the land in their name for taxation purposes or paid its taxes. While tax receipts and declarations are not
incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute, at the least, proof that the holder has a claim of title over the
property.25 The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes not only manifests one's sincere and honest
desire to obtain title to the property, but also announces an adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties
with an intention to contribute needed revenues to the government. Such an act strengthens one's bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership.26

The respondents claim that they immediately took possession of the subject land upon the death of their parents, Mauricio
and Luz Melendez, who died on 5 May 1976 and 19 February 1967, respectively, and that they had been religiously paying
the taxes thereon. If that were so, why had they not themselves introduced any improvement on the land?27 We even find
unsubstantiated the claim of Carmencita that they had a tenant on the land. They did not present any tenant. In any case, we
wonder how one tenant could have cultivated such a vast tract of land with an area of 2.6 hectares.

The records also reveal that the subject property was declared for taxation purposes by the respondents only for the year
1994. They paid the taxes thereon only for the years 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997. Being of recent dates, we
cannot trust the assertion of the respondents that they immediately took possession of the property in the concept of an owner
after the death of their parents. While belated declaration of a property for taxation purposes does not necessarily negate the
fact of possession,28 tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are, nevertheless, good indicia of possession in the
concept of an owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or, at least,
constructive possession.29

Likewise, it is noteworthy that none of the respondents reside on the subject property. Carmencita even admitted that plans
of selling the property were at hand. Thus, it would be rational to conclude that this move for registration is just but a
camouflage by smart land speculators who saw in the land applied for expected profits from its existence.

In a nutshell, the respondents did not have in their favor an imperfect title over the land subject of the application at the time
MTC LRC Case No. 06 was filed with the trial court. They failed to prove that (1) Lot 2111 was classified as part of the
disposable and alienable agricultural lands of public domain as of 12 June 1945 or earlier; (2) they and their predecessors-in-
interest have been in continuous, exclusive, and adverse possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owners from
12 June 1945 or earlier.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, and the decisions of the Court of Appeals of 26 August 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No.
64323 and of the Municipal Trial Court of Cabuyao, Laguna, of 1 September 1998 in MTC LRC Case No. 06 are hereby
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The land registration case MTC LRC Case No. 06 is hereby ordered DISMISSED.
G.R. No. L-52518 August 13, 1991

INTERNATIONAL HARDWOOD AND VENEER COMPANY OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner-appellee,


vs.
UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES and JOSE C. CAMPOS, JR., respondents-appellants.

Tañada, Vivo & Tan for petitioner-appellee.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

From an adverse decision of the then Court of First Instance (now RTC) Laguna dated 3 June 1968 in a special civil action
for declaratory relief with injunction, Civil Case No. SC-650 entitled International Hardwood and Veneer Company of the
Philippines vs. University of the Philippines and Jose Campos, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby renders judgment in favor of petitioner and against the respondents:

(a) Declaring that Rep. Act No. 3990 does not empower the University of the Philippines, in lieu of the Bureau of
Internal Revenue and Bureau of Forestry, to scale, measure and seal the timber cut by the petitioner within the tract of land
referred to in said Act, and collect the corresponding forest charges prescribed by the National Internal Revenue Code therefor;
and

(b) Dismissing the respondents' counterclaim.

respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals. The appeal was docketed as C.A.-G.R. No. 49409-R.

After the parties filed their respective Briefs in 1971, the Court of Appeals (Sixth Division) promulgated on 28 December 1979
a resolution elevating the case to this Court as the "entire case hinges on the interpretation and construction of Republic Act
3990 as it applies to a set of facts which are not disputed by the parties and therefore, is a legal question.1

Civil Case No. SC-650 was filed by petitioner Hardwood before the trial court on 28 June 1966.2 Petitioner seeks therein a
declaration that respondent University of the Philippines (hereafter referred to as UP) does not have the right to supervise and
regulate the cutting and removal of timber and other forest products, to scale, measure and seal the timber cut and/or to collect
forest charges, reforestation fees and royalties from petitioner and/or impose any other duty or burden upon the latter in that
portion of its concession, covered by License Agreement No. 27-A issued on 1 February 1963, ceded in full ownership to the
UP by Republic Act No. 3990; asks that respondents be enjoined from committing the acts complained of and prays that
respondents be required to pay petitioner the sum of P100,000.00 as damages and costs of the suit.

Its motion to dismiss on the ground of improper venue having been unfavorably acted upon, and pursuant to the order of the
trial court of 26 August 1967, respondents filed their Answer on 13 September 1987,3 wherein they interpose the affirmative
defenses of, among others, improper venue and that the petition states no cause of action; they further set up a counterclaim
for the payment of it by petitioner of forest charges on the forest products cut and felled within the area ceded to UP under
R.A. No. 3990 from 18 June 1964, with surcharges and interests as provided in the National Internal Revenue Code.

Petitioner filed a Reply and Answer to Counterclaim.4

On 18 October 1967, the parties submitted a Joint Stipulation of Facts and Joint Submission of the Case for Judgment,5 which
reads as follows:

COME NOW the parties in the above entitled case by the undersigned counsel, and respectfully submit the following JOINT
STIPULATION OF FACTS AND JOINT SUBMISSION OF THE CASE FOR JUDGMENT, without prejudice to the presentation
of evidence by either party:

xxx xxx xxx

2. Plaintiff is, among others, engaged in the manufacture, processing and exportation of plywood and was, for said
purpose, granted by the Government an exclusive license for a period of 25 years expiring on February 1, 1985, to cut, collect
and remove timber from that portion of timber land located in the Municipalities of Infanta, Mauban and Sampaloc Province of
Quezon and in the Municipalities of Siniloan, Pangil, Paete, Cavite and Calauan, Province of Laguna under License Agreement
No. 27-A (Amendment) issued and promulgated by the Government through the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources on January 11, 1960. ... ;

3. That aforementioned Timber License No. 27-A (Amendment) is a renewal of the Timber License Agreement No.
27-A previously granted by the Government to the plaintiff on June 4, 1953 to February 1, 1963. ... ;

4. Plaintiff, since June 4, 1953, continuously up to the present, has been in peaceful possession of said timber
concession and had been felling cutting and removing timber therefrom pursuant to the aforementioned Timber License
Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) of January 11, 1960;

5. Plaintiff, on the strength of the License Agreement executed by the Government on June 4,1953 (License
Agreement No. 27-A) and of the License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) of January 11, 1960, has constructed roads and
other improvements and installations of the aforementioned area subject to the grant and purchased equipment in
implementation of the conditions contained in the aforementioned License Agreement and has in connection therewith spent
more than P7,000,000.00 as follows: ... ;
6. Sometime on September 25, 1961, during the effectivity of License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) of January
11, 1960, the President of the Philippines issued Executive Proclamation No. 791 which reads as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

RESERVING FOR THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE, UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, AS EXPERIMENT STATION
FOR THE PROPOSED DAIRY RESEARCH AND TRAINING INSTITUTE AND FOR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND
PRODUCTION STUDIES OF THIS COLLEGE A CERTAIN PARCEL OF LAND OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, SITUATED
PARTLY IN THE MUNICIPALITIES OF PAETE AND PAKIL ,PROVINCE OF LAGUNA, AND PARTLY IN THE MUNICIPALITY
OF INFANTA, PROVINCE OF QUEZON, ISLAND OF LUZON.

Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and pursuant to the authority vested in me
by law, I, Carlos P. Garcia, President of the Philippines, do hereby withdraw from sale or settlement and reserve for the
College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines, as experiment station for the proposed Dairy Research and production
studies of this College, a certain parcel of land of the Public domain situated partly in the municipalities of Paete and Pakil
province of Laguna, and partly in the municipality of Infants, Province of Quezon, Island of Luzon, subject to private rights, if
any there be, and to the condition that the disposition of timber and other forest products found therein shall be subject to the
forestry laws and regulations, which parcel of land is more particularly described as follows, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

Done in the City of Manila this 25th day of September, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and sixty-one, and of the
Independence of the Philippines, the sixteenth.

(SGD.) CARLOS P. GARCIA


President of the Philippines

xxx xxx xxx

7. That on or about June 18, 1964, during the effectivity of the aforementioned License Agreement No. 27-A
(Amendment) of July 11, 1960, Republic Act No. 3990 was enacted by the Congress of the Philippines and approved by the
President of the Philippines, which Republic Act provides as follows:

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A CENTRAL EXPERIMENT STATION FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES.

Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. There is hereby established a central experiment station for the use of the University of the Philippines in
connection with its research and extension functions, particularly by the College of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine
and College of Arts and Sciences.

SEC. 2. For this purpose, the parcel of the public domain consisting of three thousand hectares, more or less, located in the
Municipality of Paete, Province of Laguna, the precise boundaries of which are stated in Executive Proclamation 791, Series
of 1961, is hereby ceded and transferred in full ownership to the University of the Philippines, subject to any existing
concessions, if any.

SEC. 3. All operations and activities carried on in the central experiment station shall be exempt from taxation, local or general,
any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, and any incidental receipts or income therefrom shall pertain to the
general fund of the University of the Philippines.

SEC. 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval. Approved, June 18, 1964.

8. That on the strength of the provisions of Republic Act No. 3990, and prior to the institution of the present suit,
defendants have demanded, verbally as well as in writing to plaintiff-.

(a) That the forest charges due and payable by plaintiff under the License Agreement 27-A (Amendment) referred to
in paragraph 2 hereof be paid to the University of the Philippines, instead of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; and

(b) That the selling of any timber felled or cut by plaintiff within the boundaries of the Central Experiment Station as
defined in Republic Act No. 3990 be performed by personnel of the University of the Philippines.

9. That the position of the plaintiff oil the demand of the defendants was fully discussed in the letter dated April 29,
1966 of plaintiffs lawyer addressed to the President of the University of the Philippines, copy of which is hereto attached as
Annex "A" hereof.

10. That in line with its position as stated in paragraph thereof, plaintiff has refused to allow entry to personnel of the
University of the Philippines to the Central Experiment Station area assigned thereto for the purpose of supervising the felling
cutting and removal of timber therein and scaling any such timber cut and felled prior to removal

11. That in view of the stand taken by plaintiff and in Relation to the implemetation of Republic Act No. 3990 the
defendant Business Executive sent the letter quoted below to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue:

xxx xxx xxx


February 8, 1966

Commissioner of Internal Revenue


Manila

Re: Forest Charges of U.P. Paete Land Grant

Dear Sir:

Under Republic Act 3990 approved in June, 1964 a parcel of forest land approximately 3,500 hectares in area was ceded in
full ownership by the government to the University of the Philippines. This area is known as Paete Land Grant, the title to
which is presently issued in the name of the University of the Philippines. The law transferring the ownership to the University
of the Philippines gives the university full rights of dominion and ownership, subject to the existing concession of International
Hardwood and Veneer Company of the Philippines. Under the terms of this law all forest charges due from the concessionaire
should now be paid to the University of the Philippines. The purpose of giving this land grant to the University is to enable us
to generate income out of the land grant and establish a research and experimental station for the Colleges of Agriculture,
Forestry, Arts and Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.

I would like, therefore, to inform you and to secure your approval of the following matters:

1. All forest charges paid by Interwood to the District Forester of Laguna from June, 1964 up to the present should
be remitted in favor of the University of the Philippines pines;

2. All forest charges presently due from Interwood shall hereafter be paid to the University of the Philippines and
lastly

3. Hereafter the University of the Philippines shall receive all forest charges and royalties due from any logging
concession at the land grant.

May we request that proper instructions be issued by the district Forester of Laguna about this matter. Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Sgd.) JOSE C. CAMPOS JR.


Business Executive

12. That in reply to the above letter of defendant Business Executive dated February 8, 1966, the Commissioner of
Internal Revenue issued the following letter-ruling dated March 11, 1966:

xxx xxx xxx

March 11, 1966

U.P. Paete Land Grant


University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City

Attn: Jose C. Campos, Jr.


Business Executive

Gentlemen:

This has reference to your letter dated February 8, 1966 stating as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

In reply thereto, I have the honor to inform you as follows:

In accordance with Section 266 of the Tax Code as amplified by Section 15(a) of Revenue Regulations No. 85, the Forest
Products Regulations, forest products, cut, gathered and removed from registered private woodlands are not subject to forest
charges, but they must be invoiced when removed to another municipality or for commercial purposes in the manner
prescribed by the regulations. As the Paete Land Grant was ceded by law to the U.P. in full private ownership and as the grant
is manifestly to be considered registered, no forest charges are actually due and payable on the timber cut and removed
therefrom. The forest charges purportedly to be paid by any concessionaire under any licensing agreement entered or to be
entered into by the U.P. are, therefore, to be considered not as the charges contemplated by the National Internal Revenue
Code but as part of the royalties payable by the concessionaires for the exploitation of the timber resources of the land grant.

Accordingly, you queries are answered viz:

1. The University may directly collect the supposed forest charges payable by concessionaires of the land grant.

2. The forest charges paid by International Hardwood and Veneer Company of the Philippines may be refunded
provided that a formal claim for the refund thereof is made within two years from the date of payment. The proper claimant
shall be International Hardwood and not the University.

Very truly yours,


(Sgd.) MISAEL P. VERA
Commissioner of Internal Revenue

13. That subsequently, defendant Business Executive sent the letter quoted below to the District Forester of the
province of Laguna una dated April 18, 1 966:

April 18, 1966

The District Forester


Bureau of Forestry
Sta. Cruz, Laguna

Dear Sir:

Enclosed is a copy of a letter to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue concerning the right of the University of the Philippines
to collect forest charges from the existing logging concessionaire at the Laguna Land Grant (formerly Paete Land Grant). This
tract of forest land containing some 3,500 hectares was ceded to the University of the Philippines in full ownership by Republic
Act No. 3990, approved in June, 1964. In view thereof, the University of the Philippines requested that its authority over said
land be recognized and that the existing concessionaire, International Hardwood and Veneer Company of the Philippines, in
turn pay its forest charges directly to the University instead of to the national government.

Please take note of page "2" of the enclosed letter of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue on the official ruling of the Bureau
of Internal Revenue to the following points raised by the University:

1. That the University of the Philippines may now directly collect forest charges from INTERWOOD, the existing
logging concessionaire.

2. That forest charges paid by INTERWOOD to the Bureau of Forestry from June, 1964 up to April, 1966 shall be
refunded to the University of the Philippines. In this manner, INTERWOOD is requested to file a claim for the refund in the
amount heretofore paid by it to be remitted to the University of the Philippines.

On the basis of this letter to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, it is understood that forest charges on timber cut from the
Laguna Land Grant as scaled by scalers of the University of the Philippines shall now be paid directly to the University of the
Philippines. In another ruling by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the University, particularly the Laguna Land Grant, is
exempted from all kinds of Internal Revenue taxes.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) Jose C. Campos, Jr.


Business Executive

14. That the above quoted letter of defendant Business Executive dated April 18, 1966 was duly endorsed by the
District Forester of the province of Laguna to the Director of Forestry.

15. That on or about June 7, 19667 the Assistant Director of Forestry addressed to plaintiff the letter dated June 7,
1966, which states as follows:

Sirs:

This is in connection with your request for this Office to comment on your reply to the letter of Mr. Jose C. Campos, Jr. of the
University of the Philippines.

In your reply to the letter of Mr. Campos, it is stated that the University of the Philippines is claiming the right:

(a) To scale, measure and seal the timber cut inside the area covered by the U.P. Land Grant at Paete, Laguna;

(b) To collect the corresponding forest charges;

(c) To collect royalties aside from the forest charges; and

(d) To exercise in effect all the authority vested by law upon the Bureau of Forestry in the cutting, removal and
disposition of the timber from said area, and the authority of the Bureau of Internal Revenue respecting the measurement and
scaling of the logs and the collection of the corresponding forest charges and other fees in connection therewith.

This office is in full accord with your arguments against the claim of the University of the Philippines to have acquired the
above rights. We believe that the right vested the INTERWOOD by virtue of number License Agreement No. 27-A
(Amendment) to utilize the timber inside subject area is still binding and should therefore, be respected. It is on the basis of
this acknowledgment that we sent your client our letter of November 4,1965 requesting him to comment on the application of
the State University for a Special Timber License over the said area.

16. That acting on the endorsement referred to in paragraph l4, the Director of Bureau of Forestry issued the letter
ruling quoted below, dated June 30,1966:

xxx xxx xxx


June 30, 1966

District Forester
Sta. Cruz, Laguna

(Thru the Regional Director of Forestry, Manila)

Sir:

This concerns your inquiry contained in the 3rd paragraph of your letter dated April 26, 1966, designated as above, as to
whether or not you shall turn over the scaling work for logs cut from the area of the International Hardwood & Veneer Company
of the Philippines in the Pacto Land Grant to Scalers of the University of the Philippines.

In view of the ruling of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that the Paete Land Grant, which embraces the area of the
International Hardwood & Veneer Company of the Philippines, is considered a registered private woodland of the University
of the Philippines and therefore no forest charges are actually due and payable on the timber cut and removed therefrom, and
in view further of the ruling of said Commissioner that the forest charges purportedly to be paid by any concessionaire under
any licensing agreement entered or to be entered into by the U.P. are to be considered not as the charged contemplated by
the National Internal Revenue Code but as part of the royalties payable by the concessionaires for the exploitation of the
timber resources of the land grant, you may turn over the scaling work therein to the scalers of the U.P.

However, you should guard against the use of such licensing agreements entered or to be entered into by the U.P. as a means
of smuggling forest products from the neighboring public forests.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) ANTONIO A. QUEJADA

xxx xxx xxx

On the basis of the above JOINT STIPULATION OF FACTS, the pleadings filed in the case, and whatever additional evidence
may be presented by the parties, the parties hereto, through counsel, jointly move and pray of this Honorable Court that
judgment be rendered granting full and appropriate relief, on the following issues:

1. Whether plaintiff, as of the date of present case was filed, should pay forest charges due and payable under its
timber License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) as set forth in paragraph 2 hereof', to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, or
to the University of the Philippines; and

2. In the event that it be found by this Honorable Court that said forest charges are to be paid to the University of the
Philippines, whether or not the University of the Philippines is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the
logging, telling and removal of timber within the Central Experiment Station area as described in Republic Act No. 3990, and
to scale the timber thus felled and cut.

Manila for Laguna, September 29,1967.

Upon the foregoing Stipulation of Facts, the trial court rendered its judgment on 3 June 1968 in favor of the petitioner, the
dispositive portion of which is quoted at the beginning of this decision. In deciding the case against UP, it held:

... the court finds that the respondents' demand on the petitioner has no legal basis. In the first place, the cession in full
ownership of the tract of land referred to in the Act was expressly made 'subject to any existing concessions.' Inasmuch as at
the time of the enactment of the Act, the petitioner's timber concession over the tract of land was existing and would continue
to exist until February 1, 1985, the University of the Philippines will acquire full ownership' and exclusive jurisdiction to control
and administer the property only after February 1, 1985. The cession of the property to the University of the Philippines is akin
to the donation of a parcel of land, subject to usufruct. The donee acquires full ownership thereof only upon the termination of
the usufruct. At the time of the donation, all what the donee acquires is the 'naked' ownership of the property donated. In the
second place, the respondents' demand cannot be valid unless the provisions of Sees. 262 to 276 of the National Internal
Revenue Code regarding the measuring of timber cut from the forest and the collection of the prescribed forest charges by
the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Forestry are first amended. In their arguments, the respondents tried to stretch
the scope of the provisions of Republic Act No. 3990 in order to include therein such amendment of the provisions of the
National Internal Revenue Code and Revised Administrative Code, but they failed to convince the Court, not only because of
the first reason above stated, but also because it clearly appears that such amendment is not intended in Republic Act No.
3990, which does not contain even a remote allusion thereto in its title or a general amendatory provision at the end. In the
third place, under Republic Act No. 3990, the University of the Philippines cannot legally use the tract of land ceded to it for
purposes other than those therein expressly provided, namely, 'for the use of the University of the Philippines in connection
with its research and extension functions, particularly by the College of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine and College
of Arts and Sciences.' Hence, upon the expiration of the petitioner's timber concession, the University of the Philippines cannot
even legally renew it or grant timber concession over the whole tract of land or over portions thereof to other private individuals
and exercise the functions of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Forestry by scaling and measuring the timber cut
within the area and collecting from them the forest charges prescribed by the National Internal Revenue Code.

Respondents claim in their Brief that the trial court erred:

... WHEN IT DID NOT DISMISS THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF WITH INJUNCTION INSPITE OF ITS
INHERENT JURISDICTIONAL DEFECTS THAT SHOULD WARRANT A DISMISSAL.
II

... WHEN IT DECLARED THAT REPUBLIC ACT NO. 3990 DOES NOT EMPOWER THE RESPONDENT UNIVERSITY OF
THE PHILIPPINES, IN LIEU OF THE BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE AND BUREAU OF FORESTRY, TO SCALE,
MEASURE AND SEAL THE TIMBER CUT BY THE PETITIONER WITHIN THE TRACT OF LAND REFERRED TO IN SAID
ACT, AND COLLECT THE CORRESPONDING FOREST CHARGES PRESCRIBED BY THE NATIONAL INTERNAL
REVENUE CODE.

1. The first assigned error is without merit. In the Joint Stipulation of Facts, the parties jointly move and pray that the
trial court render judgment granting full and appropriate remedy on the following issues:

1. Whether plaintiff, as of the date of present case was filed, should pay forest charges due and payable under its
Timber License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) as set forth in paragraph 2 hereof, to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, or
to the University of the Philippines; and

2. In the event that it be found by this Honorable Court that said forest charges are to be paid to the University of the
Philippines, whether or not the University of the Philippines is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the
logging, felling and removal of timber within the Central Experiment Station area as described in Republic Act No. 3990, and
to scale the timber thus felled

These issues bring the matter within the scope of an action for declaratory relief under Section 1, Rule 64 of the Rules of
Court and render meaningless the appeal to the rule laid down in Sarmiento, et al. vs. Caparas, et al.6 that declaratory relief
cannot be joined by injunction, because herein petitioner, for all legal intents and purposes, abandoned it by its failure to raise
it in the Stipulation of Facts. Thus, what attains is an amendment to both pleadings (the complaint and the answer), which is
authorized by Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court. Said section pertinently provides:

SEC. 5. Amendment to conform to or authorize presentation of evidence.— When issues not raised by the pleadings are tried
by express or implied consent of the parties, they shall be treated in all respect, as if they had been raised in the pleadings.
Such amendment of the pleadings as may be necessary to cause them to conform to the evidence and to raise these issues
may be made upon motion of any party at any time, even after judgment; but failure to so amend does not affect the result of
the trial by these issues. ...

The stipulation of facts and the agreement as to the issues unquestionably satisfy the requisites for declaratory relief. (a) there
must be a justiciable controversy; (b) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (c) the party
seeking declaratory relief must have a legal interest in the controversy; and (d) the issue invoked must be ape for judicial
determination.7

There is a justiciable controversy where there is an actual controversy, or the ripening seeds of one exists between the parties,
all of whom are sui juris and before the court, and that the declaration sought will help in ending the controversy. A doubt
becomes a justiciable controversy when it is translated into a claim of right which is actually contested.8

2. On the second assigned error, respondents assert that: (a) Under R.A. No. 3990, the Republic of the Philippines
may effect collection of forest charges through the University of the Philippines because the License Agreement does not
expressly provide that the forest charges shall be paid to the Bureau of Internal Revenue; in the absence of a specific
contractual provision limiting it to a particular agency in collecting forest charges owing to it, the Republic may effect such
collection through another agency. (b) Having been vested with administrative jurisdiction over and being the owner of the
tract of land in question, the UP acquired full control and benefit of the timber and other resources within the area. Timber
areas within the ceded property but outside the concession of petitioner can be fully exploited by UP. However, in respect to
timber areas within the ceded property but covered by the concession of petitioner, only forest charges (or more appropriately,
royalties) may be enjoyed by UP until the expiration of petitioner's license. To deny it such charges would render its "full
ownership" empty and futile. (c) The UP is clearly entitled to the income derived from the tract of land ceded to it, for Section
3 of R.A. No. 3990 expressly provides:

All operations and activities carried on in the central experiment station shall be exempt from taxation, local or general, any
provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, and any incidental receipts or income therefrom shall pertain to the general
fund of the University of the Philippines. (emphasis supplied for emphasis).

(d) As provided by R.A. No. 3990, the UP is duty bound to operate and maintain a central experiment station; since
this law does not provide for appropriations for such purpose, it is clearly the legislative intention that the establishment and
maintenance thereof must be financed by the earnings or income from the area, which can only come from the timber and the
royalties or charges payable therefrom. This is in accordance with the general principle that a grant of authority or jurisdiction
extends to all incidents that may arise in connection with the matter over which jurisdiction is exercised. (e) Supervision of the
License Agreement in favor of petitioner by UP was intended by R.A. No. 3990. (f) Finally, the two government agencies
affected by R.A. No. 3990 have issued specific rulings recognizing the authority of UP to collect royalties or charges and to
supervise petitioner's logging operations.

Petitioner refutes the foregoing arguments of respondents by asserting that: (a) The UP has not been granted by R.A. No.
3990 the authority to collect forest charges or the authority to supervise the operation by the petitioner of the timber concession
affected by said Act.

The rule is well-settled that legislative grants must be construed strictly in favor of the public and most strongly against the
grantee, and nothing will be included in the grant except that which is granted expressly or by clear implication. Under Section
262 of the Tax Code, as amended, the duties incident to the measuring of forest products and the collection of the charges
thereon shall be discharged by the Bureau of Internal Revenue under the regulations of the Department of Finance. The
reforestation fee shall be collected by the Bureau of Forestry.9 The supervision and regulation of the use of forest products
and of the cutting and removal of forest products are vested upon the Bureau of Forestry.10 R.A. No. 3990 does not expressly,
or even impliedly, grant the UP any authority to collect from the holders of timber concessions on the area ceded to it forest
charges due and payable to the Government under the Tax Code, or to enforce its provisions relating to charges on forest
products or to supervise the operations of the concessions by the holders thereof; (b) The cession in full ownership of the land
in question was expressly made "subject to any concession, if any", and that petitioner's concession would continue until 1
February 1985; the UP then would acquire full ownership and exclusive jurisdiction to control and administer the property only
after 1 February 1985. The position of UP is akin to that of a donee of a parcel of land subject to usufruct. (c) The rulings of
the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and the Acting Director of the Bureau of Forestry are patently incorrect; moreover, said
agencies do not have the power to interpret the law, which is primarily a function of the judiciary. (d) Finally, it has acquired a
vested right to operate the timber concession under the supervision and control of the Bureau of Forestry.

There is merit in the second assigned error.

Under Proclamation No. 791, dated 25 September 1961, a parcel of land of the public domain described therein, with an area
of 3,500 hectares, which is the very parcel of land subject of R.A. No. 3990, was withdrawn from sale or settlement and was
reserved for the College of Agriculture of the UP as experiment station for the proposed Dairy Research and Training Institute
and for research and production studies of said college, subject however to private rights, if any, and to the condition that the
disposition of timber and other forest products found thereon shall be subject to forestry laws and regulations.

The above reservation is within the area covered by petitioner's timber license.

Pursuant, however, to R.A. No. 3990 which establishes a central experiment station for the use of the UP in connection with
its research and extension functions, particularly by the College of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine and College of
Arts and Sciences, the above "reserved" area was "ceded and transferred in full ownership to the University of the Philippines
subject to any existing concessions, if any."

When it ceded and transferred the property to UP, the Republic of the Philippines completely removed it from the public
domain and, more specifically, in respect to the areas covered by the timber license of petitioner, removed and segregated it
from a public forest; it divested itself of its rights and title thereto and relinquished and conveyed the same to the UP; and
made the latter the absolute owner thereof, subject only to the existing concession. That the law intended a transfer of the
absolute ownership is unequivocally evidenced by its use of the word "full" to describe it. Full means entire, complete, or
possessing all particulars, or not wanting in any essential quality.11 The proviso regarding existing concessions refers to the
timber license of petitioner. All that it means, however, is that the right of petitioner as a timber licensee must not be affected,
impaired or diminished; it must be respected. But, insofar as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, all its rights as
grantor of the license were effectively assigned, ceded and conveyed to UP as a consequence of the above transfer of full
ownership. This is further home out by Section 3 of R.A. No. 3990 which provides, inter alia, that "any incidental receipts or
income therefrom shall pertain to the general fund of the University of the Philippines. Having been effectively segregated and
removed from the public domain or from a public forest and, in effect, converted into a registered private woodland, the
authority and jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry over it were likewise terminated. This is obvious from the fact that the
condition in Proclamation No. 971 to the effect that the disposition of timber shall be subject to forestry laws and regulations
is not reproduced iii R.A. No. 3990. The latter does not likewise provide that it is subject to the conditions set forth in the
proclamation. An owner has the right to enjoy and dispose of a thing without other limitations than those established by law.12
The right to enjoy includes the jus utendi or the right to receive from the thing what it produces, and the jus abutendi or the
right to consume the thing by its use.13 As provided for in Article 441 of the Civil Code, to the owner belongs the natural fruits,
the industrial fruits and the civil fruits. There are, however, exceptions to this rules, as where the property is subject to a
usufruct, in which case the usufructuary gets the fruits.14 In the instant case, that exception is made for the petitioner as
licensee or grantee of the concession, which has been given the license to cut, collect, and remove timber from the area
ceded and transferred to UP until I February 1985.1âwphi1 However, it has the correlative duty and obligation to pay the forest
charges, or royalties, to the new owner, the UP, at the same rate as provided for in the Agreement. The charges should not
be paid anymore to the Republic of the Philippines through the Bureau of Internal Revenue because of the very nature of the
transfer as aforestated. Consequently, even the Bureau of Internal Revenue automatically lost its authority and jurisdiction to
measure the timber cut from the subject area and to collect forestry charges and other fees due thereon.

The foregoing disposes of the contention of petitioner that R.A. No. 3990 does not grant the UP the authority to collect forest
charges and to supervise the operations of its concession insofar as the property of the UP within it is concerned. Its argument
that it has acquired vested rights to operate its concession under the supervision and control of the Bureau of Forestry is
preposterous. The grantor, Republic of the Philippines, was by no means bound under the License to perpetuate the Bureau
as its agent. Neither is there force to its contention that legislative grants must be construed strictly in favor of the public and
most strongly against the grantee. The grant under R.A. No. 3990 is transfer of absolute, full and entire ownership which
leaves no room for a strict interpretation against the grantee, the UP. The reservation therein made is in favor of the private
party pursuant to the license, which is nevertheless protected. It is the concession in favor of the petitioner which should, on
the contrary, be bound by the rule.

It follows then that respondent UP is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the logging, felling and removal
of timber within the area covered by R.A. No. 3990.

IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered REVERSING the decision of the trial court in Civil
Case No. C-650, rendered on 3 June 1968; DECLARING that forest charges due from and payable by petitioner for timber
cut pursuant to its License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) within the area ceded and transferred to the University of the
Philippine pursuant to R.A. No. 3990 shall be paid to the University of the Philippines; DECLARING that the University of the
Philippines is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the logging, felling and removal of timber within the
aforesaid area covered by R.A. No. 3990.

Costs against petitioner.


January 10, 2018

G.R. No. 190817

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner


vs.
ROVENCY REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Respondent

DECISION

MARTIRES, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to reverse and set aside the 10 March 2009 Decision1 and the 3 December
2009 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 00651, which affirmed the 7 November 2003 Decision3 of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 41, Cagayan de Oro City, in LRA Case No. N-2000-084, which granted the application
for original registration of title to land by respondent Rovency Realty and Development Corporation (RRDC).

THE FACTS

On 22 March 2001, RRDC filed before the RTC an Amended Application for Registration4 covering a parcel of land identified
as Lot No. 3009 (subject land) situated in Barangay Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City, described as follows:

A parcel of land (Lot No. 3009, Cad-237, Cagayan Cadastre) situated in the Barrio of Carmen, City of Cagayan de Oro, Island
of Mindanao. Bounded on the S., along line 1-2 by Lot 6648; on the NW., along line 2-3 by Lot 30011; along line 3-4 by Lot
301 O; along line 4-5 by Lot 3047; along line 5-6 by Lot 3020; on the N., along line 6-7 by Lot 3007; on the SE., along line 8-
9 by Lot 6645; along line 9-1 by Lot 3008; all of Cad-237, Cagayan Cadastre.

Beginning at the point marked "1" on the plan being N. 51 deg. 24'W., 1091.05 m. from PBM No. 24, Cad-237, Thence;

1-2 S. 79 deg. 15'W. 260.92 m.


2-3 N. 19 deg. 02'E. 231.49 m.
3-4 N. 13 deg. 32'E. 489.77 m.
4-5 N. 61 deg. 39'E. 302.54 m.
5-6 N. 40 deg. 09'E. 146.06 m.
6-7 S. 82 deg. 14'E. 140.06 m.
7-8 S. 24 deg. 28'E. 152.88 m.
8-9 S. 34 deg. 00'W. 448.33 m.
9-1 S. 33 deg. 26'W. 445.73 m.
beginning; containing an area of THREE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED FORTY FIVE (318,345)
square meters more or less. All points referred to are indicated on the plan and marked on the ground by Old BL., cyl. cone.
mons. 15 x 60 cm. Bearing true, date of Original Survey August 9 & 13, 1929, and that of the preparation June 29, 2000,
executed by Crisanto M. Bagares, Geodetic Engineer and approved on August 1, 2000.5

RRDC alleged, among others, that it is a domestic corporation duly organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of
the Republic of the Philippines; that it is the absolute owner in fee simple of the subject land having acquired the same from
its previous owner, P.N. Roa Enterprises, Inc., by virtue of a notarized deed of absolute sale executed on 05 March 1997; that
the subject land was assessed at ₱2,228,000.00 as shown in the Tax Declaration (TD) No. 141011; that it has registered the
subject land for taxation purposes and paid the realty taxes due therein from its acquisition, to the filing of the application; that
immediately after acquiring the subject land, it took actual physical possession of the same and has been continuously
occupying the subject land; and that it and its predecessors-in- interest have been in open, continuous, adverse, and peaceful
possession in concept of owner of the subject land since time immemorial, or for more than thirty (30) years.

Attached to the application are: original copy of the technical description of the subject land6; the Tracing Cloth Plan of the
survey plan7; Certification in Lieu of Surveyor's/Geodetic Engineer's Certificate8 issued by the Chief of the Land Surveys
Assistance Section, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Region X; T.D. No. 141011 in the name of RRDC9
; and the Deed of Absolute Sale between RRDC and P.N. Roa Enterprises, Inc., dated 5 March 1997.10

On 16 July 2001, an opposition to the application was filed by the Heirs of Paulino Avancena. They alleged, that the subject
land was already claimed and owned by the late Atty. Paulino Avancena (Paulino), their father and predecessor-in-interest,
as early as 1926; that Paulino had been in open, continuous, notorious, adverse, and exclusive possession and occupation
of the subject land; that Paulino registered the subject land for taxation purposes and has paid the taxes due thereon in 1948;
that their parents, Paulino and Rizalina Neri (Rizalina) merely allowed and tolerated Pedro N. Roa's (Pedro) possession of
the subject land after the latter approached them and requested that he be allowed to use the subject land for his businesses;
that Pedro is one of RRDC's predecessors-in-interest; that sometime in 1994, Rizalina demanded the return of the subject
land from the heirs of Pedro, but to no avail; that in 1996, Rizalina died leaving the private oppositors as the rightful heirs of
the subject land; that their parents never sold the subject land to Pedro nor to RRDC, and as such, no right or title over the
subject land was passed on to RRDC. Thus, they prayed that RRDC's application be dismissed, and that their opposition be
treated as their own application for registration.11

On 3 August 2001, the petitioner Republic of the Philippines (Republic), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),
filed its opposition to the application on the following grounds: that neither RRDC nor its predecessors-in-interest have been
in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question since 12 June 1945 or prior
thereto; that the subject land exceeds the twelve (12)-hectare limit for confirmation of imperfect title set by Section 47 of
Commonwealth Act (CA.) No. 141, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6940; and that the subject land forms part of the
public domain belonging to the Republic and, thus, not subject to private appropriation.12
During trial, RRDC presented the following documents in support of its application: (i) Deed of Absolute Sale notarized by
notary public Paulino Avancena showing that the subject land was sold by Catalino Ebalo to Nicolas Beja and Maximo Amper
on 21 June 193713 ; (ii) Deed of Absolute Sale notarized by notary public Paulino A vancefia showing that a portion of the
subject land consisting of 159, 178.5 square meters (first portion) was sold by Maximo Amper to Perfecto Virtudazo on 07
October 194014 ; (iii) Deed of Absolute Sale notarized by notary public Troadio C. Ubay-ubay showing that the first portion
consisting of 15 hectares, 91 ares and 72 centares (159,172 square meters) was sold by Trinidad Virtudazo, Israel Virtudazo,
and Adelina Virtudazo to Victor D. Beja on 22 April 196115 ; (iv) Deed of Absolute Sale showing that the first portion of the
subject land consisting of 159,172 square meters was sold by Victor D. Beja to Pedro N. Roa on 01 February 19616 ; (v) Deed
of Absolute Sale notarized by notary public Troadio C. Ubay-ubay showing that the other portion (second portion) of the
subject land was sold by Nicolas Beja to Victor Beja on 22 April 196117 ; (vi) Deed of Sale showing that the second portion
was sold by Victor Beja to Pedro N. Roa on 01 February 196718 ; (vii) Deed of Exchange notarized by notary public Jose L.
Sabio, Jr. showing that the two portions of the subject land were conveyed by Pedro N. Roa in favor of P.N. Roa Enterprises,
Inc. on 23 September 1987;19 and (viii) Deed of Sale notarized by Rene C. Barbaso showing that the two (2) portions of the
subject land were sold by P.N. Roa Enterprises, Inc. to RRDC on 25 July 1996.20

RRDC also presented a certification21 from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Cagayan
de Oro City, certifying that the subject land is alienable and disposable and not covered by any public land application patent
and hence, no patent has been issued thereon. Lastly, RRDC presented several tax declarations in the name of its
predecessors-in-interest, the earliest of which is T.D. No. 91264, which showed that realty taxes on the subject land have
been paid in 1947.22

On the other hand, to support their claim that a patent over the subject land had been issued in the name of their father, the
private oppositors presented a certification23 issued by the Records Management Division of the Lands Management Bureau
of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which merely states that " ...according to the verification made by
the Geodetic Surveys Division, survey plan no. Psu-45882 with an accession no. 284578 is located at Cagayan, Misamis, as
per their EDP listing. It is unfortunate however that as of this moment, this office (Records Management Division) cannot
locate said records despite diligent search made thereon."

The RTC Ruling

In its decision, dated 7 November 2003, the RTC granted RRDC's application for registration of the subject land. It opined that
the CENRO certification, stating that the subject land is alienable and disposable and not covered by any public land
application, is sufficient to show the character of the land. It further ruled, that RRDC and its predecessors-in-interest had
been in open and continuous possession under a bona fide claim of ownership over the subject land based on the
documentary and testimonial evidence offered by RRDC, without discussing how these pieces of evidence established the
required possession.

The trial court further brushed aside the opposition interposed by the heirs of Paulino Avanceña. It was not convinced that the
evidence they presented were sufficient to grant the application in their favor. It noted that the oppositors' claim that they were
the rightful owners of the subject land does not hold water considering that the deeds of sale presented by RRDC in support
of their claim were notarized by Paulino himself.

The dispositive portion of the RTC decision reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court considering the evidence of the applicant, the reports of the Land Registration Authority, Director
of Lands and the Certification of the CENRO, DENR, Cagayan de Oro City, hereby declares that the applicant, Rovency
Realty & Development Corporation, have sufficient title proper for registration over the parcel of land subject of this application.
The opposition of the Heirs of Paulino Avanceña, is hereby ordered dismissed, being lack of merit.

Accordingly, in accordance with the prayer of the applicant herein, the Commissioner, or anyone acting on his behalf is hereby
directed to ISSUE A DECREE OF REGISTRATION and the CORRESPONDING CERTIFICATE OF TITLE FOR THE
PARCEL OF LAND described in the instant application in favor of RO VEN CY REAL TY and DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION. SO ORDERED.24

Unconvinced, the Republic, through the OSG, and private oppositors heirs of Paulino Avancena, elevated their respective
appeals to the CA.25

The Republic contended that the trial court erred in granting the application for registration, considering that the land applied
for is in excess of what is allowed by the Constitution; and that the Corporation Code further prohibits RRDC to acquire the
subject land unless the acquisition thereof is reasonably necessary for its business. On the other hand, the Avancena heirs
insisted that they are the rightful owners of the subject land, by virtue of the homestead patent granted to their predecessor-
in-interest.

The CA Ruling

In its assailed decision, dated 10 March 2009, the CA affirmed the 7 November 2003 RTC decision. The appellate court
concurred with the trial court's findings that the subject land is alienable and disposable, and that RRDC has sufficiently
established the required period and character of possession. Likewise, the appellate court was not persuaded by the claims
of the heirs. It noted that the private oppositors anchored their claim on the alleged homestead grant to Paulino, their
predecessor-in-interest, which claim was unsupported by sufficient documentary evidence.

The appellate court also ruled that the 12-hectare limit under the Constitution was not violated. It explained that Section 3 of
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, the constitutional provision which provided for the 12-hectare limit in the acquisition of
land, covers only agricultural lands of the public domain. It ratiocinated that when the subject land was acquired through
acquisitive prescription by RRDC's predecessors-in-interest, it was converted into a private property and, as such, it ceased
to be part of the public domain. Thus, when RRDC acquired the subject land by purchase, it was no longer within the ambit
of the constitutional limitation.

As to the contention that the Corporation Code bars RRDC to acquire the subject land, the appellate court simply stated that
while the said code imposes certain limitations on the acquisition of real property, there is no such prohibition. It stressed that
RRDC is an artificial being imbued with the power to purchase, hold, and convey real and personal property for such purposes
that are within the objects of its creation. Considering that RRDC is a corporation engaged in realty business, it has the power
to purchase real properties. The dispositive portion of said decision states:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The assailed November 7, 2003 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Misamis
Oriental, Branch 41, Cagayan de Oro City is hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.26

The Republic moved for reconsideration; while the Heirs of Paulino Avanceña adopted the Republic's motion for
reconsideration as their own. In its resolution, dated 3 December 2009, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration.

Hence, this petition.

THE ISSUES

I.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE AMENDED APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION AND ORDERING THE
ISSUANCE OF A DECREE OF REGISTRATION AND THE CORRESPONDING CERTIFICATE OF TITLE FOR A PARCEL
OF LAND CONTAINING AN AREA OF THREE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED FORTY FIVE
(318,345) SQUARE METERS IN FAVOR OF ROVENCY REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, DESPITE THE
FACTS THAT-

(i) THE LAND APPLIED FOR REGISTRATION OF TITLE IS IN EXCESS OF WHAT IS ALLOWED BY LAW; AND,

(ii) RESPONDENT'S RIGHT TO ACQUIRE THE SUBJECT PARCEL OF LAND IS FURTHER LIMITED BY THE
CORPORATION CODE.

II.

RESPONDENT'S EVIDENCE IS INSUFFICIENT TO PROVE THAT IT OR ITS PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST HAVE


BEEN IN OPEN, CONTINUOUS, EXCLUSIVE AND NOTORIOUS POSSESSION UNDER A BONA FIDE CLAIM OF
OWNERSHIP SINCE JUNE 12, 1945 OR EARLIER AND THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS NO LONGER INTENDED FOR
PUBLIC USE OR FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATIONAL WEALTH.27

THE COURT'S RULING

The petition is meritorious.

12-hectare limit under Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution

The Republic argues that the trial and appellate courts erred in granting RRDC's application for the registration of the subject
land, as the same has a total land area of 31.8 hectares, which is way beyond the 12-hectare limit under Section 3, Article XII
of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:

SECTION 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks.
Agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by law according to the uses which they may be devoted.
Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold
such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not
more than twenty-five years, and not to exceed one thousand hectares in area. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more
than five hundred hectares, or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase, homestead, or grant. [emphasis
supplied]

As can be clearly gleaned from its language, Section 3, Article XII applies only to lands of the public domain. Private lands
are, therefore, outside of the prohibitions and limitations stated therein. Thus, the appellate court correctly declared that the
12-hectare limitation on the acquisition of lands under Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution has no application to
private lands.

A case in point is the absolute prohibition on private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public
domain. This prohibition could be traced to the 1973 Constitution which limited the alienation of lands of the public domain to
individuals who were citizens of the Philippines. This constitutional prohibition, however, does not necessarily mean that
corporations may not apply for original registration of title to lands. In fact, the Court, in several instances, affirmed the grant
of applications for original registration filed by corporations,28 for as long as the lands were already converted to private
ownership by operation of law as a result of satisfying the requisite possession required by the Public Land Act.29

In Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court30 (Director of Lands), the Court granted the application for original
registration of parcels of land filed by a corporation which acquired the lands by purchase from members of the Dumagat tribe.
The Court ratiocinated that the lands applied for registration were already private lands even before the corporation acquired
them. The Court observed that the sellers, being members of the national cultural minorities, had by themselves and through
their predecessors, possessed and occupied the lands since time immemorial. As a consequence of their open, exclusive,
and undisputed possession over the said lands for the period required by law for the acquisition of alienable lands of the public
domain, said lands ceased to become part of the public land and were converted, by operation of law, into private ownership.
As such, the sellers, if not for their conveyance of the lands in question to the corporation, were entitled to exercise the right
granted to them by the Public Land Act to have their title judicially confirmed. Considering further that the lands in question
were already private in character at the time the corporation acquired them, the constitutional prohibition does not apply to the
corporation.

In Republic v. TA.N. Properties 31 (TA.N. Properties), the Court stressed that what is determinative for the application of the
doctrine in Director of Lands is for the corporate applicant for land registration to establish that when it acquired the land, the
same was already private land by operation of law because the statutory acquisitive prescriptive period of 30 years had already
lapsed.

The pronouncements in Director of Lands and TA.N. Properties apply with equal force to the 12-hectare limitation, considering
that both the limitation and the prohibition on corporations to acquire lands, do not cover ownership of private lands. Stated
differently, whether RRDC can acquire the subject land and to what extent, depends on whether the pieces of evidence it
presented before the trial court sufficiently established that the subject land is alienable and disposable land of the public
domain; and that the nature and duration of the possession of its individual predecessors-in-interest converted the subject
land to private land by operation of law.

Requirements for original registration of title to land

In Republic of the Philippines vs. Cortez,32 the Court explained that applicants for original registration of title to land must first
establish compliance with the provisions of either Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529, which state:

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

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

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

It must be emphasized that the requirements and bases for registration under these two provisions