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THIRD DIVISION

JOSE R. MARTINEZ,

G. R. No. 160895
Petitioner,
Present:
QUISUMBING,

- versus -

Chairperson,
CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA, and
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
Respondents.
Promulgated:
October 30, 2006
x---------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

the case for hearing and directed the publication of the corresponding Notice of
Hearing in the Official Gazette. On 30 September 1999, the OSG, in behalf of
the Republic of the Philippines, opposed the petition on the grounds that
appellees possession was not in accordance with Section 48(b) of
Commonwealth Act No. 141; that his muniments of title were insufficient to
prove bona-fide acquisition and possession of the subject parcels; and that the
properties formed part of the public domain and thus not susceptible to private
appropriation.[2]
Despite the opposition filed by the OSG, the RTC issued an order of general
default, even against the Republic of the Philippines, on 29 March 2000. This
ensued when during the hearing of even date, no party appeared before the
Court to oppose Martinezs petition.[3]
Afterwards, the trial court proceeded to receive Martinezs oral and
documentary evidence in support of his petition. On 1 August 2000, the RTC
rendered a Decision[4] concluding that Martinez and his predecessors-ininterest had been for over 100 years in possession characterized as continuous,
open, public, and in the concept of an owner. The RTC thus decreed the
registration of the three (3) lots in the name of Martinez.

DECISION
TINGA, J.:

The central issue presented in this Petition for Review is whether an order of
general default issued by a trial court in a land registration case bars the
Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, from
interposing an appeal from the trial courts subsequent decision in favor of the
applicant.

From this Decision, the OSG filed a Notice of Appeal dated 28 August 2000,[5]
which was approved by the RTC. However, after the records had been
transmitted to the Court of Appeals, the RTC received a letter dated 21
February 2001[6] from the Land Registration Authority (LRA) stating that only
Lot Nos. 464-A and 464-B were referred to in the Notice of Hearing published in
the Official Gazette; and that Lot No. 370, Cad No. 597 had been deliberately
omitted due to the lack of an approved survey plan for that property.
Accordingly, the LRA manifested that this lot should not have been adjudicated
to Martinez for lack of jurisdiction. This letter was referred by the RTC to the
Court of Appeals for appropriate action.[7]

The antecedent facts follow.

On 24 February 1999, petitioner Jose R. Martinez (Martinez) filed a petition for


the registration in his name of three (3) parcels of land included in the Cortes,
Surigao del Sur Cadastre. The lots, individually identified as Lot No. 464-A, Lot
No. 464-B, and Lot No. 370, Cad No. 597, collectively comprised around 3,700
square meters. Martinez alleged that he had purchased lots in 1952 from his
uncle, whose predecessors-in-interest were traceable up to the 1870s. It was
claimed that Martinez had remained in continuous possession of the lots; that
the lots had remained unencumbered; and that they became private property
through prescription pursuant to Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141.
Martinez further claimed that he had been constrained to initiate the
proceedings because the Director of the Land Management Services had failed
to do so despite the completion of the cadastral survey of Cortes, Surigao del
Sur.[1]
The case was docketed as Land Registration Case No. N-30 and raffled to the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Surigao del Sur, Branch 27. The Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG) was furnished a copy of the petition. The trial court set

On 10 October 2003, the Court of Appeals promulgated the assailed


Decision,[8] reversing the RTC and instead ordering the dismissal of the petition
for registration. In light of the opposition filed by the OSG, the appellate court
found the evidence presented by Martinez as insufficient to support the
registration of the subject lots. The Court of Appeals concluded that the oral
evidence presented by Martinez merely consisted of general declarations of
ownership, without alluding to specific acts of ownership performed by him or
his predecessors-in-interest. It likewise debunked the documentary evidence
presented by Martinez, adjudging the same as either inadmissible or ineffective
to establish proof of ownership.
No motion for reconsideration appears to have been filed with the Court of
Appeals by Martinez, who instead directly assailed its Decision before this Court
through the present petition.
We cannot help but observe that the petition, eight (8) pages in all, was
apparently prepared with all deliberate effort to attain nothing more but the
perfunctory. The arguments raised center almost exclusively on the claim that
the OSG no longer had personality to oppose the petition, or appeal its
allowance by the RTC, following the order of general default. Starkly put, the

[OSG] has no personality to raise any issue at all under the circumstances
pointed out hereinabove.[9] Otherwise, it is content in alleging that [Martinez]
presented sufficient and persuasive proof to substantiate the fact that his title to
Lot Nos. 464-A and 464-B is worth the confirmation he seeks to be done in this
registration case;[10] and that the RTC had since issued a new Order dated 1
September 2003, confirming Martinezs title over Lot No. 370.
In its Comment dated 24 May 2004,[11] the OSG raises several substantial
points, including the fact that it had duly opposed Martinezs application for
registration before the RTC; that jurisprudence and the Rules of Court
acknowledge that a party in default is not precluded from appealing the
unfavorable judgment; that the RTC had no jurisdiction over Lot No. 370 since
its technical description was not published in the Official Gazette; and that as
found by the Court of Appeals the evidence presented by Martinez is insufficient
for registering the lots in his name.[12] Despite an order from the Court requiring
him to file a Reply to the Comment, counsel for Martinez declined to do so,
explaining, among others, that he felt he would only be taxing the collective
patience of this [Court] if he merely repeats x x x what petitioner had succinctly
stated x x x on pages four (4) to seven (7) of his said petition. Counsel for
petitioner was accordingly fined by the Court.[13]
The Courts patience is taxed less by redundant pleadings than by insubstantial
arguments. The inability of Martinez to offer an effective rebuttal to the
arguments of the OSG further debilitates what is an already weak petition.
The central question, as posed by Martinez, is whether the OSG could have still
appealed the RTC decision after it had been declared in default. The OSG
argues that a party in default is not precluded from filing an appeal, citing
Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. v. Court of Appeals,[14] and asserts that [t]he
Rules of Court expressly provides that a party who has been declared in default
may appeal from the judgment rendered against him.[15]
There is error in that latter, unequivocal averment, though one which does not
deter from the ultimate correctness of the general postulate that a party
declared in default is allowed to pose an appeal. Elaboration is in order.
We note at the onset that the OSG does not impute before this Court that the
RTC acted improperly in declaring public respondent in default, even though an
opposition had been filed to Martinezs petition. Under Section 26 of Presidential
Decree No. 1529, as amended, the order of default may be issued [i]f no
person appears and answers within the time allowed. The RTC appears to
have issued the order of general default simply on the premise that no oppositor
appeared before it on the hearing of 29 March 2000. But it cannot be denied
that the OSG had already duly filed its Opposition to Martinezs petition long
before the said hearing. As we held in Director of Lands v. Santiago:[16]
[The] opposition or answer, which is based on substantial grounds, having been
formally filed, it was improper for the respondent Judge taking cognizance of
such registration case to declare the oppositor in default simply because he
failed to appear on the day set for the initial healing. The pertinent provision of
law which states: "If no person appears and answers within the time allowed,
the court may at once upon motion of the applicant, no reason to the contrary
appearing, order a general default to be recorded . . . ," cannot be interpreted to

mean that the court can just disregard the answer before it, which has long
been filed, for such an interpretation would be nothing less than illogical,
unwarranted, and unjust. Had the law intended that failure of the oppositor to
appear on the date of the initial hearing would be a ground for default despite
his having filed an answer, it would have been so stated in unmistakable terms,
considering the serious consequences of an order of default. Especially in this
case where the greater public interest is involved as the land sought to be
registered is alleged to be public land, the respondent Judge should have
received the applicant's evidence and set another date for the reception of the
oppositor's evidence. The oppositor in the Court below and petitioner herein
should have been accorded ample opportunity to establish the government's
claim.[17]
Strangely, the OSG did not challenge the propriety of the default order, whether
in its appeal before the Court of Appeals or in its petition before this Court. It
would thus be improper for the Court to make a pronouncement on the validity
of the default order since the same has not been put into issue. Nonetheless,
we can, with comfort, proceed from same apparent premise of the OSG that the
default order was proper or regular.
The juridical utility of a declaration of default cannot be disputed. By forgoing the
need for adversarial proceedings, it affords the opportunity for the speedy
resolution of cases even as it penalizes parties who fail to give regard or
obedience to the judicial processes.
The extent to which a party in default loses standing in court has been the
subject of considerable jurisprudential debate. Way back in 1920, in Velez v.
Ramas,[18] we declared that the defaulting defendant loses his standing in
court, he not being entitled to the service of notices in the case, nor to appear in
the suit in any way. He cannot adduce evidence; nor can he be heard at the
final hearing.[19] These restrictions were controversially expanded in Lim Toco
v. Go Fay,[20] decided in 1948, where a divided Court pronounced that a
defendant in default had no right to appeal the judgment rendered by the trial
court, except where a motion to set aside the order of default had been filed.
This, despite the point raised by Justice Perfecto in dissent that there was no
provision in the then Rules of Court or any law depriving a defaulted defendant
of the right to be heard on appeal.[21]
The enactment of the 1964 Rules of Court incontestably countermanded the
Lim Toco ruling. Section 2, Rule 41 therein expressly stated that [a] party who
has been declared in default may likewise appeal from the judgment rendered
against him as contrary to the evidence or to the law, even if no petition for relief
to set aside the order of default has been presented by him in accordance with
Rule 38.[22] By clearly specifying that the right to appeal was available even if
no petition for relief to set aside the order of default had been filed, the then
fresh Rules clearly rendered the Lim Toco ruling as moot.
Another provision in the 1964 Rules concerning the effect of an order of default
acknowledged that a party declared in default shall not be entitled to notice of
subsequent proceedings, nor to take part in the trial.[23] Though it might be
argued that appellate proceedings fall part of the trial since there is no final
termination of the case as of then, the clear intent of the 1964 Rules was to

nonetheless allow the defaulted defendant to file an appeal from the trial court
decision. Indeed, jurisprudence applying the 1964 Rules was unhesitant to
affirm a defaulted defendants right to appeal, as guaranteed under Section 2 of
Rule 41, even as Lim Toco was not explicitly abandoned.
In the 1965 case of Antonio, et al. v. Jacinto,[24] the Court acknowledged that
the prior necessity of a ruling setting aside the order of default however, was
changed by the Revised Rules of Court. Under Rule 41, section 2, paragraph 3,
a party who has been declared in default may likewise appeal from the
judgment rendered against him as contrary to the evidence or to the law, even if
no petition for relief to set aside the order of default has been presented by him
in accordance with Rule 38.[25] It was further qualified in Matute v. Court of
Appeals[26] that the new availability of a defaulted defendants right to appeal
did not preclude a defendant who has been illegally declared in default from
pursuing a more speedy and efficacious remedy, like a petition for certiorari to
have the judgment by default set aside as a nullity.[27]
In Tanhu v. Ramolete,[28] the Court cited with approval the commentaries of
Chief Justice Moran, expressing the reformulated doctrine that following Lim
Toco, a defaulted defendant cannot adduce evidence; nor can he be heard
at the final hearing, although

[under Section 2, Rule 41,] he may appeal the judgment rendered against him
on the merits.[29]
Thus, for around thirty-odd years, there was no cause to doubt that a defaulted
defendant had the right to appeal the adverse decision of the trial court even
without seeking to set aside the order of default. Then, in 1997, the Rules of
Civil Procedure were amended, providing for a new Section 2, Rule 41. The
new provision reads:
SECTION 1. Subject of appeal.An appeal may be taken from a judgment or
final order that completely disposes of the case, or of a particular matter therein
when declared by these Rules to be appealable.

(g)
A judgment or final order for or against or one or more of several parties
or in separate claims, counterclaims, cross-claims and third-party complaints,
while the main case is pending, unless the court allows an appeal therefrom;
and

(h)

An order dismissing an action without prejudice.

In all the above instances where the judgment or final order is not appealable,
the aggrieved party may file an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65.

Evidently, the prior warrant that a defaulted defendant had the right to appeal
was removed from Section 2, Rule 41. On the other hand, Section 3 of Rule 9 of
the 1997 Rules incorporated the particular effects on the parties of an order of
default:
Sec. 3. Default; declaration of.If the defending party fails to answer within the
time allowed therefor, the court shall, upon motion of the claiming party with
notice to the defending party, and proof of such failure, declare the defending
party in default. Thereupon, the court shall proceed to render judgment granting
the claimant such relief as his pleading may warrant, unless the court in its
discretion requires the claimant to submit evidence. Such reception of evidence
may be delegated to the clerk of court.
(a)
Effect of order of default.A party in default shall be entitled to notice of
subsequent proceedings but shall not take part in the trial.
(b)
Relief from order of default.A party declared in default may any time
after notice thereof and before judgment file a motion under oath to set aside
the order of default upon proper showing that his failure to answer was due to
fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence and that he has a meritorious
defense. In such case, the order of default may be set aside on such terms and
conditions as the judge may impose in the interest of justice.

No appeal may be taken from:


(a)

An order denying a motion for new trial or reconsideration;

(b)
An order denying a petition for relief or any similar motion seeking relief
from judgment;
(c)

An interlocutory order;

(d)

An order disallowing or dismissing an appeal;

(c)
Effect of partial default.When a pleading asserting a claim states a
common cause of action against several defending parties, some of whom
answer and the others fail to do so, the court shall try the case against all upon
the answers thus filed and render judgment upon the evidence presented.

(e)
An order denying a motion to set aside a judgment by consent,
confession or compromise on the ground of fraud, mistake or duress, or any
other ground vitiating consent;

(d)
Extent of relief to be awarded.A judgment rendered against a party in
default shall not exceed the amount or be different in kind from that prayed for
nor award unliquidated damages.

(f)

xxx

An order of execution;

It cannot be escaped that the old provision expressly guaranteeing the right of a
defendant declared in default to appeal the adverse decision was not replicated
in the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Should this be taken as a sign that under
the 1997 Rules a defaulted defendant no longer has the right to appeal the trial
court decision, or that the Lim Toco doctrine has been reinstated?
If post-1997 jurisprudence and the published commentaries to the 1997 Rules
were taken as an indication, the answer should be in the negative. The right of a
defaulted defendant to appeal remains extant.
By 1997, the doctrinal rule concerning the remedies of a party declared in
default had evolved into a fairly comprehensive restatement as offered in Lina v.
Court of Appeals:[30]
a)
The defendant in default may, at any time after discovery thereof and
before judgment, file a motion, under oath, to set aside the order of default on
the ground that his failure to answer was due to fraud, accident, mistake or
excusable neglect, and that he has meritorious defenses; (Sec 3, Rule 18)
b)
If the judgment has already been rendered when the defendant
discovered the default, but before the same has become final and executory, he
may file a motion for new trial under Section 1(a) of Rule 37;
c)
If the defendant discovered the default after the judgment has become
final and executory, he may file a petition for relief under Section 2 of Rule 38;
and
d)
He may also appeal from the judgment rendered against him as contrary
to the evidence or to the law, even if no petition to set aside the order of default
has been presented by him. (Sec. 2, Rule 41)[31]

The fourth remedy, that of appeal, is anchored on Section 2, Rule 41 of the


1964 Rules. Yet even after that provisions deletion under the 1997 Rules, the
Court did not hesitate to expressly rely again on the Lina doctrine, including the
pronouncement that a defaulted defendant may appeal from the judgment
rendered against him. This can be seen in the cases of Indiana Aerospace
University v. Commission on Higher Education,[32] Tan v. Dumarpa,[33] and
Crisologo v. Globe Telecom, Inc.[34]
Annotated textbooks on the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure similarly
acknowledge that even under the new rules, a defaulted defendant retains the
right to appeal as previously confirmed under the old Section 2, Rule 41. In his
textbook on Civil Procedure, Justice Francisco answers the question What are
the remedies available to a defending party in default? with a reiteration of the
Lina doctrine, including the remedy that a defaulted defendant may also appeal
from the judgment rendered against him as contrary to the evidence or to the
law, even if no petition to set aside the order of default has been presented by
him.[35] Justice Regalado also restates the Lina rule in his textbook on Civil
Procedure, opining that the remedies enumerated therein, even if under the
former Rules of Procedure, would hold true under the present amended

Rules.[36] Former Court of Appeals Justice Herrerra likewise reiterates the


Lina doctrine, though with the caveat that an appeal from an order denying a
petition for relief from judgment was no longer appealable under Section 1, Rule
41 of the 1997 Rules.[37] Herrera further adds:
Section 2, paragraph [2] of the former Rule 41, which allows an appeal from a
denial of a petition for relief, was deleted from the present Rule, and confined
appeals to cases from a final judgment or final order that completely disposes of
the case, or of a particular matter therein, when declared by these rules to be
appealable. A judgment by default may be considered as one that completely
disposes of the case.[38]
We are hard-pressed to find a published view that the enactment of the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure accordingly withdrew the right, previously granted
under the 1964 Rules, of a defaulted defendant to appeal the judgment by
default against him. Neither is there any provision under the 1997 Rules which
expressly denies the defaulted defendant such a right. If it is perplexing why the
1997 Rules deleted the previous authorization under the old Section 2, Rule 41
(on subject of appeal), it is perhaps worth noting that its counterpart provision in
the 1997 Rules, now Section 1, Rule 41, is different in orientation even as it also
covers subject of appeal. Unlike in the old provision, the bulk of the new
provision is devoted to enumerating the various rulings from which no appeal
may be taken, and nowhere therein is a judgment by default included. A
declaration therein that a defaulted defendant may still appeal the judgment by
default would have seemed out of place.
Yet even if it were to assume the doubtful proposition that this contested right of
appeal finds no anchor in the 1997 Rules, the doctrine still exists, applying the
principle of stare decisis. Jurisprudence applying the 1997 Rules has continued
to acknowledge the Lina doctrine which embodies this right to appeal as among
the remedies of a defendant, and no argument in this petition persuades the
Court to rule otherwise.
In Rural Bank of Sta. Catalina v. Land Bank of the Philippines,[39] the Court,
through Justice Callejo, Sr., again provided a comprehensive restatement of the
remedies of the defending party declared in default, which we adopt for
purposes of this decision:
It bears stressing that a defending party declared in default loses his standing in
court and his right to adduce evidence and to present his defense. He, however,
has the right to appeal from the judgment by default and assail said judgment
on the ground, inter alia, that the amount of the judgment is excessive or is
different in kind from that prayed for, or that the plaintiff failed to prove the
material allegations of his complaint, or that the decision is contrary to law. Such
party declared in default is proscribed from seeking a modification or reversal of
the assailed decision on the basis of the evidence submitted by him in the Court
of Appeals, for if it were otherwise, he would thereby be allowed to regain his
right to adduce evidence, a right which he lost in the trial court when he was
declared in default, and which he failed to have vacated. In this case, the
petitioner sought the modification of the decision of the trial court based on the
evidence submitted by it only in the Court of Appeals.[40]

If it cannot be made any clearer, we hold that a defendant party declared in


default retains the right to appeal from the judgment by default on the ground
that the plaintiff failed to prove the material allegations of the complaint, or that
the decision is contrary to law, even without need of the prior filing of a motion
to set aside the order of default. We reaffirm that the Lim Toco doctrine, denying
such right to appeal unless the order of default has been set aside, was no
longer controlling in this jurisdiction upon the effectivity of the 1964 Rules of
Court, and up to this day.
Turning to the other issues, we affirm the conclusion of the Court of Appeals
that Martinez failed to adduce the evidence needed to secure the registration of
the subject lots in his name.

I took possession.

Q
Before Julian Martinez and Juan Martinez sold these parcels of land
before you took possession who were the owners and in possession of these?
A
Hilarion Martinez, the father of my predecessors-in-interest and also my
grandfather.
xxxx

Court:

It should be noted that the OSG, in appealing the case to the Court of Appeals,
did not introduce any new evidence, but simply pointed to the insufficiency of
the evidence presented by Martinez before the trial court. The Court of Appeals
was careful to point out that the case against Martinez was established not by
the OSGs evidence, but by petitioners own insufficient evidence. We adopt
with approval the following findings arrived at by the Court of Appeals, thus:

Q
Of your own knowledge[,] where [sic] did your grandfather Hilarion
Martinez acquire these lands?
A
According to my grandfather he bought that land from a certain Juan
Casano in the year 1870s[,] I think.

The burden of proof in land registration cases is incumbent on the applicant who
must show that he is the real and absolute owner in fee simple of the land
applied for. Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by clear and convincing
evidence that the property involved was acquired by him or his ancestors by any
of the means provided for the proper acquisition of public lands, the rule is
settled that the property must be held to be a part of the public domain. The
applicant must, therefore, 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.

Q
A

xxxx
By the way[,] when did your grandfather Hilarion Martinez die?
Either in 1920 or 1921.

Q
Since you said your immediate predecessors-in-interest Julian Martinez
and Juan Martinez inherited the same from your grandfather. Can you say it the
same that your predecessors-in-interest were the owners and possessors of the
same since 1921 up to the time they sold the land to you in 1952?
A
Yes, sir.
xxxx

Considered in the light of the opposition filed by the Office of the Solicitor
General, we find the evidence adduced by appellee, on the whole, insufficient to
support the registration of the subject parcels in his name. To prove the
provenance of the land, for one, all that appellee proffered by way of oral
evidence is the following cursory testimony during his direct examination, viz:
xxxx
Q
You mentioned that you are the owner of these three (3) parcels of land.
How did you begin the ownership of the same?
A
I bought it from my uncles Julian Martinez and Juan Martinez.
xxxx
Q
A

x x x x Who took possession of these parcels of land from then on?


I took possession, sir

Q
A

As owner?
Yes, as owner.

Q
land?

Up to the present who is in possession as owner of these parcels of

In the dreary tradition of most land registration cases, appellee has apparently
taken the absence of representation for appellant at the hearing of his petition
as license to be perfunctory in the presentation of his evidence. Actual
possession of land, however, consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion
over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own
property. It is not enough for an applicant to declare himself or his
predecessors-in-interest the possessors and owners of the land for which
registration is sought. He must present specific acts of ownership to
substantiate the claim and cannot just offer general statements which are mere
conclusions of law requiring evidentiary support and substantiation.
The record shows that appellee did not fare any better with the documentary
evidence he adduced before the trial court. The October 20, 1952 Deed of Sale
by which appellee claims to have purchased the subject parcels from his uncle,
Julian Martinez, was not translated from the vernacular in which it was executed
and, by said token, was inadmissible in evidence. Having submitted a white
print copy of the survey plan for Lot Nos. 464-A and 464-B, appellee also
submitted the tracing cloth plan for Lot No. 370 which does not, however,
appear to be approved by the Director of Lands. In much the same manner that
the submission of the original tracing cloth plan is a mandatory statutory

requirement which cannot be waived, the rule is settled that a survey plan not
approved by the Director of Lands is not admissible in evidence.[41]

These findings of the Court of Appeals, arrived at after a sufficiently extensive


evaluation of the evidence, stand in contrast to that contained in the RTC
decision, encapsulated in a one-paragraph prcis of the factual allegations of
Martinez concerning how he acquired possession of the subject properties. The
Court of Appeals, of course, is an appropriate trier of facts, and a comparison
between the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals and that of the RTC clearly
demonstrates that it was the appellate court which reached a more thorough
and considered evaluation of the evidence.
As correctly held by the Court of Appeals, the burden of proof expected of the
petitioner in a land registration case has not been matched in this case.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines

2) Cipriano Pulido, claiming 50,412 square meters of Lot No. 6859;

SUPREME COURT
Manila

3) Hilario Marzan, claiming 39,480 square meters on the western portion of Lot
No. 6860;

FIRST DIVISION

4) Magno Marzan, claiming 30,000 square meters on the southeastern portion


of Lot No. 6860; and

G.R. No. L-53768

May 6, 1991

PATRICIA CASILDO CACHERO and the HEIRS OF TOMAS CACHERO


(Alejandria Cachero-Estilong, Lolita Cachero-Teodoro, Severa CacheroSimplinam, Bernardo Cachero, and Luzviminda Cachero-Balinag), applicantsappellees,
vs.
BERNARDINO MARZAN, HILARIO MARZAN, CIPRIANO PULIDO, MAGNO
MARZAN and GUILLERMO HIPOL, oppositors. ADELINA PULIDO GENOVA,
and the HEIRS OF PAULINA NUDO AND FELIX GENOVA (Cornelio Genova,
Herminia Genova, Carmelita Genova, Josefina Genova and Margarita Genova),
petitioners-appellants.
Luis L. Lardizabal for applicants-appellees.

NARVASA, J.:p
The Spouses Tomas Cachero and Patricia Casildo brought suit in the Court of
First Instance of La Union against Bernardino Marzan, Julian Marzan and
Cipriano Pulido for recovery of possession and ownership of two (2) adjoining
parcels of land having an aggregate area of some fifteen (15) hectares, located
in Barrio Basca, Aringay, La Union. In that action, docketed as Civil Case No.
384, judgment was rendered declaring the plaintiff spouses "owners of the nine
hectares piece of land described in the complaint." 1 The judgment became final
and executory.
About seven (7) years later 2 the Cachero Spouses, instituted proceedings for
the registration under the Torrens Act of the parcels of land subject of Civil Case
No. 384, supraidentified as Lot No. 6860 of the Cadastral Survey of Aringay
La Union, with an area of 109,480 square meters and another parcel of land
identified as Lot No. 6859 of the same Cadastral Survey, measuring 50,412
square meters, both lots being situated in Sitio Iriw, Basca (now Barrio San
Antonio), Aringay, La Union. In said case, docketed as Land Registration Case
No. N-824, separate oppositions were filed by Atty. Agaton Yaranon, Jr. in
behalf of five individuals, namely:
1) Bernardino Marzan, claiming 10,000 square meters on the northeastern
portion of lot No. 6860;

5) Guillermo Hipol, claiming the eastern central portion of the same Lot No.
6860.
Note that two of the five oppositors, the first two above named, were parties in
the aforementioned Civil Case No. 384 which, as already mentioned, was
decided some seven years earlier.
The Registration Court thereafter issued an Order to the effect that "excepting
Bernardino Marzan, Cipriano Pulido, Magno Marzan, Hilario Marzan and the
Bureau of Lands, a special entry of default is declared against the whole world."
3
Tomas Cachero died before judgment and was substituted by his children. The
registration proceedings culminated in a verdict favorable to the applicant
spouses. The Court found that the applicant spouses and their predecessors-ininterest had been in continuous and notorious possession of Lots Numbered
6859 and 6860 for more than sixty (60) years in concept of owners, to the
exclusion of others, except for a one-hectare portion of Lot No. 6860 which the
Cacheros had sold to Bernardino Marzan; that Tomas Cachero had inherited
said lots from his late father, Simeon Cachero; and that the applicant spouses
had been religiously paying the realty taxes on the parcels of land as owners
thereof. The Court's judgment 4 made the following disposition, to wit:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court hereby grants the application and
orders that the two adjoining lots, namely, Lots No. 6859 and 6860, which are
described in plan (LRC) SWO-7861, Exh. "A" and plan (LRC) SWO-4204, Exh.
"D" respectively, and the technical descriptions, Exhs. "B" and "E," respectively,
be registered in the name of Patricia Casildo, widow, Alejandria Cachero,
married to Estilong, Lolita Cachero, married to Fidel Teodoro; Severa Cachero,
married to Hilario Simplina; Bernardo Cachero, married to Aniceta Rumbaoa;
and Luzviminda Cachero, married to Abraham Balinag, all Filipinos, of legal
age, and residents of Alicia, Isabela, excepting the one hectare portion of Lot
No. 6860 which now belongs to Nicolas Abejona. Once this decision has
become final, let the corresponding decree be issued.
The oppositors' counsel, Atty. Yaranon, filed a motion for reconsideration of the
judgment on the ground that the Court had no jurisdiction over the subjectmatter, the lands in question having earlier been subject of cadastral
proceedings in which, as shown by the records, neither the Cacheros nor their
predecessors-in-interest had ever entered a claim for either lot. The Cacheros
opposed the motion. They argued that by the time the motion for
reconsideration was filed, the judgment sought to be reconsidered had already
become final, more than thirty (30) days having elapsed from the time that the
oppositors' counsel was served with notice thereof. 5 The motion was denied. 6

About seven (7) months after the filing of the oppositors' aforesaid motion for
reconsideration, 7 persons not parties to the registration proceedings filed a "
petition for review of judgment and/or decree." They were Paulina Nodo and the
spouses Felix Genova and Adelina Pulido Genova, residents of Alicia, Isabela.
They were represented by the same attorney who represented the oppositors in
the registration case, Atty. Agaton Yaranon, Jr. They alleged thatthey not the
Cacheros, or any of the original oppositors (the Marzans, Pulido, Hipol)
represented by their own lawyer, Atty. Yaranon,were the owners of the land
designated as Lot No. 6859, having purchased the same sometime in 1929 and
having been in continuous possession thereof since then; that the Cacheros
fraudulently omitted to give them notice of their application for registration; and
(echoing the same theory on which the oppositors' motion for reconsideration
was based) that in the earlier cadastral survey, Lots Numbered 6859 and 6860
had been declared public land for lack of any original claimant and at the
cadastral hearing only the Director of Lands, the Director of Forestry, and they
(Nodo and the Genova Spouses) had filed "cadastral answers," but not Tomas
Cachero or his predecessors-in-interest. The petition prayed for the re-opening,
review and setting aside of the judgment and for the accord to them of an
opportunity to prove their asserted contentions.
This petition for review was denied. In its order of denial 8 the Registration
Court cited the report of the chief surveyor of the Land Registration Commission
stating that no decree of registration had been issued as regards lots 6859 and
6860 and no decision had been furnished the Commission. The Court also ruled
that the movants had failed to show fraud on the Cacheros' part, that "lack of
actual notice or knowledge of pendency of the proceeding does not in itself
establish fraud," and that there had been "due publication in accordance with
law, . . . (the) proceedings being an action in rem," apart from the fact that "said
movants are represented by Atty. Yaranon, who also is the lawyer for the
oppositor(s) who presented a written opposition to the application."

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THE DECISION DATED


NOVEMBER 15, 1972 NULL AND VOID, FOR WANT OR LACK OF
JURISDICTION OVER LOT NOS. 6859 AND 6860 OF THE ARINGAY (LA
UNION) CADASTRAL SURVEY, B.I. CASE NO. 106, CAD. CASE NO. 6,
G.L.R.O. CAD. REC. NO. 249, (1) LOT 6859 HAVING BEEN SURVEYED AS
PUBLIC LAND, AND/OR (2) INASMUCH AS UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF
THE CADASTRAL ACT (ACT NO. 2259), THE PETITION FOR THE
STATEMENT AND ADJUDICATION OF THE TITLE TO THE SAID LOTS AND
OTHER LOTS INVOLVED IN SAID CADASTRAL SURVEY HAD LONG BEEN
AUTHORIZED DIRECTED, PRESENTED, AND IN FACT TRIAL HAD
COMMENCED, ORDER OF DEFAULT ISSUED AND/OR ADJUDICATION
BEEN MADE, BEFORE THE CADASTRAL COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF
LA UNION, LONG BEFORE THE OUTBREAK OF THE LAST PACIFIC WAR IN
1941, AND/OR THE FAILURE OF THE APPLICANTS TO FILE THEIR
PETITION UNDER PERTINENT REGISTRATION FOR RE-OPENING OF
CADASTRAL PROCEEDING;
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THE DECISION DATED
NOVEMBER 15, 1972 NULL AND VOID FOR FATAL INFIRMITY THEREOF;
III
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING DUE COURSE TO THE
PETITION FOR REVIEW OF THE DECREE.

Paulina Nodo and Felix Genova subsequently died. Felix Genova was
substituted by his heirs, Adelina P. Vda. de Genova, and Cornelio, Juanito,
Magdalena, Herminia, Carmelita, Josefina and Margarita, all surnamed Genova,
Paulina Nodo was substituted by her heir, Adelina P. Vda. de Genova.

After the parties' briefs were filed and duly considered, the Appellate Court
promulgated a Resolution forwarding the case to this Court; it opined that it had
no appellate jurisdiction over the appeal since only "purely legal questions" were
involved therein. 10 In its Resolution, the Appellate Court declared that the
appellants (the Genovas) "are not the oppositors in the proceedings below but
are third persons who came into the case, through a petition for review of
judgment, later amended as a petition for nullity of judgment, after the decision
of the lower Court had become final and executory;" that the purely legal issues
involved are:

These heirs, the Genovas, then submitted through Atty. Yaranon, Jr., and
"amended petition for declaration of nullity of the judgment and/or review of the
decree," reiterating and expatiating on the averments of the "petition for review
of judgment and/or decree" earlier filed by the same Atty. Yaranon, Jr.

1) whether or not "persons declared in default by an entry of special default


because they did not file any answer after publication of the notice of hearing
(may) still file a petition for review of judgment and/or decree on grounds that
the decision is null and void for want of jurisdiction;" and

The amended petition for declaration of nullity, etc. suffered the same fate as
the original petition. It was denied by the Registration Court, 9 which pointed out
that the petitioners were "total strangers" who had "no personality to contest the
legality of the decision which has become final," that they failed to file any
"timely opposition to the registration proceedings," or to show that they had
"been denied or deprived of their day in Court." The Genovas thereupon
appealed to the Court of Appeals, upon the following assignment of errors:

2) whether or not "a Court of First Instance (may) acquire jurisdiction over
voluntary land registration proceedings covering lots that are already subject to
a pending cadastral proceeding instituted by the Director of Lands;" stated
otherwise"once a Cadastral Court has acquired jurisdiction over all lots in a
given cadastree.g., the Aringay, La Union Cadastreand all holders
claimants, possessors, and occupants of said lots have been required to show
their interests or rights to the end that titles of all lands in the cadastral area may
be settled and adjudicated" whether or not "that cadastral jurisdiction" excludes
or bars "voluntary land registration proceedings in court or even administrative
concessions such as homesteads, free patents and sale patents," or, stated in

still another manner, whether or not persons who "wish to assert rights of
ownership or to acquire titles to any lots covered by the cadastral survey are . . .
limited to pursuing their causes of action before the cadastral court" and "other
modes of acquiring title (will) have to wait until after the cadastral proceeding is
closed;" and if "this requirement (is) jurisdictional."
The Genova's contention that the earlier cadastral proceedings should be
deemed a bar to the institution by the Cacheros of registration proceedings, if
not indeed to the acquisition of jurisdiction over these later proceedings by the
Court of First Instance, is without merit.
The fact that, as claimed by the Genovas, the Cacheros, by failing to intervene
in the aforementioned cadastral case commenced before the outbreak of the
Pacific War, had been comprehended in the order of general default therein
entered and forever barred from substantiating any claims to the areas therein
involved, is inconsequential. For it is clear from the record, in fact it is admitted
on all sides, that at least as far as the parcels of land involved in the appeal at
bar are concernedLots No. 6859 and No. 6860the cadastral proceedings
had been abandoned, had not been continued or resumed after the war, and
had never eventuated in any adjudication of any sort. 11 Of no little significance
in this connection is that although the Director of Lands had presented an
opposition to the Cacheros' application for registration of their title over Lots No.
6859 and No. 6860, (a) his opposition contains no reference whatever to the
earlier cadastral proceedings or any challenge, on account thereof, to the
jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance over the subject matter of the
Cacheros' application, and (b) no appeal had been taken by him from the
judgment declaring the Cacheros owners of the land in question and decreeing
the issuance of title to them.
Hence, said compulsory cadastral proceedings under Act 2259 (the Cadastral
Act) cannot be invoked and set up as a bar to the registration proceedings
under Act 496 (the Torrens Act) initiated more than twenty years later by the
Cacheros. Indeed, when the latter registration case was begun, the cadastral
proceedings had long been discontinued and abandoned and, to all intents and
purposes, had ceased to exist. In any event, it is undisputed that the cadastral
proceedings had resulted in no judgment or final order affecting the lands now
in question. There having been no final adjudication in the cadastral
proceedings at all, there is no occasion whatever to refer to the familiar doctrine
of res judicatawhich this Court applied, for instance, in Republic vs. Vera
(1983), in pronouncing a Court of First Instance to be without jurisdiction over
lands subject of voluntary registration proceedings under Act No. 496 (the
Torrens Act), it appearing that many, many years earlier, the same property had
been declared public land by a decision handed down by the Cadastral Court in
compulsory registration proceedings under Act 2259 (the Cadastral Act) and
which decision had become "final and conclusive." 12 The conclusion here
reached renders unnecessary adjudgment of the other questions posed by the
Court of Appeals in its Resolution of April 14, 1980 referring the case at bar to
this Court for the reason that only "purely legal questions" were involved.
Of no little significance, too, is that the Cacheros and their children had
succeeded in establishing and vindicating their ownership over Lots No. 6859
and No. 6860 in no less than two (2) appropriate judicial proceedings in both of

which the judgments rendered had become final and executory. In Civil Case
No. 384, mentioned in this opinion's opening paragraph, the Spouses Tomas
Cachero and Patricia Casildo were declared by final judgment of the Court of
First Instance of La Union to be the owners of the parcels of land in question in
an action instituted by them against Bernardino Marzan, Julian Marzan and
Cipriano Pulido. And in Land Registration Case No. N-824where oppositions
were submitted by five persons two of whom were parties-defendant in Civil
Case No. 384, and whence the present appeal proceedings emanated
Mrs. Cacheros and her children (her late husband's heirs) were similarly
declared owners of the same property. Surely, these judicial pronouncements
should not be set aside except for the gravest and most compelling causes. No
such cause has been presented by the Genovas.
All the Genovas have done, to repeat, is to claim that the compulsory cadastral
proceedings instituted before the Pacific War, involving among others Lots No.
6859 and 6860, constituted an insuperable obstacle to the acquisition by the
Court of First Instance of jurisdiction over the voluntary registration proceedings
involving the same lots, initiated some twenty (20) years later by the
Cacherosa claim singularly lacking in merit, as already pointed out.
Moreover, the Genovas were and are bound by the order of default issued in
Land Reg. Case No. N-824, a proceeding undoubtedly in rem in character. That
default order was entered "against the whole world," with the exception only of
the parties who had appeared and filed pleadings in the registration case,
namely: Bernardino Marzan, Cipriano Pulido, Magno Marzan, Hilario Marzan
and the Bureau of Lands. The Genovas were charged with knowledge of the
Cacheros' application since notice of the application had been published in
accordance with law. They could and should have taken part in the case to
assert and prove their rights over the property subject thereof The fact that they
did not, cannot operate to exclude them from the binding effects of the in rem
judgment rendered in the proceedings. Their claim that they were precluded
from doing so by fraud perpetrated by the Cacheros has not been substantiated,
and was not found by the Court of Appeals to be a proper issue in their appeal,
since it declared that the only issues were "purely legal" ones. Besides, that
unsubstantiated claim of fraud does not at all explain why they should not be
bound by the published notices of the Cacheros' application, accomplished in
accordance, with law and by direction of the Registration Court.
WHEREFORE, the appeal of the petitioners-appellants ADELINA PULIDO
GENOVA, and the HEIRS OF PAULINA NUDO AND FELIX GENOVA (Cornelia
Genova, Herminia Genova, Carmelita Genova, Josefina Genova and Margarita
Genova) is DISMISSED for lack of merit, and the judgment of the Court in
Land Registration Case No. N-824 entitled "In Re Application for Land
Registration under Act 496: Tomas Cachero & Patricia Casildo (Spouses),"
rendered on November 15, 1972 is AFFIRMED in toto, without pronouncement
as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

1918, and the realty taxes thereon had been paid since 1948. When Benedicto
del Rio died in 1957, his heirs extrajudicially partitioned his estate and the
subject parcel passed on to his son, Santos del Rio, as the latter's share in the
inheritance.

SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. L-43105

August 31, 1984

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Director of Lands), petitioner,


vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS (SECOND DIVISION) AND SANTOS DEL
RIO, respondents.
G.R. No. L-43190

August 31, 1984

AURORA BAUTISTA, OLIMPIO LARIOS, FELICIDAD DE LA CRUZ, ELPIDIO


LARIOS, LUCITA BANDA, BENITO SANTAYANA, FRUCTUOSA BANHAO
LUCIO VELASCO, GREGORIO DATOY, FELIMON GUTIERREZ, ET AL.,
petitioners,
vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS AND SANTOS DEL RIO, respondents.

Santos del Rio, herein applicant-private respondent, filed his application for
registration of said parcel on May 9, 1966. The application was opposed by the
Director of Lands and by private oppositors, petitioners in G.R. No. L-43190.
Sometime before 1966, private oppositors obtained permission from Santos del
Rio to construct duck houses on the land in question. Although there was no
definite commitment as to rentals, some of them had made voluntary payments
to private respondent. In violation of the original agreement, private oppositors
constructed residential houses on the land which prompted private respondent
to file an ejectment suit against the former in 1966. 4 Meanwhile, during the
latter part of 1965 and in 1966, private oppositors had simultaneously filed their
respective sales applications with the Bureau of Lands, and in 1966, they
opposed Santos del Rios application for registration. The Court of First Instance
of Laguna dismissed the application for registration. Applicant appealed and
obtained a favorable judgment from the Court of Appeals. The Director of Lands
and the private
oppositors filed their respective Petitions for Review of
said decision.

Bonifacio, Perez & Concepcion for petitioners.


The two consolidated petitions raise substantially the same issues, to wit :
The Solicitor General for respondent Appellate Court.
1) whether or not the parcel of land in question is public land; and
Eduardo Cagandahan for respondent Santos del Rio.
2) whether or not applicant private respondent has registerable title to the land.

CUEVAS, J.:
These two 1 Petitions for Review of the same decision of the defunct Court of
Appeals 2 have been consolidated in this single decision, having arisen from
one and the same Land Registration Cage (LRC Case No. N-283, Laguna), and
presenting as they do issues which may be resolved jointly by this Court.

Property, which includes parcels of land found in Philippine territory, is either of


public dominion or of private ownership. 5 Public lands, or those of public
dominion, have been described as those which, under existing legislation are
not the subject of private ownership, and are reserved for public purposes. 6
The New Civil Code enumerates properties of public dominion in Articles 420
and 502 thereof. Article 420 provides:
The following things are property of public dominion:

The questioned decision of the Court of Appeals set aside the judgment of the
trial court and ordered the registration of the land in favor of applicant, now
private respondent, Santos del Rio. Petitioner Director of Lands in G.R. No. L43105 claims that the land sought to be registered is part of the public domain
and therefore not registerable. Petitioners private oppositors in G.R. No. L43190, on the other hand, allege that they reclaimed the land by dumping duck
egg shells thereon, and that they have been in possession of the same for more
than twenty (20) years.

(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.
Article 502 adds to the above enumeration, the following:

The lot subject matter of this land registration case, with an area of 17,311
square meters, is situated near the shore of Laguna de Bay, about twenty (20)
meters therefrom (Exh. D), 3 in Barrio Pinagbayanan, Pila, Laguna. It was
purchased by Benedicto del Rio from Angel Pili on April 19, 1909. The Deed of
Sale evidencing said purchase is duly recorded with the Registry of Deeds of
Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The land was declared for tax purposes beginning the year

(1) Rivers and their natural beds;


(2) Continuous or intermittent waters of springs and brooks running in their
natural beds and the beds themselves;

(3) Waters rising continuously or intermittently on lands of public dominion;


(4) Lakes and lagoons formed by Nature on public lands and their beds;
xxx

xxx

xxx

(Emphasis supplied)
The Director of Lands would like Us to believe that since a portion of the land
sought to be registered is covered with water four to five months a year, the
same is part of the lake bed of Laguna de Bay, or is at least, a foreshore land,
which brings it within the enumeration in Art. 502 of the New Civil Code quoted
above and therefore it cannot be the subject of registration.
The extent of a lake bed is defined in Art. 74 of the Law of Waters of 1866, as
follows:
The natural bed or basin of lakes, ponds, or pools, is the ground covered by
their waters when at their highest ordinary depth. (Emphasis supplied)
The phrase "highest ordinary depth" in the above definition has been interpreted
in the case of Government of P.I. vs. Colegio de San Jose 7 to be the highest
depth of the waters of Laguna de Bay during the dry season, such depth being
the "regular, common, natural, which occurs always or most of the time during
the year." The foregoing interpretation was the focal point in the Court of
Appeals decision sought to be reviewed. We see no reason to disturb the same.
Laguna de Bay is a lake. 8 While the waters of a lake are also subject to the
same gravitational forces that cause the formation of tides 9 in seas and
oceans, this phenomenon is not a regular daily occurrence in the case of lakes.
10 Thus, the alternation of high tides and low tides, which is an ordinary
occurrence, could hardly account for the rise in the water level of the Laguna de
Bay as observed four to five months a year during the rainy season. Rather, it is
the rains which bring about the inundation of a portion of the land in question.
Since the rise in the water level which causes the submersion of the land occurs
during a shorter period (four to five months a year) than the level of the water at
which the is completely dry, the latter should be considered as the "highest
ordinary depth" of Laguna de Bay. Therefore, the land sought to be registered is
not part of the bed or basin of Laguna de Bay. Neither can it be considered as
foreshore land. The Brief for the Petitioner Director of Lands cites an accurate
definition of a foreshore land, to wit:
... that part of (the land) which is between high and low water and left dry by the
flux and reflux of the tides... 11
The strip of land that lies between the high and low water mark and that is
alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. 12
As aptly found by the Court a quo, the submersion in water of a portion of the
land in question is due to the rains "falling directly on or flowing into Laguna de
Bay from different sources. 13 Since the inundation of a portion of the land is
not due to "flux and reflux of tides" it cannot be considered a foreshore land

within the meaning of the authorities cited by petitioner Director of Lands. The
land sought to be registered not being part of the bed or basin of Laguna de
Bay, nor a foreshore land as claimed by the Director of Lands, it is not a public
land and therefore capable of registration as private property provided that the
applicant proves that he has a registerable title. This brings us to the second
issue, which is whether or not applicant private respondent has registerable title
to the land.
The purpose of land registration under the Torrens System is not the acquisition
of lands but only the registration of title which applicant already possesses over
the land. 14 Registration under the Torrens Law was never intended as a
means of acquiring ownership. Applicant in this case asserts ownership over the
parcel of land he seeks to register and traces the roots of his title to a public
instrument of sale (Exh. G) in favor of his father from whom he inherited said
land. In addition to this muniment of title, he presents tax declarations (Exhs. F,
G, H, I) covering the land since 1918 and also tax receipts (Exhs. J, J-1, J-2, J3, J-4, K, K-1, K-2, K-3) dating back to 1948. While it is true that by themselves
tax receipts and declarations of ownership for taxation purposes are not
incontrovertible evidence of ownership, 15 they become strong evidence of
ownership acquired by prescription when accompanied by proof of actual
possession of the property. 16 The then Court of Appeals found applicant by
himself and through his father before him, has been in open, continuous, public,
peaceful, exclusive and adverse possession of the disputed land for more than
thirty (30) years, counted from April 19, 1909, when the land was acquired from
a third person by purchase. 17 The record does not show any circumstance of
note sufficient enough to overthrow said findings of facts which is binding upon
us. Since applicant has possessed the subject parcel in the concept of owner
with just title and in good faith, his possession need only last for ten years in
order for ordinary acquisitive prescription to set in. 18 Applicant has more than
satisfied this legal requirement. And even if the land sought to be registered is
public land as claimed by the petitioners still, applicant would be entitled to a
judicial confirmation of his imperfect title, since he has also satisfied the
requirements of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended
by Republic Act No. 1942). Sec. 48 of said Act enumerates as among the
persons entitled to judicial confirmation of imperfect title, the following:
(a) ...
(b) Those who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have
been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under bona fide c of
ownership, for at least tirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title ...
The claim of private oppositors, petitioners in G.R. No. L43190, that they have
reclaimed the land from the waters of Laguna de Bay and that they have
possessed the same for more than twenty (20) years does not improve their
position. In the first place, private persons cannot, by themselves reclaim land
from water bodies belonging to the public domain without proper permission
from government authorities. 19 And even if such reclamation had been
authorized, the reclaimed land does not automatically belong to the party
reclaiming the same as they may still be subject to the terms of the authority

earlier granted. 20 Private oppositors-petitioners failed to show proper authority


for the alleged reclamation, therefore, their claimed title to the litigated parcel
must fall. In the second place, their alleged possession can never ripen into
ownership. Only possession acquired and enjoyed in the concept of owner can
serve as the root of a title acquired by prescription. 21 As correctly found by the
appellate court, the private oppositors-petitioners entered into possession of the
land with the permission of, and as tenants of, the applicant del Rio. The fact
that some of them at one time or another did not pay rent cannot be considered
in their favor. Their use of the land and their non-payment of rents thereon were
merely tolerated by applicant and these could not have affected the character of
the latter's possession 22 which has already ripened into ownership at the time
of the filing of this application for registration.
The applicant private-respondent having satisfactorily established his
registerable title over the parcel of land described in his application, he is clearly
entitled to the registration in his favor of said land.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the judgment appealed from is hereby
AFFIRMED and the registration in favor of applicant private-respondent of the
land described in his application is hereby ordered.
Costs against private petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

On September 10, 1934, counsel for various oppositors, after excepting to the
decision, filed a motion for new trial which was denied, and the case was
brought before this court by bill of exceptions.

EN BANC

The Narag brothers and the Directors of Forestry appear to have abandoned
their opposition. They made no attempt to substantiate their claims at the trial.

G.R. No. L-42859

March 17, 1938

GABRIEL LASAM, applicant-appellee,


vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and JOSE CHAN HONG HIN, ET AL., opponentsappellants.
Acting Solicitor-General Melencio and B. Pobre for appellants.
Alfredo Catolico for appellee.
LAUREL, J.:
On January 24, 1930, Gabriel Lasam filed with the Court of First Instance of
Cagayan an application for the registration of 152 parcels of land containing a
total area of 24,723,436 square meters, situated in the municipality of Solana,
Province of Cagayan, described in the plan Exhibit K attached to the
application. These 152 parcels include the parcel No. 9 here involved.
According to the lower court, the portions of said parcel No. 9 which opposed
during the time of survey were delimited and marked on its plan Psu-67516
attached to the record as lots A to Z, AA to HH, MM to ZZ, AAA to ZZZ, AAAA
to ZZZZ, AAAAA, to FFFFF, NNNNN, 35 to 38, and 111 to 143, all inclusive.
(Decision of the lower court, Bill of Exception of the Government, p. 35.)
The Director of Lands opposed the application on the ground that it is not
supported by any title fit for registration and that the land sought to be registered
is public land. The brothers Felipe, Jose and Salvador, all surnamed Narag,
who are first cousin to the applicant Lasam, also filed opposition on the ground
that they are the owners of parcels No. 9. Opposition were also filed by Tomas
Furigay and 35 other persons as homesteaders; by the provincial fiscal,
representing the Directors of Forestry, on the ground that portions thereof are
public forest; by Francisco Caronan and some 71 others parties, claiming the
parcels occupied by them as their exclusive properties; by Jose Chan Hong Hin,
on the ground that the applicant includes his property of about 22 hectares and
50 ares; and by Mauro Antonio, on the ground that the applicant includes the
portion occupied by him and belonging to him. Pablo Soriano succeeded in
having the order of general default set aside as to him and was allowed to
registered his opposition at a latter date. Amendede applications and
oppositions by the parties were subsequently permitted to be filed.
After a protracted hearing, the lower court rejected and the oppositions filed,
declaring the applicant, Gabriel Lasam, the owner of parcel No. 9 as indicated in
the plan Psu-67516 (Exhibit K), and decreed the registration of said parcel in his
favor.

Counsel for the Director of Lands, et al. and for Jose Chan Hong Hin, et al.
make various assignments of error in their respective briefs. It is not believe
necessary however, to consider each and every assignment made as the
questions presented may, in our opinion, be reduced to the following
propositions: (a) Whether or not the applicant, Gabriel Lasam, is entitled to the
registered of parcel No. 9 on the basis of the document presented as Exhibit L,
hereinafter to be referred to, or in the alternative, whether or not he is entitled to
registered on the basis of public, continuous, and adverse possession under a
claim of ownership during the time prescribed by law (par. 9, application); and
the negative, (b) whether or not the numerous oppositors excluding the
homesteader are entitled to the parcels which they allege are included in the
controverted parcel No. 9. The rights of the homesteader necessarily depend on
the resolution of these two propositions.
Exhibit L purports to be an application dated June 27, 1873 addressed by
Domingo Narag 1. to the Alcalde Mayor, in which the former stated that he had
been in possession of the land above described and asked that informacion
testifical be admitted. The informacion testifical was had before the Alcalde
Mayor and appears to have been approved by the Judge of the Court of First
Instance without objection on the part of the fiscal. It is the theory of the
applicant that Domingo Narag 1. the original owner of parcel No. 5, described
in Exhibit L, owned P1,000 from the applicant's which amount Narag needed for
his candidacy gobernadorcillo of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, in 1880; that the
original of Exhibit L was turned over by the applicant to his lawyer, Vicente
Marasigan, who lost it, and for this reason, only a certificate copy of the
document marked Exhibit L presented; and that the fifth parcel mentioned in the
document, Exhibit L, is the parcel No. 9 described in the plan, Exhibit K. The
Government contends that Exhibit L is not a valid titled and does not confer
ownership that even if it were valid, it does not cover so extensive an area as
that appearing on the plan, Exhibit K.
The land designated as the fifth parcel is described in Exhibit L as follows:
5. Un terreno o pasto de ganados vacunos llamado Marguirig o Cagguban que
linda al poniente con el estero Pagul, oriente con el pueblo de la Solana al norte
con el sitio llamado y Calabbacao y al sur con el sitio llamado Atayo el cual
tiene un cabida de siete mil brazaz y herede de mis Padres hace viente y dos
aos y en la actualidad es donde mis granados de procreacion.
Parcel No. 9, the registration of which is applied for in these proceedings, is
described thus (brief of claimant-appellee p. 61):
Por el norte con barrios de Iraga, Bauan y Bangag;
Por el este con el Centro y los barrios de Basi, Natapian y Lanna;

Por el sur con la carretera provincial; y


Por el oeste barrios de Maguirig, Cagguban y estero Pangul.
We are of the opinion that the court below committed no error in receiving
Exhibit L as evidence for the claimant, but its admission by the court does not
necessarily entitled the applicant Gabriel Lasam, to the registration of the parcel
claimed by him in these proceedings. It is apparent that parcel No. 9, as
indicated in the plan, Exhibit K, is not the same parcel No. 5 described in
document Exhibit L. Whereas Exhibit L gives as boundaries on the north the
sitios of Maasin and Calabbacao, Exhibit K gives the barrios of Iraga, Bauan,
and Bangag; on the east Exhibit L gives the pueblo of Solana, whereas Exhibit
K gives "el Centro y los barrios de Basi, Natappian y Lanna"; on the west
Exhibit L gives estero Pangul, whereas Exhibit K gives the barrios of Maguirig,
Cagguban and estero Pangul; on the south Exhibit L gives the sitio of Atayao,
whereas Exhibit K gives the carretera provincial. While there may be partial
indentity as to boundaries on the east and west, such indentity is lacking as to
the boundaries on the north and south. This discrepancy is accentuated by the
admmission of the applicant that the parcel whose registered is sought is much
smaller than that described in paragraph 5 of Exhibit L. The explanation given
by the surveyors Jose Mallanao, presented as witness by the claimant, is a
follows:
Because on the north side when we went around the lot and I asked for the
barrios of Maasin and Calabacao the applicant pointed to me a place very far
from where he was at the time and where he actually occupied the land, and on
the south side he indicated to me the provincial road. I asked why he should not
take the actual land indicated by this title and he told me that he was not
occupying that portion . That is the reason why I took up the boundary on the
south as provincial road. On the east side he indicated to me the center of the
municipality of Solana, barrios of Basi, Nangalisan and Lanna, and on the west
is a public land party bounded by the barrios of Maguirig, and Cagguban and
estero Pangul.
An applicant for registration of land, if he relies on a document evidencing his
title thereto, must prove not only the genuiness of his title but the indentity of the
land therein referred to. The document in such a case is either a basis of his
claim for registration or not at all. If as in this case, he only claims a portion of
what is included in his title, he must clearly prove that the property sought to be
registered is included in that title. The surveyor, Jose Mallannao, did not actually
check up the boundaries of parcel No. 5, as described in Exhibit L, and in
testifying that parcel No. 9, in Exhibit K, is smaller than that described as parcel
No. 5 in Exhibit L, he relied on hearsay. For instance, when asked whether
north of barrios Iraga, Bauan and Bangag of the land described in plan Exhibit
K, he would locate the sitios of Maasin and Calabacao, he replied: "They said
that Calabbacao is north of that barrio Iraga yet." (Emphasis ours.)
Aside from what has been said with reference to discrepanies in the boundaries,
we cannot overlook the fact that the area in Exhibit L is vaguely given as 7,000
brazas. The surveyor for the applicant, Jose Mallannao, calculated the area of
the property described in paragraph 5 of Exhibit L on the basis of 7,000 square

brazas or 49,000,00 square as 15,695,500 hectares more or less (s.n. pp. 820822). The area claimed here according to the amended application of February
26, 1930, and the plan Exhibit K is 24,723,437 square meters. According to the
applicant before his occupation of the land ceded by Domingo Narag 1., only
about 2 hectares were cultivated. (s.n. p. 56, Gabriel Lasam.) And, with
reference to the payment of the land tax, the Solicitor-General in his brief (p. 12)
makes the following observation:
The property appears to have been declared for taxation purposes as
evidenced by revisions of tax declarations, Exhibit G-20 and G-21 (pp. 136, 137,
record). There had been previous declarations with an area of about 294
hectares (id.) but, according to Exhibit G-22 (p. 138, record), the area which
was not previously declared contains 1,685 hectares.
With the exception of a statement in which it appears that tax was paid in 1902
(p. 140, id.) there appears in the record no tax receipts evidencing the payment
of taxes continuously from 1902 up to this time.
It is not necessary to pass upon the contention of the Solicitor-General that the
informacion testifical (Exhibit L) is no legal effect because of failure
subsequently to solicit composition title pursuant to the Royal Decree of June
25, 19880 (Fuster vs. Director of Lands, G.R. No. 40129, Dec. 29, 1934), or to
convert possession into a registration of ownership in accordance with article
393 of the Mortgage law (Fernandez Hermanos vs. Director of Lands, 57 Phil.,
929), for even if we were to accord all the legal force to this document (Exhibit
L), it would not serve as a basis for the registration of 24,723,437 square
meters.
Having arrived at this conclusion as to Exhibit L, is the applicant entitled to
registration because of the required possession during the time prescribed by
law? We have examined the evidence on this point both testimonial and
documentary, and while there is evidence showing that the claimant might have
possessed a portion of the parcel claimed by him and the registration of which is
sought, we find the evidence lacking in certainly as to the particular portion
occupied and the extend thereof. Counsel for the applicant invokes the doctrine
laid down by us in Ramos vs. Director of Lands (39 Phil., 175, 180). (See also
Roales vs. Director of Lands, 51 Phil., 302, 304.) But it should be observed that
the applicant of the doctrine of constructive possession in that case is subject to
certain qualifications, and this court was careful to observe that among these
qualifications is "one particularly relating to the size of the tract in controversy
with reference to the portion actually in possession of the claimant." While,
therefore, "possession in the eyes of the law does not mean that a man has to
have his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be said that he is in
possession", possession under paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926, as
amended by paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, is not gained by mere
nominal claim. The mere planting of a sign or symbol of possession cannot
justify a Magellan like claim of dominion over an immense tract of territory.
Possession as a means of acquiring ownership, while it may be constructive, is
not a mere fiction. In the present case, upon the description of 7,000 brazas as
the area of the land said have been originally possessed by Domingo Narag 1.
and conveyed to the applicant, only two hectares of which were according to the
applicant cultivated at the time of such transfer, the applicant would on the basis

of the computation hereinabove referred to and given at the trial by surveyor


Jose Mallannao, be entitled under Exhibit L to more than 13,000 hectares,
although only 2,432 odd hectares are now being sought for registration in these
proceedings. The fact, however, that he is claiming only a portion of the land
claimed by him to be included in his title, the further fact that according to his
own testimony he has given up more than 1,000 hectares to the Bureau of
Forestry, the discrepancies in the boundaries, his tax declarations, and the
existence of numerous homesteaders and claimants are significant and tend to
show that his possession over the entire portion of the land sought to be
registered is not "such as to apprise the community and the world that the entire
land was for his enjoyment." (Ramos vs. Director of Lands, supra.)
Our attention is next directed to the decision of this court in Pamittan vs. Lasam
and Mallonga (60 Phil., 908) which according to counsel for the claimant Lasam,
is determinative of the ownership of the property now sought to be registered.
Said case refers to an action for partition between the heirs of Sofia Pamittan,
wife of Gabriel Lasam, originally brought in the Court of First Instance and
appealed to this court. The trial court in that case found that parcel No. 7
which is said to correspond to parcel No. 9 sought to be registered in these
proceedings "although during the existence of the conjugal partnership, was
proven to be the exclusive property of the husband Gabriel Lasam". This court
not have passed upon the question whether parcel No. 7 was the same parcel
No. 9 in these proceedings; nor could it have passed upon the conflicting claims
with reference to parcel No. 9, now sought to be registered. Whatever was said
in that case could not bind the oppositors in the present case, who were not
parties thereto.
The grounds for opposition of the various oppositors are divergent and are
based on (a) possession from time immemorial: (b) acquisition by inheritance,
purchase and donations propters nuptias and inter vivos; (c) payment of land
taxes from 1906, 1915 and 1918 up to the filing of oppositions; and (d)
acquisition "a titulo de composicion" with the State. These oppositors denied
tenants of the applicant Lasam. After persual of the evidence presented by
them, we are constrained to accept the conclusion of the lower court that none
of the portions or lots claimed by them or any one of them has been sufficiently
identified, either by the oral or documentary evidence which they presented. In
view thereof, and because of the insufficiency of the evidence presented, we
are of the opinion that the lower court committed no error in dismissing their
oppositions.
In view of the foregoing, the judgement of the lower court is reserved, without
prejudice to the filing by the applicant. Gabriel Lasam, of a new application and
plan covering the portion of the land actually occupied by him since July 25,
1894. Upon the determination of that portion by the lower court, let judgement
be rendered accordingly. The remaining portion or portions of lot No. 9 as
indicated on plan Psu-67516 (Exhibit K) are hereby declared public lands, to be
disposed of or otherwise death with in accordance with law. Without
pronouncement as to costs. So ordered.

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 76371. January 20, 2000]
MARIANO TURQUESA, ABRAHAM LALUGAN and LAYAO, MANUEL
MAGALA substituted by his Heirs, OTILIO DAMASEN and SEGUNDINA
DAMASEN, ANTONIO ESCALANTE, METODIO TULLAS, FLORA LABUGUEN
and JUANA LABUGUEN, LOURDES SINDON BAYUBAY, MANUEL
MEDRANO and JOSE MEDRANO,** petitioners, vs., ROSARIO VALERA and
the HONORABLE COURT of APPEALS, respondents. Misj uris
DECISION

the sum of P1,000.00; and to Lot 2 in the same plan, with an area of 22,141
square meters, without liens or encumbrances, as conjugal partnership property
with her husband, Juan Valera.
After this decision has become final, let the corresponding decree be entered
and the corresponding title issue in accordance with law.[4]
Oppositors appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA) insofar only as Lot 1 is
concerned, arguing, among others, that the trial court erred in not granting their
motion for new trial and their demand for ocular inspection. On March 15, 1966,
the Court of Appeals set aside the appealed decision and remanded the case to
the lower court for further proceedings, and ordered the conduct of an ocular
inspection. The dispositive portion of the CA decision reads:

YNARES_SANTIAGO, J.:
More than half a century ago,[1] private respondent applied for the registration
of two parcels of land located in Barrio Pulot, Laguyan, Abra described in Plan
PSU-119561 with a total land area of 232,908 square meters. The first lot
(hereinafter referred to as Lot 1) has an area of 210,767 square meters whereas
the other lot (Lot 2) has an area of 22,141 square meters. In support of her
application, private respondent presented documents showing that when she
was still single, she bought Lot 1 during the years 1929-1932 from Cristeta
Trangued and the heirs of Juan Valera Rufino who were allegedly in possession
thereof since the Spanish regime in the concept of owners and who declared it
in their name for taxation purposes. From 1929, she continued possession of
said land in the concept of owner and continued to pay the tax thereon in her
name. Notices of the application for registration were published in the Official
Gazette, with copies thereof sent to persons mentioned therein and posted in
the proper places.
The Director of Lands together with petitioners and other persons[2] opposed
the application of private respondent. These oppositors were excluded from the
order of general default issued by the lower court on June 16, 1950.[3] In the
course of the hearing, the oppositors (except the Director of Lands) aver that
their lands were included in Lot 1 which private respondent sought to register in
her name. In support thereof, they contend that the land embraced by Lot 1 at
the time it was bought by private respondent is not the same land covered in her
application for registration. To avoid confusion, oppositors moved for an ocular
inspection in order to determine the correct boundary limits of the lands they
respectively claim, however, the same was not allowed by the court a quo. For
his part, the Director of Lands opposition was denied for failure to substantiate
his claim that the subject lands were part of the public domain. The opposition
of the oppositors other than the herein petitioners were likewise denied for
various reasons including failure to present their evidence.
After trial, in a decision dated April 23, 1956, the lower court disposed of the
application for registration as follows: Jj lex
In view of all the foregoing, the applicant Rosario Valera married to Juan Valera,
a resident of Bangued, Abra, has proven that she has a registerable title to Lot
1, Psu-119561, with an area of 210,767 square meters as her exclusive
property, subject to the encumbrance in favor of the Philippine National Bank in

WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is reversed and set aside. This
case shall be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings which shall
include an ocular inspection of the land applied with a view to determine its
identity, location and boundary limits whether the latter have been included in
Lot 1 of the applicants plan to warrant their exclusion from the plan, or their
registration in the names of the oppositors who have presented evidence in
support of their claim. Thereafter judgment shall be accordingly rendered.[5]
In accordance with the CA directive, three commissioners were appointed by
the trial court to conduct the ocular inspection. The commissioners found:
That the property sought to be registered under survey plan Psu-119561 was
relocated and the extent and bounds of the portions claimed by the oppositors
were pointed to by them personally or by their supposed representative, the
results of which are clearly shown in the accompanying sketch plan marked as
Annex "A" of their report by the corresponding names, area and dimensions.
That the survey of the claims was continued the following day, January 29,
1967.
OBSERVATIONS AND FINDINGS
1. The claims of Manuel Magala, Abraham Lalugan, and Layao, Juan Medrano
and Eugenio Medrano as shown now in the sketch plan Annex "A" are not
shown in the original survey plan Psu-119561; New miso
2. That claims of Otilio Damasen, Nicolas Bigornia, Ricardo Bersamira,
Bonifacio Brangan, Cristeta Medrano, Matias Turdil, Mariano Turqueza, Flora
Labuguen, Cornelio Bayubay, Ponce Talape, and Metodio Tullar, appeared in
the original survey plan Psu-119561 and likewise in sketch plan Annex "A"
although three of these claims bear different identifying names in the sketch
Annex "A";
3. That out of the original area of 210,767 square meters in original survey plan
Psu-119561, the remaining portion not subject of opposition as appearing in
sketch plan Annex "A" is 69,683 square meters;

4. That the "Calle para Collago" which according to the decision of the Court of
Appeals and is stoutly maintained until the present by the oppositors to be the
extent or boundary of the property of the applicant on the South side is existing
and still is the boundary on the South and on the Southeast side, as shown in
the Sketch Plan, Exh. "A";
That the property of Francisco Santua abound also the applicants property
sought to be registered on the South sides, at present as was the case during
the original survey.[6]
The oppositors filed an opposition to the commissioners report, whereupon a
second ocular inspection was ordered by the trial court. After the second
inspection, the trial court, on August 28, 1967 again rendered judgment
reiterating its original decision ordering the registration of the aforesaid Lot 1 of
PSU 119561 with an area of 210,767[7] square meters in the name of private
respondent. The judge made the following observations based on the ocular
inspection:
The Commissioners and the Presiding Judge, upon their ocular inspection,
found out a visible boundary on the South-east side of Lot 1 known as "Calle
para Collago" which is represented in the relocation plan Exh. HH running from
the intersection to Lagayan between points 22 and 21 down to point 18. This, in
the opinion of the Court, is the extension of the "Calle para Collago" referred to
by the applicant Rosario Valera as boundary exactly on the South but which
was converted into ricefields by Francisco Santua. This circumstance now could
explain the presence of Francisco Santua as boundary owner on the South
which the parties stoutly maintained in the former proceedings that the "Calle
para Collago" was on the South but which oppositors now repudiate claiming
that the "Calle para Collago" is on the East. Taking a good view over Lot 1, it
could safely be concluded that the existing "Calle para Collago" is more to the
South than to the East.
With respect to the claim of the Damasens over Lot A mentioned in Exh. D
which the Court inadvertently failed to pass upon, the Court has found that it is
within the property of the applicant.[8]
The dispositive portion of the trial courts decision reads:
WHEREFORE, this Court reiterates its former decision ordering the registration
of Lot 1 of Plan Psu-119561, Exh. D, with an area of 210,767 square meters in
the name of applicant ROSARIO VALERA of Bangued, Abra, and a conjugal
property with her husband Juan Valera of the same municipality. The
encumbrance with the Philippine National Bank in the amount of P1,000.00
having already been settled (Exh. JJ-1) same shall no longer be annotated on
the title henceforth to be issued.
Upon this decision becoming final, let the corresponding decree issue. Acct
mis
The applicant Rosario Valera is hereby directed to pay within seventy two hours
from notice hereof the sum of P182.00 as fees for the commissioner Santiago
Alejandre who made the relocation survey.[9]

The case was again appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA-GR. 40796-R) by the
oppositors, some of whom are now the petitioners in this case.[10] They argue
that the lower court erred in not excluding the areas they claimed as their own
which were wrongfully included in Lot 1 but was ordered registered in private
respondents name. Disposing of the appeal, the CA ruled:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, with the modification that the
registration of Lot 1 of appellees (private respondent herein) should be confined
to the extent only as indicated in the sketch annexed to the Commissioners
report, Exhibit HH, and excluding therefrom the landholding of the oppositors,
as indicated in the same sketch, the judgment of the trial court is hereby
AFFIRMED. Without costs.
SO ORDERED.[11]
This decision became final and executory for which a corresponding entry of
judgment was issued by the Court of Appeals.[12] Later, private respondent
filed with the trial court a motion for the issuance of writ of possession over two
lots respectively tenanted by Trium Donato and Rudy Donato which were
likewise respectively claimed by Santiago Partolan (not an oppositor in the land
registration case) and Crispin Baltar (one of the oppositors).[13] In an Order
issued on September 14, 1981, the court a quo denied the motion.[14] When
her subsequent motion for reconsideration was also denied in another Order
dated November 25, 1981,[15] private respondent appealed to the then
Intermediate Appellate Court (IAC) which reversed the said two orders and
forthwith issued a decision with the following disposition:
WHEREFORE, PREMISES, CONSIDERED, the ORDERS appealed from are
hereby REVERSED and judgment is hereby entered ordering: Mis act
1. The issuance of a WRIT OF POSSESSION in favor of applicant-appellant
covering the landholding claimed by oppositor Crispin Baltar and tenanted by
Rudy Donato;
2. Confirming the word "Landholding" in the dispositive portion of the decision in
CA-G.R. No. 40796-R as singular and referring only to the landholding opposed
by oppositors Segundina and Otilio Damasen as the only landholding excluded
from lot 1; and
3. Ordering the issuance of the WRIT OF POSSESSION in favor of the
applicant-appellant covering the landholdings opposed by the other oppositors
who did not appeal the decision of the lower court dated August 28, 1967.
Without any special pronouncement as to cost.
SO ORDERED.[16]
Oppositors filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied by the
Court of Appeals.[17] Hence this petition for review initiated by some of the
oppositors in the trial court. The petition was initially denied by the Court. On

motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners, the case was reinstated and
respondent was required to submit her comment to the petition.[18]
After a painstaking review of the vintage records of this case and after
deciphering the ambiguous discussions in the petition,[19] the assailed ruling of
the respondent court cannot be sustained. The burden of proof in land
registration cases is incumbent on the applicant[20] who must show that he is
the real and absolute owner in fee simple of the land applied for.[21] On him
also rests the burden to overcome the presumption that the land sought to be
registered forms part of the public domain[22] considering that the inclusion in a
title of a part of the public domain nullifies the title.[23] Undoubtedly, a land
registration proceeding is one which is in rem in character, so that the default
order issued by the court binds the whole world and all persons whether known
or unknown,[24] except those who have appeared and filed their pleadings in
the registration case.[25] In the case at bar, those exempted from the order of
general default are the petitioners and the other oppositors mentioned in
footnote number 2. S djad
There is no dispute that the lands occupied and claimed by oppositorspetitioners Segundina and Otilio Damasen were already finally adjudged
excluded from Lot 1 and cannot be registered in private respondents name. In
other words, the Damasens were declared to have a rightful and registrable
right over their claims of specific portions of Lot 1. What private respondent
wants is that she be installed in possession of the area claimed by Santiago
Partolan and Crispin Baltar. Of these two, only Baltar entered his opposition to
private respondents application for land registration. Being a proceeding in rem,
Partolan is charged with knowledge of the application of private respondent
since the notice was published in accordance with law.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, private respondent is not entitled to a
writ of possession of that portion of Lot I occupied by Partolan and Baltar. No
evidence was shown that private respondent had a rightful claim whether
possessory or proprietary with respect to those areas. Even if Partolan was
excluded by the order of general default and Baltar did not appeal from the trial
courts decision of April 23, 1956, the applicant must still prove and establish
that she has registrable rights over the land which must be grounded on
incontrovertible evidence and based on positive and absolute proof. The
declaration by the applicant that the land applied for has been in the possession
of her predecessor-in-interest for a certain period, does not constitute the "wellnigh incontrovertible" and "conclusive" evidence required in land
registration.[26] Allegations of her predecessors ownership of the lot during the
Spanish period is self-serving[27] and the declaration of ownership for purposes
of assessment on the payment of tax is not sufficient evidence to prove
ownership.[28] It should be noted that tax declaration, by itself, is not
considered conclusive evidence of ownership in land registration cases.[29]
Private respondent should have substantiated her claim with clear and
convincing evidence specifically showing the nature of her claim. Her
description of the circumstances of her own possession in relation to that of her
predecessor-in-interest are mere conclusions of law which require further
factual support and substantiation. If an applicant does not have any rightful
claim over real property, the Torrens system of registration can confirm or
record nothing.[30]

Private respondent, being the applicant for registration of land and one who
relies on some documents enforcing her alleged title thereto, must prove not
only the genuineness of said title but also the identity of the land therein referred
to,[31] inasmuch as this is required by law. The dispute in this case pertains to
the correctness of the survey of specific areas of lands. It must be borne in mind
that what defines a piece of land is not the size or area mentioned in its
description, but the boundaries therein laid down, as enclosing the land and
indicating its limits.[32] Considering that the writ of possession was sought by
private respondent against persons who were in "actual possession under claim
of ownership," the latters possession raises a disputable presumption of
ownership.[33] This unrebutted presumption militates against the claim of
private respondent, especially considering the evidentiary rule under Article 434
of the Civil Code that a claimant of a parcel of land, such as private respondent,
must rely on the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the defendants
claim.[34]
Private respondents contention that the dispositive portion of the CA decision
on April 30, 1979 in CA GR 40796-R which mentioned only "landholding" and
not "landholdings", thus referring only to that area claimed by the Damasen
spouses, is too trivial. A reading of the said decision and the foregoing
discussions clearly indicates that the land to be registered in private
respondents name is limited to a certain area stated in the sketch annexed to
the Commissioners report. It categorically excluded those portions pertaining to
the oppositors. Since private respondent failed to show that she has a
proprietary right over the excluded areas, such as the portions occupied by
those against whom the writ of possession was sought for, then the trial court
was correct in refusing to grant the writ as the same has no basis. Sppedsc
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Court of Appeals is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the two orders of the trial court dated
September 14, 1981 and November 25, 1981 are REINSTATED.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila

of Las Pias City, Branch 199 in LRC Case No. 02-0036, one for original
registration of title, whereas the assailed Resolution denied reconsideration.
The facts follow.

SECOND DIVISION

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,


Petitioner,

versus -

ZENAIDA GUINTO-ALDANA, in her own behalf as Attorney-in-fact of MA.


AURORA GUINTO-COMISO, MA. LUISA GUINTO-DIONISIO, ALFREDO
GUINTO, JR., PACITA R. GUINTO, ERNESTO R. GUINTO, NATIVIDAD R.
GUINTO and ALBERTO R. GUINTO,
Respondents.
G.R. No. 175578

Present:

CARPIO, J., Chairperson,


LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,*
PERALTA,
ABAD, and
MENDOZA, JJ.

On April 3, 2002, respondents Zenaida Guinto-Aldana[4] (Zenaida), Ma.


Aurora Guinto-Comiso, Ma. Luisa Guinto-Dionisio, Alfredo Guinto, Jr., Pacita R.
Guinto, Ernesto R. Guinto, Natividad R. Guinto and Alberto R. Guinto, filed with
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las Pias City, Branch 199 an Application for
Registration of Title[5] over two pieces of land in Talango, Pamplona Uno, Las
Pias City. These lands, identified as Lot No. 4 and Lot No. 5 in Conversion
Consolidation Subdivision Plan Ccs-007601-000040-D,[6] measure 1,509
square meters and 4,640 square meters, respectively.[7]
Respondents
professed themselves to be co-owners of these lots, having acquired them by
succession from their predecessors Sergio Guinto (Sergio) and Lucia RiveraGuinto (Lucia)Zenaidas parentswho, in turn, had acquired the property
under a 1969 document denominated as Kasulatan sa Paghahati ng Lupa na
Labas sa Hukuman na may Pagpaparaya at Bilihan. Under this document,
Sergio and Lucia Guinto acquired for a consideration the respective shares on
the property of Pastor Guinto, Dionisio Guinto, Potenciana Guinto and
Marcelina Bernardo who, together with Luisa, had derived the same from
Romulado Guinto.[8] Respondents also alleged that until the time of the
application, they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in actual, open,
peaceful, adverse, exclusive and continuous possession of these lots in the
concept of owner and that they had consistently declared the property in their
name for purposes of real estate taxation.[9]
In support of their application, respondents submitted to the court the blueprint
of Plan Ccs-007601-000040-D,[10] as well as copies of the technical
descriptions of each lot,[11] a certification from the geodetic engineer[12] and
the pertinent tax declarations,[13] together with the receipts of payment
therefor.[14] Expressly, they averred that the propertys original tracing cloth
plan had previously been submitted to the RTC of Las Pias City, Branch 255
(Las Pias RTC) in connection with the proceedings in LRC Case No. LP-128
a previous registration case involving the subject property which, however, had
been dismissed without prejudice.[15]

Promulgated:
August 11, 2010
x---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

PERALTA, J.:
In this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the
Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, assails
the March 30, 2006 Decision[1] and the November 20, 2006 Resolution,[2] both
of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. CV No. 80500. The assailed decision
reversed and set aside the July 10, 2003 judgment[3] of the Regional Trial Court

The trial court found the application to be sufficient in form and substance;
hence, it gave due course thereto and ordered compliance with the publication
and notification requirements of the law.[16]
Opposing the application, petitioner, through the Office of the City Prosecutor of
Las Pias City, advanced that the lots sought to be registered were inalienable
lands of the public domain; that neither respondents nor their predecessors-ininterest had been in prior possession thereof; and that the muniment of title and
the tax declaration submitted to the court did not constitute competent and
sufficient evidence of bona fide acquisition or of prior possession in the concept
of owner.[17]
At the hearing, Zenaida identified her herein co-respondents to be her siblings,
nephews and nieces. She likewise identified the adjoining lot owners named in
the application and the supporting documents attached to the application as

well. She testified that the subject lots had been surveyed at the instance of her
family sometime between 1994 and 1995, and that said survey was
documented in Plan Ccs-007601-000040-D and in the geodetic engineers
technical description of the lots. She implied that they did obtain the original
tracing cloth plan of the property, but it was forwarded to the Land Registration
Authority (LRA) by the Las Pias RTC in connection with the proceedings in
LRC Case No. LP-128. Notwithstanding this admission, and without objection
from the oppositor, the blueprint of Plan Ccs-007601-000040-D and the
technical description of the property were provisionally marked in evidence.[18]

Aggrieved, respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals which, on March 30,


2006, issued the assailed Decision reversing the trial court as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed decision is hereby
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the instant appeal is hereby
GRANTED.
SO ORDERED.[25]

Furthermore, Zenaida61 years old at the time of her testimonydeclared that


she has known that the subject lots were owned by her family since she was 5
years old and from her earliest recollection, she narrated that her grandparents
had lived in the subject lots until the death of her grandmother in 1961. She
implied that aside from her predecessors there were other persons, caretakers
supposedly, who had tilled the land and who had lived until sometime between
1980 and 1990. She remembered her grandmother having constructed a house
on the property, but the same had already been destroyed. Also, sometime in
1970, her family built an adobe fence around the perimeter of the lots and later,
in the 1990s, they reinforced it with hollow blocks and concrete after an
inundation caused by the flood.[19] She claimed that she and her father,
Sergio, had been religious in the payment of real estate taxes as shown by the
tax declarations and tax receipts which she submitted to the court and which,
following identification, were forthwith marked in evidence.[20]

Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied.[26] Hence, it filed the


instant petition which attributes error to the Court of Appeals in reversing the
trial courts July 10, 2003 decision.

Zenaidas claim of prior, open, exclusive and continuous possession of the land
was corroborated by Josefina Luna (Josefina), one of the adjoining lot owners.
Josefina, then 73 years old, strongly declared that the subject lots were owned
by Zenaidas parents, Sergio Guinto and Lucia Rivera, since she reached the
age of understanding, and that she had not come to know of any instance
where a third party had placed a claim on the property. When asked whether
there was anyone residing in the property and whether there were
improvements made thereon, she said there was no one residing therein and
that there was nothing standing thereon except for a nipa hut. [21]

Furthermore, petitioner suggests that the blueprint of the subdivision plan


submitted by respondents cannot approximate substantial compliance with the
requirement of Section 17 of P.D. No. 1529.
Again, relying on the
aforementioned Del Rosario case, petitioner observes that the blueprint in this
case, allegedly illegible and unreadable, does not even bear the certification of
the Lands Management Bureau.[29] Lastly, petitioner attacks respondents
claim of prior possession. It notes that there is no clear and convincing
evidence that respondents and their predecessors-in-interest have been in
open, continuous, adverse, public and exclusive possession of Lot Nos. 4 and 5
for 30 years.[30]

At the close of Josefinas testimony, respondents formally offered their


exhibits without the oppositor placing any objection thereto.[22] After weighing
the evidence, the trial court, on July 10, 2003, rendered its Decision denying the
application for registration. It found that respondents were unable to establish
with certainty the identity of the lots applied for registration, because of failure to
submit to the court the original tracing cloth plan as mandated by Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 1529. It likewise noted that the fact of adverse, continuous,
open, public and peaceful possession in the concept of owner has not been
proved by the evidence as Zenaidas and Josefinas respective testimonies did
not establish the nature of the possession of respondents predecessors.[23]
The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, for failure of the applicants to comply with the requirements of
Presidential Decree No. 1529, the Application for Original Registration of Title is
hereby DENIED.
ORDERED.[24]

Petitioner principally posits that under Section 17 of P.D. No. 1529, the
submission in court of the original tracing cloth plan of the property sought to be
registered is a mandatory requirement in registration proceedings in order to
establish the exact identity of the property. While respondents admitted that the
original tracing cloth plan of Lot Nos. 4 and 5 in this case was in the custody of
the LRA as a consequence of their first attempt to have the property registered,
petitioner, invoking Del Rosario v. Republic of the Philippines,[27] believes that
respondents, on that score alone, are not relieved of their procedural obligation
to adduce in evidence the original copy of the plan, because they could have
easily retrieved it from the LRA and presented it in court.[28]

Commenting on the petition, respondents observe that petitioners arguments


are mere reiterative theses on the issues that have already been addressed by
the Court of Appeals in the assailed Decision and Resolution, and that there are
no new matters raised which have not yet been previously passed upon.
Accordingly, they prayed that the petition be denied.[31]
We find the petition to be unmeritorious.
Section 17 of P.D. No. 1529, otherwise known as The Property Registration
Decree of 1978, materially provides:
Section 17. What and where to file.The application for land registration shall be
filed with the Court of First Instance of the province or city where the land is
situated. The applicant shall file, together with the application, all original
muniments of titles or copies thereof and a survey plan of the land approved by
the Bureau of Lands.

The clerk of court shall not accept any application unless it is shown that the
applicant has furnished the Director of Lands with a copy of the application and
all annexes.

The provision denotes that it is imperative in an application for original


registration that the applicant submit to the court, aside from the original or
duplicate copies of the muniments of title, a copy of a duly approved survey plan
of the land sought to be registered. The survey plan is indispensable as it
provides a reference on the exact identity of the property. This begs the
question in the instant case: Does the blueprint copy of the survey plan suffice
for compliance with the requirement? In not so many cases,[32] it was held that
the non-submission, for any reason, of the original tracing cloth plan is fatal to
the registration application, since the same is mandatory in original registration
of title. For instance, in the Del Rosario case relied on by petitioner, the Court
ruled that the submission of the original copy of the duly approved tracing cloth
plan is a mandatory condition for land registration as it supplies the means by
which to determine the exact metes and bounds of the property. The applicant
in that case was unable to submit the original tracing cloth plan of the land he
was claiming because apparently, as in the present case, it was previously
transmitted by the clerk of court to the LRA. Yet the Court, deeming it the
applicants obligation to retrieve the plan himself and present it in evidence,
denied the application, to wit:
The submission in evidence of the original tracing cloth plan, duly approved by
the Bureau of Lands, in cases for application of original registration of land is a
mandatory requirement. The reason for this rule is to establish the true identity
of the land to ensure that it does not overlap a parcel of land or a portion thereof
already covered by a previous land registration, and to forestall the possibility
that it will be overlapped by a subsequent registration of any adjoining land. The
failure to comply with this requirement is fatal to petitioners application for
registration.
Petitioner contends, however, that he had submitted the original tracing cloth
plan to the branch clerk of court, but the latter submitted the same to the LRA.
This claim has no merit. Petitioner is duty bound to retrieve the tracing cloth
plan from the LRA and to present it in evidence in the trial court. x x x[33]
Yet if the reason for requiring an applicant to adduce in evidence the original
tracing cloth plan is merely to provide a convenient and necessary means to
afford certainty as to the exact identity of the property applied for registration
and to ensure that the same does not overlap with the boundaries of the
adjoining lots, there stands to be no reason why a registration application must
be denied for failure to present the original tracing cloth plan, especially where it
is accompanied by pieces of evidencesuch as a duly executed blueprint of the
survey plan and a duly executed technical description of the propertywhich
may likewise substantially and with as much certainty prove the limits and
extent of the property sought to be registered.
Thus, sound is the doctrinal precept laid down in Republic of the Philippines v.
Court of Appeals,[34] and in the later cases of Spouses Recto v. Republic of the
Philippines[35] and Republic of the Philippines v. Hubilla,[36] that while the best

evidence to identify a piece of land for registration purposes is the original


tracing cloth plan issued by the Bureau of Lands (now the Lands Management
Services of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR]),
blueprint copies and other evidence could also provide sufficient identification.
Pertinently, the Court in Hubilla, citing Recto, pronounced:
While the petitioner correctly asserts that the submission in evidence of the
original tracing cloth plan, duly approved by the Bureau of Lands, is a
mandatory requirement, this Court has recognized instances of substantial
compliance with this rule. In previous cases, this Court ruled that blueprint
copies of the original tracing cloth plan from the Bureau of Lands and other
evidence could also provide sufficient identification to identify a piece of land for
registration purposes. x x x[37]

In the case at bar, we find that the submission of the blueprint of Plan Ccs007601-000040-D, together with the technical description of the property,
operates as substantial compliance with the legal requirement of ascertaining
the identity of Lot Nos. 4 and 5 applied for registration. The blueprint, which is
shown to have been duly executed by Geodetic Engineer Rolando Roxas
(Roxas), attached to the application and subsequently identified, marked, and
offered in evidence, shows that it proceeded officially from the Lands
Management Services and, in fact, bears the approval of Surveys Division Chief
Ernesto Erive. It also shows on its face that the survey of the property was
endorsed by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of the
DENR.[38] This, compounded by the accompanying technical description of Lot
Nos. 4 and 5 duly executed and verified also by Roxas,[39] should substantially
supply as it did the means by which the identity of Lot Nos. 4 and 5 may be
ascertained.
Verily, no error can be attributed to the Court of Appeals when it ruled that
respondents were able to approximate compliance with Section 17 of P.D. No.
1529. Also telling is the observation made by the Court of Appeals that there
was no objection raised by the oppositor or by the LRA to the admission of the
blueprint of Plan Ccs-007601-000040-D despite the fact that they were wellinformed of the present proceedings, to wit:
In the instant case, the plaintiffs-appellants do not deny that only the blueprint
copy of the plan of the subject lands (Exh. J) and not the original tracing cloth
plan thereof was submitted to the court a quo since they had previously
submitted the original tracing cloth plan to the Land Registration Authority.
However, despite the failure of the plaintiffs-appellants to present the original
tracing cloth plan, neither the Land Registration Authority nor the oppositorappellee question[ed] this deficiency. Likewise, when the blueprint copy of the
plan (Exh. J) was offered in evidence, the oppositor-apellee did not raise any
objection thereto. Such silence on the part of the Land Registration [Authority]
and the oppositor-appellee can be deemed as an implied admission that the
original tracing cloth plan and the blueprint copy thereof (Exh. J) are one and
the same, free from all defects and clearly identify the lands sought to be
registered. In this regard x x x, the blueprint copy of the plan (Exh. J), together
with its technical descriptions (Exhs. K and L), is deemed tantamount to
substantial compliance with the requirements of law.[40]

Zenaida being identified as the one who delivered the payment in the 1994
receipts.[52]
We now proceed to the issue of possession. Petitioner theorizes that not
only were respondents unable to identify the lots applied for registration; it also
claims that they have no credible evidence tending to establish that for at least
30 years they and their predecessors-in-interest have occupied and possessed
the property openly, continuously, exclusively and notoriously under a bona fide
claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.[41] We do not agree.
In an original registration of title under Section 14(1)[42] P.D. No. 1529,
the applicant for registration must be able to establish by evidence that he and
his predecessor-in-interest have exercised acts of dominion over the lot under a
bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.[43] He must prove
that for at least 30 years, he and his predecessor have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land.
Republic v. Alconaba[44] well explains possession and occupation of this
character, thus:
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. 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.[45]
Proceeding from this fundamental principle, we find that indeed
respondents have been in possession and occupation of Lot Nos. 4 and 5 under
a bona fide claim of ownership for the duration required by law. This conclusion
is primarily factual.
From the records, it is clear that respondents possession through their
predecessor-in-interest dates back to as early as 1937. In that year, the subject
property had already been declared for taxation by Zenaidas father, Sergio,
jointly with a certain Toribia Miranda (Toribia).[46] Yet, it also can be safely
inferred that Sergio and Toribia had declared the land for taxation even earlier
because the 1937 tax declaration shows that it offsets a previous tax
number.[47] The property was again declared in 1979,[48] 1985[49] and
1994[50] by Sergio, Toribia and by Romualdo.
Certainly, respondents could have produced more proof of this kind had it
not been for the fact that, as certified by the Office of the Rizal Provincial
Assessor, the relevant portions of the tax records on file with it had been burned
when the assessors office was razed by fire in 1997.[51] Of equal relevance is
the fact that with these tax assessments, there came next tax payments.
Respondents receipts for tax expenditures on Lot Nos. 4 and 5 between 1977
and 2001 are likewise fleshed out in the records and in these documents,
Sergio, Toribia and Romualdo are the named owners of the property with

The foregoing evidentiary matters and muniments clearly show that


Zenaidas testimony in this respect is no less believable. And the unbroken
chain of positive acts exercised by respondents predecessors, as demonstrated
by these pieces of evidence, yields no other conclusion than that as early as
1937, they had already demonstrated an unmistakable claim to the property.
Not only do they show that they had excluded all others in their claim but also,
that such claim is in all good faith.
Land registration proceedings are governed by the rule that while tax
declarations and realty tax payment are not conclusive evidence of ownership,
nevertheless, they are a good indication of possession in the concept of owner.
These documents constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title
over the property, 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. The
voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not
only ones sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property. It also
announces his adverse claim against the state and all other parties who may be
in conflict with his interest. More importantly, it signifies an unfeigned intention
to contribute to government revenuesan act that strengthens ones bona fide
claim of acquisition of ownership.[53]
Indeed, that respondents herein have been in possession of the land in the
concept of owneropen, continuous, peaceful and without interference and
opposition from the government or from any private individualitself makes
their right thereto unquestionably settled and, hence, deserving of protection
under the law.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The March 30, 2006 Decision
and the November 20, 2006 Resolution of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. CV
No. 80500, are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.