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COURSEBOOK ON THE LAW ON LAND OWNERSHIP

AND REGISTRATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

Atty. Pedro Jose F. Bernardo

This text is for limited and exclusive use, and is intended only for the
class in Land Titles and Deeds taught by Atty. Bernardo at the FEU La
Salle Joint MBA-JD Program. It is still a work-in-progress. Unauthorized
copying and distribution is strictly prohibited.

PART I
OWNERSHIP OF LAND IN THE PHILIPPINES

CHAPTER I
THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE AND THE CONSTITUTION
1. THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE
The Regalian Doctrine or Jura Regalia is a principle in law that requires persons claiming
private ownership over land to show incontrovertible title thereto that must be based on
some grant, express or implied, from the Spanish Crown or its successors, the American
Colonial government, and thereafter, the Philippine Republic.1 It was initially applied to
the Philippines under the Novisima Recopliacion de Leyes delas Indias,2 which asserted that
the King of Spain, as the Head of State, and by discovery and conquest, had the supreme
power and ownership over anything of value, including the land, waters, and natural
resources in the islands.
We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands,
territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal
predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown
and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper
and true deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order
that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias,
and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures,
and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into
consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and
their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be
necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now
have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may
remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish.
With the change in sovereignty from the Spanish Crown, to the American colonial
government to the present constitutional system of government in the Philippines, the
concept of Jura Regalia was adopted to vest ownership from King to State. This was
initially expressed in the 1935 Constitution when it asserted that [a]ll agricultural
timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and
other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy and other natural resources of the
Philippines belong to the State. . .3 At a time when the Philippines was still under the
United States as a colonial power, the purpose of this provision was to nationalize and
thereby assert sovereignty over the use and disposition of natural resources, reserving
their ownership to the State, and allowing utilization only to citizens of the Philippines.4

2
3
4

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES AND DEEDS, 1994 rev. ed., p. 15, cited in
separate opinion of Kapunan, J. in Cruz v. Secretary of Natural Resources.
Law 14, Title 12, Book 4
Article XIII, Section 1, 1935 Constitution.
Cruz case

The present 1987 Constitution, like the 1973 Constitution, reaffirms this adherence to the
Regalian Doctrine by providing: All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal,
petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or time,
wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State.5 This
ownership, according to the case of Lee Hong Hok v. David, reflects the capacity of state to
own or acquire property and is understood under the concept of dominium.
PEDRO LEE HONG HOK, ET AL. v. ANIANO DAVID, ET AL.
G.R. No. L-30389, 27 December 1972
FERNANDO, J p:
Petitioners in this appeal by certiorari would have us reverse a decision of
respondent Court of Appeals affirming a lower court judgment
dismissing their complaint to have the Torrens Title of respondent
Aniano David declared null and void. What makes the task for
petitioners quite difficult is that their factual support for their pretension
to ownership of such disputed lot through accretion was rejected by
respondent Court of Appeals. Without such underpinning, they must
perforce rely on a legal theory, which, to put it mildly, is distinguished by
unorthodoxy and is therefore far from persuasive. A grant by the
government through the appropriate public officials exercising the
competence duly vested in them by law is not to be set at naught on the
premise, unexpressed but implied, that land not otherwise passing into
private ownership may not be disposed of by the state. Such an
assumption is at war with settled principles of constitutional law. It
cannot receive our assent. We affirm.
The decision of respondent Court of Appeals following that of the lower
court makes clear that there is no legal justification for nullifying the right
of respondent Aniano David to the disputed lot arising from the grant
made in his favor by respondent officials. As noted in the decision under
review, he "acquired lawful title thereto pursuant to his miscellaneous
sales application in accordance with which an order of award and for
issuance of a sales patent was made by the Director of Lands on June 18,
1958, covering Lot 2892 containing an area of 226 square meters, which is
a portion of Lot 2863 of the Naga Cadastre. On the basis of the order of
award of the Director of Lands the Undersecretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources issued on August 26, 1959, Miscellaneous Sales Patent
No. V-1209 pursuant to which OCT No. 510 was issued by the Register of
Deeds of Naga City to defendant-appellee Aniano David on October 21,
1959. According to the Stipulation of Facts, since the filing of the sales
application of Aniano David and during all the proceedings in connection
with said application, up to the actual issuance of the sales patent in his
favor, the plaintiffs-appellants did not put up any opposition or adverse
5

Article XII, Section2, 1987 Constitution.

claim thereto. This is fatal to them because after the registration and
issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title based on a
public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically comes under
the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided
therein . . . Under Section 38 of Act 496 any question concerning the
validity of the certificate of title based on fraud should be raised within
one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. Thereafter the
certificate of title based thereon becomes indefeasible . . . In this case the
land in question is not a private property as the Director of Lands and the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources have always sustained
the public character thereof for having been formed by reclamation. . . .
The only remedy therefore, available to the appellants is an action for
reconveyance on the ground of fraud. In this case we do not see any fraud
committed by defendant-appellant Aniano David in applying for the
purchase of the land involved through his Miscellaneous Sales
Application No. MSA-V-26747, entered in the records of the Bureau of
Lands [Miscellaneous Sales] Entry No. V-9033, because everything was
done in the open. The notices regarding the auction sale of the land were
published, the actual sale and award thereof to Aniano David were not
clandestine but open and public official acts of an officer of the
Government. The application was merely a renewal of his deceased wife's
application, and the said deceased occupied the land since 1938."
xxx

xxx

xxx

2. As there are overtones indicative of skepticism, if not of outright


rejection, of the well-known distinction in public law between the
government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately
embraced in the concept of sovereignty, and its capacity to own or
acquire property, it is not inappropriate to pursue the matter further. The
former comes under the heading of imperium and the latter of
dominium. The use of this term is appropriate with reference to lands
held by the state in its proprietary character. In such capacity, it may
provide for the exploitation and use of lands and other natural resources,
including their disposition, except as limited by the Constitution. Dean
Pound did speak of the confusion that existed during the medieval era
between such two concepts, but did note the existence of res publicae as a
corollary to dominium. As far as the Philippines was concerned, there
was a recognition by Justice Holmes in Cario v. Insular Government, a
case of Philippine origin, that "Spain in its earlier decrees embodied the
universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown . . ." That
was a manifestation of the concept of jura regalia, which was adopted by
the present Constitution, ownership however being vested in the state as
such rather than the head thereof. What was stated by Holmes served to
confirm a much more extensive discussion of the matter in the leading
case of Valenton v. Murciano, decided in 1904. One of the royal decrees
cited was incorporated in the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias 16 in

these words: "We having acquired in sovereignty over the Indies, and all
lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal
predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown
and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper
and true deeds of grant be restored to us according as they belong to us,
in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys,
audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways,
pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into
consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and
their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be
necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now
have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may
remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish."
It could therefore be affirmed in Montano v. Insular Government that "as to
the unappropriated public lands constituting the public domain the sole
power of legislation is vested in Congress, . . ." They continue to possess
that character until severed therefrom by state grant. Where, as in this
case, it was found by the Court of Appeals that the disputed lot was the
result of reclamation, its being correctly categorized as public land is
undeniable. What was held in Heirs of Datu Pendatun v. Director of Lands
finds application. Thus: "There being no evidence whatever that the
property in question was ever acquired by the applicants or their
ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by
possessory information title or by any other means for the acquisition of
public lands, the property must be held to be public domain." For it is
well-settled "that no public land can be acquired by private persons
without any grant, express or implied, from the government." It is
indispensable then that there be a showing of a title from the state or any
other mode of acquisition recognized by law. The most recent restatement
of the doctrine, found in an opinion of Justice J.B.L. Reyes, follows: "The
applicant, having failed to establish his right or title over the northern
portion of Lot No. 463 involved in the present controversy, and there
being no showing that the same has been acquired by any private person
from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, the property is and
remains part of the public domain." To repeat, the second assignment of
error is devoid of merit.
xxx

xxx

xxx

WHEREFORE, the decision of respondent Court of Appeals of January


31, 1969 and its resolution of March 14, 1969 are affirmed. With costs
against petitioners-appellants.
Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Barredo,
Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra, JJ., concur.

The application of the Regalian Doctrine on the ownership by the State of the public
domain implies that any person claiming ownership of a portion of the public domain
must be able to show title from the State according to any of the recognized modes of
acquisition of title. Thus, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private
ownership are presumed to belong to the State. To overcome such presumption,
incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant that the land subject of the
application is alienable or disposable.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES v. ALEXANDRA LAO
G.R. No. 150413, 1 July 2003.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:
This petition for review assails the decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 56230, which affirmed the judgment 2 of the Regional
Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, in Land Registration Case No.
TG-719.
On September 4, 1995, respondent Alexandra Lao filed with the Regional
Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, an application for the
registration of title over a parcel of land designated as Lot No. 3951, Cad.
452-D, Silang Cadastre, Plan Ap-04-007770, consisting of nine thousand
three hundred forty nine (9,349) square meters under Presidential Decree
No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree.
Respondent alleged that she acquired the land by purchase from the
siblings Raymundo Noguera and Ma. Victoria A. Valenzuela, who
inherited it from Generosa Medina. The latter, in turn, inherited the land
from her father, Jose Medina, who acquired the same from Edilberto
Perido by transfer.
In the alternative, respondent prayed that the land be awarded to her
under the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, also
known as the Public Land Act, based on her and her predecessor's open,
public, actual, continuous, exclusive, notorious and adverse possession
and occupancy under bona fide claim of ownership for more than thirty
(30) years.
At the hearing in the lower court, respondent presented the following
witnesses: Candido Amoroso, who testified on the ownership of the land
by Edilberto Perido in 1932; Vicente Laudato, who testified on
respondent's purchase of the property from Raymundo and Ma. Victoria;
and Fina Victoria So-Liwanag, who assisted respondent in her application
for registration. Respondent likewise presented in evidence the Deed of
Absolute Sale 3 dated April 19, 1994 executed by Raymundo and Victoria
in her favor, the survey plan and technical description of the property,
and the tax declarations in the name of respondent as well as her
predecessors-in-interest.

On June 28, 1996, the trial court made the following findings, to wit:
xxx

xxx

xxx

The dispositive portion of the decision reads:


WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application
for registration and thus places under the operation of Act
141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as
Property Registration Law, the land described in Plan Ap04-007770 and containing an area of nine thousand three
hundred forty-nine (9,349) square meters as supported by
its technical description now forming part of the record of
this case, in addition to other proofs adduced in the name
of ALEXANDRA A. LAO, of legal age, married to
NELSON O. LAO, Filipino citizen, with residence at 1648
Yakal Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.
Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the
corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.
SO ORDERED.
Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the
Solicitor General, appealed to the Court of Appeals which was docketed
as CA-G.R. CV No. 56230. On October 15, 2001, the appellate court
affirmed the judgment of the trial court. 6 Hence, this petition for review
raising the following errors:
xxx

xxx

xxx

In sum, the issues presented before us are (a) whether or not respondent
was able to prove, by the quantum of evidence mandated by law, that she
met the required period of open, exclusive, continuous and notorious
possession, in the concept of an owner, of the subject parcel of land; and
(b) whether or not respondent was able to show that the land subject of
her application was disposable and alienable land of the public domain.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Petitioner further submits that respondent failed to show that the land
subject of her application is classified as alienable and disposable land of
the public domain. Under the Regalian doctrine which is embodied in our
Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is
the source of any asserted right to ownership of land. All lands not
appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong

to the State. Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or


alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the
inalienable public domain. To overcome this presumption,
incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the
application is alienable or disposable.
In De Ocampo v. Arlos, it was held that:
. . . a title may be judicially confirmed under Section 48 of
the Public Land Act only if it pertains to alienable lands of
the public domain. Unless such assets are reclassified and
considered disposable and alienable, occupation thereof in
the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen
into ownership and be registered as a title. Verily,
Presidential Decree No. 1073 clarified Section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act by specifically declaring that the latter
applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain.
In the case at bar, no certification from the appropriate government
agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land as alienable and
disposable was presented by respondent. Respondent merely submitted
the survey map and technical descriptions of the land, which contained
no information regarding the classification of the property. These
documents are not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the land
sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.
Respondent argues that she was not required to present any certification
stating that the land is open for disposition because no opposition to her
application was ever made by the appropriate government agencies. She
claims that in the absence of any proof to the contrary, lands of the public
domain are agricultural in nature and thus susceptible to private
ownership.
As an applicant for registration of a parcel of land, respondent had the
initial obligation to show that the property involved is agricultural. Being
the interested party, it was incumbent upon her to prove that the land
being registered is indeed alienable or disposable. She cannot rely on the
mere presumption that it was agricultural and, therefore, alienable part of
the public domain. Thus, in Director of Lands v. Funtilar, we held:
It was rather sweeping for the appellate court to rule that
after an applicant files his application for registration, the
burden shifts totally to the government to prove that the
land forms part of the unclassified forest zone. The ruling
in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry (126 SCRA
69) governs applications for confirmation of imperfect title.

The applicant shoulders the burden of overcoming the


presumption that the land sought to be registered forms
part of the public domain.
Moreover, the absence of opposition from the government agencies is of
no moment because the State cannot be estopped by the omission,
mistake or error of its officials or agents.
It bears stressing at this point that declassification of forest land and its
conversion into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other
purposes requires an express and positive act from the government. It
cannot be presumed; but must be established by convincing proof.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The
decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 56230 is REVERSED
and SET ASIDE. The application for original registration of title over Lot
No. 3951, Cad. 452-D, Silang Cadastre, Plan Ap-04-007770, which was
docketed as Land Registration Case No. TG-719 before the Regional Trial
Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Vitug, Carpio and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES v. LUDOLFO V. MUOZ
G.R. No. 151910, 15 October 2007
AZCUNA, J p:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, under Rule 45 of
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to set aside the August 29, 2001
Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 58170, as well
as its January 29, 2002 Resolution, which affirmed the October 3, 1997
Decision 2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Ligao, Albay, Branch 13,
granting the application for land registration of respondent Ludolfo V.
Muoz.
The following facts prompted the present controversy.
On June 14, 1996, respondent filed an Application for Registration of Title
of a parcel of residential land before the RTC of Ligao, Albay containing
an area of 1,986 square meters situated, bounded, and described as
follows: xxx
In his application for registration, respondent averred that no mortgage
or encumbrance of any kind affects his property and that no other person
has an interest, legal or equitable, on the subject lot. Respondent further

10

declared that the property was acquired by donation inter vivos, executed
by the spouses Apolonio R. Muoz and Anastacia Vitero on November
18, 1956, and that the spouses and their predecessors-in-interest have
been in possession thereof since time immemorial for more than 70 years.
On November 7, 1996, petitioner Republic of the Philippines, through the
Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application on the
following grounds:
(1) That neither the applicant nor his predecessors-in-interest have been
in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the land in question since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto
(Sec. 48[b], C.A. 141 as amended by P.D. 1073).
(2) That the muniment/s of title and/or the tax payment/s receipt/s of
application/s, if any, attached to or alleged in the application, do not
constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide
acquisition of the lands acquired for or his open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the
concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto. Said
muniment/s of title as well as the title do not appear to be genuine
and that the tax declaration/s and/or tax payment receipt/s indicate
the pretended possession of application to be of recent vintage.
(3) That the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title
or grant can no longer be availed of by the applicant who has failed to
file an appropriate application for registration within the period of six
(6) months from February 16, 1976 as required by P.D. No. 892. From
the records, it appears that the instant application was recently filed.
(4) That the parcel applied for is part of the public domain belonging to
the Republic of the Philippines not subject to private appropriation.
(5) That this application was filed beyond December 31, 1987, the period
set forth under Sec. 2, P.D. No. 1073 and therefore, is filed out of time.
In respondent's Answer to Opposition, he professed that the land in
question is a residential lot originally owned and possessed by Paulino
Pulvinar and Geronimo Lozada. Sometime in April 1917, Pulvinar sold
his share of the unregistered land to the spouses Muoz and Vitero,
respondent's parents. In June 1920, Lozada likewise sold his remaining
part to the parents of respondent. Thereafter, the ownership and
possession of the property were consolidated by the spouses and
declared for taxation purposes in the name of Muoz in 1920.
Furthermore, it was stated that during the cadastral survey conducted in
Ligao, Albay in 1928, the land was designated as Lot No. 2276, as per
Survey Notification Card issued to Muoz dated October 2, 1928. Finally,

11

respondent contended that from 1920 up to 1996, the time of application,


the land taxes for the property had been fully paid.
xxx

xxx

xxx

During the trial, respondent was presented as the sole witness.


Respondent, who was 81 years old at that time, testified that he acquired
the property in 1956 when his parents donated the same to him. He
presented as Exhibit "H" 9 Tax Declaration No. 048-0267, evidencing the
payment of realty taxes for Lot No. 2276 in 1997. A Certification from the
Office of the Municipal Treasurer 10 was likewise introduced by the
respondent showing the payment of real estate taxes from 1956 up to the
year 1997. He further declared that the property is a residential land with
improvements such as a house made of solid materials and fruit-bearing
trees. In 1957, respondent told the court that he constructed a concrete
wall surrounding the entire property. Respondent also narrated that he
grew up on the subject lot and spent his childhood days in the area.
xxx

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xxx

On June 16, 1997, the trial court noted a Report submitted by the Director
of Lands, which informed the court that as per records of the Land
Management Bureau in Manila, Lot No. 2276, CAD-239 is covered by Free
Patent Application No. 10-2-664 of Anastacia Vitero.
The RTC rendered a Decision dated October 3, 1997 granting the
application for registration. xxx
On appeal, petitioner argued that the trial court did not acquire
jurisdiction over the subject lot because: (1) the notice of initial hearing
was not timely filed; (2) the applicant failed to present the original tracing
cloth plan of the property sought to be registered during the trial; and (3)
the applicant failed to present evidence that the land is alienable and
disposable.
Subsequently, the CA affirmed the decision of the court a quo. The
appellate court explained that there was conclusive proof that the
jurisdictional requirement of due notice had been complied with as
mandated under Section 24 of Presidential Decree No. 1529. Furthermore,
the failure to present in evidence the tracing cloth plan of the subject
property did not deprive the lower court of its jurisdiction to act on the
application in question. Lastly, the CA ruled that respondent need not
adduce documentary proof that the disputed property had been declared
alienable and disposable for the simple reason that the lot had once been
covered by free patent application; hence, this alone is conclusive
evidence that the property was already declared by the government as
open for public disposition.

12

The petitioner, through the OSG, raises the following grounds for the
petition:
I.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE
TRIAL COURT HAS NOT ACQUIRED JURISDICTION OVER THE
CASE.
II.
PRIVATE RESPONDENT HAS NOT PROVEN BY COMPETENT
EVIDENCE THAT THE PROPERTY IS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE
PROPERTY OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Anent the second issue, petitioner stresses that in proving the alienable
and disposable nature of the property, there has to be a certification from
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).
The CA is of the opinion that respondent need not adduce documentary
proofs that the disputed property has been declared alienable and
disposable because of the fact that it had once been covered by Free
Patent Application No. 10-2-664 in the name of respondent's mother,
which was unfortunately not acted upon by the proper authorities. The
CA declares that this is proof enough that the property was declared by
the government as open for public disposition. This contention was
adopted by the respondent both in his Comment and Memorandum filed
before the Court.
Notwithstanding all the foregoing, the Court cannot sustain the argument
of respondent that the subject property was already declared alienable
and disposable land.
Petitioner is correct when it remarked that it was erroneous for the
appellate court to assume that the property in question is alienable and
disposable based only on the Report dated May 21, 1997 of the Director of
Lands indicating that the "land involved in said case described as Lot
2276, CAD-239 is covered by Free Patent Application No. 10-2-664 of
Anastacia Vitero."
It must be pointed out that in its Report 26 dated March 6, 1997, the LRA
stated that:

13

3. This Authority is not in a position to verify whether or not the parcel


of land subject of registration is already covered by land patent,
previously approved isolated survey and is within forest zone.
WHEREFORE, to avoid duplication in the issuance of titles covering the
same parcel of land and the issuance of titles for lands within the forest
zone which have not been released and classified as alienable, the
foregoing is respectfully submitted to the Honorable Court with the
recommendation that the Lands Management Bureau, Manila,
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, Lands
Management Sector and Forest Management Bureau, all in Legazpi City,
be ordered to submit a report to the Court on the status of the land
applied for, to determine whether or not said land or any portion thereof,
is already covered by land patent, previously approved isolated survey
and is within the forest zone and that should the instant application be
given due course, the application in Cad. Case No. 53, Cadastral Record
No. 1404 with respect to Lot 2276 be dismissed.
Noteworthy is the fact that neither the Director of Lands nor the LRA
attested that the land subject of this proceeding is alienable or disposable.
For clarity, applications for confirmation of imperfect title must be able to
prove the following: (1) that the land forms part of the alienable and
disposable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (2) that they have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership either since
time immemorial or since June 12, 1945.
Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, remains
to this day the existing general law governing the classification and
disposition of lands of the public domain, other than timber and mineral
lands. 29 Section 6 of CA No. 141 empowers the President to classify
lands of the public domain into "alienable and disposable" lands of the
public domain, which prior to such classification are inalienable and
outside the commerce of man. Section 7 of CA No. 141 authorizes the
President to "declare what lands are open to disposition or concession."
Section 8 of CA No. 141 states that the government can declare open for
disposition or concession only lands that are "officially delimited and
classified."
Under the Regalian doctrine embodied in our Constitution, all lands of
the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted
right to ownership of land. Therefore, all lands not appearing to be
clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State.
Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released
as alienable agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State
remain part of the alienable public domain.

14

As already well-settled in jurisprudence, no public land can be acquired


by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the
government; and it is indispensable that the person claiming title to
public land should show that his title was acquired from the State or any
other mode of acquisition recognized by law. To prove that the land
subject of an application for registration is alienable, the applicant must
establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a
presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action;
investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative
act or a statute. The applicant may also secure a certification from the
Government that the land applied for is alienable and disposable.
In the present case, respondent failed to submit a certification from the
proper government agency to prove that the land subject for registration
is indeed alienable and disposable. A CENRO certificate, which
respondent failed to secure, could have evidenced the alienability of the
land involved.
Considering that respondent has failed to convince this Court of the
alienable and disposable character of the land applied for, the Court
cannot approve the application for registration.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the
decision dated August 29, 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
No. 58170, as reiterated in its resolution of January 29, 2002, is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the application for registration filed by
respondent Ludolfo V. Muoz is DENIED.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, C.J., Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona and Garcia, JJ., concur.
2. LIMITATIONS ON, AND EXCLUSIONS FROM,
THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE
a. Constitutional Limitations
By virtue of the States power of dominium over the public domain, it could thereby
exercise its rights of ownership, which include the power to exploit, develop and
alienate such natural resources. The Constitution, however, provides for specific
limitations to such power of dominium. These are enumerated in Sections 2 and 3 of
Article XII.

15

SECTION 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal,


petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources
are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other
natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development,
and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and
supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities,
or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing
agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least
sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such
agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years,
renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and
conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for
irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the
development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and
limit of the grant.
The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic
waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use
and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural
resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with
priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays,
and lagoons.
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned
corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for largescale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum,
and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions
provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and
general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall
promote the development and use of local scientific and technical
resources.
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in
accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its execution.
SECTION 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural,
forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Agricultural lands of
the public domain may be further classified by law according to the uses
which they may be devoted. Alienable lands of the public domain shall
be limited to agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may
not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, for a
period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than
twenty-five years, and not to exceed one thousand hectares in area.
Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred

16

hectares, or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase,


homestead, or grant.
Taking into account the requirements of conservation, ecology, and
development, and subject to the requirements of agrarian reform, the
Congress shall determine, by law, the size of lands of the public domain
which may be acquired, developed, held, or leased and the conditions
therefor.
These constitutional limitations on the State's power to alienate agricultural lands of the
public domain is intended to prevent monopoly and foreign control of our natural
resources, as well as to enable the government to control the exploitation, development
and utilization thereof for the benefit of all.6 Thus, with reference to the Regalian
Doctrine and applied to lands of the public domain, these Constitutional provisions
provide that while no public land can be acquired or held by private persons without
any grant, express or implied, from the government, only alienable and disposable lands
of the public domain may be the subject of such grant. Furthermore, the grantees of
such land, even if alienable, must similarly comply with the citizenship requirements
prescribed by the Constitution. Similarly, the Constitution provides for restrictions on
the size or area of public land that may be transferred to or held by qualified persons,
subejct to further regulation by Congress. These Constitutional restrictions can therefore
be summarized, as follows:
(a)

Only agricultural lands of the public domain are alienable.

(b)

Only Filipino corporations and citizens, whether natural-born or naturalized,


may hold agricultural lands of the public domain; provided, that:
(i)

Filipino corporations can only lease agricultural lands of the public


domain for a period of twenty-five years, renewable for another twentyfive years, and not to exceed one thousand (1,000) hectares in area; and,

(ii)

Filipino citizens can lease agricultural lands of the public domain in an


area not to exceed five hundred (500) hectares, and own not more than
twelve (12) hectares thereof by purchase, homestead, or grant.

b. Ancestral Lands
It must also be noted that notwithstanding the application of the Regalian Doctrine, the
Supreme Court held that the doctrine did not intend to strip the natives of their
ownership of lands already belonging to them before the Spanish conquest. This was
the ruling in the landmark case of Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 935 (1909), where
the United States Supreme Court ruling upon an appeal from the Court of First Instance
of the Province of Benguet, said:

Heirs of Gamos, et al. vs. Heirs of Frando, et al., 447 SCRA 136 [2004].

17

[W]hen, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held
by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to
have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest and
never have been public land.
Consequently, such land, if not owned by the State at the time of the Spanish conquest,
could not have been ceded by Spain to the United States through the Treaty of Paris, and
later, to the Philippine Government by the time of the Commonwealth.
MATEO CARINO v. INSULAR GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
212 U.S. 449 (1909)
Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:
This was an application to the Philippine court of land registration for the
registration of certain land. The application was granted by the court on
March 4, 1904. An appeal was taken to the court of first instance of the
province of Benguet, on behalf of the government of the Philippines, and
also on behalf of the United States, those governments having taken
possession of the property for public and military purposes. The court of
first instance found the facts and dismissed the application upon grounds
of law. This judgment was affirmed by the supreme court (7 Philippine,
132 ), and the case then was brought here by writ of error.
The material facts found are very few. The applicant and plaintiff in error
is an Igorot of the province of Benguet, where the land lies. For more than
fifty years before the treaty of Paris, April 11, 1899 [30 Stat. at L. 1754], as
far back as the findings go, the plaintiff and his ancestors had held the
land as owners. His grandfather had lived upon it, and had maintained
fences sufficient for the holding of cattle, according to the custom of the
country, some of the fences, it seems, having been of much earlier date.
His father had cultivated parts and had used parts for pasturing cattle,
and he had used it for pasture in his turn. They all had been recognized
as owners by the Igorots, and he had inherited or received the land from
his father, in accordance with Igorot custom. No document of title,
however, had issued from the Spanish Crown, and although, in 18931894, and again in 1896-1897, he made application for one under the royal
decrees then in force, nothing seems to have come of it, unless, perhaps,
information that lands in Benguet could not be conceded until those to be
occupied for a sanatorium, etc., had been designated,-a purpose that has
been carried out by the Philippine government and the United States. In
1901 the plaintiff filed a petition, alleging ownership, under the mortgage
law, and the lands were registered to him, that process, however,
establishing only a possessory title, it is said.
xxx

18

xxx

xxx

We come, then, to the question on which the case was decided below,namely, whether the plaintiff owns the land. The position of the
government, shortly stated, is that Spain assumed, asserted, and had title
to all the land in the Philippines except so far as it saw fit to permit
private titles to be acquired; that there was no prescription against the
Crown, and that, if there was, a decree of June 25, 1880, required
registration within a limited time to make the title good; that the
plaintiff's land was not registered, and therefore became, if it was not
always, public land; that the United States succeeded to the title of Spain,
and so that the plaintiff has no rights that the Philippine government is
bound to respect.
If we suppose for the moment that the government's contention is so far
correct that the Crown of Spain in form asserted a title to this land at the
date of the treaty of Paris, to which the United States succeeded, it is not
to be assumed without argument that the plaintiff's case is at an end. It is
true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the universal feudal
theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general
attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled
to the treatment accorded to those in the same zone of civilization with
themselves. It is true, also, that, in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute,
and that, as against foreign nations, the United States may assert, as Spain
asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the
inhabitants of the Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain had
such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of
strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist
upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and
how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide.
The province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor
General, in his argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was
brought under the civil or military government of the Spanish Crown. It
seems probable, if not certain, that the Spanish officials would not have
granted to anyone in that province the registration to which formerly the
plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish laws, and which would have made
his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical
position of Spain, it does not follow that, in the view of the United States,
he had lost all rights and was a mere trespasser when the present
government seized his land. The argument to that effect seems to amount
to a denial of native titles throughout an important part of the island of
Luzon, at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would
not have permitted and had not the power to enforce.
The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white
race in the United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown
to the North American Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in
America was to occupy the land. It is obvious that, however stated, the

19

reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we
suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount
necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is
to do justice to the natives, not to exploit their country for private gain. By
the organic act of July 1, 1902, chap. 1369, 12, 32 Stat. at L. 691, all the
property and rights acquired there by the United States are to be
administered 'for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof.' It is reasonable to
suppose that the attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard
to what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it
will claim for its own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying
the safeguards of the Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends
those safeguards to all. It provides that 'no law shall be enacted in said
islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal
protection of the laws.' In the light of the declaration that we have quoted
from, it is hard to believe that the United States was ready to declare in
the next breath that 'any person' did not embrace the inhabitants of
Benguet, or that it meant by 'property' only that which had become such
by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never
had heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by
native custom and by long association,-one of the profoundest factors in
human thought,-regarded as their own.
It is true that, by the government of the Philippines is empowered to
enact rules and prescribe terms for perfecting titles to public lands where
some, but not all, Spanish conditions had been fulfilled, and to issue
patents to natives for not more than 16 hectares of public lands actually
occupied by the native or his ancestors before August 13, 1898. But this
section perhaps might be satisfied if confined to cases where the
occupation was of land admitted to be public land, and had not
continued for such a length of time and under such circumstances as to
give rise to the understanding that the occupants were owners at that
date. We hesitate to suppose that it was intended to declare every native
who had not a paper title a trespasser, and to set the claims of all the
wilder tribes afloat. It is true again that there is excepted from the
provision that we have quoted as to the administration of the property
and rights acquired by the United States, such land and property as shall
be designated by the President for military or other reservations, as this
land since has been. But there still remains the question what property
and rights the United States asserted itself to have acquired.
Whatever the law upon these points may be, and we mean to go no
further than the necessities of decision demand, every presumption is and
ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It might,
perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far back as
testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a
claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the

20

same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been
public land. Certainly in a case like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity in
the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt.
Whether justice to the natives and the import of the organic act ought not
to carry us beyond a subtle examination of ancient texts, or perhaps even
beyond the attitude of Spanish law, humane though it was, it is
unnecessary to decide. If, in a tacit way, it was assumed that the wild
tribes of the Philippines were to be dealt with as the power and
inclination of the conqueror might dictate, Congress has not yet
sanctioned the same course as the proper one 'for the benefit of the
inhabitants thereof.'
If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not
discover such clear proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that
he does not own the land. To begin with, the older decrees and laws cited
by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to indicate pretty clearly that
the natives were recognized as owning some lands, irrespective of any
royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native
inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at will.
For instance, Book 4, title 12, Law 14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las
Indias, cited for a contrary conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3
Philippine, 537, while it commands viceroys and others, when it seems
proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those
who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it begins by
the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all
titles in the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The
fact was that titles were admitted to exist that owed nothing to the
powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their books.
Prescription is mentioned again in the royal cedula of October 15, 1754,
cited in 3 Philippine, 546: 'Where such possessors shall not be able to
produce title deeds, it shall be sufficient if they shall show that ancient
possession, as a valid title by prescription.' It may be that this means
possession from before 1700; but, at all events, the principle is admitted.
As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of
Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was
recognized in the Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had
only a paper sovereignty.
The question comes, however, on the decree of June 25, 1880, for the
adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in
the Philippine Islands. This begins with the usual theoretic assertion that,
for private ownership, there must have been a grant by competent
authority; but instantly descends to fact by providing that, for all legal
effects, those who have been in possession for certain times shall be
deemed owners. For cultivated land, twenty years, uninterrupted, is
enough. For uncultivated, thirty. Art. 5. So that, when this decree went

21

into effect, the applicant's father was owner of the land by the very terms
of the decree. But, it is said, the object of this law was to require the
adjustment or registration proceedings that it described, and in that way
to require every one to get a document of title or lose his land. That
purpose may have been entertained, but it does not appear clearly to
have been applicable to all. The regulations purport to have been made
'for the adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private
individuals.' (We follow the translation in the government's brief.) It does
not appear that this land ever was royal land or wrongfully occupied. In
Article 6 it is provided that 'interested parties not included within the two
preceding articles [the articles recognizing prescription of twenty and
thirty years] may legalize their possession, and thereby acquire the full
ownership of the said lands, by means of adjustment proceedings, to be
conducted in the following manner.' This seems, by its very terms, not to
apply to those declared already to be owners by lapse of time. Article 8
provides for the case of parties not asking an adjustment of the lands of
which they are unlawfully enjoying the possession, within one year, and
threatens that the treasury 'will reassert the ownership of the state over
the lands,' and will sell at auction such part as it does not reserve. The
applicant's possession was not unlawful, and no attempt at any such
proceedings against him or his father ever was made. Finally, it should be
noted that the natural construction of the decree is confirmed by the
report of the council of state. That report puts forward as a reason for the
regulations that, in view of the condition of almost all property in the
Philippines, it is important to fix its status by general rules, on the
principle that the lapse of a fixed period legalizes completely all
possession; recommends in two articles twenty and thirty years, as
adopted in the decree; and then suggests that interested parties not
included in those articles may legalize their possession and acquire
ownership by adjustment at a certain price.
It is true that the language of arts. 4 and 5 attributes title to those 'who
may prove' possession for the necessary time, and we do not overlook the
argument that this means may prove in registration proceedings. It may
be that an English conveyancer would have recommended an application
under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not calculated to convey
to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions
were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words 'may prove'
(acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be
taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are
indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to
show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The
effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to
establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. The
royal decree of February 13, 1894, declaring forfeited titles that were
capable of adjustment under the decree of 1880, for which adjustment had
not been sought, should not be construed as a confiscation, but as the

22

withdrawal of a privilege. As a matter of fact, the applicant never was


disturbed. This same decree is quoted by the court of land registration for
another recognition of the common-law prescription of thirty years as still
running against alienable Crown land.
It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law
present a problem not without difficulties for courts of a different legal
tradition. We have deemed it proper on that account to notice the
possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act of Congress
establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a
consideration of the whole case we are of opinion that law and justice
require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should
not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those among whom
he lived, was his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost
forgotten law of Spain.
Judgment reversed.
OH CHO v. DIRECTOR OF LANDS
G.R. No. 48321, 31 August 1946
PADILLA, J p:
This is an appeal from a judgment decreeing the registration of a
residential lot located in the municipality of Guinayangan, Province of
Tayabas, in the name of the applicant.
The opposition of the Director of Lands is based on the applicant's lack of
title to the lot, and on his disqualification, as alien, from acquiring lands
of the public domain.
The applicant, who is an alien, and his predecessors in interest have been
in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the lot from
1880 to the filing of the application for registration on January 17, 1940.
The Solicitor General reiterates the second objection of the opponent and
adds that the lower court committed an error in not declaring null and
void the sale of the lot to the applicant.
The applicant invokes the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496), or should
it not be applicable to the case, then he would apply for the benefits of the
Public Land Act (C.A. No. 141).
The applicant failed to show that he has title to the lot that may be
confirmed under the Land Registration Act. He failed to show that he or
any of his predecessors in interest had acquired the lot from the
Government, either by purchase or by grant, under the laws, orders and

23

decrees promulgated by the Spanish Government in the Philippines, or


by possessory information under the Mortgage Law (section 19, Act 496).
All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by
purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the
rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an
occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for
such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never
been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even
before the Spanish conquest. (Carino vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S., 449;
53 Law. ed., 594.) The applicant does not come under the exception, for
the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessor in interest began
in 1880.
As the applicant failed to show title to the lot, the next question is
whether he is entitled to a decree of registration thereof under the
provisions of the Public Land Act (C. A. No. 141). Under the provisions of
the Act invoked by the applicant, he is not entitled to a decree of
registration of the lot, because he is an alien disqualified from acquiring
lands of the public domain (sections 48, 49, C. A. No. 141).
As the applicant failed to prove title to the lot and has invoked the
provisions of the Public Land Act, it seems unnecessary to make
pronouncement in this case on the nature, character or classification of
the lot sought to be registered.
It may be argued that under the provisions of the Public Land Act the
applicant's immediate predecessors in interest would have been entitled
to a decree of registration of the lot had they applied for its registration;
and that he having purchased or acquired it, the right of his immediate
predecessors in interest to a decree of registration must be deemed also to
have been acquired by him. The benefits provided in the Public Land Act
for applicant's immediate predecessors in interest are or constitute a grant
or concession by the State; and before they could acquire any right under
such benefits, the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest should
comply with the condition precedent for the grant of such benefits. The
condition precedent is to apply for the registration of the land of which
they had been in possession at least since July 26, 1894. This the
applicant's immediate predecessors in interest failed to do. They did not
have any vested right in the lot amounting to title which was
transmissible to the applicant. The only right, if it may thus be called, is
their possession of the lot which, tacked to that of their predecessors in
interest, may be availed of by a qualified person to apply for its
registration but not by a person as the applicant who is disqualified.
It is urged that the sale of the lot to the applicant should have been
declared null and void. In a suit between vendor and vendee for the
annulment of the sale, such pronouncement would be necessary, if the

24

court were of the opinion that it is void. It is not necessary in this case
where the vendors do not even object to the application filed by the
vendee.
Accordingly, judgment is reversed and the application for registration
dismissed, without costs.
Moran, C. J., Feria, Pablo, Hilado and Bengzon, JJ., concur.
The doctrine laid down in Cario was subsequently cited by members of the Supreme
Court in upholding the Constitutionality of Republic Act No. 8371 or Indigenous
Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (the IPRA). In a suit filed by former Supreme Court
Justice Isagani Cruz, the constitutionality of IPRA was assailed on the ground that it
deprived the state of ownership over lands of public domain and natural resources
contained therein, in violation of the Regalian Doctrine. The votes were deadlocked at 77 which meant that the validity of the IPRA was upheld.
ISAGANI CRUZ AND CESAR EUROPA v.
SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, ET AL.
G.R. No. 135385, 6 December 2000.
PER CURIAM p:
Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for
prohibition and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the
constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 (R.A.
8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997
(IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing
Rules).
xxx

xxx

xxx

Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the


IPRA and its Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an
unlawful deprivation of the State's ownership over lands of the public
domain as well as minerals and other natural resources therein, in
violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the
Constitution:
"(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral
domains, and Section 3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands;
TECcHA
"(2) Section 5, in relation to Section 3(a), which provides that ancestral
domains including inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and
other resources found within ancestral domains are private but
community property of the indigenous peoples;

25

"(3) Section 6 in relation to Section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the
composition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
"(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the
indigenous peoples over the ancestral domains;
"(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the
indigenous peoples over the ancestral lands;
"(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous
peoples in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of
minerals and other natural resources within the areas claimed to be their
ancestral domains, and the right to enter into agreements with nonindigenous peoples for the development and utilization of natural
resources therein for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not
more than 25 years; and
"(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to
maintain, develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains and
portions thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds,
mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest cover
or reforestation."
Petitioners also contend that, by providing for an all-encompassing
definition of "ancestral domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even
include private lands found within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b)
violate the rights of private landowners.
In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the
powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law
applicable to the settlement of disputes involving ancestral domains and
ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions violate the due
process clause of the Constitution.
These provisions are:
"(1) Sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and
recognition of ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP the sole
authority to delineate ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
"(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a
particular area is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the
following officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Governments, Secretary of
Justice and Commissioner of the National Development Corporation, the
jurisdiction of said officials over said area terminates;

26

"(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices
of indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to property
rights, claims of ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land
disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in the interpretation thereof
shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples;
"(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be
used to resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and
"(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims
and disputes involving rights of the indigenous peoples."
Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the
NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that
"the administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President
is characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for purposes of
policy and program coordination." They contend that said Rule infringes
upon the President's power of control over executive departments under
Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.
xxx

xxx

xxx

After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as
follows:
Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion,
which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago
join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371.
Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged
provisions of the law with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of
NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and
Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he
contends should be interpreted as dealing with the large-scale
exploitation of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice
Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does
not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not have standing to
question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.
Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice
Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3
(a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are
unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of
Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the
filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been violated by
the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view

27

that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices


Melo, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon, Jr., join in the separate
opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug.
As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was
not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after
redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to
Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the petition is
DISMISSED.
Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions
of Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, YaresSantiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
In upholding the Constitutionality of the statute, Justice Raynato Puno, calling the IPRA
a novel piece of legislation, recognized the presumption that land (1) as far back as
testimony or memory went, and (2) under a claim of private ownership to never have
been public land. Thus tracing the development of the States treatment of indigenous
peoples from the Spanish period to the present, Justice Puno recognized the concept of
native title of indigenous peoples over lands held since time immemorial.
This was echoed by Justice Santiago Kapunan noted that title to land by indigenous
peoples in the Philippine has been recognized since colonial times. Justice Kapunan
said:
Spanish colonial laws recognized and respected Filipino landholdings
including native land occupancy. Thus, the Recopilacion de Leyes de las
Indias expressly conferred ownership of lands already held by the natives.
The royal decrees of 1880 and 1894 did not extinguish native title to land
in the Philippines. The earlier royal decree, dated June 25, 1880, provided
that all those in "unlawful possession of royal lands" must legalize their
possession by means of adjustment proceedings, and within the period
specified. The later royal decree, dated February 13, 1894, otherwise
known as the Maura Law, declared that titles that were capable of
adjustment under the royal decree of 1880, but for which adjustment was
not sought, were forfeited. Despite the harsh wording of the Maura Law,
it was held in the case of Cario that the royal decree of 1894 should not
be construed as confiscation of title, but merely as the withdrawal of the
privilege of registering such title.
Neither was native title disturbed by the Spanish cession of the
Philippines to the United States, contrary to petitioners' assertion that the

28

US merely succeeded to the rights of Spain, including the latter's rights


over lands of the public domain. Under the Treaty of Paris of December
10, 1898, the cession of the Philippines did not impair any right to
property existing at the time. During the American colonial regime,
native title to land was respected, even protected. The Philippine Bill of
1902 provided that property and rights acquired by the US through
cession from Spain were to be administered for the benefit of the
Filipinos. In obvious adherence to libertarian principles, McKinley's
Instructions, as well as the Philippine Bill of 1902, contained a bill of
rights embodying the safeguards of the US Constitution. One of these
rights, which served as an inviolable rule upon every division and branch
of the American colonial government in the Philippines, was that "no
person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process
of law." These vested rights safeguarded by the Philippine Bill of 1902
were in turn expressly protected by the due process clause of the 1935
Constitution. Resultantly, property rights of the indigenous peoples over
their ancestral lands and ancestral domains were firmly established in
law.
In undermining the strength of the doctrine laid down in Cario, Justice Vitug argued
that the judicial pronouncements in the case antedate the provisions of the 1935
Constitution which first categorically declared the States ownership of all lands and
natural resources in the Philippines. In the mind of Justice Vitug, a judicial decision,
such as the case of Cario, cannot override the collective will of the people expressed in
the Constitution. This was also the view of Justice Artemio Panganiban who
considered the doctrine in Cario modified or superseded by the 1935, 1973 and 1987
Constitutions. Its ratio, according to Justice Panganiban, should be understood as
referring only to a means by which public agricultural land may be acquired by
citizens.
Pertinently, the IPRA defines ancestral lands as land occupied, possessed and utilized by
individuals, families and clans who are members of indigenous cultral communities
since time immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, under
claims of individual or traditional group ownership, continuously, to the present,
including, but not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests,
swidden farms and tree lots.7
c. Ecclesiastical Property
In addition, Philippine jurisprudence has also recognized that aside from lands held by
persons through native title, properties of the Roman Catholic Church prior to the
American occupation are also not considered public land or land owned by the State.
The reason is because it was the Church and not the King of Spain that was the owner of
such ecclesiastical property during the time of the Spanish occupation. Therefore

Republic Act No. 8371, Section 3(b).

29

ecclesiastical property was never public land and could not have been transferred to the
United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris.
JORGE BARLIN v. VICENTE RAMIREZ AND THE MUNICIPALITY OF
LAGONOY
G.R. No. L-2832, 24 November 1906
WILLARD, J p:
There had been priests of the Roman Catholic Church in the pueblo of
Lagonoy, in the Province of Ambos Camarines, since 1839. On the 13th of
January, 1869, the church and convent were burned. They were rebuilt
between 1870 and 1873. There was evidence that this was done by the
order of the provincial governor. The labor necessary for this
reconstruction was performed by the people of the pueblo the direction of
the cabeza de barangay. Under the law then in force, each man in the
pueblo was required to work for the government, without compensation,
for forty days every year. The time spent in the reconstruction of these
buildings was counted as a part of the forty days. The material necessary
was brought and paid for in part by the parish priest from the funds of
the church and in part was donated by certain individuals of the pueblo.
After the completion of the church it was always administered, until
November 14, 1902, by a priest of a Roman Catholic Communion and all
the people of the pueblo professed that faith and belonged to that church.
The defendant, Ramirez, having been appointed by the plaintiff parish
priest, took possession of the church on the 5th of July, 1901. he
administered it as such under the orders of his superiors until the 14th
day of November, 1902. His successor having been then appointed, the
latter made a demand on this defendant for the delivery to him of the
church, convent, and cemetery, and the sacred ornaments, books, jewels,
money, and other property of the church. The defendant, by a written
document of that date, refused to make such delivery. xxx
In January, 1904, the plaintiff brought this action against the defendant,
Ramirez, alleging in his amended complaint that the Roman Catholic
Church was the owner of the church building, the convent, cemetery, the
books, money, and other property belonging thereto, and asking that it be
restored to the possession thereof and that the defendant render an
account of the property which he had received and which was retained
by him, and for other relief.
The answer of the defendant, Ramirez, in addition to a general denial of
the allegation of the complaint, admitted that he was in the possession
and administration of the property described therein with the authority
of the municipality of Lagonoy and of the inhabitants of the same, who
were the lawful owners of the said property. After this answer had been

30

presented, and on the 1st day of November, 1904, the municipality of


Lagonoy filed a petition asking that it be allowed to intervene in the case
and join with the defendant, Ramirez, as a defendant therein. This
petition been granted, the municipality of the 1st day of December filed
an answer in which it alleged that the defendant, Ramirez, was in
possession of the property described in the complaint under the authority
and with the consent of the municipality of Lagonoy and that such
municipality was the owner thereof.
Plaintiff answered this complaint, or answer in intervention, and the case
was tried and final judgment in entered therein in favor of the plaintiff
and against the defendants. The defendants then brought the case here by
a bill of exceptions.
That the person in the actual possession of the church and other property
described in the complaint is the defendant, Ramirez, is plainly
established by the evidence. It does not appear that the municipality, as a
corporate body, ever took any action in reference to this matter until they
presented their petition for intervention in this case. In fact, the witnesses
for the defense, when they speak of the ownership of the buildings, say
that they are owned by the people of the pueblo, and one witness, the
president, said that the municipality as a corporation had nothing
whatever to do with the matter. That the resolution adopted on the 14th
of November, and which has been quoted above, was not the action of the
municipality, as such, is apparent from an inspection thereof.
xxx

xxx

xxx

There are several grounds upon which this judgment must be affirmed.
xxx

xxx

xxx

(3) We have said that it would have no such title or ownership ever
admitting that the Spanish Government was the owner of the
property and it has passed by the treaty of Paris to the American
Government. But this assumption is not true. As a matter of law, the
Spanish Government at the time the treaty of peace was signed, was
not the owner of this property, nor of any other property like it,
situated in the Philippine Islands.
It does not admit of doubt that from the earliest times the parish
churches in the Philippine Islands were built by the Spanish
Government. Law 2, title 2, book 1, of the Compilation of the Laws of
the Indies is, in part, as follows:
"Having erected all the churches, cathedrals, and parish
houses of the Spaniards and natives of our Indian possessions

31

from their discovery at the cost and expense of our royal


treasury, and applied for their service and maintenance the
part of the tithes belonging to us by apostolic concession
according to the division we have made."
Law 3 of the same title to the construction of parochial churches such
as the one in question. That law is as follows:
"The parish churches which was erected in Spanish towns
shall be of durable and decent construction. Their costs shall
be divided and paid in three parts: One by our royal treasury,
another by the residents and Indian encomenderos of the place
where such churches are constructed, and the other part by the
Indians who abide there; and if within the limits of a city,
village, or place there should be any Indians incorporated to
our royal crown, we command that for our part there be
contributed the same amount as the residents and
encomenderos, respectively, contribute; and the residents who
have no Indians shall also contribute for this purpose in
accordance with their stations and wealth, and that which is so
given shall be deducted from the share of the Indians should
pay."
Law 11 of the same title is as follows:
"We command that the part of the tithes which belongs to the
fund for the erection of churches shall be given to their
superintendents to be expended for those things necessary for
these churches with the advice of the prelates and officials,
and by their warrants, and not otherwise. And we request and
charge the archbishops and bishops not to interfere in the
collection and disbursement thereof, but to guard these
structures."
Law 4, title 3, book 6, is as follows:
"In all settlements, even though the Indians are few, there shall
be erected a church where mass can be decently held, and it
shall have a donor with a key, notwithstanding the fact that it
be the subject to or separate from a parish."
Not only were all the parish churches in the Philippines erected by the
King and under his direction, but it was made unlawful to erect a
church without the license of the King. This provision is contained in
Law 2, title 6, book 1, which is as follows:

32

"Whereas it is our intention to erect, institute, found, and


maintain all cathedrals, parish churches, monasteries, votive
hospitals, churches, and religious and pious establishments
where they are necessary for the teaching, propagation, and
preaching of the doctrine of our sacred Roman Catholic faith,
and to aid to this effect with out royal treasury whenever
possible, and to receive information of such places where they
should be founded and are necessary, and the ecclesiastical
patronage of all our Indies belonging to us:
"We command that there shall not be erected, instituted,
founded, or maintained any cathedral, parish church,
monastery, hospital, or votive churches, or other pious or
religious establishment without our express permission as is
provided in Law 1, title 2, and Law 1, title 3, of this book,
notwithstanding any permission heretofore given by our
viceroy or other ministers, which in this respect we revoke and
make null, void, and of no effect."
By agreement at an early date between the Pope and the Crown of
Spain, all tithes in the Indies were given by the former to the latter
and the disposition made the King of the fund thus created is
indicated by Law 1, title 16, book 1, which is as follows:
"Whereas the ecclesiastical tithes from the Indies belong to us
by the apostolic concessions of the supreme pontiffs, we
command the officials of our royal treasury of those provinces
to collect and cause to be collected all tithes due and to become
due from the crops and flocks of the residents in the manner in
which it has been the custom to pay the same, and from these
tithes the churches shall be provided with competent persons
of good character to serve them and with all ornaments and
things which may be necessary for divine worship, to the end
that these churches may be well served and equipped, and we
shall be informed of God, our Lord; this order shall be
observed where the contrary has not already been directed by
us in connection with the erection of churches."
That the condition of things existing by virtue of the Laws of the
Indies was continued to the present time is indicated by the royal
order of the 31st of January, 1856, and by the royal order of the 13th of
August, 1876, both relating to the construction and repair of churches,
there being authority for saying that the latter order was in force in
the Philippines.
This church, and other churches similarly situated in the Philippines,
having been erected by the Spanish Government, and under its

33

direction, the next question to be considered is, To whom did these


churches belong?
Title 28 of the third partida is devoted to the ownership of things and,
after discussing what can be called public property and what can be
called private property, speaks, in Law 12, of those things which are
sacred, religious, or holy. That law is as follows:
Law XII. HOW SACRED OR RELIGIOUS THINGS CAN
NOT BE OWNED BY ANY PERSON.
"No sacred, religious, or holy thing, devoted to the service of
God, can be the subject of ownership by any man, nor can it be
considered as included in his property holdings. Although the
priests may have such things in their possession, yet they are
not the owners thereof. They, hold them thus as guardians or
servants, or because they have the care of the same and serve
God in or without them. Hence they were allowed to take
from the revenues of the church and lands what was
reasonably necessary for their support; the balance, belonging
to God, was to be devoted to pious purposes, such as the
feeding and clothing of the poor, the support of orphans, the
marrying of poor virgins to prevent their becoming evil
women because of their poverty, and for the redemption of
captives and the repairing of the churches, and the buying of
chalices, clothing, books, and others things which they might
be in need of, and other similar charitable purposes."
And then taking up for consideration the first of the classes in to
which this law has divided these things, it defines in Law 13, title 28,
third partida, consecrated things. That law is as follows:
"Sacred things, we say, are those which are consecrated by the
bishops, such as churches, the altars therein, crosses, chalices,
censers, vestments, books, and all other things which are in
tended for the service of the church, and the title to these
things can not be alienated except in certain specific cases as
we have already shown in the first partida of this book by the
laws dealing with this subject. We say further that even where
a consecrated church is razed, the ground upon which it
formerly stood shall always be consecrated ground. But if any
consecrated church should fall into the hands of the enemies
of our faith it shall there and then cease to be sacred as long as
the enemy has it under control, although once recovered by
the Christians, it will again become sacred, reverting to its
condition before the enemy seized it and shall have all the
right and privileges formerly belonging to it."

34

xxx

xxx

xxx

The truth is that, from the earliest times down to the cession of the
Philippines to the United States, churches and other consecrated
objects were considered outside of the commerce of man. They were
not public property, nor could they be subjects of private property in
the sense that any private person could the owner thereof. They
constituted a kind of property distinctive characteristic of which was
that it was devoted to the worship of God.
But, being material things was necessary that some one should have
the care and custody of them and the administration thereof, and the
question occurs, To whom, under the Spanish law, was intrusted that
possession and administration? For the purposes of the Spanish law
there was only one religion. That was the religion professed by the
Roman Catholic Church. It was for the purposes of that religion and
for the observance of its rites that this church and all other churches in
the Philippines were erected. The possession of the churches, their
care and custody, and the maintenance of religious worship therein
were necessarily, therefore, intrusted to that body. It was, by virtue of
the laws of Spain, the only body which could under any
circumstances have possession of, or any control over, any church
dedicated to the worship of God. By virtue of those laws this
possession and right of control were necessarily exclusive. It is not
necessary or important to give any name to this right of possession
and control exercised by the Roman Catholic Church in the church
buildings of the Philippines prior to 1898. It is not necessary to show
that the church as a juridical person was the owner of the buildings. It
is sufficient to say that this right to the exclusive possession and
control of the same, for the purposes of its creation, existed.
The right of patronage, existing in the King of Spain with reference to
the churches in the Philippines, did not give him any right to interfere
with the material possession of these buildings.
Title 6 of book 1 of the Compilation of the laws of the Indies treats Del
Patronazgo Real de las Indias. There is nothing in any one of the fiftyone laws which compose this title which in any way indicates that the
King of Spain was the owner of the churches in the Indies because he
had constructed them. These laws relate to the right of presentation to
ecclesiastical charges and offices. For example, Law 49 of the title
commences as follows:
"Because the patronage and right of presentation of all
archbishops, bishops, dignitaries, prevents, curates, and
doctrines and all other beneficiaries and ecclesiastical offices

35

whatsoever belong to us, no other person can obtain or


possess the same without our presentation as provided in Law
1 and other laws of this title."
Title 15 of the first partida treats of the right of patronage vesting in
private persons, but there is nothing in any one of its fifteen laws
which in any way indicates that the private patron is the owner of the
church.
When it is said that this church never belonged to the Crown of Spain,
it is not intended to say that the Government and had no power over
it. It may be that by virtue of that power of eminent domain which is
necessarily resides in every government, it might have appropriated
this church and other churches, and private property of individuals.
But nothing of this kind was ever attempted in the Philippines.
It, therefore, follows that in 1898, and prior to the treaty of Paris, the
Roman Catholic Church had by law the exclusive right to the
possession of this church and it had the legal right to administer the
same for the purposes for which the building was consecrated. It was
then in the full and peaceful possession of the church with the rights
aforesaid. That these rights were fully protected by the treaty of Paris
is very clear. That treaty, in article 8, provides, among other things, as
follows:
"And it is hereby declared that the relinquishment or cession,
as the case may be, to which the preceding paragraph refers,
can not in any respect impair the property or rights which by
law belong to the peaceful possession of property of all kinds,
or provinces, municipalities, public or private establishments,
ecclesiastical or civic bodies, or any other associations having
legal capacity to acquire and possess property in the aforesaid
territories renounced or ceded, or of private individuals, or
whatsoever nationality such individuals may be."
It is not necessary, however, to invoke the provisions of that treaty.
Neither the Government of the United States, nor the Government of
these Islands, has ever attempted in any way to interfere with the
rights which the Roman Catholic Church had in this building when
Spanish sovereignty ceased in the Philippines. Any interference that
has resulted has been caused by private individuals, acting without
any authority from the Government. Against such interference by
private persons with the rights of others, redress is given in the courts
of justice without reference to the provisions of the treaty of Paris.
No point is made in the brief of the appellant that any distinction
should be made between the church and the convent. The convent

36

undoubtedly was annexed to the church and, as to it, the provisions


of Law 19, title 2, book 1, of the Compilation of the Laws of the Indies
would apply. That law is as follows:
"We command that the Indians of each town or barrio shall
construct such houses as may be deemed sufficient in which
the priests of such towns or barrios may live comfortably
adjoining the parish church of the place where that may be
built for the benefit of the priests in charge of such churches
and engaged in the education and conversion of their Indian
parishioners, and they shall not be alienated or devoted to any
other purpose."
The evidence in this case makes no showing in regard to the cemetery.
It is always mentioned in connection with the church and convent and
no point is made by the possession of the church and convent, he is
not also entitled to recover possession of the cemetery. So, without
discussing the question as to whether the rules applicable to churches
are all respects applicable to cemeteries, we hold for the purpose of
this case that the plaintiff has the same right to the cemetery that he
has to the church.
xxx

xxx

xxx

The judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this
instance against the appellant. After the expiration of twenty days from
the date hereof let judgment be entered in accordance herewith, and ten
days thereafter the record be remanded to the court below for execution.
So ordered.
Arellano, C.J., Torres, Mapa, and Tracey, JJ., concur.
Johnson, J., reserves his vote.

37

CHAPTER II
CLASSIFICATION AND DISPOSITION
OF LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
Understood in its general sense, lands of the public domain refer to the mass of land
belonging to the State. It can be considered synonymous to government land. Public
lands, on the other hand, refer to such lands of the public domain which are subject to
alienation and disposal by the State in accordance with Commonwealth Act No. 141, or
the Public Land Act. Accordingly, government land and public land are not
synonymous terms; the first is more extensive and embraces not only the second by also
other lands of the government already reserved to public use or subject to private right.8
CLASSIFICATION OF LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
a. Power to Classify
Government land or lands of the public domain can be classified in various ways. For
example, government land can either be alienable and disposeable (i.e., public land) or
inalienable. Government land can also be characterized as lands of public dominion
which are held by the State in its sovereign capacity, or patrimonial property. However,
if we are to follow the classification prescribed under the 1987 Constitution, lands of the
public domain are classified as (1) agricultural, (2) forest or timber, (3) mineral and (4)
national parks.
This list departs from the 1935 Constitution which identifies
agricultural, timber and mineral lands,9 and the 1973 Constitution, which additionally
enumerates industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and grazing lands.10
From this Constitutional classification, Congress has, in turn, enacted legislation
providing for the use, exploitation, preservation and, when allowed, alienation and
disposition, of each classification of government land. In general, these laws are the
following:
8
9

10

38

Monsanto v. Insular Government, 12 Phil. 1572 [1909].


Section 1, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution. SECTION 1. All agricultural timber, and
mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils,
all forces of potential energy and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the
State, and their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to
citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the
capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or
concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government established under this
Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be
alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization
of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years,
renewable for another twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water
supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which
cases beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.
Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution. SECTION 10. Lands of the public domain
are classified into agricultural, industrial, or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral,
timber or forest, and grazing lands, and such other classes as may be provided by law.

(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)

Agricultural Land the Public Land Act of 1936 (Commonwealth Act No. 141)
Forest land - the Revised Forestry Code (Presidential Decree No. 705)
Mineral land - Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 7942)
National parks - National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of
1992 (Republic Act No. 7586)

At the same time, Congress, through the Public Land Act, has delegated the power to
classify such government lands to the Executive Branch of the government. Thus,
Section 6 of the Public Land Act provides:
SECTION 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary
of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time classify the lands
of the public domain into
(a) Alienable or disposable,
(b) Timber, and
(c) Mineral lands,
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one
class to another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition.
DIRECTOR OF LANDS AND THE DIRECTOR OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT
v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.
G.R. No. 58867, 22 June 1984.
MELENCIO-HERRERA, J p:
Petitioners-public officials, through the Solicitor General, seek a review of
the Decision and Resolution of the then Court of Appeals affirming the
judgment of the former Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch III,
decreeing registration of a parcel of land in private respondents' favor.
The land in question, identified as Lot 2347, Cad-302-D, Case 3, Obando
Cadastre, under Plan Ap-03-000535, is situated in Obando, Bulacan, and
has an area of approximately 9.3 hectares. It adjoins the Kailogan River
and private respondents have converted it into a fishpond.
In their application for registration filed on May 10, 1976, private
respondents (Applicants, for brevity) claimed that they are the co-owners
in fee simple of the land applied for partly through inheritance in 1918
and partly by purchase on May 2, 1958; that it is not within any forest
zone or military reservation; and that the same is assessed for taxation
purposes in their names.
The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of the
Bureau of Forest Development opposed the application on the principal
ground that the land applied for is within the unclassified region of

39

Obando, Bulacan, per BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927; and that
areas within the unclassified region are denominated as forest lands and
do not form part of the disposable and alienable portion of the public
domain.
After hearing, the Trial Court ordered registration of the subject land in
favor of the Applicants. This was affirmed on appeal by respondent
Appellate Court, which found that "through indubitable evidence
(Applicants) and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, public,
continuous, peaceful and adverse possession of the subject parcel of land
under a bona fide claim of ownership for more than 30 years prior to the
filing of the application" and are, therefore, entitled to registration. It
further opined that "since the subject property is entirely devoted to
fishpond purposes, it cannot be categorized as part of forest lands."
Before this instance, the principal issues posed are: (1) whether or not
Courts can reclassify the subject public land; and (2) whether or not
applicants are entitled to judicial confirmation of title.
The parties, through their respective counsel, stipulated that the land is
within an unclassified region of Obando, Bulacan, as shown by BF Map
LC No. 637, dated March 1, 1927. No evidence has been submitted that
the land has been released or subsequently classified despite an
Indorsement, dated November 17, 1976, of the District Forester, to the
Director of Forest Development, containing the following
recommendation:
"Subject area requested for release was verified and found to be within
the Unclassified Region of Obando, Bulacan per BF LC Map No. 637,
certified March 1, 1927. However, on-the-spot inspection conducted by a
representative of this Office, it disclosed that the same was devoid of any
forest growth and forms part of a well-developed and 100 percent
producing fishponds. Two houses of light materials were erected within
the area for the caretakers temporary dwelling.
"In view thereof, and in fairness to the applicant considering the
investment introduced therein this Office believes that the release is in
order.
"Recommended for approval and be disposed of in accordance with the
Public Land Law."
The Government's cause is meritorious.
In effect, what the Courts a quo have done is to release the subject
property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their
competence and jurisdiction. The classification of public lands is an

40

exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government


and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the land
remains as unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered
open to disposition. This should be so under time-honored Constitutional
precepts. This is also in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all
lands of the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the
source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the
conservation of such patrimony.
The recommendation of the District Forester for release of subject
property from the unclassified region is not the ultimate word on the
matter. And the fact that BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927
showing subject property to be within the unclassified region was not
presented in evidence will not operate against the State considering the
stipulation between the parties and under the well-settled rule that the
State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials
or agents, if omission there was, in fact.
While it may be that the Municipality of Obando has been cadastrally
surveyed in 1961, it does not follow that all lands comprised therein are
automatically released as alienable. A survey made in a cadastral
proceeding merely identifies each lot preparatory to a judicial proceeding
for adjudication of title to any of the lands upon claim of interested
parties. Besides, if land is within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest
Development, it would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Cadastral Court
to register it under the Torrens System.
Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever possession
Applicants may have had, and, however long, cannot ripen into private
ownership.
The conversion of subject property into a fishpond by Applicants, or the
alleged titling of properties around it, does not automatically render the
property as alienable and disposable. Applicants' remedy lies in the
release of the property from its present classification. In fairness to
Applicants, and it appearing that there are titled lands around the subject
property, petitioners-officials should give serious consideration to the
matter of classification of the land in question.
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is reversed and the application for
registration in Land Registration Case No. N-299-V-76 of the former
Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch III, is hereby dismissed,
without prejudice to the availment by the applicants of the proper
administrative remedy. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

41

Teehankee, Plana Relova and De la Fuente, JJ ., concur.


Gutierrez, Jr., * J ., took no part.
SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT
AND NATURAL RESOURCES, ET AL. v. YAP, ET AL.
G.R. Nos. 167707 and 173775, 8 October 2008
REYES, R.T., J p:
At stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants
of Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands.
There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a
petition for review on certiorari of the Decision of the Court of Appeals
(CA) affirming that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan,
which granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by respondentsclaimants Mayor Jose Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for
titling purposes. The second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition,
mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064 3issued by
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved
forest and agricultural land.
The Antecedents
G.R. No. 167707
Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery
white sand beaches and warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier
Philippine tourist destination. The island is also home to 12,003
inhabitants who live in the bone-shaped island's three barangays.
On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay
Island, which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by
named persons.
On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued
Proclamation No. 1801 declaring Boracay Island, among other islands,
caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine
reserves under the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority
(PTA). President Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-82
9 dated September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801.
Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82
precluded them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of
imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes, respondentsclaimants Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad,

42

and Aniceto Yap filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in
Kalibo, Aklan.
In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No.
1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure
titles over their occupied lands. They declared that they themselves, or
through their predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June
12, 1945, or earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for
tax purposes and paid realty taxes on them.
Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its
implementing Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of
man. Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of
private ownership. Under Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No.
141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the right to have
the lots registered in their names through judicial confirmation of
imperfect titles.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed
the petition for declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island
was an unclassified land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass
of lands classified as "public forest", which was not available for
disposition pursuant to Section 3 (a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705
or the Revised Forestry Code, as amended.
The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants' reliance on PD No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial
confirmation of title was governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since
Boracay Island had not been classified as alienable and disposable,
whatever possession they had cannot ripen into ownership.
During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the
following facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of
parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted
with coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the coconut trees
had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or
less fifty (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land
they were occupying for tax purposes.
The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely
legal: whether Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or
impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego
with the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of
their respective memoranda.

43

The RTC took judicial notice that certain parcels of land in Boracay
Island, more particularly Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by
Original Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs
of Ciriaco S. Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and
5262 filed before the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan. The titles were issued on
August 7, 1933.
RTC and CA Dispositions
On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondentsclaimants, with a fallo reading:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that
Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal
obstacle to the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire
title to their lands in Boracay, in accordance with the applicable
laws and in the manner prescribed therein; and to have their lands
surveyed and approved by respondent Regional Technical
Director of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself
constitute a title to the land.
SO ORDERED.
The RTC upheld respondents-claimants' right to have their occupied
lands titled in their name. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor
PTA Circular No. 3-82 mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable
or could not be the subject of disposition. The Circular itself recognized
private ownership of lands. The trial court cited Sections 87 and 53 of the
Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands in
Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared
as part of the forest reserve.
The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied. 23 The
Republic then appealed to the CA.
On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC
decision, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is
hereby rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and
AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court.
The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a
declaration that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part
of a forest reserve.

44

Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.


Hence, the present petition under Rule 45.
G.R. No. 173775
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1064 26 classifying
Boracay Island into four hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land
(protection purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96)
hectares of agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation
likewise provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the
centerline of roads and trails, reserved for right-of-way and which shall
form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay, Wilfredo
Gelito, and other landowners in Boracay filed with this Court an original
petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No.
1064. They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their "prior vested
rights" over portions of Boracay. They have been in continued possession
of their respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have also
invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and building
internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots.
Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation
reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither
mineral nor timber land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first Public Land
Act. Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required
period entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not
have a vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is
an unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3 (a) of PD No. 705.
Being public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and
cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only
the executive department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify
lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a
need for a positive government act in order to release the lots for
disposition.
On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two
petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land
classification of Boracay Island.
Issues
xxx

xxx

xxx

45

In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondentsclaimants in G.R. No. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No.
173775) have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in
Boracay. The twin petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial
confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do
not involve their right to secure title under other pertinent laws.
Our Ruling
Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive to reclassify lands of the
public domain
Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 1902
36 in relation to Act No. 926, later amended and/or superseded by Act
No. 2874 and CA No. 141; (b) Proclamation No. 1801 38 issued by then
President Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No. 1064 issued by President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their rights to
apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and
executive acts.
But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive
to reclassify lands of the public domain.
The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into
agricultural, forest or timber. Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided
the following divisions: agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential,
resettlement, mineral, timber or forest and grazing lands, and such other
classes as may be provided by law, 41 giving the government great
leeway for classification. Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935
Constitution classification with one addition: national parks. Of these,
only agricultural lands may be alienated. Prior to Proclamation No. 1064
of May 22, 2006, Boracay Island had never been expressly and
administratively classified under any of these grand divisions. Boracay
was an unclassified land of the public domain.
The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong
to the State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership
of land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. The
doctrine has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987
Constitutions.
All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership
are presumed to belong to the State. Thus, all lands that have not been
acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to
the State as part of the inalienable public domain. Necessarily, it is up to

46

the State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of


for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is
possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who
shall be the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what
terms they may be granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of
obstacles in the way of their exercise of what otherwise would be
ordinary acts of ownership.
Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the
Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories
and possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown. The
Regalian doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the
Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the foundation that
"all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by
purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain."
The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the
Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the
systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims.
The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law partly amended the Spanish
Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory
information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land,
under certain conditions which were set forth in said decree. Under
Section 393 of the Maura Law, an informacion posesoria or possessory
information title, when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property, is
converted into a title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20)
years of uninterrupted possession which must be actual, public, and
adverse, from the date of its inscription. However, possessory
information title had to be perfected one year after the promulgation of
the Maura Law, or until April 17, 1895. Otherwise, the lands would revert
to the State.
In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only
be founded on royal concessions which took various forms, namely: (1)
titulo real or royal grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3)
composicion con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de compra or title
by purchase; and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information
title.
The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines
under American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902. 60 By
this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were
classified into three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and
timber or forest lands. 61 The act provided for, among others, the
disposal of mineral lands by means of absolute grant (freehold system)
and by lease (leasehold system). 62 It also provided the definition by

47

exclusion of "agricultural public lands". 63 Interpreting the meaning of


"agricultural lands" under the Philippine Bill of 1902, the Court declared
in Mapa v. Insular Government:
. . . In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in
Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which
are not timber or mineral lands. . . .
On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496,
otherwise known as the Land Registration Act. The act established a
system of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute,
indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system.
Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act
No. 926, which was the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the
homestead system and made provisions for judicial and administrative
confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It
permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning
the controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain.
Under the Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July
26, 1904 was sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874,
otherwise known as the second Public Land Act. This new, more
comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to
Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave
Filipinos the same privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession
and occupation en concepto dueo since time immemorial, or since July
26, 1894, was required.
After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No.
2874 on December 1, 1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains
as the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of
lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands, and
privately owned lands which reverted to the State.
Section 48 (b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874
of possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time
immemorial or since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was
superseded by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942, which provided for a simple
thirty-year prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
The provision was last amended by PD No. 1073, which now provides for
possession and occupation of the land applied for since June 12, 1945, or
earlier.

48

The issuance of PD No. 892 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of
Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings. Under the
decree, all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration
of their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity
of the decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter, the recording of all
unregistered lands shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised
Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344.
On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No.
1529, known as the Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify
the various laws relative to registration of property. It governs
registration of lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered
lands, including chattel mortgages.
A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In
keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and
again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government,
such as an official proclamation, declassifying inalienable public land into
disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. In fact, Section 8 of CA
No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which
have been "officially delimited and classified."
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership
of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for
registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove that the land
subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this
presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land
subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable. There must
still be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and
disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application for
registration is alienable, the applicant must establish the existence of a
positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an
executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau
of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. The applicant
may also secure a certification from the government that the land claimed
to have been possessed for the required number of years is alienable and
disposable.
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative
action, report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The
records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of
Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government
proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such wellnigh incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission
that lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition
before 2006. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be
assumed. They call for proof.

49

Ankron and de Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or
portions of it, agricultural lands. Private claimants posit that Boracay was
already an agricultural land pursuant to the old cases Ankron v.
Government of the Philippine Islands (1919) and de Aldecoa v. The Insular
Government (1909). These cases were decided under the provisions of the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old
cases that "in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the
lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."
Private claimants' reliance on Ankron and de Aldecoa is misplaced. These
cases did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or
portions of it into agricultural lands. It should be stressed that the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 merely provided the manner
through which land registration courts would classify lands of the public
domain. Whether the land would be classified as timber, mineral, or
agricultural depended on proof presented in each case.
Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the
Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into
mineral, timber, and agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to
make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested
with implicit power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the
evidence. This was the Court's ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S.
Palanca and Soterranea Rafols Vda. de Palanca v. Republic, in which it stated,
through Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:
. . . Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be
formally released by an act of the Executive before it can be
deemed open to private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v.
Director of Lands and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine
Islands.
xxx
xxx
xxx
Petitioner's reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v.
Government is misplaced. These cases were decided under the Philippine
Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926 enacted by the
Philippine Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no
legal provision vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the
Philippines the power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral,
timber and agricultural so that the courts then were free to make
corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with
implicit power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the
evidence.
To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it
was then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. Thus

50

evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts have a right to presume, in
the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."
But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa
to an argument that all lands of the public domain had been
automatically reclassified as disposable and alienable agricultural lands.
By no stretch of imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the
public domain into agricultural lands.
If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902
and Act No. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the
Philippines, except those already classified as timber or mineral land,
alienable and disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State
ownership and worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally
repugnant to the long-entrenched Regalian doctrine.
The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land
registration cases brought under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more
specifically those cases dealing with judicial and administrative
confirmation of imperfect titles. The presumption applies to an applicant
for judicial or administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act
No. 926. It certainly cannot apply to landowners, such as private
claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, who failed to avail themselves
of the benefits of Act No. 926. As to them, their land remained
unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian doctrine, continued to be
owned by the State.
In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute.
Land classification was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was
proof that the land was better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts
could adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption. In
Ankron, this Court stated:
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the AttorneyGeneral admitted in effect that whether the particular land in
question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The
mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral
within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry
land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of the
extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the
minerals. While, as we have just said, many definitions have been
given for "agriculture", "forestry", and "mineral" lands, and that in
each case it is a question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in
order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must show that it is
more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it contains
than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is not

51

sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the land or
that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or
mineral today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or
mineral, be classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And viceversa, by reason of the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of
valuable minerals, lands classified as agricultural today may be
differently classified tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon
the proof in that particular case, having regard for its present or
future value for one or the other purposes. We believe, however,
considering the fact that it is a matter of public knowledge that a
majority of the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural
lands that the courts have a right to presume, in the absence of
evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever the land
involved in a particular land registration case is forestry or
mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior
value for one purpose or the other is a question of fact to be
settled by the proof in each particular case. The fact that the land
is a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to
decide whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may
perchance belong to one or the other of said classes of land. The
Government, in the first instance, under the provisions of Act No.
1148, may, by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public
land shall be considered forestry land, unless private interests
have intervened before such reservation is made. In the latter case,
whether the land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question
of proof. Until private interests have intervened, the Government,
by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148), may decide for itself
what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside and
reserved as forestry or mineral land. (Ramos vs. Director of Lands,
39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, supra) (Emphasis ours)
Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of
lands from the facts of each case, except those that have already became
private lands. Act No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in
Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the
President, the exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands
into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest. Since then, courts no
longer had the authority, whether express or implied, to determine the
classification of lands of the public domain.
Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued
their title in 1933, 98 did not present a justiciable case for determination
by the land registration court of the property's land classification. Simply
put, there was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the
Boracay occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. When Act
No. 926 was supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application

52

for judicial confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their


predecessors-in-interest, the courts were no longer authorized to
determine the property's land classification. Hence, private claimants
cannot bank on Act No. 926.
We note that the RTC decision in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v.
Register of Deeds of Manila, which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141,
vesting the Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public
domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular
Government, De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government, and Ankron v.
Government of the Philippine Islands.
Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally
different issue. The pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential
lots were included in the general classification of agricultural lands; and if
so, whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This Court ruled that
as an alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution 104 from
acquiring agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the
issue is whether unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically
deemed agricultural.
Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned in
Krivenko relied on the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No.
2874, including Ankron and De Aldecoa. As We have already stated, those
cases cannot apply here, since they were decided when the Executive did
not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural, timber, or mineral.
Private claimants' continued possession under Act No. 926 does not
create a presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also
contend that their continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for
the requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No. 926 ipso facto
converted the island into private ownership. Hence, they may apply for a
title in their name.
A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court
of Appeals. Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice
Reynato S. Puno in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,
ruled:
"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance
of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed
the disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules
and regulations for the homesteading, selling and leasing of
portions of the public domain of the Philippine Islands, and
prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect
their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the
"issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands",

53

for the establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the
completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or
confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands". In
short, the Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title to
public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the
government; and that the government's title to public land sprung
from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between
Spain and the United States. The term "public land" referred to all
lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the
government and are thrown open to private appropriation and
settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the
government and the friar lands."
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere
possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal
presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable.
(Emphasis Ours)
Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an
unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064.
Such unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No. 705.
The DENR and the National Mapping and Resource Information
Authority certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public
domain.
PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands
of the public domain as public forest. Section 3 (a) of PD No. 705 defines a
public forest as "a mass of lands of the public domain which has not been
the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of
which lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not". Applying
PD No. 705, all unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island, are
ipso facto considered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects titles
already existing prior to its effectivity.
The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under
PD No. 705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the
island. Boracay, no doubt, has been partly stripped of its forest cover to
pave the way for commercial developments. As a premier tourist
destination for local and foreign tourists, Boracay appears more of a
commercial island resort, rather than a forest land.
Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso
beach resorts on the island; that the island has already been stripped of its
forest cover; or that the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will
destroy the island's tourism industry, do not negate its character as public
forest.

54

Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution
classifying lands of the public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber,
mineral lands, and national parks", do not necessarily refer to large tracts
of wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees and
underbrushes. The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry
is particularly instructive:
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does
not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may
have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as
forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops
by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have
to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas
covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing
in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The
classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does
not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like.
Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an
official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the
disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on
confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. (Emphasis supplied)
There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and
"forest or timber land" as a classification of lands of the public domain as
appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive of what appears on the land
while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes. At any
rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legal status of Boracay Island,
and not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has
been replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial
establishments, it has not been automatically converted from public forest
to alienable agricultural land.
Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The proclamation did not convert
Boracay into an agricultural land. However, private claimants argue that
Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978 entitles
them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The Proclamation
classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private
claimants assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private
ownership.
Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the
whole of Boracay into an agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or
the Circular which made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The
reference in Circular No. 3-82 to "private lands" and "areas declared as
alienable and disposable" does not by itself classify the entire island as

55

agricultural. Notably, Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to


private lands and areas but also to public forested lands. Rule VIII,
Section 3 provides:
No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior
authority from the PTA. All forested areas in public lands are
declared forest reserves. (Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands
merely recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive
department pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of
the Circular recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Development's
authority to declare areas in the island as alienable and disposable when
it provides:
Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable
by the Bureau of Forest Development.
Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act
needed to classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If
President Marcos intended to classify the island as alienable and
disposable or forest, or both, he would have identified the specific limits
of each, as President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not
done in Proclamation No. 1801.
The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale
behind the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands,
caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine
reserve to be administered by the PTA to ensure the concentrated
efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas'
tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine
environment. Simply put, the proclamation is aimed at administering the
islands for tourism and ecological purposes. It does not address the areas'
alienability.
More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island,
but sixty-four (64) other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines,
such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental
Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto
Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan
de Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of
Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue
of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise
be declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been,
and is clearly beyond, the intent of the proclamation.

56

It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of


Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private ownership. Sections
6 and 7 of CA No. 141 provide that it is only the President, upon the
recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority
to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable,
timber and mineral lands.
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the
public domain, presumably subject to existing vested rights.
Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive
Department, through the Office of the President. Courts have no
authority to do so. Absent such classification, the land remains
unclassified until released and rendered open to disposition.
Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved
forest land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation
likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center
line of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which
shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
Contrary to private claimants' argument, there was nothing invalid or
irregular, much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay
Island made by the President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was
within her authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested
rights.
Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064
violates the provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law
(CARL) or RA No. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into
agricultural lands. They claim that since Boracay is a public forest under
PD No. 705, President Arroyo can no longer convert it into an agricultural
land without running afoul of Section 4 (a) of RA No. 6657, thus:
SEC. 4.
Scope. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of
1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and
commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as
provided in Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229,
including other lands of the public domain suitable for
agriculture.
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program:
(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain
devoted to or suitable for agriculture. No reclassification of

57

forest or mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be


undertaken after the approval of this Act until Congress,
taking into account ecological, developmental and equity
considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific
limits of the public domain.
That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705
did not bar the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land.
Boracay Island still remained an unclassified land of the public domain
despite PD No. 705.
In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. Republic,
the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests.
While it is true that the land classification map does not
categorically state that the islands are public forests, the fact that
they were unclassified lands leads to the same result. In the
absence of the classification as mineral or timber land, the land
remains unclassified land until released and rendered open to
disposition. (Emphasis supplied)
Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a
"reclassification" of land. If the land had never been previously classified,
as in the case of Boracay, there can be no prohibited reclassification under
the agrarian law. We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice
on this point:
Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the prohibition
in Section 4 (a) is the word "reclassification". Where there has been
no previous classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to
the mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of
the present system of classification for purposes of determining
which are needed for forest purposes and which are not] into
permanent forest or forest reserves or some other forest uses
under the Revised Forestry Code, there can be no "reclassification
of forest lands" to speak of within the meaning of Section 4(a).
Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL
against the reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands
without a prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain,
does not, and cannot, apply to those lands of the public domain,
denominated as "public forest" under the Revised Forestry Code,
which have not been previously determined, or classified, as
needed for forest purposes in accordance with the provisions of
the Revised Forestry Code.

58

Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of


imperfect title under CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights over
the occupied lands under the said law. There are two requisites for
judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141,
namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-ininterest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or
from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and
disposable land of the public domain.
As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation
No. 1801 did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural
land. The island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and,
applying the Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.
Private claimants' bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying
on the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801,
must fail because of the absence of the second element of alienable and
disposable land. Their entitlement to a government grant under our
present Public Land Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied
for is already alienable and disposable. This is clear from the wording of
the law itself. 129 Where the land is not alienable and disposable,
possession of the land, no matter how long, cannot confer ownership or
possessory rights.
Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of
imperfect title under Proclamation No. 1064, with respect to those lands
which were classified as agricultural lands. Private claimants failed to
prove the first element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945.
We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for
declaratory relief that private claimants complied with the requisite
period of possession.
The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to
prove the first element of possession. We note that the earliest of the tax
declarations in the name of private claimants were issued in 1993. Being
of recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this
Court that the period of possession and occupation commenced on June
12, 1945.
Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having
been in possession of the island for a long time. They have invested
millions of pesos in developing the island into a tourist spot. They say
their continued possession and investments give them a vested right
which cannot be unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064.

59

The continued possession and considerable investment of private


claimants do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor
do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land they are
presently occupying. This Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases
based on the evidence presented and the laws applicable. As the law and
jurisprudence stand, private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial
confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even with
their continued possession and considerable investment in the island.
One Last Note
The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the
development of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and
international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a number of
years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the
Court commiserates with private claimants' plight, We are bound to
apply the law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should
prevail. Ito ang batas at ito ang dapat umiral.
All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be
eligible to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section
48 (b) of CA No. 141, as amended, this does not denote their automatic
ouster from the residential, commercial, and other areas they possess now
classified as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their
substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title
does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess.
For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as
builders of improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their
possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for
original registration of title, such as by homestead or sales patent, subject
to the conditions imposed by law.
More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants
to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain
requirements under the present land laws. There is one such bill now
pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar
bill will become a law is for Congress to decide.
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step
necessary to open up the island to private ownership. This gesture may
not be sufficient to appease some sectors which view the classification of
the island partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no
longer overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision to protect
its remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between

60

progress and ecology. Ecological conservation is as important as


economic progress.
To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nation's survival. Their
promotion and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and
activists. These are needs that become more urgent as destruction of our
environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by
Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:
The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to
public policy that should be followed with respect to forest lands.
Many have written much, and many more have spoken, and quite
often, about the pressing need for forest preservation,
conservation, protection, development and reforestation. Not
without justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment of any
country's natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now
that absence of the necessary green cover on our lands produces a
number of adverse or ill effects of serious proportions. Without
the trees, watersheds dry up; rivers and lakes which they supply
are emptied of their contents. The fish disappear. Denuded areas
become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to function, so will
hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed
away; geological erosion results. With erosion come the dreaded
floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property crops,
livestock, houses, and highways not to mention precious
human lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations should be written
down in a lumberman's decalogue.
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:
1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the
Court of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED
AND SET ASIDE.
2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of
merit.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, C.J., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-Martinez,
Carpio-Morales, Azcuna, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de
Castro and Brion, JJ., concur.
Corona, J., is on official leave per Special Order No. 520 dated September
19, 2008.
Nachura, J., took no part. Justice Nachura participated in the present case
as Solicitor General.

61

b. Manner and effect of Classification


In Republic v. Court of Appeals 11 the Supreme Court said that rights over the land are
indivisible and that the land itself cannot be half agricultural and half mineral. For this
reason, the Court ruled that any classification of land made by the Executive should be
categorical: the land must be either completely mineral or completely agricultural.
Furthermore, the classification given by the Executive pertains to the legal nature of the
land, and not into the physical characteristics or appearance of the land thus classified.
Thus, in Spouses Pagkatipunan v. Court of Appeals,12 the Supreme Court said that the
cutting down of trees and the disappearance of virgin forest does not automatically
convert the land of the public domain from forest or timber land to alienable agricultural
land. This means that the classification of land does not change when the nature of the
land changes: a positive act of the executive is still nonetheless needed. A party
claiming the change in classification, therefore, must nonetheless be able to show an act
by the Executive demonstrating such reclassification.13 This positive act, however, need
not necessarily be express, such as, for example, the issuance by the President of a
Special Patent over land previously unclassified as alienable land.14
SPOUSES PAGKATIPUNAN v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.
G.R. No. 129682, 21 March 2002
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:
This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals
nullifying the decision of the Court of First Instance of Gumaca, Quezon
which confirmed petitioners' title over the lots subject of the instant
petition. Petitioners further seek to annul and set aside the resolutions 3
of the Court of Appeals denying their urgent motion to recall the
judgment entered in the land registration case.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
Sometime in November 1960, petitioners' predecessors-in-interest,
spouses Getulio Pagkatipunan and Lucrecia Esquires, filed with the
Court of First Instance of Gumaca, Quezon an application for judicial
confirmation and registration of their title to Lots 1 and 2 of Plan Psu11
12

160 SCRA 228 (1988).


G.R. No. 129682, 21 March 2002.

13
14

62

See Francisco I. Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, G..R. No. 133250, 9 July 2002, where the
Supreme Court said: PD No. 1085, coupled with President Aquino's actual issuance of a
special patent covering the Freedom Islands, is equivalent to an official proclamation
classifying the Freedom Islands as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. PD No.
1085 and President Aquino's issuance of a land patent also constitute a declaration that the
Freedom Islands are no longer needed for public service. The Freedom Islands are thus
alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, open to disposition or concession to
qualified parties.

174406 and Lots 1 and 2 of Plan Psu-112066, all located in San Narciso,
Quezon.
On May 4, 1961, the Court of First Instance entered an order of default
against the whole world, except spouses Felicisimo Almace and Teodulo
Medenilla who were given ten (10) days to file their written opposition as
regards Lot No. 2 of Plan Psu-174406. Upon motion of petitioner's
predecessors, Lot No. 2 of Plan Psu-174406 was removed from the
coverage of the application. The remaining parcel of land covered by Lot
No. 1 has an area of 3,804.261 square meters.
On June 15, 1967, the Court of First Instance promulgated a decision
confirming petitioners' title to the property. On October 23, 1967, OCT
No. O-12665 was issued in the name of petitioners.
Almost eighteen (18) years later, or on September 12, 1985, the Republic
of the Philippines filed with the Intermediate Appellate Court an action
to declare the proceedings in LRC Case No. 91-G, LRC Record No. N19930 before the Court of First Instance of Gumaca, Quezon null and
void, and to cancel Original Certificate of Title No. 0-12665 and titles
derived therefrom as null and void, to direct the register of deeds to
annul said certificates of title, and to confirm the subject land as part of
the public domain.
The Republic claimed that at the time of filing of the land registration case
and of rendition of the decision on June 15, 1967, the subject land was
classified as timberland under LC Project No. 15-B of San Narciso,
Quezon, as shown in BF Map No. LC-1180; hence inalienable and not
subject to registration. Moreover, petitioners' title thereto can not be
confirmed for lack of showing of possession and occupation of the land in
the manner and for the length of time required by Section 48(b),
Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended. Neither did petitioners have
any fee simple title which may be registered under Act No. 496, as
amended. Consequently, the Court of First Instance did not acquire
jurisdiction over the res and any proceedings had therein were null and
void.
On the other hand, petitioners raised the special defenses of
indefeasibility of title and res judicata. They argued that due to the lapse
of a considerable length of time, the judgment of the Court of First
Instance of Quezon in the land registration case has become final and
conclusive against the Republic. Moreover, the action for reversion of the
land to the public domain is barred by prior judgment.
In a decision promulgated on June 27, 1986, the Intermediate Appellate
Court held that the land in question was forestral land; hence not
registrable. There was no evidence on record to show that the land was

63

actually and officially delimited and classified as alienable or disposable


land of the public domain. Therefore, the Court of First Instance did not
acquire jurisdiction to take cognizance of the application for registration
and to decide the same. Consequently, the action to declare null and void
the June 15, 1967 decision for lack of jurisdiction did not prescribe. The
dispositive portion of the appellate court's decision reads:
xxx

xxx

xxx

Petitioners claim that their title to the land became incontrovertible and
indefeasible one (1) year after issuance of the decree of registration.
Hence, the Republic's cause of action was barred by prescription and res
judicata, proceedings having been initiated only after about 18 years from
the time the decree of registration was made. Contrary to the appellate
court's findings, the land is agricultural and the inclusion and
classification thereof by the Bureau of Forestry in 1955 as timberland can
not impair the vested rights acquired by petitioners' predecessors-ininterest who have been in open, continuous, adverse and public
possession of the land in question since time immemorial and for more
than thirty (30) years prior to the filing of the application for registration
in 1960. Hence, the Court of Appeals committed grave error when it
denied their motion to set aside entry of judgment in the land registration
case.
The petition lacks merit.
Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a
private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public
domain. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long,
cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title.
Evidence extant on record showed that at the time of filing of the
application for land registration and issuance of the certificate of title over
the disputed land in the name of petitioners, the same was timberland
and formed part of the public domain, as per certification issued by the
Bureau of Forest Development on April 1, 1985, thus:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
This is to certify that the tract of land situated in Vigo Cantidang, San
Narciso, Quezon, containing an area of 3, 804.261 square meters as
described in Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-117618 . . . registered in the
name of Spouses Nestor E. Pagkatipunan and Rosalina Magas is verified
to be within the Timberland Block-B, Project No. 15-B of San Narciso,
Quezon, certified and declared as such on August 25, 1955 per BFD Map
LC-1880. The land is, therefore, within the administrative jurisdiction and
control of the Bureau of Forest Development, and not subject to
disposition under the Public Land Law.

64

[Sgd.] ARMANDO CRUZ


Supervising Cartographer
This fact was even admitted by petitioners during the proceedings before
the court a quo on March 10, 1986, when they confirmed that the land has
been classified as forming part of forest land, albeit only on August 25,
1955. Since no imperfect title can be confirmed over lands not yet
classified as disposable or alienable, the title issued to herein petitioners is
considered void ab initio.
Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the
State, and the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in
land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. This same
doctrine also states that all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly
within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. To
overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown
by the applicant that the land subject of the application is alienable or
disposable.
In the case at bar, there was no evidence showing that the land has been
reclassified as disposable or alienable. Before any land may be
declassified from the forest group and converted into alienable or
disposable land for agricultural or other purposes, there must be a
positive act from the government. Even rules on the confirmation of
imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest
land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may
form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.
Declassification of forest land is an express and positive act of
Government. It cannot be presumed. Neither should it be ignored nor
deemed waived. It calls for proof.
The court a quo found registrable title in favor of petitioners based on the
Republic's failure to show that the land is more valuable as forest land
than for agricultural purposes, a finding which is based on a wrong
concept of what is forest land.
There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in the dictionary and
"forest or timber land" as a classification of land of the public domain in
the Constitution. One is descriptive of what appears on the land while the
other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes. The "forest land"
started out as a "forest" or vast tracts of wooded land with dense growths
of trees and underbrush. However, the cutting down of trees and the
disappearance of virgin forest do not automatically convert the land of
the public domain from forest or timber land to alienable agricultural
land.

65

The classification of forest land, or any land for that matter, is descriptive
of its legal nature or status, and does not have to be descriptive of what
the land actually looks like. 32 A person cannot enter into forest land and
by the simple act of cultivating a portion of that land, earn credits
towards an eventual confirmation of imperfect title. The Government
must first declare the forest land to be alienable and disposable
agricultural land before the year of entry, cultivation, and exclusive and
adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an imperfect title.
As ruled in the case of Heirs of Jose Amunategui v. Director of Forestry:
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it
of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the
way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and
other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as
forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status
and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like.
Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official
proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of
imperfect title do not apply.
Moreover, the original text of Section 48 (b), Chapter VIII of the Public
Land Act, which took effect on December 1, 1936, expressly provided that
only agricultural land of the public domain are subject to acquisitive
prescription, to wit:
Section 48.

...

(a)
xxx
xxx
xxx
(b)
Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain,
under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, except as against the
Government, since July twenty-six, eighteen hundred and ninety-four,
except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the
provisions of this Chapter. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, it is clear that the applicant must prove not only his open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the
land either since time immemorial or for the period prescribed therein,

66

but most importantly, he must prove that the land is alienable public
land. 35 In the case at bar, petitioners failed to do so.
Petitioners' contention that the Republic is now barred from questioning
the validity of the certificate of title issued to them considering that it
took the government almost eighteen (18) years to assail the same is
erroneous. It is a basic precept that prescription does not run against the
State. The lengthy occupation of the disputed land by petitioners cannot
be counted in their favor, as it remained part of the patrimonial property
of the State, which property, as stated earlier, is inalienable and
indisposable.
In light of the foregoing, the Court of Appeals did not err when it set
aside the June 15, 1967 decision of the court a quo and ordered that the
subject lot be reverted back to the public domain. Since the land in
question is unregistrable, the land registration court did not acquire
jurisdiction over the same. Any proceedings had or judgment rendered
therein is void and is not entitled to the respect accorded to a valid
judgment.
Consequently, the Court of Appeals rightfully denied petitioners' motion
to set aside the judgment rendered on December 12, 1986, in the land
registration case.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Court of
Appeals dated June 27, 1986 in AC-G.R. SP No. 07115, is hereby
AFFIRMED in toto.
Without pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J. and Kapunan, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., is on official leave.
DIRECTOR OF LANDS, ET AL., v. JUAN P. AQUINO AND THE
ABRA INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION,
G.R. No. 31688, 17 December 1990.
FERNAN, C.J p:
The center of controversy in the instant petition for review on certiorari is
a limestone-rich 70-hectare land in Bucay, Abra 66 hectares of which are,
according to petitioners, within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve.

67

Private respondent Abra Industrial Corporation (AIC for brevity), a duly


registered corporation established for the purpose of setting up a cement
factory, claims on the other hand, to be the owner in fee simple of the
whole 70-hectare area indicated in survey plans PSU-217518, PSU-217519
and PSU-217520 with a total assessed value of P6,724.48. Thus, on
September 23, 1965, it filed in the then Court of First Instance of Abra an
application for registration in its name of said parcels of land under the
Land Registration Act or, in the alternative, under Sec. 48 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended by Republic Act No. 1942
inasmuch as its predecessors-in-interest had allegedly been in possession
thereof since July 26, 1894.
xxx

xxx

xxx

On July 22, 1966, the lower court favorably acted on the application and
ordered the registration of the parcels of land under the Land
Registration Act. It ruled that although said land was within the forest
zone, the opposition of the Director of Lands was not well-taken because
the Bureau of Forestry, thru the District Forester of Abra, "offered no
objection to exclude the same area from the forest reserve." It found that
the parcels of land had been acquired by purchase and AIC's possession
thereof, including that of its predecessors-in-interest, had been for fortynine (49) years.
The Director of Lands, through the provincial fiscal, filed a motion for
reconsideration of the decision asserting that except for a 4-hectare area,
the land covered by PSU-217518, 217519 and 217520 fell within the
Central Cordillera Forest Reserve, under Proclamation No. 217 dated
February 16, 1929; that although it had been denuded, it was covered
with massive, corraline, tufaceous limestone estimated to yield
200,000,000 metric tons about a fifth of which was suitable for the
manufacture of high grade portland cement type and that the limestone,
being 250 meters thick, could yield 10,000 bags of cement a day for 1,000
years. He contended that, while the land could be reclassified as mineral
land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines, the process of
exclusion from the Cordillera Forest Reserve had not yet been undertaken
pursuant to Sec. 1826 of Republic Act No. 3092 and therefore it was still
part of the forest zone which was inalienable under the 1935 Constitution.
AIC having filed its opposition to the motion for reconsideration, the
lower court denied it on September 28, 1967 holding that the grounds
raised therein were relevant and proper only if the Bureau of Forestry
and the Bureau of Mines were parties to the case. It added that the motion
for intervention filed by the Bureau of Lands and the Bureau of Mines
was improper in land registration cases.

68

The Director of Lands filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of
Appeals but the same was dismissed for having been filed out of time.
Hence, on December 22, 1967, the Commissioner of Land Registration
issued Decrees Nos. 118198, 118199 and 118200 for the registration of the
subject parcels of land in the name of AIC.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Petitioners herein contend that the lower court erred in granting the
application for registration of the parcels of land notwithstanding its
finding that they are within the forest zone. The District Forester's failure
to object to the exclusion of the area sought to be registered from the
forest reserve was not enough justification for registration because under
Commonwealth Act No. 141, the power to exclude an area from the forest
zone belongs to the President of the Philippines, upon the
recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources,
and not the District Forester or even the Director of Forestry.
Petitioners also contend that the lower court erred in denying the petition
for review based on actual fraud because under Section 38 of Act No. 496,
a decree of registration may be reviewed not only by reason of actual
fraud but also for a fatal infirmity of the decision upon which the decree
is based, provided no innocent purchaser for value will be prejudiced.
We find the petition to be meritorious. Once again, we reiterate the rule
enunciated by this Court in Director of Forestry vs. Muoz and consistently
adhered to in a long line of cases the more recent of which is Republic vs.
Court of Appeals, that forest lands or forest reserves are incapable of
private appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot
convert them into private properties. This ruling is premised on the
Regalian doctrine enshrined not only in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions
but also in the 1987 Constitution Article XIII of which provides that:
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals,
coal . . . forests or timber, . . . and other natural resources
are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural
lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated."
Pursuant to this constitutional provision, the land must first be released
from its classification as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land in
accordance with the certification issued by the Director of Forestry as
provided for by Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code. This is
because the classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the
executive department of the government and not of the courts. Moreover,
a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into
alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.

69

Being the interested party, an applicant for registration of a parcel of land


bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to
be registered forms part of the public domain. In this case, AIC asserts
that the land in dispute is no longer part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve
because the communal forest in Bucay, Abra which had been established
in 1909 by virtue of Forestry Administrative Order No. 2-298, had been
"cancelled and de-established" by Forestry Administrative Order No. 2622 dated October 1, 1965 and issued by then Acting Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources Jose Y. Feliciano. AIC therefore tries
to impress upon the Court the fact that as there was no longer a forested
area, the same area had become alienable more so because its actual
occupants, who had been devoting it to agriculture, had relinquished
their rights over it in favor of AIC "to give way for greater economic
benefits for the people in the locality." It should be emphasized,
however, that the classification of the land as forest land is descriptive of
its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the
land actually looks like. Hence, the fact that the contested parcels of land
have long been denuded and actually contains rich limestone deposits
does not in any way affect its present classification as forest land.
While it is true that under Section 1839 of the Revised Administrative
Code, the Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department
Head, may change the location of a communal forest, such executive
action does not amount to a declassification of a forest reserve into an
alienable or disposable land. Under Commonwealth Act No. 141, it is no
less than the President, upon the recommendation of the proper
department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public
domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands. The
President shall also declare from time to time what lands are open to
disposition or concession. AIC therefore, should prove first of all that the
lands it claims for registration are alienable or disposable lands. As it is,
AIC has not only failed to prove that it has a registerable title but more
important]y, it failed to show that the lands are no longer a part of the
public domain.
The petitioners therefore validly insisted on the review of the decision
ordering the issuance of the decree of registration in view of its patent
infirmity. The lower court closed its eyes to a basic doctrine in land
registration cases that the inclusion in a title of a part of the public
domain nullifies the title. 31 Its decision to order the registration of an
inalienable land in favor of AIC under the misconception that it is
imperative for the Director of Forestry to object to its exclusion from the
forest reserve even in the face of its finding that indeed a sizable portion
of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve is involved, cannot be allowed to
stay unreversed. It betrays an inherent infirmity which must be corrected.

70

WHEREFORE, the order of November 27, 1969 denying the petition for
review under Section 38 of Act No. 496 and the decision of July 22, 1966
insofar as it orders the registration of land within the Central Cordillera
Forest Reserve are hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The temporary
restraining order issued on April 7, 1970 is hereby made permanent.
Costs against the private respondent.
SO ORDERED.
Gutierrez, Jr. and Bidin, JJ., concur.
c. Administration of Public Land
While the authority to classify lands of the public domain has been vested by Congress
on the Executive, and particularly in the President, the administration of public land has
been granted under the Public Land Act to the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources (formerly the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce), through the Director
of Lands, who shall act under his immediate control.15 Thus, the Director of Lands is the
official vested with direct and executive control of the disposition of lands of the public
domain. He has the authority and control over:
(a) The survey, classification, lease, sale or any other form of concession or
disposition and management of lands of the public domain, and his decisions as
to questions of fact shall be conclusive when approved by the Secretary of
Environment and Natural Resources (formerly the Secretary of Agriculture and
Commerce);16 and,
(b) The preparation and issuance of forms, instructions, rules and regulations, as
may be necessary to carry out the purposes of the Public Land Act.17
THE PUBLIC LAND ACT AND THE CLASSIFICATION OF
ALIENABLE LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
a. Brief history of public land laws in the Philippines
The law on the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain traces its
roots to the Regalian Doctrine, through which all lands that were not acquired from the
Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. This was
decreed under the Novisima Recopliacion de Leyes delas Indias.18 The Novisima Recopliacion
was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893 which provided for the

15
16

17
18

Section 3, CA No. 141.


Section 4, CA No. 141, as amended by Executive Order No. ____, or the Administrative Code
of 1987.
Section 5, CA No. 141.
Collado v. Court of Appeals, 390 SCRA 343 [2002], citing Chavez v. Public Estates Authority,
384 SCRA 152 [2002].

71

systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims.19 The Royal
Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law, which was effective on 13 February 1894, partly
amended the Spanish Mortgage Law and the Novisima Recopliacion by establishing
possessory information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land.
Through these royal issuances, therefore, private ownership of land under the Spanish
regime, which was based on royal concessions, took the following forms: (a) titulo real or
royal grant; (b) concesion especial or special grant; (c) composicion con el estado or
adjustment title; (d) titulo de compra or title by purchase; and (e) informacion posesoria or
possessory information title.20
With the defeat of the Spain during the Spanish American War, sovereignty over the
Philippine islands, including lands of the public domain owned by the King, was
transferred to the United States through the Treaty of Paris of 1898. The Philippine Bill
of 1902,21 thereafter classified lands of the public domain as agricultural, mineral and
timber or forest lands.22 The act provided for, among others, the disposal of mineral
lands by means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold system). It
also provided a definition, by exclusion, of agricultural public lands, which the
Supreme Court, in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government,23 interpreted to mean: those
public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. . . .
The first Public Land Act, Act No. 926, was then issued by the American colonial
government in pursuance of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The Act introduced the
homestead system and made provisions for judicial and administrative confirmation of
imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It also permitted corporations
regardless of the nationality of persons owning the controlling stock to lease or purchase
lands of the public domain.
Act No. 926 was replaced by Act No. 2874 on 7 October 1903. This new, more
comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and
Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same privileges.
With the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth and the 1935 Constitution
which adopted and applied the Regalian Doctrine to our republican system, Congress
passed the present Public Land Act on 1 December 1936 in order to make all pre-existing
public land laws conform to the nationalistic provisions of the 1935 Constitution.24
Through the Public Land Act, all pre-existing laws relative to the disposition of public
lands were complied in a single instrument.

19
20

21

22
23
24

72

Collado v. Court of Appeals, supra.


Noblejas, A.H. and Noblejas, E.H., Registration of Land Titles and Deeds 5 11, cited in
Secretary of the DENR, et al. vs. Yap, et al., G.R. No. 167707 & 173775, 8 October 2008.
Entitled, An Act Temporarily to Provide for the Administration of the Affairs of Civil
Government in the Philippine Islands, and for Other Purposes, issued on July 1, 1902,
Director of Forestry v. Villareal, 170 SCRA 598, 601 [1989].
10 Phil. 175 (1908).
PEA, NATURAL RESOURCES, supra note 30 at 18.

b. Coverage
Section 2 of the Public Land Act provides for the laws application and coverage:
SECTION 2. The provisions of this Act shall apply to the lands of the
public domain; but timber and mineral lands shall be governed by special
laws and nothing in this Act provided shall be understood or construed
to change or modify the administration and disposition of the lands
commonly called friar lands and those which, being privately owned,
have reverted to or become the property of the Commonwealth of the
Philippines, which administration and disposition shall be governed by
the laws at present in force or which may hereafter be enacted.
Excepted from the coverage of the law are the disposition, use and administration of
timber and mineral lands, which, as earlier mentioned, are today respectively governed
by the Revised Forestry Code and the Mining Act of 1995.
Also excepted are the so-called Friar Lands, which are lands acquired by the
government during the Taft Administration in 1903 from religious corporations or
orders, for administration, temporary leasing, and eventual sale to actual occupants of
the land. By express provision of Act No. 1120, friar lands are not considered public
lands in the sense in which this word is used in the Public Land Act, and are, instead,
considered private and patrimonial property of the State.25 Thus, their acquisition is not
governed by the provisions of the Public Land Act, but instead by Act No. 1120, and
later, by Commonwealth Act No. 32,26 as amended by Commonwealth Act No. 316.27
Also excluded from the coverage of the Public Land Act are lands within big landed
estates acquired by the government pursuant to Section 4, Article XIII of the 1935
Constitution28 which have been sold to tenants under provisions of Commonwealth Act
Nos. 2029 and 539.30 These are also considered private lands of the government.31

25
26

27
28

29

30

31

Jacinto vs. Director of Lands, 49 Phil. 853 [1926].


Entitled, An Act providing for the subdivision and sale of all the portions of Friar Lands
Estates remaining undisposed of, issued on 15 September 1936.
[LOOK FOR TITLE].
Section 4. The Congress may authorize, upon payment of just compensation, the
expropriation of lands to be subdivided into small lots and conveyed at cost to individuals.
Entilted, An Act authorizing the President of the Philippines to order the institution of
expropriation proceedings or to enter into negotiations fo rthe purpose of acquiring portions
of large landed estates used as homesites and reselling them at cost to their bona fide
occupants, appropriting funds therefor, and for other purposes, issued on 11 July 1936.
Entitled, AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES TO ACQUIRE
PRIVATE LANDS FOR RESALE IN SMALL LOTS; PROVIDING FOR THE CREATION OF
AN AGENCY TO CARRY OUT THE PURPOSES OF THIS ACT; AND SETTING ASIDE
FUNDS AND AUTHORIZING THE ISSUANCE OF BONDS FOR THE PAYMENT OF SAID
LANDS, issued on 26 May 1940.
Commonwealth Act No. 20 authorizes the President to order the institution of expropriation
proceedings or to enter into negotiations for the purpose of acquiring portions of large

73

It should be underscored that when ownership over public lands are transferred under
any of the methods provided by the Public Land Act (i.e. homestead, sale, judicial
confirmation of imperfect title, etc.), these lands are no longer to be governed by the
provisions of the said Act, and are considered private lands.32 This notwithstanding, the
Supreme Court ruled that even if the lands so acquired have become private property,
these lands still remain subject to the limitations and restrictions imposed by the Public
Land Act on alienation, mortgage, or repurchase.33
b. Classification of Public or Alienable Lands of the Public Domain
As we have seen previously, only agricultural lands of the public domain can be
transferred or disposed of to qualified persons. Section 8 of the Public Land Act defines
such lands as those which satisfy the following requirements:
(a) The land must have been declared open to disposition or concession;
(b) The land must have been officially delimited and classified, and, when
practicable, surveyed; provided that, the President may, for reasons of public
interest, declare lands of the public domain open to disposition before the same
have had their boundaries established, or been surveyed; and,
(c) The land must not have been reserved for public or quasi-public uses, nor
appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become private property.
These public agricultural lands are further classified under Section 9 of the Public Land
Act as:
(a) Agricultural,
(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes;
(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and
(d) Reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses.

landed estates which are now used as home sites and reselling them at cost to their bona fide
occupants.

32
33

74

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Act No. 539 allows the President to acquire private lands or any
interest therein, through purchase or expropriation, and to subdivide them into home lots or
small farms for resale at reasonable prices to their bona fide tenants or occupants or to private
individuals who will work the lands themselves and who are qualified to acquire and own
lands in the Philippines.
Central Capiz v. Ramirez, GR No. 40399, 40 Phil. 883 (1920).
Francisco, et al. vs. Certeza, Sr., et al., 3 SCRA 565 [1961].

In turn, alienable lands classified as residential, commercial and industrial lands under
Section 9 of the Public Land Act are further classified as:
(a) Lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or other means,
(b) Foreshore;
(c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or bank of
navigable lakes or rivers; and,
(d) Land not included in any of the foregoing classes.
It should be noted that while Section 9 of the Public Land Act classifies agricultural land
separate from residential, commercial, educational, reservations, etc., all lands
enumerated under the said provision all correspond to agricultural land as understood
under Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution as open to alienation or disposition. The
classification under Section 9, therefore, is for purposes of administration and disposition,
or according to the purpose to which said lands are especially adapted.
Notwithstanding this classification, all of said lands are essentially agricultural lands
which may be alienated.
MODES OF DISPOSITION OF ALIENABLE LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
As we have learned under the Regalian Doctrine, no public land can be acquired by
private persons without any grant, express or implied from the government. In other
words, it is indispensable that there be a showing of a title form the State. One claiming
private rights must prove that he has complied with the Public Land Act which
prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for acquisition of
public lands.34
Furthermore, the party asserting ownership over land must similarly prove that the land
has been classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. In the absence
of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until it is released therefrom
and rendered open to disposition.35 In Menguito v. Republic,36 it was held that unless
public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the
State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Indeed, occupation thereof in the
concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as
a title.
a. Disposition of agricultural lands

34
35
36

AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES supra note 15, at 19.


AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES supra note 15, at 20.
348 SCRA 128 (2000).

75

Under the Public Land Act, land classified as agricultural under Section 9(a) may be
disposed of through the following manner, and not otherwise:37
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)

For homestead settlement;


By sale;
By lease; and,
By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:
(a) By judicial legalization;
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).

Except for lease concessions which do not transfer ownership over land, the result of the
foregoing dispositions is the issuance by the government of what is known as a land
patent which is generally understood as a grant of land from the government.
Applications for these patents, whether by homestead, sale or free patent as outlined in
Section 9, are purely administrative in nature and are not proceedings in rem. Thus, a
title issued to a grantee, while sufficient to transfer ownership, is not conclusive proof
thereof and confers no better right than that conferred by the patent. Instead, under
Section 103 of the Property Registration Decree (Presidential Decree No. 1529), such
patents are merely evidence of a contract between the Government and the grantee, and
are subject to prior vested rights.38 In order to be conclusive or binding as against third
parties, therefore, the grantee is required by law to register such patents under the
Torrens System.39 It is only upon such registration that actual conveyance of the land is
effected.40
Furthermore, under the Public Land Act, all patents issued pursuant thereto are subject
to the following limitations:
(a) Patents or certificates issued shall not include nor convey the title to any gold,
silver, copper, iron, or other metals or minerals, or other substances containing
minerals, guano, gums, precious stones, coal, or coal oil contained in lands
granted thereunder. These shall remain to be property of the State.41
(b) All persons receiving title to lands shall hold such lands subject to the same
public servitudes as exist upon lands owned by private persons, including those
with reference to the littoral of the sea and the banks of navigable rivers or rivers
upon which rafting may be done.42
(c) The said lands shall further be subject to a right-of-way not exceeding sixty (60)
meters in width for public highways, railroads, irrigation ditches, aqueducts,
telegraph and telephone lines and similar works as the Government or any

37
38
39
40
41
42

76

Section 11, Public Land Act.


QUOTE SECTION 103 of PD 1529.
Section 103, PD 1529.
Section 107, Public Land Act.
Section 110, Public Land Act.
Section 111, Public Land Act.

public or quasi-public service or enterprise, including mining or forest


concessionaires, may reasonably require for carrying on their business, with
damages for the improvements only.43
(d) The said lands shall also be subject to such rules and regulations as the
Government may issued for the beneficial use of water found on these lands,44
including the right to use water flowing through such land for the purposes of
power generation.45
Whenever, by priority of possession, rights to the use of water for mining,
agricultural, manufacturing, or other purposes have vested and accrued, and the
same are recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, or by the laws and
decisions of the courts, the possessors and owners of such vested rights shall be
maintained and protected, and all patents granted shall be subject to any vested
and accrued rights to ditches and reservoirs used in connection with such water
rights as may have been acquired. 46
(e) All lands, including homesteads upon which final proof has not been made or
approved, shall, even though and while the title remains in the State, be subject
to the ordinary taxes, which shall be paid by the grantee or the applicant,
beginning with the year next following the one in which the homestead
application has been filed, or the concession has been approved, or the contract
has been signed, as the case may be, on the basis of the value fixed in such filing,
approval or signing of the application, concession or contract.47
1. Homestead Settlement
By homestead is meant the home, the house and the adjoining land where the head of
the family dwells; the home farm; the fixed residence of the head of a family, with the
land and buildings surrounding the main house.48 Technically, and under modern
homestead laws, it is an artificial estate in land, devised to protect the possession and
enjoyment of the owner against the claims of his creditors, by withdrawing the property
from execution and forced sale, so long as the land is occupied as a home.49
Qualification and application

43
44
45
46
47
48
49

Section 112, Public Land Act.


Section 113, Public Land Act.
Section 114, Public Land Act.
Section 113, Public Land Act.
Section 115, Public Land Act.
Oliver v. Snowden, 18 Fla. 825, 43 Am. Rep. 388.
Buckingham v. Buckingham, 8 Mich. 89, 45 N.W. 504.

77

In order to qualify for a homestead settlement, which must not exceed twelve (12)
hectares of agricultural land of the public domain following Section 3, Article XII of the
1987 Constitution, 50 the applicant must satisfy the following specific requirements:
(a) He must be a citizen of the Philippines over the age of eighteen (18) years, or is
the head of a family; 51
(b) He does not own, or has not received by gratuitous allotment from the
government, more than twelve (12) hectares of land in the Philippines.52
Under the Public Land Act, the applicant is only entitled to one homestead entry,
and no person to whom a homestead patent has been issued regardless of the
area of the original homestead may again acquire a homestead. However,
pursuant to Commonealth Act No. 456, any person who had been previously
granted a homestead of less than twelve (12) hectares may enter into a
subsequent homestead provided that the total area of the homesteads do not
exceed twelve (12) hectares.53
(c) He must cultivate and improve at least one-fifth (1/5) of the land continuously
within one year and not more than five (5) years from the approval of the
homestead application; 54
(d) He must reside in the land for at least one year in the municipality in which the
land is located, or in a municipality adjacent to the same; 55
(e) He must commence work on the homestead at least six (6) months from the
approval of the homestead application56 and,
(f) He must make the application in his own name and that of his family, and not in
representation of another person.
It has been ruled in the case of Addu vv. De Yro,57 that a homestead applicant is
required by law to occupy and cultivate the land for his own and his familys
benefit, and not for the benefit of someone else. If he occupies it and cultivates it
on behalf of another person and obtains title thereto on the understanding that a
portion thereof would be transferred to the latter, such agreement is invalid. It is
a ground for cancellation of the entry and bars the issuance of a patent.
50

51
52
53
54
55
56
57

78

Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution provides that citizens of the Philippines may
lease not more than five hundred hectares, or acquire more than twelve hectares thereof by
purchase, homestead or grant.
Section 12 of the Public Land Act.
Section 12 of the Public Land Act.
Section 19 of the Public Land Act.
Section 14 of the Public Land Act.
Section 12 of the Public Land Act.
Section 13 of the Public Land Act.
No. 29449-R, 31 March 1965.

Upon filing and approval of the homestead application with the Director of Lands, the
applicant shall be authorized to take possession of the land upon payment of the
corresponding application fee. At the option of the applicant, payment of the fees
required for the application may be made to the municipal treasurer who shall, in turn,
forward them to the provincial treasurer. In case of delinquency of the applicant, the
Director of Lands may, sixty (60) days after such delinquency has occurred, either cancel
the application or grant an extension of time not to exceed one hundred and twenty
(120) days for the payment of the sum due.58 Pertinently, it was held in Diaz and Reyes
vs. Macalinao, et al.59 that a homestead entry having been permitted by the Director of
Lands, the homestead is segregated from the public domain and the Director Lands is
divested of the control and possession thereof except if the application is finally
disapproved and the entry annulled or revoked.
Furthermore, approval of the homestead applicantion grants the applicant a right to
occupy the land subject of the homestead. This means that the applicant shall have the
right to exercise all rights of legal possession granted to him under the law, including
the right to bring an action of forcible entry or unlawful detainer, or any other suitable
remedy provided by law.60
Entitlement to a homestead patent
Should the applicant comply with the qualifications and obligations prescribed by the
Public Land Act, he shall acquire a vested right to the land, and will be entitled to
receive a final deed of conveyance called a homestead patent. The execution and delivery
of the patent, after the right to a particular parcel of land has become complete, are the
mere ministerial acts of the officer charged with that duty.
Before final proof is submitted by an applicant of his compliance with the requirements,
however, the Public Land Act requires that due notice must first be given to the public
of the applicants intention to make such proof, stating therein the name and address of
the homesteader, the description of the land, the names of the witnesses by whom it is
expected that the necessary facts will be established, and the time and place at which
such proof shall be made.61
Proof of possession and cultivation in accordance with the requirements of the Public
Land Act is a sine qua non for the grant of a homestead patent, or a vested right in the
land. In this regard, it has been held that a mere investigation report submitted by an
official of the Bureau of Lands who drew the sketch of the land showing the
improvements existing thereon is insufficient to establish the right of an applicant to the
land.62
58
59
60
61
62

Section 15 of the Public Land Act.


102 Phil. 999 [1958].
Pitargue v. Sorilla, G.R. No. L-4302, 17 September 1952.
Section 17, Public Land Act.
Quinsay v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 195 SCRA 268 (1991), citing People v. Sibayan, 116
SCRA 180 (1982)

79

QUINSAY v. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT


195 SCRA 268 (1991)
REGALADO, J p:
In a verified complaint dated January 27, 1975, herein private
respondents filed Civil Case No. Br. V-216 in the former Court of First
Instance of Isabela for annulment of patent, reconveyance and damages
against herein petitioners Benito Quinsay, Meliton Caberto and Pastor
Olalan, and impleading therein the Director of Lands as a co-defendant of
the said petitioners.
We quote the antecedents which spawned the present controversy, as
found by the trial court and thoroughly narrated in its decision of
December 13, 1980:
"The facts of the case are undisputed. Lot No. 1105, Cad. 211, situated at
Divisoria, Santiago, Isabela was the subject of Homestead Application
No. V-11083 (E-V-10060) of Beatriz Bayle filed with the Bureau of Lands.
Later, she transferred her rights thereto to Sylverio Valdez who, on
January 2, 1950, in turn transferred his rights to Fermin Guy Yoche
(Exhibits 'F' and 'F-1'). These transfers were approved by the
Undersecretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in his Order of
January 31, 1951 (Exhibits 'G' and 'G-1'). Obviously, Guy Yoche's
homestead application was opposed by defendant Benito Quinsay who
was occupying the lot. It was not established how or why it came about
but in the course thereof Fermin Guy Yoche and Benito Quinsay entered
into an amicable settlement (Exhibits 'A' and 'A-1') concerning the land,
agreeing that the northeast corner of the lot, with an area of 1,500 square
meters, designated as portion B, shall pertain to Benito Quinsay while the
rest of the lot, with an area of 48,765 square meters, designated as portion
A, shall pertain to Fermin Guy Yoche. By virtue of such agreement,
Benito Quinsay filed on January 20, 1950 a Miscellaneous Sales
Application (Exhibits 'L' and 'L-1') over portion B of the lot while Fermin
Guy Yoche filed on January 2, 1950 a Homestead Application (Exhibits
'H' and 'H-1') over portion A. The Director of Lands approved the
amicable settlement on January 8, 1951 (Exhibits 'B' and 'B-1') and
accepted both the Miscellaneous Sales (new) Application of Quinsay and
the Homestead Application of Fermin Guy Yoche by decreeing that they
shall be 'given further action in accordance with standing rules and
regulations on the matter.' On May 22, 1951, plaintiff Urbana Tapiador
Vda. de Guy Yoche, in her own behalf and in behalf of the other heirs of
Fermin Guy Yoche, filed with the Bureau of Lands their Final Proof
(Exhibits 'I' and 'I-1') on the homestead application of her deceased
husband. In connection therewith, Asst. Public Land Inspector Hilarion
Briones submitted, through the Acting District Land Officer of Isabela, to

80

the Director of Lands his final investigation report recommending the


survey and the issuance of a homestead patent to and in favor of the
Heirs of Fermin Guy Yoche. This is the last action of the Bureau of Lands
taken in so far as the homestead application of Guy Yoche is concerned.
xxx
"In the meantime, Benito Quinsay and his children, intervenor Julio
Quinsay and Florida Quinsay, continued to occupy and possess the
whole Lot 1105. Fermin Guy Yoche or any of his heirs never attempted to
take possession thereof. Quinsay and his children cultivated and
converted into riceland portions thereof in which they planted palay.
They also planted vegetables and fruit trees thereon. Then, on March 6,
1972, Benito Quinsay sold to Pastor Olalan 1,250 square meters portion of
the land. Likewise, on January 31, 1974, he again sold another portion,
with an area of 3,013 square meters, to Meliton Caberto. There is no
showing that Pastor Olalan and Meliton Caberto knew of the homestead
application of Fermin Guy Yoche over the land, much more the existence
of any amicable settlement over it. What was established is that during all
the time that Olalan and Caberto stayed in Divisoria (and they are still
there), they only saw Benito Quinsay to be the owner and in possession of
the land. After the sales, Olalan and Caberto took actual possession of the
portions bought by them, declared their respective portions in their
names for taxation purposes and paid real estate taxes thereof.
Afterwards, they filed their separate free patent applications (Exhibit 'K'
and 'J') over their individual portions with the Bureau of Lands on March
23, 1974 and March 1, 1974, respectively. For purposes of their
applications, they submitted the plans (Exhibits 'M' and 'N') of the
portions they bought. The District Land Officer of Isabela acted favorably
on their applications and in due time issued the corresponding patents
thereto. On the strength of these patents, Original Certificate of Title No.
P-26759 (Exhibits '9'-Caberto to '9-B'-Caberto) was issued by the Register
of Deeds of Isabela to Meliton Caberto on May 24, 1974 while Original
Certificate of Title No. P-27214 (Exhibits '11'-Olalan and '11-A'-Olalan)
was issued to Pastor Olalan on August 16, 1974. It is these two titles
which are sought to be annulled by the plaintiffs as Heirs of Fermin Guy
Yoche, maintaining that the portions covered thereby was sold by Benito
Quinsay to the titled holders in violation of the amicable settlement
entered into between him and their predecessor-in-interest. xxx
The court a quo, after due ratiocination, and holding that
". . . In Republic vs. Diamonon, et al., 97 Phil. 843, it was held
that 'the right of a homesteader to the land granted to him
ripens into a vested right after the filing of the final proof
and approval thereof by the Director of Lands (emphasis
ours). This doctrine was reiterated in the cases of Lucas vs.
Durian, 102 Phil. 1157 and Ingaran vs. Ramelo, 107 Phil. 503,

81

which stated in no uncertain terms that 'an applicant may


be said to have acquired a vested right over the homestead
only when his application has been perfected by the
presentation of the final proof and its approval by the
Director of Lands'. In the case at bar, while it is true that
the plaintiffs already submitted final proof, the same has
not yet been approved by the Director of Lands. As a
matter of fact, the Bureau of Lands is still investigating the
contending claims of several persons over the land. With
more reason then, that the plaintiffs cannot say that they
have any vested right over the land. Moreover, the right of
the homesteader to a patent does not become absolute
until after he has complied with all the requirements of the
law (Vda. de Delizo, et. al. vs. Delizo, et al., L-32820-21,
January 30, 1976, 69 SCRA 216; Quiaoit vs. Consolacion, et.
al., L-41824, Sept. 30, 1976, 73 SCRA 208). . . ."
rendered judgment (1) dismissing the complaint of private respondents,
as plaintiffs therein; (2) upholding the validity of Free Patent No. 8223
and Original Certificate of Title No. P-27214 issued in favor of petitioner
Pastor Olalan; (3) upholding the validity of Free Patent No. 1110 and
Original Certificate of Title No. P-26759 issued in the name of petitioner
Meliton Caberto; (4) ordering private respondents not to disturb and
molest petitioner Olalan and Caberto in the possession and occupation of
the portions owned by the latter; (5) dismissing the counterclaims of
petitioner; and (6) dismissing the intervention filed by intervenor Julio
Quinsay.
Private respondents elevated their case to the then Intermediate
Appellate Court seeking reversal of said decision on the contention that
the trial court erred in not holding that they and their predecessors had
acquired vested rights to the homestead in question. Their plaint found
favor in the eyes of respondent court which rendered the following
judgment, and what it considered the rationale therefor, in AC G.R. CV
No. 68253:
"There appears to be two (2) schools of thought on the
matter. The first adopted by the trial court and defendantappellees, including the Director of Lands, is to the effect
that for vested rights to exist the final proof must be not
only filed but must be approved by the Director of Lands,
citing the cases of Republic vs. Diamonon, 97 Phil. 843, Lucas
vs. Durian, 102 Phil. 1157, and Ingaran vs. Ramelo, 107 Phil.
503. The second, subscribed to by plaintiffs-appellants,
merely requires a finding by the Bureau of Lands through
its proper officials that the homesteader has complied with
all the terms and conditions which entitle him to a patent,

82

invoking the landmark doctrine laid down in the case of


Balboa vs. Farrales, 51 Phil. 498, reading as follows:
'When a homesteader has complied with all
the terms and conditions which entitle him
to a patent for a particular tract of land, he
acquires a vested interest therein, and is
regarded as the equitable owner thereof.
Where the right to patent has once become
vested in a purchaser of public land, it is
equivalent to patent actually issued. The
execution and delivery of the patent, after
the right to a particular parcel of land has
become complete, are the mere ministerial
acts of the officer charged with that duty.
Even without a patent, a perfected
homestead is a property right in the fullest
sense, unaffected by the fact that the
permanent title to the land is still in the
Government. Such land may be conveyed
or inherited. No subsequent law can
deprive him of that vested right.'
xxx

xxx

xxx

"While we do not decide that there is a divergence of


opinions between the cases cited by appellees and the case
of Balboa vs. Farrales, supra., We vote to follow the Balboa
doctrine. Plaintiffs-appellants have already submitted their
final proof of possession, residence and cultivation. They
have paid the legal fees and charges. Hilarion Briones of
the Bureau of Lands in Ilagan, Isabela has recommended
survey of the land and the issuance of patent to the heirs of
Fermin Guy Yoche, it appearing that all the requirements
of law on the matter have been complied with.
xxx

xxx

xxx

"WHEREFORE, we hereby reverse and set aside the


decision appealed from and render another one annulling
as null and void the Free Patents and Original Certificates
of Title issued in the names of defendants-appellees Pastor
Olalan and Meliton Caberto, ordering defendant-appellee
Director of Lands to approve the final proof submitted by
plaintiffs-appellants and issue a patent covering Lot 'B',
Lot 1105, Cad. Lot No. 211 situated in Divisoria, Santiago,
Isabela, with an area of 48,765 square meters, more or less,

83

in the name of the Heirs of Fermin Guy Yoche, and


ordering private defendants-appellees, jointly and
severally to pay plaintiffs-appellants the sum of P3,000.00
as attorney's fees (Mabutol vs. Mabutol, G.R. No. 60898,
September 29, 1983; San Miguel Brewery vs. Magno, 21
SCRA 292; Cabungal vs. Cordova, 11 SCRA 584)."
Hence the present appeal by certiorari, petitioners posing for resolution
the issues as to whether or not:
1. Private respondents have acquired a vested right over the lots in
question;
xxx

xxx

xxx

On the first issue, respondent court rejected the theory, submitted by


petitioners and the Director of Lands and adopted by the trial court, to
the effect that the approval of the final proof of the homestead application
of private respondents by the Director of Lands is necessary for vested
rights to exist in favor of said respondents over the land in question.
Respondent court relied upon some pronouncements in Balboa vs. Farrales
where it was allegedly held that where the Bureau of Lands finds through
its proper officials that the homesteader has complied with all the terms
and conditions which entitle him to a patent, this suffices for vested rights
over the lot to exist in favor of the homestead applicant.
A perusal of Balboa, however, convinces us that the reliance thereon of
respondent court is misplaced as, in that case, there was approval by the
Director of Lands of the final proof of the applicant. Furthermore, what
was involved there was a homestead application filed and approved
under the aegis of Act No. 926, before its repeal by Act No. 2874.
As explained therein, in 1913, Balboa filed a homestead application under
the provisions of Act No. 926, and "in 1918, Balboa submitted final proof,
showing his residence upon, and cultivation of said land, as well as his
compliance with all of the other requirements of Section 3 of said Act No.
926, which final proof was approved by the Director of Lands on
February 15, 1918 (Exhibit 3). On July 1, 1919, said Act No. 926 was
repealed by Act No. 2874." Thus the Court took pains to specifically point
out in said case that
"Section 3 of Act No. 926 provides, inter alia, that upon the
final proof by the applicant and the approval thereof by
the Director of Lands, 'he (the applicant) shall be entitled
to patent' or certificate of title. Therefore, on February 15,
1918, after Buenaventura Balboa had submitted his final
proof and after the same had been approved by the

84

Government, and while Act No. 926 was still in force, he


became the owner of the land and entitled to a patent. At
least on that date his right to the land, as owner, had
ripened into a vested right . . .
xxx

xxx

xxx

"The fact that the homestead patent or certificate of title


was issued on September 10, 1920, after the repeal of Act
No. 926, and under the provisions of Section 116 of the
repealing Act No. 2874 cannot prejudice the vested right
acquired by Buenaventura under the provisions of the
former Act. (Emphasis supplied.).
This had to be so clarified since in said case Balboa sold the land on
August 11, 1924, which was within the 5-year prohibition therefor in
Section 116 of Act No. 2874, and said sale was sought to be nullified.
Hence, the need for the Court to expound on the fact that, under the law
and the circumstances obtaining in said case, Balboa had acquired vested
rights to the land even before the approval of his final proof. That was the
rule adopted under the law then in force, and the reason for the judicial
discourse on vested rights in the decision in said case supposedly because
the provisions of Act No. 926 did not negate the same. Obviously,
however, said pronouncements, albeit in effect obiter dicta, were further
truncated and applied out of the context by respondent court. We need
not repeat the contrary and present rule under the subsequent law and
jurisprudence on the matter, as catalogued by the trial court and set out
earlier in this opinion.
Now, in the case at bar, the homestead application and the final proof
submitted by the heirs of Fermin Guy Yoche on May 22, 1951 remain
unapproved up to the present. From what has been said, therefore,
vested rights over the land cannot be validly claimed by private
respondents since the approval by the Director of Lands of their final
proof for a homestead patent is now a condition sine qua non for the
existence of such vested right. Thus, in the aforecited case of Republic vs.
Diamonon, et al., this Court, noting that in espousing the contrary view
Diamonon invoked the provisions of Act No. 926 and sought refuge in
Balboa, rejected that submission since "(t)he fallacy of appellant's
argument lies in the failure to consider the facts of his citation, wherein
final proof was approved by the Government while Act No. 926 was
effective. In the case now before us, it was only on November 9, 1933, that
the Director of Lands approved the appellant's final proof or about
fourteen years after the enactment of Act No. 2874 on November 29,
1919."
xxx

xxx

xxx

85

WHEREFORE, the judgment of respondent Intermediate Appellate Court


is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the decision of the trial court is
REINSTATED.
SO ORDERED.
Melencio-Herrera, Paras, Padilla and Sarmiento, JJ., concur.
After approval by the Director of Lands of the applicants final proof for a homestead
patent, the applicant perfects his right to a homstead, and obtains a vested right over the
land. Thus, even without a homestead patent, a perfected homestead is a property right
in the fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the land is still in
the government. Such land may be conveyed or inherited. No subsequent law can
deprive him of that vested right.63

jniog

Cancellation of homesteaders right of entry

If at any time before the expiration of the period allowed by law for making of final
proof of compliance with the requirementsof the Public Land Act, and it has been
proven, to the satisfaction of the Director of Lands, and after notice and hearing, that the
land entered is not entitled to a homestead entry, or that the homesteader has actually
changed his residence, or voluntarily abandoned the land for more than six (6) months
at any one time during the years or residence and occupation required, or has failed to
comply with the requirements of the Public Land Act, the Director of Lands may cancel
the entry.64
Assignment of homesteaders application
The Public Land Act allows an applicant, after approval of the applicantion, to assign his
rights to the homestead if he should be underable to continue through no fault of his
own.65 In this case, the Director of Lands, after confirming that such transfer is not for
speculation, shall allow a bona fide purchaser to acquire the rights and improvements of
the applicant, provided that such transferee is himself qualified to enter into a
homestead. The purchaser shall thereafter file a homestead application in place of the
one originally filed, and shall succeed the original homesteader in his rights and
obligations beginning with the date of the approval of the application of the subsequent
purchaser.
Any person who has so transferred his rights may not again apply for a new homestead.
Furthermore, every transfer made without the previous approval of the Director of

63

64
65

86

Balboa vs. Farrales, 51 Phil. 498 [1928]; Mesina vs. Sonza, 108 Phil. 251 [1960]; Ireneo Roque
vs. Director of Lands, 72 SCRA 1 [1976].
Section 16 of the Public Land Act.
Section 20 of the Public Land Act, as amended by C.A. No. 456 and R.A. No. 1242.

Lands shall be null and void and shall result in the cancellation of the entry and refusal
of the patent.
Conditions and limitations on the rights of the grantee of a homestead patent
In addition to the general conditions applicable to grantees of patents provided in
Chapter XIII of the Public Land Act and enumerated above, holders of homestead
patents are similarly subject to the following special conditions and limitations:
(a) Land covered by a homestead patent cannot be alienated or encumbered from
the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five (5) years from
and after the date of issuance of the patent, except if such alienation or
encumbrance is made in favor of the government or any of its branches, units or
institutions, or to legally constituted banking corporations.66
(b) Land covered by a homestead patent cannot be held liable in satisfaction of any
debt contracted prior to the said period. However, improvements or crops on
the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified perons,67 who, in accordance
with Section 122,68 must be Filipino citizens or corporations.
(c) Land covered by a homestead patent shall not be alienated, transferred or
conveyed after five (5) years and before twenty-five (25) years after issuance of
the patent unless approved by the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources, which approval cannot be denied except on Constitutional grounds.69
(e) Land covered by a homestead patent, or any permanent improvement thereon,
cannot be alienated or transferred to a corporation, association or partnership
without the consent of the grantee and approval of the Secretary of Environment
and Natural Resources, and solely for commercial, industrial, educational,
religious or charitable purposes or for a right of way.70

Section 118 of the Public Land Act.


Section 118 of the Public Land Act.
68
Section 122 of the Public Land Act provides:
No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent
improvement on such land, shall encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to persons,
corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain
under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized therefor by their
charters.
66
67

Except in cases of hereditary succession, no land or any portion thereof originally acquired under
the free patent, homestead, or individual sale provisions of this Act, or any permanent
improvement on such land, shall be transferred or assigned to any individual, nor shall such
land or any permanent improvement thereon be leased to such individual, when the area of
said land, added to that of his own, shall exceed one hundred and forty-four hectares. Any
transfer, assignment, or lease made in violation hereof, shall be null and void.
69
Section 118 of the Public Land Act.
70
Section 121 of the Public Land Act.

87

(d) Every conveyance of land acquired under a homestead patent shall be subject to
repurchase by the applicant, his widow or legal heirs, within a period of five (5)
years from the date of the conveyance. 71
In Evangelista v. Montano, et al.,72 the requirement of obtaining approval from the
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources for sales of land covered by homestead
patent after five years from the issuance of the title was held to be merely directory, and
may be complied with at any time in the future. Thus, in one case where a homestead
was sold after the expiration of five (5) years and transfer took place before the
expiration of twenty-five (25) years, from the issuance of the patent, the failure to secure
the requisite approval from the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources did not
render the sale null and void.73
On the other hand, unless made in favor of the government, or any of its branches, units
or institutions, or to legally constituted banking corporations, the sale of land within the
5-years from the issuance of the homestead patent renders such sale null and void. The
reason for this prohibition is to preserve and keep in the family of the homesteader that
portion of public land which the State has gratuitously given to them. Thus, in Egao v.
Court of Appeals,74 the Supreme Court ruled that the sale of a homestead patent within
the 5-year prohibited period if null and void. In this case, the Supreme Court allowed
the heirs to recover the said parcel of land, notwithstanding the possible application of
the pari delicto doctrine. The Court reasoned that the application of the pari delicto
doctrine does not apply in cases where the sale is void ab initio under the Public Land
Act, as when its enforcement or application runs counter to the public policy of
preserving the grantees right to the land under the homestead patent.
EGAO, ET AL. VS. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.
174 SCRA 484 [1989.]
PADILLA, J p:
This is a land dispute which culminated in the filing by private
respondents Severo Dignos and Severo Bontilao of a verified complaint
for Quieting of Title and/or Recovery of Possession and Ownership
before the RTC of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, * against petitioners
Apolonio and Beatriz Egao.
Private respondents' complaint alleged that they are the legitimate
owners and possessors of two (2) parcels of land situated at Lonocan,
Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, per deed of absolute sale dated 21 December
1979 which, among others, recited thus:
71
72
73
74

88

Section 119 of the Public Land Act.


G.R. No. L-5567, 29 May 1953.
Flores, et al. v. Plasina, et al., L-5727, Feb. 12, 1954.
174 SCRA 484 [1989].

xxx

xxx

xxx

Allegedly, upon purchase of Lot No. 662 from Roberto Marfori,


improvements were introduced and taxes paid by private respondents.
Sometime in June 1983, herein petitioners allegedly occupied illegally
portions of the land.
Petitioners' answer to the complaint asserted that Apolonio Egao is the
registered owner of the parcel of land known as Lot No. 662, Pls 854 with
an area of 3,451 sq. meters evidenced by OCT No. P-3559 issued by the
Register of Deeds of Bukidnon pursuant to Free Patent No. 298112 dated
12 August 1965; that he (Apolonio Egao) and his family have been in
actual, physical, adverse, open and continuous possession thereof even
before the issuance to him of the free patent; that the land has never been
sold by reason of the prohibition against alienation under
Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Public Land Law); and that the instant case
was the fourth in a series filed against the Egaos and is part of
respondents' scheme to grab said parcel of land from the petitioners.
Judge Felicidario M. Batoy ruled in favor of the Egaos, herein petitioners
(defendants in the court a quo), ordering respondent Severo Bontilao
(plaintiff in the court a quo) to immediately deliver to the Egaos the
owner's duplicate copy of Original Certificate of Title No. P-3559. Said
trial judge held:
"In the instant case, granting arguendo, that defendants
executed the 2 documents in favor of Marfori (Exhs. A &
B) after the filing of the application for free patent but
before the issuance of the latter, without the approval of
the Director of Lands, upon issuance of Free Patent No.
298112. On August 12, 1965, the said deeds of sale (Exhs. A
& B) were ipso facto cancelled or superseded by said free
patent. Moreover, it appears from the evidence that
defendants never vacated or abandoned their possession
of Lot No. 662 as they have continuously lived on said lot
since 1950, a fact admitted by the plaintiffs themselves.
And as long as Original Certificate of Title No. P-3559
remains in the name of defendant Apolonio Egao, married
to Beatriz Menoza Egao, this is the ultimate and best
evidence of title granted by the government which must be
honored and respected by the courts. In a nutshell, the
plaintiffs miserably failed to present or show any title to
Lot No. 662, PLS-854 which should be quieted or freed
from any cloud of doubt as prayed for in their complaint
and they further failed to show that they are entitled to the
ownership and possession to Lot No. 662, PLS-854."

89

Private respondents went to the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 09539.


Setting aside the RTC decision, the appellate court ** held, in part, thus
"That the land is titled in the name of defendant Apolonio
Egao is not in question. The main point in issue is whether
defendants could validly sell the land to Marfori who in
turn transferred ownership thereof to the plaintiffs."
Marfori and Egao were both held by the Court of Appeals in pari delicto
for violating the five (5) year restriction under Sec. 118, Commonwealth
Act No. 141 as amended by Act No. 496 against encumbrance or
alienation of lands acquired under a free patent or homestead; hence,
they cannot, according to the appellate court, seek affirmative relief, but
respondents on the other hand were declared innocent purchasers for
value who obtained the owner's duplicate copy of the OCT (still in the
name of the Egaos) from Marfori who transferred to them (respondents)
physical possession of the property. Finally, the Court of Appeals held:
xxx

xxx

xxx

Validity of the Deeds of Sale executed between Marfori (as purchaser)


and the petitioners (as sellers) is the main issue to be resolved, in
determining respondents' right over the disputed land, the respondents
being the transferees of Marfori.
It is undisputed that Free Patent No. 298112 was issued to petitioner
Apolonio Egao over Lot No. 662 on 12 August, 1965. Sec. 118 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, prohibits the alienation or
encumbrance, within a period of five (5) years from the date of issuance
of the patent, of lands acquired under free patent or homestead.
Assuming, arguendo, the authenticity of the Deeds of Sale executed by
the Egaos in favor of Marfori over portions of Lot No. 662 (the land in
question), dated 7 May 1964, 14 January and 6 October 1965, it clearly
appears that all deeds were executed within the prohibited period of five
(5) years. As correctly found by the appellate court
"Section 124 of the Public Land Act provided [sic] that any acquisition,
conveyance, alienation, transfer or other contract made or executed in
violation of any of the provisions of Sections 118, 121, 120 122 and 123 of
this Act shall be unlawful, null and void from its execution and shall
produce the effect of annulling and cancelling the grant, title, patent or
permit originally issued, recognized or actually or prescriptively, and
cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the state."
Petitioners deny the authenticity and due execution of the notarized
deeds of sale in favor of Marfori, asserting continued ownership over the

90

land by virtue of a Torrens Certificate of Title issued in their name. While


the Court is not satisfied with respondents' explanation of their failure to
present the notaries public (who were residents of a neighboring
province) to affirm their participation in the preparation of the Deeds, the
Court also finds as insufficient the mere denials by petitioners as to due
execution and authenticity of said Deeds of Sale. A notarial document is
evidence of the facts in clear unequivocal manner therein expressed. It
has in its favor the presumption of regularity. To contradict all these,
there must be evidence that is clear, convincing and more than merely
preponderant. The question of authenticity being one of fact, the Court
will not disturb the conclusions of the Court of Appeals on the matter.
Original Certificate of Title No. P-3559 over the land in dispute was
issued on 1 March 1966, a few months after the execution by the Egaos of
the last Deed of Sale in favor of Marfori. The OCT is registered in the
name of the Egaos, herein petitioners.
A Torrens title, once registered, cannot be defeated, even by adverse open
and notorious possession. A registered title under the Torrens system
cannot be defeated by prescription. The title, once registered, is notice to
the world. All persons must take notice. No one can plead ignorance of
the registration.
Contrary to the appellate court's conclusion, respondents are not innocent
purchasers for value. An "innocent purchaser for value" is deemed, under
the Torrens system, to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee or other
encumbrancer for value. Where a purchaser neglects to make the
necessary inquiries and closes his eyes to facts which should put a
reasonable man on his guard as to the possibility of the existence of a
defect in his vendor's title, and relying on the belief that there was no
defect in the title of the vendor, purchases the property without making
any further investigation, he cannot claim that he is a purchaser in good
faith for value.
Furthermore, a private individual may not bring an action for reversion
or any action which would have the effect of cancelling a free patent and
the corresponding certificate of title issued on the basis thereof, with the
result that the land covered thereby will again form part of the public
domain, as only the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his stead may
do so.
The rule of pari delicto non oritur actio (where two persons are equally at
fault neither party may be entitled to relief under the law), admits of
exceptions and does not apply to an inexistent contract, such as, a sale
void ab initio under the Public Land Act, when its enforcement or
application runs counter to the public policy of preserving the grantee's
right to the land under the homestead law.

91

Sec. 51, par. 2 of the Property Registration Decree (PD 1529), formerly Sec.
50 of the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496) expressly provides that the
registration of the Deed is the operative act that binds or affects the land
insofar as third persons are concerned. The law requires a higher degree
of prudence from one who buys from a person who is not the registered
owner, when the land object of the transaction is registered land. While
one who buys from the registered owner need not look behind the
certificate of title, one who buys from another who is not the registered
owner is expected to examine not only the certificate of title but all factual
circumstances necessary for him to determine if there are any flaws in the
title of the transferor, or in his capacity to transfer the land. Failing to
exercise caution of any kind whatsoever is tantamount to bad faith.
Deeds of sale of patented lands, perfected within the prohibited five (5)
year period are null and void (Sec. 124, Public Land Act). No title passed
from the Egaos to Marfori which could be validly transferred to herein
respondents Bontilao and Dignos. Nemo dat quod non habet (nobody can
dispose of that which does not belong to him).
While the government has not taken steps to assert its title, by reversion,
to a homestead sold in violation of the Public Land Act, the vendor or his
heirs is better entitled to the possession of the land, the vendee being in
no better situation than any intruder.
Accordingly, respondents who are not innocent purchasers for value
have no standing to question petitioners' right to the land and to file an
action for quieting of title.
WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R.
CV No. 09539 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Meanwhile, petitioners as
registered owners are entitled to remain in physical possession of the
disputed property. Respondents are ordered to deliver the owner's
duplicate copy of the OCT (No. P-3559) to petitioners, without prejudice
to an action for reversion of the land, which may be instituted by the
Solicitor General for the State.
Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Solicitor General.
SO ORDERED.
Melencio-Herrera, Sarmiento and Regalado, JJ., concur.
Paras, J., took no part.

92

This rule applies even if approval from the Secretary of Enviroment and Natural
Resources is subsequently obtained. Such approval did not have the effect of curing the
violation of a mandatory provision of the law.75
DE LOS SANTOS VS. ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF MIDSAYAP, ET AL.
94 Phil. 405 [1954]
BAUTISTA ANGELO, J p:
On December 9, 1938, a homestead patent covering a tract of land
situated in the municipality of Midsayap, Province of Cotabato, was
granted to Julio Sarabillo and on March 17, 1939, Original Certificate of
Title No. RP-269 (1674) was issued in his favor.
On December 31, 1940, Julio Sarabillo sold two hectares of said land to the
Roman Catholic Church of Midsayap for the sum of P800 to be dedicated
to educational and charitable purposes. It was expressly agreed upon that
the sale was subject to the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources.
In December, 1947, a request for said approval was submitted in behalf of
the Roman Catholic Church by Rev. Fr. Gerard Mongeau stating therein
that the land would be used solely for educational and charitable
purposes. The sale was approved on March 26, 1949, and on March 29,
1950, the dead of sale was registered in the Office of the Register of Deeds
for the Province of Cotabato. No new title was issued in favor of the
Roman Catholic Church although the deed was annotated on the back of
the title issued to the homesteader.
In the meantime, Julio Sarabillo died and intestate proceedings were
instituted for the settlement of his estate and Catalina de los Santos was
appointed administratrix of the estate. And having found in the course of
her administration that the sale of the land to the Roman Catholic Church
was made in violation of section 118 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the
administratrix instituted the present action in the Court of First Instance
of Cotabato praying that the sale be declared null and void and of no
legal effect.
In their answer defendants claim that the sale is legal and valid it having
been executed for educational and charitable purposes and approved by
the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. They further claim
that, even if it be declared null and void, its immediate effect would be
not the return of the land to appellee but the reversion of the property to
the State as ordained by law. Defendants also set up as a defense the
doctrine of pari delicto.
75

De los Santos vs. Roman Catholic Church of Midsayap, et al., 90 Phil. 405 [1954]

93

xxx

xxx

xxx

After the parties had submitted the case on the pleadings, in addition to
the report of the clerk of court as to the value of the improvements
existing on the land, the court rendered decision declaring the sale null
and void and ordering the plaintiff to reimburse to the defendants the
sum of P800 which was paid as purchase price, plus the additional sum of
P601 as value of the improvements, both sums to bear interest at 6 per
cent per annum from the date of the complaint, and ordering defendants
to vacate the land in question. Dissatisfied with this decision, the case was
taken to the Court of Appeals but it was later certified to this Court on the
ground that the appeal merely involves questions of law.
It appears that the patent covering the tract of land which includes the
portion now disputed in this appeal was issued to the late Julio Sarabillo
on December 9, 1938, and the sale of the portion of two hectares to the
Roman Catholic Church took place on December 31, 1940. This shows
that the sale was made before the expiration of the period of five years
from the date of the issuance of the patent and as such is null and void it
being in contravention of section 118 of Commonwealth Act No. 141. The
fact that it was expressly stipulated in the deed of sale that it was subject
to the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and
the approval was sought and obtained on March 26, 1949, or more than
ten years after the date of the issuance of the patent, or the fact that the
deed of sale was registered in the Office of the Register of Deeds only on
March 29, 1950, and was annotated on the back of the title on that date,
cannot have the effect of validating the sale for the reason that the
approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources does not
have any valid curative effect. That approval is merely a formality which
the law requires if the sale is effected after the term of five years but
before the expiration of a period of 25 years for the purpose of testing the
validity of the sale on constitutional grounds. But, as was ruled by this
Court, the absence of such formality will not render the transaction null
and void (Evangelista vs. Montao, G. R. No. L-5567). What is important is
the period within which the sale is executed. The provision of the law
which prohibits the sale or encumbrance of the homestead within five
years after the grant of the patent is mandatory. This cannot be obviated
even if official approval is granted beyond the expiration of that period,
because the purpose of the law is to promote a definite public policy,
which is "to preserve and keep in the family of the homesteader that
portion of public land which the State has gratuitously given to him."
[Pascua vs. Talens, 2 45 Off. Gaz., No. 9, (Supplement) 413.]
The claim that the sale can be validated because it was made with the
avowed aim that the property would be dedicated solely to educational
and charitable purposes is likewise unmeritorious even considering the

94

law invoked by counsel for appellants in favor of its validity. It is true


that under section 121, Commonwealth Act No. 141, a corporation,
association, or partnership may acquire any land granted as homestead if
the sale is done with the consent of the grantee and the approval of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and is solely for
commercial, industrial, educational, religious, or charitable purposes, or
for a right of way, and apparently there is no limitation therein as to the
time within which such acquisition may be made. But this provision
should be interpreted as a mere authority granted to a corporation,
association or partnership to acquire a portion of the public land and not
as an unbridled license to acquire without restriction for such would be
giving an advantage to an entity over an individual which finds no legal
justification. It is our opinion that the authority granted by section 121
should be interpreted as subject to the condition prescribed in section 118,
namely, that the acquisition should be after the period of five years from
the date of the issuance of the patent.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Wherefore, the decision appealed from is affirmed, without


pronouncement as to costs.
Paras, C. J., Pablo, Bengzon, Montemayor, Jugo and Labrador, JJ., concur.
Padilla, J., concurs in the result.
Furthermore, the 5-year prohibition on the sale of land subject of a homestead patent has
been extended to improvements on the land as well. Thus, in Basaltos v. Esteban, Jr., et
al.,76 the Supreme Court said that improvements on lots applied for as homestead cannot
be transferred, on pain of nullity, without the approval of the Secretary of Environment
and Natural Resources (formerly, Minister of Natural Resources), and the duty to secure
such approval devolves upon the vendor because it is he who should give the vendee a
clear title to the property he is conveying.
In the same manner, as the Public Land Act grants homestead patent holders a right of
repurchase by him, his widow or legal heirs, within a period of five (5) years from the
date of the conveyance. This right cannot be waived, and any waiver so made shall be
considered void as against public policy.77 Furthermore, this 5-year right of redemption
is counted separately from redemption rights provided for in other laws, such as Act
No. 313578 which grants a mortgagor, his successors, or any judicial creditor a period of
one (1) year from an extrajudicial foreclosure sale to redeem a subject property.79 The

76
77
78

79

No. L-09121, 11 April 1956.


Isaac vs. San Juan Leon,
Entitiled, An Act to Regulate the Sale of Property under Special Powers Inserted in or
annexed to Real-Estate Mortgages
Pertinently, Section 6 provides:

95

five-year period fixed in Section 119 begins to run from the expiration of the one-year
redemption period. Thus, in Rural Bank of Davao City, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,80 the
Supreme Court said:
Thus, the rules on redemption in the case of an extrajudicial foreclosure
of land acquired under free patent or homestead statutes may be
summarized as follows: . . . If the land is mortgaged to parties other than
rural banks, the mortgagor may redeem the property within one (1) year
from the registration of the certificate of sale pursuant to Act No. 3135. If
he fails to do so, he or his heirs may repurchase the property within five
(5) years from the expiration of the redemption period also pursuant to
Section 119 of the Public Land Act.
In various cases,81 the Supreme Court held that this right of repurchase is available at
any time land subject of a free patent is conveyed to third parties. In Santana, et al., vs.
Marinas,82 however, the Supreme Court denied the right of repurchase under Section 119
because its exercise, under the circumstances set forth in the case, was contrary to the
philosophy behind Section 119.
SANTANA, ET AL. VS. MARINAS
94 SCRA 853 [1979]
SANTOS, J p:
This is a petition for review by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised
Rules of Court of the decision dated September 5, 1972 of the Special
Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals composed of Justice E. Soriano,
M. Barcelona and L.B. Reyes in CA-G.R. 37292-R, entitled "Sotero
Marias vs. Francisco Santana and Jose H. Panganiban", Soriano, J.,
ponent, which (1) reversed the decision of the Court of First Instance of
Rizal dismissing the complaint of Sotero Marias plaintiff below and
private respondent herein - for recovery of the property in litigation
under Section 119 of Com. Act No. 141, otherwise known as Public Land
Law and (2) ordered Francisco Santana and Jose H. Panganiban
defendants below and now herein petitioners to reconvey the aforesaid

80
81

82

96

SECTION 6. In all cases in which an extrajudicial sale is made under the special power
hereinbefore referred to, the debtor, his successors in interest or any judicial creditor or
judgment creditor of said debtor, or any person having a lien on the property subsequent to
the mortgage or deed of trust under which the property is sold, may redeem the same at any
time within the term of one year from and after the date of the sale; and such redemption
shall be governed by the provisions of sections four hundred and sixty-four to four hundred
and sixty-six, inclusive, of the Code of Civil Procedure, in so far as these are not inconsistent
with the provisions of this Act.
217 SCRA 554 [1993].
Isaac, et al. v. Tan Chuan Leong, et al., 89 Phil. 24 [1951]; Francisco v. Certeza, Sr., 3 SCRA 565
[1961]
94 SCRA 853 [1979]

property to respondent Marias upon payment by him of the repurchase


price in the amount of P4,128.60, without special pronouncement as to
costs.
xxx

xxx

xxx

The procedural, as well as the factual, antecedents that spawned the


present case are not in dispute. On April 21, 1960, private respondent
Sotero Marias as plaintiff filed in the Court of First Instance of
Rizal a complaint to recover a real property alleging, insofar as material
to this petition, (1) that he acquired, on May 22, 1929, under free patent
and covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 217, Rizal Registry,
a parcel of land containing an area of four hectares, twelve ares and
eighty-six centares (41,286 sq. m.); that on January 16, 1956, he sold the
above parcel of land to petitioner Francisco Santana one of the
defendants below for a sum of P4,128.60; that the other petitioner Jose
H. Panganiban also a co-defendant below - was included in the
complaint because he is a subsequent lienholder and/or encumbrancer,
the property having been sold to him by Santana on March 25, 1956 for
the same amount of P4,128.60; that the land has an annual produce worth
P400.00; and praying (2) that judgment be rendered: (a) allowing him to
repurchase the property for the sum of P4,128,60 and (b) awarding to him
P400.00 annually from date of filing of the complaint until the property is
delivered to him, with costs.
On May 26, 1960, herein petitioners, defendants below, filed their
respective answers admitting some material factual allegations in the
complaint; but denied the right of private respondent to repurchase the
property, and interposed the following affirmative defenses: (1) that at
the time the absolute sales were entered into, they were totally ignorant
of and had no knowledge whatsoever to any encumbrance or right to
repurchase by private respondent, who assured petitioner Francisco
Santana that he (Santana) could sell the land in question absolutely and
free from any encumbrance and is not subject to any right of repurchase
as he (respondent Marias) had been in possession of the property for
over twenty-five (25) years; (2) that they (petitioners) have always been of
the honest belief that they acquired absolute ownership of the property,
free from any lien or encumbrances whatsoever and, hence, are
purchasers in good faith; (3) that being innocent purchasers for value,
they acquired absolute ownership over the property and private
respondent cannot enforce against them any right of repurchase of
whatever nature; (4) that as absolute owners and possessors in good faith,
they (petitioners) incurred necessary and useful expenses thereon in the
total amount of not less than P10,000.00; and (5) that the property in
question now a residential area with real estate subdivisions and roads in
front and at the back thereof and its present increased value is no less
than P2.50 a square meter. Petitioners interposed a counterclaim for

97

moral damages in the amount of P10,000.00 and attorney's fees and


litigation expenses in the total sum of P5,000.00. In their prayer
petitioners asked for the rendition of judgment absolving them
completely from the complaint, with costs, and sentencing private
respondent to pay them moral damages of P10,000.00 and attorney's fees
and litigation expenses in the amount of P5,000.00; or in the remote
possibility that repurchase by private respondent were allowed, to
require the latter to pay the reasonable market value of not less than P2.50
per square meter.
As stated at the outset, the trial court ruled out private respondent's right
to repurchase the property and dismissed the complaint but that on
appeal, the Court of Appeals Special Sixth Division reversed the
trial court's decision of dismissal and ordered petitioners to reconvey the
land to private respondent upon payment to the former of "the
repurchase price thereof in the amount of P4,128.60, without special
pronouncement as to costs."
xxx
2.

xxx

xxx

Petitioners next assail the order of the appellate court directing


them to reconvey the subject land to private respondent. Put thus
in issue is the proper construction and application of Section 119
of the Public Land Law, Com. Act No. 141, which provides:
"Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or
homestead provisions, when proper, shall be subject to repurchase
by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of five
years from the date of conveyance."
Petitioners' specific contention that it could not have been the
intention of the Legislature to subject to the right of repurchase a
free patent or homestead conveyed 25 years after the issuance of
the title is without legal basis and is contrary to jurisprudence laid
down on the matter. Thus, in Isaac, et al. v. Tan Chuan Leong, et al.
the sale took place more than 27 years after the issuance of the
original title; while in Francisco v. Certeza, Sr., one of the 2 lots was
sold more than 41 years after it was acquired. The right to
repurchase was upheld in both cases despite the fact that the
above lots were acquired under Act No. 296 which contained no
provision on the right of redemption. For the right of repurchase
was provided for only later, under Section 117 of Act No. 2874,
approved on Nov. 29, 1919, and incorporated in Com. Act No. 141
as Section 119.
However, We uphold petitioners' proposition that to allow the
repurchase of the subject land, under the peculiar circumstances

98

obtaining herein, would be repugnant to the philosophy behind


Section 119 of C.A. No. 141 and the jurisprudence laid down on
the matter.
The findings of fact of the trial court the then CFI Judge, Cecilia
Muoz Palma, later a member of this Court, presiding are clear
and duly supported by the evidence. We quote:
"Evidence has been adduced by the defendants that
this property of Sotero Marias has ceased to be in
the nature of a homestead, and that instead it has
been transformed into a growing commercial and
residential area. The vicinity of the property is now
a vast expanding business empire, the lands having
(been) converted into subdivisions which are sold
to the public at fantastic prices. Close to this
particular property of Sotero Marias the
subdivision being developed by a son of the
plaintiff who has extensive business interests
centered on construction of buildings such as the
Rizal Provincial Capitol and development of
subdivisions. (See Exhs. "1" to "1-G"). By plaintiff's
own admission on cross-examination he is 78 years
old and sick with a lung ailment; while from the
testimony of his son, Antonio Marias, it is shown
that the sons of plaintiff are all financially
independent from the latter and have their
respective properties and means of livelihood.
Under these circumstances it is evident that to
grant plaintiff the right to repurchase the property
at this time would be not for the purpose of giving
him back the land for his house and cultivation but
for him to exploit it for business purposes at the
expense of the defendants who are innocent
purchaser(s) in good faith and for value."
In Simeon vs. Pea We analyzed the various cases previously
decided, and arrived at the conclusion that the plain intent, the
raison d tre, of Section 119, C.A. No. 141 " . . .is to give the
homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself and
his family the land that the state had gratuitously given to him as
a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it." In the same
breath, We agreed with the trial court, in that case, that "it is in
this sense that the provision of law in question becomes
unqualified and unconditional. And in keeping with such reasons
behind the passage of the law, its basic objective is to promote
public policy, that is, to provide home and decent living for

99

destitutes, aimed at promoting a class of independent small


landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order."
As it was in Simeon v. Pea, respondent Marias' intention in
exercising the right of repurchase "is not for the purpose of
preserving the same within the family fold", but "to dispose of it
again for greater profit in violation of the law's policy and spirit."
The foregoing conclusions are supported by the trial court's
findings of fact already cited, culled from evidence adduced. Thus
respondent Marinas was 71 years old and a widower at the time
of the sale in 1956; that he was 78 when he testified on Oct. 24,
1963 (or over 94 years old today if still alive); that . . . he was not
living on the property when he sold the same but was residing in
the poblacion attending to a hardware store; and that the property
was no longer agricultural at the time of the sale, but was a
residential and commercial lot in the midst of many subdivisions.
The profit motivation behind the effort to repurchase was
conclusively shown when the then plaintiff's counsel, in the case
below, Atty. Loreto Castillo, in his presence, suggested to herein
petitioners' counsel, Atty. Rafael Dinglasan, " . . . to just add to the
original price so the case would be settled." Moreover, Atty.
Castillo manifested in court that an amicable settlement was
possible, for which reason he asked for time "within which to
settle the terms thereof" and that "the plaintiff . . . Mr. Marias, has
manifested to the Court that if the defendants would be willing to
pay the sum of One Peso and Fifty Centavos (P1.50) per square
meter, he would be willing to accept the offer and dismiss the
case."
Respondent Marias' admission is on record that the money with
which he would repurchase the property was not his but
belonged to his children one of whom is Felix Marias, owner of
Cristimar Subdivision. Furthermore, the trial court found that
Marias' ones "are all financially independent from the latter and
have their respective properties and means of livelihood."
The respondent Court of Appeals anchors respondent-appellee
Marias' right of repurchase on "old age and tuberculosis having
caught up with appellant, and the land in question being his only
property." Allowing the repurchase would, thus, "help tide over
the needs of his remaining days." according to respondent court.
It could be true that the land in question is the only land owned
by respondent-appellee. But this is not the determinant factor in
allowing the repurchase of land acquired through homestead or
free patent. The doctrine in Simeon v. Pea, supra, is explicit that
what is "unqualified and unconditional" is the right of the

100

homesteader or patentee to preserve the land "for himself and his


family. We can, therefore, properly inquire into the motives
behind the repurchase and convinced as We are in the instant
case, that the intention is not so, but to exploit it for business
purposes or greater profit, We can deny the repurchase. To
sustain respondent-appellee's claim under the circumstances
would put a premium on speculation contrary to the philosophy
behind Sec. 119 of Com. Act No. 141, otherwise known as the
Public Land Law. Thus, this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice
J.B.L. Reyes, held in Santander, et al. v. Villanueva that the law
discourages homesteaders from taking advantage of the "salutary
policy behind the Public Land Law to enable them to recover the
land in question from (vendees) only to dispose of it again at
much greater profit to themselves."
xxx

xxx

xxx

ACCORDINGLY, the Court of Appeals decision appealed from, directing


the reconveyance of the subject homestead lot to respondent Sotero
Marias is hereby REVERSED, without special pronouncement as to
costs.
SO ORDERED.
Barredo (Chairman), Antonio, Aquino, Concepcion Jr. and Abad Santos,
JJ., concur.
2. Sale
Qualification and purchase
Under Section 22 of the Public Land Act, the following are allowed to acquire, by
purchase, agricultural lands of the public domain:
(a) Any citizen of the Philippines over the age of eighteen (18) years, or any such
citizen not of lawful age who is the head of a family
(b) Any corporation or association of which at least sixty (60) percentum of the
capital stock or of any interest in said capital stock belowing wholly to citizens of
the Philippines.
Section 22 further provides that individuals may purchase a tract of land not to exceed
one hundred forty-four (144) hectares while Filipino corporations and associations may
acquire no more than one thousad twenty-four (1024) hectares. However, Section 22
should be read in line with the requirements of the 1987 Constitution, which only allows
ownership of alienable lands of the public domain to Filipino citizens, and only up to an
extent of twelve (12) hectares in size.

101

To therefore be entitled to a sales patent under the Public Land Act, the applicant should
satisfy the following specific requirements:
(a) He should be a citizen of the Philippines over the age of eighteen (18) years, or
any such citizen not of lawful age who is the head of a family;
(b) He should submit an application form with the Director of Lands seeking to
purchase the subject land;
(c) He must participate in a bidding process to be conducted by the Director of
Lands, which must take place no earlier than sixty (60) days from the completion
of the publication of the notice of sale once a week for six consecutive weeks in
the Official Gazette, two (2) newspaper of general circulation, one in Manila and
the other in the province or municipality where the land is located, or in a
neighboring province.
(The same notice is also required to be posted on the bulletin board of the Bureau
of Lands in Manila and the municipal building of the province and municipality,
respectively, where the land is located, and if practicable, on the land itself.)
(d) He must submit, together with all other persons seeking to bid for the land, sealed
bids, enclosing therewith an amount equivalent to ten percentum (10%) of the
amount of the bid. The highest bidder shall be awarded the land.
If there are two or more equal bids which are higher than the others, and one of
such equal bids is the bid of the applicant, the applicants bid shall be accepted.
If, however, the bid of the applicant is not one of such equal and higher bids, the
Director of Lands shall at once submit the land for public bidding, and to the
person making the highest bid on such public auction the land shall be awarded.
In any case, the applicant shall always have the option of raising his bid equal to
that of the highest bidder, and in this case, the land shall be awarded to him.
(e) Once awarded, the purchaser must pay the purchase price for the land either: (1)
in full or (2) in ten equal annual installments from the date of the award;
(f) The purchaser must prove actual occupancy, cultivation and improvements of
not less than one-fifth (1/5) of the land within five (5) years from the date of the
award, and
(g) The purchaser has not previously purchased more than twelve (12) hectares of
public land in the Philippines83
The Public Land Act authorizes only one purchase of the maximum amount of
land by an individual. However, any such purchaser of public land, after having
83

102

Section 32 of the Public Land Act.

made the last payment upon and cultivated at least one-fifth (1/5) of the land
purchased, if the same shall be less than the maximum 12 hectares allowed by
the Constitution, may purchase successively additional agricultural public land
adjacent to or not distant from the land first purchased, until the total area of
such purchase shall reach 12 hectares, provided that the required bidding
requirements shall have also been satisfied.
It should be noted that Republic Act No. 730, which took effect on 18 June 1952, permits
the sale without public auction of public lands for residential purposes to any Filipino
citizen of legal age who is not the owner of a home lot in the municipality in which he
resides and who has, in good faith, established his residence on such parcel of land
which is not needed for public service. The area of the grant should not exceed 1,000
square meters, and should be sold at a price to be fixed by the Director of Lands with the
approval of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. The law further
makes it an essential condition that the occupant has constructed his house on the land
and actually resided therein. Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 2004, lands acquired
pursuant to Republic Act No. 730 are not subject to any restrictions against encumbrance
or alienation before and after the issuance of the patents thereon.
Cancellation of purchase
If at any time after the date of the award and before the issuance of the patent, it is
proved to the satisfaction of the Director of Lands, after due notice to the purchaser, that
the purchaser has voluntarilyi abandoned the land for more than one (1) year at any
time, or has otherwise failed to comply with the requirements of the law, then the land
shall revert to the State, and all prior payments made by the purchaser and all
improvements existing on the land shall be forfeited.84
Special limitation on the rights of the grantee of a sales patent
In addition to the foregoing obligations, the grantee is also not permitted to convey or
encumber any of his rights over the land to any person, corporation, or association
without the approval of the Secretary of Environment and National Resources, and
provided that such conveyance or encumbrance does not affect any right or interest of
the government in the land. This limitation shall subsist for a period of ten (10) years
from the title is granted to the patentee.85 Notably, any sale or encumbrance made in
violation of the provisions of this section shall be null and void, and shall procedure the
effect of annulling the acquisition and reverting the property and all rights thereto to the
State, and all payments on the purchase price made to the government shall be
forfeited.86
3. Lease

84
85
86

Section 30 of the Public Land Act.


Section 29, Public Land Act.
Section 29, Id.

103

Strictly speaking, lease is not a mode of acquiring ownership of lands of the public
domain. Ownership remains vested in the State, but by virtue of the grant, qualified
holders are allowed legal possession over the land for such period of time and under
such conditions as set forth in the lease title.
Qualification and application
Under Section 33 of the Public Land Act, any Filipino citizen of lawful age, or any
corporation or association of which 60% of the capital stock or of any interest in said
capital stock belongs wholly to Filipinos may lease land of the public domain of an area
not exceeding 1024 hectares, or, if to be devoted to grazing land, not to exceed two
thousand (2000) hectares. Again, the area provided by law should be read in connection
with the 1987 Constitution, which allows the lease of lands of the public domain to an
area not to exceed one thousand (1,000) hectares for private Filipino corporations, and
five hundred (500) hectares for Filipino citizens.87
Thus, in order to lease lands of the public domain under the Public Land Act, the
applicant should satisfy the following specific requirements:
(a) He must be a Filipino citizen of lawful age, or a Filipino corporation;
(b) He should submit an application form with the Director of Lands seeking to lease
the subject land;
(c) He must participate in a bidding process to be conducted by the Director of
Lands, which must take place no earlier than sixty (60) days from the completion
of the publication of the notice of lease once a week for six consecutive weeks in
the Official Gazette, two (2) newspaper of general circulation, one in Manila and
the other in the province or municipality where the land is located, or in a
neighboring province.88
(The same notice is also required to be posted on the bulletin board of the Bureau
of Lands in Manila and the municipal building of the province and municipality,
respectively, where the land is located, and if practicable, on the land itself.)
(d) He must submit, together with all other persons seeking to bid for the land, sealed
bids, enclosing therewith, by cash, certified check, Treasury warrant, or postoffice money order payable to the order of the Director of Lands, a sum
equivalent to the rental for at least the first three months of the lease. No bid
shall be considered in which the proposed annual rental is less than three percent
(3%) of the value of the land according to the appraisal made of the land.

87
88

104

Art. XII, Sec. 3, 1987 Phil. Const.


Section 34 of the Public Land Act provides that the auction for the lease of public lands shall
follow the procedure set by law for the sale of lands of the public domain.

The highest bidder shall be awarded the land. If there are two or more equal
bids which are higher than the others, and one of such equal bids is the bid of the
applicant, the applicants bid shall be accepted. If, however, the bid of the
applicant is not one of such equal and higher bids, the Director of Lands shall at
once submit the land for public bidding, and to the person making the highest
bid on such public auction the lease of the land shall be awarded. In any case,
the applicant shall always have the option of raising his bid equal to that of the
highest bidder, and in this case, the lease of the land shall be awarded to him.
(e) Once awarded, the lessee must cultivate at least one-third (1/3) of the land
within five (5) years after the date of the approval of the lease. However, if the
land leased is to be devoted to grazing, it shall be sufficient compliance with this
condition if the lessee shall graze on the land as many heads of cattle as will
occupy at least one-half (1/2) of the entire area at the rate of one head per
hectare.89
Lease term
In conformity with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, the Public Land Act provides
that lease of the land shall run for a period of not more than twenty-five (25) years, but
may be renewed once for another period of not to exceed twenty-five (25) years, in case
the lessee shall have made important improvements which, in the discretion of the
Secretary of Environmental and Natural Resources justify a renewal.90
Rental amount
The Public Land Act fixes the annual rental of the land to be leased at no less than three
percent (3%) of the value of the land, with the exception of leases covering grazing land,
the rental amount shall not be less than two percent (2%) of the lands appraised value.91
For this purpose, every contract of lease shall contain a cause to the effect that allows the
government to conduct an appraisal of the land leased every ten years from the date of
the approval of the lease. Should the lessee not be agreeable to the reappraisal and
prefers to give up his contract of lease, he shall notify the Director of Lands of his desire
within the six months next preceding the date on which the reappraisal takes effect, and
in case his request is approved, the Director of Lands may, if the lessee should so
desire,92 be reimbursed for the improvements and crops on the land, after deducting the
total amount of any indebtedness to the Government and the expense incurred by it in
the transfer of the improvements or crops and in the new concession of the land.93

89
90
91
92
93

Section 39 of the Public Land Act.


Section 38 of the Public Land Act.
Section 37 of the Public Land Act.
Ibid.
Section 100 of the Public Land Act provides: In case the cancellation is due to delinquency
on the part of the applicant or grantee, the same shall be entitled to the reimbursement of the
proceeds of the sale of the improvements and crops, after deducting the total amount of his

105

Application for additional leases


As a rule, an applicant for the lease of lands of the public domain may only be granted a
single lease, and those previously granted a lease concession can no longer apply to
lease additional land of the public domain. However, by way of exception, a grantee
who has (a) paid rent for at least the first two (2) years of the lease, (b) cultivated at least
one-third (1/3) of the land by the end of the second year of the lease term and (c) leases
an area less than the maximum area allowed by law and the Constitution may lease
additional land adjacent to or near the land originally leased in an amount to complete
the area allowed. All conditions required of the original lease shall be similarly
applicable to all successive leases applied for by qualified lessees.94
Additional restrictions on use, disposition and encumbrance
The lease of any lands may not remove or dispose of any valuable timber except as
provided in the regulations of the Bureau of Forestry for cutting timber upon such lands.
Neither may lessees remove or dispose of stone, oil, coal, salts or other minerals, or
medicinal mineral waters existing upon the same. Any violation of the forestry
regulations by the lessee shall result in the forfeiture of his last payment of rent and
render him liable to immediate dispossession and suit for damage.95
Furthermore, the lessee is not allowed to assign, encumber, or sublet his rights to the
leased land without the consent of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.
Any violation of this condition shall render such assignment, encumbrance or sublease
void.96
Effects of expiration of lease term
Upon the expiration of the lease, all buildings and other permanent improvements made
by the lessee, his heirs, executors, administrators, successors, or assigns shall become the
property of the Government, and the land together with the said improvements shall be
disposed of in accordance with law.97
During the life of the lease, however, any lessee who shall have complied with all the
conditions required for the lease of lands oft the public domain and shall be qualified as
a grantee of a sales patent, shall have the option of purchasing the land leased.98
4. Confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title

94
95
96
97
98

106

indebtedness to the Government and the expense incurred by it in the sale of the
improvements or crops and in the new concession of the land.
Section 42 of the Public Land Act.
Section 41 of the Public Land Act.
Section 40 of the Public Land Act.
Section 38 of the Public Land Act.
Section 43 of the Public Land Act.

As a rule, no title or right to, or equity in, any lands of the public domain may be
acquired by prescription or by adverse possession or occupany.99 However, the Public
Land Act recognizes that persons already in possession of alienable lands of the public
domain may be constituted owners of the said parcels of land by the mere passage of
time or failure to obtain title through no fault of their own. This recognition is made
through what is known as confirmation of imperfect title, which may be done (a)
through administrative confirmation via the issuance of a free patent, or (b) by judicial
confirmation.
Thus, similar to the grant of a homestead or sales patent, when an applicant conforms to
all the requisites for confirmation, he obtains the right to a grant without the necessity of
a certificate of title being issued. His right is thereby considered a vested right, and
application for confirmation becomes a mere formality. As a consequence, the land
ceases to be of the public domain, and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to
dispose of. The lack of a certificate of title does not affect the legal sufficiency of his
right of ownership as would be evidenced by a patent.100
SUSI VS. RAZON, ET AL.
48 Phil. 424 [1925]
VILLA-REAL, J p:
This action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga
by a complaint filed by Valentin Susi against Angela Razon and the
Director of Lands, praying for judgment: (a) Declaring plaintiff the sole
and absolute owner of the parcel of land described in the second
paragraph of the complaint; (b) annulling the sale made by the Director of
Lands in favor of Angela Razon, on the ground that the land is a private
property; (c) ordering the cancellation of the certificate of title issued to
said Angela Razon; and (d) sentencing the latter to pay plaintiff the sum
of P500 as damages, with the costs.
For his answer to the complaint, the Director of Lands denied each and
every allegation contained therein and, as special defense, alleged that the
land in question was a property of the Government of the United States
under the administration and control of that of the Philippine Islands
before its sale to Angela Razon, which was made in accordance with law.
After trial, whereat evidence was introduced by both parties, the Court of
First Instance of Pampanga rendered judgment declaring the plaintiff
entitled to the possession of the land, annulling the sale made by the
Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, and ordering the cancellation
of the certificate of title issued to her, with the costs against Angela
Razon. From this judgment the Director of Lands took this appeal,
99
100

Section 57, Public Land Act.


Herico v. DAR, 95 SCRA 437 (1980).

107

assigning thereto the following errors, to wit: (1) The holding that the
judgment rendered in a prior case between the plaintiff and defendant
Angela Razon on the parcel of land in question is controlling in this
action; (2) the holding that plaintiff is entitled to recover the possession of
said parcel of land; the annulment of the sale made by the Director of
Lands to Angela Razon; and the ordering that the certificate of title issued
by the register of deeds of the Province of Pampanga to Angela Razon by
virtue of said sale be cancelled; and (3) the denial of the motion for new
trial filed by the Director of Lands.
The evidence shows that on December 18, 1880, Nemesio Pinlac sold the
land in question, then a fish pond, to Apolonio Garcia and Basilio
Mendoza for the sum of P12, reserving the right to repurchase the same
(Exhibit B). After having been in possession thereof for about eight years,
and the fish pond having been destroyed, Apolonio Garcia and Basilio
Mendoza, on September 5, 1899, sold it to Valentin Susi for the sum of
P12, reserving the right to repurchase it (Exhibit A). Before the execution
of the deed of sale, Valentin Susi had already paid its price and sown
"bacawan" on said land, availing himself of the firewood gathered
thereon, with the proceeds of the sale of which he had paid the price of
the property. The possession and occupation of the land in question, first,
by Apolonio Garcia and Basilio Mendoza, and then by Valentin Susi has
been open, continuous, adverse and public, without any interruption,
except during the revolution, or disturbance, except when Angela Razon,
on September 13, 1913, commenced an action in the Court of First
Instance of Pampanga to recover the possession of said land (Exhibit C),
wherein after considering the evidence introduced at the trial, the court
rendered judgment in favor of Valentin Susi and against Angela Razon,
dismissing the complaint (Exhibit E). Having failed in her attempt to
obtain possession of the land in question through the court, Angela
Razon applied to the Director of Lands for the purchase thereof on
August 15, 1914 (Exhibit C). Having learned of said application, Valentin
Susi filed an opposition thereto on December 6, 1915, asserting his
possession of the land for twenty-five years (Exhibit P). After making the
proper administrative investigation, the Director of Lands overruled the
opposition of Valentin Susi and sold the land to Angela Razon (Exhibit S).
By virtue of said grant the register of deeds of Pampanga, on August 31,
1921, issued the proper certificate of title to Angela Razon. Armed with
said document, Angela Razon required Valentin Susi to vacate the land in
question, and as he refused to do so, she brought an action for forcible
entry and detainer in the justice of the peace court of Guagua, Pampanga,
which was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, the case being one of title to
real property (Exhibits F and M). Valentin Susi then brought this action.
With these facts in view, we shall proceed to consider the questions
raised by the appellant in his assignments of error.

108

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

109

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

Street,

Villamor, Ostrand,

Johns

and

Johnson, J., did not take part.


ABEJARON VS. NABASA, ET AL.
359 SCRA 47, 20 June 2001
PUNO, J p:
With the burgeoning population comes a heightened interest in the
limited land resources especially so if, as in the case at bar, one's home of
many years stands on the land in dispute. It comes as no surprise
therefore that while this case involves a small parcel of land, a 118-square
meter portion of Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953 in Silway, General Santos
City, the parties have tenaciously litigated over it for more than twenty
years.
Petitioner Abejaron filed this petition for review on certiorari to annul the
respondent court's Decision dated April 26, 1988 and Resolution dated
July 12, 1988 reversing the trial court's decision and declaring respondent
Nabasa the owner of the subject lot.
The following facts spurred the present controversy:
Petitioner Abejaron avers that he is the actual and lawful possessor and
claimant of a 118-square meter portion of a 175-square meter residential
lot in Silway, General Santos City described as "Block 5, Lot 1, Psu154953, bounded on the North by Road, on the South by Lot 2 of the same
Psu, on the East by Felix Nabasa, and on the West by Road." In 1945,
petitioner Abejaron and his family started occupying the 118-square
meter land. At that time, the land had not yet been surveyed. They fenced
the area and built thereon a family home with nipa roofing and a small
store. In 1949, petitioner improved their abode to become a two-storey
house measuring 16 x 18 feet or 87.78 square meters made of round wood
and nipa roofing. This house, which stands to this day, occupies a portion
of Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953 and a portion of the adjoining Lot 2 of the
same Psu. Lot 2 belongs to petitioner's daughter, Conchita AbejaronAbellon. In 1950, the small store was destroyed and in its stead, petitioner
Abejaron built another store which stands up to the present. In 1951, he
planted five coconut trees on the property in controversy. Petitioner's
wife, Matilde Abejaron, harvested coconuts from these trees. 3 Petitioner
Abejaron also planted banana and avocado trees. He also put up a pitcher

110

pump. 4 All this time that the Abejarons introduced these improvements
on the land in controversy, respondent Nabasa did not oppose or
complain about the improvements.
Knowing that the disputed land was public in character, petitioner
declared only his house, and not the disputed land, for taxation purposes
in 1950, 1966, 1976, and 1978. The last two declarations state that
petitioner Abejaron's house stands on Lots 1 and 2, Block 5, Psu 154953.
Abejaron paid taxes on the house in 1955, 1966, and 1981.
Petitioner stated that beginning 1955, respondent Nabasa resided on the
remaining 57-square meter portion of Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953. 8
Nabasa built his house about four (4) meters away from petitioner
Abejaron's house. Beatriz Gusila, a neighbor of the Abejarons and the
Nabasas confirmed that when she arrived in Silway in 1949, Nabasa was
not yet residing there while Abejaron was already living in their house
which stands to this day.
Before 1974, employees of the Bureau of Lands surveyed the area in
controversy. Abejaron merely watched them do the survey and did not
thereafter apply for title of the land on the belief that he could not secure
title over it as it was government property. Without his (Abejaron)
knowledge and consent, however, Nabasa "clandestinely, willfully,
fraudulently, and unlawfully applied for and caused the titling in his
name" of the entire Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953, including petitioner
Abejaron's 118-square meter portion. Petitioner imputes bad faith and
fraud on the part of Nabasa because in applying for and causing the
titling in his name of Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953, Nabasa represented
himself to be the actual and lawful possessor of the entire Lot 1, Block 5,
including petitioner Abejaron's 118-square meter portion despite
knowledge of Abejaron's actual occupation and possession of said
portion.
On September 24, 1974, Nabasa was issued Original Certificate of Title
No. P-4140 pursuant to Free Patent No. (XI-4) 2877 covering Lot 1, Block
5, Psu-154953. As the title included petitioner Abejaron's 118-square
meter portion of the lot, his son, Alejandro Abejaron, representing
Matilde Abejaron (petitioner Abejaron's wife), filed a protest with the
Bureau of Lands, Koronadal, South Cotabato against Nabasa's title and
application. The protest was dismissed on November 22, 1979 for failure
of Matilde and Alejandro to attend the hearings. Alejandro claims,
however, that they did not receive notices of the hearings. Alejandro filed
a motion for reconsideration dated January 10, 1980. Alejandro also filed
a notice of adverse claim on January 14, 1980. Subsequently, he requested
the Bureau of Lands to treat the motion as an appeal considering that it
was filed within the 60-day reglementary period. The motion for
reconsideration was endorsed and forwarded by the District Land Office

111

XI-3 of the Bureau of Lands in Koronadal, Cotabato to the Director of


Lands in Manila on November 24, 1981. But because the appeal had not
been resolved for a prolonged period for unknown reasons, petitioner
Abejaron filed on March 12, 1982 an action for reconveyance with
damages against respondent Nabasa before Branch 22, Regional Trial
Court of General Santos City. 15 On May 10, 1982, petitioner filed a notice
of lis pendens.
Abner Lagsub, geodetic engineer, testified for the petitioner. Lagsub
stated that on March 30, 1980, Alejandro Abejaron hired him to relocate
Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953, the land in controversy. He surveyed the lot
measuring 175 square meters. Fifty-seven (57) square meters of Lot 1 and
a portion of the adjoining Lot 3 were occupied by Nabasa's house. This
portion was fenced partly by hollow blocks and partly by bamboo. On the
remaining 118 square meters stood a portion of petitioner Abejaron's
house and two coconut trees near it, and his store. Abejaron's 118-square
meter portion was separated from Nabasa's 57-square meter part by
Abejaron's fence made of hollow blocks. Both Nabasa's and Abejaron's
houses appeared more than twenty years old while the coconut trees
appeared about 25 years old.
Back in 1971, Lagsub conducted a subdivision survey on Psu-154953. He
was then hired by the Silway Neighborhood Association to conduct the
survey for purposes of allocating lots to the members of the association,
among whom were respondent Nabasa and petitioner Abejaron. When
the 1971 survey was conducted, both the Abejarons and Nabasa were
already occupying their respective 118 and 57 square meter portions of
Lot 1, Block 5. Nabasa and Matilde Abejaron, representative of petitioner,
were present during the survey.
Respondent Nabasa had a different story to tell. He contends that he had
been residing on a 12 x 15 meter or 180-square meter public land in
Silway, General Santos City since 1945. He admits that petitioner
Abejaron was already residing in Silway when he arrived there. Nabasa
constructed a house which stands to this day and planted five coconut
trees on this 180-square meter land, but only two of the trees survived.
Nabasa never harvested coconuts from these trees as petitioner Abejaron
claims to own them and harvests the coconuts. In many parts of
respondent Nabasa's testimony, however, he declared that he started
occupying the 180-square meter area in 1976.
Nabasa avers that previously, he and petitioner Abejaron were in
possession of portions of Lot 2, Psu-154953. This lot was subsequently
surveyed and divided into smaller lots with the area of petitioner
Abejaron designated as Lot 2, Block 5, Psu-154953 measuring one
hundred eighty (180) square meters, while his was designated as Lot 1,

112

Block 5, Psu-154953 with an area of one hundred seventy five (175) square
meters.
Instead of applying for free patent over his Lot 2, petitioner Abejaron
gave this lot to his daughter Conchita Abejaron-Abellon and allowed her
to file the application with the District Land Office XI-4, Bureau of Lands,
Koronadal, South Cotabato. Conchita secured Free Patent No. (XI-4)-3293
over Lot 2. Pursuant to this, she was issued Original Certificate of Title
No. P-4420. On April 27, 1981, Conchita's title was transcribed in the
Registration Book of General Santos City.
Respondent Nabasa, on the other hand, filed an application for Free
Patent over Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953 with the District Land Office No.
XI-4, Bureau of Lands, Koronadal, South Cotabato. While the application
was pending, petitioner Abejaron forcibly encroached upon the northern
and southwestern portion of Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-159543. Abejaron fenced
the disputed 118-square meter portion of Lot 1 and despite Nabasa's
opposition, constructed a store near the road. Petitioner Abejaron then
transferred his old house constructed on Lot 2, Block 5, Psu-154953 to a
portion of the disputed 118-square meter area. Petitioner's daughter,
Conchita, patentee and title holder of Lot 2, constructed her own house in
Lot 2.
Free Patent No. (XI-4)-2877, covering Lot 1, Block 5, was issued to
respondent Nabasa on September 24, 1974. But before the patent could be
transcribed on the Registration Book of the Registrar of Deeds of General
Santos City, the District Land Officer of District Land Office No. XI-4
recalled it for investigation of an administrative protest filed by the
petitioner. The protest was given due course, but petitioner Abejaron or
his representative failed to appear in the hearings despite notice.
On November 22, 1979, the administrative protest was dismissed by the
District Land Officer for failure of petitioner Abejaron or his
representative to appear in the hearings despite notice. Respondent
Nabasa's Free Patent No. (XI-4)-2877 was then re-transmitted by the
District Land Officer of District Land Office XI-4 to the Register of Deeds,
General Santos City, and the same was transcribed in the Registration
Book of the Registry of Property of General Santos City on December 13,
1979. Original Certificate of Title No. P-4140, covering Lot 1, Block 2, Psu154953, was issued to respondent Nabasa.
On March 12, 1982, petitioner Abejaron filed against respondent Nabasa
an action for reconveyance with damages seeking reconveyance of his
118-square meter portion of Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953.
xxx

xxx

xxx

113

On September 27, 1985, after trial on the merits, the trial court ruled in
favor of petitioner Abejaron, viz:
"WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, this court hereby
renders judgment as follows:
1.

Declaring the possession and occupancy of Pacencio Abejaron


over 118 square meters of Lot No. 1, Block 5, Psu-154953 in good
faith and thereby declaring the inclusion of 118 square meters of
said lot in OCT No. P-4140 erroneous and a mistake, and for
which, defendant Felix Nabasa is hereby ordered to reconvey and
execute a registerable document in favor of plaintiff Pacencio
Abejaron, Filipino, married and a resident of Silway, General
Santos City, his heirs, successors and assigns over an area of one
hundred eighteen (118) square meters of Lot No. 1, Block 5, Psu154953, situated at Silway, General Santos City, on the Western
portion of said lot as shown in the sketch plan, Exhibit "R", and
the remaining portion of 57 square meters of said lot to be
retained by defendant Felix Nabasa;

2.

Should Felix Nabasa fails (sic) to do so, upon the finality of this
judgment, the Clerk of Court shall executed (sic) it in the name of
Felix Nabasa, widower, and will have the same effect as if
executed by the latter and the Register of Deeds, General Santos
City, is hereby directed to issue New Transfer Certificate of Title
to Alejandro Abejaron over 118 square meters of Lot No. 1, Block
5, Psu-154953, and New Transfer Certificate of Title over 57 square
meters of same Lot No. 1, Block 5, Psu-154953, in favor of Felix
Nabasa, and ultimately to have OCT No. P-4140 of Felix Nabasa
cancelled accordingly."

Respondent Nabasa's motion for reconsideration having been denied, he


appealed to the Court of Appeals. On April 26, 1988, the Court of Appeals
rendered a decision in favor of respondent Nabasa, viz:
xxx

xxx

xxx

We affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.


An action for reconveyance of a property is the sole remedy of a
landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously
registered in another's name after one year from the date of the decree so
long as the property has not passed to an innocent purchaser for value.
The action does not seek to reopen the registration proceeding and set
aside the decree of registration but only purports to show that the person
who secured the registration of the property in controversy is not the real

114

owner thereof. Fraud is a ground for reconveyance. For an action for


reconveyance based on fraud to prosper, it is essential for the party
seeking reconveyance to prove by clear and convincing evidence his title
to the property and the fact of fraud.
Petitioner Abejaron does not claim to own Lot 1, Block 5, Psu-154953. He
in fact admits that he believed the land in dispute was public in character,
thus he did not declare it for taxation purposes despite possession of it for
a long time. Neither did he apply for title over it on the mistaken belief
that he could not apply for title of a public land. In his Complaint, he
stated that respondent Nabasa's fraudulent procurement of Free Patent
No. (XI-4)-2877 and OCT No. P-4140 over the disputed land deprived him
not of ownership, but of his "right to file the necessary application
thereon with the authorities concerned" as long-time possessor of the
land.
Nonetheless, petitioner contends that an action for reconveyance is
proper, viz:
". . . for an action of reconveyance of a parcel of land to
prosper, it is not necessary that the proponent be the
absolute owner thereof. It is enough that the proponent
has an equitable right thereon. In the case at bar, the
plaintiff had been in lawful, open, continuous and
notorious possession, occupation and control in the
concept of an owner of a greater portion of the subject lot
since 1945 and have (sic) thereby acquired an equitable
right thereon protected by law. Possession of public lands
once occupation of the same is proven, as the herein
plaintiff did, under claim of ownership constitutes a grant
from the state (Republic vs. Vera, 120 SCRA 210). A portion
of the public land ceased to be public as soon as its
claimant had performed all the conditions essential to a
grant (Republic vs. Villanueva, 114 SCRA. 875)."
Petitioner's contention, buttressed by the Vera case and Chief Justice
Teehankee's dissent in the Villanueva case, is similar to the position taken
by the plaintiff in Mesina v. Vda. de Sonza, et al. In that case, plaintiff filed
in the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija an action for cancellation of
the original certificate of title procured by the defendant by virtue of a
homestead patent. The title covered a public land which she claimed to
own through public, open, and peaceful possession for more than thirty
years. The law applicable in that case, which petitioner Abejaron
apparently relies on in the case at bar, is Sec. 48(b) of Commonwealth Act
141 or the Public Land Act, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942, which
took effect on June 22, 1957, viz:

115

"SECTION 48. The following-described citizens of the


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

xxx

xxx

Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in


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

Citing Susi v. Razon, the Court interpreted this law, viz:


". . . where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the
Government are complied with through actual physical
possession openly, continuously, and publicly with a right
to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of
Chapter VIII of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926
(carried over as Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act No.
141), the possessor is deemed to have already acquired by
operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of
the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of
title be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned
by the courts an application therefor being sufficient
under the provisions of Section 47 of Act No. 2874
(reproduced as Section 50, Commonwealth Act No. 141). If
by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in
question by grant of the State, it had already ceased to be
of the public domain and had become private property, at
least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control
of the Director of Lands. (Italics supplied)"

116

The Mesina and Susi cases were cited in Herico v. Dar, another action for
cancellation of title issued pursuant to a free patent. Again, the Court
ruled that under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by
Rep. Act No. 1942, with the plaintiff's proof of occupation and cultivation
for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessor-ininterest, title over the land had vested in him as to segregate the land
from the mass of public land. Thenceforth, the land was no longer
disposable under the Public Land Act by free patent. The Court held, viz:
"As interpreted in several cases (Susi v. Razon, et al., 48
Phil. 424; Mesina v. Pineda Vda. de Sonza, G.R. No. L-14722,
May 25, 1960) when the conditions as specified in the
foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is
deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a
grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a
certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases
to be of public domain, and beyond the authority of the
Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for
confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does
not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be
evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued
upon the strength of said patent."
In citing Republic v. Villanueva, et al., petitioner Abejaron relied on the
dissenting opinion of Chief Justice Teehankee. However, the en banc
majority opinion in that case and in Manila Electric Company v. Bartolome,
departed from the doctrines enunciated in the Susi, Mesina, and Herico
cases. Citing Uy Un v. Perez, the Court ruled that "the right of an occupant
of public agricultural land to obtain a confirmation of his title under Sec.
48(b) of Com. Act. No. 141, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, is 'derecho
dominical incoativo' and that before the issuance of the certificate of title
the occupant is not in the juridical sense the true owner of the land since
it still pertains to the State."
The Court pointed out that the Villanueva and Meralco cases are different
from the oft-cited Susi case as the latter involved a parcel of land
possessed by a Filipino citizen since time immemorial, while the land in
dispute in the Villanueva and Meralco cases were sought to be titled by
virtue of Sec. 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. In explaining the
nature of land possessed since time immemorial, the Court quoted Oh Cho
v. Director of Lands, viz:
"All lands that were not acquired from the Government,
either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public
domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that
should have been in the possession of an occupant and of
his predecessors-in-interest since time immemorial, for

117

such possession would justify the presumption that the


land had never been part of the public domain or that it
had been a private property even before the Spanish
conquest."
In 1986, however, in Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al.,
this Court en banc recognized the strong dissent registered by Chief
Justice Teehankee in the Villanueva case and abandoned the Villanueva
and Meralco ruling to revert to the Susi doctrine. Reiterating the Susi and
Herico cases, the Court ruled:
"Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical
inevitability of considering possession of public land
which is of character and duration prescribed by statute as
the equivalent of express grant from the State than the
dictum of the statute itself [Sec. 48(b)] that the possessor(s)
'. . . shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall
be entitled to a certificate of title . . . .' No proof being
admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption,
confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more
than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining
whether the possession claimed is of the required character
and length of time; and registration thereunder would not
confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The
proceedings would not originally convert the land from
public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion
already effected by operation of law from the moment the
required period of possession became complete." (Italics
supplied)
This is the prevailing rule as reiterated in the more recent case of Rural
Bank of Compostela v. Court of Appeals, a ponencia of now Chief Justice
Davide, Jr., viz:
"The rule under the latter (Section 48[b] of the Public Land
Act, as amended by R.A. No. 1942), is that when the
conditions specified therein are complied with, the
possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law,
a right to a government grant, without necessity of a
certificate of title being issued, and the land ceases to be
part of the public domain and beyond the authority of the
Director of Lands."
The question brought to the fore, therefore, is whether or not petitioner
Abejaron has satisfied the conditions specified in Sec. 48(b) of the Public
Land Act, as amended by R.A. No. 1942. Sec. 48(b) has been further

118

amended by P.D. No. 1073 which took effect on January 25, 1977. Sec. 4 of
the P.D. reads as follows:
"SECTION 4. The provision of Section 48(b) and Section
48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act, are hereby
amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply
only to alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant
himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945."
Sec. 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as further amended by P.D. No. 1073,
now reads:
"(b)
Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide
claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945, or
earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application
for confirmation of title, except when prevented by wars or
force majeure. Those shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of
title under the provisions of this chapter." (Italics ours)
However, as petitioner Abejaron's 30-year period of possession and
occupation required by the Public Land Act, as amended by R.A. 1942 ran
from 1945 to 1975, prior to the effectivity of P.D. No. 1073 in 1977, the
requirement of said P.D. that occupation and possession should have
started on June 12, 1945 or earlier, does not apply to him. As the Susi
doctrine holds that the grant of title by virtue of Sec. 48(b) takes place by
operation of law, then upon Abejaron's satisfaction of the requirements of
this law, he would have already gained title over the disputed land in
1975. This follows the doctrine laid down in Director of Lands v.
Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., that the law cannot impair vested rights
such as a land grant. More clearly stated, "Filipino citizens who by
themselves or their predecessors-in-interest have been, prior to the
effectivity of P.D. 1073 on January 25, 1977, in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at
least 30 years, or at least since January 24, 1947" may apply for judicial
confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title under Sec. 48(b) of the
Public Land Act.

119

Having laid down the law applicable to the case at bar, i.e., Sec. 48(b) of
the Public Land Act, as amended by R.A. 1942, we now determine
whether or not petitioner has acquired title over the disputed land. In
doing so, it is necessary for this Court to wade through the evidence on
record to ascertain whether petitioner has been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the 118-square
meter disputed land for 30 years at least since January 24, 1947. It is
axiomatic that findings of fact by the trial court and the Court of Appeals
are final and conclusive on the parties and upon this Court, which will
not be reviewed or disturbed on appeal unless these findings are not
supported by evidence or unless strong and cogent reasons dictate
otherwise. One instance when findings of fact of the appellate court may
be reviewed by this Court is when, as in the case at bar, the factual
findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are contradictory.
Petitioner claims that he started occupying the disputed land in 1945. At
that time, he built a nipa house, a small store, and a fence made of wood
to delineate his area. This nipa house was improved in 1949 into a twostorey house. The small store was also made bigger in 1950. The wooden
fence was also changed to a fence made of hollow blocks. The two-storey
house, bigger store, and hollow-block fence all stand to this day. In 1951,
petitioner planted coconut trees near his house. While the petitioner has
shown continued existence of these improvements on the disputed land,
they were introduced later than January 24, 1947. He has failed to
establish the portion of the disputed land that his original nipa house,
small store and wooden fence actually occupied as of January 24, 1947. In
the absence of this proof, we cannot determine the land he actually
possessed and occupied for thirty years which he may acquire under Sec.
48(b) of the Public Land Act. Worthy of notice is the fact that the disputed
land was surveyed, subdivided into and identified by lots only in the
1970's. Therefore, prior to the survey, it would be difficult to determine
the metes and bounds of the land petitioner claims to have occupied since
1947 in the absence of specific and incontrovertible proof.
The neighbors presented by the petitioner, namely Alejandra Doria,
Pacencia Artigo, and Beatriz Gusila, could not also further his cause as
both Doria and Artigo stated that they started residing in Silway in 1947,
without specifying whether it was on or prior to January 24, 1947, while
Gusila arrived in the neighborhood in 1949. While Doria testified that
there was a fence between Abejaron's and Nabasa's houses in 1947, she
did not state that Abejaron's 118-square meter area was enclosed by a
fence which stands to this day. This is confirmed by Geodetic Engineer
Lagsub's 1984 survey plan which shows that a fence stands only on one
side of the 118-square meter area, the side adjacent to Nabasa's 57-square
meter portion. Again, this poses the problem of determining the area
actually occupied and possessed by Abejaron at least since January 24,
1947.

120

Finally, as admitted by the petitioner, he has never declared the disputed


land for taxation purposes. While tax receipts and tax declarations are not
incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they become strong evidence of
ownership acquired by prescription when accompanied by proof of
actual possession of the property or supported by other effective proof.
Even the tax declarations and receipts covering his house do not bolster
his case as the earliest of these was dated 1950.
Petitioner's evidence does not constitute the "well-nigh incontrovertible"
evidence necessary to acquire title through possession and occupation of
the disputed land at least since January 24, 1947 as required by Sec. 48(b)
of the Public Land Act, as amended by R.A. 1942. The basic presumption
is that lands of whatever classification belong to the State and evidence of
a land grant must be "well-nigh incontrovertible." As petitioner Abejaron
has not adduced any evidence of title to the land in controversy, whether
by judicial confirmation of title, or homestead, sale, or free patent, he
cannot maintain an action for reconveyance.
In De La Pea v. Court of Appeals and Herodito Tan, the petitioner filed an
action for reconveyance, claiming preferential right to acquire ownership
over a 3/4 hectare of land and imputing fraud and misrepresentation to
respondent in securing a free patent and original certificate of title over
the land in controversy. The action for reconveyance was dismissed by
the trial court and the Court of Appeals. This Court affirmed the decision
of the Court of Appeals, viz:
"It is well-settled that reconveyance is a remedy granted
only to the owner of the property alleged to be erroneously
titled in another's name. (Tomas v. Court of Appeals, G.R.
No. 79328, 21 May 1990, 185 SCRA 627, 633; Esconde v.
Barlongay, G.R. No. 67583, 31 July 1987, 152 SCRA 603, 611;
Nebrada v. Heirs of Alivio, et al., 104 Phil. 126 [1958]; Director
of Lands v. Register of Deeds of Rizal, 92 Phil. 826 [1953];
Azurin v. Quitoriano, et al., 81 Phil. 261 [1948]). In the case at
bench, petitioner does not claim to be the owner of the
disputed portion. Admittedly, what he has is only a
"preferential right" to acquire ownership thereof by virtue
of his actual possession since January 1947 . . . Title to
alienable public lands can be established through open,
continuous, and exclusive possession for at least thirty (30)
years . . . Not being the owner, petitioner cannot maintain
the present suit.
Persons who have not obtained title to public lands could
not question the titles legally issued by the State. (Reyes v.
Rodriguez, 62 Phil. 771, 776 [1936]) In such cases, the real

121

party in interest is the Republic of the Philippines to whom


the property would revert if it is ever established, after
appropriate proceedings, that the free patent issued to the
grantee is indeed vulnerable to annulment on the ground
that the grantee failed to comply with the conditions
imposed by the law. (See Sec. 101 of C.A. 141 [Public Land
Act]; Lucas v. Durian, 102 Phil. 1157, 1158 [1957]; Sumail v.
Judge of the Court of First Instance of Cotabato, et al., 96 Phil.
946, 953 [1955]). Not being an applicant, much less a
grantee, petitioner cannot ask for reconveyance." (italics
supplied)
In the more recent case of Tankiko, et al. v. Cezar, et al., plaintiffs filed an
action for reconveyance claiming that they were the actual occupants and
residents of a 126,112-square meter land which was titled to another
person. The trial court dismissed the action, but the Court of Appeals
reversed the dismissal. Despite the appellate court's finding that plaintiffs
had no personality to file the action for reconveyance, the disputed land
being part of the public domain, it exercised equity jurisdiction to avoid
leaving unresolved the matter of possession of the land in dispute. On
appeal to this Court, we reinstated the decision of the trial court and
dismissed the action for reconveyance, viz:
". . . equity is invoked only when the plaintiff, on the basis
of the action filed and relief sought, has a clear right that
he seeks to enforce, or that would obviously be violated if
the action filed were to be dismissed for lack of standing.
In the present case, respondents have no clear enforceable
right, since their claim over the land in question is merely
inchoate and uncertain. Admitting that they are only
applicants for sales patents on the land, they are not and
they do not even claim to be owners thereof.
Second, it is evident that respondents are not the real
parties in interest. Because they admit that they are not the
owners of the land but mere applicants for sales patents
thereon, it is daylight clear that the land is public in
character and that it should revert to the State. This being
the case, Section 101 of the Public Land Act categorically
declares that only the government may institute an action
for reconveyance of ownership of a public land . . .
xxx

xxx

xxx

In the present dispute, only the State can file a suit for
reconveyance of a public land. Therefore, not being the
owners of the land but mere applicants for sales patents

122

thereon, respondents have no personality to file the suit.


Neither will they be directly affected by the judgment in
such suit.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Clearly, a suit filed by a person who is not a party in


interest must be dismissed. Thus, in Lucas v. Durian, 102
Phil. 1157, September 23, 1957, the Court affirmed the
dismissal of a Complaint filed by a party who alleged that
the patent was obtained by fraudulent means and
consequently, prayed for the annulment of said patent and
the cancellation of a certificate of title. The Court declared
that the proper party to bring the action was the
government, to which the property would revert."
Similarly, as petitioner Abejaron has failed to show his title to the
disputed land, he is not the proper party to file an action for
reconveyance that would result in the reversion of the land to the
government. It is the Solicitor General, on behalf of the government, who
is by law mandated to institute an action for reversion. He has the specific
power and function to "represent the Government in all land registration
and related proceedings" and to "institute actions for the reversion to the
Government of lands of the public domain and improvements thereon as
well as lands held in violation of the Constitution." Since respondent
Nabasa's Free Patent and Original Certificate of Title originated from a
grant by the government, their cancellation is a matter between the
grantor and the grantee.
Having resolved that petitioner Abejaron does not have legal standing to
sue and is not the real party in interest, we deem it unnecessary to resolve
the question of fraud and the other issues raised in the petition. These
shall be timely for adjudication if a proper suit is filed by the Solicitor
General in the future.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the impugned decision of the
Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. The Complaint filed in Civil Case No.
2492 before the Regional Trial Court of South Cotabato, Branch 1, is
DISMISSED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Kapunan, Pardo and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Administrative confirmation of imperfect title: Free Patents
Qualification and application

123

Under Section 44 of the Public Land Act, any natural born citizen of the Philippines who
does not yet own more than twelve (12) hectares of agricultural land (formerly 24
hectares) may apply for a free patent. However, before such patent is issued, the
Director of Lands must be satisfied that that:
(a) The applicant, or his predecessors-in-interest, including members of national
cultural minorities,101 has continuously occupied and cultivated agricultural land
of the public domain;
(b) Occupation and cultivation has been (a) for members of national cultural
minorities, since 4 July 1955, whether or not the land occupied is disposable or
not,102 or (b) for all other applicants, for a period of at least thirty (30) years since
28 March 1990,103 or that even absent cultivation, the applicant has paid real
property taxes on the land for the same period that that the said land has not
been occupied by any other person;104
(c) Notice of the application has been published in the municipality and barrio in
which the land is located and adverse claimants have had an opportunity to
present their claims.105
Under the Public Land Act, applications for free patents must be filed before 31
December 1941.106 This period was extended by subsequent amendatory laws, with the
last extension provided under Republic Act No. 9176 to 31 December 2020.
Conditions and limitations on the rights of the grantee of a free patent
Like homestead patents, holders of free patents are similarly subject to the following
special conditions and limitations in addition to the general restrictions on patent
provided in Chapter XIII of the Public Land Act:
(a) Land covered by a free patent cannot be alienated or encumbered from the date
of the approval of the application and for a term of five (5) years from and after
the date of issuance of the patent, except if such alienation or encumbrance is
made in favor of the government or any of its branches, units or institutions, or
to legally constituted banking corporations.107
(b) Land covered by a free patent cannot be held liable in satisfaction of any debt
contracted prior to the said period. However, improvements or crops on the
101
102
103

104
105
106
107

124

As amended by Republic Act No. 3872.


As amended by Republic Act no. 3872.
This is the effective date of Republic Act No. 6940 which amended Section 44 of the Public
Land Act.
C.A. No. 141, as amended by R.A. No. 782, Sec. 44.
Section 46, Public Land Act.
Section 45, Public Land Act, as amedned by Republic Act No. 107.
Section 118 of the Public Land Act.

land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified perons,108 who, in accordance


with Section 122,109 must be Filipino citizens or corporations.
(e) Land covered by a free patent, or any permanent improvement thereon, cannot
be alienated or transferred to a corporation, association or partnership without
the consent of the grantee and approval of the Secretary of Environment and
Natural Resources, and solely for commercial, industrial, educational, religious
or charitable purposes or for a right of way.110
(d) Every conveyance of land acquired under a free patent shall be subject to
repurchase by the applicant, his widow or legal heirs, within a period of five (5)
years from the date of the conveyance. 111
Confirmation of imperfect title through judicial legalization
As an alternative to administrative confirmation of imperfect title, both the Public Land
Act and the Property Registration Decree allow for judicial confirmation of imperfect
title. Unlike applications for land patents under the Public Land Act, proceedings for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title are considered proceedings in rem, so that a
decree of registration issued pursuant to such proceedings is conclusive, final and
binding as against third parties.
Amendments to the Public Land Act
Under the original language of Section 48 of the Public Land Act, the following citizens
occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest
therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, were allowed to apply to
the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of
their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title:

108
109

110
111

Section 118 of the Public Land Act.


Section 122 of the Public Land Act provides:
No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any
permanent improvement on such land, shall encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to
persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public
domain under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized therefor by
their charters.
Except in cases of hereditary succession, no land or any portion thereof originally acquired
under the free patent, homestead, or individual sale provisions of this Act, or any permanent
improvement on such land, shall be transferred or assigned to any individual, nor shall such
land or any permanent improvement thereon be leased to such individual, when the area of
said land, added to that of his own, shall exceed one hundred and forty-four hectares. Any
transfer, assignment, or lease made in violation hereof, shall be null and void.
Section 121 of the Public Land Act.
Section 119 of the Public Land Act.

125

(a) Those who prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States
have applied for the purchase, composition or other form of grant of lands of the
public domain under the laws and royal decrees then in force and have instituted
and prosecuted the proceedings in connection therewith, but have, with or
without default upon their part, or for any other cause, not received title therefor,
if such applicants or grantees and their heirs have occupied and cultivated said
lands continuously since the filing of their applications.
(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 a bona fide claim of acquisition or
ownership, except as against the Government, since 26 July 1894, except when
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
Section 47(b) was subsequently amended through Republic Act No. 1942 which
removed the limition of claims against the government and provided, instead of a
specific date of 26 June 1896, a thirty (30) year period of possession which must precede
the filing of any application for judicial confirmation. The amended Section therefore
read, as follows:
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force
majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of
title under the provisions of this chapter."
Section 47 was further amended by Republic Act No. 3872, effective on 18 June 1964,
which recognized the right of national cultural minorities to apply for judicial
confirmation of title. A new sub-section to this effect was therefore included to Section
47, as follows:
(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture,
whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30
years shall be entitled to the rights granted in sub-section (b) hereof.
Presidential Decree No. 1073 promulgated on 25 January 1977 made further
amendments to Section 47 by deleting the first sub-section on unperfected Spanish

126

grants entirely,112 and modifying the remaining sub-sections to apply only to alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his
predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June
12, 1945.
Thus, two significant amendments were introduced by Presidential Decree No. 1073.
First, the term agricultural lands in the original law was changed to alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain. Second, the length of the requisite possession
was changed from possession for thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of
the application to possession since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Thus, in Republic vs.
Naguit,113 the Supreme Court noted:
When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of
possession deemed necessary to vest the right to register their title to
agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894.
However, this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided
that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least thirty (30)
years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again
amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date at
June 12, 1945. . . .
Under the present state of the law, therefore, the Supreme Court in Heirs of Mariano
Malabanan vs. Republic,114 declared that through the provisions of the Public Land Act, as
amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, every Filipino citizen who has been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership, since June 12, 1945 has a right to perfect or complete his title by applying
with the proper court for the confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of
the corresponding certificate of title.
Period to apply for judicial confirmation
In the original text of Section 47 of the Public Land Act, applicants for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title were required to file their applications no later than 31

112

113
114

SECTION 3. The judicial confirmation of incomplete titles to public land based on


unperfected Spanish grants such as application for the purchase, composition or other forms
of grant of lands of the public domain under the laws and royal decrees in force prior to the
transfer or sovereignty from Spain to the United States shall no longer be allowed. However,
this Section shall not be construed as prohibiting any person claiming the same land from
acting under Section 48(b) and Section 48(c) if he meets the conditions prescribed for judicial
confirmation of his incomplete title thereunder.
448 SCRA 442 [2005].
G.R. No. 179987, 29 April 2009.

127

December 1938. Through subsequent amendments of the law,115 this period has been
eventually extended to 31 December 2020 under Republic Act No. 9176.
In Director of Lands vs. Abairo,116 the Supreme Court said that applications filed after the
lapse of the period for applying for judicial confirmation of title, but before the next
subsequent extension of the said period did not warrant the dismissal by the trial court
of the said application. In Abairo, the applicant filed his petition on 1 March 1971, or
after the 31 December 1968 deadline set under Republic Act No. Republic Act No. 2061.
The Court noted that Republic Act No. 6236, a subsequent law which extend the period
for applying for judicial confirmation of title, allowed applicants to be filed even during
the intervening period, and considered such application as having been filed on time.
According to the Court: The extension until 31 December 1976 by Republic Act No.
6236 for the filing of such application, retroacted to, and covered the applications filed
after 1 January 1969 and before 19 June 1971. Moreover, the application which private
respondent filed on 1 March 1971 could be considered refiled after the effectivity of
Republic Act No. 6236 on 20 June 1971, less than four months thereafter.
Furthermore, in Director of Lands vs. Danao,117 the Supreme Court clarified that the filing
of the application for registration within the period required by law is not a
jurisdictional requirement upon courts. Instead, it is only to be considered a time
limitation. Thus, an application filed beyond the period prescribed by law, but not
objected to by the State either in a Motion to Dismiss or Answer, does not prevent the
court from granting such application.
Grounds for entitlement
To be entitled to judicial confirmation under the Public Land Act, the applicant must
prove that:
(a) He is a Filipino citizen
In Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court and ACME,118 the Supreme
Court ruled that a Filipino corporation may apply for judicial confirmation under
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act if, at the time of institution of the registration
proceedings, the land was already converted to private land. This is possible
when the corporations predecessor-in-interest, who is a Filipino citizen, has
possessed and occupied alienable land of the public domain for the requisite
period required by the Public Land Act. Recall that under Susi vs. Razon, et al.,
115

116
117
118

128

Commonwealth Act No. 292 extended the expiry date to 31 December 1941. Subsequently,
Republic Act No. 107 further extended the time limit to 31 December 1957. Republic Act No.
2061 again prolonged the period to 31 December 1968. Still later, by virtue of Republic Act
No. 6236, the time prescribed was extended to 31 December 1976. Presidential Decree No.
1073 lengthened the cut-off date to 31 December 1987. This was again amended by Republic
Act No. 6940 to 31 December 2000.
90 SCRA 422 [1979].
96 SCRA 161 [1980].
146 SCRA 509 [1986].

the Supreme Court ruled that possession and occupation for such period
required by law grants such citizen a vested right over the parcel of land ipso jure
without need of issuance of a title or grant from the government. Conquently,
vested right converts the land from public to private property. Thus, the
subsequent alienation of such parcel of land to a Filipino corporation would no
longer run counter to the Constitutional prohibition that Filipino corporations
may only lease lands of the public domain, precisely because the land subject of
the transfer is no longer considered public land.
(b) The land has been declared alienable and disposable land of the public domain
by the time the application for registration is filed
In Republic v. Naguit,119 the Supreme Court clarified that lands subject of judicial
confirmation proceedings need only be classified alienable and disposable at the
time of the filing of the application for registration, and not for the entire period
of possession. In explaining this finding, the Court said:
"Since June 12, 1945", as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent
phrase under a bonafide claim of ownership. Generally speaking,
qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which
they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or remotely
located. Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia.
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt
petitioner's position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would be,
adopting the OSG's view, that all lands of the public domain which were
not declared alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be
susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged
possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of
Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government from
giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as
alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would
even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines
was not yet even considered an independent state.
Accordingly, the Court in Naguit explained:
[T]he more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) (which applies
equially to Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act) is that it merely requires
the property sought to be registered as already alienable and disposable
at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at
the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release
the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the
government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the
need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of
119

448 SCRA 442 [2005].

129

adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has


already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case,
then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its
exclusive prerogative over the property.
The conclusions of the Court in Naguit were affirmed in Heirs of Malabanan vs.
Republic,120 where the Court laid down specific doctrines relating to the
registration of lands under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act:
We synthesize the doctrines laid down in this case, as follows:
(1) In connection with Section 14 (1) of the Property Registration
Decree, Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and
confirms that those who by themselves or through their
predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945 have acquired
ownership of, and registrable title to, such lands based on the
length and quality of their possession.
(a) Since Section 48 (b) merely requires possession since 12 June
1945 and does not require that the lands should have been
alienable and disposable during the entire period of
possession, the possessor is entitled to secure judicial
confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared
alienable and disposable, subject to the timeframe imposed by
Section 47 of the Public Land Act.
(b) The right to register granted under Section 48 (b) of the Public
Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14 (1) of the Property
Registration Decree.
Needless to state, should the land be unclassified, or classifed as forest land,
mineral land or national park at the time of the application for registration, such
application should be denied.121
(c) He has possessed and occupied the land since 12 June 1945.122
In Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court,123 the Supreme Court
explained the meaning of possession and occupation to justify registration under
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as follows:
120
121

122

130

G.R. No. 179987, 29 April 2009.


Bracewell vs. Court of Appeals, 323 SCRA 193 [2000]; Republic vs. Court of Appeals and
Bernabe, 148 SCRA 480 [1987].
Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Lapia, 235 SCRA 567 [1994].

It must be underscored that 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 one to qualify under paragraph (b) of the
aforesaid section, his possession of the land must not be mere fiction.
As this Court stated, through then Mr. Justice Jose P. Laurel, in Lasam
vs. The Director of Lands:
. . . Counsel for the applicant invokes the doctrine laid down
by us in Ramos vs. Director of Lands (39 Phil. 175, 180). (See also
Rosales vs. Director of Lands, 51 Phil. 302, 304). But it should be
observed that the application 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 meters 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. . . .
Special patents
Aside from the foregoing land patents enumerated under the Public Land Act, special
patents may also be issued over lands formerly reserved or considered inalienable.
These patents are generally issued upon the promulgation of a special law or act of
Congress or by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources as authorized by an
Executive Order of the President and, in themselves, already provide for the
reclassification of the land.124
Under the Public Land Act, a special patent may be granted:

123
124

209 SCRA 214 [1992]


Chavez vs. Public Estates Authority, 384 SCRA 152 [2002].

131

(a) To Non-Christian Filipinos so long as the Secretary of Interior and Local


Government has certified that the majority of the non-Christian inhabitants of
any given reservation have advanced sufficiently in civilization;125 or,
(b) To authorize concession of lands of the public domain for educational, charitable
or any of the like purposes.126
They may also be issued in favor of the owner of the landed estate acquired by the
Government. Pertinently, Republic Act No. 926 authorizes the President to convey
public lands and other properties of a public nature as payment for the acquisition of
such estates.127 Another example of a special patent is that issued in favor of the Public
Estates Authority through Presidential Decree No. 1085 over three reclaimed islands in
Manila Bay known as Freedom Islands.
Emancipation patents
Emancipation patents are patents issued pursuant to Presidential Decree Nos. 27 and
266 in furtherance of the governments policy of agrarian reform. Unlike the land
patents enumerated under the Public Land Act, emancipation patents do not cover lands
of the public domain, but instead, involve private agricultural lands. However, with the
enactment of Republic Act No. 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the
provisions of Presidential Decree Nos. 27 and 266 have generally been superseded.128
b. Disposition of residential, commercial or industrial lands.
Under Chapter IX of the Public Land Act, lands intended for residential, commercial,
industrial and similar productive purposes may be disposed of by sale or lease thru
public bidding, generally following the procedure prescribed for agricultural lands. The
land or the right to lease is acquired also in a public auction thru bidding. The
difference, however, lies in the fact that where in agricultural sales, the auction sale is
thru sealed bidding with the applicant enjoying the right to equal the highest bid, the
auction sale of residential, commercial and industrial lands is thru oral bidding where
the applicant has to outbid the other bidders in order to be successful bidder. In other
words, the applicant does not have preferential right, unless he is an applicant who has
introduced improvements on the land by virtue of a permit issued to him by the Bureau
of Lands, in which case he has the right to a sealed bidding.
Lands disposable for residential, commercial or industrial purposes are classified as:
(a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging, filing, or other means
(b) Foreshore

125
126
127
128

132

Section 84, Public Land Act.


Supra note 193.
ALUINO, LAND REGISTRATION, supra 193, at 150.
Supra note 200.

(c) Marshy land or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or banks
of navigable lakes or rivers.
The conditions of the sale are as follows:
(a) The purchaser shall enter the land and introduce suitable improvements
thereon within six (6) months, and complete such improvements not later
than 18 months from the date of the award.
(b) The purchaser shall pay the purchase price of the land in ten (10) equal
annual installments.
In case of lease, the rental shall be 3% of the value of the land plus 1% of the value of the
improvements. Every ten (10) years, the land and improvements shall be reappraised
but the rental shall not be increased by more than 100% every ten years.
The duration of the lease is 25 years renewable for another 25 years at the governments
option.
Under R.A. No. 730 direct or negotiated sale of public land may be resorted to if: (a) the
applicant has occupied the same and has in good faith built a residential house thereon
where he lives, (b) he is not the owner of any residential lot, and (c) the land is not
needed by the government for any public purpose.
Development of the laws governing foreshore/reclaimed areas
The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 is the first statutory law governing the ownership
and disposition of reclaimed lands in the Philippines. Under this law, the shores, bays,
coves, inlets and all waters within the maritime zone of the Spanish territory belonged to
the public domain for public use. This law allowed the reclamation of the sea in
consequence of works constructed by the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private
persons.129 It also provided that the reclaimed land from the sea belonged to the party
undertaking the reclamation, provided the government issues the necessary permit and
did not reserve ownership over such land.
Act No. 1654 was enacted by the Philippine Commission on May 18, 1907, which
provided for the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to
corporations and individuals. This act mandated that the government should retain title
to, and exercise control and disposition of, all reclaimed lands. Private parties could
lease these lands only if they were no longer needed for public use. Public bidding for
the lease of these lands was also prescribed.
Act No. 2874 also known as the Public Land Act, was approved by the Philippine
Legislature in Nov. 29, 1919. It authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands
of government to corporations and individuals. Under this law, the Governor-General
was authorized to: (1) classify lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable
129

The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, seb. 5.

133

lands (2) declare what lands are open to disposition or concession and (3) to classify
further such lands into government, reclaimed, foreshore, marshy, and other classes of
lands. It also limited alienable lands to those which have been officially delimited and
classified. The land must first be declared not necessary for public use before allowing
lease to private parties.130
Commonwealth Act No. 141 also known as the Public Land Act, was passed by the
National Assembly which also authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands
of the government to corporations and individuals. C.A. No. 141 continues to be the
general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain.
Under this law, the President had the same powers as those of the Governor-General
under Act No. 2874 except that the President is not authorized, under this law, to
reclassify reclaimed lands into non agricultural lands. The sale of lands of public
domain was likewise prohibited, only lease was allowed subject to the same conditions
prescribed in Act No. 2874. The government could sell to private parties only those
agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes not classified as disposable lands of the
public domain.
State policy prohibits the sale of these lands, as they are part of public dominion
intended for public use. This state policy has been embodied in the 1935, 1973 as well as
in the 1987 Constitution. Since then and until now, the only way the government could
sell government reclaimed areas to private properties is through a legislative enactment
allowing such sale. The reason behind this requirement is that government units and
entities should not just turn around and sell these lands to private properties in violation
of constitutional or statutory limitations.
c. Disposition of Public Lands for Educational, Charitable and Similar Purposes
Lands under this category may be disposed of by the Government in favor of a province,
city, municipality or other branches of the Government in the form of donation, sale,
lease, exchange, or any form.
Such lands may also be sold or leased to qualified private persons for the purpose of
founding a cemetery, church, college, school, university or other educational institutions
for educational, charitable or philantrophical purposes or scientific research. The
Secretary of the DENR has the discretion to sell the land without auction and to waive
the condition requiring cultivation.
d. Townsite Reservations
The President, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources, may, if public interest so requires, issue a proclamation reserving lands for
townsite purposes to found a new town.
Procedure:
130

134

Act No. 2874, secs. 6, 7, 8, 56 and 58.

a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.

Survey of the exterior boundaries of the site


Drafting the proclamation
Signing of the proclamation
Transmittal of copies of the proclamation to the Director of Lands and the
Register of Deeds
Filing of compulsory registration proceedings to settle and adjudicate
private claims within the townsite
Subdivision of the land according to development plans
Sale of residential lots by oral bidding to the highest bidder

e. Reservations of Public and Quasi-Public Purposes


The President also has the power to designate by proclamation any tract or tracts of land
of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Republic of the Philippines or any
of its branches or of the inhabitants thereof, of for quasi-public uses or purposes when
public interest requires it, including reservations for highways, rights-of-way for
railroads, hydraulic power sites, irrigation systems, communal pasture or legua
communales, public parks, public quarries, public fishponds, workingmens village and
other improvements for public benefit.
Preferential Rights of Actual Occupants
If, before the delimitation and survey of a tract of public land and before its classification
as alienable and disposable, such land shall be actually occupied by a person other than
the applicant, the Director of Lands shall inform the occupant of his preferential right to
apply for the land and shall give him 120 days time in which to file the application or
apply for the concession by any of the forms of disposition authorized by this Act, if
such occupant is qualified to receive a concession under this Act.
PROCEDURE FOR APPLICATION

135

CHAPTER III
THE OWNERSHIP AND DISPOSITION OF PRIVATE LANDS
A.

Distinction between Lands of the Public Domain and Private Lands

According to Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution,


Sec. 7 Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be
transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or
associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.
Our ancestors acquired and physically possessed and held lands which they considered
belong to them. Nobody bothered them. Upon the Spanish conquest and occupation of
the Islands, all lands within the territory of the Philippine Islands automatically
belonged to the Crown of Spain. And, the land and property laws of Spain, ipso jure,
took effect therein. This is the Regalian Doctrine.131
The Crown Lands were distributed to the inhabitants in accordance with the laws of
Spain, principally the laws of the Indias (Recopilacion de las Leyes de Indias),132 and
became lands of private ownership or private lands.
This transformation transpired once more during the American Occupation of the
Philippine Islands in 1898, by way of (1) State Grant the Homestead Patent; (2) Sale
the Sales Patent; and (3) Administrative and Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect title the
Free Patent. All Free Patent were available as they are now, under the Public Land
Act.133
Agricultural lands of the public domain are deemed alienable and disposable and by the
foregoing methods of land acquisition, public lands ceased as such and became private
lands of the purchaser, or occupants and possessors.134
Therefore, private land, may be as it has been, defined as any land of private
ownership. This includes both lands owned by private individuals and lands which are
patrimonial property of the state or of municipal corporations.135 Property of private
ownership includes (1) the patrimonial property of the State, and (2) property
belonging to private persons, either individually or collectively.136 Most of these private
lands emanated from private agricultural lands that had been, or may still be, sold or
granted by the State to individual citizens, associations and corporation qualified to

131
132
133
134
135
136

136

Piero v. Director of Lands, 57 SCRA 386 (1974).


Montano v. Insular Government, 12 Phil. 572 (1908).
FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 168.
Id.
BERNAS, PRIMER, supra note 11, at 469.
CIVIL CODE, art. 425.

acquire or hold lands of the public domain and subject to the limitations provided by
law.137
Private property and patrimonial property
Private property connotes ownership of an immovable or real property, and/or a
movable or personal property. As abovementioned, it specifically is comprised of all
property that belongs to private persons, natural or juridical, either judicially or
collectively. And real property is described in the Civil Code as (1) the immovable or
property which consists principally of land; (2) those movables as the buildings, trees
plants, statues or other objects placed on land that reveals the intention to have them
permanently attached to the land; and (3) the real rights over the immovable
property.138
Property ownership, or land of private ownership and private property are
synonymous. It also means, and includes the patrimonial property of the State,
provinces, cities and municipalities. These are property of public dominion that are no
longer intended or needed: (1) for public use; (2) for public service; or (3) for the
development of national wealth. Some of these are rivers shores, banks, ports fortresses,
roads and street, parks and others.139
A stone fort on land by the sea, constructed since time immemorial as a defense against
the Moro invasion, that had not been used for many years for that purpose became
private or patrimonial property of the State.140
San Lazaro Estate in Manila on which stood the San Lazaro Hospital is private or
patrimonial property of the State under Articles 340 and 345 of the Spanish Civil Code
(now Articles 421 and 425 of the Civil Code).141
Friar lands are patrimonial property of the State under Act No. 1120 and
Commonwealth Act no. 141. In 1906, the Philippine Commission headed by Governor
William H. Taft proposed the purchase of Friar Lands, belonging to the Dominica,
Augustinian and Recoletos Mission. The Philippine Bill of 1902 authorized the purchase
of friar lands to be sold to actual occupants and settlers. Accordingly, Governor Taft
proceeded to Rome in 1903, and purchased form the highest ecclesiastical authorities
410,000 acres of Friar Lands at $7,230,000. Sometime in 1938, the Philippine Government
bought another Friar Land, a big run-down Riceland, the Buenavista Estate, near
Manila at $1,500,000 from San Juan de Dios Hospital.142

137
138
139
140

141
142

FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 80.


FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 169.
Id.
ARTURO M. TOLENTINO, COMMENTARIES & JURISPRUDENCE ON THE CIVIL CODE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, VOL. II 32 (1963).
Id. at 34.
FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 170.

137

In Cruz v. Secretary,143 the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or IPRA was assailed as
unconstitutional on the ground that it deprives the State of its ownership over lands of
the public domain and the natural resources in them. The vote of the Supreme Court
was equally divided, 7-7. The opinion defending constitutionality held the following: (1)
Ancestral domain and ancestral lands are not part of lands of the public domain. They
are private and belong to indigenous people. Cario v. Insular Government144 recognized
native title held by Filipinos from time immemorial and excluded from the concept of
jura regalia. (2) The right of ownership granted does not include natural resources. The
right to negotiate terms and conditions over natural resources covers only exploration to
ensure environmental protection. It is not a grant of exploration rights. (3) The limited
right of management refers to utilization as expressly allowed in Section 2, Article XII.
(4) What is given is priority right, not exclusive right. It does not preclude the State from
entering into co-production, joint venture, or production sharing agreements with
private entities.
On the other hand, the opinion assailing the constitutionality of the law held the
following: (1) the law amounts to abdication of the authority over a significant area of
the countrys patrimony; (2) it relinquishes full control of natural resources in favor of
indigenous people; (3) the law contravenes the provision which says that all natural
resources belong to the state.
Classification of private lands
The phrase private lands or lands of private ownership have been defined in our
jurisprudence as those lands of the public domain: (1) That are, or has been in the
possession of occupants and their predecessors-in-interest since time immemorial.145 (2)
That had been awarded to an applicant with (a) Sales or Homestead Patent under
Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 19-32), or Title issued by virtue of the Royal Cedula
of October 15, 1754; or (b) Free Patent under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 47-56);
(c) Title by Composition with the State pursuant to the Mauras Royal Decreed; (4)
Possessor Information issued under the Spanish Mortgage Law of 1893 after the
composition or confirmation of imperfect title held by the occupant with claim of
ownership. Private lands may be classified in the same manner as those of public
lands.146
B.

Constitutional Restrictions

As a general rule, only the following may acquire private lands pursuant to Section 7:
(1)
(2)

143
144
145
146

138

Filipino citizens and


Corporations or associations incorporated in the Philippines, at least 60%
of whose capital is owned by Filipino citizens as defined in Section 2.

G.R. No. 135385, December 6, 2000.


212 U.S. 449.
Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 936 (1909).
FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW supra note 1, at 184-185.

Exception to the rule


However, by exception the following may also acquire private lands:
(1)
(2)

(3)

Aliens, but only by hereditary succession.


A natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost Philippine
citizenship but only under the terms provided in Section 8, Article XII
which states that, Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this
Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his
Philippine citizenship maybe a transferee of private lands, subject to
limitations provided by law.147
Foreign states may acquire land but only for embassy and staff residence
purposes.

In Ramirez v. Vda. de Ramirez, the Court held to extend the exception to testamentary
succession for otherwise the provision will be for naught and meaningless.148 Another
jurisprudential exception is when an alien acquires land by hereditary succession, such
alien cannot renounce the right to inherit in favor of one who is not qualified.149 In the
case of Moss v. Director of Lands, the Ordinance appended to the 1935 Constitution
provided that until final withdrawal of the United States, Americans and American
Corporations enjoyed the same civil rights as Filipino citizens and could therefore
acquire private lands until July 4, 1946.150
As mentioned previously, private land means any land of private ownership. This
includes both lands owned by private individuals and lands which are patrimonial
property of the State or of municipal corporations.151 In the case of Krivenko v. Register of
Deeds, the term private agricultural lands meant any private land that was neither
timber nor mineral land.152 Again, the capacity to acquire private land is made
dependent upon the capacity to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. This is
because aliens were disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain (since the
1935 Constitution), aliens, whether individuals or corporations, were also disqualified
from acquiring private lands. The prohibition applies even to a regime of conjugal
partnership in marriage. Thus, an alien spouse in a conjugal partnership does not have
the right to give or not to give consent in the disposition of the land.153
Exception for former Filipino Citizens:
Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Sec. 7 of this article, a naturalborn citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship
147
148
149
150
151
152
153

FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 470.


111 SCRA 704.
Halili v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113539, March 12, 1998.
80 SCRA 269.
BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1157.
79 Phil. 461.
BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1158.

139

may be a transferee of private lands, subject to the limitations provided


by law.
A 1981 amendment to the 1973 Constitution created another exception in favor of a
natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship. He or she may be a
transferee of private land, for use by him as his residence, as the Batasang Pambansa
may provide. This is now embodied in Sec. 8. The 1987 provision, however, no longer
contains the phrase for use by him as residence.154
The laws on land ownership by natural-born Filipinos who have lost their Philippine
citizenship are governed by Batas Pambansa Blg. 185 (BP 185), which was enacted in
March 1982, and Republic Act 8179 (RA 8179), which amended the Foreign Investment
Act of 1991.
BP 185 stipulates the guidelines on land ownership by former Filipinos for purposes of
establishment of residence while RA 8179 (Section 10) specifies entitlements and
conditions for land acquisition for investment purposes.
The following are the provisions of BP 185 and RA 7042, as amended by RA 8179,
pertinent to land ownership by former Filipinos:
BP 185
RA 8179
Particulars
Applies to acquisition of land Applies to acquisition of land
for purposes of residence
for purposes of business or
commerce
2
Size/Area Coverage
Maximum of 1000 m for
Maximum of 5000 m2 for
urban land
urban land
Maximum of one (1) hectare Maximum of three (3) hectares
for rural land
for rural land
Land Acquisition for Either of the spouses may
Either of the spouses may
Both Spouses
avail of this privilege.
avail of this privilege.

Additional
Acquisition

154

140

In case both spouses wish to


acquire
lands
for
this
purposes, the total area
acquired should not exceed
the maximum
Land In case he/she already owns
urban or rural lands for
residential purposes, he/she
may acquire additional urban
or rural lands, which when
added
to
those he/she
presently owns shall not
exceed
the
authorized

BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1166.

In case both spouses wish to


acquire
lands
for
this
purposes, the total area
acquired should not exceed
the maximum
In case he /she already owns
urban or rural lands for
business purposes, he/she
may acquire additional urban
or rural lands which when
added
to
those he/she
presently owns shall not
exceed
the
authorized

maximum area.
Limits to Acquisition A person may acquire not
of Land
more than two (2) lots which
should
be
situated
in
different municipalities or
cities anywhere in the
Philippines, provided that
the total area of those lots do
not exceed 1,000 sq. meters
for urban land or one (1)
hectare for rural land for use
as residence.
An individual who has
already acquired urban land
shall be disqualified from
acquiring rural land and vice
versa.

Use of Land

The acquired land should not


be used for any purpose
other than for his/her
residence

Special Requirements

In
addition
to
the
requirements provided for in
other laws for the registration

maximum area.
A person may acquire not
more than two (2) lots which
should be situated in different
municipalities
or
cities
anywhere in the Philippines,
provided that the total area of
those lots do not exceed 5,000
sq. meters for urban land or
three (3) hectares for rural
land for use as residence.
Under Section 4 of Rule XII
of the Implementing Rules
and Regulations of RA 704
as amended by RA 8179, a
transferee who has already
acquired urban land shall be
disqualified from acquiring
rural land and vice versa.
However, if the transferee
has disposed of his rural
land, he may still acquire
rural land and vice versa,
provided that this will be
used for business.
A transferee of residential land
acquired
under
Batas
Pambansa Blg. 185 may still
avail of the privilege granted
under this law.
Section 5 of Rule XII
specifically states that the
land should be primarily,
directly and actually used in
the performance or conduct of
the owners business or
commercial activities in the
broad areas of agriculture,
industry
and
services
including the lease of land but
excluding the buying or
selling thereof.
In addition to the usual
registration
requirements
pertinent to the conveyance

141

of titles to lands, the


transferee should submit to
the Register of Deeds of the
province or city where the
property is located a sworn
statement
showing
the
following:
Date and place of birth
Names and addresses of
his/her parents, his/her
spouse, and children, if
any;
The area, location, and
mode of acquisition of
his/her landholdings in
the Philippines, if any;
His/her intention to
reside permanently in
the Philippines;
Date he/she lost his/her
Philippine
citizenship
and the country of
which
hw/she
is
presently a citizen.

of real estate, the transfer


contemplated shall not be
recorded
unless
the
transferee submits to the
Registry of Deeds of the
province or city where the
land
is
situated,
the
following:
Certification of business
registration issued by the
Bureau
of
Trade
Regulation and Consumer
Protection
of
the
Department of Trade and
Industry;
Sworn statement same as
that in BP 185;
Certification from the
assessor
of
the
municipality or province
where the property is
situated that the subject
land for transfer is in an
urban or rural area;
If an agricultural land is
acquired, a certification
from the Department of
Agrarian Reform that the
land is a retained area of the
transferor and an affidavit
of the transferee attesting
that his total landholdings
inclusive of the land to be
acquired does not exceed
the 5-hectare limit fixed by
RA
6657
(the
Comprehensive
Agrarian
Reform Act CARP).

A Filipino corporation can acquire land


Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution makes the capacity to acquire private land dependent on
capacity to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Private corporations can hold
lands of the public domain only by lease. They are thus not in the same position as aliens

142

who cannot even lease land of the public domain.155 By analogy, Filipino Corporations,
as a creation of the legislature (The Corporation Code, Batas Pambansa 68) also has
Filipino citizenships as a juridical person. It is also one of the expressed powers of a
corporation as provided by Sec. 36 to wit:
(g) To purchase, receive, take or grant, hold, convey, sell, lease, pledge,
mortgage and otherwise deal with such real and personal property,
including securities and bonds of other corporations, as the transaction of
the lawful business of the corporation may reasonably require.156
In contrast with public lands
The term public lands refer to such lands of the public domain as are subject to
alienation and disposal by the State in accordance with the Public Land Act. The phrase
public land was held to be equivalent to public domain. It does not by any means
include all lands of government ownership, but only so much of said lands as are
thrown open to private appropriation and settlement by homestead and other similar
laws. Accordingly, government land and public land are not synonymous terms;
the first is more extensive and embraces not only the second by also other lands of the
government already reserved to public use or subject to private right.157
The rules for the disposition of lands of the public domain are the ff:158
(1)

Only agricultural lands of the public domain may be alienated. All others
are inalienable and may be developed and utilized only according to the
rules established in Sec. 2 of the Constitution.

(2)

Only public corporations and qualified individuals may acquire alienable


lands of the public domain. Corporations can hold alienable land of the
public domain only by lease.

(3)

Private corporations are allowed to lease no more than one thousand


hectares.

(4)

The congress shall determine by law, the size of lands of the public
domain which may be acquired, developed, held, or leased and the
conditions therefor.

Commonwealth Act No. 141 provides that the acquisition of public agricultural lands by
purchase is governed by Chapter V (Sale). Any citizen of the Philippines of lawful age of
the head of a family may purchase any tract of public agricultural land not to exceed

155
156
157
158

Id. at 1161.
The Corporation Code, 36, g
Supra note 30.
BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1145-1146.

143

twelve hectares159 which shall be sold thru sealed bidding. The land shall be awarded to
the highest bidder, but the applicant may equal the highest bid. The purchase price may
be paid in full upon the making of the award or in not more than ten equal annual
installments from the date of the award. It is required that the purchaser shall have not
less than one-fifth of the land cultivated within five years from the date of the award,
and before any patent is issued, he must show actual occupancy, cultivation and
improvement of at least one-fifth of the land until the date of final payment.160
Krivenko v. Register of Deeds of Manila
79 Phil. 461
FACTS: Krivenko bought a residential lot from Magdalena Estate, Inc., in
December of 1941, the registration of w/c was interrupted by the war. In
May 1945, he sought to accomplish said registration but it was denied on
the ground that Krivenko is an alien. Krivenko then brought the case to
the CFI of Manila by means of a consulta. The court rendered judgment
sustaining the refusal.
HELD: The 1935 Constitution classified lands namely as agricultural,
timber and mineral since this was the basic classification existing in laws
and jurisprudence at that time. The phrase public agricultural lands
includes residential lot & their alienation is limited to Filipino citizens. To
construe this phrase as not including residential lots or lands not strictly
agricultural, the result would be that aliens may freely acquire and
possess not only residential lots and houses for themselves but also other
forms of public agricultural lands.
Director of Lands v. Lood
124 SCRA 460
FACTS: Quezon City Development & Financing Corp filed an application
with the CFI of Rizal, seeking the registration of title under Act. 496,
claiming to be the owner in fee simple of a parcel of land in Taytay, Rizal.
The Director of Lands, filed an opposition, on the ground that the
applicant has no sufficient title to the land, not having acquired the same
by composition title from the Spanish Govt or by possessory information
title pursuant to Royal Decree of February 13, 1894. The CFI ruled that the
applicant has a registrable title over the parcel of land.
HELD: The applicant, being a juridical person, is disqualified to apply
subject property for registration. Limiting the mode of acquisition of
corporations, by purchase, but not by homestead, free patent or judicial
confirmation, does not offend the Constitution. Corporations were never
intended to acquire lands by such modes. Further, corporations, as
159
160

144

PHIL. CONST. art. 12, 3


Public Land Act, 22, 26 & 28

product of statutory action, the legislative can define the powers of a


corporation.
C.

Modes of Acquisition

The conveyance of public land by the government to a private individual is generally


known as a public grant. How the government makes such grant is well illustrated by
what actually took place in the Philippines after its discovery by Magellan in 1521. It
was held by the discovery and conquest of the entire Philippine territory became the
exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. With this as basis, the Spanish
government began to handle the direct distribution of public lands to settlers, vassals
and other people by the issuance of royal grants and concessions in varied forms.
It seems but only logical that tile to land must emanate from some source for it cannot
just issue forth from nowhere. And consistent with the general tendency observed in
different countries, the government or head of state is vested with such power to make
public land grants according to existing statutes.
Republic v. Lee
197 SCRA 13
FACTS: On June 29, 1976, Lee filed before the CFI of Pangasinan, an
application for registration in her favor of a parcel of land at Magaldan,
Pangasinan. The Director of Lands, filed an opposition, alleging that
neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in-interest have acquired the
land under any of the Spanish titles or any other recognized mode for the
acquisition of title. The CFI rendered judgment confirming the title of the
applicants over the said parcel of land pursuant to the Land Registration
Law.
ISSUE: WON public land can be acquired by a private person without
any grant.
HELD: No public land can be acquired by private persons without any
grant, express or implied, for government. A grant is conclusively
presumed by law when the claimant, by himself or through his
predecessors-in-interest, has occupied the land openly, continuously,
exclusively, and under a claim of title since July 26, 1894 or prior thereto.
(1)

Acquisition by Public Grant161

The Spanish Government, during their colonial rule, issued Royal Grants as title to the
lands, to discoverers, settlers, vassals, and other people in varied forms.

161

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND, supra note 199, at 15.

145

During the Commonwealth Government, the Public Land Act was passed and by virtue
thereof public agricultural lands were distributed to citizens under certain conditions
specified therein. These lands so distributed became ultimately the property of the
distributees.
In, Aureus v. Secretary of Agriculture & Commerce,162 it was held that the mere filing by an
individual of an application for a permit to occupy a piece of public land does not create
an obligation on the part of the administrative officer concerned to grant his application.
If it does, the Director of Lands or the Secretary of Agriculture, will be a mere robot of
every such applicant. It is discretionary in the said officials to grant or not to grant such
application. While in Luzuriaga v. Director of Lands,163 it was held that when a
municipality has used a land from time immemorial for recognized public purposes
based upon a public necessity, which purposes and necessity were formerly recognized
by the Government as a basis for a grant of land to a municipality, a grant from the State
in favor of the municipality is presumed.
Proof of acquisition from the state
No public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or
implied, from the government, it is indispensable that there be a showing of title from
the State. One claiming rights must prove that he has complied with the Public Land
Act, which prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for
acquisition of public land. 164
Private Grants of Land Titles
The transfer of title to land by the owner himself or his duly authorized representative to
another by mutual consent is recognized by law. Consent of the grantor is an essential
element. To give effect to the transfer, a deed of conveyance must be executed to be
followed by its registration at the Registry of Deeds.165
(2)

Prescription

Land ownership and other real rights or obligations may be acquired through the lapse
of time, in the manner and action laid down by law.166 All things which are within the
commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Thus, the
peaceful and adverse possession of land that is continuous and uninterrupted for a
certain period of time may be converted into ownership of the land.167 However,
property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be
the object of prescription.168
162
163
164
165
166
167
168

146

85 Phil. 1.
24 Phil. 193.
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND, supra note 199, at 16.
Id. at 17.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1106.
FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 53.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1113.

The claim of ownership169 must be in the concept of owners, adverse, public and
peaceful.170 Acquisitive prescription is either ordinary or extraordinary.171 The law fixes
ten (10) years by ordinary prescription, that is, without need of title and good faith,172
and thirty (30) years by extraordinary prescription, without need of title and good
faith.173
For ordinary prescription, the following requisites must concur: (1) Capacity to acquire
by prescription; (2) the object must be susceptible of prescription; (3) The possession
must be in concept of owner, public, peaceful, continuous and uninterrupted; (4) The
possession must be in good faith; (5) The possession must be by virtue of a just title; and
(6) The period of possession must be 4 years if the object is movable or ten years if it is
immovable.
In extraordinary acquisitive prescription, the following must concur: (1) Capacity to
acquire by prescription; (2) The object must be susceptible of prescription; (3) The
possession must be in the concept of owner, public, peaceful, continuous, and
uninterrupted; and (4) The period of possession must be 8 years if the object is movable
or 30 years if it is immovable.174
The good faith of the possessor consists in the reasonable belief that the person from
whom he received the thing was the owner thereof, and could transmit his ownership.175
In its negative aspect, it consists in the ignorance of the possessor of any flaw which
would invalidate his title or mode of acquisition.176
For purposes of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant came into
possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the
acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could
not transmit any right.177 Its requisites are: (1) It must be just; (2) it must be true; (3) it
must be valid; (4) it must be proved.178 Actual possession of land consists in the
manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally
exercise over his own property. The general rule is that the possession and cultivation of
a portion of a tract under claim of ownership of all is a constructive possession of all, if
the remainder is not in the adverse possession of another.179 However, the period of
possession in acquisitive prescription may be interrupted naturally, civilly, or by express
169
170
171

172
173
174
175
176
177
178
179

Supra note 246.


NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 3, at 17.
DESIDERIO P. JURADO, COMMENTS AND JURISPRUDENCE ON OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS 653
(7th rev. ed, 1980). [hereinafter JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS].
CIVIL CODE, art. 1137.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1496.
JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 656-657.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1127.
JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 657.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1129.
CIVIL CODE, arts. 1117, 1130-1131.
Ramos v. Director of Lands, 39 Phil 175 (1918).

147

or tacit recognition by the possessor of the ownership.180 In extinctive prescription,


interruption may occur (1) when they are filed before the court, (2) when there is a
written extra-judicial demand by the creditors, and (3) when there is any written
acknowledgment of the debt by the debtor.181 With such conversion, property may now
fall within the contemplation of private lands under Section 14(2), and may be
registered even if the possession commenced on a date later than the date of enactment
of the Property Registration Decree.182
Such does not preclude the application for registration of alienable lands of the public
domain, possession over which commenced after the abovementioned date, considering
Section 14(2) of the Decree which governs and authorizes the application of those who
have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of
existing laws. While as a rule, prescription does not run against the State, the exception
is where the law itself expressly provides. An example is said Section 14 (2) which
specifically allows qualified individuals to apply for the registration of property,
ownership of which he has acquired by prescription under existing laws.183 However, a
property registered under the provisions of P.D. 1529 is not subject to prescription. Also,
prescription is unavailing not only against his hereditary successors because the latter
merely step into the shoes of the decedent by operation of law and are merely the
continuation of the personality of their predecessor-in-interest.184
Moreover, it was held that a persons possession of a parcel of land covered by a TCT
cannot render nugatory the right of the holders of a certificate of title. The reason is that
prescription does not run against registered land. A title, once registered, cannot be
defeated even by adverse, open, and notorious possession. Moreover, in asserting
ownership by donation, petitioners were in effect assailing the title of respondents. A
Torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked, the issue on its validity can only be raised in
an action expressly institute for that purpose.185 A possessor of land who may not be
the owner, after a lapse of a certain period prescribed in the law, may assert ownership
thereof as against anyone except the true owner or one with a better title based on an
earlier possession which he had not abandoned. Adverse possession or prescription
does not run against private lands brought under the operation of the Torrens system,
nor against public land except where the law expressly so provides.186
For purposes of prescriptive possession, there is just title (mode) when the adverse
claimant came into possession of the property thru any of the modes allowed by law for
the acquisition of ownership or other real rights. These are enumerated in Titles 1 to 5,
Book III of the Civil Code, namely; (a) occupation, (b) intellectual creation, (c) law, (d)

180
181
182
183
184

185
186

148

JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 657.


CIVIL CODE, ART. 1155.
G.R. No. 144057, January 17, 2005.
AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE, supra note 121, at 657.
Simeona Barcelona, et al. v. Hilarion Barcelon and the Honorable Court o Appeals, 100 Phil.
251 (1956).
Ong, et al. v. Sps. Cabucos, 356 SCRA 786 (2001).
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 199, at 15-16.

donation, (e) succession (testate or intestate), (f) in consequence of certain contracts, by


tradition, and (g) prescription.187
In computing for prescription, the present possessor may complete the period necessary
for prescription by tacking his possession to that of his grantor or predecessor-ininterest. It is presumed that the present possessor who was also the possessor at a
previous time, has continued to be in possession during the intervening time, unless
there is proof to the contrary.188 Possession in wartime, when the civil courts are not
open, shall not be counted in favor of the adverse claimant.189
Prescription does not run between husband and wife. Even though there be a separation
of property agreed upon in the marriage settlement or by judicial decree. Neither does
prescription run between parents and children during the minority or insanity of the
latter, and between guardian and ward during the continuance of the guardianship.190
While prescription, as a rule, does not run in favor of a co-owner as long as he expressly
or impliedly recognized the co-ownership, it may take place where it is clearly shown
that the co-owner has repudiated the co-owership, and that the other co-owners were
appraised of the repudiation.191
Persons with capacity to alienate property may renounce prescription already obtained,
but not the right to prescribe in the future. Prescription is deemed to have been tacitly
renounced when the renunciation results from acts which imply the abandonment of the
right acquired.192
Laches should not be confused with prescription. Laches is different from, and applies
independently of, prescription. While prescription is concerned with the fact of delay,
laches is concerned with the effect of delay. Prescription is a matter of time; laches is
principally a question of inequity of permitting a claim to be enforced, this inequity
being founded on some change in the condition of the property or the relation of the
parties. Prescription is statutory; laches is not. Laches apllies in equity, whereas
prescription applies at law. Prescription is based on a fixed time; laches is not.193
(3)

Accretion

Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited.194 It is the act by which the land
bordering a stream or other body of water increases its area by the gradual deposit of
soil or seaweeds by the current of the river or other natural process.195
187
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195

CIVIL CODE, art. 712.


CIVIL CODE, art. 1138.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1136.
JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 654.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 3, at 19.
CIVIL CODE, art. 1112.
Heirs of Batiof Lacamen v. Heirs of Laman, 65 SCRA 605 (1975).
Navarro v Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68166, February 12, 1997.
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES , supra note 199, at 39.

149

Article 457 of the Civil Code provides that to the owners of lands adjoining the banks
of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the
current of the waters. As a mode of acquiring property under Article 457 of the Civil
Code, there are three requisites which must concur before an accretion is said to have
taken place:
(a)
(b)
(c)

The accumulation of soil or sediment must be gradual and imperceptible;


That it be made through the effects of the current of the water; and
That the land where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of the
rivers.196

These are called the rules on alluvion which if present in a case, give to owners of lands
adjoining he banks of rivers or streams any accretion gradually received from the effects
of the current waters.197 Alluvion is the soil deposited on the estate fronting the river
bank.198
In order to acquire land by accretion, there should be a natural and actual continuity of
the accretion to the land of the riparian owner.199 The requirement that the deposit
should be due to the effects of the current of the river is indispensable. Alluvion must be
the exclusive work of nature. 200 A riparian owner then does not acquire the additions to
his land caused by special works expressly intended or designed to bring about
accretion.201 There must be evidence to prove that the addition to the property was made
gradually through the effects of the current of the river.202
In the absence of evidence that the change in the course of the river was sudden or that it
occurred though avulsion, the presumption is that the change was gradual and caused
by accretion and erosion.203 Acts of possession exercised over bordering land are always
understood legally to cover that portion added to the property by accretion.204 One must
prove his claim by a preponderance of evidence.205
The fact that the accretion to ones land used to pertain to anothers estate, which is
covered by a Torrens certificate of title, cannot preclude the former from being the
owner thereof. Registration does not protect the riparian owner against the diminution
of the area of his land through gradual changes in the course of the adjoining stream.
Accretions which the banks of rivers may gradually receive from the effect of the current
become the property of the owners of the banks. Such accretions are natural incidents to
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205

150

Navarro, G.R. No. 68166.


PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES , supra note 199, at 35.
Navarro, G.R. No. 68166.
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES , supra note 199, at 35.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 3, at 109.
Republic v Court of Appeals and Tancinco, GR No. L-61647, October 12, 1984
NOBLEJAS, supra note 285.
Hodges v Garcia, G.R. No. L-12730, Aug. 22, 1960.
Cortes v City of Manila, G.R. No. L-4012, March 25, 1908
65 C.J.S. 183

land bordering on running streams and the provisions of the Civil Code in that respect
are not affected by the Property Registration Decree.206
Riparian owners are unquestionably owners of the alluvial deposits on their lands
caused by the current of the river, and the area within the boundaries thereof prevail
over that which the title shows.207 The reason behind the law giving the riparian owner
the right to any land or alluvion deposited by a river is to compensate him for the
danger of loss that he suffers because of the location of his land. 208
Accretion does not become automatically registered land just because the lot which
received such accretion is covered by a Torrens title. Ownership of a piece of land is one
thing, registration under the Torrens System of ownership is another.209 As such, it must
also be placed under the operation of the Torrens system.210
Alluvial formation along the seashore is part of the public domain and, therefore, not
open to acquisition by adverse possession by private persons. Since the land is foreshore
land or property of public dominion, its disposition falls under the exclusive supervision
and control of the Lands Management Bureau. Until a formal declaration on the part of
the Government, through the executive department or the legislature, to the effect that
land is no longer needed for coast guard service, for public use or for special industries,
they continue to be part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or
ownership. The adjoining registered owner of foreshore land cannot claim ownership
thereof by right of accretion.211
(4)

Reclamation212

This method suggests the filling of submerged land by deliberate act and reclaiming title
thereto. In the Philippines, there is no law, express or implied which grants to owners of
adjacent upland the right to fill the adjacent land under water. Reclaimed lands may
however, be declared by the government as property of the adjoining owners and as
such increment thereto only when it is no longer necessary for public use. Reclamation
projects may be undertaken for the establishment of residential, commercial or
industrial sites, construction or extension of roads, wharves or piers, airfields, parks,
playgrounds, plazas, market places, etc.
Republic Act No. 2264, entitled AN ACT AMENDING THE LAWS GOVERNING
LOCAL
GOVERNMENTS
BY
CREATING
THEIR
AUTONOMY
AND
REORGANIZING PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS, does not expressly authorize local
governments to undertake or carry out reclamation projects. However, such authority is
believed to be included in the general authority granted local governments to undertake
206
207
208
209
210
211
212

Hodges, G.R. No. L-12730.


Government of the Philippines v. Abaja, 52 Phil. 261 (1928).
Cortes, G.R. No. L-4012.
Grande v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-17652 (1962)
Cureg v. Intermediate Appellate Court, GR No. 73465, September 7, 1989
Ignacio v. Director of Lands, GR. No. L-12958, May 30, 1960.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 3, at 42.

151

and carry out any public works projects. This view is grounded on Section 12 of said
Act.213
The reclamation projects in Manila Bay and the coastal municipalities extending from
Pasay City to Cavite City are being undertaken pursuant to the authority granted by
R.A. 2264 to local governments.
Under R.A. 1899, the National Government granted to all municipalities and chartered
cities, the authority to carry out at their own expense, the reclamation by dredging,
filling, and other means of any foreshore lands bordering on them, and to establish,
provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor
facilities as such municipalities or chartered cities may determine in consultation with
the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Public Works and Highways. Any and all such
lands reclaimed will become property of the respective municipalities and chartered
cities; but the new foreshore along the reclaimed areas shall continue to become
property of the National Government.
(5)

Voluntary Transfer

A private grant is the usual means by which title to land is transferred by the owner
himself or his duly authorized representative. Here the consent or cooperation of the
grantor is an essential element. This transfer is given effect by the voluntary execution of
deed of conveyance in certain prescribed form, completed by the recording or
registration thereof in a public office. The purpose of such registration is to serve public
notice at least constructively and thereby legally bind third persons. Under the Torrens
system, it is the registration that is the operative act to convey the land and affect title
thereto. In other words, the legal title to the land does not pass until the conveyance
shall have been duly registered or made of public record.214
Filamore called this transfer Tradition. Tradition is the act of delivering the thing sold to
the buyer or vendee by (a) turning over material possession of the thing sold, or (b)
symbolic transfer of ownership thereof.215 The former transfers actual and physical
control over the buyer, while the other is done by executing a public instrument. Filmore
said that, according to Melquiades J. Gamboa, the requisites of tradition are: (1) the
transferor is the owner of the property transferred and has the capacity and intention to
grant; (2) the transferee has the capacity to acquire the property; (3) there is justa causa
or valid means of transfer such as the contract of sale, barter or legacy; and (4) the actual
transfer of possession to the transferee is manifested by some outward act.216
213

214
215
216

152

R.A. No. 2264, Sec. 12 provides that the implied power of a province, a city or municipality
shall be liberally construed in its favor, and that any fair and reasonable doubt as to the
existence of the power should be interpreted in favor of the local government and it shall be
presumed to exist. It also provided that the general welfare clause shall be liberally
interpreted in case of doubt so as to give more power to local governments in promoting the
economic condition, social welfare and material progress of the people in the community.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 3, at 20.
FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 53.
FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 54.

(6)

Involuntary Alienation

This method of transfer does not require the consent or cooperation of the owner of the
land, and, in fact, is usually carried out against his will. For the more common forms of
involuntary alienation, we have them in connection with judgments of the courts in
expropriation or condemnation proceedings. Land is forcibly acquired by the state
through the exercise of eminent domain, or by way of escheat or forfeiture. It may also
be confiscated, seized or attached, and subsequently sold at public auction to the highest
bidder. We have the execution sale by the sheriff to satisfy a money judgment, the tax
sale to satisfy unpaid taxes and penalties, the auction sale by a public officer in
foreclosure of mortgage. Some authorities even consider the sale of property under
special order of the court for and in behalf of a minor or a person under legal disability
as falling within the category of involuntary alienation in the same way as a sale by
judicial administrator or executor of an estate of a decedent. Under this mode of
acquiring land, the purchasers are generally subject to the rule of caveat emptor.217
(7)

Testate and Intestate Succession

Transfer of title by testate or intestate succession is governed by the Civil Law. Title to
land is acquired by descent in case an heir succeeds the deceased owner in intestacy or
by reasons of certain relationship which entitles him to succeed by operation of law. To
be an heir, it requires a certain degree or relationship with the decedent.
A landowner may execute his last will and testament designating his heir and legatee
who shall receive the respective portions of his estate pursuant to law. 218
The testator cannot dispose of that portion of his estate called Legitime which is reserved
for his compulsory heirs, namely: the legitimate children or descendants, legitimate
parents and ascendants, his widow; acknowledged natural children, and natural
children by legal fiction as well as illegitimate children. 219
When a person dies without a will, or the will does not institute an heir to the property
or the testator, or no one succeeds under the will, intestate succession shall take place.220
Under this system, his legitimate children and descendants succeed him, followed by his
parents, mother and father, who inherit in equal shares; or when they are both dead, the
illegitimate children, or acknowledged natural children, the natural children by legal
fiction and adulterous children succeed in this order. Finally, the State inherits when the
ascendants and descendants of the testator do not exist.221

217
218
219
220
221

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 3, at 299.


CIVIL CODE, arts. 884-914.
CIVIL CODE, arts. 886-887.
CIVIL CODE, art. 968.
Arts. 963-1014, ibid.

153

Professor Gamboa summarizes the order of intestate succession, thus: (1) legitimate
children and their descendants; (2) legitimate parents and descendants; (3) illegitimate
children and their descendants; (4) surviving spouse without prejudice to the rights of
brothers and sisters; (5) collateral relatives within the fifth (5th) degree; and (6) the
State.222
In Austria v. Reyes 223 the Supreme Court enunciated that testacy is favored and doubts
are resolved on the side, especially where the will evinces an intention on the part of the
testator to dispose of practically his whole estate. Furthermore, so compelling is the
principle that intestacy should be avoided and the wishes of the testator allowed
prevailing, that we could even vary the language of the will for the purpose of giving it
effect.
Succession by Devise
One succeeds by devise when he acquires land from one who may not be a relative, if he
is named by the latter in his last will and testament to succeed as such. Even a stranger
may acquire title by devise if appropriate disposition has been made in his favor by the
testator in the latters will. Where the heirs entitled would so prefer, title to land under
this method may formally be transferred without proceeding in court. Under the
provisions of Rule 74, Section 1, of the Rules of Court, they may agree upon an
extrajudicial settlement or partition of the estate of the decedent, provided there are no
debts left by him which remain unsettled.

222
223

154

FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 19, at 204.


31 SCRA 754 (1970).

CHAPTER IV
PROPERTIES NOT SUSCEPTILBLE OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution provides that only agricultural lands of the
public domain are susceptible of private ownership. Thus, forest lands, mineral lands,
and national parks are said to be outside the commerce of men. In addition to this list,
however, law and jurisprudence heve recognized additional properties which are not
susceptible of private ownership. Any title obtained by a private individual over these
properties is considered null and void.
1. Property of public dominion
Article 419 of the Civil Code provides that the following are properties of public
dominion:
(a) 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;
(b) 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.
These properties are part of the public domain and are outside the commerce of man
and are therefore, not subject to private appropriation. These properties, being for
public use, are not subject to levy, encumbrance or disposition through public or private
sale.
All other properties of the State, which are not of the character mentioned above, form
part of its patrimonial property. Property of public dominion, when no longer needed
for public use or for public service, shall also form part of the patrimonial property of
the State.
According to Article 5 of the Water Code of the Philippines, the following belong to the
State as well: (1) rivers and their natural beds; (2) continuous or intermittent waters of
springs and brooks running in their natural beds and the bed themselves; (3) natural
lakes and lagoons; (4) all other categories of surface waters such as water flowing over
lands, water from rainfall whether natural, or artificial, and water form agriculture runoff, seepage and drainage; (5) atmospheric water; (6) subterranean or ground waters
and; (7) seawater.
Article 6 of the same Code provides that even the following waters found in private
lands belong to the state: (1) continuous or intermittent waters rising on such lands; (2)
lakes and lagoons naturally occurring on such lands; (3) rain water falling on such lands;
(4) subterranean or ground waters and; (5) waters in swamps and marshes.
2. Forest lands

155

Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution, do not
necessarily refer to a large tract of wooden land or an expanse covered by dense growth
of trees and underbrush.224 The fact that the disputed land is not thickly forested and,
in any event, it has been in the actual possession of many persons for many years, it was
already private land which is better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than
for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest
classification. Furthermore, the mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has
mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the
other, mineral land. There must be some proof of the extent and present or future value
of the forestry and of the minerals, which it is more valuable for the forestry or the
mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes.225
The power to convert a land which forms part of public forest into private property is
within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development and beyond the
power of the registration court.226 Possession thereof, however long, cannot convert it
into private property.
Ankron v. Government of the Philippines
40 Phil. 10
Facts: An action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of the
Province of Davao, Department of Mindanao and Sulu. Its purpose was
to have registered, under the Torrens system, a certain piece or parcel of
land with the following description:
That all of said land, with the exception of a small part at the north, the
exact description and extension of which does not appear, has been
cultivated and planted for more than forty-four years prior to the date of
this decision.
That said land was formerly occupied, cultivated and planted by Moros,
Mansacas and others, under a claim of ownership, and that they lived
thereon and had their houses thereon, and that portion of the land which
was not planted or cultivated was used as pasture land whereon they
pastured their carabaos, cattle, and horses;
That the applicant now has some one hundred fifty (150) hills of hemp,
some eight thousand (8,000) cocoanut trees, a dwelling house, various
laborers' quarters, store-building, large camarin (storehouse of wood, a
galvanized iron and other buildings and improvements on said land.
224
225
226

156

Naguit, G.R. No. 144057, January 17, 2005.


Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands, G.R. No. 14213, Aug. 23, 1919, 40 Phil. 10.
Republic v. Court of Appeals and Lastimado, 89 SCRA 648 (1979); Director of Lands v.
Abanzado, 65 SCRA 5 (1975); Bureau of Forestry v. Court of Appeals and Gallo, 153 SCRA
351 (1987).

The appellant contends that portions of said land cannot be registered in


accordance with the existing Land Registration Law for the reason that
they are manglares. That question is not discussed in the present brief.
The appellant, however., refers the court to his discussion of that question
in the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (39 Phil. Rep., 560). By
reference to the argument in the brief in the case, it is found that the
appellant relied upon the provisions of section 3 of Act No. 1148 in
relation with section 1820 of Act No. 2711 (second Administrative Code).
Section 3 of Act No. 1148 provides that "the public forests shall include all
unreserved lands covered with trees of whatever age." Said section 1820
(Act No. 2711) provides that "for the purpose of this chapter 'public forest'
includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public
land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of
whatever character."
HELD: Paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926 only permits the
registration, under the conditions therein mentioned, of "public
agricultural lands." It must follow, therefore, that the moment that it
appears that the land is not agricultural, the petition for registration must
be denied. If the evidence shows that it is public forestry land or public
mineral land, the petition for registration must be denied. Many
definitions have been given for "agricultural," "forestry," and "mineral"
lands. These definitions are valuable so far as they establish general rules.
In this relation we think the executive department of the Government,
through the Bureau of Forestry, may, and should, in view especially of
the provisions of section 4, 8, and 20 of Act No. 1148, define what shall be
considered forestry lands, to the end that the people of the Philippine
Islands shall be guaranteed in "the future a continued supply of valuable
timber and other forest products." (Sec. 8, Act No. 1148.) If the Bureau of
Forestry should accurately and definitely define what lands are forestry,
occupants in the future would be greatly assisted in their proof and the
courts would be greatly aided in determining the question whether the
particular land is forestry or other class of lands.
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the AttorneyGeneral admitted in effect that whether the particular land in question
belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a
tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself
sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral land.
There must be some proof of the extent and present or future value of the
forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just said, many definitions
have been given for "agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and
that in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in
order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must show that it is more
valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it contains than it is for
agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show

157

that there exists some trees upon the land or that it bears some mineral.
Land may be classified as forestry or mineral today, and, by reason of the
exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be classified as agricultural land
tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the rapid growth of timber or the
discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified as agricultural today may
be differently classified tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the
proof in that particular case, having regard for its present or future value
for one or the other purposes.
The courts, however, has the right to presume in the absence of evidence
to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the
contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular land
registration case is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of
proof.
3. Watersheds
A watershed is an area drained by a river and its tributaries and enclosed by a
boundary or divide which separates it from adjacent watersheds.227 Protection of the
watersheds is an inter-generational responsibility. Watershed reservation is not
susceptible of occupancy, disposition, conveyance or alienation.228
4. Mangrove swamps
Section 4 of the Philippine Fisheries Code defines mangroves as a community of
intertidal plants including all species of trees, shrubs, vines and herbs found on coasts,
swamp or border camps. It is now settled that mangroves are forestal, not alienable
agricultural land and are, therefore, not subject to disposition.229
5. Mineral lands
DENR defines mineral land as any area where mineral resources are found and
mineral resources as any concentration of mineral /rocks with potential economic
value.230 Ownership by a person of agricultural land in which minerals are discovered
does not give him the right to extract or utilize the said minerals without the permission
of the State to which such minerals belong.231
6. National parks

227
228
229
230
231

158

Sta. Rosa Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 367 SCRA 175 (2001).
Collado v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107764, Oct. 4, 2002, 390 SCRA 343.
Director of Forestry v. Villareal, G.R. No. L-32266, Feb. 27, 1989, 170 SCRA 598.
Sec 4(aj) and (an), DENR Administrative Order No. 95-936, as amended.
Republic v. Court of Appeals and De la Rosa, G.R. No. L-43938, April 15, 1980, 160 SCRA 228.

Lands reserved for a national park, as well as those within the protected areas under the
National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, like the Bataan Natural Park,
are inalienable are cannot be registered.232
7. Military or naval reservation
Lands inside a military or naval reservation cannot be the object of registration. It was
held in Republic v. Southside Homeowners Association, Inc.,233 that a military reservation,
like the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation or a part thereof is not open to private
appropriation or disposition and, therefore, not registrable, unless it is reclassified and
declared as disposable and alienable public land.
Foreshore lands and reclaimed lands234
In Republic v. Court of Appeals and Republic Real Estate Corporation,235 foreshore land has
been invariably defined as that strip of land that lies between the high and low water
marks and that is alternatively wet and dry according to the flow of the tide or that
part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternatively covered by the ordinary flow of
the tides.
Republic. v. Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 103882, November 25, 1998
Facts: Republic Act No. 1899 ("RA 1899"), which was approved on June
22, 1957, authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities
and municipalities. Section I of said law, reads:
Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered
cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by
dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them,
and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and
adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and
chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Secretary of
Finance and the Secretary of Public Works and Communications.
On May 6, 1958, invoking the a forecited provision of RA 1899, the Pasay
City Council passed Ordinance No. 121, for the reclamation of Three
Hundred (300) hectares of foreshore lands in Pasay City, empowering the
City Mayor to award and enter into reclamation contracts, and
prescribing terms and conditions therefor. The said Ordinance was
amended on April 21, 1959 by Ordinance No. 158, which authorized the
Republic Real Estate Corporation ("RREC") to reclaim foreshore lands of
232
233
234

235

Cham v. Pizarro, A.C. No. 5499, August 16, 2005.


G.R. No. 156951, Septempber 22, 2006.
OSWALDO D. AGCAOLI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS (LAND TITLES AND
DEEDS) 225-235, (2006 ed.). [hereinafter AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE]
299 SCRA 199 (1998).

159

Pasay City under certain terms and conditions. Certain portions of the
said lands are submerged lands
On April 24, 1959, Pasay City and RREC entered into an Agreement for
the reclamation of the foreshore lands in Pasay City.
The Republic of the Philippines filed an Amended Complaint questioning
subject Agreement between Pasay City and RREC (Exhibit "P") on the
grounds that the subject-matter of such Agreement is outside the
commerce of man, that its terms and conditions are violative of RA 1899
with regard to the phrase foreshore lands
Issue: WON the lands in dispute are considered foreshore lands and
cannot, therefore, be alienated
HELD: The CA ruled erroneously when it opinioned that under RA 1899,
the term "foreshore lands" includes submerged areas. As can be gleaned
from its disquisition and rationalization aforequoted, the respondent
court unduly stretched and broadened the meaning of "foreshore lands",
beyond the intentment of the law, and against the recognized legal
connotation of "foreshore lands". Well entrenched, to the point of being
elementary, is the rule that when the law speaks in clear and categorical
language, there is no reason for interpretation or construction, but only
for application. So also, resort to extrinsic aids, like the records of the
constitutional convention, is unwarranted, the language of the law being
plain and unambiguous. Then, too, opinions of the Secretary of Justice are
unavailing to supplant or rectify any mistake or omission in the law. To
repeat, the term "foreshore lands" refers to:
The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that
is alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. (Words and
Phrases, "Foreshore")
A strip of land margining a body of water (as a lake or stream); the part of
a seashore between the low-water line usually at the seaward margin of a
low-tide terrace and the upper limit of wave wash at high tide usually
marked by a beach scarp or berm. (Webster's Third New International
Dictionary)
The duty of the court is to interpret the enabling Act, RA 1899. In so
doing, we cannot broaden its meaning, much less widen the coverage
thereof. If the intention of Congress were to include submerged areas, it
should have provided expressly. That Congress did not so provide could
only signify the exclusion of submerged areas from the term "foreshore
lands.
8. Submerged lands

160

Until reclaimed from the sea, these submerged areas are, under the Constitution,
waters. . . owned by the State forming part of the public domain and consequently
inalienable. These areas, after reclamation, can be classified as public agricultural lands,
which under the Constitution are the only natural resources that the State can alienate.
Thereafter, the government may declare these lands no longer needed for public service
and therefore, alienable and disposable lands open disposition.236
Republic Act 4850 was passed on June 22, 1957 which authorized the reclamation of
foreshore lands by chartered cities and municipalities. On January 11, 1973, Presidential
Decree No. 3-A was issued, repealing all laws on reclamation of areas under water and
vesting solely in the government the power to reclaim lands.
On February 4, 1977, Presidential Decree No. 1084 was issued, creating the Public
Estates Authority (PEA) which was renamed as Philippine Reclamation Authority in
2004. It authorized PEA to reclaim both foreshore and submerged areas of the public
domain. It also empowers PEA to hold lands of public domain even in excess of the area
permitted to private corporations by statute. Thus, PEA can hold title to private lands, as
well as title to lands of public domain.
Executive Order 525 was issued on 1979 which designated PEA as the national
governments implementing arm to undertake all reclamation projects of the
government which shall be undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract
executed by it with any person or entity. Under such contract, reclamation services
rendered to PEA by private parties shall be compensated. PEA becomes primarily
responsible for integrating, directing, and coordinating all reclamation projects and on
behalf of the National Government.
However, reclaimed areas do not automatically become alienable or disposable upon
acquisition by the PEA. Two official acts are needed before reclaimed lands become
alienable lands of public domain. First, there must be a classification that these lands are
alienable or disposable and open to disposition; and second, there must be a declaration
that these lands are not needed for public service. Absent these two official acts, lands
reclaimed by PEA remain inalienable lands of the public domain.
Nevertheless the requirement of a legislative enactment allowing the sale of reclaimed
disposable lands still applies to reclaimed areas of the PEA. The PEAs power is further
subject to the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands
of public domain.
However, in a May 6, 2003 Resolution, the court clarified that reclaimed lands of the
public domain if sold or transferred to a public or municipal corporation for a monetary
consideration become patrimonial property[and] may be soldto private properties,
whether Filipino citizens or qualified corporations.237
236
237

Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, 384 SCRA 152.


BERNAS, PRIMER, supra note 11 at 457.

161

9. Lakes
Republic Act No. 4850 prescribes that lands located at and below the maximum lake
level of elevation of the Laguna de Bay are public lands which form part of the bed of
the said lake.238 Areas forming part of the Laguna de Bay are neither agricultural nor
disposable lands of the public domain.
10. Navigable rivers
If the land forms part of the bed of a navigable stream, creek or river, the decree and title
in the name of the applicants would not give them any right or title to it. Like the rest of
the non-disposable properties, a land registration court has no jurisdiction over
navigable rivers and cannot validly adjudge the registration of title thereof in favor of a
private applicant. Ownership of a navigable stream may not be acquired under a free
patent and the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title does not change its public
character.239 It is part of public property and cannot be acquired by adverse
possession.240
11. Creeks
A creek has been defined as a recess or arm extending from a river and participating in
the ebb and flow of the sea. Under the Civil Code, a creek, including its natural bed, is
property of the public domain which is not susceptible to private appropriation and
acquisitive prescription.241 It is only after the government has declared the land to be
alienable and disposable agricultural land that the year of entry, cultivation and
exclusive and adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an imperfect title.242
Constructions of a creek which prevent the water from flowing or convert it into a
fishpond do not alter the nature of the creek as a public property.243
12. Reservation for public and semi-public purposes
The Public Land Act prescribes that a tract or tracks of land of the public domain may be
designated by the President as reservations for the use of the Republic of the Philippines
or of any of its branches, or of the inhabitants thereof, in accordance with the regulations
prescribed for this purpose. Until again declared alienable by the President, under
Section 83 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 or by proclamation, these lands remain part of
the pubic domain and shall not be subject to disposition.
238

239
240
241

242
243

162

Sec. 41, par. 11, Republic Act No. 4850, An Act Creating the Laguna Lake Development
Authority, Prescribing its Powers, Functions and Duties, Providing Funds Therefor, and for
other purposes.
Mateo v. Moreno, G.R. No. L-21024, July 28, 1969, 28 SCRA 796.
Lovina v. Moreno, G.R. No. L-17821, November 29, 1963, 9 SCRA 557.
An Act to ordain and institute the Civil Code of the Philippines [Civil Code] arts. 420(1) and
502(1).
Celestial v. Cachopero, G.R. No. 142595, October 15, 2003.
Mangaldan v. Manaoag, 38 Phil. 455 (1918).

The President may likewise reserve other lands, the use of which is not otherwise
declared by law, for settlement or public use. He shall also have the power to reserve
from sale or disposition any land belonging to the private domain of the government, or
any of the friar lands, the use of which is not otherwise declared by law. These lands
shall thereafter remain directed to the public use designated by the President.244
Pursuant to Section 9 of the Public Land Act, the President, upon recommendation of the
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make the
classification provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner,
transfer lands from one class to another.245
NOTE: CAN BE REGISTERED AND BROUGHT WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF PD1529
(consistent with the fact that technically, it is alienable), BUT REGISTERED IN THE
NAME OF THE GOVERNMENT.

244

245

Section 14, Chapter 4, Book III, Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the
Administrative Code of 1987.
Republic v. Octobre, 123 SCRA 698 (1966).

163

PART II
LAND REGISTRATION

164

I. REGISTRATION OF LANDS IN THE PHILIPPINES


A. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
WHAT IS A LAND TITLE?
A land title is basically a proof of ownership. It is an evidence of right of owner or extent
of his interest, by which means he can maintain control and as a rule assert right to
exclusive possession and enjoyment of property.246 Commonly, it is taken to mean as (1)
ownership or, when used with appropriate limiting words, a claim of ownership; or (2)
the totality of evidence, i.e., the operative facts which result in such ownership or on
which the claim of ownership is based.247
It is different from possession since one can own a thing without actually possessing it
and one can possess a thing without actually owning it.248 Title may imply possession
but possession does not necessarily imply title. Title is more than mere physical
possession. It signifies the right of the person over the property which he is in
possession.
Under the Regalian doctrine, all land of the public domain as well as all lands not
otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to be owned
by the State. To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be
presented by the landowner that the subject land does not come within the public
domain, or that he has validly acquired such land and therefore, it is within the scope of
private ownership.249
The land title serves as the evidence that the land has been reclassified and is no longer
part of the public domain and thus, can be validly disposed of or alienated; and that the
applicant has validly acquired such lands through any of the modes recognized by law.
B. REGISTRATION, DEFINITION AND PURPOSE
Registration in general means any entry made in the books of the Registry, including
registration in its ordinary and strict sense, and cancellation, annotation, and even
marginal notes. In its strict sense, it is the entry made in the Registry which records
solemnly and permanently the right of ownership and other real rights.250

246

247

248
249
250

NARCISO PEA, ET AL., REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES AND DEEDS 3 (1994 ed.). [hereinafter
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND].
ANTONIO NOBLEJAS & EDILBERTO NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES AND DEEDS 2-3
(2007 ed.). [hereinafter NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION].
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND, supra note 1, ibid.
Pangkatipuran v. Court of Appeals, 379 SCRA 621.
Po Sun Tun v. Price, GR No. 31346, Dec. 28, 1929, 54 Phil. 192.

165

Registration, while it asserts ownership, is not a means of acquiring a land. Rather, it is a


species of notice, declaring to the whole world that the person has previously acquired a
land and that he is the rightful owner of it. It is not one of the modes of acquiring
ownership as discussed in the previous section but a mere confirmation of the
ownership acquired through such modes.
It is not a prerequisite for a transfer to be legally binding upon the parties but is
necessary to bind third persons or those who might be interested purchasers in the
future who did not have knowledge of such transfer. The persons who are bound by any
conveyance, notwithstanding lack of registration are: (1) grantor (2) his heirs and
devisees and (3) third persons having actual notice or knowledge thereof. To these
people, registration is a surplasage.251
It affords some means of publicity so that persons may search records and thereby
acquire security against transactions which have not been revealed. The system prevents
fraudulent claims to lands by concealment of transfers. Since registration constitutes
notice to the whole world, it is presumed that the purchaser has well examined all
records affecting such title. This presumption cannot be overcome by proof of innocence
or good faith.252 The rule that all persons must take notice of the facts which the public
record contains is a rule of law and must be absolute.253
In short, the purpose of registration is to make the instruments evidencing any
transactions over the land as binding against third persons, and on the land itself. The
ministerial act of registering is intended to protect the buyer from all the transactions
previously had over the land which have not been recorded.
Land registration, on the other hand, refers to the proceeding, either administrative or
judicial, for registering title or interest to a land so that such title becomes a public
record which serves as a notice to all persons, even those without knowledge of such
transfer and binds such persons, should there be no objections on their part.254
BURDEN OF PROOF IS UPON THE APPLICANT
Since registration, in general, is a confirmation of the ownership over the land, the
person applying for registration must show a good title in himself as against the world.
Otherwise, his application shall be denied.255 The applicant has the burden of convincing
the court that he is the rightful owner of the property. He cannot rely upon the weakness
of the evidence presented by his adversary in ordinary registration proceedings or on
the lack of other adverse claimants in a cadastral registration proceeding.
REGISTRATION DIFFERENT FROM RECORDING EVIDENCE OF TITLE
251
252
253

254
255

166

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 26.


PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 9-10.
Garcia v. Ct. of App., Gozon, et al., GR No. L-48971, and PNB v. Ct. of App., Gozon, et al., GR
No. L-49011, both dated Jan. 22, 1980; 95 SCRA 380.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 55.
Archbishop v. Arnedo, 30 Phil. 593.

Both registration of title and recording of evidence of title assert ownership over a parcel
of land. What distinguishes registration of title from recording evidence of such title or
from all other systems of transferring title is the fact that in registration, the State steps
in to provide a guarantee of title which the whole world may rely upon.
In recording, deeds of conveyance or other instruments of transfer are simply recorded
without guaranteeing the title. This means that any subsequent purchaser or any person
interested has the burden of examining such instruments and to formulate conclusions
as to the effects of such title at their own risk. This is further aggravated by the fact that
recording is not indispensable to prove ownership. Just because a property is not
recorded in favor of the person in possession thereof does not mean that such person is
not the owner. It has been discussed earlier that the person in possession of a land shall
be deemed the owner of it provided that he can show that he acquired the same, the
property is not registered in the name of another, and that he has been in quiet and
peaceful possession thereof.256
Registration is preferred over recording evidence of title, and is perhaps the most
important contribution of the system that is now in force in the Philippines. It reduced
the risks on the part of landowners and encouraged the business over transferring titles
to lands with the security in the system guaranteed by the title backed up by the
government.
REGISTRATION, WHEN WITHOUT EFFECT
Registration is nothing more but a confirmation of the rights which the owner already
has over the land. Therefore, if the registration is done in bad faith (i.e., land in issue is
public land), the applicant not having validly acquired ownership over the land sought
to be registered, the registration is deemed to have no effect at all. Moreover, registration
does not cure the defect or illegalities in the instrument. It has also been held that when
the registration was accomplished under the wrong system, such registration is deemed
without effect. Thus, instruments concerning registered lands must be recorded under
the corresponding land registration law governing registered lands, and instruments
involving unregistered lands must likewise be recorded under Act 3344. Any instrument
recorded under the wrong system, i.e. notice of attachment affecting registered land
recorded under Act 3344, shall not constitute a notice to the whole world and shall
therefore, have no binding effect.257
C. REGISTRATION REGIMES USED IN THE PHILIPPINES
PRODUCTION AND SIMPLE DELIVERY OF LAND TITLE AND DEEDS FROM SELLER TO
PURCHASER

256
257

Alo v. Rocamora, 6 Phil. 197 (1906).


Pomeroy on Equity Jurisprudence, Vol. 2, Sec. 651.

167

This first system is effected through the delivery of the instrument evidencing land
ownership by the seller to the buyer. This system is the most natural way of transferring
titles.258
RECORDING OF TRANSCRIPTION
The second system is an improvement of the first, with the requirement that the transfer
of deed be recorded first in order to be binding upon third persons. Under this system,
the title papers are copied and transferred in a public record in the proper registry.259
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The third system differs from the first two as it requires judicial intervention in the
transfer of titles. Pea identifies this system as identical to the Torrens system while
Noblejas et al. considers it a different system altogether. Under this system, transfer of
titles take place under the supervision of the court and the records thereto, in order to be
binding, must be included as records of the court.
TORRENS SYSTEM
Under this system, the title becomes conclusive to the whole world upon registration in
the proper Register of Deeds. Without such registration, the transfer is binding only
between the parties. It is the registration which serves as the operative fact of the
transfer being legally binding against the world and vesting the owner with a title that is
absolute and indefeasible.
The registration regimes used in the Philippines are (a) the system under the Spanish
Mortgage Law; (b) the Torrens system (c) the system of recording for unregistered lands.
THE SPANISH MORTGAGE LAW OF 1893
Under this system, a possessory information title is issued to the applicant after an exparte judicial proceeding. Such possessory information is a prerequisite to obtain a title
from, and to be issued by, the General Directorate of Civil Administration.260 It is
provided in Paragraph 6, Article 393 of the Spanish Mortgage Law that an entry in the
proper registry of a record of possession shall be converted into a record of ownership
only upon the lapse of twenty years.
Unlike in the Land Registration Act, title obtained under this law, even if converted into
absolute ownership, is not indefeasible as it may still be lost through prescription. This
law was abolished by PD 982 in 1976.
PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 892

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 6.


NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 54.
260 ALBERTO E. FILAMOR, PHILIPPINE REAL ESTATE LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE 258 (1997).
258
259

168

Presidential Decree 892 was issued on February 16, 1976 which decreed the
discontinuance of the operation of the system of land registration under the Spanish
Mortgage Law, the reason being is the proliferation of dubious Spanish titles which have
raised conflicting claims and tended to destabilize the Torrens system.261
It provided that all lands which are not registered under the Spanish Mortgage Law and
which are not yet covered by the Torrens system shall be considered as unregistered
lands. Therefore, all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of
their lands under Act 496 within six months from the effectivity of PD 892 or until
August 16, 1976. Thereafter, Spanish titles will no longer be accepted as evidence in any
registration proceedings under the Torrens system.262
It further provided that all instruments affecting land originally registered under the
Spanish Mortgage Law may be recorded under Section 194 of the Revised
Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344. However, such registration under
Act 3344 shall not be valid, except as between the parties thereto unless it be recorded in
the proper registry.263 Furthermore, any recording shall not prejudice persons with
better rights.
D. HISTORY OF REGISTRATION LAWS
The Torrens system is governed principally by Act 496 or the Land Registration Act. To
bring more lands under the operation of the Torrens system, subsequent laws such as
Act 2259, otherwise known as the Cadastral Act and Commonwealth Act No. 141,
otherwise known as the Public Land Act, were enacted.
The essence of the Torrens system is the registration of title which shall be conclusive
upon the whole world. Under this system, the land owner holds a title that is
indefeasible, unassailable and imprescriptible. Such title is guaranteed by the State such
that in case damages are obtained by the holder because of the operation of the system,
an assurance fund shall be made to compensate for such damages.264 This system will be
discussed further in the following section.
REGISTRATION UNDER ACT 3344
The system of recording for unregistered lands was initially governed by Section 194 of
the Revised Administrative Code but was later amended by Act 3344. This system
provides for the registration of lands not otherwise covered by the Spanish Mortgage
Law as well as the Torrens system.
OSWALDO D. AGCAOLI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS (LAND TITLES AND
DEEDS) 30 (2006 ed.).
262 Intestate Estate of Don Mariano San Pedro v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 103727, Dec. 1, 1996,
265 SCRA 733.
263 Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, P.D. 1529,
Sec. 113.
264 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 8.
261

169

However, upon the discontinuation of the operation of the Spanish Mortgage Law, land
recognized or registered under such system were mandated by PD 892 to be recorded
under Act 3344, but only within a limited period of six months from February 16, 1976.
REGISTRATION PURELY VOLUNTARY
Act 3344 was intended to provide landowners a recourse through which they can
register their unregistered lands that are not covered by either the Torrens system or the
Spanish Mortgage Law. This being the intention of the law, no registration could then be
effected without the initiative from the landowners themselves.
Moreover, since the ownership over the lands subject of registration under this law has
never been settled or adjudicated in any proceeding, the owner thereof has no title to
attest his ownership. Ownership is thus claimed by the holder thereof on the basis of (a)
tax declarations (b) tax titles (c) deeds of conveyance.265
REGISTRATION WILL NOT PREJUDICE A THIRD PARTY WITH A BETTER RIGHT
A known peculiarity of this system is that unlike in the Torrens system, the landowner is
not provided with absolute security over his land because Act 3344 expressly provides
that any right recorded thereunder shall yield to any third person with better right. This
means that the mere registration of a sale in ones favor does not give him any right over
the land if the vendor was not anymore the owner of the land having previously sold
such land to someone else even if the earlier sale was unrecorded.266
Furthermore, any recording under this law shall not be binding against third persons
unless registered in the proper registry. Where the property registered under the
Torrens system is sold but the sale is registered not under the Property Registration
Decree but under Act No. 3344, the sale is considered not registered and effective for
purposes of Article 1544 of the Civil Code on double sales.
However, in the case of Espiritu vs. Valerio,267 it was ruled that where the owner sells an
unregistered land to two different persons, the one who registers first shall have a better
right. In these transactions, ownership is based on tax declarations, tax titles and deeds
of conveyance by those who have no title whatever issued by the government.
In short, Act 3344 provides that any instrument effected between the parties shall be
valid and binding upon them, but it shall have no legal effect against third persons
unless such instrument has been registered in the manner prescribed by law and in the
proper registry. Therefore, the failure of the buyer to register the deed of sale executed
does not invalidate the conveyance of the land. As between the buyer and seller, the
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 586.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 586.
267 GR No. L- 18018, Dec. 26, 1963, 119 Phil. 69.
265
266

170

unregistered deed of sale is binding because registration is not a prerequisite to the


perfection of a sale.268
This feature of Act 3344, according to former Commissioner Noblejas, has neutralized
the effect of registration under this system and has rendered it inefficacious. It has been
suggested that corrective measures should be introduced so as to encourage registration
under this system:
(a)

New incentives in the form of better protection for the registrant of


unregistered lands should be introduced. Rights granted under this
system should no longer yield to any rights except those previously
granted under either the Torrens system or Act 3344 itself.

(b)

Cases of lost titles which cannot be subject of reconstitution under


Republic Act No. 26 should be allowed immediate recourse under this
system.

(c)

Amendments should also be done so that tax sales, attachment and levy,
notice of lis pendens, adverse claims and other instruments in the nature of
involuntary dealings with respect to unregistered real estate, may be
admissible to record under this system of recording.

(d)

Ownership of real estate which has been recorded under this system for a
period of at least ten years should be deemed sufficient evidence to entitle
registrant and his successors-in-interest and assigns to apply for original
registration of title under the Torrens system.269

CIVIL CODE PROVISION ON DOUBLE SALE


Pursuant to Article 1544 of the New Civil Code, ownership shall belong to the person
acquiring it who in good faith first recorded it in the Registry of Property and should
there be no inscription, to the person who in good faith was first in possession; and, in
the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title, provided also that there
is good faith.
This provision did not repeal Sec. 194 of the Revised Administrative Code. The better
right of third persons contemplated in the codal provision, which should not be
prejudiced in the registration under Act 3344, refers to titles acquired independently of
the unregistered deed, and not any rights granted thereunder.270
E. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE TORRENS SYSTEM

Asilo v. Ramirez, et al., CA G.R. No. 6968-R.


NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 593.
270 Arabon v. Director of Forestry, No. 14071-R, April 7, 1960, O.G. Jan. 2, 1961.
268
269

171

Generally, the Torrens system refers to the system of registration of transactions with
interest in land whose object is, under governmental authority, to establish and certify to
the ownership of an absolute and indefeasible title to realty and simplify its transfer.
This system was devised and first introduced in South Australia by Sir Robert Torrens in
1857.271
PURPOSE OF LAND REGISTRATION UNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM
All the commentators agree about the main purpose of land registration under the
Torrens system, which is to quiet title of land; to put a stop forever to any question of the
legality of the title, except claims which were noted at the time of registration, on the
certificate, or which may arise subsequent thereto. It is meant to provide the rightful
owner of the land security that once the title is registered, with a very few exceptions, all
possibility of losing such land will be avoided.272
The system confirms and serves as a conclusive evidence of ones ownership to the land.
Such right binds the whole world, whether party or not to the registration proceedings.
Put differently, the system decrees titles which are final, irrevocable, and indisputable,
and to relieve the land of the burden of known as well as unknown claims.273
Stated simply, the purpose of registration of property is to: (1) avoid possible conflicts of
title in and to real property, and (2) facilitate transactions relative thereto by giving the
public the right to rely upon the face of the Torrens certificate of title and to dispense
with the need of inquiring further, except when the party concerned has actual
knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a reasonably cautious man to
make such further inquiry.274
TORRENS TITLE, NOT A SHIELD AGAINST FRAUD
It does not protect a usurper from the true owner, nor can it be a shield for the
commission of fraud. It does not permit one to enrich himself at the expense of
another.275 The title holder is not given any better title than what he already has.
Registration, at most, strengthens such right by enabling the holder to exercise such right
against the whole world and not only against those who are actual parties to the
proceedings.
Thus, when one registers a title to a land which is not alienable, or which has not yet
been reclassified as part of the public domain, the person does not, by virtue of the
Torrens system, acquire a right thereto. Such title is void and must be cancelled.
Furthermore, if the registration was made in bad faith, as when the purchaser knew of a

Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, 17 Phil. 49, 58, 60 (1910), citing Hogg on Australian Torrens System;
also Philippine Law Dictionary by Moreno, Third Edition, p. 954.
272 Legarda v. Saleeby, 31 Phil. 590.
273 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 9.
274 Capitol Subdivision, Inc. v. Province of Negros Occidental, 7 SCRA 60, 69-70 (1963).
275 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 67.
271

172

prior transfer of a registered land, such knowledge vitiates his title and gives him no
right against the first purchaser.276
F. HISTORY OF REGISTRATION LAWS UNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM
LAND REGISTRATION ACT (ACT NO. 496)
The Land Registration Act is the first law which operated to bring lands under a
harmonious system of land registration, the Torrens system. It was approved on
November 6, 1902 but became effective on January 1, 1903. It covered all public as well
as private lands.
The main features of this law are the indefeasibility of title and the intervention of the
State as a prerequisite to the creation and transfer of titles and interests. It also created a
court of land registration which had exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for
registration, with power to hear and determine all questions arising from such
applications. The sole function of the court is to register title. The effects and results of
that registration are determined by the statute.277
Judicial proceedings for the registration are in rem and based on the generally accepted
principles underlying the Torrens system. Every decree of registration shall be
indefeasible subject only to the exceptions provided by law. Such decree shall not be
reopened in any proceeding, subject to the right of any person deprived of land or of
any estate or interest therein by decree of registration obtained by fraud.
An Assurance Fund is provided for to pay for the loss or damage sustained by any
person who, without negligence on his part, is wrongfully deprived of any land or
interest therein on account of bringing of the same under the Act or registration of any
other person as owner of the land.
The nature of proceedings is judicial but voluntary in the sense that landowners whose
lands are not within the scope of the Torrens system are not obligated to bring them
within. In short, it is the private landowners who initiate the proceedings.
Application usually refers to a private land. It may also refer to a public agricultural
land if the applicant asks for judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete title.278
THE CADASTRAL ACT (ACT NO. 2259)
The act took effect on February 11, 1913. The distinguishing characteristic of this law is
that unlike in the Land Registration Act, registration under this law is initiated not by
the private landowner but by the government, when the president thinks that public
interest requires titles to land to be settled and adjudicated.
Cruz v. Cabana, G.R. No. 56232, June 22, 1984, 129 SCRA 656.
AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 14.
278 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 77.
276
277

173

It is also in rem, hence binding generally upon the whole world. 279 All classes of land are
included in the proceedings, private lands, public agricultural lands and lands of public
ownership. The title obtained under this law is also indefeasible and imprescriptible.
THE PUBLIC LAND ACT (COMMONWEALTH ACT NO. 141)
This law was approved on November 7, 1936 and applies to lands of public domain
which have been declared open to disposition or concession and officially delimited and
classified. It provides for different modes of government grants like homestead, lease,
sale and reservations for public and semi-public purpose. However, once the public land
has been alienated or disposed of by the government in favor of a private individual,
such land is brought under the operation of the Property Registration Decree.280
THE PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE (PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 1529)
Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, was
issued on June 11, 1978. It was a codification of all the laws relative to land registration
and thus, broader in scope. It covers original registration of title- both ordinary
registration proceedings and cadastral registration proceedings, the registration of
voluntary and involuntary dealings with registered lands, as well as the reconstitution
of lost or destroyed originals of Torrens title.281
The laws which P.D. 1529 codified such laws in order to facilitate effective
implementation of land registration laws. It also strengthens the Torrens system by
simplifying registration proceedings.
It was basically the same as the Land Registration Act of 1902, only broader as it
includes judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. Proceedings are also in
rem. This law also created the Land Registration Commission, now known as the Land
Registration Authority. An Assurance Fund is also provided for.
ADVANTAGES OF THE TORRENS SYSTEM
An authority on the subject identified several benefits of the system:
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
(e)
(f)
(g)

It abolishes endless fees.


It eliminates repeated examinations of titles.
It reduces records enormously.
It instantly reveals ownership.
It protects against encumbrances not noted on the Torrens certificate.
It makes fraud almost impossible.
It assures.

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 16.


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 13.
281 AMADO D. AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION AND RELATED PROCEEDINGS 3 (2002).
279
280

174

(h)
(i)
(j)
(k)
(l)

It keeps up the system without adding to the burden of taxation because


the beneficiaries of the system pay the fees.
It eliminates tax titles.
It gives practically eternal title as the State insures perpetually.
It furnishes state title insurance instead of private title insurance.
It makes possible the transfer of titles or of loans within the compass of
hours instead of a matter of days and weeks.282

The essence of the Torrens system is the simplification of land registration. It dispenses
with the redundancy of examining titles and the adverse claims which may otherwise
appear, every so often. Being a proceeding in rem, all controversies all settled in one
proceeding and the persons ownership is perpetually guaranteed. Furthermore, it
warrants the backing of the government through its intervention in the entire
proceeding as well as the furnishing of an assurance fund in case damage is obtained by
the landowner. Moreover, it alleviates the burden of having to deal with those otherwise
endless questions and procedures by hastening the system of land registration.
CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF THE LAW
The constitutionality of the Torrens system has been assailed on several grounds. It is
said to violate due process of law because of the possibility that an owner may be
deprived of his property without his knowing by virtue of the proceedings being in rem.
Since the Torrens system dispenses with personal notice of the initial hearing on the
application for registration, it is argued that a landowner may be unlawfully deprived of
his property.
To this issue, the court had consistently held the view that a proceeding in rem, dealing
with a tangible res, may be instituted and carried to judgment without personal service
upon the claimants or the state, or notice by name to those outside of it.283 It was held
that the a decree confirming title constitutes due process of law where the occupant is
made party by publication, the statute particularly providing that the decree shall be
conclusive against all persons, whether mentioned by name or included in the general
description to whom it may concern.284
Another attack on the constitutionality of the laws consists in the deprivation of
property without due process of law by merely failing to register his right or title in
accordance with the prescribed system.
It has been settled that the Legislature can validly provide for a system of adjudicating
titles without going against any substantial right. While it does not have the power to
dispose of a persons property without due process of law, it does have the power to
declare that if the owner of the property does not record his title papers, and by reason
of such failure an innocent third person, acquires interest in the land and relies on
See Cameron on the Torrens System, p. 103.
Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, supra.
284 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 69.
282
283

175

records presented, the rights of such innocent third person shall be upheld.285 The law
protects those who are vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights.
A PROCEEDING IN REM
A proceeding is in rem when the object of the action is to bar indifferently all who might
be minded to make an objection of any sort against the right sought to be established,
and if anyone in the world has a right to be heard on the strength of alleging facts which,
if true, show an inconsistent interest. But if the object of the action is to establish a claim
against a particular person, the action is in personam.286
P.D. No. 1529 expressly mandates that judicial proceedings for the registration of lands
shall be in rem and shall be based on the generally accepted principles underlying the
Torrens system. Therefore, the decree issued thereafter is conclusive, as well, against all
persons, whether mentioned by name or included in the general description to whom it
may concern.287
Moreover, considering that the purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to the land
and to stop forever any question to its legality, there would be no better way to that but
through a proceeding in rem which is essentially a proceeding against the whole world.
II. ADMINISTRATION OF THE TORRENS SYSTEM
A. LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY
Section 4 of P.D. 1529 provides that there shall be a Land Registration Commission,
which is created in order to have a more efficient execution of the land registration laws.
This agency, which has been renamed as the Land Registration Authority (LRA)
pursuant to E.O. 292, is under the executive supervision of the Department of Justice.
The functions of the LRA are:
(a)

Extend speedy and effective assistance to the Department of Agrarian


Reform, the Land Bank, and other agencies in the implementation of the
land reform program of the government;

(b)

Extend assistance to the courts in ordinary and cadastral land registration


proceedings

(c)

Be the central repository of records relative to original registration of


lands titled under the Torrens system, including subdivision and
consolidation plans of titled lands.288

Merchant v. Lafuente, 5 Phil. 638 (1906).


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 20.
287 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 70.
288 P.D. 1529, Sec. 6, Par. 2.
285
286

176

The LRA consists of a Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners who are all
appointed by the President, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Justice. All must
also be members of the Bar. There are also other officials in the LRA, all of whom are
appointed by the Secretary of Justice upon recommendation of the Administrator of
LRA.289
THE LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY ADMINISTRATOR
The LRA Administrator exercises the following functions:
(a)

(b)
(c)
(d)

(e)

(f)

Issue decrees or registration pursuant to final judgments of the courts in


land registration proceedings and cause the issuance by the Register of
Deeds of the corresponding title;
Exercise supervision and control over all Register of Deeds and other
personnel of the Commission;
Resolve cases elevated en consulta by, or on appeal from decision of,
Register of Deeds;
Exercise executive supervision over all clerks of court and personnel of
the Courts of First Instance throughout the Philippines with respect to the
discharge of their duties and functions in relation to the registration of
lands;
Implement all orders, decisions, and decrees promulgated relative to the
registration of lands and issue, subject to the approval of the Secretary of
Justice, all needful rules and regulations therefore;
Verify and approve subdivision, consolidation, and consolidationsubdivision survey plans of properties titled under Act No. 496 except
those covered by P.D. 957.290

Pursuant to Section 4 of E.O. No. 649, the LRA Administrator shall have the same
qualifications, rank and salary as those of an Associate Justice of a collegiate appellate
court (then Judge of the Court of First Instance). This does not mean, however, that the
LRA Administrator is a member of the judiciary. It has been held that if it were really the
intention of the Legislature to include in the grant of those privileges of a Judge of Court
of First Instance the right to be investigated by the Supreme Court and to be suspended
or removed only upon recommendation of that Court, then such grant would be
unconstitutional since it would violate the principle of separation of powers by charging
the Court with the administrative function of supervisory control over executive
officials, and simultaneously reducing pro tanto the control of the Chief Executive over
such officials.291
The LRA Administrator, despite having the same rank and enjoying the same privileges
as those of a judicial officer, remains to be an executive official. His functions are plainly
P.D. 1529, Sec. 5.
P.D. 1529, Sec 6, Par. 1.
291 Noblejas v. Teehanke, GR No. L-28790, April 29, 1968, 23 SCRA 405.
289
290

177

executive and subject to the Presidents power of supervision and control.292 His power
to resolve consultas, even though judicial in nature, is but a minimal portion of his
administrative or executive functions and merely incidental to the latter.293
DUTY OF LRA, MINISTERIAL IN NATURE
The duty of the LRA officials is purely ministerial. They are mandated to issue decrees,
as ordered by the courts. The LRA Administrator is precluded from exercising discretion
in the issuance of registration. He cannot refuse to register a title on the ground that his
personal judgment dictates its invalidity. It is not the province of the LRA to determine
the validity of the title or any other conflict that may arise regarding the land in issue,
i.e. ownership. Rather, their duty is limited to enforcing the final judgment of the court
on whether or not to issue registration.
However, if the doubt is upon the issuance of the decree by the courts, the LRA cannot
be compelled to issue registration and it becomes their duty to refer the matter to the
court. The LRA Administrator cannot be compelled by mandamus to issue the decree,
even when so ordered by the court, when it finds that such land has already been
decreed and titled in the name of another.294 This is one exception to the general rule of
the duty of the LRA being ministerial in nature.
LRA, WHEN WITHOUT AUTHORITY
By virtue of Presidential Decree 239, which was issued on July 9, 1973, the LRA no
longer has the authority to approve original survey plans. This authority has been given
exclusively to the Lands Management Bureau. The reason for such withdrawal is that
P.D. NO. 27 has rendered it necessary the expropriation of big landed estates, which the
LRA used to facilitate.
The LRA is also bereft of any authority to represent the government in all land
registration proceedings. That authority is possessed exclusively by the Solicitor General
as counsel for the government, pursuant to the Administrative Code.
B. REGISTER OF DEEDS
P.D. 1529 also provides that there shall be at least one Register of Deeds for each
province and one for each city. The Secretary of Justice shall define the official station
and territorial jurisdiction of each Registry upon the recommendation of the LRA
Administrator.
The Register of Deeds shall be appointed by the President upon recommendation of the
Secretary of Justice and the Deputy Registries and all other subordinate officials shall be

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 46.


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 46.
294 Ramos v. Rodriguez, GR No. 94033, May 29, 1995, 244 SRCA 418.
292
293

178

appointed by the Secretary of Justice, upon recommendation of the Administrator.295


Like the top officials of LRA, the Register of Deeds and the Deputy Register of Deeds
must be members of the Bar.
In case there is vacancy in the seat of the Register of Deeds, by virtue of illness,
suspension or inability of the incumbent Register of Deeds, he shall be succeeded
temporarily, unless someone is designated by the Secretary of Justice, by the following
persons in the order of priority: (1) Deputy or First Deputy Registrar; (2) Second Deputy
Registrar; (3) Provincial or City Fiscal; (4) any Assistant Fiscal designated by the
Provincial or City Fiscal.296
REGISTER OF DEEDS, REPOSITORY OF RECORDS
The main function of the Register of Deeds is to keep records of instruments affecting
registered or unregistered lands and chattel mortgages in the province or city wherein
such office is situated. It is also the duty of the Register of Deeds to register an
instrument when all the requisites for registration have been complied with. However, if
the instrument if non-registrable, he shall deny registration and duly notify the
applicant, in writing, of the denial and the ground for such denial, and to advise him of
his right to appeal by consulta to the LRA.297
DUTY OF REGISTER OF DEEDS IS MINISTERIAL
Like the LRA, the duty of the Register of Deeds is ministerial in nature. The task to write
an instrument in the records of the office of the Register of Deeds and to annotate such
at the back of the certificate of title is purely ministerial and does not involve discretion.
He may not validly refuse to register an instrument because of its invalidity. Such matter
is left to the discretion of the court.
This logically follows from the fact that registration, as earlier discussed, is mere specie
of notice. Being a mere notice, questions regarding the effect or invalidity of instruments
are expected to be decided after, not before, registration. It must follow as a necessary
consequence that registration must first be allowed, and validity or effect litigated
afterwards.
Gurbax Singh Pabla and Co. v. Reyes
G.R. No. L-3970, Oct.29, 1952, 92 Phil. 182.
FACTS: John Tan Chin Eng is the owner of a parcel of land and on July 23, 1948,
he entered into a contract with the petitioner-appellees, under the terms of
which petitioners-appellees were to construct thereon a three-story building of
concrete and of strong materials valued at from P80,000 to P90,000. The contract
also provided that the building shall become the exclusive property of the
P.D. 1529, Sec. 8.
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 513-514.
297 P.D. 1529, Sec. 10.
295
296

179

owner of the land, but that the petitioner-appellees were to occupy, hold, or
possess it as lessees. This contract of lease was filed and registered in the office
of the Register of Deeds of Manila on August 10, 1948. At the time that the
contract was entered into there was an existing mortgage over the land in favor
of the Calvos which was then cancelled, and a new mortgage was executed by
the owner in favor of respondents-appellants herein, Honorable Hermogenes
Reyes and his spouse Teodora Tantoco, dated March 8, 1949, which was
registered on the same date in the office of the Register of Deeds of Manila. This
contract of lease was amended and such amended contract has also been duly
registered in the Register of Deeds.
On May 25, 1949, counsel for petitioners-appellees wrote respondentsappellants requesting them to allow him to take the certificates of title to the
office of the Register of Deeds of Manila for the annotation of the contracts of
lease entered into by the owner with them, but the respondents refused such
request on the ground that they had no knowledge of the contract of lease
between the owner and the petitioner. They allege that owner could not sell,
assign, or encumber the mortgaged premises without the written consent of the
mortgagees.
ISSUE: WON the petitioners have the right to request for the surrender of such
transfer of certificates for purposes of registration.
HELD: Yes. It is not denied that the contracts have been executed by the
registered owner of the land, or that they have been lawfully executed, or that
they have all the qualities of registerable documents. Indeed, the owner is
agreeable to the registration. The objections interposed by respondents, who are
mortgagees merely, that they had no knowledge of the contract of lease, or that
their mortgage has priority, or that they will be prejudiced, are beside the issue.
The purpose of registering an instrument is to give notice thereof to all persons
(section 51, Act No. 496); it is not intended by the proceedings for registration to
seek to destroy or otherwise affect already registered rights over the land,
subsisting or existing at the time of the registration. The rights of these parties,
who have registered their rights, are not put in issue when an instrument is
subsequently presented for registration; nor are its effects on other instruments
previously registered put in issue by the procedure of registration.
Thus, the objections raised by respondents-appellants that they had no
knowledge of the contract of lease before the property was mortgaged to them,
or that the same violates their contract of mortgage with the owner of the land,
these are not passed upon by the order for the registration of petitionersappellees' contract of lease.
The objections, as well as the relative rights of all parties who have registered
their deeds, shall be decided in the proper suit or proceeding when the
opportune occasion arises; but they are not now in issue, nor may they be

180

adjudicated upon, simply because petitioners-appellees have applied for the


registration of their contract of lease.
On the other hand, the supposed invalidity of the contracts of lease is no valid
objection to their registration, because invalidity is no proof of their nonexistence or a valid excuse for denying their registration. The law on
registration does not require that only valid instruments shall be registered.
How can parties affected thereby be supposed to know their invalidity before
they become aware, actually or constructively, of their existence or of their
provisions? If the purpose of registration is merely to give notice, then
questions regarding the effect or invalidity of instruments are expected to be
decided after, not before, registration. It must follow as a necessary consequence
that registration must first be allowed, and validity or effect litigated
afterwards.
The act of registering an instrument is a mere ministerial act which does not
involve passing upon legal issues over the lands. Validity of claims as well as
other legal issues will have to be dealt with in an independent proceeding. So
long as the instrument is registrable, the Register of Deeds shall issue
registration.

The duty of the Register of Deeds, however, has not always been ministerial in nature.
Under the Spanish Mortgage Law, the duty of the Register of Deeds can well be
considered as judicial in nature.298 This is pursuant to Article 18 of the Spanish Mortgage
Law, which mandates that the Register of Deeds shall determine questions of legality as
to the documents presented. A purely ministerial officer cannot be charged with the
power of determining questions of legality. Nevertheless, upon the establishment of the
Torrens system, such duty of the Register of Deeds has been expressly limited to being
purely ministerial only. This applies as well to registration under Act 3344 and the
Chattel Mortgage Law.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE GENERAL RULE
Balbin v. Register of Deeds of Ilocos Sur
G.R. No. L-20611, May 8, 1969
Facts: On November 15, 1961 petitioners presented to the register of deeds of
Ilocos Sur a duplicate copy of the registered owner's certificate of title (OCT No.
548) and an instrument entitled "Deed of Donation inter-vivos," with the request
that the same be annotated on the title.
The register of deeds denied the requested annotation for being "legally
defective or otherwise not sufficient in law." It appears that previously
annotated in the memorandum of encumbrances on the certificate are three
298

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 516.

181

separate sales of undivided portions of the land earlier executed by Cornelio


Balbin in favor of three different buyers.
The final part of the annotations referring to the abovementioned sales contains
an additional memorandum stating that "three co-owner's duplicate certificates
of title No. 548 have been issued (by the register of deeds of Ilocos Sur) in the
name of the three buyers. Mainly because these three other co-owner's copies of
the certificate of title No. 548 had not been presented by petitioners, the
Register of Deeds refused to make the requested annotation.
The matter was appealed to the Commission of Land Registration who upheld
the decision of the Register of Deeds.
ISSUE: WON the Register of Deeds can validly refuse to register an instrument
considering that its duty is merely ministerial.
HELD: It appears that the donor is now merely a co-owner of the property
described in the Original Certificate of Title No. 548, having previously sold
undivided portions thereof on three different occasions in favor of three
different buyers. Consequently, aside from the owner's duplicate issued to
Cornelio Balbin, there are now three co-owner's duplicates which are
presumably in the possession of the three buyers. Accordingly, in addition to
the owner's duplicate of Original Certificate of Title No. 548, the three coowner's duplicates must likewise be surrendered.
There being several copies of the same title in existence, it is easy to see how
their integrity may be adversely affected if an encumbrance, or an outright
conveyance, is annotated on one copy and not on the others. The law itself
refers to every copy authorized to be issued as a duplicate of the original, which
means that both must contain identical entries of the transactions, particularly
voluntary ones, affecting the land covered by the title. If this were not so, if
different copies were permitted to carry differing annotations, the whole
system of Torrens registration would cease to be reliable.
As correctly observed by the Land Registration Commissioner, petitioners'
claim that the issuance of those copies was unauthorized or illegal is beside the
point, its legality being presumed until otherwise declared by a court of
competent jurisdiction.
Furthermore, since the property subject of the donation is presumed conjugal,
that is, property of the marriage of the donor, there should first be a liquidation
of the partnership before the surviving spouse may make such a conveyance.
It also appears that there is a case pending in the Court of First Instance of
Ilocos Sur wherein the civil status of the donor Cornelio Balbin and the
character of the land in question are in issue, as well as the validity of the
different conveyances executed by him. The matter of registration of the deed
of donation may well await the outcome of that case, and in the meantime the

182

rights of the interested parties could be protected by filing the proper notices of
lis pendens.
In summary, there are other exceptions to the general rule that the duty of the Register
of Deeds is ministerial. This means that in the following instances, the Register of Deeds
may validly refuse to register an instrument.
(a)

When there are several copies of the title but only one is presented with
the instrument to be registered;

(b)

When the property is presumed to be conjugal but the instrument of


conveyance bears the signature of only one spouse;

(c)

When there is a pending case in court where the character of the land and
the validity of the conveyance are in issue.299

The Register of Deeds can also be held civilly liable when acting under the Torrens Law
for any omission, mistake, or misfeasance in the performance of his duties. However, it
is still subject to the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties by public
officials as well as their immunity from suit for acts performed in their official duty.
C. CONSULTAS
It has been well emphasized that the Register of Deeds is entirely precluded from
exercising his personal judgment and discretion when confronted with the problem of
whether to register a deed or instrument on the ground that it is invalid.300
In these cases where the Register of Deeds is in doubt whether to register an instrument
or not, or when any party does not agree with the action taken by the Register of Deeds
regarding registration of an instrument, the latter must submit or refer such questions to
the LRA for resolution. This procedure is known as consulta.
When the instrument is denied registration, the Register of Deeds should notify the
party, in writing, of the reason why such registration has been denied and advise him of
his right to elevate such matter to LRA, by consulta, within five days from the receipt of
such notice. The Register of Deeds shall cancel the memorandum of the pending upon:
(a) final resolution or; (b) before resolution, if withdrawn by the applicant. The
resolution by the LRA Administrator as to what steps the Register of Deeds must make,
shall be conclusive and binding upon all Register of Deeds.301
Should there be any disagreement with the decision of the LRA, the proper
recourse would now be to the Court of Appeals and not by certiorari or prohibition. This
is by virtue of the quasi-judicial functions exercised by quasi-judicial agencies like the

299
300
301

Balbin v. Register of Deeds of Ilocos Sur, GR No. L-20611, May 8, 1969, 28 SCRA 12.
Almirol v. Register of Deeds, GR No. L-22486, March 20, 1968, 22 SCRA 1152.
P.D. 1529, Sec. 117.

183

LRA.302 The Register of Deeds may neither be compelled by a petition for mandamus to
register an instrument.303
D. REGISTRY OF PROPERTY
It has also been mandated by Sec. 51 of P.D. No. 1529 that registration of
instruments affecting registered lands must be done in the proper registry, in order to
affect and bind the land and, thus, operate as constructive notice to the world. Such
instruments, when properly recorded, shall serve as constructive notice of its contents
and all interests, legal and equitable, included therein.304
Every conveyance, mortgage, lease, lien, attachment, order, judgment,
instrument or entry affecting registered land shall, if registered, filed or entered in the
office of the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the land to which it relates
lies, be constructive notice to all persons from the time of such registering, filing or
entering.305
III. ORDINARY LAND REGISTRATION PROCEEDINGS UNDER PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO.
1529
A. INTRODUCTION
As mentioned in the earlier parts of this work, Presidential Decree No. 1529 is an
amalgamation of prior registration laws. It is also known as the Property Registration
Decree. Under it, registration under the Spanish Mortgage law was discontinued and all
lands registered under the said law but not yet covered by the Torrens System of
Registration were considered unregistered lands. The recording of unregistered lands
are governed by Chapter XIII, Section 113 of the decree.
Under this decree the Land Registration Commission and its Registry of Deeds were
established. Chapter II gives the composition of the respective agencies as well as
imposes qualifications for its officials. It also enumerates its duties and functions. Under
the present state of things, the Land Registration Commission is now known as the Land
Registration Authority.
Original Registration deals with registration of properties which are neither registered
under the Spanish Mortgage Law nor under the Torrens System of Registration. In this
type of registration a person has title to the land but has not yet registered it under the
Torrens System of Registration. Chapter III provides for the method of registering
property either voluntarily or involuntarily.
Chapter IV presents the provisions which govern the Certificate of Title. It deals with the
entry, furnishing of owners duplicate, and the registration in the Registry of Deeds of
the Original Certificate of title. It also gives the governing provisions regarding the
Calalang v. Register of Deeds, GR No. 76265, March 11, 1994, 231 SCRA 88.
Almirol v. Register of Deeds, supra.
304 Legarda v. Saleeby, GR No. 8936, Oct. 2, 1915, 31 Phil. 590.
305 P.D. No. 1529, Sec. 52.
302
303

184

Transfer Certificate of Title. Aside from these, this chapter also provides for the effects of
possession of title under the Torrens System of Registration.
Subsequent Registration is concerned about registration of dealings with registered
lands which may either be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary dealings those which is
initiated by the owner of the property and it may be any of the following: (1)
Conveyances and Transfers, (2) Mortgages and Leases, (3) and Powers of Attorney or
Trusts. While involuntary dealings are those which are done not in the initiation of the
owner of the property. Examples of involuntary dealings are attachments and adverse
claims. Chapter V deals with the registration of voluntary and involuntary dealings
regarding registered property while Chapter VI is concerned with the registration of
judgments, orders, and partitions.
Upon the entry of a certificate of title in the name of the registered owner, and also upon
the original registration on the certificate of title of a building or other improvements on
the land covered by said certificate, as well as upon the entry of a certificate pursuant to
any subsequent transfer of registered land, there shall be paid to the Register of Deeds
one-fourth of one per cent of the assessed value of the real estate on the basis of the last
assessment for taxation purposes, as contribution to the Assurance Fund. Where the
land involved has not yet been assessed for taxation, its value for purposes of this decree
shall be determined by the sworn declaration of two disinterested persons to the effect
that the value fixed by them is to their knowledge, a fair valuation.306 The manner
dealing with this assurance fund is governed by Chapter VII.
Two of the modes of acquiring lands of the public domain are through free patents and
emancipation patents. Chapter VIII and IX deals with the registration of property
acquired through these mentioned methods. In addition to emancipation patents
Chapter IX also deals with Certificate of Land Transfers and affidavits of non-tenancy.
Certificates of Land Transfers are those issued to tenant-farmers of those lands brought
under Operation of Land Transfer. Upon compliance with the requirements of
Presidential Decree No. 27, the tenant-farmer shall be issued an emancipation patent.
While an affidavit of non-tenancy is a document stating that a certain parcel of land is
not tenanted or the land is not primarily devoted for the production of rice and/or corn.
This document is needed in order to register a voluntary deed or instrument purporting
to be a subdivision, mortgage, lease, sale or any other mode of encumbrance or
conveyance of private agricultural land principally devoted to rice or corn or any
portion thereof.
Petitions and actions after original registration are governed by Chapter X. These actions
governed by this chapter are: a) petition to surrender of withhold duplicate certificates,
b) amendment and alteration of certificates, c) notice and replacement of lost duplicate
certificates, d) and reconstitution of lost or destroyed original of Torrens title.

306P.D.

1529, Sec. 93.

185

The next chapter details the fees needed to be paid to the offices involved in registration
property. These offices are: a) the clerk of court, b) the Sheriff, c) the Registry of Deeds,
and d) the Land Registration Authority.
Chapter XII discusses the forms needed in land registration and conveyancing.
Section 112. Forms in conveyancing. The Commissioner of Land
Registration shall prepare convenient blank forms as may be necessary to
help facilitate the proceedings in land registration and shall take charge of
the printing of land title forms.
Deeds, conveyances, encumbrances, discharges, powers of attorney and
other voluntary instruments, whether affecting registered or unregistered
land, executed in accordance with law in the form of public instruments
shall be registerable: Provided, that, every such instrument shall be
signed by the person or persons executing the same in the presence of at
least two witnesses who shall likewise sign thereon, and shall
acknowledged to be the free act and deed of the person or persons
executing the same before a notary public or other public officer
authorized by law to take acknowledgment. Where the instrument so
acknowledged consists of two or more pages including the page whereon
acknowledgment is written, each page of the copy which is to be
registered in the office of the Register of Deeds, or if registration is not
contemplated, each page of the copy to be kept by the notary public,
except the page where the signatures already appear at the foot of the
instrument, shall be signed on the left margin thereof by the person or
persons executing the instrument and their witnesses, and all the ages
sealed with the notarial seal, and this fact as well as the number of pages
shall be stated in the acknowledgment. Where the instrument
acknowledged relates to a sale, transfer, mortgage or encumbrance of two
or more parcels of land, the number thereof shall likewise be set forth in
said acknowledgment.307
Chapter XIV governs the registration of Chattel Mortgages specifically the manner of its
recording, fees needed in its registration. Finally, Chapter XV deals with Consultas.
B. APPLICATION
There are two types of ordinary registration both are governed by Chapter III of P.D.
1529. Voluntary registration is governed by the first part of Chapter III which is entitled
Ordinary Registration Proceedings. While involuntary registration is governed by the
second part of Chapter III entitled Cadastral Registration Proceedings. The difference
between the two is that in voluntary registration it is the person who claims ownership
over the property to be registered is the one who initiates the proceedings. While in
involuntary registration it is the government through the President of the Philippines.
307

186

P.D. 1529, Sec. 112.

(1)

When in the opinion of the President of the Philippines public interest so


requires that title to any unregistered lands be settled and adjudicated, he
may to this end direct and order the Director of Lands to cause to be
made a cadastral survey of the lands involved and the plans and technical
description thereof prepared in due form.

(2)

Thereupon, the Director of Lands shall give notice to persons claiming


any interest in the lands as well as to the general public, of the day on
which such survey will begin, giving as fully and accurately as possible
the description of the lands to be surveyed. Such notice shall be punished
once in the Official Gazette, and a copy of the notice in English or the
national language shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the bulletin
board of the municipal building of the municipality in which the lands or
any portion thereof is situated. A copy of the notice shall also be sent to
the mayor of such municipality as well as to the barangay captain and
likewise to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Sangguniang Bayan
concerned.

(3)

The Geodetic Engineers or other employees of the Bureau of Lands in


charge of the survey shall give notice reasonably in advance of the date
on which the survey of any portion of such lands is to begin, which notice
shall be posted in the bulletin board of the municipal building of the
municipality or barrio in which the lands are situated, and shall mark the
boundaries of the lands by monuments set up in proper places thereon. It
shall be lawful for such Geodetic Engineers and other employees to enter
upon the lands whenever necessary for the purposes of such survey or
the placing of monuments.

(4)

It shall be the duty of every person claiming an interest in the lands to be


surveyed, or in any parcel thereof, to communicate with the Geodetic
Engineer upon his request therefor all information possessed by such
person concerning the boundary lines of any lands to which he claims
title or in which he claims any interest.

(5)

Any person who shall willfully obstruct the making of any survey
undertaken by the Bureau of Lands or by a licensed Geodetic Engineer
duly authorized to conduct the survey under this Section, or shall
maliciously interfere with the placing of any monument or remove such
monument, or shall destroy or remove any notice of survey posted on the
land pursuant to law, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one
thousand pesos or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or
both.308

JURISDICTION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS OVER


308

P.D. 1529, Sec. 35.

187

LAND REGISTRATION CASES BEFORE P.D. NO. 1529


Even before the explicit grant of general and exclusive jurisdiction over original
registration of title to lands and over petitions filed after such original registration by
P.D. No. 1529, the special and limited jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts which did
not extend to cases involving issues properly litigable in other independent suits or
ordinary civil acts had time and again been relaxed by the Supreme Court.309 Such
exceptions were based not alone on the fact that the land registration courts are likewise
the same Regional Trial Courts, but also under the following conditions: (1) the parties
have mutually agreed or acquiesced in submitting the aforesaid issues for determination
by the court in the registration proceedings; (2) the parties have been given full
opportunity in the presentation of their respective sides of the issues and of the evidence
in support thereof; and the court has considered the evidence already of record and is
convinced that the same is sufficient and adequate for rendering a decision upon the
issues. Whether a particular matter should be resolved by the Regional Trial Court in the
exercise of its general jurisdiction or its limited jurisdiction was then held to be not in
reality a jurisdictional question but a procedural question involving a mode of practice
which may be waived.310
JURISDICTION UNDER P.D. NO. 1529
Section 2, paragraph 2 of the Property Registration Decree or P.D. 1529 provides that
Regional trial courts,
shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all applications original for
registration of title, with power to hear and determine all questions
arising upon such applications or petition. The court through its clerk of
court shall furnish the Land Registration Commission with two certified
copies of all pleading, exhibits, orders and decisions filed or issued in
applications or petitions for land registration, with the exception of
stenographic notes, within five days from the filing or issuance thereof.
Regional Trial Courts therefore no longer have limited jurisdiction in original land
registration cases so that there is no more distinction between its general jurisdiction and
the limited jurisdiction conferred by the Land Registration Act.311 In Averia v. Caguioa,312
the Supreme Court held that the aforequoted Section 2 of P.D. No. 1529 has eliminated
the distinction between the general jurisdiction vested in the regional trial court and the
limited jurisdiction conferred upon it by the former law (Act 496) when acting merely as
a cadastral court. Aimed at avoiding multiplicity of suits, the change has simplified
registration proceedings by conferring upon the regional trial courts the authority to act
not only on applications for original registration but also over all petitions filed after
Florentino v. Encarnacion, 79 SCRA 193.
Moscosa v. Court of Appeals, 128 SCRA 705; Zuniga v. Court of Appeals, 95 SCRA 740; Santos
v. Ganayo, 116 SCRA 431.
311 Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Inc. v. First Baptist Church, 152 SCRA 393.
312 146 SCRA 459.
309
310

188

original registration title, with power to hear and determine all questions arising upon
such applications or petitions.313
Under P.D. 1529, the court is now authorized to hear and decide not only such noncontroversial cases but even the contentious and substantial issues which were beyond
its competence before. It has removed the principle that land registration court has
limited jurisdiction except where there was then unanimity among the parties or none
of them raised any adverse claim or serious objection.314
In Omandan, et al. v. Court of Appeals,315 the Supreme Court resolved the issue on the
effect of the trial courts decision in a possessory action to the order of the Bureau of
Lands regarding a homestead application and decision of the DENR on the protest over
the homestead patent. It is said that Sections 3 and 4 of the Public Land Act, gives
primarily to the Director of Lands and ultimately to Secretary of Agriculture (now
Secretary of DENR) the authority to dispose and manage public lands. In this regard,
courts have no jurisdiction to inquire into the validity of the decree of registration issued
by the Director of Lands. Only the DENR Secretary can review on appeal such decree.
The DENR under the Public Land Act had prior jurisdiction over the patent on the
contested homestead area.
DENRs jurisdiction over public lands does not negate the authority of the courts of
justice to resolve questions of possession and their decisions stand in the meantime that
the DENR has not settled the respective rights of public claimants. But once the DENR
has decided, particularly with grant of homestead patent and issuance of an OCT and
then TCT later, its decision prevails.
DELEGATED JURISDICTION TO THE MTC
Section 34 of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 allows inferior courts, by way of
delegated jurisdiction in certain cases, to hear and determine cadastral or land
registration cases. The provision states:
Sec. 34. Delegated jurisdiction in cadastral and land registration cases.
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit
Trial Courts may be assigned by the Supreme Court to hear and
determine cadastral or land registration cases covering lots where there is
no controversy or opposition, or contested lots, the value of which does
not exceed one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), such value to be
ascertained by the affidavit of the claimant or by agreement of the
respective claimants if there are more than one, or from the
corresponding tax declaration of the real property. Their decisions in
these cases shall be appealable in the same manner as decisions of the
Regional Trial Courts.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 124.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 124-125.
315 G.R. No. 128750, January 18, 2001.
313
314

189

Pursuant to the said law, the Supreme Court issued Administrative Circular No. 6-93-A
dated November 15, 1995 authorizing the inferior courts to hear and decided the
cadastral or land registration cases mentioned in the aforequoted law.316
JURISDICTION CONFERRED UPON THE RTC ACTING AS A
LAND REGISTRATION COURT WHAT IT INCLUDES
When acting as a land registration court, the Regional Trial Court, has a limited and
special jurisdiction. It cannot however be denied that when the law confers jurisdiction
upon a court, the latter is deemed to have all the necessary powers to exercise such
jurisdiction to make it effective.317
If the question of whether or not the title claimed by a particular party is registrable
depends upon whether the instrument upon which he bases said claim of title is a true
deed of sale or a mere equitable mortgage, it is obvious that the court has jurisdiction
and legal authority to determine said question, for otherwise, it cannot properly exercise
its jurisdiction to determine whether said party has a registrable title or not. Such
question is not foreign but intimately related to the subject matter placed by law under
its jurisdiction. To hold that such question must be submitted for adjudication in a
separate and independent action would be clearly contrary to the general that
multiplicity of suits must be avoided, and is, furthermore, expensive, dilatory and
impracticable.318
Consistent with the same trend, it was held that where the issue of the genuineness of a
document is presented in a land registration case, the Regional Trial Court sitting as a
land registration court should not in any manner hesitate to determine the conflicting
claims of the parties; otherwise, that would practically reduce said court to impotence to
determine questions of fact, since claims on such a dispute land, more often than not, are
based on documents of title, and it is only natural that the issue of genuineness would be
raised against said documents.319
It is true that a Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) acting as a land
registration court has limited and special jurisdiction. It cannot be denied, however, that
when the law confers jurisdiction upon a court, the latter is deemed to have all the
necessary powers to exercise such jurisdiction to make it effective. The purpose of the
applicant is to prove that he has an absolute or a fee simple title over the property
sought to be registered, otherwise his application will be denied. An absolute oppositor
claims a dominical right totally adverse to that of the applicant. If successful, registration
will be decreed in favor of the oppositor, as to whether or not private respondents have
absolute or fee simple title over the property sought to be registered necessarily requires
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 126.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 127.
318 Marcelino v. Antonio, 70 Phil. 388 (1940); Director of Lands v. Estrellado, et al., 510 O.G. 12;
Alcala v. Bundale, 530 O.G. 20.
319 Padera v. Ruiz, 61. O.G. 6.
316
317

190

a resolution of the question as to whether or not the oppositor had a dominical right
totally adverse to that of the applicants. Hence, the relevancy of the issue of the validity
of the conveyances in question.320
In Franco, et al. v. Monte de Piedad,321 the Supreme Court stated that although the general
rules is that a land registration court has no power to decide cases involving issues
properly litigated in ordinary action, yet inasmuch s in this jurisdiction it is the Court of
First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) that also functions as courts of land
registration, our jurisprudence recognizes exceptions to said rule; where the parties have
acquiesced in submitting the issues for determination in the registration proceedings,
and they are given full opportunity to present their respective sides and submit their
evidence. From the cases, it may be gathered that, from the otherwise rigid rule that the
jurisdiction of al and registration court being special and limited in character and
proceedings thereon summary in nature, does not extend to issues properly litigable in
ordinary civil actions, deviations have been sanctioned under the following conditions:
(1) The parties mutually agreed or have acquiesced in submitting the aforesaid issues for
determination by the court in the registration proceedings; (2) the parties have been
given full opportunity in the presentation of their respective sides of the issues and of
the evidence in support thereof; and (3) the court has considered the evidence already of
record and is convinced that the same is sufficient and adequate for rendering a decision
upon the issues. The latter condition is a matter that largely lies within the sound
discretion of the trial judge.322
JURISDICTION OF THE RTC ACTING AS A LAND REGISTRATION
COURT SIMILAR TO THAT OF PROBATE COURTS
In Director of Lands v. Estrellado, et al.,323 the Court of Appeals held that:
The power and jurisdiction of a Court of Instance (now Regional Trial
Court) acting as a court of land registration is, we believe, similar to that
enjoyed by the same court acting as a probate court. The main duty of a
probate court is to settle the estate of the deceased testator or intestate.
Included in its jurisdiction to make such settlement and distribution, is
the power to determine whether or not a person is an acknowledged
natural child of the decedent, and to decide who of two women is the
lawful surviving spouses of the deceased. These matters are not foregoing
to the subject matter placed by law under its jurisdiction but are
incidental thereto, their adjudication being necessary to enable the
probate court to proceed to the settlement and distribution of the estate.
REGISTRATION COVERING TWO OR MORE PARCELS OF LAND

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 128.


117 Phil. 672 (1963).
322 Aglipay v. delos Reyes, 107 Phil. 331 (1960).
323 510 O.G. 12.
320
321

191

A petition for registration may cover two or more lands. Section 18 of the Property
Registration Decree (P.D. 1529) provides that:
Sec. 18. Application covering two or more parcels An application may
include two or more parcels of land belonging to the applicant/s
provided they are situated within the same province or city. The court
may at any time order an application to be amended by striking out one
or more of the parcels or by a severance of the application.
Hence, if the two parcels of land are within the same territorial jurisdiction they may be
registered under one petition as provided in Section 18 of P.D. 1529. In case several
parcels of land are situated in different provinces and belongs to one owner, the
application for registration shall be made in each of the corresponding Regional Trial
Courts of the province where the different parcels of land are located.324
When the land lies partly in one province and partly in another and the boundary
between the two provinces has not yet been definitely established by means of survey,
and the land has been declared for taxation purposes by the owner in one province, the
surveyor necessarily makes it appear in the plan of the property that the land is located
in the province where it is recorded for taxation purposes. Under such circumstances,
the application shall be filed in that province. If the boundary between the two
provinces is already definitely established by survey, the surveyor has to make a plan
for the portion of the land lying in one province and another plan for the other portion
lying in the other province, in which case an application should be filed for each lot in
the province where it lies.325
GENERAL PROCEDURE AND REQUIREMENTS
In original registration proceedings under the Property Registration Decree (P.D. 1529)
as well as in the confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act, as amended, the following requisites should all be satisfied:
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)

(e)
(f)

324
325

192

Survey of land by the Bureau of Lands or a duly licensed private


surveyor;
Filing of application for registration by the applicant;
Setting of the date for the initial hearing of the application by the Court;
Transmittal of the application and the date of initial hearing with all the
documents or other evidences attached thereto by the Clerk of Court to
the Land Registration Commission (now Land Registration authority);
Publication of a notice of the filing of the application and date and place
of the hearing in the Official Gazette;
Service of notice upon contiguous owners, occupants and those known to
have interests in the property by the sheriff;

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 95.


NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 95.

(g)
(h)
(i)
(j)

(k)
(l)
(m)

Filing of answer to the application by any person whether named in the


notice or not;
Hearing of the case by the Court;
Promulgation of judgment by the Court;
Issuance of the decree by the Court declaring the decision final and
instructing the Land Registration Authority to issue a decree of
confirmation and registration;
Entry of the decree of registration in the Land Registration Authority;
Sending of copy of the decree of registration to the corresponding
Register of Deeds; and
Transcription of the decree of registration in the registration book and
issuance of the owners duplicate original certificate of title to the
applicant by the Register of Deeds, upon payment of the prescribed fees.

A certificate of title issued without fully complying with the above requisites are thus
illegal and invalid and may be cancelled by the courts.326
WHO CAN APPLY?
Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, the Property Registration Decree, enumerates
the persons who may apply for registration:
Sec. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper
Court of Fist Instance an application for registration of title to land,
whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1)

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

(2)

Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by


prescription under the provisions of existing laws.

(3)

Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or


abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under the
existing laws.

(4)

Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner


provided for by law.

Where the land is owned in common, all the co-owners shall file the
application jointly.

326

AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 14-15.

193

Where the land has been sold under pacto de retro, the vendor a retro may
file an application for the original registration of the land, provided,
however that should the period for redemption expired during the
pendency of the registration proceedings and ownership to the property
consolidated in the vendee a retro, the latter shall be substituted for the
applicant and may continue the proceedings.
A trustee on behalf of his principal may apply for original
registration of any land held in trust by him, unless prohibited by the
instrument creating the trust.
SECTION 14 (1) INTERPRETED
Republic v. Court of Appeals and Naguit
G.R. No. 144057, January 17, 2005
FACTS: Naguit filed with the MCTC of Aklan, a petition for registration of title
of a parcel of land situated in Aklan. The application seeks judicial confirmation
of Naguits imperfect title over the aforesaid land. The public prosecutor,
appearing for the government, and Jose Angeles, representing the heirs of
Rustico Angeles, opposed the petition.
The evidence on record reveals that the subject parcel of land was originally
declared for taxation purposes in the name of a certain Urbano in 1945. On July
9, 1992, Urbano executed a Deed of Quitclaim in favor of the heirs of a certain
Maming, wherein he renounced all his rights to the subject property and
confirmed the sale made by his father to Maming sometime in 1955 or 1956.
Subsequently, the heirs of Maming executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of
Naguit who thereupon started occupying the same.
Naguit and her
predecessors-in-interest have occupied the land openly and in the concept of
owner without any objection from any private person or even the government
until she filed her application for registration.
The MCTC rendered a decision ordering that the subject parcel be brought
under the operation of the Property Registration Decree or Presidential Decree
(P.D.) No. 1529 and that the title thereto registered and confirmed in the name
of Naguit. The RTC and CA affirmed the MCTC decision.
ISSUE: WON it is necessary under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree that the subject land be first classified as alienable and disposable before
the applicants possession under a bona fide claim of ownership could even start.
HELD: No. Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, governing original
registration proceedings, provides:
SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the
proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land,
whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

194

(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have


been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a
bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
There are three requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title
under Section 14(1) (a) that the property in question is alienable and
disposable land of the public domain; (b) that the applicants by themselves or
through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation, and; (c) that such possession is under
a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.
Section 14(1) merely requires the property sought to be registered as already
alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is
filed. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it
proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is
that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the
need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse
possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been
classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already
an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over
the property.
A similar right is given under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which reads:
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands
of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein,
but those titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for
confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor,
under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide
claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately
preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall
be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
There are no material differences between Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree and Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. True, the Public
Land Act does refer to agricultural lands of the public domain, while the
Property Registration Decree uses the term alienable and disposable lands of
the public domain. It must be noted though that the Constitution declares that
alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands.

195

Clearly, the subject lands under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act and
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree are of the same type. The land
in question was found to be cocal in nature, it having been planted with
coconut trees now over fifty years old. The inherent nature of the land but
confirms its certification in 1980 as alienable, hence agricultural. There is no
impediment to the application of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree, as correctly accomplished by the lower courts.
Notably, possession since 1945 was established through proof of the existence
of 50 to 60-year old trees at the time Naguit purchased the property as well as
tax declarations executed by Urbano in 1945. Although tax declarations and
realty tax payment of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership,
nevertheless, they are good indicia of the possession in the concept of owner for
no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his
actual or at least constructive possession. They constitute at least proof that the
holder has a claim of title over the property. Such an act strengthens ones bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership. Considering that the possession of the
subject parcel of land by the respondent can be traced back to that of her
predecessors-in-interest which commenced since 1945 or for almost fifty (50)
years, it is without doubt that she has acquired title thereto which may be
properly brought under the operation of the Torrens system. That she has been
in possession of the land in the concept of an owner, open, continuous, peaceful
and without any opposition from any private person and the government itself
makes her right thereto undoubtedly settled and deserving of protection under
the law.
THOSE WHO HAVE ACQUIRED OWNERSHIP OF PRIVATE LANDS BY PRESCRIPTION
Article 1137 of the Civil Code provides that ownership and other real rights over
immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty
years, without need of title or of good faith. It must be noted that while Article 1137 of
the Civil Code speaks of ownership and other real rights over immovables, the abovementioned Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 relates to the acquisition of ownership of private
lands by prescription under existing laws. Therefore, it is not ownership of any kind of
immovable acquired by prescription that may be registered under said Decree, but
only the ownership of private lands. An example would be those lands registered under
the Spanish Mortgage Law which are not yet covered by a certificate of title by the time
of the issuance of P.D. 1529 on June 11, 1978 and considered as unregistered land. Those
lands may be deemed as falling under Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 in relation to Article
1137 of the Civil Code, when acquired by a person by prescription by adverse
possession against the original grantee.327
In the computation of the 30-year period, Article 1138 of the Civil Code also provides the
following rules:
327

196

AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION, supra note 37, at 17-18.

(a)

The present possessor may complete the period by tacking his possession
to that of his grantor or predecessor-in-interest;

(b)

The present possessor who was also the possessor at a previous time, is
presumed to have continued to be in possession during the intervening
time in the absence of proof to the contrary; and

(c)

The first day shall be excluded and the last day included.

Alba v. Court of Appeals


G.R. No. 120066, September 9, 1999
FACTS: Lachica filed an application for title to land with the claim that the land
applied for was purchased by him and his wife, from one Eulalio Raz. The land
applied for is residential and is situated in Aklan with an area of 4,845 square
meters. Lachica alleged that he acquired the land in question from three (3)
sources, namely: 1.) A Deed of Sale dated allegedly executed by Faustino
Martirez covering 840 square meters; 2.) 300 square meters allegedly purchased
from Lachicas father-in-law Eulalio Raz, and 3.) 3,725 square meters private
respondent allegedly bought in 1940 from Eufrocino Alba.
In this applicaton for title to land filed by applicant Jose Lachica, four
oppositions were filed by the following:
1. Jose Rago, in representation of Apolonia Rebeco;
2. Manuel C. Braulio and Susana Braulio;
3. Rodolfo, Lourdes and Beatriz, all surnamed Alba, represented by Octabela
Alba Vda. de Raz; and
4. Octabela Alba Vda. de Raz.
The oppositions of Rago and the Braulios were dismissed for not having
presented evidence to show that by the time this application was filed, they and
their predecessors-in-interest have been in actual, open, public, peaceful and
continuous possession of the land claimed, in concept of owner, for at least 10
years sufficient to acquire title thereto. The court rendered judgment in favor of
Lachica. In dismissing the claim of the remaining oppositors, the trial court said
that the oppositors have never offered any explanation as to the non-payment
of realty taxes for the disputed portions of the subject property from 1941 to
1958 while Lachica continuously paid taxes.
ISSUE: WON Lachica is entitled to the confirmation of his ownership in fee
simple for the 4, 845 square meter parcel of land he applied for.
HELD: No. Among other things, the lower courts reliance on prescription
should not be given weight. The controlling statute when Lachica filed his
application for registration is Section 48 of Commonwealth Act 141. In
affirming the ruling of the trial court, the CA relied on the provisions of Section

197

19 of Act 496 in relation to the Civil Codes provisions on prescription on the


assumption that the subject land is private land. The application for registration
of Lachica is for the judicial confirmation of an imperfect title considering that
the land is presumed under the Regalian Doctrine to be part of the public
domain.
Section 19 of Act No. 496, as amended, permits the registration of private lands
claimed to be owned by the applicant in fee simple which refer to:
(1.) Lands acquired by various types of titles from the government during the
Spanish Regime by way of grants by the Spanish crown namely the: a.) royal
grant; b.) special grant; c.) adjustment title; d.) title by purchase and; e.)
possessory information title, which could become a gratuitous title;
(2.) Lands that are claimed to be owned by accession, i.e. accretion, avulsion,
formation of islands, abandoned river beds, as provided for in Articles 457, 461
and 464 of the Civil Code; and
(3.) Lands which have been acquired in any other manner provided by law.
The land sought to be registered by Lachica does not fall under the
classifications under Act 496. Given the foregoing facts, prescription in the
manner invoked by both courts cannot be pleaded to bolster Lachicas claim
because no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant,
express or implied from the government; it is indispensable that there be a
showing of title from the state. The possession of public agricultural land,
however, long the period may have extended, never confers title thereto upon
the possessor.
Furthermore, even assuming that prescription can be applied in the manner
invoked by the trial and the appellate courts, it must be pointed out that while
Art. 1134 of the Civil Code provides that ownership and other real rights over
immovable property are acquired by ordinary prescription through possession
of ten years, this provision of law must be read in conjunction with Art. 1117
which requires possession in good faith and with just title. The good faith of the
possessor consists in the reasonable belief that the person from whom he
received the thing was the owner thereof, and could transmit his ownership.
For purposes of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant came
into possession of the property through one of the recognized modes of
acquisition of ownership or other real rights but the grantor was not the owner
or could not transmit any right.
It cannot be said that Lachicas possession was with color of title and good
faith. Lachicas act of appropriating for himself the entire area of 4,845 square
meters to the exclusion of petitioners who have been occupying portions of the
disputed land constituted acts of deprivation of the latters right which is
tantamount to bad faith. Failure and intentional omission of Lachica to disclose
the fact of actual physical possession by another person constitutes fraud.

198

Extraordinary acquisitive prescription cannot similarly vest ownership over the


property upon Lachica because Article 1137 states that ownership and other
real rights over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted adverse
possession thereof for thirty years, without need of good faith. Lachicas
possession of 13 years falls way below the 30 year requirement.
ACCESSION OR ACCRETION
Article 457 of the Civil Code provides that to the owners of lands adjoining the banks
of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the
currents of the waters.
For accretion or alluvion to be registrable, the following requisites of Article 457 must be
all present: (1) that the deposit be gradual and imperceptible; (2) that it be made through
the effects of the current of the water; (3) that the land where accretion takes place is
adjacent to the banks of rivers.328 A sudden and forceful action like that of flooding is not
the alluvial process contemplated under Article 457. It is the slow and hardly perceptible
accumulation of soil deposits that the law grants to the riparian owner.329 Alluvion must
be the exclusive work of nature, not caused by human intervention.
The reason behind the law giving the riparian owner the right to any land or alluvion
deposited by rivers is to compensate him for the danger of loss that he suffers because of
the location of his land. Thus, the ownership of such accretions or alluvions by the
riparian owner is not lost even after they are separated from the principal lots by the
sudden change of course of the river.330
An accretion from river to registered land does not automatically become registered
land. As such it must be placed under the operations of the Torrens system.331 A petition
then for registration of the accretion is in effect a request for confirmation of title already
vested in the riparian owner by the law.332 However, it must also be noted that an
accretion from the sea is part of the public domain and generally outside the commerce
of man.333
Article 461 of the Civil Code states that river beds which are abandoned through the
natural change in the course of the waters ipso facto belong to the owners whose lands
are occupied by the new course in proportion to the area lost. However, the owners of
lands adjoining the old bed shall have the right to acquire the same by paying the value
thereof, which value shall not exceed the value of the area occupied by the new bed.
THE PERSON OR PERSONS CLAIMING, SINGLY OR COLLECTIVELY,
TO OWN THE LEGAL ESTATE IN FEE SIMPLE

Republic v. Court of Appeals, 132 SCRA 514.


Binalay v. Manalo, 195 SCRA 374.
330 Supra note 18.
331 Cureg v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 177 SCRA 313.
332 Fernandez v. Tanada, 39 SCRA 662.
333 De Buyser v. Director of Lands 121 SCRA 13.
328
329

199

Ownership of a particular parcel of land may rest singly in one person or collectively in
two or more persons. If singly, there may not be any problem; but if collectively, the
difficulty may arise when joining them together for the purpose of filing a joint
application. A parcel of land jointly owned by two or more individuals cannot be object
of partial registration with respect to one co-owner, to the exclusion of the others. So
then, if the co-owners cannot come together for one reason or another, the remedy is to
split the land by subdivision, assigning to each of them his corresponding share. This
done, anyone of them may file a separate application for registration. Thus, where
applicants own merely an undivided share less than fee simple in the land described in
the application, the application should be dismissed without prejudice to the right of the
various owners of the undivided interests in the land jointly to present a new
application for registration.334
By legal estate in fee simple, means an interest in real estates in the form of absolute
ownership, subject only to legal limitations.335
The word persons includes both natural and juridical persons. Thus, it was held in San
Juan de Dios Hospital v. Government of the Philippines336 that the San Juan de Dios Hospital,
which is a foundation of public interest, is a juridical person in accordance with Article
44 of the Civil Code, and had rights and personality of its own to apply for registration
and obtain a decree and title. The Government itself recognized the legal personality of
the said Hospital when it promulgated Act No. 1724 approving and ratifying the
agreement entered into by the Secretary of War of the United States, as representative of
the Government of the Philippines, and the Archbishop of Manila, as representative of
the Roman Catholic Church.
THE PERSON OR PERSONS CLAIMING, SINGLY OR COLLECTIVELY, TO HAVE
THE POWER OF DISPOSING OF THE LEGAL ESTATE IN FEE SIMPLE

This class refers to persons who are authorized to act jointly or severally for and in
behalf of a principal. In this case, the appointment of the agent or his power of attorney
need be attached to the application.
While this is liable to be abused, it is borne in mind that the relations of an agent to his
principal are fiduciary and in regard to the property forming the subject matter of the
agency, he is estopped from acquiring or asserting a title of adverse to that or his
principal. Action in personam will lie against an agent to compel him to return or
retransfer to his principal the real property committed to his custody as such agent and
also to execute the necessary documents of conveyance to effect such retransfer. The
principals right of action to compel a reconveyance is not extinguished through the
registration of the land in favor of the agent; expiration of one year from the date of its
entry, there appears to be no reason why the agent should not be compelled through a
Santiago v. Cruz, et al., 19 Phil. 145.
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 34.
336 67 Phil. 150 and 158.
334
335

200

suit in equity to make such reparation as may lie within his power for the breach of trust
committed by him, and, as long as the land stands registered in his name, such
reparation may take the form of a conveyance or transfer of title cestui que trust, i.e., the
principal. The reason for this is that the title obtained under this Act by an overseer in
his own name over a parcel of land without the knowledge and consent of the owner
does not affect the right of ownership and title of the latter.337
MINORS OR OTHER PERSONS UNDER DISABILITY, THROUGH THEIR LEGALLY
APPOINTED GUARDIANS, BUT THE PERSON IN WHOSE BEHALF THE
APPLICATION IS MADE SHALL BE NAMED AS APPLICANT BY THE GUARDIAN.
The guardian referred to above is the one appointed by the court for the estate of the
minor or incompetent pursuant to the provisions of Rule 93 of the Rules of Court. It is to
be noted, however, that under the provisions of Articles 320 and 326 of the new Civil
Code the father, or in his absence the mother, is the legal administrator of the property
pertaining to the child under parental authority, and considered also as the guardian of
the childs property, subject to the duties and obligations of guardians under the Rules
of Court. In view of such legal innovation, it is submitted that an administrator
designated by law for the property of a minor child may, without being judicially
appointed as a guardian, apply for registration in behalf of his ward.338
CORPORATION, THROUGH AN OFFICER DULY AUTHORIZED
BY VOTE OF ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The mere fact that one holds the position of president of a corporation does not confer
upon him the power to represent the corporation in an act of strict ownership. Thus, it
was held that the powers of the president of a corporation are such only as are conferred
upon him by the board of directors or vested in him by the by-laws. If there is nothing in
the by-laws conferring any particular authority upon him, he has, from his office alone,
no more power over the corporate property and business than has any other director.
The president has no implied authority as such, to act as the agent for the corporation,
but like other agents he must derive his power from the board of directors of the
corporation.339
When a corporation is not shown to possess a board of directors, a petition in the Court
may be presented in its behalf by a duly authorized person.340
Under the Constitution of the Philippines, no private lands may be owned by a
corporation or association by transfer or assignment, unless at least sixty percent of its
capital belongs to Filipinos. Neither may a corporation be permitted to hold or own real
estate except such as may be reasonably necessary to enable it to carry out the purposes

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 35.


PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 36-37.
339 Wait v. Nashua Armory Assn., 66. N.H. 581; 14 L.R.A. 356.
340 Capellania del Convento de Tambobong v. Cruz, et al., 9 Phil. 145.
337
338

201

for which it is created; and, if authorized to engage in agriculture, such corporation is


restricted to the ownership and control of not to exceed 1,0234 hectares of land.
It is to be noted, in this connection, that under the 1987 Constitution, Art. XII, Sec. 3,
private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public
domain except by lease for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not
more than twenty-five years, and not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area. It can thus be
inferred that such private corporations, or associations, even if 100% of its capital
belongs to Filipinos, are disqualified to apply for original registration of its title to
alienable lands of the public domain. 341
CORPORATION SOLE MAY PURCHASE AND HOLD REAL ESTATE
A trustee on behalf of his principal may apply for original registration of any land held
in trust by him. A corporation sole is organized and composed of a single individual, the
head of any religious society or church, for the administration of the temporalities of its
incorporation, is vested with the right to purchase and hold real estate and personal
property. It need not therefore be treated as an ordinary private corporation because
whether or not it be so treated such, the Constitutional provision prohibiting private
corporations from acquiring public agricultural lands will not apply.342
A corporation sole or ordinary is not the owner of the properties that he may acquire
but merely the administrator thereof and holds the same in trust for the faithful or
members of the society or church for which the corporation is organized. Properties
acquired by the incumbent pass, by operation of law, upon his death not to his personal
heirs but to his successor in office.343
Manila Electric Company v. Castro-Bartolome
G.R. No. L-49623, June 29, 1982
FACTS: The Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) applied for the
confirmation of its two parcels of land located in Rizal. The Republic of the
Philippines opposed the application on the grounds that the applicant, as a
private corporation, is disqualified to hold alienable public lands and that the
applicant and its predecessors-in-interest have not been in the open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land for
at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application.
The lower court dismissed MERALCOs application. It held that MERALCO is
not qualified to apply for the registration of the said land since under section
48(b) of the Public Land Law only Filipino citizens or natural person can apply

Ayog v. Cusi, Jr., et al., G.R. No L-46729, November 19, 1982.


Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 75042, November 29, 1988, 168 SCRA 165.
343 Roman Catholic Apostolic Administrator of Davao, Inc. v. Land Registration Commission,
G.R. No. L-8451, December 20, 1957, 102. Phil. 596.
341
342

202

for judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles to public land. MERLACO is a


juridical person.
ISSUE: WON MERALCO can apply for judicial confirmation of the two parcels
of land.
HELD: No. The subject land is still public land. It would cease to be public land
only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen claiming
it under section 48(b). Because it is still public land and MERALCO, as a
juridical person, is disqualified to apply for its registration under section 48(b),
MERLACOs application cannot be given due course or has to be dismissed.
The constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on one hand)
alienable agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect
title and (on the other hand) alienable lands of the public domain as to which
an occupant has in imperfect tile subject to judicial confirmation. Since Section
11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we should not make any distinction or
qualification. The prohibition applies to alienable public lands as two which a
Torrens title may be secured under Section 48(b). The proceeding under section
48(b) presupposes that the land is public.
AN EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR DULY APPOINTED UNDER THE
LAWS OF THE PHILIPPINES ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF THE DECEASED
While the administrator of an estate is the one designated by law to file an application
for registration in behalf of the estate of the deceased, it does not necessarily follow that
the heirs will be entirely powerless to intervene when circumstances so warrant. Thus, it
was held that, notwithstanding the appointment of a judicial administrator, the heirs
have a right to intervene when they believe the administrators acts are prejudicial to
their interests: and it cannot be said that the administrator answers with his bond for
any damage he may cause to the interests of the estate, since such bond might not be
sufficient to cover said damages.344
TENANT, MORTGAGOR, SELLER IN PACTO DE RETRO, AND
MARRIED WOMAN, UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS
A tenant is one who holds or possesses lands or tenements by any kind of title, either in
fee, for life, for years, or at will. In a popular sense, he is one who has the temporary use
and occupation of lands or tenements which belong to another, the duration and other
terms of whose occupation are usually defined by an agreement called lease, while the
parties thereto are placed in the relation of landlord and tenant.
When one or more tenants for a term of years file an application, the legal requirement is
that they must be joined by those claiming reversionary interest in the property which
makes up the fee simple at common law, and, if such tenants own undivided shares less
344

Dais v. Court of First Instance of Capiz, 51 Phil. 396.

203

than a fee simple in the whole land, they cannot apply without joining the other tenants
owning the rest of the undivided shares so that the whole fee shall be represented in the
proceeding.
In case of an owner who had previously mortgaged his property, he cannot apply for
registration of his title without the written consent of the mortgagee. In case the
mortgagee refuses to give his consent, the application may be allowed provided that the
title be made subject to such mortgage, which shall be specified in the decree of
registration.345
With respect to the right of the vendor in a sale under pacto de retro to apply for
registration, it was held that he may apply for the registration of his right over the
property sold; but, for this purpose, he must previously obtain the written consent of the
purchaser, and if the latter refuses to give it, he must set forth in his application the sale
with right of repurchase, in order that the same may likewise be recorded in the decree
of registration.346 In such a case, what would happen if the period for redemption
reserved for the vendor-applicant has elapsed and ownership consolidated by operation
of law and said vendor lost all his rights in the property? In that case, the new and
lawful owner is entitled to be subrogated in place of the applicant or previous owner
pending registration, and he may continue the proceedings in the case and finally obtain
title as owner.
VENDEE A RETRO MAY FILE APPLICATION IN HIS NAME
It is to be noted that a sale with pacto de retro transfers the legal title to the vendee and
the vendee is subrogated to all the rights and actions of the vendor, subject to the latters
right of redemption. Having the legal title to the land, the vendee a retro has therefore a
registrable title thereto which may be the subject of initial registration. The right to
redeem the property retained by the vendor a retro should only be noted in the decree
and certificate of title that may be issued.347
CO-OWNERS SHALL FILE THE APPLICATION JOINTLY
Where the land is owned in common, all the co-owners shall file the application jointly
(Par.5 Sec. 14, P.D. 1529). A co-owner of a parcel of land cannot apply for and obtain the
registration of his undivided share to the exclusion of the other owners under the
provision of P.D. 1529. The law does not allow or permit land held or owned jointly by
two or more persons to be separately registered with respect to the share of one coowner only.348
Under Article 493 of the Civil Code, each co-owner shall have the full ownership of this
part and of the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may therefore alienate,
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 39.
Estiva v. Alvero, 37 Phil. 497.
347 Id.
348 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 95.
345
346

204

assign or mortgage it, and even substitute another person in its enjoyment, except when
personal rights are involved. But the effect of the alienation or the mortgage, with
respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in
the division upon the termination of the co-ownership. Since a co-owner cannot be
considered a true owner of a specific portion until division or partition is effected, he
cannot file an application for registration of the whole are without joining the co-owners
as applicants.349
It is elemental that until a partition is made among co-owners, no one of them can claim
any particular portion of an undivided property as exclusively his own. That portion
cannot be ascertained until such time as the co-ownership shall have ceased. Since a coowner cannot be considered as the true and exclusive owner of a designated portion
until partition is made upon the termination of the co-ownership, he cannot alone apply
for the registration of the title to the whole land held in co-ownership without joining
the other co-owners as applicants.350
PERSONS OR ENTITIES ACQUIRING OWNERSHIP OF LAND BY
OTHER MODES MAY APPLY FOR REGISTRATION OF TITLE THERETO

A land reserved, by presidential proclamation, for medical center site purposes under
the administration of the Director of Hospital is not subject to entry by any other person
or entity and no lawful settlement on them can be acquired. The proclamation legally
effected a land grant, validly sufficient for initial registration by the grantee under the
Property Registration Decree (formerly under Act 496). Such land grant is constitutive of
a fee simple title or absolute title in favor of said grantee.351 It can be said then that any
other person or entity to whom a land grant has been granted by a similar proclamation
issued by the President of the Philippines may apply for registration of title thereto.
In the case of International Hardwood and Veneer Co., of the Philippines v. University of the
Philippines,352 the Supreme Court held,
Pursuant to R.A. No. 3990, which establishes a central experiment
station for the use of the UP in connection with its research and extension
functions, particularly by the College of Agriculture, College of
Veterinary Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences, the above
reserved area was ceded and transferred in full ownership to the
University of the Philippines subject to any existing concessions, if any.
When it ceded and transferred the property to UP, the Republic of the
Philippines completely removed it from the public domain and removed
JUSTICE OSWALDO D. AGCAOILI, LAW ON NATURAL RESOURCES 100 (1997).
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 95-96.
351 Republic v. Court of Appeals, 73 SCRA 146, 152-153 (1976); see also Section 103 of P.D. No.
1529.
352 200 SCRA 554, 572 (1991).
349
350

205

and segregated it from a public forest; it divested itself of its rights and
title thereto and relinquished and conveyed the same to UP; and made
the latter the absolute owner thereof.
UP may validly apply for registration of its title to the land ceded to it by the law. Other
persons or entities to whom a land might have been similarly ceded by the Republic of
the Philippines by law may thus also properly apply for registration of title thereto.
APPLICATION BY NON-RESIDENTS
A non-resident of the Philippines may also apply for the registration of land. Section 16
of P.D. 1529 provides that:
Sec. 16. Non-resident applicant. If the applicant is not a resident of the
Philippines, he shall file with his application an instrument in due form
appointing an agent or representative residing in the Philippines, giving
his full name and postal address, and shall therein agree that the service
of any legal process in the proceedings under or growing out of the
application made upon his agent or representative shall be of the same
legal effect as if made upon the applicant within the Philippines. If the
agent or representative dies, or leaves the Philippines, the applicant shall
forthwith make another appointment for the substitute, and, if he fails to
do so the court may dismiss the application.
WHAT ACCOMPANIES THE APPLICATION?
The following should accompany the application, which should be presented in
duplicate:353

353

206

(a)

Tracing-cloth plan duly approved by the Director of Lands, together with


two blueprint or photographic copies thereof;

(b)

Three copies of the corresponding technical descriptions;

(c)

Three copies of the surveyors certificate;

(d)

All original muniments of title in the possession of the applicant which


prove his rights, to the title he prays for or the land he claims;

(e)

And certificate in quadruplicate of the city or provincial treasurer of the


assessed value of the land, at its last assessment for taxation, or, in the
absence thereof, that of the next preceding year. However, in case the
land has not been assessed, the application may be accompanied with an

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 43-44, citing regulations in Ordinary Land
registration cases.

affidavit in quadruplicate of the fair market value of the land, signed by


three disinterested persons.
ON SURVEY PLANS
The submission of the original Tracing-cloth plan is a mandatory statutory requirement
and therefore must be submitted in evidence.354 The survey plans may be made either by
the Bureau of Lands itself, after charging reasonable fees, a government surveyor, or a
duly licensed private land surveyor authorized by the Bureau of Lands. In order for the
plan and technical description of the property prepared by a private surveyor to be
admissible in land registration proceedings, it will have to be approved by the Director
of Lands.355
The failure to submit the original tracing-cloth plan is detrimental to the application.356
The reason behind the rule is 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 subsequent registration of any adjoining land.357
Therefore, the failure of the applicant to submit the survey plans by reason that such
plan is in the Land Registration Authority for the purpose of having them checked or
verified is inexcusable for it is not the function of the Authority to check the original
survey plan for lack of authority to approve such survey plans, and if there is any reason
the original tracing cloth is needed to be forwarded there, the applicant has the duty to
retrieve it there.358 Because the submission of the original tracing cloth plan is a statutory
requirement, the advance survey plan, which was attached to petitioners application
and marked in evidence, does not suffice to comply with the requirement of the law,
although in Republic v. Court of Appeals,359 it ruled that mere blueprint copy of the cloth
plan, together with the lots technical description, was sufficient to identify the land
applied for registration, as long as they are certified by the Director of Lands.360
Therefore, the failure of the persons contesting the application to the presentation of
certified copy of the original tracing cloth plan cannot be considered as a waiver.361
Besides the rules of court specifically says that the rule that failure to object to
presentation of evidence is considered a waiver to the objection does not apply to land
registration cases:
These rules shall not apply to land registration, cadastral and
election cases, naturalization and insolvency proceedings, and other cases

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 46.


Administrative Code, 1858
356 Del Rosario v. Republic, G.R. No. 148338, June 6, 2002.
357 Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 158 SCRA 568.
358 Director of Lands v. Reyes, et al., G.R. No. L-27594, November 28, 1975, 68 SCRA 177, and
February 27, 1976, 69 SCRA 415.
359 167 SCRA 150
360 Noblejas 120
361 Director Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 219 SCRA 339 (1992).
354
355

207

not herein provided for, except by analogy or in a suppletory character


and whenever practicable and convenient.362
On the other hand, mere approval of the survey plans by the Bureau of Lands is not
proof of ownership of land covered by the said plan.363 Consequently, where an
applicant sought to register a part of a municipal street, even if his survey plan, which
includes the said part of the street, is approved by the Bureau of Lands, his claim over
the said part cannot be accepted. First, the approval of the survey plans is no proof that
he owns the property covered by such plan. And second, there is no positive act from
the government classifying such land as patrimonial, therefore it is still public property
and cannot be appropriated.
Furthermore, the clerk of court will not accept the application applicant has shown that
he has furnished the Director of Lands with a copy of the application and the abovementioned annexes.364
ON MUNIMENTS
Although the submission Original Tracing-Cloth plan is mandatory, the submission of
orginal muniments is not. Muniments are instruments or written evidences which the
applicant holds or possesses to enable him to substantiate and prove title to his estate.
Considering, however, the danger of losing the original of such valuable evidence of
title, the filing of such documents together is not mandatory so long as they can be
presented to the court during the hearing of the case whenever required or necessary.365
FORM OF APPLICATION366
The application for land registration shall be in writing and:
(a)

Signed by the application or the person duly authorized in his behalf,

(b)

Sworn to before any officer authorized to administer oaths for the


province or city where the application was actually signed. If there is
more than one applicant, the application shall be signed and sworn to by
and in behalf of each.

The application shall contain the following


(a)

A description of the land.

Rules of Court, Rule 1, Sec. 3.


Gimeno v. Ct. of App., G.R. No. L-22747, December 29, 1977, 80 SCRA 623.
364P.D. 1529, Sec. 17 (1978).
365 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 47.
366 P.D. 1529, Sec. 15.
362
363

208

(b)

Shall state the citizenship and civil status of the applicant, whether
single or married, and, if married, the name of the wife or
husband, and, if the marriage has been legally dissolved, when
and how the marriage relation terminated.

(c)

It shall also state the full names and addresses of all occupants of
the land and those of the adjoining owners, if known, and, if not
known, it shall state the extent of the search made to find them.

The application for registration must be as follows:


Republic
of
the
Philippines
Regional Trial Court of _________________
The
undersigned,
____________________________________________________________hereby applies (or
apply) to have the land hereinafter described brought under the operation of the
Property Registration Decree, and to have the title thereto registered and confirmed:
AND DECLARE . . . . .
1. That the applicants/s is/are the owners of the land (by virtue of inheritance or deed of
sale or conveyance and/or possession in accordance with Section 14 of said Decree),
together with the building and improvements thereon, with the exception of the
following:_____________________________________________________________________
_____ which is/are the property of _________________________ residing at
_________________________ The said land, consisting of ____________________ parcel/s
is/are situated, bounded and described as shown on the plan and technical descriptions
attached
hereto
and
made
a
part
hereof,
with
the
following
exception:___________________________________________________________________
2. That said land at the last assessment for taxation was assessed at P ____, Philippine
currency, and the buildings and other improvements at P ___________, Philippine
currency.
3. That to the best of my/our knowledge and belief, there is no mortgage or
encumbrance of any kind whatsoever affecting said land, nor any other person having
any interest therein, legal or equitable, or in possession, other than as follows:
______________________________________________________________________________
__________
4. That the applicant/s has/have acquired said land in the following manner:
________________________________
(Note: Refer to Sec. 14 of said Decree. State also whether the property is conjugal,
paraphernal or exclusive property of the applicant/s)
5. That said land is occupied by the following person: _____________________________
______________________________________________
6. That the names in full and addresses, as far as known to the undersigned, of the
owners of all adjoining properties, of the persons mentioned in paragraphs 3 and 5, and
of the persons shown on the plan as claimants, are as follows:
______________________________________________________________________________
__________________

209

7. That the applicant/s is/are single or married to ____________________ (Note: if


marriage has been legally dissolved, state when and how the marriage relation
terminated.)_________________________________________________________________
_____________________
8. That the applicant's/s' full name, age, citizenship, residence, and postal address/es
is/are
as
follows:
___________________________________________________________________
9. That (Note: If the land included in the application is bounded by a public or private
way or road, there should be stated in this paragraph whether or not the applicant
claims any and what land within the limits of the way or road and whether the applicant
desires
to
have
the
line
of
the
way
or
road
determined.)
________________________________________ ___________________________
10. That the following documents are attached hereto and made a part hereof:
___________________________________ ________________________________
Signed
at
___________________
this
_____________________
day
of
____________________, in the year nineteen hundred and ______________________.
_________________________
(Post Office Address)
Republic
Of
The
Philippines
Province (Or City) Of _______________
On this _______________ day of _________________________,19 ________ personally
appeared
before
me
the
abovenamed
__________________________________________________ known to me to be the
person/s who executed the foregoing application and made oath that the statements
therein are true of his/their knowledge, information and belief.
The Residence Certificate/s ______________________ of the applicant/s ______________
was/were exhibited to me being No. _________________ issued at ___________________
dated ____________, 19 __________.
An application may include two or more parcels of land belonging to the applicant/s
provided the said lands are situated within the same province or city. The court may at
any time order an application to be amended by striking out one or more of the parcels
or by a severance of the application.367
WHEN THE LAND BORDERS ON ROAD
If the application describes the land as bounded by a public or private way or road, it
shall state whether or not the applicant claims any and what portion of the land within
the limits of the way or road, and whether the applicant desires to have the line of the
way or road determined.368
REQUIREMENT OF ADDITIONAL FACTS AND PAPERS, AND OCCULAR INSPECTIONS

367P.D.
368

210

1529, Sec. 18.


P.D. 1529, Sec. 20.

The court may require facts to be stated in the application in addition to those prescribed
by P.D. 1529, provided that they are not inconsistent with the said decree. The court may
also require the filing of any additional papers. It may also conduct an ocular inspection,
if necessary.369
When the land applied for is subject to any mortgage or lease, the court may require the
applicant to furnish a copy of such mortgage or lease. It shall cause the original, or upon
its discretion, the certified true copy to be presented for registration before the decree of
registration is entered.370
AMENDMENTS TO THE APPLICATION
Amendments to the application, including joinder, substitution, or discontinuance as to
parties, can be done in any stage of the proceedings subject to just and reasonable terms
the court may impose.371 However, when the amendment involves substantial increase
in the area covered by the application, it cannot be effected unless there be publication
and notification as if it is another original application for registration.372 Such substantial
increase includes:
(a)
(b)
(c)

A substantial change in the boundaries;


An increase in the area of the land applied for; or
The inclusion of an additional land.

This is required in order to afford persons who may have interests in the said additional
areas opportunity to present their claims. An order of the court, in a land registration
proceeding, amending an official plan so as to include land not previously included
therein is a nullity as against a person who is not a party and who has no notice of the
proceeding, unless publication is effected anew.373 Without publication of the
amendments for the inclusion lands not covered by original application, the court
cannot acquire jurisdiction of over the said parts.374 Thus, any judgment made regarding
such parcels of land shall be null and void for having been made without jurisdiction.
However, when the amendment involves the decrease of the area covered by the
application no publication and notification is needed.375 To summarize, the primary
purpose and effects of publication of the notice of application are 1) to confer jurisdiction
over the land applied for upon the court, and 2) to charge the whole world with
knowledge of the application of the land involved, and invite them to take part in the
case and assert and prove their rights over the property subject thereof.376

P.D. 1529, Sec. 21.


Act 496, Sec. 27
371 P.D. 1529, Sec. 19 par. 1.
372 P.D. 1529, Sec. 19 par. 2.
373 Juan v. Luis, G.R. No. 24701, August 25, 1926, 49 Phil. 252.
374 Benin v. Tuazon, 57 SCRA 531 (1974).
375 Id. at 552.
376 Noblejas 138
369
370

211

The most common amendment is the substitution of the name of the new and legal
owner for the original applicant.377 The new and legal owner has the right to be
subrogated in the place of the original applicant, and he may continue the proceedings
until he obtains the title thereof.378 This can be done by filing a motion to the court, with
the deed attached, pleading that the application be considered in accordance with the
said deed.379.
However, such failure to publicize cannot be blamed to the applicant for that duty rests
upon the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA).380 The certification of
the Administrator that there has been publication and notification is conclusive proof of
such publication and notification.381 The court cannot rule upon the issue of publication
if there is such certificate. It is only when there is the absence of such certificate, can the
court rule otherwise. Therefore, if such certificate is put on record such decision is valid
for it is conclusively presumed that the amendments were published and that the court
has jurisdiction over the said parcels of land because of such publication.
However, even without such certification being attached to the record of the court, the
application can still be valid because there is that legal presumption that a public officer
has regularly performed his duties, provided the case has been terminated for a long
period of time.
to permit such a legal presumption to be rebutted after a good many
years since the termination of the case will not only endanger judicial
stability but also violate the underlying principle of the Torrens
system.382
DEALINGS WITH LAND BEFORE ISSUANCE OF THE DECREE
The law expressly allows the land, subject matter of an application for registration, to be
dealt with, i.e., to be disposed of or encumbered during the interval of time between
the filing of the application and the issuance of the decree title, and to have the
instruments embodying such disposition or encumbrance presented to the registration
court by the interested party for the court to either order such land registered subject to
the encumbrance created by said instruments, or order the decree of registration issued
in the name of the buyer or of the person to whom the property has been conveyed by
said instruments.383 Section 22 of P.D. 1529 provides that:
After the filing of the application and before the issuance of the decree of
registration, the land therein described may still be the subject of dealings
in whole or in part, in which case the interested party shall present to the
PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 44.
Ortiz, et al. v. Ortiz, 26 Phil. 280.
379 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 45.
380 P.D. 1529, Sec. 23.
381 P.D. 1529, Sec. 24.
382 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 46.
383 Mendoza v. Court of Appeals, 84 SCRA 67 (1978).
377
378

212

court the pertinent instruments together with a subdivision plan


approved by the Director of Lands in case of transfer of portions thereof
and the court, after notice to the parties, shall order such land registered
subject to the conveyance or encumbrance created by said instruments, or
order that the decree of registration be issued in the name of the person to
whom the property has been conveyed by said instruments.
Mendoza v. Court of Appeals
84 SCRA 67
FACTS: Mendoza tried to register their land. After due notice an order of
general default was issued. Before the issuance of the title they sold the land to
Gole. The court issued the title in favor of Gole. Later, Mendoza asked that the
title be granted him because Gole failed to fully pay the purchase price and
Gole was not a party in the application. The RTC approved the motion while
CA reversed and issued the title to Gole.
ISSUE: WON the title should be issued to Gole.
HELD: Yes. It should be issued to Gole. The law permits that before the title be
decreed the subject property can be dealt with as long as the interested party
presents evidence of the dealing and those affected be notified. In this case, it is
Mendoza himself who presented the instrument of the dealing. He satisfied the
first element. The notice requisite was also satisfied because there was an order
of general default issued by the court, therefore the only party entitled to notice
is Mendoza. Besides, breach of contract is not a ground to assail the validity of
title. The only ground to assail it is on the ground of fraud in obtaining the
same. If there is breach of contract he should have resolved the contract by
filing a case in court.
B. PUBLICATION, ANSWER & DEFAULT
PURPOSE AND EFFECTS OF PUBLICATION
As was what mentioned earlier, there are several purposes and effects of publication of
the notice of application. First is to confer jurisdiction over the land applied for upon
the court. Another is to charge the whole world with knowledge of the application of
the land involved, and invite them to take part in the case and assert and prove their
rights over the property subject.
By the description in the notice, To all whom it may concern, all the world are made
parties defendant. To require personal notice as a prerequisite to the validity of
registration would absolutely prohibit the foreclosure of unknown claims, for the reason
that personal notice could never be given to unknown claimants. The great difficulty
in land title arises from the existence of possible unknown claimants. Known claimants
can be dealt with. They furnish no valid impediment, in fact, to the transfer of title.
Courts have held that in action in rem, personal notice to owners of a res is not necessary
to give the court jurisdiction to deal with and to dispose of the res. Neither may lack of

213

such personal notice vitiate or invalidate the decree or title issued in a registration
proceeding. For the state, as sovereign over the land situated within it, may provide for
the adjudication of title in a proceeding in rem or in the nature of a proceeding in rem,
which shall be binding upon all persons, known or unknown.384
Thus, notice of application and initial hearing by publication is sufficient and the mere
fact that a person purporting to have a legitimate claim in the property did not receive
personal notice is not a sufficient ground to invalidate the proceedings although he may
ask for the review of the judgment or the reopening of the decree of registration, if he
was made the victim of actual fraud. However, lack of actual notice or knowledge of the
pendency of the proceedings does not of itself constitute fraud.385
This is clearly explained in the case of Benin v. Tuazon,386
The settle rule, further, is that once the registration court had acquired
jurisdiction over a certain parcel, or parcels, of land in the registration
proceedings in virtue of the publication of the application, that
jurisdiction attaches to the land or lands mentioned and described in the
application. If it is later shown that the decree of registration had
included land or lands not included in the original application as
published, then the registration proceedings and the decree of
registration must be declared null and void-but only insofar- as the land
not included in the publication is concerned. This is so, because the court
did not acquire jurisdiction over the land not included in the publicationthe publication being the basis of the jurisdiction of the court. But the
proceedings and the decree of registration, relating to the lands that were
included in the publication, are valid. Thus, if it shown that a certificate
of title had been issued covering lands where the registration court had
no jurisdiction, the certificate of title is null and void insofar as it concerns
the land or lands over which the registration court had not acquired
jurisdiction.
In addition, it is a rule that a land registration court cannot be deprived of said
jurisdiction by a subsequent administrative act consisting in the issuance by the Director
of Lands of a homestead patent covering the same parcel of land. This is especially true
if the court has validly acquired jurisdiction over a parcel of land for registration of title
thereto by the publication of the application.
Furthermore, failure of people to assert rights to the land involved cannot operate to
exclude them from the binding effects of the judgment that may be rendered therein.

Roxas v. Enriquez, 29 Phil. 31; Aguilar v. Caoagdan, 105 Phil. 661.


Republic v. Abadilla, CA-G.R. No. 6902-R, Oct. 6, 1951; Derayunan v. Derayunan, 56 O.G.22, p.
3863, May 30, 1960, CA.
386 57 SCRA 531, 558, citing Philippine Manufacturing Co. vs. Imperial, 49 Phil. 122; Juan and
Chongco vs. Ortiz, 49 Phil. 252; Lichauco vs. Herederos de Corpus, 60 Phil. 211.
384
385

214

The rights and interests of a person who is not made a party to an action affecting the
ownership or possession thereof, are not thereby prejudiced.387 Thus, the purpose of the
notice and publication thereof is to invite all persons concerned who may have any
rights or interests in the property applied for to come to the court and show cause why
the application should not be granted.
In other words, everybody is welcome to become party to the case if he has any rights to
enforce or interests to protect. To deprive him of that opportunity will be to deprive
him of his right or property without due process of law.
Incidentally, it may be well to understand what due process of law is. This phrase
was defined by Judge Story, in his work on Constitutional Law, as the law in its regular
course of administration through the courts of justice.388
Due process of law is not that the law shall be according to the wishes of all the
inhabitants of the state, but simply: (1) There shall be a law prescribed in harmony with
the general powers of the legislative department of the government; (2) That this law
shall be reasonable in its operation; (3) That it shall be enforced according to the regular
methods of procedure prescribed; and (4) That it shall be applicable alike to all citizens
of the state or to all of a class.
When a person is deprived of his life or liberty or property, therefore, under a law
prescribed by the proper lawmaking body of the state and such law is within the power
of said department to make, and is reasonable, and is then enforced according to the
regular methods of procedure prescribed, and is applicable alike to all citizens of a
particular class within the state, such persons is not deprived of his property or of his
life or of his liberty without due process of law.389
NOTICE OF INITIAL HEARING
Under Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree (P.D. 1529), after the filing of the
application for registration of title to land, the next step is for the proper Regional Trial
Court, within five (5) days from said filing, to issue an order setting the date and hour
of the initial hearing which shall not be earlier than forty-five days nor later than ninety
days from the date of the order. In turn, the public shall be given notice of the initial
hearing of the application for land registration by means of: (1) Publication; (2) Mailing;
(3) Posting. The Administrator of Land Registration Authority shall cause a notice of
the hearing to be published in the Official Gazette and once in a newspaper of general
circulation in the Philippines. This notice shall be directed towards all persons
appearing to have an interest in the land involved, including adjoining owners so far as
known, and in general to all whom it may concern. This obliges all persons concerned
to appear in court on the date and time indicated to show proof on why the application
Albano, 10 Phil. 410.
U.S. v. Ling Su Fan, 10 Phil. 104.
389 See Story on the Constitution, 5 th ed., Secs. 1943-1946; Principles of Constitutional Law,
Cooley, 434.
387
388

215

for registration should not be granted. The publication in the Official Gazette shall be
sufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the court.
The publication in the Official Gazette binds the whole world, inclusive of those who
may be adversely affected and those who factually have been innocent of such
publication. This is the only way to give meaning to the finality and indefeasibility of
the Torrens title to be issued, as against the argument that such rule could result to
actual injustice. 390
FORM OF NOTICE
The aforementioned Section 23 requires that copy of the notice of initial hearing duly
attested by the Administrator of Land Registration Authority be posted by the Sheriff of
the province or city in a conspicuous place on each parcel of land as well as on the
bulletin board of the municipality or city in which the land is situated at least fourteen
(14) days in advance of the date set for the hearing. The notice shall be substantially in
the form prescribed in said Section 23. Said Section never meant to dispense with the
requirement of notice by mailing and by posting.391
Republic v. Marasigan,392 explains the meaning of the proviso of Section 23 of P.D. No.
1529:
This proviso was never meant to dispense with the requirement of notice
by mailing and by posting. What it simply means is that in so far as
publication is concerned, there is sufficient compliance if the notice is
published in the Official Gazette, although the law mandates that it be
published once in the Official Gazette and once in a newspaper of general
circulation in the Philippines. However, publication in the latter alone
would not suffice. This is to accord primacy to the official publication.
That such proviso was never meant to dispense with the other modes of
giving notice, which remain mandatory and jurisdictional, is obvious
from Section 23 itself. If the intention of the law were otherwise, said
section would not have stressed in detail the requirements of mailing of
notice to all persons named in the petition who, per Section 15 of the
Decree, include owners of adjoining properties, and occupants of the
land.
Moreover, in the case of Director of Lands vs. CA,393 it was held that publication of the
notice of the initial hearing in a newspaper of general circulation is mandatory and
imperative. Without such, the land registration court cannot validly confirm the title of
the applicant for registration.
Francisco v. Ct. of App., Santos, et al., G.R. No. L-35787, Apr. 11, 1980; 97 SCRA 22.
Republic v. Marasigan, 198 SCRA 219.
392 198 SCRA 219, 228 (1991), stress supplied.
393 276 SCRA 276, 285 (1997).
390
391

216

The date of mailing of the motion, pleading, or any other papers, which may include
instruments as the deed of donation, is considered the date of filing as shown by the
post office stamp on the envelope or registry receipt. 394
MAILING AND PROOF OF PUBLICATION AND NOTICE
The two other modes of giving notice are by mailing and by posting. Compliance with
these requirements is mandatory and jurisdictional.395
PERSONS AND OFFICIALS TO WHOM NOTICE IS GIVEN BY MAILING
Section 23 of P.D. No. 1529 provides that the Commissioner of Land Registration
Commission (now Administrator of the Land Registration Authority) shall cause a copy
of the notice of initial hearing of the application to be mailed to the following:
(a)

To every person named in the notice whose address is known- within


seven days after publication of said notice in the Official Gazette.

(b)

To the Secretary of Public Works and Highways, to the Provincial


Governor, and to the Mayor of the municipality or city, as the case may
be, in which the land lies- if the applicant requests to have the line of a
public way or road determined.

(c)

To the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, the Solicitor General, the Director of


Land Management, the Director of Mines and/ or the Director of
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as may be appropriate- if the land
borders on a river, navigable stream or shore, or on an arm of the sea
where a river or harbor line has been established, or on a lake, or if it
otherwise appears from the application or the proceedings that a tenantfarmer or the national government may have a claim adverse to that of
the applicant.

(d)

To such other persons as the court may deem proper.

NOTICE BY POSTING
The same Section 23 of P.D. 1529 also provides that the Administrator of the Land
Registration AuthorityShall also cause a duly attested copy of the notice of initial hearing to be
posted by the Sheriff of the province or city, as the case may be, or by his
deputy, in a conspicuous place on each parcel of land included in the
application and also in a conspicuous place on the bulletin board of the
394
395

Mingoa v. Land Registration Administrator, 200 SCRA 782.


Republic vs. Marasigan, supra.

217

municipal building of the municipality or city in which the land or


portion thereof is situated, fourteen days at least before the date of initial
hearing.
PROOF OF PUBLICATION AND NOTICE
Section 24 of P.D. No. 1529 provides that the certification of the Administrator of the
Land Registration Authority and of the Sheriff concerned to the effect that the notice of
initial hearing, as required by law, has been complied with shall be filed in the case
before the date of initial hearing, and shall be conclusive proof of such fact.
Such certification cannot, however, be conclusive proof of the fact of publication and/ or
posting, if the certification is made even prior to the actual publication of the notice or
release for circulation of the Official Gazette, or prior to the completion of the 14-day
period of actual posting of such notice. A party to an action has no control over the
Administrator or the Clerk of Court acting as a land court; he has no right to meddle
unduly with the business of such official in the performance of his duties.396
DEFECTIVE PUBLICATION AND EFFECTS
A defective publication of the notice of initial hearing deprives the court of
jurisdiction.397 When the court a quo lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of a case, it
lacks the authority over the whole case and all its aspects.398 This is so because it is the
proper publication of said notice that brings in the whole world as a party in the case
and confers the court with jurisdiction to hear and decree it.399 The publication is
defective in the following instances:
(a)

Where what was published in the Official Gazette is the description of a


bigger lot which included the lands subject of registration. The
registration did not acquire jurisdiction over subject lands because:
1.
Section 15 of P.D. No. 1529 (as also Sec. 21 of Act 496) specifies that
the application for registration should contain the description of
the land subject of registration and this is the description to be
published;
2.

It is the publication of specific boundaries of lands to be registered


that would actually put the interested parties on notice of the
registration proceedings and enable them, if they have rights or
interest in the property, to show why the application for
registration should not be granted;

Banco Espanol v. Palanca, 37 Phil. 921.


Po vs. Republic, 40 SCRA 37 (1971).
398 Pinza vs. Aldovino, 25 SCRA 220, 224 (1968).
399 Register of Deeds of Malabon vs. RTC, Malabon, M.M. Branch 170, 181 SCRA 788 (1990).
396
397

218

3.

(b)

The adjoining owners of the bigger lot would not be the same as
the owners of the smaller lots subject of registration. Hence,
notice to adjoining owners of the bigger lot is not notice to those of
the smaller lots.400

Where the actual publication of the notice of initial hearing was after the
hearing itself. The publication is also defective where the Official Gazette
containing said notice, although for the month prior the scheduled
hearing, was released for publication only after said hearing.401

Accordingly, in the case of Register of Deeds of Malabon vs. RTC Malabon, the court order
set the hearing of petition for reconstitution of title on August 17, 1988. Said order was
included in the May 22 and 30, 1988 issues of the Official Gazette, but released for
circulation on October 3, 1988. The Supreme Court held that the court did not acquire
jurisdiction to hear the petition for tardiness of publication. This principle equally
applies to a belated publication of an application for registration of title.
MINORS AND PERSONS UNDER DISABILITY GIVEN DUE REPRESENTATION
Upon the return day of notice, and proof of service of all orders of notice issued, the
court may appoint a disinterested person to act as guardian ad litem for minors and
persons not in being, unascertained, unknown, or out of the Philippines, who may have
an interest. The Compensation of the guardian or the agent shall be determined by the
court and paid as part of the expenses of the court.402 Ordinarily, a guardian ad litem has
no authority to act or bind a minor in any transaction with respect to his estate, his
authority being restricted only to matters connected with the litigation at hand; but he
can however do so with the approval of the court.403
OPPOSITION TO THE APPLICATION IN ORDINARY PROCEEDINGS
Section 25 of P.D. No. 1529 provides:
Any person claiming an interest, whether named in the notice or not,
may appear and file an opposition on or before the date of initial hearing,
or within such further time as may be allowed by the court. The
opposition shall state all the objections to the application and shall set
forth the interest claimed by the party filing the same and apply for the
remedy desired, and shall be signed and sworn to by him or by some
other duly authorized person.
If the opposition or the adverse claim of any person covers only a
portion of the lot and said portion is not properly delimited on the plan
Fewkes vs. Vasques, 39 SCRA 514, 516-518 (1971).
Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 236 SCRA 442, 449 (1994).
402 Act 496, Sec. 33.
403 Sto. Domingo, etc. v. Sto. Domingo, et al., 103 Phil. 373.
400
401

219

attached to the application, or in case of undivided co-ownership,


conflicting claims of ownership or possession, or overlapping of
boundaries, the court may require the parties to submit a subdivision
plan duly approved by the Director of Lands.
It will be noted that under Section 34 of the land Registration Act (Act 496), a person
alleging his interest in the land is required to file an answer to the application for
registration. But even before P.D. No. 1529, the Supreme Court had said that a verified
opposition is the answer referred to in said Section 34 of Act 496.404
WHO ARE ENTITLED?
Any person claiming an interest, whether named in the notice or not, may appear and
file an opposition or answer on or before the return day, or within such further time as
may be allowed by the court. The answer shall state all the objections to the application,
and shall set forth the interest claimed by the party filing the same and apply for the
remedy desired, and shall be signed and sworn to by him or by some person in his
behalf.405
All that is required to give him a standing in court is that he has some kind of an interest
in the property. It is immaterial whether this interest is in the character of legal owner
or is of a purely equitable nature as where he is a beneficiary of a trust.406 Under these
criteria, the following may be proper oppositors:
(a)

A homesteader who had not yet been issued his title but who had
fulfilled all the conditions required by law to entitle him to a patent;

(b)

A purchaser of friar land before the issuance of the patent to him; and

(c)

Persons who claim to be in possession of a tract of public land and have


applied with the Bureau of Lands for its purchase.407

Failure to file an answer or opposition within the period granted by the court or within a
reasonable time thereafter constitutes abandonment of the opposition.408 But once an
opposition has been formally filed, it is improper for the court taking cognizance of such
registration case to order the dismissal thereof on the ground that the opposition failed
to appear on the day set for the hearing.409

Director of Lands vs. Santiago, 160 SCRA 186 (1988).


Sec. 34 of Act 496, as amended by Sec. 1 of Act 3621.
406 De Castro vs. Marcos, 26 SCRA 644, 653 (1969), citing Archbishop of Manila vs. Barrio of Sto.
Cristo, 39 Phil. 1, 7 and Cuoto vs. Cortes, 8 Phil. 459, 461.
407 De Castro vs. Marcos, supra; also Heirs of Pelagia Zara vs. Director of Lands, 20 SCRA 641
(1967).
408 Omandam v. Director of Lands, 95 Phil. 450.
409 Vda. De Barbin v. Jordas, et al., 55 O.G. 1, Jan. 5, 1959, CA
404
405

220

Where one who may justly oppose an application for registration should find him out of
time, the proper procedure should be to ask for the lifting of the order of general or
special default, and then, once lifted, to file an opposition to the application.410 This is
because proceedings in land registration are in rem and not in personam, the sole object
being the registration applied for and not the determination of any right not connected
with the registration.411
REQUISITES OF AN OPPOSITION
An opposition has two requisites, namely: (1) It shall set forth all the objections to the
application and (2) It shall state the interest claimed by the party filing the same. The real
purpose of the provision was to require the answer to disclose the objections to the
application, the requirement that the opponent show his interest being merely for
purpose of making plain, full, and clear the objections to the application.412
IS AFFIRMATIVE RELIEF OBTAINABLE IN ANSWER?
In the case of City of Manila v. Lack,413 this question was answered in the negative
adhering to the theory that the respondent is merely an objector, one who prevents but
cannot obtain. This ruling, however, has been rendered obsolete with the subsequent
passage of an amendatory measures, Act No. 3621, providing that where there is an
adverse claim, the court shall determine the conflicting interests of the applicant and the
adverse claimant or oppositor, and after taking evidence shall dismiss the application if
neither of them succeeds in showing that he has title proper for registration, or shall
enter a decree awarding the land applied for, or any part thereof, to the person entitled
thereto, and such decree, when final, shall entitle such person to the issuance of an
original certificate of title.414
The new rule seems to be in keeping with the procedure under the Public Land Act,
permitting any number of persons (Section 50) to seek judicial confirmation of imperfect
or incomplete title to land by presenting their respective applications, praying that the
validity of the alleged title or claim be inquired into and determined accordingly; so
also in cadastral proceedings, where an answer or claim may be filed with the same
effect as an application for registration.
DEFAULT
Section 26 of P.D. No. 1529 states:
If no person appears and answers within the time allowed, the court
shall, upon motion of the applicant, no reason to the contrary appearing,
Serrano v. Palacio, 52 O.G. 1, Jan. 1956, CA.
Estiva v. Alvero, 37 Phil. 467.
412 City of Manila v. Lack, 19 Phil. 324.
413 Ibid.
414 Nicolas v. Pre, et al., 97 Phil. 766.
410
411

221

order a default to be recorded and require the applicant to present


evidence. By the description in the notice To all Whom It May
Concern, the entire world are made parties defendant and shall be
concluded by the default order.
Where an appearance has been entered and an answer filed, a default
order shall be entered against persons who did not appear and answer.
EFFECTS OF DEFAULT
A default order in land registration proceedings is entered against the whole world, so
that all persons, except the parties who had appeared and filed pleadings in the case, are
bound by said order.415 Where there is no opposition, all the allegations in the
application are deemed confessed on the part of the opponent. As a result, it has also
been held that a person who has not challenged the application is deemed confessed on
the part of the opponent. Moreover, a claimant having failed to present his answer or
objection to the registration of a parcel of land under the Torrens system or to question
the validity of such registration within a period of one year after the certificate of title
had been issued, had forever lost his right in said land, even granting that he had any
right therein.416
A defaulted interested person may however gain standing in court by filing a motion to
set aside the order of default in accordance with Section 3, Rule 18 of the Rules of
Court,417 which reads:
Sec. 3: Relief from order of default- A party declared in default may at
any time after discovery thereof and before judgment file a motion under
oath to set aside the order of default upon proper showing that his failure
to answer (or file an opposition as in ordinary land registration case) was
due to fraud, accident, mistake or excusable neglect 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.
WHEN DEFAULT ORDER IS IMPROPER?
Where an oppositor has already filed with the court an opposition based on substantial
grounds, it is improper, even illegal, to declare him in default simply because he failed
to appear at the initial hearing of the application for registration. This was explained
further by the Supreme Court in Director of Lands v. Santiago,418
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
Cachero vs. Marzan, 196 SCRA 601, 610 (1991).
De los Reyes v. Paterno, 34 Phil. 420.
417 Sec. 34. of P.D. No. 1529 allows application of the Rules of Court in a suppletory character
when not inconsistent with said Decree.
418 160 SCRA 186, 191-192 (1988).
415
416

222

the applicant, no reason to the contrary appearing, order a general default


to be recorded419 cannot be interpreted to mean that the court can just
disregard the answer (now opposition) before it, which has long been
filed, for such interpretation would 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
default.
In the same case, the Supreme Court also held that the appropriate remedy to contest an
illegal declaration or order of default is a petition for certiorari. It pointed out that in
Omico Mining and Industrial Corporation v. Vallejos,420 the Court held that the remedy
provided for in the above-quoted rule (i.e., Sec. 2, Rule 41) is properly, though not
exclusively, available to a defendant who has been 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.
GENERAL DEFAULT NOT A GUARANTEE TO SUCCESS OF APPLICATION
That no person is entitled to have the land registered under the Torrens system unless
he is the owner in fee simple of the same, even though there is no opposition presented
against such registration by third persons, has been affirmed by the courts many times.
One of the fundamental purposes of the registration of land under the Torrens system is
to secure to the owner an absolute indefeasible title, free from all encumbrances and
claims whatsoever, except those mentioned in the certificate of title issued, and, so far as
it is possible, to make the certificate issued to the owner by the court absolute proof of
such title. In order that the petitioner for the registration of his land shall be permitted
to have the same registered, and to have the benefit resulting from the certificate of title
finally issued, the burden is upon him to show that he is the real and absolute owner of
the land he is applying for. The petitioner is not necessarily entitled to have the land
registered under the Torrens system simply because no one appeared to oppose his title
and to oppose the registration of the land. He must show, even though there is no
opposition, to the satisfaction of the court, that he owns the legal estate in fee simple.
Courts are not justified in registering property under the Torrens system simply because
there is no opposition interposed. Courts may, even, in the absence of any opposition,
deny the registration of the land under the Torrens system, upon the ground that the
facts presented did not show that the petitioner is the owner in fee simple, of the land
which he is attempting to register.421

419
420
421

Section 26, P.D. No. 1529.


63 SCRA, 300 (1975), citing Matute vs. Court of Appeals, 26 SCRA 768 (1969).
Maloles and Malvar v. Director of Lands, 25 Phil. 548; De los Reyes v. Paterno, 34 Phil. 420;
Roman Catholic Bishop of Lipa v. Municipality of Taal, 38 Phil. 367; Director of Lands v.
Agustin, 42 Phil.277.

223

The applicant must prove that he has just title to the property inasmuch as just title is
never presumed. He cannot merely rely on the absence or weakness of the evidence of
the oppositors. By express provision of Article 1129 of the New Civil Code, there is just
title when the claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes
recognized by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights.422
ORDER OF DEFAULT MAY BE SET ASIDE
The power of the court to set aside an interlocutory default order and permit a person to
come in and make defense for any good cause shown cannot be questioned. This is a
power inherent in courts of general jurisdiction, and may, so it has been declared, be
exercised without the grant of statutory authority.423 Moreover, an interlocutory
judgment or order remains under the control of the court, in the absence of a legal
provision to the contrary, until the final decision of the case, and may be modified and
rescinded, on sufficient grounds shown, at any time before the entry of final
judgment.424 Accordingly, while it may be an error of procedure to file a petition to
reopen and/ or review on the ground of fraud pending the promulgation of the
judgment, the interests of substantial justice and the speedy determination of the
controversy should have impelled the trial court to lift its order of general default and
once lifted to allow the petitioners to file his opposition to the application.425
ISSUANCE OF ORDER OF GENERAL DEFAULT PRESUMED
Where the record in a land registration case does not affirmatively show an order of
general default, it is deemed that such order was issued. For, in the absence of showing
to the contrary, a judicial proceeding is presumed to be regular, and all steps required by
law to be taken before the court may validly render judgment, have been so taken.426
Under Sec. 26 of P.D. No. 1529, a general default may be ordered by the court if no
person appears and answers within the time prescribed. As a rule, this is done upon
motion of the applicant when the case is called at the initial hearing, but may also be
ordered by the court motu proprio. If the applicant himself fails to appear, the court may
dismiss his application without prejudice.
Special default is when a party appears at the initial hearing without having filed an
answer or opposition and asks the court for time within which to file the same, and this
has accordingly been granted, in case of failure of such party to file his answer or
opposition within the period allowed. This operates only against specific person or
persons.
ORDER OF DEFAULT, WHEN APPEALABLE
Reyes v. Sierra, et al., G.R. No. L-28658, Oct. 18, 1979; 93 SCRA 472.
23 Cyc. 389.
424 Larrobis v. Wislezenus and Smith, Bell & Co., 42 Phil. 401; De Vela v. Naawa, 62 O.G. 44, Oct.
31, 1966, CA.
425 Yabut Lee and Liscano v. Punzalan, G.R. No. L-50236, Aug. 29, 1980; 99 SCRA 567.
426 Pascual, et al., v. Ortega, et al., 58 O.G. 12, Mar. 19, 1962, CA.
422
423

224

As a rule in ordinary civil cases, a party who has been declared in default loses his
standing in court and, consequently, cannot appear later on, adduce evidence and be
heard, and for that reason he is not entitled even to notice. Neither can he appeal from
the judgment rendered, and the only exception is when the party in default files a
motion to set aside the order of default on the ground or grounds stated in Rule 38 of the
Rules of Court, in which event he is entitled to notice of all proceedings.427
However, in registration proceedings, where a party appeared and presented an answer
in opposition and later amended it, although rejected by the court, he did not lose
thereby his standing in court, and the order excluding his answer, which is equivalent to
declaring him in default, is appealable as soon as the decision ordering the issuance of
the decree in favor of the adverse party shall have been rendered.428
MOTION TO DISMISS APPLICATION; MOTION TO DISMISS OPPOSITION
In a land registration case, a motion to dismiss the application, or a motion to dismiss
the opposition to such application, is allowed. In Valisno v. Plan,429 the Supreme Court
held that while the Land Registration Act (Act 496) does not provide for a pleading
similar or corresponding to a motion to dismiss, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court however
allows the application of the rules in a suppletory character or whenever practicable and
convenient. Similarly, the Property Registration Decree (P.D. No. 1529) does not provide
for a motion to dismiss, but it specifically provides in its Section 34 that the Rules of
Court shall, insofar as not inconsistent with the provisions of this Decree, be applicable
to land registration and cadastral cases by analogy or in a suppletory character and
whenever practical and convenient. Thus, in an earlier case,430 the High Court
sustained the dismissal of the application for registration upon a motion to dismiss
grounded on the courts lack of jurisdiction over the res as the lands sought to be
registered had been previously registered in the names of the oppositors.
On the other hand, in the Valisno case, the applicants motion to dismiss the opposition
to the application for registration on ground of res judicata was sustained by the Court,
holding that the former judgment (in a case of recovery of possession) was a final judgment
rendered by a court (Court of Appeals) having jurisdiction of the subject matter and of the
parities, and that there was between the first and second actions identity of parties,
subject matter and cause of action.
This is the reasoning of the Court:
While the complaint in the first action is captioned for recovery of
possession, the allegations and the prayer for relief therein raise the issue
of ownership. In effect, it is in the nature of an accion reivindicatoria. The
Garcia Lim Toco v. Go Fay, 80 Phil. 166; Manidian v. Leong, 103 Phil. 431.
See Malagum and Ornopia v. Pablo, 46 Phil. 19.
429 143 SCRA 502 (1986).
430 Duran vs. Oliva, 3 SCRA 154 (1961), cited in Valisno vs. Plan, supra.
427
428

225

second case is for registration of title. Consequently, between the two


casers there is identity causes of action because in accion reivindicatoria
possession is sought on the basis of ownership and the same is true in
registration cases. Registration of title in ones name is based on
ownership. In both cases, the plaintiff and the applicant seek to exclude
other persons from ownership of the land in question. The only
difference is that in the former case, the exclusion is directed against
particular persons, while in the latter proceedings, the exclusion is
directed against the whole world. Nonetheless, the cause of action
remains the same.
It does not matter that the first cause was decided by a court of general
jurisdiction, while the second case is being heard by one of a limited
jurisdiction, such as a registration court. It is enough that the court which
decided the first case on the merits had validly acquired jurisdiction over
the subject matter and the parties. That both courts should have equal
jurisdiction is not a requisite of res judicata.
C. EVIDENCE
BURDEN OF APPLICANT
The burden of the applicant is to show that he is the real and absolute owner, in fee
simple.431 Applicants of a claim over the land must overcome the presumption that the
land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain, through competent, clear
and persuasive evidence of private ownership or of acquisition from the government,
which applies also in cases of confirmation of imperfect title.432 As stated in Laragan v.
Court of Appeals, 433 under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Law, the presumption always
is that the land pertains to the State, and the occupants and possessors claim and interest
in the same, by virtue of their imperfect title or continuous, open, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation under a bona fide claim of ownership for the
required number of years. The basic rule then is that the applicant must stand on the
strength of his own evidence. He must submit the evidence to the court although no one
appears to oppose his title and to oppose the registration of the land. He should not also
rely on the absence or weakness of the evidence of the oppositors.
WHAT APPLICANT MUST PROVE?
First, the applicant must prove that the land applied for has been declassified from the
forest or timber zone and is a public agricultural land, is alienable and disposable, or
otherwise capable of registration. When the property sought to be registered is

Republic v. Lee, 197 SCRA 13.


Amado D. Aquino, Land Registration and Related Proceedings 62 (4 th ed., 2007).
433 Laragan v. Court of Appeals, 153 SCRA 172.
431
432

226

agricultural land, it only need be classified as alienable and disposable only at the time
the application for registration of title is filed.434
He must also prove the identity of the land, his possession and occupation thereof for
the length of time and in the manner required by law.435 If, however, the claim is not
based on his own possession, he must prove the basis of such claim by submitting his
muniments of title or whatever evidence to support the same436, whether documentary
or oral.437 He must also prove the genuineness of the title he presents.438
The Land Registration Act (Act No. 496), the Property Registration Decree (PD No.
1529), or the Public Land Act (specifically, Section 48[b], CA No. 141, require that every
applicant show a proper title for registration. Indeed, even in the absence of any adverse
claim, the applicant is not assured of a favorable decree by the land registration court if
he fails to establish a proper title for official recognition.439
PROOFS THAT LAND HAS BEEN DECLASSIFIED FROM
THE FOREST ZONE, IS ALIENABLE OR DISPOSABLE, AND IS REGISTRABLE.
According to Agcaoili, such proofs are:
(a)

Presidential Proclamations;

(b)

Executive Orders also issued by the President, withdrawing from a


reservation a specific area and declaring the same open for entry, sale or
other mode of disposition;

(c)

Administrative Orders issued by the Secretary of Environment and


Natural Resources;

(d)

Bureau of Forest Development Land Classification Map, that the land lies
within the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain;

(e)

Certification by the Director of Forestry, that the land has been released
as alienable and disposable; and reports of district Forester, that the
subject land was found inside and agricultural zone and is suitable for
rice cultivation is binding on the courts inasmuch as it is the exclusive

Republic v. Court of Appeals and Naguit, 448 SCRA 442.


Extending the Period of Filing Applications for Administrative Legalization (Free Patent) and
Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect and Incomplete Titles to Alienable and Disposable Lands
in the Public Domain under Chapter VII and Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as
amended, for eleven (11) years commencing January 1, 1977, P.D. No. 1073 4, amending
subsections 48[b] and 48[c] of the Public Land Act (1977).
436 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 63.
437 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 156.
438 Republic Cement Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 198 SCRA 734.
439 Republic v. Sayo, 191 SCRA 171.
434
435

227

prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government to classify


public lands;
(f)

Investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigator (binding upon the


courts), and

(g)

Legislative act/statute, reserving a portion of the public domain for


public or quasi-public use, which amounts to a transfer of ownership to
the grantee.440

A mere classification or certification made by the Bureau of Forestry (or by a District


Forester) is not controlling in all cases, as in a case where the land involved is within a
forested zone covered by a land classification map showing the timberland zone and
testimony which merely identified and described the condition of the area and verified
the location of the land as stated in the survey plan, absent any authentic document
evidencing the classification of the land applied for as a forest zone.441 However, there
was a case where the court held that reports and testimonies of a district forester and a
land inspector that the area applied for is forest land within the Central Cordillera Forest
Reserve deserve great weight. At the same time, in Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals,442
the Court gave weight to the mere certification of the Bureau of Forestry that the land
applied for became disposable and alienable only on a later date prior to application.
However, a private corporation may apply for judicial confirmation of the land without
need of a separate confirmation proceeding for its predecessor-in-interest first.443
Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals
106 SCRA 426
DOCTRINE: A judicial declaration that a parcel of land is public, does not
preclude even the same applicant from subsequently seeking a judicial
confirmation of his title to the same land, provided he thereafter complies with
the provisions of Sec. 48 of C.A. 141, as amended and as long as said public
land remains alienable and disposable.
FACTS: The respondents filed a lease application with the Bureau of Lands, but
were denied as the land has been classified as within U.S. Military Reserve. A
few years later, the land was deemed reverted to public domain as it was
excluded from the U.S. Philippine Military Bases Agreement. Respondents
contend that they had been in open, continuous, and exclusive ownership of
the land. The Director of Lands, herein petitioner, opposed, alleging that
petitioners had not been in the concept of such ownership thirty (30) years prior
to the application, and that the petition was an attempt to reopen a cadastral
case which was held res judicata. The lower court ruled in favor of herein
AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 247-248.
Republic v. Court of Appeals, 168 SCRA 77.
442 133 SCRA 701.
443 Republic v. Manna Properties, inc., G.R. No. 144692, January 31, 2005.
440
441

228

respondents. The appellate court reversed, stating that the said declaration is
binding upon the applicants even if they did not take part in the proceedings,
and therefore the trial court had no further jurisdiction to entertain the case at
bar.
ISSUES:
(1)

(2)

HELD:
(1)

(2)

WON the CA erred in ruling that the prior decision in the cadastral
proceedings declaring the disputed lot as public land does not
constitute res judicata.
WON the CA erred in ruling that the applicants had registrable title
over the disputed land

The Supreme Court grants the petition, setting aside the decision of
the CA. A judicial declaration that a parcel of land is public does not
preclude even the same applicant from subsequently seeking a
judicial confirmation of his title to the same land, provided he
thereafter complies with the provisions of Sec. 48 of C.A. 141, as
amended and as long as said public land remains alienable and
disposable. When the cadastral proceedings was instituted in 1927
and terminated in 1930, the land in question was still classified as
within the U. S. Military Reservation and was deemed reverted to the
public domain only in 1953. On this basis, the Court finds that the
decision in the aforesaid cadastral case does not constitute res
judicata upon a subsequent action for land registration considering
the futility of filing any claim then over the land in question since the
same would nevertheless have been denied due to the fact that
during the pendency of the cadastral case, said land was not
alienable nor disposable and this was shown by the denial of the
lease application filed then by private respondents' predecessor-ininterest
But while the cadastral proceedings in 1927 cannot be considered a
bar to the registration proceedings instituted by private respondents
in 1965, the chronology of events in the case at bar clearly negates
compliance by private respondents-applicants with the thirty-year
possession requirement. The intervening period commencing from
the promulgation of Proclamation No. 10 of the Governor-General of
the Philippines in 1925 declaring the land in question as part of the
U.S. Military Reservation until 1953 when the land was deemed
reverted back to the public domain disturbed private respondentsapplicants, possession over the land in question because during this
interregnum, no amount of time in whatever nature of possession
could have ripen such possession into private ownership, the land
having been segregate as part of a military reservation.

229

Private respondents' claim of open, continuous, exclusive and


notorious possession over the land in question should then be
counted only from 1953. Considering that the application for
registration was filed in 1965, obviously, the thirty-year requirement
had not been met at the time the action for registration was filed and
therefore it was error on the part of the appellate court to rule that
the applicants already possessed a registrable title over the land in
question.
PROOFS NOT SUFFICIENT TO PROVE DECLASSIFICATION:
(a)
(b)
(c)

(d)

(e)
(f)

Survey plans, even if approved by the Bureau of Lands;


Conversion of land into fishpond and the tilting of properties around it;
Mere fact that the area in which the land involved is located has become
highly developed residential or commercial land and actually no longer
forest land;
Period during which land was under pasture lease permits granted to
petitioner (as it lends credence to the fact that said land was within the
Forest Zone as only lands of the category of public forest land subject to
such permits);
Evidence that only establishes that the land is public grazing land within
a forest reserve, and
Certification by the Director of Forestry that the land sought to be
registered is within the public forest, based on land classification map,
sufficing to show such fact.444 The mere initiation of an application for
registration of land under the Torrens system is not proof that the land is
of private ownership.445

POSSESSION OR OCCUPATION (IF PRESCRIPTION IS BASIS)


The general rule is open, exclusive, and undisputed possession of alienable public land
for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon
completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without need of judicial or other
sanctions, ceases to be public land and becomes private property.446 The possessor
deemed to have acquired by operation of law a right to a grant, a government grant,
does not need to acquire a certificate of title.447 The confirmation proceedings would
then simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally
convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such conversion already
effected by operation of law form the moment the required period of possession became
complete.448

AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 66, 67.


Republic v. Sayo, 191 SCRA 71.
446 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 79.
447 Director of Lands v. Bengzon, 152 SCRA 369.
448 Rumarate v. Hernandez, 487 SCRA 317.
444
445

230

However, a declaration of possession is a mere conclusion of law rather than a factual


evidence of possession. The applicant must then present specific facts that would show
such nature of possession.449 Possessory information titles or titulo possessorio are not
sufficient to confer title susceptible of registration, as such are only prima facie evidence
that the possessor of the land is the owner thereof. There must have been actual
possession for the period required by law.450
If the land was formerly within forest zone, it is only from the date it was released as an
agricultural land for disposition under the Public Land Act that the period of occupancy
for purpose of confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title may be counted.451
However, where the applicants possession of the lands for 30 years or more antedated
the classification as forest land, then such prior possession may ripen into private
ownership and such lands could not be retroactively legislated or classified as forest
lands because it would violate previously acquired property rights protected by the due
process clause of the Constitution.452
When tacking the possession of the predecessor-in-interest, privity between the
successive possessors is necessary.453 If a part of the claimed land was not included in
the technical description, the claimants possession may only begin upon actual
possession of the same, not counting that of its former possessors.454
IDENTITY OF LAND; SURVEY PLAN, IN GENERAL
In land registration proceedings, the land applied for must be identified. A sufficient
survey plan which can stand alone shows the propertys boundaries and total area,
clearly identifying and delineating the extent of the land. However, such plan must be
approved by the Director of Lands, as required by the Revised Administrative Code and
P.D. No. 239, to be considered as evidence.455 Errors in the plans and reproduced in the
certificate of title do not annul the decree of registration since it is not the plan but the
land itself which is registered.456
TRACING CLOTH PLAN AND BLUE PRINT COPIES OF PLAN
Sections 1858 and 1864 of the Revised Administrative Code and Section 26 of Act 496
require the presentation of the tracing cloth plan. This is a statutory requirement which
cannot be waived. Its purpose is to fix the exact or definite identity of the land as shown
in the plan and technical descriptions.457

Republic v. Lee, 197 SCRA 13.


PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 17 (1194 revised ed.).
451 Republic v. Court of Appeals, 148 SCRA 480.
452 Almeda v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123273, July 16, 1998.
453 Ruiz v. Court of Appeals, 79 SCRA 535.
454 South City Homes, Inc. v. Republic, 185 SCRA 693.
455 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 68.
456 University of the Philippines v. Rosario, G.R. No. 136965, March 28, 2001.
457 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 68.
449
450

231

However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the blue print copy of the plan suffices for
the purpose where the original tracing cloth plan was attached to the application for
registration, as well as the true certified copy of the white paper plan for purposes of
identifying the land. It is necessary that such contain all the details and information
required for a proper and definite identification of the land sought to be registered,
thereby serving the purposes for which the original tracing cloth plain is required, the
fact therefore that the original survey plan was recorded on paper instead of a tracing
cloth plan though not detract from the probative value thereof.458
TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE LAND APPLIED FOR, DULY SIGNED BY A GEODETIC ENGINEER
It has been held that what defines a piece of titled property is not the numerical data
indicated as the area of the land, but the boundaries or metes and bounds of the
property specified in its technical description as enclosing it and showing its limits.459
TAX DECLARATIONS
Differences between the description of the land boundaries as well as in the land area
stated in tax declarations after the survey, if logically explained, do not adversely affect
the probative value of these tax declarations as evidence of identity of the land.460
CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OTHER THAN BY POSSESSION, PROVE BASIS OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIP (TITLE
IS GENUINE, ETC.)
The usual proof to establish a registrable title is by means of document. One who relies
on a document evidencing his title thereto must prove not only the identity of the land
but also the genuineness of the title.461
SPANISH TITLES
Although Spanish titles or the like are now inadmissible and ineffective as proof of
ownership in land registration proceedings filed after August 16, 1976, as stated under
Presidential decree No. 892, there are still pending cases in court which particularly
involve possessory information titles, having probative value and the possibility of
ripening into ownership.462 For example, although an inscription in the property registry
of an informacion posesoria under the Spanish Mortgage Law merely furnishes a prima
facie evidence of the fact that at the time the proceeding was held, the claimant was in
possession of the land under a claim of right as set forth in his application, such
information could ripen into a record of ownership after the lapse of 10 years, upon the
fulfillment of the requisites prescribed in Article 393 of the Spanish Mortgage law.463

Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 144 SCRA 705.


v. Court of Appeals, 301 SCRA 366.
460 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 72.
461 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 74.
462 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 74.
463 Republic v. Feliciano, 148 SCRA 424.
458

459Republic

232

Article 393 of the Spanish Mortgage law required that the registered possessory
information proceedings do not ripen into ownership except for certain conditions such
as: (a) the applicant has been in open possession of the land; (b) the application to this
effect has been filed after the expiration of 10 years from the date of such registration; (c)
such conversion be announced by means of a proclamation in a proper official bulletin;
(d) there is a court order for the conversion of the registration of possession into a record
of ownership; and (e) the Register of Deeds make the proper record thereof in the
Registry.464
The Court has also held that a titulo de informacion posesoria may provide a prima facie
evidence of the fact that at the time of its execution, the predecessors-in-interest of
claimants were in possession of the property covered, which may possibly be converted
into ownership by uninterrupted possession for the statutory period.465 In another case,
the SC held that possessory information has to be confirmed in a land registration
proceeding, as required in Section 10 of Act 496. Moreover, the holder must show actual,
public and adverse possession of the land, under claim of ownership, for such
possessory information to be effective as a mode of acquiring title under Act 496 (now
P.D. No. 1529).
It is also the rule that where the applicant alleges a Spanish title such as a composition
title as basis of his application, he must produce that title or prove the contents thereof
by secondary evidence. Otherwise, the precise boundaries and location of the land
applied for cannot be established.466
However, when such titles are not intended to prove ownership but only to show that
the land covered by a Spanish title is no longer public land but private property, all that
may be needed is to establish the validity of the possessory information and produce its
effect as title of ownership by showing the fact that such was duly registered within its
non-extendible period. Only in default of such timely registration may the land revert to
the State as part of the public domain.467
Santiago v. SBMA
G.R. No. 156888, November 20, 2006
DOCTRINE: The holder of a Spanish title may still lose his ownership of the
real property to the occupant who actually possesses the same for the required
prescriptive period. Taking the law as a whole, it has clearly set a deadline for
the filing of applications for registration of ALL Spanish titles under the
Torrens system, after which, the Spanish titles may no longer be presented to
prove ownership. Spanish titles can no longer be countenanced as indubitable
evidence of land ownership.

Querol v. Querol, 48 Phil. 90


Baltazar v. Insular Government, 40 Phil. 267.
466 Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 130 SCRA 91.
467 Balbin, et al. v. Medalla, et al., 108 SCRA 666.
464
465

233

FACTS: The petitioner filed for recovery of possession of property against Subic
Bay Metropolitan Authority. In the original case, the late Hermogenes
Rodriguez y Reyes was the owner of parcels of land registered under a Spanish
Title. Victoria M. Rodriguez was the sole heir and administrator of said estate,
and in her capacity as heir and administrator, she leased the estate to Pedro R.
Santiago and Armando G. Mateo, for a period of 50 years, two parcels of land
of Hermogenes Rodriguez. Later on, Victoria Rodriguez claimed possessory
rights over the parcels of land.
The RTC dismissed the complaint, on the basis that since the alleged right of
Rodriguez stemmed from a Spanish Title, it cannot be considered a right in
esse, with the application of Presidential Decree No. 892, which required all
holders of Spanish titles or grants to apply for registration of their lands under
Republic Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act, within six
months from effectivity of the decree, or until 16 August 1976. After such time,
Spanish titles or grants could no longer be used as evidence of land ownership
in any registration proceedings under the Torrens System.
ISSUES: WON Spanish titles are still admissible evidence of ownership of land.
HELD: In the case at bar, Spanish titles could not be admissible as evidence of
Rodriguez ownership. Consequently, the petition fails to state a cause of
action. Clearly, by the sheer force of law particularly the enabling clauses of PD
892, Spanish titles can no longer be utilized as evidence of ownership. As such,
the complaint indeed failed to state a cause of action simply because the court
can take judicial notice of the applicability of PD 892 and of the pertinent
decisions of the Supreme Court to the case at bench.
In the absence of an allegation in petitioners Complaint that petitioners
predecessors-in-interest complied with P.D. No. 892, then it could be assumed
that they failed to do so. Since they failed to comply with P.D. No. 892, then the
successors of Don Hermogenes Rodriguez were already enjoined from
presenting the Spanish title as proof of their ownership of the Subject Property
in registration proceedings.
Actual proof of possession only becomes necessary because, as the same
whereas clause points out, Spanish titles are subject to prescription. A holder of
a Spanish title may still lose his ownership of the real property to the occupant
who actually possesses the same for the required prescriptive period. Because
of this inherent weakness of a Spanish title, the applicant for registration of his
Spanish title under the Torrens system must also submit proof that he is in
actual possession of the real property, so as to discount the possibility that
someone else has acquired a better title to the same property by virtue of
prescription.
Therefore, the fact that petitioners were in actual possession of the Subject
Property when they filed the Complaint with the trial court on 29 April 1996

234

does not exclude them from the application of P.D. No. 892, and their Spanish
title remain inadmissible as evidence of their ownership of the Subject Property,
whether in a land registration proceeding or in an action to remove a cloud on
or to quiet title.
TAX DECLARATIONS AND REALTY TAX PAYMENTS
Such are not conclusive evidence of ownership, but are at least proof that the holder had
a claim of title over the property, also at best indicia of possession.468 They become
strong evidence of ownership acquired by prescription when accompanied by proof of
actual possession of the property469 or supported by other effective proof.470
However, such may lose their probative value when such taxes were paid only a few
months prior to the filing of the application. It then does not constitute sufficient proof
that the applicant has a bona fide claim or ownership during the time period prior to the
filing of the application.471 Irregular payment of realty taxes as well as discrepancies in
the names of adjoining owners in tax declarations or in the size of the lands produce the
same effect of doubt.472 However, the mere failure of the owner to pay the realty tax does
not warrant a conclusion that there was abandonment of his right to the property.473
PRESIDENTIAL ISSUANCES
A Presidential Proclamation reserving a land for a specific purpose in favor of an entity
is constitutive of a fee simple title or absolute title in favor of the grantee.474 A law of
statute which cedes or transfers in full ownership a reserve area in favor of a
government institution thereby effectively transfers such ownership to the transferee.475
Official, authentic or duly certified copies of such proclamation and/or statute, or
similar conveyances, are perforce proofs of private ownership covered thereby.476
D. HEARING AND JUDGMENT
PERIOD OF HEARING
In conformity with the right to speedy disposition of cases, section 27 of P.D. 1529 states
that the trial court must dispose of all registration proceedings within ninety (90) days
from the date of its submission for decision.477
Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 195 SCRA 38.
Republic v. Court of Appeals, 131 SCRA 532.
470 Municipality of Santiago, Isabela vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-49903 1983.
471 Republic v. Court of Appeals, 131 SCRA 140.
472 Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 140 SCRA 98.
473 Reyes v. Sierra, 93 SCRA 472.
474 Mindanao Medical Center v. Court of Appeals, 73 SCRA 146.
475 International Hardwood and Veneer Co. of the Phils. v. University of the Philippines, 200
SCRA 554.
476 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 78.
477 P.D. 1529, Sec. 27.
468
469

235

The court has the prerogative to refer the case to a referee, also regarded as
commissioner,478 who shall make a report based on the testimonies of the parties and the
evidence presented before him. It is imperative that notice be sent to the parties
regarding the schedule and venue of the hearing before the referee. Subsequently, the
referee should submit his report to the Court within fifteen (15) days after the
termination of the hearing. The court may rely on the said report in rendering its
decision, set it aside in whole or in part or may remand the case for further
proceedings.479 Trial by commissioner shall be subject to Rule 32 of the Rules of Court.480
PARTIAL JUDGMENT
The court may render partial judgment in cases where only a fraction of land subject of
registration is contested. However, the applicant must have submitted beforehand to the
court a subdivision plan of the entire land approved by the Director of Lands. 481 Partial
Judgment may also be rendered in a case involving an uncontested portion of land,
however, the applicant must substantiate his claim over such portion or else the court
shall declare it a public land. In all cases, the applicant must substantiate his claim as the
court will not confirm title over a portion of land to which the parties did not claim
ownership. 482
With regard to portions of land covered by titles based on public land patents, the courts
cannot just set these aside despite the evidence presented by the applicant establishing
private ownership over them. This must be settled in a separate litigation. 483
JUDGMENT CONFIRMING TITLE
The court shall decide on all conflicting claims of ownership and interests over the land
subject of registration based on the evidence and reports submitted by the Administrator
of the of Land Registration Authority (LRA) and Director of Lands. 484 These reports
may be submitted even after the courts decision becomes final but not beyond the end
of one year from the entry of the decree. 485
The Court shall confirm title to the entire land or its portions in favor of the party who
has sufficient title proper for registration.486 This means that the judgment shall merely
confirm the ownership of the party entitled to the land subject of the application. 487

NARCISO PEA, PHILIPPINE LAW ON NATURAL RESOURCES 17 (1997).


P.D. 1529, Sec. 27.
480 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 199, at 64.
481 P.D. 1529 Sec. 28.
482 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 149.
483 Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 181 SCRA 450.
484 P.D. 1529, Sec. 29.
485 Gomez v. Court of Appeals, 168 SCRA 503.
486 P.D. 1529, Sec. 29.,
487PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 98.
478
479

236

It may also order the registration of the land in the name of the buyer or of the person to
whom the land has been conveyed even if he was not a party in the registration case.488
However, such new owner must manifest his interest over the land as the judgment in
the registration proceedings determines the status of the land and serves as a bar on any
subsequent claim on the basis of the principle of res judicata.489
FINALITY OF JUDGMENT
The new rule is that judgment becomes final upon the lapse of fifteen (15) days to be
counted from the time the notice of judgment is received490 without any motion or
appeal having been filed.491 If an appeal was taken from the decision of the trial court,
counting shall begin from the date of the receipt of notice from the decision of the
appellate court.492
JUDGMENT AND DECREE OF REGISTRATION
A judgment in a land registration proceeding constitutes the decision of the court
regarding the application for the registration of land based on the evidence presented to
it. Such becomes final after fifteen (15) days from the receipt of notice of judgment.
Judicial action consists of confirming title in favor of one of the parties and declaring
that such decree is final thereby subsequently ordering the Administrator of the LRA to
issue a decree of registration.493
On the other hand, a decree of registration refers to the one issued by the Administrator
of the LRA by order of the court, after the decision has become final. The decree contains
the technical description of the land, details about the owner494 and a list of
encumbrances affecting the land.495 The purpose of which is to bind the land and quiet
the title subject to exceptions or liens provided by law. Therefore, it shall be conclusive
upon and against all persons, including the Government. 496
The decree becomes final only after the expiration of one (1) year from the date of its
issuance and entry. It may be reviewed only on the ground of actual fraud before the
decree becomes final and as long as no transfer has been made to an innocent purchaser
for value. 497
UPON FINALITY

AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION, supra note 37, at 89.


Rodriguez v. Toreno, 79 SCRA 356.
490 Section 39, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980)
491 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 4-8.
492 Director of Lands v. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177.
493 PEA, NATURAL RESOURCES, supra note 1, at 88.
494 P.D. 1529, Sec 31.
495 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 194.
496 P.D. 1529, Sec. 31, par. 2.
497 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 194-195.
488
489

237

After the decision has attained finality, the clerk of court shall, within fifteen (15) days
from the time the decision has been entered in the book of judgments, send certified
copies of the decision, the order of the court directing the Administrator of the LRA to
issue a decree of registration, the certificate of title and a certificate stating that the
decision has become final. The decree of registration shall be signed by the
Administrator and shall be entered and filed in the LRA. The Original Certificate of Title
shall likewise bear the signature of the Commissioner and shall be sent together with the
duplicate to the Register of Deeds of the city or province where the property is situated.
498

WRIT OF POSSESSION
The writ of possession is an order by the court commanding the sheriff to enter the
subject land and transfer its possession to party entitled to it. 499 Generally, it may only
be issued to the winning party once the judgment confirming title has become final.
However, in special cases, the court may issue the writ of possession even before the
decision has become final. 500 The right to ask the court to issue a writ of possession does
not prescribe as the writ delivers the possession of the land to its rightful owner and
possession is an inherent element of the right of ownership. 501
The writ is issued against the oppositor in the land registration proceedings or anyone
adversely occupying the land at the time of the trial up until a decision has been
rendered. Nonetheless, the writ may not issue against actual possessors under claim of
ownership502 and to those who occupy the land after the decree has been issued,
especially if they were not part of the proceedings. They cannot be evicted from the land
even if they have no proper title thereto, for they have not been given due process. 503
In case the losing party does not effectuate the writ despite the efforts of the sheriff in
enforcing it such that they refuse to be ejected from the property or forcefully enter and
commit acts to disturb the ownership of the party entitled to such property may be
charged with and punished by contempt.504
Bernas v. Nuevo
G.R. No. L-58438, January 31, 1984
DOCTRINE: It is a settled ruled that when parties against whom a writ of
possession is sought have been in possession of the land for at least ten years,
and they entered into possession apparently after the issuance of the final
decree, and none of them had been a party in the registration proceedings, the
writ of possession will not issue. A person who took possession of the land
after final adjudication of the same in registration proceedings cannot be
P.D. 1529 Sec. 39.
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 108.
500 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 176.
501 Romansanta, et al. vs. Platon, 34 O.G. No. 76
502 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 178.
503 Bernas v. Nuevo, 127 SCRA 399.
504 Marcelo v Mencias, 107 Phil. 1071.
498
499

238

summarily ousted through a writ of possession secured by a mere motion and


that regardless of any title or lack of title of persons to hold possession of the
land in question, they cannot be ousted without giving them their day in court
in proper independent proceedings.
FACTS: The Heirs of Bellosillo filed a complaint against Bernas for recovery of
possession of a 33 1/3 hectare parcel of land located in Panay and for the
issuance of writ of preliminary injunction to restore the plaintiffs to the
possession of the land in dispute. Such motion was denied. Petitioner heirs
subsequently filed another motion for the issuance of a writ of possession on
the ground that the same is paramount for the prevention of the subject lot to
dissipate and leave them with nothing to inherit. Furthermore, Bernas have not
shown any definite title or right over the estate with confusing claims. They
had previously claimed that they were lessees then later, tenants, which are two
incompatible and divergent sources of right. Judge Nuevo granted the writ of
possession applied for by petitioner heirs after pre-trial and hearing of the
motion for the issuance of said writ.
Meanwhile, the sala vacated by Judge Nuevo was filled through the
appointment of Judge Leviste. While the petition assailing the order granting
the writ of possession was pending before this Court, Judge Leviste, acted on
the motion for reconsideration filed by Bernas and issued an order declaring
null and void the writ of possession issued by former Judge Nuevo. In a
subsequent order, the same Judge also ordered Bernas to be placed in
possession of the property in question. Hence, a petition for certiorari was filed,
this time by the petitioner heirs.
ISSUES: WON Judge Leviste acted in excess of jurisdiction and/or grave abuse
of discretion in issuing both orders
HELD: The questioned orders of respondent Judge Leviste were issued without
jurisdiction, notwithstanding the fact that the writ of possession was not in
order. It was presumptuous on his part to grant the motion for reconsideration
when he knew very well that the subject-matter of said motion was still
pending with this Court in a petition for certiorari. The act of issuing the orders
constituted disrespect and disregard of the authority and jurisdiction of this
Court. The respondent judge should have waited for this Court's decision
before acting on said motion for reconsideration and issuing the said orders.
The order of Judge Nuevo is reversed and set aside. The orders of Judge Oscar
Leviste are also reversed and set aside. As matter of right, Bernas should
remain in possession of the lot pending final adjudication of the respective
rights of both Bernas and Heirs Bellosillo in their civil case.
WRIT OF DEMOLITION
As a complement to the writ of possession, the court has the authority to issue the
demolition of improvements introduced by the defeated party to restore the possession

239

of the subject land to its rightful owner who was deprived of his ownership over said
premises. 505
Marcelo v. Mencias
G.R. No. L-15609, April 29, 1960
DOCTRINE: The Court has the inherent power to issue the writ of demolition.
Its issuance is reasonably necessary to do justice to petitioner who is being
deprived of the possession of the lots in question, by reason of the continued
refusal of respondent to remove his house thereon and restore possession of the
premises to petitioner. If the writ of Possession issued in a land registration
proceeding implies the delivery of possession of the land to the successful
litigant therein, a writ of demolition must, likewise, issue, especially
considering that the latter writ is but a complement of the former which,
without said writ of demolition, would be ineffective.
FACTS: Marcelo applied for registration in his name, 3 parcels of land located
at Taguig. His application was opposed by the father respondent Pagsisihan.
The Court of First Instance of Rizal, sitting as a land registration court, declared
petitioner Marcelo to be the owner of only 1 of the 3 lots applied for; denying
the opposition of the then oppositor Pagsisihan; and declaring the 2 other lots
to be public lands. Petitioner Marcelo appealed to the CA and it held that
Petitioner Marcelo is also the owner of the 2 other lots which were declared
public lands. Later on, Judge Mencias issued an order for the issuance of a
decree in favor of Petitioner Marcelo and forthwith a certificate of title was
issued for all said lots in petitioners name. Since respondent Pagsisihan
refused to deliver possession of the 2 lots (lots 2 and 3) which were occupied by
him, petitioner Macelo filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of possession
which was granted.
In spite of the issuance of the writ of possession, respondent Pagsisihan refused
to surrender the possession of lots 2 and 3 and to remove his house standing
thereon. Petitioner Marcelo, therefore, filed a petition for demolition but
respondent Judge Mencias denied the same for the reason that his court did not
have jurisdiction to issue such a writ. Petitioner, filed a motion for
reconsideration contending that the court has jurisdiction to issue an order of
demolition which is simply the coercive process or remedy to render effective
the writ of possession already issued by it. Said motion was still denied by the
court.
ISSUE: WON the CFI acquired jurisdiction to order the demolition of
improvements, as a consequence of a writ of possession it has issued.

505

240

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 178.

HELD: It is contended that respondent Judge erred in denying the petition for
demolition. Provisions of the Rules of Court are applicable to land registration
cases in a suppletory character. Respondent Judge has the power to issue all
auxiliary writs, including the writ of demolition sought by petitioner, processes
and other means necessary to carry into effect the jurisdiction conferred upon it
by law in land registration cases to issue a writ of possession to the successful
litigant, the petitioner herein.
Respondent judge, in the instant case, has the inherent power to issue the writ
of demolition demanded by petitioner. Needless to say, its issuance is
reasonably necessary to do justice to petitioner who is being deprived of the
possession of the lots in question, by reason of the continued refusal of
respondent Clemente Pagsisihan to remove his house thereon and restore
possession of the premises to petitioner. The orders of Judge Mencias were set
aside, and the case remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings on
petitioner's petition for an order of demolition, pursuant to Section 13, Rule 39,
of the Rules of Court.
E. CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
TORRENS TITLE
As discussed earlier, a Torrens Title is a system for registration of land under which,
upon the landowners application, the court may direct the issuance of a certificate of
title. With exceptions, this certificate is conclusive as to applicants estate is land. The
originator of the system was Lord Richard Torrens, reformer of Australian Land Laws.506
It is the certificate of ownership issued under the Torrens system of registration by the
government, thru the Register of Deeds naming and declaring the owner in fee simple of
the real property described therein, free from all liens and encumbrances except such as
may be expressly noted thereon or otherwise reserved by law. It is regarded as
conclusive with respect to all matters contained therein, and when the owners duplicate
thereof is presented with any voluntary instrument filed for registration it serves as a
conclusive authority granted for the Register of Deeds to enter a new certificate or to
make a memorandum of registration in accordance with what may be purported in such
instrument.507
DECREE OF REGISTRATION
Section 31. Decree of registration. Every decree of registration issued by the
Commissioner shall bear the date, hour and minute of its entry, and shall
be signed by him. It shall state whether the owner is married or
unmarried, and if married, the name of the husband or wife: Provided,
506
507

BLACKS LAW DICTIONARY


PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 139.

241

however, that if the land adjudicated by the court is conjugal property,


the decree shall be issued in the name of both spouses. If the owner is
under disability, it shall state the nature of disability, and if a minor, his
age. It shall contain a description of the land as finally determined by the
court, and shall set forth the estate of the owner, and also, in such manner
as to show their relative priorities, all particular estates, mortgages,
easements, liens, attachments, and other encumbrances, including rights
of tenant-farmers, if any, to which the land or owner's estate is subject, as
well as any other matters properly to be determined in pursuance of this
Decree.
The decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto,
subject only to such exceptions or liens as may be provided by law. It
shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the National
Government and all branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the
application or notice, the same being included in the general description
"To all whom it may concern".508
The duty of the land registration officials to issue the decree of registration is ministerial
in the sense that they act under the orders of the court and the decree must be in
conformity with court judgment and with the date found in the record. However, if they
are in doubt upon any point in relation to the preparation and issuance of the decree,
they are duty bound to refer the matter to the court.509
As soon as the decree of title has been registered in the office of the Register of Deeds,
the property included in said decree shall become registered land, and the certificate
shall take effect upon the date of the transcription of the decree. The certificate of title is
a true copy of the decree of registration. The original certificate of title must contain the
full transcription of the decree of registration. Any defect in the manner of transcribing
the technical description should be considered as formal, and not a substantial defect.510
Section 39. Preparation of decree and Certificate of Title. After the judgment
directing the registration of title to land has become final, the court shall,
within fifteen days from entry of judgment, issue an order directing the
Commissioner to issue the corresponding decree of registration and
certificate of title. The clerk of court shall send, within fifteen days from
entry of judgment, certified copies of the judgment and of the order of the
court directing the Commissioner to issue the corresponding decree of
registration and certificate of title, and a certificate stating that the
decision has not been amended, reconsidered, nor appealed, and has
become final. Thereupon, the Commissioner shall cause to be prepared
the decree of registration as well as the original and duplicate of the
corresponding original certificate of title. The original certificate of title
shall be a true copy of the decree of registration. The decree of
P.D. 1529, Sec. 31.
AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 109.
510 Benin v. Tuason, 57 SCRA 531
508
509

242

registration shall be signed by the Commissioner, entered and filed in the


Land Registration Commission. The original of the original certificate of
title shall also be signed by the Commissioner and shall be sent, together
with the owner's duplicate certificate, to the Register of Deeds of the city
or province where the property is situated for entry in his registration
book.511
Upon the finality of the court decision adjudicating the land as private property, the
court shall, within 15 days from the entry thereof, issue an order directing the LRA
Administrator to issue the corresponding decree of registration and certificate of title.
The Administrator shall then prepare the decree of registration as well as the original
and duplicate of the corresponding certificate of title. The original certificate of title,
signed by him, shall be a true copy of the decree of registration, and shall be sent,
together with the owners duplicate certificate, to the Register of Deeds of the city or
province where the land lies.
The certificate of title is the transcript of the decree of registration made by the Register
of Deeds in the registry. It accumulates in one document a precise and correct statement
of the exact status of the fee simple title which an owner possesses. The certificate, once
issued, is the evidence of the title which the owner has. What appears on the face of the
title is controlling on questions of ownership since the certificate of title is an absolute
and indefeasible evidence of ownership of the property in favor of the person whose
name appears therein. But mere possession of title is not conclusive as to the holders
true ownership of all property described therein.512
ENTRY OF THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE IN THE REGISTER OF DEEDS
Section 40. Entry of Original Certificate of Title. Upon receipt by the
Register of Deeds of the original and duplicate copies of the original
certificate of title the same shall be entered in his record book and shall be
numbered, dated, signed and sealed by the Register of Deeds with the
seal of his office. Said certificate of title shall take effect upon the date of
entry thereof. The Register of Deeds shall forthwith send notice by mail to
the registered owner that his owner's duplicate is ready for delivery to
him upon payment of legal fees.513
The certificate of title issued for the first time after initial registration proceedings is
known as the Original Certificate of Title. This is the true copy of the decree of
registration. It shall set forth the pertinent information regarding the persons whose
interest makes up the ownership of the land. Any subsequent title issued pursuant to
any voluntary or involuntary instrument affecting the property covered by the original
certificate of title is known as the Transfer Certificate of Title. It shall show the number

P.D. No. 1529, Sec. 39.


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 386-387.
513 P.D. No. 1529, Sec. 40.
511
512

243

of the next previous certificate covering the same land and also the fact that it was
originally registered.514
DISTINCTION BETWEEN ORIGINAL AND TRANSFER CERTIFICATE 515
As to issuance:
An original certificate of title is issued for the first time after the land has been
adjudicated and decreed in the name of its owner in original or initial registration
proceedings by the Register Deeds; whereas a transfer certificate of title is issued after
the cancellation of the original when the land is transferred by the registered owner.
As to legal effect:
Every person receiving an original certificate of title holds the land free from all
encumbrances except those noted on said certificate; whereas a purchaser of registered
land who takes a transfer certificate of title may hold the same subject to more
encumbrances, such as prior interests.
Section 41. Owner's duplicate certificate of title. The owner's duplicate
certificate of title shall be delivered to the registered owner or to his duly
authorized representative. If two or more persons are registered owners,
one owner's duplicate certificate may be issued for the whole land, or if
the co-owners so desire, a separate duplicate may be issued to each of
them in like form, but all outstanding certificates of title so issued shall be
surrendered whenever the Register of Deeds shall register any
subsequent voluntary transaction affecting the whole land or part thereof
or any interest therein. The Register of Deeds shall note on each certificate
of title a statement as to whom a copy thereof was issued.516
If two or more persons are registered owners, one owners duplicate may be issued for
the whole land, or, if the co-owners so desire, a separate duplicate may be issued to each
of them in the like form, but all outstanding certificates of title so issued shall be
surrendered whenever the Register of Deeds shall register any voluntary transaction
affecting the whole land or part thereof. The Register of Deeds shall note on each
certificate of title a state as to whom a copy thereof was issued.517
WHAT MUST BE INDICATED IN A CERTIFICATE OF TITLE?
Section 44. Statutory liens affecting title. Every registered owner receiving a
certificate of title in pursuance of a decree of registration, and every
subsequent purchaser of registered land taking a certificate of title for
AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 392
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 271-272.
516 P.D. 1529, Sec. 41.
517 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 272
514
515

244

value and in good faith, shall hold the same free from all encumbrances
except those noted in said certificate and any of the following
encumbrances which may be subsisting, namely:
First. Liens, claims or rights arising or existing under the laws and
Constitution of the Philippines which are not by law required to appear
of record in the Registry of Deeds in order to be valid against subsequent
purchasers or encumbrances of record.
Second. Unpaid real estate taxes levied and assessed within two years
immediately preceding the acquisition of any right over the land by an
innocent purchaser for value, without prejudice to the right of the
government to collect taxes payable before that period from the
delinquent taxpayer alone.
Third. Any public highway or private way established or recognized by
law, or any government irrigation canal or lateral thereof, if the certificate
of title does not state that the boundaries of such highway or irrigation
canal or lateral thereof have been determined.
Fourth. Any disposition of the property or limitation on the use thereof
by virtue of, or pursuant to, Presidential Decree No. 27 or any other law
or regulations on agrarian reform.
A lien is a charge on property usually for the payment of some debt or obligation. It is
a qualified right or a proprietary interest, which may be exercised over the property of
another. An encumbrance is a burden upon land, depreciative of its value, such as a
lien, easement, or servitude, which, though adverse to the interest of the landowner,
does not conflict with his conveyance of the land in fee.518
LIENS AFFECTING THE TITLE
The first group of lien is concerned about the prohibitions that are provided by law or
by the Constitution. It need not be annotated at the title because of the Civil Code
provision regarding the presumption that everyone knows the law. An example of a
prohibition proscribed by the Constitution is the prohibition against aliens owning
public agricultural lands and that private corporations can only lease land of the public
domain.
The second is concerned with uncollected real estate taxes. Even if the land has passed to
an innocent purchaser for value, it does not preclude the government from collecting the
unpaid tax. This has foundation in the Constitution because the power to tax, like police
power, cant be bargained away. Also, it is one of the inherent powers of the State.

518

AGCAOILI,, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 398

245

The third is a guard against oversight or mistake in case a person acquires land which is
described by the said lien. The inclusion of public highway and the like does not give
the holder of such certificate ownership over the said land. Further, prescription does
not apply to a land that is registered under the Torrens system.
The final statutory lien is concerned with agrarian reform. This is to ensure that the goal
of the agrarian reform will be met. That is to distribute land to qualified tenant farmers.
Section 45. Statement of personal circumstances in the certificate. Every
certificate of title shall set forth the full names of all persons whose
interests make up the full ownership in the whole land, including their
civil status, and the names of their respective spouses, if married, as well
as their citizenship, residence and postal address. If the property covered
belongs to the conjugal partnership, it shall be issued in the names of both
spouses.
PROBATIVE VALUE OF A CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
A certificate of title serves as an indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person
whose name appears therein, and is conclusive to the identity of the land and its
location. The title becomes indefeasible and incontrovertible one year from its final
decree. It is generally a conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land referred to
therein. A strong presumption exists that the title was validly and regularly issued. The
validity of the certificate of title can be threshed out only in a direct proceeding filed for
the purpose and not by a collateral attack.
GENERAL INCIDENTS OF REGISTERED LANDS
Section 46. General incidents of registered land. Registered land shall be
subject to such burdens and incidents as may arise by operation of law.
Nothing contained in this decree shall in any way be construed to relieve
registered land or the owners thereof from any rights incident to the
relation of husband and wife, landlord and tenant, or from liability to
attachment or levy on execution, or from liability to any lien of any
description established by law on the land and the buildings thereon, or
on the interest of the owner in such land or buildings, or to change the
laws of descent, or the rights of partition between co-owners, or the right
to take the same by eminent domain, or to relieve such land from liability
to be recovered by an assignee in insolvency or trustee in bankcruptcy
under the laws relative to preferences, or to change or affect in any way
other rights or liabilities created by law and applicable to unregistered
land, except as otherwise provided in this Decree.519
Land registered under the Torrens system is not subject to any burden except those
noted in the certificate of title. In fact, every registered owner and subsequent purchaser
519

246

P.D. 1529, Sec. 46.

taking a certificate of title in good faith shall hold the same free from all encumbrances
except those noted thereon and except any of the encumbrances mentioned in Sec.44.
Whatever is written or annotated in the title is generally binding and the party
interested need not go to the RD to check its validity except for particular circumstances.
Section 47. Registered land not subject to prescriptions. No title to registered
land in derogation of the title of the registered owner shall be acquired by
prescription or adverse possession.
According to jurisprudence cited by Aquino, it is by law that no title to registered land
in derogation of the title of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or
adverse possession. Prescription is unavailing not only against the registered owner but
also equally against his hereditary successors. Thus, even adverse, notorious, and
continuous possession under a claim of ownership for the period fixed by law is
ineffective against a Torrens title520.
But even a registered owner of property may be barred from recovering possession of
property by virtue of laches. Under PD 1529, no title registered under derogation of the
title of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. The
same is not true with laches.521
Section 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. A certificate of title shall
not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or
canceled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.
As an indefeasible evidence of ownership, the certificate of title cannot be collaterally
attacked. The integrity of the Torrens title must be protected at all times.
LAND REGISTERED IN THE NAME OF TWO PERSONS
Where two transfer certificates of title happen to be issued on different dates to two
different persons covering the same parcel of land, even if both owners be presumed to
be title holders in good faith, it does not necessarily follow that the one who holds the
earlier title should prevail. On the assumption that there was regularity in the process of
registration leading to the eventual issuance of such transfer certificates, it would be a
better procedure to trace back their original certificates from which they were derived.
Now, if there is only one common original certificate of title from which the two transfer
certificates came from, it would be safe to conclude that the transfer certificate issued at
an earlier date along the line should prevail, barring anomaly in the process of
registration. But if there are two original certificates of title, then whichever of the two
transfer certificates traceable to the earlier original certificate should prevail. The efficacy
of the transfer certificate issued at a later date cannot be any better than its original
source.522
AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 115
AGCAOILI,, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 413
522 PENA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES supra note 1, at 144
520
521

247

Legarda v. Saleeby
31 Phil. 595
FACTS: The land that the parties occupy is separated by a stone wall which is
located on the lot of the plaintiffs. On May 2, 1906, plaintiffs petitioned the
court for the registration of the lot which was granted on October 25. On March
25, 1912, the defendants sought to register their land and their petition was
granted. Several months later, the plaintiff discovered the incident. Therefore,
the separating wall was registered to both parties.
ISSUE: WON the first party who registered the land has a better right.
HELD: Yes. When two persons have acquired equal rights in the same thing, to
hold that the one who acquired it first and who has complied with all the
requirements of the law should be protected. Once the title is registered, the
owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the
court, to avoid the possibility of losing the land. The proceeding for the
registration of land under the Torrens system is a judicial proceeding, but it
involves more in its consequences than does an ordinary action.
SPLITTING, CONSOLIDATION OF TITLES
Section 49. Splitting, or consolidation of titles. A registered owner of several
distinct parcels of land embraced in and covered by a certificate of title
desiring in lieu thereof separate certificates, each containing one or more
parcels, may file a written request for that purpose with the Register of
Deeds concerned, and the latter, upon the surrender of the owner's
duplicate, shall cancel it together with its original and issue in lieu thereof
separate certificates as desired. A registered owner of several distincta
parcels of land covered by separate certificates of title desiring to have in
lieu thereof a single certificate for the whole land, or several certificates
for the different parcels thereof, may also file a written request with the
Register of Deeds concerned, and the latter, upon the surrender of the
owner's duplicates, shall cancel them together with their originals, and
issue in lieu thereof one or separate certificates as desired.523
A land owner can either split or consolidate his land upon petition to the Register of
Deeds. He must also surrender his original title which will be replaced with a new one
(the consolidated title or split title). The motive in splitting or consolidating the titles of
land depends upon the intent of the owner as to how he would use it.
A registered owner desiring to consolidate several lots into one or more shall file with
the LRA a consolidation plan showing the lots affected, with their technical descriptions,

523

248

P.D. 1529, Sec. 49.

and upon surrender of the owners duplicate certificates and receipt of the plan duly
approve by the LRA, the RD shall cancel said certificated and issue a new one.524
SUBDIVISION
Section 50. Subdivision and consolidation plans. Any owner subdividing a
tract of registered land into lots which do not constitute a subdivision
project has defined and provided for under P.D. No. 957, shall file with
the Commissioner of Land Registration or with the Bureau of Lands a
subdivision plan of such land on which all boundaries, streets,
passageways and waterways, if any, shall be distinctly and accurately
delineated.
If a subdivision plan, be it simple or complex, duly approved by the
Commissioner of Land Registration or the Bureau of Lands together with
the approved technical descriptions and the corresponding owner's
duplicate certificate of title is presented for registration, the Register of
Deeds shall, without requiring further court approval of said plan,
register the same in accordance with the provisions of the Land
Registration Act, as amended: Provided, however, that the Register of
Deeds shall annotate on the new certificate of title covering the street,
passageway or open space, a memorandum to the effect that except by
way of donation in favor of the national government, province, city or
municipality, no portion of any street, passageway, waterway or open
space so delineated on the plan shall be closed or otherwise disposed of
by the registered owner without the approval of the Court of First
Instance of the province or city in which the land is situated.
A registered owner desiring to consolidate several lots into one or more,
requiring new technical descriptions, shall file with the Land Registration
Commission, a consolidation plan on which shall be shown the lots to be
affected, as they were before, and as they will appear after the
consolidation. Upon the surrender of the owner's duplicate certificates
and the receipt of consolidation plan duty approved by the Commission,
the Register of Deeds concerned shall cancel the corresponding
certificates of title and issue a new one for the consolidated lots.
The Commission may not order or cause any change, modification, or
amendment in the contents of any certificate of title, or of any decree or
plan, including the technical description therein, covering any real
property registered under the Torrens system, nor order the cancellation
of the said certificate of title and the issuance of a new one which would
result in the enlargement of the area covered by the certificate of title.525

524
525

AGCAOILI,, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at425


P.D. 1529, Sec. 50.

249

Any owner desiring to subdivide a tract of registered land into lots shall submit to the
LRA a subdivision plan of the land duly approved by the Land Management Bureau,
together with the approved technical descriptions and the corresponding owners
duplicate certificate of title. The plan shall distinctly accurately delineate all boundaries,
streets, passageways and waterways, if any. The RD shall thereupon register the
subdivision plan with need of prior court approval and issue a new certificate of title for
the land as subdivided.526
ILLEGAL ENLARGEMENT OF AREA
The last paragraph of this section zealously guards against this incident. This is a
safeguard in order to maintain the integrity of the Torrens system. It is a censurable
practice which has spawned numerous land claims and conflicts.527 Any enlarged area
could not be considered as registered land and the certificate of title covering the same
may be cancelled.528
F. REMEDIES
In the Torrens system, the title to land becomes indefeasible at a certain point in time.
This is to strengthen the registration system and to avoid tortuous litigation over the
same property. But this doesnt mean that a person who is unlawfully deprived of his
legally acquired property is without redress. He can avail of the following remedies
provided he avails of it within the prescribed period. It must be remembered that the
law does not shield those who commit a wrong by mere technicality of law or those who
slumber in their rights, but it protects those who are vigilant in protecting their rights.
MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
A motion for New Trial is a remedy preparatory to an appeal.529 Within the period for
taking an appeal, the aggrieved party may move the trial court to set aside the judgment
or final order and grant a new trial for one or more of the causes of materially affecting
the substantial rights of said party.530 If the motion for new trial is granted, the judgment
is set aside; if the motion for reconsideration is granted, the judgment is merely
amended.531
GROUNDS FOR NEW TRIAL532
(a)

Fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence which ordinary


prudence could not have guarded against and by reason of which such
aggrieved party has probably been impaired in his rights; or

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 425.


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 426
528 Republic v. Heirs of Abrille, 71 SCRA 57.
529 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 203.
530 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 288.
531 OSCAR M. HERRERA, REMEDIAL LAW 300 (Vol.. II, 1197 Ed.)
532 Rules of Court, Sec. 1, Rule 37.
526
527

250

(b)

Newly discovered evidence, which he could not, with reasonable


diligence, have discovered and produced at the trial, and which if
presented would probably alter the result.
Within the same period, the aggrieved party may also move for
reconsideration upon the grounds that the damages awarded are
excessive, that evidence is insufficient to justify the decision or
final order or that decision or final order is contrary to law.

MEANING OF FRAUD, ACCIDENT, MISTAKE AND EXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE


(a)

Fraud an intentional perversion of truth for the purpose of


inducing another in reliance upon it to part with some valuable
thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right. It can be an
extrinsic fraud which is collateral to the issues tried in the case
where the judgment is rendered or it can be intrinsic fraud which
pertains to the issue involved in original action or where acts
constituting fraud were, or could have been litigated therein.533

(b)

Accident an unusual or unexpected result attending the


operation or performance of a usual or necessary act or event.534

(c)

Mistake is some unintentional act, omission, or error arising


from ignorance, surprise, imposition or misplaced confidence. It
may arise from unconsciousness, ignorance, forgetfulness,
imposition, or misplaced confidence.535

(d)

Excusable neglect a failure to take the proper steps at the proper


time, not in consequence of the partys own carelessness,
intention, or willful disregard of the process of the court, but in
consequence of some unexpected or unavoidable hindrance or
accident, or reliance on the care and vigilance of his counsel or on
promises made by the adverse party.536

CONTENTS537
The motion shall be made in writing stating the grounds therefore, a written notice of
which shall be served by the movant on the adverse party. A motion for new trial shall
be proved in the manner provided for proof of motions. A motion for new trial shall be
supported by affidavits of merit setting forth the facts and circumstances alleged to
Blacks Law Dictionary, 6th ed., 660-661
Blacks Law Dictionary, 6th ed., 15
535 Blacks Law Dictionary, 6th Ed., 1001
536 Blacks Law Dictionary, 6th Ed., 566
537 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 288-289.
533
534

251

constitute such fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence. It can be rebutted by


counter-affidavits setting forth the particular facts claimed as a defense.
A motion for reconsideration shall point out specifically the findings or conclusions of
the judgment or final order which are not supported by evidence or which are contrary
to law.
EFFECTS OF FILING A MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
The filing of a motion for new trial suspends the running of the period of appeal and the
time employed by the court in deciding the motion for new trial of a party desiring to
appeal from an adverse judgment should not be counted against him.538
A motion for a new trial shall include all grounds then available and those not included
shall be deemed waived. A second motion for new trial, based on a ground not existing
nor available when the first motion was made, may be filed within the time herein
provided excluding the time during which the first motion had been pending.539
EFFECTS OF GRANTING A NEW TRIAL
(a)

the original judgment is vacated;

(b)

the action shall stand for trial de nuvo;

(c)

the recorded evidence taken upon the former trial so far as the same is
material and competent to establish the issues, shall be used at the new
trial without retaking the same.540

If the grounds for the motion appear to the court to the effect the issues as to only a part
or less than all of the matter in controversy, or only one, or less than all, of the parties to
it, the court may order a new trial as to such, issued if severable without interfering with
the judgment upon the rest.541
MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
A motion for reconsideration is filed and based on the ground that the judgment is
against the law or that it is not supported by the facts, it has the character of a motion for
a new trial, thus suspending the running of the period to appeal. When such is resolved
by the Court against the movant and the party filed another motion and called it a
motion for new trial but based on the same ground, this motion shall not suspend the
running of the period of appeal.542
Taromo v. Judge Cruz, 68 Phil. 281.
Rules of Court, Sec. 3, Rule 37.
540 Rules of Court, Sec. 5, Rule 37.
541 Rules of Court, Sec. 6, Rule 37.
542 Levett v. Quia, 61 Phil. 847.
538
539

252

RELIEF FROM JUGMENT


Sec. 1. Petition for relief from judgment, order, or other proceedings.
When a judgment or final order is entered, or any other proceeding is
thereafter taken against a party in any court through fraud, accident,
mistake, or excusable negligence, he may file a petition in such court and
in the same case praying that the judgment, order or proceeding be set
aside.543
Sec. 2. Petition for relief from denial of appeal. When a judgment or final
order is rendered by any court in a case, and a party thereto, by fraud,
accident, mistake, or excusable negligence, has been prevented from
taking an appeal, he may file a petition in such court and in the same case
praying that the appeal be given due course.544
Sec. 3. Time for filing petition; contents and verification. A petition
provided for in either of the preceding sections of this Rule must be
verified, filed within sixty (60) days after the petitioner learns of the
judgment, final order, or other proceeding to be set aside, and not more
than six (6) months after such judgment or final order was entered, or
such proceeding was taken; and must be accompanied with affidavits
showing the fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence relied
upon, and the facts constituting the petitioner's good and substantial
cause of action or defense, as the case may be.545
The remedy of relief from judgment is applicable to land registration cases, if the
petition is filed within the time provided for filing said petition and the decree of
registration has not yet been issued. Even if an order of the decree has been issued but
no decree was actually issued, the remedy is still available. The relief is no longer
available if the decree of registration has already been issued.546
APPEALS
Section 33. Appeal from judgment, etc. The judgment and orders of the
court hearing the land registration case are appealable to the Court of
Appeals or to the Supreme Court in the same manner as in ordinary
actions.547

Rules of Court, Sec. 1, Rule 38.


Rules of Court, Sec. 2, Rule 38.
545 Rules of Court, Sec. 3, Rule 38.
546 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 215
547 P.D. 1529, Sec. 33.
543
544

253

An appeal may be taken form a judgment or final order that completely disposes of the
case, or a particular matter therein when declared by the Rules of Court.548 There are
four modes of appeal that is provided by the Rules of Court:
(a) Ordinary Appeal under Rule 41
(b) Petition for review under Rule 42
(c) Appeal by certiorari under Rule 45
(d) Appeal by certiorari regarding GADLEJ under Rule 65
In land registration cases, it is necessary that the appellant must show that his rights or
interest have been prejudiced by the decisions appealed from, before his appeal may be
properly entertained.549
Cabanas v. Director of Lands
10 Phil. 393
FACTS: Cabanas filed an application with the land registration court to register
his property at Leyte. During the trial, the Director of Lands never mad an
opposition for the request of registration. The court therefore approved the
registration under the name of Cabanas. The Director of Lands then asked for a
new trial on the ground that the evidence of Cabanas was insufficient. His
motion for new trial was denied.
ISSUE: WON the Director of Lands can still file an appeal.
HELD: A person who has not challenged an application for registration of land,
even if the appeal afterwards interposed based on the right of dominion over
the same land, can not allege damage or error against the judgment ordering
the registration, inasmusch as he did not allege or pretend to have any right to
such land, and no right has been infringed by error which should be corrected
by the court.
Roxas v. Cuervas
8 Phil. 469
FACTS: The land in question (Hacienda of Calauang) were originally owned by
the Crown of Spain and was conveyed to Francisco Salgado through a Royal
Grant. After his death, the administration of the land was taken by the
Auditoria de Guerra. The hacienda was then sold to Benito Machado who used
the funds of one Domingo Roxas. The court of land registration approved the

548
549

254

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 364


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 212

decree of registration to their name. Various parties (private individuals & the
government) opposed the registration of the land and filed an appeal.
ISSUE: WON the land belongs to the Government or to the private individuals
who appealed the registration.
HELD: If it is the opinion of the appellants that the land awarded to the
petitioners does not belong to the private individuals but to the government, it
follows that they can have no interest in such land since they do not represent
the government, being private citizens only. Since the property belongs to the
government, the right to appeal rests with the government, not with any other
private individual to whom the representation of the state has not been
entrusted.
PETITION FOR REVIEW
Section 32. Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value. The
decree of registration shall not be reopened or revised by reason of
absence, minority, or other disability of any person adversely affected
thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments,
subject, however, to the right of any person, including the government
and the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest
therein by such adjudication or confirmation of title obtained by actual
fraud, to file in the proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening
and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and
after the date of the entry of such decree of registration, but in no case
shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent
purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein, whose
rights may be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase "innocent purchaser for
value" or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to
include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.
Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration
and the certificate of title issued shall become incontrovertible. Any
person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue
his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other
persons responsible for the fraud.550
The Torrens Title becomes indefeasible and incontrovertible one year form the issuance
of the final decree and generally conclusive evidence of ownership. The courts may
review the issuance of the title (land registration) filed by the aggrieved party within one
year from its issuance. Sec. 32 is also applicable to titles acquired through homestead
patents or free patents. If the title to the land would be subject to inquiry, contest and
decision after it has been given by the government thru the process of proceedings, there

550

P.D. 1529, Sec. 32.

255

would arise uncertainty, confusion and suspicion on the governments system of


distributing public agricultural land.551
PETITION FOR REVIEW
REQUISITES FOR A PETITION FOR REVIEW552
(a)

The petitioner must have an estate or interest in the land;

(b)

He must show actual fraud in the procurement of the decree of


registration;

(c)

The petition must be filed within one year form the issuance of the decree
by the Land Registration Authority;

(d)

The property has not yet passed to an innocent purchaser for value.

GROUNDS FOR REVIEW553


(a)

That a land belonging to a person has been registered in the name of


another, or that an interest has been omitted in the application;

(b)

That the registration has been procured through actual fraud, or that the
omission in the application of the interest of the third person in the
property is intentional;

(c)

That the petitioner is the owner of said property or interest therein;

(d)

That the actual fraud must be perpetrated or utilized in the procurement


of the decree and not thereafter.

WHEN RELIEF MAY NOT BE GRANTED554


(a)

Where the alleged fraud goes into the merits of the case, is intrinsic and
not collateral, and has been controverted and decided;

(b)

Where it appears that the fraud consisted in the presentation at the trial of
a supposed forged judgment or a false perjured testimony; or in basing
the judgment on a fraudulent compromise agreement; or in the alleged
fraudulent acts or omissions of the counsel which prevented the
petitioner from properly presenting the case.

INNOCENT PURCHASER FOR VALUE AND IN GOOD FAITH


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 296-297
Walstrom v. Mapa, 181 SCRA 527
553 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 220-221
554 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 305
551
552

256

The case of Agricultural and Home Extension Development Group v. CA defines a purchaser
for value and in good faith as one who buys property of another without notice that
some other person has a right to or interest in such property and pays a full and fair
price for the same at the time of such purchase or before he has notice of the claim or
interest of some other person in the property.555 According the Dean Villanueva, the
definition actually includes as an element of good faith that there must be full payment
on the part of the buyer before he can be considered to be in good faith.556 The phrase
includes an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.557
A person dealing with registered land has the right to rely upon the face of the Torrens
title and dispense with the trouble of inquiring further except when the party concerned
has actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that would impel a reasonable cautious
man to make inquiry.558
Where the original certificate of registration was valid and the land in question was
properly brought under the operation of the Torrens system, the concept of innocent
purchaser for value comes into play. But where the land in question was never brought
under the operation of the Torrens system because the original certificate of title is null
and void, the concept of innocent purchaser for value cannot come into play.
De Santos v. Intermediate Appellate Court
157 SCRA 297
FACTS: The land in question was originally registered to Sps. Aton & Casiban,
Eustaquia Arong & Teodora Aton. The title was was lost during WWII. On
May 3, 1962, Sps. Aton & Arong sold their share to Elueteria Pino who in turn
petitioned the reconstitution of the lost title. On November 30, 1966, Sps.
Cabisan & Teodora Aton soled their undivided share to Sps. Bunagan &
Felicidad de los Angeles & he also filed a motion for reconstitution. On
December 31, 1977, the Bunagans sold their land to Alicia de Santos but she
occupied the wrong portion of the land. It should be bourn in mind that the
respective parties has executed their partition agreements with each other. On
April 25, 1978, the atty-in-fact of Elueteria Pino cuased the annotation of an
Affidavit of Adverse Claim. Alicia de Santos then filed an Action for
Quieting of Title and Damages. After the trial, the court ruled in favor of
Elueteria Pino.
ISSUE: WON petitioner can be considered a purchaser in good faith.
HELD: No. A purchaser in good faith and for value is one who buys property
of another, without notice that some other person has a right or interest in such
213 SCRA 563
CESAR L. VILLANUEVA, LAW ON SALES 284 (2004)
557 Crisostomo v. Court of Appeals, 197 SCRA 833
558 Gonzales v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 157 SCRA 587
555
556

257

property and pays a full price for the same, at the time of such purchase or
before he has notice of the claims of some other person in the property.
Director of Lands v. Basilio
73 Phil. 606
FACTS: In a cadastral land proceeding, the land owned by Lina Vda. Imperial
and Santiago Imperial was awarded in favor of the Adornado family who
subsequently mortgaged the land to Luis Meneses. Santiago Imperial filed a
motion to declare the title as null and void which was granted.
ISSUE: WON the court can order the outright nullification of the title.
HELD: The court cannot disregard such right and order the total cancellation
of the certificate. The effect of such would be to impair public confidence in the
certificate of title. Every person dealing with registered land may safely rely on
the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefore and the law will in no
way oblige him to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the
property.
RECONVEYANCE
An action for reconveyance is a legal and equitable remedy granted to the rightful
owner of land which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in the name of
another for the purpose of compelling the latter to transfer or reconvey the land to him.
Such an action does not aim or purport to re-open the registration proceeding and set
aside the decree of registration, but only to show that the person who secured the
registration of the questioned property is not the real owner thereof.
Notwithstanding the irrevocability of the Torrens title already issued in the name of the
registered owner, he can still be compelled under law to reconvey the subject property
to the rightful owner. The property is deemed to be held in trust for the real owner by
the person in whose name it is registered. The Torrens system was not designed to
shield and protect one who had committed fraud or misrepresentation and thus holds
title in bad faith.
Reconveyance may only take place if the land that is claimed to be wrongly registered is
still registered in the name of the person who procured wrongful registration. No action
for reconveyance can take place as against a third party who had acquired title over the
registered property in good faith and for value. Only the value of the property can be
demanded from the person who procured the wrongful registration in his name.
Beyond the one year period, the decree of registration is no longer open to review or
attack although its issuance is attended with actual fraud. If the property has not yet
passed to an innocent purchaser for value, an action for reconveyance is still available. A
notice of lis pendens may thus be annotated on the certificate of title immediately upon
the institutionof the action in court. The notice of lis pendens will avoid transfer to an

258

innocent third person for value.559 If the property is passed to an innocent purchaser for
value, the only remedy left is an action for damages.
NATURE OF ACTION FOR RECONVEYANCE
An action to redeem, or to recover title to or possession of, real property is not an action
in rem or an action against the whole world. It is an action in personam, so much so that
the judgment therein is binding only upon the parties properly impleaded and duly
heard or given an opportunity to be heard.560
WHEN AND WHO MAY FILE AN ACTION FOR RECONVEYANCE?
As a general rule, an action for reconveyance may be filed when the decree of
registration and title has become final and incontrovertible, provided the property has
not yet passed to an innocent purchaser for value.561 The person who was deprived of
his property by fraud, whether actual or constructive, and who was not at fault, may file
such personal action for reconveyance.562
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PETITION FOR REVIEW UNDER SEC. 32 AND RECONVEYANCE
A Petition for Review under Sec. 32 directly attacks the issuance of the certificate of title.
It aims to cancel the erroneously issued title and to issue a new one in favor of the true
owner. This petition must be filed within the one year prescriptive period otherwise, the
title will become indefeasible. An action for reconveyance on the other hand, is a remedy
that is available once the title has become indefeasible. Reconveyance is available only if
the property has not yet passed to an innocent purchaser for value.
Balbin v. Medalla
666 SCRA 108
FACTS: Respondent purchased a parcel of land from the heirs of Juan Ladao on
June 19, 1962. They then filed an application for registration on June 14, 1963 &
utilized as ground of ownership, the Informacion Posesoria issued under the
name of Juan Ladao. The application was opposed by the petitioners on the
ground that they were issued an Original Certificate of Title over the said land.
The trial court ruled in favor of the respondents.
ISSUE: WON the cause of action has prescribed.
HELD: An action for reconveyance of property resulting from fraud may be
barred by the statute of limitations, which requires that the action shall be filed
within four years from the discorvery of the fraud. Such discovery is deemed to
AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 327
NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 245
561 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 247
562 NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 250
559
560

259

have taken place when the petitioners herein were issued original certificate of
title through either homestead or free patent grants, for the registration of said
patents constitute constructive notice.
DAMAGES
Sec. 32 Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of
registration and the certificate of title issued shall become
incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in
any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the
applicant or any other persons responsible for the fraud.563
An action for damages is a subsidiary remedy. This is true when the action to file for
reconveyance has already lapsed or if the property has passed to an innocent purchaser
for value. The action can be filed simultaneously with the petition for reconveyance in
the event that the property sought to be recovered has passed to an innocent purchaser
for value. The person so prejudiced can file the action for damages against the person
responsible for depriving him of his right or interest in the property.564
ASSURANCE FUND565
Section 93. Contribution to Assurance Fund. Upon the entry of a certificate
of title in the name of the registered owner, and also upon the original
registration on the certificate of title of a building or other improvements
on the land covered by said certificate, as well as upon the entry of a
certificate pursuant to any subsequent transfer of registered land, there
shall be paid to the Register of Deeds one-fourth of one per cent of the
assessed value of the real estate on the basis of the last assessment for
taxation purposes, as contribution to the Assurance Fund. Where the land
involved has not yet been assessed for taxation, its value for purposes of
this decree shall be determined by the sworn declaration of two
disinterested persons to the effect that the value fixed by them is to their
knowledge, a fair valuation.
Nothing in this section shall in any way preclude the court from
increasing the valuation of the property should it appear during the
hearing that the value stated is too small.
Section 94. Custody and investment of fund. All money received by the
Register of Deeds under the preceding section shall be paid to the
National Treasurer. He shall keep this money in an Assurance Fund
which may be invested in the manner and form authorized by law, and

P.D. 1529, Sec. 32, par. 2.


AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 351.
565 P.D. 1529, Chapter VII.
563
564

260

shall report annually to the Commissioner of the Budget the condition


and income thereof.
The income of the Assurance Fund shall be added to the principal until
said fund amounts to five hundred thousand pesos, in which event the
excess income from investments as well as from the collections of such
fund shall be paid into the National Treasury to the account of the
Assurance Fund.
Section 95. Action for compensation from funds. A person who, without
negligence on his part, sustains loss or damage, or is deprived of land or
any estate or interest therein in consequence of the bringing of the land
under the operation of the Torrens system of arising after original
registration of land, through fraud or in consequence of any error,
omission, mistake or misdescription in any certificate of title or in any
entry or memorandum in the registration book, and who by the
provisions of this Decree is barred or otherwise precluded under the
provision of any law from bringing an action for the recovery of such
land or the estate or interest therein, may bring an action in any court of
competent jurisdiction for the recovery of damages to be paid out of the
Assurance Fund.
If the land sought to be recovered has passed to an innocent purchaser for value or if the
person who caused prejudice is insolvent, the remedy provided in this chapter is the last
available remedy. Public policy dictates that those unjustly deprived of their rights over
real property by reason of the operation of law of our registration laws must be afforded
of other remedies.566 The assurance fund has been created for the purpose of
compensating persons who suffered losses by erroneous registration due to mistake,
omission, or misfeasance of the Clerk of Court or the Register of Deeds or any of the
respective employees with or without intervention of other persons.567 To reiterate, this
law is created not to shield those who commit wrong but to protect the vigilant.
REQUISITES

566
567

(a)

That a person sustains loss or damage, or is deprived of any estate in the


land

(b)

On account of the bringing of the bringing of the land under the


operation of the Torrens system arising after original registration

(c)

Through fraud or in consequence of any error, omission, mistake or


misdescription in any certificate of title or in any entry or memorandum
in the registration book

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 360


NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 255

261

(d)

Without negligence on his part

(e)

Is barred or otherwise precluded under the provision of any law from


bringing an action for the recovery of such land or the estate or interest
therein

Section 96. Against whom action filed. If such action is brought to recover
for loss or damage or for deprivation of land or of any estate or interest
therein arising wholly through fraud, negligence, omission, mistake or
misfeasance of the court personnel, Register of Deeds, his deputy, or
other employees of the Registry in the performance of their respective
duties, the action shall be brought against the Register of Deeds of the
province or city where the land is situated and the National Treasurer as
defendants. But if such action is brought to recover for loss or damage or
for deprivation of land or of any interest therein arising through fraud,
negligence, omission, mistake or misfeasance of person other than court
personnel, the Register of Deeds, his deputy or other employees of the
Registry, such action shall be brought against the Register of Deeds, the
National Treasurer and other person or persons, as co-defendants. It shall
be the duty of the Solicitor General in person or by representative to
appear and to defend all such suits with the aid of the fiscal of the
province or city where the land lies: Provided, however, that nothing in
this Decree shall be construed to deprive the plaintiff of any right of
action which he may have against any person for such loss or damage or
deprivation without joining the National Treasurer as party defendant. In
every action filed against the Assurance Fund, the court shall consider the
report of the Commissioner of Land Registration.
Section 97. Judgment, how satisfied. If there are defendants other than the
National Treasurer and the Register of Deeds and judgment is entered for
the plaintiff and against the National Treasury, the Register of Deeds and
any of the other defendants, execution shall first issue against such
defendants other than the National and the Register of Deeds. If the
execution is returned unsatisfied in whole or in part, and the officer
returning the same certificates that the amount due cannot be collected
from the land or personal property of such other defendants, only then
shall the court, upon proper showing, order the amount of the execution
and costs, or so much thereof as remains unpaid, to be paid by the
National treasurer out of the Assurance Fund. In an action under this
Decree, the plaintiff cannot recover as compensation more than the fair
market value of the land at the time he suffered the loss, damage, or
deprivation thereof.
Section 98. General Fund when liable. If at any time the Assurance Fund is
not sufficient to satisfy such judgment, the National Treasurer shall make
up for the deficiency from any funds available in the treasury not
otherwise appropriated.

262

CASES WHERE THE ASSURANCE FUND IS NOT LIABLE568


(a)

In case the land may be recovered or reconveyed

(b)

In case the party who caused the loss can pay the damages on the
property to the person deprived thereof

(c)

In case the loss is due to the owners negligence

(d)

In case the loss is caused by a breach of trust whether expressed, implied


or constructive committed by any registered owner who is a trustee

(e)

When the loss is caused by the improper exercise of any sale in mortgage
foreclosure proceedings

(f)

In case the action has prescribed

(g)

That the loss was caused by mistake in the resurvey or subdivision of


registered land resulting in the expansion of the area in the certificate of
title.

Section 99. Subrogation of government to plaintiff's rights. In every case


where payment has been made by the National Treasurer in accordance
with the provisions of this Decree, the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines shall be subrogated to the rights of the plaintiff against any
other parties or securities. The National Treasurer shall enforce said
rights and the amount recovered shall be paid to the account of the
Assurance Fund.
Section 100. Register of Deeds as party in interest. When it appears that the
Assurance Fund may be liable for damages that may be incurred due to
the unlawful or erroneous issuance of a certificate of title, the Register of
Deeds concerned shall be deemed a proper party in interest who shall,
upon authority of the Commissioner of Land Registration, file the
necessary action in court to annul or amend the title.
The court may order the Register of Deeds to amend or cancel a certificate
of title or to do any other act as may be just and equitable.
Section 101. Losses not recoverable. The Assurance Fund shall not be liable
for any loss, damage or deprivation caused or occasioned by a breach of
trust, whether express, implied or constructive or by any mistake in the
resurveyed or subdivision of registered land resulting in the expansion of
area in the certificate of title.
568

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 262

263

Section 102. Limitation of Action. Any action for compensation against the
Assurance Fund by reason of any loss, damage or deprivation of land or
any interest therein shall be instituted within a period of six years from
the time the right to bring such action first occurred: Provided, That the
right of action herein provided shall survive to the legal representative of
the person sustaining loss or damage, unless barred in his lifetime; and
Provided, further, That if at the time such right of action first accrued the
person entitled to bring such action was a minor or insane or imprisoned,
or otherwise under legal disability, such person or anyone claiming from,
by or under him may bring the proper action at any time within two
years after such disability has been removed, notwithstanding the
expiration of the original period of six years first above provided.
REVERSION SUITS
Section101. All actions for the reversion to the Government of lands of the
public domain or improvements thereon shall be instituted by the
Solicitor-General or the officer acting in his stead, in the proper courts, in
the name of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.569
A reversion suit is instituted by the Government (through the Solicitor General) in cases
where public land is fraudulently awarded or disposed of to the public and may be
again subject to disposition provided by law. But when what is involved is private land,
the proper remedy is cancellation of title.
The Director of Lands has a continuing authority to conduct investigation to determine
whether or not public land has been fraudulently awarded or titled to the end that the
corresponding certificate of title be cancelled and the land reverted to the public domain.
And the fact that the title sought to be cancelled has become indefeasible is not a
hindrance because government is never estopped nor barred by prescription.570
IV. RECONSTITUTION OF LOST OR DESTROYED TITLES
JUDICIAL RECONSTITUTION
Sec. 110. Reconstitution of lost or destroyed original of Torrens Title. Original
copies of certificates of title lost or destroyed in the offices of Register of
Deeds as well as liens and encumbrances affecting the lands covered by
such titles shall be reconstituted judicially in accordance with the
procedure prescribed in Republic Act No. 26 insofar as not inconsistent
with this Decree. The procedure relative to administrative reconstitution
of lost or destroyed certificate prescribed in said Act is hereby abrogated.
An Act To Amend And Compile The Laws Relative To Lands Of The Public Domain,
Commonwealth Act No. 141, Sec. 101.
570 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 352
569

264

Notice of all hearings of the petition for judicial reconstitution shall be


given to the Register of Deeds of the place where the land is situated and
to the Commissioner of Land Registration. No order or judgment
ordering the reconstitution of a certificate of title shall become final until
the lapse of thirty days from receipt by the Register of Deeds and by the
Commissioner of Land Registration of a notice of such order or judgment
without any appeal having been filed by any of such officials.
MEANING, PURPOSE AND NATURE OF RECONSTITUTION
The reconstitution of a certificate of title denotes restoration of the instrument, which is
supposed to have been lost or destroyed in its original form and condition. The purpose
of the reconstitution of title or any document is to have the same reproduced, after
proper proceedings, in the same from they were when the loss or destruction
occurred.571 The applicant must prove not only the los or destruction of the title sought
to be reconstituted but also that at the time the said title was lost or destroyed he was the
registered owner thereof.572
According to Aquino, if the court goes beyond such purpose, it acts without or in excess
of jurisdiction. Thus, if the petition for reconstitution showed that one of the registered
co-owners was Pedro Pinote, the court cold not receive evidence proving that Petra
Pinote, not Pedro Pinote, is a registered owner.573 It has also been held that if the
certificate of title was decreed in the names of Antonio Ompad and Dionisia Icong, the
reconstituted title could not be in the names of spouses Antonio Ompad and Dionisia
Icong for this was a material change.574 If there is no original certificate of title that
exists, the reconstituted title is a nullity. This same rule applies if there is an earlier valid
certificate of title in the name and in the possession of another person. 575
A judicially reconstituted title has the same validity and legal effect as the original
thereof, and is not subject to the reservation that it shall be without prejudice to any
party whose right or interest in the property was duly noted in the original at the time of
loss or destruction but which entry or notation has not been made on the reconstituted
title. The limitation that reconstitution of titles should be limited to the certificate as it
stood at the time of its loss or destruction has reference only to changes which alter or
affect title of the registered owner and not to mere liens and other encumbrances.576
For an order of reconstitution to issue, the following elements must be present: (1) that
the certificate of title has been lost or destroyed; (2) that the petitioner is the registered

Heirs of Pedro Pinote v. Dulay, 187 SCRA 12.


Republic v. Holazo, 437 SCRA 352.
573 AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION, supra note 37, at 164.
574 Bunagan, et al. v. Court of First Instance of Cebu, 97 SCRA 72.
575 Serra v. Court of Appeals, 195 SCRA 482.
576 Philippine National Bank v. Dela Via, G.R. No. L-14601, August 31, 1960.
571
572

265

owner or has an interest therein; and (3) that the certificate of title was in force at the
time it was lost or destroyed.577
Judicial reconstitution of title partakes of a land registration proceeding and is a
proceeding in rem. The proceeding is governed by Republic Act No. 26 entitled An Act
Providing a Special Procedure for the Reconstitution of Torrents Certificates of Titles
Lost or Destroyed in relation to Section 110 of Presidential Decree No. 1529.
Administrative reconstitution of title is also governed by Republic Act No. 26, as
amended by Republic Act No. 6732.578
R.A. No. 26 confers jurisdiction or authority upon the Regional Trial Court to hear and
decided petitions for judicial reconstitution. As mentioned, it is a proceeding in rem. This
means it is an action directed not only against particular persons, but against the thing
itself. Its object is to bar indifferently all who might be minded to make any objection
against the right sought to be enforced; hence, the judgment therein is binding
theoretically upon the whole world.579
Unlike an extrajudicially reconstituted title where there is statutory reservation that the
new title shall be without prejudice to any party whose right or interest in the property
was duly noted in the original, at the time it was lost or destroyed as provided in
Section 7 of R.A. No. 26, a judicially reconstituted title, by express provision of Section
10, shall not be subject to the encumbrance referred to in the Section 7 of the Act.580
WHO MAY APPLY?
According to Section 12 of Republic Act No. 26, the registered owner, his assigns, or any
person having an interest in the property may resort to judicial reconstitution of a
certificate of title. In Register of Deeds of Malabon v. Malabon Regional Trial Court,581 the
Register of Deeds for Malabon filed the petition for reconstitution of an original
certificate of title. The Supreme Court held that it is not a proper party to file said
petition. Section 6 of R.A. No. 26, which allowed the Register of Deeds to motu propio
reconstitute a lost or destroyed certificate of title from its corresponding owners
duplicate certificate, was expressly repealed or declared to be inoperative by Section 6
of R.A. No. 6732. A petition for reconstitution may now be filed only by the registered
owner, his assigns, or any person having an interest in the property.
SOURCES OF JUDICIAL RECONSTITUTION
Section 2 of Republic Act No. 26 governs reconstitution of original certificates of title
while Section 3 governs petitions for reconstitution of transfer certificates of title.

Chinest Nationalist Party v. Bermudo, CA-44100-R, Decemeber 11, 1972.


AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION, supra note 37, at 165.
579 Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 101690, August 23, 1995.
580 Ibid.
581 181 SCRA 788.
577
578

266

Pursuant to Section 2 of R.A. No. 26, lost or destroyed original certificates of title shall be
reconstituted from the sources hereunder enumerated in the following order:
(a)

The owners duplicate of the certificate of title;

(b)

The co-owners, mortgagees or lessees duplicate of said


certificate;

(c)

A certified copy of such certificate, previously issued by the


Register of Deeds concerned or by a legal custodian thereof;

(d)

An authenticated copy of the decree of registration or patent as


the case may be, which was the basis of the certificate of title;

(e)

A document, on file in the registry of deeds, by which the


property, the description of which is given in said document, is
mortgaged, leased or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of
said document showing that its original had been registered; and

(f)

Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is


sufficient and proper basis for reconstituting the lost or destroyed
certificate of title.

On the other hand, Section 3 states that lost or destroyed transfer certificates of
title shall be reconstituted from the sources hereunder enumerated in the following
order:
(a)

The owners duplicate of the certificate of title;

(b)

The co-owners, mortgagees or lessees duplicate of said


certificate;

(c)

A certified copy of such certificate, previously issued by the


Register of Deeds concerned or by a legal custodian thereof;

(d)

The deed of transfer or other document, on file in the registry of


deeds, containing the description of the property, or an
authenticated copy thereof, showing that its original had been
registered, and pursuant to which the lost or destroyed transfer
certificate of title was issued;

(e)

A document, on file in the registry of deeds, by which the


property, the description of which is given in said document, is
mortgaged, leased or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of
said document showing that its original had been registered; and

267

(f)

Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is


sufficient and proper basis for reconstitution.

It should be noted that Sections 2 and 3 of R.A. No. 26 are similar except for Section 2(d)
and Section 3(d). According to Agcaoili, Section 2 differs from Section as follows:582
(a)

As to applicability Section 2 applies to original certificates of title while


Section 3 applies to transfer certificates of title.

(b)

As to (d) of both sections While Section 2(d) requires an authenticated


copy of the decree of registration or patent, Section 3(d) requires the deed
of transfer or other document in the registry of deeds, containing the
description of the property, or an authenticated copy thereof, showing
that is original had been registered, and pursuant to which the lost or
destroyed certificate of tile was issued.

With respect to liens and encumbrances affecting lost or destroyed certificates of title,
Section 4 provides that they shall be reconstituted from the sources enumerated
hereunder, in the following order:
(a)

Annotations or memoranda appearing on the owners, coowners, mortgagees or lessees duplicate;

(b)

Registered documents on file in the registry of deeds, or


authenticated copies thereof showing that the originals thereof
had been registered; and

(c)

Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is


sufficient and proper basis for reconstituting the liens or
encumbrances affecting the property covered by the lost or
destroyed certificate of title.

RULE ON AVAILMENT OF ANY OTHER DOCUMENT


In Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court and Kiram,583 it was held that when Republic
Act No. 26 speaks of any other document that the court may deem proper and
sufficient for reconstitution of title, it must refer to similar documents previously
enumerated therein. In another case, the Supreme Court considered a certification from
the Bureau of Lands that the lot involved was decreed in the names of the oppositor, and
a decision in a civil case for recovery of possession concerning the same lot and showing
who were the registered owners of the lot falls under the scope of any other
document.584 Paragraph 5 of LRC Circular No. 35 reads in part:

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 37, at 759.


157 SCRA 62.
584 Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 196 SCRA 422.
582
583

268

5. In case the reconstitution is to be made exclusively from sources


enumerated in Sections 2(f) and 3(f) of Republic Act No. 26 in relation to
section 12 thereof, the signed duplicate copy of the petition to be
forwarded to this Commission shall be accompanied by the following:
(a)

A duly prepared plan of said parcel of land in tracing cloth, with


two (2) print copies thereof, prepared by the government agency
which issued the certified technical description, or by a duly
licensed Geodetic Engineer who shall certify thereon that he
prepared the same on the basis of a duly certified technical
description. Where the plan as submitted is certified by the
government agency which issued the same, it is sufficient that the
technical description be prepared by a duly licensed Geodetic
Engineer on the basis of said certified plan.

(b)

The original, two (2) duplicate copies, and a Xerox copy of the
original of the technical description of the parcel of land covered
by the certificate of title, duly certified by the authorized officer of
the Bureau of Lands or the Land Registration Commission who
issued the technical description.

(c)

A signed copy of the certification of the Register of Deeds


concerned that the original of the certificate of title on file in the
Registry was either lost or destroyed, indicating the name of the
registered owner, if known from the other record on file in said
office.

In Dizon v. Discaya,585 it was held that sub paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of paragraph 5 of
LRC Circular No. 35 are merely additional document that must accompany the petition
to be forwarded to the Land Registration Authority. When Section 2(f) of R.A. No. 26
speaks of any other document, it must refer to similar documents previously
enumerated in Sections 2(a), (b), (c), and (d).
Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court and Susukan
G.R. No. 71835, April 30, 1991
FACTS: Petitioner presented the owners duplicate of the certificate of title in
support of his petition for reconstitution. However, oppositors claimed that
said title does not contain the name of the third registered owners. Oppositors
presented two documents, namely a certificate from the Bureau of Lands and a
copy of the decision of the lower court to prove not only the ownership of the
third registered owners but all the registered owners.

585

G.R. No. 133502, February 15, 1999.

269

HELD: These documents fall under Section 3(f) of R.A. No. 26 and are sufficient
and proper bases for reconstituting the burned or destroyed original certificate
of title.
REQUIREMENT AND PROCEDURES IN PETITIONS FOR JUDICIAL RECONSTITUTION
If the sources for judicial reconstitution are those enumerated in Sections 2(a), 2(b), 3(a),
3(b) and 4(a) of R.A. No. 26,586 the requirements are set forth in Section 10 in relation to
Section 9 of the Act.587 Sections 9 and 10 require that 30 days before the date of hearing:
(a)

A notice be published in two successive issues of the Official Gazette at


the expense of the petitioner.

(b)

That such notice be posted at the main entrances of the provincial


building and of the municipal hall of the municipality or city where the
property lies.

The notice under Section of the Act, shall state the following:
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
(e)

The number of the certificate of title;


The number of the registered owner/ owners;
The name of the interested parties appearing in the reconstituted
certificate of title;
The location of the property; and
The date on which all persons having an interest in the property,
must appear and file such claims as they may have.

Unlike the requirement set forth in Sections 12 and 13 of R.A. No. 26, there is nothing in
Sections 9 and 10 of the same act that requires the notices to be sent to owners of
adjoining lots.
The proceedings under Sections 9 and 10 being in rem, the court acquires jurisdiction to
hear and decide the petition for reconstitution of the owners certificate of title upon
compliance with the required posting of notices and publication in the Official Gazette.
Non-compliance with such mandatory requirements renders the proceeding therein
void, and the reconstituted title decreed and issued thereby is likewise void.588
On the other hand, if the sources for judicial reconstitution are those enumerated in
Sections 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(f), 3(c), 3(d) and 3(f) of R.A. No. 26, 589 the requirements are set
2(a) and 3(a) The owners duplicate of the certificate of title;
2(b) and 3(b) The co-owners, mortgagees or lessees duplicate of said certificate;
4(a) Annotations or memoranda appearing on the owners, co-owners, mortgagees or lessees
duplicate;
587 Puzon v. Sta. Lucia Realty and Development, Inc., G.R. No. 139518, March 6, 2001.
588 Villegas v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 129977, February 1, 2001.
589 2(c) and 3(c) A certified copy of such certificate, previously issued by the Register of Deeds
concerned or by a legal
586

270

forth in Section 12 and 13 of the same Act.590 According to Section 12, the petition for
reconstitution shall state or contain, among other things, the following:
(a)

That the owners duplicate of the certificate of title had been lost
or destroyed;

(b)

That no co-owners, mortgagors or lessees duplicate had been


issued;

(c)

The location, area and boundaries of the property;

(d)

The nature and description of the buildings or improvement if


any, which do not belong to the owner of the land and the names
and addresses of the owners of such buildings or improvements;

(e)

The names and addresses of the (a) occupants or persons in


possession of the property; (b) of the owners of the adjoining
properties; and (c) of all persons who may have any interest in the
property;

(f)

A detailed description of the encumbrance, if any, affecting the


property; and

(g)

A statement that no deeds or other instruments affecting the


property have been presented for registration, or if there be nay,
the registration thereof has not been accomplished, as yet.

This provision of the Act also requires that all documents, or authenticated copies
thereof, to be introduced in evidence in support of the petition, shall be attached thereto
and filed with the same. If the source for reconstitution is any other document which
custodian thereof;
2(d) An authenticated copy of the decree of registration or patent as the case may be, which
was the basis of the
certificate of title;
2(e) A document, on file in the registry of deeds, by which the property, the description of
which is given in said
document, is mortgaged, leased or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of said
document showing that
its original had been registered; and
2(f) and 3(f) Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is sufficient and proper
basis for reconstituting
the lost or destroyed certificate of title.
3(d) The deed of transfer or other document, on file in the registry of deeds, containing the
description of the property, or an
authenticated copy thereof, showing that its original had been registered, and pursuant to
which the lost or destroyed
transfer certificate of title was issued;
590 Puzon v. Sta. Lucia Realty and Development, Inc., G.R. No. 139518, March 6, 2001.

271

may be sufficient and proper for reconstitution, as enumerated in Sections 2(f) and 3(f)
of the Act, the petition shall also be accompanied with a plan and technical description
of the property duly approved by the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority,
or with a certified copy of the description from a prior certificate of title covering the
same property.591
Section 13 of R.A. No. 26 mandates the court to issue a notice of the petition for
reconstitution, which shall state, among other things, the name of the registered owner,
the names of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, the owners of the
adjoining properties and all other interested parties, the location, area and boundaries of
the property, and date on which all persons having any interest therein must appear and
file their claim or objections to the petition.
The Court shall cause the said notice:
(a)

To be published in two successive issues of the Official Gazette at


the expense of the petitioner.

(b)

To be posted at the main entrances of the provincial building and


of the municipal building of the municipality or city in which the
land is situated; and

(c)

To be sent by registered mail or otherwise, at the expense of the


petitioner, to every person named in said notice.

The above publication, posting and sending by mail of the notice should be done at least
30 days prior to the date of the hearing. Under Section 13 of the Act, the publication of
the notice of petition in a local newspaper is not required.592
The requirements in Section 12 (on the contents of a petition for reconstitution of title)
and in Section 13 (on the publication, posting, and sending by mail thereof) found both
in R.A. No. 26 where the basis or sources for reconstitution are those enumerate in
Sections 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(f), 3(c), 3(d) and 3(f) of R.A. No. 26, are mandatory and
jurisdictional, non-observance of which fatally affects the whole proceedings in all its
aspects.593
Manila Railroad Company v. Moya
G.R. No. L-17913, June 22, 1985
FACTS: The Manila Railroad Company filed a petition to reconstitute two
Transfer Certificate of Titles covering three parcels of land in Camarines Sur.
They submitted plans and technical descriptions of the properties as the basis
for the requested reconstitution. An order was entered granting the
AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION, supra note 37, at 168.
Zuiga v. Vivencio, 153 SCRA 720.
593 Ortigas and Co. Ltd. Partnership v. Velasco, 234 SCRA 455.
591
592

272

reconstitution of the titles. Mrs. Prieto filed a motion to set aside the order
granting the reconstitution stating that she was never served with notice of the
petition filed by the Manila RIALROAD Company, otherwise, she would have
appeared to oppose the same.
The Manila Railroad Company argued that Mrs. Prieto cannot claim that she
was not served with notice of hearing of the petition to reconstitute as said
notice was duly published in the Official Gazette.
ISSUE: WON the publication in the Official Gazette is sufficient notice of
hearing.
HELD: No. Section 13 of R.A No. 26 that notice by publication is not sufficient
under the circumstances. Notice must be actually sent or delivered to parties
affected by the petition for reconstitution. The order of reconstitution, therefore,
having been issued without compliance with the said requirement, has never
become final as it was null and void.
Tahanan Development Corp v. Court of Appeals
G.R. No. L-55771, November 15, 1982
FACTS: The Pascuals claiming as intestate heirs of Manuela Aquial filed a
petition for judicial reconstitution of a lost certificate of title under R.A. No. 26
of two lots both located in Paraaque. The original certificate of title, original
and owners duplicate copies have been lost or destroyed in World War II. The
trial court granted the petition for reconstitution. Alabang Development
Corporation and Bagatsing filed a petition to Set Aside The Decision claiming
that the court has no jurisdiction to grant the petition for reconstitution since
they have not been personally notified of the pendency of the reconstitution
case to which they are entitled under R.A. No. 26 not only as adjoining owners
but as actual possessors of the land.
ISSUE: WON the court has acquired jurisdiction over the proceedings and the
petitioner in light of the requirements of R.A. No. 26.
HELD: No. The requirements and procedure of R.A. No. 26 are mandatory. The
Petition for Reconstitution must allege certain specific jurisdictional facts; the
notice of hearing must be published in the Official Gazette and posted in
particular places and the same sent or notified to specified persons. Tahanan
development has not been named, cited or indicated as the owner, occupant or
possessor of the property adjacent to the lots which is sought to be
reconstituted in the petition for reconstitution and the notice of hearing. The
Pascuals are charged with the obligation to inquire who their neighbors are in
actual possession and occupancy not only portions of their own property but
also of land adjacent thereto. This duty or obligation cannot be ignored where
the location or the properties involved is a prime site for land development,
expansion, suitable for residential, commercial and industrial purposes and

273

where ever square inch of real estate becomes a valuable and profitable
investment.
The Notice of Hearing was also posted only in the bulletin board of the CFI of
Pasay. R.A. No 26 specifically requires that the notice of the petitions shall be
posted on the main entrance of the municipality or city on which the land is
situated, at the provincial building and at the municipal building at least 30
days prior to the date of hearing.
The failure to notify Tahanan as the owner, possessor or occupant of property
adjacent to one of the lots as well as the failure to post copies of the Notice of
Hearing in the required locations is fatal to the acquisition and exercise of
jurisdiction by the trial courts.
FEES
Section 23 of R.A. No. 26 provides:
Sec. 23. No fees shall be charged for the filing of any petition under this
Act, nor for any service rendered, in connection therewith or in
compliance with any provision of this Act, by the Chief of the General
Land Registration Office, clerks of Court of First Instance, sheriffs, and/or
register of deeds. Any certified copy of document or paper that may be
necessary in the reconstitution of a certificate of title under this Act shall,
upon request of the court, register of deeds, or Chief of the General Land
Registration Office, be furnished free of charge, by any office or branch of
the Government, including Government controlled corporations,
institutions or instrumentalities.
LRC Circular No. 17 also states that No fees shall be charged for the filing of any
petition for reconstitution of a certificate of title, under the provisions of R.A. No. 26 and
these regulations, nor for any service rendered, in connection therewith or in compliance
with any provision of said Act or regulations, by the Administrator of the NALTDRA,
clerks of Regional Trial Courts, sheriffs, and/or Registrar of Deeds. No certified copy of
any document or paper needed for reconstitution purposes shall, however, be furnished
free of charge, unless the same is made upon specific request of the Court, or the
Registrar of Deeds concerned.
When the Registrar of Deeds demands payment of fees for the reconstitution of an
original certificate of title from an applicant, he should file a motion for reconsideration
of such with the court.594
DUTY OF COURTS

594

274

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 312.

In Heirs of Pedro Pinote v. Dulay,595 the Supreme Court held and warned the lower courts
that reconstitution proceedings have many times been misused as a means of divesting
a property owner of title to his property, so the courts should proceed with extreme
caution in these proceedings, requiring not only strict compliance with the provisions
of R.A. No. 26 but also ascertaining the identity and authority of every person who files
a petition for reconstitution of title. The courts must exercise the greatest caution in
entertaining such petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost certificates of title, making
sure that the parties are duly served with actual and personal notice of the petition.
The duty of the court to issue the order of reconstitution is mandatory, and gives it no
discretion to deny the same, if all the basic requirements of the law have been complied
with, as when: (1) the petitioner is the registered owner; (2) the certificate of title was in
force at the time it was lost or destroyed; and (3) the evidence presented is sufficient and
proper to warrant the reconstitution of such title.596 Even if the government does not
oppose the reconstitution, the court must still find that the petitioners evidence is
substantial enough to warrant reconstitution.597 According to Sec. 110 Par. 2 of P.D. 1529
the order or judgment directing the reconstitution of title shall become final after the
lapse of 15 days from receipt by the Register of Deeds concerned and by the
Administrator of the Land Registration Authority of a notice of such order or judgment
without an appeal having been file by such officials.
In Astorga v. Court of Appeals,598 it was held that a reconstitution proceeding is absolutely
unnecessary when the original of the certificate of title to be reconstituted was never
lost, and the existing certificate is on file and available in the registry of deeds. In such
case, it is also the duty of the court to deny the petition for reconstitution. Needless to
state, a wrongly reconstituted certificate of title, secured through fraud and
misrepresentation, cannot be the source of legitimate rights and benefits.599
ADMINISTRATIVE RECONSTITUTION
Administrative reconstitution is the putting together again or restoration of the Original
and Transfer Certificates of Title that were lost or destroyed due to fire, flood or other
natural calamities without the necessity of Court proceedings. The procedure for
administrative reconstitution of lost or destroyed certificate of title was originally
prescribed in Section 5 of R.A. No. 26.
Under Sec. 110 of P.D. 1529, this procedure
was abrogated. However, R.A. 6732 revived the administrative procedure in a limited
scale. Section 1 of the said act reads in part as follows:
The procedure relative to administrative reconstitution of lost or
destroyed certificate prescribe in Act No. 26 may be availed of only in
case of substantial loss or destruction of land titles due to fire, flood, or
187 SCRA 12.
Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 196 SCRA 422.
597 Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 157 SCRA 62.
598 133 SCRA 748.
599 Jose v. Court of Appeals, 192 SCRA 735.
595
596

275

other force majeure as determined by the Administrator of the Land


Registration Authority; Provided, That the number of certificates of titles
lost or damage should be at least 10% of the total number in the
possession of the Office of the Register of Deeds; Provided, further, that
in no case shall the number of certificates of title lost or damaged be less
than 500.
Certificates of Title lost or destroyed due to fire, flood or other force majeure within 15
years before the approval of R.A. No. 6732 on July 20, 1989 may also be administratively
reconstituted.600
WHO MAY APPLY?
Section 2 of R.A. No. 6732 provides that the petition may be filled with the Register of
Deeds concerned by the registered owner, his assigns, or other persons, both natural and
juridical, having an interest in the property.
SOURCES OF ADMINISTRATIVE RECONSTIUTION
Section 2 of the same act provides that administrative reconstitution of title may be
based only on the following:
(a)

The owners duplicate of the certificate of title;

(b)

The co-owners, mortgagees or lessees duplicate of said certificate;

REQUIREMENT AND PROCEDURES IN PETITIONS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE RECONSTIUTION


The petition shall state, among other things, the petitioners full name, address and other
personal circumstances, the nature of his interest in the property, and the title number of
the certificate of title sought to be reconstituted. It must be verified, accompanied by the
source or sources for reconstitution and an affidavit of the registered owner stating the
following:601
(1)

(2)
(3)

600
601

276

That no deed or other instrument affecting the property had been


presented for registration, or, if there be any, the nature thereof,
the date of its presentation, as well as the names of the parties,
and whether the registration of such deed or instrument is still
pending accomplishment;
That the owners duplicate certificate or co-owners duplicate is in
due form without any apparent intentional alterations or erasures;
That the certificate of title is not the subject of litigation or
investigation, administrative or judicial, regarding its genuineness
or due execution or issuance;

NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION, supra note 2, at 337.


Reviving and Amending Sec. 5 of Republic Act No. 26, Republic Act No. 6732, Sec. 2.

(4)
(5)
(6)

That the certificate of title was in full force and effect at the time it
was lost or destroyed;
That the certificate of title is covered by a declaration regularly
issued by the Assessors Office;
That real estate taxes have been fully paid up to at least 2 years
prior to the filing of the petition for reconstitution.

If the reconstitution is to be made from any of the sources enumerated in Section 2(b) or
3(b), the affidavit should further state that the owners duplicate has been lost or
destroyed and the circumstances under which it was lost or destroyed. Thereupon, the
register of deeds shall, no valid reason to the contrary existing, reconstitute the
certificate of title as provided in this act.
REMEDY OF AGGRIEVED PARTY
Republic Act No. 6732 provides for a mechanism for review of the decision of the
Register of Deeds or reconstituting officer as well as the remedy of an aggrieved party.
Section 9 and 10 provides:
Sec. 9. The Land Registration Authority Administrator may review,
revise, reverse, modify or affirm any decision of the reconstituting officer
or Register of Deeds any appeal shall be filed with 15 days from the
receipt of the judgment or order by the aggrieved party.
Sec. 10. Any interested party who by fraud, accident, mistake or
excusable negligence has been unjustly deprived or prevented from
taking part in the proceedings may file a petition in the proper court to
set aside the decision and to reopen the proceedings. The petition shall be
verified and must be filed within 60 days after the petitioner learns of the
decision but not more than 6 months from the promulgation thereof.
Section 9 of R.A. No. 6732 provides for the review by the Land Registration Authority
Administrator of any decision of the reconstituting officer or Register of Deeds. On the
other hand, Section 10 provides for the remedy of a petition filed in the proper court
to set aside a decision granting reconstitution where the interested party was unjustly
deprived or prevented from taking part in the proceedings through fraud, accident,
mistake or excusable negligence. Thus insofar, as the administrative reconstitution of
original copies of certificates of title is concerned, R.A. No. 6732 provides two remedies
to an aggrieved party, namely:
(a)

Appeal from the order or decision of reconstitution issued by the


Reconstituting Officer or Register of Deeds to the LRA Administrator
who may review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm it under the first
sentence of Section 9; and

(b)

Petition for review on the ground of fraud, accident, mistake, or


excusable negligence filed with the proper court under Section 10.

277

It should be noted that the proper court mentioned in Section 10 could only mean the
Regional Trial Court, a court of general jurisdiction, which has exclusive original
jurisdiction over the petition to set aside the decision of the reconstituting officer on
ground of fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence.602
The LRA Administrator, pursuant to his power under Section 9 of R.A. No. 6732 may
even nullify the subject reconstituted certificate of title. In Manotok v. Heirs of Homer L.
Barque,603 the Supreme Court held that:
The LRA has jurisdiction to act on petitions for administrative
reconstitution. It has the authority to review, revise, reverse, modify or
affirm on appeal the decision of the reconstituting officer. The function is
adjudicatory in nature it can properly deliberate on the validity of the
titles submitted for reconstitution. Logically, it can declare a title as sham
or spurious, or valid on its face. Otherwise, if it cannot make such
declaration, then there would be no basis for its decision to grant or deny
the reconstitution. The findings of fact of the LRA, when supported by
substantial evidence, as in the case, shall be binding on the Court of
Appeals.
In a reconstitution proceeding, the LRA is bound to determine from
evidence submitted from the evidence submitted which between or
among the titles is genuine and existing to enable it to decide whether to
deny or approve the petition. Without such authority, the LRA would be
a mere robotic agency clothed only with mechanical powers.
V. CADASTRAL REGISTRATION PROCEEDINGS
The cadastral system is an offspring of the system of registration under the Land
Registration Act which was enacted primarily to hasten the system of registering lands,
when the ordinary land registration proves to be inefficient and slow for lack of
initiative on the part of landowners.
The most defining characteristic of the cadastral system, perhaps, is the fact that upon
initiative of the government, titles for all the lands within a stated area are adjudicated,
whether or not the people living within the district desire to have the titles issued.604 The
purpose of the cadastral proceedings is to settle and adjudicate titles to lands when
public interest so requires and concomitantly, to expedite such adjudication and
settlement.

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 787.


477 SCRA 339
604 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND supra note 1, at 487.
602
603

278

The law governing cadastral registration proceedings is Act No. 2259, otherwise known
as The Cadastral Act. This, however, was updated by PD 1529 which codified all laws,
decrees and other issuance relative to land registration.
NATURE OF CADASTRAL PROCEEDINGS
The idea behind a cadastral proceeding is to register all private lands in a town in one
single collective proceeding, compelling all claimants in such municipality to litigate
against one another over their respective claims of ownership. The principal aim is to
settle as much as possible all disputes over the land and to remove all clouds over land
titles, as far as practicable, in a community.605
Like in the ordinary registration proceedings, cadastral registration proceeding are in
rem. In cadastral cases, the government who initiates the proceedings may well be
considered as the plaintiff and all the persons having claims over lands subject of
registration, the defendants.606 However, unlike in ordinary registration proceedings,
institution of the proceedings in cadastral system is involuntary as the initiative lies with
the government.
GENERAL PROCEDURE IN CADASTRAL CASES
CADASTRAL SURVEY
The cadastral registration proceeding starts with the President, upon finding that public
interest so requires that title to any unregistered lands be settled and adjudicated,
ordering the Director of Lands to conduct a cadastral survey of the lands in issue.607
The Director of Lands shall ensure that notices have been sent out to all persons
claiming interest over the land as well as the general public. He should also cause the
notice to be published in the Official Gazette and posted in conspicuous places where
the land is situated. Such notice shall contain the description of the lands to be surveyed
and the date of the survey.
FILING OF PETITION
After the lands have been surveyed or plotted, the Director of Lands, represented by the
Solicitor General shall institute original registration proceedings by filing the necessary
petition in the Regional Trial Court in the place where the land is situated.608 The
petition shall be against all the holders, claimants, possessors, or occupants of such lands
or any part thereof, and shall state that public interest requires that titles to such lands
be settled and adjudicated. It shall likewise contain a description of the lands and shall

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 370.


Director of Lands v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, 41 Phil. 120.
607 PD 1529, Sec. 35.
608 PD 1529, Sec. 35.
605
606

279

be accompanied by a plan thereof, and all other data as may to furnish the occupants of
the land full notice of the institution of the proceedings.
PUBLICATION OF NOTICE OF INITIAL HEARING
The LRA Administrator, upon receipt of the petition, shall cause: the publication of the
notice of the initial hearing of the application for registration once in the Official Gazette
and once in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines; the mailing of such
notice to persons named in the petition and whose address is known; the posting of
copies of such notice in conspicuous places designated by law.
Such notice is indispensable since the cadastral registration proceeding is in rem. Like in
ordinary registration proceedings, publication in cadastral proceedings is one of the
essential basis of jurisdiction of cadastral courts. Additional territory cannot be included
in the new survey plan unless publication of the same was made.609
FILING OF ANSWER
Any person having any claim over the lands in issue, whether named in the notice or
not, shall appear before the court and file an answer, which should contain the
information provided for in Section 37 of PD 1529. The filing of the answer is equivalent
to an application for registration under the Land Registration Act and just like the
institution of the proceedings, it is an action in rem.610 It also suspends the running of the
period of prescription.
CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR PERJURY
Pursuant to Section 116 of the Land Registration Act, those who, in filing their answers,
make any false assertions and swear by it, may be prosecuted criminally for perjury.
Such prosecution, however, is a proceeding in personam or personally against the
accused claimant. It shall not have any effect upon the land titles.611
HEARING OF THE CASE
A hearing shall then be conducted to determine who has better claims over the land.
Like in an ordinary registration proceeding, parties to a cadastral case are heard and
their evidence considered. However, if no one can prove title to the property, such
property shall be declared part of the public domain and that judgment shall be res
judicata.612
DECISION

AQUINO, LAND REGISTRATION supra note 37, at 102.


Director of Lands v. Aba, et al., 68 Phil. 85.
611 People v. Cainglet, 16 SCRA 748.
612 PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 1, at 490.
609
610

280

The cadastral clerk of court notifies all the claimants of the courts decision. He shall
have the benefit of the presumption of regularity in the performance of such duty. Three
actions are taken after trial by the cadastral court:
(a)

Judgment or decision which adjudicates ownership of the land involved


in favor of one or more of the claimants. This is the decree of the court.

(b)

Declaration by the court that the decree is final and its order for the
issuance of the certificate of title by the Land Registration Authority. This
is issued if no appeal is taken within the reglementary period.

(c)

Registration of the decree by the LRA and the issuance of the


corresponding certificate of title.613

ISSUANCE OF DECREE AND CERTIFICATE OF TITLE


The adjudication of land in a registration or cadastral case does not become final and
incontrovertible until the expiration of one year after the entry of the final decree.614
Within such period, the case may still be reopened and the decision be set aside on the
ground of actual fraud. The title obtained in a cadastral proceeding shall have the same
force and effect as that applied for in an ordinary land registration proceeding.
In the absence of fraud, title is vested upon expiration of the period to appeal from the
decision or adjudication by the cadastral court, without such appeal being perfected;
and form that time the land becomes registered property which cannot be lost by
adverse possession.615
UNREGISTERED LANDS, OBJECT OF CADASTRAL PROCEEDINGS
Pursuant to the Act 2259 or the Cadastral Act, both public and private lands are
impliedly made subject of cadastral proceedings. However, the wordings of CA 141 of
the Public Land Act, which provides that the petition for cadastral proceeding shall be
filed against all holders of any land who shall not have voluntarily come in under the
provisions on judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, imply that those
land that have been titled under the provisions mentioned are excluded from the
cadastral survey.616
Furthermore, it is expressly provided in PD 1529 that cadastral proceedings for
unregistered lands may be instituted when public interest so requires.
LIMITATION ON THE JURISDICTION OF CADASTRAL COURTS
ON PREVIOUSLY DECREED LANDS

Merced v. Court of Appeals, 5 SCRA 240.


NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION supra note 2, at 480.
615 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 373-374.
616 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 373-374.
613
614

281

In cadastral proceedings, the courts have no jurisdiction to decree registration to lands


already decreed in an earlier land registration case. Neither do they have the power to
decree title to a lot already covered by homestead patent, to a person other than the
patentee, and they cannot decree a lot to one who has put no claim to it.617 Their
jurisdiction is limited to those unregistered lands, or as regards registered lands, to the
necessary correction of technical errors in the description of the lands.618
The reason for this limitation on the jurisdiction of the courts in cadastral proceedings
goes back to the intention of the law, The Cadastral Act. The intention of the law is for
titles to be settled and adjudicated. To construe this provision as allowing the settlement
or adjudication of titles already decreed is to render the law absurd and superfluous.
Furthermore, since the title obtained in a cadastral proceeding has the same force and
effect as that obtained in an ordinary registration proceeding, such construction defeats
or goes against the guarantee of a final, imprescriptible and indefeasible title.
ON AMENDING PLAN TO INCLUDE ADDITIONAL TERRITORY
Private lands, by the nature of cadastral proceedings, may inevitably be included in
cadastral surveys. In such cases, those private lands shall retain their non-alienable lands
of public domain. The cadastral courts shall issue new certificate of titles, but such titles
shall not modify or alter the limits of the lands in the original plan.619
Any modification made by the cadastral court as to the original plan, i.e., inclusion of
land not originally in the plan, shall be a nullity unless new publication is made as to
such step. However, in proper cases and upon proper application or the consent of the
registered owner , or of the person in whose name the decree is issued, the Court may
make the necessary changes insofar as such changes do not impair any substantial
rights, i.e., divesting the registered owner of the title already issued in his favor.620 This
means that if the cadastral survey extends to those lands which have been registered
under ordinary registration proceedings, the cadastral court may validly change the title
issued, corresponding to the new survey. Such change of title must not, however,
modify the previous extent of the land.
ON DECLARING LOT AS PUBLIC LAND
Moreover, it has been held that the declaration by the cadastral court that a land is part
of public domain is not the final decree contemplated in Sections 38 and 40 of the Land
Registration Act. Even if the land has been declared by the cadastral court as a public
land,
such declaration does not preclude the occupant from seeking judicial
confirmation of his title to the same land.621

Manalo v. Lucban, 48 Phil. 973; El Hogar Filipino v. Oviga, 60 Phil. 17 ; Government of the
Philippine Island v. Trio, 50 Phil. 708.
618 Pamintuan v. San Agustin, 43 Phil. 558.
619 AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 17, at 380.
620 Sideco v. Aznar, 92 Phil. 952.
621 Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 106 SCRA 426.
617

282

ON AWARDING DAMAGES
The cadastral courts also does not possess authority to award damages as they restricted
to determining whether the claimants are the rightful owners of the lands subject of
registration and if they are, to issue a decree of registration.
It has been clarified in Timbol vs. Diaz622 however, that these limitations on the
jurisdiction of cadastral courts do not exclude the power to determine the priority of
overlapping registered titles. This power is necessary for a complete settlement of the
title to the land, which is the express purpose of cadastral proceedings. In short,
cadastral court may also (1) order the correction of technical description of the land; and
(2) resolve as well the priority of overlapping titles.
REOPENING OF CADASTRAL PROCEEDINGS
Under Republic Act No. 931, approved June 20, 1953, persons claiming title to lands
subject of cadastral proceedings, who were in possession thereof at the time of survey,
but for some justifiable reason, failed to file such claims and by reason of such failure,
the lands have been or are about to be declared part of public domain, may file for the
reopening of cadastral cases within five years, or any time before June 20, 1958. This
period has been extended to ten years or up to December 31, 1968 by Republic Act 2061.
Such reopening, however, shall be limited those lands which have not yet been
permanently disposed of by the government. Failure to file such claims must be
grounded on justifiable reasons like poverty, sickness and the like.
This law, however, is no longer in force. Thus, courts no longer have the authority to
reopen cadastral proceedings since December 31, 1968.623
Moreover, except when otherwise provided by the laws governing cadastral registration
proceedings, all the provisions of the Land Registration Act are applicable to cadastral
proceedings as well as to titles granted under the Cadastral Act.

622
623

44 Phil. 589.
Republic v. Estenzo, 158 SCRA 282.

283