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Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV


From 1907 to 1916, the Philippine Assembly served as the lower house of the legislature with the Philippine
Commission, headed by the American Governor-General, as the upper chamber. The inauguration of the
Philippine Assembly on October 16, 1907 is a turning point in the countrys history, for its creation marked the
commencement of Filipino participation in self- governance and a big leap towards self-determination.
For more than three hundred years, the Filipinos were ruled by the Spaniards and their occupation ended when
Spain was defeated by the American Navy headed by Commodore George Dewey in the Battle of Manila Bay
on May 1898. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of the revolutionary government in the Philippines was
convinced by American Consul E. Spencer Pratt, to return to the Philippines from Hong Kong to resume the
revolution and break the truce effected by the Pact of Biak-na-Bato. When Gen. Aguinaldo returned to the
Philippines, he summoned the revolutionaries and ordered the resumption of the armed struggle against the
Spanish government. Amidst the ongoing hostilities, Gen. Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine Independence on 12
June 1898 at Kawit, Cavite. Soon enough, the relationship between the Americans and the Filipinos turned sour
after the American government agreed to negotiate with the Spaniards that resulted to Spains surrender and
the eventual signing of the Treaty of Paris that ceded the Philippines to the United States.
President William McKinleys Policy of Benevolent Assimilation, aimed to prepare the Filipinos to direct their own
government by having them under their tutelage. A military government was initially established in the
Philippines as soon as the Treaty of Paris was signed and when the Filipino-American War erupted in February
1899. The three military generals who took charge of the islands from 1898 to 1901 were Gen. Wesley Merritt,
Gen. Elwell Otis and Gen. Arthur MacArthur. In 1901, by virtue of the Spooner Amendment passed by the US
Congress on 3 March 1901, the military rule in the Philippines ended paving way to the establishment and
inauguration of a civil government with William H. Taft as the first civil governor. The civil government named the
Philippine Commission as sole lawmaking body in the Philippine islands from 1901 to 1907, and eventually
acted as the upper house from 1907 to 1916 until the time the Jones Law was passed on August 1916, that
gave the Filipinos the opportunity to control both legislative houses.
The Philippine Bill of 1902 is one of the most important decrees enacted by the American government in the
Philippines. Entitled An Act Temporarily to Provide for the Administration of the Affairs of Civil Government in
the Philippine Islands, and for Other Purposes, this law contained two important provisions that strengthen both
the civil and human rights of the Filipino people, and bestowed on them the privilege of legislation.
Also known as Cooper Act, it provided a Bill of Rights for the Filipinos that protected their rights: to live, to
acquire property, to practice their religion, to be subjected to due process, to exercise their obligations, to enjoy
compensations due to them, and freedom of expression. But the most important element contained in the bill
was its clauses that called for the creation of a lower legislative branch with elected Filipino representatives as
The bill also stated the American governments readiness to call for a general election in the islands should
insurrection cedes and complete peace is maintained as attested by the Philippine Commission. The decree
mandates the US President to order the Philippine Commission to perform a census of the islands and make a
detailed report about the population and matters about the people that may deemed by the Commission as
necessary, while peace is being upheld. Two years after the publication of the result of the census, and upon
the satisfaction of the Philippine Commission and the US President, a general election shall be called and the
elected Filipinos, not less than fifty but not greater than one hundred in number, will comprise the Philippine
Assemblythe body that will act as the lower house of the legislature in the Philippines.
The Filipinos became very cooperative with the promises offered by the bill. Peace was maintained, a census
was conducted and after its publication, an election was held on 30 July 1907 and the assembly was convened
and inaugurated on 16 October 1907 at the Manila Grand Opera House. The Nacionalista Party, espousing
immediate and complete independence headed by Sergio Osmea garnered the majority of the seats. The
First Philippine Assembly is best remembered for its effort in reviving the issue of independence and for passing
laws that improved the type of education enjoyed by the Filipinos.

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV



Section 1. In payment of compensation for landed estates acquired by the Government,

whether thru voluntary agreement or thru expropriation proceedings, the President of the
Philippines may convey in behalf of the Republic, with the written consent of the owner of land,
in total or partial payment of such compensation, such public land as is disposable by sale or
lease to private individuals in accordance with law and such other similarly disposable property
pertaining to the Republic of the Philippines. In effecting such exchange involving public
agricultural land, the assessed value shall not be taken into consideration.
Sec. 2. Public lands conveyed under this Act by the President of the Philippines in behalf of the
Republic shall be limited to the area as provided for in Commonwealth Act Numbered One
hundred forty-one, otherwise known as the Public Land Law.
Sec. 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

From Wikipedia:

Land Management Bureau (Philippines)

The Philippines' Land Management Bureau (Filipino: Kawanihan ng Pamamahala sa mga Lupa, abbreviated as
LMB), is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
responsible for administering, surveying, managing, and disposing Alienable and Disposable (A&D) lands and
other government lands not placed under the jurisdiction of other government agencies.

Promoting social equity by giving public agricultural lands to the rural masses
The Land Management Bureau (and the regional Land Management Sector) was organized on September 2,
1901 under Act 218 as the Insular Bureau of Public Lands (IBPL) with the mandate of supervising the survey
and distribution of public lands in the Philippine Islands. William Tipton was appointed as the first chief of the
IBPL. Under his supervision, the Bureau planned a system for the survey of the archipelago and in 1903
implemented Act 926 or the first Public Land Act of the country which became the basis of public land
disposition thereafter.
Disposition under this law was done by way of homestead, free patent, sale and lease of public lands suitable
for agriculture. The name Insular Bureau of Public Land was later changed by virtue of Act 1470 to the Bureau
of Lands, the name became popularly known to the masses who were the direct beneficiaries of public
agricultural lands for distribution.
The Bureau of Lands was likewise mandated to administer the distribution of friar lands under Act 1120 in 1930.
It is the first land reform program in the country as vast tract of the most productive agricultural lands were
purchased by the Insular Government from religious orders and agricultural corporations and sold to actual
occupants and settlers.

Cadastral survey
In order to expedite public land distribution, then Director of Lands Chas H. Sleeper introduced cadastral
surveying, a public land survey that covers an extensive area, usually an entire municipality, subdividing the
same into parcels for purposes of public land distribution. The first cadastral survey project (Cadastral Project
No. 1) was conducted in Pilar, Bataan in November 1908. In 1913, Act No. 2259, otherwise known as the
Cadastral Act, was implemented providing for a procedure of judicial adjudication of public lands. Under
his leadership, he established the first Survey School in Manila High School (MHS) some time in 1908 to train

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
Filipino surveyors. It was later transferred to the Philippine School of Trade and Arts (PSTA). The first Filipino to
head the bureau was the former revolutionary general, Gen. Manuel Tinio who held office from 1913 - 1914.

Amendment of Act 926

Finding the potential impact of the disposition activity for the people and for the economy as a whole, Act 926
was revised to increase patent distribution. The second Public Land Act (Act 2874) was thus enacted on
1919 in order to hasten the disposition of public agricultural lands to the Filipinos by introducing the
system of land classification and increasing the homestead area from sixteen hectares (40 acres) to
twenty-four hectares (59 acres). Not mentioned in any of Comm. Sors lectures or, I was not paying attention?
The Survey School of the Bureau was transferred to the University of the Philippines (UP), College of
Engineering in 1925. It was also during this time that the Bureau of Lands was divided into nine inspection
district and thirty-two district land offices in order to decentralize land surveying and processing of land patent
application to the provinces. However, the appointment of district land officers was done by designation only
among surveyors, public land inspectors, land attorneys, and clerks.

Enactment of Commonwealth Act No. 141

It was only in 1939 that the position of District Land Offices (DLOs) was formally created under Executive Order
No. 246. DLOs were authorized for the first time to render decisions on important matters. Public Land Act of
1936 was enacted which remains the governing law on public lands.
Before the start of the war, the bureau was able to issue a total of 93,694 patents and had conducted a total of
289 cadastral surveys by the Bureau, the last being Cad 289 in Manay, Davao Oriental for judicial titling.

Post war efforts to fast-track land distribution

In 1953, the Bureau of Lands entered the era of modernization with the introduction of IBM and Remington
Rand computing machines capable of handling bulk computations. The bureau became the most advanced
government agency in the Philippines in terms of electronic computing. This effort was made in order to respond
to the need to speed up the distribution of public agricultural lands in the rural area due to the agrarian unrest in
the countryside and to reconstruct records damaged from the war. From 1950 to 1960, 1.4 million hectares of
agricultural lands were distributed by the bureau, double that of the 1930-1940 period.

Devolution of functions
In 1972, Republic Act No. 6516 was enacted authorizing the district land officers in every province to sign
patents not exceeding five hectares thereby fully devolving the functions to the district offices. Because of the
devolution, more than two million hectares of agricultural land was distributed by the Bureau of Lands from 1970
to 1980.

Reorganization of the DENR

Executive Order No. 192 organized the Department of Environment of Natural Resources (DENR) in June 1987.
The new organizational setup integrated the Bureau of Lands District Land Offices with the field offices of the
DENR and transformed the Bureaus Central Office to the Land Management Bureau, which became a staff
bureau. The reorganized bureau spearheaded the distribution of public agricultural lands through the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government distributing 1.32 million hectares to the
rural community.

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
Relevant facts from a study conducted on July 2002 to promote simplicity land registration processes:

Legal Structure



An inventory of the laws relevant to public land disposition and land registration has been undertaken and is
contained in Volume 2 of this report, with a summary of the inventory attached as Annexure 4 in Volume 1. This
inventory identifies more than 60 laws and regulations touching on these particular aspects of land
administration. Many of these laws have been in existence for a long time and have not been adapted to meet
modern needs.
One reason for the proliferation of laws is the practice of introducing new laws without specifically repealing
previous laws. Instead, a general statement has been included in the new law that all laws, decrees, orders,
rules and regulations, or parts thereof, in conflict or inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Act are hereby
repealed or modified accordingly. Thus it becomes a matter of interpretation as to whether a provision in an
earlier law has been repealed or modified. In addition, to the extent that the provisions of an earlier law are
consistent with a later law, they remain in force with the result that there can be several laws governing the
same subject matter.
An example of this is in the land registration laws where PD 1529, the express intent of which was to codify the
laws relating to land registration, did not repeal or replace many of the provisions of Act 496, Act 2259 or RA 26
even though it dealt with the same subject matter. Similarly in relation to CARP, the latest law RA 6657 did not
replace previous laws such as RA 3844, PD 27 and PD 2766 and these laws continue to exist and have
suppletory effect. In so far as the CA 141 the Public Lands Act is concerned, there are subsequent acts
dealing with the same subject matter e.g. RA 730, which did not amend the provisions of CA 141 but
nevertheless established exceptions to these provisions.
Not only has this aspect of the legal infrastructure been the subject of comment by the judiciary but, in
discussions with staff of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources responsible for scrutinizing new land
legislation, it was disclosed that the Committee has difficulty in determining the current laws under
consideration. Given the difficulties faced by persons trained in understanding the law it is understandable that
there is confusion and lack of understanding on the part of the general public.
One further aspect of the laws which not only affects their clarity but inhibits their implementation is the fact that
the laws are very detailed and prescriptive. The laws are very specific, very inflexible and so limit operations and
the adoption of new and more efficient procedures. They also include subsidiary matters such as scales of fees
and the design and content of forms, which means that these matters cannot be readily changed. In this regard
the Philippines suffers by comparison with many other countries which embody the major land-related laws in a
single code, generally confined to basic principles, with the subsidiary laws contained in more easily amended

Public Land Classification

Various laws govern public land classification and disposition in the Philippines. Foremost of these is the
Constitution of 1987, which enunciates the principles, policies and tenets of these functions.
Article XII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines provides that lands of the public domain are to
be classified into agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Alienable lands of the public
domain are limited to agricultural lands. Agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by law
according to the uses which they may be devoted. 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.
Public land classification is relevant to the land administration system because section 8 of CA 141 (the Public
Lands Bill) provides that land is alienable and disposable from the public realm for acquisition by private hands

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
provided it is classified as such and provided it is not exempted from classification under that same section. As
in Act 926 and Act 2874, Sec. 6 of CA 141 classifies lands of the public domain into:
alienable and disposable
The President shall from time to time declare what lands are open to disposition or concession, but only those
lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which (Section 8, C.A. No. 141):
Have been officially delimited and classified
Have been surveyed
Have not been reserved for public or quasi-public uses
Have not been appropriated by the government
Have not in any manner become private property
Have not been the subject of a private right authorized and recognized by this Act or any other valid law
Sec 8 of CA 141 also states 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, or may,
for the same reason, suspend their concession or disposition until they are again declared open to concession
or disposition by proclamation duly published or by Act of the National Assembly.
Alienable and disposable public lands shall be further classified according to the use or purposes to which they
are destined as follows (Section 9, CA No. 141):
Residential, commercial, industrial or for similar productive purposes, and
Educational, charitable or other similar purposes; and
Reservations for townsite and for public or quasi-public purposes.
The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of DENR, shall from time to time make the
classifications provided in this section (Sec. 9) and may act at anytime and in a similar manner, transfer lands
from one class to another.
Thought should given to the definition of forest lands. Forest lands are defined primarily by the 18% slope rule.
Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended, prohibits the classification of lands of the public domain eighteen
percent (18%) in slope or over as alienable and disposable. Yet there have already been instances when there
have been exceptions declared and it is likely that there are more such areas. For example, Presidential Decree
No 1998 of 1985 declared that in the Provinces of Cebu and Benguet, lands with 18% slope or more were still to
be declared alienable and disposable if they met any or all of the following criteria:
developed area planted to agricultural crops using effective erosion control practices or measures like terracing; and/or
established and developed townsite within barangays or communities where basic structures, e.g., roads, schools,
church are already existing.

Also Presidential Letter of Instruction of 1982 No. 1262 provided that there should be a Sub-Classification of
Forest Land Committee tasked to establish a set of criteria for the selection and definition of specific
classification schemes for forest and other public lands. Land classification is currently the responsibility of
There is also the matter of strengthening the meaning of section 8 of CA 141 known as the Public Land Act, to
clarify the instances when land has clearly become private land and is therefore beyond the necessity for
The need to review the method of classification of forest lands is a serious issue as a large number of people
are living within what is regarded as forest in areas which have for many years been established agricultural and
residential areas. These people cannot currently obtain a secure title. The issue will be further considered in the
forthcoming study on forest boundaries.

Public Land Disposition

There are a number of ways by which public land may be converted to privately owned land. A graphical
illustration of the various processes is shown in Figure 1. The principal methods are those provided by CA 141,

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
the Public Lands Act, but another means is provided in the CARP law, RA 6657 where, in addition to private
lands, certain public land may be transferred to farmer beneficiaries. Other laws related to land disposition are
Act 496, the Land Registration Act, Act 2259, the Cadastral Act and PD1529, the Property Registration Decree
which provide for the registration of lands claimed as private property and which are dealt with under the
heading Confirmation of Imperfect Title.
CA 141
C.A. No. 141, as amended, was enacted by Congress in 1936, on the basis of the 1935 Constitution. Its
provisions are basically the same as the first Public Land Act of 1903 (Act 926) and the second Public Land Act
of 1919 (Act No. 2874). It could be said that the provisions of C.A. No. 141 are almost a century old. Two
constitutions have already been promulgated since 1935, but Congress has yet to pass a Public Land Act based
on the 1987 Constitution. There have been various attempts to introduce a new Act but all have failed to achieve
the passage through Congress. There is currently a Bill before Congress but this Bill does not introduce any
major changes and only contains incremental amendments.

Applications for
grant for land

Alienation of Lands
of Public Domain to
Private Ownership

Confirmation of existing
rights to title based on
evidence of ownership
(Judicial) SC & LRA
PD1529, Act 496, Act 2259

Processed through

Processed thru SC & LRA

Disposition of A&D
lands of the Public

Rights to those who claim

to have established
ownership of land

Applications for

Applications for title by

possession in
composition with the



Application to SC by

Application to SC by

Survey by private

Survey by DENR
(private practice)

Survey verification and

records by LRA/DENR

Survey verification and

records by DENR

Survey by DENR
(private practice)

Survey verification
and records by

adjudication. Grant
to applicant subject
to conditions

following auction.
Subject to

adjudication to
ownership claimants by

Judicial adjudication by

Judicial adjudication by

Homestead Patent

Sales Patent

Free Patent



Records kept by LRA and ROD

CT prepared by ROD
Land is private land within the
Title Registration System

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
By virtue of s.11 of CA 141 public lands can be disposed of only as follows:
For homestead settlement;
By sale;
By lease; and
By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:
(a) By judicial legalisation
(b) By administrative legalisation (free patent).
The Homestead Patent is a form of holding that was introduced in the first Public Lands Act and has now
become largely obsolete and inappropriate. The process for disposition is tedious and the conditions attaching
to the holding are overly restrictive.
The following lands may be the subject of sale or lease:
a) agricultural lands;
b) lands for residential, commercial or industrial purposes and other similar purposes; and
c) lands for educational, charitable and other similar purposes.
In the case of a sale a sales patent will be issued. In the case of both sales and leases CA 141 specifies various
conditions attaching to the holding.
Futher details on the above holdings is contained in Public Land Laws of the Philippines, Ramon N. Casanova,
Volume 2 of this report.
Administrative and judicial legalisation of imperfect title to public agricultural land partake of the nature of
statutory grant of public lands. This form of acquisition of title grant is not found in the Constitution which
provides only for grants by homestead, sale or lease.
Both free patent and judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title are dealt with under the following
heading Confirmation of Imperfect Title.

Confirmation of Incomplete or Imperfect Title

Most of the existing and potential A&D land is already occupied on the basis of long uncontested possession.
For many of these occupiers their rights are not recognized by formal registration of title. In Leyte, for example, it
has been observed that 80% of taxpaying landholders are not recorded in the title registration system. Despite
the fact that these people have been paying taxes based on their landholding, the official attitude of the DENR
and the Solicitor General is that the land is still public land. This attitude is held despite both jurisprudence and
statute law to the contrary and the stark reality of the situation on the ground. Section 8 of the Public Lands Act
CA141 recognises that land which has not been classified A&D may be the subject of private rights, while
section 48 recognises that persons in long term possession of agricultural land of the public domain shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title. In terms of jurisprudence, there are a number of cases establishing the principle
that the occupants have acquired real rights, though imperfect, to their lands. In several celebrated cases the
Supreme Court has ruled that, after open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession under a bona fide
claim of acquisition of ownership for the period specified in the Public Lands Act, the land, ipso jure, ceases to
be part of the public domain and thus becomes private land. The Courts have further held that the application for
confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of title.
Given these rulings it would have been expected that confirmation of title would have been a simple process
and most landholders would have obtained a certificate of title, but this is not the case.
One of the major reasons that there has not been a completion of the formalization of title to many of these
landholdings is the problems involved in formalization processes. There are three processes by which a formal
title may be obtained voluntary judicial proceedings, compulsory judicial proceedings and voluntary
administrative proceedings.
Voluntary Judicial Proceedings (s.48 CA 141, s.14 PD 1529)
This is open to persons who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural land of the public domain under a

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership since June 12, 1945. The process involves obtaining a decree from
the Court for confirmation of the claim to title and issuance of a certificate of title. However, the time and cost of
this process is a deterrent to many claims. A claimant must engage an attorney to represent him in the Court
proceedings which are extremely time-consuming, not only because of the number of steps involved but also
because of the delays due to an overloaded Court system and the inability of the Courts to allocate sufficient
time to land titling matters. There are also further delays and duplication of activities involved in the investigation
carried out by LRA into the matter before issue of the decree.
Acceptance fee P20,000 for regular sized land
Retainer fee about 4-5x more than the acceptance fee i.e. P80-100,000 (more if commercial or industrial land or highvalue agricultural)
Retainer fee includes filing of the application (P10,000); completion of presentation of evidence (P10,000-20,000);
appearance for every trial or conference attended the amount would vary depending on where and the time required for
travel; miscellaneous costs.
Applicant also has to pay cost of publication: P5,000-10,000 (including in the newspaper would need at least P6,000-7,000;
Gazette P1000-2000).
Sometimes the lawyer and client would agree on a success fee (% fixed).

The other difficulty involved in the process is the period for which the possession must be proved. The original
provisions on judicial confirmation required possession for a period of 10 years. This was later extended to a
period of 30 years and finally to a period commencing June 12, 1945. Thus with every passing year it becomes
more difficult for an applicant to prove occupation and possession for the requisite period.
Apart from these difficulties, claimants are not assisted by the attitude of the Government, which considers the
land as still part of the public domain and, through the Solicitor General, regularly opposes the granting of the
decrees by the Court.
One attorney with whom this issue was discussed had also experienced the frustration of getting to the
completion of Court proceedings only to find that the applicants, despite having occupied the land for the
statutory period, could not count all that period as some of it was prior to the land being classified.
Voluntary Administrative Proceedings (ss. 44-46 CA 141, BP 223)
In addition to the provisions enabling judicial confirmation of title based on possession, the successive Public
Land Acts have provided for the issue of a patent, known as a Free Patent, to persons who have continuously
occupied and cultivated agricultural public lands subject to disposition, who shall have paid the real estate tax
thereon, while the same has not been occupied by any other person. In this case also, the required period of
possession has gradually increased to the current point where possession commencing 30 years prior to 28
March, 1990 must be established. What particularly distinguishes a Free Patent from a title obtained through
judicial confirmation is the conditions attaching to a Free Patent. There is a limitation on the area that can be
obtained. The Public Lands Act specifies 12 ha., but in practice, having regard to CARP provisions, a maximum
of 5 ha. is allowed. Moreover, a Free Patent cannot be sold or mortgaged for a period of 5 years after issue and
a right of repurchase within 5 years of a sale applies, inappropriate conditions given the period of time that the
landholder has already possessed the land and not conducive to a freely operating land market.
In 1982 Batas Pambansa Blg. 223 introduced provisions extending Free Patents to residential lands of the
public domain, although it was expressly provided that the provisions did not apply to residential lands located in
cities, in capitals of provinces, in first class, second class, third class and fourth class municipalities, and in
townsite reservations. It was also provided that all applications for free patent should be filed on or before
December 31, 1987. This deadline has never been extended.
As can be seen, the voluntary judicial proceedings and the voluntary administrative proceedings can operate in
parallel. A claimant may, in some circumstances have the choice of which form of process to proceed by. The
problem arising from this that each process involves different agencies and the coordination between the
agencies in relation to these matters has been found to be lacking so that two competing claims can be running
at once in different proceedings as the following example shows.

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
Land at Cavite containing 14,253 sq.m.
1. Land bought by F on 27 April 1996 under Absolute Deed of Sale.
2. On 22July 1997 F lodged a petition for registration at the Tagaytay Regional Trial Court.
3. On 23 February 1999 C lodged an application for a Free Patent over the same land.
4. On 22.May 1999, while the Court case was still pending, the Free Patent was issued.
5. F must now seek to have the Free patent set aside by the Court.
While the Free Patent process is quicker and cheaper than the judicial process, it still has its problems as the
following example shows:
Emerenciana, Barangay Catariwan, Dagami, Leyte
1. Emerenciana is 66 years old. She has lived on the same land since her birth.
2. She was always interested in getting a title because she knows it is important for security.
3. She had tried to get a Free Patent by filing an application in the 1970s. She went to the then District Land
Office and submitted an application along with her tax declarations. When she submitted her application she
received a list of requirements and she complied with all of them. She even planted more trees on her property
because she understood that would help her to get the patent. Nothing has happened since. She went to followup the progress of her application every few years.
4. The last time she went was last year when she went to the CENRO. She was told that they could no longer
find her file. In the list of pending cases provided by CENRO to the PIO1-LAMP team, she was not listed.
5. Emerenciana is now part of the PIO1-Lamp judicial titling pilot at Dagami.
Compulsory Judicial Proceedings (Act 2259, ss. 35-38 PD 1529)
For lack of initiative and enthusiasm on the part of landowners, registration of land titles under Act No. 496 has
moved at a very slow pace. For this reason an innovation was conceived to hasten and accelerate registration
of lands. Thus, Act No. 2259, otherwise known as the Cadastral Act, was enacted on February 11, 1913 for the
purpose of expediting the settlement and adjudication of titles to properties.
Following the mandate in the Act that title to lands be settled and adjudicated, the then Director of Lands was
required to conduct surveys of municipalities and cities identifying each lot or parcel therein and marking the
boundaries thereof by monuments. When the lands have been surveyed and maps and plans prepared, a
petition is filed in court against the claimants, praying that title to such lands be settled and adjudicated. The
court sets the date of initial hearing of the petition and any person claiming interest in the land must file their
answer within the time fixed in the notice. In the trial of the case, all conflicting interests must be adjudicated by
the court and decrees awarded in favor of persons entitled to the lands. Such decrees are be the basis for
original certificate of title which have the same effect as those issued under Act No. 496.
The Land Registration Act (496) and the Cadastral Act (2259) both fall under the Torrens System of land
registration, the latter law being merely an innovation designed to hasten the process of bringing lands within
the System. While the proceedings in both Acts are judicial in character and the certificates of title issued
thereunder are similarly indefeasible, yet there are points of differences between the two laws. Under Act No.
496 the survey of the land is conducted at the instance and expense of the landowner and confined to the area
claimed by him, while under Act No. 2259 the survey is undertaken by the Government which advances the
expenses and covers an entire municipality. Ordinary land registration proceedings under Act No. 496 are
voluntary in nature as the filing of the application depends upon the initiative of the landowner, while cadastral
proceedings are compulsory in the sense that the landowner is compelled to file his answer to the petition filed
by the Government, otherwise he loses his rights over the land. In proceedings under Act No. 496, if the
applicants evidence is not sufficient to prove ownership, the application is simply dismissed and the applicant
may still have another chance to put up a successful claim. On the other hand, in cadastral proceedings if the
claimant fails, the property is declared public land. PD 1529 now supersedes part of the Cadastral Act.
While the concept of systematic adjudication of title was good its implementation has left something to be
desired. The surveys have never been completed, some of them have been lost and much of the work of judicial
inquiry and decree has not been carried out due to lack of funds. Although the cost to the landowner is less than
with the voluntary judicial proceedings, the process still suffers from the delays and complications inherent in
Court processes.

Natural Resources and Environmental Law with LTD | Commissioner Soriano | 2015-2016 | JLV
As part of this study, a questionnaire was prepared (see Annexure 6) and submitted to the Supreme Court for
circulation in mid-May 2002. It was agreed that the questionnaire would be completed within 3 weeks by the
Supreme Court itself as well as the courts in Quezon City, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Nueva Ecija, Mindanao
Occidental, Mindanao Oriental, Baguio City, Cebu and Davao City. As at the date of this report, the surveys
have not been returned. There was also a brief study by the UP Law Centre on the types of land registration
cases decided by the Supreme Court for the period 2000-2002 (refer Volume 2).

Land Registration

There are at present two basic systems of land registration prevailing in the Philippines the Torrens system
and the system of registration for unregistered lands. The registration system under the Spanish Mortgage Law
was discontinued with the issuance of Presidential Decree No. 892 in 1976 and all lands recorded under this
system which were not yet covered by Torrens titles were considered as unregistered lands. Less than half of
the available A&D lands are formally titled and recorded in the Torrens System. Of these lands it is known that
some subsequent transactions are not recorded in the RODs. Similarly, many transactions with unregistered
land are not formally recorded.
In addition to the individual voluntary applications for registration of land parcels, in many countries the land
registry has been proactive in trying to bring all land into the title registration system. This has been due to the
recognition of the public benefit in a secure title and the Government benefit in having a complete record of all
land holdings. An example of this has been the practice, whenever a transaction with unregistered lands is
presented for recording, of using this opportunity to convert the land to the title registration system. In the
Philippines, possibly because of the difficulties imposed by the judicial processes, the Land Registration
Authority has not engaged in titling activities other than to register whatever is lodged with it for that purpose.
The only proactive titling activities are those which can be undertaken under the Cadastral Act No. 2259, which
are initiated by the DENR through the Director of Lands. However, although many Municipalities have been
surveyed, little action has been undertaken to issue titles.
The Torrens System
Although the Torrens System was developed in Australia, the legislation for the Torrens System in the
Philippines came via the U.S.A., as it was a copy of the legislation adopted in Massachusets. The American
version of the legislation was similar in many respects to the version that was developed in Australia and
adopted in many other countries, but with one major difference. The American version required the intervention
of the Courts in the title registration process, whereas the system adopted in other countries did not. This
requirement for time-consuming and expensive processes has ultimately led to the demise of the Torrens
system in most of America and has contributed to the informality and lack of coverage of the system in the
Philippines. The cost of these proceedings places registration beyond the reach of many landholding Filipinos,
while the delays contribute to the lack of credibility of the system. An example of the process was shown in
The requirement for judicial determination is not confined to original registration. It includes matters such as
reconstitution of lost original titles, replacement of lost duplicate titles, removal of notifications on
administratively reconstituted titles and correction of errors (including even minor clerical errors) on titles. In
enacting these requirements the Philippines made a major departure from the original aim of the Torrens
System, which was to provide a simple, inexpensive administrative process. A comparison of systems in
countries in the region shows the following:

Judicial and Administrative

The situation in relation to the reconstitution of titles is compounded by the fact that the Supreme Court has
ruled that the register of deeds is not the proper party to file a petition for reconstitution because under R.A. 26,
petitions for reconstitution may be filed only by the registered owner, his assigns, or any person having an

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interest in the property. As a result of this ruling, landowners whose titles were lost or destroyed in the office of
the registers of deeds are forced to file the petition for reconstitution. Since the loss or destruction of the
certificates of title occurred in the office of the register of deed without the fault of the titleholder it does not seem
reasonable that reconstitution proceedings must be initiated by the owner.
A key feature of the Torrens System is the insurance principle, whereby any person who suffers a loss through
the operation of the system can be compensated out of a fund established under the system and known as the
Assurance Fund. In many Torrens Title jurisdictions, the law has been changed to provide more flexible
arrangements and allow the Fund to operate more freely on an insurance basis, thereby increasing public
acceptance and confidence in the system. However, in the Philippines the Assurance Fund is clearly not
working and there are moves afoot to try and introduce private title insurance. This is a very costly alternative to
an Assurance Fund and should not be necessary in a properly functioning Torrens System. The problems with
the existing fund essentially relate to:
(i) The outdated and unrealistic cap on the amount to be retained in the Fund (P 500,000) and the fact
that any amount beyond this must be paid out of funds available in the Treasury and not otherwise appropriated,
which would require Congressional approval;
(ii) The limitations on the liability of the Fund under PD 1529, compared with that obtaining previously
under Act 496;
(iii) The limitations on the amount and source of funds to maintain the Assurance Fund; and
(iv) The necessity for a Court determination even in clear cut cases of liability.
One other feature of the Torrens system in the Philippines which distinguishes it from Torrens Title systems
elswhere, particularly modern Torrens systems, is the inclusion of a technical description (otherwise known as a
metes and bounds description) in the certificate of title. Under the Torrens system the land in a certificate of title
is normally defined by a plan on public record and no technical description is necessary as the land is described
by reference to the plan and the title may sometimes show a diagram based on the plan. Experience has shown
that technical descriptions are not readily understood by lay people and that they are tedious to produce and
prone to error.
The Land Registration Authority is currently undertaking a Land Titling Computerisation Project to automate its
title registration and records management systems. In order to facilitate and support the new systems the LRA is
currently considering various changes to the land registration laws.
The Torrens System and Prescription
Many of the original Torrens Title statutes adopted in countries throughout the world prohibited the acquisition of
title to Torrens Title land by adverse possession or prescription. Other countries with title registration e.g.
England have always permitted prescription. However, many of the countries that originally prohibited
prescription have since changed their basic Torrens Title laws to permit the acquisition of title by this means.
They have done this because they have recognised that, over the years, many parcels of Torrens Title land
have fallen into the ownership of persons who acquired the land, either by taking possession of abandoned land
or by informal transfer. In either case the ownership could not be recorded in the Registry records and the land
would remain outside the official system unless a change was made in the law. Given the public benefit in
bringing this land back into the system, changes were made in the law to accommodate this. It seems clear that
in this country registered land is changing hands by informal transactions, largely due to the disincentives to
registration such as fees and taxes. If the Torrens Title register in the Philippines is to accord with the reality of
actual landholdings on the ground, such a change will be necessary.
It is recognised that while many countries allow prescription over land as a means of stabilising property rights
and quieting titles and there is a need in the Philippines to bring the Register into line with reality, there is also a
need to avoid the encouragement of squatting. Accordingly it is suggested that prescription should only apply in
cases where possession has already commenced and that there should be a period of grace before the law
takes effect in order to enable registered owners of land under adverse possession to recover the land if they
Leases and Prescription
The common concern about the concept of prescription expressed in consultations has been that
this may encourage squatters and challenge private titleholders. The arguments about the merits of
choosing reality and the importance of prescription for maintaining the integrity of the register have

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been set out in the section on The Torrens System and Prescription above.
According to Urban Poor Associates, urban informal settlers desire access to security of tenure for
shelter and that this need not translate only into full ownership and title. UPA related instances when
informal settlers on public lands were able to come to agreement with the government for long-term
(15 year) leases.
It is of course understandable that private landowners would be reluctant to give up their titles and
their full ownership. This is the issue at the heart of landowners concerns about prescription. Since
it is also understood that what urban squatters desire most is security of tenure in whatever form,
then a suggested win-win situation would be for landowners to enter into long-term leaseholds
agreements with the informal settlers on their land. This would overcome concerns about transfer of
ownership due to prescription because the landowner can rest secure that the period for prescription
would not run for the duration of the leasehold agreement, whilst the informal settlers would become
legitimate tenants with the security of long-term leasehold tenure.
The Torrens System and Qualified or Provisional Titles
The concept of the qualified or provisional certificate of title has been used in many countries in the region
(Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Australia) as a means of quickly bringing lands within the registration system in
situations where:
the title may not have been fully investigated;
the period for acquisition of a title may not have run, or
the land may not be accurately defined by survey.
It means that a title can the issued, the land is included in the public record and it can be dealt with and be the
subject of transactions that can be recorded in the register. It simply does not carry with it the same degree of
indefeasibility as a normal registered title, a fact which is made clear on the title. However, such a title can be
capable of maturing into an ordinary registered title. If the qualifications relate to title, such as incomplete or
unclear title, the title can become clear through lapse of time and the application of the laws on possession and
prescription under the Civil Code. If the qualification relates to imprecise definition of boundaries, the title can be
cleared by the lodgment of a plan of survey defining the boundaries. In the meantime, the title carries a clear
warning about its nature so that persons wanting to deal with that land by way of purchase, mortgage etc. have
to make additional searches and inquiries and cannot rely on the face of the register.
There are a number of possible situations in which the concept could be used in the Philippines to bring land
into the registration system. One example would be where transactions with unregistered land are lodged for
registration. The opportunity could be taken at that time to create a qualified title for that land under what would
be a virtual compulsory registration process. Thus unregistered parcels would progressively be brought within
the registration system.
The System for Recording of Transactions with Unregistered Land
Transactions involving lands originally registered under the Torrens system may be registered only under that
system while transactions affecting lands originally registered under the Spanish Mortgage Law at the time it
was still in operation could only be recorded under that law. Under this situation, no provision was made with
respect to transactions involving lands which had neither been registered under the Torrens system nor the
Spanish Mortgage Law. To fill this gap in the law, a system of registration for unregistered lands was provided.
This system applies to land, the ownership of which is not yet settled in a judicial or administrative proceeding.
Holders of such lands base their claims on tax declarations or deeds of conveyance from individuals who
themselves did not have title thereto from the government. Hence, what may be registered are the instruments
affecting unregistered lands.
The provision on the system of registration for unregistered lands was originally found in Section 216 of the first
Administrative Code and later carried over as Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917.
Subsequently, amendments were introduced by Act Nos. 2837 and 3344. At present, the law on the matter is
found in Section 113 of P.D. 1529.
As originally conceived only instruments or deeds establishing, transmitting, acknowledging, modifying or
extinguishing rights with respect to unregistered lands wherein the parties have agreed to have the same

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registered under Act 3344 could be admitted for record. In other words, this system of registration was
applicable exclusively to voluntary instruments resulting from the agreement of the parties. The law found no
application to involuntary transactions. Thus, it was held that a sheriffs deed conveying unregistered land that
had been sold under execution was not registerable under this system. However, under Section 113 of P.D.
1529, by express provision thereof, tax sale, attachment and levy, notice of lis pendens, adverse claim and
other instruments in the nature of involuntary dealings with respect to unregistered lands, if made in the form
sufficient in law, shall likewise be admissible to record under this section.
As the law now stands, both voluntary and involuntary instruments involving unregistered lands may be
recorded under this system of registration. Registration is designed to bind third parties through constructive
notice. However, the law itself declares that any recording made under this section shall be without prejudice to
a third party with a better right. Under this situation an earlier unregistered instrument prevails over a later
instrument notwithstanding registration of the latter. The rule of preference to the one of two deeds which is first
recorded, contained in Article 1544 of the Civil Code, does not apply to unregistered land.10 The constructive
notice resulting from registration is effective and binding only to future and subsequent dealings on the land. In
short, registration does not afford full protection and the inducement to registration is less.

G.R. No. L-27587, February 18, 1970
FACTS: In 1955, the spouses Amado Canuto and Nemesia Ibasco, by virtue of a Deed of Sale
of Unregistered Land with Covenants of Warranty sold a parcel of land located in Camarines
Sur, to the spouses Amado Carumba and Benita Canuto, The referred deed of sale was never
registered in the Office of the RD of Camarines Sur, and the Notary was not then an authorized
notary public in the place. In 1957, a complaint for a sum or money was filed by Balbuena
against Amado Canuto and Nemesia Ibasco before the Justice of the Peace Court. A decision
was rendered in favor of Balbuena and against the defendants. In 1968, the ex-officio Sheriff
issued a Definite Deed of Sale of the property now in question in favor of Balbuena, which
instrument of sale was registered before the Office of the RD. The CFI, finding that after
execution of the document Carumba had taken possession of the land, and planted thereon: (1)
declared him to be the owner of the property under a consummated sale; (2) held void the
execution levy made by the sheriff, pursuant to a judgment against Carumbas vendor, Amado
Canuto; and (3) nullified the sale in favor of the judgment creditor, Balbuena. The CA, without
altering the findings of fact made by the court of origin, declared that there having been a
double sale of the land subject of the suit Balbuenas title was superior to that of his adversary
under Article 1544 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, since the execution sale had been
properly registered in good faith and the sale to Carumba was not recorded.
ISSUE: Who has the superior title to the land? CARUMBA
HELD: CA reversed. CFI affirmed. The SC disagrees with the CA. While under the invoked
Article 1544 registration in good faith prevails over possession in the event of a double sale by
the vendor of the same piece of land to different vendees, said article is of no application to the
case at bar, even if Balbuena, the later vendee, was ignorant of the prior sale made by his
judgment debtor in favor of petitioner Carumba. The reason is that the purchaser of
unregistered land at a sheriffs execution sale only steps into the shoes of the judgment
debtor, and merely acquires the latters interest in the property sold as of the time the property
was levied upon. This is specifically provided by section 35 of Rule 39 of the Revised Rules of
Court, the second paragraph of said section specifically providing that: Upon the execution and
delivery of said (final) deed the purchaser, redemptioner, or his assignee shall be substituted to
and acquire all the right, title, interest, and claim of the judgment debtor to the property as of the
time of the levy, except as against the judgment debtor in possession, in which case the
substitution shall be effective as of the time of the deed
While the time of the levy does not clearly appear, it could not have been made prior to 1957,
when the decision against the former owners of the land was rendered in favor of Balbuena. But
the deed of sale in favor of Canuto had been executed two years before, in 1955, and while only

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embodied in a private document, the same, coupled with the fact that the buyer (petitioner
Carumba) had taken possession of the unregistered land sold, sufficed to vest ownership on the
said buyer. When the levy was made by the Sheriff, therefore, the judgment debtor no longer
had dominical interest nor any real right over the land that could pass to the purchaser at the
execution sale. Hence, the latter must yield the land to petitioner Carumba.
Said rule is different in case of lands covered by Torrens titles, where the prior sale is neither
recorded nor known to the execution purchaser prior to the levy; but the land here in question is
admittedly not registered under Act No. 496.

Radiowealth Finance Co v. Palileo

G.R. No. 83432, May 20, 1991

FACTS: In April 1970, defendant spouses Enrique Castro and Herminio R. Castro (spouse
Castro) sold to herein respondent Manuelito Palileo a parcel of unregistered coconut land in
Surigao del Norte. The sale is evidenced by a notarized Deed of Absolute Sale, but the deed
was not registered in the Registry of Property for unregistered lands in the province of Surigao
del Norte. Since the execution of the deed of sale, Palileo who was then employed in Lianga,
Surigao del Sur, exercised acts of ownership over the land through his mother Rafaela Palileo,
as administratrix or overseer. Manuelito Palileo has continuously paid the real estate taxes on
said land from 1971 until the present.
In November 1976, the CFI of Manila rendered a judgment was rendered against defendant
Enrique T. Castro to pay herein petitioner Radiowealth Finance Company (Radiowealth), the
sum of P22,350.35 with interest rate of 16% per annum from November 2, 1975 until fully paid,
and upon the finality of the judgment, a writ of execution was issued. The Provincial Sheriff
Marietta E. Eviota, through defendant Deputy Provincial Sheriff Leopoldo Risma, levied upon
and finally sold at public auction the subject land that defendant Enrique Castro had sold to
Palileo in 1970. The said Provincial Sheriff executed a certificate of sale was by the in favor of
Radiowealth as the only bidder, and upon expiration of the redemption period, she also
executed a deed of final sale. Both documents were registered with the Registry of Deeds.
Learning of what happened to the land, Palileo filed an action for recovery of the subject
property. The court a quo rendered a decision in favor of Palileo, which the Court of Appeals
ISSUE: Who is the rightful owner of the subject property?
HELD: The Supreme Court likewise affirmed the appellate courts decision on this case. There
is no doubt that had the subject property been a registered land, this case would have been
decided in favor of Radiowealth since it was the company that had its claim first recorded in the
Registry of Deeds for it is the act of registration that operates to convey and affect registered
land. Therefore, a bonafide purchaser of a registered land at an execution sale acquires a good
title as against a prior transferee, if such transfer was unrecorded.
However, a different set of rules applies in the case at bar which deals with a parcel of
unregistered land. Under Act No. 3344, registration of instruments affecting unregistered lands
is "without prejudice to a third party with a better right." The aforequoted phrase has been held
by the Supreme Court to mean that the mere registration of a sale in one's favor does not give
him any right over the land if the vendor was not anymore the owner of the land having
previously sold the same to somebody else even if the earlier sale was unrecorded. Applying
this principle, the Court of Appeals correctly held that the execution sale of the unregistered
land in favor of petitioner is of no effect because the land no longer belonged to the judgment
debtor as of the time of the said execution sale.

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There exists a title which is to be confirmed by the court

The court may dismiss the application of the applicant with

or without prejudice to the right to file a new application for
the registration of the same land
Only risk that an applicant runs is to have his application


The presumption always is that the land applied for pertains
to the State, and that the occupants and possessors claim
an interest only in the same by virtue of their imperfect tile or
continuous, open, and notorious possession
The court has jurisdiction or proper to adjudicate land in
favor of any of the conflicting claimants
The applicant runs the risk of losing the land applied for
Vests in the Director of Lands and Secretary of DENR the
authority to dispose and manage public lands


G.R. No. L-35273, July 25, 1983

Petition to review the order of the Court of First Instance of South Cotabato, Branch I, General
Santos City, dated June 22, 1973, dismissing the complaint in its Civil Case No. 1253, entitled
"Republic of the Philippines, Plaintiff, vs. Isagani Du Timbol and the Register of Deeds of
General Santos City, Defendants", instituted by the plaintiff to declare null and void Free Patent
No. V-466102 and Original Certificate of Title (O.C.T.) No. P-2508 based thereon issued in the
name of defendant Isagani Du Timbol; to order the aforesaid defendant to surrender the
owner's duplicate of O.C.T. No. P-2508 and the defendant Register of Deeds to cancel the
same; to decree the reversion of the land in question to the mass of public domain, and granting
such further relief as may be just and equitable in the premises.
The land covered by the free patent and title in question was originally applied for by Precila
Soria, who on February 23, 1966, transferred her rights to the land and its improvements to
defendant Isagani Du Timbol who filed his application therefor on February 3, 1969, as a
transferee from Precila Soria.
On December 12, 1969, free Patent No. V-466102 was issued by the President of the
Philippines for the land in question, and on July 20, 1970, after transmittal of the patent to the
Register of Deeds of General Santos City, Original Certificate of Title (O.C.T.) No. P-2508 was
issued in the name of defendant Isagani Du Timbol.
On August 5, 1971, the Republic of the Philippines, at the instance of the Bureau of Forestry,
filed a complaint in the Court of First Instance of Cotabato, Branch I, General Santos City (Civil
Case No. 1253), to declare free patent No. V-466102 and Original Certificate of Title No. P2508 in the name of defendant Isagani Du Timbol null and void ab initio and to order the
reversion of the land in question to the mass of public domain. The action is based on the
ground that the land covered thereby is a forest or timber land which is not disposable under the
Public Land Act; that in a reclassification of the public lands in the vicinity where the land in
question is situated made by the Bureau of Forestry on March 7, 1958, the said land was
plotted on Bureau of Forestry map L.C. 700 to be inside the area which was reverted to the
category of public forest, whereas the application for free patent by Isagani Du Timbol was filed
on June 3, 1969, or more than eleven years thereafter; that the said patent and title were
obtained fraudulently as private respondent Isagani Du Timbol never occupied and cultivated
the land applied for.
Invoking the case of Ramirez vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. L-28591, 30 SCRA 207-301),
holding that a certificate of title fraudulently secured is not null and void ab initio, unless the
fraud consisted in misrepresenting that the land covered by the application is part of the public
domain when it is not, the respondent court dismissed the complaint on the ground that
Certificate of Title based on the patent had became indefeasible in view of the lapse of the oneyear period prescribed under Section 38 of the Land Registration Act for review of a decree of
title on the ground of fraud. From this order of June 22, 1973, dismissing the complaint, plaintiff
Republic of the Philippines has appealed to this Court for review.

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After careful deliberation, this Court grants the petition on the ground that the area covered by
the patent and title is not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and, hence
the patent and title thereto are null and void.
The defense of indefeasibility of a certificate of title issued pursuant to a free patent does not lie
against the state in an action for reversion of the land covered thereby when such land is a part
of a public forest or of a forest reservation. As a general rule, timber or forest lands are not
alienable or disposable under either the Constitution of 1935 or the Constitution of 1973.
Although the Director of Lands has jurisdiction over public lands classified as agricultural under
the constitution, or alienable or disposable under the Public Land Act, and is charged with the
administration of all laws relative thereto, mineral and timber lands are beyond his jurisdiction. It
is the Bureau of Forestry that has jurisdiction and authority over the demarcation, protection,
management, reproduction, occupancy and use of all public forests and forest reservations and
over the granting of licenses for the taking of products therefrom, including stone and earth
(Section 1816 of the Revised Administrative Code). That the area in question is a forest or
timber land is clearly established by the certification made by the Bureau of Forest Development
that it is within the portion of the area which was reverted to the category of forest land,
approved by the President on March 7, 1958. When the defendant Isagani Du Timbol filed his
application for free patent over the land in question on June 3, 1969, the area in question was
not a disposable or alienable public land but a public forest. Titles issued to private parties by
the Bureau of Lands when the land covered thereby is not disposable public land but forest land
are void ab initio. In Gatchalian vs. Pavilen, et al., L-17619, Oct. 31, 1962, 6 SCRA p. 508, 512,
this Court said:
And if it be true that the Bureau of Lands had no jurisdiction to issue a patent because the
land involved was still inalienable forest land when granted, then it may be plausibly
contended that the patent title would be ab initio void, subject to attack at any time by any
party adversely affected. (Gatchalian vs. Pavilen, et al., L-17619, Oct. 31, 1962, supra,
citing Civil Code Arts. 1409 and 1421; Vao vs. Insular Gov't., 41 Phil. 161; Aderable vs.
Director of Forestry, L-13663, March 25, 1960).

A patent is void at law if the officer who issued the patent had no authority to do so (Knight vs.
Land Ass., 142 U.S. 161, 12 Sup. Ct., 258, 35L ED. 974; emphasis supplied). If a person
obtains a title under the Public Land Act which includes, by mistake or oversight, lands which
cannot be registered under the Torrens System, or when the Director of Lands did not have
jurisdiction over the same because it is a public forest, the grantee does not, by virtue of said
certificate of title alone, become the owner of the land illegally included. (See Ledesma vs.
Municipality of Iloilo, 49 Phil. 769)
The case of Ramirez vs. Court of Appeals, G. R. No. L-28591, Oct. 31, 1969, 30 SCRA 297,
relied upon by respondent Court in dismissing this case, is not controlling. In that case no forest
land was involved but agricultural public land which was first covered by a patent issued to one
party and later registered under the Torrens System by the other party. The litigation was
between private parties where the party who registered it under Act No. 496 sought the nullity of
the title of the patentee under the Public Land Act. In the case at bar the party seeking the
nullity of the title and reversion of the land is the state itself which is specifically authorized
under Section 101 of the Public Land Act to initiate such proceedings as an attribute of
sovereignty, a remedy not available to a private individual.
The complaint alleges in its paragraph 8 that applicant Isagani Du Timbol was never in
possession of the property prior to his filing the application, contrary to the provisions of law that
the applicant must have been in possession or cultivation thereof for at least 30 years; that the
applicant, after diligent search by the Acting Chief of the Survey-Party, Francisco R. Alcones, in
South Cotabato, could not be contacted because he is a resident of Davao City; that there are
no existing signs of improvements found in the area in question as it is not under cultivation but
covered with grasses, bushes and small trees; that it is being used as ranch for grazing cows by
the heirs of Hermogenes Chilsot; that no monuments were placed on the area surveyed which
goes to show that there was no actual survey thereof; that the property in question is inside the
ranch of the heirs of Hermogenes Chilsot under Pasture Lease Agreement No. 1244 and,
therefore, inside the forest zone; and that said ranch has a fence around it to show that other

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persons could not enter and cultivate the same, and that the signature of then Acting District
Land Officer Elias de Castro of South Cotabato has been forged to facilitate the issuance of
patent in favor of Isagani Du Timbol.
The above alleged circumstances are indicative of fraud in the filing of the application and
obtaining title to the land, and if proven would override respondent Judge's order dismissing the
case without hearing. The misrepresentations of the applicant that he had been occupying and
cultivating the land and residing thereon are sufficient grounds to nullify the grant of the patent
and title under Section 91 of the Public Land Law which provides as follows:
That statements made in the application shall be considered as essential conditions or
parts of any concession, title or permit issued on the basis of such application, and any
false statement thereon or omission of facts, changing, or modifying the consideration of
the facts set forth in such statement, and any subsequent modification, alteration, or
change of the material facts set forth in the application shall ipso facto produce the
cancellation of the concession, title or permit granted. ...

A certificate of title that is void may be ordered cancelled. A title will be considered void if it is
procured through fraud, as when a person applies for registration of the land under his name
although the property belongs to another. In the case of disposable public lands, failure on the
part of the grantee to comply with the conditions imposed by law is a ground for holding such
title void (Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. L-17696, May 19, 1966, 17
SCRA, 71, 79-80; emphasis supplied). The lapse of the one year period within which a decree
of title may be reopened for fraud would not prevent the cancellation thereof, for to hold that a
title may become indefeasible by registration, even if such title had been secured through fraud
or in violation of the law, would be the height of absurdity. Registration should not be a shield of
fraud in securing title. (J. M. Tuason & Co., Inc. vs. Macalindog, L-15398, December 29, 1962, 6
SCRA 938, page 38).
Considering that it is the state is seeking the cancellation of the title of respondent Isagani Du
Timbol, said title has not become indefeasible for prescription cannot be invoked against the
state. A title founded on fraud may be cancelled, notwithstanding the lapse of one year from the
issuance thereof, through a petition filed in court by the Solicitor General, (Sumail vs. Court of
First Instance of Cotabato, 51 O.G. p. 2414 Phil. L-8278. 96 Phil. 946: Eugenio, et al., vs.
Perdido, et al., G. R. No. L-7083, May 19, 1955; De los Santos vs. Roman Catholic Church of
Midsayap G.R. No. L-6088, Feb. 24, 1954, 94 Phil. 405).
Public land fraudulently included in patents or certificates of title may be recovered or reverted
to the state in accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act (Director of Lands vs. Jugado
et al., G.R. No. L-14707, May 23, 1961). Prescription does not lie against the state in such
cases for the Statute of Limitations does not run against the state (Article 1108, paragraph 4 of
the New Civil Code). The right of reversion or reconveyance to the state is not barred
prescription (Republic of the Philippines vs. Ramona Ruiz, et al., G.R. No. L-23712, April 29,
1968, 23 SCRA 348. People vs. Ramos, G.R. No. L-15484, Jan. 31, 1963, 47 SCRA 12;
Government of the Philippines vs. Monte de Piedad 35 Phil. 728; 751-753).
Even granting that the title of private respondent Isagani Du Timbol can no longer be reopened
under the Land Registration Act, the land covered thereby may be reconveyed to the state in an
action for reconveyance under Section 101 of Commonwealth Act 141 (Public Land Act), for the
remedy of reconveyance is adequately covered by the prayer of the complaint for the grant of
such other relief as may be just and equitable in the premises.
FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, the order of the respondent court, dated June 22, 1973,
dismissing the complaint, and that of September 29, 1973, denying the motion for its
reconsideration, both issued in Civil Case No. 1253 of the respondent court, are hereby
annulled and set aside. The respondent court shall proceed to hear said Civil Case and render
judgment thereon accordingly.
Costs against respondent Isagani Du Timbol.

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G.R. No. L-37682, March 29, 1974

This is a petition for review on certiorari which seeks to reverse the decision of the respondent
Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch 1, in Civil Case No. 4742 entitled Development
Bank of the Philippines v. Iglesia ni Cristo, Register of Deeds of Nueva Ecija, and the National
Treasurer of the Philippines. The decision of the respondent court upheld the primacy of the
respondent bank's title and ordered the cancellation of the petitioner's title. The petitioner has
come to this Court on the sole issue of:
PROCEEDINGS? The facts of the case are not disputed. They are summarized by the
respondent court as follows:
This is an action filed by the plaintiff Development Bank of the Philippines against the
defendant Iglesia ni Kristo, Register of Deeds of Nueva Ecija and the National Treasurer
of the Philippines.
As a first cause of action, the complaint states among other things that plaintiff acquired a
certain parcel of land located at Sagana, Laur, Nueva Ecija, with an area of 19 hectares,
more or less; that it acquired the same thru a sheriff's sale held on April 2, 1952 on
account of a foreclosure of mortgage securing an agricultural loan of P4,500.00 granted to
one Emilio Libunao; that on July 18, 1953 after the expiration of one year from and after
the date of the registration of the certificate of sale, and after the mortgagor, Emilio
Libunao failed to exercise his right to redemption, the plaintiff caused the consolidation in
its favor the exclusive and absolute ownership thereof, and was issued T.C.T. No. NT14302 in its name; that said parcel of land was originally owned by Mr. Emilio Libunao,
who obtained a Homestead Patent on June 19, 1937, which was registered as O.C.T. No.
5482 on January 19, 1938; that on August 2, 1966 plaintiff sold to its former owner Emilio
Libunao the said property for the sum of P10,953.23 under a Deed of Conditional Sale;
that plaintiff learned that the defendant Iglesia ni Kristo thru its followers and with its full
knowledge and consent is occupying the said parcel of land since October 3, 1966, and
claiming the same to be a portion of that certain parcel of land known as Lot B-2, Psd47351, covered by T.C.T. No. NT-53573 in the name of defendant Iglesia ni Kristo was
originally registered on June 1, 1964 as O.C.T. No. 0918 under Decree No. N-11506, Rec.
No. 55081, Case No. 3244 of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, issued on May
25, 1954; that despite repeated demands by plaintiff, defendant Iglesia ni Kristo and all
persons claiming it falled and refused and still fail and refuse to vacate the said parcel of
land to the damage and prejudice of the plaintiff.
The second cause of action is against the defendant National treasurer, the depositary
and legal custodian of the Assurance Fund under Act No. 496 against which plaintiff would
proceed for reimbursement of the purchase price of the property in question in case of an
adverse judgment.
Defendant National Treasurer of the Philippines filed its answer on July 17, 1967 denying
the material allegations of the complaint, and alleging that the action is premature, since
the plaintiff may still recover damages from other persons.
Defendant Iglesia ni Kristo filed its answer on July 25, 1967 denying the material
allegations of the complaint, and stating by way of affirmative defenses that it purchased
in good faith from Victoria Maravilla certain parcels of land situated at Barrio Cebu, Laur,
Nueva Ecija, which included the land in question; that these parcels of land purchased
were covered by certificates of title; that immediately after the purchase, defendant Iglesia
ni Kristo took possession of the property; that granting that plaintiff's land is within the
titled property of the defendant, it has superior title over it. On July 25, 1967 defendant
Iglesia ni Kristo filed a motion to bring in a third party defendant in the person of Victoria
Maravilla, from whom it acquired the property in question. Then on July 2, 1968 it filed an
amended third party complaint wherein the original third party defendant was substituted
by her heirs represented by Dra. Mercedes M. Oliver. This was granted by the Court in its
order dated July 9, 1968. On September 12, 1968, the third party defendant filed an
opposition to the admission of the amended third party complaint praying that the same be

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dismissed for being a money claim. The Court in its order dated September 19, 1969
dismissed the third party complaint. The parties have agreed to submit a stipulation of
facts upon which the decision of the Court win be based.

From the stipulations of facts submitted by the parties on January 16, 1970, the following facts
are admitted; to wit: that the property in question is covered by T.C.T. No. NT-14302 in the
name of the plaintiff, and T.C.T. No. NT-53573 in the name of defendant Iglesia ni Kristo; that
said property was acquired by the plaintiff in a foreclosure sale on April 2, 1952 from Emilio
Libunao in whose name the same was previously registered on January 10, 1938 by virtue of a
homestead patent of June 19, 1937; that defendant acquired the said property from Victoria
Maravilla who was the registered owner of a parcel of land including the land in question under
O.C.T. No. O-918 by virtue of a decree/decision Rec. No. 55018, Reg. Case No. 3244 of the
CFI of Nueva Ecija on March 24, 1954; and registered in the Register of Deeds on June 1,
1954; that the land covered by O.C.T. No. O-918 was subdivided into four lots with separate
titles; that the lot in question falls within Lot B-2, Psd-47351 which defendant acquired from
Victoria Maravilla on November 5, 1964, and now covered by T.C.T. No. NT-53573 in its name.
The dispositive portion of the questioned decision reads:
... the Court hereby declares the title of the defendant Iglesia ni Kristo, T.C.T. No. NT53573 to be null and void, and orders the Register of Deeds to cancel the aforementioned
title. The Court likewise orders the defendant Iglesia ni Kristo to deliver the possession of
the said property to the plaintiff or to its duly authorized representative, and to pay the

The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the respondent Court denied it.Failing to
obtain a reversal of the decision, the petitioner filed this petition for review on certiorari raising
the following assignments of errors:
The errors raised by the petitioner are grounded on one main allegation, that the property in
question was already of private ownership when the homestead patent was issued in favor of
Emilio Libunao, the respondent bank's predecessor. The petitioner contends that the land
covered by the conflicting titles had been possessed by Victoria Maravilla and her predecessor
Mariano Padilla even several years before the Revolution of 1896 and that is why it was
adjudicated as private land and ordered registered in her name in Land Registration Case No.
3244, LRC, Record No. 55081. With this as factual background, the petitioner attacks the
validity of the homestead patent and title issued to the respondent bank's predecessor, Emilio
The petitioner cites the case of Vital v. Anore (90 Phil. 855, 858) to support its contention that
the homestead patent and the consequent title are void. According to him, we should apply the
rule in Vital V. Anore that:
The rule that a homestead patent, once registered under the Registration Act, becomes
indefeasible as a Torrens Title is only true and correct if the parcel of agricultural land patented

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or granted as homestead by the government after the requirements of the law had been
complied with was a part of the public domain. If it is not but a private land the patent or
homestead patent are a nullity.
The rule in Vital is not applicable to this case. This Court remanded the Vital case to the lower
court for the taking of evidence because of the following factual considerations:
A torrens title issued upon a free patent may not be cancelled after the lapse of ten years from
the date of its registration because the statute of limitations bars such cancellation. But if the
registered owner, be he the patentee or his successor-in-interest to whom the free patent was
transferred or conveyed, knew that the parcel of land described in the patent and in the Torrens
title belonged to another who together with his predecessors-in-interest has been in possession
thereof, and if the patentee and his successor-in-interest were never in possession thereof,
then the statute barring an action to cancel a Torrens title issued upon a free patent does not
apply, and the true owner may bring an action to have the ownership or title to the land
judicially settled, and if the allegations of the plaintiff that he is the true owner of the parcel of
land granted as free patent and described in the Torrens title and that the defendant and his
predecessor-in-interest were never in possession of the parcel of land and knew that the
plaintiff and his predecessor-in- interest have been in possession thereof be established, then
the court in the exercise of its equity jurisdiction, without ordering the cancellation of the
Torrens title issued upon the patent, may direct the defendant, the registered owner, to
reconvey the parcel of land to the plaintiff who has been found to be the true owner thereof.
(Philippine Reports, Vol. 90, pp- 858-859)
In the instant case, the situation is reversed. Emilio Libunao was given a homestead patent in
1937 and the Torrens Title in 1938. Victoria Maravilla registered her supposed title to the
property only in 1954 or seventeen years later. It is therefore, the title of Maravilla, the
petitioner's predecessor-in- interest, which should be declared a nullity. She filed an application
for land registration over property which had already been awarded by the State to Emilio
Libunao 17 years earlier and a title to which had already been registered, 16 years before the
registration of her title.
Insofar as the private, respondent and its predecessor are concerned, the allegations of
ownership since before the Revolution of 1896 are purely self-serving and without probative
value. There was no formal hearing on this allegation in the court a quo because the parties
stipulated the facts upon which the decision would be rendered and this is not one of them. The
private respondent was not given an opportunity to refute or impugn the veracity of the
Maravilla could not legally claim that she owned the lot as her private property prior to its
registration in her name in 1954 and even prior to 1938 when title was registered in the name of
Libunao pursuant to a homestead patent.
The contention in the comments of the Iglesia ni Cristo (its lawyer did not file any brief) that the
two lots are private lands, following the rule laid down in Susi vs. Razon and Director of Lands,
48 Phil. 424, is not correct. What was considered private land in the Susi case was a parcel of
land possessed by a Filipino citizen since time immemorial, as in Cario vs. Insular
Government, 212 U.S. 449, 53 L. ed. 594, 41 Phil. 935 and 7 Phil. 132. The lots sought to be
registered in this case do not fall within that category. They are still public lands. A land
registration proceeding under section 48 (b) "presupposes that the land is public"
As held in Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, "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."
In Uy Un vs. Perez, 71 Phil. 508, it was noted that the right of an occupant of public agricultural
land to obtain a confirmation of his title under section 48 (b) of the Public Land Law is a

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"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.
There is absolutely no showing in this case that the exceptional circumstances mentioned in
Cario v. Insular Government and Oh Cho v. Director of Lands are present. Even assuming
that the land was not yet registered in another's name when Maravilla filed the registration
proceedings, the land would have been public land in the strict legal sense before 1954 as far
as she was concerned.
The petitioner cannot assail the validity of the title of respondent Bank's predecessor after 29
years from its registration. Our Land Registration Law provides that upon the expiration of one
year from and after the date of the entry of the decree of registration, the said decree and the
certificate of title shall become incontrovertible and indefeasible (P.D. 1529, Section 32). This
provision is equally applicable to titles acquired through homestead patents. In the case of
Lahora v. Dayang-hirang (37 SCRA 346; see also Lopez, et al. v. Padilla, et al.; 45 SCRA 44;
Ramirez v. CA 30 SCRA 297) this Court held:
The rule in this jurisdiction, regarding public patents and the character of the certificate of
title that may be issued by virtue thereof, is that where land is granted by the government
to a private individual, the corresponding patent therefor, is recorded, and the certificate of
title is issued to the grantee; thereafter, the land is automatically brought within the
operation of the Land Registration Act, the title issued to the grantee becoming entitled to
all the safeguards provided in Section 38 of said Act. In other words, upon the expiration
of one year from its issuance, the certificate of title becomes irrevocable and indefeasible
like a certificate issued in a registration proceeding.

In the case of Pajomayo, et al. v. Manipon, et al. (39 SCRA 676) we held that once a
homestead patent granted in accordance with the Public Land Act is registered pursuant to
Section 122 of Act 496, the certificate of title issued in virtue of said patent has the force and
effect of a Torrens Title under the Land Registration Act. We should add that the Director of
Patents, being a public officer, has in his favor the presumption of regularity in issuing the
questioned homestead patent.
As a ground for setting up the second assignment of error, the petitioner refutes the relevancy
of the above rule to the case at bar asserting that where the action is not for the revision of the
decree of registration on the ground of fraud but rather for the cancellation of the patent and
certificate of title on the ground that they are void because the Bureau of Lands had no
jurisdiction to issue the patent, the one-year period provided for in section 38 of Act 496 does
not apply. It cites Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, et al. (17 SCRA 71-76). It adds that a
certificate of title based on a patent is still subject to certain restrictions even after the expiration
of one year from its issuance pursuant to our resolution in Nieto v. Quinez (6 SCRA 74).
Petitioner forgets that it was the defendant in this case. In other words, what was sought to be
cancelled was its Torrens Title and not that of the respondent Bank. In raising such an
argument, the petitioner relies on the premise that the homestead patent and its corresponding
title are void for lack of jurisdiction of the Bureau of Lands to issue the said patent for the main
reason that the land covered by the homestead patent was already of private ownership when it
was issued. In fine, petitioner belatedly attacks the validity of the respondent Bank's title after it
had become incontrovertible for twenty eight (28) years already. To reiterate, the rule on the
incontrovertibility and indefeasibility of a Torrens Title after one year from entry of the decree of
registration does not sanction this procedure.
Considering the circumstances of this case, we follow the general rule that where two
certificates of title are issued to different persons covering the same land in whole or in part, the
earlier date must prevail as between the original parties, and in case of successive registration
where more than one certificate is issued over the land, the person holding under the prior
certificate is entitled to the land as against the person who relies on the second certificate.
The resolution of the first and second assignments of errors disposes of the third alleged error.
We apply the ruling in Pajomayo, et al v. Manipon et al. (39 SCRA 676) that where the same
parcel of land is covered by two titles, necessarily when one of the two titles is held to be

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superior over the other, the latter should be declared null and void and should be cancelled.
Petitioner claims that it is an innocent purchaser for value and as such is entitled to the
protections provided by law particularly the guarantee of indefeasibility and incontrovertibility of
a Torrens Title after the expiration of one year within which to file a petition for review. The
respondent Bank is the innocent purchaser for value in this case and is more entitled to the
protection claimed by the petitioner. The rule on successive registration controls. The Land
Registration Court had no jurisdiction to decree anew the registration of a land already decreed
and titled. It had no power to bestow validity upon the second decree.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby affirmed with costs against the petitioner.

Best of luck, bitches!