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G.R. No.

157485
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by AKLAN NATIONAL COLLEGE OF
FISHERIES (ANCF) and DR. ELENITA R. ANDRADE, in her capacity as ANCF
Superintendent, Petitioner,
vs.
HEIRS OF MAXIMA LACHICA SIN, namely: SALVACION L. SIN, ROSARIO S.
ENRIQUEZ, FRANCISCO L. SIN, MARIA S. YUCHINTAT, MANUEL L. SIN, JAIME
CARDINAL SIN, RAMON L. SIN, and CEFERINA S. VITA, Respondents.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
This is a Petition for Review assailing the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
SP No. 65244 dated February 24, 2003, which upheld the Decisions of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Kalibo, Aklan in Civil Case No. 6130 and the First Municipal Circuit
Trial Court (MCTC) of New Washington and Batan, Aklan in Civil Case No. 1181,
segregating from the Aklan National College of Fisheries (ANCF) reservation the portion
of land being claimed by respondents.
Petitioner in this case is the Republic of the Philippines, represented by ANCF and Dr.
Elenita R. Andrade, in her capacity as Superintendent of ANCF. Respondents claim that
they are the lawful heirs of the late Maxima Lachica Sin who was the owner of a parcel
of land situated at Barangay Tambac, New Washington, Aklan, and more particularly
described as follows:
A parcel of cocal, nipal and swampy land, located at Barangay Tambac, New
Washington, Aklan, containing an approximate area of FIFTY[-]EIGHT THOUSAND SIX
HUNDRED SIX (58,606) square meters, more or less, as per survey by Geodetic
Engineer Reynaldo L. Lopez. Bounded on the North by Dumlog Creek; on the East by
Adriano Melocoton; on the South by Mabilo Creek; and on the West by Amado
Cayetano and declared for taxation purposes in the name of Maxima L. Sin (deceased)
under Tax Declaration No. 10701 (1985) with an assessed value of Php1,320.00. 2
On August 26, 1991, respondent heirs instituted in the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan a complaint
against Lucio Arquisola, in his capacity as Superintendent of ANCF (hereinafter ANCF
Superintendent), for recovery of possession, quieting of title, and declaration of
ownership with damages. Respondent heirs claim that a 41,231-square meter-portion
of the property they inherited had been usurped by ANCF, creating a cloud of doubt
with respect to their ownership over the parcel of land they wish to remove from the
ANCF reservation.
The ANCF Superintendent countered that the parcel of land being claimed by
respondents was the subject of Proclamation No. 2074 of then President Ferdinand E.
Marcos allocating 24.0551 hectares of land within the area, which included said portion

of private respondents alleged property, as civil reservation for educational purposes


of ANCF. The ANCF Superintendent furthermore averred that the subject parcel of land
is timberland and therefore not susceptible of private ownership.
Subsequently, the complaint was amended to include ANCF as a party defendant and
Lucio Arquisola, who retired from the service during the pendency of the case, was
substituted by Ricardo Andres, then the designated Officer-in-Charge of ANCF.
The RTC remanded the case to the MCTC of New Washington and Batan, Aklan, in view
of the enactment of Republic Act No. 7659 which expanded the jurisdiction of first-level
courts. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 1181 (4390).
Before the MCTC, respondent heirs presented evidence that they inherited a bigger
parcel of land from their mother, Maxima Sin, who died in the year 1945 in New
Washington, Capiz (now Aklan). Maxima Sin acquired said bigger parcel of land by
virtue of a Deed of Sale (Exhibit "B"), and then developed the same by planting
coconut trees, banana plants, mango trees and nipa palms and usufructing the
produce of said land until her death in 1945.
In the year 1988, a portion of said land respondents inherited from Maxima Sin was
occupied by ANCF and converted into a fishpond for educational purpose. Respondent
heirs of Maxima Sin asserted that they were previously in possession of the disputed
land in the concept of an owner. The disputed area was a swampy land until it was
converted into a fishpond by the ANCF. To prove possession, respondents presented
several tax declarations, the earliest of which was in the year 1945.
On June 19, 2000, the MCTC rendered its Decision in favor of respondents, the
dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered declaring plaintiffs [respondent heirs herein] the
owner and possessor of the land in question in this case and for the defendants to
cause the segregation of the same from the Civil Reservation of the Aklan National
College of Fisheries, granted under Proclamation No. 2074 dated March 31, 1981.
It is further ordered, that defendants jointly and severally pay the plaintiffs actual
damages for the unearned yearly income from nipa plants uprooted by the defendants
[on] the land in question when the same has been converted by the defendants into a
fishpond, in the amount of Php3,500.00 yearly beginning the year 1988 until plaintiffs
are fully restored to the possession of the land in question.
It is finally ordered, that defendants jointly and severally pay the plaintiffs the sum of
Php10,000.00 for attorneys fees and costs of this suit. 3
According to the MCTC, the sketch made by the Court Commissioner in his report (Exh.
"LL") shows that the disputed property is an alienable and disposable land of the public
domain. Furthermore, the land covered by Civil Reservation under Proclamation No.

2074 was classified as timberland only on December 22, 1960 (Exh. "4-D"). The MCTC
observed that the phrase "Block II Alien or Disp. LC 2415" was printed on the Map of
the Civil Reservation for ANCF established under Proclamation No. 2074 (Exh. "6"),
indicating that the disputed land is an alienable and disposable land of the public
domain.
The MCTC likewise cited a decision of this Court in the 1976 case of Republic v. Court
of Appeals4 where it was pronounced that:
Lands covered by reservation are not subject to entry, and no lawful settlement on
them can be acquired. The claims of persons who have settled on, occupied, and
improved a parcel of public land which is later included in a reservation are considered
worthy of protection and are usually respected, but where the President, as authorized
by law, issues a proclamation reserving certain lands, and warning all persons to
depart therefrom, this terminates any rights previously acquired in such lands by a
person who has settled thereon in order to obtain a preferential right of purchase. And
patents for lands which have been previously granted, reserved from sale, or
appropriated are void. (Underscoring from the MCTC, citations omitted.)
Noting that there was no warning in Proclamation No. 2074 requiring all persons to
depart from the reservation, the MCTC concluded that the reservation was subject to
private rights if there are any.
The MCTC thus ruled that the claim of respondent heirs over the disputed land by
virtue of their and their predecessors open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession amounts to an imperfect title, which should be respected and protected.
Petitioner, through the Solicitor General, appealed to the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan, where
the case was docketed as Civil Case No. 6130.
On May 2, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision affirming the MCTC judgment with
modification:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed decision is modified absolving
Appellant Ricardo Andres from the payment of damages and attorneys fees. All other
details of the appealed decision are affirmed in toto. 5

Petitioner Republic, represented by the ANCF and Dr. Elenita R. Andrade, in her
capacity as the new Superintendent of the ANCF, elevated the case to the Court of
Appeals through a Petition for Review. The petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No.
65244.
On February 24, 2003, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dismissing the
petition for lack of merit. In addition to the findings of the MCTC and the RTC, the Court
of Appeals held:
Moreover, petitioner had not shown by competent evidence that the subject land was
likewise declared a timberland before its formal classification as such in 1960.
Considering that lands adjoining to that of the private respondents, which are also
within the reservation area, have been issued original certificates of title, the same
affirms the conclusion that the area of the subject land was agricultural, and therefore
disposable, before its declaration as a timberland in 1960.
It should be noted that Maxima Lachica Sin acquired, through purchase and sale, the
subject property from its previous owners spouses Sotera Melocoton and Victor Garcia
on January 15, 1932, or 28 years before the said landholding was declared a
timberland on December 22, 1960. Tacking, therefore, the possession of the previous
owners and that of Maxima Lachica Sin over the disputed property, it does not tax
ones imagination to conclude that the subject property had been privately possessed
for more than 30 years before it was declared a timberland. This being the case, the
said possession has ripened into an ownership against the State, albeit an imperfect
one. Nonetheless, it is our considered opinion that this should come under the
meaning of "private rights" under Proclamation No. 2074 which are deemed
segregated from the mass of civil reservation granted to petitioner. 7(Citation omitted.)
Hence, this Petition for Review, anchored on the following grounds:
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN UPHOLDING
RESPONDENTS CLAIM TO SUPPOSED "PRIVATE RIGHTS" OVER SUBJECT LAND DESPITE
THE DENR CERTIFICATION THAT IT IS CLASSIFIED AS TIMBERLAND.
II

The RTC stressed that Proclamation No. 2074 recognizes vested rights acquired by
private individuals prior to its issuance on March 31, 1981.
The RTC added that the findings of facts of the MCTC may not be disturbed on appeal
unless the court below has overlooked some facts of substance that may alter the
results of its findings. The RTC, however, absolved the Superintendent of the ANCF
from liability as there was no showing on record that he acted with malice or in bad
faith in the implementation of Proclamation No. 2074. 6

THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN AFFIRMING THE


DECISIONS OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT AND THE MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL
COURTS RELEASING THE SUBJECT LAND BEING CLAIMED BY RESPONDENTS FROM THE
MASS OF PUBLIC DOMAIN AND AWARDING DAMAGES TO THEM.8
The central dispute in the case at bar is the interpretation of the first paragraph of
Proclamation No. 2074:

Upon recommendation of the Director of Forest Development, approved by the


Minister of Natural Resources and by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, I,
FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, do hereby set aside as Civil
Reservation for Aklan National College of Fisheries, subject to private rights, if any
there be, parcels of land, containing an aggregate area of 24.0551 hectares, situated
in the Municipality of New Washington, Province of Aklan, Philippines, designated
Parcels I and II on the attached BFD Map CR-203, x x x [.] 9
The MCTC, the RTC and the Court of Appeals unanimously held that respondents retain
private rights to the disputed property, thus preventing the application of the above
proclamation thereon. The private right referred to is an alleged imperfect title, which
respondents supposedly acquired by possession of the subject property, through their
predecessors-in-interest, for 30 years before it was declared as a timberland on
December 22, 1960.
At the outset, it must be noted that respondents have not filed an application for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title under the Public Land Act or the Property
Registration Decree. Nevertheless, the courts a quo apparently treated respondents
complaint for recovery of possession, quieting of title and declaration of ownership as
such an application and proceeded to determine if respondents complied with the
requirements therefor.
The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title are found in Section 48(b)
of the Public Land Act, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, as follows:
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the
public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose
titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance
of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in
the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable
and disposable 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 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.
An equivalent provision is found in Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree,
which provides:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of
First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or
through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in- interest have been in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June
12, 1945, or earlier.
This Court has thus held that 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-in-interest 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.10
With respect to the second requisite, the courts a quo held that the disputed property
was alienable and disposable before 1960, citing petitioners failure to show
competent evidence that the subject land was declared a timberland before its formal
classification as such on said year. 11 Petitioner emphatically objects, alleging that
under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State and
that lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to
belong to the State.
After a thorough review of the records, we agree with petitioner. As this Court held in
the fairly recent case of Valiao v. Republic12:
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 any
ownership of land. 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 inalienable public domain. Unless public land is shown
to have been reclassified as alienable or disposable to a private person by the State, it
remains part of the inalienable public domain. Property of the public domain is beyond
the commerce of man and not susceptible of private appropriation and acquisitive
prescription. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner no matter how long cannot
ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. 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 be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and
disposable.1wphi1 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. (Citations omitted.)
This Court reached the same conclusion in Secretary of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources v. Yap, 13 which presents a similar issue with
respect to another area of the same province of Aklan. On November 10, 1978,
President Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1801 declaring Boracay Island, among other
islands, caves and peninsulas of the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves
under the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). On September 3,
1982, PTA Circular 3-82 was issued to implement Proclamation No. 1801. The
respondents-claimants in said case filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC of
Kalibo, Aklan, claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular 3-82 precluded
them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of
land for titling purposes. The respondents claim that through their predecessors-ininterest, they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945 or earlier since time
immemorial.
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of the petition for review of the above case
with this Court, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1064
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). Petitioner-claimants and other landowners
in Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for prohibition, mandamus and
nullification of Proclamation No. 1064, alleging that it infringed on their "prior vested
right" over portions of Boracay which they allege to have possessed since time
immemorial. This petition was consolidated with the petition for review concerning
Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular 3- 82.
This Court, discussing the Regalian Doctrine vis--vis the right of the claimants to lands
they claim to have possessed since time immemorial, held:
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 well-nigh 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.14 (Emphases in the original; citations omitted.)
Accordingly, in the case at bar, the failure of petitioner Republic to show competent
evidence that the subject land was declared a timberland before its formal
classification as such in 1960 does not lead to the presumption that said land was
alienable and disposable prior to said date. On the contrary, the presumption is that
unclassified lands are inalienable public lands. Such was the conclusion of this Court in
Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v.
Republic,15 wherein we held:
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. x x x. (Emphasis
supplied, citation deleted.)
The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title in Section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act, as amended, and the equivalent provision in Section 14(1) of the
Property Registration Decree was furthermore painstakingly debated upon by the
members of this Court in
Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic.16 In Malabanan, the members of this Court were
in disagreement as to whether lands declared alienable or disposable after June 12,
1945 may be subject to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. There was, however, no
disagreement that there must be a declaration to that effect.
In the case at bar, it is therefore the respondents which have the burden to identify a
positive act of the government, such as an official proclamation, declassifying
inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. Since
respondents failed to do so, the alleged possession by them and by their predecessorsin-interest is inconsequential and could never ripen into ownership. Accordingly,
respondents cannot be considered to have private rights within the purview of
Proclamation No. 2074 as to prevent the application of said proclamation to the

subject property. We are thus constrained to reverse the rulings of the courts a quo
and grant the prayer of petitioner Republic to dismiss Civil Case No. 1181 (4390) for
lack of merit.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition for Review is GRANTED. The Decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 65244 dated February 24, 2003, which
upheld the Decisions of the Regional Trial Court of Kalibo, Aklan in Civil Case No. 6130
and the First Municipal Circuit Trial Court of New Washington and Batan, Aklan in Civil
Case No. 1181 (4390), segregating from the Aklan National College of Fisheries
reservation the portion of land being claimed by respondents is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Civil Case No. 1181 (4390) of the First Municipal Circuit Trial Court of New
Washington and Batan, Aklan is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court assailing the Decision[1] dated September 14, 2001 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CV No. 60671, which affirmed the judgment of the Municipal Trial Court
(MTC) of Consolacion, Metro Cebu in LRC Case No. N-21 granting herein respondents
application for registration of title to Lots Nos. 1061 and 1062 of the Cadastral Survey
of Consolacion, Cebu.
The facts of the case are as follows:
On April 30, 1997 Tri-Plus Corporation [2], through its president, Euclid C. Po, filed with
the MTC of Consolacion, Metro Cebu,[3] an Application for Registration of Title over two
parcels of land designated as Lots 1061 and 1062 of the cadastral survey of
Consolacion, Cebu, containing an area of 3,939 and 4,796 square meters, respectively,
and located at Barangay Tayud, Consolacion, Cebu. [4] In its application, Tri-Plus alleged
that it is the owner in fee simple of the subject parcels of land, including the
improvements thereon, having acquired the same through purchase; and that it is in
actual, continuous, public, notorious, exclusive and peaceful possession of the subject
properties in the concept of an owner for more than 30 years, including that of its
predecessors-in-interest.[5] The case was docketed as LRC Case No. N-21. [6]
On September 4, 1997, the trial court received an Opposition to the Application for
Registration filed by the Republic of the Philippines through the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG) on the grounds that neither the applicant nor its predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the land in question since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; that
the muniments of title submitted by the applicant which consists, among others, of tax
declarations and receipts of tax payments, do not constitute competent and sufficient
evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the land applied for or of its open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owner
since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; that the claim of ownership in fee simple on the
basis of a Spanish title or grant may no longer be availed of by the applicant because
it failed to file an appropriate application for registration in accordance with the
provisions of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 892; and that the subject parcels of land
are portions of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines and are
not subject to private appropriation.[7]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 150000


Petitioner,
Present:
PANGANIBAN, C.J.
(Chairperson)
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR., and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.
TRI-PLUS CORPORATION,
Respondent. Promulgated:
September 26, 2006
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

On September 19, 1997, Tri-Plus presented documentary evidence to prove


compliance with the jurisdictional requirements of the law. On even date, a
Manifestation and Motion was filed by the heirs of Toribio Pepito praying that they be
given a period of 10 days within which to file their written opposition. [8] However, the
oppositors failed to file their written opposition on time. The trial court then
commissioned its clerk of court to receive evidence from the applicant and directed
the former to submit a report thereon. Accordingly, a Commissioners Report was
submitted on the proceedings taken.[9]
In its Judgment dated February 26, 1998, the MTC made the following finding and
conclusion:
The totality of the evidence, both documentary and
testimonial, of the applicant clearly shows that it and its
predecessors-in-interest had been in actual, public, exclusive and
continuous possession in concept of owner of the parcels of land
above-mentioned for no less than thirty (30) years prior to the filing
of the instant petition for registration of its imperfect title. This being
so, the applicant is entitled that its title be confirmed under the
provisions of the Torrens System of Registration. [10]

Accordingly, it disposed of the case as follows:


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby
rendered declaring the applicant TRI-PLUS LAND CORPORATION the
exclusive and absolute owner of Lot 1061 of the Cadastral Survey of
Consolacion, Cebu, as shown on plan Ap-07-002362 (Exhibit J) and
described in its corresponding technical description (Exhibit K), and
Lot 1062 of the Cadastral Survey of Consolacion, Cebu, as shown on
plan Ap-07-002366 (Exhibit O) and described in its corresponding
technical description (Exhibit P).
Once this decision becomes final, let an Order for the
issuance of the decree of registration for Lots 1061 and 1062,
Consolacion Cadastre, be issued in the name of TRI-PLUS LAND
CORPORATION.
SO ORDERED.[11]
The OSG appealed the trial courts judgment with the CA.[12]
Subsequently, the Land Registration Authority (LRA), through its Director on
Registration, submitted a Report dated August 6, 1998 to the MTC, pertinent portions
of which read as follows:
1. Two (2) parcels of land described as Lots 1062 and 1061,
Cad. 545-D, Consolacion Cadastre on Plan Ap-07-002366 and Ap-07002362,
both
situated
in
the
Barangay
of
Tayud, Municipality of Consolacion, Province of Cebu,
are
being
applied for original registration of title;
2. After examining the afore-said plan discrepancy was
noted in the bearings and distances of line 3-4 and 4-5 of Lot 1061,
Ap-07-002362, being S.57 deg. 19W 8.02m. and S.52 deg. 10W
18.24, which do not conform with the bearings and distances (N. 52
deg. 01E., 18.00m) and (N. 52 deg. 47E., 17.71m.) along lines 12-13
and 11-12, respectively of plan Rs-07-01-000358, lot 1508,
Consolacion Cad. 545-D, decreed in LRA (NALTDRA) Record No. N60851.
3. That the above discrepancy was brought to the attention
of the Regional Technical Director, DENR, Land Management
Services, Region VII, Mandaue City, for verification and correction in
a letter dated 7 July 1998.
4. This Authority is not in a position to verify whether or not
the parcels of land subject of registration are already covered by
land patent.[13]
On September 14, 2001, the CA rendered the presently assailed Decision
finding no reversible error in the appealed judgment, thereby, affirming the same. [14]
Hence, herein petition based on the following assignments of errors:
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN
NOT FINDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT ACQUIRE
JURISDICTION TO HEAR AND DECIDE THE CASE, BECAUSE
THE IDENTITY OF THE LAND REMAINS UNCERTAIN.

II
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN
NOT FINDING THAT RESPONDENT FAILED TO DISCHARGE
THE BURDEN OF PROVING THAT THE PROPERTY IS
ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE.
III
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN
NOT FINDING THAT RESPONDENT IS DISQUALIFIED FROM
ACQUIRING LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. [15]
As to the first assigned error, petitioner contends that the CA erred in relying on the
original survey plan approved by the Lands Management Services of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) when it ruled that the applicant was
able to duly establish the identity of Lot 1061. This reliance, petitioner argues, is
mistaken considering that the Report of the Director on Registration of the LRA pointed
to a discrepancy in the bearings and distances of the boundaries which separate Lot
1061 from an adjoining land, Lot 1058. This discrepancy, petitioners submit, casts
doubt on the identity of the land subject of the application for registration. Petitioner
then concludes that if there is uncertainty in the metes and bounds of the property
sought to be titled, the trial court cannot acquire jurisdiction over the subject matter of
the case. Hence, the proceedings before the trial court, including its decision granting
the application for registration, are void.
As to the second assignment of error, petitioner argues that the CA erred in holding
that the applicant was able to prove that the subject properties are alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain. Petitioner contends that a mere notation
appearing in the survey plans of the disputed properties showing that the subject
lands had been classified as alienable and disposable on June 25, 1963 is not sufficient
to establish the nature and character of these lands. Petitioner asserts that there
should be a positive act on the part of the government, such as a certification from the
DENR, to prove that the said lands are indeed alienable and disposable. Petitioner
further contends that even if the subject properties were classified as alienable and
disposable on June 25, 1963, the law, nonetheless, requires that such classification
should have been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier.
Anent the last assigned error, petitioner contends that since the applicant failed to
discharge the burden of proving that the subject properties are alienable and
disposable, there is no basis for the CA to rule that these properties are private lands.
In its Comment, respondent contends that it was able to prove the identity of Lot 1061
with certainty. While it admits the discrepancy in the bearings and distances which
form the boundary between Lot 1061 and the adjoining Lot 1058, respondent contends
that such discrepancy is merely technical in nature because Lots 1058 and 1061
remain the same and that there is neither an increase nor decrease in the area of the
subject lot sought to be titled; and that what was required by the LRA in its Report was
for the applicant to correct and adjust the bearings and distances of Lot 1061 in order
to conform to the boundaries of Lot 1058.
Respondent also argues that the notations appearing in the survey plans of the subject
properties serve as sufficient proof that these lands are alienable and disposable.
Respondent asserts that the survey plans were duly approved by the DENR, Lands
Management Services whose official acts are presumed to be in accordance with law.

Lastly, respondent argues that its predecessor-in-interests continuous, actual, adverse


and peaceful possession of the subject properties in the concept of an owner for a
period of more than 30 years, coupled with the fact that they declared these lands in
their name, gives a strong presumption in respondents favor that the subject
properties no longer form part of the public domain.
Parties filed their respective Memoranda.[16]
The Court finds the petition meritorious.
At the outset, however, the Court does not agree with petitioners contention
in its first assigned error that respondent failed to properly identify Lot 1061 which is
one of the lots sought to be titled.
Insofar as the identity of the land subject of an application for original
registration is concerned, this Court has laid down the rule, as follows:
The submission in evidence of the original tracing cloth plan,
duly approved by the Bureau of Lands, in cases for application of
original registration of land is a mandatory requirement. The reason for
this rule is to establish the true identity of the land to ensure that it
does not overlap a parcel of land or a portion thereof already covered
by a previous land registration, and to forestall the possibility that it
will be overlapped by a subsequent registration of any adjoining land.
The failure to comply with this requirement is fatal to petitioners
application for registration.[17]
However, in Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals [18] and in the more recent
cases of Spouses Recto v. Republic of the Philippines [19] and Republic of the Philippines
v. Hubilla[20], the Court ruled that while the best evidence to identify a piece of land for
registration purposes is the original tracing cloth plan from the Bureau of Lands (now
the Lands Management Services of the DENR), blueprint copies and other evidence
could also provide sufficient identification. In the present case, respondent submitted
in evidence a blueprint copy of the Advance Plan of Lot 1061 [21] and a Technical
Description[22] thereof, both of which had been duly certified and approved by the
Lands Management Services of the DENR. The Court finds these pieces of evidence as
substantial compliance with the legal requirements for the proper identification
of Lot 1061. The discrepancy in the common boundary that separates Lot 1061
from Lot 1058, as contained in the LRA Report does not cast doubt on the identity of
the subject lot. As the CA correctly held, the discrepancy is not substantial because it
does not unduly increase or affect the total area of the subject lot and at the same
time prejudice the adjoining lot owner. It is only when the discrepancy results to an
unexplained increase in the total area of the land sought to be registered that its
identity is made doubtful. Besides, only a portion of the many boundaries of Lot 1061
has been found to bear a discrepancy in relation to the boundary of one adjoining lot
and the LRA Report simply recommends that the Lands Management Services of the
DENR verify the reported discrepancy and make the necessary corrections, if needed,
in order to avoid duplication in the issuance of titles covering the same parcels of land.
Petitioners argument that, on the basis of the LRA Report, the MTC should
have dismissed respondents application for registration for lack of jurisdiction over the
subject matter, is without merit. The MTC could not have possibly done this because
said Report was submitted to the trial court more than five months after the latter
rendered its Decision. A copy of the LRA Report attached to the present petition shows
that it is dated August 6, 1998 while the MTC decision was rendered much earlier
on February 26, 1998. In fact, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) perfected its
appeal by filing a notice of appeal of the MTC Decision on April 2, 1998, which is also
prior to the submission of the LRA report. Hence, by the time the LRA report was

submitted to the MTC, the latter has already lost jurisdiction over the case, not on the
ground cited by petitioner but because the appeal to the CA was already perfected,
vesting jurisdiction upon the appellate court.
In any case, while the subject lands were properly identified, the Court finds that
respondent failed to comply with the other legal requirements for its application for
registration to be granted.
Applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must prove the following: (a)
that the land forms part of the alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public
domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership either
since time immemorial or since June 12, 1945. [23]
In the present case, the Court finds merit in petitioners contention that
respondent failed to prove the first requirement that the properties sought to be titled
forms part of the alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.
Section 6 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, provides that the
classification and reclassification of public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral
or forest land is the prerogative of the Executive Department. 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 any ownership of land. [24] All
lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to
the State.[25] 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 inalienable public domain.[26]
It must be stressed that incontrovertible evidence must be presented to
establish that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. [27]
In the present case, the only evidence to prove the character of the subject
lands as required by law is the notation appearing in the Advance Plan stating in effect
that the said properties are alienable and disposable. However, this is hardly the kind
of proof required by law. To prove that the land subject of an application for
registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of
the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order, an
administrative action, investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators, and a
legislative act or statute.[28] The applicant may also secure a certification from the
Government that the lands applied for are alienable and disposable. [29] In the case at
bar, while the Advance Plan bearing the notation was certified by the Lands
Management Services of the DENR, the certification refers only to the technical
correctness of the survey plotted in the said plan and has nothing to do whatsoever
with the nature and character of the property surveyed. Respondents failed to submit
a certification from the proper government agency to prove that the lands subject for
registration are indeed alienable and disposable.
As to the second requirement, testimonial evidence were presented to prove
that respondents predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the subject lots in
the concept of an owner for the period required by law. The first witness was Thelma
Pilapil who claims to be the daughter of Constancia Frias from whom respondent
bought Lot 1061. Pilapil testified that her family has been in possession of Lot1061
since her birth.[30] When her testimony was offered on October 7, 1997, she was 40
years old.[31] Deducting 40 years from 1997, it means that her family started
possession of Lot 1061 only in 1957. The second witness who was presented was
Tomas Frias from whom respondent bought Lot 1062. Frias testified that he was 67
years old at the time that his testimony was taken on October 7, 1997.[32] He claims
that he started owning the subject lot when he was 17 years old and had been in

possession of the same since then. [33] Hence, by simple arithmetic, the testimony of
Frias proves that he came to possess Lot 1062 only in 1947. While he testified
that Lot 1062 was previously owned by his father and that he inherited the property
from his parents, no evidence was presented to show that the latter indeed previously
owned the said property and that they had been in possession of the same on or
before June 12, 1945.
Moreover, other pieces of evidence presented by respondent to prove the period of its
possession and that of its predecessors-in-interest show that the subject properties
were declared for taxation purposes beginning only in 1961. [34] This date may be
considered as relatively recent considering that respondents predecessors-in-interest
claim to have been in possession of the subject properties as early as 1947. While
belated declaration of a property for taxation purposes does not necessarily negate
the fact of possession, tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are,
nevertheless, good indicia of possession in the concept of an owner, for no one in his
right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual, or at least,
constructive possession.[35] In the present case, respondent failed to explain why,
despite the claim of its predecessors-in interest that they possessed the subject
properties in the concept of an owner as early as 1947, it was only in 1961 that they
started to declare the same for purposes of taxation.
From the foregoing, it is clear that respondent and its predecessors-in-interest
failed to prove that they had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession of the subject properties under a bona fide claim of ownership since June
12, 1945 or earlier, as required by law.
Well-entrenched is the rule that the burden of proof in land registration cases
rests on the applicant who must show clear, positive and convincing evidence that his
alleged possession and occupation were of the nature and duration required by law.
[36]
In the present case, the Court finds that respondent failed to prove, by clear and
convincing evidence, the legal requirements that the lands sought to be titled are
alienable and disposable and that its predecessors-in-interest were already in
possession of the subject lots since 1945 or earlier.
As to the last assigned error, respondent having failed to prove that the
subject properties are alienable and disposable public lands, the Court agrees with
petitioner that there would be no basis in concluding that these lands have already
become private. The presumption remains that said properties remain part of the
inalienable public domain and, therefore, could not become the subject of confirmation
of imperfect title.
Finally, while it is an acknowledged policy of the State to promote the
distribution of alienable public lands as a spur to economic growth and in line with the
ideal of social justice, the law imposes stringent safeguards upon the grant of such
resources lest they fall into the wrong hands to the prejudice of the national patrimony.
[37]
The Court must not, therefore, relax the stringent safeguards relative to the
registration of imperfect titles.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of
Appeals
dated
September
14,
2001
in
CA-G.R.
CV
No.
60671
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent Tri-Plus Corporations application for
registration and issuance of title to Lots 1061 and 1062, Consolacion Cad-545-D, in
LRC Case No. N-21 filed with the Municipal Trial Court of Consolacion, Metro Cebu,
is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 163766


Petitioner,
Present
PANGANIBAN, C.J., Chairperson,
- versus - YNARES-SANTIAGO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR., and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.
CANDY MAKER, INC.,
as represented by its President, Promulgated:
ONG YEE SEE,*
Respondent June 22, 2006
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
At bar is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to
set aside the May 21, 2004 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No.
73287, which affirmed in toto the October 12, 2001 Decision[2] of the Municipal Trial
Court (MTC) of Taytay, Rizal in Land Registration Case No. 99-0031 declaring
respondent the owner of the parcels of land designated as Lots 3138-A and 3138-B in
Plan CSD. 04-018302, Cainta-Taytay Cadastre.
Sometime in 1998, Candy Maker, Inc. decided to purchase Lot No. 3138 Cad.
688 of the Cainta-Taytay Cadastre, a parcel of land located below the reglementary
lake elevation of 12.50 meters, about 900 meters away from the Laguna de Bay, and
bounded on the southwest by the Manggahan Floodway, and on the southeast by a
legal easement.
On April 1, 1998, Geodetic Engineer Potenciano H. Fernandez, prepared and
signed a Subdivision Plan of the property for Apolonio Cruz. The property was
subdivided into two lots: Lot No. 3138-A with an area of 10,971 square meters, and Lot
No. 3138-B with an area of 239 square meters. [3] The technical description of Lot No.
3138 was also prepared by Fernandez, and was approved by the Regional Technical
Director of the Bureau of Lands on April 14, 1998. [4]
On April 29, 1999, Antonio, Eladia, and Felisa, all surnamed Cruz, executed a
Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of Candy Maker, Inc. [5]The buyer declared Lot No. 3138
for taxation purposes in 1999 under Tax Declaration Nos. 004-18929, 004-18930 and
004-18931.[6]

On June 16, 1999, Candy Maker, Inc., as applicant, filed an application with
the MTC of Taytay, Rizal, for the registration of its alleged title over Lot No. 3138-A and
Lot No. 3138-B under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529.
Acting thereon, the MTC issued an Order [7] on June 18, 1999 directing the
applicant to cause the publication of the notice of initial hearing and for the Deputy
Sheriff to post the same. The Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA)
and the Directors of the Land Management Bureau (LMB) and Forest Management
Bureau (FMB) were also instructed to submit their respective reports on the status of
the parcels of land before the initial hearing scheduled on October 29, 1999.
The Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) of
Antipolo City filed on August 18, 1999 his Report [8]declaring that "[t]he land falls within
the Alienable and Disposable Zone, under Land Classification Project No. 5-A, per L.C.
Map No. 639 certified released on March 11, 1927 and that the property is the subject
of CENRO Case No. 520(97) entitled Perpetua San Jose v. Almario Cruz. On the other
hand, the LRA, in its September 21, 1999 Report, [9] recommended the exclusion of Lot
No. 3138-B on the ground that it is a legal easement and intended for public use,
hence, inalienable and indisposable.
On September 30, 1999, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA)
approved Resolution No. 113, Series of 1993, providing that untitled shoreland areas
may be leased subject to conditions enumerated therein.
The applicant filed its Amended Application [10] on December 15, 1999 for the
confirmation of its alleged title on Lot No. 3138, alleging therein that:
1. x x x the applicant is the President of CANDYMAKER[,]
INC. and registered owner of a parcel of land located at Panghulo
Brgy. San Juan, Taytay, Rizal with an area of TEN THOUSAND NINE
HUNDRED SEVENTY ONE (10,971) square meters and as fully
described and bounded under Lot 3138-A plan CSD-04-018302[,]
copy of which and the corresponding technical descriptions are
hereto attached to form parts hereof;

Memorandum[18] of Engineer Christopher Pedrezuela of the Engineering and


Construction Division of the LLDA indicated that it is located below the reglementary
lake elevation of 12.50 meters referred to datum 10.00 meters below mean lower
water and under Section 41(11) of R.A. No. 4850, the property is a public land
which forms part of the bed of the Laguna Lake. This Memorandum was
appended to the application.
At the hearing conducted on August 31, 2001, the applicant marked in
evidence the complementary copies of the Official Gazette and the Peoples Tonight as
Exhibits E-1 and F-1, respectively.[19]
Except as to the LLDA and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which was
represented by the duly deputized provincial prosecutor, [20] the court, upon motion of
the applicant, issued an Order of general default.[21]
The applicant presented as witnesses its Treasurer, Fernando Co Siy, and
Antonio Cruz, one of the vendees.
Cruz testified that his grandparents owned the property, [22] and after their
demise, his parents, the spouses Apolonio Cruz and Aquilina Atanacio Cruz, inherited
the lot;[23] he and his father had cultivated the property since 1937,
planting palay during the rainy season and vegetables during the dry season; his
father paid the realty taxes on the property, [24] and he (Cruz) continued paying the
taxes after his fathers death.[25] Cruz insisted that he was the rightful claimant and
owner of the property.
Sometime in the 1980s, Apolonio Cruz executed an extrajudicial deed of
partition in which the property was adjudicated to Antonio Cruz and his sisters, Felisa
and Eladia, to the exclusion of their five (5) other siblings who were given other
properties as their shares. [26] He did not know why his ancestors failed to have the
property titled under the Torrens system of registration.[27] He left the Philippines and
stayed in Saudi Arabia from 1973 to 1983.[28] Aside from this, he hired the services of
an upahan to cultivate the property. [29] The property is about 3 kilometers from the
Laguna de Bay, and is usually flooded when it rains.[30]

8. That for Lot 3138-A the applicant hereby prays for the
benefit granted under the Land Registration Act and/or under the
benefits provided for by P.D. No. 1529, as applicant and their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, public, continuous, and
peaceful occupation and possession of the said land since time
immemorial in [the] concept of true owners and [adverse] to the
whole world; x x x[11]

Fernando Co Siy testified that the applicant acquired Lot No. 3138 from
siblings Antonio, Eladia and Felisa,[31] who had possessed it since 1945;[32] that after
paying the real estate taxes due thereon, [33] it caused the survey of the lot;[34] that
possession thereof has been peaceful [35] and none of the former owners claims any
right against it;[36] neither the applicant nor its predecessors-in-interest received
information from any government agency that the lot is a public land; [37] the subject lot
is 3 kms. away from Laguna de Bay,[38] above its elevation and that of the nearby road;
[39]
the property is habitable[40] and was utilized as a riceland at the time it was sold by
the former owners;[41] and that he was aware that a legal easement is affecting the lot
and is willing to annotate it in the land title. [42]

On March 27, 2000, the MTC issued an Order[12] admitting the Amended Application
and resetting the initial hearing to June 23, 2000. However, upon the requests of the
LRA for the timely publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in the Official Gazette,
[13]
the court moved the hearing date to September 22, 2000,[14] then on January 26,
2001[15] and until finally, to June 15, 2001.[16]

On cross-examination by the LLDA counsel, Siy admitted that his knowledge


as to the distance of the lot with respect to the Laguna de Bay came from somebody
residing in Taytay and also from an adjacent owner of the lot; [43] that the lot is
submerged in water since there is no land fill yet; [44] and that no improvements had
been introduced to the property.[45]

On July 20, 2001, the Republic of the Philippines, the LLDA filed its
Opposition[17] to the Amended Application in which it alleged that the lot subject of the
application for registration may not be alienated and disposed since it is considered
part of the Laguna Lake bed, a public land within its jurisdiction pursuant to Republic
Act (R.A.) No. 4850, as amended. According to the LLDA, the projection of Lot No.
3138-A, Cad-688-D Csd-04-018302 in its topographic map based on the

The LLDA moved for a joint ocular inspection of the parcels of land in order to
determine its exact elevation. [46] On September 14, 2001, a Survey Team of the
Engineering and Construction Division of the LLDA, composed of Ramon D. Magalonga,
Virgilio M. Polanco, and Renato Q. Medenilla, conducted an actual ground survey of the
property. The team used a total station and digital survey instrument to measure the
elevation of the ground in reference to the elevation of the lake water. A

xxxx

representative of the applicant witnessed the survey. The team found that the lot is
below the prescribed elevation of 12.50 m. and thus part of the bed of the lake; as
such, it could not be titled to the applicant. The team also reported that the property is
adjacent to the highway from the Manggahan Floodway to Angono, Rizal. The LLDA
moved that the application be withdrawn, appending thereto a copy of the Survey
Report.[47]
The LLDA did not offer any testimonial and documentary evidence and agreed
to submit the case for decision based on its Opposition.
On October 12, 2001, the MTC rendered a Decision granting the application
for registration over the lots. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered[,] the court hereby
rendered judgment confirming title of the applicants over the real
property denominated as Lot 3138-A Csd-04-018302 of Cad-688-D
Cainta-Taytay Cadastre; Lot 3138-B Csd-04-018302 of Cad 688-D
Cainta-Taytay Cadastre.[48]
On appeal to the CA, the petitioner contended that the MTC did not acquire
jurisdiction over the application for registration since the actual copies of the Official
Gazette (O.G.) where the notice of hearing was published were not adduced in
evidence; the applicant likewise failed to establish exclusive ownership over the
subject property in the manner prescribed by law. The petitioner argued further that
the requirements of Section 23, par. 1 of P.D. No. 1529, [49] as amended, are mandatory
and jurisdictional, and that failure to observe such requirements has a fatal effect on
the whole proceedings. Citing Republic of the Philippines v. Court of
Appeals[50] and Register of Deeds of Malabon v. RTC, Malabon, MM, Br. 170,[51] the
Republic averred that a mere certificate of publication is inadequate proof of the
jurisdictional fact of publication because the actual copies of the O.G. must be
presented at the initial hearing of the case. Moreover, witnesses were not presented to
prove specific acts to show that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have
been in exclusive, open, continuous, and adverse possession of the subject lots in the
concept of the owner since June 12, 1945 or earlier, in accordance with Sec. 14, par. 1
of P.D. No. 1529.[52] It noted that the testimonies of the applicants witnesses are more
of conclusions of law rather than factual evidence of ownership. Other than the
general statement that they planted rice and vegetables on the subject lots, their
possession could properly be characterized as mere casual cultivation since they failed
to account for its exclusive utilization since 1945 or earlier. After stressing that tax
declarations are not conclusive proof of ownership, it concluded that the subject lots
rightfully belong to the State under the Regalian doctrine.[53]
The applicant averred in its Appellees Brief[54] that it had marked in evidence
the actual copy of the O.G. where the notice of initial hearing was published; in fact,
the MTC Decision stated that the copy of the O.G. containing the notice was referred to
as Exhibit E-1. Moreover, Sec. 14, par. 1 of P.D. 1529 is inapplicable since it speaks of
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.
Instead, par. 4 of the same section [55] should govern because the subject parcels of
land are lands of private ownership, having being acquired through purchase from its
predecessors-in-interest, who, in turn, inherited the same from their parents. It pointed
out that there were no adverse claims of interest or right by other private persons and
even government agencies like the Province of Rizal. Lastly, while tax declarations and
tax receipts do not constitute evidence of ownership, they are nonetheless prima
facie evidence of possession.
On May 21, 2004, the appellate court rendered judgment which dismissed the
appeal and affirmed in toto the Decision of the MTC,[56] holding that the copy of the

O.G., where the notice was published, was marked as Exhibit E-1 during the initial
hearing. On the issue of ownership over the subject lots, the CA upheld the applicants
claim that the parcels of land were alienable and not part of the public domain, and
that it had adduced preponderant evidence to prove that its predecessors had been
tilling the land since 1937, during which palay and vegetables were planted. In fact,
before the lots were purchased, the applicant verified their ownership with the
assessors office, and thereafter caused the property to be surveyed; after the lots were
acquired in 1999 and a survey was caused by the applicant, no adverse claims were
filed by third persons. Further, the CA ruled that tax declarations or tax receipts are
good indicia of possession in the concept of the owner, which constitute at least
positive and strong indication that the taxpayer concerned has made a claim either to
the title or to the possession of the property.
The Republic, now petitioner, filed the instant Petition for Review on the
following issues:
A.
WHETHER THE LAND IN QUESTION MAYBE THE SUBJECT OF
REGISTRATION.

B.
WHETHER THE COURT A QUO ACQUIRED JURISDICTION
THE RES CONSIDERING ITS INALIENABLE CHARACTER.

OVER

C.
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE TRIAL
COURTS FINDING THAT RESPONDENT COMPLIED WITH THE LEGAL
REQUIREMENTS ON POSSESSION AS MANDATED BY SECTION 14 OF
P.D. NO. 1529.[57]
Petitioner asserts that the Engineers Survey Report[58] and the Laguna de Bay
Shoreland Survey[59] both show that Lot No. 3138-A is located below the reglementary
lake elevation, hence, forms part of the Laguna Lake bed. It insists that the property
belongs to the public domain as classified under Article 502 of the Civil Code. [60] Citing
the ruling of this Court in Bernardo v. Tiamson,[61] petitioner avers that the subject lot
is incapable of private appropriation since it is a public land owned by the State under
the Regalian doctrine. On this premise, petitioner avers that the MTC did not acquire
jurisdiction over the subject matter, and as a consequence, its decision is null and
void.
Petitioner maintains that respondent failed to present incontrovertible
evidence to warrant the registration of the property in its name as owner. The
testimonies of the two witnesses only proved that the possession of the land may be
characterized as mere casual cultivation; they failed to prove that its predecessors
occupied the land openly, continuously, exclusively, notoriously and adversely in the
concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or earlier.
On the other hand, respondent argues that the Engineers Survey Report and
the Laguna de Bay Shoreland Survey have no probative value because they were
neither
offered
nor
admitted
in
evidence
by
the
MTC.
It
points out that petitioner failed to invoke these reports in the appellate court.
It was only when the petition was filed with this Court that the respondent learned of
its existence. Petitioners reliance on the reports/survey is merely an afterthought. The
case of Bernardo v. Tiamson is irrelevant because the factual issues are different from
those of this case.

On April 28, 2005, respondent filed a Manifestation [62] with this Court,
appending thereto the report[63] conducted by the survey team of the LLDA
Engineering and Construction Division on April 12, 2005. It stated that the 10,971 sq m
property subject of the case is below the 12.5 elevation, and that the profile distance
of the property from the actual lake waters is about 900 m. to 1 km.
The issues in this case are the following: (1) whether the MTC had jurisdiction
over the amended application; (2) whether the property subject of the amended
application is alienable and disposable property of the State, and, if so, (3) whether
respondent adduced the requisite quantum of evidence to prove its ownership over
the property under Section 14 of P.D. 1529.
The petition is meritorious.
On the first issue, we find and so rule that the MTC acquired jurisdiction over
respondents application for registration since a copy of the O.G. containing the notice
of hearing was marked and adduced in evidence as Exhibit E-1. The representative of
the OSG was present during the hearing and interposed his objection thereto.
On the second and third issues, we find and so rule that the property subject
of this application was alienable and disposable public agricultural land until July 18,
1966. However, respondent failed to prove that it possesses registerable title over the
property.
Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by R.A. No. 1942, reads:
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, nay apply to the Court of First Instance of
the province where the land is located for confirmation of their
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the
Land Registration Act, to wit:
(b) Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
and occupation of agricultural lands of the public
domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership, for at least thirty years immediately
preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title except when prevented by war
or force majeure. These shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions
of this chapter.
This provision was further amended by P.D. No. 1073 by substituting the phrase for at
least thirty years with since June 12, 1945; thus:
Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter
VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that
these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of
the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession, and occupation by the applicant himself or

through his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of


acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.
Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration
Decree, provides:
SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the
proper Court of First Instance [now Regional Trial Court] an
application for registration of title to land, whether personally or
through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession
and occupation of alienable and disposable lands
of the public domain under a bona fide claim of
ownership since
June
12,
1945,
or
earlier (emphasis supplied).
Applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must, therefore, prove the
following: (a) that the land forms part of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands
of the public domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership
either since time immemorial or since June 12, 1945. [64]
Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly
within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. The presumption is that
lands of whatever classification belong to the State. [65] Unless public land is shown to
have been reclassified as alienable or disposable to a private person by the State, it
remains part of the inalienable public domain. Property of the public domain is beyond
the commerce of man and not susceptible of private appropriation and acquisitive
prescription. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner no matter how long cannot
ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. [66] The statute of limitations with
regard to public agricultural lands does not operate against the State unless the
occupant proves possession and occupation of the same after a claim of ownership for
the required number of years to constitute a grant from the State. [67]
No public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant from the
government, whether express or implied. It is indispensable that there be a showing of
a title from the State. [68] The rationale for the period since time immemorial or since
June 12, 1945 lies in the presumption that the land applied for pertains to the State,
and that the occupants or possessor claim an interest thereon only by virtue of their
imperfect title as continuous, open and notorious possession.
A possessor of real property may acquire ownership thereof through
acquisitive prescription. In Alba Vda. de Raz v. Court of Appeals,[69] the Court declared
that:
x x x [W]hile Art. 1134 of the Civil Code provides that (o)wnership
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 of the same
Code. This article states that x x x (o)rdinary acquisitive prescription
of things requires possession in good faith and with just title for the
time fixed by law. Hence, a prescriptive title to real estate is not
acquired by mere possession thereof under claim of ownership for a
period of ten years unless such possession was acquired con justo
titulo y buena fe (with color of title and good faith). 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.[70]
To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an
applicant must conclusively establish the existence of a positive act of the government
such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order, or administrative action,
investigation reports of the Bureau of Lands investigator or a legislative act or statute.
[71]
Until then, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. A certification of
the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources stating that the land subject of an application is
found to be within the alienable and disposable site per a land classification project
map is sufficient evidence to show the real character of the land subject of the
application.[72]
The applicant is burdened to offer proof of specific acts of ownership to
substantiate the claim over the land.[73] Actual possession consists in the manifestation
of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would actually exercise over his
own property.[74] A mere casual cultivation of portions of the land by the claimant does
not constitute sufficient basis for a claim of ownership; such possession is not
exclusive and notorious as to give rise to a presumptive grant from the State. [75]
In this case, the evidence on record shows that the property is alienable
agricultural land. Romeo Cadano of the Community Environment and Natural
Resources Office, Antipolo Rizal, certified that the property falls within the Alienable
and Disposable zone, under Land Classification Project No. 5-A, per L.C. Map No. 639
certified released on March 11, 1927.[76] However, under R.A. No. 4850 which was
approved on July 18, 1966, 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
said lake. Such lands denominated as lakeshore areas are linear strips of open space
designed to separate incompatible element or uses, or to control pollution/nuisance,
and for identifying and defining development areas or zone. Such areas of the lake
with an approximate total area of 14,000 hectares form a strip of the lakebed along its
shores alternately submerged or exposed by the annual rising and lowering of the lake
water. They have environmental ecological significance and actual potential economic
benefits.
Under Section 1 of the law, the national policy of the State is to promote and
accelerate the development and balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the
surrounding provinces, cities and towns within the context of the national and regional
plans and policies for social and economic development and to carry out the
development of the Laguna Lake region with due regard and adequate provisions for
environmental management and control, preservation of the quality of human life and
ecological
systems,
and the prevention of undue ecological disturbances, deterioration and pollution.
The rapid expansion of Metropolitan Manila, the suburbs and the lakeshore
town of Laguna de Bay, combined with current and prospective uses of the lake for
municipal-industrial water supply, irrigation, fisheries, and the like, created deep
concern on the part of the Government and the general public over the environmental
impact of such development, on the water quality and ecology of the lake and its
related river systems. The inflow of polluted water from the Pasig River, industrial,
domestic and agricultural wastes from developed areas around the lake and the
increasing urbanization have induced the deterioration of the lake, and that water

quality studies have shown that the lake will deteriorate further if steps are not taken
to check the same. The floods in the Metropolitan Manila area and the lakeshore towns
are also influenced by the hydraulic system of the Laguna de Bay, and any scheme of
controlling the floods will necessarily involve the lake and its river systems.
This prompted then President Ferdinand E. Marcos to issue on October 17,
1978 P.D. 813 amending Rep. Act No. 4850. Under Section 6 of the law, the LLDA is
empowered to issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary to effectively
carry out the policies andprograms therein provided including the policies and projects
of the LLDA, subject to the approval of the National Economic Development Authority.
In 1996, the Board of Directors of LLDA approved Resolution No. 113, series of
1996 relating to the Environmental Uses Fee Systems and Approval of the Work and
Financial Plan for its operationalization in the Laguna de Bay Basin. Section 5 of the
Resolution provides that the LLDA as a matter of policy is to maintain all shoreland
areas lying below elevation 12.50 meters as buffer zone in consonance with the LLDA
policies, plans programs for the improvement of the water quality and pollution and
conservation of the water resources of the Laguna de Bay.
As gleaned from the Survey Report of Magalonga, Polanco and Medenilla of
the LLDA based on the ocular inspection dated September 14, 2001 as well as the
Memorandum of Engineer Christopher Pedrezuela, the property is located below the
reglementary level of 12.50 m.; hence, part of the bed of the Laguna de Bay, and, as
such, is public land. Although the Report and Memorandum were not offered as
evidence in the MTC, the respondent admitted in its Manifestation in this Court that the
property is situated below the 12.50 elevation based on the survey of
Magalonga, Polanco and Medenilla, the same survey team who conducted an ocular
inspection of the property on April 12, 2005, which thus confirmed the September 14,
2001 survey report. This is a judicial admission in the course of judicial proceedings
which is binding on it.[77]
Under R.A. No. 4850 and the issuances of LLDA, registerable rights acquired
by occupants before the effectivity of the law are recognized. However, the respondent
failed to adduce proof that its predecessors-in-interest had acquired registerable title
over the property before July 18, 1966:
First. Cruz failed to prove how his parents acquired ownership of the property,
and even failed to mention the names of his grandparents. He likewise failed to
present his fathers death certificate to support his claim that the latter died in 1980.
There is likewise no evidence when his mother died.
Second. Cruz also failed to adduce in evidence the extrajudicial partition
allegedly executed by his parents in 1980 where the property was supposedly deeded
to him and his sisters, Felisa and Eladia, to the exclusion of their five siblings.
Third. Cruz claimed that he and his parents cultivated the property and
planted palay and vegetables, and that they had been paying the realty taxes over the
property before his parents died. However, no tax declarations under the names of the
spouses Apolonio Cruz and/or Eladia Cruz and his siblings were presented, or realty tax
receipts
evidencing
payment
of
such
taxes. Indeed, while tax receipts and tax payment receipts themselves do not
convincingly prove title to the land,[78] these are good indicia of possession in the
concept of an owner, for no one in his right mind would pay taxes for a property that is
not in his actual or, at least, constructive possession. [79] While tax receipts and
declarations are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute, at the
least, proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property, particularly when
accompanied by proof of actual possession of property. [80] The voluntary declaration of

a piece of property for taxation purposes not only manifests ones sincere and honest
desire to obtain title to the property, but also announces an adverse claim against the
State and all other interested parties with an intention to contribute needed revenues
to the government. Such an act strengthens ones bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership.[81]
Fourth. When he testified on October 5, 2001, Antonio Cruz declared that he
was 74 years old.[82] He must have been born in 1927, and was thus merely 10 years
old in 1937. It is incredible that, at that age, he was already cultivating the property
with his father. Moreover, no evidence was presented to prove how many cavans
of palay were planted on the property, as well as the extent of such cultivation, in
order to support the claim of possession with a bona fide claim of ownership.
Fifth. Cruz testified that he hired a worker upahan to help him cultivate the
property. He, however, failed to state the name of the worker or to even present him
as witness for the respondent.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is GRANTED. The decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 73278 is SET ASIDE. The Municipal Trial
Court
of
Taytay,
Rizal
is
DIRECTED to dismiss the application for registration of respondent Candymaker, Inc.
in Land Registration Case No. 99-0031. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
PACIFICO M. VALIAO, for himself and in
behalf of his co-heirs LODOVICO, RICARDO,
BIENVENIDO, all Surnamed VALIAO and
NEMESIO M. GRANDEA,
Petitioners,
- versusREPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, MACARIO
ZAFRA, and MANUEL YUSAY,
Respondents,

G.R. No. 170757


Present:
VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson
PERALTA,
ABAD,
MENDOZA, and
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.
Promulgated:
November 28, 2011

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court seeking to set aside the Decision[1] and Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CV No. 54811, which reversed the Decision [3] of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, Branch 61, in Land Registration Case No. 03,
granting petitioners' application for registration of title over a parcel of land located in
Ilog, Negros Occidental.

The factual milieu of this case is as follows:


On August 11, 1987, petitioners [4] Pacifico, Lodovico, Ricardo, Bienvenido, all surnamed
Valiao, and Nemesio Grandea filed with the RTC of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental an
application for registration of a parcel of land with an area of 504,535 square meters,
more or less, situated in Barrio Galicia, Municipality of Ilog, Negros Occidental.
On June 20, 1988, private oppositors Macario Zafra and Manuel Yusay filed their Motion
to Dismiss the application on the following grounds: (1) the land applied for has not
been declared alienable and disposable; (2) res judicata has set in to bar the
application for registration; and (3) the application has no factual or legal basis.
On August 24, 1988, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), through the Office of
the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application for registration on the following
grounds, among others: that neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interest
had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
the land in question since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; that the muniment/s of title
and/or the tax declaration/s and tax payments/receipts of applicants, if any, attached
to or alleged in the application, do/es not constitute competent and sufficient evidence
of a bona fide acquisition of the land applied for or of their open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation in the concept of owner, since June 12, 1945
or prior thereto; that the parcel of land applied for is a portion of public domain
belonging to the Republic, which is not subject to private appropriation; and that the
present action is barred by a previous final judgment in a cadastral case prosecuted
between the same parties and involving the same parcel of land.
On July 3, 1989, the RTC denied private oppositors' Motion to Dismiss. Trial thereafter
ensued.
In support of their application for registration, petitioners alleged that they acquired
the subject property in 1947, upon the death of their uncle Basilio Millarez (Basilio),
who purchased the land from a certain Fermin Payogao, pursuant to a Deed of
Sale[5] dated May 19, 1916 entirely handwritten in Spanish language. Basilio possessed
the land in question from May 19, 1916 until his death in 1947. Basilio's possession
was open, continuous, peaceful, adverse, notorious, uninterrupted and in the concept
of an owner. Upon Basilio's death, the applicants as co-heirs possessed the said land
until 1966, when oppositor Zafra unlawfully and violently dispossessed them of their
property, which compelled them to file complaints of Grave Coercion and Qualified
Theft against Zafra. In support of their claim of possession over the subject property,
petitioners submitted in evidence Tax Declaration No. 9562 [6] dated September 29,
1976 under the names of the heirs of Basilio Millarez.
The RTC, in its Decision dated December 15, 1995, granted petitioners' application for
registration of the subject property, the dispositive portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court hereby orders and
decrees registration of Lot No. 2372 subject of the present
proceedings and the registration of title thereto, in favor of the
applicants, who are declared the true and lawful owners of said Lot
No. 2372, except applicant Lodovico Valiao, who sold his right to
Macario Zafra.
Upon the finality of this decision, let the corresponding decree of
registration and Certificate of Title be issued in the name of the
applicants, Heirs of Basilio Millarez, namely: Pacifico Valiao, Ricardo
Valiao, Bienvenido Valiao and Nemesio Grandea, subject to the
rights of private oppositors, Macario Zafra and Manuel Yusay over

said lot whose fishpond permits are declared VALID and will expire
on December 31, 2003.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.[7]
Aggrieved by the Decision, the private oppositors and the Republic, through Assistant
Prosecutor Josue A. Gatin, filed an appeal with the CA, which reversed the trial court's
findings in its Decision dated June 23, 2005. The CA ruled that the classification of
lands of the public domain is an exclusive prerogative of the executive department of
the government and in the absence of such classification, the lands remain as
unclassified until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. Further,
there exists a prior cadastral case involving the same parties herein and the same Lot
No. 2372, which ruled that Lot No. 2372 belongs to the Republic. The CA held that such
judgment constitutes res judicata that bars a subsequent action for land registration. It
also ruled that the subject property is part of the inalienable land of the public domain
and petitioners failed to prove that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land in question since
June 12, 1945 or earlier. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is
GRANTED. Accordingly, We REVERSE the Decision dated December
15, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court, DENY the application for
registration of title filed by petitioners-appellees, DECLARE as moot
and academic any and all claims of private oppositors-appellants
over Lot No. 2372, and DECLARE the subject parcel of land to be
inalienable and indisposable land belonging to the public domain.
SO ORDERED.[8]
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by the CA in a
Resolution dated November 17, 2005. Hence, the present petition with the following
issues:

I
WHETHER OR NOT LOT NO. 2372 OF THE ILOG CADASTRE IS
ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LAND OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
II
WHETHER OR NOT THE CLAIM OF PRESCRIPTION BY THE APPLICANT
WILL LIE ON LOT NO. 2372.
III
WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS IN
CAD. CASE NO. 23, ENTITLED LODOVICO VALIAO, ET, AL., VS.
MACARIO ZAFRA, ET, AL., AC G.R. NO. CV-68873, CONSTITUTES RES
JUDICATA AS FAR AS THIS APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION IS
CONCERNED.
IV
WHETHER OR NOT THE ALLEGED POSSESSION OF THE APPLICANTS
THROUGH THEIR PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST IS SUFFICIENT TO
SUSTAIN THEIR CLAIM FOR PRESCRIPTION.[9]

Petitioners claim that Lot No. 2372 is an alienable and disposable portion of the public
domain. The possession of applicants' predecessors-in interest since 1916 until 1966
had been open, continuous and uninterrupted; thus, converting the said land into a
private land. The subject lot had already become private in character in view of the
length of time the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest had possessed the
subject lot, which entitles them to the confirmation of their title. Petitioners further
claim that prior dismissal in a cadastral proceeding does not constitute res judicata in
a subsequent application for registration of a parcel of land.
In its Comment, the OSG submits that the issues to be resolved in the present
petition, i.e., whether Lot No. 2372 is alienable and disposable land of the public
domain and whether petitioners have the right to have the said property registered in
their name through prescription of time are questions of fact, which were already
passed upon by the CA and no longer reviewable by the Court, since findings of fact of
the CA, when supported by sufficient evidence, are conclusive and binding on the
parties. The OSG further claims that petitioners failed to prove that the subject lot is
part of the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain and that petitioners'
application for land registration is already barred by a prior decision in a cadastral
case. Lastly, the OSG asserts that petitioners did not present sufficient evidence to
prove that their possession over the subject lot applied for had been open, peaceful,
exclusive, continuous and adverse.
Anent the propriety of filing a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,
the principle is well-established that this Court is not a trier of facts and that only
questions of law may be raised. The resolution of factual issues is the function of the
lower courts whose findings on these matters are received with respect and are, as a
rule, binding on this Court. This rule, however, is subject to certain exceptions. One of
these is when the findings of the appellate court are contrary to those of the trial
court.[10] Due to the divergence of the findings of the CA and the RTC, the Court will
now re-examine the facts and evidence adduced before the lower courts.
Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1529, otherwise known as the Property
Registration Decree provides:
SEC. 14. Who may apply. - The following persons may file in
the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of
title to land, whether personally or through their duly-authorized
representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
From the foregoing, petitioners need to prove that: (1) the land forms part of the
alienable and disposable land of the public domain; and (2) they, by themselves or
through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of
ownership from June 12, 1945 or earlier.[11] These the petitioners must prove by no less
than clear, positive and convincing evidence. [12]

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 any
ownership of land. 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 inalienable public domain. [13] Unless public land is
shown to have been reclassified as alienable or disposable to a private person by the
State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Property of the public domain is
beyond the commerce of man and not susceptible of private appropriation and
acquisitive prescription. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner no matter how
long cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. [14] 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 theapplication 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.[15]
There must 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.[16]
No such evidence was offered by the petitioners to show that the land in question has
been classified as alienable and disposable land of thepublic domain. In the absence of
incontrovertible evidence to prove that the subject property is already classified as
alienable and disposable, we must consider the same as still inalienable public
domain.[17] Verily, the rules on the confirmation of imperfect title do not apply unless
and until the land subject thereof is released in an official proclamation to that effect
so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.
With respect to the existence of a prior cadastral case, it appears that on July
11, 1966, the petitioners filed in Cadastral Case No. 23 of the then CFI of Negros
Occidental a petition to reopen the proceedings relative to three lots, one of which is
Lot No. 2372. The lower court, in its Order[18] dated October 20, 1980, held that Lot No.
2372 belongs to the Republic. It found that after the subject lot was declared public
land, it was found to be inside the communal forest. On appeal, the CA, in its
Decision[19] dated August 7, 1984, found no reversible error and affirmed the decision
of the cadastral court. Thereafter, a petition elevating the case to this Court was
dismissed for lack of merit.[20] In the present case, the CA, in its Decision dated June
23, 2005, ruled that such judgment constitutes res judicata that will bar a subsequent
action for land registration on the same land.
In Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals,[21] the Court held that 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 Section 48 [22] of Commonwealth Act No. 141,
as amended, and as long as said public lands remain alienable and disposable. In the
case at bar, not only did the petitioners fail to prove that the subject land is part of the
alienable and disposable portion of the public domain, they failed to demonstrate that
they by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have possessed and
occupied the subject land since June 12, 1945 or earlier as mandated by the law.

It is settled that the applicant must present proof of specific acts of ownership
to substantiate
the claim
and cannot
just offer generalstatements
which
are mere conclusions of law than factual evidence of possession.[23] Actual possession
consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party
would actually exercise over his own property. [24]
The testimonies of Nemesio and Pacifico as to their own and their predecessors-ininterest's possession and ownership over the subject lot fail to convince Us. Petitioners
claim that Basilio was in possession of the land way back in 1916. Yet no tax
declaration covering the subject property, during the period Basilio allegedly occupied
the subject property, i.e., 1916 to 1947, was presented in evidence. Other than the
bare allegations of Nemesio and Pacifico that Basilio allegedly introduced
improvements on the subject property, there is nothing in the records which would
substantiate petitioners' claim that Basilio was in possession of Lot No. 2372 since June
12, 1945 or earlier, the period of possession required by law. Hence, petitioners'
assertion that Basilio possessed the property in question from 1916 to 1947 is, at best,
conjectural and self-serving.
As regards petitioners' possession of the land in question from 1947 to 1966,
petitioners could only support the same with a tax declaration dated September 29,
1976. At best, petitioners can only prove possession since said date. What is required
is open, exclusive, continuous and notorious possession by petitioners and their
predecessors-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of ownership, since June 12, 1945 or
earlier.[25] Petitioners failed to explain why, despite their claim that their predecessorsin-interest have possessed the subject properties in the concept of an owner even
before June 12, 1945, it was only in 1976 that they started to declare the same for
purposes of taxation. Moreover,tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive
evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land when not supported by any other
evidence. The disputed property may have been declared for taxation purposes in the
names of the applicants for registration, or of their predecessors-in-interest, but it does
not necessarily prove ownership. They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership.[26]
Evidently, since the petitioners failed to prove that (1) the subject property was
classified as part of the disposable and alienable land of thepublic domain; and (2)
they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation thereof under a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945 or earlier, their application for confirmation and registration of the
subject property under PD 1529 should be denied.
WHEREFORE, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
54811, which reversed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Kabankalan, Negros
Occidental, Branch 61, in Land Registration Case No. 03, is AFFIRMED. The application
for registration of title filed by the petitioners Pacifico Valiao, Lodovico Valiao, Ricardo
Valiao, Bienvenido Valiao, and Nemesio Grandea, over Lot No. 2372, with a total area
of 504,535 square meters, more or less, situated in Barrio Galicia, Municipality of Ilog,
Negros Occidental, isDENIED.
SO ORDERED.

Record No.), situated in Brgy. Sta. Ana, Mun. of Taguig, Metro Manila, Island of
Luzon.
x x x x"
(b) Lot 1109-B, Swo-00-001456
"A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 1109-B, of plan Swo-00-001456, being a conversion of Lot
1109, MCadm 590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping, L.R.C. Record No.), situated in Sta.
Ana, Mun. of Taguig, Metro Manila, Island of Luzon.
G.R. No. 171136

October 23, 2013


x x x x"

PEOPLE
OF
THE
PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
vs.
LYDIA CAPCO DE TENSUAN, represented by CLAUDIA C. ARUELO, Respondent.

3. That said two (2) parcels of land at the last assessment for taxation were assessed
at Sixty Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty Pesos (P60,820.00), Philippine currency,
under Tax Declaration No. D-013-01563 in the name of the Applicant;

DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
seeking the reversal and setting aside of the Decision 1 dated January 13 2006 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 84125, which affirmed the Decision 2 dated October
18, 2004 of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Taguig City, Branch 74 in LRC Case
No. 172 LRA Rec. No. N-701 08). The MeTC confirmed the title of herein respondent,
Lydia Capco de Tensuan Tensuan), to the parcel of agricultural land, designated as Lot
1109-A, located at Ibayo, Sta. Ana, Taguig City, with an area of 4,006 square meters
subject property), and ordered the registration of said property in her name.
The following facts are culled from the records:
On August 11, 1998, Tensuan, represented by her sister, Claudia C. Aruelo (Aruelo),
filed with the MeTC an Application for Registration3 of Lot Nos. 1109-A and 1109-B,
docketed as LRC Case No. 172. In her Application for Registration, Tensuan alleged
that:
2. That Applicant is the absolute owner and possessor of those two (2) paraphernal
parcels of land situated at Sta. Ana, Taguig, Metro Manila, within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, bounded and described as Lot 1109-A and 1109-B in Conversion
Subdivision Plan Swo-00-001456 as follows:
(a) Lot 1109-A, Swo-00-001456
"A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 1109-A of the Plan Swo-00-001456, being a
conversion of Lot 1109, MCadm 590-D, Taguig, [Cadastral] Mapping, L.R.C.

4. That to the best of the knowledge and belief of Applicant, there is no mortgage,
encumbrance or transaction affecting said two (2) parcels of land, nor is there any
other person having any interest therein, legal or equitable, or in adverse possession
thereof;
5. That Applicant has acquired said parcels of land by inheritance from her deceased
father, Felix Capco, by virtue of a "[Kasulatan] ng Paghahati-hati at Pag-aayos ng
Kabuhayan
" dated September 14, 1971, and Applicant specifically alleges that she and her
deceased father, as well as the latters predecessors-in-interest, have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the said lands under
a bonafide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, and many years earlier, as in fact
since time immemorial, as provided under Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No.
1529;
6. That said parcels of land are and have been, since the inheritance thereof, occupied
by Applicant herself;
xxxx
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that after due notice, publication and hearing,
the paraphernal parcels of land hereinabove described be brought under the operation
of Presidential Decree No. 1529 and the same confirmed in the name of
Applicant.4 (Emphasis ours.)
On August 20, 1998, Tensuan filed an Urgent Ex Parte Motion to Withdraw Lot 1109-B
from the Application for Registration and to Amend the Application. 5 According to
Tensuan, she was withdrawing her Application for Registration of Lot 1109-B because a

review of Plan Swo-00-001456 had revealed that said lot, with an area of 338 square
meters, was a legal easement. The MeTC, in its Order 6 dated September 30, 1998,
granted Tensuans motion.

6. That moreover, the land sought to be registered remains inalienable and


indisposable in the absence of declaration by the Director of Lands as
required by law.9

The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed an Opposition to
Tensuans Application for Registration on December 28, 1998. The Republic argued
that (1) neither Tensuan nor her predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject
property since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (2) the muniment/s of title and/or tax
declaration/s and tax payment receipt/s attached to the application do/es not
constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the subject
property or of Tensuans open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of the subject property in the concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or prior
thereto; (3) the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or grant
can no longer be availed of by Tensuan who failed to file an appropriate application for
registration within the period of six months from February 16, 1976, as required by
Presidential Decree No. 892; and (4) the subject property forms part of the public
domain not subject of private appropriation.7

During the initial hearing on February 18, 1999, Tensuan marked in evidence the
exhibits proving her compliance with the jurisdictional requirements for LRC Case No.
172. There being no private oppositor, a general default against the whole world,
except the government, was declared.10

The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) also filed its own Opposition 8 dated
February 12, 1999 to Tensuans Application for Registration, averring as follows:
2. That projection of the subject lot in our topographic map based on the
technical descriptions appearing in the Notice of the Initial Hearing indicated
that the lot subject of this application for registration is located below the
reglementary lake elevation of 12.50 meters referred to datum 10.00 meters
below mean lower water. Site is, therefore, part of the bed of Laguna Lake
considered as public land and is within the jurisdiction of Laguna Lake
Development Authority pursuant to its mandate under R.A. 4850, as
amended. x x x;
3. That Section 41 of Republic Act No. 4850, states that, "whenever Laguna
Lake or Lake is used in this Act, the same shall refer to Laguna de Bay which
is that area covered by the lake water when it is at the average annual
maximum lake level of elevation of 12.50 meters, as referred to a datum 10.0
meters below mean lower low water (MLLW). Lands located at and below such
elevation are public lands which form part of the bed of said lake (Section 14,
R.A. 4850, as amended, x x x);
4. That on the strength of the oppositors finding and applying the abovequoted provision of law, herein applicants application for registration of the
subject land has no leg to stand on, both in fact and in law;
5. That unless the Honorable Court renders judgment to declare the land as
part of the Laguna Lake or that of the public domain, the applicant will
continue to unlawfully posses, occupy and claim the land as their own to the
damage and prejudice of the Government in general and the Laguna Lake
Development Authority in particular;

To prove possession, Tensuan presented two witnesses, namely, her sister Aruelo and
Remigio Marasigan (Marasigan).
Aruelo, who was then 68 years old, testified that Tensuan and her predecessors-ininterest have been in possession of the subject property even before the Second World
War. The subject property was originally owned by Candida de Borja, who passed on
the same to her only child, Socorro Reyes, and the latters husband, Felix Capco
(spouses Capco). The subject property became part of the spouses Capcos conjugal
property. Aruelo and Tensuan are among the spouses Capcos children. During the
settlement of Felix Capcos estate, the subject property was adjudicated to Tensuan, as
evidenced by the Kasulatan ng Paghahati at Pag-aayos ng Kabuhayan 11 dated
September 14, 1971.12
Marasigan claimed that he had been cultivating the subject property for the last 15
years, and he personally knew Tensuan to be the owner of said property. 13 Marasigans
father was the caretaker of the subject property for the Capcos for more than 50 years,
and Marasigan used to help his father till the same. Marasigan merely inherited the job
as caretaker of the subject property from his father.
Among the evidence Tensuan presented during the trial were: (1) the Kasulatan ng
Paghahati-hati at Pagaayos ng Kabuhayan dated September 14, 1971; 14 (2) Tax
declarations, the earliest of which was for the year 1948, in the name of Candida de
Borja, Tensuans grandmother;15 (3) Real property tax payment receipts issued to
Tensuan for 1998;16 (3) Blueprint copy of Plan Swo-00-001456 surveyed for Lydia
Capco de Tensuan;17 (4) Technical description of the subject property, duly prepared by
a licensed Geodetic Engineer and approved by the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR);18 and (5) Certification dated July 29, 1999 from the
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of the DENR (CENRO-DENR)
which states that "said land falls within alienable and disposable land under Project No.
27-B L.C. Map No. 2623 under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1141 dated January
3, 1968."19
Engineer Ramon Magalona (Magalona) took the witness stand for oppositor LLDA. He
averred that based on the topographic map and technical description of the subject
property, the said property is located below the prescribed lake elevation of 12.5
meters. Hence, the subject property forms part of the Laguna Lake bed and, as such, is
public land. During cross-examination, Magalona admitted that the topographic map
he was using as basis was made in the year 1967; that there had been changes in the
contour of the lake; and that his findings would have been different if the topographic

map was made at present time. He likewise acknowledged that the subject property is
an agricultural lot. When Magalona conducted an ocular inspection of the subject
property, said property and other properties in the area were submerged in water as
the lake level was high following the recent heavy rains. 20
On May 26, 2000, an Investigation Report was prepared, under oath, by Cristeta R.
Garcia (Garcia), DENR Land Investigator, stating, among other things, that the subject
property was covered by a duly approved survey plan; that the subject property is
within the alienable and disposable zone classified under Project No. 27-B, L.C. Map
No. 2623; that the subject property is not reserved for military or naval purposes; that
the subject property was not covered by a previously issued patent; that the subject
property was declared for the first time in 1948 under Tax Declaration No. 230 in the
name of Candida de Borja; 21 that the subject property is now covered by Tax
Declaration No. D-013-01408 in the name of Lydia Capco de Tensuan; that the subject
property is agricultural in nature; and that the subject property is free from adverse
claims and conflicts. Yet, Garcia noted in the same report that the "the applicant is not
x x x in the actual occupation and possession of the land" and "LLDA rep. by Atty.
Joaquin G. Mendoza possesses the legal right to file opposition against the application
x x x."22 The Investigation Report was submitted as evidence by the Republic.
In its Decision dated October 18, 2004, the MeTC granted Tensuans Application for
Registration, decreeing as follows:
WHEREFORE, from the evidences adduced and testimonies presented by the parties,
the Court is of the considered view that herein applicant has proven by preponderance
of evidence the allegations in the application, hence, this Court hereby confirms the
title of applicant LYDIA CAPCO DE TENSUAN married to RODOLFO TENSUAN, of legal
age, Filipino and a resident of No. 43 Rizal Street, Poblacion, Muntinlupa City to the
parcel of agricultural land (Lot 1109-A, Mcadm 590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping)
located at Ibayo-Sta. Ana, Taguig, Metro Manila containing an area of Four Thousand
Six (4,006) square meters; and order the registration thereof in her name.
After the finality of this decision and upon payment of the corresponding taxes due on
said land subject matter of this application, let an order for issuance of decree be
issued.23
The Republic appealed to the Court of Appeals, insisting that the MeTC should not have
granted Tensuans Application for Registration considering that the subject property is
part of the Laguna Lake bed, hence, is not alienable and disposable. The appeal was
docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 84125.
In the herein assailed Decision of January 13, 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the
MeTC Decision, thus:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision dated October
18, 2004 is AFFIRMED.24

Hence, the Republic filed the present Petition with the following assignment of errors:
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW WHEN IT
AFFIRMED THE TRIAL COURTS GRANT OF THE APPLICATION FOR LAND
REGISTRATION OF [TENSUAN] DESPITE HER FAILURE TO PROVE OPEN,
ADVERSE, CONTINUOUS, EXCLUSIVE AND NOTORIOUS POSSESSION IN THE
CONCEPT OF AN OWNER OF THE SUBJECT LAND FOR THIRTY YEARS.
II
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW WHEN IT
AFFIRMED THE TRIAL COURTS GRANT OF THE APPLICATION FOR LAND
REGISTRATION OF [TENSUAN] BECAUSE THE SUBJECT LAND BEING PART OF
THE LAGUNA LAKE BED IS NOT ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE.25
The Republic contends that Tensuan failed to present incontrovertible evidence to
warrant the registration of the property in the latters name as owner. Aruelos
testimony that her father possessed the land even before the Second World War and
Marasigans claim that he and his father have been tilling the land for a total of more
than 65 years are doubtful considering that the subject property is located below the
reglementary lake elevation and is, thus, part of the Laguna Lake bed. Also, the CENRO
Certification is not sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption that the subject
property still forms part of the public domain, and is not alienable and disposable. On
the other hand, Tensuan asserts that the Petition should be dismissed outright for
raising questions of fact. The findings of the MeTC and the Court of Appeals that the
subject property is alienable and disposable, and that Tensuan and her predecessorsin-interest had been in open, adverse, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
of the same for the period required by law, are supported by preponderance of
evidence.
We find the instant Petition meritorious.
The Republic asserts that the assigned errors in its Petition are on questions of law, but
in reality, these questions delve into the sufficiency of evidence relied upon by the
MeTC and the Court of Appeals in granting Tensuans Application for Registration of the
subject property. It is basic that where it is the sufficiency of evidence that is being
questioned, it is a question of fact.26
In petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, this Court is
limited to reviewing only errors of law, not of fact, unless the factual findings
complained of are devoid of support by the evidence on record, or the assailed
judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts. 27 In Reyes v. Montemayor, 28 we did
not hesitate to apply the exception rather than the general rule, setting aside the
findings of fact of the trial and appellate courts and looking into the evidence on
record ourselves, in order to arrive at the proper and just resolution of the case, to wit:

Rule 45 of the Rules of Court provides that only questions of law shall be raised in a
Petition for Review before this Court. This rule, however, admits of certain exceptions,
namely, (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, or
conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or
impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is
based on a misappreciation of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6)
when, in making its findings, the same are contrary to the admissions of both
appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;
(8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which
they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners
main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings
of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the
evidence on record.
While as a general rule appellate courts do not usually disturb the lower courts
findings of fact, unless said findings are not supported by or are totally devoid of or
inconsistent with the evidence on record, such finding must of necessity be modified to
conform with the evidence if the reviewing tribunal were to arrive at the proper and
just resolution of the controversy. Thus, although the findings of fact of the Court of
Appeals are generally conclusive on this Court, which is not a trier of facts, if said
factual findings do not conform to the evidence on record, this Court will not hesitate
to review and reverse the factual findings of the lower courts. In the instant case, the
Court finds sufficient basis to deviate from the rule since the extant evidence and
prevailing law support a finding different from the conclusion of the Court of Appeals
and the RTC. (Citations omitted.)
Tensuan anchors her right to registration of title on Section 14(1) of Presidential
Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, which reads:
SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First
Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through
their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June
12, 1945, or earlier.
The aforequoted provision authorizes the registration of title acquired in accordance
with Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land
Act, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, which provides:
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the
public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose
titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance
of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in
the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or
ownership, since June 12, 1945, 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.
The requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title under Section 14(1)
of the Property Registration Decree are: (1) that the property in question is alienable
and disposable land of the public domain; and (2) that the applicants by themselves or
through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation; and that such possession is under a bona fide
claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier. 29 In Heirs of Mario Malabanan v.
Republic,30 we affirmed our earlier ruling in Republic v. Naguit, 31 that Section 14(1) of
the Property Registration Decree merely requires the property sought to be registered
as already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title
is filed.
We proceed to determine first whether it has been satisfactorily proven herein that the
subject property was already alienable and disposable land of the public domain at the
time Tensuan filed her Application for Registration on August 11, 1998.
Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and
that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged
with the conservation of such patrimony. The same doctrine also states that all lands
not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong
to the State. Consequently, the burden of proof to overcome the presumption of
ownership of lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration.
Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified and alienated by the State to a
private person, it remains part of the inalienable public domain.32
As to what constitutes alienable and disposable land of the public domain, we turn to
our pronouncements in Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources v. Yap33:
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, 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. x x x
xxxx

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."

Public documents are defined under Section 19, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on
Evidence as follows:

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. (Citations and
emphasis omitted.)

(b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and
testaments; and

As proof that the subject property is alienable and disposable, Tensuan presented a
Certification dated July 29, 1999 issued by the CENRO-DENR which verified that "said
land falls within alienable and disposable land under Project No. 27-B L.C. Map No.
2623 under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1141 dated January 3, 1968."
However, we have declared unequivocally that a CENRO Certification, by itself, is
insufficient proof that a parcel of land is alienable and disposable. As we held in
Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.34:
It is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and
disposable.
The applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved
the land classification and released the land of the public domain as alienable and
disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the
approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition, the
applicant for land registration must present a copy of the original classification
approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of
the official records. These facts must be established to prove that the land is alienable
and disposable. Respondent failed to do so because the certifications presented by
respondent do not, by themselves, prove that the land is alienable and disposable.
Only Torres, respondents Operations Manager, identified the certifications submitted
by respondent. The government officials who issued the certifications were not
presented before the trial court to testify on their contents. The trial court should not
have accepted the contents of the certifications as proof of the facts stated therein.
Even if the certifications are presumed duly issued and admissible in evidence, they
have no probative value in establishing that the land is alienable and disposable.

(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign
authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the
Philippines, or of a foreign country;

(c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by


law to be entered therein.
Applying Section 24 of Rule 132, the record of public documents referred to in Section
19(a), when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication
thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having legal custody of the record, or by
his deputy x x x.
The CENRO is not the official repository or legal custodian of the issuances of the DENR
Secretary declaring public lands as alienable and disposable. The CENRO should have
attached an official publication of the DENR Secretarys issuance declaring the land
alienable and disposable.
Section 23, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides: "Sec. 23.
Public documents as evidence. Documents consisting of entries in public records
made in the performance of a duty by a public officer are prima facie evidence of the
facts stated therein. All other public documents are evidence, even against a third
person, of the fact which gave rise to their execution and of the date of the latter."
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not fall within
the class of public documents contemplated in the first sentence of Section 23 of Rule
132. The certifications do not reflect "entries in public records made in the
performance of a duty by a public officer," such as entries made by the Civil Registrar
in the books of registries, or by a ship captain in the ships logbook. The certifications
are not the certified copies or authenticated reproductions of original official records in
the legal custody of a government office. The certifications are not even records of
public documents. The certifications are conclusions unsupported by adequate proof,
and thus have no probative value. Certainly, the certifications cannot be considered
prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not prove that
Lot 10705-B falls within the alienable and disposable land as proclaimed by the DENR
Secretary.
Such government certifications do not, by their mere issuance, prove the facts stated
therein.1wphi1 Such government certifications may fall under the class of documents

contemplated in the second sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. As such, the


certifications are prima facie evidence of their due execution and date of issuance but
they do not constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.

REMMAN
ENTERPRISES,
vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

The Court has also ruled that a document or writing admitted as part of the testimony
of a witness does not constitute proof of the facts stated therein. Here, Torres, a
private individual and respondents representative, identified the certifications but the
government officials who issued the certifications did not testify on the contents of the
certifications. As such, the certifications cannot be given probative value. The contents
of the certifications are hearsay because Torres was incompetent to testify on the
veracity of the contents of the certifications. Torres did not prepare the certifications,
he was not an officer of CENRO or FMS-DENR, and he did not conduct any verification
survey whether the land falls within the area classified by the DENR Secretary as
alienable and disposable. (Emphases ours, citations omitted.)

DECISION

While we may have been lenient in some cases35 and accepted substantial compliance
with the evidentiary requirements set forth in T.A.N. Properties, we cannot do the same
for Tensuan in the case at bar. We cannot afford to be lenient in cases where the Land
Registration Authority (LRA) or the DENR oppose the application for registration on the
ground that the land subject thereof is inalienable. In the present case, the DENR
recognized the right of the LLDA to oppose Tensuans Application for Registration; and
the LLDA, in its Opposition, precisely argued that the subject property is part of the
Laguna Lake bed and, therefore, inalienable public land. We do not even have to
evaluate the evidence presented by the LLDA given the Regalian Doctrine. Since
Tensuan failed to present satisfactory proof that the subject property is alienable and
disposable, the burden of evidence did not even shift to the LLDA to prove that the
subject property is part of the Laguna Lake bed.
Given the lack of evidence that the subject property is alienable and disposable, it
becomes unnecessary for us to determine the other issue in this case, i.e., whether
Tensuan has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation; and that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945 or earlier. Regardless of the character and length of her possession of
the subject property, Tensuan cannot acquire registerable title to inalienable public
land.
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated January 13, 2006 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 84125 and Decision dated October 18, 2004 of
the Metropolitan Trial Court of Taguig City, Branch 74 in LRC Case No. 172 LRA Rec. No.
N-70 1 08) are SET ASIDE. The Application for Registration of Lydia Capco de Tensuan
is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 188494

November 26, 2014

INC., Petitioner,

REYES, J.:
This resolves the petition for review on certiorari 1 filed by Remman Enterprises, Inc.
(petitioner) under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court to assail the Decision 2 dated May 23,
2008 and Resolution3 dated June 22, 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV
No. 74418. The CA reversed the Decision 4 dated November 27, 2001 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 155, in LR Case No. N-11379, which granted the
petitioner's application for land registration of three (3) parcels of land situated in
Taguig, Metro Manila (subject properties).
The petitioner, through its authorized representative Ronnie P. Inocencio (Inocencio),
filed with the RTC on June 4, 1998 an application for registration of the subject
properties situated in Barangay Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, with an area of
27,477 square meters, 23,179 sq m and 45,636 sq m, more particularly described as
follows:
SWO-00-001771, being a conversion of Lot 3079, Mcadm-590-D, containing an area of
Twenty[-]Seven Thousand Four Hundred Seventy[-] Seven (27,477) square meters,
more or less; SWO-00-001768, being a conversion of Lot 3071, Mcadm-590-D,
containing an area of Twenty[-] Three Thousand One Hundred Seventy[-]Nine (23,179)
square meters, more or less; and SWO-00-001773, being a conversion of Lot 3082,
Mcadm-590-D, containing an area of Forty[-]Five Thousand Six Hundred Thirty[-]Six
(45,636) square meters, more or less, all brought under the operation of the Property
Registration Decree (PD 1529) or Commonwealth Act 141, as amended x x x. 5
The State, through the Office of the Solicitor General, interposed its opposition to the
application.1avvphi1 During the initial hearing of the case on May 4, 1999, the
petitioner presented and marked documentary evidence 6 to prove its compliance with
jurisdictional requirements.7
On October 25, 1999, the petitioner was allowed to present its evidence before the
Branch Clerk of Court of the RTC. Inocencio, the petitioners sales manager, testified
that the subject properties were purchased on August 28, 1989 by the petitioner from
sellers Magdalena Samonte, Jaime Aldana and Virgilio Navarro. The properties were
declared for taxation purposes on August 9, 1989.After the sale, the petitioner
occupied the properties and planted thereon crops like rice, corn and vegetables. 8
Witness Cenon Serquia (Serquia) supported the application for registration by
claiming that he had been the caretaker of the subject properties since 1957, long
before the lots were purchased by the petitioner. Serquia alleged that no person other

than the applicant and its predecessors-in-interest had claimed ownership or rights
over the subject properties.9
On November 27, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision 10 granting the petitioners
application. The decretal portion of its decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds the Applicant, Remman
Enterprises, Inc., represented in this matter by its representative, Ronnie P. Inocencio,
the absolute owner in fee simple of three (3) parcels of land, all located at Barangay
Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, more particularly described as follows:
1.) SWO-00-001771, being a conversion of Lot 3079, Mcadm-590-D;
2.) SWO-00-001768, being a conversion of Lot 3071, Mcadm-590-D; and
3.) SWO-00-001773, being a conversion of Lot 3082, Mcadm-590-D
together with their corresponding technical descriptions.
Once the foregoing Decision has become final, let the corresponding decree of
registration issue. SO ORDERED.11
Dissatisfied, the State appealed to the CA by alleging substantive and procedural
defects in the petitioners application. It argued that the identity of the subject
properties was not sufficiently established. The State further claimed that the
character and length of possession required by law in land registration cases were not
satisfied by the petitioner.
Finding merit in the appeal, the CA reversed the RTC decision. The dispositive portion
of the CA Decision dated May 23, 2008 reads:
WHEREFORE, the DECISION DATED NOVEMBER 27, 2001is REVERSEDand SET ASIDE
and this case is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.12
The CA explained that the survey plans and technical descriptions submitted by the
petitioner failed to establish the true identity of the subject properties. The application
should have been accompanied by the original tracing cloth plan duly approved by the
Director of Lands.13 The petitioner should have also submitted a certification from the
proper government office stating that the properties were already declared alienable
and disposable.14 The CA further cited a failure to establish that the petitioner and its
predecessors-in-interest possessed the subject parcels of land under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.15

Hence, this petition for review on certiorari filed by the petitioner to assail the CAs
dismissal of its application for land registration. The petitioner argues that the identity
of the subject properties was sufficiently established through the submission of the
original tracing cloth plans, survey plans and technical descriptions. The alienable and
disposable character of the properties was also duly established via a certification
issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Further, it claims that it
and its predecessors-in-interest possessed the parcels of land in the nature and within
the length of time required by law.
The petition is dismissible.
On the matter of proof of the subject propertys identity, jurisprudence provides that
the presentation of the original tracing cloth plan may be dispensed with, subject
however to certain conditions. Contrary to the petitioners claim, the original clothing
plans that cover the subject properties do not form part of the case records. The Court
has nonetheless held in Republic v. Espinosa:16
As ruled in Republic v. Guinto-Aldana, the identity of the land, its boundaries and
location can be established by other competent evidence apart from the original
tracing cloth such as a duly executed blueprint of the survey plan and technical
description:
"Yet if the reason for requiring an applicant to adduce in evidence the original tracing
cloth plan is merely to provide a convenient and necessary means to afford certainty
as to the exact identity of the property applied for registration and to ensure that the
same does not overlap with the boundaries of the adjoining lots, there stands to be no
reason why a registration application must be denied for failure to present the original
tracing cloth plan, especially where it is accompanied by piecesof evidencesuch as a
duly executed blueprint of the survey plan and a duly executed technical description of
the propertywhich may likewise substantially and with as much certainty prove the
limits and extent of the property sought to be registered." 17 (Citations omitted)
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the CAs dismissal of the petitioners application for
original registration was proper considering the latters failure to sufficiently establish
that the subject properties were already declared alienable and disposable by the
government. Its reliance on a Report,18 issued by the CENRO, DENR National Capital
Region, West Sector, was misplaced. The Court ruled in Republic v. Medida: 19
In Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,this Court explained that a Provincial Environment
and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) or CENRO certification, by itself, fails toprove
the alienable and disposable character of a parcel of land. We ruled:
[I]t is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and
disposable. The applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had
approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as
alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration
falls within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO.

In addition, the applicant for land registration must present a copy of the original
classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal
custodian of the official records.These facts must be established to prove that the land
is alienable and disposable. Respondents failed to do so because the certifications
presented by respondent do not, by themselves, prove that the land is alienable and
disposable. x x x.
xxxx
The present rule on the matter then requires that an application for original
registration be accompanied by: (1) CENRO or PENRO Certification; and (2) a copy of
the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy
by the legal custodian of the official records. x x x. 20 (Citations omitted and emphasis
in the original)
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, who must provethat the
properties subject of the application are alienable and disposable. 21 Even the notations
on the survey plans submitted by the petitioner cannot be admitted asevidence of the
subject properties alienability and disposability. Such notations do not constitute
incontrovertible evidence to overcome the presumption that the subject properties
remain part of the inalienable public domain.22
Given the foregoing, the dismissal of the petitioner's application for registration was
proper. Under pertinent laws and jurisprudence, the petitioner had to sufficiently
establish that: first, the subject properties form part of the disposable and alienable
lands of the public domain; second, the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession anq occupation of
the same; and third, the possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June
12, 1945 or earlier.23

QUISUMBING, J.,
Chairperson,
- versus - CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent.
x------------------------------------------------x Promulgated:
PEDRO URGELLO, September 27, 2006
Intervenor-Appellant.

x---------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
TINGA, J.:

Without sufficient proof that the subject properties had been declared alienable and
disposable, the Court finqs no reason to look further into the petitioner's claim that the
CA erred in' finding that it failed to satisfy the nature and length of possession that
could qualify for land registration. WHEREFORE, the petition if DENIED. The Decision
dated May 23, 2008 and Resolution dated Jun~ 22, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. CV No. 74418 are AFFIRMED.

The instant petition for review assails the Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals dated 18 July 2001 and 18 March 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No. 64097, reversing and
setting aside the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu, Branch 11, Cebu City in
Civil Case No. CEB-17173.

SO ORDERED.
CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS
SAAD AGRO-INDUSTRIES, INC., G.R. No. 152570

The antecedents follow.

Petitioner,
Present:

On 18 October 1967, Socorro Orcullo (Orcullo) filed her application for Free
Patent for Lot No. 1434 of Cad-315-D, a parcel of land with an area of 12.8477 hectares

located in Barangay Abugon, Sibonga, Cebu. Thereafter, on 14 February 1971,


the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources issued Free Patent No. 473408 for
Lot No. 1434, while the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Cebu issued Original
Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 0-6667 over the said lot. [1] Subsequently, the subject lot
was sold[2] to SAAD Agro- Industries, Inc. (petitioner) by one of Orcullos heirs.

Sometime in 1995, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, filed a
complaint[3] for annulment of title and reversion of the lot covered by Free Patent No.
473408 and OCT No. 0-6667 and reversion of Lot No. 1434 of Cad-315-D to the mass
of the public domain, on the ground that the issuance of the said free patent and title
for Lot No. 1434 was irregular and erroneous, following the discovery that the lot is
allegedly part of the timberland and forest reserve of Sibonga, Cebu. The discovery
was made after Pedro Urgello filed a letter-complaint with the Regional Executive

Director of the Forest Management Sector, Department of Environment and Natural


Resources (DENR) Region VII, Cebu City, about the alleged illegal cutting of mangrove
trees and construction of dikes within the area covered by Urgellos Fishpond Lease
Agreement.[4] On 14 July 1995, Urgello filed a complaint-in-intervention against the
heirs of Orcullo, adopting the allegations of respondent.[5] However, the heirs failed to
file their answer to the complaint and were thus declared in default. [6]

In its Decision[7] dated 15 May 1999, the trial court dismissed the complaint, finding
that respondent failed to show that the subject lot is part of the timberland or forest
reserve or that it has been classified as such before the issuance of the free patent
and the original title. According to the trial court, the issuance of the free patent and
title was regular and in order, and must be accorded full faith. Considering the validity
of the free patent and the OCT, petitioners purchase of the property was also declared
legal and valid. The trial court also denied the complaint-in-intervention filed by
Urgello.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals in its Decision[8] reversed and set aside the trial courts
judgment. It held that timber or forest lands, to which the subject lot belongs, are not
subject to private ownership, unless these are first classified as agricultural
lands. Thus, absent any declassification of the subject lot from forest to alienable and
disposable land for agricultural purposes, [9] the officers erred in approving Orcullos free
patent application and in issuing the OCT; hence, title to the lot must be cancelled.
[10]
Consequently, the Court of Appeals invalidated the sale of the lot to
petitioner. However, it declared that Urgellos Fishpond Lease Agreement may continue
until its expiration because lease does not pass title to the lessee; but thereafter, the
lease should not be renewed. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals decreed:

WHEREFORE, the
decision
appealed
from
is
hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE and
another
one
issued
declaring Free Patent No. 473408 and the corresponding OCT [No.] 06667 as NULL and VOID ab initio.

SAAD Agro-Industries, Inc. is directed to surrender the owners


duplicate copy of OCT [No.] 0-6667 to the Register of Deeds of Cebu
City.

The Register of Deeds of Cebu City is hereby ordered to cancel OCT


[No.] 0-6667 and all other transfer certificates of title that may have
been subsequently issued.

Lot No. 1434, CAD 315[-]D located at Barangay Abugon, Sibonga,


Cebu, subject matter of this case, is hereby REVERTED as part of
[the] public domain and to be classified as timberland. [11]

Petitioners motion for reconsideration, claiming insufficiency of evidence and failure to


consider pertinent laws, proved futile as it was dismissed for lack of merit. The Court of
Appeals categorically stated that there was a preponderance of evidence showing that
the subject lot is within the timberland area.[12]

Petitioner now claims that the Court of Appeals erred in relying on the DENR officers
testimony. It claims that the testimony was a mere opinion to the effect that if there
was no classification yet of an area, such area should be considered as a public
forest. Such opinion was premised on the officers construction of a provision of
Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code,
[13]
the pertinent portion of which reads:

Those still to be classified under the present system shall continue to


remain as part of the public forest.[14]

Petitioner points out that P.D. No. 705 took effect on 19 May 1975, or long
after the issuance of the free patent and title in question.Thus, the provision stating
that all public lands should be considered

belong to the State.[20] In instances where a parcel of land considered to be inalienable


land
of
the
public
domain
is
found
under
private
ownership, the Government is allowed by law to file an action for

as part of the public forests until a land classification team has declassified them is
applicable only after the effectivity of P.D. No. 705 and cannot be made retroactive to
cover and prejudice vested rights acquired prior to the effectivity of said law,
petitioner concludes.[15] It adds that if the subject lot was encompassed by the term
public forest, the same should have been designated as a Timberland Block, not
as Cadastral Lot No. 1434, CAF-315-D, Sibonga Cadastre which was the designation
made by the Republic prior to 1972.[16]

reversion,[21] which is an action where the ultimate relief sought is to revert the land to
the government under the Regalian doctrine. Considering that the land subject of the
action originated from a grant by the government, its cancellation is a matter between
the grantor and the grantee.[22]

Petitioner also questions the Court of Appeals reliance on the land


classification map (L.C. Map) presented by respondent. The trial court had previously
declared L.C. Map No. 2961 as inadmissible, finding that the plaintiff has not duly
proved the authenticity and contents. According to petitioner, the L.C. Map presented
in court is neither a certified true copy nor one attested to be a true copy by any DENR
official having legal custody of the original thereof, and thus should not have been
made the basis of the cancellation of the free patent and title. [17]

Petitioner further contends that the projection survey conducted by the DENR to
determine if the subject lot falls within the forest area is not clear, precise and
conclusive, since the foresters who conducted the survey used a magnetic box
compass, an unreliable and inaccurate instrument, whose results are easily affected by
high tension wires and stones with iron minerals. [18]

It has been held that a complaint for reversion involves a serious controversy,
involving a question of fraud and misrepresentation committed against the
government and it is aimed at the return of the disputed portion of the public
domain. It seeks to cancel the original certificate of registration, and nullify the original
certificate of title, including the transfer certificate of title of the successors-in-interest
because the same were all procured through fraud and misrepresentation. [23] Thus, the
State, as the party alleging the fraud and misrepresentation that attended the
application of the free patent, bears that burden of proof. Fraud and misrepresentation,
as grounds for cancellation of patent and annulment of title, should never be
presumed but must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, mere preponderance
of evidence not even being adequate.[24]

It is but judicious to require the Government, in an action for reversion, to show the
details attending the issuance of title over the alleged inalienable land and explain
why such issuance has deprived the State of the claimed property.

Finally, petitioner claims that respondent failed to overcome the presumption of


regularity of the issuance of the free patent and title in favor of Socorro Orcullo.
In sum, petitioner asserts that respondent failed to show that the subject lot
is inside the timberland block, thereby casting doubt on the accuracy of the survey
conducted by the Bureau of Forestry and the opinions of DENR officers. Since
respondent is the original plaintiff in the reversion case, the burden is on it
to prove that the subject lot is part of the timberland block, petitioner adds.

In the instant case, the Solicitor General claimed that Free Patent No. 473408
and Original Certificate of Title No. 0-6667 were erroneously and irregularly obtained
as the Bureau of Lands (now Lands Management Bureau) did not acquire jurisdiction
over the land subject thereof, nor has it the power and authority to dispose of the
same through [a] free patent grant, hence, said patent and title are null and void ab
initio.[25] It was incumbent upon respondent to prove that the free patent and original
title were truly erroneously and irregularly obtained. Unfortunately, respondent failed
to do so.

There is merit in the petition.

Under the Regalian doctrine or jura regalia, 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. [19] Under this doctrine,
lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to

The Court finds that the findings of the trial court rather than those of the appellate
court are more in accord with the law and jurisprudence.

In concluding that the subject parcel of land falls within the timberland or forest
reserve, the Court of Appeals relied on the testimony of Isabelo R. Montejo that as it
had
remained
unclassified
until
1980
and
consequently
became
an unclassified forest zone, it was incapable of private appropriation. The pertinent
portions of Montejos testimony read:

Q: And in that particular [R]evised Forestry Code, there is that


statement that unless classified by a land classification
team, an area can never be released.
A: Yes sir.

xxx

SEC. 13. System of Land Classification.The Department Head shall


study, devise, determine and prescribe the criteria, guidelines and
methods for the proper and accurate classification and survey of all
lands of the public domain into agricultural, industrial or commercial,
residential, settlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing lands,
and into such other classes as now or may hereafter be provided by
law, rules and regulations.

In the meantime, the Department Head shall simplify through interbureau action the present system of determining which of the
unclassified lands of the public domain are needed for forest
purposes and declare them as permanent forest to form part of the
forest reserves. He shall declare those classified and determined not
to be needed for forest purposes as alienable and disposable lands,
the administrative jurisdiction and management of which shall be
transferred to the Bureau of Lands: Provided, That mangrove and
other swamps not needed for shore protection and suitable for
fishpond purposes shall be released to, and be placed under the
administrative jurisdiction and management of, the Bureau of
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Those still to be classified
under the Present system shall continue to remain as part of
the public forest. (Emphasis supplied.)

Q: Prior to 1980, there was no classification was [sic] ever of the


lands of the public domain in the town of Sibonga?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: In other words, nobody knew in the whole DNR before and now
DENR what areas were timberland and what areas are not
timberland in the town of Sibonga prior to 1980?
A: Yes, sir, that is why the law states that if there is no classification
should be [sic] considered as the public forest in order to
protect the resources.[26]

Obviously, respondents counsel and witness were referring to P.D. No. 705
particularly Section 13 thereof which reads:

CHAPTER II
CLASSIFICATION AND SURVEY

Reliance on this provision is highly misplaced. P.D. No. 705 was promulgated only
on 19 May 1975, or four (4) years after the free patent and title were awarded to
Orcullo. Thus, it finds no application in the instant case. Prior forestry laws, including
P.D. No. 389,[27] which was revised by P.D. No. 705, does not contain a similar
provision. Article 4 of the Civil Code provides that laws shall have no retroactive effect
unless the contrary is provided. The Court does not infer any intention on the part of
then President Marcos to ordain the retroactive application of Sec. 13 of P.D. No. 705.
Thus, even assuming for the nonce that subject parcel was unclassified at the time
Orcullo applied for a free patent thereto, the fact remains that when the free patent
and title were issued thereon in 1971, respondent in essence segregated said parcel
from the mass of public domain. Thus, it can no longer be considered unclassified and
forming part of the public forest as provided in P.D. No. 705.

Respondents main basis for asserting that the subject lot is part of the timberland or
forest reserve is a purported L.C. Map No. 2961.[28]However, at the hearing on 6 June
1997, the trial court denied admission of the map for the purpose of showing that the
subject lot falls within a timberland reserve after respondent had failed to submit
either a certified true copy or an official publication thereof. [29] The Court observes that
the document adverted to is a mere photocopy of the purported original, and not the
blue print as insisted by respondent. [30] A mere photocopy does not qualify as
competent evidence of the existence of the L.C. Map. Under the best evidence rule,
the original document must be produced, except:

1. When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be


produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;

2. When the original is in the custody or under the control of the


party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails
to produce it after reasonable notice;

3. When the original consists of numerous accounts or other


documents which cannot be examined in court without great
loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is
only the general result of the whole; and

was not planted with trees and crops at the time Orcullo applied for free
patent. Respondent was also unable to establish that the subject lot has very deep and
muddy soil or are mudflats, such that it is unsuitable for fruit and non-fruit bearing
trees.[38] Yet these are factual matters which the Court does not generally delve into. As
it is, a mere declaration from the said officers, without any other supporting evidence,
is not sufficient to establish that the area in question is part of the forest reserve.

Even assuming that the L.C. Map submitted by respondent is admissible in


evidence, still the land in question can hardly be considered part of the timberland or
forest reserve. L.C. Map No. 2961, which purports to be the correct map of the areas
demarcated as permanent forest pursuant of the provisions of P.D. No. 705 as
amended[39] was made only in 1980. Thus, the delineation of the areas was made nine
(9) years after Orcullo was awarded the free patent over the subject lot.

4. When the original is a public record in the custody of a public


officer or is recorded in a public office.[31]

In this case, respondent claims that the presentation of the original L.C. Map is
unnecessary since it is in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in the public
office.[32] Evidence, indeed, is admissible when the original of a document is in the
custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office. However, to prove its
contents, there is a need to present a certified copy issued by the public officer in
custody thereof.[33] In addition, while the L.C. Map may be considered a public
document and prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein, [34]the map, to be
admissible for any purpose, must be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by
a copy attested by the officer having legal custody of the record. [35]
The rules of admissibility must be applied uniformly. The same rule holds true
when the Government is one of the parties. The Government, when it comes to court
to litigate with one of its citizens, must submit to the rules of procedure and its rights
and privileges at every stage of the proceedings are substantially in every respect the
same as those of its citizens; it cannot have a superior advantage. This is so because
when a sovereignty submits itself to the jurisdiction of the court and participates
therein, its claims and rights are justiciable by every other principle and rule applicable
to the claims and rights of the private parties under similar circumstances. [36] Failure to
abide by the rules on admissibility renders the L.C. Map submitted by
respondent inadmissible as proof to show that the subject lot is part of the forest
reserve.

Some officers from the CENRO office in Argao, Cebu testified that they
personally saw the subject lot and that it falls within the timberland or forest reserve.
Ultimately, however, the basis of their declaration is the L.C. Map which respondent
failed to present in accordance with the rules on admissibility. Two foresters in fact
testified that the subject lot was a mangrove area. [37] The foresters who conducted the
survey may have been competent and their techniques reliable; nevertheless, the
observation that mangroves grow in the subject lot is not conclusive as to the nature
of the land at present or at the time the free patent and title were issued. Assuming
that the area is covered by mangroves when they surveyed it, there is no proof that it

In Republic v. Court of Appeals,[40] the Court, finding that the disputed land
was classified as timberland 25 years after private individuals had commenced their
continuous possession and cultivation thereof in good faith, declared that they have
the better right. The Court held:

It is not disputed that the aforesaid Land Classification


Project No. 3, classifying the 22-hectare area as timberland, was
certified by the Director of Lands only on December 22, 1924,
whereas the possession thereof by private respondents and their
predecessor-in-interest commenced as early as 1909. While the
Government has the right to classify portions of public land,
the primary right of a private individual who possessed and
cultivated the land in good faith much prior to such
classification must be recognized and should not be
prejudiced by after-events which could not have been
anticipated. Thus, We have held that the Government, in the
first instance 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.[41](Emphasis supplied.)

Obviously, private interests have intervened before classification was made pursuant
to P.D. No. 705. Not only has Orcullo by herself and through her predecessors-ininterest cultivated and possessed the subject lot since 1930, a free patent was also
awarded to her and a title issued in her name as early as 1971. In
fact, it appears that the issuance of the free patent and certificate of

The antecedent facts are as follows:


title was regular and in order. Orcullo complied with the requisites for the acquisition of
free patent provided under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Public Land Act), as certified
by the Director of Lands and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources.[42]

Besides, the records do not show that respondent has considered the lot in question as
forest reserve prior to the issuance of Free Patent No. 473408 and OCT No. 0-6667. To
declare the land now as forest land on the authority of L.C. Map No. 2961 approved
only in 1980, and opinions based on the said map, would unduly deprive petitioner of
their registered property.
The Regalian doctrine is well-enshrined not only in the present Constitution, but also in
the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. The Court has always recognized and upheld the
Regalian doctrine as the basic foundation of the State's property regime. Nevertheless,
in applying this doctrine, we must not lose sight of the fact that in every claim or right
by the Government against one of its citizens, the paramount considerations of
fairness and due process must be observed. Respondent in this case failed to show
that the subject lot is part of timberland or forest reserve it adverted to. In the face of
the uncontroverted status of Free Patent No. 473408 and OCT No. 0-6667 as valid and
regular issuances, respondents insistence on the classification of the lot as part of the
forest reserve must be rejected.

On June 22, 1994, respondent Angel T. Yu filed a petition [2] for registration of a
parcel of land, designated as Lot 524, Cad. 633-D, Estancia Cadastre, Ap-063019005139, with an area of 1,194 square meters, more or less, situated at the Poblacion,
Zone 1, Municipality of Estancia, Province of Iloilo. The case was docketed as LRC Case
No.1000, LRA Rec. No. N-64463 and raffled to the Regional Trial Court, Sixth Judicial
Region, Iloilo City, Branch 37.[3] The petition was later amended to include the
adjoining lots and the corresponding owners name.
Initial hearing was scheduled on February 9, 1995 at 8:30 a.m. For the purpose,
the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) entered its appearance on January 18, 1995
and at the same time deputized the City Prosecutor of Iloilo City to appear for and in
behalf of the Solicitor General under the latters supervision and control. Except for the
opposition filed by the Solicitor General, no one else appeared to oppose the
application/petition. The case was then set for reception of applicants evidence on
February 16, 1995[4] which was again set to another day.[5]
On February 22, 1995, the RTC received a letter from the Land Registration
Authority (LRA) requesting the court to require the Land Management Bureau, Manila
and the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) at Barotac
Viejo, Iloilo to report on the status of the subject land considering that a discrepancy
was noted after plotting the land.[6]
Thus, on March 6, 1995, the RTC issued an Order to the effect.[7]

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 16
July 2001 and the Resolution dated 18 March 2002 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The
Decision of the Regional Trial Court dated 15 May 1999 dismissing the complaint for
reversion and the complaint-in-intervention is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON.


JOSE D. AZARRAGA AND ANGEL T. YU, respondents.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals
dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment filed before it by the petitioner.

On March 31, 1995, the RTC received a certification from the Land Management
Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Manila stating that
according to the verification of our records, this Office (formerly Bureau of Lands) has
no record of any kind of public land application/land patent covering the parcel of land
situated in Estancia, Iloilo, identified as Lot No. 524, Cad. 633-D, Ap-063019-005139, [8]
Based on this certification and after reception of evidence, the RTC rendered
judgment on May 3, 1995, the decretal portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, ratifying the Order of general default previously entered in this case, and
after considering the evidence adduced and finding that petitioner Angel T. Yu had
sufficient title proper for the registration in his name of the land subject of the
application, JUDGMENT is hereby rendered confirming the title of the
applicant/petitioner ANGEL T. YU, Filipino, of legal age, married and a resident of
Estancia, Iloilo, over a parcel of land (Lot 524, Cad. 633-D, Estancia Cadastre, AP063019-005139) situated in the Poblacion Zone 1, Municipality of Estancia, Province of
Iloilo, Island of Panay, identified in the Plan, Exhibit E and technically described in
Exhibit F.
As soon as this Decision becomes final, let an order for the issuance of the permanent
decree and the corresponding certificate of title be issued in accordance with law. [9]

No motion for reconsideration was filed by the City Prosecutor on behalf of the
Solicitor General. Hence, the said decision became final and executory on June 14,
1995, and entry of judgment was duly made on July 7, 1995. An order was
consequently issued by the RTC directing the issuance of the corresponding decree of
registration and certificate of title to respondent Angel T. Yu. [10]
On May 29, 1995,[11] the OSG received a copy of the supplementary report and
findings of Land Management Officer Myra B. Rosal dated April 12, 1995 (Rosal
Report), which was submitted to the trial court in compliance with the courts Order
dated March 6, 1995. The report was worded, thus:
The Honorable Judge
JOSE AZARRAGA
Regional Trial Court
Sixth Judicial Region

1. [That] the Cadastral lot in question and subject of a Land


Registration Case at bar, is Lot 524, Cad 633-D, Estancia
Cadastre, containing an area of 1,194 square meters, approved
on October 21, 1980, located at Zone 1, Poblacion Estancia,
Iloilo. Again, Engr. Rogelio Santome, adopting the cadastral
survey of the then Bureau of Lands, prepared an Advance Plan
and subsequently approved as Ap-063019-005139 on May 25,
1994.
2. That Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is covered by a Foreshore Lease
Application (FLA No. (VI-I)78) applied for by Angel Tilos Yu on
July 1, 1977, with the then Bureau of Lands, MNR, Ministry of
Natural Resources, NRD (VI-7) Barotac Viejo, duly ratified by
Land Investigator Antonio L. Luis. An amount of P775.00 each
had been paid in the year 1982 and the year 1983, (please see
certification hereto attached) dated February 6, 1995, of CENR
Officer Edgardo J. Himatay.

Branch 37, Iloilo City

3. That Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is declared public land and is Alienable
and Disposable per L.C. Map 1020, Project 44 dated July 26,
1933.

April 12, 1995

4. That the improvements found on the land are as follows:


SUBJECT: LAND REGISTRATION CASE NO.
N-1000 LOT NO. 524, CAD,
CAD-633-D, ESTANCIA CADASTRE

a) A commercial complex built of strong materials (concrete


steel and galvanized iron with 18-20 feet structure in
depth, as foundation of the building, occupying around
600 square meters of the whole area of Lot 524. The
building itself houses 14 commercial concrete stalls of
14 x 5 meters which is offered for rent as boutiques
and dry goods stalls.

ANGEL TILOS YU APPLICANT


___________________________________
In compliance with the Order of March 6, 1995, received by this Office on March 15,
1995, attached for your ready reference is the amended report in three (3) pages of
Land Management Officer III Fabio O. Catalan, Jr., of this Office, which was sent to
Office of the Regional Technical Director, Land Management Bureau, DENR Masonic
Temple, Iloilo City, in a cover memorandum dated September 24, 1994, duly endorsed
by the CENR Officer of CENRO, Sara, Iloilo, Edgardo J. Himatay.
This supplementary report of the undersigned is prepared with the request that the
additional findings be made on record when the undersigned repaired on the premises
of the land on April 7, 1995, in the morning to conduct an ocular inspection. The
following facts were ascertained and found;

b) On the second floor now undergoing are bowling lanes (6


alleys) for recreational purposes which will soon open
to the public in 3 months time.
5. That Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is not an agricultural land. That out of
the total area of 1,194 square meters, only around 850 square
meters is dry land and that an area of 334 sq. meters which
used to be covered and uncovered by water during high tide is
now a reclaimed area, since way back 1977 when applicant
Angel Tilos Yu applied for a Foreshore Lease Application with
[the] then Bureau of Lands.
Respectfu
lly submitted,

We find merit in the petition.

signed)
MYRA B.
ROSAL[12]

At the outset, there is a need to take a closer look at the true nature of the land
in question.
The petitioner asserts that Lot 524 is foreshore land.

On June 22, 1995, the OSG received a letter from Regional Executive Director
Jose P. Catus of the DENR, stating that an investigation was conducted on the instant
case, and it was found that there were grounds for opposition to the respondents land
application. Land Investigator Fabio O. Catalan, Jr., who conducted an ocular inspection
of the subject land, found the same to be a reclaimed foreshore area. Attached therein
was the Amended Report of Land Investigator Catalan, Jr.(Catalan Report); [13] the 1977
Foreshore Lease Application of Angel T. Yu; [14] the November 16, 1983 Visitation and
Examination Report of Land Investigator Antonio L. Luis over Lot No. 524; [15] and a
blueprint plan of Lot 524 (formerly Lot 2) of the Estancia Cadastre. [16]
After discovering the actual status of Lot 524, the Republic filed a petition for the
annulment of judgment with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction with the Court
of Appeals on July 20, 1995.[17]
On February 5, 1996, respondent Angel T. Yu filed a motion with the CA, praying
that he be allowed to submit to the Land Registration Authority the corrected technical
description and the republication in the Official Gazette of the corrected technical
description of Plan Ap-063019, Lot 524, Cad. 633-D dated January 15, 1996. [18] The
OSG filed its objection thereto.[19]
On September 10, 1996, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for
annulment of judgment. It also ruled that since the RTC decision had already become
final and executory, the technical description could no longer be modified to include
the increased area as prayed for by the private respondent. The CA held as follows:
Lot 524 is not a foreshore land..
The CENRO report is proof that Lot 524, Cad-633-D, is an agricultural land. Out of the
total area of 1,194 square meters, around 850 square meters is dry land. That an area
of 334 sq. meters which used to be covered and uncovered by water during high tide
is now a reclaimed area, since way back 1977.(underlining supplied)
WHEREFORE, the petition for annulment of judgment is hereby DISMISSED. The motion
of private respondent dated January 15, 1996 is DENIED.[20]
Finding no relief from the CA, the Republic filed the instant petition, raising the
issue that:
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DENYING THE REPUBLICS PETITION FOR
ANNULMENT OF JUDGMENT ON THE MERE SUPPOSITION THAT LOT 524 IS NOT
FORESHORE LAND, BUT AGRICULTURAL LAND.[21]

Foreshore land is that strip of land that lies between the high and low water
marks and is alternatively wet and dry according to the flow of tide. It is that part of
the land adjacent to the sea, which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary
flow of tides.[22] It is part of the alienable land of the public domain and may be
disposed of only by lease and not otherwise. [23] Foreshore land remains part of the
public domain and is outside the commerce of man. It is not capable of private
appropriation.[24]
It is for this reason that the petitioner persists in its action to revert the subject
land to the State. Thus, even if the decision of the RTC has become final and
executory, we find that the respondent court abused its discretion in dismissing the
petition for annulment of judgment filed before it which is impressed with public
interest. There are valid and meritorious grounds to justify such action. The State has
to protect its interests and can not be bound by, or estopped from, the mistakes or
negligent acts of its officials or agents, much more, non-suited as a result thereof. As
held in Republic vs. Alagad:[25]
[T]he state as a persona in law is the judicial entity, which is the source of any
asserted right to ownership in land under the basic doctrine embodied in the 1935
Constitution as well as the present charter. It is charged moreover with the
conservation of such patrimony. There is need therefore of the most rigorous scrutiny
before private claims to portions thereof are judicially accorded recognition, especially
so where the matter is sought to be raked up anew after almost fifty years.Such
primordial consideration, not the apparent carelessness, much less the acquiescence
of public officials, is the controlling norm
The Catalan Report, which states that the subject land is foreshore land, was
received by the OSG only on June 22, 1995, long after the RTC rendered its judgment
on May 3, 1995. Angel T. Yu had, in fact, filed a foreshore lease application in 1977 and
paid the corresponding fees thereon.There is, therefore, doubt to the respondents
claim that he had been in actual, open, notorious, continuous possession , in the
concept of an owner.
Moreover, the Rosal Report dated April 12, 1995 was received by the OSG only on
May 29, 1995. Although the report states that Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is declared
public land and is alienable and disposable per L.C. Map 1020, Project 44 dated July
26, 1933, the same report buttresses the contention that the subject land is foreshore
land and covered by a foreshore lease application filed by Angel T. Yu. Finding the
reports to be revealing and significant as to the real status of the land being foreshore,
the petitioner lost no time in filing the petition for annulment of judgment with the
Court of Appeals.

We can not fault the trial court for not having considered in its decision the Rosal
Report dated April 12, 1995 which was apparently submitted to it. On March 15, 1995,
the trial court issued an order where it considered the case submitted for decision
upon the submission to this court by the Land Management Bureau, Manila and
CENRO, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo of the report as directed in the Order of this Court dated
March 6, 1995, and after the Land Management Sector, Region 6, Iloilo City had duly
verified the discrepancy of plan Ap-063019-005139 of the subject land applied for. [26] In
compliance with the order, the trial court received a certification from the Land
Management Bureau that the office has no record of any kind of public land
application/land patent covering the parcel of land [27] and thereby approved the
registration of the land in favor of respondent. The records reveal that the Rosal
Report, through a 1st Indorsement dated April 24, 1995, was received by the RTC only
on May 5, 1995,[28] after the court had already rendered its decision on May 3,
1995. No motion for reconsideration was filed to controvert the said decision based on
the report. The OSGs receipt of the Rosal and Catalan Reports on the status of the land
were also belated through no fault of theirs.
Finally, we can not uphold the respondent courts finding regarding the character
of the land. The Rosal Report clearly states that the subject land is not an agricultural
land. Despite such declaration, the respondent court continued to rule that the subject
land is agricultural on the basis that out of the total area of 1,194 square meters, 850
square meters is dry land and that 334 square meters is now a reclaimed area. [29]
Clearly, there is a need to determine once and for all whether the subject land is
really foreshore land and/or whether the respondent has registerable title thereto. The
classification of public lands is a function of the executive branch of government,
specifically, the director of lands (now the director of the Land Management Bureau).
[30]
This Court is not a trier of facts. Thus, for a proper and conclusive classification of
the land involved, the instant case has to be remanded to the trial court for that
determination.[31]
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decisions of the Court of Appeals
and the Regional Trial Court are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.The case is REMANDED to
the Regional Trial Court, Iloilo City, Branch 37 for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.

In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to


comment.[1] In compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of the
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created
under the IPRA to implement its provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 their Comment
to the Petition, in which they defend the constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that the
petition be dismissed for lack of merit.
On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the Department of Budget and
Management (DBM) filed through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The
Solicitor General is of the view that the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground
that it grants ownership over natural resources to indigenous peoples and prays that
the petition be granted in part.
On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier,
one of the authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the 1986
Constitutional Commission, and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous
peoples (Flavier, et. al), filed their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in
defending the constitutionality of IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition.
On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a
Motion to Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is
an expression of the principle of parens patriae and that the State has the
responsibility to protect and guarantee the rights of those who are at a serious
disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it prays that the petition be
dismissed.
On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People
and the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon,
et al.), filed a motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They agree
with the NCIP and Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray
that the petition for prohibition and mandamus be dismissed.
The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were
granted.
Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and
intervenors filed their respective memoranda in which they reiterate the arguments
adduced in their earlier pleadings and during the hearing.

ANCESTRAL DOMAINS AND ANCESTRAL LANDS


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).

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 States ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other
natural resources therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2,
Article XII of the Constitution:

(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral
domains, and Section 3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands;
(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral
domains including inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and
other resources found within ancestral domains are private but
community property of the indigenous peoples;
(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the
composition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous
peoples over the ancestral domains;
(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous
peoples over the ancestral lands;
(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in
the harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of minerals and
other natural resources within the areas claimed to be their ancestral
domains, and the right to enter into agreements with nonindigenous
peoples for the development and utilization of natural resources therein
for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25
years; and
(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to
maintain, develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains and
portions thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds,
mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest
cover or reforestation.[2]
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition of
ancestral domains and ancestral lands which might even include private lands found
within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners. [3]
In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers
and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law applicable to the settlement of
disputes involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these
provisions violate the due process clause of the Constitution.[4]

(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a
particular area is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the
following officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Governments, Secretary of
Justice and Commissioner of the National Development Corporation, the
jurisdiction of said officials over said area terminates;
(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of
indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to property rights,
claims of ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land
disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in the interpretation thereof
shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples;
(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used
to resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and
(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and
disputes involving rights of the indigenous peoples. [5]
Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP
Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that the administrative
relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but
autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination. They
contend that said Rule infringes upon the Presidents power of control over executive
departments under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.[6]
Petitioners pray for the following:
(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66
and other related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and
invalid;
(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and
Commissioners of the NCIP to cease and desist from implementing the
assailed provisions of R.A. 8371 and its Implementing Rules;
(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist
from implementing Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Circular No. 2, series of 1998;

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;

(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget


and Management to cease and desist from disbursing public funds for
the implementation of the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and
(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of
Environment and Natural Resources to comply with his duty of carrying

out the States constitutional mandate to control and supervise the


exploration, development, utilization and conservation of Philippine
natural resources.[7]
After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows:
Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which
the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the
validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate
opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the law with the exception of Section 1,
Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and
Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends
should be interpreted as dealing with the large-scale exploitation of natural resources
and should be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely
on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not
have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.
Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice
Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7
(a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves
judgment on the constitutionality of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he
believes must await the filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been
violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view
that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo,
Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate opinions of Justices
Panganiban and Vitug.
As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not
obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting
remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil
Procedure, the petition is DISMISSED.
Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of
Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban.

MANUELA
GREY
ALBA,
ET
vs.
ANACLETO R. DE LA CRUZ, objector-appellee.
Ramon
Salinas,
Aniceto G. Reyes, for appellee.

AL., petitioners-appellants,

for

appellants.

TRENT, J.:
These petitioners, Manuela, Jose, Juan, and Francisco, surnamed Grey y Alba, are the
only heirs of Doa Segunda Alba Clemente and Honorato Grey, deceased. Remedios
Grey y Alba, a sister of the petitioners, was married on the 21st day of March, 1903, to
Vicente Reyes and died on the 13th of July, 1905, without leaving any heirs except her
husband. The four petitioners, as coowners, sought to have registered the followingdescribed property:
A parcel of land situated in the barrio of Talampas, municipality of Baliuag,
Province of Bulacan, upon which are situated three houses and one camarin
of light material, having a superficial area of 52 hectares, 51 ares, and 22
centares; bounded on the north by the highway (calzada) of Talampas and the
lands of Rita Ruiz Mateo; on the east by the lands of the said Rita Ruiz Mateo,
Hermenegildo Prado, Policarpo de Jesus, and a stream called Sapang Buslut;
on the south by the same stream and the lands of the capellania; and on the
west by the stream called Sapang Buslut, and the lands of Vicente de la Cruz,
Jose Camacho and Domingo Ruiz Mateo.
This parcel of agricultural land is used for the raising of rice and sugar cane and is
assessed at $1,000 United States currency. The petition, which was filed on the 18th of
December, 1906, was accompanied by a plan and technical description of the abovedescribed parcel of land.
After hearing the proofs presented, the court entered, on the 12th of February, 1908, a
decree in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926,
directing that the land described in the petitioner be registered in the names of the
four petitioners, as coowners, subject to the usufructuary right of Vicente Reyes,
widower of Remedios Grey.

SO ORDERED.

TORRENS SYSTEM
DEFINITION AND COVERAGE

G.R. No. 5246

September 16, 1910

On the 16th of June, 1908, Anacleto Ratilla de la Cruz filed a motion in the Court of
Land Registration asking for a revision of the case, including the decision, upon the
ground that he is the absolute owner of the two parcels of land which are described in
said motion, and which, according to his allegations, are included in the lands decreed
to the petitioners. He alleged that the decree of February 12, 1908, was obtained
maliciously and fraudulently by the petitioners, thereby depriving him of said two
parcels of land. He further alleged that he was the absolute owner of the two parcels of
land, having inherited them from his father, Baldomero R. de la Cruz, who had a state
grant for the same. He therefore asked, under the provisions of section 38 of the Land
Registration Act (No. 496), a revision of the case, and that the said decree be modified
so as to exclude the two parcels of land described in said motion. The Land Court upon

this motion reopened the case, and after hearing the additional evidence presented by
both parties, rendered, on the 23rd of November, 1908, its decision modifying the
former decree by excluding from the same the two parcels of land claimed by Anacleto
Ratilla de la Cruz. From this decision and judgment the petitioners appealed and now
insist, first, that the trial court erred in reopening the case and modifying its decree
dated the 12th of February, 1908, for the reason that said decree was not obtained by
means of fraud; and, second, that the court erred in holding that the two parcels of
land described in the appellee's motion are not their property.
It was agreed by counsel that the two small parcels now in dispute forma part of the
land described in the petition and were included in the decree of February 12, 1908,
and that the petitioners are the owners of the remainder of the land described in the
said decree.
The petitioners inherited this land from their parents, who acquired the same,
including the two small parcels in question, by purchase, as is evidenced by a public
document dated the 26th of November, 1864, duly executed before Francisco
Iriarte, alcalde mayor and judge of the Court of First Instance of the Province of
Bulacan.
Baldomero R. de la Cruz, father of the appellee, obtained in march, 1895, a state grant
for several parcels of land, including the two parcels in question. This grant was duly
inscribed in the old register of property in Bulacan on the 6th of April of the same year.
It is admitted that at the time the appellants presented their petition in this case the
appellee was occupying the two parcels of land now in question. It is also admitted
that the name of the appellee does not appear in the said petition as an occupant of
the said two parcels. The petitioners insist that the appellee was occupying these
parcels as their tenant and for this reason they did not include his name in their
petition, as an occupant, while the appellee contends that he was occupying the said
parcels as the absolute owner under the estate grant by inheritance.
The court below held that the failure on the part of the petitioners to include the name
of the appellee in their petition, as an occupant of these two parcels of land, was a
violation of section 21 of Act No. 496, and that this constituted fraud within the
meaning of section 38 of said Land Registration Act. The trial court further held that
the grant from the estate should prevail over the public document of purchase of
1864.
The mother of the petitioners died on November 15, 1881; their father died prior to
that time. Manuela, the oldest of the petitioners, was about six years of age when their
mother died. So these children were minors when the father of the appellee obtained
the estate grant.
On the 13th of June, 1882, Jose Grey, uncle and representative of the petitioners, who
were then minors, rented the land owned by the petitioners' deceased parents to one
Irineo Jose for a period of three years. On the 23d of March, 1895, the said Jose Grey,
as the representative of the petitioners, rented the same land for a period of six years

to Baldomero R. de la Cruz, father of the appellee. This rental contract was duly
executed in writing. This land was cultivated during these six years by Baldomero R. de
la Cruz and his children, one of whom is the appellee. On the 14th of December, 1905,
Jose Grey, for himself and the other petitioners, rented the same land to Estanislao R.
de la Cruz for a period of two years. Estanislao de la Cruz on entering into this rental
contract with Jose Grey did so for himself and his brothers, one of whom is the
appellee. While the appellee admits that his father and brother entered into these
rental contracts and did, in fact, cultivate the petitioners' land, nevertheless he insists
that the two small parcels in question were not included in these contracts. In the
rental contract between the uncle of the petitioners and he father of the appellee the
land is not described. In the rental contract between Jose Grey, one of the petitioners,
and Estanislao R. de la Cruz, brother of the appellee, the two small parcels of land in
question are included, according to the description given therein. This was found to be
true by the court below, but the said court held that as this contract was made by
Estanislao R. de la Cruz it was not binding upon Anacleto R. de la Cruz, the appellee.
The two small parcels of land in question were purchased by the parents of the
petitioners in 1864, as is evidenced by the public document of purchase and sale of
that year. The same two parcels of land are included in the state grant issued in favor
of Baldomero Ratilla de la Cruz in 1895. This grant was obtained after the death of the
petitioners' parents and while they were minors. So it is clear that the petitioners
honestly believed that the appellee was occupying the said parcels as their lessee at
the time they presented their application for registration. They did not act in bad faith,
nor with any fraudulent intent, when they omitted to include in their application the
name of the appellee as one of the occupants of the land. They believed that it was
not necessary nor required that they include in their application the names of their
tenants. Under these circumstances, did the court below commit an error in reopening
this case in June, 1908, after its decree had been entered in February of the same
year?
The application for the registration is to be in writing, signed and sworn to by the
applicant, or by some person duly authorized in his behalf. It is to contain an accurate
description of the land. It shall contain the name in full and the address of the
applicant, and also the names and addresses of all occupants of land and of all
adjoining owners, if known; and, if not known, it shall state what search has been
made to find them. In the form of notice given by statute, which shall be sworn to, the
applicant is required to state and set forth clearly all mortgages or encumbrances
affecting said land, if any, the rights and interests, legal or equitable, in the
possession, remainder, reversion, or expectancy of all persons, with their names in full,
together with their place of residence and post office addresses. Upon receipt of the
application the clerk shall cause notice of the filling to be published twice in the Official
Gazette. This published notice shall be directed to all persons appearing to have an
interest in the land sought to be registered and to the adjoining owners, and also "to
all whom it may concern." In addition to the notice in the Official Gazette the Land
Court shall, within seven days after said publication, cause a copy of the notice, in
Spanish, to be mailed by the clerk to every person named in the application whose
address is known; to cause a duly attested copy of the notice, in Spanish, to be posted
in a conspicuous place on every parcel of land included in the application, and in a
conspicuous place on the chief municipal building of the town in which the land is

situated. The court may also cause other or further notice of the application to be
given in such manner and to such persons as it may deem proper. The certificate of
the clerk that he has served the notice as directed by the court by publication or
mailing shall be conclusive proof of such service. Within the time allowed in the
notices, if no person appears and answers, the court may at once, upon motion of the
applicant, no reason to the contrary appearing, order a general default. By the
description in the published notice "to all whom it may concern," and by express
provisions of law "all the word are made parties defendant and shall be concluded by
the default an order." If the court, after hearing, finds that the applicant has title, as
stated in his application, a decree or registration shall be entered.
Every decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto, subject
only to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be conclusive
upon and against all persons, including the Insular Government, and all the
branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application, notice, or
citation, or included in the general description "to all whom it may
concern." Such decree shall not be opened by reason of the absence, infancy,
or other disability of any person affected thereby, nor by any proceedings in
any court for reversing judgments or decrees; subject, however, to the right
of any person deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by decree
of registration obtained by fraud to file in the Court of Land Registration a
petition for review within one year. . . . (Sec. 38 of Act No. 496.)
The appellee is not included in any of the exceptions named in section 38 referred to
above.
It will be seen that the applicant is required to mention not only the outstanding
interest which he admits but also all claims of interest, though denied by him. By
express provision of law the world are made parties defendant by the description in
the notice "to all whom it may concern."
Although the appellee, occupying the two small parcels of land in question under the
circumstances as we have set forth, was not served with notice, he was made a party
defendant by publication; and the entering of a decree on the 12th of February, 1908,
must be held to be conclusive against all persons, including the appellee, whether his
(appellee's) name is mentioned in the application, notice, or citation.
The said decree of February 12, 1908, should not have been opened on account of the
absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected thereby, and could have
been opened only on the ground that the said decree had been obtained by fraud.
That decree was not obtained by fraud on the part of the applicants, inasmuch as they
honestly believed that the appellee was occupying these two small parcels of land as
their tenant. One of the petitioner went upon the premises with the surveyor when the
original plan was made.
Proof of constructive fraud is not sufficient to authorize the Court of Land Registration
to reopen a case and modify its decree. Specific, intentional acts to deceive and

deprive anther of his right, or in some manner injure him, must be alleged and proved;
that is, there must be actual or positive fraud as distinguished from constructive fraud.
The question as to the meaning of the word "fraud" in the Australian statutes has been
frequently raised. Two distinctions have been noted by the Australian courts; the first is
the distinction between the meaning of the word "fraud" in the sections relating to the
conclusive effect of certificates of title, and its meaning in the sections relating to the
protection of bona fide purchasers from registered proprietors. The second is the
distinction between "legal," "equitable," or "constructive" fraud, and "actual" or
"moral" fraud. In none of the groups of the sections of the Australian statutes relating
to the conclusive effect of certificates of title, and in which fraud is referred to, is there
any express indication of the meaning of "fraud," with the sole exception of that of the
South Australian group. (Hogg on Australian Torrens System, p. 834.)
With regard to decisions on the sections relating to the conclusive effect of
certificates of title, it has been held in some cases that the "fraud" there
mentioned means actual or moral fraud, not merely constructive or legal
fraud. In other cases "fraud" has been said to include constructive, legal, and
every kind of fraud. In other cases, against, knowledge of other persons' right,
and the deliberate acquisition of registered title in the face of such
knowledge, has been held to be "fraud" which rendered voidable the
certificates of title so obtained; and voluntary ignorance is, for this purpose,
the same as knowledge. But in none of these three classes of cases was there
absent the element of intention to deprive another of just rights, which
constitutes the essential characteristics of actual as distinguished from
legal-fraud. (Id., p. 835, and cases cited in notes Nos. 85, 86, 87, 88, and 89
at bottom of pages 835 and 836.)
By "fraud" is meant actual fraud-dishonesty of some sort. (Judgment of Privy Council in
Assets Co. vs. Mere Roihi, and Assets Co. vs. Panapa Waihopi, decided in March, 1905,
cited by Hogg in his Supplementary Addendum to his work on Australian Torrens
System, supra.) The same meaning should be given to the word "fraud" used in section
38 of our statutes (Act No. 496).
The question as to whether any particular transaction shows fraud, within the meaning
of the word as used in our statutes, will in each case be a question of fact. We will not
attempt to say what acts would constitutes this kind of fraud in other cases. This must
be determined from the fact an circumstances in each particular case. The only
question we are called upon to determine, and have determined, is whether or not,
under the facts and circumstances in this case, the petitioners did obtain the decree of
February 12, 1908, by means of fraud.
It might be urged that the appellee has been deprived of his property without due
process of law, in violation of section 5 of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as
the Philippine Bill," which provides "that no law shall be enacted in the said Islands
which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

The Land Registration Act requires that all occupants be named in the petition and
given notice by registered mail. This did not do the appellee any good, as he was not
notified; but he was made a party defendant, as we have said, by means of the
publication "to all whom it may concern." If this section of the Act is to be upheld this
must be declared to be due process of law.
Before examining the validity of this part of the Act it might be well to note the history
and purpose of what is known as the "Torrens Land Registration System." This system
was introduced in South Australia by Sir Robert Torrens in 1857 and was there worked
out in its practicable form.
The main principle of registration is to make registered titles indefeasible. As we have
said, upon the presentation in the Court of Land Registration of an application for the
registration of the title to lands, under this system, the theory of the law is that all
occupants, adjoining owners, adverse claimants, and other interested persons are
notified of the proceedings, and have have a right to appear in opposition to such
application. In other words, the proceeding is against the whole word. This system was
evidently considered by the Legislature to be a public project when it passed Act No.
496. The interest of the community at large was considered to be preferred to that of
private individuals.
At the close of this nineteenth century, all civilized nations are coming to
registration of title to land, because immovable property is becoming more
and more a matter of commercial dealing, and there can be no trade without
security. (Dumas's Lectures, p. 23.)
The registered proprietor will no longer have reasons to fear that he may
evicted because his vendor had, unknown to him, already sold the and to a
third person. . . The registered proprietor may feel himself protected against
any defect in his vendor's title. (Id., p. 21.)
The following summary of benefits of the system of registration of titles,
made by Sir Robert Torrens, has been fully justified in its use:

Sixth. It has restored to their just value many estates held under good holding
titles, but depreciated in consequence of some blur or technical defect, and
has barred the reoccurrence of any similar faults. (Sheldon on Land
Registration, pp. 75, 76.)
The boldest effort to grapple with the problem of simplification of title to land
was made by Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Torrens, a layman, in South Australia
in 1857. . . . In the Torrens system title by registration takes the place of "title
by deeds" of the system under the "general" law. A sale of land, for example,
is effected by a registered transfer, upon which a certificate of title is issued.
The certificate is guaranteed by statute, and, with certain exceptions,
constitutes indefeasible title to the land mentioned therein. Under the old
system the same sale would be effected by a conveyance, depending for its
validity, apart from intrinsic flaws, on the correctness of a long series of prior
deeds, wills, etc. . . . The object of the Torrens system, them, is to do away
with the delay, uncertainty, and expense of the old conveyancing system.
(Duffy & Eagleson on The Transfer of Land Act, 1890, pp. 2, 3, 5, 7.)
By "Torrens" system generally are meant those systems of registration of
transactions with interest in land whose declared object . . . is, under
governmental authority, to establish and certify to the ownership of an
absolute and indefeasible title to realty, and to simplify its transfer. (Hogg on
Australian Torrens system, supra, pp. 1, 2.)
Compensation for errors from assurance funds is provided in all countries in which the
Torrens system has been enacted. Cases of error no doubt will always occur. The
percentage of errors, as compared with the number of registered dealings in Australia,
is very small. In New South Wales there were, in 1889, 209, 894 registered dealings,
the average risk of error being only 2 cents for each dealing. In Queensland the risk
of error was only 1 cents, the number of registered dealings being 233,309. In
Tasmania and in Western Australia not a cent was paid for compensation for errors
during the whole time of operation, (Dumas's Lectures, supra, p. 96.) This system has
been adopted in various countries of the civilized world, including some of the States
of the American Union, and practical experience has demonstrated that it has been
successful as a public project.

First. It has substituted security for insecurity.


Second. It has reduced the costs of conveyances from pounds to shillings, and
the time occupied from months to days.

The validity of some of the provisions of the statutes adopting the Torrens system has
been the subject of judicial decision in the courts of the United States. (People vs.
Chase, 165 Ill., 527; State vs. Guilbert, 56 Ohio St., 575; People vs. Simon, 176 Ill., 165;
Tyler vs. Judges, 175 Mass., 71.)

Third. It has exchanged brevity and clearness for obscurity and verbiage.
Fourth. It has so simplified ordinary dealings that he who has mastered the
"three R's" can transact his own conveyancing.
Fifth. It affords protection against fraud.

Act No. 496 of the Philippine Commission, known as the "Land Registration Act," was
copied substantially from the Massachussetts law of 1898.
The Illinois and Massachusetts statutes were upheld by the supreme courts of those
States.

It is not enough to show a procedure to be unconstitutional to say that we


never heard of it before. (Tyler vs. Judges, supra; Hurtado vs. California, 110
U. S., 516.)
Looked at either from the point of view of history or of the necessary
requirements of justice, a proceeding in rem dealing with a tangible res may
be instituted and carried to judgment without personal service upon
claimants within the State or notice by name to those outside of it, and not
encounter any provision of either constitution. Jurisdiction is secured by the
power of the court over the res. As we have said, such a proceeding would be
impossible, were this not so, for it hardly would do to make a distinction
between the constitutional rights of claimants who were known and those
who were not known to the plaintiff, when the proceeding is to bar all.
(Tyler vs. Judges, supra.)

For these reasons we are of the opinion, and so hold, that the judgment appealed from
should be, and the same is hereby reversed and judgment entered in favor of the
petitioners in conformity with the decree of the lower court of February 12, 1908,
without special ruling as to costs. It is so ordered.
CASIMIRO DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION,
Petitioner,

- versus -

G.R. No. 175485


Present:
CORONA, C.J, Chairperson,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BERSAMIN,
DEL CASTILLO, and
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.
Promulgated:

This same doctrine is annunciated in Pennoyer vs. Neff (95 U. S., 714); The Mary (9
Cranch, 126); Mankin vs. Chandler (2 Brock., 125); Brown vs. Levee Commission (50
Miss., 468); 2 Freeman, Judgments, 4th ed., secs. 606, 611.
If the technical object of the suit is to establish a claim against some
particular person, with a judgment which generally, in theory at least, binds
his body, or to bar some individual claim or objection, so that only certain
persons are entitled to be heard in defense, the action is in personam,
although it may concern the right to or possession of a tangible thing. If, on
the other hand, the object 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 strenght of alleging facts
which, if true, show an inconsistent interest, the proceeding is in rem.
(Tyler vs. Judges, supra.)
In the case of Hamilton vs. Brown (161 U. S., 256) a judgment of escheat was held
conclusive upon persons notified by advertisement to all persons interested. In this
jurisdiction, by the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, Act No. 190, a decree
allowing or disallowing a will binds everybody, although the only notice of the
proceedings given is by general notice to all persons interested.

RENATO L. MATEO,
Respondent.

July 27, 2011

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
The focus of this appeal is the faith that should be accorded to the Torrens title that the
seller holds at the time of the sale.
In its decision promulgated on August 31, 2006, [1] the Court of Appeals (CA)
declared that the respondent and his three brothers were the rightful owners of the
land in litis, and directed the Office of the Register of Deeds of Las Pias City to cancel
the transfer certificate of title (TCT) registered under the name of petitioner Casimiro
Development Corporation (CDC) and to issue in its place another TCT in favor of the
respondent and his three brothers. Thereby, the CA reversed the judgment of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) rendered on May 9, 2000 (dismissing the respondents
complaint for quieting of title and reconveyance upon a finding that CDC had been a
buyer in good faith of the land in litis and that the respondents suit had already been
time-barred).
Aggrieved, CDC brought its petition for review on certiorari.

The supreme court Massachusetts, in the case of Tyler vs. Judges (supra), did not rest
its judgment as to the conclusive effect of the decree upon the ground that the State
has absolute power to determine the persons to whom a man's property shall go at his
death, but upon the characteristics of a proceeding in rem. So we conclude that the
proceedings had in the case at bar, under all the facts and circumstances, especially
the absolute lack on the part of the petitioners of any dishonest intent to deprive the
appellee of any right, or in any way injure him, constitute due process of law.
As to whether or not the appellee can succesfully maintain an action under the
provisions of sections 101 and 102 of the Land Registration Act (secs. 2365, 2366,
Compilation) we do not decide.

Antecedents
The subject of this case is a registered parcel of land (property) with an area of 6,693
square meters, more or less, located in Barrio Pulang Lupa, Las Pias City, that was
originally owned by Isaias Lara, [2] the respondents maternal grandfather. Upon the
death of Isaias Lara in 1930, the property passed on to his children, namely: Miguela,
Perfecta and Felicidad, and a grandson, Rosauro (son of Perfecta who had predeceased
Isaias in 1920). In 1962, the co-heirs effected the transfer of the full and exclusive
ownership to Felicidad (whose married surname was Lara-Mateo) under an agreement
denominated as Pagaayos Na Gawa Sa Labas Ng Hukuman.
Felicidad Lara-Mateo had five children, namely: Laura, respondent Renato, Cesar,
Candido, Jr. and Leonardo. With the agreement of the entire Lara-Mateo family, a deed
of sale covering the property was executed in favor of Laura, who, in 1967, applied for

land registration.After the application was granted, Original Certificate of Title (OCT)
No. 6386 was issued in Lauras sole name.
In due course, the property now covered by OCT No. 6386 was used as
collateral to secure a succession of loans. The first loan was obtained from Bacoor
Rural Bank (Bacoor Bank). To repay the loan to Bacoor Bank and secure the release of
the mortgage, Laura borrowed funds from Parmenas Perez (Perez), who, however,
required that the title be meanwhile transferred to his name. Thus, OCT No. 6386 was
cancelled and Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 438959 was issued in the name of
Perez. Subsequently, Laura recovered the property by repaying the obligation with the
proceeds of another loan obtained from Rodolfo Pe (Pe), resulting in the cancellation of
TCT No. 438595, and in the issuance of TCT No. S-91595 in Lauras name. She later
executed a deed of sale in favor of Pe, leading to the issuance of TCT No. S-91738 in
the name of Pe, who in turn constituted a mortgage on the property in favor of China
Banking Corporation (China Bank) as security for a loan. In the end, China Bank
foreclosed the mortgage, and consolidated its ownership of the property in 1985 after
Pe failed to redeem. Thus, TCT No. (99527) T-11749-A was issued in the name of China
Bank.
In 1988, CDC and China Bank negotiated and eventually came to terms on the
purchase of the property, with China Bank executing a deed of conditional sale for the
purpose. On March 4, 1993, CDC and China Bank executed a deed of absolute
sale over the property. Resultantly, on March 29, 1993, CDC was issued TCT No. T34640 in its own name.
In the meanwhile, on February 28, 1991, Felicidad died intestate.
On June 6, 1991, CDC brought an action for unlawful detainer in the Metropolitan Trial
Court (MeTC) in Las Pias City against the respondents siblings, namely: Cesar, Candido,
Jr., and Leonardo, and the other occupants of the property. Therein, the defendants
maintained that the MeTC did not have jurisdiction over the action because the land
was classified as agricultural; that the jurisdiction belonged to the Department of
Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB); that they had been in continuous and
open possession of the land even before World War II and had presumed themselves
entitled to a government grant of the land; and that CDCs title was invalid, considering
that the land had been registered before its being declared alienable. [3]
On October 19, 1992, the MeTC ruled in favor of CDC, viz:
The Court, after careful consideration of the facts and the laws
applicable to this case[,] hereby resolves:
1. On the issue of jurisdiction.
The defendants alleged that the land in question is an
agricultural land by presenting a Tax Declaration Certificate
classifying the land as FISHPOND. The classification of the land in a
tax declaration certificate as a fishpond merely refers to the use of
the land in question for the purpose of real property taxation. This
alone would not be sufficient to bring the land in question under the
operation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
2. On the issue of open and adverse possession by the
defendants.
It should be noted that the subject land is covered by a
Transfer Certificate of Title in the name of plaintiffs predecessor-in-

interest China Banking Corporation. Certificates of Title under the


Torrens System is indefeasible and imprescriptible. As between two
persons claiming possession, one having a [T]orrens title and the
other has none, the former has a better right.
3. On the issue of the nullity of the Certificate of Title.
The defense of the defendants that the subject property was a
forest land when the same was originally registered in 1967 and
hence, the registration is void[,] is not for this Court to decide[,] for
lack of jurisdiction. The certificate of title over the property must be
respected by this Court until it has been nullified by a competent
Court.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is
rendered in favor of the plaintiff[,] ordering the defendants

hereby

1. [sic] and all persons claiming right[s] under it to vacate the


subject premises located at Pulang Lupa I, Las Pias, Metro Manila and
surrender the possession of the same to herein plaintiff;
2. to pay the plaintiff reasonable compensation for the use
and occupation of the subject premises hereby fixed at (P100.00)
one hundred pesos a month starting November 22, 1990 (the time
when the demand letter to vacate was given) until defendants
actually vacate the property;
No pronouncement as to costs and attorneys fees.
SO ORDERED.[4]
The decision of the MeTC was assailed in the RTC via petition for certiorari and
prohibition. The RTC resolved against CDC, and held that the MeTC had acted without
jurisdiction because the land, being a fishpond, was agricultural; hence, the dispute
was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DARAB pursuant to Republic Act No. 6657
(Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988).[5]
CDC appealed to the CA, which, on January 25, 1996, found in favor of CDC,
declaring that the MeTC had jurisdiction. As a result, the CA reinstated the decision of
the MeTC.[6]
On appeal (G.R. No. 128392), the Court affirmed the CAs decision in favor of
CDC, ruling thusly:
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the Court of Appeals
Decision and Resolution in CA- G.R. SP No. 34039, dated January 25,
1996 and February 21, 1997 respectively, are AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.[7]
The decision in G.R. No. 128392 became final.
Nonetheless, on June 29, 1994, the respondent brought an action for quieting
of title, reconveyance of four-fifths of the land, and damages against CDC and Laura in
the RTC in Las Pias City entitled Renato L. Mateo v. Casimiro Development Corporation
and Laura Mateo de Castro. In paragraph 4 of his complaint, he stated that he was
bringing this action to quiet title on behalf of himself and of his three (3) brothers

Cesar, Leonardo, and Candido, Jr., all surnamed MATEO in his capacity as one of the coowners of a parcel of land situated at Barrio Pulang Lupa, Municipality of Las Pias,
Metro Manila.

(C) xxx in failing to rule that the instant action for quieting of title
and reconveyance under PD No. 1529 cannot prosper because
the Subject Property had already been conveyed and
transferred to third parties who claimed adverse title for
themselves.

On May 9, 2001, the RTC held in favor of CDC, disposing:


WHEREFORE, and by strong preponderance of evidence,
judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the defendant Casimiro
Development Corporation and against the plaintiff Renato L. Mateo
by (1) Dismissing the complaint, and upholding the validity and
indefeasibility of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-34640 in the name
of Casimiro Development Corporation; (2) Ordering the plaintiff
Renato Mateo to pay defendant Casimiro Development Corporation
the sum of [a] P200,000.00 as compensatory damages;
[b] P200,000.00 as attorneys fees; and [c] to pay the costs.
SO ORDERED.[8]
On appeal (C.A.-G.R. CV No. 71696), the CA promulgated its decision on August 31,
2006, reversing the RTC and declaring CDC to be not a buyer in good faith due to its
being charged with notice of the defects and flaws of the title at the time it acquired
the property from China Bank, and decreeing:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated May 9, 2001 of Branch 225,
Regional Trial Court, Las Pias City in Civil Case No. 94-2045 is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one rendered:
(1)
Declaring appellant Renato Mateo and his brothers and
co-owners Cesar, Candido, Jr., and Leonardo, all surnamed Mateo as
well as his sister, Laura Mateo de Castro as the rightful owners of the
parcel of land, subject of this case; and
(2)
Ordering the Register of Deeds of Las Pias City, Metro-Manila to
cancel Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-34640 under the name of appellee
Casimiro Development Corporation, and that a new one be issued in favor of
the appellant and his co-heirs and siblings, mentioned above as coowners pro indiviso of the said parcel.
(3)

No pronouncement as to cost.
SO ORDERED.[9]

The CA denied CDCs motion for reconsideration.


Hence, this appeal, in which CDC urges that the CA committed serious errors
of law,[10] as follows:
(A) xxx in failing to rule that the decree of registration over the
Subject Property is incontrovertible and no longer open to
review or attack after the lapse of one (1) year from entry of
such decree of registration in favor of Laura Mateo de Castro.
(B) xxx in failing to rule that the present action is likewise barred
by res judicata.

(D) xxx in failing to rule that the action of respondent for quieting of
title, reconveyance and damages is barred by laches.
(E) xxx in ruling that the Subject Property must be reconveyed to
respondent
because
petitioner
Casimiro
Development
Corporation is not a purchaser in good faith.
CDC argues that it was a buyer in good faith; and that the CA did not rule on matters
that fortified its title in the property, namely: (a) the incontrovertibility of the title of
Laura; (b) the action being barred by laches and res judicata; and (c) the property
having been conveyed to third parties who had then claimed adverse title.
The respondent counters that CDC acquired the property from China Bank in
bad faith, because it had actual knowledge of the possession of the property by the
respondent and his siblings; that CDC did not actually accept delivery of the
possession of the property from China Bank; and that CDC ignored the failure of China
Bank to warrant its title.
Ruling
We grant the petition.
1.
Indefeasibility of title in
the name of Laura
As basis for recovering the possession of the property, the respondent has assailed the
title of Laura.
We cannot sustain the respondent.
There is no doubt that the land in question, although once a part of the public
domain, has already been placed under the Torrens system of land registration. The
Government is required under the Torrens system of registration to issue an official
certificate of title to attest to the fact that the person named in the certificate is the
owner of the property therein described, subject to such liens and encumbrances as
thereon noted or what the law warrants or reserves. [11] The objective is to obviate
possible conflicts of title by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of the
Torrens certificate and to dispense, as a rule, with the necessity of inquiring further.
The Torrens system gives the registered owner complete peace of mind, in order that
he will be secured in his ownership as long as he has not voluntarily disposed of any
right over the covered land.[12]
The Government has adopted the Torrens system due to its being the most
effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect their
indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and recognized. If a person
purchases a piece of land on the assurance that the sellers title thereto is valid, he
should not run the risk of being told later that his acquisition was ineffectual after all,
which will not only be unfair to him as the purchaser, but will also erode public
confidence in the system and will force land transactions to be attended by
complicated and not necessarily conclusive investigations and proof of ownership. The

further consequence will be that land conflicts can be even more abrasive, if not even
violent. The Government, recognizing the worthy purposes of the Torrens system,
should be the first to accept the validity of titles issued thereunder once the conditions
laid down by the law are satisfied.[13]
Yet, registration under the Torrens system, not being a mode of acquiring
ownership, does not create or vest title.[14] The Torrens certificate of title is merely an
evidence of ownership or title in the particular property described therein. [15] In that
sense, the issuance of the certificate of title to a particular person does not preclude
the possibility that persons not named in the certificate may be co-owners of the real
property therein described with the person named therein, or that the registered
owner may be holding the property in trust for another person. [16]
Nonetheless, it is essential that title registered under the Torrens system
becomes indefeasible and incontrovertible.[17]
The land in question has been covered by a Torrens certificate of title (OCT
No. 6386 in the name of Laura, and its derivative certificates) before CDC became the
registered owner by purchase from China Bank. In all that time, neither the respondent
nor his siblings opposed the transactions causing the various transfers. In fact, the
respondent admitted in his complaint that the registration of the land in the name of
Laura alone had been with the knowledge and upon the agreement of the entire LaraMateo family. It is unthinkable, therefore, that the respondent, fully aware of the
exclusive registration in her sister Lauras name, allowed more than 20 years to pass
before asserting his claim of ownership for the first time through this case in mid-1994.
Making it worse for him is that he did so only after CDC had commenced the ejectment
case against his own siblings.
Worthy of mention is that Candido, Jr., Leonardo, and Cesars defense in the
ejectment case brought by CDC against them was not predicated on a claim of their
ownership of the property, but on their being agricultural lessees or tenants of
CDC. Even that defense was ultimately rejected by this Court by observing in G.R. No.
128392 as follows:
With regard to the first element, the petitioners have tried to
prove that they are tenants or agricultural lessees of the respondent
corporation, CDC, by showing that the land was originally owned by
their grandfather, Isaias Lara, who gave them permission to work the
land, and that CDC is merely a successor-in-interest of their
grandfather. It must be noted that the petitioners failed to
adequately prove their grandfathers ownership of the land. They
merely showed six tax declarations. It has been held by this Court
that, as against a transfer certificate of title, tax declarations or
receipts
are
not
adequate
proofs
of
ownership.
Granting arguendo that the land was really owned by the petitioners
grandfather, petitioners did not even attempt to show how the land
went from the patrimony of their grandfather to that of CDC.
Furthermore, petitioners did not prove, but relied on mere allegation,
that they indeed had an agreement with their grandfather to use the
land.
As for the third element, there is apparently no consent
between the parties. Petitioners were unable to show any proof of
consent from CDC to work the land. For the sake of argument, if
petitioners were able to prove that their grandfather owned the land,
they nonetheless failed to show any proof of consent from their
grandfather to work the land. Since the third element was not
proven, the fourth element cannot be present since there can be

no purpose to
consented.[18]

relationship

to

which

the

parties

have

not

The respondents attack against the title of CDC is likewise anchored on his
assertion that the only purpose for having OCT No. 6386 issued in the sole name of
Laura was for Laura to hold the title in trust for their mother. This assertion cannot
stand, however, inasmuch as Lauras title had long ago become indefeasible.
Moreover, the respondents suit is exposed as being, in reality, a collateral
attack on the title in the name of Laura, and for that reason should not prosper.
Registration of land under the Torrens System, aside from perfecting the title and
rendering it indefeasible after the lapse of the period allowed by law, also renders the
title immune from collateral attack.[19] A collateral attack occurs when, in another
action to obtain a different relief and as an incident of the present action, an attack is
made against the judgment granting the title. This manner of attack is to be
distinguished from a direct attack against a judgment granting the title, through an
action whose main objective is to annul, set aside, or enjoin the enforcement of such
judgment if not yet implemented, or to seek recovery if the property titled under the
judgment had been disposed of.[20]
2.
CDC was an innocent purchaser for value
The CA found that CDC acquired the property in bad faith because CDC had knowledge
of defects in the title of China Bank, including the adverse possession of the
respondents siblings and the supposed failure of China Bank to warrant its title by
inserting an as-is, where-is clause in its contract of sale with CDC.
The CA plainly erred in so finding against CDC.
To start with, one who deals with property registered under the Torrens
system need not go beyond the certificate of title, but only has to rely on the
certificate of title.[21] He is charged with notice only of such burdens and claims as are
annotated on the title. [22] The pertinent law on the matter of burdens and claims is
Section 44 of the Property Registration Decree,[23] which provides:
Section 44. Statutory liens affecting title. Every registered
owner receiving a certificate of title in pursuance of a decree
of registration, and every subsequent purchaser of
registered land taking a certificate of title for value and in
good
faith,
shall
hold
the
same
free
from
all
encumbrances except those noted on 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.
In short, considering that China Banks TCT No. 99527 was a clean title, that
is, it was free from any lien or encumbrance, CDC had the right to rely, when it
purchased the property, solely upon the face of the certificate of title in the name of
China Bank.[24]
The CAs ascribing of bad faith to CDC based on its knowledge of the adverse
possession of the respondents siblings at the time it acquired the property from China
Bank was absolutely unfounded and unwarranted. That possession did not translate to
an adverse claim of ownership that should have put CDC on actual notice of a defect or
flaw in the China Banks title, for the respondents siblings themselves, far from
asserting ownership in their own right, even characterized their possession only as that
of mere agricultural tenants. Under no law was possession grounded on tenancy a
status that might create a defect or inflict a flaw in the title of the owner. Consequently,
due to his own admission in his complaint that the respondents own possession was
not any different from that of his siblings, there was really nothing factually or legally
speaking that ought to have alerted CDC or, for that matter, China Bank and its
predecessors-in-interest, about any defect or flaw in the title.
The vendees notice of a defect or flaw in the title of the vendor, in order for it to
amount to bad faith, should encompass facts and circumstances that would impel a
reasonably cautious person to make further inquiry into the vendors title, [25] or facts
and circumstances that would induce a reasonably prudent man to inquire into the
status of the title of the property in litigation. [26] In other words, the presence of
anything that excites or arouses suspicion should then prompt the vendee to look
beyond the certificate and to investigate the title of the vendor appearing on the face
of said certificate.[27]
And, secondly, the CA grossly erred in construing the as-is, where-is clause
contained in the deed of sale between CDC (as vendee) and China Bank (as vendor) as
proof or manifestation of any bad faith on the part of CDC. On the contrary, the as-is,
where-is clause did not affect the title of China Bank because it related only to the
physical condition of the property upon its purchase by CDC. The clause only placed on
CDC the burden of having the occupants removed from the property. In a sale made on
an as-is, where-is basis, the buyer agrees to take possession of the things sold in the
condition where they are found and from the place where they are located, because
the phrase as-is, where-is pertains solely to the physical condition of the thing sold, not
to its legal situation and is merely descriptive of the state of the thing sold without
altering the sellers responsibility to deliver the property sold to the buyer. [28]
What the foregoing circumstances ineluctably indicate is that CDC, having
paid the full and fair price of the land, was an innocent purchaser for value, for,
according to Sandoval v. Court of Appeals:[29]
A purchaser in good faith is 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 persons in the property. He buys the property with the
belief that the person from whom he receives the thing was the
owner and could convey title to the property. A purchaser cannot

close his eyes to facts which should put a reasonable man on his
guard and still claim he acted in good faith.
WHEREFORE, we grant the petition for review on certiorari; set aside the
decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR. CV No. 71696; dismiss the complaint in Civil
Case No. 94-2045; and declare Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-34640 in the name of
Casimiro Development Corporation valid and subsisting.
The respondent shall pay the costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.
PURPOSE OF REGISTRATION
G.R. No. L-8936

October 2, 1915

CONSUELO LEGARDA, with her husband MAURO PRIETO, plaintiffs-appellants,


vs.
N.M. SALEEBY, defendant-appellee.
Singson,
Ledesma
D.R. Williams for appellee.

and

Lim

for

appellants.

JOHNSON, J.:
From the record the following facts appear:
First. That the plaintiffs and the defendant occupy, as owners, adjoining lots in the
district of Ermita in the city of Manila.
Second. That there exists and has existed a number of years a stone wall between the
said lots. Said wall is located on the lot of the plaintiffs.
Third. That the plaintiffs, on the 2d day of March, 1906, presented a petition in the
Court of Land Registration for the registration of their lot. After a consideration of said
petition the court, on the 25th day of October, 1906, decreed that the title of the
plaintiffs should be registered and issued to them the original certificate provided for
under the torrens system. Said registration and certificate included the wall.
Fourth. Later the predecessor of the defendant presented a petition in the Court of
Land Registration for the registration of the lot now occupied by him. On the 25th day
of March, 1912, the court decreed the registration of said title and issued the original
certificate provided for under the torrens system. The description of the lot given in
the petition of the defendant also included said wall.

Fifth. Several months later (the 13th day of December, 1912) the plaintiffs discovered
that the wall which had been included in the certificate granted to them had also been
included in the certificate granted to the defendant .They immediately presented a
petition in the Court of Land Registration for an adjustment and correction of the error
committed by including said wall in the registered title of each of said parties. The
lower court however, without notice to the defendant, denied said petition upon the
theory that, during the pendency of the petition for the registration of the defendant's
land, they failed to make any objection to the registration of said lot, including the
wall, in the name of the defendant.
Sixth. That the land occupied by t he wall is registered in the name of each of the
owners of the adjoining lots. The wall is not a joint wall.
Under these facts, who is the owner of the wall and the land occupied by it?
The decision of the lower court is based upon the theory that the action for the
registration of the lot of the defendant was a judicial proceeding and that the judgment
or decree was binding upon all parties who did not appear and oppose it. In other
words, by reason of the fact that the plaintiffs had not opposed the registration of that
part of the lot on which the wall was situate they had lost it, even though it had been
theretofore registered in their name. Granting that theory to be correct one, and
granting even that the wall and the land occupied by it, in fact, belonged to the
defendant and his predecessors, then the same theory should be applied to the
defendant himself. Applying that theory to him, he had already lost whatever right he
had therein, by permitting the plaintiffs to have the same registered in their name,
more than six years before. Having thus lost hid right, may he be permitted to regain it
by simply including it in a petition for registration? The plaintiffs having secured the
registration of their lot, including the wall, were they obliged to constantly be on the
alert and to watch all the proceedings in the land court to see that some one else was
not having all, or a portion of the same, registered? If that question is to be answered
in the affirmative, then the whole scheme and purpose of the torrens system of land
registration must fail. The real purpose of that system is to quiet title to 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, in the certificate, or which may arise subsequent thereto.
That being the purpose of the law, it would seem that once a title is registered the
owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or
sitting in the "mirador de su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land. Of course,
it can not be denied that the proceeding for the registration of land under the torrens
system is judicial (Escueta vs. .Director of Lands, 16 Phil. Rep., 482). It is clothed with
all the forms of an action and the result is final and binding upon all the world. It is an
action in rem. (Escueta vs. Director of Lands (supra); Grey Alba vs. De la Cruz, 17 Phil.
rep., 49 Roxas vs. Enriquez, 29 Phil. Rep., 31; Tyler vs. Judges, 175 Mass., 51 American
Land Co. vs. Zeiss, 219 U.S., 47.)
While the proceeding is judicial, it involves more in its consequences than does an
ordinary action. All the world are parties, including the government. After the
registration is complete and final and there exists no fraud, there are no innocent third
parties who may claim an interest. The rights of all the world are foreclosed by the
decree of registration. The government itself assumes the burden of giving notice to all

parties. To permit persons who are parties in the registration proceeding (and they are
all the world) to again litigate the same questions, and to again cast doubt upon the
validity of the registered title, would destroy the very purpose and intent of the law.
The registration, under the torrens system, does not give the owner any better title
than he had. If he does not already have a perfect title, he can not have it registered.
Fee simple titles only may be registered. The certificate of registration accumulates in
open document a precise and correct statement of the exact status of the fee held by
its owner. The certificate, in the absence of fraud, is the evidence of title and shows
exactly the real interest of its owner. The title once registered, with very few
exceptions, should not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged,
or diminished, except in some direct proceeding permitted by law. Otherwise all
security in registered titles would be lost. A registered title can not be altered,
modified, enlarged, or diminished in a collateral proceeding and not even by a direct
proceeding, after the lapse of the period prescribed by law.
For the difficulty involved in the present case the Act (No. 496) providing for the
registration of titles under the torrens system affords us no remedy. There is no
provision in said Act giving the parties relief under conditions like the present. There is
nothing in the Act which indicates who should be the owner of land which has been
registered in the name of two different persons.
The rule, we think, is well settled that the decree ordering the registration of a
particular parcel of land is a bar to future litigation over the same between the same
parties .In view of the fact that all the world are parties, it must follow that future
litigation over the title is forever barred; there can be no persons who are not parties
to the action. This, we think, is the rule, except as to rights which are noted in the
certificate or which arise subsequently, and with certain other exceptions which need
not be dismissed at present. A title once registered can not be defeated, even by an
adverse, open, and notorious possession. Registered title under the torrens system can
not be defeated by prescription (section 46, Act No. 496). The title, once registered, is
notice to the world. All persons must take notice. No one can plead ignorance of the
registration.
The question, who is the owner of land registered in the name of two different persons,
has been presented to the courts in other jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, where the
"torrens" system has been adopted, the difficulty has been settled by express
statutory provision. In others it has been settled by the courts. Hogg, in his excellent
discussion of the "Australian Torrens System," at page 823, says: "The general rule is
that in the case of two certificates of title, purporting to include the same land, the
earlier in date prevails, whether the land comprised in the latter certificate be wholly,
or only in part, comprised in the earlier certificate. (Oelkers vs. Merry, 2 Q.S.C.R., 193;
Miller vs. Davy, 7 N.Z.R., 155; Lloyd vs. Myfield, 7 A.L.T. (V.) 48; Stevens vs. Williams,
12 V.L. R., 152; Register of Titles, vs. Esperance Land Co., 1 W.A.R., 118.)" Hogg adds
however that, "if it can be very clearly ascertained by the ordinary rules of
construction relating to written documents, that the inclusion of the land in the
certificate of title of prior date is a mistake, the mistake may be rectified by holding
the latter of the two certificates of title to be conclusive." (See Hogg on the "Australian
torrens System," supra, and cases cited. See also the excellent work of Niblack in his
"Analysis of the Torrens System," page 99.) Niblack, in discussing the general question,

said: "Where two certificates purport to include the same land the earlier in date
prevails. ... In successive registrations, where more than one certificate is issued in
respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior
certificates is entitled to the estate or interest; and that person is deemed to hold
under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or
indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate issued in
respect thereof. While the acts in this country do not expressly cover the case of the
issue of two certificates for the same land, they provide that a registered owner shall
hold the title, and the effect of this undoubtedly is that where two certificates purport
to include the same registered land, the holder of the earlier one continues to hold the
title" (p. 237).
Section 38 of Act No. 496, provides that; "It (the decree of registration) shall be
conclusive upon and against all persons, including the Insular Government and all the
branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application, notice, or citation, or
included in the general description "To all whom it may concern." Such decree shall not
be opened by reason of the absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected
thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments or decrees;
subject, however, to the right of any person deprived of land or of any estate or
interest therein by decree of registration obtained by fraud to file in the Court of Land
Registration a petition for review within one year after entry of the decree (of
registration), provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired an interest.
It will be noted, from said section, that the "decree of registration" shall not be opened,
for any reason, in any court, except for fraud, and not even for fraud, after the lapse
of one year. If then the decree of registration can not be opened for any reason, except
for fraud, in a direct proceeding for that purpose, may such decree be opened or set
aside in a collateral proceeding by including a portion of the land in a subsequent
certificate or decree of registration? We do not believe the law contemplated that a
person could be deprived of his registered title in that way.
We have in this jurisdiction a general statutory provision which governs the right of the
ownership of land when the same is registered in the ordinary registry in the name of
two persons. Article 1473 of the Civil Code provides, among other things, that when
one piece of real property had been sold to two different persons it shall belong to the
person acquiring it, who first inscribes it in the registry. This rule, of course,
presupposes that each of the vendees or purchasers has acquired title to the land. The
real ownership in such a case depends upon priority of registration. While we do not
now decide that the general provisions of the Civil Code are applicable to the Land
Registration Act, even though we see no objection thereto, yet we think, in the
absence of other express provisions, they should have a persuasive influence in
adopting a rule for governing the effect of a double registration under said Act.
Adopting the rule which we believe to be more in consonance with the purposes and
the real intent of the torrens system, we are of the opinion and so decree that in case
land has been registered under the Land Registration Act in the name of two different
persons, the earlier in date shall prevail.
In reaching the above conclusion, we have not overlooked the forceful argument of the
appellee. He says, among other things; "When Prieto et al. were served with notice of

the application of Teus (the predecessor of the defendant) they became defendants in
a proceeding wherein he, Teus, was seeking to foreclose their right, and that of orders,
to the parcel of land described in his application. Through their failure to appear and
contest his right thereto, and the subsequent entry of a default judgment against
them, they became irrevocably bound by the decree adjudicating such land to Teus.
They had their day in court and can not set up their own omission as ground for
impugning the validity of a judgment duly entered by a court of competent jurisdiction.
To decide otherwise would be to hold that lands with torrens titles are above the law
and beyond the jurisdiction of the courts".
As was said above, the primary and fundamental purpose of the torrens system is to
quiet title. If the holder of a certificate cannot rest secure in this registered title then
the purpose of the law is defeated. If those dealing with registered land cannot rely
upon the certificate, then nothing has been gained by the registration and the expense
incurred thereby has been in vain. If the holder may lose a strip of his registered land
by the method adopted in the present case, he may lose it all. Suppose within the six
years which elapsed after the plaintiff had secured their title, they had mortgaged or
sold their right, what would be the position or right of the mortgagee or vendee? That
mistakes are bound to occur cannot be denied, and sometimes the damage done
thereby is irreparable. It is the duty of the courts to adjust the rights of the parties
under such circumstances so as to minimize such damages, taking into consideration
al of the conditions and the diligence of the respective parties to avoid them. In the
present case, the appellee was the first negligent (granting that he was the real owner,
and if he was not the real owner he can not complain) in not opposing the registration
in the name of the appellants. He was a party-defendant in an action for the
registration of the lot in question, in the name of the appellants, in 1906. "Through his
failure to appear and to oppose such registration, and the subsequent entry of a
default judgment against him, he became irrevocably bound by the decree
adjudicating such land to the appellants. He had his day in court and should not be
permitted to set up his own omissions as the ground for impugning the validity of a
judgment duly entered by a court of competent jurisdiction." Granting that he was the
owner of the land upon which the wall is located, his failure to oppose the registration
of the same in the name of the appellants, in the absence of fraud, forever closes his
mouth against impugning the validity of that judgment. There is no more reason why
the doctrine invoked by the appellee should be applied to the appellants than to him.
We have decided, in case of double registration under the Land Registration Act, that
the owner of the earliest certificate is the owner of the land. That is the rule between
original parties. May this rule be applied to successive vendees of the owners of such
certificates? Suppose that one or the other of the parties, before the error is
discovered, transfers his original certificate to an "innocent purchaser." The general
rule is that the vendee of land has no greater right, title, or interest than his vendor;
that he acquires the right which his vendor had, only. Under that rule the vendee of the
earlier certificate would be the owner as against the vendee of the owner of the later
certificate.
We find statutory provisions which, upon first reading, seem to cast some doubt upon
the rule that the vendee acquires the interest of the vendor only. Sections 38, 55, and
112 of Act No. 496 indicate that the vendee may acquire rights and be protected

against defenses which the vendor would not. Said sections speak of available rights in
favor of third parties which are cut off by virtue of the sale of the land to an "innocent
purchaser." That is to say, persons who had had a right or interest in land wrongfully
included in an original certificate would be unable to enforce such rights against an
"innocent purchaser," by virtue of the provisions of said sections. In the present case
Teus had his land, including the wall, registered in his name. He subsequently sold the
same to the appellee. Is the appellee an "innocent purchaser," as that phrase is used
in said sections? May those who have been deprived of their land by reason of a
mistake in the original certificate in favor of Teus be deprived of their right to the
same, by virtue of the sale by him to the appellee? Suppose the appellants had sold
their lot, including the wall, to an "innocent purchaser," would such purchaser be
included in the phrase "innocent purchaser," as the same is used in said sections?
Under these examples there would be two innocent purchasers of the same land, is
said sections are to be applied .Which of the two innocent purchasers, if they are both
to be regarded as innocent purchasers, should be protected under the provisions of
said sections? These questions indicate the difficulty with which we are met in giving
meaning and effect to the phrase "innocent purchaser," in said sections.
May the purchaser of land which has been included in a "second original certificate"
ever be regarded as an "innocent purchaser," as against the rights or interest of the
owner of the first original certificate, his heirs, assigns, or vendee? The first original
certificate is recorded in the public registry. It is never issued until it is recorded. The
record notice to all the world. All persons are charged with the knowledge of what it
contains. All persons dealing with the land so recorded, or any portion of it, must be
charged with notice of whatever it contains. The purchaser is charged with notice of
every fact shown by the record and is presumed to know every fact which the record
discloses .This rule is so well established that it is scarcely necessary to cite authorities
in its support (Northwestern National Bank vs. Freeman, 171 U.S., 620, 629; Delvin on
Real Estate, sections 710, 710 [a]).
When a conveyance has been properly recorded such record is constructive notice of
its contents and all interests, legal and equitable, included therein.
(Grandin vs. Anderson, 15 Ohio State, 286, 289; Orvis vs. Newell, 17 Conn., 97;
Buchanan vs. Intentional Bank, 78 Ill., 500; Youngs vs. Wilson, 27 N.Y., 351;
McCabe vs. Grey, 20 Cal., 509; Montefiore vs. Browne, 7 House of Lords Cases, 341.)
Under the rule of notice, it is presumed that the purchaser has examined every
instrument of record affecting the title. Such presumption is irrebutable. He is charged
with notice of every fact shown by the record and is presumed to know every fact
which an examination of the record would have disclosed. This presumption cannot be
overcome by proof of innocence or good faith. Otherwise the very purpose and object
of the law requiring a record would be destroyed. Such presumption cannot be
defeated by proof of want of knowledge of what the record contains any more than
one may be permitted to show that he was ignorant of the provisions of the law. The
rule that all persons must take notice of the facts which the public record contains is a
rule of law. The rule must be absolute. Any variation would lead to endless confusion
and useless litigation.

While there is no statutory provision in force here requiring that original deeds of
conveyance of real property be recorded, yet there is a rule requiring mortgages to be
recorded. (Arts. 1875 and 606 of the Civil Code.) The record of a mortgage is
indispensable to its validity. (Art .1875.) In the face of that statute would the courts
allow a mortgage to be valid which had not been recorded, upon the plea of ignorance
of the statutory provision, when third parties were interested? May a purchaser of land,
subsequent to the recorded mortgage, plead ignorance of its existence, and by reason
of such ignorance have the land released from such lien? Could a purchaser of land,
after the recorded mortgage, be relieved from the mortgage lien by the plea that he
was a bona fide purchaser? May there be a bona fide purchaser of said land, bona
fide in the sense that he had no knowledge of the existence of the mortgage? We
believe the rule that all persons must take notice of what the public record contains in
just as obligatory upon all persons as the rule that all men must know the law; that no
one can plead ignorance of the law. The fact that all men know the law is contrary to
the presumption. The conduct of men, at times, shows clearly that they do not know
the law. The rule, however, is mandatory and obligatory, notwithstanding. It would be
just as logical to allow the defense of ignorance of the existence and contents of a
public record.
In view, therefore, of the foregoing rules of law, may the purchaser of land from the
owner of the second original certificate be an "innocent purchaser," when a part or all
of such land had theretofore been registered in the name of another, not the vendor?
We are of the opinion that said sections 38, 55, and 112 should not be applied to such
purchasers. We do not believe that the phrase "innocent purchaser should be applied
to such a purchaser. He cannot be regarded as an "innocent purchaser" because of the
facts contained in the record of the first original certificate. The rule should not be
applied to the purchaser of a parcel of land the vendor of which is not the owner of the
original certificate, or his successors. He, in nonsense, can be an "innocent purchaser"
of the portion of the land included in another earlier original certificate. The rule of
notice of what the record contains precludes the idea of innocence. By reason of the
prior registry there cannot be an innocent purchaser of land included in a prior original
certificate and in a name other than that of the vendor, or his successors. In order to
minimize the difficulties we think this is the safe rule to establish. We believe the
phrase "innocent purchaser," used in said sections, should be limited only to cases
where unregistered land has been wrongfully included in a certificate under the torrens
system. When land is once brought under the torrens system, the record of the original
certificate and all subsequent transfers thereof is notice to all the world. That being
the rule, could Teus even regarded as the holder in good fifth of that part of the land
included in his certificate of the appellants? We think not. Suppose, for example, that
Teus had never had his lot registered under the torrens system. Suppose he had sold
his lot to the appellee and had included in his deed of transfer the very strip of land
now in question. Could his vendee be regarded as an "innocent purchaser" of said
strip? Would his vendee be an "innocent purchaser" of said strip? Certainly not. The
record of the original certificate of the appellants precludes the possibility. Has the
appellee gained any right by reason of the registration of the strip of land in the name
of his vendor? Applying the rule of notice resulting from the record of the title of the
appellants, the question must be answered in the negative. We are of the opinion that
these rules are more in harmony with the purpose of Act No. 496 than the rule
contended for by the appellee. We believe that the purchaser from the owner of the
later certificate, and his successors, should be required to resort to his vendor for

damages, in case of a mistake like the present, rather than to molest the holder of the
first certificate who has been guilty of no negligence. The holder of the first original
certificate and his successors should be permitted to rest secure in their title, against
one who had acquired rights in conflict therewith and who had full and complete
knowledge of their rights. The purchaser of land included in the second original
certificate, by reason of the facts contained in the public record and the knowledge
with which he is charged and by reason of his negligence, should suffer the loss, if any,
resulting from such purchase, rather than he who has obtained the first certificate and
who was innocent of any act of negligence.
The foregoing decision does not solve, nor pretend to solve, all the difficulties resulting
from double registration under the torrens system and the subsequent transfer of the
land. Neither do we now attempt to decide the effect of the former registration in the
ordinary registry upon the registration under the torrens system. We are inclined to the
view, without deciding it, that the record under the torrens system, supersede all other
registries. If that view is correct then it will be sufficient, in dealing with land registered
and recorded alone. Once land is registered and recorded under the torrens system,
that record alone can be examined for the purpose of ascertaining the real status of
the title to the land.
It would be seen to a just and equitable rule, 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.
In view of our conclusions, above stated, the judgment of the lower court should be
and is hereby revoked. The record is hereby returned to the court now having and
exercising the jurisdiction heretofore exercised by the land court, with direction to
make such orders and decrees in the premises as may correct the error heretofore
made in including the land in the second original certificate issued in favor of the
predecessor of the appellee, as well as in all other duplicate certificates issued.
Without any findings as to costs, it is so ordered.
EN
[G.R.

BANC
No.

14167.

August

14,

1919.

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, petitioner and appellee.


ANTIPAS VAZQUEZ and BASILIO GAYARES, Petitioners-Appellants, v. RUFINA
ABURAL
ET.
AL.,
objectors-appellees.
Cohn
Hilado

&
&

Fisher,
Hilado,

2. ID.; CADASTRAL SYSTEM; PURPOSE. The purpose of the offspring of the Torrens
System here known as the Cadastral System, as established in the Philippine Islands
by the Cadastral Act (No. 2259), is, like the purpose of the Torrens System, proper
incontestability of title. As stated in Section 1 of the Cadastral Act, the purpose is to
serve the public interest, by requiring that the titles to any lands "be settled and
adjudicated."cralaw
virtua1aw
library
3. ID.; ID.; PROCEEDINGS. Many precautions are taken to guard against injustice.
4. ID.; ID.; ID. After trial in a cadastral case, three actions are taken. The first
adjudicates ownership in favor of one of the claimants. This constitutes the decision
the judgment the decree of the court. The second action is the declaration by the
court that the decree is final and its order for the issuance of the certificates of title by
the Chief of the Land Registration Office. Such order is made if within thirty days from
the date of receipt of a copy of the decision no appeal is taken from the decision. The
third and last action devolves upon the General Land Registration Office.
5. ID.; ID.; ID.; FINALITY OF DECREE. For a decree to exist in legal contemplation, it
is not necessary to await the preparation of a so-called decree by the Land
Registration
Office.
6. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID. Cadastral proceedings commenced. Notice published in the
Official Gazette. Trial judge also issued general notice. S asks for the registration in his
name of lot No. 1608. Hearing had. On September 21, 1916, the court in a decree
awarded the lot to S. On November 23, 1916, the time for an appeal having passed,
the court declares the decree final. On July 23, 1917, before the issuance by the Land
Registration Office of the so-called technical decree, V and G ask that the case be
reopened to receive proof relative to the ownership of the lot. Motion denied by the
trial court. Held: That since the judgment of the Court of First Instance of September
21, 1916, has become final, and since no action was taken within the time provided by
law for the prosecution of an appeal by bill of exceptions, the Supreme Court is without
jurisdiction,
and
the
appeal
must
be
dismissed.
7. ID.; ID.; RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT. Whether Sections 113 and 513 of the Code of
Civil
Procedure
apply
to
cadastral
proceedings,
quare.
8. GENERAL LAND REGISTRATION OFFICE. The General Land Registration Office has
been instituted "for the due effectuation and accomplishment of the laws relative to
the registration of land." (Administrative Code of 1917, Sec. 174.)

DECISION

MALCOLM, J. :

for Appellants.
for Appellees.

SYLLABUS
1. LAND REGISTRATION; TORRENS SYSTEM; PURPOSE. The prime purpose of the
Torrens System, as established in the Philippine Islands by the Land Registration Law
(Act No. 496), is to decree land titles that shall be final, irrevocable, and indisputable.

The principal question which this appeal presents is When does the registration of
title, under the Torrens System of Land Registration, especially under the different
Philippine laws establishing the Cadastral System, become final, conclusive, and
indisputable? The supplementary questions are At what stage of the cadastral
proceedings does a decree exist in legal contemplation? Does it exist from the moment
that the court, after hearing the evidence, adjudicates the land in favor of a person
and then, or later decrees the land in favor of this person, or does it exist when the
Chief of the Land Registration Office transcribes the adjudication in the prescribed

form?
STATEMENT

OF

THE

CASE.

Cadastral proceedings were commenced in the municipality of Hinigaran, Province of


Occidental Negros, upon an application of the Director of Lands, on June 16, 1916.
Notice of the proceedings were published in the Official Gazette as provided by law.
The trial judge also issued general notice to all interested parties. Among others,
Victoriano Siguenza presented an answer asking for registration in his name of lot No.
1608. The instant petitioners, Antipas Vazquez and Basilio Gayares, although said to
reside in this municipality, and although said to have participated in other cadastral
cases, did not enter any opposition as to this lot. Hearing was had during September,
1916. On September 21 of this year, the court issued the following
decree:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"It is hereby decreed that, upon a previous declaration of general default, the following
lots be adjudged and registered in the names of those persons whose names appear
next after the lots, and in accordance with the following conditions: . . .
"Lot No. 1608 with the improvements thereon to the conjugal partnership of Victoriano
Siguenza
and
Marcela
Guanzon."cralaw
virtua1aw
library
On November 23 of the same year, the court declared final the foregoing decree in the
following
language:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"The decision rendered by the court in the above-entitled case having become final on
September 21, 1916, it is hereby ordered that the Chief of the General Land
Registration Office issue the decrees corresponding to the lots adjudged by said
decision.
"An appeal having however been interposed as to the lots enumerated as follows, the
decrees
thereon,
must
be
suspended
until
further
order
by
this
court:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Lot

No.

521.

Eight months later, that is, on July 23, 1917, but before the issuance by the Land
Registration Office of the so-called technical decree, Antipas Vazquez and Basilio
Gayares, the latter as guardian of the minor Estrella Vazquez, came into the case for
the first time. The petitioners, after setting forth their right of ownership in lot No.
1608, and that it was included in their "Hacienda Santa Filomena," and after stating
that they were in complete ignorance of the proceedings, asked that the judgment of
the court be annulled and that the case be reopened to receive proof relative to the
ownership of the lot. Counsel for Victoriano Siguenza answered by counter-motion,
asking the court to dismiss the motion presented on behalf of Vazquez and Gayares.
The court denied the motion for a new trial on the theory that there being a decree
already rendered and no allegation of fraud having been made, the court lacked
jurisdiction. It may also be stated parenthetically that counsel for Vazquez and Gayares
made an unsuccessful attempt in the Supreme Court, through mandamus, to have the
record
completed
by
the
taking
of
evidence.
In order that the matter may not be confused, let it again be made clear that counsel
for petitioners have not raised the question of fraud as provided for in Section 38 of
the Land Registration Law, nor have they asked to be relieved from a judgment or
order, pursuant to Section 113 of the Code of Civil Procedure, because of mistake,
inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. As a matter of fact, they could not well
claim fraud because all the proceedings were public and free from any suspicion of

chicanery. As a matter of fact, also, any special reliance on Section 113 of the Code of
Civil Procedure would not get them anywhere because more than six months had
elapsed after the issuance of a judgment in this case. The issue fundamentally
becomes one of whether or not the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the appeal,
since if the judgment and the supplemental decree issued by the Judge of the Court of
First Instance on September 21, 1916, and November 23, 1916, respectively, have
become final, petitioners may no bring their appeal before this court, because the time
for the filing of their bill of exceptions has expired; while, if the cadastral proceedings
did not become final until the formal decree was issued by the Land Registration
Office, then it was proper for them to ask for a reopening of the case, and it would,
consequently, be just as proper for this court to order the trial court to permit the
same.
OPINION.
The prime purpose of the Torrens System is, as has been repeatedly stated, to decree
land titles that shall be final, irrevocable, and indisputable. Incontestability of title is
the goal. All due precaution must accordingly be taken to guard against injustice to
interested individuals who, for some good reason, may not be able to protect their
rights. Nevertheless, even at the cost of possible cruelty which may result in
exceptional cases, it does become necessary in the interest of the public weal to
enforce registration laws. No stronger words can be found than those appearing in
Section 38 of the Land Registration Law (Act No. 496) wherein it is said that: "Every
decree of registration shall bind the land, and quiet title thereto. . . . It shall be
conclusive upon and against all persons, including the Insular Government and all the
branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application, notice, or citation, or
included in the general description To all whom it may concern, Such decree shall not
be opened by reason of the absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected
thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments or decrees;
subject, however, to the right of any person deprived of land or of any estate or
interest therein by decree of registration obtained by fraud to file in the Court of Land
Registration (Court of First Instance) a petition for review within one year after entry of
the decree, provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired an interest."cralaw
virtua1aw
library
While such statements can be made of the Torrens System proper, they become even
more incisive and peremptory when we come to consider the offspring of this system,
here known as the Cadastral System. Under the Torrens System proper, whether action
shall or shall not be taken is optional with the solicitant. Under the Cadastral System,
pursuant to initiative on the part of the Government, titles for all the land within a
stated area, are adjudicated whether or not the people living within this district desire
to have titles issued. The purpose, as stated in section one of the Cadastral Act (NO.
2259), is to serve the public interests, by requiring that the titles to any lands "be
settled
and
adjudicated."cralaw
virtua1aw
library
Admitting that such compulsory registration of land and such excessive interference
with private property constitutes due process of law and that the Acts providing for the
same are constitutional, a question not here raised, yet a study of the law indicates
that many precautions are taken to guard against injustice. The proceedings are
initiated by a notice of survey. When the lands have been surveyed and plotted, the
Director of Lands, represented by the Attorney General, files a petition in court praying
that the titles to the lands named be settled and adjudicated. Notice of the filing of the
petition is then published twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette in both the
English and Spanish languages. All persons interested are given the benefit of
assistance by competent officials and are informed of their rights. A trial is had. "All
conflicting interests shall be adjudicated by the court and decrees awarded in favor of
the persons entitled to the lands or the various parts thereof, and such decrees, when

final, shall be the bases of original certificates of title in favor of said persons." (Act No.
2259, Sec. 11.) Aside from this, the commotion caused by the survey and a trial
affecting ordinarily many people, together with the presence of strangers in the
community, should serve to put all those affected on their guard.
After trial in a cadastral case, three actions are taken. The first adjudicates ownership
in favor of one of the claimants. This constitutes the decision the judgment the
decree of the court, and speaks in a judicial manner. The second action is the
declaration by the court that the decree is final and its order for the issuance of the
certificates of title by the Chief of the Land Registration Office. Such order is made if
within thirty days from the date of receipt of a copy of the decision no appeal is taken
from the decision. This again is judicial action, although to a less degree than the first.
The third and last action devolves upon the General Land Registration Office. This
office has been instituted "for the due effectuation and accomplishment of the laws
relative to the registration of land." (Administrative Code of 1917, Sec. 174.) An official
found in the office, known as the chief surveyor, has as one of his duties "to prepare
final decrees in all adjudicated cases." (Administrative Code of 1917, Sec. 177.) This
latter decree contains the technical description of the land and may not be issued until
a considerable time after the promulgation of the judgment. The form for the decree
used by the General Land Registration Office concludes with the words: "Witness, the
Honorable (name of the judge), on this the (date)." The date that is used as authority
for the issuance of the decree is the date when, after hearing the evidence, the trial
court
decreed
the
adjudication
and
registration
of
the
land.

Counsel for appellants and appellees have favored the court with able arguments
relative to the applicability of Sections 113 and 513 of the Code of Civil Procedure to
cadastral proceedings. The view we take of the case would make unprofitable any
discussion
of
this
question.
It appearing that the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Occidental Negros of
September 21, 1916, has become final, and that no action was taken within the time
provided by law for the prosecution of an appeal by bill of exceptions, this court is
without jurisdiction. Accordingly the appeal is dismissed with costs against the
appellants. So ordered.
.R. No. 174004

October 9, 2013

VIRGILIO
G.
CAGATAO, Petitioner,
vs.
GUILLERMO ALMONTE, ARTHUR AGUILAR, SPS. ERNESTO FERNANDEZ AND
AVELINA FERNANDEZ, MARVIN JOHN FERNANDEZ, MARSON FERNANDEZ, and
MARJUN FERNANDEZ, Respondents.
DECISION

The judgment in a cadastral survey, including the rendition of the decree, is a judicial
act. As the law says, the judicial decree when final is the base of the certificate of title.
The issuance of the decree by the Land Registration Office is ministerial act. The date
of the judgment, or more correctly stated, the date on which the defeated party
receives a copy of the decision, begins the running of the time for the interposition of a
motion for a new trial or for the perfection of an appeal to the Supreme Court. The
date of the title prepared by the Chief Surveyor is unimportant, for the adjudication
has taken place and all that is left to be performed is the mere formulation of the
technical description. If an unknown individual could wait possibly years until the day
before a surveyor gets around to transcribing a technical description of a piece of land,
the defeated party could just as reasonably expect the same consideration for his
appeal. As a matter of fact, the so-called unknown is a party just as much as the
known oppositor for notice is to all the world, and the decree binds all the world.

MENDOZA, J.:

Both counsel for petitioners and respondents rely upon the decision of this court in the
case of Tambunting v. Manuel ([1916], 35 Phil.; 699) . That case and the instant case
are not the same. In the Tambunting case the contest was really between two parties
each claiming to have a Torrens title; here one party has the title and the other is
seeking to oust him from his fortress. In the Tambunting case the declaration of
ownership but not the decree of registration had issued; here both declaration and
decree have issued. The doctrines announced in the decision in Grey Alba v. De la Cruz
([1910], 17 Phil., 49) relating to general notice and the indefensibility of land titles
under the Torrens system are much more applicable and can, with as much reason, be
applied
to
the
cadastral
system.

This case stemmed from an action for annulment of deeds of sale, cancellation of title
and damages filed on April 18, 1996 by petitioner Virgilio G. Cagatao (Cagatao) against
respondents Guillermo Almonte (Almonte), Arthur Aguilar (Aguilar), Spouses Ernesto
and Avelina Fernandez (Spouses Fernandez), and Marvin John Fernandez, Marson
Fernandez and Marjun Fernandez (collectively the Fernandez Siblings).4

As a general rule, registration of title under the cadastral system is final, conclusive
and indisputable, after the passage of the thirty-day period allowed for an appeal from
the date of receipt by the party of a copy of the judgment of the court adjudicating
ownership without any step having been taken to perfect an appeal. The prevailing
party may then have execution of the judgment as of right and is entitled to the
certificate of title issued by the chief of the Land Registration Office. The exception is
the
special
provision
providing
for
fraud.

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997
Revised Rules of Civil Procedure assailing the March 9, 2006 Amended Decision 1 and
the August 7, 2006 Resolution 2 of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CV No. 72094,
modifying the June 22, 2001 Decision 3 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 24, Echague,
Isabela (RTC), in Civil Case No. Br. 24-0458, an action for annulment of sale,
cancellation of title and damages.
The facts

On February 16, 1949, a homestead patent over the property subject of this
controversy (Lot No. 5598, Pls-67) was issued in favor of Juan Gatchalian. 5 Cagatao
claimed that sometime in 1940, Gatchalian sold the lotto Delfin Manzulin (Manzulin) in
exchange for one carabao, as embodied ina barter agreement which was unfortunately
destroyed or lost during the Second World War. 6 In 1990, Manzulin allegedly executed
a private written document in the Ilocano dialect, transferring ownership over the
property to his son-in-law, Cagatao. 7 The latter then occupied and cultivated the land
until the Fernandez Siblings attempted to take possession of the lot, thereby
prompting him to file the subject complaint before the RTC.8

The respondents, on the other hand, contended that on April 3, 1993,the Spouses
Fernandez purchased the property from Almonte and Aguilar who had in their
possession a tax declaration covering the said land. 9 To protect their interest, on
January 17, 1996, Spouses Fernandez once again bought the same property
for P220,000.00 from Emmaculada Carlos (Carlos), believed to be the owner of the lot
by virtue of Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-12159-A, a reconstituted title in her
name.10 The former, in turn, executed a deed of sale, dated January 22, 1996, in favor
of their children, the Fernandez Siblings, resulting in the issuance of TCT No.T-249437
in their names.11
In his Memorandum before the RTC, Cagatao questioned the sale to Spouses
Fernandez by Carlos because, at that time, Manzulin was already the owner of the
subject property. He also pointed out that it was highly irregular that Spouses
Fernandez would buy the same property from two different vendors on two different
occasions. Apart from these anomalous transactions, Cagatao insisted that TCT No. T249437 in the name of the Fernandez Siblings was a nullity because the sale from the
Spouses Fernandez was simulated, as testified to by Avelina Fernandez (Fernandez)
who confirmed that she and her husband did not sign the deed of sale purporting to
have transferred ownership of the property to the Fernandez Siblings. 12
The respondents claimed that Cagatao was unable to present proof of title or any
public document embodying the sale of the property from Gatchalian to Manzulin and
from the latter to Cagatao. They also argued that even if a homestead patent was
indeed issued to Gatchalian, the same became void when he (Gatchalian) did not
occupy the land himself, in violation of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Public Land Act of
1936).13
Pending litigation, the RTC issued a writ of preliminary injunction restraining the
respondents from disturbing Cagataos possession of the land in question during the
pendency of the case.14 In its Decision, dated June 22,2001, however, the RTC ruled
that Cagataos evidence was insufficient to prove his ownership over the land in
question because Manzulin never acquired a lawful title to the property from his
predecessor, Gatchalian. The court explained that the transfer to Manzulin was null
and void because it failed to comply with Section 20 15 of Commonwealth Act No. 141.
As to the supposed conveyance of the lot from Manzulin to Cagatao, it could not have
been valid because the document alleged to be a deed of sale was a private document
which did not conclusively establish his (Cagataos) right to the property because of
the requirement in contract law that the transmission of rights over an immovable
property must be contained in a public document.
The RTC, after noting that Cagatao had no valid title, ruled that his claim of possession
could not prevail over the claim of ownership by Spouses Fernandez as evidenced by a
certificate of title. Accordingly, it upheld the validity of the deed of sale, dated January
17, 1996, between Spouses Fernandez and Carlos. It, however, nullified the transfer
from Spouses Fernandez to Fernandez Siblings because Avelina herself admitted that
she and her husband never signed the deed of sale which transferred ownership to
their children. Finally, the RTC sustained the validity of TCT No. T-12159-A in the name
of Carlos, theorizing that someone must have applied for an original certificate of title
from which the said title was derived.16 Thus, the RTC disposed:

1. the dismissal of the plaintiffs [Cagataos] Complaint;


2. the Cancellation and setting aside of the writ of preliminary injunction;
3. the Register of Deeds to cancel Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-249437
issued in favor of Marvin, Marson and Marjun, all surnamed Fernandez, the
Deed of Sale (Exhibit "C") dated January 22, 1996 being null and void; and
4. declaring the Deed of Sale (Exhibit "2") dated January 17, 1996 in favor of
Sps. Avelina M. Fernandez and Ernesto S. Fernandez and TCT No. T-12159-A
registered in the name of Emmaculada G. Carlos as valid and binding.
SO ORDERED.17
Aggrieved, Cagatao elevated the case to the CA. On July 29, 2005, the CA partly
granted his petition and modified the decision of the RTC. The CA deemed as
speculative and without legal basis18 the trial courts conclusion that Gatchalian might
have abandoned his homestead patent, leaving it open for another person to apply for
a patent and secure an original certificate of title from which TCT No. T-12159-A in the
name of Carlos originated. In other words, the ownership of the land remained with
Gatchalian by virtue of the homestead patent in his name, and neither the alleged
transfer to Manzulin nor the theory of abandonment of the RTC could divest him of said
title.
In addition, the CA took note of Entry No. 7259 in the memorandum of encumbrances
at the dorsal side of TCT No. T-12159-A, which disclosed the existence of another deed
of sale entered into by Carlos and the respondents on January 17, 1979. Holding that
the two sales could not overlap, it invalidated the January 17, 1996 deed of sale
between Carlos and Spouses Fernandez. It also considered as void the sale of the
same property by Almonte to Spouses Fernandez and observed that neither the latter
nor the Fernandez siblings invoked this transaction as the basis of their claim.
Although the CA declared that Cagataos claim of ownership could not be recognized,
it nevertheless ruled that his possession could not be disturbed because only the true
owner could challenge him for possession of the subject property. Leaving the parties
where it found them, the CA disposed:
1) the Register of Deeds is ORDERED TO CANCEL Transfer Certificate of Title No.
249437 issued in favor of Marvin, Marsonand Marjun, all surnamed Fernandez; 2) the
Deed of Sale dated January 17, 1996 between Emmaculada Carlos and the Fernandez
spouses is declared NULL and VOID; 3) the Deed of Sale dated January 22, 1996
between defendants-appellees Fernandez siblings and the Fernandez spouses is
DECLARED NULL and VOID; 4) the Deed of Sale dated April 3, 1993 between the
Fernandez spouses and Guillermo Almonte and Arthur Aguilar is likewise
DECLAREDNULL and VOID; 5) the verbal sale between Delfin Manzulin and plaintiffappellant is DECLARED NULL and VOID. The Writ of Preliminary Injunction against
defendants-appellants Fernandez siblings is made PERMANENT. 19

The respondents moved for a reconsideration of the CA decision on August 24, 2005.
On March 9, 2006, the CA rendered the questioned Amended Decision, reversing itself
when it ruled that the deed of sale between Carlos and Spouses Fernandez could not
be declared null and void, especially because Carlos was not impleaded as a party in
the case. It, however, stressed that Cagataos possession of the subject property
should be respected. Any party, including the respondents, who would like to assert
their claim of ownership or a better right over the lot should assert their right in an
appropriate action in court against him.
Not in conformity, Cagatao moved for reconsideration but the motion was denied by
the CA in its Resolution, dated August 7, 2006.20
Hence, this petition.
The Issues
In his petition, Cagatao raises the following issues:
I. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERREDIN NOT RULING THAT THE
RECONSTITUTED TCT NO.12159-A IN THE NAME OF EMMACULADA CARLOS IS
VOID.
II. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERREDIN NOT RULING THAT
HOMESTEAD TITLE HOLDERJUAN GATCHALIAN AND THE PETITIONER AS
HISSUCCESSORS-IN-INTEREST ARE THE TRUE OWNERSOF THE SUBJECT
PROPERTY.
III. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERREDIN RENDERING THE
CHALLENGED
AMENDEDDECISION
BY
DELETING
FROM
THE
DISPOSITIVEPORTION OF THE ORIGINAL DECISION ITS RULINGTHAT THE DEED
OF SALE BETWEEN EMMACULADACARLOS AND RESPONDENTS SPOUSES
FERNANDEZOVER THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS VOID.21
The Courts Ruling
Cagataos entire petition revolves around the assertion that the reconstituted TCT No.
12159-A in the name of Carlos was a fake and should have been declared void. This
claim is based on the existence of an allegedly falsified annotation (Entry No. 7259),
the speculative nature of the RTCs declaration that the said title appeared valid, and
the fact that the respondents were not able to present an affidavit of loss or any proof
of judicial reconstitution.22
The Court cannot accommodate the petitioner.
The
validity
cannot
be
Carlos is an indispensable party

of

TCT
attacked

No.

12159-A
collaterally;

From the arguments of Cagatao, it is clear that he is assailing the validity of the title of
Carlos over the land in question. Section 48 of P.D. No. 1529 clearly states that "a
certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered,
modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law." An attack
on the validity of the title is considered to be a collateral attack when, in an action to
obtain a different relief and as an incident of the said action, an attack is made against
the judgment granting the title.23 Cagataos original complaint before the RTC was for
the cancellation of TCT No. T-249437 in the name of the Fernandez Siblings and the
nullification of the deeds of sale between the Fernandez Siblings and Spouses
Fernandez, and the earlier one between the latter and Almonte and Aguilar. Nowhere
in his complaint did Cagatao mention that he sought to invalidate TCT No. 12159A.1wphi1 It was only during the course of the proceedings, when Spouses Fernandez
disclosed that they had purchased the property from Carlos, that Cagatao thought of
questioning the validity of TCT No. 12159-A.
Although the CA correctly ruled that the transfer from Gatchalian to Manzulin was
invalid, the existence of a valid Torrens title in the name of Carlos which has remained
unchallenged before the proper courts has made irrelevant the issue of whether
Gatchalian and his successors-in-interest should have retained ownership over the
property. This is pursuant to the principle that a Torrens title is irrevocable and its
validity can only be challenged in a direct proceeding. The purpose of adopting a
Torrens System in our jurisdiction is to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to
protect their indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and recognized.
This is to avoid any possible conflicts of title that may arise by giving the public the
right to rely upon the face of the Torrens title and dispense with the need of inquiring
further as to the ownership of the property. 24 Hence, a Torrens certificate of title is
indefeasible and binding upon the whole world unless it is nullified by a court of
competent jurisdiction in a direct proceeding for cancellation of title. 25
Moreover, Carlos, as the registered owner of the lot whose title Cagatao seeks to
nullify, should have been impleaded as an indispensable party. Section 7, Rule 3 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure defines indispensable parties to be "parties in interest
without whom no final determination can be had of an action." It is clear in this case
that Cagatao failed to include Carlos in his action for the annulment of TCT No. 12159A.Basic is the rule in procedural law that no man can be affected by any proceeding to
which he is a stranger and strangers to a case cannot be bound by a judgment
rendered by the court. 26 It would be the height of injustice to entertain an action for
the annulment of Carlos title without giving her the opportunity to present evidence to
support her claim of ownership through title. In addition, it is without question a
violation of the constitutional guarantee that no person shall be deprived of property
without due process of law.27
Thus, should Cagatao wish to question the ownership of the subject lot of Carlos and
Spouses Fernandez, he should institute a direct action before the proper courts for the
cancellation or modification of the titles in the name of the latter two. He cannot do so
now because it is tantamount to a collateral attack on Carlos title, which is expressly
prohibited by law and jurisprudence.

Deed
of
sale
Spouses Fernandez is presumed valid

between

Carlos

and

The CA did not err in amending its decision and recognizing the validity of the sale
between Spouses Fernandez and Carlos. Time and again, the Court has repeatedly
ruled that a person dealing with a registered land has the right to rely on the face of
the Torrens title and need not inquire further, unless the party concerned has actual
knowledge of facts and circumstances that would impel a reasonably cautious man to
make such an inquiry. The indefeasibility of a Torrens title as evidence of lawful
ownership of the property protects buyers in good faith who rely on what appears on
the face of the said certificate of title. Moreover, a potential buyer is charged with
notice of only the burdens and claims annotated on the title. 28 As explained in
Sandoval v. Court of Appeals,29
. . . a person dealing with registered land has a right to rely on the Torrens certificate of
title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further except when the party has
actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that would impel a reasonably cautious
man to make such inquiry or when the purchaser has knowledge of a defect or the lack
of title in his vendor or status of the title of the property in litigation. The presence of
anything which excites or arouses suspicion should then prompt the vendee to look
beyond the certificate and investigate the title of the vendor appearing on the face of
said certificate. One who falls within the exception can neither be denominated an
innocent purchaser for value nor a purchaser in good faith; and hence does not merit
the protection of the law.30
In this case, there has been no showing that Spouses Fernandez were aware of any
irregularity in Carlos title that would make them suspicious and cause them to doubt
the legitimacy of Carlos claim of ownership, especially because there were no
encumbrances annotated on Carlos title. At any rate, that is the proper subject of
another action initiated for the purpose of questioning Carlos certificate of title from
which Spouses Fernandez derived their ownership because, otherwise, the title of
Spouses Fernandez would become indefeasible. The reason for this is extensively
explained in Tenio-Obsequio v. Court of Appeals:31
The Torrens system was adopted in this country because it was believed to be the
most effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect their
indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and recognized. If a person
purchases a piece of land on the assurance that the seller's title thereto is valid, he
should not run the risk of being told later that his acquisition was ineffectual after all.
This would not only be unfair to him. What is worse is that if this were permitted,
public confidence in the system would be eroded and land transactions would have to
be attended by complicated and not necessarily conclusive investigations and proof of
ownership. The further consequence would be that land conflicts could be even more
numerous and complex than they are now and possibly also more abrasive, if not even
violent. The Government, recognizing the worthy purposes of the Torrens system,
should be the first to accept the validity of titles issued thereunder once the conditions
laid down by the law are satisfied.32

While the Court finds that the validity of TCT No. 12159-A cannot be attacked
collaterally and that Cagatao had not sufficiently established his claim of ownership
over the subject prope1iy, it agrees with the CA that he, the current possessor, shall
remain to be so until such time that his possession is successfully contested by a
person with a better right.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 133168

March 28, 2006

REPUBLIC
OF
vs.
BENJAMIN GUERRERO, Respondent.

THE

PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,1

DECISION
GARCIA, J.:
Assailed and sought to be set aside in this petition for review under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court is the decision2dated February 12, 1998 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CV No. 50298 affirming an earlier decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Quezon City in Civil Case No. 89-3899, entitled "Petition for Amendment of Plan and
Technical Description of Original Certificate of Title No. 0-28 in the name of Benjamin
Guerrero, Registry of Deeds of Quezon City."
The assailed decision of the CA recites the facts as follows:
Sometime in December 1964, respondent Benjamin Guerrero filed with the Bureau of
Lands (now Lands Management Bureau) a Miscellaneous Sales Application No. V-83191
covering a parcel of land situated at Pugad Lawin, Quezon City, consisting of 256
square meters. Upon favorable report and recommendation of the District Land Officer,
Guerreros application was approved per Order of Award (Exhibit "B"), with the
boundaries of the land awarded specified as follows: N-Lot No. 10-C, Psd-37801; SCuliat Creek; E-Road; and W-Public Land. A sketch of the land awarded is contained at
the back of the Order of Award.
Subsequently, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 8991 dated August 16, 1982 was issued
in favor of respondent. Pursuant thereto the corresponding Original Certificate of Title
No. 0-28 was issued on August 27, 1982.
On July 29, 1983, one Angelina Bustamante filed a protest with the Bureau of Lands
claiming that respondent obtained the sales patent through fraud, false statement of
facts and/or omission of material facts considering that 174 square meters awarded to
respondent covered the land where her house is situated and where she has been
residing since 1961.
A formal investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Lands, after which the Director
of Lands issued an order dismissing the protest of Angelina Z. Bustamante. The

dismissal of the protest was affirmed by the then Minister of Natural Resources and by
the Office of the President in a Decision dated July 22, 1985.
Bustamante filed a motion for reconsideration of the Decision dated July 22, 1985.
Acting on the motion for reconsideration, the President, , ordered that the case be
remanded to the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] for the
latters office to conduct an ocular investigation and resurvey of the disputed area. The
said directive is contained in the Order dated October 30, 1987(Exhibit "J").
Pursuant to the order of the Office of the President, an ocular investigation and
relocation survey was conducted by the DENR. A report (Exhibit "K") was thereafter
submitted with a finding that 83 square meters of the titled property of Guerrero
consisting of 174 square meters is under ACTUAL PHYSICAL POSSESSION of Marcelo
Bustamante (husband of Angelina Bustamante) with only 91 square meters under the
physical possession of Guerrero. It was also found out that OCT No. 0-28 is supposed to
be traversed by a road 3 meters wide, as even the Order of Award in favor of Guerrero,
shows by the boundaries of the land indicated therein, viz: bounded on the N-Lot No.
10-C, Psd-37801, S-Culiat Creek, E-Road and W-Public Land.
On January 10, 1989, the Office of the President, upon receipt of the [DENR] Ocular
Investigation and Relocation Survey Report (Exhibit "K") , issued an order directing
the DENR to implement the Report for the proper correction of the technical
description of the land covered by OCT No. 0-28 issued to respondent.
Pursuant to the directive of the Office of the President, the Director of Lands [on behalf
of the Republic of the Philippines] instituted the instant action [Petition for Amendment
of Plan and Technical Description of OCT No. 0-28 in the name of Benjamin Guerrero]
on November 7, 1989.
On April 6, 1990, the [respondent] Benjamin Guerrero filed a motion to dismiss the
petition , alleging among other things, that the RTC of Quezon City was without
jurisdiction over the Director of Lands petition and that the said petition was defective
in form and substance, inasmuch as it failed to name [Guerrero] who holds a certificate
of title (OCT No. 0-28) over the properties subject of the petition, as respondent in the
action, and that the title sought to be amended was irrevocable and can no longer be
questioned.
In its order dated July 8, 1992, the lower court denied the said motion to dismiss for
lack of merit. Trial of the petition followed with the Director of Lands, on one hand, and
[Guerrero], on the other, presenting their respective evidence and witnesses. 3 [Words
in bracket added.]
On July 13, 1995, the RTC, on the postulate that petitioner Republic failed to prove its
allegation that respondent obtained the sales patent and the certificate of title through
fraud and misrepresentation, rendered judgment finding for the latter. The trial court
likewise ruled that the original certificate of title (OCT No. 0-28) in the name of
respondent acquired the characteristics of indefeasibility after the expiration of one (1)
year from the entry of the decree of registration.
Consequently, petitioner interposed an appeal to the CA, which, in a decision dated
February 12, 1998, affirmed that of the trial court, rationalizing as follows:

It is a settled rule that a certificate of title issued pursuant to any grant or patent
involving public lands is as conclusive and indefeasible as any other certificate of title
issued upon private lands in ordinary or cadastral registration proceedings. The effect
of registration of a homestead or any other similar patent and the issuance of a
certificate of title to the patentee is to vest in him an incontestable title to the land, in
the same manner as if ownership had been determined by final decree of the court,
and the title so issued is absolutely conclusive and indisputable.
In the same way, therefore, that a decree of registration may be reviewed or reopened
within one year after the entry thereof, upon a charge of actual fraud, a patent
awarded in accordance with the Public Land Law may be reviewed within one year
from the date of the order for the issuance of the patent also on the ground of actual
fraud.
xxx
xxx
xxx
xxx there is no showing that at the time the [respondent] applied for his
miscellaneous sales patent, there were third persons who had been in occupation of
the land applied for. While subsequent survey documents, prepared as a consequence
of the protest filed by the Bustamentes, report the possession of the Bustamantes of a
portion of the land, and the erection of their house thereon, these reports do not
indicate if such structures were existing at the time the application of the [respondent]
was filed in 1964.
There is no support, therefore, to the submission that the [respondent] was guilty of
actual fraud in the acquisition of his miscellaneous sales patent, and subsequently,
OCT No. 0-28.4 (Words in bracket added)
Petitioner then moved for a reconsideration of the above decision but the same was
denied by the appellate court in its resolution of March 23, 1998.5
Hence, this recourse, petitioner Republic contending that the appellate court erred in
holding I. That a certificate of title issued pursuant to any grant or patent involving
public lands is conclusive and indefeasible despite the fact that respondents
title was procured through fraud and misrepresentation.
II. That there is no basis for the submission that respondent was guilty of
actual fraud in the acquisition of his miscellaneous sales patent despite the
final ruling of the Office of the President from which ruling respondent did not
appeal.
III. That the Director of Lands cannot raise the issue of possession of a third
person of the land, or a portion thereof, after the award and issuance of the
patent to the applicant despite the obvious fact that the protest was filed
within one year from the issuance of patent.6
Petitioner argues in esse that respondent procured his sales patent and certificate of
title through fraud and misrepresentation. To support its basic posture, petitioner
points to the verification survey conducted by Engr. Ernesto Erive of the DENR, which,
to petitioner, argues for the proposition that respondents entitlement to a public land

award should have been limited to a 91-square meter area instead of the 174 square
meters eventually granted.
On the other hand, respondent contends that his OCT No. 0-28 which he secured
pursuant to a sales patent is conclusive and indefeasible under the Torrens system of
registration. As such, his title can no longer be altered, impugned or cancelled.
At the outset, it must be pointed out that the essential issue raised in this Petition
the presence of fraud is factual. As a general rule, this Court does not review factual
matters, as only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari
filed with this Court. And as the Court has consistently held, factual findings of trial
courts, when adopted and confirmed by the CA, are final and conclusive on this
Court,7 save when the judgment of the appellate court is based on a misapprehension
of facts or factual inferences manifestly incorrect or when that court overlooked
certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, would justify a different
conclusion.8 Obviously, petitioner is invoking these exceptions toward having the Court
review the factual determinations of the CA.
The basic issue in this case turns on whether or not petitioner has proven by clear and
convincing evidence that respondent procured Miscellaneous Sales Patent (MSP) No.
8991 and OCT No. 0-28 through fraud and misrepresentation.
It bears to stress that the property in question, while once part of the lands of the
public domain and disposed of via a miscellaneous sales arrangement, is now covered
by a Torrens certificate. Grants of public land were brought under the operation of the
Torrens system by Act No. 496, or the Land Registration Act of 1903. Under the Torrens
system of registration, the government is required to issue an official certificate of title
to attest to the fact that the person named is the owner of the property described
therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or what the law
warrants or reserves.9 As it were, the Torrens system aims to obviate possible conflicts
of title by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of the Torrens certificate and
to dispense, as a rule, with the necessity of inquiring further; on the part of the
registered owner, the system gives him complete peace of mind that he would be
secured in his ownership as long as he has not voluntarily disposed of any right over
the covered land.10
Section 122 of Act No. 496 provides:
SEC. 122. Whenever public lands belonging to the Government of the [Republic of
the Philippines] are alienated, granted, or conveyed to persons or to public or private
corporations, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Act and
shall become registered lands. It shall be the duty of the official issuing the instrument
of alienation, grant, or conveyance in behalf of the Government to cause such
instrument before its delivery to the grantee, to be filed with the register of deeds for
the province where the land lies and to be there registered like other deeds and
conveyances, whereupon a certificate shall be entered as in other cases of registered
land, and an owners duplicate certificate issued to the grantee. The deed, grant, or
instrument of conveyance from the Government shall not take effect as a conveyance
or bind the land, but shall operate only as a contract between the Government and the
grantee and as evidence of authority to the clerk or register of deeds to make
registration. The act of registration shall be the operative act to convey and affect the
land, and in all cases under this Act registration shall be made in the office of the
register of deeds for the province where the land lies. xxx. (Words in bracket added)

Upon its registration, the land falls under the operation of Act No. 496 and becomes
registered land. Time and again, we have said that a Torrens certificate is evidence of
an indefeasible title to property in favor of the person whose name appears thereon. 11
However, Section 38 of Act No. 496 recognizes the right of a person deprived of land to
institute an action to reopen or revise a decree of registration obtained by actual
fraud. Section 38 of Act No. 496 says so:
SEC. 38. xxx. Every decree of registration shall bind the land, and quiet title thereto,
subject only to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be conclusive
upon and against all persons, including the [Republic of the Philippines] and all the
branches thereof, . Such decree shall not be opened by reason of the absence,
minority, or other disability of any person affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in
any court for reversing judgments or decrees, subject, however, to the right of any
person deprived of the land or of any estate or interest therein by decree of
registration obtained by actual fraud, to file in the proper Court of First Instance [now
Regional Trial Court] a petition for review of the decree of registration within one year
after entry of the decree provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired an
interest. Upon the expiration of said term of one year, every decree or certificate of
title issued in accordance with this section shall be incontrovertible. xxx. (Emphasis
and words in bracket supplied)
Fraud is of two kinds: actual or constructive. Actual or positive fraud proceeds from an
intentional deception practiced by means of the misrepresentation or concealment of a
material fact. Constructive fraud is construed as a fraud because of its detrimental
effect upon public interests and public or private confidence, even though the act is
not done with an actual design to commit positive fraud or injury upon other persons. 12
Fraud may also be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Fraud is regarded as intrinsic where the
fraudulent acts pertain to an issue involved in the original action, or where the acts
constituting the fraud were or could have been litigated therein. The fraud is extrinsic
if it is employed to deprive parties of their day in court and thus prevent them from
asserting their right to the property registered in the name of the applicant. 13
The distinctions assume significance because only actual and extrinsic fraud had been
accepted and is contemplated by the law as a ground to review or reopen a decree of
registration. Thus, relief is granted to a party deprived of his interest in land where the
fraud consists in a deliberate misrepresentation that the lots are not contested when in
fact they are; or in willfully misrepresenting that there are no other claims; or in
deliberately failing to notify the party entitled to notice; or in inducing him not to
oppose an application; or in misrepresenting about the identity of the lot to the true
owner by the applicant causing the former to withdraw his application. In all these
examples, the overriding consideration is that the fraudulent scheme of the prevailing
litigant prevented a party from having his day in court or from presenting his case. The
fraud, therefore, is one that affects and goes into the jurisdiction of the court. 14
We have repeatedly held that relief on the ground of fraud will not be granted where
the alleged fraud goes into the merits of the case, is intrinsic and not collateral, and
has been controverted and decided. Thus, we have underscored the denial of relief
where it appears that the fraud consisted in the presentation at the trial of a supposed
forged document, or a false and perjured testimony, or in basing the judgment on a
fraudulent compromise agreement, or in the alleged fraudulent acts or omissions of
the counsel which prevented the petitioner from properly presenting the case. 15

Petitioner fails to convince the Court that the facts relied upon by it to justify a review
of the decree constitute actual and extrinsic fraud. It has not adduced adequate
evidence that would show that respondent employed actual and extrinsic fraud in
procuring the patent and the corresponding certificate of title. Petitioner miserably
failed to prove that it was prevented from asserting its right over the lot in question
and from properly presenting its case by reason of such fraud. In fact, other than its
peremptory statement in its petition filed before the trial court that "the patentee,
Benjamin Guerrero, obtained the above indicated sales patent through fraud, false
statement of facts and/or omission of material facts," 16 petitioner did not specifically
allege how fraud was perpetrated by respondent in procuring the sales patent and the
certificate of title. Nor was any evidence proffered to substantiate the allegation. Fraud
cannot be presumed, and the failure of petitioner to prove it defeats it own cause.
Well-settled is the rule that the party alleging fraud or mistake in a transaction bears
the burden of proof.17 The circumstances evidencing fraud are as varied as the people
who perpetrate it in each case. It may assume different shapes and forms; it may be
committed in as many different ways. 18 Thus, the law requires that fraud be
established, not just by preponderance of evidence, but by clear and convincing
evidence.19
Petitioner relies heavily on the verification survey report 20 which stated that
respondent Guerrero was entitled to only 91 square meters of the subject lot instead of
174 square meters which was awarded to him. There is, however, no proof that the
area eventually awarded to respondent was intentionally and fraudulently increased. It
was never proven that respondent was a party to any fraud that led to the award of a
bigger area of 174 square meters instead of 91 square meters. Petitioner even failed
to give sufficient proof of any error which may have been committed by its agents who
had surveyed the subject property nor had petitioner offered a sensible explanation as
to the reason for such discrepancy. Thus, the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official functions must be respected.
This Court agrees with the RTC that the issuance of the sales patent over the subject
lot was made in accordance with the procedure laid down by Commonwealth Act No.
141, as amended, otherwise known as the Public Land Act. 21 Under Section 91 thereof,
an investigation should be conducted for the purpose of ascertaining the veracity of
the material facts set out in the application. 22 The law also requires sufficient notice to
the municipality and barrio where the land is located in order to give adverse
claimants the opportunity to present their claims.23
In the instant case, records reveal that on December 22, 1964, a day after respondent
filed his miscellaneous sales application, an actual investigation and site verification of
the parcel of land was conducted by Land Investigator Alfonso Tumbocon who reported
that the land was free from claims and conflicts. 24 Likewise, the notice of sale of the lot
in question was posted at the District Land Office in San Miguel, Manila, at the Quezon
City Hall, and at Pugad Lawin, Quezon City for 30 consecutive days from February 17,
1965 to March 17, 1965 which was the date scheduled for the sale of the lot. The said
notice was worded as follows:
If there is any adverse claim to the land, such claim must be filed at the Bureau of
Lands, Manila on or before the date of the sale; otherwise such claim shall forever be
barred.25
Further, the "Order of Award" 26 dated May 20, 1971, as well as the "Issuance of
Patent"27 dated June 28, 1982 were both duly signed by the Director of Lands. The

"Order of Award" even declared that Guerrero has in good faith established his
residence on the land in question. On the other hand, the "Issuance of Patent" stated
that the land consisting of 174 square meters is free from any adverse claim and that
Guerrero has fully paid the purchase price of the lot. Having complied with all the
requirements of the law preliminary to the issuance of the patent, respondent was thus
issued MSP No. 8991 dated August 16, 1982. Thereafter, the corresponding OCT No. 028 was issued on August 27, 1982 in the name of respondent Guerrero.
At any rate, by legal presumption, public officers are deemed to have regularly
performed their official duties. Thus, the proceedings for land registration that led to
the issuance of MSP No. 8991 and OCT No. 0-28 in respondents name are
presumptively regular and proper. To overturn this legal presumption will not only
endanger judicial stability, but also violate the underlying principle of the Torrens
system. Indeed, to do so would reduce the vaunted legal indefeasibility of Torrens titles
to meaningless verbiage.28 Besides, this presumption of regularity has not been
overcome by the evidence presented by petitioner. We, therefore, cannot sustain
petitioners contention that fraud tainted the sales patent granted to respondent
Guerrero, as well as the certificate of title issued in consequence thereof.
Granting that Guerrero committed extrinsic and actual fraud, petitioner failed to avail
itself of the remedy within the prescribed period. Under Section 38 of Act No. 496, a
petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration must be filed within one
year from the date of entry of said decree.
In the case of public land grants or patents, the one-year period commences from the
issuance of the patent by the government. 29
In the instant case, the sales patent was issued to respondent on August 16, 1982,
while petitioner instituted an action to amend respondents certificate of title on
November 7, 1989 or after the lapse of more than seven (7) years from the issuance of
the patent. Clearly, petitioner failed to timely avail of the remedy to contest Guerreros
title.
Petitioner argues that the right of the State for the reversion of unlawfully acquired
property is not barred by prescription. Thus, it can still recover the land granted to
respondent.
True, prescription, basically, does not run against the State and the latter may still
bring an action, even after the lapse of one year, for the reversion to the public
domain
of
lands
which
have
been
fraudulently
granted
to
private
individuals.30 However, this remedy of reversion can only be availed of in cases of
fraudulent or unlawful inclusion of the land in patents or certificates of title. In the
present case, petitioner cannot successfully invoke this defense for, as discussed
earlier, it was never proven that respondents patent and title were obtained through
actual fraud or other illegal means.
Lest it be overlooked, a piece of land covered by a registered patent and the
corresponding certificate of title ceases to be part of the public domain. As such, it is
considered a private property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor
jurisdiction.31

Petitioner likewise insists that respondents title had yet to attain the status of
indefeasibility. As argued, Angelina Bustamante was able to timely file a protest on July
29, 1983, which was well within the one-year prescriptive period.

officers can question his title any time they make a finding unfavorable to said title
holder. This is all the more frustrating for respondent Guerrero considering that he had
bought the subject lot from the government itself, the very same party who is now
impugning his title.

We do not agree.
While Angelina Bustamante indeed protested the award of a sales patent in favor of
respondent, the protest was, however, filed with the Bureau of Lands instead of with
the regional trial court as mandated by the aforequoted provision of Section 38 of Act
No. 496. Said provision expressly states that a petition for review of a decree of
registration shall be filed in the "proper Court of First Instance" (now Regional Trial
Court). The law did not say that such petition may be filed with an administrative
agency like the Bureau of Lands. To be sure, what the law contemplates in allowing a
review of the decree of registration is a full-blown trial before a regular court where
each party could be afforded full opportunity to present his/its case and where each of
them must establish his case by preponderance of evidence and not by mere
substantial evidence, the usual quantum of proof required in administrative
proceedings. The concept of "preponderance of evidence" refers to evidence which is
of greater weight, or more convincing, than that which is offered in opposition to it; at
bottom, it means probability of truth. 32 On the other hand, substantial evidence refers
to such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion, even if other minds equally reasonable might conceivably opine
otherwise.33
As the review of a decree of registration constitutes an attack on the very integrity of
land titles and the Torrens system, a full-blown trial on the merits before a regular
court is necessary for the purpose of achieving a more in-depth and thorough
determination of all issues involved.
Hence, contrary to petitioners assertion, the protest filed by Bustamante with the
Bureau of Lands cannot be considered in the context of a petition to review the decree
of registration issued to respondent. It was only on November 7, 1989 that such
petition was filed by the Director of Lands with the RTC and obviously, it was way
beyond the one-year period prescribed by law.
It is worth stressing that the Torrens system was adopted in this country because it
was believed to be the most effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles
and to protect their indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and
recognized. If a person purchases a piece of land on the assurance that the sellers
title thereto is valid, he should not run the risk of being told later that his acquisition
was ineffectual after all. This would not only be unfair to him. What is worse is that if
this were permitted, public confidence in the system would be eroded and land
transactions would have to be attended by complicated and not necessarily conclusive
investigations and proof of ownership. The further consequence would be that land
conflicts could be even more abrasive, if not even violent. The government,
recognizing the worthy purposes of the Torrens system, should be the first to accept
the validity of titles issued thereunder once the conditions laid down by the law are
satisfied.34
Instead of stabilizing the Torrens system, petitioner, in filing a suit for the amendment
of OCT No. 0-28, derogates the very integrity of the system as it gives the impression
to Torrens title holders, like herein respondent, that their titles can be questioned by
the same authority who had approved their titles. In that case, no Torrens title holder
shall be at peace with the ownership and possession of his land, for land registration

While the Torrens system is not a mode of acquiring titles to lands but merely a system
of registration of titles to lands,35 justice and equity demand that the titleholder should
not be made to bear the unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence of the States
agents, in the absence of proof of his complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to
third persons. The real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and put a
stop forever to any question as to the legality of the title, except claims that were
noted in the certificate at the time of the registration or that may arise subsequent
thereto.36 Otherwise, the integrity of the Torrens system shall forever be sullied by the
ineptitude and inefficiency of land registration officials, who are ordinarily presumed to
have regularly performed their duties.37
Respondents certificate of title, having been registered under the Torrens system, was
thus vested with the garment of indefeasibility.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed decision is
AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 190901

November 12, 2014

AMADA
COTONER-ZACARIAS, Petitioner,
vs.
SPOUSES ALFREDO AND THE HEIRS REVILLA OF PAZ REVILLA, Respondents.
DECISION
LEONEN, J.:
Well-settled is the rule that "conveyances by virtue of a forged signature ... are void ab
initio [as] [t]he absence of the essential [requisites] of consent and cause or
consideration in these cases rendered the contract inexistent[.]" 1
Before us is a petition for review 2 filed by Amada Cotoner-Zacarias against respondent
spouses Alfredo Revilla and Paz Castillo-Revilla, praying that this court render a
decision "reversing the Decision of the Regional Trial Court and Court of Appeals and
declaring the transfer of title to the Petitioner and then to her successors-in-interest as
valid and binding as against the respondents." 3
The Court of Appeals summarized the facts as follows.
Alfredo Revilla and Paz Castillo-Revilla (Revilla spouses) are the owners in fee simple of
a 15,000-square-meter unregistered parcel of land in Silang, Cavite, covered by Tax
Declaration No. 7971.4

In 1983, the Revilla spouses faced financial difficulties in raising funds for Alfredo
Revillas travel to Saudi Arabia, so Paz Castillo-Revilla borrowed money from Amada
Cotoner-Zacarias (Amada). By way of security, the parties verbally agreed that Amada
would take physical possession of the property, cultivate it, then use the earnings from
the cultivation to pay the loan and realty taxes. 5 Upon full payment of the loan, Amada
would return the property to the Revilla spouses.6
Unknown to the Revilla spouses, Amada presented a fictitious document entitled
"Kasulatan ng Bilihanng Lupa" before the Provincial Assessor of Cavite. This document
was executed on March 19, 1979 with the Revilla spouses as sellers and Amada as
buyer of the property.7 Consequently, Tax Declaration No. 7971 in the name of the
Revilla spouses was cancelled, and Tax Declaration No. 19773 in the name of Amada
was issued.

For their part, the Sun spouses argued good faith belief that Amada was the real owner
of the property asAmada showed them a tax declaration in her name and the
"Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" allegedly executed by the Revilla spouses. 18 When the
Sun spouses discovered there was another sale with the Casorla spouses, they were
assured by Amada that she had already bought back the property from the Casorla
spouses.19 Subsequently, the Casorla spouses executed a deed ofabsolute sale dated
December 16, 1991 in favor of the Sun spouses. 20 They also argued prescription
against the Revilla spouses, and prayed for damages against Amada by way of
crossclaim.21
On August 3, 2006, the Regional Trial Court22 found the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa"
to be a fictitious document, and ruled in favor of the Revilla spouses:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

On August 25, 1984, Amada sold the property to the spouses Adolfo and Elvira Casorla
(Casorla spouses) by "Deed of Absolute SaleUnregistered Land." Tax Declaration No.
30411-A was later issued in the name of the Casorla spouses. 8
In turn, the Casorla spouses executed a deed of absolute sale dated December 16,
1991 in favor of the spouses Rodolfo and Yolanda Sun (Sun spouses). Tax Declaration
Nos. 30852-A and 18584 were issued in favor of the Sun spouses.9

1. Declaring the sales/transfers from Tax Declaration No. 7971, s. 1980 to Tax
Declaration No. 18584, s. 1994 as NULL and VOID, without valid transmission
of title and interest from the original owners, plaintiffs herein and
consequently, entitling plaintiffs to reinstatement and reconveyance of their
title/taxdeclaration as well as possession of the subject property;
2. Ordering defendant Zacariasto pay the following:

In December 1994, Alfredo Revilla returned from Saudi Arabia. He asked Amada why
she had not returnedtheir tax declaration considering their full payment of the loan. He
then discovered that the propertys tax declaration was already in the name of the Sun
spouses.10

2.1 To the Plaintiffs:


a. P50,000.00 for moral damages;

On February 15, 1995, the Revilla spouses were served a copy of the answer 11 in the
land registration case filed by the Sun spouses for the property. 12 The Revilla spouses
then saw a copy of the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" and noticed that their
signatures as sellers were forged.13

b. P20,000.00 for exemplary damages; and


c. P80,000.00 for attorneys fees.
2.2 To Defendant-Spouses Sun:

They then demanded the cancellation of the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" from
Amada and all subsequent transfers of the property, its reconveyance, and the
restoration of its tax declaration in their name.14 Amada failed to take action.

a. P467,350.00 for actual damages;

On November 17, 1995, the Revillaspouses filed a complaint before the Tagaytay
Regional Trial Court for the annulment of sales and transfers of title and reconveyance
of the property with damages against Amada, the Casorla spouses, the Sun spouses,
and the Provincial Assessor of Cavite.15
In her answer, Amada denied that the property was used as a security for the Revilla
spouses loan.16 Instead, she claimed that the Revilla spouses voluntarily executed the
"Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" in her favor on March 19, 1979. She added that the
Revilla spouses cause of action already prescribed. 17

b. P50,000.00 for moral damages;


c. P20,000.00 for exemplary damages; and
d. P100,000.00 for attorneys fees.
SO ORDERED.23
Amada appealed the trial courts decision, while the Sun spouses partially appealed
the decision as to interest and damages.

On August 13, 2009, the Court of Appeals 24 dismissed the appeal of Amada, and
partially granted the appeal of the Sun spouses. The dispositive portion reads:

on P12,000,000.00, the value of the property they alleged in their supplemental pretrial brief.34

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us


DISMISSING the appeal filed by defendant appellant Amada C. Zacarias in this case,
and PARTIALLY GRANTING the appeal filed by the Spouses Rodolfo and Yolanda Sun.
The Decision dated August 3, 2006 rendered by Branch 18 of the Regional Trial Court
of the Fourth Judicial Region stationed in Tagaytay City, Cavite in Civil Case No. TG1543 is MODIFIED in that defendant-appellant Amada C. Zacarias is ordered to pay
interest at 6% per annum on the principal obligation in the amount of P467,350.00
from February 3, 1995, the date of the first judicial demand by the Spouses Sun, until
said decision on the principal obligation became final and executory, and interest at
12% per annum on the principal obligation, moral and exemplary damages, as well as
attorneys fees, from the time said decision became final and executory until full
payment of said amounts.

Lastly, petitioner argues that the property is conjugal in nature, but the court never
declared that respondent Paz Castillo-Revillas signature was falsified. Thus, the sale
over her half of the property cannot be declared void. 35 She adds that the Sun spouses
are buyers in good faith for value, making reinstatement of the property impossible. 36

SO ORDERED.25
The Court of Appeals denied Amadas motion for reconsideration; hence, she filed this
petition. Petitioner argues that the antichresisclaim of the Revilla spouses was not
reduced into writing, thus, it is void under Article 2134 of the Civil Code. 26 She submits
that the allegation of antichresis was only an excuse by the Revilla spouses for their
failure to impugn possession of the property by Amada and her successors-in-interest
for over 16 years.27
Petitioner contends that the sale inher favor was established by the "Kasulatan ng
Bilihan ng Lupa," the delivery of the tax declaration, and the testimony of one Mrs.
Rosita Castillo (Rosita).28 Rosita was the second wife of Felimon Castillo, the previous
owner of the property. She testified that respondent Paz Castillo-Revilla admitted toher
father, Felimon, that she and Alfredo Revilla sold the property to Amada. 29
On the alleged forgery, petitioner submits that the court misapplied the principle that
"he who alleges not he who denies must prove" when it stated that she had the
burden of proving the due execution of the deed of absolute sale. Since the Revilla
spouses alleged that the deedwas a forged document, they had the burden of proving
the forgery.30 She then cites the trial court in that "[a]ccordingly, the National Bureauof
Investigation was not able to ascertain the genuineness of the signatureof plaintiff Paz
Revilla because of lack of sufficient sample signatures. . . ." 31
On the prescription argument, the parties live in a very small barangay. While Alfredo
Revilla worked in Saudi Arabia, he admitted returning to the Philippines twice a year,
while his wife never left Silang, Cavite,32 and yet the Revilla spouses never questioned
the activities on the property for more than 16 years.33
On the proper docket fees, petitioner contends that the Revilla spouses paid docket
fees based on their prayer for actual damages of P50,000.00, moral damages
of P50,000.00, and attorneys fee of P80,000.00, when they should have based it

Respondents Revilla spouses counter that the factual issue of whether the "Kasulatan
ng Bilihan ng Lupa" isa falsified document was already conclusively resolved by the
lower courts and, generally, factual findings are beyond this courts power of review. 37
On the prescription issue, respondents Revilla spouses argue that an action or defense
to declare a document null is imprescriptible. 38 Laches also does not apply since they
immediately questioned the fraudulent transfers by filing a complaint in November
1995 upon learning of the questionable documents in February 1995, after Alfredo had
returned from Saudi Arabia in December 1994.39
Respondents Revilla spouses contend that they paid the proper docket fees.
The P12,000,000.00 mentioned during pre-trial that petitioner insists should have been
the basis of the fees was neither stated in the complaint nor awarded by the court. 40
Respondents Revilla spouses argue that the court did not err in ordering reinstatement
of the property tothem. First, the defense that the Sun spouses were buyers in good
faith is a personal defense that cannot be raised by petitioner who was not privy to the
sale between the Casorla spouses and the Sun spouses. 41 Second, an alternative
prayer for damages cannot be interpreted as an admission that the relief for
reinstatement is not viable.42Third, the transaction happened prior to the effectivity of
the Family Code; thus, Article 172 of the Civil Code applies such that "[t]he wife cannot
bind the conjugal partnership without the husbands consent, except in cases provided
by law."43 Consequently, the result is the same even if respondent Paz Castillo-Revilla
did not testify that the signature is not hers, as she cannot bind the entire property
without her husbands consent.44 Lastly, no unjust enrichment exists since they were
deprived of their property for so long.45
The issues for this courts resolution are as follows:
First, whether respondents Revilla spouses cause of action is barred by prescription or
laches; Second, whether the trial court acquired jurisdiction when respondents Revilla
spouses paid filing fees based on the P50,000.00 claim for damages in the complaint
but stated in their supplemental pre-trial brief that the property is valued
at P12,000,000.00; and
Third, whether the Court of Appeals erred in upholding the reinstatement and
reconveyance of the property in favor of respondents Revilla spouses.
I.

On the first issue, petitioner argues that respondents Revilla spouses claim is barred
by laches since theyallowed 16 years to lapse, with petitioner having possession of the
property, before filing suit.46
Laches has been defined as "the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and
unexplained length of time, to do that which by the exercise of due diligence
could or should have been done earlier." 47
The elements that need to be present and proven before an action is considered
barred by laches are the following:
The four basic elements of laches are: (1) conduct on the part of the defendant, or of
one under whom he claims, giving rise to the situation of which complaint is made and
for which the complaint seeks a remedy; (2) delay in asserting the complainant's
rights, the complainant having had knowledge or notice of the defendants conduct
and having been afforded an opportunity to institute suit; (3) lack of knowledge or
notice on the part of the defendant that the complainant would assert the right on
which he bases his suit; and, (4) injury or prejudice to the defendant in the event relief
is accorded to the complainant or the suit is not held to be barred. 48
There was no delay by respondents Revilla spouses in asserting their rights over the
property. The lower courts found that respondents Revilla spouses first learned of the
existence of the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" in February 1995 when they were
serveda copy of the pleading in the land registration case instituted by the Sun
spouses.49 They filed their complaint within the same year, specifically, on November
17, 1995. The lapse of only nine (9) months from the time they learned of the
questionable transfers on the property cannot be considered as sleeping on their
rights.
In any case, doctrines of equity such as laches apply only in the absence of statutory
law. The Civil Code clearly provides that "[t]he action or defense for the declaration of
the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe." 50 This court has discussed:
Lachesis a doctrine in equity and our courts are basically courts of law and not courts
of equity. Equity, which has been aptly described as "justice outside legality," should
be applied only in the absence of, and never against, statutory law. Aequetas
nunguam contravenit legis. The positive mandate of Art. 1410 of the New Civil Code
conferring imprescriptibility to actions for declaration of the inexistence of a contract
should pre-empt and prevail over all abstract arguments based only on equity.
Certainly, laches cannot be set up to resist the enforcement of an imprescriptible legal
right, and petitioners can validly vindicate their inheritance despite the lapse of time. 51

of P80,000.00, when the spouses Revilla should have based it on P12,000,000.00, the
value of the property they alleged in their supplemental pre-trial brief. 52 Petitioner cites
Supreme Court Circular No. 7 and jurisprudence holding that the payment of proper
docket fees is crucial in vesting courts with jurisdiction over the subject matter. 53
This court finds that respondents Revilla spouses paid the proper docket fees, thus, the
trial court acquired jurisdiction.
It is true that "[i]t is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory
pleading, but the payment of the prescribed docket fee, that vests a trial court with
jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action." 54
In Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 55 this court "condemned
the practice of counsel who in filing the original complaint omitted from the prayer any
specification of the amount of damages although the amount of over 78 million is
alleged in the body of the complaint." 56 The court gave the following warning against
this unethical practice that serves no other purpose than to avoid paying the correct
filing fees:
The Court serves warning that itwill take drastic action upon a repetition of this
unethical practice. To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints,
petitions, answers and other similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages
being prayed for not only inthe body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said
damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case. Any
pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted,
or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.
The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed
docket fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest
jurisdiction in the Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the
amounts sought in the amended pleading. The ruling in the Magaspi case in sofar as it
is inconsistent with this pronouncement is overturned and reversed. 57 (Emphasis
supplied)
This ruling was circularized through Supreme Court Circular No. 7 58 addressed to all
lower court judges and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for dissemination to and
guidance for all its members.

II.

The facts of this case differ from Manchester and similar situations envisioned under
the circular. The complaint filed by respondents Revilla spouses included in its prayer
the amount of P50,000.00 as actual damages, without mention of any other amount in
the body of the complaint. No amended complaint was filed to increase this amount in
the prayer. Thus, the Court of Appeals found as follows:

On the second issue, petitioner argues that respondents Revilla spouses did not pay
the correct docket fees. She submits that docket fees paid were based on the prayer
for actual damages of P50,000.00, moral damages of P50,000.00, and attorneys fee

In the case at bench, the complaint filed by the Spouses Revilla only asked for actual
damages in the amount of P50,000.00. While the Spouses Revilla mentioned the
amount of P12,000,000.00 as actual damages in the pre-trial, said amount was not

stated in the complaint and neither was it awarded by the lower court in its judgment.
Hence, said amount was not even considered by the court a quo when it awarded
damages in favor of the Spouses Revilla. Considering that the complaint was not
formally amended by the spouses to increase the amount of actual damages being
sought, the trial court was not stripped of its jurisdiction to try the case since the
Spouses Revilla correctly paid the docket fees based merely on what was prayed for in
the complaint.Indeed, the mere mentioning by the Spouses Revilla of the amount
of P12,000,000.00 during the pre-trial is inconsequential, as the trial court properly
acquired jurisdiction over the action when the Spouses Revilla filed the complaint and
paid the requisite filing fees based on the amount as prayed for in the
complaint.59 (Emphasis supplied)
In Padlan v. Dinglasan,60 this court reiterated that "[w]hat determines the jurisdiction of
the court is the nature of the action pleaded as appearing from the allegations in the
complaint [and] [t]he averments therein and the character of the relief sought are the
ones to be consulted."61
Petitioner attached copies of the tax declarations and deeds of sale over the property
to the petition. Tax Declaration No. 7971 in the name of respondents Revilla spouses
provides that the land had a market value of P13,500.00, while the mango trees had a
market value of P3,500.00.62 Petitioner alleged in her petition that respondents Revilla
spouses offered to sell the property to her for P50,000.00,63 while the trial court found
that
the
"Kasulatan
ng
Bilihan
ng
Lupa"
reflected
the
amount
of P20,000.00.64 Subsequent tax declarations in the name of petitioner, the Casorla
spouses, and the Sun spouses all provided for land market values lower
than P50,000.00.65 The deed of sale in favor of the Casorla spouses states that the
assessed value of the property was P1,400.00, and the consideration for the sale
was P50,000.00.66 The subsequent deed of sale in favor of the Sun spouses provides
for the same amount as consideration.67
None of these documents submitted by petitioner indicate an amount in excess of
the P50,000.00 prayed for by respondents Revilla spouses as actual damages in their
complaint. Thus, the basis for the P12,000,000.00 value raised during pre-trial is
unclear. Based on the complaint, respondents Revilla spouses paid the correct docket
fees computed from the amounts in their prayer.

We affirm the lower courts order of reinstatement and reconveyance of the property in
favor of respondents Revilla spouses.
Respondents Revilla spouses complaint sought "to annul the sales and transfers of
title emanating from Tax Declaration No. 7971 registered in their name involving a
15,000-square[-]meter unregistered land . . . with prayer for reconveyance and claims
for damages."70 There was no prayer to declare the purported contract of sale as
antichresis.71 Thus, respondents Revilla spouses neither discussed nor used the term
"antichresis" in their comment and memorandum before this court. They focused on
the nature of their complaint as one for annulment of titles on the ground of
forgery.72 At most, the trial courts summary of respondents Revilla spouses evidence
described the parties agreements as follows:
Plaintiffs evidence and the testimony of plaintiff Alfredo Revilla tend to indicate that
plaintiffs are the owners in fee simple of a 15,000-square[-]meter unregistered land,
located at Brgy. Adlas, Silang, Cavite. Their ownership being evidenced by Tax
Declaration No. 7971, s. 1980 (Exh. "A"). Sometime in 1981, plaintiffs needed money
for the travel and deployment of plaintiff Alfredo to Saudi Arabia. Plaintiff Paz Revilla
sought financial help from defendant Cotoner-Zacarias from whom she was able to
obtain a loan but secured with and by way of mortgage of the subject property. The
parties further agreed that defendant Cotoner Zacarias would take possession of the
subject property and cultivate it with the earnings therefrom to be used to pay-off the
loan and the annual realty taxes on the land.It was their agreement with defendant
Cotoner Zacarias that the latter will rent the subject property and with that agreement,
the lease started sometime in 1981 and plantiffs got from defendant Cotoner-Zacarias
the amount of Php3,000.00 as rental for the first year, 1981, with no specific
agreement as to the period covered by such rental[.]73(Emphasis supplied)
Article 2132 of the Civil Code provides that "[b]y the contract of antichresis the
creditor acquires the right to receive the fruits of an immovable of his debtor, with the
obligation to apply them to the payment of the interest, if owing, and thereafter to the
principal of his credit."

III.

Thus, antichresis involves an express agreement between parties such that the
creditor will have possession of the debtors real property given as security, and such
creditor will apply the fruits of the property to the interest owed by the debtor, if any,
then to the principal amount.74

The third issue involves the reinstatement of respondents Revilla spouses in the
property and reconveyance of its tax declaration in their favor.

The term, antichresis, has a Greek origin with "anti (against) and chresis (use)
denoting the action of giving a credit against the use of a property." 75

Petitioner argues that antichresis is a formal contract that must be in writing in order
to be valid.68 Respondents Revilla spouses were not able to prove the existence of the
alleged antichresis contract. On the other hand, the sale of the property to petitioner
was established by the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" and the testimony of Rosita
Castillo, the second wife of the previous owner, Felimon Castillo. 69

Historically, 15th century B.C. tablets revealed that "antichresis contracts were
commonly
employed
in
the
Sumerian
and
Akkadian
Mesopotamian
cultures."76 Antichresis contracts were incorporated in Babylonian law, modifying and
combining it with that of mortgage pledge. 77 Nearing the end of the classical period,
antichresis contracts entered Roman law that "adopted the convention that the tenant
usufruct had to be exactly compensated by the interest on the lump sum
payment."78 During the middle ages, canon law banned antichresis contracts for being

a form of usury.79 These contracts only reappeared in the 1804 Napoleonic Code that
influenced the laws of most countries today. 80 It had been observed that "antichresis
contracts coexist with periodic rent contracts in many property markets." 81

Petitioner contends that the lower courts never declared as falsified the signature of
Alfredos wife, Paz Castillo-Revilla. Since the property is conjugal in nature, the sale as
to the one-half share ofPaz Castillo-Revilla should not be declared as void. 90

In the Civil Code, antichresis provisions may be found under Title XVI, together with
other security contracts such as pledge and mortgage.

The transaction took place before the effectivity of the Family Code in 2004. Generally,
civil laws have no retroactive effect. 91 Article 256 of the Family Code provides that "[it]
shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or
acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws."

Antichresis requires delivery of the property to the antichretic creditor, but the latter
cannot ordinarily acquire this immovable property in his or her possession by
prescription.82
Similar to the prohibition against pactum commissorium 83 since creditors cannot
"appropriate the thingsgiven by way of pledge or mortgage, or dispose of them," 84 an
antichretic creditor also cannot appropriate the real property in his or her favor upon
the non-payment of the debt.85
Antichresis also requires that the amount of the principal and the interest be in writing
for the contract to be valid.86
However, the issue before us does not concern the nature of the relationship between
the parties, but the validity of the documents that caused the subsequent transfers of
the property involved.
The reinstatement of the propertyin favor of respondents Revilla spouses was
anchored on the lower courts finding that their signatures as sellers in the "Kasulatan
ng Bilihan ng Lupa" were forged.
This court has held that the "question of forgery is one of fact." 87 Well-settled is the
rule that "[f]actual findings of the lower courts are entitled great weight and respect on
appeal, and in fact accorded finality when supported by substantial evidence on the
record."88
The Court of Appeals agreed with the finding of the trial court that the signature of
Alfredo Revilla in the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" was forged:
It was convincingly found by the court a quo that the Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupaor
Deed of Sale covering the subject property allegedly executed by the Spouses Revilla
in favorof Zacarias was spurious, as the trial court, after relying on the report of the
handwriting experts of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) saying that "there
exist significant differences in handwriting characteristics/habits between the
questioned and the standard/sample signatures ALFREDO REVILLA such as in the
manner of execution of strokes, structural pattern of letters/elements, and minute
identifying details", as well as the trial courts own visual analysis of the document and
the sample signatures of plaintiff-appellee Alfredo, clearly showed that his signature on
the said Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupawas indeed forged.89

Article 165 of the Civil Code states that "[t]he husband is the administrator of the
conjugal partnership." Article 172 of the Civil Code provides that "[t]he wife cannot
bind the conjugal partnership without the husbands consent, except incases provided
by law."92 In any case, the Family Code also provides as follows:
Art. 96. The administration and enjoyment of the community property shall belong to
both spouses jointly. In case of disagreement, the husbands decision shall prevail,
subject to recourse to the court by the wife for proper remedy, which must be availed
of within five years from the date of the contract implementing such decision.
In the event that one spouse is incapacitated or otherwise unable to participate in the
administration of the common properties, the other spouse may assume sole powers
of administration. These powers do not include disposition or encumbrance without
authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse. In the absence of
such authority or consent, the disposition or encumbrance shall be void. However, the
transaction shall be construed as a continuing offer on the part of the consenting
spouse and the third person, and may be perfected as a binding contract upon the
acceptance by the other spouse or authorization by the court before the offer
iswithdrawn by either or both offerors. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, as correctly found by the Court of Appeals, "assuming arguendo that the
signature of plaintiff-appellee Paz on the Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupawas not forged,
her signature alone would still not bind the subject property, it being already
established that the said transaction was made without the consent of her husband
plaintiff-appellee Alfredo."93
Lastly, petitioner argues that she has no obligation to prove the genuineness and due
execution of the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Lupa" considering it is a public document. 94
The trial court found otherwise. Atty. Diosdado de Mesa, who allegedly notarized the
"Kasulatanng Bilihan ng Lupa," was not a commissioned notary public. The trial court
discussed as follows:
Furthermore, it was discovered that the notary public who purportedly notarized the
"Kasulatanng Bilihan ng Lupa" has not been registered notary public in the province of
Cavite in 1979 nor at present. The record bears out various Certifications to prove
there is no available record on file with the Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial
Court, Cavite City of a Commission/Order appointing Atty. Diosdado de Mesa, the

lawyer who notarized the subject document, as Notary Public for the Province and City
of Cavite (Exh. "Y" to "Y-2"); Certification from the Records Management and Archives
Office, Manila that no copy is on file with the said office of the Deed of Sale allegedly
executed by plaintiffs before Notary Public Diosdado de Mesa, for and within Imus,
Cavite, acknowledged as Doc. No. 432, Page No. 45, Book No. VIII, Series of 1979 (Exh.
"Z" to "Z-1"); Certification issued by Clerk of Court, Atty. Ana Liza M. Luna, Regional
Trial Court, Tagaytay City that there is no available record on file of a
Commission/Order appointing Atty. Diosdado de Mesa as Notary Public for the Province
and Cities of Tagaytay, Cavite and Trece Martires in 1979 (Exh. "AA" to"AA-2");
Certification issued by Clerk of Court, Atty. Jose O, Lagao, Jr., Regional Trial Court,
Multiple Sala, Bacoor, Cavite that there isno available record on file of a
Commission/Order appointing Atty. Diosdado de Mesa as Notary Public for the Province
and City of Cavite (Exh. "BB" to "BB-2"); and Certification issued by Clerk of Court, Atty.
Regalado E. Eusebio, Regional Trial Court, Multiple Sala, Imus, Cavite that there is no
available record on file of a Commission/Order appointing Atty. Diosdado de Mesa as
Notary Public for the Province of Cavite (Exh. "CC" to "CC-2"). 95 (Emphasis supplied).
Petitioner contends that the Sun spouses were buyers in good faith for value, thus, the
court erred in ordering reinstatement of the property in favor of respondents Revilla
spouses.96
This court has held that "the rule in land registration law that the issue of whether the
buyer of realty is in good or bad faith is relevant only where the subject of the sale is
registeredland and the purchase was made from the registered owner whose title to
the land is clean[.]" 97 Our laws have adopted the Torrens system to strengthen public
confidence in land transactions: [T]he Torrens system was adopted in this country
because it was believed to be the most effective measure to guarantee the integrity of
land titles and to insure their indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established
and recognized. If a person purchases a piece of land on the assurance that the
sellers title thereto is valid, he should not run the risk of losing his acquisition. If this
were permitted, public confidence in the system would be eroded and land
transactions would have to be attended by complicated and not necessarily conclusive
investigations and proof of ownership.98
Necessarily, those who rely in good faith on a clean title issued under the Torrens
system for registered lands must be protected.1wphi1 On the other hand, those who
purchase unregistered lands do so at their own peril. 99
This good faith argument cannot be considered as this case involves unregistered land.
In any case, as explained by respondents Revilla spouses in their memorandum, this is
a defense personal to the Sun spouses and cannot be borrowed by petitioner. 100 The
Sun spouses no longer raised this argument on appeal, but only made a partial appeal
regarding legal interest on the award.101
WHEREFORE, this petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The decision of the Court of
Appeals dated August 13, 2009 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 194077

December 3, 2014

FLORENTINO
W.
LEONG
vs.
EDNA C. SEE, Respondent.

AND

ELENA

LEONG,

ET

AL., Petitioners,

DECISION
LEONEN, J.:
Factual findings of lower courts are generally deemed conclusive and binding upon this
court.1 In any event, "even if the procurement of title was tainted with fraud and
misrepresentation, such defective title may be the source of a completely legal and
valid title in the hands of an innocent purchaser for value." 2
This petition originated from two civil complaints involving the sale of a parcel of land
in favor of respondent Edna C. See (Edna). Before us is a petition for review 3 assailing
the Court of Appeals (a) May 19, 2010 decision affirming in toto the trial court's July 9,
2008 decision granting Edna possession and ownership over the land upon finding her
to be a buyer in good faith and for value, and (b) August 25, 2010 resolution denying
reconsideration.
Petitioners pray for the reversal of the Court of Appeals decision and resolution, as
well as the trial courts decision. 4They pray that this court render its decision as
follows:
(a) The Deed of Sale between Edna See and Carmelita Leong is hereby
declared null and void. The Register [of] Deeds for the City of Manila is hereby
directed to cancel TCT No. 231105 in the name of Edna See and reinstating
TCT No. 175628;
(b) Confirming the right of Elena Leong and those people claiming right under
her, to the possession over the subject property; [and]
(c) Defendants Carmelita Leong and Edna See are declared to be jointly and
severally liable to pay plaintiff, Florentino Leong[,] the sum of Php50,000.00
as moral damages;the sum of Php50,000.00 a[s] Attorneys Fees; and the
cost of suit.5
The spouses Florentino Leong (Florentino) and Carmelita Leong (Carmelita) used to
own the property located at No. 53941 Z.P. De Guzman Street, Quiapo, Manila. 6
Petitioner Elena Leong (Elena) is Florentino's sister-in-law. 7 She had stayed with her inlaws on the property rental-free for over two decades until the building they lived in
was razed by fire.8 They then constructed makeshift houses, and the rental-free
arrangement continued.9 Florentino and Carmelita immigrated to the United States
and eventually had their marriage dissolved in Illinois. 10 A provision in their marital

settlement agreement states that"Florentino shall convey and quitclaim all of his right,
title and interest in and to 540 De Guzman Street, Manila, Philippines . . . to
Carmelita."11
The Court of Appeals found that "[a]pparently intercalated in the lower margin of page
12 of the instrument was a long-hand scribbling of a proviso, purporting to be a
footnote remark":12 Neither party shall evict or charge rent to relatives of the parties,
or convey title, until it has been established that Florentino has clear title to the
Malabon property. Clear title to be established by the attorneys for the parties or the
ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction. In the event Florentino does not obtain clear
title, this court reserves jurisdiction to reapportion the properties or their values to
effect a 50-50 division of the value of the 2 remaining Philippine properties. 13
On November 14, 1996,14 Carmelita sold the land to Edna.15 In lieu of Florentino's
signature of conformity in the deed of absolute sale, Carmelita presented to Edna and
her father, witness Ernesto See, a waiver of interest notarized on March 11, 1996 in
Illinois.16 In this waiver, Florentino reiterated his quitclaim over his right, title, and
interest to the land.17 Consequently, the lands title, covered by TCT No. 231105, was
transferred to Edna's name.18
Edna was aware of the Leong relatives staying in the makeshift houses on the
land.19 Carmelita assured her that her nieces and nephews would move out, but
demands to vacate were unheeded.20
On April 1, 1997,21 Edna filed a complaint22 for recovery of possession against Elena
and the other relatives of the Leong ex-spouses.23
The complaint alleged that in 1995 after the fire had razed the building on the land,
Elena erected makeshift houses on the land without Carmelitas knowledge or
consent.24
In response, Elena alleged the titles legal infirmity for lack of Florentino's conformity
to its sale.25 She argued that Carmelita's noncompliance with the proviso in the
property agreement that the Quiapo property "may not be alienated without
Florentino first obtaining a clean title over the Malabon property" 26 annulled the
transfer to Edna.
On April 23, 1997, Florentino filed a complaint 27 for declaration of nullity of contract,
title, and damages against Carmelita Leong, Edna C. See, and the Manila Register of
Deeds, alleging that the sale was without his consent. 28The two cases were
consolidated.
The Regional Trial Court, in its decision 29 dated July 9,2008, ruled in favor of Edna:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
(a) Defendant Edna See is granted possession and ownership over the subject
property;

(b) Defendants Elena Leong and all other persons are directed to vacate the
premises at 539541 Guzman Street, Quiapo, Manila; [and]
(c) Defendant Carmelita Leong is ordered to pay plaintiff, Florentino Leong his
one-half (1/2) or 2Million with interest thereon at the rate of 6% per annum
from the date of conveyance on November 12, 1996, up to the finality of this
Decision; the sum of PhP 50,000.00 as moral damages; the sum of PhP
50,000.00 for attorneys fees; and, the costs of the suit.
SO ORDERED.30
The Court of Appeals, in its decision 31 dated May 19, 2010, affirmed in toto the trial
courts decision.32 It likewise denied reconsideration.
Thus, this petition for review was filed.
Petitioners contend that the principle of indefeasibility of Torrens titles does not apply
when fraud exists, and respondent was a buyer in bad faith. 33 Respondent knew at the
time of the purchase that Elena had actual possession of the property, thus, she
should have made inquiries on their right to the property. 34
Petitioners argue the conjugal nature of the property, evidenced by the title in the
names of Florentino and Carmelita Leong, and the waiver relied upon by
respondent.35 They cite Articles 336 and 1537 of the Civil Code, and Articles 8738 and
13439 of the Family Code, to support their contention that respondent should have
demanded Florentinos consent to the sale.40 Petitioners submit that Florentinos
waiver is void since donations between spouses are void.41
Petitioners argue that respondent should bear the loss 42 of her negligence in
purchasing the property without Florentinos consent. 43 They cite at length Aggabao v.
Parulan, Jr.44 to support their argument that respondent failed to exercise the required
due diligence in the purchase of the property. 45 Consequently, petitioners submit that
the lower courts erred in ruling that respondent was entitled to possession of the
property.46
Respondent counters that only questions of law can be raised in a petition for review
on certiorari, and petitioners raise purely factual questions.47
In any event, the lower courts correctly found that respondent is a purchaser in good
faith for value who exercised the necessary diligence in purchasing the property. 48
First, good faith is presumed, and petitioners did not substantiate their bold allegation
of fraud.49 Second, respondent did notrely on the clean title alone precisely because of
the possession by third parties, thus, she also relied on Florentinos waiver of
interest.50 Respondent even verified the authenticity of the title at the Manila Register
of Deeds with her father and Carmelita. 51 These further inquiries prove respondents
good faith.52

Respondent submits that petitioners invocation of the Civil Code provisions misleads
this court.53 Philippine laws cannot govern Florentino who was already an American
citizen when he executed the waiver of interest, obtained a divorce, and signed a
marital settlement agreement with Carmelita on July 8, 1994. 54 The waiver was also a
consequence of the separation of properties and not in the nature of a donation
between spouses.55
Lastly, respondent argues that "between possessors who are not owners and a buyer
in good faith and for value,it is clear in this case that the Respondent Edna See, the
buyer in good faith, has the greater right to possession over the subject property." 56
The sole issue for resolution is whether respondent Edna C. See is a buyer in good faith
and for value.
We affirm the Court of Appeals.
The Torrens system was adopted to "obviate possible conflicts of title by giving the
public the right to rely upon the face of the Torrens certificate and to dispense, as a
rule, with the necessity of inquiring further." 57
One need not inquire beyond the four corners of the certificate of title when dealing
with registered property.58Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 known as the
Property Registration Decree recognizes innocent purchasers in good faith for value
and their right to rely on a clean 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 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 canalor 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.59 (Emphasis supplied)
An innocent purchaser for value refers to someone who "buys the property of another
without notice that some other person has a right to or interest in it, and who paysa
full and fair price at the time of the purchase or before receiving any notice of another
persons claim."60 One claiming to be an innocent purchaser for value has the burden
of proving such status.61
The protection of innocent purchasers in good faith for value grounds on the social
interest embedded in the legal concept granting indefeasibility of titles. Between the
third party and the owner, the latter would be more familiar with the history and status
of the titled property. Consequently, an owner would incur less costs to discover
alleged invalidities relating to the property compared to a third party. Such costs are,
thus, better borne by the owner to mitigate costs for the economy, lessen delays in
transactions, and achieve a less optimal welfare level for the entire society. 62
Both lower courts found respondent to be an innocent purchaser in good faith for
value.63 The trial court discussed:
By her overt acts, Edna See with her father verified the authenticity of Carmelitas land
title at the Registry of Deeds of Manila. There was no annotation on the same thus
deemed a clean title (page 19, TSN, 12 January 2005). Also, she relied on the duly
executed and notarized Certificate of Authority issued by the State of Illinois and
Certificate of Authentication issued by the Consul of the Republic of the Philippines for
Illinois in support to the Waiver of Interest incorporated in the Deed of Absolute Sale
presented to her by Carmelita (Exhibit 2). Examination of the assailed Certificate of
Authority shows that it is valid and regular on its face. It contains a notarial seal. . . .
. . . . The assailed Certificate of Authority is a notarized document and therefore,
presumed to be validand duly executed. Thus, Edna Sees reliance on the notarial
acknowledgment found in the duly notarized Certificate of Authority presented by
Carmelita is sufficient evidence of good faith. . . . 64
A determination of whether a party is an innocent purchaser in good faith and for
value involves a factual issue beyond the ambit of a petition for review on certiorari. 65
Generally, factual findings of lower courts are deemed conclusive and binding upon
this court.66 No cogent reason exists to overturn the findings of both lower courts.
Petitioners raise that "actual possession of the property by a person other than the
vendor should put the purchaser in inquiry and absen[t] such inquiry[,] he cannot be
regarded as a bona fide purchaser against such possessors." 67
As discussed by the Court of Appeals, respondent did conduct further inquiry by
relying not only on the certificate of title, but also on Florentinos waiver. 68

Petitioners submit that respondent bought the property knowing that Florentino and
Carmelita were married.69 They then invoke Civil Code and Family Code provisions on
the nature of conjugal properties and the prohibition against donations between
spouses.70
Respondent counters that Florentino and Carmelita were already American citizens
when they executed the marital settlement agreement.71 She even presented before
the trial court Florentinos special power of attorney executed on March 25, 1997 to
prove Florentinos citizenship.72
The trial court disregarded petitioners argument on the applicability of our civil laws
on the validity of the sale since it already deemed respondent to be an innocent
purchaser in good faith and for value. 73 The trial court added that since "[respondent]
parted witha substantial amount of P4 Million, equity dictates that she shall have
possession of the property[,] [n]onetheless, Florentino Leong shall get his one-half
share of the purchase price."74
On the other hand, the Court of Appeals discussed that Florentino was estopped from
questioning the transfer of the property since he already waived all his rights, title, and
interests over the same.75 The court also found that the intercalated proviso in the
marital settlement agreement violated the mutuality of contracts principle. 76
The question of whether Florentino and Carmelita were already American citizens at
the time of the propertys sale to Edna thus no longer covered by our laws relating
to family rights and duties77 involves a factual question outside the ambit of a
petition for review on certiorari. In any event, respondent exerted due diligence when
she ascertained the authenticity of the documents attached to the deed of sale such
as the marital settlement agreement with Florentinos waiver of interest over the
property. She did not rely solely on the title. She even went to the Registry of Deeds to
verify the authenticity of the title.78 These further inquiries were considered by the
lower courts in finding respondent to be an innocent purchaser in good faith and for
value.
Lastly, an allegation of fraud must be substantiated. Rule 8, Section 5 of the Rules of
Court provides:
SEC. 5. Fraud, mistake, condition of the mind. In all averments of fraud or mistake,
the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake must be stated with
particularity.Malice intent, knowledge or other condition of the mind of a person may
be averred generally. (Emphasis supplied)

In petitioners memorandum before this court, they mentioned the rule of fraud as an
exception to the indefeasibility of title principle, but failed to substantiate their
allegation by immediately concluding as follows:
Petitioners beg to disagree with the ruling of the Honorable Trial Court and the
Honorable Court of Appeals.1wphi1 Respondent Edna See is not a buyer in good faith.
The ruling that every person can rely on the correctness of the certificate of title and
that the buyer need not go beyond the four corners of the title to determine the
condition of the property is not absolute and admits of exception. As held in the case
of Remegia Feliciano vs. Sps. Zaldivar, G.R. No. 162593, 2006 Sep 26 the principle of
indefeasibilty of a Torrens title does not apply where fraud attended the issuance of
the title. The Torrens title does not furnish a shield for fraud. As such, a title issued
based on void documents may be annulled.79 (Emphasis in the original removed)
Even assuming the procurement of title was tainted with fraud and misrepresentation,
"such defective title may still be the source of a completely legal and valid title in the
hands of an innocent purchaser for value." 80
Respondent, an innocent purchaser ingood faith and for value with title in her name,
has a better right to the property than Elena. Elenas possession was neither adverse
to nor in the concept of owner.81
Article 428 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 428. The owner has the right toenjoy and dispose of a thing, without other
limitations than those established by law. The owner has also a right of action against
the holder and possessor of the thing inorder to recover it. 82
Thus, respondent had every right to pursue her claims as she did.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court of Appeals' decision in CA-G.R. CV No.
92289 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.