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G.R. No.

179987 September 3, 2013 Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall
forthwith issue.
HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, (Represented by Sally A. Malabanan), Petitioners,
vs. SO ORDERED.3
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the judgment to the CA, arguing that
RESOLUTION Malabanan had failed to prove that the property belonged to the alienable and disposable land
of the public domain, and that the RTC erred in finding that he had been in possession of the
property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect
BERSAMIN, J.:
title.

For our consideration and resolution are the motions for reconsideration of the parties who both
On February 23, 2007, the CA promulgated its decision reversing the RTC and dismissing the
assail the decision promulgated on April 29, 2009, whereby we upheld the ruling of the Court of
application for registration of Malabanan. Citing the ruling in Republic v. Herbieto (Herbieto), 4 the
Appeals (CA) denying the application of the petitioners for the registration of a parcel of land
CA declared that under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, any period of
situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite on the ground that they had not established by
possession prior to the classification of the land as alienable and disposable was
sufficient evidence their right to the registration in accordance with either Section 14(1) or
inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession.
Section 14(2) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree).
Noting that the CENRO-DENR certification stated that the property had been declared alienable
and disposable only on March 15, 1982, Velazco’s possession prior to March 15, 1982 could not
Antecedents be tacked for purposes of computing Malabanan’s period of possession.

The property subject of the application for registration is a parcel of land situated in Barangay Due to Malabanan’s intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, his heirs elevated the CA’s
Tibig, Silang Cavite, more particularly identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, with an area of decision of February 23, 2007 to this Court through a petition for review on certiorari.
71,324-square meters. On February 20, 1998, applicant Mario Malabanan, who had purchased
the property from Eduardo Velazco, filed an application for land registration covering the
The petitioners assert that the ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals and Corazon
property in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tagaytay City, Cavite, claiming that the property
Naguit5 (Naguit) remains the controlling doctrine especially if the property involved is agricultural
formed part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that he and his
land. In this regard, Naguit ruled that any possession of agricultural land prior to its declaration
predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, public and adverse
as alienable and disposable could be counted in the reckoning of the period of possession to
possession and occupation of the land for more than 30 years, thereby entitling him to the
perfect title under the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141) and the Property
judicial confirmation of his title.1
Registration Decree. They point out that the ruling in Herbieto, to the effect that the declaration
of the land subject of the application for registration as alienable and disposable should also
To prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, date back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, was a mere obiter dictum considering that the land
Malabanan presented during trial a certification dated June 11, 2001 issued by the Community registration proceedings therein were in fact found and declared void ab initio for lack of
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and publication of the notice of initial hearing.
Natural Resources (DENR), which reads:
The petitioners also rely on the ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.6 to support their
This is to certify that the parcel of land designated as Lot No. 9864 Cad 452-D, Silang Cadastre argument that the property had been ipso jure converted into private property by reason of the
as surveyed for Mr. Virgilio Velasco located at Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite containing an area open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession by their predecessors-in-interest of an
of 249,734 sq. meters as shown and described on the Plan Ap-04-00952 is verified to be within alienable land of the public domain for more than 30 years. According to them, what was
the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established under essential was that the property had been "converted" into private property through prescription at
Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.2 the time of the application without regard to whether the property sought to be registered was
previously classified as agricultural land of the public domain.
After trial, on December 3, 2002, the RTC rendered judgment granting Malabanan’s application
for land registration, disposing thusly: As earlier stated, we denied the petition for review on certiorari because Malabanan failed to
establish by sufficient evidence possession and occupation of the property on his part and on
the part of his predecessors-in interest since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under
the operation of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration
Law, the lands described in Plan Csd-04-0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration
Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324) Square Meters, as supported by
its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to other proofs
In their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners submit that the mere classification of the land
adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, and with
as alienable or disposable should be deemed sufficient to convert it into patrimonial property of
residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.
the State. Relying on the rulings in Spouses De Ocampo v. Arlos,7 Menguito v. Republic8 and
Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,9 they argue that the reclassification of the land as alienable
or disposable opened it to acquisitive prescription under the Civil Code; that Malabanan had
purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco believing in good faith that Velazco and his
predecessors-in-interest had been the real owners of the land with the right to validly transmit mineral.19 Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution classified lands of the public domain
title and ownership thereof; that consequently, the ten-year period prescribed by Article 1134 of into seven, specifically, agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral,
the Civil Code, in relation to Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, applied in their timber or forest, and grazing land, with the reservation that the law might provide other
favor; and that when Malabanan filed the application for registration on February 20, 1998, he classifications. The 1987 Constitution adopted the classification under the 1935 Constitution into
had already been in possession of the land for almost 16 years reckoned from 1982, the time agricultural, forest or timber, and mineral, but added national parks.20 Agricultural lands may be
when the land was declared alienable and disposable by the State. further classified by law according to the uses to which they may be devoted.21 The identification
of lands according to their legal classification is done exclusively by and through a positive act of
the Executive Department.22
The Republic’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration

Based on the foregoing, the Constitution places a limit on the type of public land that may be
The Republic seeks the partial reconsideration in order to obtain a clarification with reference to
alienated. Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, only agricultural lands of the
the application of the rulings in Naguit and Herbieto.
public domain may be alienated; all other natural resources may not be.

Chiefly citing the dissents, the Republic contends that the decision has enlarged, by implication,
Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two categories, to wit: (a) patrimonial lands
the interpretation of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree through judicial
of the State, or those classified as lands of private ownership under Article 425 of the Civil
legislation. It reiterates its view that an applicant is entitled to registration only when the land
Code,23 without limitation; and (b) lands of the public domain, or the public lands as provided by
subject of the application had been declared alienable and disposable since June 12, 1945 or
the Constitution, but with the limitation that the lands must only be agricultural. Consequently,
earlier.
lands classified as forest or timber, mineral, or national parks are not susceptible of alienation or
disposition unless they are reclassified as agricultural.24 A positive act of the Government is
Ruling necessary to enable such reclassification,25 and the exclusive prerogative to classify public lands
under existing laws is vested in the Executive Department, not in the courts. 26 If, however, public
land will be classified as neither agricultural, forest or timber, mineral or national park, or when
We deny the motions for reconsideration.
public land is no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth,
thereby effectively removing the land from the ambit of public dominion, a declaration of such
In reviewing the assailed decision, we consider to be imperative to discuss the different conversion must be made in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or by a Presidential
classifications of land in relation to the existing applicable land registration laws of the proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law to that effect. 27 Thus, until
Philippines. the Executive Department exercises its prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until
Congress or the President declares that the State no longer intends the land to be used for
public service or for the development of national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is applicable.
Classifications of land according to ownership

Disposition of alienable public lands


Land, which is an immovable property,10 may be classified as either of public dominion or of
private ownership.11Land is considered of public dominion if it either: (a) is intended for public
use; or (b) belongs to the State, without being for public use, and is intended for some public Section 11 of the Public Land Act (CA No. 141) provides the manner by which alienable and
service or for the development of the national wealth.12 Land belonging to the State that is not of disposable lands of the public domain, i.e., agricultural lands, can be disposed of, to wit:
such character, or although of such character but no longer intended for public use or for public
service forms part of the patrimonial property of the State.13 Land that is other than part of the Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows,
patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities is of private ownership if it
and not otherwise:
belongs to a private individual.

(1) For homestead settlement;


Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the
country from the West by Spain through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, 14 all
lands of the public domain belong to the State.15This means that the State is the source of any (2) By sale;
asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the conservation of such patrimony. 16
(3) By lease; and
All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are presumed to belong to the
State. Also, public lands remain part of the inalienable land of the public domain unless the State
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;
is shown to have reclassified or alienated them to private persons. 17

(a) By judicial legalization; or


Classifications of public lands
according to alienability
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).
Whether or not land of the public domain is alienable and disposable primarily rests on the
classification of public lands made under the Constitution. Under the 1935 Constitution, 18 lands
of the public domain were classified into three, namely, agricultural, timber and
The core of the controversy herein lies in the proper interpretation of Section 11(4), in relation to However, emphasis is placed on the requirement that the classification required by Section 48(b)
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which expressly requires possession by a Filipino citizen of of the Public Land Act is classification or reclassification of a public land as agricultural.
the land since June 12, 1945, or earlier, viz:
The dissent stresses that the classification or reclassification of the land as alienable and
Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public disposable agricultural land should likewise have been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier,
domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been because any possession of the land prior to such classification or reclassification produced no
perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land legal effects. It observes that the fixed date of June 12, 1945 could not be minimized or glossed
is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title thereafter, over by mere judicial interpretation or by judicial social policy concerns, and insisted that the full
under the Land Registration Act, to wit: legislative intent be respected.

xxxx We find, however, that the choice of June 12, 1945 as the reckoning point of the requisite
possession and occupation was the sole prerogative of Congress, the determination of which
should best be left to the wisdom of the lawmakers. Except that said date qualified the period of
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
possession and occupation, no other legislative intent appears to be associated with the fixing of
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable
the date of June 12, 1945. Accordingly, the Court should interpret only the plain and literal
lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12,
meaning of the law as written by the legislators.
1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation of title,
except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate Moreover, an examination of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act indicates that Congress
of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Bold emphasis supplied) prescribed no requirement that the land subject of the registration should have been classified
as agricultural since June 12, 1945, or earlier. As such, the applicant’s imperfect or incomplete
title is derived only from possession and occupation since June 12, 1945, or earlier. This means
Note that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act used the words "lands of the public domain" or
that the character of the property subject of the application as alienable and disposable
"alienable and disposable lands of the public domain" to clearly signify that lands otherwise
agricultural land of the public domain determines its eligibility for land registration, not the
classified, i.e., mineral, forest or timber, or national parks, and lands of patrimonial or private
ownership or title over it.
ownership, are outside the coverage of the Public Land Act. What the law does not include, it
excludes. The use of the descriptive phrase "alienable and disposable" further limits the
coverage of Section 48(b) to only the agricultural lands of the public domain as set forth in Article Alienable public land held by a possessor, either personally or through his predecessors-in-
XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Bearing in mind such limitations under the Public Land interest, openly, continuously and exclusively during the prescribed statutory period is converted
Act, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements in order for his application to come to private property by the mere lapse or completion of the period.29 In fact, by virtue of this
under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree,28 to wit: doctrine, corporations may now acquire lands of the public domain for as long as the lands were
already converted to private ownership, by operation of law, as a result of satisfying the requisite
period of possession prescribed by the Public Land Act.30 It is for this reason that the property
1. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, has been in
subject of the application of Malabanan need not be classified as alienable and disposable
possession and occupation of the property subject of the application;
agricultural land of the public domain for the entire duration of the requisite period of possession.

2. The possession and occupation must be open, continuous, exclusive, and


To be clear, then, the requirement that the land should have been classified as alienable and
notorious;
disposable agricultural land at the time of the application for registration is necessary only to
dispute the presumption that the land is inalienable.
3. The possession and occupation must be under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership;
The declaration that land is alienable and disposable also serves to determine the point at which
prescription may run against the State. The imperfect or incomplete title being confirmed under
4. The possession and occupation must have taken place since June 12, 1945, or Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is title that is acquired by reason of the applicant’s
earlier; and possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public
domain. Where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with
through actual physical, open, continuous, exclusive and public possession of an alienable and
5. The property subject of the application must be an agricultural land of the public disposable land of the public domain, the possessor is deemed to have acquired by operation of
domain.
law not only a right to a grant, but a grant by the Government, because it is not necessary that a
certificate of title be issued in order that such a grant be sanctioned by the courts. 31
Taking into consideration that the Executive Department is vested with the authority to classify
lands of the public domain, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, in relation to Section 14(1) of
If one follows the dissent, the clear objective of the Public Land Act to adjudicate and quiet titles
the Property Registration Decree, presupposes that the land subject of the application for to unregistered lands in favor of qualified Filipino citizens by reason of their occupation and
registration must have been already classified as agricultural land of the public domain in order cultivation thereof for the number of years prescribed by law32 will be defeated. Indeed, we
for the provision to apply. Thus, absent proof that the land is already classified as agricultural
should always bear in mind that such objective still prevails, as a fairly recent legislative
land of the public domain, the Regalian Doctrine applies, and overcomes the presumption that development bears out, when Congress enacted legislation (Republic Act No. 10023)33in order
the land is alienable and disposable as laid down in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. to liberalize stringent requirements and procedures in the adjudication of alienable public land to
qualified applicants, particularly residential lands, subject to area limitations. 34
On the other hand, if a public land is classified as no longer intended for public use or for the WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration and the
development of national wealth by declaration of Congress or the President, thereby converting respondent's Partial Motion for Reconsideration for their lack of merit.
such land into patrimonial or private land of the State, the applicable provision concerning
disposition and registration is no longer Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act but the Civil Code,
SO ORDERED.
in conjunction with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree. 35 As such, prescription
can now run against the State.

To sum up, we now observe the following rules relative to the disposition of public land or lands
of the public domain, namely:

(1) As a general rule and pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public
domain belong to the State and are inalienable. Lands that are not clearly under
private ownership are also presumed to belong to the State and, therefore, may not be
alienated or disposed;

(2) The following are excepted from the general rule, to wit:

(a) Agricultural lands of the public domain are rendered alienable and
disposable through any of the exclusive modes enumerated under Section
11 of the Public Land Act. If the mode is judicial confirmation of imperfect
title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the agricultural land subject
of the application needs only to be classified as alienable and disposable as
of the time of the application, provided the applicant’s possession and
occupation of the land dated back to June 12, 1945, or earlier. Thereby, a
conclusive presumption that the applicant has performed all the conditions
essential to a government grant arises,36 and the applicant becomes the
owner of the land by virtue of an imperfect or incomplete title. By legal
fiction, the land has already ceased to be part of the public domain and has
become private property.37

(b) Lands of the public domain subsequently classified or declared as no


longer intended for public use or for the development of national wealth are
removed from the sphere of public dominion and are considered converted
into patrimonial lands or lands of private ownership that may be alienated or
disposed through any of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil
Code. If the mode of acquisition is prescription, whether ordinary or
extraordinary, proof that the land has been already converted to private
ownership prior to the requisite acquisitive prescriptive period is a condition
sine qua non in observance of the law (Article 1113, Civil Code) that
property of the State not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of
prescription.

To reiterate, then, the petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that they and
their predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without
satisfying the requisite character and period of possession - possession and occupation that is
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious since June 12, 1945, or earlier - the land cannot be
considered ipso jure converted to private property even upon the subsequent declaration of it as
alienable and disposable. Prescription never began to run against the State, such that the land
has remained ineligible for registration under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
Likewise, the land continues to be ineligible for land registration under Section 14(2) of the
Property Registration Decree unless Congress enacts a law or the President issues a
proclamation declaring the land as no longer intended for public service or for the development
of the national wealth.1âwphi1
G.R. No. 2869 March 25, 1907 In or about the years 1898 Cariño abandoned the property of Whitmarsh and located
on the property described in the plan attached to expediente No. 561, having
constructed a house thereon in which he now lives, and which house is situated in the
MATEO CARIÑO, petitioner-appellant,
center of the property, as is indicated on the plan; and since which time he has
vs.
undoubtedly occupied some portion of the property now claimed by him. (Bill of
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee.
exceptions, pp. 11 and 12.)

Coudert Brothers for appellant.


1. Therefore it is evident that this court can not decree the registration of all of the superficial
Office of the Solicitor-General Araneta for appellee.
extension of the land described in the petition and as appears on the plan filed herein, such
extension containing 40 hectares, 1 are, and 13 centares, inasmuch as the documentary
ARELLANO, C.J.: evidence accompanying the petition is conclusive proof against the petitioners; this documentary
proof consists of a possessory information under date of March 7, 1901, and registered on the
11th day of the same month and year; and, according to such possessory information, the land
Mateo Cariño, the appellant herein, on the 23d of February, 1904, filed his petition in the Court
therein described contains an extension of only 28 hectares limited by "the country road to the
of Land Registration praying that there be granted to him title to a parcel of land consisting of 40 barrio of Pias," a road appearing on the plan now presented and cutting the land, as might be
hectares, 1 are, and 13 centares, and situated in the town of Baguio, Province of Benguet, said, in half, or running through its center from north to south, a considerable extension of land
together with a house erected thereon and constructed of wood and roofed with rimo, and
remaining on the other side of the said road, the west side, and which could not have been
bounded as follows: On the north, in lines running 1,048 metes and 20 decimeters with the lands included in the possessory information mentioned.
of Sepa Cariño, H. Phelps Whitmarsh, and Calsi; on the east, in lines running 991 meters and 50
decimeters with the land of Kuidno, Esteban Gonzales, and of the Civil Government; on the
south, in lines of 115 meters and 60 decimeters, with the lands of Talaca; and on the west, in 2. As has been shown during the trial of this case, this land, of which mention is made in said
lines running 982 meters and 20 decimeters, with the lands of Sisco Cariño and Mayengmeng. possessory information, and upon which is situated the house now actually occupied by the
petitioner, all of which is set forth as argument as to the possession in the judgment, is "used for
pasture and sowing," and belongs to the class called public lands.
By order of the court the hearing of this petition, No. 561, and that of Antonio Rebollo and
Vicente Valpiedad filed under No. 834, were heard together for the reason that the latter petition
claimed a small portion of land included in the parcel set out in the former petition. 3. Under the express provisions of law, a parcel of land, being of common origin, presumptively
belonged to the State during its sovereignty, and, in order to perfect the legitimate acquisition of
such land by private persons, it was necessary that the possession of the same pass from the
The Insular Government opposed the granting of these petitions, alleging that the whole parcel State. And there is no evidence or proof of title of egresionof this land from the domain of the
of land is public property of the Government and that the same was never acquired in any
Spanish Government, nor is there any possessory information equivalent to title
manner or through any title of egresionfrom the State. by composicion or under agreement. 4, The possessory information filed herein is not the title to
property authorized in substitution for that of adjustment by the royal decree of February 13,
After trial, and the hearing of documentary and oral proof, the court of Land Registration 1894, this being the last law or legal disposition of the former sovereignty applicable to the
rendered its judgment in these terms: present subject-matter of common lands: First, for the reason that the land referred to herein is
not covered nor does it come within any one of the three conditions required by article 19 of the
said royal decree, to wit, that the land has been in an uninterrupted state of cultivation during a
Therefore the court finds that Cariño and his predecessors have not possessed period of six years last past; or that the same has been possessed without interruption during a
exclusively and adversely any part of the said property prior to the date on which period of twelve years and has been in a state of cultivation up to the date of the information and
Cariño constructed the house now there — that is to say, for the years 1897 and 1898, during the three years immediately preceding such information; or that such land had been
and Cariño held possession for some years afterwards of but a part of the property to possessed openly without interruption during a period of thirty or more years, notwithstanding
which he claims title. Both petitions are dismissed and the property in question is the land had not been cultivated; nor is it necessary to refer to the testimony given by the two
adjudged to be public land. (Bill of exceptions, p. 15.) witnesses to the possessory information for the following reason: Second, because the
possessory information authorized by said royal decree or last legal disposition of the Spanish
The conclusions arrived at the set forth in definite terms in the decision of the court below are Government, as title or for the purpose of acquiring actual proprietary right, equivalent to that of
the following: adjustment with the Spanish Government and required and necessary at all times until the
publication of said royal decree was limited in time to one year, in accordance with article 21,
which is as follows: " A period of one year, not to be extended, is allowed to verify the
From the testimony given by Cariño as well as from that of several of the witnesses for possessory informations which are referred to in articles 19 and 20. After the expiration of this
the Government it is deduced, that in or about the year 1884 Cariño erected and period of the right of the cultivators and persons in possession to obtain gratuitous title thereto
utilized as a domicile a house on the property situated to the north of that property lapses and the land together with full possession reverts to the state, or, as the case may be, to
now in question, property which, according to the plan attached to expediente No. the community, and the said possessors and cultivators or their assigns would simply have
561, appears to be property belonging to Donaldson Sim; that during the year 1893 rights under universal or general title of average in the event that the land is sold within a period
Cariño sold said house to one Cristobal Ramos, who in turn sold the same to of five years immediately following the cancellation. The possessors not included under this
Donaldson Sim, moving to and living on the adjoining property, which appears on the chapter can only acquire by time the ownership and title to unappropriated or royal lands in
plan aforesaid to be the property of H. Phelps Whitmarsh, a place where the father accordance with common law."
and the grandfather of his wife, that is to say, Ortega and Minse, had lived . . ..
5. In accordance with the preceding provisions, the right that remained to Cariño, if it be certain 2. In finding that the land in question did not belong to the petitioner, but that, on the
that he was the true possessor of the land in question, was the right of average in case the contrary, it was the property of the Government. (Allegation 21.)
Government or State could have sold the same within the period of five years immediately
following for example, if the denouncement of purchase had been carried out by Felipe Zafra or
Wherefore, the judgment appealed from is affirmed with the costs of this instance against the
any other person, as appears from the record of the trial of the case. Aside from this right, in
appellant. After the expiration of twenty days from the notification of this decision let judgment be
such event, his possession as attested in the possessory information herein could not, in
entered in accordance herewith, and ten days thereafter let the case be remanded to the court
accordance with common law, go to show any right of ownership until after the expiration of
from whence it came for proper action. So ordered.
twenty years from the expiration of twenty years from the verification and registry of the same in
conformity with the provisions of article 393 of the Mortgage Law and other conditions prescribe
by this law.

6. The right of possession in accordance with common law — that is to say, civil law — remains
at all times subordinate to the Spanish administrative law, inasmuch as it could only be of force
when pertaining to royal transferable or alienable lands, which condition and the determination
thereof is reversed to the government, which classified and designated the royal alienable lands
for the purpose of distinguishing them from those lands strictly public, and from forestry lands
which could at no time pass to private ownership nor be acquired through time even after the
said royal decree of February 13, 1894.

7. The advent of the new sovereignty necessarily brought a new method of dealing with lands
and particularly as to the classification and manner of transfer and acquisition of royal or
common lands then appropriated, which were thenceforth merely called public lands, the
alienation of which was reserved to the Government, in accordance with section 12 and 13 of
the act of Congress of July 1, 1902,1 and in conformity with other laws enacted under this act of
Congress by the Philippine Commission prescribing rules for the execution thereof, one of which
is Act No. 648,2herein mentioned by the petitioner, in connection with Act No. 627,3 which
appears to be the law upon which the petition herein is founded.

8. Section 6 of Act No. 627 admits prescription, in accordance with the provisions contained in
Act No. 190, as a basis for obtaining the right of ownership. "The petitioners claims title under
the period of prescription of ten years established by that act, as well as by reason of his
occupancy and use thereof from time immemorial." (Allegation 1.) But said act admits such
prescription for the purpose of obtaining title and ownership to lands "not exceeding more
that sixteen hectares in extent." (Sec. 6 of said act.) The land claimed by Cariño is 40 hectares
in extent, if we take into consideration his petition, or an extension of 28 hectares, according to
the possessory information, the only thing that can be considered. Therefore, it follows that the
judgment denying the petition herein and now appealed from was strictly in accordance with the
law invoked herein.

9. And of the 28 hectares of land as set out in the possessory information, one part of same,
according to the testimony of Cariño, belongs to Vicente Valpiedad, the extent of which is not
determined. From all of which it follows that the precise extent has not been determined in the
trial of this case on which judgment might be based in the event that the judgment and title be
declared in favor of the petitioner, Mateo Cariño. And we should not lose sight of the fact that,
considering the intention of Congress in granting ownership and title to 16 hectares, that Mateo
Cariño and his children have already exceeded such amount in various acquirements of lands,
all of which is shown in different cases decided by the said Court of Land Registration, donations
or gifts of land that could only have been made efficacious as to the conveyance thereof with the
assistance of these new laws.

By reason of the findings set forth it is clearly seen that the court below did not err:

1. In finding that Mateo Cariño and those from whom he claims his right had not
possessed and claimed as owners the lands in question since time immemorial;
G.R. No. L-3793 February 19, 1908 July first, nineteen hundred and two." It could not lease it in accordance with the provisions of
Chapter III of the said act, for section 22 relating to leases limits them to "nonmineral public
lands, as defined by section eighteen and twenty of the act of Congress approved July first,
CIRILO MAPA, petitioner-appellee,
nineteen hundred and two." It may be noted in passing that there is perhaps some typographical
vs.
or other error in this reference to sections 18 and 20, because neither one of these sections
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellant.
mentions agricultural lands. The Government could not give a free patent to this land to a native
settler, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV, for that relates only to "agricultural
Attorney-General Araneta for appellant. public land, as defined by act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two."
Basilio R. Mapa for appellee.
In fact, by virtue of the provisions of Act No. 926, the Government could do nothing with this land
WILLARD, J.: except to lay out a town site thereon in accordance with the provisions of Chapter V, for section
36 relating to that matter, says nothing about agricultural land.
This case comes from the Court of Land Registration. The petitioner sought to have registered a
tract of land of about 16 hectares in extent, situated in the barrio of San Antonio, in the district of The question before us is not what is agricultural land, but what definition has been given to that
Mandurriao, in the municipality of Iloilo. Judgment was rendered in favor of the petitioner and the phrase by the act of Congress. An examination of that act will show that the only sections
Government has appealed. A motion for a new trial was made and denied in the court below, but thereof wherein can be found anything which could be called a definition of the phrase are
no exception was taken to the order denying it, and we therefore can not review the evidence. sections 13 and 15. Those sections are as follows:

The decision of that court was based upon Act No. 926 section 54, paragraph 6 which follows: SEC. 13. That the Government of the Philippine Islands, subject to the provisions of
this act and except as herein provided, shall classify according to its agricultural
character and productiveness, and shall immediately make rules and regulations for
All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the the lease, sale, or other disposition of the public lands other than timber or mineral
open, continuous exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural
lands, but such rules and regulations shall not go into effect of have the force of law
public lands, as defined by said act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and until they have received the approval of the President, and when approved by the
two, under a bona fide claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a President they shall be submitted by him to Congress at the beginning of the next
period of ten years next preceding the taking effect of this act, except when prevented
ensuing session thereof and unless disapproved or amended by Congress at said
by war, or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the session they shall at the close of such period have the force and effect of law in the
conditions essential to a Government grant and to have received the same, and shall Philippine Islands: Provided, That a single homestead entry shall not exceed sixteen
be entitled to a certificate of title to such land under the provisions of this chapter.
hectares in extent.

The only question submitted to the court below or to this court by the Attorney-General is the SEC. 15. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and
question whether the land in controversy is agricultural land within the meaning of the section empowered on such terms as it may prescribe, by general legislation, to provide for
above quoted. The findings of the court below upon that point are as follows: the granting or sale and conveyance to actual occupants and settlers and other
citizens of said Islands such parts and portions of the public domain, other than timber
From the evidence adduced it appears that the land in question is lowland, and has and mineral lands, of the United States in said Islands as it may deem wise, not
been uninterruptedly, for more than twenty years, in the possession of the petitioner exceeding sixteen hectares to any one person and for the sale and conveyance of not
and his ancestors as owners and the same has been used during the said period, and more than one thousand and twenty-four hectares to any corporation or association of
up to the present, as fish ponds, nipa lands, and salt deposits. The witnesses declare persons: Provided, that the grant or sale of such lands, whether the purchase price be
that the land is far from the sea, the town of Molo being between the sea and the said paid at once or in partial payments shall be conditioned upon actual and continued
land. occupancy, improvement, and cultivation of the premises sold for a period of not less
than five years, during which time the purchaser or grantee can not alienate or
encumber said land or the title thereto; but such restriction shall not apply to transfers
The question is an important one because the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined by of rights and title of inheritance under the laws for the distribution of the estates of
said act of Congress of July 1, is found not only in section 54 above quoted but in other parts of decedents.
Act No. 926, and it seems that the same construction must be given to the phrase wherever it
occurs in any part of that law.
It is seen that neither one of these sections gives any express definition of the phrase
"agricultural land." In fact, in section 15 the word "agricultural" does not occur.
The claim of the Attorney-General seems to be that no lands can be called agricultural lands
unless they are such by their nature. If the contention of the Attorney-General is correct, and this
land because of its nature is not agricultural land, it is difficult to see how it could be disposed of There seem to be only three possible ways of deciding this question. The first is to say that no
or what the Government could do with it if it should be decided that the Government is the owner definition of the phrase "agricultural land" can be found in the act of Congress; the second, that
thereof. It could not allow the land to be entered as a homestead, for Chapter I of Act No. 926 there is a definition of that phrase in the act and that it means land which in its nature is
allows the entry of homesteads only upon "agricultural public lands" in the Philippine Islands, as agricultural; and, third, that there is a definition in the act and that the phrase means all of the
defined by the act of Congress of July 1, 1902. It could not sell it in accordance with the public lands acquired from Spain except those which are mineral or timber lands. The court
provisions of Chapter II of Act No. 926 for section 10 only authorizes the sale of "unreserved below adopted this view, and held that the land, not being timber or mineral land, came within
nonmineral agricultural public land in the Philippine Islands, as defined in the act of Congress of
the definition of agricultural land, and that therefore Section 54 paragraph 6, Act No. 926 was is more valuable for agricultural than for timber purposes, but it says nothing about his decisions
applicable thereto. as to whether it is or is not agricultural land in its nature. Section 26 relating to the lease of public
lands provides that the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall determine from the certificate of
the Chief of the Bureau of Forestry whether the land applied for is more valuable for agricultural
1. There are serious objections to holding that there is no definition in the act of the phrase
than for timber purposes and further summarily determine from available records whether the
"agricultural land." The Commission in enacting Act No. 926 expressly declared that such a
land is or is not mineral and does not contain deposits of coal or salts. Section 34 relating to fee
definition could be found therein. The President approved this act and it might be said that
patents to native settlers makes no provision for any determination by the Chief of Bureau of
Congress, by failing to reject or amend it, tacitly approved it. Moreover, if it should be said that
Public Lands in regard to the character of the land applied for.
there is no definition in the act of Congress of the phrase "agricultural land," we do not see how
any effect could be given to the provisions of Act No. 916, to which we have referred. If the
phrase is not defined in the act of Congress, then the lands upon which homesteads can be After homesteads have been entered, lands, sold, and leases made by the administrative
granted can not be determined. Nor can it be known what land the Government has the right to officers on the theory that the lands were agricultural lands by their nature, to leave the matter of
sell in accordance with the provisions of Chapter II, nor what lands it can lease in accordance their true character open for subsequent action by the courts would be to produce an evil that
with the provisions of Chapter III, nor the lands for which it can give free patents to native should if possible be avoided.
settlers in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV, and it would seem to follow,
necessarily, that none of those chapters could be put into force and that all that had up to this
3. We hold that there is to be found in the act of Congress a definition of the phrase "agricultural
time been done by virtue thereof would be void.
public lands," and after a careful consideration of the question we are satisfied that the only
definition which exists in said act is the definition adopted by the court below. Section 13 says
2. The second way of disposing of the question is by saying that Congress has defined that the Government shall "Make rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or other disposition of
agricultural lands as those lands which are, as the Attorney-General says, by their nature the public lands other than timber or mineral lands." To our minds, that is the only definition that
agricultural. As has been said before, the word "agricultural" does not occur in section 15. can be said to be given to acricultural lands. In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as
Section 13 says that the Government "shall classify according to its agricultural character and used in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or
productiveness and shall immediately make rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or other mineral lands. As was said in the case of Jones vs. The Insular Government (6 Phil Rep., 122,
disposition of the public lands other than timber or mineral land." This is the same thing as 133) where these same section of the act of Congress were under discussion:
saying that the Government shall classify the public lands other than timber or mineral lands
according to its agricultural character and productiveness; in other words, that it shall classify all
The meaning of these sections is not clear and it is difficult to give to them a
the public lands acquired from Spain, and that this classification shall be made according to the
construction that would be entirely free from objection.
agricultural character of the land and according to its productiveness.

But the construction we have adopted, to our minds, is less objectionable than any other one
One objection to adopting this view is that it is so vague and indefinite that it would be very
that has been suggested.
difficult to apply it in practice. What lands are agricultural in nature? The Attorney-General
himself in his brief in this case says:
There is nothing in this case of Jones vs. The Insular Government which at all conflicts with the
result here arrived at. The question as to whether the lands there involved were or were not
The most arid mountain and the poorest soil are susceptible of cultivation by the hand
agricultural lands within the meaning of the sections was neither discussed nor decided. In fact,
of man.
it appears from the decision that those lands, which were in the Province of Benguet, were within
the strictest definition of the phrase "agricultural lands." It appears that such lands had been
The land in question in this case, which is used as a fishery, could be filled up and any kind of cultivated for more than twelve years. What that case decided was, not that the lands therein
crops raised thereon. Mineral and timber lands are expressly excluded, but it would be difficult to involved and other lands referred to in the decision by way of illustration were not agricultural
say that any other particular tract of land was not agricultural in nature. Such lands may be found lands but that the law there in question and the other laws mentioned therein were not rules and
within the limits of any city. There is within the city of Manila, and within a thickly inhabited part regulations within the meaning of section 13.
thereof an experimental far. This land is in its nature agricultural. Adjoining the Luneta, in the
same city, is a large tract of land, Camp Wallace, devoted to sports. The land surrounding the
The judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this instance against the appellant.
city walls of Manila, between them and the Malecon Drive on the west, the Luneta on the south,
So ordered.
and Bagumbayan Drive on the south and east, is of many hectares in extent and is in nature
agricultural. The Luneta itself could at any time be devoted to the growing of crops.

The objection to adopting this construction on account of its uncertainty is emphasized when we
consider that whether certain land was or was not agricultural land, as defined by the act of
Congress, and therefore subject to homestead entry, to sale, or to lease in accordance with the
provisions of Act No. 926, would be a question that would finally have to be determined by the
courts, unless there is some express provision of the law authorizing the administrative officers
to determine this question for themselves. Section 2 of Act No. 926 relating to homesteads
provides that the Chief of The Bureau of Public Lands shall summarily determine whether the
land described isprima facie under the law subject to homestead settlement. Section 13, relating
to the sale of public lands, provides simply that the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall
determine from the certificate of the Chief of the Bureau of Forestry whether the land applied for
G.R. No. 1413 March 30, 1904 Eight. That from the said 14th day of July, 1892, Manuel Murciano has at no time
occupied or possessed all of the land mentioned, but has possessed only certain in
distinct and indefinite portions of the same. That during all this time the plaintiffs have
ANDRES VALENTON, ET AL., plaintiffs-appellants,
opposed the occupation of the defendant, and said plaintiffs during all the time in
vs.
question have been and are in the possession and occupation of part of the said
MANUEL MURCIANO, defendant-appellee.
lands, tilling them and improving them by themselves and by their agents and tenants.

Montagne and Dominguez for appellants.


Ninth. That never, prior to the said 14th day of July,, 1892, has the defendant, Manuel
Del Pan, Ortigas and Fisher for appellee.
Murciano, been in the peaceful and quiet possession and occupation of the said lands,
or in the peaceful and quiet occupation of any part thereof.
WILLARD, J.:
Upon these facts the Court of First Instance ordered judgment for the defendant on the ground
I. The findings of fact made by the court below in its decision are as follows: that the plaintiffs had lost all right to the land by not pursuing their objections to the sale
mentioned in the sixth finding. The plaintiffs excepted to the judgment and claim in this court that
upon the facts found by the court below judgment should have been entered in their favor. Their
First. That in the year 1860, the plaintiffs, and each one of them, entered into the contention is that in 1890 they had been in the adverse possession of the property for thirty
peaceful and quiet occupation and possession of the larger part of the lands described
years; that, applying the extra ordinary period of prescription of thirty years, found as well in the
in the complaint of the plaintiffs, to wit [description]: Partidas as in the Civil Code, they then became the absolute owners of the land as against
everyone, including the State, and that when the State in 1892 deeded the property to the
Second. That on the date on which the plaintiffs entered into the occupation and defendant, nothing passed by the deed because the State had nothing to convey.
possession of the said lands, as above set forth, these lands and every part thereof
were public, untilled, and unoccupied, and belonged to the then existing Government The case presents, therefore, the important question whether or not during the years from 1860
of the Philippine Islands. That immediately after the occupation and possession of the
to 1890 a private person, situated as the plaintiffs were, could have obtained as against the
said lands by the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs began to cultivate and improve them in a quiet State the ownership of the public lands of the State by means of occupation. The court finds that
and peaceful manner. at the time of the entry by the plaintiff in 1860 the lands were vacant and were public lands
belonging to the then existing Government. The plaintiffs do not claim to have ever obtained
Third. That from the said year 1860, the plaintiffs continued to occupy and possess the from the Government any deed for the lands, nor any confirmation of their possession.
said lands, quietly and peacefully, until the year 1892, by themselves, by their agents
and tenants, claiming that they were the exclusive owners of said lands.
Whether in the absence of any special legislation on the subject a general statute of limitations
in which the State was not expressly excepted would run against the State as to its public lands
Fourth. That on or about the 16th day of January, 1892, Manuel Murciano, defendant we do not find it necessary to decide. Reasons based upon public policy could be adduced why
in this proceeding, acting on behalf of and as attorney in fact of Candido Capulong, by it should not, at least as to such public lands as are involved in this case. (See Act No. 926, sec.
occupation a cook, denounced the said lands to the then existing Government of the 67.) We are, however, of the opinion that the case at bar must be decided, not by the general
Philippine Islands, declaring that the said lands every part thereof were public, untilled, statute of limitation contained in the Partidas, but by those special laws which from the earliest
and unoccupied lands belonging to the then existing Government of the Philippine times have regulated the disposition of the public lands in the colonies.
Islands, and petitioned for the sale of the same to him.
Did these special laws recognize any right of prescription against the State as to these lands;
Fifth. That before the execution of the sale heretofore mentioned, various proceedings and if so, to what extend was it recognizes? Laws of very early date provided for the assignment
were had for the survey and measurement of the lands in question at the instance of of public lands to the subjects of the Crown. Law 1, title 12, book 4 of the Recopilacion de Leyes
the defendant, Murciano, the latter acting as agent and attorney in fact of said de las Indias is an example of them, and is as follows:
Candido Capulong, a written protest, however, having been entered against these
proceedings by the plaintiff Andres Valenton. In order that our subjects may be encouraged to undertake the discovery and
settlement of the Indies, and that they may live with the comfort and convenience
Sixth. That on the 14th day of July, 1892, Don Enrique Castellvie Ibarrola, secretary of which we desire, it is our will that there shall be distributed to all those who shall go
the treasury of the Province of Tarlac, in his official capacity as such secretary, out to people the new territories, houses, lots, lands, peonias, and caballerias in the
executed a contract of purchase and sale, by which said lands were sold and towns and places which may be assigned to them by the governor of the new
conveyed by him to the defendant, Manuel Murciano, as attorney for the said Candido settlement, who in apportioning the lands, will distinguish between gentlemen and
Capulong. peasants, and those of lower degree and merit, and who will add to the possessions
and better the condition of the grantees, according to the nature of the services
rendered by them, and with a view to the promotion of agriculture and stock raising.
Seventh. That on the 19th day of July, 1892, said Candido Capulong executed a To those who shall have labored and established a home on said lands and who shall
contract of purchase and sale, by which he sold and conveyed the said lands to the have resided in the said settlement for a period of four years we grant the right
defendants, Manuel Murciano. thereafter to sell and in every other manner to exercise their free will over said lands
as over their own property. And we further command that, in accordance with their
rank and degree, the governor, or whoever may be invested with our authority, shall
allot the Indians to them in any distribution made, so that they may profit by their labor their present condition, but also the future and their probable increase, and after
and fines in accordance with the tributes required and the law controlling such distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming
matters. them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said
lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish.
And in order that, in allotting said lands, there may be no doubt as to the area of each
grant, we declare that apeonia shall consist of a tract fifty feet in breadth by one We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts
hundred in length, with arable land capable of producing one hundred bushels of designated, at such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period
wheat or barley, ten bushels of maize, as much land for an orchard as two yokes of within which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to
oxen may plough in a day, and for the planting of other trees of a hardy nature as them, and to the court officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds
much as may be plowed with eight yokes in a day, and including pasture for twenty thereto. And those who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts, or by
cows, five mares, one hundred sheep, twenty goats, and ten breeding pigs. virtue of just prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to
A caballeria shall be a tract one hundred feet in breadth and two hundred in length, us to be disposed of at our will.
and in other respects shall equal five peonias — that is, it will include arable land
capable of producing five hundred bushels of wheat or barley and fifty bushels of
While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to deed if he proves a
maize, as much land for an orchard as may be ploughed with ten yokes of oxen in a
possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it has always insisted that he must make that proof
day, and for the planting of other hardy trees as much as forty yokes may plough in a
before the proper administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed, and until he did that the
day, together with pasturage for one hundred cows, twenty mares, five hundred
State remained the absolute owner.
sheep, one hundred goats, and fifty breeding pigs. And we order that the distribution
be made in such a manner that all may receive equal benefit therefrom, and if this be
impracticable, then that each shall be given his due. In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct statement that all those lands belong to
the Crown which have not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who proceeded
him. This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands no so granted, that did not being
But it was necessary, however, that action should in all cases be taken by the public officials
to the king. It excludes the idea that the king was not still the owner of all ungranted lands,
before any interest was acquired by the subject.
because some private person had been in the adverse occupation of them. By the mandatory
part of the law all the occupants of the public lands are required to produce before the authorities
Law 8 of said title 12 is as follows: named, and within a time to be fixed by them, their title papers. And those who had good title or
showed prescription were to be protected in their holdings. It is apparent that it was not the
intention of the law that mere possession for a length of time should make the possessors the
We command that if a petition shall be presented asking the grant of a lot or tract of
owners of the lands possessed by them without any action on the part of the authorities. It is
land in a city or town in which one of our courts may be located, the presentation shall
plain that they were required to present their claims to the authorities and obtain a confirmation
be made to the municipal council. If the latter shall approve the petition, two deputy
thereof. What the period of prescription mentioned in this law was does not appear, but latter, in
magistrates will be appointed, who will acquaint the viceroy or municipal president with
1646, law 19 of the same title declared "that no one shall be 'admitted to adjustment' unless he
the council's judgment in the matter. After consideration thereof by the viceroy or
has possessed the lands for ten years."
president and the deputy magistrates, all will sign the grants, in the presence of the
clerk of the council, in order that the matter may be duly recorded in the council book.
If the petition shall be for the grant of waters and lands for mercantile purpose, it shall In law 15, title 12, book 4 of the same compilation, there is a command that those lands as to
be presented to the viceroy or municipal president, who will transmit it to the council. If which there has been no adjustment with the Government be sold at auction to the highest
the latters shall vote to make the grant, one of the magistrates will carry its decision to bidder. That law is as follows:
the viceroy or president, to the end that, upon consideration of the matter by him, the
proper action may be taken.
For the greater good of our subjects, we order and command that our viceroys and
governing presidents shall do nothing with respect to lands the claims to which have
It happened, in the course of time, that tracts of the public land were found in the possession of been adjusted by their predecessors, tending to disturb the peaceful possession of the
persons who either had no title papers therefor issued by the State, or whose title papers were owners thereof. As to those who shall have extended their possession beyond the
defective, either because the proper procedure had not been followed or because they had been limits fixed in the original grants, they will be admitted to a moderate adjustment with
issued by persons who had no authority to do so. Law 14, title 12 book 4 of said compilation respect to the excess, and new title deeds will be issued therefor. And all those lands
(referred to in the regulations of June 25, 1880, for the Philippines) was the first of a long series as to which no adjustment has been made shall, without exception, be sold at public
of legislative acts intended to compel those in possession of the public lands, without written auction to the highest bidder, the purchase price therefor to be payable either in cash
evidence of title, or with defective title papers, to present evidence as to their possession or or in the form of quitrent, in accordance with the laws and royal ordinances of the
grants, and obtain the confirmation of their claim to ownership. That law is as follows: kingdoms of Castile. We leave to the viceroys and president the mode and from in
which what is here ordered shall be carried into effect in order that they may provide
for it at the least possible cost; and in order that all unnecessary expense with respect
We having acquitted full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands territories, and
to the collections for said lands may be avoided, we command that the same be made
possession not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by, or in our
by our royal officers in person, without the employment of special collectors, and to
name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which
that end availing themselves of the services of our royal courts, and, in places where
are held without proper and true deeds of grants be restored to us according as they
courts shall not have been established, of the town mayors.
belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys,
audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures,
and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into consideration not only
And whereas, title deeds to lands have been granted by officers not authorized to court of the district in which the lands are located while authorized to exercise this
issue them, and such titles have been confirmed by us in council, we command that power. In cases where the sales of adjustments shall not have been so confirmed, the
those holding such a certificate of confirmation may continue to possess the lands to possessors will present to the courts of their respective district and to the other
which it refers, and will, within the limits stated in the confirmation certificate, be officials hereby empowered to receive the same, a petition asking for the confirmation
protected in their possession; and with respect to any encroachment beyond such of said sales and adjustments. After the proceedings outlined by the subdelegates in
limits will be admitted to the benefits of this law. their order with respect to the measurement and valuation of the said lands, and with
reference to the title issued therefor, shall have been duly completed, said courts and
officials will make an examination of the same for the purpose of ascertaining whether
Another legislative act of the same character was the royal cedula of October 15, 1754
the sale or adjustment has been made without fraud and collusion, and for an
(4 Legislacion Ultramarina, Rodriguez San Pedro, 673). Articles 3, 4, and 5 of this royal cedula
adequate and equitable price, and a similar examination shall be made by the
as follows:
prosecuting attorney of the district, to the end that, in view of all the proceedings and
the purchase or adjustment price of the land, and the media anata having been duly,
3. Upon each principal subdelegate's appointment, which will be made in the manner etc., paid into the royal treasury, as well as such additional sum as may be deemed
prescribed in article 1 of this cedula, and upon his receipts of these instructions, of proper, there will be issued to the possessor, in my royal name, a confirmation of his
which every principal subdelegate already designated or who may hereafter be title, by virtue of which his possession and ownership of lands and waters which it
appointed shall be furnished a copy, said subdelegate will in his turn issue a general represents will be fully legalized, to the end that at no time will he or his heirs or
order to the courts in the provincial capitals and principal towns of his district, directing assigns be disturbed or molested therein.
the publication therein, in the manner followed in connection with the promulgation or
general orders of viceroys, presidents, and administrative courts in matters connected
The wording of this law is much stronger than that of law 14. As is seen by the terms of article 3,
with my service, of these instructions, to the end that any and all persons who, since
any person whatever who occupied any public land was required to present the instruments by
the year 1700, and up to the date of the promulgation and publication of said order,
virtue of which he was in possession, within a time to be fixed by the authorities, and he was
shall have occupied royal lands, whether or not the same shall be cultivated of
warned that if he did not do so he would be evicted from his land and it would be granted to
tenanted, may, either in person or through their attorneys or representatives, appear
others. By terms of article 4 those possessors to whom grants had been made prior to 1700,
and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and patents by virtue of which said lands
were entitled to have such grants confirmed, and it was also provided that not being able to
are occupied. Said subdelegates will designate as the period within which such
prove any grants it should be sufficient to prove "that ancient possession," as a sufficient title by
documents must be presented a term sufficient in length and proportionate to the
prescription, and they should be confirmed in their holdings. "That ancient possession" would be
distance the interested party may have to travel for the purpose of making the
at least fifty-four years, for it would have to date from prior to 1700. Under article 5, where the
presentation. Said subdelegates will at the same time warn the parties interested that
possession dated from 1700, no confirmation could be granted on proof of prescription alone.
in case of their failure to present their title deeds within the term designated, without a
just and valid reason therefor, they will be deprived of an evicted from their lands, and
they will be granted to others. The length of possession required to be proved before the Government would issue a deed has
varied in different colonies and at different times. In the Philippines, as has been seen, it was at
one time ten years, at another time fifty-four years at least. In Cuba, by the royal cedula of April
4. If it shall appear from the titles or instruments presented, or if it shall be shown in
24, 1833, to obtain a deed one had to prove, as to uncultivated lands, a possession of one
any other legal manner that said persons are in possession of such royal lands by
hundred years, and as to cultivated lands a possession of fifty years. In the same islands, by the
virtue of a sale or adjustment consummated by duly authorized subdelegates prior to
royal order of July 16, 1819, a possession of forty years was sufficient.
the said year 1700, although such action may not have been confirmed by my royal
person, or by a viceroy or president, they shall in no wise be molested, but shall be left
in the full and quiet possession of the same; nor shall they be required to pay any fee In the Philippines at a later date royal of September 21, 1797 (4 Legislacion Ultramarina,
on account of these proceedings, in accordance with law 15, title 12, book 4 of Rodriguez San Pedro, p. 688), directed the observation of the said royal cedula of 1754, but
the Recopilacion de los Indias, above cited. A note shall be made upon said title apparently without being subject to the period of prescription therein assigned.
deeds to the effect that his obligation has been complied with, to the end that the
owners of such rival lands and their successors may hereafter be free from
The royal order of July 5, 1862 (Gaceta de Manila, November 15, 1864), also ordered that until
denunciation, summons, or other disturbance in their possession.
regulations on the subject could be prepared the authorities of the Islands should follow strictly
the Laws of the Indies, the Ordenanza of the Intendentes of 1786, and the said royal cedula of
Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds it shall be sufficient if 1754.
they shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription; provided,
however, that if the lands shall not be in state of cultivation or tillage, the term of three
The royal order of November 14, 1876 (Guia del Comprador de Terrenos, p. 51), directed the
months prescribed by law 11 of the title and book cited, or such other period as may
provincial governors to urge those in unlawful possession of public lands to seek an adjustment
be deemed adequate, shall be designated as the period within which the lands must
with the State in accordance with the existing laws. The regulations as to the adjustment
be reduced to cultivation, with the warning that in case of their failure so to do the
(composicion) of the titles to public lands remained in this condition until the regulations of June
lands will be granted, with the same obligation to cultivate them, to whomsoever may
25, 1880. This is the most important of the modern legislative acts upon the matter of
denounce them.
"adjustment" as distinguished from that of the sale of the public lands.

5. Likewise neither shall possessors of lands sold or adjusted by the various


The royal degree approving these regulations is dated June 25, 1880, and is as follows:1
subdelegates from the year 1700 to the present time be molested, disturbed, or
denounced, now or at any other time, with respect to such possession, if such sales or
adjustments shall have been confirmed by me, or by the viceroy or the president of the
Upon the suggestion of the colonial minister, made in conformity with the decree of the they declare that such persons must seek an adjustment and obtain a deed from the State, and
full meeting of the council of state, I hereby approve the attached regulations for the if they do not do so within the time named in article 8 they lose all interest in the lands?
adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine
Islands.
It must be admitted from the wording of the law that the question is not free from doubt. Upon a
consideration, however, of the whole matter, that doubt must, we think, be resolved in favor of
Articles 1, 4, 5, 8, and part of article 6 are as follows: the State. The following are some of the reasons which lead us to that conclusion:

ART. 1. For the purpose of these regulations and in conformity with law 14, title 12, (1) It will be noticed that article 4 does not say that those persons shall be considered as owners
book 4 of the Recompilation of Laws of the Indies, the following will be regarded as who have occupied the lands for ten years, which would have been the language naturally used
royal lands: All lands whose lawful ownership is not vested in some private, persons, if an absolute grant had been intended. It says, instead, that those shall be considered owners
or, what is the same thing, which have never passed to private ownership by virtue of who may prove that they have been in possession ten years. Was this proof to be made at any
cession by competent authorities, made either gratuitously or for a consideration. time in the future when the question might arise, or was it to be made in the proceedings which
these very regulations provided for that purpose? We think that the latter is the proper
construction.
ART. 4. For all legal effects, those will be considered proprietors of the royal lands
herein treated who may prove that they have possessed the lands without interruption
during the period of ten years, by virtue of a good title and in good faith. (2) Article 1 declares in plain terms that all those lands as to which the State has never executed
any deeds are the property of the State — that is, that on June 25, 1880, no public lands
belonged to individuals unless they could exhibit a State deed therefor. This is entirely
ART. 5. In the same manner, those who without such title deeds may prove that they
inconsistent with the idea that the same law in its article 4 declares that the lands in question in
have possessed their said lands without interruption for a period of twenty years if in a
this case became the property of the plaintiffs in 1870, and were not in 1880 the property of the
state of cultivation, or for a period of thirty years if uncultivated, shall be regarded as
State, though the State had never given any deed for them.
proprietors thereof. In order that a tract of land may be considered cultivated, it will be
necessary to show that it has been broken within the last three years.
(3) The royal decree, by its terms, relates to lands wrongfully withheld by private persons. The
word detentados necessarily implies this. This is inconsistent with the idea that by article 4 of the
ART. 6. Interested parties not included within the two preceding articles may legalize
plaintiffs, in 1870, became the absolute owners of the lands in question, and were not therefore,
their possession and thereby acquire the full ownership of the said lands, by means of
in 1880, withholding what did not belong to them.
adjustment proceedings, to be conducted in the following manner: . . .

(4) In the preface to this decree and regulations, the following language is used:
(5) Those who, entirely without title deeds, may be in possession of lands belonging to
the State and have reduced said lands to a state of cultivation, may acquire the
ownership thereof by paying into the public treasury the value of the lands at the time SIR: The uncertain, and it may be said the precarious, state of real property in various
such possessors or their representatives began their unauthorized enjoyment of the parts of the Philippine Islands, as yet sparsely populated; the necessity for
same. encouraging the cultivation of these lands; the advantage of increasing the wealth and
products of the Archipelago; the immense and immediate profit which must result to all
classes of interests, public as well as private, from the substitution of full ownership,
(6) In case said lands shall never have been ploughed, but are still in a wild state, or
with all the privileges which by law accompany this real right, for the mere possession
covered with forest, the ownership of the same may be acquired by paying their value
of the lands, have long counseled the adoption of the provisions contained in the
at the time of the filing of the claim, as stated in the fourth paragraph."
following regulations, which, after consulation with the Philippine council, and in
conformity with an order passed at a full meeting of the council of state, the
ART. 8. If the interested parties shall not ask an adjustment of the lands whose subscribing minister has the honor to submit for the royal approval. These regulations
possession they are unlawfully enjoying within the time of one year, or, the adjustment refer not only to tenants of royal lands in good faith and by virtue of a valid title, but
having been granted by the authorities, they shall fail to fulfill their obligation in also to those who, lacking these, may, either by themselves reducing such lands to
connection with the compromise, by paying the proper sum into the treasury, the latter cultivation or by the application of intelligence and initiative, causing their cultivation by
will, by virtue of the authority vested in it, reassert the ownership of the State over the others who lack these qualities, be augmenting the wealth of the Archipelago. 2
lands, and will, after fixing the value thereof, proceed to sell at public auction that part
of the same which either because it may have been reduced to cultivation or is not
This preface is the most authoritative commentary on the law, and shows without doubt that
located within the forest zone is not deemed advisable to preserve as the State forest
those who held with color of title and good faith were, notwithstanding, holding wrongfully, and
reservation.
that true ownership should be substituted for their possession.

The other articles of the regulations state the manner in which applications should be made for
(5) This doubt suggested by the wording of the law was the subject of inquiries directed to the
adjustment, and the proceedings thereon.
officers in Manila charged with its execution. These inquiries were answered in the circular of
August 10, 1881, published in the Gaceta de Manila August 11, 1881, as follows:
Do these regulations declare that those who are included in article 4 and 5 are the absolute
owners of the land occupied by them without any action on their part, or that of the State, or do
Should possessors of royal lands under color of title and in good faith seek
adjustment?
It is evident that they must do so, for it is to them that article 4 of the regulations refers, to have received the same." Yet such persons are required by section 56 to present a petition to
as also the following article covers other cases of possession under different the Court of Land Registration for a confirmation of these titles.
circumstances. It should be well understood by you, and you should in turn have it
understood by other, that the adjustment of lands whose ownership has not passed to
We have considered the regulations relating to adjustment — that is, those laws under which
private individuals by virtue of cession by competent authorities, is optional only for
persons in possession might perfect their titles. But there were other laws relating to the sale of
those within the limits of the common district (legua comunal) as provided by article 7.
public lands which contained provisions fatal to the plaintiff's claims. The royal decree of January
In all other cases where the interested parties shall fail to present themselves for the
26, 1889 (Gaceta de Manila, March 20, 1889), approved the regulations for the sale of public
adjustment of the lands occupied by them shall suffer the penalties set forth in article 8
lands in the Philippines, and it was in accordance with such regulations that the appellee
of said regulations.
acquired his title. Article 4 of those regulations required the publication in the Gaceta de
Manila of the application to purchase, with a description of the lands, and gave sixty days within
In determining the meaning of a law where a doubt exists the construction placed upon it by the which anyone could object to the sale. A similar notice in the dialect of the locality was required
officers whose duty it is to administer it is entitled to weight. to be posted on the municipal building of the town in which the land was situated, and to be
made public by the crier. Articles 5 and 6 declared to whom such objections shall be made and
the course which they should take. Article 8 is as follows:
(6) There is, moreover, legislative construction of these regulations upon this point found in
subsequent laws. The royal decree of December 26, 1884, (Berriz Anuario, 1888, p. 117),
provides in articles 1 that — ART. 8. In no case will the judicial authorities take cognizance of the suit against the
decrees of the civil administration concerning the sale of royal lands unless the plaintiff
shall attach to the complaint documents which show that he has exhausted the
All those public lands wrongfully withheld by private person in the Philippines which, in
administrative remedy. After the proceeding in the executive department shall have
accordance with the regulations of June 25, 1880, are subject to adjustment with the
been terminated and the matter finally passed upon, anyone considering his interests
treasury, shall be divided into three groups, of which the first shall include those which,
prejudiced thereby may commence a suit in the court against the State; but in no case
because they are included in articles 4 and 5, and the first paragraph of article 7, are
shall an action be brought against the proprietor of the land.
entitled to free adjustment.

Similar provisions are found in the regulations of 1883, approved the second time by royal order
There were exceptions to this rule which are not here important. Article 10 provides that if the
of February 16 (Gaceta de Manila, June 28, 1883). Articles 18 and 23 of said regulations are as
adjustment is free for those mentioned in articles 4 and 5, who are included in the second group,
follows:
the deed shall be issued by the governor of the province. Article 11 says that if the adjustment is
not free, because the applicant has not proved his right by prescription, then no deed can be
issued until the proper payment has been made. The whole decree shows clearly that the ART. 18. Possessors of such lands as may fall within the class of alienable royal lands
legislator intended that those mentioned in article 4 and 5 should apply for a confirmation of their shall be obliged to apply for the ownership of the same, or for the adjustment thereof
titles by prescription, as well as those mentioned in article 6. In fact, for the adjustment of those within the term of sixty days from the time of the publication in the bulletin of Sales of
of the first group, which necessarily included only those found within articles 4 and 5, a board the notice of sale thereof.
was organized (art. 15) in each pueblo whose sole duty it was to dispatch applications made
said two articles.
ART. 23. The judicial authorities shall take cognizance of no complaint against the
decrees of the treasury department concerning the sale of lands pertaining to the state
(7) The royal decree of August 31, 1888 (Berriz Anuario, 1888, p. 120), is another legislative unless the complainant shall attached to the complaint documents which proved that
construction of this regulation. That decree repealed the decree of 1884, and divided all lands he has exhausted the administrative remedy.
subjects to adjustment under the regulations of June 25, 1880, into two groups. In the first group
were all those lands which bordered at any points on other State lands, and those which, though
This prohibition appears also in the royal order of October 26, 1881 (Gaceta de Manila,
not bordering on State lands, measured more than 30 hectares. In the second group were those
December 18, 1881) which relates evidently both to sales of public lands and also to the
which were bounded entirely by lands of private persons and did not exceed 30 hectares. For
adjustments with the occupants.
the second group a provincial board was organized, and article 10 provides a hearing before this
board, and declares —
Article 5 of this royal order is as follows:
If no protest or claim shall be filed, and the adjustment must be free because the
occupant has proved title by prescription, as provided in articles 4 and 5 of the During the pendency of proceedings in the executive department with respect to
regulations promulgated June 25, 1880, the proceedings shall be duty approved, and grants of land, interested parties may present through executive channels such protest
the head officer of the province will, in his capacity of deputy director general of the as they may deemed advisable for the protection of their right and interests. The
civil administration, issue the corresponding title deed. proceeding having once been completed, and the grant made, those who consider
their interests prejudiced thereby may proceed in court against the State, but under no
circumstances against the grantees of the land.
The policy pursued by the Spanish Government from the earliest times, requiring settlers on the
public lands to obtain deeds therefor from the State, has been continued by the American
Government in Act No. 926, which takes effect when approved by Congress. Section 54, sixth The American legislation creating the Court of Land Registration is but an application of this
paragraph of that act, declares that the persons named in said paragraph 6 "shall be same principle. In both systems the title is guaranteed to the petitioner, after examination by a
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and tribunal. In Spanish system this tribunal was called an administrative one, in the American a
judicial one.
The court finds that the plaintiffs made a written protest against the sale to the defendants while III. The exception of the defendant to the order vacating the appointment of the receiver can not
the proceedings for the measurements and survey of the land were being carried on, but that be sustained. The defendant at no time made any showing sufficient to authorize the
they did not follow up their protest. This, as held by the court below, is a bar their recovery in this appointment of a receiver.
action, under the articles above cited.
The case does not fall under No. 4 of section 174 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Neither party in
The plaintiff state in their brief that a great fraud was committed on them and the State by the his pleadings asked any relief as to the crops. They were not, therefore, "the property which is
defendant in applying for the purchase of this lands as vacant and belonging to the public, when the subject of litigation."
they were in the actual adverse possession of the plaintiffs.
Neither does the case fall under No. 2 of section 174, for the same reason.
We have seen nothing in the regulations relating to the sale of the public lands which limited
their force to vacant lands. On the contrary there are provisions which indicate the contrary. In
Moreover, under No. 2 it must be shown that the property is in danger of being lost. There was
the application for the purchase the petitioner is article 3 of the regulations of 1889 required to
no showing of that kind. The pleadings say nothing upon the subject. In the motion for the
state whether any portion of the land sought has been broken for cultivation, and to whom such
appointment of the receiver it said that the plaintiffs are insolvent. There is no evidence, by
improvements belong. Article 9 provides that if one in possession applies to purchase the land,
affidavit or otherwise, to support this statement. A bare, unsworn statement in a motion that the
he renounces his right to a composicion under the laws relating to that subject. By article 13 the
adverse party is insolvent is not sufficient to warrant a court in appointing a receiver for property
report of the officials making the survey must contain a statement as to whether any part of the
in his possession.
land is cultivated or not and if the applicant claims to be the owner of such cultivated part.

The judgment of the court below is affirmed. Neither party can recover costs in this court.
In the regulations of January 19, 1883 (Gaceta de Manila, June 28, 1883) is the following article:

ART. 18. Possessors of such lands as may fall within the class of royal alienable lands
shall be obliged to apply for the ownership of the same, or for the adjustment thereof,
within the term of sixty days from the time of the publication in the Bulletin of Sales of
the notice of sale thereof.

In view of all these provisions it seems impossible to believe that the legislators even intended to
leave the validity of any sale made by the State to be determined at any time in the future by the
ordinary courts on parol testimony. Such would be the result if the contention of the plaintiffs is to
be sustained. According to their claim, this sale and every other sale made by the State can be
set aside if at any time in the future it can be proved that certain persons had been in possession
of the land for the term then required for prescription.

If this claim is allowed it would result that even though written title from the State would be safe
from such attack by parol evidence, by means of such evidence damages could have been
recovered against the State for lands sold by the State to which third persons might thereafter
prove ownership but prescription. The unreliability of parol testimony on the subject of
possession is well known. In this case in the report which the law required to be made before a
sale could be had it is stated by an Ayudante de Montes that the tract had an area of 429
hectares, 77 ares, and 96 centares uncultivated, and 50 hectares, 19 ares, and 73 centares
broken for cultivation. The official report also says (1890) that the breaking is recent.
Notwithstanding this official report, the plaintiffs introduced evidence from which the court found
that the greater part of the tract had been occupied and cultivated by the plaintiffs since 1860.

It is hardly conceivable that the State intended to put in force legislation under which its property
rights could be so prejudiced.

We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force in these Islands by which the plaintiffs
could obtain the ownership of these lands by prescription, without any action by the State, and
that the judgment below declaring the defendant the owner of the lands must be affirmed.

II. What has been said heretofore makes it unnecessary to consider the motion for a new trial,
made by the defendant on the ground that the findings of fact are not supported by the evidence.
G.R. No. 167707 October 8, 2008 On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) approved the
National Reservation Survey of Boracay
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DENR-REGION VI, REGIONAL Island,6 which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named persons.7
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI
PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO,
On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation
AKLAN, REGISTER OF DEEDS, DIRECTOR OF LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY,
No. 18018 declaring Boracay Island, among other islands, caves and peninsulas in the
DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF PHILIPPINE TOURISM
Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves under the administration of the Philippine
AUTHORITY, petitioners,
Tourism Authority (PTA). President Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-
vs.
829 dated September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801.
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and ANICETO YAP, in
their behalf and in behalf of all those similarly situated, respondents.
Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded them from filing an
application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes,
respondents-claimants
x--------------------------------------------------x
Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap filed a petition for
declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo, Aklan.

G.R. No. G.R. No. 173775 October 8, 2008


In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular
No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over their occupied lands. They declared
DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE LANDOWNERS OF that they themselves, or through their predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous,
BORACAY SIMILARLY SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST, ANNEX "A" OF THIS exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June 12, 1945, or earlier
PETITION, petitioners, since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax purposes and paid realty taxes on
vs. them.10
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS
Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its implementing Circular did
MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI, PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man. Since the Island was classified as a tourist
RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO, AKLAN, respondents.
zone, it was susceptible of private ownership. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA)
No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the right to have the lots registered
DECISION in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.

REYES, R.T., J.: The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the petition for
declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was an unclassified land of the
public domain. It formed part of the mass of lands classified as "public forest," which was not
AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of Boracay Island to
available for disposition pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 or the
secure titles over their occupied lands.
Revised Forestry Code,11 as amended.

There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition for review
The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants’ reliance on PD No. 1801 and PTA Circular
on certiorari of the Decision1of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that2 of the Regional Trial
No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation of title was governed by CA No. 141
Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by
and PD No. 705. Since Boracay Island had not been classified as alienable and disposable,
respondents-claimants Mayor Jose Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling
whatever possession they had cannot ripen into ownership.
purposes. The second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification
of Proclamation No. 10645">[3] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying
Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land. During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the following facts: (1)
respondents-claimants were presently in possession of parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2)
these parcels of land were planted with coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the
The Antecedents
coconut trees had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less fifty
(50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land they were occupying for tax
G.R. No. 167707 purposes.12

Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white sand beaches and The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely legal: whether
warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine tourist destination. The island is also Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or impediment to the titling of the lands in
home to 12,003 inhabitants4 who live in the bone-shaped island’s three barangays.5 Boracay. They decided to forego with the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon
submission of their respective memoranda.13
The RTC took judicial notice14 that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island, more particularly On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,27 Wilfredo Gelito,28 and other
Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO landowners29 in Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for prohibition, mandamus, and
2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S. Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. nullification of Proclamation No. 1064.30 They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their
5222 and 5262 filed before the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.15 The titles were issued on "prior vested rights" over portions of Boracay. They have been in continued possession of their
respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have also invested billions of pesos in
developing their lands and building internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots. 31
August 7, 1933.16

Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation reclassifying Boracay


RTC and CA Dispositions
into agricultural land. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber land, the island
is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first
On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents-claimants, with Public Land Act.32 Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required period entitled
a fallo reading: them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a vested right over
Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle to the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an unclassified public forest land pursuant to
title to their lands in Boracay, in accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable
prescribed therein; and to have their lands surveyed and approved by respondent Regional and cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only the executive
Technical Director of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself constitute a title to the department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of the public domain into
land. alienable and disposable lands. There is a need for a positive government act in order to release
the lots for disposition.
SO ORDERED.17
On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two petitions as they
principally involve the same issues on the land classification of Boracay Island. 33
The RTC upheld respondents-claimants’ right to have their occupied lands titled in their name. It
ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA Circular No. 3-82 mentioned that lands in
Boracay were inalienable or could not be the subject of disposition. 18 The Circular itself Issues
recognized private ownership of lands.19 The trial court cited Sections 8720 and 5321 of the Public
Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands in Boracay and that only those
G.R. No. 167707
forested areas in public lands were declared as part of the forest reserve. 22

The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82
The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.23 The Republic then appealed to
pose any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those similarly situated, to acquire title to their
the CA.
occupied lands in Boracay Island.34

On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision, disposing as
G.R. No. 173775
follows:

Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely:


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us DENYING
the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court.24
I.
The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration that the lands
they occupied since time immemorial were part of a forest reserve. AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN CONCEPT OF
OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY, SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR
AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR TO THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR
Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied. 25 Hence, the present petition
DECLARATORY RELIEF ON NOV. 19, 1997, WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM
under Rule 45.
PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL
CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS DEFINED BY SEC. 3a,
G.R. No. 173775 PD 705?

On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo II.
issued Proclamation No. 106426 classifying Boracay Island into four hundred (400) hectares of
reserved forest land (protection purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96)
HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF PRIVATE
hectares of agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation likewise provided for
OWNERSHIPOVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE
a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of roads and trails, reserved for right-
FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF
of-way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
IMPERFECT TITLE?
III. The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, that the
State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged with the conservation
of such patrimony.45 The doctrine has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and
IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE AND
1987 Constitutions.46
DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN] INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR
PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLEUNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM?
All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong
to the State.47Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the government, either by
IV.
purchase or by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable public domain. 48 Necessarily,
it is up to the State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for private
IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006, VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed of the plenary power as the
VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN persona in law to determine who shall be the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under
BORACAY, PROTECTED BY THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS what terms they may be granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way
PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF RA 6657. of their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership. 49

V. Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the Spanish conquest of the
Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in the Philippines passed to the
Spanish Crown.50 The Regalian doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws
CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE SURVEY AND TO of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the foundation that "all lands that were not
APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain." 51
THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN BORACAY?35 (Underscoring supplied)

The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The
In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-claimants in G.R. No. Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as
167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775) have a right to secure titles over their
possessory claims.52
occupied portions in Boracay. The twin petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial
confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not involve their right to
secure title under other pertinent laws. The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law53 partly amended the Spanish Mortgage Law and
the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory information as the method of legalizing
possession of vacant Crown land, under certain conditions which were set forth in said
Our Ruling
decree.54 Under Section 393 of the Maura Law, an informacion posesoria or possessory
information title,55 when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property, is converted into a title of
Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of uninterrupted possession which must be
actual, public, and adverse,56 from the date of its inscription.57 However, possessory information
title had to be perfected one year after the promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17,
to reclassify lands of the public domain 1895. Otherwise, the lands would revert to the State.58

Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for judicial confirmation of In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be founded on royal
imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 190236 in relation to Act No. 926, later amended concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo real or royal grant; (2) concesion
and/or superseded by Act No. 2874 and CA No. 141;37 (b) Proclamation No. 180138 issued by especial or special grant; (3) composicion con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de
then President Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No. 106439issued by President Gloria Macapagal- compra or title by purchase; and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information title.59>
Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect
title under these laws and executive acts.
The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines under American rule
was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.60 By this law, lands of the public domain in the
But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to reclassify lands of Philippine Islands were classified into three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and
the public domain. timber or forest lands.61 The act provided for, among others, the disposal of mineral lands by
means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold system). 62 It also provided
The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural, forest or the definition by exclusion of "agricultural public lands."63 Interpreting the meaning of "agricultural
timber.40 Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following divisions: agricultural, lands" under the Philippine Bill of 1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:64
industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest and grazing lands,
and such other classes as may be provided by law,41 giving the government great leeway for x x x In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. 926 means those
classification.42 Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution classification with public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. x x x65 (Emphasis
one addition: national parks.43 Of these, only agricultural lands may be alienated.44 Prior to Ours)
Proclamation No. 1064 of May 22, 2006, Boracay Island had never been expressly and
administratively classified under any of these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land
of the public domain. On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496, otherwise known as the
Land Registration Act. The act established a system of registration by which recorded title
becomes absolute, indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system. 66
Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 926, which was secure a certification from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the
the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the homestead system and made provisions for required number of years is alienable and disposable.86
judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public
lands. It permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning the controlling
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action, report, statute,
stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain.67 Under the Act, open, continuous,
or certification was presented to the Court. The records are bereft of evidence showing that,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands for the next ten (10)
prior to 2006, the portions of Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a
years preceding July 26, 1904 was sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. 68
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
On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874, otherwise known as the claimants were already open to disposition before 2006. Matters of land classification or
second Public Land Act. This new, more comprehensive law limited the exploitation of reclassification cannot be assumed. They call for proof.87
agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos
the same privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession and occupation en concepto
Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or portions of it,
dueño since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was required.69
agricultural lands.Private claimants posit that Boracay was already an agricultural land
pursuant to the old cases Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands (1919)88 and De
After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No. 2874 on December 1, Aldecoa v. The Insular Government (1909).89 These cases were decided under the provisions of
1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains as the existing general law governing the the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old cases that "in the
classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the
lands,70 and privately owned lands which reverted to the State.71 contrary is shown."90

Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of possession and Private claimants’ reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These cases did not have
occupation of lands of the public domain since time immemorial or since July 26, 1894. the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or portions of it into agricultural lands. It
However, this provision was superseded by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942, 72 which provided for a should be stressed that the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 merely provided the manner
simple thirty-year prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The provision was through which land registration courts would classify lands of the public domain. Whether the
last amended by PD No. 1073,73 which now provides for possession and occupation of the land land would be classified as timber, mineral, or agricultural depended on proof presented in each
applied for since June 12, 1945, or earlier.74 case.

The issuance of PD No. 89275 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of Spanish titles as Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the Philippines had no
evidence in land registration proceedings.76 Under the decree, all holders of Spanish titles or power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber, and agricultural. At that time,
grants should apply for registration of their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the courts were free to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested
the effectivity of the decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter, the recording of all unregistered with implicit power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence.91 This was the
lands77 shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by Court’s ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols Vda. De
Act No. 3344. Palanca v. Republic,92 in which it stated, through Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:

On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529, known as the x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be formally released by an act
Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the various laws relative to registration of of the Executive before it can be deemed open to private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos
property.78 It governs registration of lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered v. Director of Lands and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.
lands, including chattel mortgages.79
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
Petitioner’s reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v. Government is misplaced.
positive act of the government, such as an official proclamation,80 declassifying inalienable
These cases were decided under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926
public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. 81 In fact, Section 8 of CA No.
enacted by the Philippine Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no legal
141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have been "officially delimited
provision vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the Philippines the power to classify
and classified."82
lands of the public domain into mineral, timber and agricultural so that the courts then were free
to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence.93
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.83 To overcome this presumption,
To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it was then necessary to
incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is
devise a presumption on land classification. Thus evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts
alienable or disposable.84 There must still be a positive act declaring land of the public domain
have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands
as alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is
are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."94
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.85 The applicant may also But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to an argument that
all lands of the public domain had been automatically reclassified as disposable and alienable
agricultural lands. By no stretch of imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public 1919 and reproduced in Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the
domain into agricultural lands. President, the exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into alienable or
disposable, mineral or forest.96-a Since then, courts no longer had the authority, whether express
or implied, to determine the classification of lands of the public domain. 97
If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 would
have automatically made all lands in the Philippines, except those already classified as timber or
mineral land, alienable and disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their title in 1933, 98 did
ownership and worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the long- not present a justiciable case for determination by the land registration court of the property’s
entrenched Regalian doctrine. land classification. Simply put, there was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land
the Boracay occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was
supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application for judicial confirmation having been
The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration cases brought
filed by private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, the courts were no longer authorized
under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more specifically those cases dealing with judicial and
to determine the property’s land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No.
administrative confirmation of imperfect titles. The presumption applies to an applicant for
926.
judicial or administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act No. 926. It certainly cannot
apply to landowners, such as private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, who failed to
avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As to them, their land remained unclassified and, We note that the RTC decision99 in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v. Register of Deeds of
by virtue of the Regalian doctrine, continued to be owned by the State. Manila,100 which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141, vesting the Executive with the sole
power to classify lands of the public domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old
cases Mapa v. Insular Government,101 De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government,102 and Ankron v.
In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute. Land classification
Government of the Philippine Islands.103
was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof that the land was better suited for non-
agricultural uses, the courts could adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the
presumption. In Ankron, this Court stated: Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally different issue. The
pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots were included in the general
classification of agricultural lands; and if so, whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the Attorney-General admitted in effect
Court ruled that as an alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution104 from acquiring
that whether the particular land in question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact.
agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the issue is whether unclassified lands of
The mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient
the public domain are automatically deemed agricultural.
to declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of the
extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just
said, many definitions have been given for "agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned in Krivenko relied on the old cases
in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry or decided prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874, including Ankron and De Aldecoa.105 As We
mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it have already stated, those cases cannot apply here, since they were decided when the
contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show Executive did not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural, timber, or mineral.
that there exists some trees upon the land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified
as forestry or mineral today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be
Private claimants’ continued possession under Act No. 926 does not create a
classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the rapid growth of timber
presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also contend that their continued
or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified as agricultural today may be differently
possession of portions of Boracay Island for the requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No.
classified tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that particular case,
926106 ipso facto converted the island into private ownership. Hence, they may apply for a title in
having regard for its present or future value for one or the other purposes. We believe,
their name.
however, considering the fact that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of the lands
in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the courts have a right to presume, in the
absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of
contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular land registration case is Appeals.107 Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno in Cruz v.
forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior value for one Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, 107-a ruled:
purpose or the other is a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each particular
case. The fact that the land is a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to
decide whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may perchance belong to one or the "Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the
Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It
other of said classes of land. The Government, in the first instance, under the provisions of Act
No. 1148, may, by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be considered prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the
forestry land, unless private interests have intervened before such reservation is made. In the public domain of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable
persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the "issuance of
latter case, whether the land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until
private interests have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148), patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the establishment of town sites and sale
may decide for itself what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside and reserved as of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of
Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated on the
forestry or mineral land. (Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of
Forestry, supra)95(Emphasis ours) assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the government; and
that the government’s title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent
treaties between Spain and the United States. The term "public land" referred to all lands of the
Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands from the facts of public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private
each case, except those that have already became private lands. 96 Act No. 2874, promulgated in
appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for judicial confirmation
friar lands." of imperfect title. The proclamation did not convert Boracay into an agricultural
land. However, private claimants argue that Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President
Marcos in 1978 entitles them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The Proclamation
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and
classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants assert that, as a
Public Land Act No. 926, mere possession by private individuals of lands creates the
tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership.
legal presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable.108 (Emphasis Ours)

Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of Boracay into an
Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an unclassified land of
agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular which made Boracay Island an
the public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064. Such unclassified lands are considered
agricultural land. The reference in Circular No. 3-82 to "private lands"117 and "areas declared as
public forest under PD No. 705. The DENR109 and the National Mapping and Resource
alienable and disposable"118 does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural. Notably,
Information Authority110 certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public domain.
Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private lands and areas but also to public forested
lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides:
PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the public domain
as public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a public forest as "a mass of lands of the
No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior authority from the PTA. All
public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for the
forested areas in public lands are declared forest reserves. (Emphasis supplied)
determination of which lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not." Applying PD No.
705, all unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island, are ipso factoconsidered public
forests. PD No. 705, however, respects titles already existing prior to its effectivity. Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely recognizes that the
island can be classified by the Executive department pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141.
In fact, Section 5 of the Circular recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Development’s authority
The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD No. 705 may seem
to declare areas in the island as alienable and disposable when it provides:
to be out of touch with the present realities in the island. Boracay, no doubt, has been partly
stripped of its forest cover to pave the way for commercial developments. As a premier tourist
destination for local and foreign tourists, Boracay appears more of a commercial island resort, Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the Bureau of Forest
rather than a forest land. Development.

Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach resorts on the Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to classify
island;111 that the island has already been stripped of its forest cover; or that the implementation Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If President Marcos intended to classify the
of Proclamation No. 1064 will destroy the island’s tourism industry, do not negate its character island as alienable and disposable or forest, or both, he would have identified the specific limits
as public forest. of each, as President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not done in Proclamation
No. 1801.
Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution112 classifying lands of the
public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks," do not The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind the declaration
necessarily refer to large tracts of wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a
and underbrushes.113 The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry114 is tourist zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA – to ensure the concentrated
particularly instructive: efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas’ tourism potential with
due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the proclamation is
aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological purposes. It does not address
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification
the areas’ alienability.119
simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land
classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin
cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but sixty-four (64)
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such as Fortune and Verde Islands in
brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron
its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually Island, Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro,
looks like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation and Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes
to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned
the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.115 (Emphasis supplied) would likewise be declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is
clearly beyond, the intent of the proclamation.
There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and "forest or timber land"
as a classification of lands of the public domain as appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of Boracay as
of what appears on the land while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal alienable and opened the same to private ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of CA No.
purposes.116 At any rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legalstatus of Boracay Island, and 141120 provide that it is only the President, upon the recommendation of the proper department
not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been replaced by beach head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or
resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, it has not been automatically disposable, timber and mineral lands.121
converted from public forest to alienable agricultural land.
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely exercised the Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the prohibition in Section 4(a) is the word
authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain, presumably subject to existing "reclassification." Where there has been no previous classification of public forest [referring, we
vested rights. Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive repeat, to the mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of
Department, through the Office of the President. Courts have no authority to do so. 122 Absent classification for purposes of determining which are needed for forest purposes and which are
such classification, the land remains unclassified until released and rendered open to not] into permanent forest or forest reserves or some other forest uses under the Revised
disposition.123 Forestry Code, there can be no "reclassification of forest lands" to speak of within the meaning
of Section 4(a).
Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest land and 628.96
hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the reclassification of forest
each side of the center line of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which lands to agricultural lands without a prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not,
shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes. and cannot, apply to those lands of the public domain, denominated as "public forest" under the
Revised Forestry Code, which have not been previously determined, or classified, as needed for
forest purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Forestry Code. 127
Contrary to private claimants’ argument, there was nothing invalid or irregular, much less
unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay Island made by the President through
Proclamation No. 1064. It was within her authority to make such classification, subject to existing Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under
vested rights. CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights over the occupied lands under the said
law. There are two requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA
No. 141, namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Private
the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of
claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the provision of the Comprehensive
ownership since time immemorial or from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as
Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or RA No. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into
alienable and disposable land of the public domain.128
agricultural lands. They claim that since Boracay is a public forest under PD No. 705, President
Arroyo can no longer convert it into an agricultural land without running afoul of Section 4(a) of
RA No. 6657, thus: As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801 did not
convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The island remained an unclassified
land of the public domain and, applying the Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.
SEC. 4. Scope. – The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of
tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as
provided in Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the Private claimants’ bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on the Philippine Bill of
public domain suitable for agriculture. 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail because of the absence of the second
element of alienable and disposable land. Their entitlement to a government grant under our
present Public Land Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is already
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
alienable and disposable. This is clear from the wording of the law itself.129Where the land is not
Program:
alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how long, cannot confer ownership
or possessory rights.130
(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or suitable for agriculture.
No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the
Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Proclamation
approval of this Act until Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity
No. 1064, with respect to those lands which were classified as agricultural lands. Private
considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the public domain.
claimants failed to prove the first element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945.
That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did not bar the Executive
from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay Island still remained an unclassified land of
We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory relief that private
the public domain despite PD No. 705.
claimants complied with the requisite period of possession.

In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. Republic, 124 the Court
The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to prove the first element of
stated that unclassified lands are public forests.
possession. We note that the earliest of the tax declarations in the name of private claimants
were issued in 1993. Being of recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince
While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically state that the this Court that the period of possession and occupation commenced on June 12, 1945.
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
Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having been in possession of
unclassified land until released and rendered open to disposition. 125 (Emphasis supplied)
the island for a long time. They have invested millions of pesos in developing the island into a
tourist spot. They say their continued possession and investments give them a vested right
Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a "reclassification" of land. If the land which cannot be unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064.
had never been previously classified, as in the case of Boracay, there can be no prohibited
reclassification under the agrarian law. We agree with the opinion of the Department of
The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically
Justice126 on this point:
give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land
they are presently occupying. This Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:
evidence presented and the laws applicable. As the law and jurisprudence stand, private
claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title over their occupied portions in
1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of Appeals Decision
Boracay even with their continued possession and considerable investment in the island.
in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.

One Last Note


2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the development of Boracay
SO ORDERED.
Island, making it a by-word in the local and international tourism industry. The Court also notes
that for a number of years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the
Court commiserates with private claimants’ plight, We are bound to apply the law strictly and
judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang batas at ito ang dapat umiral.

All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141, as amended, this does not
denote their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial, and other areas they possess
now classified as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on
their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess.

For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements.
They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another, they may look into
other modes of applying for original registration of title, such as by homestead 131 or sales
patent,132 subject to the conditions imposed by law.

More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their
occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the present land laws. There is
one such bill133 now pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill
will become a law is for Congress to decide.

In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step necessary to open up the
island to private ownership. This gesture may not be sufficient to appease some sectors which
view the classification of the island partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no
longer overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision to protect its remaining forest
cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and ecology. Ecological conservation is
as important as economic progress.

To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nation’s survival. Their promotion and protection
are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and activists. These are needs that become more urgent
as destruction of our environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by
Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:134

The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public policy that should be
followed with respect to forest lands. Many have written much, and many more have spoken,
and quite often, about the pressing need for forest preservation, conservation, protection,
development and reforestation. Not without justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment of
any country's natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that absence of the
necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of adverse or ill effects of serious
proportions. Without the trees, watersheds dry up; rivers and lakes which they supply are
emptied of their contents. The fish disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls
cease to function, so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed away;
geological erosion results. With erosion come the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and
destruction to property – crops, livestock, houses, and highways – not to mention precious
human lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations should be written down in a lumberman’s
decalogue.135
G.R. No. L-3894 March 12, 1909 method established by the Government to facilitate the acquisition thereof by private persons,
later, by the royal decrees of June 25, 1880, and December 26, 1884, the system of composition
with the State and that of sales by public auction were instituted as the means of acquiring such
JUAN IBAÑEZ DE ALDECOA, petitioner-appellant,
lands.
vs.
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee.
In view of the difficulties which prevented the rapid dispatch of the proceedings instituted for this
purpose, the royal decree of February 13, 1894, was promulgated, establishing the possessory
Del-Pan, Ortigas and Fisher for appellant.
information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land, under certain
Attorney-General Villamor for appellee.
conditions which were set out in said decree.

TORRES, J.:
After the change of sovereignty, the Commission enacted Act No. 926, relating to public lands, in
accordance with the provisions of sections 13, 14, and 15 of the Act of the Congress of the
On the 8th of March, 1904, in accordance with the new Land Registration Act, Juan Ibañez de United States of July 1, 1902, section 54, paragraph 6 of which (Act No. 926) is as follows:
Aldecoa applied for the registration of his title to a parcel of land, 3,375 square meters in extent,
situated in the town of Surigao; a plan and technical description of said parcel was attached to
SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal successors in right, occupying
his application.
public lands in the Philippine Islands, or claiming to own any such lands or an interest
therein, but whose titles to such lands have not been perfected, may apply to the
After the formalities of the law were complied with, and an opinion of the examiner of titles Court of Land Registration of the Philippine Islands for confirmation of their claims and
opposing the request of the applicant, had been rendered, the Attorney-General by a writing the issuance of a certificate of title therefor to wit:
dated March 21, 1905, objected to the registration applied for, alleging that the land in question
was the property of the Government of the United States, and is now under the control of the
xxx xxx xxx
Insular Government; that the title of ownership issued by the politico-militargovernor of Surigao,
Mindanao, issued on the 19th of June, 1889, to Telesforo Ibañez de Aldecoa, antecessor of the
petitioner with respect to the land in question, was entirely null and void, for the reason that said 6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the
grant had not been made in accordance with the laws then in force on the subject, and because open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural
the said governor had no authority to make such a grant; he prayed the court below to dismiss public lands, as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and
the application with costs. two, under a bona fide claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a
period of ten years next preceding the taking effect of this Act, except when prevented
by a war or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
As the case stood the applicant, Aldecoa, on the 8th of April, 1905, amended his former petition,
conditions essential to a government grant and to have received the same, and shall
and relying upon the provisions of paragraph 5 and 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926, alleged that
be entitled to a certificate of title to such land under the provisions of this chapter.
at the time he requested the registration of the land in question, comprised in the plan then
submitted, the aforesaid Act No. 926 was not yet in force, and as the latter affords better
facilities for securing titles to property unprovided with them, as in the case with the land in All applicants for lands under paragraph one, two, three, four, and five of this section
question, the applicant availing himself of the benefits granted by the said Act, prayed that the must establish by proper official records or documents that such proceedings as are
same be applied to the inscription of his land, inasmuch as it was included within paragraphs 5 therein required were taken and the necessary conditions complied with: Provided,
and 6 of section 54, Chapter VI, thereof, and prayed the court to take into consideration the however, That such requirements shall not apply to the fact of adverse possession.
amendment of his petition.
Given the above legal provisions and the data contained in the record, it is seen that the land,
Evidence was adduced by the petitioner at the trial of the case, and on February 2, 1907, the the registration of which is claimed, was of the class of vacant crown or public land which the
judge of the Court of Land Registration entered his decision in the matter and, in view of the State could alienate to private persons, and being susceptible of cultivation, since at any time
opposition offered by the Insular Government denied the petition without costs, and ordered the the person in possession desired to convert it into agricultural land he might do so in the same
cancellation of the entry made of the said property in the record under No. 408, folio 206 of manner that he had made a building lot of it, it undoubtedly falls within the terms of the said Act
volume 2 of the municipality of Surigao. of Congress, as well as the provisions of the abovecited section 54 and paragraph 6 thereof of
Act No. 926, for the reason that the said land is neither mining nor timber land.
The applicant excepted to this decision and moved for a new trial; his motion was overruled to
which he also excepted and presented the corresponding bill of exceptions which was approved We refrain from mentioning herein what originally was the nature of the land whereon was built
and submitted to this court. the greatest cities of the world; and confining ourselves to that on which the cities and towns in
these Islands were erected, it can not be denied that, at the commencement of the occupation of
this Archipelago by the Spaniards, and at the time of the distribution of lands, the latter were
The question set up in these proceedings by virtue of the appeal interposed by counsel for Juan
rural and agricultural in their nature. Rural also were the old towns, the cradle and foundation of
Ibañez de Aldecoa, is whether or not a parcel of land that is susceptible of being cultivated, and,
the present cities and large towns of the Philippines, and as the inhabitants increased, and
ceasing to be agricultural land, was converted into a building lot, is subject to the legal provisions
added to the number of their dwellings, the farms gradually became converted into town lots.
in force regarding Government public lands which may be alienated in favor of private individuals
or corporations. While from the remote time of the conquest of this Archipelago the occupation
or material possession together with the improvement and cultivation for a certain number of In provincial towns, and in the suburbs of Manila, many houses are to be seen that are erected
years, as fixed by the laws of the Indies, of given portions of vacant Government lands, was the on lots that form part of land used for agricultural purposes. If for the time being, and to the
advantage of the possessors thereof, they have ceased to be such agricultural lands, they may From the language of the foregoing provisions of the law, it is deduced that, with the exception of
later on again become transformed into farming land and, by the industry of the owner, again be those comprised within the mineral and timber zone, all lands owned by the State or by the
made to yield fruit. sovereign nation are public in character, and per se alienable and, provided they are not
destined to the use of the public in general or reserved by the Government in accordance with
law, they may be acquired by any private or judicial person; and considering their origin and
Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may be converted into
primitive state and the general uses to which they were accorded, they are called agricultural
a field, and planted with all kind of vegetation; for this reason, where land is not mining or
lands, urban lands or building lots being included in this classification for the purpose of
forestall in its nature, it must necessarily be included within the classification of agricultural land,
distinguishing rural and urban estates from mineral and timber lands; the transformation they
not because it is actually used for the purposes of agriculture, but because it was originally
may have undergone is no obstacle to such classification as the possessors thereof may again
agricultural and may again become so under other circumstances; besides, the Act of Congress
convert them into rural estates.
contains only three classifications, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots
or urban lands that have ceased to be agricultural land.
If the land sought to be registered is neither mineral nor timber land, and on the other hand is
susceptible of cultivation the Act of Congress contains no provision whatever that would exclude
In the decision rendered by this court in the case of Mapa vs. The Insular Government, No. 3793
it from being classified as agricultural land, and assuming that it falls within that classification,
(10 Phil. Rep., 175), the legislation in force was interpreted in a similar sense.
the benefits of paragraph 6, section 54, of Act No. 926, must forthwith be applied for the reason
that it has been fully proven that the applicant was in possession thereof for more than 13 years
It is not to be believed that it was the sense of the two sovereign powers that have successively prior to the 26th of July, 1904, when the said Act went into effect. Furthermore, there is no legal
promulgated the said laws, to place those in possession of building lots under title of ownership reason or cause to exclude urban lands from the benefits of the aforesaid Act; on the contrary,
in an anomalous, uncertain and insecure position, rendering it impossible for them to obtain legal the interpretation that urban real estate, that is not mineral or forestall in character, be
titles to the lands appropriated by them, and denying them the care and protection of the law to understood to fall within the classification of agricultural land, is deemed to be most rational and
which they were certainly entitled on account of the efforts they have made, both in their behalf, beneficial to public interests.
and for the benefit of the cities and towns in which they reside, contributing to the wealth and
increase of the country.
Therefore, in view of the foregoing, it is our opinion that the judgment appealed from should be
reversed, and that it should be, as it is, hereby ordered, that, after holding in general default all
In the case at bar we have to deal with laws that were enacted after almost all the towns of this such persons as may have any interest in the said parcel of land, the registration of the same
Archipelago were established, and it must be assumed that the lawmakers have started from the shall be granted in accordance with the Land Registration Act. No special ruling is made as to
supposition that titles to the building lots within the confines of such towns had been duly costs. So ordered.
acquired; therefore, in special cases like the present one, wherein is sought the registration of a
lot situated within a town created and acknowledged administratively, it is proper to apply thereto
the laws in force and classify it as agricultural land, inasmuch as it was agricultural prior to its
conversion into a building lot, and is subject at any time to further rotation and cultivation;
moreover, it does not appear that it was ever mining or forest land.

It should be noted that article 1 of the royal decree and regulation of the 25th of June, 1880,
says: "In the Philippine Islands, all vacant lands, soils, and grounds without a lawful private
owner, or, which have never been under private control, shall be deemed to be alienable crown
lands for the effects of the regulation, and in accordance with law 14, title 12, book 4, of
the Novísima Recopilación;" that article 1 of the royal decree of the 14th of February, 1894,
states: "Vacant lands, soils, grounds, and mountains in the Philippine Islands shall be deemed to
be alienable Crown lands, provided they are not included within the following exceptions: (1)
Those of private ownership; (2) those belonging to the forest zone; (3) those comprised in the
communal laws, or within zones reserved for the use in common by residents of the community;
and (4) those lands which are susceptible of private appropriation by means of composition or
possessory information;" and that although section 13 of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902,
directs the Government of the Philippine Islands to classify public lands that are neither forest
nor mining lands according to their agricultural character and productiveness, section 14
authorizes and empowers the said Government "to enact rules and regulations and to prescribe
terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their title to public lands in said Islands, who,
prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, had fulfilled all or some of the
conditions required by the Spanish laws and royal decrees of the Kingdom of Spain for the
acquisition of legal title thereto, yet failed to secure conveyance of title, etc.;" and section 15
authorizes and empowers the said Government of the Philippine Islands "on such terms as it
may prescribed, by general legislation, to provide for the granting, or sale and conveyance to
actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of said Islands such parts and portions of the
public domain, other than timber and mineral lands of the United States on said Islands, as it
may deem wise, etc."
G.R. No. 135385 December 6, 2000 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.
ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners,
vs. On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural
SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SECRETARY OF BUDGET Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) filed
AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is of the view that
COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, respondents. the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership over natural resources
HON. JUAN M .FLAVIER, HON. PONCIANO BENNAGEN, BAYANI ASCARRAGA, EDTAMI to indigenous peoples and prays that the petition be granted in part.
MANSAYANGAN, BASILIO WANDAG, EVELYN DUNUAN, YAOM TUGAS, ALFREMO
CARPIANO, LIBERATO A. GABIN, MATERNIDAD M. COLAS, NARCISA M. DALUPINES,
On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the
BAI KIRAM-CONNIE SATURNO, BAE MLOMO-BEATRIZ T. ABASALA, DATU
authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission,
BALITUNGTUNG-ANTONIO D. LUMANDONG, DATU MANTUMUKAW TEOFISTO
and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier, et. al), filed their
SABASALES, DATU EDUAARDO BANDA, DATU JOEL UNAD, DATU RAMON BAYAAN,
Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the constitutionality of IPRA and
TIMUAY JOSE ANOY, TIMUAY MACARIO D. SALACAO, TIMUAY EDWIN B. ENDING, DATU
praying for the dismissal of the petition.
SAHAMPONG MALANAW VI, DATU BEN PENDAO CABIGON, BAI NANAPNAY-LIZA
SAWAY, BAY INAY DAYA-MELINDA S. REYMUNDO, BAI TINANGHAGA HELINITA T.
PANGAN, DATU MAKAPUKAW ADOLINO L. SAWAY, DATU MAUDAYAW-CRISPEN On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a Motion to
SAWAY, VICKY MAKAY, LOURDES D. AMOS, GILBERT P. HOGGANG, TERESA GASPAR, Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression of
MANUEL S. ONALAN, MIA GRACE L. GIRON, ROSEMARIE G. PE, BENITO CARINO, the principle of parens patriae and that the State has the responsibility to protect and guarantee
JOSEPH JUDE CARANTES, LYNETTE CARANTES-VIVAL, LANGLEY SEGUNDO, SATUR the rights of those who are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it
S. BUGNAY, CARLING DOMULOT, ANDRES MENDIOGRIN, LEOPOLDO ABUGAN, prays that the petition be dismissed.
VIRGILIO CAYETANO, CONCHITA G. DESCAGA, LEVY ESTEVES, ODETTE G. ESTEVEZ,
RODOLFO C. AGUILAR, MAURO VALONES, PEPE H. ATONG, OFELIA T. DAVI,
PERFECTO B. GUINOSAO, WALTER N. TIMOL, MANUEL T. SELEN, OSCAR DALUNHAY, On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People and the
RICO O. SULATAN, RAFFY MALINDA, ALFREDO ABILLANOS, JESSIE ANDILAB, Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a
MIRLANDO H. MANGKULINTAS, SAMIE SATURNO, ROMEO A. LINDAHAY, ROEL S. motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP and
MANSANG-CAGAN, PAQUITO S. LIESES, FILIPE G. SAWAY, HERMINIA S. SAWAY, Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition for
JULIUS S. SAWAY, LEONARDA SAWAY, JIMMY UGYUB, SALVADOR TIONGSON, prohibition and mandamus be dismissed.
VENANCIO APANG, MADION MALID, SUKIM MALID, NENENG MALID, MANGKATADONG
AUGUSTO DIANO, JOSEPHINE M. ALBESO, MORENO MALID, MARIO MANGCAL, FELAY The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were granted.
DIAMILING, SALOME P. SARZA, FELIPE P. BAGON, SAMMY SALNUNGAN, ANTONIO D.
EMBA, NORMA MAPANSAGONOS, ROMEO SALIGA, SR., JERSON P. GERADA, RENATO
T. BAGON, JR., SARING MASALONG, SOLEDAD M. GERARDA, ELIZABETH L. MENDI, Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and intervenors filed their
MORANTE S. TIWAN, DANILO M. MALUDAO, MINORS MARICEL MALID, represented by respective memoranda in which they reiterate the arguments adduced in their earlier pleadings
her father CORNELIO MALID, MARCELINO M. LADRA, represented by her father MONICO and during the hearing.
D. LADRA, JENNYLYN MALID, represented by her father TONY MALID, ARIEL M.
EVANGELISTA, represented by her mother LINAY BALBUENA, EDWARD M. EMUY, SR., Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA and its
SUSAN BOLANIO, OND, PULA BATO B'LAAN TRIBAL FARMER'S ASSOCIATION, INTER- Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the State’s
PEOPLE'S EXCHANGE, INC. and GREEN FORUM-WESTERN VISAYAS, intervenors. ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other natural resources
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, intervenor. therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution:
IKALAHAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR THE
CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., intervenor.
"(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral domains, and Section 3(b)
which, in turn, defines ancestral lands;
RESOLUTION
"(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral domains including
PER CURIAM: inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and other resources found within ancestral
domains are private but community property of the indigenous peoples;
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. "(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the composition of ancestral
8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), and domains and ancestral lands;
its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules).
"(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the
In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to comment. 1 In ancestral domains;
compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of the National Commission on
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under the IPRA to implement its
(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the Petitioners pray for the following:
ancestral lands;
"(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and other
"(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in the harvesting, related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and invalid;
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
"(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and Commissioners
peoples for the development and utilization of natural resources therein for a period not
of the NCIP to cease and desist from implementing the assailed provisions of R.A.
exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years; and
8371 and its Implementing Rules;

"(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to maintain, develop,
"(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the Department of
protect and conserve the ancestral domains and portions thereof which are found to be
Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist from implementing
necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas,
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998;
forest cover or reforestation."2

"(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget and
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition of "ancestral
Management to cease and desist from disbursing public funds for the implementation
domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even include private lands found within said areas,
of the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and
Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners.3

"(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of Environment


In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and jurisdiction of
and Natural Resources to comply with his duty of carrying out the State’s
the NCIP and making customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes involving ancestral
constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development,
domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions violate the due process clause
utilization and conservation of Philippine natural resources."7
of the Constitution.4

After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows:
These provisions are:

Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief Justice
"(1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and recognition of
and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the challenged
ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP the sole authority to delineate
provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged
ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
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
"(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a particular of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with the large-scale exploitation
area is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the following officials, namely, the of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the
Governments, Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the National Development ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not have standing to
Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials over said area terminates; question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.

"(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a
indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to property rights, claims of separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related
ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of
or ambiguity in the interpretation thereof shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of specific cases
peoples; 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
"(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used to
Justices Panganiban and Vitug.
resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and

As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, the case
"(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and disputes
was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the same.
involving rights of the indigenous peoples."5
Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the petition is
DISMISSED.
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
Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of Justices Puno,
the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for purposes
Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban.
of policy and program coordination." They contend that said Rule infringes upon the President’s
power of control over executive departments under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution. 6
SO ORDERED. III. The IPRA is a Novel Piece of Legislation.

SEPARATE OPINION A. Legislative History

PUNO, J.: IV. The Provisions of the IPRA Do Not Contravene the Constitution.

PRECIS A. Ancestral domains and ancestral lands are the private property of indigenous
peoples and do not constitute part of the land of the public domain.
A classic essay on the utility of history was written in 1874 by Friedrich Nietzsche entitled "On
the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life." Expounding on Nietzsche's essay, Judge 1. The right to ancestral domains and ancestral lands: how acquired
Richard Posner1 wrote:2
2. The concept of native title
"Law is the most historically oriented, or if you like the most backward-looking, the most 'past-
dependent,' of the professions. It venerates tradition, precedent, pedigree, ritual, custom, ancient
(a) Cariño v. Insular Government
practices, ancient texts, archaic terminology, maturity, wisdom, seniority, gerontocracy, and
interpretation conceived of as a method of recovering history. It is suspicious of innovation,
discontinuities, 'paradigm shifts,' and the energy and brashness of youth. These ingrained (b) Indian Title to land
attitudes are obstacles to anyone who wants to re-orient law in a more pragmatic direction. But,
by the same token, pragmatic jurisprudence must come to terms with history."
(c) Why the Cariño doctrine is unique

When Congress enacted the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), it


introduced radical concepts into the Philippine legal system which appear to collide with settled 3. The option of securing a torrens title to the ancestral land
constitutional and jural precepts on state ownership of land and other natural resources. The
sense and subtleties of this law cannot be appreciated without considering its distinct sociology B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains
and the labyrinths of its history. This Opinion attempts to interpret IPRA by discovering its soul is a limited form of ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same.
shrouded by the mist of our history. After all, the IPRA was enacted by Congress not only to
fulfill the constitutional mandate of protecting the indigenous cultural communities' right to their
ancestral land but more importantly, to correct a grave historical injustice to our indigenous 1. The indigenous concept of ownership and customary law
people.
C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA do not violate the Regalian Doctrine
This Opinion discusses the following: enshrined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

I. The Development of the Regalian Doctrine in the Philippine Legal System. 1. The rights of ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domains and lands

A. The Laws of the Indies 2. The right of ICCs/IPs to develop lands and natural resources within the
ancestral domains does not deprive the State of ownership over the natural
resources, control and supervision in their development and exploitation.
B. Valenton v. Murciano
(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System beyond the parameters of Section 7(a) of the law on ownership of
ancestral domains and is ultra vires.
D. The Philippine Constitutions
(b) The small-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 7 (b)
II. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). of the IPRA is allowed under Paragraph 3, Section 2, Article XII of
the 1987 Consitution.

A. Indigenous Peoples
(c) The large-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 57 of
the IPRA may be harmonized with Paragraphs 1 and 4, Section 2,
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

2. Their Concept of Land V. The IPRA is a Recognition of Our Active Participation in the International Indigenous
Movement.
DISCUSSION In 1904, under the American regime, this Court decided the case of Valenton v. Murciano.9

I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE IN THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL Valenton resolved the question of which is the better basis for ownership of land: long-time
SYSTEM. occupation or paper title. Plaintiffs had entered into peaceful occupation of the subject land in
1860. Defendant's predecessor-in-interest, on the other hand, purchased the land from the
provincial treasurer of Tarlac in 1892. The lower court ruled against the plaintiffs on the ground
A. The Laws of the Indies
that they had lost all rights to the land by not objecting to the administrative sale. Plaintiffs
appealed the judgment, asserting that their 30-year adverse possession, as an extraordinary
The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power of dominium.3 This period of prescription in the Partidas and the Civil Code, had given them title to the land as
was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. against everyone, including the State; and that the State, not owning the land, could not validly
The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regalia is a Western legal concept that was first introduced by transmit it.
the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas. The
Laws of the Indies, i.e., more specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Novisima Recopilacion
The Court, speaking through Justice Willard, decided the case on the basis of "those special
de Leyes de las Indias, set the policy of the Spanish Crown with respect to the Philippine Islands
laws which from earliest time have regulated the disposition of the public lands in the
in the following manner:
colonies."10 The question posed by the Court was: "Did these special laws recognize any right of
prescription as against the State as to these lands; and if so, to what extent was it recognized?"
"We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions
not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to
Prior to 1880, the Court said, there were no laws specifically providing for the disposition of land
the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper and true
in the Philippines. However, it was understood that in the absence of any special law to govern a
deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what
specific colony, the Laws of the Indies would be followed. Indeed, in the Royal Order of July 5,
to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares,
1862, it was decreed that until regulations on the subject could be prepared, the authorities of
ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into consideration not
the Philippine Islands should follow strictly the Laws of the Indies, the Ordenanza of
only their present condition, but also their future and their probable increase, and after
the Intendentes of 1786, and the Royal Cedula of 1754.11
distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in
what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain
free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish. Quoting the preamble of Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias,
the court interpreted it as follows:
We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts designate at
such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period within which all possessors of "In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct statement that all those lands belong
tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them and to the court officers appointed by to the Crown which have not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who
them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those who are in possession by virtue of preceded him. This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands not so granted,
proper deeds and receipts, or by virtue of just prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the that did not belong to the king. It excludes the idea that the king was not still the owner of
rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will."4 all ungranted lands, because some private person had been in the adverse occupation of
them. By the mandatory part of the law all the occupants of the public lands are required to
produce before the authorities named, and within a time to be fixed by them, their title papers.
The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of "discovery" and conquest. Consequently, all lands
And those who had good title or showed prescription were to be protected in their holdings. It is
became the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish Government
apparent that it was not the intention of the law that mere possession for a length of time should
took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to Spaniards, both
make the possessors the owners of the land possessed by them without any action on the part
military and civilian.5 Private land titles could only be acquired from the government either by
of the authorities."12
purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the Crown. 6

The preamble stated that all those lands which had not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or
The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the Mortgage Law of
by the kings who preceded him, belonged to the Crown.13 For those lands granted by the king,
1893.7 The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as
the decree provided for a system of assignment of such lands. It also ordered that all possessors
well as possessory claims. The law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal
of agricultural land should exhibit their title deed, otherwise, the land would be restored to the
Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the "Maura Law," was partly an amendment of
Crown.14
the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by previous orders and
decrees.8 This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required the
"adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert to the state. The Royal Cedula of October 15, 1754 reinforced the Recopilacion when it ordered the Crown's
principal subdelegate to issue a general order directing the publication of the Crown's
instructions:
Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the government
of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory of the Philippine
Islands. In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the Philippine Commission, "x x x to the end that any and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date of the
passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act. promulgation and publication of said order, shall have occupied royal lands, whether or not x x x
cultivated or tenanted, may x x x appear and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and patents
by virtue of which said lands are occupied. x x x. Said subdelegates will at the same time warn
B. Valenton v. Murciano
the parties interested that in case of their failure to present their title deeds within the term
designated, without a just and valid reason therefor, they will be deprived of and evicted from placed all public and private lands in the Philippines under the Torrens system. The law is said
their lands, and they will be granted to others."15 to be almost a verbatim copy of the Massachussetts Land Registration Act of 1898, 25 which, in
turn, followed the principles and procedure of the Torrens system of registration formulated by
Sir Robert Torrens who patterned it after the Merchant Shipping Acts in South Australia. The
On June 25, 1880, the Crown adopted regulations for the adjustment of lands "wrongfully
Torrens system requires that the government issue an official certificate of title attesting to the
occupied" by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. Valenton construed these regulations
fact that the person named is the owner of the property described therein, subject to such liens
together with contemporaneous legislative and executive interpretations of the law, and
and encumbrances as thereon noted or the law warrants or reserves. 26 The certificate of title is
concluded that plaintiffs' case fared no better under the 1880 decree and other laws which
indefeasible and imprescriptible and all claims to the parcel of land are quieted upon issuance of
followed it, than it did under the earlier ones. Thus as a general doctrine, the Court stated:
said certificate. This system highly facilitates land conveyance and negotiation. 27

"While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to a deed if he proves a
D. The Philippine Constitutions
possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it has always insisted that he must make that
proof before the proper administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed, and until
he did that the State remained the absolute owner."16 The Regalian doctrine was enshrined in the 1935 Constitution. One of the fixed and dominating
objectives of the 1935 Constitutional Convention was the nationalization and conservation of the
natural resources of the country.28There was an overwhelming sentiment in the Convention
In conclusion, the Court ruled: "We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force in
in favor of the principle of state ownership of natural resources and the adoption of the
these Islands by which the plaintiffs could obtain the ownership of these lands by prescription,
Regalian doctrine.29 State ownership of natural resources was seen as a necessary starting
without any action by the State."17 Valenton had no rights other than those which accrued to
point to secure recognition of the state's power to control their disposition, exploitation,
mere possession. Murciano, on the other hand, was deemed to be the owner of the land by
development, or utilization.30 The delegates to the Constitutional Convention very well knew that
virtue of the grant by the provincial secretary. In effect, Valenton upheld the Spanish concept of
the concept of State ownership of land and natural resources was introduced by the Spaniards,
state ownership of public land.
however, they were not certain whether it was continued and applied by the Americans. To
remove all doubts, the Convention approved the provision in the Constitution affirming the
As a fitting observation, the Court added that "[t]he policy pursued by the Spanish Regalian doctrine.31
Government from earliest times, requiring settlers on the public lands to obtain title
deeds therefor from the State, has been continued by the American Government in Act
Thus, the 1935 Constitution, in Section 1 of Article XIII on "Conservation and Utilization of
No. 926."18
Natural Resources," reads as follows:

C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System


"Sec. 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals,
coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural
Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the the resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to
prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading, selling, and leasing of portions of the corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by
public domain of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of the
persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the "issuance of inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution. Natural resources,
patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the establishment of town sites and sale with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and no license,
of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural
Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated on the resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, except as to water rights for
assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the government;19 and irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power,
that the government's title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant."
treaties between Spain and the United States.20 The term "public land" referred to all lands of the
public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private
The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine in Section 8, Article XIV on the "National
appropriation and settlement,21 and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the
Economy and the Patrimony of the Nation," to wit:
friar lands.22

"Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other
Act No. 926 was superseded in 1919 by Act 2874, the second Public Land Act. This new
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources
law was passed under the Jones Law. It was more comprehensive in scope but limited the
of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or
exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries which
commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources
gave Filipinos the same privileges.23 After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, Act 2874 was
shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploration,
amended in 1936 by Commonwealth Act No. 141. Commonwealth Act No. 141 remains the
development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted
present Public Land Law and it is essentially the same as Act 2874. The main difference
for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five
between the two relates to the transitory provisions on the rights of American citizens and
years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other
corporations during the Commonwealth period at par with Filipino citizens and corporations. 24
than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and
the limit of the grant."
Grants of public land were brought under the operation of the Torrens system under Act
496, or the Land Registration Law of 1903. Enacted by the Philippine Commission, Act 496
The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed the Regalian doctrine in Section 2 of Article XII on "National - the right to ancestral lands which include
Economy and Patrimony," to wit:
a. the right to transfer land/property to/among members of the same
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other ICCs/IPs, subject to customary laws and traditions of the community
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and concerned;
fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration,
b. the right to redemption for a period not exceeding 15 years from date of
development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and
transfer, if the transfer is to a non-member of the ICC/IP and is tainted by
supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities or it may enter
vitiated consent of the ICC/IP, or if the transfer is for an unconscionable
into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens,
consideration.33
or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by
such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years,
renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be Within their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, the ICCs/IPs are given the right to self-
provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses governance and empowerment,34 social justice and human rights,35 the right to preserve and
other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the protect their culture, traditions, institutions and community intellectual rights, and the right to
grant. develop their own sciences and technologies.36

x x x." To carry out the policies of the Act, the law created the National Commission on Indigenous
Peoples (NCIP). The NCIP is an independent agency under the Office of the President and is
composed of seven (7) Commissioners belonging to ICCs/IPs from each of the ethnographic
Simply stated, all lands of the public domain as well as all natural resources enumerated
areas- Region I and the Cordilleras; Region II; the rest of Luzon; Island groups including
therein, whether on public or private land, belong to the State. It is this concept of State
Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon, Panay and the rest of the Visayas; Northern and Western
ownership that petitioners claim is being violated by the IPRA.
Mindanao; Southern and Eastern Mindanao; and Central Mindanao.37 The NCIP took over the
functions of the Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office for Southern Cultural
II. THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT. Communities created by former President Corazon Aquino which were merged under a
revitalized structure.38
Republic Act No. 8371 is entitled "An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of
Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples, Creating a National Commission on Disputes involving ICCs/IPs are to be resolved under customary laws and
Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and practices. When still unresolved, the matter may be brought to the NCIP, which is granted
for Other Purposes." It is simply known as "The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997" or quasi-judicial powers.39 The NCIP's decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeals by a
the IPRA. petition for review.

The IPRA recognizes the existence of the indigenous cultural communities or indigenous Any person who violates any of the provisions of the Act such as, but not limited to, unauthorized
peoples (ICCs/IPs) as a distinct sector in Philippine society. It grants these people the and/or unlawful intrusion upon ancestral lands and domains shall be punished in accordance
ownership and possession of their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, and defines with customary laws or imprisoned from 9 months to 12 years and/or fined from ₱100,000.00 to
the extent of these lands and domains. The ownership given is the indigenous concept of ₱500,000.00 and obliged to pay damages.40
ownership under customary law which traces its origin to native title.
A. Indigenous Peoples
Other rights are also granted the ICCs/IPs, and these are:
The IPRA is a law dealing with a specific group of people, i.e., the Indigenous Cultural
- the right to develop lands and natural resources; Communities (ICCs) or the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The term "ICCs" is used in the 1987
Constitution while that of "IPs" is the contemporary international language in the International
Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 16941 and the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration on the
- the right to stay in the territories;
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.42

- the right in case of displacement;


ICCs/IPs are defined by the IPRA as:

- the right to safe and clean air and water;


"Sec. 3 [h]. Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples- refer to a group of people or
homogeneous societies identified by self-ascription and ascription by others, who have
- the right to claim parts of reservations; continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory, and
who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed and utilized
such territories, sharing common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other distinctive
- the right to resolve conflict;32
cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of
colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the
majority of Filipinos. ICCs/IPs shall likewise include peoples who are regarded as indigenous on Higa-unon of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis Occidental;
account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, at the time of the Tigwahanon of Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and and Misamis Occidental, the
conquest or colonization, or at the time of inroads of non-indigenous religions and cultures, or Manobo of the Agusan provinces, and the Umayamnon of Agusan and Bukidnon.
the establishment of present state boundaries, who retain some or all of their own social,
economic, cultural and political institutions, but who may have been displaced from their
9. In Region XI- There are about 1,774,065 IPs in Region XI. They are tribes of the
traditional domains or who may have resettled outside their ancestral domains."
Dibabaon, Mansaka of Davao del Norte; B'laan, Kalagan, Langilad, T'boli and
Talaingod of Davao del Sur; Mamamanua of Surigao del Sur; Mandaya of the Surigao
Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples refer to a group of people or provinces and Davao Oriental; Manobo Blit of South Cotabato; the Mangguangon of
homogeneous societies who have continuously lived as an organized community on Davao and South Cotabato; Matigsalog of Davao del Norte and Del Sur; Tagakaolo,
communally bounded and defined territory. These groups of people have actually occupied, Tasaday and Ubo of South Cotabato; and Bagobo of Davao del sur and South
possessed and utilized their territories under claim of ownership since time immemorial. They Cotabato.
share common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other distinctive cultural traits, or,
they, by their resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of colonization, non-indigenous
10. In Region XII- Ilianen, Tiruray, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Yakan/Samal,
religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the Filipino majority. ICCs/IPs also
and Iranon.43
include descendants of ICCs/IPs who inhabited the country at the time of conquest or
colonization, who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political
institutions but who may have been displaced from their traditional territories or who may have How these indigenous peoples came to live in the Philippines goes back to as early as
resettled outside their ancestral domains. 25,000 to 30,000 B.C.

1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History Before the time of Western contact, the Philippine archipelago was peopled largely by the
Negritos, Indonesians and Malays.44 The strains from these groups eventually gave rise to
common cultural features which became the dominant influence in ethnic reformulation in the
Presently, Philippine indigenous peoples inhabit the interiors and mountains of Luzon,
archipelago. Influences from the Chinese and Indian civilizations in the third or fourth millenium
Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Samar, Leyte, and the Palawan and Sulu group of islands. They
B.C. augmented these ethnic strains. Chinese economic and socio-cultural influences came by
are composed of 110 tribes and are as follows:
way of Chinese porcelain, silk and traders. Indian influence found their way into the religious-
cultural aspect of pre-colonial society.45
1. In the Cordillera Autonomous Region- Kankaney, Ibaloi, Bontoc, Tinggian or Itneg,
Ifugao, Kalinga, Yapayao, Aeta or Agta or Pugot, and Bago of Ilocos Norte and
The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water. Hunting and food gathering became
Pangasinan; Ibanag of Isabela, Cagayan; Ilongot of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya;
supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the
Gaddang of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Itawis of Cagayan; Ivatan of Batanes, Aeta of
soil.46 From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved an
Cagayan, Quirino and Isabela.
essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a primary
factor. Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and responded to,
2. In Region III- Aetas. common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform flora and fauna
favored similarities, not differences.47 Life was essentially subsistence but not harsh.48
3. In Region IV- Dumagats of Aurora, Rizal; Remontado of Aurora, Rizal, Quezon;
Alangan or Mangyan, Batangan, Buid or Buhid, Hanunuo and Iraya of Oriental and The early Filipinos had a culture that was basically Malayan in structure and form. They had
Occidental Mindoro; Tadyawan of Occidental Mindoro; Cuyonon, Palawanon, languages that traced their origin to the Austronesian parent-stock and used them not only as
Tagbanua and Tao't bato of Palawan. media of daily communication but also as vehicles for the expression of their literary
moods.49 They fashioned concepts and beliefs about the world that they could not see, but which
they sensed to be part of their lives.50 They had their own religion and religious beliefs. They
4. In Region V- Aeta of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur; Aeta-Abiyan, Isarog,
believed in the immortality of the soul and life after death. Their rituals were based on beliefs in a
and Kabihug of Camarines Norte; Agta, and Mayon of Camarines Sur; Itom of Albay,
ranking deity whom they called Bathalang Maykapal, and a host of other deities, in the
Cimaron of Sorsogon; and the Pullon of Masbate and Camarines Sur.
environmental spirits and in soul spirits. The early Filipinos adored the sun, the moon, the
animals and birds, for they seemed to consider the objects of Nature as something to be
5. In Region VI- Ati of Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Antique, Capiz; the Magahat of respected. They venerated almost any object that was close to their daily life, indicating the
Negros Occidental; the Corolano and Sulod. importance of the relationship between man and the object of nature. 51

6. In Region VII- Magahat of Negros Oriental and Eskaya of Bohol. The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay
word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores. 52 The barangay was
basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families. Each
7. In Region IX- the Badjao numbering about 192,000 in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to rule
Sur; the Kalibugan of Basilan, the Samal, Subanon and Yakat. and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide powers for
he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator and judge and
8. Region X- Numbering 1.6 million in Region X alone, the IPs are: the Banwaon, was the supreme commander in time of war.53
Bukidnon, Matigsalog, Talaanding of Bukidnon; the Camiguin of Camiguin Island; the
Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from The Spanish missionaries were ordered to establish pueblos where the church and convent
generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were would be constructed. All the new Christian converts were required to construct their houses
preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the community.54 The around the church and the unbaptized were invited to do the same. 70 With the reduccion, the
written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the Spaniards attempted to "tame" the reluctant Filipinos through Christian indoctrination using
necessity arose.55 The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu the convento/casa real/plaza complex as focal point. The reduccion, to the Spaniards, was a
Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D. Other old codes are the Muslim Code of Luwaran and the "civilizing" device to make the Filipinos law-abiding citizens of the Spanish Crown, and in the
Principal Code of Sulu.56 Whether customary or written, the laws dealt with various subjects, long run, to make them ultimately adopt Hispanic culture and civilization. 71
such as inheritance, divorce, usury, loans, partnership, crime and punishment, property rights,
family relations and adoption. Whenever disputes arose, these were decided peacefully through
All lands lost by the old barangays in the process of pueblo organization as well as all
a court composed by the chieftain as "judge" and the barangay elders as "jury." Conflicts arising
lands not assigned to them and the pueblos, were now declared to be crown lands
between subjects of different barangays were resolved by arbitration in which a board composed
or realengas, belonging to the Spanish king. It was from the realengas that land grants
of elders from neutral barangays acted as arbiters.57
were made to non-Filipinos.72

Baranganic society had a distinguishing feature: the absence of private property in


The abrogation of the Filipinos' ancestral rights in land and the introduction of the
land. The chiefs merely administered the lands in the name of the barangay. The social order
concept of public domain were the most immediate fundamental results of Spanish
was an extension of the family with chiefs embodying the higher unity of the community. Each
colonial theory and law.73 The concept that the Spanish king was the owner of everything
individual, therefore, participated in the community ownership of the soil and the instruments of
of value in the Indies or colonies was imposed on the natives, and the natives were
production as a member of the barangay.58 This ancient communalism was practiced in
stripped of their ancestral rights to land.74
accordance with the concept of mutual sharing of resources so that no individual, regardless of
status, was without sustenance. Ownership of land was non-existent or unimportant and the
right of usufruct was what regulated the development of lands.59 Marine resources and Increasing their foothold in the Philippines, the Spanish colonialists, civil and religious, classified
fishing grounds were likewise free to all. Coastal communities depended for their economic the Filipinos according to their religious practices and beliefs, and divided them into three types .
welfare on the kind of fishing sharing concept similar to those in land communities.60 Recognized First were the Indios, the Christianized Filipinos, who generally came from the lowland
leaders, such as the chieftains and elders, by virtue of their positions of importance, enjoyed populations. Second, were the Moros or the Muslim communities, and third, were the infieles or
some economic privileges and benefits. But their rights, related to either land and sea, were the indigenous communities.75
subject to their responsibility to protect the communities from danger and to provide them with
the leadership and means of survival.61
The Indio was a product of the advent of Spanish culture. This class was favored by the
Spaniards and was allowed certain status although below the Spaniards.
Sometime in the 13th century, Islam was introduced to the archipelago in The Moros and infieles were regarded as the lowest classes.76
Maguindanao. The Sultanate of Sulu was established and claimed jurisdiction over territorial
areas represented today by Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and Zamboanga. Four ethnic
The Moros and infieles resisted Spanish rule and Christianity. The Moros were driven from
groups were within this jurisdiction: Sama, Tausug, Yakan and Subanon. 62The Sultanate of
Manila and the Visayas to Mindanao; while the infieles, to the hinterlands. The Spaniards did
Maguindanao spread out from Cotabato toward Maranao territory, now Lanao del Norte and
not pursue them into the deep interior. The upland societies were naturally outside the
Lanao del Sur.63
immediate concern of Spanish interest, and the cliffs and forests of the hinterlands were difficult
and inaccessible, allowing the infieles, in effect, relative security.77 Thus, the infieles, which
The Muslim societies evolved an Asiatic form of feudalism where land was still held in were peripheral to colonial administration, were not only able to preserve their own culture but
common but was private in use. This is clearly indicated in the Muslim Code of Luwaran. The also thwarted the Christianization process, separating themselves from the newly evolved
Code contains a provision on the lease of cultivated lands. It, however, has no provision for the Christian community.78 Their own political, economic and social systems were kept constantly
acquisition, transfer, cession or sale of land.64 alive and vibrant.

The societies encountered by Magellan and Legaspi therefore were primitive economies where The pro-Christian or pro-Indio attitude of colonialism brought about a generally mutual feeling of
most production was geared to the use of the producers and to the fulfillment of kinship suspicion, fear, and hostility between the Christians on the one hand and the non-Christians on
obligations. They were not economies geared to exchange and profit. 65 Moreover, the family the other. Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally and historically related
basis of barangay membership as well as of leadership and governance worked to splinter the populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues and vices of the Filipinos. 79
population of the islands into numerous small and separate communities. 66
President McKinley, in his instructions to the Philippine Commission of April 7, 1900,
When the Spaniards settled permanently in the Philippines in 1565, they found the addressed the existence of the infieles:
Filipinos living in barangay settlements scattered along water routes and river banks. One
of the first tasks imposed on the missionaries and the encomenderos was to collect all scattered
"In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands, the Commission should adopt the
Filipinos together in a reduccion.67 As early as 1551, the Spanish government assumed an
same course followed by Congress in permitting the tribes of our North American
unvarying solicitous attitude towards the natives.68 The Spaniards regarded it a sacred "duty to
Indians to maintain their tribal organization and government, and under which many of
conscience and humanity to civilize these less fortunate people living in the obscurity of
ignorance" and to accord them the "moral and material advantages" of community life and the those tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by civilization to which they
"protection and vigilance afforded them by the same laws."69 are unable or unwilling to conform. Such tribal government should, however, be subjected to
wise and firm regulation; and, without undue or petty interference, constant and active effort
should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices and introduce civilized customs." 80
Placed in an alternative of either letting the natives alone or guiding them in the path of integration into the larger community, and at the same time "protect the rights of those who wish
civilization, the American government chose "to adopt the latter measure as one more in accord to preserve their original lifeways beside the larger community."89 In short, while still adopting
with humanity and with the national conscience."81 the integration policy, the decree recognized the right of tribal Filipinos to preserve their
way of life.90
The Americans classified the Filipinos into two: the Christian Filipinos and the non-
Christian Filipinos. The term "non-Christian" referred not to religious belief, but to a In 1974, President Marcos promulgated P.D. No. 410, otherwise known as the Ancestral Lands
geographical area, and more directly, "to natives of the Philippine Islands of a low grade of Decree. The decree provided for the issuance of land occupancy certificates to members of the
civilization, usually living in tribal relationship apart from settled communities." 82 national cultural communities who were given up to 1984 to register their claims.91 In 1979,
the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems was created under E.O. No. 561 which
provided a mechanism for the expeditious resolution of land problems involving small settlers,
Like the Spaniards, the Americans pursued a policy of assimilation. In 1903, they
landowners, and tribal Filipinos.92
passed Act No. 253 creating the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes (BNCT). Under the
Department of the Interior, the BNCT's primary task was to conduct ethnographic research
among unhispanized Filipinos, including those in Muslim Mindanao, with a "special view to Despite the promulgation of these laws, from 1974 to the early 1980's, some 100,000 Kalingas
determining the most practicable means for bringing about their advancement in civilization and and Bontoks of the Cordillera region were displaced by the Chico River dam project of the
prosperity." The BNCT was modeled after the bureau dealing with American Indians. The National Power Corporation (NPC). The Manobos of Bukidnon saw their land bulldozed by the
agency took a keen anthropological interest in Philippine cultural minorities and produced a Bukidnon Sugar Industries Company (BUSCO). In Agusan del Sur, the National Development
wealth of valuable materials about them.83 Company was authorized by law in 1979 to take approximately 40,550 hectares of land that later
became the NDC-Guthrie plantation in Agusan del Sur. Most of the land was possessed by the
Agusan natives.93 Timber concessions, water projects, plantations, mining, and cattle ranching
The 1935 Constitution did not carry any policy on the non-Christian Filipinos. The raging
and other projects of the national government led not only to the eviction of the indigenous
issue then was the conservation of the national patrimony for the Filipinos.
peoples from their land but also to the reduction and destruction of their natural environment. 94

In 1957, the Philippine Congress passed R.A. No. 1888, an "Act to effectuate in a more rapid
The Aquino government signified a total shift from the policy of integration to one of
and complete manner the economic, social, moral and political advancement of the non-
preservation. Invoking her powers under the Freedom Constitution, President Aquino created
Christian Filipinos or national cultural minorities and to render real, complete, and permanent the
the Office of Muslim Affairs, Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office for
integration of all said national cultural minorities into the body politic, creating the Commission
Southern Cultural Communities all under the Office of the President.95
on National Integration charged with said functions." The law called for a policy of
integration of indigenous peoples into the Philippine mainstream and for this purpose created
the Commission on National Integration (CNI).84 The CNI was given, more or less, the same The 1987 Constitution carries at least six (6) provisions which insure the right of tribal
task as the BNCT during the American regime. The post-independence policy of integration Filipinos to preserve their way of life.96 This Constitution goes further than the 1973
was like the colonial policy of assimilation understood in the context of a guardian-ward Constitution by expressly guaranteeing the rights of tribal Filipinos to their ancestral
relationship.85 domains and ancestral lands. By recognizing their right to their ancestral lands and
domains, the State has effectively upheld their right to live in a culture distinctly their
own.
The policy of assimilation and integration did not yield the desired result. Like the Spaniards
and Americans, government attempts at integration met with fierce resistance. Since
World War II, a tidal wave of Christian settlers from the lowlands of Luzon and the Visayas 2. Their Concept of Land
swamped the highlands and wide open spaces in Mindanao.86Knowledge by the settlers of
the Public Land Acts and the Torrens system resulted in the titling of several ancestral
Indigenous peoples share distinctive traits that set them apart from the Filipino mainstream.
lands in the settlers' names. With government initiative and participation, this titling
They are non-Christians. They live in less accessible, marginal, mostly upland areas. They have
displaced several indigenous peoples from their lands. Worse, these peoples were also
a system of self-government not dependent upon the laws of the central administration of the
displaced by projects undertaken by the national government in the name of national
Republic of the Philippines. They follow ways of life and customs that are perceived as different
development.87
from those of the rest of the population.97 The kind of response the indigenous peoples chose to
deal with colonial threat worked well to their advantage by making it difficult for Western
It was in the 1973 Constitution that the State adopted the following provision: concepts and religion to erode their customs and traditions. The "infieles societies" which had
become peripheral to colonial administration, represented, from a cultural perspective, a much
older base of archipelagic culture. The political systems were still structured on the patriarchal
"The State shall consider the customs, traditions, beliefs, and interests of national cultural
and kinship oriented arrangement of power and authority. The economic activities were
communities in the formulation and implementation of State policies." 88
governed by the concepts of an ancient communalism and mutual help. The social structure
which emphasized division of labor and distinction of functions, not status, was maintained. The
For the first time in Philippine history, the "non-Christian tribes" or the "cultural cultural styles and forms of life portraying the varieties of social courtesies and ecological
minorities" were addressed by the highest law of the Republic, and they were referred to adjustments were kept constantly vibrant.98
as "cultural communities." More importantly this time, their "uncivilized" culture was given
some recognition and their "customs, traditions, beliefs and interests" were to be considered by
Land is the central element of the indigenous peoples' existence. There is no traditional
the State in the formulation and implementation of State policies. President Marcos abolished
concept of permanent, individual, land ownership. Among the Igorots, ownership of land more
the CNI and transferred its functions to the Presidential Adviser on National Minorities
accurately applies to the tribal right to use the land or to territorial control. The people are the
(PANAMIN). The PANAMIN was tasked to integrate the ethnic groups that sought full
secondary owners or stewards of the land and that if a member of the tribe ceases to work, he
loses his claim of ownership, and the land reverts to the beings of the spirit world who are its they became marginalized. And the government has been an indispensable party to this
true and primary owners. Under the concept of "trusteeship," the right to possess the land does insidious conspiracy against the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs). It organized and
not only belong to the present generation but the future ones as well.99 supported the resettlement of people to their ancestral land, which was massive during the
Commonwealth and early years of the Philippine Republic. Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine
first introduced to our system by Spain through the Royal Decree of 13 February 1894 or the
Customary law on land rests on the traditional belief that no one owns the land except the
Maura Law, the government passed laws to legitimize the wholesale landgrabbing and provide
gods and spirits, and that those who work the land are its mere stewards.100 Customary law
for easy titling or grant of lands to migrant homesteaders within the traditional areas of the
has a strong preference for communal ownership, which could either be ownership by a
ICCs."109
group of individuals or families who are related by blood or by marriage,101 or ownership by
residents of the same locality who may not be related by blood or marriage. The system of
communal ownership under customary laws draws its meaning from the subsistence and highly Senator Flavier further declared:
collectivized mode of economic production. The Kalingas, for instance, who are engaged in team
occupation like hunting, foraging for forest products, and swidden farming found it natural that
"The IPs are the offsprings and heirs of the peoples who have first inhabited and cared for the
forest areas, swidden farms, orchards, pasture and burial grounds should be communally-
land long before any central government was established. Their ancestors had territories over
owned.102 For the Kalingas, everybody has a common right to a common economic base. Thus,
which they ruled themselves and related with other tribes. These territories- the land- include
as a rule, rights and obligations to the land are shared in common.
people, their dwelling, the mountains, the water, the air, plants, forest and the animals. This is
their environment in its totality. Their existence as indigenous peoples is manifested in their own
Although highly bent on communal ownership, customary law on land also sanctions lives through political, economic, socio-cultural and spiritual practices. The IPs culture is the
individual ownership.The residential lots and terrace rice farms are governed by a limited living and irrefutable proof to this.
system of individual ownership. It is limited because while the individual owner has the right
to use and dispose of the property, he does not possess all the rights of an exclusive and full
Their survival depends on securing or acquiring land rights; asserting their rights to it; and
owner as defined under our Civil Code.103 Under Kalinga customary law, the alienation of
depending on it. Otherwise, IPs shall cease to exist as distinct peoples." 110
individually-owned land is strongly discouraged except in marriage and succession and except
to meet sudden financial needs due to sickness, death in the family, or loss of
crops.104 Moreover, and to be alienated should first be offered to a clan-member before any To recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples effectively, Senator Flavier proposed a bill
village-member can purchase it, and in no case may land be sold to a non-member of the ili.105 based on two postulates: (1) the concept of native title; and (2) the principle of parens patriae.

Land titles do not exist in the indigenous peoples' economic and social system. The According to Senator Flavier, "[w]hile our legal tradition subscribes to the Regalian Doctrine
concept of individual land ownership under the civil law is alien to them. Inherently reinstated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution," our "decisional laws" and
colonial in origin, our national land laws and governmental policies frown upon jurisprudence passed by the State have "made exception to the doctrine." This exception
indigenous claims to ancestral lands. Communal ownership is looked upon as inferior, if was first laid down in the case of Cariño v. Insular Government where:
not inexistent.106
"x x x the court has recognized long occupancy of land by an indigenous member of the cultural
III. THE IPRA IS A NOVEL PIECE OF LEGISLATION. communities as one of private ownership, which, in legal concept, is termed "native title." This
ruling has not been overturned. In fact, it was affirmed in subsequent cases."111
A. The Legislative History of the IPRA
Following Cariño, the State passed Act No. 926, Act No. 2874, C.A. No. 141, P.D. 705, P.D.
410, P.D. 1529, R.A. 6734 (the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao).
It was to address the centuries-old neglect of the Philippine indigenous peoples that the
These laws, explicitly or implicitly, and liberally or restrictively, recognized "native title" or "private
Tenth Congress of the Philippines, by their joint efforts, passed and approved R.A. No. 8371,
right" and the existence of ancestral lands and domains. Despite the passage of these laws,
the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. The law was a consolidation of two Bills-
however, Senator Flavier continued:
Senate Bill No. 1728 and House Bill No. 9125.

"x x x the executive department of government since the American occupation has not
Principally sponsored by Senator Juan M. Flavier,107 Senate Bill No. 1728 was a consolidation
implemented the policy. In fact, it was more honored in its breach than in its observance, its
of four proposed measures referred to the Committees on Cultural Communities, Environment
wanton disregard shown during the period unto the Commonwealth and the early years of the
and Natural Resources, Ways and Means, as well as Finance. It adopted almost en toto the
Philippine Republic when government organized and supported massive resettlement of the
comprehensive version of Senate Bill Nos. 1476 and 1486 which was a result of six regional
people to the land of the ICCs."
consultations and one national consultation with indigenous peoples nationwide.108 At the
Second Regular Session of the Tenth Congress, Senator Flavier, in his sponsorship speech,
gave a background on the situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, to wit: Senate Bill No. 1728 seeks to genuinely recognize the IPs right to own and possess their
ancestral land. The bill was prepared also under the principle of parens patriae inherent in the
supreme power of the State and deeply embedded in Philippine legal tradition. This principle
"The Indigenous Cultural Communities, including the Bangsa Moro, have long suffered from the
mandates that persons suffering from serious disadvantage or handicap, which places them in a
dominance and neglect of government controlled by the majority. Massive migration of their
position of actual inequality in their relation or transaction with others, are entitled to the
Christian brothers to their homeland shrunk their territory and many of the tribal Filipinos were
protection of the State.
pushed to the hinterlands. Resisting the intrusion, dispossessed of their ancestral land and with
the massive exploitation of their natural resources by the elite among the migrant population,
Senate Bill No. 1728 was passed on Third Reading by twenty-one (21) Senators voting in b) Ancestral Lands.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, refers to land occupied, possessed and
favor and none against, with no abstention.112 utilized by individuals, families and clans who are members of the ICCs/IPs since time
immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, under claims of individual
or traditional group ownership, continuously, to the present except when interrupted by war,
House Bill No. 9125 was sponsored by Rep. Zapata, Chairman of the Committee on Cultural
force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government
Communities. It was originally authored and subsequently presented and defended on the floor
projects and other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private
by Rep. Gregorio Andolana of North Cotabato.113
individuals/corporations, including, but not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies,
private forests, swidden farms and tree lots."
Rep. Andolana's sponsorhip speech reads as follows:
Ancestral domains are all areas belonging to ICCs/IPs held under a claim of ownership,
"This Representation, as early as in the 8th Congress, filed a bill of similar implications that occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or
would promote, recognize the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of individually since time immemorial, continuously until the present, except when interrupted by
national unity and development. war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government
projects or any other voluntary dealings with government and/or private individuals or
corporations. Ancestral domains comprise lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural
Apart from this, Mr. Speaker, is our obligation, the government's obligation to assure and resources therein and includes ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural,
ascertain that these rights shall be well-preserved and the cultural traditions as well as the and other lands individually owned whether alienable or not, hunting grounds, burial
indigenous laws that remained long before this Republic was established shall be preserved and grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources. They also
promoted. There is a need, Mr. Speaker, to look into these matters seriously and early approval include lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they
of the substitute bill shall bring into reality the aspirations, the hope and the dreams of more than
traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home
12 million Filipinos that they be considered in the mainstream of the Philippine society as we ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators.116
fashion for the year 2000." 114

Ancestral lands are lands held by the ICCs/IPs under the same conditions as ancestral
Rep. Andolana stressed that H.B. No. 9125 is based on the policy of preservation as mandated domains except that these are limited to lands and that these lands are not merely occupied and
in the Constitution. He also emphasized that the rights of IPs to their land was enunciated possessed but are also utilized by the ICCs/IPs under claims of individual or traditional group
in Cariño v. Insular Government which recognized the fact that they had vested rights prior to
ownership. These lands include but are not limited to residential lots, rice terraces or paddies,
the establishment of the Spanish and American regimes.115 private forests, swidden farms and tree lots.117

After exhaustive interpellation, House Bill No. 9125, and its corresponding amendments,
The procedures for claiming ancestral domains and lands are similar to the procedures
was approved on Second Reading with no objections.
embodied in Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2, series of 1993, signed by then
Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Angel
IV. THE PROVISIONS OF THE IPRA DO NOT CONTRAVENE THE CONSTITUTION. Alcala.118 DAO No. 2 allowed the delineation of ancestral domains by special task forces and
ensured the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (CALC's) and Certificates of
Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC's) to IPs.
A. Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands are the Private Property of Indigenous
Peoples and Do Not Constitute Part of the Land of the Public Domain.
The identification and delineation of these ancestral domains and lands is a power conferred by
the IPRA on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).119 The guiding principle in
The IPRA grants to ICCs/IPs a distinct kind of ownership over ancestral domains and identification and delineation is self-delineation.120 This means that the ICCs/IPs have a decisive
ancestral lands.Ancestral lands are not the same as ancestral domains. These are defined in role in determining the boundaries of their domains and in all the activities pertinent thereto.121
Section 3 [a] and [b] of the Indigenous Peoples Right Act, viz:

The procedure for the delineation and recognition of ancestral domains is set forth in Sections
"Sec. 3 a) Ancestral Domains. - Subject to Section 56 hereof, refer to all areas generally 51 and 52 of the IPRA. The identification, delineation and certification of ancestral lands is in
belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources Section 53 of said law.
therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by themselves or
through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to the
present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth Upon due application and compliance with the procedure provided under the law and upon
or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered into by finding by the NCIP that the application is meritorious, the NCIP shall issue a Certificate of
government and private individuals/corporations, and which are necessary to ensure their Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the name of the community concerned. 122 The allocation
economic, social and cultural welfare. It shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, of lands within the ancestral domain to any individual or indigenous corporate (family or clan)
residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable or claimants is left to the ICCs/IPs concerned to decide in accordance with customs and
otherwise, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other traditions.123 With respect to ancestral lands outside the ancestral domain, the NCIP issues a
natural resources, and lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT).124
which they traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly
the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators; CADT's and CALT's issued under the IPRA shall be registered by the NCIP before the Register
of Deeds in the place where the property is situated.125
(1) Right to Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands: How Acquired The Philippine Supreme Court135 affirmed the C.F.I. by applying the Valenton ruling. Cariño took
the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.136 On one hand, the Philippine government invoked the
Regalian doctrine and contended that Cariño failed to comply with the provisions of the Royal
The rights of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands may be acquired in two
Decree of June 25, 1880, which required registration of land claims within a limited period of
modes: (1) by native title over both ancestral lands and domains; or (2) by torrens
time. Cariño, on the other, asserted that he was the absolute owner of the land jure gentium, and
title under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act with respect to ancestral
that the land never formed part of the public domain.
lands only.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the U.S. Supreme Court
(2) The Concept of Native Title
held:

Native title is defined as:


"It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands
were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general attitude of conquering nations toward
"Sec. 3 [l]. Native Title- refers to pre-conquest rights to lands and domains which, as far back as people not recognized as entitled to the treatment accorded to those in the same zone of
memory reaches, have been held under a claim of private ownership by ICCs/IPs, have never civilization with themselves. It is true, also, that in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute, and that,
been public lands and are thus indisputably presumed to have been held that way since as against foreign nations, the United States may assert, as Spain asserted, absolute power. But
before the Spanish Conquest."126 it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of the Philippines, the United States asserts
that Spain had such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of
strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical
Native title refers to ICCs/IPs' preconquest rights to lands and domains held under a claim of
relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are
private ownership as far back as memory reaches. These lands are deemed never to have been
matters for it to decide."137
public lands and are indisputably presumed to have been held that way since before the
Spanish Conquest. The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains (which also include
ancestral lands) by virtue of native title shall be recognized and respected. 127 Formal recognition, The U.S. Supreme Court noted that it need not accept Spanish doctrines. The choice was with
when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned, shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral Domain the new colonizer. Ultimately, the matter had to be decided under U.S. law.
Title (CADT), which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories
identified and delineated.128
The Cariño decision largely rested on the North American constitutionalist's concept of "due
process" as well as the pronounced policy "to do justice to the natives." 138 It was based on the
Like a torrens title, a CADT is evidence of private ownership of land by native title. Native title, strong mandate extended to the Islands via the Philippine Bill of 1902 that "No law shall be
however, is a right of private ownership peculiarly granted to ICCs/IPs over their ancestral lands enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due
and domains. The IPRA categorically declares ancestral lands and domains held by native title process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws." The court
as never to have been public land. Domains and lands held under native title are, therefore, declared:
indisputably presumed to have never been public lands and are private.
"The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the United
(a) Cariño v. Insular Government129 States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American Indians, the
dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy land. It is obvious that, however
stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we suppose, would
The concept of native title in the IPRA was taken from the 1909 case of Cariño v. Insular deny that, so far as consistent with paramount necessities, our first object in the internal
Government.130 Cariñofirmly established a concept of private land title that existed irrespective
administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to exploit their country for private
of any royal grant from the State. gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, chapter 1369, section 12 (32 Statutes at Large, 691),
all the property and rights acquired there by the United States are to be administered 'for the
In 1903, Don Mateo Cariño, an Ibaloi, sought to register with the land registration court 146 benefit of the inhabitants thereof.' It is reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed by
hectares of land in Baguio Municipality, Benguet Province. He claimed that this land had been the United States with regard to what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding
possessed and occupied by his ancestors since time immemorial; that his grandfather built what it will claim for its own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of
fences around the property for the holding of cattle and that his father cultivated some parts of the Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It provides that 'no
the land. Cariño inherited the land in accordance with Igorot custom. He tried to have the land law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property
adjusted under the Spanish land laws, but no document issued from the Spanish Crown. 131 In without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws.' In the
1901, Cariño obtained a possessory title to the land under the Spanish Mortgage Law. 132 The light of the declaration that we have quoted from section 12, it is hard to believe that the United
North American colonial government, however, ignored his possessory title and built a public States was ready to declare in the next breath that "any person" did not embrace the inhabitants
road on the land prompting him to seek a Torrens title to his property in the land registration of Benguet, or that it meant by "property" only that which had become such by ceremonies of
court. While his petition was pending, a U.S. military reservation133 was proclaimed over his land which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never had heard, and that it proposed to treat
and, shortly thereafter, a military detachment was detailed on the property with orders to keep as public land what they, by native custom and by long association,- of the profoundest factors in
cattle and trespassers, including Cariño, off the land.134 human thought,- regarded as their own."139

In 1904, the land registration court granted Cariño's application for absolute ownership to the The Court went further:
land. Both the Government of the Philippine Islands and the U.S. Government appealed to the
C.F.I. of Benguet which reversed the land registration court and dismissed Cariño's application.
"Every presumption is and ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It Thus, the court ruled in favor of Cariño and ordered the registration of the 148 hectares in
might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far back as testimony or Baguio Municipality in his name.144
memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it
will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest,
Examining Cariño closer, the U.S. Supreme Court did not categorically refer to the title it upheld
and never to have been public land. Certainly in a case like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity
as "native title." It simply said:
in the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt."140

"The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor-General, in his
The court thus laid down the presumption of a certain title held (1) as far back as testimony or
argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or
memory went, and (2) under a claim of private ownership. Land held by this title is presumed to
military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the
"never have been public land."
Spanish officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration to
which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish Laws, and which would have
Against this presumption, the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed the Spanish decrees upheld in the made his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical position of
1904 decision ofValenton v. Murciano. The U.S. Supreme Court found no proof that the Spain it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and was a
Spanish decrees did not honor native title. On the contrary, the decrees discussed mere trespasser when the present government seized his land. The argument to that effect
in Valenton appeared to recognize that the natives owned some land, irrespective of any royal seems to amount to a denial of native titles through an important part of the Island of Luzon, at
grant. The Regalian doctrine declared in the preamble of the Recopilacion was all "theory and least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted and had not the
discourse" and it was observed that titles were admitted to exist beyond the powers of the power to enforce."145
Crown, viz:
This is the only instance when Justice Holmes used the term "native title" in the entire length of
"If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear the Cariño decision. It is observed that the widespread use of the term "native title" may be
proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin traced to Professor Owen James Lynch, Jr., a Visiting Professor at the University of the
with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to Philippines College of Law from the Yale University Law School. In 1982, Prof. Lynch published
indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands, an article in the Philippine Law Journal entitled Native Title, Private Right and Tribal Land
irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native Law.146 This article was made after Professor Lynch visited over thirty tribal communities
inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at will. For instance, Book 4, throughout the country and studied the origin and development of Philippine land laws. 147 He
title 12, Law 14 of the the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a contrary conclusion in discussed Cariño extensively and used the term "native title" to refer to Cariño's title as
Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Philippine 537, while it commands viceroys and others, when it seems discussed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in said case.
proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those who hold by good grants
or justa prescripcion. It is true that it begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal
(b) Indian Title
overlordship and the origin of all titles in the King or his predecessors. That was theory
and discourse. The fact was that titles were admitted to exist that owed nothing to the
powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their books." (Emphasis supplied).141 In a footnote in the same article, Professor Lynch stated that the concept of "native title" as
defined by Justice Holmes in Cariño "is conceptually similar to "aboriginal title" of the American
Indians.148 This is not surprising, according to Prof. Lynch, considering that during the American
The court further stated that the Spanish "adjustment" proceedings never held sway over
regime, government policy towards ICCs/IPs was consistently made in reference to native
unconquered territories. The wording of the Spanish laws were not framed in a manner as to
Americans.149 This was clearly demonstrated in the case of Rubi v. Provincial Board of
convey to the natives that failure to register what to them has always been their own would
Mindoro.150
mean loss of such land. The registration requirement was "not to confer title, but simply to
establish it;" it was "not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient
family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it." In Rubi, the Provincial Board of Mindoro adopted a Resolution authorizing the provincial
governor to remove the Mangyans from their domains and place them in a permanent
reservation in Sitio Tigbao, Lake Naujan. Any Mangyan who refused to comply was to be
By recognizing this kind of title, the court clearly repudiated the doctrine of Valenton. It was
imprisoned. Rubi and some Mangyans, including one who was imprisoned for trying to escape
frank enough, however, to admit the possibility that the applicant might have been deprived of
from the reservation, filed for habeas corpus claiming deprivation of liberty under the Board
his land under Spanish law because of the inherent ambiguity of the decrees and concomitantly,
Resolution. This Court denied the petition on the ground of police power. It upheld government
the various interpretations which may be given them. But precisely because of the ambiguity
policy promoting the idea that a permanent settlement was the only successful method for
and of the strong "due process mandate" of the Constitution, the court validated this kind
educating the Mangyans, introducing civilized customs, improving their health and morals, and
of title.142 This title was sufficient, even without government administrative action, and entitled
protecting the public forests in which they roamed.151 Speaking through Justice Malcolm, the
the holder to a Torrens certificate. Justice Holmes explained:
court said:

"It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a problem not
"Reference was made in the President's instructions to the Commission to the policy adopted by
without difficulties for courts of a legal tradition. We have deemed it proper on that account to
the United States for the Indian Tribes. The methods followed by the Government of the
notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act of Congress establishing the
Philippine Islands in its dealings with the so-called non-Christian people is said, on argument, to
fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a consideration of the whole case we are of
be practically identical with that followed by the United States Government in its dealings with
the opinion that law and justice require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and
the Indian tribes. Valuable lessons, it is insisted, can be derived by an investigation of the
should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was
American-Indian policy.
his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain."143
From the beginning of the United States, and even before, the Indians have been treated as "in "Those relations which were to exist between the discoverer and the natives were to be
a state of pupilage." The recognized relation between the Government of the United States and regulated by themselves. The rights thus acquired being exclusive, no other power could
the Indians may be described as that of guardian and ward. It is for the Congress to determine interpose between them.
when and how the guardianship shall be terminated. The Indians are always subject to the
plenary authority of the United States.152
In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no
instance, entirely disregarded; but were necessarily, to a considerable extent, impaired. They
x x x. were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to
retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to
complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were necessarily diminished, and their power to
As to the second point, the facts in the Standing Bear case and the Rubi case are not exactly
dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the
identical. But even admitting similarity of facts, yet it is known to all that Indian reservations do
fundamental principle that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it.
exist in the United States, that Indians have been taken from different parts of the country and
placed on these reservations, without any previous consultation as to their own wishes, and that,
when once so located, they have been made to remain on the reservation for their own good While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives as occupants,
and for the general good of the country. If any lesson can be drawn from the Indian policy of the they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves; and claimed and exercised, as a
United States, it is that the determination of this policy is for the legislative and executive consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in possession
branches of the government and that when once so decided upon, the courts should not of the natives. These grants have been understood by all to convey a title to the grantees,
interfere to upset a carefully planned governmental system. Perhaps, just as many forceful subject only to the Indian right of occupancy."161
reasons exist for the segregation of the Manguianes in Mindoro as existed for the segregation of
the different Indian tribes in the United States."153
Thus, the discoverer of new territory was deemed to have obtained the exclusive right to
acquire Indian land and extinguish Indian titles. Only to the discoverer- whether to England,
Rubi applied the concept of Indian land grants or reservations in the Philippines. An Indian France, Spain or Holland- did this right belong and not to any other nation or private person. The
reservation is a part of the public domain set apart by proper authority for the use and mere acquisition of the right nonetheless did not extinguish Indian claims to land. Rather, until
occupation of a tribe or tribes of Indians.154 It may be set apart by an act of Congress, by treaty, the discoverer, by purchase or conquest, exercised its right, the concerned Indians were
or by executive order, but it cannot be established by custom and prescription. 155 recognized as the "rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain
possession of it." Grants made by the discoverer to her subjects of lands occupied by the
Indians were held to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy.
Indian title to land, however, is not limited to land grants or reservations. It also covers
Once the discoverer purchased the land from the Indians or conquered them, it was only then
the "aboriginal right of possession or occupancy."156 The aboriginal right of possession
that the discoverer gained an absolute title unrestricted by Indian rights.
depends on the actual occupancy of the lands in question by the tribe or nation as their ancestral
home, in the sense that such lands constitute definable territory occupied exclusively by the
particular tribe or nation.157 It is a right which exists apart from any treaty, statute, or other The court concluded, in essence, that a grant of Indian lands by Indians could not convey a title
governmental action, although in numerous instances treaties have been negotiated with Indian paramount to the title of the United States itself to other parties, saying:
tribes, recognizing their aboriginal possession and delimiting their occupancy rights or settling
and adjusting their boundaries.158
"It has never been contended that the Indian title amounted to nothing. Their right of
possession has never been questioned. The claim of government extends to the
American jurisprudence recognizes the Indians' or native Americans' rights to land they complete ultimate title, charged with this right of possession, and to the exclusive power
have held and occupied before the "discovery" of the Americas by the Europeans. The of acquiring that right."162
earliest definitive statement by the U.S. Supreme Court on the nature of aboriginal title
was made in 1823 in Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. M'Intosh.159
It has been said that the history of America, from its discovery to the present day, proves the
universal recognition of this principle.163
In Johnson, the plaintiffs claimed the land in question under two (2) grants made by the chiefs
of two (2) Indian tribes. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to recognize this conveyance, the
The Johnson doctrine was a compromise. It protected Indian rights and their native lands
plaintiffs being private persons. The only conveyance that was recognized was that made by the
without having to invalidate conveyances made by the government to many U.S. citizens. 164
Indians to the government of the European discoverer. Speaking for the court, Chief Justice
Marshall pointed out that the potentates of the old world believed that they had made ample
compensation to the inhabitants of the new world by bestowing civilization and Christianity upon Johnson was reiterated in the case of Worcester v. Georgia.165 In this case, the State of
them; but in addition, said the court, they found it necessary, in order to avoid conflicting Georgia enacted a law requiring all white persons residing within the Cherokee nation to obtain a
settlements and consequent war, to establish the principle that discovery gives title to the license or permit from the Governor of Georgia; and any violation of the law was deemed a high
government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, the discovery was made, against misdemeanor. The plaintiffs, who were white missionaries, did not obtain said license and were
all other European governments, which title might be consummated by thus charged with a violation of the Act.
possession.160 The exclusion of all other Europeans gave to the nation making the discovery
the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives and establishing settlements upon it. As
The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Act as unconstitutional for interfering with the treaties
regards the natives, the court further stated that:
established between the United States and the Cherokee nation as well as the Acts of Congress
regulating intercourse with them. It characterized the relationship between the United States
government and the Indians as:
"The Indian nations were, from their situation, necessarily dependent on some foreign potentate sovereign- first the discovering European nation and later the original 13 States and the
for the supply of their essential wants, and for their protection from lawless and injurious United States- a right of occupancy in the Indian tribes was nevertheless recognized. The
intrusions into their country. That power was naturally termed their protector. They had been Federal Government continued the policy of respecting the Indian right of occupancy, sometimes
arranged under the protection of Great Britain; but the extinguishment of the British power in called Indian title, which it accorded the protection of complete ownership. 171 But this aboriginal
their neighborhood, and the establishment of that of the United States in its place, led naturally Indian interest simply constitutes "permission" from the whites to occupy the land, and means
to the declaration, on the part of the Cherokees, that they were under the protection of the mere possession not specifically recognized as ownership by Congress. 172 It is clear that this
United States, and of no other power. They assumed the relation with the United States which right of occupancy based upon aboriginal possession is not a property right. 173 It is vulnerable to
had before subsisted with Great Britain. affirmative action by the federal government who, as sovereign, possessed exclusive power to
extinguish the right of occupancy at will.174 Thus, aboriginal title is not the same as legal
title. Aboriginal title rests on actual, exclusive and continuous use and occupancy for a long
This relation was that of a nation claiming and receiving the protection of one more powerful, not
time.175 It entails that land owned by Indian title must be used within the tribe, subject to its laws
that of individuals abandoning their national character, and submitting as subjects to the laws of
and customs, and cannot be sold to another sovereign government nor to any citizen. 176 Such
a master."166
title as Indians have to possess and occupy land is in the tribe, and not in the individual Indian;
the right of individual Indians to share in the tribal property usually depends upon tribal
It was the policy of the U.S. government to treat the Indians as nations with distinct territorial membership, the property of the tribe generally being held in communal ownership. 177
boundaries and recognize their right of occupancy over all the lands within their domains. Thus:
As a rule, Indian lands are not included in the term "public lands," which is ordinarily used to
"From the commencement of our government Congress has passed acts to regulate trade and designate such lands as are subject to sale or other disposal under general laws.178 Indian land
intercourse with the Indians; which treat them as nations, respect their rights, and manifest a firm which has been abandoned is deemed to fall into the public domain. 179 On the other hand, an
purpose to afford that protection which treaties stipulate. All these acts, and especially that of Indian reservation is a part of the public domain set apart for the use and occupation of a tribe of
1802, which is still in force, manifestly consider the several Indian nations as distinct political Indians.180 Once set apart by proper authority, the reservation ceases to be public land, and until
communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and the Indian title is extinguished, no one but Congress can initiate any preferential right on, or
having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged, restrict the nation's power to dispose of, them.181
but guaranteed by the United States.
The American judiciary struggled for more than 200 years with the ancestral land claims
x x x. of indigenous Americans.182 And two things are clear. First, aboriginal title is
recognized. Second, indigenous property systems are also recognized. From a legal point of
view, certain benefits can be drawn from a comparison of Philippine IPs to native
"The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political
Americans.183 Despite the similarities between native title and aboriginal title, however, there are
communities, retaining their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of the
at present some misgivings on whether jurisprudence on American Indians may be cited
soil from time immemorial, with the single exception of that imposed by irresistible power,
authoritatively in the Philippines. The U.S. recognizes the possessory rights of the Indians over
which excluded them from intercourse with any other European potentate than the first their land; title to the land, however, is deemed to have passed to the U.S. as successor of the
discoverer of the coast of the particular region claimed: and this was a restriction which those discoverer. The aboriginal title of ownership is not specifically recognized as ownership by action
European potentates imposed on themselves, as well as on the Indians. The very term "nation,"
authorized by Congress.184 The protection of aboriginal title merely guards against
so generally applied to them, means "a people distinct from others." x x x. 167 encroachment by persons other than the Federal Government. 185 Although there are criticisms
against the refusal to recognize the native Americans' ownership of these lands, 186 the power of
The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries the State to extinguish these titles has remained firmly entrenched.187
accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of
Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves or in conformity Under the IPRA, the Philippine State is not barred form asserting sovereignty over the ancestral
with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between the United States
domains and ancestral lands.188 The IPRA, however, is still in its infancy and any similarities
and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United between its application in the Philippines vis-à-vis American Jurisprudence on aboriginal title will
States."168 depend on the peculiar facts of each case.

The discovery of the American continent gave title to the government of the discoverer as (c) Why the Cariño doctrine is unique
against all other European governments. Designated as the naked fee, 169 this title was to be
consummated by possession and was subject to the Indian title of occupancy. The discoverer
acknowledged the Indians' legal and just claim to retain possession of the land, the Indians In the Philippines, the concept of native title first upheld in Cariño and enshrined in the IPRA
being the original inhabitants of the land. The discoverer nonetheless asserted the exclusive grants ownership, albeit in limited form, of the land to the ICCs/IPs. Native title presumes that
right to acquire the Indians' land- either by purchase, "defensive" conquest, or cession- and in so the land is private and was never public. Cariño is the only case that specifically and
doing, extinguish the Indian title. Only the discoverer could extinguish Indian title because it categorically recognizes native title. The long line of cases citing Cariño did not touch on
alone asserted ultimate dominion in itself. Thus, while the different nations of Europe respected native title and the private character of ancestral domains and lands. Cariñowas cited by
the rights of the natives as occupants, they all asserted the ultimate dominion and title to be in the succeeding cases to support the concept of acquisitive prescription under the Public
themselves.170 Land Act which is a different matter altogether. Under the Public Land Act, land sought to be
registered must be public agricultural land. When the conditions specified in Section 48 [b] of
the Public Land Act are complied with, the possessor of the land is deemed to have acquired, by
As early as the 19th century, it became accepted doctrine that although fee title to the
operation of law, a right to a grant of the land.189 The land ceases to be part of the public
lands occupied by the Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the
domain,190 ipso jure,191 and is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of under C.A. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, or Act 496, the Land Registration Act.
the prescribed statutory period. For purposes of registration, the individually-owned ancestral lands are classified as alienable
and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, provided, they are agricultural in
character and are actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture and tree farming purposes.
It was only in the case of Oh Cho v. Director of Lands192 that the court declared that the rule
These lands shall be classified as public agricultural lands regardless of whether they have a
that all lands that were not acquired from the government, either by purchase or grant, belong to
slope of 18% or more.
the public domain has an exception. This exception would be any land that should have been in
the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors-in-interest since time immemorial. It is
this kind of possession that would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of The classification of ancestral land as public agricultural land is in compliance with the
the public domain or that it had been private property even before the Spanish conquest.193 Oh requirements of the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act. C.A. 141, the Public Land
Cho, however, was decided under the provisions of the Public Land Act and Cariño was cited to Act, deals specifically with lands of the public domain.198 Its provisions apply to those lands
support the applicant's claim of acquisitive prescription under the said Act. "declared open to disposition or concession" x x x "which have not been reserved for public or
quasi-public purposes, nor appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become private
property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by this Act or any other
All these years, Cariño had been quoted out of context simply to justify long, continuous, open
valid law x x x or which having been reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so." 199 Act
and adverse possession in the concept of owner of public agricultural land. It is this long,
496, the Land Registration Act, allows registration only of private lands and public agricultural
continuous, open and adverse possession in the concept of owner of thirty years both for
lands. Since ancestral domains and lands are private, if the ICC/IP wants to avail of the
ordinary citizens194 and members of the national cultural minorities195 that converts the land from
benefits of C.A. 141 and Act 496, the IPRA itself converts his ancestral land, regardless of
public into private and entitles the registrant to a torrens certificate of title.
whether the land has a slope of eighteen per cent (18%) or over,200 from private to public
agricultural land for proper disposition.
(3) The Option of Securing a Torrens Title to the Ancestral Land Indicates that the Land is
Private.
The option to register land under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act has
nonetheless a limited period. This option must be exercised within twenty (20) years from
The private character of ancestral lands and domains as laid down in the IPRA is October 29, 1997, the date of approval of the IPRA.
further strengthened by the option given to individual ICCs/IPs over their individually-owned
ancestral lands. For purposes of registration under the Public Land Act and the Land
Thus, ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of the lands of the public
Registration Act, the IPRA expressly converts ancestral land into public agricultural land
domain. They are private and belong to the ICCs/IPs. Section 3 of Article XII on National
which may be disposed of by the State. The necessary implication is that ancestral land
Economy and Patrimony of the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into four
is private. It, however, has to be first converted to public agricultural land simply for
categories: (a) agricultural, (b) forest or timber, (c) mineral lands, and (d) national
registration purposes. To wit:
parks. Section 5 of the same Article XII mentions ancestral lands and ancestral domains but it
does not classify them under any of the said four categories. To classify them as public lands
"Sec. 12. Option to Secure Certificate of Title Under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or under any one of the four classes will render the entire IPRA law a nullity. The spirit of the
the Land Registration Act 496- Individual members of cultural communities, with respect to their IPRA lies in the distinct concept of ancestral domains and ancestral lands. The IPRA addresses
individually-owned ancestral lands who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, the major problem of the ICCs/IPs which is loss of land. Land and space are of vital concern in
have been in continuous possession and occupation of the same in the concept of owner since terms of sheer survival of the ICCs/IPs.201
time immemorial or for a period of not less than thirty (30) years immediately preceding the
approval of this Act and uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs shall have the
The 1987 Constitution mandates the State to "protect the rights of indigenous cultural
option to secure title to their ancestral lands under the provisions of Commonwealth Act 141, as
communities to their ancestral lands" and that "Congress provide for the applicability of
amended, or the Land Registration Act 496.
customary laws x x x in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain."202 It
is the recognition of the ICCs/IPs distinct rights of ownership over their ancestral
For this purpose, said individually-owned ancestral lands, which are agricultural in character and domains and lands that breathes life into this constitutional mandate.
actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture, and tree farming purposes, including those
with a slope of eighteen percent (18%) or more, are hereby classified as alienable and
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs of their ancestral domains is a
disposable agricultural lands.
limited form of ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same.

The option granted under this section shall be exercised within twenty (20) years from the
Registration under the Public Land Act and Land Registration Act recognizes the concept of
approval of this Act."196
ownership under the civil law. This ownership is based on adverse possession for a specified
period, and harkens to Section 44 of the Public Land Act on administrative legalization (free
ICCs/IPs are given the option to secure a torrens certificate of title over their individually-owned patent) of imperfect or incomplete titles and Section 48 (b) and (c) of the same Act on the judicial
ancestral lands. This option is limited to ancestral lands only, not domains, and such lands must confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. Thus:
be individually, not communally, owned.
"Sec. 44. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more than twenty-
Ancestral lands that are owned by individual members of ICCs/IPs who, by themselves or four hectares and who since July fourth, 1926 or prior thereto, has continuously occupied and
through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in continuous possession and occupation of cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of
the same in the concept of owner since time immemorial197 or for a period of not less than 30 agricultural public lands subject to disposition, or who shall have paid the real estate tax thereon
years, which claims are uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs, may be registered while the same has not been occupied by any person shall be entitled, under the provisions of
this chapter, to have a free patent issued to him for such tract or tracts of such land not to Ownership of ancestral domains by native title does not entitle the ICC/IP to a torrens title but to
exceed twenty-four hectares. a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The CADT formally recognizes
the indigenous concept of ownership of the ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domain. Thus:
A member of the national cultural minorities who has continuously occupied and
cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of "Sec. 5. Indigenous concept of ownership.- Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view
land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right granted in that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their
the preceding paragraph of this section: Provided, That at the time he files his free patent cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership generally holds that ancestral domains
application he is not the owner of any real property secured or disposable under the are the ICCs/IPs private but community property which belongs to all generations and therefore
provision of the Public Land Law.203 cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional resource rights."

x x x. The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains is held
under the indigenous concept of ownership. This concept maintains the view that
ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property. It is private simply
"Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public
because it is not part of the public domain. But its private character ends there. The
domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been
ancestral domain is owned in common by the ICCs/IPs and not by one particular
perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land
person. The IPRA itself provides that areas within the ancestral domains, whether delineated or
is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under
not, are presumed to be communally held.209 These communal rights, however, are not
the Land Registration Act, to wit:
exactly the same as co-ownership rights under the Civil Code.210 Co-ownership gives any
co-owner the right to demand partition of the property held in common. The Civil Code expressly
(a) [perfection of Spanish titles] xxx. provides that "no co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership." Each co-owner may
demand at any time the partition of the thing in common, insofar as his share is concerned. 211 To
allow such a right over ancestral domains may be destructive not only of customary law of the
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in
community but of the very community itself.212
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural
lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at
least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of Communal rights over land are not the same as corporate rights over real property, much
title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively less corporate condominium rights. A corporation can exist only for a maximum of fifty (50)
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and years subject to an extension of another fifty years in any single instance. 213 Every stockholder
shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this Chapter. has the right to disassociate himself from the corporation. 214 Moreover, the corporation itself may
be dissolved voluntarily or involuntarily.215
(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through
their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and Communal rights to the land are held not only by the present possessors of the land but
notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to extends to all generations of the ICCs/IPs, past, present and future, to the domain. This is
agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for the reason why the ancestral domain must be kept within the ICCs/IPs themselves. The domain
at least 30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in sub-section (b) cannot be transferred, sold or conveyed to other persons. It belongs to the ICCs/IPs as a
hereof."204 community.

Registration under the foregoing provisions presumes that the land was originally public Ancestral lands are also held under the indigenous concept of ownership. The lands are
agricultural land but because of adverse possession since July 4, 1955 (free patent) or at least communal. These lands, however, may be transferred subject to the following limitations: (a)
thirty years (judicial confirmation), the land has become private. Open, adverse, public and only to the members of the same ICCs/IPs; (b) in accord with customary laws and traditions; and
continuous possession is sufficient, provided, the possessor makes proper application therefor. (c) subject to the right of redemption of the ICCs/IPs for a period of 15 years if the land was
The possession has to be confirmed judicially or administratively after which a torrens title is transferred to a non-member of the ICCs/IPs.
issued.
Following the constitutional mandate that "customary law govern property rights or relations in
A torrens title recognizes the owner whose name appears in the certificate as entitled to all the determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains,"216 the IPRA, by legislative fiat,
rights of ownership under the civil law. The Civil Code of the Philippines defines ownership in introduces a new concept of ownership. This is a concept that has long existed under
Articles 427, 428 and 429. This concept is based on Roman Law which the Spaniards customary law.217
introduced to the Philippines through the Civil Code of 1889. Ownership, under Roman Law,
may be exercised over things or rights. It primarily includes the right of the owner to enjoy and
Custom, from which customary law is derived, is also recognized under the Civil Code as
dispose of the thing owned. And the right to enjoy and dispose of the thing includes the right to
a source of law.218 Some articles of the Civil Code expressly provide that custom should be
receive from the thing what it produces,205 the right to consume the thing by its use,206 the right
applied in cases where no codal provision is applicable.219 In other words, in the absence of any
to alienate, encumber, transform or even destroy the thing owned, 207 and the right to exclude
applicable provision in the Civil Code, custom, when duly proven, can define rights and
from the possession of the thing owned by any other person to whom the owner has not
liabilities.220
transmitted such thing.208

1. The Indigenous Concept of Ownership and Customary Law.


Customary law is a primary, not secondary, source of rights under the IPRA and uniquely c) Right to Stay in the Territories.- The right to stay in the territory and not to be
applies to ICCs/IPs. Its recognition does not depend on the absence of a specific provision removed therefrom. No ICCs/IPs will be relocated without their free and prior informed
in the civil law. The indigenous concept of ownership under customary law is specifically consent, nor through any means other than eminent domain. x x x;
acknowledged and recognized, and coexists with the civil law concept and the laws on land
titling and land registration.221
d) Right in Case of Displacement.- In case displacement occurs as a result of natural
catastrophes, the State shall endeavor to resettle the displaced ICCs/IPs in suitable
To be sure, the indigenous concept of ownership exists even without a paper title. The areas where they can have temporary life support systems: x x x;
CADT is merely a "formal recognition" of native title. This is clear from Section 11 of the IPRA, to
wit:
e) Right to Regulate the Entry of Migrants.- Right to regulate the entry of migrant
settlers and organizations into their domains;
"Sec. 11. Recognition of Ancestral Domain Rights.- The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral
domains by virtue of Native Title shall be recognized and respected. Formal recognition, when
f) Right to Safe and Clean Air and Water.-For this purpose, the ICCs/IPs shall have
solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title,
access to integrated systems for the management of their inland waters and air space;
which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories identified and
delineated."
g) Right to Claim Parts of Reservations.- The right to claim parts of the ancestral
domains which have been reserved for various purposes, except those reserved and
The moral import of ancestral domain, native land or being native is "belongingness" to the land,
intended for common and public welfare and service;
being people of the land- by sheer force of having sprung from the land since time beyond recall,
and the faithful nurture of the land by the sweat of one's brow. This is fidelity of usufructuary
relation to the land- the possession of stewardship through perduring, intimate tillage, and the h) Right to Resolve Conflict.- Right to resolve land conflicts in accordance with
mutuality of blessings between man and land; from man, care for land; from the land, customary laws of the area where the land is located, and only in default thereof shall
sustenance for man.222 the complaints be submitted to amicable settlement and to the Courts of Justice
whenever necessary."
C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA Do Not Violate the Regalian Doctrine Enshrined
in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. Section 8 provides for the rights over ancestral lands:

1. The Rights of ICCs/IPs Over Their Ancestral Domains and Lands "Sec. 8. Rights to Ancestral Lands.- The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to
their ancestral lands shall be recognized and protected.
The IPRA grants the ICCs/IPs several rights over their ancestral domains and ancestral lands.
Section 7 provides for the rights over ancestral domains: a) Right to transfer land/property.- Such right shall include the right to transfer land or
property rights to/among members of the same ICCs/IPs, subject to customary laws
and traditions of the community concerned.
"Sec. 7. Rights to Ancestral Domains.- The rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to
their ancestral domains shall be recognized and protected. Such rights include:
b) Right to Redemption.- In cases where it is shown that the transfer of land/property
rights by virtue of any agreement or devise, to a non-member of the concerned
a) Right of Ownership.- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water
ICCs/IPs is tainted by the vitiated consent of the ICCs/IPs, or is transferred for an
traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional
unconscionable consideration or price, the transferor ICC/IP shall have the right to
hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time
redeem the same within a period not exceeding fifteen (15) years from the date of
within the domains;
transfer."

b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof,


Section 7 (a) defines the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over their ancestral domains which
the right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied,
covers (a) lands, (b) bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by the ICCs/IPs, (c)
owned, or used; to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories
sacred places, (d) traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and (e) all improvements made by
and uphold the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and share the
them at any time within the domains. The right of ownership includes the following rights: (1)
profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein; the
the right to develop lands and natural resources; (b) the right to stay in the territories; (c) the
right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural
right to resettlement in case of displacement; (d) the right to regulate the entry of migrants; (e)
resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental
the right to safe and clean air and water; (f) the right to claim parts of the ancestral domains as
protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary
reservations; and (g) the right to resolve conflict in accordance with customary laws.
laws; the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and
implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon
the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages Section 8 governs their rights to ancestral lands. Unlike ownership over the ancestral domains,
which they may sustain as a result of the project; and the right to effective measures Section 8 gives the ICCs/IPs also the right to transfer the land or property rights to members of
by the government to prevent any interference with, alienation and encroachment the same ICCs/IPs or non-members thereof. This is in keeping with the option given to ICCs/IPs
upon these rights;" to secure a torrens title over the ancestral lands, but not to domains.
2. The Right of ICCs/IPs to Develop Lands and Natural Resources Within the Ancestral Domains 4. For the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum
Does Not Deprive the State of Ownership Over the Natural Resources and Control and and other mineral oils, the President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned
Supervision in their Development and Exploitation. corporations involving technical or financial assistance.

The Regalian doctrine on the ownership, management and utilization of natural resources is As owner of the natural resources, the State is accorded primary power and
declared in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, viz: responsibility in the exploration, development and utilization of these natural resources.
The State may directly undertake the exploitation and development by itself, or, it may allow
participation by the private sector through co-production,224joint venture,225 or production-sharing
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
agreements.226 These agreements may be for a period of 25 years, renewable for another 25
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and
years. The State, through Congress, may allow the small-scale utilization of natural resources by
fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural
Filipino citizens. For the large-scale exploration of these resources, specifically minerals,
lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and
petroleum and other mineral oils, the State, through the President, may enter into technical and
utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the
financial assistance agreements with foreign-owned corporations.
State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or, it may enter into co-
production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or
corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, (R.A. 7942) and the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of
citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for 1991 (R.A. 7076) the three types of agreements, i.e., co-production, joint venture or production-
not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by sharing, may apply to both large-scale227 and small-scale mining.228 "Small-scale mining" refers
law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, water supply, fisheries, or to "mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods
industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment."229
and limit of the grant.
Examining the IPRA, there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs ownership
The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and over the natural resources within their ancestral domains. The right of ICCs/IPs in their
exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens. ancestral domains includes ownership, but this "ownership" is expressly defined and
limited in Section 7 (a) as:
The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino
citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and "Sec. 7. a) Right of ownership- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water
fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons. traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing
grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains;"
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either
technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of The ICCs/IPs are given the right to claim ownership over "lands, bodies of water traditionally and
minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all
provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the improvements made by them at any time within the domains." It will be noted that this
country. In such agreements, the state shall promote the development and use of local scientific enumeration does not mention bodies of water not occupied by the
and technical resources. ICCs/IPs, minerals, coal, wildlife, flora and fauna in the traditional hunting grounds, fish in the
traditional fishing grounds, forests or timber in the sacred places, etc. and all other natural
resources found within the ancestral domains. Indeed, the right of ownership under Section 7
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this
(a) does not cover "waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of
provision, within thirty days from its execution."223
potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, floraand fauna and all other natural
resources" enumerated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution as belonging to
All lands of the public domain and all natural resources- waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, the State.
and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and
fauna, and other natural resources- are owned by the State. The Constitution provides that in
The non-inclusion of ownership by the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in Section 7(a)
the exploration, development and utilization of these natural resources, the State exercises full
complies with the Regalian doctrine.
control and supervision, and may undertake the same in four (4) modes:

(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules Goes Beyond the Parameters of
1. The State may directly undertake such activities; or
Sec. 7 (a) of the IPRA And is Unconstitutional.

2. The State may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing


The Rules Implementing the IPRA230 in Section 1, Part II, Rule III reads:
agreements with Filipino citizens or qualified corporations;

"Section 1. Rights of Ownership. ICCs/IPs have rights of ownership over lands, waters,
3. Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino
and natural resources and all improvements made by them at any time within the ancestral
citizens;
domains/ lands. These rights shall include, but not limited to, the right over the fruits, the right to
possess, the right to use, right to consume, right to exclude and right to recover ownership, and
the rights or interests over land and natural resources. The right to recover shall be particularly
applied to lands lost through fraud or any form or vitiated consent or transferred for an e) the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and
unconscionable price." implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon
the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages
which they may sustain as a result of the project;
Section 1 of the Implementing Rules gives the ICCs/IPs rights of ownership over "lands, waters
and natural resources." The term "natural resources" is not one of those expressly mentioned in
Section 7 (a) of the law. Our Constitution and jurisprudence clearly declare that the right to claim f) the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with,
ownership over land does not necessarily include the right to claim ownership over the natural alienation and encroachment upon these rights.233
resources found on or under the land.231 The IPRA itself makes a distinction between land
and natural resources. Section 7 (a) speaks of the right of ownership only over the land
Ownership over the natural resources in the ancestral domains remains with the State
within the ancestral domain. It is Sections 7 (b) and 57 of the law that speak of natural
and the ICCs/IPs are merely granted the right to "manage and conserve" them for future
resources, and these provisions, as shall be discussed later, do not give the ICCs/IPs the
generations, "benefit and share" the profits from their allocation and utilization, and
right of ownership over these resources.
"negotiate the terms and conditions for their exploration" for the purpose of "ensuring
ecological and environmental protection and conservation measures." It must be noted
The constitutionality of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules was not specifically that the right to negotiate the terms and conditions over the natural resources covers only their
and categorically challenged by petitioners. Petitioners actually assail the constitutionality of the exploration which must be for the purpose of ensuring ecological and environmental protection
Implementing Rules in general.232Nevertheless, to avoid any confusion in the implementation of of, and conservation measures in the ancestral domain. It does not extend to the exploitation
the law, it is necessary to declare that the inclusion of "natural resources" in Section 1, Part II, and development of natural resources.
Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond the parameters of Section 7 (b) of the law and
is contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Simply stated, the ICCs/IPs' rights over the natural resources take the form of
management or stewardship. For the ICCs/IPs may use these resources and share in the
(b) The Small-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Sec. 7 (b) of the IPRA Is Allowed profits of their utilization or negotiate the terms for their exploration. At the same time, however,
Under Paragraph 3, Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution. the ICCs/IPs must ensure that the natural resources within their ancestral domains are
conserved for future generations and that the "utilization" of these resources must not harm the
ecology and environment pursuant to national and customary laws.234
Ownership over natural resources remain with the State and the IPRA in Section 7 (b) merely
grants the ICCs/IPs the right to manage them, viz:
The limited rights of "management and use" in Section 7 (b) must be taken to
contemplate small-scale utilization of natural resources as distinguished from large-
"Sec. 7 (b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, right
scale. Small-scale utilization of natural resources is expressly allowed in the third
to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied, owned, or used; to
paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution "in recognition of the plight of forest
manage and conserve natural resourceswithin the territories and uphold the responsibilities for
dwellers, gold panners, marginal fishermen and others similarly situated who exploit our natural
future generations; to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural
resources for their daily sustenance and survival."235 Section 7 (b) also expressly mandates the
resources found therein; the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of
ICCs/IPs to manage and conserve these resources and ensure environmental and ecological
natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection
protection within the domains, which duties, by their very nature, necessarily reject utilization in a
and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; the right to an
large-scale.
informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation of any project,
government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just
and fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; (c) The Large-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Section 57 of the IPRA Is Allowed
and the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with, Under Paragraphs 1 and 4, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
alienation and encroachment upon these rights;"
Section 57 of the IPRA provides:
The right to develop lands and natural resources under Section 7 (b) of the IPRA
enumerates the following rights:
"Sec. 57. Natural Resources within Ancestral Domains.- The ICCs/IPs shall have priority
rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of any natural
a) the right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied; resources within the ancestral domains. A non-member of the ICCs/IPs concerned may be
allowed to take part in the development and utilization of the natural resources for a period of not
exceeding twenty-five (25) years renewable for not more than twenty-five (25) years: Provided,
b) the right to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories and uphold
That a formal and written agreement is entered into with the ICCs/IPs concerned or that the
the responsibilities for future generations;
community, pursuant to its own decision-making process, has agreed to allow such
operation: Provided finally, That the NCIP may exercise visitorial powers and take appropriate
c) the right to benefit and share the profits from the allocation and utilization of action to safeguard the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the same contract."
the natural resources found therein;
Section 57 speaks of the "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of natural
d) the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources within ancestral domains" and "gives the ICCs/IPs 'priority rights' therein." The
resources for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the terms "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation" of any natural resources
conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; within the ancestral domains obviously refer to large-scale utilization. It is utilization not
merely for subsistence but for commercial or other extensive use that require technology other "Section 59. Certification Precondition.- All departments and other governmental agencies shall
than manual labor.236 The law recognizes the probability of requiring a non-member of the henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing or granting any concession, license or
ICCs/IPs to participate in the development and utilization of the natural resources and thereby lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement. without prior certification from the
allows such participation for a period of not more than 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. Such certification shall
This may be done on condition that a formal written agreement be entered into by the non- only be issued after a field-based investigation is conducted by the Ancestral Domains Office of
member and members of the ICCs/IPs. the area concerned: Provided, That no certification shall be issued by the NCIP without the free
and prior informed and written consent of the ICCs/IPs concerned: Provided, further, That no
department, government agency or government-owned or -controlled corporation may issue new
Section 57 of the IPRA does not give the ICCs/IPs the right to "manage and conserve" the
concession, license, lease, or production sharing agreement while there is a pending application
natural resources. Instead, the law only grants the ICCs/IPs "priority rights" in the development
for a CADT: Provided, finally, That the ICCs/IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in
or exploitation thereof. Priority means giving preference. Having priority rights over the natural
accordance with this Act, any project that has not satisfied the requirement of this consultation
resources does not necessarily mean ownership rights. The grant of priority rights implies that
process."
there is a superior entity that owns these resources and this entity has the power to grant
preferential rights over the resources to whosoever itself chooses.
Concessions, licenses, lease or production-sharing agreements for the exploitation of natural
resources shall not be issued, renewed or granted by all departments and government agencies
Section 57 is not a repudiation of the Regalian doctrine. Rather, it is an affirmation of the said
without prior certification from the NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does not overlap
doctrine that all natural resources found within the ancestral domains belong to the State. It
with any ancestral domain. The NCIP certification shall be issued only after a field-based
incorporates by implication the Regalian doctrine, hence, requires that the provision be read in
investigation shall have been conducted and the free and prior informed written consent of the
the light of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. Interpreting Section 2, Article XII of
ICCs/IPs obtained. Non-compliance with the consultation requirement gives the ICCs/IPs the
the 1987 Constitution237 in relation to Section 57 of IPRA, the State, as owner of these
right to stop or suspend any project granted by any department or government agency.
natural resources, may directly undertake the development and exploitation of the natural
resources by itself, or in the alternative, it may recognize the priority rights of the
ICCs/IPs as owners of the land on which the natural resources are found by entering into As its subtitle suggests, this provision requires as a precondition for the issuance of any
a co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreement with them. The State may concession, license or agreement over natural resources, that a certification be issued by the
likewise enter into any of said agreements with a non-member of the ICCs/IPs, whether NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does not lie within any ancestral domain. The
natural or juridical, or enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving provision does not vest the NCIP with power over the other agencies of the State as to
either technical or financial assistance for the large-scale exploration, development and determine whether to grant or deny any concession or license or agreement. It merely gives the
utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, or allow such non-member to NCIP the authority to ensure that the ICCs/IPs have been informed of the agreement and that
participate in its agreement with the ICCs/IPs. If the State decides to enter into an agreement their consent thereto has been obtained. Note that the certification applies to agreements over
with a non-ICC/IP member, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) shall natural resources that do not necessarily lie within the ancestral domains. For those that are
ensure that the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the agreement shall be protected. The agreement found within the said domains, Sections 7(b) and 57 of the IPRA apply.
shall be for a period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.
V. THE IPRA IS A RECOGNITION OF OUR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE INDIGENOUS
To reiterate, in the large-scale utilization of natural resources within the ancestral domains, the INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT.
State, as owner of these resources, has four (4) options: (1) it may, of and by itself, directly
undertake the development and exploitation of the natural resources; or (2) it may recognize the
The indigenous movement can be seen as the heir to a history of anti-imperialism stretching
priority rights of the ICCs/IPs by entering into an agreement with them for such development and
back to prehistoric times. The movement received a massive impetus during the 1960's from two
exploitation; or (3) it may enter into an agreement with a non-member of the ICCs/IPs, whether
sources. First, the decolonization of Asia and Africa brought into the limelight the possibility of
natural or juridical, local or foreign; or (4) it may allow such non-member to participate in the
peoples controlling their own destinies. Second, the right of self-determination was enshrined in
agreement with the ICCs/IPs.
the UN Declaration on Human Rights.238 The rise of the civil rights movement and anti-racism
brought to the attention of North American Indians, Aborigines in Australia, and Maori in New
The rights granted by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their Zealand the possibility of fighting for fundamental rights and freedoms.
ancestral domains merely gives the ICCs/IPs, as owners and occupants of the land on
which the resources are found, the right to the small-scale utilization of these resources,
In 1974 and 1975, international indigenous organizations were founded,239 and during the
and at the same time, a priority in their large-scale development and exploitation. Section
1980's, indigenous affairs were on the international agenda. The people of the Philippine
57 does not mandate the State to automatically give priority to the ICCs/IPs. The State has
Cordillera were the first Asians to take part in the international indigenous movement. It was the
several options and it is within its discretion to choose which option to pursue. Moreover,
Cordillera People's Alliance that carried out successful campaigns against the building of the
there is nothing in the law that gives the ICCs/IPs the right to solely undertake the large-scale
Chico River Dam in 1981-82 and they have since become one of the best-organized indigenous
development of the natural resources within their domains. The ICCs/IPs must undertake such
bodies in the world.240
endeavour always under State supervision or control. This indicates that the State does not lose
control and ownership over the resources even in their exploitation. Sections 7 (b) and 57 of the
law simply give due respect to the ICCs/IPs who, as actual occupants of the land where the Presently, there is a growing concern for indigenous rights in the international scene. This came
natural resources lie, have traditionally utilized these resources for their subsistence and as a result of the increased publicity focused on the continuing disrespect for indigenous human
survival. rights and the destruction of the indigenous peoples' environment, together with the national
governments' inability to deal with the situation.241Indigenous rights came as a result of both
human rights and environmental protection, and have become a part of today's priorities for the
Neither is the State stripped of ownership and control of the natural resources by the following
international agenda.242
provision:
International institutions and bodies have realized the necessity of applying policies, programs
and specific rules concerning IPs in some nations. The World Bank, for example, first adopted a
policy on IPs as a result of the dismal experience of projects in Latin America. 243 The World
Bank now seeks to apply its current policy on IPs to some of its projects in Asia. This policy has
provided an influential model for the projects of the Asian Development Bank. 244

The 1987 Philippine Constitution formally recognizes the existence of ICCs/IPs and declares as
a State policy the promotion of their rights within the framework of national unity and
development.245 The IPRA amalgamates the Philippine category of ICCs with the international
category of IPs,246 and is heavily influenced by both the International Labor Organization (ILO)
Convention 169 and the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples.247

ILO Convention No. 169 is entitled the "Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
in Independent Countries"248 and was adopted on June 27, 1989. It is based on the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and many other international
instruments on the prevention of discrimination.249 ILO Convention No. 169 revised the
"Convention Concerning the Protection and Integration of Indigenous and Other Tribal and
Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries" (ILO No. 107) passed on June 26, 1957.
Developments in international law made it appropriate to adopt new international standards on
indigenous peoples "with a view to removing the assimilationist orientation of the earlier
standards," and recognizing the aspirations of these peoples to exercise control over their own
institutions, ways of life and economic development."250

CONCLUSION

The struggle of the Filipinos throughout colonial history had been plagued by ethnic and religious
differences. These differences were carried over and magnified by the Philippine government
through the imposition of a national legal order that is mostly foreign in origin or
derivation.251 Largely unpopulist, the present legal system has resulted in the alienation of a
large sector of society, specifically, the indigenous peoples. The histories and cultures of the
indigenes are relevant to the evolution of Philippine culture and are vital to the understanding of
contemporary problems.252 It is through the IPRA that an attempt was made by our legislators to
understand Filipino society not in terms of myths and biases but through common experiences in
the course of history. The Philippines became a democracy a centennial ago and the
decolonization process still continues. If the evolution of the Filipino people into a democratic
society is to truly proceed democratically, i.e., if the Filipinos as a whole are to participate fully in
the task of continuing democratization,253 it is this Court's duty to acknowledge the presence of
indigenous and customary laws in the country and affirm their co-existence with the land laws in
our national legal system.

With the foregoing disquisitions, I vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Indigenous Peoples
Rights Act of 1997.
G.R. No. 164584 June 22, 2009 There being no amicable settlement during the pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued.

PHILIP MATTHEWS, Petitioner, On June 30, 1997, the RTC disposed of the case in this manner:
vs.
BENJAMIN A. TAYLOR and JOSELYN C. TAYLOR, Respondents.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and
against the defendants as follows:
DECISION
1. The Agreement of Lease dated July 20, 1992 consisting of eight (8) pages (Exhibits
NACHURA, J.: "T", "T-1", "T-2", "T-3", "T-4", "T-5", "T-6" and "T-7") entered into by and between
Joselyn C. Taylor and Philip Matthews before Notary Public Lenito T. Serrano under
Doc. No. 390, Page 79, Book I, Series of 1992 is hereby declared NULL and VOID;
Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari are the Court of Appeals (CA) December 19,
2003 Decision1 and July 14, 2004 Resolution2 in CA-G.R. CV No. 59573. The assailed decision
affirmed and upheld the June 30, 1997 Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 8, 2. Defendants are hereby ordered, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiff the sum of
Kalibo, Aklan in Civil Case No. 4632 for Declaration of Nullity of Agreement of Lease with SIXTEEN THOUSAND (₱16,000.00) PESOS as damages representing unrealized
Damages. income for the residential building and cottages computed monthly from July 1992 up
to the time the property in question is restored to plaintiff; and
On June 30, 1988, respondent Benjamin A. Taylor (Benjamin), a British subject, married Joselyn
C. Taylor (Joselyn), a 17-year old Filipina.4 On June 9, 1989, while their marriage was 3. Defendants are hereby ordered, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiff the sum of
subsisting, Joselyn bought from Diosa M. Martin a 1,294 square-meter lot (Boracay property) TWENTY THOUSAND (₱20,000.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency, for attorney’s fees
situated at Manoc-Manoc, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan, for and in consideration of and other incidental expenses.
₱129,000.00.5 The sale was allegedly financed by Benjamin.6 Joselyn and Benjamin, also using
the latter’s funds, constructed improvements thereon and eventually converted the property to a
SO ORDERED.15
vacation and tourist resort known as the Admiral Ben Bow Inn. 7 All required permits and licenses
for the operation of the resort were obtained in the name of Ginna Celestino, Joselyn’s sister. 8
The RTC considered the Boracay property as community property of Benjamin and Joselyn;
thus, the consent of the spouses was necessary to validate any contract involving the property.
However, Benjamin and Joselyn had a falling out, and Joselyn ran away with Kim Philippsen. On
Benjamin’s right over the Boracay property was bolstered by the court’s findings that the
June 8, 1992, Joselyn executed a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) in favor of Benjamin,
property was purchased and improved through funds provided by Benjamin. Although the
authorizing the latter to maintain, sell, lease, and sub-lease and otherwise enter into contract
Agreement was evidenced by a public document, the trial court refused to consider the alleged
with third parties with respect to their Boracay property.9
participation of Benjamin in the questioned transaction primarily because his signature appeared
only on the last page of the document and not on every page thereof.
On July 20, 1992, Joselyn as lessor and petitioner Philip Matthews as lessee, entered into an
Agreement of Lease10(Agreement) involving the Boracay property for a period of 25 years, with
On appeal to the CA, petitioner still failed to obtain a favorable decision. In its December 19,
an annual rental of ₱12,000.00. The agreement was signed by the parties and executed before
2003 Decision,16 the CA affirmed the conclusions made by the RTC. The appellate court was of
a Notary Public. Petitioner thereafter took possession of the property and renamed the resort as
the view that if, indeed, Benjamin was a willing participant in the questioned transaction, the
Music Garden Resort.1avvphi1
parties to the Agreement should have used the phrase "with my consent" instead of "signed in
the presence of." The CA noted that Joselyn already prepared an SPA in favor of Benjamin
Claiming that the Agreement was null and void since it was entered into by Joselyn without his involving the Boracay property; it was therefore unnecessary for Joselyn to participate in the
(Benjamin’s) consent, Benjamin instituted an action for Declaration of Nullity of Agreement of execution of the Agreement. Taken together, these circumstances yielded the inevitable
Lease with Damages11 against Joselyn and the petitioner. Benjamin claimed that his funds were conclusion that the contract was null and void having been entered into by Joselyn without the
used in the acquisition and improvement of the Boracay property, and coupled with the fact that consent of Benjamin.
he was Joselyn’s husband, any transaction involving said property required his consent.
Aggrieved, petitioner now comes before this Court in this petition for review on certiorari based
No Answer was filed, hence, the RTC declared Joselyn and the petitioner in defeault. On March on the following grounds:
14, 1994, the RTC rendered judgment by default declaring the Agreement null and void. 12 The
decision was, however, set aside by the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 34054.13 The CA also ordered
4.1. THE MARITAL CONSENT OF RESPONDENT BENJAMIN TAYLOR IS NOT
the RTC to allow the petitioner to file his Answer, and to conduct further proceedings.
REQUIRED IN THE AGREEMENT OF LEASE DATED 20 JULY 1992. GRANTING
ARGUENDO THAT HIS CONSENT IS REQUIRED, BENJAMIN TAYLOR IS DEEMED
In his Answer,14 petitioner claimed good faith in transacting with Joselyn. Since Joselyn TO HAVE GIVEN HIS CONSENT WHEN HE AFFIXED HIS SIGNATURE IN THE
appeared to be the owner of the Boracay property, he found it unnecessary to obtain the AGREEMENT OF LEASE AS WITNESS IN THE LIGHT OF THE RULING OF THE
consent of Benjamin. Moreover, as appearing in the Agreement, Benjamin signed as a witness SUPREME COURT IN THE CASE OF SPOUSES PELAYO VS. MELKI PEREZ, G.R.
to the contract, indicating his knowledge of the transaction and, impliedly, his conformity to the NO. 141323, JUNE 8, 2005.
agreement entered into by his wife. Benjamin was, therefore, estopped from questioning the
validity of the Agreement.
4.2. THE PARCEL OF LAND SUBJECT OF THE AGREEMENT OF LEASE IS THE In Krivenko v. Register of Deeds,22 cited in Muller v. Muller,23 we had the occasion to explain the
EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY OF JOCELYN C. TAYLOR, A FILIPINO CITIZEN, IN THE constitutional prohibition:
LIGHT OF CHEESMAN VS. IAC, G.R. NO. 74833, JANUARY 21, 1991.
Under Section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution, "natural resources, with the exception of public
4.3. THE COURTS A QUO ERRONEOUSLY APPLIED ARTICLE 96 OF THE FAMILY agricultural land, shall not be alienated," and with respect to public agricultural lands, their
CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES WHICH IS A PROVISION REFERRING TO THE alienation is limited to Filipino citizens. But this constitutional purpose conserving agricultural
ABSOLUTE COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY. THE PROPERTY REGIME GOVERNING resources in the hands of Filipino citizens may easily be defeated by the Filipino citizens
THE PROPERTY RELATIONS OF BENJAMIN TAYLOR AND JOSELYN TAYLOR IS themselves who may alienate their agricultural lands in favor of aliens. It is partly to prevent this
THE CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP OF GAINS BECAUSE THEY WERE MARRIED ON result that Section 5 is included in Article XIII, and it reads as follows:
30 JUNE 1988 WHICH IS PRIOR TO THE EFFECTIVITY OF THE FAMILY CODE.
ARTICLE 96 OF THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES FINDS NO
"Section 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land will be
APPLICATION IN THIS CASE.
transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or
hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines."
4.4. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS IGNORED THE PRESUMPTION OF
REGULARITY IN THE EXECUTION OF NOTARIAL DOCUMENTS.
This constitutional provision closes the only remaining avenue through which agricultural
resources may leak into alien’s hands. It would certainly be futile to prohibit the alienation of
4.5. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS FAILED TO PASS UPON THE public agricultural lands to aliens if, after all, they may be freely so alienated upon their
COUNTERCLAIM OF PETITIONER DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT WAS NOT becoming private agricultural lands in the hands of Filipino citizens. x x x
CONTESTED AND DESPITE THE PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE ESTABLISHING
SAID CLAIM.17
xxxx

The petition is impressed with merit.


If the term "private agricultural lands" is to be construed as not including residential lots or lands
not strictly agricultural, the result would be that "aliens may freely acquire and possess not only
In fine, we are called upon to determine the validity of an Agreement of Lease of a parcel of land residential lots and houses for themselves but entire subdivisions, and whole towns and cities,"
entered into by a Filipino wife without the consent of her British husband. In addressing the and that "they may validly buy and hold in their names lands of any area for building homes,
matter before us, we are confronted not only with civil law or conflicts of law issues, but more factories, industrial plants, fisheries, hatcheries, schools, health and vacation resorts, markets,
importantly, with a constitutional question. golf courses, playgrounds, airfields, and a host of other uses and purposes that are not, in
appellant’s words, strictly agricultural." (Solicitor General’s Brief, p. 6) That this is obnoxious to
the conservative spirit of the Constitution is beyond question.24
It is undisputed that Joselyn acquired the Boracay property in 1989. Said acquisition was
evidenced by a Deed of Sale with Joselyn as the vendee. The property was also declared for
taxation purposes under her name. When Joselyn leased the property to petitioner, Benjamin The rule is clear and inflexible: aliens are absolutely not allowed to acquire public or private
sought the nullification of the contract on two grounds: first, that he was the actual owner of the lands in the Philippines, save only in constitutionally recognized exceptions.25 There is no rule
property since he provided the funds used in purchasing the same; and second, that Joselyn more settled than this constitutional prohibition, as more and more aliens attempt to circumvent
could not enter into a valid contract involving the subject property without his consent. the provision by trying to own lands through another. In a long line of cases, we have settled
issues that directly or indirectly involve the above constitutional provision. We had cases where
aliens wanted that a particular property be declared as part of their father’s estate;26 that they be
The trial and appellate courts both focused on the property relations of petitioner and respondent
reimbursed the funds used in purchasing a property titled in the name of another; 27 that an
in light of the Civil Code and Family Code provisions. They, however, failed to observe the
implied trust be declared in their (aliens’) favor;28 and that a contract of sale be nullified for their
applicable constitutional principles, which, in fact, are the more decisive.
lack of consent.29

Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution states:18


In Ting Ho, Jr. v. Teng Gui,30 Felix Ting Ho, a Chinese citizen, acquired a parcel of land,
together with the improvements thereon. Upon his death, his heirs (the petitioners therein)
Section 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or claimed the properties as part of the estate of their deceased father, and sought the partition of
conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of said properties among themselves. We, however, excluded the land and improvements thereon
the public domain.1avvphi1 from the estate of Felix Ting Ho, precisely because he never became the owner thereof in light
of the above-mentioned constitutional prohibition.
Aliens, whether individuals or corporations, have been disqualified from acquiring lands of the
public domain. Hence, by virtue of the aforecited constitutional provision, they are also In Muller v. Muller,31 petitioner Elena Buenaventura Muller and respondent Helmut Muller were
disqualified from acquiring private lands.19The primary purpose of this constitutional provision is married in Germany. During the subsistence of their marriage, respondent purchased a parcel of
the conservation of the national patrimony.20 Our fundamental law cannot be any clearer. The land in Antipolo City and constructed a house thereon. The Antipolo property was registered in
right to acquire lands of the public domain is reserved only to Filipino citizens or corporations at the name of the petitioner. They eventually separated, prompting the respondent to file a petition
least sixty percent of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos. 21 for separation of property. Specifically, respondent prayed for reimbursement of the funds he
paid for the acquisition of said property. In deciding the case in favor of the petitioner, the Court
held that respondent was aware that as an alien, he was prohibited from owning a parcel of land
situated in the Philippines. He had, in fact, declared that when the spouses acquired the Antipolo
property, he had it titled in the name of the petitioner because of said prohibition. Hence, we
denied his attempt at subsequently asserting a right to the said property in the form of a claim for
reimbursement. Neither did the Court declare that an implied trust was created by operation of
law in view of petitioner’s marriage to respondent. We said that to rule otherwise would permit
circumvention of the constitutional prohibition.

In Frenzel v. Catito,32 petitioner, an Australian citizen, was married to Teresita Santos; while
respondent, a Filipina, was married to Klaus Muller. Petitioner and respondent met and later
cohabited in a common-law relationship, during which petitioner acquired real properties; and
since he was disqualified from owning lands in the Philippines, respondent’s name appeared as
the vendee in the deeds of sale. When their relationship turned sour, petitioner filed an action for
the recovery of the real properties registered in the name of respondent, claiming that he was
the real owner. Again, as in the other cases, the Court refused to declare petitioner as the owner
mainly because of the constitutional prohibition. The Court added that being a party to an illegal
contract, he could not come to court and ask to have his illegal objective carried out. One who
loses his money or property by knowingly engaging in an illegal contract may not maintain an
action for his losses.

Finally, in Cheesman v. Intermediate Appellate Court,33 petitioner (an American citizen) and
Criselda Cheesman acquired a parcel of land that was later registered in the latter’s name.
Criselda subsequently sold the land to a third person without the knowledge of the petitioner.
The petitioner then sought the nullification of the sale as he did not give his consent thereto. The
Court held that assuming that it was his (petitioner’s) intention that the lot in question be
purchased by him and his wife, he acquired no right whatever over the property by virtue of that
purchase; and in attempting to acquire a right or interest in land, vicariously and clandestinely,
he knowingly violated the Constitution; thus, the sale as to him was null and void.

In light of the foregoing jurisprudence, we find and so hold that Benjamin has no right to nullify
the Agreement of Lease between Joselyn and petitioner. Benjamin, being an alien, is absolutely
prohibited from acquiring private and public lands in the Philippines. Considering that Joselyn
appeared to be the designated "vendee" in the Deed of Sale of said property, she acquired sole
ownership thereto. This is true even if we sustain Benjamin’s claim that he provided the funds for
such acquisition. By entering into such contract knowing that it was illegal, no implied trust was
created in his favor; no reimbursement for his expenses can be allowed; and no declaration can
be made that the subject property was part of the conjugal/community property of the spouses.
In any event, he had and has no capacity or personality to question the subsequent lease of the
Boracay property by his wife on the theory that in so doing, he was merely exercising the
prerogative of a husband in respect of conjugal property. To sustain such a theory would
countenance indirect controversion of the constitutional prohibition. If the property were to be
declared conjugal, this would accord the alien husband a substantial interest and right over the
land, as he would then have a decisive vote as to its transfer or disposition. This is a right that
the Constitution does not permit him to have.34

In fine, the Agreement of Lease entered into between Joselyn and petitioner cannot be nullified
on the grounds advanced by Benjamin. Thus, we uphold its validity.

With the foregoing disquisition, we find it unnecessary to address the other issues raised by the
petitioner.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the December 19, 2003 Decision and July 14, 2004
Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 59573, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE
and a new one is entered DISMISSING the complaint against petitioner Philip Matthews.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-45828 June 1, 1992 claimed that he first took possession of these two (2) parcels of land in the year 1931 while he
was still twenty (20) years old. He cleared the land and planted different kinds of fruit-bearing
trees such as mango, star apple and bananas, as well as seasonal crops thereon. He likewise
DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,
converted 5,000 sq. meters thereof into a ricefield which was enlarged to one hectare. 9 These
vs.
parcels of land were declared for taxation purposes only in 1966. 10 Meanwhile, in the year
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, SILVESTRE MANLAPAZ and NATIVIDAD
1938, he sold the parcel containing an area of about five (5) hectares to Pablito Punay, who
PIZARRO, respondents.
immediately took possession of the same, cultivated it and introduced several improvements
thereon. 11 In September 1972, after he had already cleared the whole tract of the second
ROMERO, J.: parcel of land, he sold the same to private respondents. 12 Pablito Punay also sold the first
parcel of land he acquired from Crisanto to them. 13 Angeles further stated that he knew all the
owners of the adjoining parcels of land but, on cross-examination, was unable to remember their
This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking the reversal of the Decision 1 rendered by names. 14 Witness Monico Balila testified that he is the owner of the parcel of land adjoining
respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 56788-B, dated March 7, 1977, affirming the private respondent's property. He had seen Angeles clear the same and plant different fruit
Decision 2 of the then Court of First Instance of Bataan, dated April 6, 1974, in Land Registration
trees. On cross-examination, he said that he was twelve (12) years old when he first lived at
Case No. N-235, adjudicating in favor of herein private respondents the subject two (2) parcels Bilolo, Orion, Bataan in 1938. His land holding was five kilometers away from private
of land. respondents' land and it was his uncle who was then in possession of the land he presently
owns. 15
The undisputed facts of the case are as follows:
Private respondent Silvestre Manlapaz also testified that upon their acquisition of the two (2)
On January 29, 1973, spouses Silvestre Manlapaz and Natividad Pizarro (herein private parcels of land designated as Lots 2855 and 2856, they immediately took possession of the
respondents) filed an application before the Court of First Instance of Bataan, seeking the same, planted coconuts, camotes and other vegetables and expanded the portion planted to
registration and confirmation of titles to two (2) parcels of land, under Act 496 in relation to Sec. palay. Some portions were converted into two (2) residential lots, one with an area of 276 sq.
48 (B) of C.A. No. 141, designated as Lot No. 2855 and Lot No. 2856. The parcels of land meters and the other, 105 sq. meters. They then declared those properties in their names and
applied for are portions of Lot 2749 of Orion Cadastre covered by plans Sgs-4600-D and Sgs- paid the corresponding land taxes. 16
4601-D, situated at Barrio Damulog, Municipality of Orion, Province of Bataan, containing an
area of 49,954 sq. meters and 54,052 sq. meters, respectively.3
The Director of Lands, on the other hand, did not present any evidence to support his opposition.

Prior to the initial hearing of the case, the trial court in its Order dated April 5, 1973, directed the On April 6, 1974, the lower court rendered its decision, the dispositive part of which reads as
Land Registration Commissioner to submit his report on whether or not the parcels of land in
follows:
question had been issued patents or whether the same are subject of pending decrees. 4 In
compliance with this directive, Acting Geodetic Engineer (Chief Surveyor) Amado Masicampo,
on behalf of the Commissioner of Land Registration, filed a manifestation dated April 26, 1973 WHEREFORE, the title to two parcels of land Identified and shown in plans
stating that the subject parcels of land described on Plans Sgs-4600-D and Sgs-4601-D are Sgs-4600-D and 4601-D, situated at Barrio Damulog, Municipality of Orion,
portions of Lot 2749, Cad. 241, Orion Cadastre and that the same have been the subject of Province of Bataan, containing an area of 49,954 square meters and 54,052
registration proceedings in Court Cadastral Case No. 15, LRC (GLRO) Cadastral Record No. square meters, respectively, is ordered confirmed in the name of the
1021 wherein a decision has been rendered although there is no existing record of the same on spouses Silvestre Manlapaz and Natividad Pizarro, both of legal age,
file because it was among those records lost or destroyed due to the ravages of the last global Filipino citizens and residents of Pilar, Bataan.
war. The record also disclosed that Plans Sgs-4600-D and Sgs-4601-D, when plotted in the
Municipal Index Map through their respective lines conflict with Lot 1, Sgs-2806 which has been
After this decision shall have become final, let an order issue for a decree of
issued Sales Patent No. 5819. 5
registration in favor of the applicants.

The Director of Lands seasonably filed an opposition on the ground that neither the applicants
SO ORDERED. 17
nor their predecessor-in-interest possess sufficient title to acquire ownership in fee simple of the
parcels of land applied for; that they have not been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of the land in question for at least thirthy (30) years immediately From said judgment, the Director of Lands interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals which
preceding the filing of the present application; and that these parcels of land are portions of the promulgated its decision 18 on May 7, 1977, affirming the decision of the lower court. It found
public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines, and therefore, not subject to that the defense of res judicata was belatedly raised on appeal. The omission to include the
appropriation. 6 same in the answer as one of the affirmative defenses constitutes a waiver of said defense. The
manifestation of Mr. Masicampo stating that the two (2) parcels of land have been the subject of
registration proceedings was not enough to support res judicata. It concluded that the 30-year
At the hearing on August 21, 1973, the Court issued an order of special default with the
period of continuous possession of private respondents' predecessors-in-interest has been
exception of the Director of Lands. 7 As prayed for by private respondents' counsel, the parties
satisfactorily proved, the Director of Lands not having presented any evidence to contradict,
were allowed to present evidence before the Clerk of Court who was commissioned to receive
impugn or impeach the facts established by private respondents.
the same and to submit his findings after the termination of the reception of evidence. 8

Hence, this petition which assigns the following errors:


In order to establish thirty (30) years of open and continuous possession over the subject
property, private respondents presented Crisanto Angeles and Monico Balila, Crisanto Angeles
I We disagree. The above-cited case likewise settled this contention. It said:

Respondent Court erred in ruling that petitioner failed to raise the defense But granting for a moment, that the defenses of res adjudicata was properly
of res judicata in the trial court and, hence, waived the same. raised by petitioner herein, WE still hold that, factually, there is no prior final
judgment all to speak of. The decision in Cadastral Case No. 41 does not
constitute a bar to the application of respondent Manuela Pastor; because a
II
decision in a cadastral proceeding declaring a lot public land is not the final
decree contemplated in Section 38 and 40 of the Land Registration Act.
Respondent Court erred in ruling that petitioner failed to prove res
judicata by competent evidence.
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
III title to the same land, provided he thereafter complies with the provisions. of
Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, and as long as
said public land remains alienable and disposable (now section 3 and 4, PD
Respondent Court erred in ruling that after the cadastral proceedings and No. 1073,) 21 (Emphasis supplied)
the declaration of the subject parcels of land as public land therein, the
same may be the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title or claim
based on adverse and continuous possession of at least thirty (30) As a rule, the Court respects the factual findings of the Court of Appeals, imparting to them a
years, citing the case of Mindanao v. Director of Lands, et al., G.R. No. L- certain measure of finality. However, the rule is not without clearly defined exceptions, among
19535, July 10, 1967. 19 which are: ". . . (2) the inference made is manifestly mistaken; . . . (4) the judgment is based on
misapprehension of facts; . . . and (9) when the finding of fact of the Court of Appeals is
premised on the absence of evidence and is contradicted by evidence on record." 22
The Court of Appeals committed no error in disregarding res judicata. In the case of Director of
Lands v. Court of Appeals, 20 this Court had addressed a similar contention in this manner:
It must be emphasized that the burden is on applicant to prove his positive averments and not
for the government or the private oppositors to establish a negative proposition insofar as the
WE find no legal basis to uphold the foregoing contentions of Petitioner. It is applicants' specific lots are concerned. 23 Applying this rule to the instant case, the conclusions
clear from the evidence on record that in the proceedings had before the
reached by the court a quo and respondent Court of Appeals that the private respondents
Court of First Instance of Batangas, acting as a land registration court, the through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
oppositor Director of Lands. petitioner herein, did not interpose any possession of the subject land under a bonafide claim of ownership are not persuasive for the
objection nor set up the defense of res judicata with respect to the lots in
following reasons.
question. Such failure on the part of oppositor Director of Lands. to OUR
mind, is a procedural infirmity which cannot be cured on appeal. Section 2,
Rule 9, Revised Rules of Court of 1964, in no uncertain language, provides First, the testimony of Crisanto Angeles as to his possession and ownership of the two (2)
that: parcels of land fails to inspire belief. He claimed that he was in possession of the land way back
in 1930. Yet he declared the same for taxation purposes only in 1966. Although tax receipts are
not incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute at least proof that the holder had a
SEC. 2. Defenses and obligations not pleaded deemed claim of title over the property. 24 He stated that he knew the owners of the adjoining properties,
waived. — Defenses and objections not pleaded either but during the cross-examination, he was unable to give their names. Nor was he able to explain
in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed
how he came into possession of the parcel of land and there is no showing of any title, perfect or
waived; . . . imperfect, granted by the state to him or his predecessors.

All defenses therefore not interposed in a motion to dismiss or in an answer


Second, the attempt of Monico Balila to corroborate Angeles' length of possession over the
are deemed waived. (Santiago, et al. v. Ramirez, et al.; L-15237, May 31, subject property is less than credible. Having been an adjoining owner only in 1953 by his own
1963, 8 SCRA 157, 162; Torrada v. Bonearos, L-39832, January 30, 1976, admission, he could not have known how long Crisanto Angeles owned and possessed the
69 SCRA 247, 253).
parcels of land.

Thus, the defense of res adjudicata when not set up either in a motion to Third, Pablito Punay, the second predecessor-in-interest of Lot No. 2855 of the private
dismiss or in answer, is deemed waived. It cannot be pleaded for the first
respondents was not made to testify. No reason was disclosed for his failure to appear before
time at the trial or on appeal. (Phil. Coal Miners' Union v. CEPOC, et al., L- the court.
19007, April 30, 1964, 10 SCRA 784, 789). (Emphasis supplied)

Lastly, the documents introduced by the applicants merely evidenced the fact that the parcels of
Furthermore, petitioner advanced the view that it is the intendment of the law that a person who land applied for were alienable and disposable lands of the public domain,25 but no document
fails to prove his title to a parcel of land which is the object of cadastral proceedings or one who has been presented that would clearly establish the length of time of the possession of their
does not file his claim therein is forever barred from doing so in a subsequent proceeding.
predecessors-in-interest. That the private respondents have paid the corresponding taxes since
Judgment in a cadastral proceeding which is a proceeding in rem constitutes res judicata even 1972 26 when they possessed the same is of no moment because what is vital to consider is
against a person who did not take part in the proceedings as claimant. their predecessors-in-interest's compliance with the 30-year period.
Undoubtedly, the private respondents have failed to submit convincing proof of their
predecessors-in-interest's actual, peaceful and adverse possession in the concept of owner of
the lots in question during the period required, by law. This is of utmost significance in view of
the basic presumption that lands of whatever classification belong to the State and evidence of a
land grant must be "well-nigh incontrovertible." 27

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the May 7, 1977 decision of the Court of Appeals is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and judgment is rendered DISMISSING the application for
registration and confirmation of titles of Lots No. 2855 and 2656. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 83290 September 21, 1990 party defendants all the other transferees of the land and, thereafter, filed its amended
complaint. Petitioner again moved for a preliminary hearing on its affirmative defense of res
judicata in an effort to shorten the proceedings.
STA. MONICA INDUSTRIAL AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner,
vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. The Court of Appeals, holding that res judicata cannot be invoked as a bar to an action for
annulment of judgment on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, denied the motion. Petitioner's
motion for reconsideration was also denied, hence this petition.
Ocampo, Dizon & Domingo for petitioner.

After the comment and reply were filed, the Court gave due course to the petition and, as
CORTES, J.:
required, the parties filed their respective memoranda.

This case arose from proceedings to annul a 1912 decision of the land registration court.
On April 2, 1990, the Court set the case for hearing on May 7, 1990 because, as stated in the
resolution:
In 1912, the Tribuna del Registro de la Propiedad (Court of Land Registration) of Zambales,
through Judge James Ostrand, in Land Registration Case (LRC) No. 6431, confirmed the title of
...after deliberating extensively on it, the Court finds the need to hear the
Justo de Perio over two (2) parcels of land in Zambales. On August 28, 1912, Decree No. 9328
oral arguments of the parties on issues which are considered determinative
was issued by the court ordering the registration of the two (2) parcels of land in the name of De
of the case, including the following:
Perio. On December 6, 1912, Original Certificate of Title No. 48 of the Registry of Deeds of
Zambales was issued to De Perio. Parcel No. 1 consists of an area of eleven thousand six
hundred ninety-seven square meters (11,697 sq.m.) while Parcel No. 2 consists of three 1. the nature and classification, under the pertinent laws traced back to the
hundred forty thousand eight hundred twenty square meters (340,820 sq.m.). In 1936, a portion turn of the century, of the two parcels of land decreed and originally titled in
consisting of ten thousand four hundred square meters (10,400 sq.m.) of Parcel No. 2 was sold 1912 to De Perio; and
to the Province of Zambales. The sale was annotated at the back of OCT No. 48. In 1954, OCT
No. 48 was cancelled and TCT No. T-1369 was issued to Mercedes de Valencia pursuant to an
2. the legal considerations that compelled the Government to seek the
extrajudicial settlement of De Perio's estate. In 1962, De Valencia sold Parcel No. 1 to Ricardo
annulment of the decree of the Court of Land Registration issued in favor of
Baloy. Baloy was issued TCT No. T-7696 in 1966. In 1967, De Valencia subdivided Parcel No. 2
De Perio, his title, and the titles of his successors-in-interest.
into five (5) lots (Lots 2-A to 2-E). TCT No. T-1369 was cancelled and TCT Nos. 11865, 11866,
11867, and 11869 were issued to De Valencia. TCT No. 11 868, corresponding to the portion
previously sold to the Province of Zambales, was issued to the Republic of the Philippines. In The parties were heard in oral argument and thereafter they were required to submit their
1970, De Valencia sold the lots covered by TCT Nos. 11865 and 11866 to petitioner Sta. Monica memoranda in amplification of their arguments.
Industrial and Development Corporation. TCT Nos. 11865 and 11866 were cancelled and TCT
Nos. T-12054 and T-12055 were issued to petitioner. Petitioner consolidated the two (2) parcels
of land and subdivided them into five hundred thirty-six (536) residential lots which it sold to The question presented before the Court is whether or not respondent CA committed reversible
individual buyers. error of law in denying petitioner's motion for preliminary hearing on its affirmative defense of res
judicata.

In 1985, respondent Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, filed with the
Court of Appeals a complaint for the annulment of the decree in LRC No. 6431, OCT No. 48 As iterated in a long line of cases, the following requisites must concur for a prior judgment to
(issued to De Perio), TCT No. T-1369 (issued to De Valencia) and TCT No. T-7696 (issued to constitute a bar to a subsequent case: (1) the judgment must be final; (2) the judgment must
Baloy). Respondent alleged that the decree in LRC No. 6431 was null and void for lack of have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the
jurisdiction because the land was inside the U.S. naval reservation and that it was still within the judgment must be on the merits; and (4) there must be between the first and second actions,
Identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action [San Diego v. Cardona, 70 Phil. 281
forest zone in 1912, having been released therefrom only in 1961, and hence cannot be the
subject of disposition or alienation as private property. Named defendants were De Valencia and (1940); Ipekdjian Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, G.R. No. L-15430,
her husband, Baloy and his wife and the Register of Deeds of Zambales. The case was September 30, 1963, 9 SCRA 72; Yusingco v. Ong Hing Lian, G. R. No. L-26523, December 24,
1971, 42 SCRA 589; Aroc v. People's Homesite and Housing Corporation, G.R. No. L-39674,
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 06259.
January 31, 1978, 81 SCRA 350; Republic v. Alagad, G.R. No. 66807, January 26, 1989, 169
SCRA 455; Vencilao v. Vano G.R. No.
The Baloy spouses filed their answer to the complaint. L-25660, February 23, 1990].

With leave of court, petitioner intervened and filed an answer-in-intervention. Later, petitioner In contending that the judgment in LRC No. 6431 should be annulled because the land
filed its first motion for preliminary hearing on the affirmative defense of res judicata, which the registration court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case, the respondent
Court of Appeals denied. Petitioner did not seek reconsideration thereof. Republic puts in issue the presence of the second requisite. Therefore, the ultimate issue before
the Court is whether or not the land registration court had jurisdiction over the two (2) parcels of
land claimed by De Perio, the predecessor-in-interest of the petitioner herein.
Trial on the merits ensued. The Republic offered its evidence, consisting of a land classification
map prepared by the Director of Forestry in 1961 to prove that the land became alienable and
disposable only in 1961, and rested its case. Petitioner then proceeded to present its evidence.
This was, however, cut short when the Republic moved to amend its complaint to include as
Necessarily, the resolution of this issue requires an inquiry into the nature of the subject parcels Weighing the arguments raised by the parties, we find that the Republic has failed to make out a
of land in light of the laws prevailing at the time the judgment in the land registration case was convincing case for the annulment of the decree in Land Registration Case No. 6431. It has
rendered. been established that the land registration court had jurisdiction over the two (2) parcels of land,
and that OCT No. 48 and the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) derived from OCT No. 48 are
valid.
Petitioner's primary argument, as summarized in its memorandum, was as follows:

Act No. 926, known as the Public Land Act, which was enacted into law on October 7, 1903 but
17. It must, therefore, be presumed that in LRC Case No. 6431, the court
which took effect on July 26, 1904, was the law applicable to De Perio's petition for confirmation
found from the evidence adduced by the parties that (1) the two parcels of
of his title to the two (2) parcels of land. It provided:
land in question were agricultural lands as the phrase is used in Act No.
926, (2) Justo de Perio had been in the open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession thereof for at least 10 years, before July 26, 1912, and SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal successors in right,
(3) his possession of the said parcels of land was in the concept of owner; occupying public lands in the Philippine Islands, or claiming to own any such
and thus the court confirmed Justo de Perio's title thereto and ordered their lands or an interest therein, but whose titles to such lands have not been
registration in his name. If the Attorney General, the Director of Forestry, the perfected, may apply to the Court of Land Registration of the Philippine
Director of Lands and the Director of Public Works opposed the application, Islands for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of
then it must be presumed that the court declared the said two parcels of title therefor to wit:
land to be agricultural lands over their opposition. If they did not oppose,
then it must be presumed that they agreed with the court that the said lands
xxx xxx xxx
were really agricultural lands. It must be pointed out that the question as to
whether the two parcels of land in question are agricultural lands and not
timber lands is a question of fact and the finding of Judge Ostrand that they 6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have
are agricultural can not be reviewed by this Honorable Court at this point in been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
time [Petitioner's Memorandum, pp. 8-9; Rollo, pp. 211-212]. occupation of agricultural public lands, as defined by said act of Congress of
July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide claim of ownership
except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next preceding
Additionally, petitioner argued that the boundaries of the two parcels of land, as described in
the taking effect of this Act, except when prevented by war or force
Decree No. 9328, debunk the contention that they are forest lands. The parcels of land were
majeure shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
bounded by privately owned property. Moreover, they were described in the notice published in
conditions essential to a government grant and to have received the same,
the March 1912 issue of the Official Gazette, pp. 766-767 as "lying within the Civil Reservation,
and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to such land under the provisions
town site of Olongapo, situated in the municipality of Olongapo, Province of Zambales, P. I."
of this chapter.
[Annex "A" of Petitioner's Memorandum; Rollo, pp. 222-223].

xxx xxx xxx


On the other hand, the public respondent, through the Office of the Solicitor General, contended:

In other words, a person who had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious session
Records disclose that by virtue of Proclamation dated November 11, 1908,
and occupation of public agricultural land for a period of at least ten (10) years prior to July 24,
then Governor-General James F. Smith reserved for naval purposes certain
1904 could petition for the confirmation of his title over the land he had so possessed and
lands of the public domain in Subic, Zambales which included the parcels of
occupied.
land embraced under Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 48 secured by
De Perio in 1912. It was only in 1961 that such Proclamation was revoked
by a subsequent issuance, Proclamation No. 731, issued by then President The land registration court confirmed De Perio's title to the two (2) parcels of land after due
Garcia on February 2, 1961 and such portions already classified as notice and hearing. From this, the following conclusions may be derived:
alienable and disposable and not needed for government purposes were
declared open for disposition under R.A. No. 274, in relation to C.A. 141 and
1. that the two (2) parcels of land are agricultural as defined by law, i.e., that they are neither
Act No. 3038. This means that the lands, subject matter of the case, were
portions of the U.S. naval reservation and were declared open for timber land nor mineral land [Mapa v. Insular Government, 10 Phil. 175 (1908)];
disposition only on February 2, 1961 [Public Respondent's Memorandum, p.
3; Rollo, p. 230]. 2. that De Perio had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the two (2) parcels of land for at least ten (10) years prior to 1904;
Public respondent then reiterated that "[a]t the time Original Certificate of Title No. 48 was
issued on December 9, 1912, the parcel of land covered by the title was still within the forest 3. that his possession and occupancy was under a bona fide claim of ownership; and
zone and it was not until January 31, 1961 that said land was released by the Bureau of Forest
Development as alienable and disposable under Land Classification Map No. 2427" [Ibid].
4. that under the law De Perio had title to the land as of 1904, although it was confirmed only
later in 1912.
It also added that "Land Classification Map No. 665 dated June 7, 1927 ... shows that the
parcels of land covered by OCT No. 48 were still part of the unclassified public forest at the time
of the registration" [Public Respondent's Memorandum, p. 4; Rollo, p. 231]. These conclusions serve as premises to arrive at other conclusions determinative of the case.
If the land is agricultural as defined by law, and as confirmed by Judge Ostrand, it could not
have been forest land as claimed by public respondent, the subsequent land classification map
notwithstanding. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the two (2) parcels of land were in
the Olongapo townsite and were bounded by privately-owned land.

If De Perio had title to the land in 1904, although still imperfect, then it could not have been
prejudiced by the proclamation of Governor-General Smith in 1908 which reserved for naval
purposes land in Subic, Zambales. Said proclamation recognized the existence of private rights,
thus:

xxx xxx xxx

...por la presente exceptuo de venta o colonizacion hasta nueva orden y


separo para reserva naval, salvo los derechos privados, todos y cada uno
de los terrenos publicos comprendidos dentro de los siguientes limites, a
saber: [Proclamation del Gobernador General de las Islas Filipinos, 11
Noviembre 1908, para. 2, 6 O.G. 1885 (2 December 1908)].

Public respondent has also failed to explain the Republic's sudden interest in the annulment of
the decree and the certificate of title issued to De Perio and the subsequent titles issued to his
successors after some seventy-three (73) years of inaction and after a portion of the land has
been developed by petitioner into a subdivision and hundreds of residences have been built
thereon. At this point in time, that portion of land developed into a subdivision cannot, by any
stretch of imagination, be conceived as forest land. Anyway, the area wherein the two (2)
parcels of land are found, were released from the unclassified public forest and the territory
comprising the Subic naval reservation way back in 1961.

Moreover, it is now almost thirty (30) years since the land was released in 1961. In a few more
months, the possessors of the land would acquire title to the portions they adversely possess
through acquisitive prescription, without need of title or of good faith, pursuant to the Civil Code
[Art. 1137].

Finally, we find the need to emphasize that in an action to annul a judgment, the burden of
proving the judgment's nullity rests upon the petitioner. The petitioner must establish by clear
and convincing evidence that the judgment is fatally defective. When the proceedings were
originally filed by the Republic before the Court of Appeals, the petitioner contended that when
the decree in favor of De Perio was issued by Judge Ostrand in 1912 the parcels of land were
still part of the inalienable public forests. However, petitioner's case rested solely on land
classification maps drawn several years after the issuance of the decree in 1912. These maps
fail to conclusively establish the actual classification of the land in 1912 and the years prior to
that. Before this Court, petitioner reiterates said 'contention and refers, for the first time, to a
1908 proclamation reserving the land in Zambales as a naval reservation and alleging that the
subject parcels of land are parts thereof. These, for reasons discussed earlier, are insufficient to
overcome the legal presumption in favor of the decree's regularity, more so when we consider
that notice of the application for registration and the date of hearing thereof, addressed to the
Attorney General, the Director of Lands, the Director of Public Works and the Director of
Forestry, among others, was published in the Official Gazette and that Governor General
Smith's Proclamation of 1908 itself recognizes private rights.

WHEREFORE, the petition is granted and the Court of Appeals is ordered to DISMISS CA-G.R.
SP No. 06259.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989 the useful nipa palm propagated thereon. Although these flats are literally
tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that they cannot be so regarded in the
sense in which that term is used in the cases cited or in general American
THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner
jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not available for purpose of
vs.
navigation, and they may be disposed of without impairment of the public
RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent.
interest in what remains.

CRUZ, J.:
xxx

The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove swamps,
Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of the law, the
or manglares, as they are commonly known. If they are part of our public forest lands, they are
custom had grown of converting manglares and nipa lands into fisheries
not alienable under the Constitution. If they are considered public agricultural lands, they may be
which became a common feature of settlement along the coast and at the
acquired under private ownership. The private respondent's claim to the land in question must
same time of the change of sovereignty constituted one of the most
be judged by these criteria.
productive industries of the Islands, the abrogation of which would destroy
vested interests and prove a public disaster.
The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps located in the
municipality of Sapian, Capiz. Ruperto Villareal applied for its registration on January 25, 1949,
Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so susceptible of private
alleging that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more
ownership.
than forty years. He was opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the
Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the Court of First
Instance. of Capiz. 1 The decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 2 The Director of Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the above-cited case,
Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for review on certiorari claiming that the land in that mangrove swamps form part of the public forests of this country. This it did in the
dispute was forestal in nature and not subject to private appropriation. He asks that the Administrative Code of 1917, which became effective on October 1 of that year, thus:
registration be reversed.
Section 1820. Words and phrase defined. - For the purpose of this chapter
It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private respondent agree that 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all
the land is mangrove land. There is no dispute as to this. The bone of contention between the unreserved public land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest
parties is the legal nature of mangrove swamps or manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal reserves of whatever character.
and therefore not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as agricultural
land. The issue before us is legal, not factual.
It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court maintained the doctrine in
the Montano case when two years later it held in the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: 7
For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine Bill of 1902, one of
the earlier American organic acts in the country. By this law, lands of the public domain in the
...the words timber land are always translated in the Spanish translation of
Philippine Islands were classified into three grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and
that Act (Act of Congress) as terrenos forestales. We think there is an error
timber or forest lands. This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the
in this translation and that a better translation would be 'terrenos
Commonwealth, promulgated in 1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973. That
madereros.' Lumber land in English means land with trees growing on it.
new charter expanded the classification of public lands to include industrial or commercial,
The mangler plant would never be called a tree in English but a bush, and
residential, resettlement, and grazing lands and even permitted the legislature to provide for
land which has only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it cannot
other categories. 3 This provision has been reproduced, but with substantial modifications, in the
be called 'timber land.
present Constitution. 4

xxx xxx xxx


Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when this case arose,
only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. 5 Their disposition was provided for under
C.A. No. 141. Mineral and timber or forest lands were not subject to private ownership unless The fact that there are a few trees growing in a manglare or nipa swamps
they were first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation. does not change the general character of the land from manglare to timber
land.
In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, 6 promulgated in 1909, mangrove
swamps or manglareswere defined by the Court as: More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820, the Court declared:

... mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in which grows 'In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175), this Court
various kindred plants which will not live except when watered by the sea, said that the phrase agricultural lands as used in Act No. 926 means those
extending their roots deep into the mud and casting their seeds, which also public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.
germinate there. These constitute the mangrove flats of the tropics, which
exist naturally, but which are also, to some extent cultivated by man for the
sake of the combustible wood of the mangrove and like trees as well as for
Whatever may have been the meaning of the term 'forestry' under the swamps.' Although conceding that 'mangrove swamp' is included in the
Spanish law, the Act of Congress of July 1st 1902, classifies the public classification of forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised
lands in the Philippine Islands as timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in
all public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily Section 1821 of the said Code as first, second and third groups are found
agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885, even if it is
manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands. a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because
the property had been in actual possession of private persons for many
years, and therefore, said land was already 'private land' better adapted and
The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the Administrative
more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by
Code of 1917 cannot affect rights which vested prior to its enactment.
the public interests to be kept under forest classification.

These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the trial court should
The petition is without merit.
have considered them agricultural lands. If they are agricultural lands, then
the rights of appellants are fully established by Act No. 926.
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it
The doctrine was reiterated still later in Garchitorena Vda. de Centenera v. Obias, 8 promulgated
of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
on March 4, 1933, more than fifteen years after the effectivity of the Administrative Code of
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other
1917. Justice Ostrand declared for a unanimous Court:
farmers. 'Forested lands' do not have to be on mountains or in out-of-the-
way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and
The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land covered by other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest
the application there are mangrove lands as shown in his opponent's Exh. land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does
1, but we think this opposition of the Director of Forestry is untenable, not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and
inasmuch as it has been definitely decided that mangrove lands are not until the land classsified as 'forest' is released in an official proclamation to
forest lands in the sense in which this phrase is used in the Act of Congress. that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the
public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply.'
No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the cases of Montano
and Jocson. And in 1977, the above ruling was reaffirmed in Tongson v. Director of The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 14 where this Court agreed
Forestry, 9 with Justice Fernando declaring that the mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in with the Solicitor General's submission that the land in dispute, which he described as "swamp
nature. The decision even quoted with approval the statement of the trial court that: mangrove or forestal land," were not private properties and so not registerable. This case was
decided only twelve days after the De Porkan case.
... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species grow, where
the trees are small and sparse, fit only for firewood purposes and the trees Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for a categorical
growing are not of commercial value as lumber do not convert the land into pronouncement that should resolve once and for all the question of whether mangrove swamps
public land. Such lands are not forest in character. They do not form part of are agricultural lands or forest lands.
the public domain.
The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the legislature, which has
Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, 10 the Court, citing Krivenko v. Register of the authority to implement the constitutional provision classifying the lands of the public domain
Deeds, 11 reiterated the ruling in the Mapa case that "all public lands that are not timber or (and is now even permitted to provide for more categories of public lands). The legislature
mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa having made such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of their own
swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands. role, administer our public lands pursuant to their constitutional duty " to ensure that the laws be
faithfully executed' and in accordance with the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will
step into the picture if the rules laid down by the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are
But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of decisions holding the
valid, it is claimed that they are not being correctly observed by the executive. Thus do the three
contrary view. departments, coordinating with each other, pursue and achieve the objectives of the Constitution
in the conservation and utilization of our natural resources.
In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 12 promulgated in 1983, the Court
ruled "that the Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to dispose of swamp lands or mangrove In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the Philippines the function
lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still classified as forest lands. of making periodic classifications of public lands, thus:

Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, 13 the Court was more positive Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of
when it held, again through Justice Gutierrez: Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands
of the public domain into:
The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be
classified as forest land because it is not thickly forested but is a 'mangrove (a) Alienable or disposable,
(b) Lumber, and agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests
to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head to be
agricultural lands.
(c) Mineral lands,

With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion:


and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one
class to another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition.
Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of
the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917.
Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or
The legislature having so determined, we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and
disposable lands, the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
in effect veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged
Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare what
to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More
lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act.
importantly, the said provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or
unconstitutional assuming the requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny.
With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law provides: The law is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the
Amunategui case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of
its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like.
For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the
That determination having been made and no cogent argument having been raised to annul it,
public domain alienable or open to disposition shall be classified, according we have no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall.
to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows:

Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our agricultural lands should be
(a) Agricultural; understood as covering only those lands over which ownership had already vested before the
Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated
(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; as forest lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right protected by the
due process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago in Republic of the Philippines vs.
Court of Appeals, 15 where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909,
(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and before it was much later classified as timberland.

(d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public uses. It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part of the mangrove
swamps of Sapian, and for which a minor forest license had in fact been issued by the Bureau of
The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be considered forest land. It could therefore not be the
Natural Resources, shall from time to time make the classifications provided subject of the adverse possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent
for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer in support of his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released as forest land
lands from one class to another. and reclassified as agricultural land pursuant to the certification the Director of Forestry may
issue under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code.
As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as follows:
The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps approved by the
Director of Lands, 16 to prove that the land is registerable. It should be plain, however, that the
Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reserves- Revocation of same. - mere existence of such a plan would not have the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as
Upon there commendation of the Director of Forestry, with the approval of forest land, into agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly in officious.
the Department Head, the President of the Philippines may set apart forest The Director of Lands was not authorized to act in the premises. Under the aforecited law, it is
reserves from the public lands and he shall by proclamation declare the the Director of Forestry who has the authority to determine whether forest land is more valuable
establishment of such reserves and the boundaries thereof, and thereafter for agricultural rather than forestry uses, as a basis for its declaration as agricultural land and
such forest reserves shall not be entered, sold, or otherwise disposed of, release for private ownership.
but shall remain as such for forest uses, and shall be administered in the
same manner as public forest.
Thus we held in the Yngson case:
The President of the Philippines may in like manner by proclamation alter or
modify the boundaries of any forest reserve from time to time, or revoke any It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the public
such proclamation, and upon such revocation such forest reserve shall be domain that until timber or forest lands are released as disposable and
and become part of the public lands as though such proclamation had never alienable neither the Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has
been made. authority to lease, grant, sell or otherwise dispose of these lands for
homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing or other purposes, fishpond
leases and other modes of utilization.
Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes. - Lands in
public forest, not including forest reserves, upon the certification of the
Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for
The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of
swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while
such lands are still classified as forest land or timber land and not released
for fishery or other purposes.

The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus:

It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land


cannot be owned by private persons. It is not registerable. The adverse
possession which can be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of
imperfect title cases cannot commence until after the forest land has been
declared alienable and disposable. Possession of forest land, no matter bow
long cannot convert it into private property.'

We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the proof the private
respondent offers of prescriptive possession thereof is remarkably meager and of dubious
persuasiveness. The record contains no convincing evidence of the existence of
the informacion posesoria allegedly obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone
the fact that the conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it
been shown that the informacion posesoria has been inscribed or registered in the registry of
property and that the land has been under the actual and adverse possession of the private
respondent for twenty years as required by the Spanish Mortgage Law. 17 These matters are not
presumed but must be established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case.

Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were practically the only basis
used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim of possession over the land in question. Tax
declarations are, of course, not sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in
favor of the declarant, as we have held in countless cases. 18

We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not established his right to the registration of
the subject land in his name. Accordingly, the petition must be granted.

It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition embodied in Section
1820 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, which remains unamended up to now,
mangrove swamps or manglares form part of the public forests of the Philippines. As such, they
are not alienable under the Constitution and may not be the subject of private ownership until
and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the application for
registration of title of private respondent is DISMISSED, with cost against him. This decision is
immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.