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G.R. No.

L-30389 December 27, 1972 PEDRO LEE HONG HOK, SIMEON LEE HONG HOK, ROSITA LEE HONG HOK and LEONCIO LEE HONG HOK,petitioners, vs. ANIANO DAVID, THE HON. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents. Augusto A. Pardalis for petitioners. Luis General, Jr. for respondent Aniano David. Office of the Solicitor General for other respondents.

FERNANDO, J.:p Petitioners 1 in this appeal by certiorari would have us reverse a decision of respondent Court of Appeals affirming a lower court judgment dismissing their complaint to have the Torrens Title 2 of respondent Aniano David declared null and void. What makes the task for petitioners quite difficult is that their factual support for their pretension to ownership of such disputed lot through accretion was rejected by respondent Court of Appeals. Without such underpinning, they must perforce rely on a legal theory, which, to put it mildly, is distinguished by unorthodoxy and is therefore far from persuasive. A grant by the government through the appropriate public officials 3 exercising the competence duly vested in them by law is not to be set at naught on the premise, unexpressed but implied, that land not otherwise passing into private ownership may not be disposed of by the state. Such an assumption is at war with settled principles of constitutional law. It cannot receive our assent. We affirm. The decision of respondent Court of Appeals following that of the lower court makes clear that there is no legal justification for nullifying the right of respondent Aniano David to the disputed lot arising from the grant made in his favor by respondent officials. As noted in the decision under review, he "acquired lawful title thereby pursuant to his miscellaneous sales application in accordance with which an order of award and for issuance of a sales patent was made by the Director of Lands on June 18, 1958, covering Lot 2892 containing an area of 226 square meters, which is a portion of Lot 2863 of the Naga Cadastre. On the basis of the order of award of the Director of Lands the Undersecretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources issued on August 26, 1959, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. V-1209 pursuant to which OCT No. 510 was issued by the Register of Deeds of Naga City to defendant-appellee Aniano David on October 21, 1959. According to the Stipulation of Facts, since the filing of the sales application of Aniano David and during all the proceedings in connection with said application, up to the actual issuance of the sales patent in his favor, the plaintiffs-appellants did not put up any opposition or adverse claim thereto. This is fatal to them because after the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title based on a public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically comes under the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided therein.... Under Section 38 of Act 496 any question concerning the validity of the certificate of title based on fraud should be raised within one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. Thereafter the certificate of title based thereon becomes indefeasible.... In this case the land in question is not a private property as the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources have always sustained the public character thereof for having been formed by reclamation.... The only remedy therefore, available to the appellants is an action for reconveyance on the ground of fraud. In this case we do not see any fraud committed by defendant-appellant Aniano David in applying for the purchase of the land involved through his Miscellaneous Sales Application No. MSA-V-26747, entered in the records of the Bureau of Lands [Miscellaneous Sales] Entry No. V-9033, because

everything was done in the open. The notices regarding the auction sale of the land were published, the actual sale and award thereof to Aniano David were not clandestine but open and public official acts of an officer of the Government. The application was merely a renewal of his deceased wife's application, and the said deceased occupied the land since 1938." 4 On such finding of facts, the attempt of petitioners to elicit a different conclusion is likely to be attended with frustration. The first error assigned predicated an accretion having taken place, notwithstanding its rejection by respondent Court of Appeals, would seek to disregard what was accepted by respondent Court as to how the disputed lot came into being, namely by reclamation. It does not therefore call for any further consideration. Neither of the other two errors imputed to respondent Court, as to its holding that authoritative doctrines preclude a party other than the government to dispute the validity of a grant and the recognition of the indefeasible character of a public land patent after one year, is possessed of merit. Consequently, as set forth at the outset, there is no justification for reversal. 1. More specifically, the shaft of criticism was let loose by petitioner aimed at this legal proposition set forth in the exhaustive opinion of then Justice Salvador Esguerra of the Court of Appeals, now a member of this Court: "There is, furthermore, a fatal defect of parties to this action. Only the Government, represented by the Director of Lands, or the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, can bring an action to cancel a void certificate of title issued pursuant to a void patent (Lucas vs. Durian, 102 Phil. 1157; Director of Lands vs. Heirs of Ciriaco Carlo, G.R. No. L-12485, July 31, 1959). This was not done by said officers but by private parties like the plaintiffs, who cannot claim that the patent and title issued for the land involved are void since they are not the registered owners thereof nor had they been declared as owners in the cadastral proceedings of Naga Cadastre after claiming it as their private property. The cases cited by appellants are not in point as they refer to private registered lands or public lands over which vested rights have been acquired but notwithstanding such fact the Land Department subsequently granted patents to public land applicants." 5 Petitioner ought to have known better. The above excerpt is invulnerable to attack. It is a restatement of a principle that dates back to Maninang v. Consolacion, 6 a 1908 decision. As was there categorically stated: "The fact that the grant was made by the government is undisputed. Whether the grant was in conformity with the law or not is a question which the government may raise, but until it is raised by the government and set aside, the defendant can not question it. The legality of the grant is a question between the grantee and the government." 7 The above citation was repeated ipsissimis verbis inSalazar v. Court of Appeals. 8 Bereft as petitioners were of the right of ownership in accordance with the findings of the Court of Appeals, they cannot, in the language of Reyes v. Rodriguez, 9 "question the [title] legally issued."10 The second assignment of error is thus disposed of. 2. As there are overtones indicative of skepticism, if not of outright rejection, of the well-known distinction in public law between the government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately embraced in the concept of sovereignty, and its capacity to own or acquire property, it is not inappropriate to pursue the matter further. The former comes under the heading of imperium and the latter of dominium. The use of this term is appropriate with reference to lands held by the state in its proprietary character. In such capacity, it may provide for the exploitation and use of lands and other natural resources, including their disposition, except as limited by the Constitution. Dean Pound did speak of the confusion that existed during the medieval era between such two concepts, but did note the existence of res publicae as a corollary to dominium." 11 As far as the Philippines was concerned, there was a recognition by Justice Holmes in Cario v. Insular Government, 12 a case of Philippine origin, that "Spain in its earlier decrees embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown...." 13 That was a manifestation of the concept of jura regalia, 14 which was adopted by the present Constitution, ownership however being vested in the state as such rather than the head thereof. What was stated by Holmes served to confirm a much more extensive discussion of the matter in the leading case of Valenton v. Murciano, 15 decided in 1904. One of the royal decrees cited was incorporated in the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias 16 in these words: "We having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies and

all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us according as they belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys audiences, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish." 17 It could therefore be affirmed in Montano v. Insular Government" 18 that "as to the unappropriated public lands constituting the public domain the sole power of legislation is vested in Congress, ..." 19 They continue to possess that character until severed therefrom by state grant. 20 Where, as in this case, it was found by the Court of Appeals that the disputed lot was the result of reclamation, its being correctly categorized as public land is undeniable. 21 What was held in Heirs of Datu Pendatun v. Director of Lands 22 finds application. Thus: "There being no evidence whatever that the property in question was ever acquired by the applicants or their ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by possessory information title or by any other means for the acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be public domain." 23 For it is well-settled "that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government." 24 It is indispensable then that there be a showing of a title from the state or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. 25 The most recent restatement of the doctrine, found in an opinion of Justice J.B.L. Reyes, follows: 26 "The applicant, having failed to establish his right or title over the northern portion of Lot No. 463 involved in the present controversy, and there being no showing that the same has been acquired by any private person from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, the property is and remains part of the public domain." 27 To repeat, the second assignment of error is devoid of merit. 3. The last error assigned would take issue with this portion of the opinion of Justice Esguerra: "According to the Stipulation of Facts, since the filing of the sales application of Aniano David and during all the proceedings in connection with said application, up to the actual issuance of the sales patent in his favor, the plaintiffs-appellants did not put up any opposition or adverse claim thereto. This is fatal to them because after the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title based on a public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically comes under the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided therein ... Under Section 38 of Act 496 any question concerning the validity of the certificate of title based on fraud should be raised within one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. Thereafter the certificate of title based thereon becomes indefeasible ..." 28 Petitioners cannot reconcile themselves to the view that respondent David's title is impressed with the quality of indefeasibility. In thus manifesting such an attitude, they railed to accord deference to controlling precedents. As far back as 1919, in Aquino v. Director of Lands, 29 Justice Malcolm, speaking for the Court, stated: "The proceedings under the Land Registration Law and under the provisions of Chapter VI of the Public Land Law are the same in that both are against the whole world, both take the nature of judicial proceedings, and for both the decree of registration issued is conclusive and final."30 Such a view has been followed since then. 31 The latest case in point is Cabacug v. Lao. 32 There is this revealing excerpt appearing in that decision: "It is said, and with reason, that a holder of a land acquired under a free patent is more favorably situated than that of an owner of registered property. Not only does a free patent have a force and effect of a Torrens Title, but in addition the person to whom it is granted has likewise in his favor the right to repurchase within a period of five years." 33 It is quite apparent, therefore, that petitioners' stand is legally indefensible. WHEREFORE, the decision of respondent Court of Appeals of January 31, 1969 and its resolution of March 14, 1969 are affirmed. With costs against petitioners-appellants.

Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra, JJ., concur.

Republic SUPREME Manila SECOND DIVISION

of

the

Philippines COURT

G.R. No. L-50464 January 29, 1990 SUNBEAM CONVENIENCE FOODS INC., CORAL BEACH DEVELOPMENT CORP., and the REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BATAAN, petitioners, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. Filoteo T. Banzon for petitioners. SARMIENTO, J.: In this petition for review on certiorari, Convenience Foods Corporation (hereafter simply SUNBEAM) and Coral Beach Development Corporation (hereafter simply CORAL BEACH) bring to our attention the decision rendered by the Court of Appeals in "Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Pedro T. Santiago, et al.," disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, the writ prayed for is granted. The order of the respondent judge dated October 7, 1977, dismissing Civil Case No. 4062 is set aside, and respondent judge is ordered to require private respondents to file their answer to the complaint in said Civil Case No. 4062 and thereafter to proceed with the trial of the case on the merits and to render judgment thereon.' The following facts stated by the respondent Court in its decision and restated by the petitioners in their petition are accurate: (a) On April 29, 1963, the Director of Lands caused the issuance of a Sales Patent in favor of defendant Sunbeam Convenience Foods, Inc., over the parcels of land both situated in Mariveles, Bataan and more particularly described and bounded as follows: Lot 1-Sgs-2409 (area 3,113,695 sq. m ) Lot 2-Sgs-2409 area 1,401,855 sq. m (b) On May 3, 1963, the aforesaid Sales Patent was registered with the defendant Register of Deeds of Bataan who in turn issued Original Certificate of Title No. Sp-24 in favor of defendant Sunbeam Convenience Foods, Inc., for the two parcels of land above-described; (c) Subsequently, Original Certificate of Title No. Sp-24 was cancelled and in lieu thereof, Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-12421 was issued over Lot 1, Sgs-2409, while Transfer Certificate of Title

No. 12422 was issued over Lot 2, Sgs-2409, both in favor of defendant Coral Beach Development Corporation I (d) On May 11, 1976, the Solicitor General in the name of the Republic of the Philippines instituted before the Court of First Instance of Bataan, an action for reversion docketed as Civil Case No. 4062. 2 SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH filed a Motion to Dismiss on the following grounds: 1. The Republic of the Philippines should have exhausted all administrative remedies before filing the case in court; 2. The title issued to SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH had become indefeasible and imprescriptible; 3. The action for reversion was defective, having been initiated by the Solicitor General and not by the Director of Lands. 3 The then Court of First Instance of Bataan dismissed the complaint in the Order of October 7, 1977,4adopting mainly the theory that since the titles sought to be cancelled emanated from the administrative act of the Bureau of Lands Director, the latter, not the courts, had jurisdiction over the disposition of the land. The Solicitor General received the copy of the Order on October 11, 1977 and filed a Notice of Appeal dated October 25, 1977 . 5 The Solicitor General then moved for an extension of thirty days within which to file the Record on Appeal and to pay the docket fee in order to perfect the appeal. This was to be followed by another motion for extension filed by the Solicitor General, resulting in the Court of Appeals granting the petitioner another extension of fifteen days from December 10, 1977. Finally before this period of extension lapsed, instead of an appeal, a petition for certiorari with the respondent Court of Appeals was filed. According to the Solicitor General, the Court of First Instance committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the complaint and in a. Not finding that since the lower court acted in a Motion to Dismiss, the correctness of its decision must be decided in the assumed truth and accuracy of the allegations of the complaint. The complaint alleges that the lands in question are forest lands; hence, inalienable. b. Finding that Lots I and 2 are alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under the jurisdiction of the Director of Lands despite clear and positive evidence to the contrary. c. Concluding that the complaint for reversion is defective as it was not initiated by the Director of Lands. d. Finding that the complaint for reversion states no cause of action for alleged failure of petitioner to exhaust administrative remedies. 6 The Court of Appeals gave due course to the petition for certiorari, set aside the Order of Dismissal rendered by the Court of First Instance in Civil Case No. 4062, and ordered the presiding judge Hon. Pedro T. Santiago to receive the answers of the private respondents SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH in the action for reversion. Hence Sunbeam and Coral Beach filed this petition for review. A review is not a matter of right but of sound judicial discretion, and is granted only when there are special and important reasons therefore. The following, while neither controlling nor fully measuring the Court's discretion, enumerates the premises for granting a review:

(a) When the Court of Appeals has decided a question of substance, not theretofore determined by the Supreme Court or has decided it in a way probably not in accord with law or the applicable decisions of the Supreme Court; and (b) When the Court of Appeals has so far departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings or so far sanctioned such departure by a lower court as to call for supervision . 7 We agree with the Court of Appeals' granting of the petition filed by the Republic of the Philippines charging the then Court of First Instance with grave abuse of discretion. The filing of the Motion to Dismiss the complaint for reversion by SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH on the ground of lack of cause of action, necessarily carried with it the admission, for purposes of the motion, of the truth of all material facts pleaded in the complaint instituted by the Republic. An important factual issue raised in the complaint was the classification of the lands as forest lands. This material allegation stated in the Republic's complaint' was never denied specifically 9 by the defendants (petitioners herein) SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH. If it is true that the lands are forest lands, then all these proceedings become moot and academic. Land remains unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. 10 Our adherence to the Regalian doctrine subjects all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands to the dominion of the State. 11 Thus, before any land may be declassified from the forest group and converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes, there must be a positive act from the government. Even rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain. 12 The mere fact that a title was issued by the Director of Lands does not confer any validity on such title if the property covered by the title or patent is part of the public forest. 13 The only way to resolve this question of fact as to the classification of the land is by remanding the case to the lower court for a full- dress trial on the issues involved. Generally, the rules of procedure must be observed so that the efficient administration of justice is ensured. However, the rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. 14They must lead to the proper and just determination of litigation, without tying the hands of the law or making it indifferent to realities. Certiorari is one such remedy. Considered extraordinary, it is made available only when there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law. 15 The long line of decisions denying the petition for certiorari, either before appeal was availed of or specially in instances where the appeal period has lapsed, far outnumbers the instances when certiorari was given due course. The few significant exceptions were: when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictate; or when the broader interests of justice so require, or when the writs issued are null, 16 or when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority. 17 We find nothing disagreeable with the action of the Court of Appeals to give due course to the petition considering that the issue affected a matter of public concern which is the disposition of the lands of our matrimony No less than the Constitution protects its policy. We therefore find no compelling reason to disturb the findings of the appellate court, in the absence of a clear showing that the Court of Appeals has decided a question of substance in a manner inconsistent with jurisprudence, or that the respondent Court has departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings. In sum, no reversible error has been committed by the respondent court. 18

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed. Costs against the petitioners. SO ORDERED. Melencio-Herrera (Chairperson), Paras, Padilla and Regalado, JJ., concur.

Republic SUPREME Manila FIRST DIVISION

of

the

Philippines COURT

G.R. No. L-60413 October 31, 1990 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. HON. SOFRONIO G. SAYO, Judge, Br. I, C I, Nueva Vizcaya, HEIRS OF CASIANO SANDOVAL, HEIRS OF LIBERATO BAYAUA, JOSE C. REYES, and PHILIPPINE CACAO AND FARM PRODUCTS, INC., respondents. Celso D. Gangan respondent Heirs of Liberato Bayaua. Acosta & Associates fox Phil. Cacao and Farm Products, Inc. Jose Reyes & Associates for Heirs of Casiano Sandoval, et al.

NARVASA, J.: Sought to be annulled and set aside in this special civil action of certiorari is the decision of respondent Judge Sofronio G. Sayo rendered on March 5, 1981 in Land Registration Case No. N109, LRC Record No. 20850, confirming, by virtue of a compromise agreement, the title of the private respondents over a tract of land. The spouses, Casiano Sandoval and Luz Marquez, filed an original application for registration of a tract of land identified as Lot No. 7454 of the Cadastral Survey of Santiago, BL Cad. 211 (July 17, 1961) and having an area of 33,950 hectares. The land was formerly part of the Municipality of Santiago, Province of Isabela, but had been transferred to Nueva Vizcaya in virtue of Republic Act No. 236. Oppositions were filed by the Government, through the Director of Lands and the Director of Forestry, and some others, including the Heirs of Liberato Bayaua. 1 In due course, an order of general default was thereafter entered on December 11, 1961 against the whole world except the oppositors. The case dragged on for about twenty (20) years until March 3, 1981 when a compromise agreement was entered into by and among all the parties, assisted by their respective counsel, namely: the Heirs of Casiano Sandoval (who had since died), the Bureau of Lands, the Bureau of

Forest Development, the Heirs of Liberato Bayaua, and the Philippine Cacao and Farm Products, Inc. Under the compromise agreement, the Heirs of Casiano Sandoval (as applicants) renounced their claims and ceded 1) in favor of the Bureau of Lands, an area of 4,109 hectares; 2) in favor of the Bureau of Forest Development, 12,341 hectares; 3) in favor of the Heirs of Liberato Bayaua, 4,000 hectares; and 4) in favor of Philippine Cacao & Farm Products, Inc., 8,000 hectares. The remaining area of 5,500 hectares was, under the compromise agreement, adjudicated to and acknowledged as owned by the Heirs of Casiano Sandoval, but out of this area, 1,500 hectares were assigned by the Casiano Heirs to their counsel, Jose C. Reyes, in payment of his attorney's fees. In consideration of the areas respectively allocated to them, all the parties also mutually waived and renounced all their prior claims to and over Lot No. 7454 of the Santiago Cadastre. In a decision rendered on March 5, 1981, the respondent Judge approved the compromise agreement and confirmed the title and ownership of the parties in accordance with its terms. The Solicitor General, in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, has taken the present recourse in a bid to have that decision of March 5, 1981 annulled as being patently void and rendered in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. The Solicitor General contends that 1) no evidence whatever was adduced by the parties in support of their petitions for registration; 2) neither the Director of Lands nor the Director of Forest Development had legal authority to enter into the compromise agreement; 3) as counsel of the Republic, he should have been but was not given notice of the compromise agreement or otherwise accorded an opportunity to take part therein; 4) that he was not even served with notice of the decision approving the compromise; it was the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quirino Province that drew his attention to the "patently erroneous decision" and requested him to take immediate remedial measures to bring about its annulment. The respondents maintain, on the other hand, that the Solicitor General's arguments are premised on the proposition that Lot 7454 is public land, but it is not. According to them, as pointed out in the application for registration, the private character of the land is demonstrated by the following circumstances, to wit: 1) the possessory information title of the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest; 2) the fact that Lot 7454 was never claimed to be public land by the Director of Lands in the proper cadastral proceedings; 3) the pre-war certification of the National Library dated August 16, 1932 to the effect that the (Estadistica de Propiedades) of Isabela issued in 1896 and appearing in the Bureau of Archives, the property in question was registered under the 'Spanish system of land registration as private property owned by Don Liberato Bayaua, applicants' predecessors-in-interest;

4) the proceeding for registration, brought under Act 496 (the Torrens Act) presupposes that there is already a title to be confirmed by the court, distinguishing it from proceedings under the Public Land Act where the presumption is always that the land involved belongs to the State. Under the Regalian Doctrine 2 all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Hence it is that all applicants in land registration proceedings have the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land thus sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. 3 Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by clear and convincing evidence that the property involved was acquired by him or his ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by possessory information title, or any other means for the proper acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be part of the public domain . 4 The applicant must present competent and persuasive proof to substantiate his claim; he may not rely on general statements, or mere conclusions of law other than factual evidence of possession and title. 5 In the proceeding at bar, it appears that the principal document relied upon and presented by the applicants for registration, to prove the private character of the large tract of land subject of their application, was a photocopy of a certification of the National Library dated August 16, 1932 (already above mentioned) to the effect that according to the Government's (Estadistica de Propiedades) of Isabela issued in 1896, the property in question was registered under the Spanish system of land registration as private property of Don Liberato Bayaua. But, as this Court has already had occasion to rule, that Spanish document, the (Estadistica de Propiedades,) cannot be considered a title to property, it not being one of the grants made during the Spanish regime, and obviously not constituting primary evidence of ownership. 6 It is an inefficacious document on which to base any finding of the private character of the land in question. And, of course, to argue that the initiation of an application for registration of land under the Torrens Act is proof that the land is of private ownership, not pertaining to the public domain, is to beg the question. It is precisely the character of the land as private which the applicant has the obligation of establishing. For there can be no doubt of the intendment of the Land Registration Act, Act 496, that every applicant show a proper title for registration; indeed, even in the absence of any adverse claim, the applicant is not assured of a favorable decree by the Land Registration Court, if he fails to establish a proper title for official recognition. It thus appears that the decision of the Registration Court a quo is based solely on the compromise agreement of the parties. But that compromise agreement included private persons who had not adduced any competent evidence of their ownership over the land subject of the registration proceeding. Portions of the land in controversy were assigned to persons or entities who had presented nothing whatever to prove their ownership of any part of the land. What was done was to consider the compromise agreement as proof of title of the parties taking part therein, a totally unacceptable proposition. The result has been the adjudication of lands of no little extension to persons who had not submitted any substantiation at all of their pretensions to ownership, founded on nothing but the agreement among themselves that they had rights and interests over the land. The assent of the Directors of Lands and Forest Development to the compromise agreement did not and could not supply the absence of evidence of title required of the private respondents. As to the informacion posesoria invoked by the private respondents, it should be pointed out that under the Spanish Mortgage Law, it was considered a mode of acquiring title to public lands, subject to two (2) conditions: first, the inscription thereof in the Registry of Property, and second, actual, public, adverse, and uninterrupted possession of the land for twenty (20) years (later reduced to ten [10] years); but where, as here, proof of fulfillment of these conditions is absent, the informacion posesoria cannot be considered as anything more thanprima facie evidence of possession. 7

Finally, it was error to disregard the Solicitor General in the execution of the compromise agreement and its submission to the Court for approval. It is, after all, the Solicitor General, who is the principal counsel of the Government; this is the reason for our holding that "Court orders and decisions sent to the fiscal, acting as agent of the Solicitor General in land registration cases, are not binding until they are actually received by the Solicitor General." 8 It thus appears that the compromise agreement and the judgment approving it must be, as they are hereby, declared null and void, and set aside. Considerations of fairness however indicate the remand of the case to the Registration Court so that the private parties may be afforded an opportunity to establish by competent evidence their respective claims to the property. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Land Registration Case No. N-109 shall conduct further appropriate thereafter rendering judgment as to costs. SO ORDERED. Cruz, Gancayco, Grio-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur. respondent Judge complained of is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. subject of the petition is REMANDED to the court of origin which proceedings therein, receiving the evidence of the parties and such evidence and the law may warrant. No pronouncement as

Republic SUPREME Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 129401

of

the

Philippines COURT

February 2, 2001

FELIPE SEVILLE in his capacity as judicial administrator of the estate of JOAQUIN ORTEGA and/or FELIPE SEVILLE, EMILIA ESTRADA, MARIA S. TEUDER, MA. ISABEL SEVILLE, MA. TERESITA LICARDO, FRANCISCO SEVILLE, RAMON O. SEVILLE, JOSE MARIE SEVILLE, GEMMA ALVAREZ-ASAYAS, ANNABELLE ALVAREZ-GONZALES, SYLVIA ALVAREZLIOK, ADOLFO O. ALVAREZ JR., DIANA ALVAREZ-DABON, MARIA SALVADOR O. POLANCOS and JOAQUIN ORTEGA II as successors-in-interest of JOAQUIN ORTEGA and his estate, petitioners, vs. NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, LEYTE SAB-A BASIN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, PHILIPPINE ASSOCIATED SMELTING AND REFINING CORPORATION, LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING CO., PHILIPPINE PHOSPHATE FERTIUZER CORPORATION, CALIXTRA YAP and REGISTER OF DEEDS OF LEYTE,respondents. PANGANIBAN, J.: Unless a public land is shown to have been reclassified as alienable or actually alienated by the State to a private person, that piece of land remains part of the public domain. Hence, occupation thereof, however long, cannot ripen into ownership. The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the November 29, 1996 Decision of the Court of Appeals1(CA), as well as the May 19, 1997 CA Resolution2 denying the Motion for Reconsideration. The dispositive part of the CA Decision reads as follows: "WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Another judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the complaint. The counterclaims of appellants are denied. Costs against plaintiffs-appellees."3 The Facts The appellate court narrated the undisputed facts in this manner: "1. By virtue of Presidential Decree No. 625, Leyte Sab-A Basin Development Authority (LSBDA) was created to integrate government and private sector efforts for a planned development and balanced growth of the Sab-a Basin in the [P]rovince of Leyte, empowered to acquire real property in the successful prosecution of its business. Letter of Instruction No. 962 authorized LSBDA to acquire privately-owned lands circumscribed in the Leyte Industrial Development Estate (LIDE) by way of negotiated sales with the landowners. "2. On June 14, 1980, [Respondent] Calixtra Yap sold to LSBDA Lot No. 057 SWO 08-000047 consisting of 464,920 square meters, located at Barangay Sto. Rosario, Isabel, Leyte, covered under Tax Declarations Nos. 3181, 3579, 3425, 1292 and 4251 under the name of said vendor.1wphi1.nt "3. On June 1, 1982, appellant LSBDA fired a Miscellaneous Sales Application with the Bureau of Lands covering said lot together with other lots acquired by LSBDA with an aggregate area of '442,7508 square meters.' "4. After due notice and investigation conducted by the Bureau of Lands, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 9353 was issued in the name of [Respondent] LSBDA on the basis of which Original Certificate of Title No. P-28131 was transcribed in the Registration Book for the [P]rovince of Leyte on August 12, 1983 in the name of [Respondent] LSBDA. On December 14, 1989, LSBDA assigned all its rights over the subject property to its [Co-respondent] National Development Company (NOC) as a result of which a new Transfer Certificate of Title "vas issued on March 2, 1990 by the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Northern Leyte in the name of NDC. The subject property was leased to [Respondents] Philippine Associated Smelting & Refining Corporation (PASAR), Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation (PHILPHOS) and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., Inc. (LEPANTO). "5. On November 29, 1988, the Estate of Joaquin Ortega represented by judicial administrator Felipe Seville filed with the Regional Trial Court (Branch 12) of Ormoc City, a complaint for recovery of real property, rentals and damages against the above-named [respondents] which complaint was later on amended on May 11, 1990. [Respondents] filed their respective Answers. After trial, the trial court rendered judgment the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: 'WHEREFORE, [a] decision is hereby rendered for [petitioners] and against [respondents]. '1. The Deed of Sale executed by Calixtra Yap on June 14, 1980 in favor of LSBDA, (Exhibit PP and 25) conveying the subject property to said LSBDA is declared NULL and VOID ab initio; '2. The intestate estate of JOAQUIN ORTEGA is declared the owner in fee simple of the 735,333 square meters real property subject of the present action and defendant

NDC is ordered to segregate the same area from OCT P-28131 and CONVEY the same to the Estate of Joaquin Ortega; '3. Upon the segregation of the 735,333 square meters from OCT No. P-28131 the Register of Deeds of the Province of Leyte is ordered to issue 8 new title to the said portion in the name of the Intestate Estate of Joaquin Ortega; '4. [Respondents] LSBDA, NDC, PASAR, are ordered to pay jointly and severally to [petitioners] the sum of FOUR MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED EIGHTY FOUR THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY SIX PESOS (P4,784,846.00) as rentals due from 1979 to the present, plus accrued interest pursuant to par. 2 of the Lease Contract between NDC and PASAR. (Exhibit 54) '5. [Respondents] LSBDA, NDC, and PHILPHOS are also ordered to pay jointly and severally [petitioners] the sum of TWO MILLION EIGHTY SIX THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED NINETY EIGHT PESOS AND SIXTY CENTAVOS (P2,086,398.60) as accrued rentals of PHILPHOS from 1979 to present, plus the accrued interest for non-payment pursuant to paragraph 2 of the same Lease Contract cited above; '6. [Respondents] are ordered to pay jointly and severally [petitioners] P200,000.00 as indemnity for the value of the ancestral home; '7. [Respondents] are also ordered to pay jointly and severally [petitioners] the sum of P250,000.00 as reimbursement for attorney's fees and the further sum of P50,000.00 as expenses for litigation; '8. Finally, [petitioners] and [respondents] are ordered to sit down together and discuss the possibility of a compromise agreement on how the improvements introduced on the landholding subject of the present suit should be disposed of and for the parties to submit to this Court a joint manifestation relative thereto. In the absence of any such compromise agreement, such improvements shall be disposed of pursuant to Article 449 of the New Civil Code. 'Costs against [respondents]. 'SO ORDERED.'"4 Ruling of the Court of Appeals Citing the Regalian doctrine that lands not appearing to be privately owned are presumed to be part of the public domain, the CA held that, first, there was no competent evidence to prove that the property in question was private in character. Second, possession thereof, no matter how long, would not ripen into ownership, absent any showing that the land had been classified as alienable. Third, the property had been untitled before the issuance of the Miscellaneous Sales Patent in favor of LSBDA. Fourth, petitioners were guilty of laches, because they had failed to apply for the judicial confirmation of their title, if they had any. Fifth, there was no evidence of bad faith on "the part of LSBDA in dealing with Yap regarding the property. Hence, this Petition.5 The Issues In their Memorandum, petitioners submit the following issues for the consideration of the Court:6

"A. Whether or not the sale by Calixtra Yap of the Estate of the Late Joaquin Ortega in favor of LSBDA was null and void. "B. Whether or not the issuance of a Miscellaneous Sales Patent and an Original Certificate of Title in favor of LSBDA was valid. "C. Whether or not petitioners are guilty of laches. "D. Whether or not petitioners are entitled to the remedy of reconveyance and the damages awarded by the trial court." In the main, the Court is called upon to determine the validity of LSBDA's title. In resolving this issue, it will also ascertain whether, before the issuance of the title, the land was private or public. The Court's Ruling The Petition has no merit. Main Issue: Validity of LSBDA Petitioners argue that LSBDA's title to 73 hectares of the 402- hectare Leyte Industrial Development Estate was void, having allegedly been obtained from Calixtra Yap who had no right to it. They maintain that they acquired title to the disputed property by acquisitive prescription, because they and their predecessors in interest had been in possession of it for more than thirty years.7 Although it was the subject of settlement proceedings, petitioners further claim that Yap sold the same to LSBDA without the permission of the trial court. Disputing these contentions, respondents and the appellate court maintain that petitioners have not shown that the land had previously been classified as alienable and disposable. Absent such classification, they argue that possession of it, no matter how long, could not ripen into ownership. We agree with respondents and the appellate court. First, there was no showing that the land had been classified as alienable before the title was issued to LSBDA; hence, petitioners could not have become owners thereof through acquisitive prescription. Second, petitioners' challenge to LSBDA's title cannot be granted, because it is based on a wrong premise and amounts to a collateral attack, which is not allowed by law. Public Character of the Land Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land. All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State.8 In Menguito v. Republic,9 the Court held that "[u]nless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Indeed, 'occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title.' To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant. Absent such evidence, the land sought to be registered remains inalienable." A person in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of a public land for more than thirty years acquires an imperfect title thereto. That title may be the subject of judicial confirmation, pursuant to Section 48 of the Public Land Act, which provides:

"SECTION 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest thereon, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx xxx xxx

(b) those who by themselves or through their predecessor in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. They shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall he entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this Chapter." Under Section 4 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1073,10 paragraph "b" of the aforecited provision applies only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. The provision reads: "SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48 (b) and Section 48 (c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act, are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-ininterest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945." It should be stressed that petitioners had no certificate of title over the disputed property. Although they claim that their title was based on acquisitive prescription, they fail to present incontrovertible proof that the land had previously been classified as alienable. They simply brush aside the conclusion of the CA on this crucial point by saying that it was "without factual basis."11 Instead, they maintain that the private character of the land was evidenced by various tax declarations, Deeds of Sale, and Decisions of the trial court and even the Supreme Court.12 Petitioners' arguments are not convincing. Tax declarations are not conclusive proofs of ownership, let alone of the private character of the land. At best, they are merely "indicia of a claim of ownership."13 In Spouses Palomo v. CA,14 the Court also rejected tax declarations as proof of private ownership, absent any showing that the forest land in question had been reclassified as alienable. Moreover, the Deeds of Sale of portions of the disputed property, which Joaquin Ortega and several vendors executed, do not prove that the land was private in character. The question remains: What was the character of the land when Ortega purchased it? Indeed, a vendee acquires only those rights belonging to the vendor. But petitioners failed to show that, at the time, the vendors were already its owners, or that the land was already classified as alienable. Also misplaced is petitioners' reliance on Ortega v. CA,15 in which the Supreme Court allegedly recognized the private character of the disputed property .In that case, the sole issue was "whether the respondent judge x x x acted in excess of jurisdiction when he converted Civil Case No. 1184-O, an action for quieting of title, declaration of nullity of sale, and annulment of tax declaration of a parcel of land, into an action for the declaration of who is the legal wife, who are the legitimate children, if any, and who are the compulsory heirs of the deceased Joaquin Ortega."16 The Court did not at all make any ruling that the property had been classified as alienable. In any event, Ortega arose from a suit for quieting of title, an action quasi in rem that was binding only between the parties.17 The present respondents as well as the Bureau of Lands, which

subsequently declared that the land was public, are not bound by that ruling, because they were not impleaded therein. While petitioners refer to the trial court proceedings supposedly recognizing the private character of the disputed property, they make no claim that these cases directly involve the classification of the land, or that the Bureau of Lands is a party thereto. Clearly, the burden of proof that the land has been classified as alienable is on the claimant.18 In the present case, petitioners failed to discharge this burden. Hence, their possession of the disputed property, however long, cannot ripen into ownership. LSBDA's Title Equally unmeritorious is the argument of petitioners that the title of LSBDA is void. As earlier stated, they claim that such title was derived from Calixtra Yap, who was allegedly not the owner of the property. Petitioners assume that LSBDA, having acquired the rights of Yap, resorted to a confirmation of her imperfect title under Section 48 of the Public Land Act. This argument is devoid of factual or legal basis. Petitioners fail to consider that the title of LSBDA was based, not on the conveyance made by Yap, but on Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 9353 issued by the director of the Bureau of Lands. In fact, after LSBDA had filed an application for patent, the Bureau of Lands conducted an investigation and found that the land was part of the public domain. After compliance with the notice and publication requirements, LSBDA acquired the property in a public auction conducted by the Bureau of Lands.19 Petitioners insist, however, that LSBDA was estopped from claiming that the land was public, because the Deed of Sale executed by Yap in its favor stipulated that "the seller is the absolute owner in fee simple of the x x x described property."20 It is scarcely necessary to address this point. To begin with, the power to classify a land as alienable belongs to the State, not to private entities. Hence, the pronouncements of Yap or LSBDA cannot effect the reclassification of the property. Moreover, the assailed misrepresentation was made by Yap as seller. Hence, objections thereto should be raised not by petitioners but by LSBDA, the contracting party obviously aggrieved. In any case, the actions of LSBDA after Yap's conveyance demonstrated its position that the disputed land was part of the public domain. That this was so can be inferred from LSBDA's subsequent application for a Miscellaneous Sales Patent and, in a public auction, its purchase of the property from the Bureau of Lands. Indeed, Yap merely conveyed a claim, not a title which she did not have. Collateral Attack There is another reason for denying the present Petition. Petitioners insist that they "are not seeking the re-opening of a decree under the Torrens system." Supposedly, they are only "praying for the segregation of 735,333 square meters of land, or 73 hectares more or less from the OCT No. P-28131 issued to LSBDA."21 This disputation is mere quibbling over words, plain and simple. Semantics aside, petitioners are effectively seeking the modification of LSBDA's OCT, which allegedly encompassed even a parcel of land allegedly belonging to them. Hence, the present suit, purportedly filed for the "recovery of real property and damages," is tantamount to a collateral attack not sanctioned by law. Section 48 of PD 1529, the Property Registration Decree, expressly provides:

"SEC. 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. -- A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law." It has been held that a certificate of title, once registered, should not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged or diminished, except in a direct proceeding permitted by law. Otherwise, the reliance on registered titles would be lost.22 Moreover, the title became indefeasible and incontrovertible after the lapse of one year from the time of its registration and issuance.23 Section 32 of PD 1529 provides that "[u]pon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title shall become incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or other persons responsible for the fraud." Although LSBDA's title was registered in 1983, petitioners filed the amended Complaint only in 1990. Reconveyance Petitioners also claim that the disputed property should be reconveyed to them. This cannot be allowed. Considering that the land was public before the Miscellaneous Sales Patent was issued to LSBDA, petitioners have no standing to ask for the reconveyance of the property to them. The proper remedy is an action for reversion, which may be instituted only by the Office of the Solicitor General, pursuant to Section 101 of the Public Land Act, which reads as follows: "SEC. 101. All actions for the reversion to the Government of lands of the public domain or improvements thereon shall be instituted by the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his stead, in the proper courts, in the name of the [Republic] of the Philippines." Verily, the prayer for reconveyance and, for that matter, the entire case of petitioners rest on the theory that they have acquired the property by acquisitive prescription; and that Yap, without any right or authority, sold the same to LSBDA. Conclusion In the light of our earlier disquisition, the theory has no leg to stand on. Absent any showing that the land has been classified as alienable, their possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot ripen into ownership. In other words, they have not become owners of the disputed property. Moreover, LSBDA's title was derived from a Miscellaneous Sales Patent, not from Yap. Finally, petitioners cannot, by a collateral attack, challenge a certificate of title that has already become indefeasible and incontrovertible. If petitioners believe that they have been defrauded by Yap, they should seek redress, not in these proceedings, but in a proper action in accordance with law. WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.1wphi1.nt SO ORDERED. Melo, Vitug, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.

Republic SUPREME Manila SECOND DIVISION

of

the

Philippines COURT

G.R. No. 73246 March 2, 1993 DIRECTOR OF LANDS AND DIRECTOR OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT, petitioners, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT AND J. ANTONIO ARANETA, respondents. The Solicitor General for petitioners. Jimenez, Leynes & Associates for private respondent.

NOCON, J.: For review before Us is the decision of the Court of Appeals in the land registration case entitled J. Antonio Araneta v. The Director of Lands and Director of Forest Development, AC-G.R. CV. No. 00636, 1 affirming the lower court's approval of the application for registration of a parcel of land in favor of applicant therein, J. Antonio Araneta. Evidence show that the land involved is actually an island known as Tambac Island in Lingayen Gulf. Situated in the Municipality of Bani, Pangasinan, the area consists of 187,288 square meters, more or less. The initial application for registration was filed for Pacific Farms, Inc. under the provisions of the Land Registration Act, Act No. 496, as amended. The Republic of the Philippines, thru the Director of Lands opposed the application alleging that the applicant, Pacific Farms, Inc. does not possess a fee simple title to the land nor did its predecessors possess the land for at least thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of application. The opposition likewise specifically alleged that the applicant is a private corporation disqualified under the (1973) new Philippine Constitution from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain citing Section 11, Article 14. 2 The Director of Forest Development also entered its opposition alleging that the land is within the unclassified public land and, hence, inalienable. Other private parties also filed their oppositions, but were subsequently withdrawn. In an amended application, Pacific Farms, Inc. filed a manifestation-motion to change the applicant from Pacific Farms, Inc. to J. Antonio Araneta. Despite the supposed amendment, there was no republication. Evidence presented by the applicant include the testimony of Placido Orlando, fishery guard of Pacific Farms, Inc., who said he has known the disputed land since he attained the age of reason for some forty (40) years now; that when he first came to know the property it was then owned by and in the possession of Paulino Castelo, Juan Ambrosio and Julio Castelo, and later on the whole island was bought by Atty. Vicente Castelo who in turn sold it to J. Antonio Araneta.

Deposition by oral examination of Araneta was also presented, together with documents of sale, tax declarations and receipts, and survey of property. Applicant, however, failed to present the tracing cloth plan and instead submitted to the court certified copies thereof. While this case is pending here in Court, respondent filed an Omnibus Motion for Substitution of private respondent. 3 Apparently, Antonio Araneta had assigned his rights to and interest in Tambac Island to Amancio R. Garcia 4 who in turn assigned his rights and interest in the same property to Johnny A. Khonghun whose nationality was not alleged in the pleadings. On October 4, 1979, the trial court rendered a decision adjudicating the subject property to J. Antonio Araneta. On appeal to the then Intermediate Appellate Court, the decision of the lower court was affirmed on December 12, 1985. Petitioners raised the following errors: I. The lower court erred in adjudicating the lands subject of registration to applicantappellee despite his failure to present the original tracing cloth plan the submission of which is a statutory requirement of mandatory character. II. The lower court erred in not denying registration in favor of J. Antonio Araneta since the amendment of the application was simply an attempt to avoid the application of the constitutional provision disqualifying a private corporation the Pacific Farms, Inc. in this case from acquiring lands of public domain. III. The lower court erred in not declaring the land known as the "Tambac Island" not subject of registration it being an island formed on the seas. IV. The lower court erred in adjudicating the land to the applicant under the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, despite absence of any specific invocation of this law in the original and amended application. V. The lower court erred in not granting the government's motion for reconsideration at least to enable it to present proof of the status of the land as within the unclassified public forest, and hence beyond the court's jurisdiction to adjudicate as private property. VI. The lower court erred in not declaring that the applicant has failed to overthrow the presumption that the land is a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines. From the foregoing it appears that the more important issues are: 1) whether the presentation of the tracing cloth plan is necessary; and 2) whether the land known as "Tambac Island" can be subject to registration. By mere consideration of the first assignment of error, We can right away glean the merit of the petition. Respondent claims that the tracing cloth plan is with the files of the Land Registration Commission, and the only evidence that can be presented to that fact is the request for the issuance of a certified copy thereof and the certified copy issued pursuant to the request. 5 Respondent further argues that failure of the petitioners to object to the presentation of the certified copy of the tracing cloth plan was the basis of the trial court's denial of petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

In a very recent decision of this Court, entitled The Director of Lands v. The Honorable Intermediate Appellate Court and Lino Anit, 6 We have ruled that the submission of the tracing cloth plan is a mandatory requirement for registration. Reiterating Our ruling in Director of Lands v. Reyes, 7 We asserted that failure to submit in evidence the original tracing cloth plan is fatal it being a statutory requirement of mandatory character. It is of no import that petitioner failed to object to the presentation of the certified copy of the said plan. What is required is the original tracing cloth plan of the land applied for and objection to such requirement cannot be waived either expressly or impliedly. 8 This case is no different from the case of Director of Lands v. Reyes, suprawherein We said that if the original tracing cloth plan was indeed with the Land Registration Commission, there is no reason why the applicant cannot easily retrieve the same and submit it in evidence, it being an essential requirement for registration. As to the second assignment of error, We are inclined to agree with petitioners that the amendment of the application from the name of Pacific Farms Inc., as applicant, to the name of J. Antonio Araneta Inc., was a mere attempt to evade disqualification. Our Constitution, whether the 1973 9 or 1987, 10 prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. Apparently realizing such prohibition, respondent amended its application to conform with the mandates of the law. However, We cannot go along with petitioners' position that the absence of republication of an amended application for registration is a jurisdictional flaw. We should distinguish. Amendments to the application may be due to change in parties or substantial change in the boundaries or increase in the area of the land applied for. In the former case, neither the Land Registration Act, as amended, nor Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, requires republication and registration may be allowed by the court at any stage of the proceeding upon just and reasonable terms. 11 On the other hand, republication is required if the amendment is due to substantial change in the boundaries or increase in the area of the land applied for. As to the fourth assignment of error. We do not see any relevant dispute in the lower court's application of Presidential Decree No. 1529, instead of Act No. 496, in adjudicating the land to the then applicant, assuming that the land involved is registrable. Both laws are existing and can stand together. P.D. 1529 was enacted to codify the various laws relative to registration of property, in order to facilitate effective implementation of said laws. 12 The third, fifth and sixth assignment of errors are likewise meritorious and shall be discussed forthwith together. Respondent asserts that contrary to the allegation of petitioners, the reports of the District Land Officer of Dagupan City, Land Inspector Perfecto Daroy and Supervising Land Examiner Teodoro P. Nieva show that the subject property is an unclassified public land, not forest land. This claim is rather misleading. The report of Supervising Land Examiner Nieva specifically states that the "land is within the unclassified forest land" under the administrative jurisdiction of the then Bureau of Forest Development. 13 This was based on the reports of Land Inspector Daroy and District Land Officer Feliciano Liggayu. Lands of the public domain are classified under three main categories, namely: Mineral, Forest and Disposable or Alienable Lands. 14 Under the Commonwealth Constitution, only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. Their disposition was provided for under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 6-7), which states that it is only the President, upon the recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands. Mineral and Timber or forest lands are not subject to private

ownership unless they are first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation. 15 In the absence of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. Courts have no authority to do so. 16 This is in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Hence, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. 17 The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of state ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. 18 Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by convincing evidence that the property involved was acquired by him or his ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by possessory information title, or any other means for the proper acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be part of the public domain. The applicant must present evidence and persuasive proof to substantiate his claim. 19 In this particular case, respondent presented proof that as early as 1921, the subject property has been declared for tax purposes with receipts attached, in the names of respondent's predecessorsin-interest. Nevertheless, in that span of time there had been no attempt to register the same either under Act 496 or under the Spanish Mortgage Law. It is also rather intriguing that Vicente Castelo who acquired almost 90% of the property from Alejo Ambrosia, et al. on June 18, 1958 and from Julio Castelo on June 19, 1958 immediately sold the same to applicant J. Antonio Araneta on 3 July 1958. According to the report of Land Investigator Daroy, the land was declared for taxation purposes in the name of Vicente Castelo only in 1958 and the purported old tax declarations are not on file with the Provincial Assessor's Office. In any case tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land when not supported by evidence. 20 The fact that the disputed property may have been declared for taxation purposes in the names of the applicants or of their predecessors-ininterest way back in 1921 does not necessarily prove ownership. They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership. 21 Respondent's contention that the BFD, LC Map No. 681, certified on August 8, 1927 which was the basis of the report and recommendation of the Land Examiner, is too antiquated; that it cannot be conclusively relied upon and was not even presented in evidence, is not well taken. As We have said in the case of Director of Lands v. CA: 22 And the fact that BF Map LC No. 673 dated March 1, 1927 showing subject property to be within unclassified region was not presented in evidence will not operate against the State considering the stipulation between the parties and under the well-settled rule that the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents, if omission there was, in fact. Respondent even admitted that Tambac Island is still an unclassified public land as of 1927 and remains to be unclassified. Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever possession the applicant may have had and however long, cannot ripen into private ownership. 23 The

conversion of subject property does not automatically render the property as alienable and disposable. In effect what the courts a quo have done is to release the subject property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their competence and jurisdiction. We reiterate that the classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the land remains unclassified until released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. 24 In fairness to respondent, the petitioners should seriously consider the matter of the reclassification of the land in question. The attempt of people to have disposable lands they have been tilling for generations titled in their name should not only be viewed with understanding attitude, but as a matter of policy encouraged. 25 WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED and the decisions of the courts a quo are REVERSED. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado and Campos, Jr., JJ., concur.

Republic SUPREME Manila EN BANC

of

the

Philippines COURT

G.R. No. 63786-87. April 7, 1993. UNITED PARACALE MINING COMPANY, INC., AND COCO GROVE, INC., petitioners, vs. HON. JOSELITO DELA ROSA, in his capacity as the former Judge of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte, Branch 2, et al., respondents. G.R. No. 70423. April 7, 1993. ZAMBALES CHROMITE MINING COMPANY, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. ALFREDO L. BENIPAYO, as Judge, Regional Trial Court of Manila, and PHILZEA MINING & DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents. G.R. No. 73931. April 7, 1993. JOSEPH V. LOPEZ and MIGUEL C. ANDRADE, petitioners, vs. THE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT MARSMAN & COMPANY, INC. and UNITED PARACALE MINING COMPANY, INC., respondents. Sycip, Salazar, Hernandez and Gatmaitan for United Paracale and Coco Grove, Inc.

Pedro A. Venida for respondents in G.R. 63786-87 and petitioners in G.R. 73931. J.V. Natividad & Associates for Zambales Chromite. SYLLABUS 1. STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION; INTERPRETATION OF A STATUTE; PROPER ONLY WHEN THERE IS DOUBT OR AMBIGUITY IN ITS LANGUAGE; CASE AT BAR. The view of the petitioner that by virtue of the registration of the mining claims under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624, the mining claims became private property and thereby brought outside the control and supervision of the Director of Mines is without legal basis. The abovecited law does not distinguish between private property and lands of the public domain. The provision of law involved is clear and is not susceptible to interpretation. A condition sine qua non before the court may construe or interpret a statute is that there be doubt or ambiguity in its language. Section 7 of P.D. 1281 quoted above defining the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Director of Mines is clear. Time and again, it has been repeatedly declared by this Court that where the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room for interpretation. There is only room for application. [Cebu Portland Cement Company vs. Municipality of Naga, Cebu, 35 SCRA 708 (1968)] Where the law is clear and unambiguous, it must be taken to mean exactly what it says and the court has no choice but to see to it that its mandate is obeyed. [Chartered Bank Employees Association vs. Ople, 138 SCRA 273 (1985)]. 2. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL PROCEDURE; JUDICIAL RELIEF; NOT A VESTED RIGHT; A MERE STATUTORY PRIVILEGE, NOT A PROPERTY RIGHT. There can be no vested right in a judicial relief for this is a mere statutory privilege and not a property right. The distinction between statutory privileges and vested rights must be borne in mind for persons have no vested rights in statutory privileges. The state may change or take away rights which were created by the law of the state, although it may not take away property which was vested by virtue of such rights.(16A Am. Jur. 2d, pp. 652-653) Besides, the right to judicial relief is not a right which may constitute vested right because to be vested, a right must have become a title, legal or equitable, to the present or future enjoyment of property, or to the present or future enforcement of a demand or legal exemption from a demand made by another. (National Carloading Corporation v. Phoenix-E1 Paso Express, Inc., cited in 16A Am, Jur. 2d, p. 651) Definitely, the judicial relief herein referred to by the petitioner does not fall under any of these. 3. CIVIL LAW; PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 1214; A VALID EXERCISE OF THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF THE STATE AS OWNER OF LAND OF PUBLIC DOMAIN; SUSTAINED IN CASE AT BAR. The heart of these twin petitions is the question of constitutionality of P.D. 1214. Unless P.D. 1214 is successfully assailed, the petitioners will be but mere applicants for the lease of the mining claims involved and would thus have no causes of action against private respondents. This question has been resolved by this Court in Santa Rosa Mining Company, Inc. vs. Leido, Jr. [156 SCRA 1 (1987), which ruling was reiterated in Zambales Chromite Mining Company, Inc. vs. Leido, Jr., 176 SCRA 602 (1989)] thus: "(W)e hold that Presidential Decree No. 1214 is not unconstitutional.' It is a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the State, as owner, over lands of the public domain, of which petitioner's mining claims still form a part, and over the patrimony of the nation, of which mineral deposits are a valuable asset. It may be underscored, in this connection, that the Decree does not cover all mining claims located under the Phil. Bill of 1902, but only those claims over which their locators had failed to obtain a patent. And even then, such locators may still avail of the renewable twentyfive year (25) lease prescribed by Pres. Decree No. 463, the Mineral Development Resources Decree of 1974. Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the mining claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply

with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claim. Presidential Decree No. 1214 is in accord with Sec. 8, Art. XIV of the 1973 Constitution. The same Constitutional mandate is found in Sec. 2, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution. DECISION CAMPOS, JR., J p: The cases herein were consolidated upon the representations of petitioners that they involve the same issues or questions of law or at the very least, revolve around the same set of facts. A perusal of the records, however, reveals the contrary. Only two petitions are properly consolidated. Thus, it behooves Us to discuss the cases separately. In blatant violation of Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court which in part, provides: "Sec. 2. Contents of the petition The petition shall contain a concise statement of the matters involved, the assignment of errors made in the court below, and the reasons relied on for the allowance of the petition, . . . (Emphasis Ours.). "Only questions of law may be raised in the petition and must be distinctly set forth . . ." this petition devotes nine (9) pages under the subtitle "Summary statement of the matters involved" to a discussion of matters off tangent from the real issues in the case. Definitely, the question of whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the Regional Trial Court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing an order suspending hearing pending the resolution of their motion to dismiss, does not involve the Philippine Bill of 1902, Executive Order No. 141, much less P.D. 1214. The counsel for petitioners even discussed pending cases in this Court (G.R. No. 63786 - 87 and 69203) which have completely nothing to do with the instant petition except for the fact that the parties therein are being represented by the same counsel as in this petition. In several pleadings subsequent to their petition, petitioners insisted that the proceedings in the court below must be restrained until this Court resolves the pending cases abovecited. For this reason this case was consolidated thereto. A summary of the real matters involved in this petition is found in the respondent Court's decision, to wit: "This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition to enjoin the Regional Trial Court, Branch XL, in Camarines Norte from issuing a writ of preliminary injunction in Civil Case No. 5148 and to disqualify the respondent judge from acting in that case. The case was brought by the respondents Marsman and Co., Inc. and United Paracale Mining, Inc., to enjoin the petitioners, Joseph V. Lopez and Miguel Andrade, from entering and conducting mining operations within the "McDonald" and "San Antonio" Tunnels in Paracale, Camarines Norte, in which the private respondents have mining claims ("Tulisan," "Santa Marta," "California," and "Rocky Mountain Fraction"). On December 11, 1984 the RTC issued a restraining order against the petitioners. On December 12 the petitioners filed their answer alleging that, in accordance with PD 1214, the private respondents had forfeited their right to the mining claims. They likewise argued that in view of PD 605, the RTC had no jurisdiction to entertain the case. On the same day the petitioners moved for the disqualification of the respondent judge of the RTC, claiming (sic) that in issuing the restraining order of December 11, 1984, he showed his "bias, prejudice and personal hatred of and hostility to the [petitioners'] counsel [Atty. Pedro A. Venida]."

On December 24, 1984 the petitioners filed a motion for a preliminary hearing on their defense that the RTC lacked jurisdiction under PD 605 to issue a temporary restraining order or injunction in cases involving or growing out of the action of administrative officials on the applications for permits for the disposition, exploitation, utilization, or exploration or development of the natural resources. Accordingly the RTC, in its order of September 5, 1985, suspended the hearing of the case until the resolution of the petitioners' motion to dismiss. It is at this point that the present petition was filed." 1 The respondent Court denied this petition on grounds that: (1) the questions being raised are not proper in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 but rather defenses which should be raised in the action itself; (2) the question of jurisdiction which has yet to be resolved by the trial court pending resolution of the motion to dismiss is prematurely raised; and (3) there was no basis for determining whether or not the judge must be disqualified. 2 The review of this decision is what is on appeal before. We refuse to be persuaded by the petitioners that the RTC must be enjoined from exercising its jurisdiction in settling the case presented before it for the reason that the constitutionality of the law involved in the said case is being questioned before this Court. This case should have been disposed of independently of the other petitions herein. The respondent Court of Appeals committed no reversible error. Neither did it commit grave abuse of discretion as what petitioners want this Court to believe. The petitioners fail to point out any assigned error which the respondent Court had supposedly committed but simply narrate the action taken by it. Much less have they stated the reasons relied upon for the allowance of the instant petition. For being insufficient in substance and in form, the instant petition lacks merit and must be dismissed. G.R. No. 70423 This is a petition involving the question of jurisdiction of regular courts in cases which had been placed under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines under P.D. 1281. This petition seeks to reverse the order of then Judge, now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, Hon. Alfredo L. Benipayo, dismissing the complaint filed by petitioner herein on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, citing Section 7 of P.D. 1281 and the doctrine enunciated in Twin Peaks Mining Association, et al. vs. Navarro, 3 that an action for the enforcement of mining contracts, in this case cancellation of a mining contract, is outside the competence of regular courts in view of the law cited. 4 The complaint filed with the then CFI of Manila, Branch XVI, was one for the rescission of its mining contract with herein private respondent on grounds of violations of the terms and conditions thereof, with prayer for the issuance of a preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order. The trial court, however, upon motion of the defendant therein, dismissed the case. Petitioner wants Us to construe Section 7 of P.D. 1281 as applicable only to mineral lands forming part of the public domain and not to mining claims located and registered under Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624 as is its case. Section 7 of P.D. 1281 reads as follows: Sec. 7. In addition to its regulatory and adjudicative functions over companies, partnerships or persons engaged in mining exploration, development and exploitation, the Bureau of Mines shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide cases involving:

(a) a mining property subject of different agreements entered into by the claim holder thereof with several mining operators; (b) complaints from claimowners that the mining property subject of an operating agreement has not been placed into actual operations within the period stipulated therein; and (c) cancellation and/or reinforcement of mining contracts due claimowner/operator to aside by the terms and conditions thereof. to the refusal of the

All actions and decisions of the Director of Mines on the above cases are subject to review, motu proprio or upon appeal by any person aggrieved thereby, by the Secretary of Natural Resources whose decision shall be final and executory after the lapse of thirty (30) days from receipt by the aggrieved party of said decision, unless appealed to the President in accordance with the applicable provisions of Presidential Decree No. 309 and Letter of Instructions Nos. 119 and 135. The view of the petitioner that by virtue of the registration of the mining claims under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624, the mining claims became private property and thereby brought outside the control and supervision of the Director of Mines is without legal basis. The abovecited law does not distinguish between private property and lands of the public domain. The provision of law involved is clear and is not susceptible to interpretation. A condition sine qua non before the court may construe or interpret a statute is that there be doubt or ambiguity in its language. 5 Section 7 of P.D. 1281 quoted above defining the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Director of Mines is clear. Time and again, it has been repeatedly declared by this Court that where the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room for interpretation. There is only room for application. 6 Where the law is clear and unambiguous, it must be taken to mean exactly what it says and the court has no choice but to see to it that its mandate is obeyed. 7 This Court in Benguet Corporation vs. Leviste, 8 made these pronouncements: "We grant the petition. Presidential Decree No. 1281 which took effect on January 16, 1978 vests the Bureau of Mines with jurisdictional supervision and control over all holders of mining claims or applicants for and/or grantees of mining licenses, permits, leases and/or operators thereof, including mining service contracts and service contractors insofar as their mining activities are concerned. To effectively discharge its task as the Government's arm in the administration and disposition of mineral resources, Section 7 of P.D. 1281 confers upon the Bureau quasi-judicial powers as follows: xxx xxx xxx Analyzing the objective of P.D. 1281, particularly said Section 7 thereof, the Court in Twin Peaks Mining Association, the case relied upon by petitioner, noted that the trend is to make the adjudication of mining cases a purely administrative matter. This observation was reiterated in the more recent case of Atlas Consolidated Mining & Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals." The petitioner further argues that to hold that P.D. 1281 retroactively applies to its mining claims which according to it is private property would constitute impairment of vested rights since by shifting the forum of the petitioner's case from the courts to the Bureau of Mines, as urged by private respondent, the substantive rights to full protection of its property rights shall be greatly impaired and prejudiced. The judicial relief available for the redress of private property rights violated, now being enjoyed by petitioner shall be lost altogether. This argument does not merit Our approval. There can be no vested right in a judicial relief for this is a mere statutory privilege and not a property right. The distinction between statutory privileges and vested rights must be borne in mind for persons have no vested rights in statutory privileges. The state may change or take away rights which were created by the law of the state, although it

may not take away property which was vested by virtue of such rights. 9 Besides, the right to judicial relief is not a right which may constitute vested right because to be vested, a right must have become a title, legal or equitable, to the present or future enjoyment of property, or to the present or future enforcement of a demand or legal exemption from a demand made by another. 10 Definitely, the judicial relief herein referred to by the petitioner does not fall under any of these. The case at bar falls within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines, hence, the trial court did not err in dismissing the petitioner's complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. G.R. Nos. 63786-87 In these petitions filed by petitioners United Paracale Mining Company, Inc. and Coco Grove, Inc., petitioners seek to set aside the Order of dismissal of the case they filed with the trial court for the ejectment of their respective defendants from the mining claims which were allegedly privately owned by them having been located and perfected under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624. The heart of these twin petitions is the question of constitutionality of P.D. 1214. Unless P.D. 1214 is successfully assailed, the petitioners will be but mere applicants for the lease of the mining claims involved and would thus have no causes of action against private respondents. This question has been resolved by this Court in Santa Rosa Mining Company, Inc. vs. Leido, Jr. 11 thus: "(W)e hold that Presidential Decree No. 1214 is not unconstitutional. ** It is a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the State, as owner, over lands of the public domain, of which petitioner's mining claims still form a part, and over the patrimony of the nation, of which mineral deposits are a valuable asset. It may be underscored, in this connection, that the Decree does not cover all mining claims located under the Phil. Bill of 1902, but only those claims over which their locators had failed to obtain a patent. And even then, such locators may still avail of the renewable twentyfive year (25) lease prescribed by Pres. Decree No. 463, the Mineral Development Resources Decree of 1974. Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the mining claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claim. Presidential Decree No. 1214 is in accord with Sec. 8, Art. XIV of the 1973 Constitution which states: 'All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploration, development, and exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than development of water power, in which cases, beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant.'

The same Constitutional mandate is found in Sec. 2, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution, which declares: 'All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State . . .'" Notwithstanding Our ruling , in favor of the constitutionality of P.D. 1214, petitioners contend that having filed mining lease applications on the mining claims they have previously located and registered under then existing laws, pursuant to the requirements of this Presidential Decree, and despite the waiver of their rights to the issuance of mining patents therefor (emphasis theirs), they cannot be placed in equal footing with those who forfeit all rights by virtue of non-filing of an application within the prescribed period such that they (petitioners) have no causes of action against private respondents. We are not persuaded by this contention. Although We may agree that those who filed their mining lease applications have better rights than those who forfeited all their right by not filing at all, this, however, does not amount to any vested right which could be the basis for their cause of action against herein private respondents. What is precisely waived is their right to the issuance of a mining patent upon application. This in effect grants the government the power, in the exercise of its sound discretion, to award the patent to the applicant most qualified to explore, develop and exploit the mineral resources of the country in line with the objectives of P.D. 463, and not necessarily to the original locator of the mining claim. To sustain their contention that they can question the award of mining patents to applicants other than them would put to naught the objectives of P.D. 1214 as enunciated in its WHEREAS clauses. We agree with the trial court that with the waiver of their right to the issuance of a mining patent upon their application for a mining lease, their status is reduced to a mere applicant, their only advantage over the others is the fact that they have already conducted explorations at the site and this exploration may he ongoing. But still, this credential, so to speak, is not intended to tie the hands of the government so as to prevent it from awarding the mining patent to some other applicants, which in its belief may he more qualified than them. WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 73931 is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit; the Order of dismissal assailed in G.R. No. 70423 is AFFIRMED and this petition is hereby likewise DISMISSED; the Order of dismissal assailed in G.R. Nos. 63786-87 is AFFIRMED and these petitions are hereby DISMISSED. No pronouncements as to costs. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C .J ., Cruz, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo and Quiason, JJ ., concur. Feliciano, J ., took no part.

Republic SUPREME Manila

of

the

Philippines COURT

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 128017 January 20, 1999 RAMON vs. ALFREDO FALCASANTOS, respondent. ITURALDE, petitioner,

PARDO, J.: The case is an appeal via certiorari from a decision of the Court of Appeals reversing that of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, Basilan province, and dismissing petitioner's complaint for recovery of possession and ownership of a parcel of land with the improvements existing thereon, situated at Barangay Upper Baas, municipality of Lantawan, province of Basilan, with an area of 7.1248 hectares. The facts may be related as follows: On October 17, 1986, petitioner acquired by purchase from the heirs of. Pedro Mana-ay a parcel of land located at Baas, Lantawan, Basilan Province, with an area of 6.0000 hectares, more or less, more particularly described as follows: A parcel of land, situated at Baas, Lantawan Basilan. Bounded on the North by property of Alejandro; Marso; on the East by property of Ramon Bacor; on the South by property at Atty. Ricardo G. Mon and on the West by property of Librada Guerrero. Containing an area of 6.0000 hectares, more or less. However, on November 3, 1986, respondent applied with the Bureau of Lands in Isabela, Basilan province, for the award to him of the same parcel of land under free patent. On November 17, 1986, petitioner filed a protest to such application. On February 7, 1989, the Regional Director of Lands rendered a decision giving respondent a period of one hundred twenty (120) days to exercise the right to repurchase the land by reimbursing petitioner of all expenses he incurred in the purchase of the property in question, and held in abeyance respondent's application for free patent. On October 11, 1989, the Regional Director issued an order declaring that respondent had waived his right of repurchase, and rejected his application for free patent for lack of interest, and allowed petitioner to file a public land application for the subject land. On May 8, 1990, the Regional Director ordered respondent to vacate the land in question, but respondent refused. On July 24, 1990, petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court, Basilan province, a complaint for recovery of ownership and possession with preliminary injunction of the subject parcel of land. In Answer to the complaint, respondent alleged that the land occupied by him belonged to the Republic of the Philippines, and that he had introduced improvements thereon such as coconut and other fruit trees.

After trial on the merits, on March 20, 1993, the trial court rendered decision declaring petitioner the owner and the possessor of the subject parcel of land with all the improvements existing thereon, situated at Barangay Upper Baas, municipality of Lantawan, province of Basilan, with an area of 3.1248 hectares, and ordering respondent to vacate the land in question, to pay petitioner the amount of ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) as attorneys fee, the amount of five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) as litigation expenses, the three hundred pesos (P300.00) as judicial cost. In due time, petitioner appealed the trial court's decision to the Court of Appeals. On December 20, 1996, the Court of Appeals rendered decision reversing the appealed decision, and entering a new judgment dismissing petitioner's complaint without prejudice to any action that petitioner may take if the subject land was declassified from forest land to alienable and disposable land of the public domain. Hence, the present recourse. Petitioner submits that the Court of Appeals erred in setting aside the trial court's decision in his favor and dismissing the complaint because when the Director of Lands allowed petitioner to file a public land application for said property, it was equivalent to a declaration that said land was no longer part of the public domain. We deny the petition. The Court of Appeals correctly held that "the evidence is unrebutted that the subject land is within the Forest Reserve Area as per L.C. Map No. 1557 certified on August 13, 1951'." 1 and, hence, not capable of private appropriation and occupation. 2 In Republic vs. Register of Deeds of Quezon, we held that "Forest land, like mineral timber lands which are public lands, are not subject to private ownership unless they under the Constitution, become private properties. In the absence of such classification, the land remains unclassified public land until released therefrom and rendered open to disposition." 3 In Sunbeam Convenience Foods Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, we said: "Thus, before any land may be declassified from the forest group and converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes, there must be a positive act from the government. Even rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain." 4 Hence, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. " 5 And the rule is "Possession of forest lands, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership." 6 What is more, there is yet no award or grant to petitioner of the land in question by free patent or other ways of acquisition of public land. Consequently, he cannot lawfully claim to be the owner of the land in question. WHEREFORE, the Courts hereby AFFIRMS the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 42306, dismissing the complaint of petitioner before the Regional Trial Court, Basilan province, in Civil Case No. 441-63. No costs.1wphi1.nt SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Melo, Kapunan and Martinez, JJ., concur.


Sunbeam Convenience Foods, Inc. vs. CA G.R. No. 50464, Jan. 29, 1990 FACTS: Sunbeam Convenience Foods, Inc. is the recipient of a Sales Patent issued by the Bureau of Lands over two parcels of land in Bataan. An OCT was thereby issued. The Solicitor-General filed an action for reversion on the ground that the lots were forest lands and therefore inalienable. CA ISSUE: Whether HELD: or not land is alienable ruled, upholding the Solicitor-General's contention.

The SC affirmed.Our adherence to the Regalian Doctrine subjects all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands to the dominion of the State. Thus, before any land may be declassified from the forest group and converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural purposes, there must be a positive act from the Government. Even rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain. The mere fact that a title was issued by the Director of Lands does not confer any validity on such title if the property covered by the title or patent is part of the public forest