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INTRODUCTION TO LAND OWNERSHIP AND REGISTRATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

Atty. Pedro Jose F. Bernardo

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

PART I

INTRODUCTION TO LAND OWNERSHIP IN THE PHILIPPINES


I. The Regalian Doctrine and the Constitution

THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE The Regalian Doctrine is the foremost legal principle introduced in the political system upon the Spanish Conquest of the Philippine Islands in 1521. This doctrine assumes that the King, as the Head of State, has the supreme power over the land, waters, and of the country under jurisdiction. Thus, by virtue of discovery and conquest of the Philippine Islands, the King of Spain acquired exclusive dominion over the Islands. As adopted in our republican system of government, however, this medieval concept of jura regalia has been stripped of its royal overtones: ownership is vested in the State. Such ownership, according to the case of Lee Hong Hok v. David, reflects the capacity of state to own or acquire property and is understood under the concept of dominium. Thus, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution provides: All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or time, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State.
Lee Hong Hok v. David G.R. No. L-30389, December 27, 1972 DOCTRINE: Imperium distinguished from dominum. The government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately embraced in the concept of sovereignty comes under the heading of imperium; and its capacity to own or acquire property under 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. FACTS: Petitioners Lee Hong Hok et al. claim that the Torrens Title of Respondent David over the disputed land (which is part of the Naga Cadastre) should be declared null and void. The CA found no legal justification for nullifying the right of David over the disputed land arising from the grant made in his favor by appropriate public officials. David had acquired lawful title over said land. The Director of Lands awarded him an order for issuance of a sales patent pursuant to his miscellaneous sales application. Subsequently, on the basis of such order, the Undersecretary of Agricultural and Natural Resources issued a Miscellaneous Sales Patent and an OCT was issued by the Register of Deeds of Naga City in favor of the respondent. ISSUE: WON the State can dispose of lands which have not passed into private ownership.

HELD: In this case the land in question is not 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. It is well-settled "that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government." It is indispensable then that there be a showing of a title from the state or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. In the case at bar, a Miscellaneous Sales Patent and OCT was issued in favor of respondent David by competent public officials. He had acquired the grant and title legally. The notices regarding the auction sale of the land were published, the actual sale and award thereof to 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. (The first paragraph of Section 2, Article XII says that all lands of the public domain x x x and other natural resources are owned by the state,) A grant by the government through duly competent public officials cannot be disregarded on the premise that land not passing into private ownership may not be disposed of by the state. In discussing the concept of jura regalia, the Supreme Court said: 2. As there are overtones indicative of skepticism, if not of outright rejection, of the well-known distinction in public law between the government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately embraced in the concept of sovereignty, and its capacity to own or acquire property, it is not inappropriate to pursue the matter further. The former comes under the heading of imperium and the latter of dominium. The use of this term is appropriate with reference to lands held by the state in its proprietary character. In such capacity, it may provide for the exploitation and use of lands and other natural resources, including their disposition, except as limited by the Constitution. Dean Pound did speak of the confusion that existed during the medieval era between such two concepts, but did note the existence of res publicae as a corollary to dominium. As far as the Philippines was concerned, there was a recognition by Justice Holmes in Cario v. Insular Government, a case of Philippine origin, that "Spain in its earlier decrees embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown . . ." That was a manifestation of the concept of jura regalia, which was adopted by the present Constitution, ownership however being vested in the state as such rather than the head thereof. What was stated by Holmes served to confirm a much more extensive discussion of the matter in the leading case of Valenton v. Murciano, decided in 1904. One of the royal decrees cited was incorporated in the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias in these words: "We having acquired in sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that

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

The application of Regalian Doctrine on the ownership by the State of the public domain therefore implies that any person claiming ownership of a portion of the public domain must be able to show title from the state according to any of the recognized modes of acquisition of title. Thus, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.
Collado v. Court of Appeals 390 SCRA 343 DOCTRINE: All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. FACTS: Petitioner filed with the land registration court an application for registration of a parcel of land, alleging that they had occupied the land since time immemorial and that their possession had been open, public, notorious and in the concept of owners. The court rendered a decision

confirming the imperfect title of petitioners, holding that petitioners had adduced sufficient evidence to establish their registrable rights over the Lot. On appeal, the Court of Appeals granted the petition and declared the decision of the trial court null and void. It cited the Regalian Doctrine, enshrined in the 1935 (Art. XIII, Sec. 1), 1973 (Art. XIV, Sec. 8), and 1987 Constitution (Art. XII, Sec. 2), which states that all lands of the public domain belong to the State. An applicant, like the private respondents herein, bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.In the case at bar, private respondents failed to present any evidence whatsoever that the land applied for has been segregated from the bulk of the public domain and declared by competent authority to be alienable and disposable. Worse, the technical description signed by the officer in charge of the survey division in the Bureau of Lands categorically stated that the survey was inside Marikina Watershed. The main thrust of petitioners claim over the Lot is that all Presidential proclamations like the proclamation setting aside the Marikina Watershed Reservation are subject to private rights. They claim that the presumption of law then prevailing under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926 was that the land possessed and claimed by individuals as their own are agricultural lands and therefore alienable and disposable. HELD: The Court finds the petition bereft of merit. It was erroneous for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable. The term public land referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands. The 1987 Constitution prohibits the alienation of all natural resources except agricultural lands of the public domain. Watershed Reservation is a Natural Resource. It can therefore be concluded that petitioners did not acquire private rights over the parcel of land prior to the issuance of EO 33 segregating the same as a watershed reservation. An imperfect title may be derived from old Spanish grants or a continuous, open and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least thirty years preceding the filing of his application as provided by Section 48 (b) CA 141. The petitioners were unable to acquire a valid and enforceable right or title because of the failure to complete the required period of possession, whether under the original Section 48 (b) of CA 141 prior to the issuance of EO 33, or under the amendment by RA 1942 and PD 1073. At the same time, EO 33 reserved the Lot as a watershed. Since then, the Lot became non-disposable and inalienable public land. The period of occupancy after the issuance of EO 33 in 1904 could no longer be counted because as a watershed reservation, the Lot was no longer susceptible of occupancy, disposition, conveyance or alienation. Section 48 (b) of CA 141, as amended, applies exclusively to alienable and disposable public agricultural land.

A positive act of the Executive Department is needed to declassify land which had been earlier classified as a watershed reservation and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. Once a parcel of land is included within a watershed reservation duly established by Executive Proclamation, as in the instant case, a presumption arises that the land continues to be part of such Reservation until clear and convincing evidence of subsequent declassification is shown. Evidence on record thus appears unsatisfactory and insufficient to show clearly and positively that the Lot had been officially released from the Marikina Watershed Reservation to form part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Thus, neither petitioners nor their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the Lot for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title. Pangkatipuran v. Court of Appeals 379 SCRA 621 DOCTRINE: Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. This same doctrine also states that all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. FACTS: Petitioner filed with the Court of First Instance an application for judicial confirmation and registration of title to certain lots. The Court of First Instance promulgated a decision confirming petitioners title to the property. The Official Certificate Title was issued in the name of the petitioners. Republic of the Philippines filed with the Intermediate Appellate Court an action to declare the proceedings and titles derived therefrom as null and void, to direct the register of deeds to annul said certificates of title, and to confirm the subject land as part of the public domain. The Court of Appeals set aside the June 15, 1967 decision of the court a quo and ordered that the subject lot be reverted back to the public domain. HELD: The petition is bereft of merit. Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. Evidence on record showed that at the time of filing of the application for land registration and issuance of the certificate of title over the disputed land in the name of petitioners, the same was timberland and formed part of the public domain. Based on a wrong concept of what is forest land, the court a quo found registrable title in favor of petitioners based on the Republics failure to show that the land is more valuable as forest land than for agricultural purposes.

There was no evidence showing that the land has been reclassified as disposable or alienable. Before any land may be declassified from the forest group and converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes, there must be a positive act from the government. Even rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain. Declassification of forest land is an express and positive act of Government. It cannot be presumed. Neither should it be ignored nor deemed waived. Since the land in question is unregistrable, the land registration court did not acquire jurisdiction over the same. Any proceedings had or judgment rendered therein is void and is not entitled to the respect accorded to a valid judgment. (Petitioners contention that the Republic is now barred from questioning the validity of the certificate of title issued to them considering that it took the government almost eighteen (18) years to assail the same is erroneous. It is a basic precept that prescription does not run against the State. The lengthy occupation of the disputed land by petitioners cannot be counted in their favor, as it remained part of the patrimonial property of the State, which property, as stated earlier, is inalienable and indisposable.)

LIMITATIONS ON

THE

REGALIAN DOCTRINE

By virtue of the States power of ownership over the public domain, it could thereby exercise its rights of ownership, which include the power to exploit, develop and alienate such natural resources. The Constitution, however, provides for specific limitations to such power. These are enumerated in Sections 2 and 3 of Article XII. Because we are now only concerned with the Constitutional limitations on the power of the State to dispose of lands of the public domain, we note the following specific provisions:
SECTION 2. All lands of the public domain . . . are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. . . SECTION 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by law according to the uses which they may be devoted. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and not to exceed one thousand hectares in area. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred hectares, or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase, homestead, or grant.

Taking into account the requirements of conservation, ecology, and development, and subject to the requirements of agrarian reform, the Congress shall determine, by law, the size of lands of the public domain which may be acquired, developed, held, or leased and the conditions therefor.

Thus, with reference to the Regalian Doctrine, these provisions provide that while no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government, only alienable and disposable lands of the public domain may nonetheless be subject of such grant. Furthermore, the grantees of such land, even if alienable, must similarly comply with the citizenship requirements prescribed by the Constitution. It must also be noted that notwithstanding the application of the Regalian Doctrine, the colonizers applying the doctrine did not intend to strip the natives of their ownership of lands already belonging to them. This was the ruling in the landmark case of Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 935 (1909), where the Supreme Court said: when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest and never have been public land. Consequently, such land, if not owned by the State at the time of the Spanish conquest, could not have been ceded by Spain to the United States through the Treaty of Paris, and later, to the Philippine Government by the time of the Commonwealth. The doctrine of immemorial possession set forth in Cario was also recognized in the opinion defending the constitutionality Republic Act No. 8371 or Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). In the case of Cruz v. Executive Secretary, G.R. No. 135385, 6 December 2000, Republic Act No. 8371 said was assailed as unconstitutional on the ground that it deprived the state of ownership over lands of public domain and natural resources contained therein. The votes were deadlocked at 7-7 which meant that the validity of the IPRA was upheld. The opinion defending the validity of the IPRA held that ancestral domain and ancestral lands are private and belong to the indigenous people.
Cario v. Insular Government 41 Phil. 936 FACTS: An Igorot applied to the Philippine court for registration of a certain parcel of land. The plaintiff and his ancestors held the land since time immemorial. The Philippine government opposed such application saying that there is no prescription against the crown, and even if there was, the land is not registered therefore it is public land by virtue of the Decree of June 25, 1880 which required registration for good title; and because of such the U.S. is the owner of the property by succeeding Spain by virtue of the Treaty of Paris. ISSUE: WON the land is public or not.

HELD: It is not public. In this case, every presumption must be in favor of the individual and against the government. Therefore, it can be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land. With this, it can be inferred that immemorial possession is an exception from the Regalian Doctrine because it is considered private land even before the Spaniards came, when the regalia doctrine was introduced into the Philippines by colonizers, the colonizers did not intend to strip the natives of their ownership of lands already belonging to them. With regards to the Decree of June 25, 1880, it intended to correct the wrongful occupation by Filipinos of land belonging to the crown. There is no evidence that the possession of the petitioner is wrongful. Cruz v. Executive Secretary 347 SCRA 128 FACTS: RA 8371 was assailed as unconstitutional on the ground that it deprived the State of its ownership over lands of the public domain and the natural resources in them. RA 8371 defined what are ancestral domains and ancestral lands. HELD: The vote was 7-7 which meant that validity was upheld. The opinion defending constitutionality held the following: (1) ancestral domain and ancestral lands are not part of lands of the public domain. They are private and belong to indigenous people. Section 5 commands the state to protect the rights of indigenous people. Cario v. Insular Government recognized native title held by Filipinos from time immemorial and excluded them from the coverage of jura regalia. (2) The right of ownership granted does not include natural resources. The right to negotiate terms and conditions over natural resources covers only exploration to ensure environmental protection. It is not a grant of exploration rights. (3) The limited right of management refers to utilization as expressly allowed in Section 2, Article XII. (4) What is given is priority right, not exclusive right. It does not preclude the State from entering into co-production, joint venture, or production sharing agreements with private entities. The opinion assailing the constitutionality of the law held the following: (1) the law amounts to an abdication of state authority over a significant area of the countrys patrimony; (2) it relinquishes full control of natural resources in favor of indigenous people; (3) the law contravenes the provision which says that all natural resources belong to the state.

In addition, Philippine jurisprudence has also recognized that aside from lands held by person through immemorial possession, properties of the State, even if administered by the Spanish colonizers, are also not considered public land. It was not the King of Spain who was the owner of ecclesiastical property during the time of the Spanish occupation; these lands were owned by the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore ecclesiastical property was never public land and could not have been transferred to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris.

Barlin v. Ramirez 7 Phil. 41 FACTS: Barlin appointed Ramirez to administer Church property. When the former asked the latter to return the said property, the latter refused. He said that the property belongs to the State, and the same is granted to him by the State. ISSUE: WON Barlin should return the said property? HELD: Yes, he should return the said property. First, he is stopped by recognizing that the said property was only entrusted to him. Second the land belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Since it belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, it was never public and therefore it was not included to the property ceded by Spain to the U.S. by virtue of the Treaty of Paris. Roman Catholic Church v. Municipal of Tarlac 9 Phil. 450 FACTS: Prior to the Revolution, the Church and cemetery is controlled and administered by the Roman Catholic Church. The said properties where destroyed during the revolution. On January 10, 1903, by virtue of the circular, the Insular Government conveyed the land to the Independent Filipino Church for the purpose of administration in favor of the Municipality of Tarlac. The Roman Catholic Church seeks to get the property back. The respondent said that the RCC only administered the property but does not own it because it belongs to the State. ISSUE: WON the property involved belonged to the State. HELD: No, it belongs to the Church. As it was held in Barlin v. Ramirez, even though the property is administered by the Spanish government it belonged to the RCC and therefore private property. It could not have been part of the lands ceded to the U.S. by Spain. And because it is not part of the property ceded, it is not a property of the State and cannot by conveyed by it.

Friar lands were also an exception to the Regalian Doctrine because they are private lands at the time Spain ceded to the United States the Philippine Islands and by the time they were purchased by the government they were patrimonial property.1

II.

Lands of the Public Domain

The term public lands refer to such lands of the public domain as are subject to alienation and disposal by the State in accordance with Commonwealth Act No. 141, of the Public Land Act. It does not include all lands of government ownership, but only so much of said lands as are thrown open to private appropriation and settlement. Accordingly, government land and public
1

Jacinto v. Director of Lands, 49 Phil. 853.

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land are not synonymous terms; the first is more extensive and embraces not only the second by also other lands of the government already reserved to public use or subject to private right.2 GENERAL CLASSIFICATION OF LANDS OF PUBLIC DOMAIN

THE

As already set forth above, Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain as (1) agricultural, (2) forest or timber, (3) mineral and (4) national parks. The classification is descriptive of the legal nature of the land and not of what it looks like. Furthermore, under Section 2, Article XII, alienable lands of the public domain under the Constitution are limited only to agricultural lands. This is reflected in Section 6 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 of the Public Land Act. While the Public Land Act generally deals only with alienable lands of the public domain,3 it nonetheless provides the following specific provision:
SECTION 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain into (a) (b) (c) Alienable or disposable, Timber, and Mineral lands,

and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition.

Notably, the power to classify lands of the public domain is vested in the President. In Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals,4 the Supreme Court, applying the foregoing provision, ruled that the classification of public land is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the lands remain as unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. This should be so under time honored Constitutional precepts. This is also in consonance with the Regalian Doctrine that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in the land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. Such classifications, however, must be categorical: that is, land is either completely agricultural or completely mineral or completely forest or park.5 A land cannot have a mixed classification. In Republic v. Court of Appeals,6 the Court feels that the rights over the land are indivisible and that the land itself
2

3 4 5 6

NARCISO PEA, PHILIPPINE LAW ON NATURAL RESOURCES 17 (1997). [hereinafter PEA, NATURAL RESOURCES]. See Section 2 of the Public Land Act. 129 SCRA 689 BERNAS, COMMENTARY supra note 13, at 1145. 160 SCRA 228 (1988).

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cannot be half agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be categorical: the land must be either completely mineral or completely agricultural. Furthermore, the Court ruled in Director of Lands v. Judge Aquino,7 that the classification of land does not change when the nature of the land changes. A positive act of the executive is nonetheless needed. Anyone who claims that the classification has been changed must be able to show the positive act of the President indicating such positive act.

Director of Lands v. Aquino 192 SCRA 296 FACTS: Abra industrial Corporation sought to register a limestone-rich 70 hectar land in Bucay, Abra 66 hectars of which allegedly belongs to the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve. The lower court gave due course to the application. It ruled that although part of the land is within the forest reserve the Bureau of Forestry offered no objection to exclude the same area from the forest reserve. The Director Lands contends such ruling as incorrect. ISSUE: WON the Lower Court is correct in granting the application for registration. HELD: No, The lack of objection on the part of the Bureau of Forestry is of no moment because the classification of lands is privilege given only to the President. Without any positive act from him, a land cannot be classified nor re-classified.In the present case, there was no positive act whatsoever from the executive department classifying such land an alienable or disposable. Therefore, the application for registration must be denied because the land involved cannot be alienated because it is Forest Land. Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals 211 SCRA 869 FACTS: Respondents tried to register a certain parcel of land. They have used the said land for raising livestock for many years. The government opposed stating the land is classified as a forest land. ISSUE: WON the registration proper. HELD: No. The power to classify lands of public domain resides in the executive department. And if there is proof the executive department that such land is classified as a forest land therefore the burden of proof is upon the applicant to show that the involved land is already classified as alienable. In the present case, the applicant failed to show such proof. The Court also held that the word timber land in the Public Land Act is the same as forest land in the Constitution. And even if the land

G.R. No. 31688, December 17, 1990.

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does not look like a forest it is still forest land as long as it is classified as such.

It should also be stressed, however, that, by virtue of the Regalian Doctrine, the power of the executive to classify lands of the public domain is only a delegated power by the Philippine legislature. Thus, under Section 6 of the Public Land Act, both the President and Congress are empowered to declare what public lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act. In addition to the power to classify lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable, timer, mineral lands and, through the Nipas Act, national parks, the President also has the power to declare otherwise alienable or disposable lands as reservations, for town sites and for other public and semi-public purposes.8 The effect of such reservation is that such land, while alienable, cannot be transferred to public individuals, and must be held by the State, either through the national government or a corresponding local government unit. THE PUBLIC LAND ACT AND THE CLASSIFICATION OF ALIENABLE LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN Public lands, or those lands of the public domain which are open to disposition and alienation, are governed by Commonwealth Act No. 141, or the Public Land Act. Passed into law in 1983, the Act sought to codify all laws relating to public lands then existing at the time of its enactment. Thus, Section 2 of the Public Land Act provides for the laws coverage: SECTION 2. The provisions of this Act shall apply to the lands of the public domain; but timber and mineral lands shall be governed by special laws and nothing in this Act provided shall be understood or construed to change or modify the administration and disposition of the lands commonly called "friar lands" and those which, being privately owned, have reverted to or become the property of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, which administration and disposition shall be governed by the laws at present in force or which may hereafter be enacted. Excepted from the Act were timber and mineral lands, which were to be governed by special laws, as well as friar lands9 and those which, being privately owned, have reverted back to the government. Friar lands, which are different from lands owned by the Church, are those lands of certain haciendas which were acquired by the government from religious orders/corporations or organizations in 1902. However, even though

8 9

See Title V of the Public Land Act. Friar lands, which are different from lands owned by the Church, are those lands of certain haciendas which were acquired by the government from religious orders/corporations or organizations in 1902. However, even though they were bought by the Philippine Government they are not considered public lands (Act 1120).

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they were bought by the Philippine Government they are not considered public lands.10 Notably, once public lands acquired under any of the methods provided by the Public Land Act, these are no longer to be governed by the provisions of the said Act. Thus, it was held that where part of the public lands has been legally appropriated or acquired by a private individual, the same shall be deemed segregated from the mass of the public lands and no law or proclamation thereafter made or issued relating to public lands shall operate upon it inasmuch as the subject of such free-hold or private land is not embraced in nor covered by the title of said Act.11 Under Section 9 of the Public Land Act, alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are further classified as (a) Agricultural, (b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; (c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and (d) Reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses.
SECTION 9. For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows: (a) (b) (c) (d) Agricultural; Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; Reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses.

The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time make the classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to another.

It should be stressed that while Section 9 classifies agricultural land separate from residential, commercial, educational, reservations, etc., all lands enumerated under the said provision all correspond to agricultural land as understood within Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution as open to alienation or disposition. The classification under Section 9, therefore, is for purposes of administration and disposition, according to the purpose to which said lands are especially adapted. But notwithstanding this classification, all of said lands are essentially agricultural lands which may be alienated. MODES OF DISPOSITION OF PUBLIC LANDS
10

11

WHEREAS, the said lands are not "public lands" in the sense in which those words are used in the Public Land Act, Number Nine Hundred and twenty-six, and cannot be acquired or leased under the provisions thereof, and it is necessary to provide proper agencies for carrying out the terms of said contracts of purchase and the requirements of said Act of Congress with preference to the leasing and selling of said lands and the creation of a sinking fund to secure the payment of the bonds so issued (Act 1120). Central Capiz v. Ramirez, GR No. 40399, 40 Phil. 883 (1990).

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As we have learned under the Regalian Doctrine, no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied from the government. In other words, it is indispensable that there be a showing of a title form the state. One claiming private rights must prove that he has complied with the Public Land Act which prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for acquisition of public lands.12 Furthermore, only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which have been officially delimited and classified and, when practicable, surveyed, and which have not been reserved for public or quasipublic uses, nor appropriated by the government, nor in any manner become private property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by the Act or any valid law may be claimed or which, having been reserved or appropriated have ceased to be so. In the absence of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition.13 In Menguito v. Republic,14 it was held that unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Indeed, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. A. Agricultural Lands

Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:15 (1) (2) (3) (4) For homestead settlement; By sale; By lease; By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles: (a) By judicial legalization; (b) By administrative legalization (free patent).

Homestead Settlement By homestead is meant the home, the house and the adjoining land where the head of the family dwells; the home farm; the fixed residence of the head of a family, with the land and buildings surrounding the main house.16 Technically, and under the modern homestead laws, it is an artificial estate in land, devised to protect the possession and enjoyment of the owner against the claims of his creditors, by withdrawing the property from execution and forced sale, so long as the land is occupied as a home.17
12 13 14 15 16 17

AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES supra note 15, at 19. AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES supra note 15, at 20. 348 SCRA 128 (2000). Section 11, Public Land Act. Oliver v. Snowden, 18 Fla. 825, 43 Am. Rep. 388. Buckingham v. Buckingham, 8 Mich. 89, 45 N.W. 504.

15

To qualify for a homestead settlement, the applicant must show that he is a citizen of the Philippines over the age of eighteen years, or is the head of a family, and does not own, or has not received by gratuitous allotment from the government, more than twenty-four hectares of land in the Philippines. Such homestead settlement must not exceed twenty-four hectares of agricultural land of the public domain.18 In order to be entitled to a land grant, the applicant is required to cultivate and improve at least 1/5 of the land continuously since the approval of the application and has resided therein for at least one year in the municipality in which the land is located, or in a municipality adjacent to the same.19 Should the applicant comply with the foregoing obligations, he shall acquire a vested right to the land, and will be entitled to receive a final deed of conveyance called a homestead patent. The execution and delivery of the patent, after the right to a particular parcel of land has become complete, are the mere ministerial acts of the officer charged with that duty. Even without a patent, a perfected homestead is a property right in the fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the land is still in the government. Such land may be conveyed or inherited. No subsequent law can deprive him of that vested right.20 The Supreme Court has held that once a homestead applicant has complied with all the conditions essential to a government grant, he acquires not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the government. Thus, where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with through actual physical possession openly, continuously, and publicly, with a right to a certificate of title to said land, the possessor is deemed to have already acquired by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of title to be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts an application therefore being sufficient under the Public Land Act.21 As explained in Lahora v. Dayanghirang,22 where disposable public land is granted by the government by virtue of a public land patent (like homestead, sales or free patent), the patent is recorded and the corresponding certificate of title is issued to the grantee; thereafter, the land is automatically brought within the operation of the Property Registration Decree, entitled to all the safeguards of a veritable Torrens title. In other words, upon expiration of one year from its issuance, the certificate of title shall become irrevocable and indefeasible like a certificate issued in a registration proceeding.

18

19 20 21 22

Section 12, Public Land Act. Note, however, that under Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred hectares, or acquire more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase, homestead or grant. Section 14, Id. AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES, supra note 15, at 21-22. Mesina v. Sonza, G.R. No. L-14722, May 25, 1960, 108 Phil. 251. 37 SCRA 346 (1971).

16

In Pajomayo v. Manipon,23 it was held that once a homestead patent granted in accordance with the Public Land Act is registered, the certificate of title issued by virtue of said patent has the force and effect of a Torrens title issued through judicial registration proceedings. This principle is applicable to certificates of title issued by virtue of other land patents under the Public Land Act. Sale Agricultural lands may also be disposed of through sale in favor of any citizen of the Philippines over 18 years of age or the head of a family, but not to exceed twelve hectares.24 The sale is required to be made through seal public bidding whereby the land sought to be purchased shall be awarded to the highest bidder, but the applicant may equal the highest bid.25 The purchase price may be paid in full upon the making of the award or in not more than ten equal annual installments from the date of the award. It is required that the purchaser shall have not less than one-fifth of the land cultivated within five years from the date of the award, and before any patent is issued, he must show actual occupancy, cultivation and improvement of at least one-fifth of the land until the date of final payment.26 In addition to the foregoing obligations, the grantee is also not permitted to convey or encumber any of his rights over the land to any person, corporation, or association without the approval of the Secretary of Environment and National Resources. This limitation shall subsist for a period of ten (10) years from the title is granted to the patentee. Notably, any sale or encumbrance made in violation of the provisions of this section shall be null and void, and shall procedure the effect of annulling the acquisition and reverting the property and all rights thereto to the State, and all payments on the purchase price made to the government shall be forfeited.27 Lease Any citizen of lawful age of the Philippines, and any corporation or association of which at least sixty per centum of the capital stock or of any interest in said capital stock belongs wholly to citizens of the Philippines, may lease any tract of agricultural public land available for lease under Chapter VI (Lease) of the Act.28 Pursuant to Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, private corporations may lease alienable lands of the public domain for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years, and not to exceed 1,000 hectares. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than 500 hectares, or acquire no more than 12 hectares thereof by purchase, homestead or grant.29

23 24 25 26 27 28 29

39 SCRA 676 (1971). Supra note 137. Sections 22, 26 and 28, Public Land Act. Section 29, Id. Sec. 33, Ibid. AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES, supra note 15, at 24-25.

17

It shall be an inherent and essential condition of the lease that the lessee shall have not less than one-third of the land broken and cultivated within five years after the date of the approval of the lease. However, in case the land leased is to be devoted to pasture, it shall be sufficient compliance with this condition if the lessee shall graze on the land as many heads of cattle as will occupy at least one-half of the entire area at the rate of one head per hectare.30 Judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title Under the Public Land Act, persons already in possession of alienable lands of the public domain may, by the mere passage of time or failure to obtain title through no fault of their own, be constituted owners of the said parcels of land, subject to the qualifications and limitations set forth therein. Thus, when an applicant conforms to all the requisites of confirmation prescribed under the Public Land Act, he obtains the right to a grant without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The application for confirmation becomes a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent.31
Susi v. Razon 48 Phil. 424 (1925) Petitioner Susi has been in open, continuous, adverse and public possession, personally and through his predecessors, of a certain parcel of land since 1880. Then the Director of Lands sold the said land to the respondent by virtue of an application for purchase filed on August 15, 1914. The court ruled that by the time the respondent filed his application for purchase the petitioner has already possessed the land for thirty-four years, the petitioner already had a right over the land. By that time ,the land ceased to be public and therefore removing it from the disposition of the Director of Lands therefore making the sale between the Director of Lands and Razon invalid.

Confirmation of imperfect title over alienable lands of the public domain may be achieved judicially, or through administrative confirmation via the issuance of free patents. i. Judicial confirmation of imperfect title

The Public Land Act, and subsequent amendments thereto,32 enumerate the following requirements necessary for the judicial confirmation of imperfect title: (1) The land sought to be registered must form part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.
Sec. 39, Commonwealth Act No. 141. Herico v. DAR, 95 SCRA 437 (1980). Republic Act No. 3872, Presidential Decree No. 1073, Republic Act 9176.

30 31

32

18

The current state of law requires that the land sought to be registered must be alienable and disposable land of the public domain. As provided in Presidential Decree No. 1073, which amends Section 48(b) and (c) of the Act:
Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and (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 application himself or thru his predessessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.

Thus, lands classified as forest or timber lands, mineral lands and lands within national parks are excluded. This is due to the rule in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, limiting alienable and disposable public lands only to agricultural lands. The rule on confirmation of imperfect title does not apply unless and until the land classified as, say, a 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.33 There must be a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order, an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or statute.34 Hence, the applicant must secure a certification from the government that the land applied for by the applicant is alienable and disposable.35 It must be noted, however, that Republic Act No. 3872, which amended Section 48 of the Public Land Act on 18 June 1964, added a new sub-section thereto which recognized the right of cultural minorities to seek judicial confirmation even over lands which were not considered alienable or disposable. This right was limited by Presidential Decree No. 1073 which, as earlier mentioned, reiterated that only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain may be the subject of judicial confirmation. Notwithstanding the enactment of Presidential Decree No. 1073, however, the Supreme Court affirmed in Republic v. Court of Appeals36 that members of cultural minorities were entitled to apply for judicial confirmation between 18 June 1964 through the enactment of Republic Act No. 3872, until 25 January 1977 when Presidential Decree No. 1073 was issued. While the present state of the law requires that only alienable and disposable land of the public domain may be the subject of judicial confirmation proceedings, there is authority to hold that the land subject of the claim of ownership must be alienable and disposable at the time of the filing of the application for registration of title, and not for the entire period of possession. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Naguit:37
33 34 35 36 37

Bracewell v. Court of Appeals, 323 SCRA 193 (2000). Republic v. Court of Appeals and Ceniza, 392 SCRA 190 (2002). Director of Lands v. Buyco, 216 SCRA 78 (1991). Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 48327, August 21, 1991. G.R. No. 144057, January 17, 2005, 448 SCRA 442

19

the phrase since June 12, 1945 qualifies its antecedent phrase under a bona fide claim of ownership. Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or remotely located. Hence, what the law merely requires is that the property sought to be registered is already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. In other words, it is not necessary that the land be first classified as bona fide claim of ownership could start. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property.38 (2) The applicant must be a Filipino citizen, who must have, by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, possessed and occupied the land in the concept of an owner since 12 June 1945

Aliens are barred from applying for the benefits of Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act 141 for they are barred by the Constitution from owning alienable lands of the public domain. In Oh Cho v. Director of Lands,39 a Chinese national was denied from applying for judicial confirmation because he was a foreign national. Similarly, the constitution limits ownership of lands of the public domain to individuals and not corporation, even if they be Filipino corporations. Thus, corporations are also prohibited from applying for judicial confirmation of imperfect title over public lands. The exception to this rule, however, is found in the case of Susi v. Razo,40 where the Supreme Court allowed a Filipino corporation to apply for judicial confirmation. The reason is because compliance with all the requirements for a Government grant, i.e., possession in the manner and for the period required by law, the land ipso jure ceased to be public land and became private property. Thus, provided that the Filipino corporations predecessor-in-interest had been in possession and occupation thereof in the manner and for the period prescribed by law as to entitle him to registration in his name, the ban against corporations acquiring lands of the public domain does not apply.41

38 39 40 41

AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE supra note 121, at 72. 75 Phil. 890 (1946). 48 Phil. 424 (1925). Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court and Acme Veneer & Plywood co., Inc., 146 SCRA 509 (1986).

20

It must also be underscored that acquisition of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain through judicial confirmation of imperfect title may be considered an exception to the general rule about prescription running against properties of the State provided in Article 1113 of the Civil Code, which provides: Art. 1113. All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription. (3) The application must be filed before 31 December 2020.

Under the original provisions of the Public Land Act, actions for judicial confirmation were only allowed until 31 December 1938. Subsequent enacts extended this period until the most recent legislation, which sets the deadline at 21 December 2020 (Republic Act No. 9176). The filing of the application within the foregoing time period, however, is not a jurisdictional requirement, only a time limitation. Thus, an application filed beyond the foregoing period, but not objected to by the State either in a Motion to Dismiss or Answer, does not prevent the Court from granting such application.42 ii. administrative confirmation of imperfect title: Free Patents

Under Section 44 of the Public Land Act, any natural born citizen of the Philippines who does not yet own more than 12 hectares of agricultural land may apply for a free patent, provided that he, by himself, or by his predecessors-in-interest, has continuously occupied and cultivated agricultural land of the public domain for at least thirty (30) years since 4 July 1945. In lieu of continuous cultivation, it may be sufficient for the applicant to show that he has paid real estate taxes on the property for the same period and that the same has not been occupied by any other person.43 The land grant, conformably with the Constitution, cannot exceed 12 hectares. If the applicant is a member of a national cultural minority and has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of land whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, he shall also be entitled to a free patent not exceeding 12 hectares..44 Similar to applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, all application for free patents must be filed before 31 December 2020, in accordance with Republic Act No. 9176. Also, the land subject of possession must, at least at the time of the application, be classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. Special patents
42 43 44

Director of Lands v. Danao, 96 SCRA 161 (1980). C.A. No. 141, as amended by R.A. No. 782, Sec. 44. C.A. No. 141, as amended by R.A. No. 3872, Sec. 44.

21

Aside from the foregoing land patents enumerated under the Public Land Act, special patents may also be issued over lands formerly reserved or considered inalienable. These patents are generally issued upon the promulgation of a special law or act of Congress or by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources as authorized by an Executive Order of the President and, in themselves, already provide for the reclassification of the land.45 Special patents may be granted to Non-Christian Filipinos46 so long as the Secretary of Local Government has certified that the majority of the nonChristian inhabitants of any given reservation have advanced sufficiently in civilization. After which, the President may order that the lands of the public domain within such reservation be granted to them pursuant to the provisions of the Public Land Act.47 Special patents involving lands sold under the provisions of Article 60 and 70 of the Public Land Act may likewise be issued to authorize concession of lands of the public domain for educational, charitable or any of the like purposes.48 Furthermore, they also may be issued in favor of the owner of the landed estate acquired by the Government. Republic Act No. 926 authorizes the President to convey public lands and other properties of a public nature as payment for the acquisition of such estates.49 Emancipation patents Emancipation patents are patents issued pursuant to Presidential Decree Nos. 27 and 266 in furtherance of the governments policy of agrarian reform. Unlike the land patents enumerated under the Public Land Act, emancipation patents do not cover lands of the public domain, but instead, private agricultural lands. However, with the enactment of Republic Act No. 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the provisions of Presidential Decree Nos. 27 and 266 have generally been superseded.50 B. Sale or Lease of Public Lands for Residential, Commercial or Industrial Purposes. Under Chapter IX of the Public Land Act, lands intended for residential, commercial, industrial and similar productive purposes may be disposed of by sale or lease thru public bidding, generally following the procedure prescribed for agricultural lands. The land or the right to lease is acquired also in a public auction thru bidding. The difference, however, lies in the fact that where in agricultural sales, the auction sale is thru sealed bidding with the applicant enjoying the right to equal the highest bid, the auction sale of residential, commercial and industrial lands is thru oral bidding where the applicant has
45

46
47 48 49 50

AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES, supra note 15, at 55. AMADO D. AQUINO( LAND REGISTRATION AND RELATED PROCEEDINGS 149 (200). [hereinafter AQUINK, LAND REGISTRATION] C.A. 141, Sec. 84. Supra note 193. ALUINO, LAND REGISTRATION , supra 193, at 150. Supra note 200.

22

to outbid the other bidders in order to be successful bidder. In other words, the applicant does not have preferential right, unless he is an applicant who has introduced improvements on the land by virtue of a permit issued to him by the Bureau of Lands, in which case he has the right to a sealed bidding. Lands disposable for residential, commercial or industrial purposes are classified as: a. b. c. Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging, filing, or other means Foreshore Marshy land or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers.

The conditions of the sale are as follows: a. The purchaser shall enter the land and introduce suitable improvements thereon within six (6) months, and complete such improvements not later than 18 months from the date of the award. The purchaser shall pay the purchase price of the land in ten (10) equal annual installments.

b.

In case of lease, the rental shall be 3% of the value of the land plus 1% of the value of the improvements. Every ten (10) years, the land and improvements shall be reappraised but the rental shall not be increased by more than 100% every ten years. The duration of the lease is 25 years renewable for another 25 years at the governments option. Under R.A. No. 730 direct or negotiated sale of public land may be resorted to if: (a) the applicant has occupied the same and has in good faith built a residential house thereon where he lives, (b) he is not the owner of any residential lot, and (c) the land is not needed by the government for any public purpose. Development of the laws governing foreshore/reclaimed areas The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 is the first statutory law governing the ownership and disposition of reclaimed lands in the Philippines. Under this law, the shores, bays, coves, inlets and all waters within the maritime zone of the Spanish territory belonged to the public domain for public use. This law allowed the reclamation of the sea in consequence of works constructed by the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private persons.51 It also provided that the reclaimed land from the sea belonged to the party undertaking the reclamation, provided the government issues the necessary permit and did not reserve ownership over such land.
51

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

23

Act No. 1654 was enacted by the Philippine Commission on May 18, 1907, which provided for the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. This act mandated that the government should retain title to, and exercise control and disposition of, all reclaimed lands. Private parties could lease these lands only if they were no longer needed for public use. Public bidding for the lease of these lands was also prescribed. Act No. 2874 also known as the Public Land Act, was approved by the Philippine Legislature in Nov. 29, 1919. It authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of government to corporations and individuals. Under this law, the Governor-General was authorized to: (1) classify lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable lands (2) declare what lands are open to disposition or concession and (3) to classify further such lands into government, reclaimed, foreshore, marshy, and other classes of lands. It also limited alienable lands to those which have been officially delimited and classified. The land must first be declared not necessary for public use before allowing lease to private parties.52 Commonwealth Act No. 141 also known as the Public Land Act, was passed by the National Assembly which also authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. C.A. No. 141 continues to be the general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. Under this law, the President had the same powers as those of the Governor-General under Act No. 2874 except that the President is not authorized, under this law, to reclassify reclaimed lands into non agricultural lands. The sale of lands of public domain was likewise prohibited, only lease was allowed subject to the same conditions prescribed in Act No. 2874. The government could sell to private parties only those agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes not classified as disposable lands of the public domain. State policy prohibits the sale of these lands, as they are part of public dominion intended for public use. This state policy has been embodied in the 1935 , 1973 as well as in the 1987 Constitution. Since then and until now, the only way the government could sell government reclaimed areas to private properties is through a legislative enactment allowing such sale. The reason behind this requirement is that government units and entities should not just turn around and sell these lands to private properties in violation of constitutional or statutory limitations. C. Disposition of Public Lands for Educational, Charitable and Similar Purposes Lands under this category may be disposed of by the Government in favor of a province, city, municipality or other branches of the Government in the form of donation, sale, lease, exchange, or any form.
52

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

24

Such lands may also be sold or leased to qualified private persons for the purpose of founding a cemetery, church, college, school, university or other educational institutions for educational, charitable or philantrophical purposes or scientific research. The Secretary of the DENR has the discretion to sell the land without auction and to waive the condition requiring cultivation. D. Townsite Reservations

The President, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, may, if public interest so requires, issue a proclamation reserving lands for townsite purposes to found a new town. Procedure: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. Survey of the exterior boundaries of the site Drafting the proclamation Signing of the proclamation Transmittal of copies of the proclamation to the Director of Lands and the Register of Deeds Filing of compulsory registration proceedings to settle and adjudicate private claims within the townsite Subdivision of the land according to development plans Sale of residential lots by oral bidding to the highest bidder

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

25

a.

Sec. 118. Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant, nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period, but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified persons, associations, or corporations. No alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before twenty-five years after issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds.

b.

Sec. 119. Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or homestead provisions, when proper, shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of five years from the date of the conveyance. Sec. 120. Conveyance and encumbrance made by persons belonging to the so-called "non-Christian Filipinos" or national cultural minorities, when proper, shall be valid if the person making the conveyance or encumbrance is able to read and can understand the language in which the instrument or conveyance or encumbrances is written. Conveyances and encumbrances made by illiterate non-Christian or literate non-Christians where the instrument of conveyance or encumbrance is in a language not understood by the said literate nonChristians shall not be valid unless duly approved by the Chairman of the Commission on National Integration. Sec. 121. Except with the consent of the grantee and the approval of the Secretary of Natural Resources, and solely for commercial, industrial, educational, religious or charitable purposes or for a right of way, no corporation, association, or partnership may acquire or have any right, title, interest, or property right whatsoever to any land granted under the free patent, homestead, or individual sale provisions of this Act or to any permanent improvement on such land. The provisions of Section 124 of this Act to the contrary notwithstanding, any acquisition of such land, rights thereto or improvements thereon by a corporation, association, or partnership prior to the promulgation of this Decree for the purposes herein stated is deemed valid and binding; Provided, That no final decision of reversion of such land to the State has been rendered by a court; And Provided, further, That such acquisition is approved by the Secretary of Natural Resources within six (6) months from the effectivity of this Decree.

c.

d.

e.

Sec. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall

26

encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized therefor by their charters. Except in cases of hereditary succession, no land or any portion thereof originally acquired under the free patent, homestead, or individual sale provisions of this Act, or any permanent improvement on such land, shall be transferred or assigned to any individual, nor shall such land or any permanent improvement thereon be leased to such individual, when the area of said land, added to that of his own, shall exceed one hundred and forty-four hectares. Any transfer, assignment, or lease made in violation hereof, shall be null and void. E. Lands not susceptible of private ownership

The following properties cannot be the subject of private ownership, and therefore, cannot be registered in the name of a private person. Thus, i a person obtains title under the Torrens System which includes lands which cannot be registered under the Torrens system, he does not by virtue of said title become the owner of the land illegally included thereon. Those titles are void ab initio and any title issued over non-disposable lots, even in the hands of an alleged innocent purchaser for value, shall be cancelled. 53 Property of public dominion Article 419 of the Civil Code provides that the following are properties of public dominion: (a) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads and others of similar character; Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth.

(b)

These properties are parts of the public domain and are outside the commerce of men and are therefore, not subject to private appropriation. These properties, being for public use, are not subject to levy, encumbrance or disposition through public or private sale. All other properties of the State, which are not of the character mentioned above, form part of its patrimonial property. Property of public dominion, when no longer needed for public use or for public service, shall also form part of the patrimonial property of the State. According to Article 5 of the Water Code of the Philippines, the following belong to the State as well: (1) rivers and their natural beds; (2) continuous or
53

AGCAOILI, NATURAL RESOURCES supra note 15, at 30.

27

intermittent waters of springs and brooks running in their natural beds and the bed themselves; (3) natural lakes and lagoons; (4) all other categories of surface waters such as water flowing over lands, water from rainfall whether natural, or artificial, and water form agriculture run-off, seepage and drainage; (5) atmospheric water; (6) subterranean or ground waters and; (7) seawater. Article 6 of the same Code provides that even the following waters found in private lands belong to the state: (1) continuous or intermittent waters rising on such lands; (2) lakes and lagoons naturally occurring on such lands; (3) rain water falling on such lands; (4) subterranean or ground waters and; (5) waters in swamps and marshes. Forest lands Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution, do not necessarily refer to a large tract of wooden land or an expanse covered by dense growth of trees and underbrush.54 The fact that the disputed land is not thickly forested and, in any event, it has been in the actual possession of many persons for many years, it was already private land which is better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest classification. Furthermore, the mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of the extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals, which it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes.55 The power to convert a land which forms part of public forest into private property is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development and beyond the power of the registration court.56 Possession thereof, however long, cannot convert it into private property.
Ankron v. Government of the Philippines 40 Phil. 10 Facts: An action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Davao, Department of Mindanao and Sulu. Its purpose was to have registered, under the Torrens system, a certain piece or parcel of land with the following description: That all of said land, with the exception of a small part at the north, the exact description and extension of which does not appear, has been cultivated and planted for more than forty-four years prior to the date of this decision.
54 55

Naguit, G.R. No. 144057, January 17, 2005. Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands, G.R. No. 14213, Aug. 23, 1919, 40 Phil. 10. Republic v. Court of Appeals and Lastimado, 89 SCRA 648 (1979); Director of Lands v. Abanzado, 65 SCRA 5 (1975); Bureau of Forestry v. Court of Appeals and Gallo, 153 SCRA 351 (1987).

56

28

That said land was formerly occupied, cultivated and planted by Moros, Mansacas and others, under a claim of ownership, and that they lived thereon and had their houses thereon, and that portion of the land which was not planted or cultivated was used as pasture land whereon they pastured their carabaos, cattle, and horses; That the applicant now has some one hundred fifty (150) hills of hemp, some eight thousand (8,000) cocoanut trees, a dwelling house, various laborers' quarters, store-building, large camarin (storehouse of wood, a galvanized iron and other buildings and improvements on said land. The appellant contends that portions of said land cannot be registered in accordance with the existing Land Registration Law for the reason that they are manglares. That question is not discussed in the present brief. The appellant, however., refers the court to his discussion of that question in the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (39 Phil. Rep., 560). By reference to the argument in the brief in the case, it is found that the appellant relied upon the provisions of section 3 of Act No. 1148 in relation with section 1820 of Act No. 2711 (second Administrative Code). Section 3 of Act No. 1148 provides that "the public forests shall include all unreserved lands covered with trees of whatever age." Said section 1820 (Act No. 2711) provides that "for the purpose of this chapter 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character." HELD: Paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926 only permits the registration, under the conditions therein mentioned, of "public agricultural lands." It must follow, therefore, that the moment that it appears that the land is not agricultural, the petition for registration must be denied. If the evidence shows that it is public forestry land or public mineral land, the petition for registration must be denied. Many definitions have been given for "agricultural," "forestry," and "mineral" lands. These definitions are valuable so far as they establish general rules. In this relation we think the executive department of the Government, through the Bureau of Forestry, may, and should, in view especially of the provisions of section 4, 8, and 20 of Act No. 1148, define what shall be considered forestry lands, to the end that the people of the Philippine Islands shall be guaranteed in "the future a continued supply of valuable timber and other forest products." (Sec. 8, Act No. 1148.) If the Bureau of Forestry should accurately and definitely define what lands are forestry, occupants in the future would be greatly assisted in their proof and the courts would be greatly aided in determining the question whether the particular land is forestry or other class of lands. In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the AttorneyGeneral admitted in effect that whether the particular land in question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of the extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just said, many definitions have been given for "agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is safe to

29

say that in order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified as agricultural today may be differently classified tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that particular case, having regard for its present or future value for one or the other purposes. The courts, however, has the right to presume in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular land registration case is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof.

Watersheds A watershed is an area drained by a river and its tributaries and enclosed by a boundary or divide which separates it from adjacent watersheds.57 Protection of the watersheds is an inter-generational responsibility. Watershed reservation is not susceptible of occupancy, disposition, conveyance or alienation.58 Mangrove swamps Section 4 of the Philippine Fisheries Code defines mangroves as a community of intertidal plants including all species of trees, shrubs, vines and herbs found on coasts, swamp or border camps. It is now settled that mangroves are forestal, not alienable agricultural land and are, therefore, not subject to disposition.59 Mineral lands DENR defines mineral land as any area where mineral resources are found and mineral resources as any concentration of mineral /rocks with potential economic value.60 Ownership by a person of agricultural land in which minerals are discovered does not give him the right to extract or utilize the said minerals without the permission of the State to which such minerals belong.61 National parks

57 58 59 60 61

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

30

Lands reserved for a national park, as well as those within the protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, like the Bataan Natural Park, are inalienable are cannot be registered.62 Military or naval reservation Lands inside a military or naval reservation cannot be the object of registration. It was held in Republic v. Southside Homeowners Association, Inc.,63 that a military reservation, like the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation or a part thereof is not open to private appropriation or disposition and, therefore, not registrable, unless it is reclassified and declared as disposable and alienable public land. Foreshore lands and reclaimed lands64 In Republic v. Court of Appeals and Republic Real Estate Corporation,65 foreshore land has been invariably defined as that strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that is alternatively wet and dry according to the flow of the tide or that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternatively covered by the ordinary flow of the tides.
Republic. v. Court of Appeals G.R. No. 103882, November 25, 1998 Facts: Republic Act No. 1899 ("RA 1899"), which was approved on June 22, 1957, authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities and municipalities. Section I of said law, reads: Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Public Works and Communications. On May 6, 1958, invoking the a forecited provision of RA 1899, the Pasay City Council passed Ordinance No. 121, for the reclamation of Three Hundred (300) hectares of foreshore lands in Pasay City, empowering the City Mayor to award and enter into reclamation contracts, and prescribing terms and conditions therefor. The said Ordinance was amended on April 21, 1959 by Ordinance No. 158, which authorized the Republic Real Estate Corporation ("RREC") to reclaim foreshore lands of Pasay City under certain terms and conditions. Certain portions of the said lands are submerged lands On April 24, 1959, Pasay City and RREC entered into an Agreement for the reclamation of the foreshore lands in Pasay City.
62 63 64

65

Cham v. Pizarro, A.C. No. 5499, August 16, 2005. G.R. No. 156951, Septempber 22, 2006. OSWALDO D. AGCAOLI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS (LAND TITLES AND DEEDS) 225235, (2006 ed.). [hereinafter AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE] 299 SCRA 199 (1998).

31

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

Submerged lands Until reclaimed from the sea, these submerged areas are, under the Constitution, waters. . . owned by the State forming part of the public domain and consequently inalienable. These areas, after reclamation, can be classified as public agricultural lands, which under the Constitution are the only natural resources that the State can alienate. Thereafter, the government may declare these lands no longer needed for public service and therefore, alienable and disposable lands open disposition.66 Republic Act 4850 was passed on June 22, 1957 which authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities and municipalities. On
66

Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, 384 SCRA 152.

32

January 11, 1973, Presidential Decree No. 3-A was issued, repealing all laws on reclamation of areas under water and vesting solely in the government the power to reclaim lands. On February 4, 1977, Presidential Decree No. 1084 was issued, creating the Public Estates Authority (PEA) which was renamed as Philippine Reclamation Authority in 2004. It authorized PEA to reclaim both foreshore and submerged areas of the public domain. It also empowers PEA to hold lands of public domain even in excess of the area permitted to private corporations by statute. Thus, PEA can hold title to private lands, as well as title to lands of public domain. Executive Order 525 was issued on 1979 which designated PEA as the national governments implementing arm to undertake all reclamation projects of the government which shall be undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity. Under such contract, reclamation services rendered to PEA by private parties shall be compensated. PEA becomes primarily responsible for integrating, directing, and coordinating all reclamation projects and on behalf of the National Government. However, reclaimed areas do not automatically become alienable or disposable upon acquisition by the PEA. Two official acts are needed before reclaimed lands become alienable lands of public domain. First, there must be a classification that these lands are alienable or disposable and open to disposition; and second, there must be a declaration that these lands are not needed for public service. Absent these two official acts, lands reclaimed by PEA remain inalienable lands of the public domain. Nevertheless the requirement of a legislative enactment allowing the sale of reclaimed disposable lands still applies to reclaimed areas of the PEA. The PEAs power is further subject to the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of public domain. However, in a May 6, 2003 Resolution, the court clarified that reclaimed lands of the public domain if sold or transferred to a public or municipal corporation for a monetary consideration become patrimonial property[and] may be soldto private properties, whether Filipino citizens or qualified corporations.67 Lakes Republic Act No. 4850 prescribes that lands located at and below the maximum lake level of elevation of the Laguna de Bay are public lands which form part of the bed of the said lake.68 Areas forming part of the Laguna de Bay are neither agricultural nor disposable lands of the public domain.

67 68

BERNAS, PRIMER, supra note 11 at 457. Sec. 41, par. 11, Republic Act No. 4850, An Act Creating the Laguna Lake Development Authority, Prescribing its Powers, Functions and Duties, Providing Funds Therefor, and for other purposes.

33

Navigable rivers If the land forms part of the bed of a navigable stream, creek or river, the decree and title in the name of the applicants would not give them any right or title to it. Like the rest of the non-disposable properties, a land registration court has no jurisdiction over navigable rivers and cannot validly adjudge the registration of title thereof in favor of a private applicant. Ownership of a navigable stream may not be acquired under a free patent and the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title does not change its public character.69 It is part of public property and cannot be acquired by adverse possession.70 Creeks A creek has been defined as a recess or arm extending from a river and participating in the ebb and flow of the sea. Under the Civil Code, a creek, including its natural bed, is property of the public domain which is not susceptible to private appropriation and acquisitive prescription.71 It is only after the government has declared the land to be alienable and disposable agricultural land that the year of entry, cultivation and exclusive and adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an imperfect title.72 Constructions of a creek which prevent the water from flowing or convert it into a fishpond do not alter the nature of the creek as a public property.73 Reservation for public and semi-public purposes The Public Land Act prescribes that a tract or tracks of land of the public domain may be designated by the President as reservations for the use of the Republic of the Philippines or of any of its branches, or of the inhabitants thereof, in accordance with the regulations prescribed for this purpose. Until again declared alienable by the President, under Section 83 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 or by proclamation, these lands remain part of the pubic domain and shall not be subject to disposition. The President may likewise reserve other lands, the use of which is not otherwise declared by law, for settlement or public use. He shall also have the power to reserve from sale or disposition any land belonging to the private domain of the government, or any of the friar lands, the use of which is not otherwise declared by law. These lands shall thereafter remain directed to the public use designated by the President.74 Pursuant to Section 9 of the Public Land Act, the President, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make the classification provided for in this section, and
69 70 71

72 73 74

Mateo v. Moreno, G.R. No. L-21024, July 28, 1969, 28 SCRA 796. Lovina v. Moreno, G.R. No. L-17821, November 29, 1963, 9 SCRA 557. An Act to ordain and institute the Civil Code of the Philippines [Civil Code] arts. 420(1) and 502(1). Celestial v. Cachopero, G.R. No. 142595, October 15, 2003. Mangaldan v. Manaoag, 38 Phil. 455 (1918). Section 14, Chapter 4, Book III, Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987.

34

may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to another.75 NOTE: CAN BE REGISTERED AND BROUGHT WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF PD1529 (consistent with the fact that technically, it is alienable), BUT REGISTERED IN THE NAME OF THE GOVERNMENT. III. A. Private Lands Distinction between Lands of the Public Domain and Private Lands

According to Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, Sec. 7 Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Our ancestors acquired and physically possessed and held lands which they considered belong to them. Nobody bothered them. Upon the Spanish conquest and occupation of the Islands, all lands within the territory of the Philippine Islands automatically belonged to the Crown of Spain. And, the land and property laws of Spain, ipso jure, took effect therein. This is the Regalian Doctrine.76 The Crown Lands were distributed to the inhabitants in accordance with the laws of Spain, principally the laws of the Indias (Recopilacion de las Leyes de Indias),77 and became lands of private ownership or private lands. This transformation transpired once more during the American Occupation of the Philippine Islands in 1898, by way of (1) State Grant the Homestead Patent; (2) Sale the Sales Patent; and (3) Administrative and Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect title the Free Patent. All Free Patent were available as they are now, under the Public Land Act.78 Agricultural lands of the public domain are deemed alienable and disposable and by the foregoing methods of land acquisition, public lands ceased as such and became private lands of the purchaser, or occupants and possessors.79 Therefore, private land, may be as it has been, defined as any land of private ownership. This includes both lands owned by private individuals and lands which are patrimonial property of the state or of municipal corporations.80 Property of private ownership includes (1) the patrimonial property of the
75 76 77 78 79 80

Republic v. Octobre, 123 SCRA 698 (1966). Piero v. Director of Lands, 57 SCRA 386 (1974). Montano v. Insular Government, 12 Phil. 572 (1908). FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 168. Id. BERNAS, PRIMER, supra note 11, at 469.

35

State, and (2) property belonging to private persons, either individually or collectively.81 Most of these private lands emanated from private agricultural lands that had been, or may still be, sold or granted by the State to individual citizens, associations and corporation qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain and subject to the limitations provided by law.82 Private property and patrimonial property Private property connotes ownership of an immovable or real property, and/or a movable or personal property. As abovementioned, it specifically is comprised of all property that belongs to private persons, natural or juridical, either judicially or collectively. And real property is described in the Civil Code as (1) the immovable or property which consists principally of land; (2) those movables as the buildings, trees plants, statues or other objects placed on land that reveals the intention to have them permanently attached to the land; and (3) the real rights over the immovable property.83 Property ownership, or land of private ownership and private property are synonymous. It also means, and includes the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities. These are property of public dominion that are no longer intended or needed: (1) for public use; (2) for public service; or (3) for the development of national wealth. Some of these are rivers shores, banks, ports fortresses, roads and street, parks and others.84 A stone fort on land by the sea, constructed since time immemorial as a defense against the Moro invasion, that had not been used for many years for that purpose became private or patrimonial property of the State.85 San Lazaro Estate in Manila on which stood the San Lazaro Hospital is private or patrimonial property of the State under Articles 340 and 345 of the Spanish Civil Code (now Articles 421 and 425 of the Civil Code).86 Friar lands are patrimonial property of the State under Act No. 1120 and Commonwealth Act no. 141. In 1906, the Philippine Commission headed by Governor William H. Taft proposed the purchase of Friar Lands, belonging to the Dominica, Augustinian and Recoletos Mission. The Philippine Bill of 1902 authorized the purchase of friar lands to be sold to actual occupants and settlers. Accordingly, Governor Taft proceeded to Rome in 1903, and purchased form the highest ecclesiastical authorities 410,000 acres of Friar Lands at $7,230,000. Sometime in 1938, the Philippine Government bought another Friar Land, a big run-down Riceland, the Buenavista Estate, near Manila at $1,500,000 from San Juan de Dios Hospital.87

81 82 83 84 85

86 87

CIVIL CODE, art. 425. FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 80. FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 169. Id. ARTURO M. TOLENTINO, COMMENTARIES & JURISPRUDENCE (1963). Id. at 34. FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 170.

ON THE

CIVIL CODE

OF THE

PHILIPPINES, VOL. II 32

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In Cruz v. Secretary,88 the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or IPRA was assailed as unconstitutional on the ground that it deprives the State of its ownership over lands of the public domain and the natural resources in them. The vote of the Supreme Court was equally divided, 7-7. The opinion defending constitutionality held the following: (1) Ancestral domain and ancestral lands are not part of lands of the public domain. They are private and belong to indigenous people. Cario v. Insular Government89 recognized native title held by Filipinos from time immemorial and excluded from the concept of jura regalia. (2) The right of ownership granted does not include natural resources. The right to negotiate terms and conditions over natural resources covers only exploration to ensure environmental protection. It is not a grant of exploration rights. (3) The limited right of management refers to utilization as expressly allowed in Section 2, Article XII. (4) What is given is priority right, not exclusive right. It does not preclude the State from entering into co-production, joint venture, or production sharing agreements with private entities. On the other hand, the opinion assailing the constitutionality of the law held the following: (1) the law amounts to abdication of the authority over a significant area of the countrys patrimony; (2) it relinquishes full control of natural resources in favor of indigenous people; (3) the law contravenes the provision which says that all natural resources belong to the state. Classification of private lands The phrase private lands or lands of private ownership have been defined in our jurisprudence as those lands of the public domain: (1) That are, or has been in the possession of occupants and their predecessors-in-interest since time immemorial.90 (2) That had been awarded to an applicant with (a) Sales or Homestead Patent under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 19-32), or Title issued by virtue of the Royal Cedula of October 15, 1754; or (b) Free Patent under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 47-56); (c) Title by Composition with the State pursuant to the Mauras Royal Decreed; (4) Possessor Information issued under the Spanish Mortgage Law of 1893 after the composition or confirmation of imperfect title held by the occupant with claim of ownership. Private lands may be classified in the same manner as those of public lands.91 B. Constitutional Restrictions

As a general rule, only the following may acquire private lands pursuant to Section 7: (1) (2) Filipino citizens and Corporations or associations incorporated in the Philippines, at least 60% of whose capital is owned by Filipino citizens as defined in Section 2.

88 89 90 91

G.R. No. 135385, December 6, 2000. 212 U.S. 449. Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 936 (1909). FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW supra note 1, at 184-185.

37

Exception to the rule However, by exception the following may also acquire private lands: (1) (2) Aliens, but only by hereditary succession. A natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost Philippine citizenship but only under the terms provided in Section 8, Article XII which states that, Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship maybe a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.92 Foreign states may acquire land but only for embassy and staff residence purposes.

(3)

In Ramirez v. Vda. de Ramirez, the Court held to extend the exception to testamentary succession for otherwise the provision will be for naught and meaningless.93 Another jurisprudential exception is when an alien acquires land by hereditary succession, such alien cannot renounce the right to inherit in favor of one who is not qualified.94 In the case of Moss v. Director of lands, the Ordinance appended to the 1935 Constitution provided that until final withdrawal of the United States, Americans and American Corporations enjoyed the same civil rights as Filipino citizens and could therefore acquire private lands until July 4, 1946.95 As mentioned previously, private land means any land of private ownership. This includes both lands owned by private individuals and lands which are patrimonial property of the State or of municipal corporations.96 In the case of Krivenko v. Register of Deeds, the term private agricultural lands meant any private land that was neither timber nor mineral land.97 Again, the capacity to acquire private land is made dependent upon the capacity to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. This is because aliens were disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain (since the 1935 Constitution), aliens, whether individuals or corporations, were also disqualified from acquiring private lands. The prohibition applies even to a regime of conjugal partnership in marriage. Thus, an alien spouse in a conjugal partnership does not have the right to give or not to give consent in the disposition of the land.98 Exception for former Filipino Citizens: Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of sec. 7 of this article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to the limitations provided by law.
92 93 94 95 96 97 98

FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 470. 111 SCRA 704. Halili v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113539, March 12, 1998. 80 SCRA 269. BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1157. 79 Phil. 461. BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1158.

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A 1981 amendment to the 1973 Constitution created another exception in favor of a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship. He or she may be a transferee of private land, for use by him as his residence, as the Batasang Pambansa may provide. This now embodied in Sec. 8. The 1987 provision, however, not longer contains the phrase for use by him as residence.99 A Filipino corporation can acquire land Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution makes the capacity to acquire private land dependent on capacity to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Private corporations can hold lands of the public domain only by lease. They are thus not in the same position as aliens who cannot even lease land of the public domain.100 By analogy, Filipino Corporations, as a creation of the legislature (The Corporation Code, Batas Pambansa 68) also has Filipino citizenships as a juridical person. It is also one of the expressed powers of a corporation as provided by Sec. 36 to wit: (g) To purchase, receive, take or grant, hold, convey, sell, lease, pledge, mortgage and otherwise deal with such real and personal property, including securities and bonds of other corporations, as the transaction of the lawful business of the corporation may reasonably require.101 In contrast with public lands The term public lands refer to such lands of the public domain as are subject to alienation and disposal by the State in accordance with the Public Land Act. The phrase public land was held to be equivalent to public domain. It does not by any means include all lands of government ownership, but only so much of said lands as are thrown open to private appropriation and settlement by homestead and other similar laws. Accordingly, government land and public land are not synonymous terms; the first is more extensive and embraces not only the second by also other lands of the government already reserved to public use or subject to private right.102 The rules for the disposition of lands of the public domain are the ff:103 (1) Only agricultural lands of the public domain may be alienated. All others are inalienable and may be developed and utilized only according to the rules established in Sec. 2 of the Constitution.

99 100 101 102 103

BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1166. Id. at 1161. The Corporation Code, 36, g Supra note 30. BERNAS, COMMENTARY, supra note 13, at 1145-1146.

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(2)

Only public corporations and qualified individuals may acquire alienable lands of the public domain. Corporations can hold alienable land of the public domain only by lease. Private corporations are allowed to lease no more than one thousand hectares. The congress shall determine by law, the size of lands of the public domain which may be acquired, developed, held, or leased and the conditions therefor.

(3) (4)

Commonwealth Act No. 141 provides that the acquisition of public agricultural lands by purchase is governed by Chapter V (Sale). Any citizen of the Philippines of lawful age of the head of a family may purchase any tract of public agricultural land not to exceed twelve hectares104 which shall be sold thru sealed bidding. The land shall be awarded to the highest bidder, but the applicant may equal the highest bid. The purchase price may be paid in full upon the making of the award or in not more than ten equal annual installments from the date of the award. It is required that the purchaser shall have not less than one-fifth of the land cultivated within five years from the date of the award, and before any patent is issued, he must show actual occupancy, cultivation and improvement of at least one-fifth of the land until the date of final payment.105
Krivenko v. Register of Deeds of Manila 79 Phil. 461 FACTS: Krivenko bought a residential lot from Magdalena Estate, Inc., in December of 1941, the registration of w/c was interrupted by the war. In May 1945, he sought to accomplish said registration but it was denied on the ground that Krivenko is an alien. Krivenko then brought the case to the CFI of Manila by means of a consulta. The court rendered judgment sustaining the refusal. HELD: The 1935 Constitution classified lands namely as agricultural, timber and mineral since this was the basic classification existing in laws and jurisprudence at that time. The phrase public agricultural lands includes residential lot & their alienation is limited to Filipino citizens. To construe this phrase as not including residential lots or lands not strictly agricultural, the result would be that aliens may freely acquire and possess not only residential lots and houses for themselves but also other forms of public agricultural lands. Director of Lands v. Lood 124 SCRA 460 FACTS: Quezon City Development & Financing Corp filed an application with the CFI of Rizal, seeking the registration of title under Act. 496, claiming to be the owner in fee simple of a parcel of land in Taytay, Rizal. The Director of Lands, filed an opposition, on the ground that the
104 105

PHIL. CONST. art. 12, 3 Public Land Act, 22, 26 & 28

40

applicant has no sufficient title to the land, not having acquired the same by composition title from the Spanish Govt or by possessory information title pursuant to Royal Decree of February 13, 1894. The CFI ruled that the applicant has a registrable title over the parcel of land. HELD: The applicant, being a juridical person, is disqualified to apply subject property for registration. Limiting the mode of acquisition of corporations, by purchase, but not by homestead, free patent or judicial confirmation, does not offend the Constitution. Corporations were never intended to acquire lands by such modes. Further, corporations, as product of statutory action, the legislative can define the powers of a corporation.

C.

Modes of Acquisition

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

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(1)

Acquisition by Public Grant106

The Spanish Government, during their colonial rule, issued Royal Grants as title to the lands, to discoverers, settlers, vassals, and other people in varied forms. During the Commonwealth Government, the Public Land Act was passed and by virtue thereof public agricultural lands were distributed to citizens under certain conditions specified therein. These lands so distributed became ultimately the property of the distributees. In, Aureus v. Secretary of Agriculture & Commerce,107 it was held that the mere filing by an individual of an application for a permit to occupy a piece of public land does not create an obligation on the part of the administrative officer concerned to grant his application. If it does, the Director of Lands or the Secretary of Agriculture, will be a mere robot of every such applicant. It is discretionary in the said officials to grant or not to grant such application. While in Luzuriaga v. Director of Lands,108 it was held that when a municipality has used a land from time immemorial for recognized public purposes based upon a public necessity, which purposes and necessity were formerly recognized by the Government as a basis for a grant of land to a municipality, a grant from the State in favor of the municipality is presumed. Proof of acquisition from the state No public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government, it is indispensable that there be a showing of title from the State. One claiming rights must prove that he has complied with the Public Land Act, which prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for acquisition of public land. 109 Private Grants of Land Titles The transfer of title to land by the owner himself or his duly authorized representative to another by mutual consent is recognized by law. Consent of the grantor is an essential element. To give effect to the transfer, a deed of conveyance must be executed to be followed by its registration at the Registry of Deeds.110 (2) Prescription

Land ownership and other real rights or obligations may be acquired through the lapse of time, in the manner and action laid down by law.111 All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Thus, the peaceful and adverse possession of land that is
106 107 108 109 110 111

PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND, supra note 199, at 15. 85 Phil. 1. 24 Phil. 193. PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND, supra note 199, at 16. Id. at 17. CIVIL CODE, art. 1106.

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continuous and uninterrupted for a certain period of time may be converted into ownership of the land.112 However, property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.113 The claim of ownership114 must be in the concept of owners, adverse, public and peaceful.115 Acquisitive prescription is either ordinary or extraordinary.116 The law fixes ten (10) years by ordinary prescription, that is, without need of title and good faith,117 and thirty (30) years by extraordinary prescription, without need of title and good faith.118 For ordinary prescription, the following requisites must concur: (1) Capacity to acquire by prescription; (2) the object must be susceptible of prescription; (3) The possession must be in concept of owner, public, peaceful, continuous and uninterrupted; (4) The possession must be in good faith; (5) The possession must be by virtue of a just title; and (6) The period of possession must be 4 years if the object is movable or ten years if it is immovable. In extraordinary acquisitive prescription, the following must concur: (1) Capacity to acquire by prescription; (2) The object must be susceptible of prescription; (3) The possession must be in the concept of owner, public, peaceful, continuous, and uninterrupted; and (4) The period of possession must be 8 years if the object is movable or 30 years if it is immovable.119 The good faith of the possessor consists in the reasonable belief that the person from whom he received the thing was the owner thereof, and could transmit his ownership.120 In its negative aspect, it consists in the ignorance of the possessor of any flaw which would invalidate his title or mode of acquisition.121 For purposes of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right.122 Its requisites are: (1) It must be just; (2) it must be true; (3) it must be valid; (4) it must be proved.123 Actual possession of land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own property. The general rule is that the possession and cultivation of a portion of a tract under
112 113 114 115 116

117 118 119 120 121 122 123

FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 53. CIVIL CODE, art. 1113. Supra note 246. NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION , supra note 3, at 17. DESIDERIO P. JURADO, COMMENTS AND JURISPRUDENCE ON OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS 653 (7 th rev. ed, 1980). [hereinafter JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS]. CIVIL CODE, art. 1137. CIVIL CODE, art. 1496. JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 656-657. CIVIL CODE, art. 1127. JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 657. CIVIL CODE, art. 1129. CIVIL CODE, arts. 1117, 1130-1131.

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claim of ownership of all is a constructive possession of all, if the remainder is not in the adverse possession of another.124 However, the period of possession in acquisitive prescription may be interrupted naturally, civilly, or by express or tacit recognition by the possessor of the ownership.125 In extinctive prescription, interruption may occur (1) when they are filed before the court, (2) when there is a written extra-judicial demand by the creditors, and (3) when there is any written acknowledgment of the debt by the debtor.126 With such conversion, property may now fall within the contemplation of private lands under Section 14(2), and may be registered even if the possession commenced on a date later than the date of enactment of the Property Registration Decree.127 Such does not preclude the application for registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced after the abovementioned date, considering Section 14(2) of the Decree which governs and authorizes the application of those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws. While as a rule, prescription does not run against the State, the exception is where the law itself expressly provides. An example is said Section 14 (2) which specifically allows qualified individuals to apply for the registration of property, ownership of which he has acquired by prescription under existing laws.128 However, a property registered under the provisions of P.D. 1529 is not subject to prescription. Also, prescription is unavailing not only against his hereditary successors because the latter merely step into the shoes of the decedent by operation of law and are merely the continuation of the personality of their predecessor-ininterest.129 Moreover, it was held that a persons possession of a parcel of land covered by a TCT cannot render nugatory the right of the holders of a certificate of title. The reason is that prescription does not run against registered land. A title, once registered, cannot be defeated even by adverse, open, and notorious possession. Moreover, in asserting ownership by donation, petitioners were in effect assailing the title of respondents. A Torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked, the issue on its validity can only be raised in an action expressly institute for that purpose.130 A possessor of land who may not be the owner, after a lapse of a certain period prescribed in the law, may assert ownership thereof as against anyone except the true owner or one with a better title based on an earlier possession which he had not abandoned. Adverse possession or prescription does not run against private lands brought under the operation of the Torrens system, nor against public land except where the law expressly so provides.131
124 125 126 127 128 129

130 131

Ramos v. Director of Lands, 39 Phil 175 (1918). JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 657. CIVIL CODE, ART. 1155. G.R. No. 144057, January 17, 2005. AGCAOILI, PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE, supra note 121, at 657. Simeona Barcelona, et al. v. Hilarion Barcelon and the Honorable Court o Appeals, 100 Phil. 251 (1956). Ong, et al. v. Sps. Cabucos, 356 SCRA 786 (2001). PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES, supra note 199, at 15-16.

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For purposes of prescriptive possession, there is just title (mode) when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property thru any of the modes allowed by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights. These are enumerated in Titles 1 to 5, Book III of the Civil Code, namely; (a) occupation, (b) intellectual creation, (c) law, (d) donation, (e) succession (testate or intestate), (f) in consequence of certain contracts, by tradition, and (g) prescription.132 In computing for prescription, the present possessor may complete the period necessary for prescription by tacking his possession to that of his grantor or predecessor-in-interest. It is presumed that the present possessor who was also the possessor at a previous time, has continued to be in possession during the intervening time, unless there is proof to the contrary.133 Possession in wartime, when the civil courts are not open, shall not be counted in favor of the adverse claimant.134 Prescription does not run between husband and wife. Even though there be a separation of property agreed upon in the marriage settlement or by judicial decree. Neither does prescription run between parents and children during the minority or insanity of the latter, and between guardian and ward during the continuance of the guardianship.135 While prescription, as a rule, does not run in favor of a co-owner as long as he expressly or impliedly recognized the co-ownership, it may take place where it is clearly shown that the co-owner has repudiated the co-owership, and that the other co-owners were appraised of the repudiation.136 Persons with capacity to alienate property may renounce prescription already obtained, but not the right to prescribe in the future. Prescription is deemed to have been tacitly renounced when the renunciation results from acts which imply the abandonment of the right acquired.137 Laches should not be confused with prescription. Laches is different from, and applies independently of, prescription. While prescription is concerned with the fact of delay, laches is concerned with the effect of delay. Prescription is a matter of time; laches is principally a question of inequity of permitting a claim to be enforced, this inequity being founded on some change in the condition of the property or the relation of the parties. Prescription is statutory; laches is not. Laches apllies in equity, whereas prescription applies at law. Prescription is based on a fixed time; laches is not.138 (3) Accretion

132 133 134 135 136 137 138

CIVIL CODE, art. 712. CIVIL CODE, art. 1138. CIVIL CODE, art. 1136. JURADO, OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS, supra note 256, at 654. NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION , supra note 3, at 19. CIVIL CODE , art. 1112. Heirs of Batiof Lacamen v. Heirs of Laman, 65 SCRA 605 (1975).

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Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited.139 It is the act by which the land bordering a stream or other body of water increases its area by the gradual deposit of soil or seaweeds by the current of the river or other natural process.140 Article 457 of the Civil Code provides that to the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters. As a mode of acquiring property under Article 457 of the Civil Code, there are three requisites which must concur before an accretion is said to have taken place: (a) (b) (c) The accumulation of soil or sediment must be gradual and imperceptible; That it be made through the effects of the current of the water; and That the land where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of the rivers.141

These are called the rules on alluvion which if present in a case, give to owners of lands adjoining he banks of rivers or streams any accretion gradually received from the effects of the current waters.142 Alluvion is the soil deposited on the estate fronting the river bank.143 In order to acquire land by accretion, there should be a natural and actual continuity of the accretion to the land of the riparian owner.144 The requirement that the deposit should be due to the effects of the current of the river is indispensable. Alluvion must be the exclusive work of nature. 145 A riparian owner then does not acquire the additions to his land caused by special works expressly intended or designed to bring about accretion.146 There must be evidence to prove that the addition to the property was made gradually through the effects of the current of the river.147 In the absence of evidence that the change in the course of the river was sudden or that it occurred though avulsion, the presumption is that the change was gradual and caused by accretion and erosion.148 Acts of possession exercised over bordering land are always understood legally to cover that portion added to the property by accretion.149 One must prove his claim by a preponderance of evidence.150
139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150

Navarro v Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68166, February 12, 1997. PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES , supra note 199, at 39. Navarro, G.R. No. 68166. PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES , supra note 199, at 35. Navarro, G.R. No. 68166. PEA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES , supra note 199, at 35. NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION , supra note 3, at 109. Republic v Court of Appeals and Tancinco, GR No. L-61647, October 12, 1984 NOBLEJAS, supra note 285. Hodges v Garcia, G.R. No. L-12730, Aug. 22, 1960. Cortes v City of Manila, G.R. No. L-4012, March 25, 1908 65 C.J.S. 183

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The fact that the accretion to ones land used to pertain to anothers estate, which is covered by a Torrens certificate of title, cannot preclude the former from being the owner thereof. Registration does not protect the riparian owner against the diminution of the area of his land through gradual changes in the course of the adjoining stream. Accretions which the banks of rivers may gradually receive from the effect of the current become the property of the owners of the banks. Such accretions are natural incidents to land bordering on running streams and the provisions of the Civil Code in that respect are not affected by the Property Registration Decree.151 Riparian owners are unquestionably owners of the alluvial deposits on their lands caused by the current of the river, and the area within the boundaries thereof prevail over that which the title shows.152 The reason behind the law giving the riparian owner the right to any land or alluvion deposited by a river is to compensate him for the danger of loss that he suffers because of the location of his land. 153 Accretion does not become automatically registered land just because the lot which received such accretion is covered by a Torrens title. Ownership of a piece of land is one thing, registration under the Torrens System of ownership is another.154 As such, it must also be placed under the operation of the Torrens system.155 Alluvial formation along the seashore is part of the public domain and, therefore, not open to acquisition by adverse possession by private persons. Since the land is foreshore land or property of public dominion, its disposition falls under the exclusive supervision and control of the Lands Management Bureau. Until a formal declaration on the part of the Government, through the executive department or the legislature, to the effect that land is no longer needed for coast guard service, for public use or for special industries, they continue to be part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership. The adjoining registered owner of foreshore land cannot claim ownership thereof by right of accretion.156 (4) Reclamation157

This method suggests the filling of submerged land by deliberate act and reclaiming title thereto. In the Philippines, there is no law, express or implied which grants to owners of adjacent upland the right to fill the adjacent land under water. Reclaimed lands may however, be declared by the government as property of the adjoining owners and as such increment thereto only when it is no longer necessary for public use. Reclamation projects may be undertaken for the establishment of residential, commercial or industrial sites, construction
151 152 153 154 155 156 157

Hodges, G.R. No. L-12730. Government of the Philippines v. Abaja, 52 Phil. 261 (1928). Cortes, G.R. No. L-4012. Grande v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-17652 (1962) Cureg v. Intermediate Appellate Court, GR No. 73465, September 7, 1989 Ignacio v. Director of Lands, GR. No. L-12958, May 30, 1960. NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION , supra note 3, at 42.

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or extension of roads, wharves or piers, airfields, parks, playgrounds, plazas, market places, etc. Republic Act No. 2264, entitled AN ACT AMENDING THE LAWS GOVERNING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BY CREATING THEIR AUTONOMY AND REORGANIZING PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS, does not expressly authorize local governments to undertake or carry out reclamation projects. However, such authority is believed to be included in the general authority granted local governments to undertake and carry out any public works projects. This view is grounded on Section 12 of said Act.158 The reclamation projects in Manila Bay and the coastal municipalities extending from Pasay City to Cavite City are being undertaken pursuant to the authority granted by R.A. 2264 to local governments. Under R.A. 1899, the National Government granted to all municipalities and chartered cities, the authority to carry out at their own expense, the reclamation by dredging, filling, and other means of any foreshore lands bordering on them, and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities or chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Public Works and Highways. Any and all such lands reclaimed will become property of the respective municipalities and chartered cities; but the new foreshore along the reclaimed areas shall continue to become property of the National Government. (5) Voluntary Transfer

A private grant is the usual means by which title to land is transferred by the owner himself or his duly authorized representative. Here the consent or cooperation of the grantor is an essential element. This transfer is given effect by the voluntary execution of deed of conveyance in certain prescribed form, completed by the recording or registration thereof in a public office. The purpose of such registration is to serve public notice at least constructively and thereby legally bind third persons. Under the Torrens system, it is the registration that is the operative act to convey the land and affect title thereto. In other words, the legal title to the land does not pass until the conveyance shall have been duly registered or made of public record.159 Filamore called this transfer Tradition. Tradition is the act of delivering the thing sold to the buyer or vendee by (a) turning over material possession of the thing sold, or (b) symbolic transfer of ownership thereof.160 The former
158

159 160

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

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transfers actual and physical control over the buyer, while the other is done by executing a public instrument. Filmore said that, according to Melquiades J. Gamboa, the requisites of tradition are: (1) the transferor is the owner of the property transferred and has the capacity and intention to grant; (2) the transferee has the capacity to acquire the property; (3) there is justa causa or valid means of transfer such as the contract of sale, barter or legacy; and (4) the actual transfer of possession to the transferee is manifested by some outward act.161 (6) Involuntary Alienation

This method of transfer does not require the consent or cooperation of the owner of the land, and, in fact, is usually carried out against his will. For the more common forms of involuntary alienation, we have them in connection with judgments of the courts in expropriation or condemnation proceedings. Land is forcibly acquired by the state through the exercise of eminent domain, or by way of escheat or forfeiture. It may also be confiscated, seized or attached, and subsequently sold at public auction to the highest bidder. We have the execution sale by the sheriff to satisfy a money judgment, the tax sale to satisfy unpaid taxes and penalties, the auction sale by a public officer in foreclosure of mortgage. Some authorities even consider the sale of property under special order of the court for and in behalf of a minor or a person under legal disability as falling within the category of involuntary alienation in the same way as a sale by judicial administrator or executor of an estate of a decedent. Under this mode of acquiring land, the purchasers are generally subject to the rule of caveat emptor.162 (7) Testate and Intestate Succession

Transfer of title by testate or intestate succession is governed by the Civil Law. Title to land is acquired by descent in case an heir succeeds the deceased owner in intestacy or by reasons of certain relationship which entitles him to succeed by operation of law. To be an heir, it requires a certain degree or relationship with the decedent. A landowner may execute his last will and testament designating his heir and legatee who shall receive the respective portions of his estate pursuant to law.
163

The testator cannot dispose of that portion of his estate called Legitime which is reserved for his compulsory heirs, namely: the legitimate children or descendants, legitimate parents and ascendants, his widow; acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction as well as illegitimate children. 164

161 162 163 164

FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 1, at 54. NOBLEJAS, REGISTRATION , supra note 3, at 299. CIVIL CODE, arts. 884-914. CIVIL CODE, arts. 886-887.

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When a person dies without a will, or the will does not institute an heir to the property or the testator, or no one succeeds under the will, intestate succession shall take place.165 Under this system, his legitimate children and descendants succeed him, followed by his parents, mother and father, who inherit in equal shares; or when they are both dead, the illegitimate children, or acknowledged natural children, the natural children by legal fiction and adulterous children succeed in this order. Finally, the State inherits when the ascendants and descendants of the testator do not exist.166 Professor Gamboa summarizes the order of intestate succession, thus: (1) legitimate children and their descendants; (2) legitimate parents and descendants; (3) illegitimate children and their descendants; (4) surviving spouse without prejudice to the rights of brothers and sisters; (5) collateral relatives within the fifth (5th) degree; and (6) the State.167 In Austria v. Reyes 168 the Supreme Court enunciated that testacy is favored and doubts are resolved on the side, especially where the will evinces an intention on the part of the testator to dispose of practically his whole estate. Furthermore, so compelling is the principle that intestacy should be avoided and the wishes of the testator allowed prevailing, that we could even vary the language of the will for the purpose of giving it effect. Succession by Devise One succeeds by devise when he acquires land from one who may not be a relative, if he is named by the latter in his last will and testament to succeed as such. Even a stranger may acquire title by devise if appropriate disposition has been made in his favor by the testator in the latters will. Where the heirs entitled would so prefer, title to land under this method may formally be transferred without proceeding in court. Under the provisions of Rule 74, Section 1, of the Rules of Court, they may agree upon an extrajudicial settlement or partition of the estate of the decedent, provided there are no debts left by him which remain unsettled.

165 166 167 168

CIVIL CODE, art. 968. Arts. 963-1014, ibid. FILAMOR, REAL ESTATE LAW, supra note 19, at 204. 31 SCRA 754 (1970).

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