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G.R. No.

L-27952 February 15, 1982 TESTATE ESTATE OF JOSE EUGENIO RAMIREZ, MARIA LUISA PALACIOS, Administratrix, petitioner-appellee, vs. MARCELLE D. VDA. DE RAMIREZ, ET AL., oppositors, JORGE and ROBERTO RAMIREZ, legatees, oppositors- appellants.

ABAD SANTOS, J.: The main issue in this appeal is the manner of partitioning the testate estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez among the principal beneficiaries, namely: his widow Marcelle Demoron de Ramirez; his two grandnephews Roberto and Jorge Ramirez; and his companion Wanda de Wrobleski. The task is not trouble-free because the widow Marcelle is a French who lives in Paris, while the companion Wanda is an Austrian who lives in Spain. Moreover, the testator provided for substitutions. Jose Eugenio Ramirez, a Filipino national, died in Spain on December 11, 1964, with only his widow as compulsory heir. His will was admitted to probate by the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch X, on July 27, 1965. Maria Luisa Palacios was appointed administratrix of the estate. In due time she submitted an inventory of the estate as follows:
INVENTARIO Una sexta parte (1/6) proindiviso de un te rreno, con sus mejoras y edificaciones, situadoen la Escolta, Manila............................................................. P500,000.00 Una sexta parte (1/6) proindiviso de dos parcelas de terreno situadas en Antipolo, Rizal................... 658.34 Cuatrocientos noventa y uno (491) acciones de la 'Central Azucarera de la Carlota a P17.00 por accion ................................................................................8,347.00 Diez mil ochocientos seize (10,806) acciones

de la 'Central Luzon Milling Co.', disuelta y en liquidacion a P0.15 por accion ..............................................1,620.90 Cuenta de Ahorros en el Philippine Trust Co.............................................................................................. 2,350.73 TOTAL.............................................................. P512,976.97 MENOS: Deuda al Banco de las Islas Filipinas, garantizada con prenda de las acciones de La Carlota ......... P 5,000,00 VALOR LIQUIDO........................................... P507,976.97

The testamentary dispositions are as follows:

A.En nuda propiedad, a D. Roberto y D. Jorge Ramirez, ambas menores de edad, residentes en Manila, I.F., calle 'Alright, No. 1818, Malate, hijos de su sobrino D. Jose Ma. Ramirez, con sustitucion vulgar a favor de sus respectivos descendientes, y, en su defecto, con sustitucion vulgar reciprocal entre ambos. El precedente legado en nuda propiedad de la participacion indivisa de la finca Santa Cruz Building, lo ordena el testador a favor de los legatarios nombrados, en atencion a que dicha propiedad fue creacion del querido padre del otorgante y por ser aquellos continuadores del apellido Ramirez, B.Y en usufructo a saber: a. En cuanto a una tercera parte, a favor de la esposa del testador, Da. Marcelle Ramirez, domiciliada en IE PECO, calle del General Gallieni No. 33, Seine Francia, con sustitucion vulgar u fideicomisaria a favor de Da. Wanda de Wrobleski, de Palma de Mallorca, Son Rapina Avenida de los Reyes 13, b.Y en cuanto a las dos terceras partes restantes, a favor de la nombrada Da. Wanda de Nrobleski con sustitucion vulgar v fideicomisaria a saber: En cuanto a la mitad de dichas dos terceras partes, a favor de D. Juan Pablo Jankowski, de Son Rapina Palma de Mallorca; y encuanto a la mitad restante, a favor de su sobrino, D. Horace V. Ramirez, San Luis Building, Florida St. Ermita, Manila, I.F. A pesar de las sustituciones fideiconiisarias precedentemente ordinadas, las usufiructuarias nombradas conjuntamente con los nudo propietarios, podran en cualquier memento vender a tercero los bienes objeto delegado, sin intervencion alguna de los titulares fideicomisaarios.

On June 23, 1966, the administratrix submitted a project of partition as follows: the property of the deceased is to be divided into two parts. One part shall go to the widow

'en pleno dominio" in satisfaction of her legitime; the other part or "free portion" shall go to Jorge and Roberto Ramirez "en nuda propriedad." Furthermore, one third (1/3) of the free portion is charged with the widow's usufruct and the remaining two-thirds (2/3) with a usufruct in favor of Wanda. Jorge and Roberto opposed the project of partition on the grounds: (a) that the provisions for vulgar substitution in favor of Wanda de Wrobleski with respect to the widow's usufruct and in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horacio V. Ramirez, with respect to Wanda's usufruct are invalid because the first heirs Marcelle and Wanda) survived the testator; (b) that the provisions for fideicommissary substitutions are also invalid because the first heirs are not related to the second heirs or substitutes within the first degree, as provided in Article 863 of the Civil Code; (c) that the grant of a usufruct over real property in the Philippines in favor of Wanda Wrobleski, who is an alien, violates Section 5, Article III of the Philippine Constitution; and that (d) the proposed partition of the testator's interest in the Santa Cruz (Escolta) Building between the widow Marcelle and the appellants, violates the testator's express win to give this property to them Nonetheless, the lower court approved the project of partition in its order dated May 3, 1967. It is this order which Jorge and Roberto have appealed to this Court. 1. The widow's legitime. The appellant's do not question the legality of giving Marcelle one-half of the estate in full ownership. They admit that the testator's dispositions impaired his widow's legitime. Indeed, under Art. 900 of the Civil Code "If the only survivor is the widow or widower, she or he shall be entitled to one-half of the hereditary estate." And since Marcelle alone survived the deceased, she is entitled to one-half of his estate over which he could impose no burden, encumbrance, condition or substitution of any kind whatsoever. (Art. 904, par. 2, Civil Code.) It is the one-third usufruct over the free portion which the appellants question and justifiably so. It appears that the court a quo approved the usufruct in favor of Marcelle because the testament provides for a usufruct in her favor of one-third of the estate. The court a quo erred for Marcelle who is entitled to one-half of the estate "en pleno dominio" as her legitime and which is more than what she is given under the will is not entitled to have any additional share in the estate. To give Marcelle more than her legitime will run counter to the testator's intention for as stated above his dispositions even impaired her legitime and tended to favor Wanda. 2. The substitutions. It may be useful to recall that "Substitution is the appoint- judgment of another heir so that he may enter into the inheritance in default of the heir originally instituted." (Art. 857, Civil Code. And that there are several kinds of substitutions, namely: simple or common, brief or compendious, reciprocal, and fideicommissary (Art. 858, Civil Code.) According to Tolentino, "Although the Code enumerates four classes, there are really

only two principal classes of substitutions: the simple and the fideicommissary. The others are merely variations of these two." (111 Civil Code, p. 185 [1973].) The simple or vulgar is that provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code which reads:
ART. 859. The testator may designate one or more persons to substitute the heir or heirs instituted in case such heir or heirs should die before him, or should not wish, or should be incapacitated to accept the inheritance. A simple substitution, without a statement of the cases to which it refers, shall comprise the three mentioned in the preceding paragraph, unless the testator has otherwise provided.

The fideicommissary substitution is described in the Civil Code as follows:

ART. 863. A fideicommissary substitution by virtue of which the fiduciary or first heir instituted is entrusted with the obligation to preserve and to transmit to a second heir the whole or part of inheritance, shall be valid and shall take effect, provided such substitution does not go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted, and provided further that the fiduciary or first heir and the second heir are living at time of the death of the testator.

It will be noted that the testator provided for a vulgar substitution in respect of the legacies of Roberto and Jorge Ramirez, the appellants, thus: con sustitucion vulgar a favor de sus respectivos descendientes, y, en su defecto, con substitution vulgar reciprocal entre ambos. The appellants do not question the legality of the substitution so provided. The appellants question the sustitucion vulgar y fideicomisaria a favor de Da. Wanda de Wrobleski" in connection with the one-third usufruct over the estate given to the widow Marcelle However, this question has become moot because as We have ruled above, the widow is not entitled to any usufruct. The appellants also question the sustitucion vulgar y fideicomisaria in connection with Wanda's usufruct over two thirds of the estate in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace v. Ramirez. They allege that the substitution in its vulgar aspect as void because Wanda survived the testator or stated differently because she did not predecease the testator. But dying before the testator is not the only case for vulgar substitution for it also includes refusal or incapacity to accept the inheritance as provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code, supra. Hence, the vulgar substitution is valid. As regards the substitution in its fideicommissary aspect, the appellants are correct in their claim that it is void for the following reasons: (a) The substitutes (Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez) are not related to Wanda, the heir originally instituted. Art. 863 of the Civil Code validates a

fideicommissary substitution "provided such substitution does not go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted." What is meant by "one degree" from the first heir is explained by Tolentino as follows:
Scaevola Maura, and Traviesas construe "degree" as designation, substitution, or transmission. The Supreme Court of Spain has decidedly adopted this construction. From this point of view, there can be only one tranmission or substitution, and the substitute need not be related to the first heir. Manresa, Morell and Sanchez Roman, however, construe the word "degree" as generation, and the present Code has obviously followed this interpretation. by providing that the substitution shall not go beyond one degree "from the heir originally instituted." The Code thus clearly indicates that the second heir must be related to and be one generation from the first heir. From this, it follows that the fideicommissary can only be either a child or a parent of the first heir. These are the only relatives who are one generation or degree from the fiduciary (Op. cit., pp. 193-194.)

(b) There is no absolute duty imposed on Wanda to transmit the usufruct to the substitutes as required by Arts. 865 and 867 of the Civil Code. In fact, the appellee admits "that the testator contradicts the establishment of a fideicommissary substitution when he permits the properties subject of the usufruct to be sold upon mutual agreement of the usufructuaries and the naked owners." (Brief, p. 26.) 3. The usufruct of Wanda. The appellants claim that the usufruct over real properties of the estate in favor of Wanda is void because it violates the constitutional prohibition against the acquisition of lands by aliens. The 1935 Constitution which is controlling provides as follows:
SEC. 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines. (Art. XIII.)

The court a quo upheld the validity of the usufruct given to Wanda on the ground that the Constitution covers not only succession by operation of law but also testamentary succession. We are of the opinion that the Constitutional provision which enables aliens to acquire private lands does not extend to testamentary succession for otherwise the prohibition will be for naught and meaningless. Any alien would be able to circumvent the prohibition by paying money to a Philippine landowner in exchange for a devise of a piece of land. This opinion notwithstanding, We uphold the usufruct in favor of Wanda because a usufruct, albeit a real right, does not vest title to the land in the usufructuary and it is the vesting of title to land in favor of aliens which is proscribed by the Constitution.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez is hereby ordered distributed as follows: One-half (1/2) thereof to his widow as her legitime; One-half (1/2) thereof which is the free portion to Roberto and Jorge Ramirez in naked ownership and the usufruct to Wanda de Wrobleski with a simple substitution in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez. The distribution herein ordered supersedes that of the court a quo. No special pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

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

NOCON, J.: For review before Us is the decision of the Court of Appeals in the land registration case entitled J. 1 Antonio Araneta v. The Director of Lands and Director of Forest Development, AC-G.R. CV. No. 00636, affirming the lower court's approval of the application for registration of a parcel of land in favor of applicant therein, J. Antonio Araneta. Evidence show that the land involved is actually an island known as Tambac Island in Lingayen Gulf. Situated in the Municipality of Bani, Pangasinan, the area consists of 187,288 square meters, more or less. The initial application for registration was filed for Pacific Farms, Inc. under the provisions of the Land Registration Act, Act No. 496, as amended. The Republic of the Philippines, thru the Director of Lands opposed the application alleging that the applicant, Pacific Farms, Inc. does not possess a fee simple title to the land nor did its predecessors possess the land for at least thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of application. The opposition likewise specifically alleged that the applicant is a private corporation disqualified under the (1973) new Philippine Constitution from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain citing Section 11, 2 Article 14. The Director of Forest Development also entered its opposition alleging that the land is within the unclassified public land and, hence, inalienable. Other private parties also filed their oppositions, but were subsequently withdrawn.

In an amended application, Pacific Farms, Inc. filed a manifestation-motion to change the applicant from Pacific Farms, Inc. to J. Antonio Araneta. Despite the supposed amendment, there was no republication. Evidence presented by the applicant include the testimony of Placido Orlando, fishery guard of Pacific Farms, Inc., who said he has known the disputed land since he attained the age of reason for some forty (40) years now; that when he first came to know the property it was then owned by and in the possession of Paulino Castelo, Juan Ambrosio and Julio Castelo, and later on the whole island was bought by Atty. Vicente Castelo who in turn sold it to J. Antonio Araneta. Deposition by oral examination of Araneta was also presented, together with documents of sale, tax declarations and receipts, and survey of property. Applicant, however, failed to present the tracing cloth plan and instead submitted to the court certified copies thereof. While this case is pending here in Court, respondent filed an Omnibus Motion for Substitution of private 3 respondent. Apparently, Antonio Araneta had assigned his rights to and interest in Tambac Island to 4 Amancio R. Garcia who in turn assigned his rights and interest in the same property to Johnny A. Khonghun whose nationality was not alleged in the pleadings. On October 4, 1979, the trial court rendered a decision adjudicating the subject property to J. Antonio Araneta. On appeal to the then Intermediate Appellate Court, the decision of the lower court was affirmed on December 12, 1985. Petitioners raised the following errors: I. The lower court erred in adjudicating the lands subject of registration to applicantappellee despite his failure to present the original tracing cloth plan the submission of which is a statutory requirement of mandatory character. II. The lower court erred in not denying registration in favor of J. Antonio Araneta since the amendment of the application was simply an attempt to avoid the application of the constitutional provision disqualifying a private corporation the Pacific Farms, Inc. in this case from acquiring lands of public domain. III. The lower court erred in not declaring the land known as the "Tambac Island" not subject of registration it being an island formed on the seas. IV. The lower court erred in adjudicating the land to the applicant under the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, despite absence of any specific invocation of this law in the original and amended application. V. The lower court erred in not granting the government's motion for reconsideration at least to enable it to present proof of the status of the land as within the unclassified public forest, and hence beyond the court's jurisdiction to adjudicate as private property. VI. The lower court erred in not declaring that the applicant has failed to overthrow the presumption that the land is a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines. From the foregoing it appears that the more important issues are: 1) whether the presentation of the tracing cloth plan is necessary; and 2) whether the land known as "Tambac Island" can be subject to registration.

By mere consideration of the first assignment of error, We can right away glean the merit of the petition. Respondent claims that the tracing cloth plan is with the files of the Land Registration Commission, and the only evidence that can be presented to that fact is the request for the issuance of a certified copy 5 thereof and the certified copy issued pursuant to the request. Respondent further argues that failure of the petitioners to object to the presentation of the certified copy of the tracing cloth plan was the basis of the trial court's denial of petitioner's motion for reconsideration. In a very recent decision of this Court, entitled The Director of Lands v. The Honorable Intermediate 6 Appellate Court and Lino Anit, We have ruled that the submission of the tracing cloth plan is a 7 mandatory requirement for registration. Reiterating Our ruling in Director of Lands v. Reyes, We asserted that failure to submit in evidence the original tracing cloth plan is fatal it being a statutory requirement of mandatory character. It is of no import that petitioner failed to object to the presentation of the certified copy of the said plan. What is required is the original tracing cloth plan of the land applied for and objection to such requirement 8 cannot be waived either expressly or impliedly. This case is no different from the case of Director of Lands v. Reyes, supra wherein We said that if the original tracing cloth plan was indeed with the Land Registration Commission, there is no reason why the applicant cannot easily retrieve the same and submit it in evidence, it being an essential requirement for registration. As to the second assignment of error, We are inclined to agree with petitioners that the amendment of the application from the name of Pacific Farms Inc., as applicant, to the name of J. Antonio Araneta Inc., was 9 a mere attempt to evade disqualification. Our Constitution, whether the 1973 or 10 1987, prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. Apparently realizing such prohibition, respondent amended its application to conform with the mandates of the law. However, We cannot go along with petitioners' position that the absence of republication of an amended application for registration is a jurisdictional flaw. We should distinguish. Amendments to the application may be due to change in parties or substantial change in the boundaries or increase in the area of the land applied for. In the former case, neither the Land Registration Act, as amended, nor Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, requires republication and registration may be 11 allowed by the court at any stage of the proceeding upon just and reasonable terms. On the other hand, republication is required if the amendment is due to substantial change in the boundaries or increase in the area of the land applied for. As to the fourth assignment of error. We do not see any relevant dispute in the lower court's application of Presidential Decree No. 1529, instead of Act No. 496, in adjudicating the land to the then applicant, assuming that the land involved is registrable. Both laws are existing and can stand together. P.D. 1529 was enacted to codify the various laws relative to registration of property, in order to facilitate effective 12 implementation of said laws. The third, fifth and sixth assignment of errors are likewise meritorious and shall be discussed forthwith together. Respondent asserts that contrary to the allegation of petitioners, the reports of the District Land Officer of Dagupan City, Land Inspector Perfecto Daroy and Supervising Land Examiner Teodoro P. Nieva show that the subject property is an unclassified public land, not forest land. This claim is rather misleading. The report of Supervising Land Examiner Nieva specifically states that the "land is within the unclassified 13 forest land" under the administrative jurisdiction of the then Bureau of Forest Development. This was based on the reports of Land Inspector Daroy and District Land Officer Feliciano Liggayu.

Lands of the public domain are classified under three main categories, namely: Mineral, Forest and 14 Disposable or Alienable Lands. Under the Commonwealth Constitution, only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. Their disposition was provided for under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 6-7), which states that it is only the President, upon the recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands. Mineral and Timber or forest lands are not subject to private ownership unless they are first 15 reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation. In the absence of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. Courts 16 have no authority to do so. This is in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Hence, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other 17 purposes. The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of state ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.

Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by convincing evidence that the property involved was acquired by him or his ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by possessory information title, or any other means for the proper acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be part of the public domain. The applicant must present evidence and persuasive proof 19 to substantiate his claim. In this particular case, respondent presented proof that as early as 1921, the subject property has been declared for tax purposes with receipts attached, in the names of respondent's predecessors-in-interest. Nevertheless, in that span of time there had been no attempt to register the same either under Act 496 or under the Spanish Mortgage Law. It is also rather intriguing that Vicente Castelo who acquired almost 90% of the property from Alejo Ambrosia, et al. on June 18, 1958 and from Julio Castelo on June 19, 1958 immediately sold the same to applicant J. Antonio Araneta on 3 July 1958. According to the report of Land Investigator Daroy, the land was declared for taxation purposes in the name of Vicente Castelo only in 1958 and the purported old tax declarations are not on file with the Provincial Assessor's Office. In any case tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership or of the right to 20 possess land when not supported by evidence. The fact that the disputed property may have been declared for taxation purposes in the names of the applicants or of their predecessors-in-interest way 21 back in 1921 does not necessarily prove ownership. They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership. Respondent's contention that the BFD, LC Map No. 681, certified on August 8, 1927 which was the basis of the report and recommendation of the Land Examiner, is too antiquated; that it cannot be conclusively relied upon and was not even presented in evidence, is not well taken. As We have said in the case of 22 Director of Lands v. CA: And the fact that BF Map LC No. 673 dated March 1, 1927 showing subject property to be within unclassified region was not presented in evidence will not operate against the State considering the stipulation between the parties and under the well-settled rule that the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents, if omission there was, in fact.

Respondent even admitted that Tambac Island is still an unclassified public land as of 1927 and remains to be unclassified. Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever possession 23 the applicant may have had and however long, cannot ripen into private ownership. The conversion of subject property does not automatically render the property as alienable and disposable. In effect what the courts a quo have done is to release the subject property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their competence and jurisdiction. We reiterate that the classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the land remains unclassified until released therefrom and rendered 24 open to disposition. In fairness to respondent, the petitioners should seriously consider the matter of the reclassification of the land in question. The attempt of people to have disposable lands they have been tilling for generations titled in their name should not only be viewed with understanding attitude, but as a matter of policy 25 encouraged. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED and the decisions of the courts a quo are REVERSED. SO ORDERED.