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Republic of the Philippines AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of

SUPREME COURT Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands.
Manila
There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition
EN BANC for review on certiorari of the Decision1of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming
that2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which granted the
G.R. No. 167707 October 8, 2008 petition for declaratory relief filed by respondents-claimants Mayor Jose
Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes. The
second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus, and
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND nullification of Proclamation No. 10645">[3] issued by President Gloria
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural
DENR-REGION VI, REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, land.
LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI PROVINCIAL
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO,
AKLAN, REGISTER OF DEEDS, DIRECTOR OF LAND REGISTRATION The Antecedents
AUTHORITY, DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF
PHILIPPINE TOURISM AUTHORITY, petitioners, G.R. No. 167707
vs.
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white
ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and in behalf of all those similarly sand beaches and warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine
situated, respondents. tourist destination. The island is also home to 12,003 inhabitants 4 who live in
the bone-shaped island’s three barangays.5

x--------------------------------------------------x On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay

G.R. No. G.R. No. 173775 October 8, 2008 Island,6 which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named
persons.7
DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE
LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY SIMILARLY SITUATED NAMED IN A On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued
LIST, ANNEX "A" OF THIS PETITION, petitioners, Proclamation No. 18018 declaring Boracay Island, among other islands,
vs. caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND reserves under the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR President Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-829 dated
LANDS, LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI, PROVINCIAL September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801.
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO,
AKLAN, respondents.
Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded
them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or
DECISION survey of land for titling purposes, respondents-claimants
Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad, and Aniceto
REYES, R.T., J.: Yap filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo, Aklan.
In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801 The RTC took judicial notice14 that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island,
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over more particularly Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original
their occupied lands. They declared that they themselves, or through their Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco
predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and S. Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262 filed
notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June 12, 1945, or before the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.15 The titles were issued on
earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax purposes
and paid realty taxes on them.10 August 7, 1933.16

Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its RTC and CA Dispositions
implementing Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man.
Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of private
ownership. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141, On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents-
otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the right to have the lots claimants, with a fallo reading:
registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle to
the petition for declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire title to their lands in
was an unclassified land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass of Boracay, in accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner
lands classified as "public forest," which was not available for disposition prescribed therein; and to have their lands surveyed and approved by
pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 or the Revised respondent Regional Technical Director of Lands as the approved survey
Forestry Code,11 as amended. does not in itself constitute a title to the land.

The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants’ reliance on PD No. 1801 SO ORDERED.17


and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation
of title was governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since Boracay Island The RTC upheld respondents-claimants’ right to have their occupied lands
had not been classified as alienable and disposable, whatever possession titled in their name. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA
they had cannot ripen into ownership. Circular No. 3-82 mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable or could
not be the subject of disposition.18 The Circular itself recognized private
During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the ownership of lands.19 The trial court cited Sections 8720 and 5321 of the
following facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands in
parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted with Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared as
coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the coconut trees had part of the forest reserve.22
heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less
fifty (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land they The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.23 The
were occupying for tax purposes.12 Republic then appealed to the CA.

The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision,
legal: whether Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or disposing as follows:
impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego with
the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of their WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby
respective memoranda.13 rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the
decision of the lower court.24
The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two
declaration that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part of petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land
a forest reserve. classification of Boracay Island.33

Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.25 Hence, Issues
the present petition under Rule 45.
G.R. No. 167707
G.R. No. 173775
The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria Circular No. 3-82 pose any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those
Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 106426 classifying Boracay similarly situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island. 34
Island into four hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land (protection
purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96) hectares of G.R. No. 173775
agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation likewise
provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of
roads and trails, reserved for right-of-way and which shall form part of the Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely:
area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
I.
On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,27Wilfredo
Gelito,28 and other landowners29 in Boracay filed with this Court an original AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS
petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. IN CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN
1064.30 They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their "prior vested BORACAY, SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT THE LATEST SINCE 30
rights" over portions of Boracay. They have been in continued possession of YRS. PRIOR TO THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY
their respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have also RELIEF ON NOV. 19, 1997, WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM
invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and building PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON
internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots. 31 JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST
AS DEFINED BY SEC. 3a, PD 705?
Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation
reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither II.
mineral nor timber land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first Public Land HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT
Act.32 Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required period OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIPOVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF
entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED
YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE?
Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not
have a vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an III.
unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being
public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be
the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only the executive IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE
department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of the AND DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN] INDISPENSABLE PRE-
public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need for a REQUISITE FOR PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLEUNDER THE
positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition. TORRENS SYSTEM?
IV. The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural,
forest or timber.40 Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following
IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006, divisions: agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement,
VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP mineral, timber or forest and grazing lands, and such other classes as may
OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY, PROTECTED BY be provided by law,41 giving the government great leeway for
THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS classification.42 Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution
PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF classification with one addition: national parks.43 Of these, only agricultural
RA 6657. lands may be alienated.44 Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May 22, 2006,
Boracay Island had never been expressly and administratively classified
under any of these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the
V. public domain.

CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to
SURVEY AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF the State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of
THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. 45 The doctrine
BORACAY?35 (Underscoring supplied) has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987
Constitutions.46
In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-
claimants in G.R. No. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775) All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are
have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in Boracay. The twin presumed to belong to the State.47Thus, all lands that have not been
petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial confirmation of imperfect title acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not involve their right to secure title State as part of the inalienable public domain.48 Necessarily, it is up to the
under other pertinent laws. State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for
private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed
Our Ruling of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the
favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be
Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of
their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership. 49

to reclassify lands of the public domain


Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the
Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and
Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown. 50 The Regalian
judicial confirmation of imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 1902 36 in doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies
relation to Act No. 926, later amended and/or superseded by Act No. 2874 and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the foundation that "all lands that were not
and CA No. 141;37 (b) Proclamation No. 180138 issued by then President acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No. 106439issued by President Gloria public domain."51
Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive acts.
The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage
Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic
But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims.52
reclassify lands of the public domain.
The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law53 partly amended the Spanish
Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory
information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land, occupation of agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26,
under certain conditions which were set forth in said decree.54 Under Section 1904 was sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.68
393 of the Maura Law, an informacion posesoria or possessory information
title,55 when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property, is converted into a title On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act
of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of uninterrupted No. 2874, otherwise known as the second Public Land Act. This new, more
possession which must be actual, public, and adverse, 56 from the date of its comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos
inscription.57 However, possessory information title had to be perfected one and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same
year after the promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17, 1895. privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession and occupation en
Otherwise, the lands would revert to the State.58 concepto dueño since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was
required.69
In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be
founded on royal concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No.
real or royal grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3) composicion 2874 on December 1, 1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as
con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase; amended, remains as the existing general law governing the classification
and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information title.59> and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral
lands,70 and privately owned lands which reverted to the State.71
The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines
under American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.60 By this Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of
law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time
three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest immemorial or since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was superseded
lands.61 The act provided for, among others, the disposal of mineral lands by by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942,72 which provided for a simple thirty-year
means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The provision
system).62 It also provided the definition by exclusion of "agricultural public was last amended by PD No. 1073,73 which now provides for possession
lands."63 Interpreting the meaning of "agricultural lands" under the Philippine and occupation of the land applied for since June 12, 1945, or earlier.74
Bill of 1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:64
The issuance of PD No. 89275 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of
x x x In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings. 76 Under the
926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not decree, all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of
timber or mineral lands. x x x65 (Emphasis Ours) their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity of the
decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter, the recording of all unregistered
On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act lands77 shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised Administrative
No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act. The act established Code, as amended by Act No. 3344.
a system of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute,
indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system. 66 On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529,
known as the Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the
Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act various laws relative to registration of property.78 It governs registration of
No. 926, which was the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including
homestead system and made provisions for judicial and administrative chattel mortgages.79
confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It
permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning the A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In
controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain. 67 Under keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and
the Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government,
such as an official proclamation,80 declassifying inalienable public land into
disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. 81 In fact, Section 8 of CA land would be classified as timber, mineral, or agricultural depended on
No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have proof presented in each case.
been "officially delimited and classified." 82
Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral,
the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or timber, and agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to make
claiming ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit
is alienable or disposable.83 To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence. 91 This
evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or was the Court’s ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and
claim) is alienable or disposable.84 There must still be a positive act Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v. Republic,92 in which it stated, through
declaring land of the public domain as alienable and disposable. To prove Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:
that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, the
applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be formally
such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative released by an act of the Executive before it can be deemed open to private
action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v.
legislative act or a statute.85 The applicant may also secure a certification Government of the Philippine Islands.
from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the
required number of years is alienable and disposable.86
xxxx
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative
action, report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The Petitioner’s reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v.
records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of Government is misplaced. These cases were decided under the Philippine
Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926 enacted by the Philippine
proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such well- Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no legal provision
nigh incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission that vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the Philippines the power to
lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition before classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber and agricultural so
2006. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. that the courts then were free to make corresponding classifications in
They call for proof.87 justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending
upon the preponderance of the evidence.93
Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or
portions of it, agricultural lands.Private claimants posit that Boracay was To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it
already an agricultural land pursuant to the old cases Ankron v. Government was then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. Thus
of the Philippine Islands (1919)88 and De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts have a right to presume, in the
(1909).89 These cases were decided under the provisions of the Philippine absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old cases that "in agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."94
the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown." 90 But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to
an argument that all lands of the public domain had been automatically
Private claimants’ reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These reclassified as disposable and alienable agricultural lands. By no stretch of
cases did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public domain into
portions of it into agricultural lands. It should be stressed that the Philippine agricultural lands.
Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 merely provided the manner through which land
registration courts would classify lands of the public domain. Whether the
If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and courts have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary,
Act No. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the Philippines, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is
except those already classified as timber or mineral land, alienable and shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular land registration case
disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State ownership and is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its
worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the long- superior value for one purpose or the other is a question of fact to be
entrenched Regalian doctrine. settled by the proof in each particular case. The fact that the land is a
manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to decide whether
The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may perchance belong to one or
registration cases brought under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more the other of said classes of land. The Government, in the first instance,
specifically those cases dealing with judicial and administrative confirmation under the provisions of Act No. 1148, may, by reservation, decide for itself
of imperfect titles. The presumption applies to an applicant for judicial or what portions of public land shall be considered forestry land, unless private
administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act No. 926. It certainly interests have intervened before such reservation is made. In the latter case,
cannot apply to landowners, such as private claimants or their predecessors- whether the land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof.
in-interest, who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As Until private interests have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the
to them, their land remained unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian terms of said Act (No. 1148), may decide for itself what portions of the
doctrine, continued to be owned by the State. "public domain" shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land.
(Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of
Forestry, supra)95(Emphasis ours)
In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute.
Land classification was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof
that the land was better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts could Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of
adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption. lands from the facts of each case, except those that have already became
In Ankron, this Court stated: private lands.96 Act No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in
Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the
President, the exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the Attorney-General alienable or disposable, mineral or forest.96-a Since then, courts no longer
admitted in effect that whether the particular land in question belongs to one had the authority, whether express or implied, to determine the classification
class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a tract of land has of lands of the public domain.97
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. Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued
While, as we have just said, many definitions have been given for their title in 1933,98 did not present a justiciable case for determination by the
"agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that in each case it is a land registration court of the property’s land classification. Simply put, there
question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry or was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay
mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was
the mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application for judicial
No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their predecessors-in-
land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or interest, the courts were no longer authorized to determine the property’s
mineral today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No. 926.
classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the
rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified We note that the RTC decision99 in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v.
as agricultural today may be differently classified tomorrow. Each case Register of Deeds of Manila,100 which was decided in 1947 when CA No.
must be decided upon the proof in that particular case, having regard 141, vesting the Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public
for its present or future value for one or the other purposes. We believe, domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular
however, considering the fact that it is a matter of public knowledge that a Government,101 De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government,102 and Ankron v.
majority of the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the Government of the Philippine Islands.103
Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally thrown open to private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the
different issue. The pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands."
were included in the general classification of agricultural lands; and if so,
whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This Court ruled that as an Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine
alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution104 from acquiring Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere possession by private
agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the issue is whether individuals of lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are
unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed alienable and disposable.108 (Emphasis Ours)
agricultural.
Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an
Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064.
in Krivenko relied on the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No. Such unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No.
2874, including Ankron and De Aldecoa.105 As We have already stated, 705. The DENR109 and the National Mapping and Resource Information
those cases cannot apply here, since they were decided when the Executive Authority110 certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public
did not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural, timber, or mineral. domain.

Private claimants’ continued possession under Act No. 926 does not PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of
create a presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also the public domain as public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a
contend that their continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for the public forest as "a mass of lands of the public domain which has not been
requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No. 926 106 ipso facto converted the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of
the island into private ownership. Hence, they may apply for a title in their which lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not." Applying PD
name. No. 705, all unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island, are ipso
factoconsidered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects titles already
A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of existing prior to its effectivity.
Appeals.107 Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice
Reynato S. Puno in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD
Resources,107-a ruled: No. 705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the island.
Boracay, no doubt, has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave the
"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the way for commercial developments. As a premier tourist destination for local
provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of and foreign tourists, Boracay appears more of a commercial island resort,
lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the rather than a forest land.
homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the
Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso
persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided beach resorts on the island;111 that the island has already been stripped of
for the "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for its forest cover; or that the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will
the establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of destroy the island’s tourism industry, do not negate its character as public
imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish forest.
concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act
operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands
remained in the government; and that the government’s title to public land Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the
sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Constitution112 classifying lands of the public domain into "agricultural, forest
Spain and the United States. The term "public land" referred to all lands of or timber, mineral lands, and national parks," do not necessarily refer to
the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are large tracts of wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees
and underbrushes.113 The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of
Forestry114 is particularly instructive:
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive department
its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of the Circular
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Development’s authority to declare
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way areas in the island as alienable and disposable when it provides:
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other
trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the
land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and Bureau of Forest Development.
does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks
like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official
proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act
agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect needed to classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If
title do not apply.115 (Emphasis supplied) President Marcos intended to classify the island as alienable and disposable
or forest, or both, he would have identified the specific limits of each, as
President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not done in
There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and Proclamation No. 1801.
"forest or timber land" as a classification of lands of the public domain as
appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive of what appears on the land
while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes.116 At any The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale
rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legalstatus of Boracay Island, and behind the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves
not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be
replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial administered by the PTA – to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public
establishments, it has not been automatically converted from public forest to and private sectors in the development of the areas’ tourism potential with
alienable agricultural land. due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the
proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and
ecological purposes. It does not address the areas’ alienability.119
Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The proclamation did not
convert Boracay into an agricultural land. However, private claimants More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island,
argue that Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978 but sixty-four (64) other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines,
entitles them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The Proclamation such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental
classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto
assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership. Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de
Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of Boracay
Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of
Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be
Boracay into an agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is
which made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The reference in Circular clearly beyond, the intent of the proclamation.
No. 3-82 to "private lands"117 and "areas declared as alienable and
disposable"118 does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural.
Notably, Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private lands and It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of
areas but also to public forested lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides: Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private
ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141120 provide that it is only the
President, upon the recommendation of the proper department head, who
No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior authority from the has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or
PTA. All forested areas in public lands are declared forest reserves. disposable, timber and mineral lands.121
(Emphasis supplied)
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did
merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public not bar the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay
domain, presumably subject to existing vested rights. Classification of public Island still remained an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD
lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, through the No. 705.
Office of the President. Courts have no authority to do so.122 Absent such
classification, the land remains unclassified until released and rendered In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v.
open to disposition.123 Republic,124 the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests.

Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically
forest land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation state that the islands are public forests, the fact that they were
likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line unclassified lands leads to the same result. In the absence of the
of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which shall form classification as mineral or timber land, the land remains unclassified land
part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes. until released and rendered open to disposition.125 (Emphasis supplied)

Contrary to private claimants’ argument, there was nothing invalid or Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a "reclassification"
irregular, much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay of land. If the land had never been previously classified, as in the case of
Island made by the President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within Boracay, there can be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian law.
her authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested rights. We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice126 on this point:

Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the prohibition in Section
Reform Law. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 4(a) is the word "reclassification." Where there has been no previous
violates the provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to the mass of the public
RA No. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into agricultural lands. domain which has not been the subject of the present system of
They claim that since Boracay is a public forest under PD No. 705, President classification for purposes of determining which are needed for forest
Arroyo can no longer convert it into an agricultural land without running afoul purposes and which are not] into permanent forest or forest reserves or
of Section 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus: some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry Code, there can be no
"reclassification of forest lands" to speak of within the meaning of Section
SEC. 4. Scope. – The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall 4(a).
cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all
public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. 131 Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the
and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands without a prior law
suitable for agriculture. delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and cannot, apply to
those lands of the public domain, denominated as "public forest" under the
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive Revised Forestry Code, which have not been previously determined, or
Agrarian Reform Program: classified, as needed for forest purposes in accordance with the provisions
of the Revised Forestry Code.127
(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or
suitable for agriculture. No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of
agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this Act until imperfect title under CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights
Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity over the occupied lands under the said law. There are two requisites for
considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the public judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141,
domain. namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-
interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the evidence
June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and presented and the laws applicable. As the law and jurisprudence stand,
disposable land of the public domain.128 private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title over
their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued possession and
As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. considerable investment in the island.
1801 did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The
island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and, applying the One Last Note
Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.
The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the
Private claimants’ bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on the development of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and
Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a number of
because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the
land. Their entitlement to a government grant under our present Public Land Court commiserates with private claimants’ plight, We are bound to apply the
Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is already law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang
alienable and disposable. This is clear from the wording of the law batas at ito ang dapat umiral.
itself.129Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the
land, no matter how long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights.130 All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible
to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA
Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title No. 141, as amended, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the
under Proclamation No. 1064, with respect to those lands which were residential, commercial, and other areas they possess now classified as
classified as agricultural lands. Private claimants failed to prove the first agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments
element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of their on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not necessarily mean
lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945. lack of right to possess.

We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders
relief that private claimants complied with the requisite period of possession. of improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their
possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for
The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to original registration of title, such as by homestead 131 or sales
prove the first element of possession. We note that the earliest of the tax patent,132 subject to the conditions imposed by law.
declarations in the name of private claimants were issued in 1993. Being of
recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this Court More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to
that the period of possession and occupation commenced on June 12, 1945. acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain
requirements under the present land laws. There is one such bill133 now
Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill
been in possession of the island for a long time. They have invested millions will become a law is for Congress to decide.
of pesos in developing the island into a tourist spot. They say their continued
possession and investments give them a vested right which cannot be In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step
unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064. necessary to open up the island to private ownership. This gesture may not
be sufficient to appease some sectors which view the classification of the
The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants island partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no longer
do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision to protect its
them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying. This remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and
ecology. Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress.
To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nation’s survival. Their
promotion and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and
activists. These are needs that become more urgent as destruction of our
environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by
Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:134

The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public
policy that should be followed with respect to forest lands. Many have written
much, and many more have spoken, and quite often, about the pressing
need for forest preservation, conservation, protection, development and
reforestation. Not without justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment
of any country's natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that
absence of the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of
adverse or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees, watersheds
dry up; rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents. The
fish disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to
function, so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is
washed away; geological erosion results. With erosion come the dreaded
floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property – crops, livestock,
houses, and highways – not to mention precious human lives. Indeed, the
foregoing observations should be written down in a lumberman’s
decalogue.135

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:

1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court
of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET
ASIDE.

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

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines with the land in question, the applicant availing himself of the benefits
SUPREME COURT granted by the said Act, prayed that the same be applied to the inscription of
Manila his land, inasmuch as it was included within paragraphs 5 and 6 of section
54, Chapter VI, thereof, and prayed the court to take into consideration the
EN BANC amendment of his petition.

G.R. No. L-3894 March 12, 1909 Evidence was adduced by the petitioner at the trial of the case, and on
February 2, 1907, the judge of the Court of Land Registration entered his
decision in the matter and, in view of the opposition offered by the Insular
JUAN IBAÑEZ DE ALDECOA, petitioner-appellant, Government denied the petition without costs, and ordered the cancellation
vs. of the entry made of the said property in the record under No. 408, folio 206
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee. of volume 2 of the municipality of Surigao.

Del-Pan, Ortigas and Fisher for appellant. The applicant excepted to this decision and moved for a new trial; his motion
Attorney-General Villamor for appellee. was overruled to which he also excepted and presented the corresponding
bill of exceptions which was approved and submitted to this court.
TORRES, J.:
The question set up in these proceedings by virtue of the appeal interposed
On the 8th of March, 1904, in accordance with the new Land Registration by counsel for Juan Ibañez de Aldecoa, is whether or not a parcel of land
Act, Juan Ibañez de Aldecoa applied for the registration of his title to a that is susceptible of being cultivated, and, ceasing to be agricultural land,
parcel of land, 3,375 square meters in extent, situated in the town of was converted into a building lot, is subject to the legal provisions in force
Surigao; a plan and technical description of said parcel was attached to his regarding Government public lands which may be alienated in favor of
application. private individuals or corporations. While from the remote time of the
conquest of this Archipelago the occupation or material possession together
After the formalities of the law were complied with, and an opinion of the with the improvement and cultivation for a certain number of years, as fixed
examiner of titles opposing the request of the applicant, had been rendered, by the laws of the Indies, of given portions of vacant Government lands, was
the Attorney-General by a writing dated March 21, 1905, objected to the the method established by the Government to facilitate the acquisition
registration applied for, alleging that the land in question was the property of thereof by private persons, later, by the royal decrees of June 25, 1880, and
the Government of the United States, and is now under the control of the December 26, 1884, the system of composition with the State and that of
Insular Government; that the title of ownership issued by the politico- sales by public auction were instituted as the means of acquiring such lands.
militargovernor of Surigao, Mindanao, issued on the 19th of June, 1889, to
Telesforo Ibañez de Aldecoa, antecessor of the petitioner with respect to the In view of the difficulties which prevented the rapid dispatch of the
land in question, was entirely null and void, for the reason that said grant proceedings instituted for this purpose, the royal decree of February 13,
had not been made in accordance with the laws then in force on the subject, 1894, was promulgated, establishing the possessory information as the
and because the said governor had no authority to make such a grant; he method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land, under certain
prayed the court below to dismiss the application with costs. conditions which were set out in said decree.

As the case stood the applicant, Aldecoa, on the 8th of April, 1905, amended After the change of sovereignty, the Commission enacted Act No. 926,
his former petition, and relying upon the provisions of paragraph 5 and 6 of relating to public lands, in accordance with the provisions of sections 13, 14,
section 54 of Act No. 926, alleged that at the time he requested the and 15 of the Act of the Congress of the United States of July 1, 1902,
registration of the land in question, comprised in the plan then submitted, the section 54, paragraph 6 of which (Act No. 926) is as follows:
aforesaid Act No. 926 was not yet in force, and as the latter affords better
facilities for securing titles to property unprovided with them, as in the case
SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal successors rural and agricultural in their nature. Rural also were the old towns, the
in right, occupying public lands in the Philippine Islands, or claiming cradle and foundation of the present cities and large towns of the
to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles to Philippines, and as the inhabitants increased, and added to the number of
such lands have not been perfected, may apply to the Court of their dwellings, the farms gradually became converted into town lots.
Land Registration of the Philippine Islands for confirmation of their
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor to wit: In provincial towns, and in the suburbs of Manila, many houses are to be
seen that are erected on lots that form part of land used for agricultural
xxx xxx xxx purposes. If for the time being, and to the advantage of the possessors
thereof, they have ceased to be such agricultural lands, they may later on
6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest again become transformed into farming land and, by the industry of the
have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious owner, again be made to yield fruit.
possession and occupation of agricultural public lands, as defined
by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and
under a bona fide claim of ownership except as against the may be converted into a field, and planted with all kind of vegetation; for this
Government, for a period of ten years next preceding the taking reason, where land is not mining or forestall in its nature, it must necessarily
effect of this Act, except when prevented by a war or force majeure, be included within the classification of agricultural land, not because it is
shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions actually used for the purposes of agriculture, but because it was originally
essential to a government grant and to have received the same, agricultural and may again become so under other circumstances; besides,
and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to such land under the the Act of Congress contains only three classifications, and makes no
provisions of this chapter. special provision with respect to building lots or urban lands that have
ceased to be agricultural land.
All applicants for lands under paragraph one, two, three, four, and
five of this section must establish by proper official records or In the decision rendered by this court in the case of Mapa vs. The Insular
documents that such proceedings as are therein required were Government, No. 3793 (10 Phil. Rep., 175), the legislation in force was
taken and the necessary conditions complied with: Provided, interpreted in a similar sense.
however, That such requirements shall not apply to the fact of
adverse possession. It is not to be believed that it was the sense of the two sovereign powers that
have successively promulgated the said laws, to place those in possession
Given the above legal provisions and the data contained in the record, it is of building lots under title of ownership in an anomalous, uncertain and
seen that the land, the registration of which is claimed, was of the class of insecure position, rendering it impossible for them to obtain legal titles to the
vacant crown or public land which the State could alienate to private lands appropriated by them, and denying them the care and protection of the
persons, and being susceptible of cultivation, since at any time the person in law to which they were certainly entitled on account of the efforts they have
possession desired to convert it into agricultural land he might do so in the made, both in their behalf, and for the benefit of the cities and towns in which
same manner that he had made a building lot of it, it undoubtedly falls within they reside, contributing to the wealth and increase of the country.
the terms of the said Act of Congress, as well as the provisions of the
abovecited section 54 and paragraph 6 thereof of Act No. 926, for the In the case at bar we have to deal with laws that were enacted after almost
reason that the said land is neither mining nor timber land. all the towns of this Archipelago were established, and it must be assumed
that the lawmakers have started from the supposition that titles to the
We refrain from mentioning herein what originally was the nature of the land building lots within the confines of such towns had been duly acquired;
whereon was built the greatest cities of the world; and confining ourselves to therefore, in special cases like the present one, wherein is sought the
that on which the cities and towns in these Islands were erected, it can not registration of a lot situated within a town created and acknowledged
be denied that, at the commencement of the occupation of this Archipelago administratively, it is proper to apply thereto the laws in force and classify it
by the Spaniards, and at the time of the distribution of lands, the latter were as agricultural land, inasmuch as it was agricultural prior to its conversion
into a building lot, and is subject at any time to further rotation and is no obstacle to such classification as the possessors thereof may again
cultivation; moreover, it does not appear that it was ever mining or forest convert them into rural estates.
land.
If the land sought to be registered is neither mineral nor timber land, and on
It should be noted that article 1 of the royal decree and regulation of the 25th the other hand is susceptible of cultivation the Act of Congress contains no
of June, 1880, says: "In the Philippine Islands, all vacant lands, soils, and provision whatever that would exclude it from being classified as agricultural
grounds without a lawful private owner, or, which have never been under land, and assuming that it falls within that classification, the benefits of
private control, shall be deemed to be alienable crown lands for the effects paragraph 6, section 54, of Act No. 926, must forthwith be applied for the
of the regulation, and in accordance with law 14, title 12, book 4, of reason that it has been fully proven that the applicant was in possession
the Novísima Recopilación;" that article 1 of the royal decree of the 14th of thereof for more than 13 years prior to the 26th of July, 1904, when the said
February, 1894, states: "Vacant lands, soils, grounds, and mountains in the Act went into effect. Furthermore, there is no legal reason or cause to
Philippine Islands shall be deemed to be alienable Crown lands, provided exclude urban lands from the benefits of the aforesaid Act; on the contrary,
they are not included within the following exceptions: (1) Those of private the interpretation that urban real estate, that is not mineral or forestall in
ownership; (2) those belonging to the forest zone; (3) those comprised in the character, be understood to fall within the classification of agricultural land, is
communal laws, or within zones reserved for the use in common by deemed to be most rational and beneficial to public interests.
residents of the community; and (4) those lands which are susceptible of
private appropriation by means of composition or possessory information;" Therefore, in view of the foregoing, it is our opinion that the judgment
and that although section 13 of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, directs appealed from should be reversed, and that it should be, as it is, hereby
the Government of the Philippine Islands to classify public lands that are ordered, that, after holding in general default all such persons as may have
neither forest nor mining lands according to their agricultural character and any interest in the said parcel of land, the registration of the same shall be
productiveness, section 14 authorizes and empowers the said Government granted in accordance with the Land Registration Act. No special ruling is
"to enact rules and regulations and to prescribe terms and conditions to made as to costs. So ordered.
enable persons to perfect their title to public lands in said Islands, who, prior
to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, had fulfilled all
or some of the conditions required by the Spanish laws and royal decrees of Willard, J., concurs.
the Kingdom of Spain for the acquisition of legal title thereto, yet failed to Carson, J., concurs in the result.
secure conveyance of title, etc.;" and section 15 authorizes and empowers
the said Government of the Philippine Islands "on such terms as it may
prescribed, by general legislation, to provide for the granting, or sale and
conveyance to actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of said
Islands such parts and portions of the public domain, other than timber and
mineral lands of the United States on said Islands, as it may deem wise,
etc."

From the language of the foregoing provisions of the law, it is deduced that,
with the exception of those comprised within the mineral and timber zone, all
lands owned by the State or by the sovereign nation are public in character,
and per se alienable and, provided they are not destined to the use of the
public in general or reserved by the Government in accordance with law,
they may be acquired by any private or judicial person; and considering their
origin and primitive state and the general uses to which they were accorded,
they are called agricultural lands, urban lands or building lots being included
in this classification for the purpose of distinguishing rural and urban estates
from mineral and timber lands; the transformation they may have undergone
Republic of the Philippines said property was already barred by estoppel and the statute of limitations,
SUPREME COURT defendants also invoking the non-suability of the Government.
Manila
In a decision rendered on July 29, 1959 by Judge Amador E. Gomez, the
FIRST DIVISION plaintiff's complaint was dismissed on the grounds relied upon by the
defendants therein. 3 The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Supreme
G.R. No. L-36706 March 31, 1980 Court where it was reversed, and the case was remanded to the court of
origin for the determination of the compensation to be paid the plaintiff-
appellant as owner of the land, including attorney's fees. 4 The Supreme
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC HlGHWAYS, petitioner, Court decision also directed that to determine just compensation for the
vs. land, the basis should be the price or value thereof at the time of the
HON. FRANCISCO P. BURGOS, in his capacity as Judge of the Court of taking. 5
First Instance of Cebu City, Branch 11, and Victoria
Amigable, respondents.
In the hearing held pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court, the
Government proved the value of the property at the time of the taking thereof
Quirico del Mar & Domingo Antiquera for respondent. in 1924 with certified copies, issued by the Bureau of Records Management,
of deeds of conveyance executed in 1924 or thereabouts, of several parcels
Office of the Solicitor General for petitioner. of land in the Banilad Friar Lands in which the property in question is
located, showing the price to be at P2.37 per square meter. For her part,
Victoria Amigable presented newspaper clippings of the Manila Times
showing the value of the peso to the dollar obtaining about the middle of
1972, which was P6.775 to a dollar.
DE CASTRO, J.:
Upon consideration of the evidence presented by both parties, the court
Victoria Amigable is the owner of parcel of land situated in Cebu City with an which is now the public respondent in the instant petition, rendered judgment
area of 6,167 square meters. Sometime in 1924, the Government took this on January 9, 1973 directing the Republic of the Philippines to pay Victoria
land for road-right-of-way purpose. The land had since become streets Amigable the sum of P49,459.34 as the value of the property taken, plus
known as Mango Avenue and Gorordo Avenue in Cebu City. P145,410.44 representing interest at 6% on the principal amount of
P49,459.34 from the year 1924 up to the date of the decision, plus attorney's
On February 6, 1959, Victoria Amigable filed in the Court of First Instance of fees of 10% of the total amount due to Victoria Amigable, or a grand total of
Cebu a complaint, which was later amended on April 17, 1959 to recover P214,356.75. 6
ownership and possession of the land, and for damages in the sum of
P50,000.00 for the alleged illegal occupation of the land by the Government, The aforesaid decision of the respondent court is now the subject of the
moral damages in the sum of P25,000.00, and attorney's fees in the sum of present petition for review by certiorari, filed by the Solicitor General as
P5,000.00, plus costs of suit. The complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. counsel of the petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, against the landowner,
R-5977 of the Court of First Instance of Cebu, entitled "Victoria Amigable vs. Victoria Amigable, as private respondent. The petition was given due course
Nicolas Cuenca, in his capacity as Commissioner of Public Highway and after respondents had filed their comment thereto, as required. The Solicitor
Republic of the Philippines. 1 General, as counsel of petitioner, was then required to file petitioner's brief
and to serve copies thereof to the adverse parties. 7 Petitioner's brief was
In its answer, 2 the Republic alleged, among others, that the land was either duly filed on January 29, 1974, 8 to which respondents filed only a
donated or sold by its owners to the province of Cebu to enhance its value, "comment." 9 instead of a brief, and the case was then considered submitted
and that in any case, the right of the owner, if any, to recover the value of for decision. 10
1. The issue of whether or not the provision of Article 1250 of the New Civil to pay arises. 12 It is only when there is an "agreement to the contrary" that
Code is applicable in determining the amount of compensation to be paid to the extraordinary inflation will make the value of the currency at the time of
respondent Victoria Amigable for the property taken is raised because the payment, not at the time of the establishment of the obligation, the basis for
respondent court applied said Article by considering the value of the peso to payment. In other words, an agreement is needed for the effects of an
the dollar at the time of hearing, in determining due compensation to be paid extraordinary inflation to be taken into account to alter the value of the
for the property taken. The Solicitor General contends that in so doing, the currency at the time of the establishment of the obligation which, as a rule, is
respondent court violated the order of this Court, in its decision in G.R. No. always the determinative element, to be varied by agreement that would find
L-26400, February 29, 1972, to make as basis of the determination of just reason only in the supervention of extraordinary inflation or deflation.
compensation the price or value of the land at the time of the taking.
We hold, therefore, that under the law, in the absence of any agreement to
It is to be noted that respondent judge did consider the value of the property the contrary, even assuming that there has been an extraordinary inflation
at the time of the taking, which as proven by the petitioner was P2.37 per within the meaning of Article 1250 of the New Civil Code, a fact We decline
square meter in 1924. However, applying Article 1250 of the New Civil Code, to declare categorically, the value of the peso at the time of the
and considering that the value of the peso to the dollar during the hearing in establishment of the obligation, which in the instant case is when the
1972 was P6.775 to a dollar, as proven by the evidence of the private property was taken possession of by the Government, must be considered
respondent Victoria Amigable the Court fixed the value of the property at the for the purpose of determining just compensation. Obviously, there can be
deflated value of the peso in relation, to the dollar, and came up with the no "agreement to the contrary" to speak of because the obligation of the
sum of P49,459.34 as the just compensation to be paid by the Government. Government sought to be enforced in the present action does not originate
To this action of the respondent judge, the Solicitor General has taken from contract, but from law which, generally is not subject to the will of the
exception. parties. And there being no other legal provision cited which would justify a
departure from the rule that just compensation is determined on the basis of
Article 1250 of the New Civil Code seems to be the only provision in our the value of the property at the time of the taking thereof in expropriation by
statutes which provides for payment of an obligation in an amount different the Government, the value of the property as it is when the Government took
from what has been agreed upon by the parties because of the supervention possession of the land in question, not the increased value resulting from the
of extra-ordinary inflation or deflation. Thus, the Article provides: passage of time which invariably brings unearned increment to landed
properties, represents the true value to be paid as just compensation for the
property taken. 13
ART. 1250. In case extra-ordinary inflation or deflation of
the currency stipulated should supervene, the value of the
currency at the time of the establishment of the obligation In the present case, the unusually long delay of private respondent in
shall be the basis of payment, unless there is an bringing the present action-period of almost 25 years which a stricter
agreement to the contrary. application of the law on estoppel and the statute of limitations and
prescription may have divested her of the rights she seeks on this action
over the property in question, is an added circumstance militating against
It is clear that the foregoing provision applies only to cases where a contract payment to her of an amount bigger-may three-fold more than the value of
or agreement is involved. It does not apply where the obligation to pay arises the property as should have been paid at the time of the taking. For
from law, independent of contract. The taking of private property by the conformably to the rule that one should take good care of his own concern,
Government in the exercise of its power of eminent domain does not give private respondent should have commenced proper action soon after she
rise to a contractual obligation. We have expressed this view in the case had been deprived of her right of ownership and possession over the land, a
of Velasco vs. Manila Electric Co., et al., L-19390, December 29, 1971. 11 deprivation she knew was permanent in character, for the land was intended
for, and had become, avenues in the City of Cebu. A penalty is always
Moreover, the law as quoted, clearly provides that the value of the currency visited upon one for his inaction, neglect or laches in the assertion of his
at the time of the establishment of the obligation shall be the basis of rights allegedly withheld from him, or otherwise transgressed upon by
payment which, in cases of expropriation, would be the value of the peso at another.
the time of the taking of the property when the obligation of the Government
From what has been said, the correct amount of compensation due private SO ORDERED.
respondent for the taking of her land for a public purpose would be not
P49,459.34, as fixed by the respondent court, but only P14,615.79 at P2.37 Makasiar, Fernandez, Guerrero and Melencio-Herrera, JJ., concur.
per square meter, the actual value of the land of 6,167 square meters when
it was taken in 1924. The interest in the sum of P145,410.44 at the rate of
6% from 1924 up to the time respondent court rendered its decision, as was
awarded by the said court should accordingly be reduced.

In Our decision in G.R. No. L-26400, February 29, 1972, 14 We have said
that Victoria Amigable is entitled to the legal interest on the price of the land
from the time of the taking. This holding is however contested by the
Solicitor General, citing the case of Raymunda S. Digsan vs. Auditor
General, et al., 15 alleged to have a similar factual environment and involving
the same issues, where this Court declared that the interest at the legal rate
in favor of the landowner accrued not from the taking of the property in 1924
but from April 20, 1961 when the claim for compensation was filed with the
Auditor General. Whether the ruling in the case cited is still the prevailing
doctrine, what was said in the decision of this Court in the abovecited case
involving the same on the instant matter, has become the "law of the case",
no motion for its reconsideration having been filed by the Solicitor General
before the decision became final. Accordingly, the interest to be paid private
respondent, Victoria Amigable, shall commence from 1924, when the taking
of the property took place, computed on the basis of P14,615.79, the value
of the land when taken in said year 1924.

2. On the amount of attorney's fees to be paid private respondent, about


which the Solicitor General has next taken issue with the respondent court
because the latter fixed the same at P19,486.97, while in her complaint,
respondent Amigable had asked for only P5,000.00, the amount as awarded
by the respondent court, would be too exhorbitant based as it is, on the
inflated value of the land. An attorney's fees of P5,000.00, which is the
amount asked for by private respondent herself in her complaint, would be
reasonable.

WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby reversed as to the


basis in the determination of the price of the land taken as just compensation
for its expropriation, which should be the value of the land at the time of the
taking, in 1924. Accordingly, the same is hereby fixed at P14,615.79 at
P2.37 per square meter, with interest thereon at 6% per annum, from the
taking of the property in 1924, to be also paid by Government to private
respondent, Victoria Amigable, until the amount due is fully paid, plus
attorney's fees of P5,000.00.
Republic of the Philippines The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of Lands,
SUPREME COURT commenced in the Court of First Instance of Baguio City Civil Cases Nos.
Manila 1068, 1069 and 1070 for annulment of Free Patents Nos. V-152242, V-
155050 and V-152243, and of the corresponding Original Certificates of Title
FIRST DIVISION Nos. P-208, P-210 and P-209, on the ground of misrepresentation and false
data and informations furnished by the defendants, Manuel Dumyung,
Fortunate Dumyung and Dumyung Bonayan, respectively. the land
G.R. Nos. L-31666, L-31667 and L-31668 April 30, 1979 embraced in the patents and titles are Identified as Lots 1, 2 and 3 of survey
plan Psu-181763 containing a total area of 58.4169 hectares, more or less,
LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, petitioner, and situated in the Municipal District of Mankayan, Sub-province of Benguet,
vs. Mountain Province. The Register of Deeds of Baguio City was made a
MANUEL DUMYUNG, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BAGUIO CITY, and formal party defendant.
the COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF BAGUIO CITY (BRANCH
I), respondents. The complaints in Civil Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070 are all dated
September 22, 196 l. 2
LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, petitioner,
vs. The defendants filed their respective answers. 3
FORTUNATO DUMYUNG, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BAGUIO CITY
, and the COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF BAGUIO CITY (BRANCH
I), respondents. The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, petitioner herein, filed motions
for intervention dated February 5, 1962 in the three (3) civil cases 4 which
were granted. 5
LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, petitioner,
vs.
DUMYUNG BONAYAN, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BAGUIO CITY, The complaints in intervention alleged that a portion of the titled lands in
and the COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF BAGUIO CITY (BRANCH question-.ion is within the intervenor's ordinary timber license No. 140-'62
I), respondents. dated July 7, 1961 expiring and up for renewal on June 30, 1962 and
another portion of said lands is embraced in its mineral claims. 6
Sycip, Salazar, Luna, Manalo & Feliciano, Jesus B. Santos and Hill &
Associates for petitioner. The defendants in the three (3) civil cases filed an amended joint answer
with counterclaim to the complaint in intervention. 7 The said amended joint
answer was admitted in an order dated September 10, 1972. 8
Floro B. Bugnosen for private respondents.
Before the hearing on the merits of the three (3) civil cases, the plaintiff,
Republic of the Philippines represented by the Director of Lands, filed in the
Court of First Instance of Baguio City three (3) criminal cases for falsification
FERNANDEZ, J.: of public document. 9, docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 2358, 2359 and
2360, against the defendants Manuel Dumyung, Fortunato Dumyung and
This is a petition to review the order of the Court of First Instance of Baguio Dumyung Bonayan, private respondents herein, for allegedly making untrue
City, Branch I, dismissing the three complaints for annulment of titles in Civil statements in their applications for free patents over the lands in question.
Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070 entitled "Republic of the Philippines, The proceedings on the three (3) civil cases were suspended pending the
Plaintiff, versus, Manuel Dumyung, et al., Defendants, Lepanto Consolidated outcome of the criminal cases.
Mining Company, Intervenor" for being without merit. 1
After the presentation of evidence by the prosecution in the three (3) criminal Court has no power to disturb such indefeasibility of said
cases, the defense filed a motion to dismiss the same on the ground that the titles, let alone cancel the same.
accused had complied with all the legal requirements in the acquisition of
their patents which were duly issued by the Director of Lands and that they The records of this case further disclose that the
are not guilty of the alleged falsification of public documents. defendants are ignorant natives of Benguet Province and
are members of the so-called Cultural Minorities of
In an order dated December 6, 1967, the trial court sustained the theory of Mountain Province, who are the same persons accused in
the defense and dismissed the three (3) criminal cases, with costs de officio, the dismissed criminal cases, based on the same grounds.
for insufficiency of evidence to sustain the conviction of the three (3) It should be noted that these cases fall squarely under
accused. 9 Sec. 3 of Rule III of the New Rules of Court. 11

Thereupon, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss dated October 12, 1968 They plaintiff, Republic of the Philippines represented by the Director of
in Civil Cases Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070 on the following grounds: (1) Lands, and the intervenor, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company,, filed
extinction of the penal action carries with it the extinction of the civil action separate motions for reconsideration of the order dismissing Civil Cases
when the extinction proceeds from a declaration that the fact from which the Nos. 1068, 1069 and 1070. 12 Both motion for reconsideration were denied
civil might arise did not exist; (2) the decision of the trial court acquitting the by the trial court. 13 Thereupon the intervenor, Lepanto Consolidated Mining
defendants of the crime charged renders these civil cases moot and Company, filed the instant petition.
academic, (3) the trial court has no jurisdiction to order cancellation of the
patents issued by the Director of Lands; (4) the certificates of title in question The petitioner assigns the following errors:
can no longer be assailed; and (5) the intervenor Lepanto has no legal
interest in the subject matter in litigation. 10
I
The Court of First Instance of Baguio, Branch I, dismissed the three (3) civil
cases because: THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE
ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE OF PRIVATE
RESPONDENTS WERE 'INDEFEASIBLE' SIMPLY
After a careful examination and deliberation of the BECAUSE THEY WERE ISSUED PURSUANT TO THE
MOTION TO DISMISS, these civil cases filed by the REGISTRATION OF THE FREE PATENTS OF THE
defendants as well as the two OPPOSITIONS TO PRIVATE RESPONDENTS.
MOTION TO DISMISS filed by both plaintiff and intervenor
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and the of all the
three civil cases, it clearly shows that upon the issuance of II
said Free Patents on November 26, 1960, the same were
duly registered with the office of the Register of Deeds of THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE
Baguio and Benguet, pursuant to the provisions of Sec. PRIVATE RESPONDENTS ARE ENTITLED TO THE
122 of Act 496, as amended, and consequently, these BENEFITS OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 3872.
properties became the private properties of the
defendants, under the operation of Sec. 38 of said Act; III
hence, these titles enjoy the same privileges and
safeguards as Torrens titles (Director of Lands vs. Heirs of
Ciriaco Carle, G. R. No. L-12485, July 31, 1964). It is THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE
therefore clear that OCT Nos. P-208, P-209 and P-210 ACQUITTAL OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS IN THE
belonging to the defendants are now indefeasible and this CRIMINAL CASES FOR FALSIFICATION OF PUBLIC
DOCUMENTS BARRED THE CIVIL ACTIONS FOR
ANNULMENT OF THE FREE PATENTS AND
CANCELLATION OF THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATES OF privileges and safeguards as the torrens title, and Original Certificates of
TITLE OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS. 14 Title Nos. P-208, P-209 and P-210 of the defendants are now indefeasible.

Timber and mineral lands are not alienable or disposable. The pertinent In its order denying the motion for reconsideration the trial court said,
provisions of the Public Land Act, Commonwealth Act No. 141, provide:
On the ground of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the
Sec. 2. The provisions of this Act shall apply to the lands Director of Lands to dispose of the properties since they
of the public domain; but timber and mineral lands shag be are within the forest zone, the court finds Republic Act No.
governed by special laws and nothing in this Act provided 3872, to clear this point. Section 1, amending Section 44
shall be understood or construed to change or modify the of the Land Act in its second paragraph states:
administration and disposition of the lands commonly
called 'friar lands' and those which being privately owned, A member of the national cultural,
have reverted to or become the property of the minorities who has continuously
Commonwealth of the Philippines, which administration occupied and cultivated, either by
and disposition shall be governed by the laws at present in himself or through his predecessors-in-
force or which may hereafter be enacted. interest, a tract or tracts of land, whether
disposable or not since July 4, 1955,
Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the shall be entitled to the right granted in
Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to the preceding paragraph of this section:
time classify the lands of the public domain into — PROVIDED, that at the time he files his
free patent application, he is not the
(a) Alienable or disposable, owner of any real property secured or
disposable under this provision of the
Public Land Law.
(b) Timber, and
The 'preceding paragraph' refers to the right of a person to
(c) Mineral lands, have a free patent issued to him, provided he is qualified,
which in this case the Director of Lands has the jurisdiction
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such to dispose, whether the land be disposable or not. This
lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their provision of law, certainly, applies to herein defendants.
administration and disposition. The reason for this law is explicit and could very well be
seen from its EXPLANATORY NOTE, which reads:
The principal factual issue raised by the plaintiff, Republic of the Philippines
represented by the Director of Lands, and the intervenor, petitioner herein, is 'Because of the aggresiveness of our
that the lands covered by the patents and certificates of title are timber lands more enterprising Christian brothers in
and mineral lands and, therefore, not alienable. Without receiving evidence, Mindanao, Mountain Province, and
the trial court dismissed the three (3) cases on the ground that upon the other places inhabited by members of
issuance of the free patents on November 26, 1960, said patents were duly the National Cultural Minorities, there
registered in the Office of the Registry of Deeds of Baguio pursuant to has be-en an exodus of the poor and
Section 122 of Act 496, as amended, and said properties became the private less fortunate non-christians from their
properties of the defendants under the operation of Section 38 of the Land ancestral homes during the t ten years
Registration Act. The trial court concluded that these titles enjoy the same to the fastnesses of the wilderness
where they have settled in peace on
portions of agricultural lands, or who shall have paid the real estate tax thereon while
unfortunately, in most cases, within the the same has, not been occupied by any person shall be
forest zones. But this is not the end of entitled, under the provision of this chapter, to have a free
the tragedy of the national cultural patent issued to him for such tract or tracts of such land
minorities. Because of the grant of not to exceed twenty-four hectares.
pasture leases or permits to the more
agressive Christians, these National A member of the national cultural minorities who has
Cultural Minorities who have settled in continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or
the forest zones for the last ten years through his predecessors-in- interest, a tract or tracts of
have been harassed and jailed or land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall
threatened with harassment and be entitled to the right granted in the preceding paragraph
imprisonment. of this section: Provided, That at the time he files his free
patent application he is not the owner of any real property
The thesis behind the additional secured or disposable under this provision of the Public
paragraph to Section 44 of the Public Land Law.
Land Act is to give the national culture,
minorities a fair chance to acquire lands There is no evidence that the private respondents are members of the
of the public domain' ... National Cultural Minorities; that they have continously occupied and
cultivated either by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest the
It is for this reason — that is, to give these national cultural lands in question since July 4, 1955; and that they are not the owner of any
minorities who were driven from their ancestral abodes, a land secured or disposable under the Public Land Act at the time they filed
fair chance to acquire lands of the public domain — that the free patent applications. These qualifications must be established by
Republic Act 3872 was passed. This is the new evidence. Precisely, the intervenor, petitioner herein, claims that it was in
government policy on liberation of the free patent possession of the lands in question when the private respondents applied for
provisions of the Public Land Act emphasizing more free patents thereon.
consideration to and sympathy on the members of the
national cultural minorities, which our courts of justice It was premature for the trial court to rule on whether or not the titles based
must uphold. 15 on the patents awarded to the private respondents have become
indefeasible. It is well settled that a certificate of title is void when it covers
The trial court assumed without any factual basis that the private property of public domain classified as forest or timber and mineral lands.
respondents are entitled to the benefits of Republic Act 3872. The pertinent Any title issued on non-disposable lots even in the hands of alleged innocent
provision of Republic Act No, 3872 reads: purchaser for value, shall be cancelled. 16 In Director of lands vs.
Abanzado 17 this Court said:
SECTION 1. A new paragraph is hereby added 1--o
Section 44 of Commonwealth Act Numbered One 4. To complete the picture, reference may be made to the
Hundred-d forty-one, to read as follows: learned and scholarly opinion of Justice Sanchez in
Director of Forestry v. Muñoz, a 1968 decision. After a
SEC. 44. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is review of Spanish legislation, he summarized the present
not the owner of more than twenty-four hectares and who state of the law thus: 'If a Spanish title covering forest land
since July fourth, ninth hundred and twenty-six or prior is found to be invalid, that land is public forest land, is part
thereto, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either of the public domain, and cannot be appropriated. Before
by, himself' or through his predecessors-in-interest. a tract private interests have intervened, the government may
or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition- decide for i what Portions of the public domain shall be set
aside and reserved as forest land. Possession of forest SO ORDERED.
lands, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership.'
Nor is this all He reiterated the basic state objective on the Teehankee (Chairman), Makasiar, Guerrero, De Castro and Melencio-
matter in clear and penetrating language: 'The view this Herrera, JJ., concur.
Court takes of the cages at bar is but in adherence to
public policy that should be followed with respect to forest
lands. many have written much, and many more have
spoken, and quite often, above the pressing need for
forest preservation, conservation. protection, development
and reforestation. Not without justification For, forests
constitute a vital segment of any country's natural
resources. It is of common knowledge by now that
absence of the necessary green cover on our lands
produces a number Of adverse or ill effects of serious
proportions. Without the trees, watersheds dry up; rivers
and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents.
The fish disappears. Denuded areas become dust bowls.
As waterfalls cease to function, so will hydroelectric plants.
With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed away;
geological erosion results. With erosion come the dreaded
floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property —
crops, livestock, houses and highways — not to mention
precious human lives, ...'

The acquittal of the private respondents in the criminal cases for falsification
is not a bar to the civil cases to cancel their titles. The only issue in the
criminal cases for falsification was whether there was evidence beyond
reasonable doubt that the private respondents had committed the acts of
falsification alleged in the informations. The factual issues of whether or not
the lands in question are timber or mineral lands and whether or not the
private respondents are entitled to the benefits of Republic Act No. 3872
were not in issue in the criminal case.

There is need to remand these cases to the trial court for the reception of
evidence on (1) whether or not the lands in question are timber and mineral
lands; and (2) whether the private respondents belong to the cultural
minorities and are qualified under Republic Act 3872 to be issued free
patents on said lands.

WHEREFORE, the order dismissing Civil Cases Nos. 1968, 1969 and 1970
of the Court of First Instance of Baguio City is hereby set aside and said
cases are remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, without
pronouncement as to costs.
Republic of the Philippines behalf of his three children, Victoria, Benjamin and Eduardo. The land,
SUPREME COURT situated in Tuding, Itogon, Benguet Province, was divided into 9 lots and
Manila covered by plan Psu-225009. According to the application, Lots 1-5 were
sold to Jose de la Rosa and Lots 6-9 to his children by Mamaya Balbalio and
FIRST DIVISION Jaime Alberto, respectively, in 1964. 2

G.R. No. L-43938 April 15, 1988 The application was separately opposed by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. as to
Lots 1-5, Atok Big Wedge Corporation, as to Portions of Lots 1-5 and all of
Lots 6-9, and by the Republic of the Philippines, through the Bureau of
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (DIRECTOR OF FOREST Forestry Development, as to lots 1-9. 3
DEVELOPMENT), petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS (THIRD DIVISION) and JOSE Y. DE LA In support of the application, both Balbalio and Alberto testified that they had
ROSA, respondents. acquired the subject land by virtue of prescription Balbalio claimed to have
received Lots 1-5 from her father shortly after the Liberation. She testified
she was born in the land, which was possessed by her parents under claim
G.R. No. L-44081 April 15, 1988 of ownership. 4 Alberto said he received Lots 6-9 in 1961 from his mother,
Bella Alberto, who declared that the land was planted by Jaime and his
BENGUET CONSOLIDATED, INC., petitioner, predecessors-in-interest to bananas, avocado, nangka and camote, and was
vs. enclosed with a barbed-wire fence. She was corroborated by Felix Marcos,
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORIA, 67 years old at the time, who recalled the earlier possession of the land by
BENJAMIN and EDUARDO, all surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by Alberto's father. 5 Balbalio presented her tax declaration in 1956 and the
their father JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents. realty tax receipts from that year to 1964, 6 Alberto his tax declaration in
1961 and the realty tax receipts from that year to 1964. 7
G.R. No. L-44092 April 15, 1988
Benguet opposed on the ground that the June Bug mineral claim covering
ATOK-BIG WEDGE MINING COMPANY, petitioner, Lots 1-5 was sold to it on September 22, 1934, by the successors-in-interest
vs. of James Kelly, who located the claim in September 1909 and recorded it on
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORlA, October 14, 1909. From the date of its purchase, Benguet had been in
BENJAMIN and EDUARDO, all surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by actual, continuous and exclusive possession of the land in concept of owner,
their father, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents. as evidenced by its construction of adits, its affidavits of annual assessment,
its geological mappings, geological samplings and trench side cuts, and its
payment of taxes on the land. 8

For its part, Atok alleged that a portion of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9 were
CRUZ, J.: covered by the Emma and Fredia mineral claims located by Harrison and
Reynolds on December 25, 1930, and recorded on January 2, 1931, in the
The Regalian doctrine reserves to the State all natural wealth that may be office of the mining recorder of Baguio. These claims were purchased from
found in the bowels of the earth even if the land where the discovery is made these locators on November 2, 1931, by Atok, which has since then been in
be private. 1 In the cases at bar, which have been consolidated because open, continuous and exclusive possession of the said lots as evidenced by
they pose a common issue, this doctrine was not correctly applied. its annual assessment work on the claims, such as the boring of tunnels,
and its payment of annual taxes thereon. 9
These cases arose from the application for registration of a parcel of land
filed on February 11, 1965, by Jose de la Rosa on his own behalf and on
The location of the mineral claims was made in accordance with Section 21 October 14, 1909. All of the Kelly claims ha subsequently
of the Philippine Bill of 1902 which provided that: been acquired by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. Benguet's
evidence is that it had made improvements on the June
SEC. 21. All valuable mineral deposits in public lands in Bug mineral claim consisting of mine tunnels prior to 1935.
the philippine Islands both surveyed and unsurveyed are It had submitted the required affidavit of annual
hereby declared to be free and open to exploration, assessment. After World War II, Benguet introduced
occupation and purchase and the land in which they are improvements on mineral claim June Bug, and also
found to occupation and purchase by the citizens of the conducted geological mappings, geological sampling and
United States, or of said islands. trench side cuts. In 1948, Benguet redeclared the "June
Bug" for taxation and had religiously paid the taxes.
The Bureau of Forestry Development also interposed its objection, arguing
that the land sought to be registered was covered by the Central Cordillera The Emma and Fredia claims were two of the several
Forest Reserve under Proclamation No. 217 dated February 16, 1929. claims of Harrison registered in 1931, and which Atok
Moreover, by reason of its nature, it was not subject to alienation under the representatives acquired. Portions of Lots 1 to 5 and all of
Constitutions of 1935 and 1973. 10 Lots 6 to 9 are within the Emma and Fredia mineral claims
of Atok Big Wedge Mining Company.
The trial court * denied the application, holding that the applicants had failed
to prove their claim of possession and ownership of the land sought to be The June Bug mineral claim of Benguet and the Fredia
registered. 11 The applicants appealed to the respondent court, * which and Emma mineral claims of Atok having been perfected
reversed the trial court and recognized the claims of the applicant, but prior to the approval of the Constitution of the Philippines
subject to the rights of Benguet and Atok respecting their mining claims. 12 In of 1935, they were removed from the public domain and
other words, the Court of Appeals affirmed the surface rights of the de la had become private properties of Benguet and Atok.
Rosas over the land while at the same time reserving the sub-surface rights
of Benguet and Atok by virtue of their mining claims. It is not disputed that the location of the
mining claim under consideration was
Both Benguet and Atok have appealed to this Court, invoking their superior perfected prior to November 15, 1935,
right of ownership. The Republic has filed its own petition for review and when the Government of the
reiterates its argument that neither the private respondents nor the two Commonwealth was inaugurated; and
mining companies have any valid claim to the land because it is not according to the laws existing at that
alienable and registerable. time, as construed and applied by this
court in McDaniel v. Apacible and
Cuisia (42 Phil. 749), a valid location of
It is true that the subject property was considered forest land and included in a mining claim segregated the area from
the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve, but this did not impair the rights the public domain. Said the court in that
already vested in Benguet and Atok at that time. The Court of Appeals case: The moment the locator
correctly declared that: discovered a valuable mineral deposit
on the lands located, and perfected his
There is no question that the 9 lots applied for are within location in accordance with law, the
the June Bug mineral claims of Benguet and the "Fredia power of the United States Government
and Emma" mineral claims of Atok. The June Bug mineral to deprive him of the exclusive right to
claim of plaintiff Benguet was one of the 16 mining claims the possession and enjoyment of the
of James E. Kelly, American and mining locator. He filed located claim was gone, the lands had
his declaration of the location of the June Bug mineral and become mineral lands and they were
the same was recorded in the Mining Recorder's Office on exempted from lands that could be
granted to any other person. The Mining Corporation v. Hon. Eulogio
reservations of public lands cannot be Rodriguez, Sec. of Agriculture and
made so as to include prior mineral Commerce, and Quirico Abadilla,
perfected locations; and, of course, if a Director of the Bureau of Mines, 66 Phil.
valid mining location is made upon 259, 265-266)
public lands afterwards included in a
reservation, such inclusion or It is of no importance whether Benguet and Atok had
reservation does not affect the validity of secured a patent for as held in the Gold Creek Mining
the former location. By such location Corp. Case, for all physical purposes of ownership, the
and perfection, the land located is owner is not required to secure a patent as long as he
segregated from the public domain even complies with the provisions of the mining laws; his
as against the Government. (Union Oil possessory right, for all practical purposes of ownership, is
Co. v. Smith, 249 U.S. 337; Van Mess v. as good as though secured by patent.
Roonet, 160 Cal. 131; 27 Cyc. 546).
We agree likewise with the oppositors that having
"The legal effect of a valid location of a complied with all the requirements of the mining laws, the
mining claim is not only to segregate the claims were removed from the public domain, and not
area from the public domain, but to even the government of the Philippines can take away this
grant to the locator the beneficial right from them. The reason is obvious. Having become
ownership of the claim and the right to a the private properties of the oppositors, they cannot be
patent therefor upon compliance with deprived thereof without due process of law. 13
the terms and conditions prescribed by
law. Where there is a valid location of a
mining claim, the area becomes Such rights were not affected either by the stricture in the Commonwealth
segregated from the public domain and Constitution against the alienation of all lands of the public domain except
the property of the locator." (St. Louis those agricultural in nature for this was made subject to existing rights. Thus,
Mining & Milling Co. v. Montana Mining in its Article XIII, Section 1, it was categorically provided that:
Co., 171 U.S. 650; 655; 43 Law ed.,
320, 322.) "When a location of a mining SEC. 1. All agricultural, timber and mineral lands of the
claim is perfected it has the effect of a public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other
grant by the United States of the right of mineral oils, all forces of potential energy and other natural
present and exclusive possession, with resources of the Philipppines belong to the State, and their
the right to the exclusive enjoyment of disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall
all the surface ground as well as of all be limited to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations
the minerals within the lines of the claim, or associations at least 60% of the capital of which is
except as limited by the extralateral right owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right,
of adjoining locators; and this is the grant, lease or concession at the time of the inauguration
locator's right before as well as after the of the government established under this Constitution.
issuance of the patent. While a lode Natural resources with the exception of public agricultural
locator acquires a vested property right lands, shall not be alienated, and no license, concession,
by virtue of his location made in or lease for the exploitation, development or utilization of
compliance with the mining laws, the fee any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period
remains in the government until patent exceeding 25 years, except as to water rights for irrigation,
issues."(18 R.C.L. 1152) (Gold Creek water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the
development of water power, in which case beneficial use land, and they were claiming it as agricultural land. They were not disputing
may be the measure and the limit of the grant. the lights of the mining locators nor were they seeking to oust them as such
and to replace them in the mining of the land. In fact, Balbalio testified that
Implementing this provision, Act No. 4268, approved on November 8, 1935, she was aware of the diggings being undertaken "down below" 18 but she did
declared: not mind, much less protest, the same although she claimed to be the owner
of the said land.
Any provision of existing laws, executive order,
proclamation to the contrary notwithstanding, all locations The Court of Appeals justified this by saying there is "no conflict of interest"
of mining claim made prior to February 8, 1935 within between the owners of the surface rights and the owners of the sub-surface
lands set apart as forest reserve under Sec. 1826 of the rights. This is rather doctrine, for it is a well-known principle that the owner of
Revised Administrative Code which would be valid and piece of land has rights not only to its surface but also to everything
subsisting location except to the existence of said reserve underneath and the airspace above it up to a reasonable height. 19 Under
are hereby declared to be valid and subsisting locations as the aforesaid ruling, the land is classified as mineral underneath and
of the date of their respective locations. agricultural on the surface, subject to separate claims of title. This is also
difficult to understand, especially in its practical application.
The perfection of the mining claim converted the property to mineral land
and under the laws then in force removed it from the public domain. 14 By Under the theory of the respondent court, the surface owner will be planting
such act, the locators acquired exclusive rights over the land, against even on the land while the mining locator will be boring tunnels underneath. The
the government, without need of any further act such as the purchase of the farmer cannot dig a well because he may interfere with the operations below
land or the obtention of a patent over it. 15As the land had become the and the miner cannot blast a tunnel lest he destroy the crops above. How
private property of the locators, they had the right to transfer the same, as deep can the farmer, and how high can the miner, go without encroaching
they did, to Benguet and Atok. on each other's rights? Where is the dividing line between the surface and
the sub-surface rights?
It is true, as the Court of Appeals observed, that such private property was
subject to the "vicissitudes of ownership," or even to forfeiture by non-user or The Court feels that the rights over the land are indivisible and that the land
abandonment or, as the private respondents aver, by acquisitive itself cannot be half agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be
prescription. However, the method invoked by the de la Rosas is not categorical; the land must be either completely mineral or completely
available in the case at bar, for two reasons. agricultural. In the instant case, as already observed, the land which was
originally classified as forest land ceased to be so and became mineral —
and completely mineral — once the mining claims were perfected. 20 As long
First, the trial court found that the evidence of open, continuous, adverse as mining operations were being undertaken thereon, or underneath, it did
and exclusive possession submitted by the applicants was insufficient to not cease to be so and become agricultural, even if only partly so, because it
support their claim of ownership. They themselves had acquired the land was enclosed with a fence and was cultivated by those who were unlawfully
only in 1964 and applied for its registration in 1965, relying on the earlier occupying the surface.
alleged possession of their predecessors-in-interest. 16The trial judge, who
had the opportunity to consider the evidence first-hand and observe the
demeanor of the witnesses and test their credibility was not convinced. We What must have misled the respondent court is Commonwealth Act No. 137,
defer to his judgment in the absence of a showing that it was reached with providing as follows:
grave abuse of discretion or without sufficient basis. 17
Sec. 3. All mineral lands of the public domain and minerals
Second, even if it be assumed that the predecessors-in-interest of the de la belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
Rosas had really been in possession of the subject property, their development or utilization, shall be limited to citizens of
possession was not in the concept of owner of the mining claim but of the the Philippines, or to corporations, or associations, at least
property as agricultural land, which it was not. The property was mineral 60% of the capital of which is owned by such citizens,
subject to any existing right, grant, lease or concession at acquired before the Constitution of 1935 prohibited the alienation of all lands
the time of the inauguration of government established of the public domain except agricultural lands, subject to vested rights
under the Constitution. existing at the time of its adoption. The land was not and could not have
been transferred to the private respondents by virtue of acquisitive
SEC. 4. The ownership of, and the right to the use of land prescription, nor could its use be shared simultaneously by them and the
for agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential, or for mining companies for agricultural and mineral purposes.
any purpose other than mining does not include the
ownership of, nor the right to extract or utilize, the minerals WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent court dated April 30, 1976, is
which may be found on or under the surface. SET ASIDE and that of the trial court dated March 11, 1969, is
REINSTATED, without any pronouncement as to costs.
SEC. 5. The ownership of, and the right to extract and
utilize, the minerals included within all areas for which SO ORDERED.
public agricultural land patents are granted are excluded
and excepted from all such patents. Teehankee, C.J., Narvasa, Gancayco and Griño-Aquino, JJ., concur.

SEC. 6. The ownership of, and the right to extract and


utilize, the minerals included within all areas for which
Torrens titles are granted are excluded and excepted from
all such titles.

This is an application of the Regalian doctrine which, as its name implies, is


intended for the benefit of the State, not of private persons. The rule simply
reserves to the State all minerals that may be found in public and even
private land devoted to "agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential or
(for) any purpose other than mining." Thus, if a person is the owner of
agricultural land in which minerals are discovered, his ownership of such
land does not give him the right to extract or utilize the said minerals without
the permission of the State to which such minerals belong.

The flaw in the reasoning of the respondent court is in supposing that the
rights over the land could be used for both mining and non-mining
purposes simultaneously. The correct interpretation is that once minerals are
discovered in the land, whatever the use to which it is being devoted at the
time, such use may be discontinued by the State to enable it to extract the
minerals therein in the exercise of its sovereign prerogative. The land is thus
converted to mineral land and may not be used by any private party,
including the registered owner thereof, for any other purpose that will impede
the mining operations to be undertaken therein, For the loss sustained by
such owner, he is of course entitled to just compensation under the Mining
Laws or in appropriate expropriation proceedings. 21

Our holding is that Benguet and Atok have exclusive rights to the property in
question by virtue of their respective mining claims which they validly
G.R. No. 135385 December 6, 2000 MALID, represented by her father TONY MALID, ARIEL M.
EVANGELISTA, represented by her mother LINAY BALBUENA,
ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, EDWARD M. EMUY, SR., SUSAN BOLANIO, OND, PULA BATO B'LAAN
vs. TRIBAL FARMER'S ASSOCIATION, INTER-PEOPLE'S EXCHANGE, INC.
SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, and GREEN FORUM-WESTERN VISAYAS, intervenors.
SECRETARY OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, intervenor.
COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS IKALAHAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR
PEOPLES, respondents. THE CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., intervenor.
HON. JUAN M .FLAVIER, HON. PONCIANO BENNAGEN, BAYANI
ASCARRAGA, EDTAMI MANSAYANGAN, BASILIO WANDAG, EVELYN RESOLUTION
DUNUAN, YAOM TUGAS, ALFREMO CARPIANO, LIBERATO A. GABIN,
MATERNIDAD M. COLAS, NARCISA M. DALUPINES, BAI KIRAM- PER CURIAM:
CONNIE SATURNO, BAE MLOMO-BEATRIZ T. ABASALA, DATU
BALITUNGTUNG-ANTONIO D. LUMANDONG, DATU MANTUMUKAW
TEOFISTO SABASALES, DATU EDUAARDO BANDA, DATU JOEL Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for prohibition
UNAD, DATU RAMON BAYAAN, TIMUAY JOSE ANOY, TIMUAY and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of
MACARIO D. SALACAO, TIMUAY EDWIN B. ENDING, DATU certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as
SAHAMPONG MALANAW VI, DATU BEN PENDAO CABIGON, BAI the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), and its Implementing
NANAPNAY-LIZA SAWAY, BAY INAY DAYA-MELINDA S. REYMUNDO, Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules).
BAI TINANGHAGA HELINITA T. PANGAN, DATU MAKAPUKAW
ADOLINO L. SAWAY, DATU MAUDAYAW-CRISPEN SAWAY, VICKY In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to
MAKAY, LOURDES D. AMOS, GILBERT P. HOGGANG, TERESA comment.1 In compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of
GASPAR, MANUEL S. ONALAN, MIA GRACE L. GIRON, ROSEMARIE G. the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government
PE, BENITO CARINO, JOSEPH JUDE CARANTES, LYNETTE agency created under the IPRA to implement its provisions, filed on October
CARANTES-VIVAL, LANGLEY SEGUNDO, SATUR S. BUGNAY, 13, 1998 their Comment to the Petition, in which they defend the
CARLING DOMULOT, ANDRES MENDIOGRIN, LEOPOLDO ABUGAN, constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that the petition be dismissed for lack
VIRGILIO CAYETANO, CONCHITA G. DESCAGA, LEVY ESTEVES, of merit.
ODETTE G. ESTEVEZ, RODOLFO C. AGUILAR, MAURO VALONES,
PEPE H. ATONG, OFELIA T. DAVI, PERFECTO B. GUINOSAO, WALTER
On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of
N. TIMOL, MANUEL T. SELEN, OSCAR DALUNHAY, RICO O. SULATAN,
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the
RAFFY MALINDA, ALFREDO ABILLANOS, JESSIE ANDILAB, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) filed through the Solicitor
MIRLANDO H. MANGKULINTAS, SAMIE SATURNO, ROMEO A. General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is of the view that
LINDAHAY, ROEL S. MANSANG-CAGAN, PAQUITO S. LIESES, FILIPE
the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership
G. SAWAY, HERMINIA S. SAWAY, JULIUS S. SAWAY, LEONARDA
over natural resources to indigenous peoples and prays that the petition be
SAWAY, JIMMY UGYUB, SALVADOR TIONGSON, VENANCIO APANG, granted in part.
MADION MALID, SUKIM MALID, NENENG MALID, MANGKATADONG
AUGUSTO DIANO, JOSEPHINE M. ALBESO, MORENO MALID, MARIO
MANGCAL, FELAY DIAMILING, SALOME P. SARZA, FELIPE P. BAGON, On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan
SAMMY SALNUNGAN, ANTONIO D. EMBA, NORMA MAPANSAGONOS, Flavier, one of the authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen, a member
ROMEO SALIGA, SR., JERSON P. GERADA, RENATO T. BAGON, JR., of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, and the leaders and members of
SARING MASALONG, SOLEDAD M. GERARDA, ELIZABETH L. MENDI, 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier, et. al), filed their Motion for
MORANTE S. TIWAN, DANILO M. MALUDAO, MINORS MARICEL Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the constitutionality of
MALID, represented by her father CORNELIO MALID, MARCELINO M. IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition.
LADRA, represented by her father MONICO D. LADRA, JENNYLYN
On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed (5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous
a Motion to Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts peoples over the ancestral lands;
that IPRA is an expression of the principle of parens patriae and that the
State has the responsibility to protect and guarantee the rights of those who "(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in
are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it the harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of minerals and other
prays that the petition be dismissed. natural resources within the areas claimed to be their ancestral domains,
and the right to enter into agreements with nonindigenous peoples for the
On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous development and utilization of natural resources therein for a period not
People and the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years; and
Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a motion to Intervene with attached
Comment-in-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP and Flavier, et al. that "(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to
IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition for maintain, develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains and portions
prohibition and mandamus be dismissed. thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves,
wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest cover or
The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were reforestation."2
granted.
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition
Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and of "ancestral domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even include
intervenors filed their respective memoranda in which they reiterate the private lands found within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the
arguments adduced in their earlier pleadings and during the hearing. rights of private landowners.3

Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the
and its Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law applicable to
deprivation of the State’s ownership over lands of the public domain as well the settlement of disputes involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands
as minerals and other natural resources therein, in violation of the regalian on the ground that these provisions violate the due process clause of the
doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution: Constitution.4

"(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral These provisions are:
domains, and Section 3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands;
"(1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation
"(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral and recognition of ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP
domains including inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and the sole authority to delineate ancestral domains and ancestral
other resources found within ancestral domains are private but community lands;
property of the indigenous peoples;
"(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP
"(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the that a particular area is an ancestral domain and upon notification
composition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands; to the following officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and
Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Governments,
"(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the National
peoples over the ancestral domains; Development Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials over said
area terminates;
"(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and "(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the
practices of indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with his
property rights, claims of ownership, hereditary succession and duty of carrying out the State’s constitutional mandate to control
settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in the and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and
interpretation thereof shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous conservation of Philippine natural resources." 7
peoples;
After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as
"(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices follows:
shall be used to resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and
Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion,
"(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago
claims and disputes involving rights of the indigenous peoples." 5 join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice
Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the
Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the law with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative
NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that "the Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and Regulations Implementing the
administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted
characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for purposes of policy as dealing with the large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should
and program coordination." They contend that said Rule infringes upon the be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On
President’s power of control over executive departments under Section 17, the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the
Article VII of the Constitution.6 ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not
have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.
Petitioners pray for the following:
Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice
Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3
"(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are
and 66 and other related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of Sections
unconstitutional and invalid; 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of
specific cases by those whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA.
"(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections
and Commissioners of the NCIP to cease and desist from 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo,
implementing the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371 and its Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate opinions of
Implementing Rules; Justices Panganiban and Vitug.

"(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cease not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after
and desist from implementing Department of Environment and redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule
Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998; 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the petition is DISMISSED.

"(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of
Budget and Management to cease and desist from disbursing Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban.
public funds for the implementation of the assailed provisions of
R.A. 8371; and SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-
Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Panganiban JJ., see separate opinion
G.R. No. 150327 June 18, 2003 February 15, 1994; they had been in possession of the said property as
owner thereof since November 1965 and that some time in 1969, officers of
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILS., represented by the Secretary of Department the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD) sought his permission to use a
of Environment and Natural Resources, the Regional Executive portion of said property with an area of five hectares; the BFD caused the
Director, (DENR Region XI) and MARION V. ABUNDO, SR., construction of a big concrete building on said portion of the property; on
Conservation Officer (DENR Region XI), Petitioners, June 28, 1971, Benedicto’s lawyer wrote a letter to the BFD demanding that
vs. it vacate the said portion of his property on which the building was
MARILYN A. PERALTA, ROSIE A. LAVALAN, GRACE A. REYES, constructed but said letter was ignored; on February 24, 1979, Forest
ALBERTO B. ALONDAY, MERCY B. ALONDAY, RICHELIEU B. Conservation Officer Marion Abundio, Sr. asked permission from Benedicto
ALONDAY, AZUCENA B. ALONDAY AND JANETA A. BALURAN, and to allow the BFD to install on a portion of the subject property consisting of
the Register of Deeds of Davao City, Respondents. twenty-five square meters a small generator to provide electricity to the
existing building and compound of the Philippine Eagles Acclimatization and
Breeding Center; Benedicto did not give his assent to these requests of the
DECISION aforenamed government officials despite which they still caused the
construction of the building and installation of the generator unit; the plaintiffs
CALLEJO, SR., J.: demanded that the defendants vacate the property on July 14, 1994 but the
latter refused. The plaintiffs prayed that after due proceedings judgment be
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of rendered in their favor and that the defendants be ordered to vacate the
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 53440 which upheld the orders, dated February subject property and pay the plaintiffs damages and litigation expenses.
5, 1999 and May 6, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch
13.2 The plaintiffs appended as annexes to their petition copies of the aforesaid
title and letters of the BFD officials. In their answer to the complaint, the
The Antecedents defendants, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), interposed the
special and affirmative defenses that: (a) the complaint did not state a cause
of action against them; (b) the building constructed by the defendants was
On September 26, 1994, Marilyn A. Peralta, Rosie A. Lavalan, Grace A. within the perimeter of the Mt. Apo National Park, a forest reserve under
Reyes, Alberto B. Alonday, Mercy B. Alonday, Rochelieu B. Alonday, Proclamation No. 59, as amended, of the President of the Philippines, and
Azucena B. Alonday, Benedicto B. Alonday, and Janeta A. Baluran filed a not on the plaintiffs’ property; (c) the installation of a generator unit did not
complaint for recovery of possession and ownership of real property with the push through; (d) Project 1-B, under which the subject property was
Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 13, against the defendants declassified as alienable and disposable property per Land Classification
Republic of the Philippines, the Regional Executive Director of Region XI of Map No. 1412, should not prevail over Proclamation No. 59, as amended;
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the (e) the suit was against the State which cannot be sued without its consent;
Conservation Officer in said region. The plaintiffs alleged therein, inter alia, (f) the plaintiffs failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing their
that they are the heirs of Benedicto B. Alonday who applied for and was complaint.3 The defendants prayed that the complaint be dismissed.
granted Homestead Patent No. V-11244 by the then Secretary of Agriculture
and Natural Resources (DENR) over Lot 3561 with an area of 237,898
square meters; the said lot was a portion of Lot 2988 of the Guiang Cadastre The parties filed their respective pre-trial briefs. After the requisite pre-trial
located in Guiang, Davao City and that on the basis of said patent, conference, the RTC issued an Order, dated August 29, 1995, constituting a
Benedicto Alonday was issued Original Certificate of Title No. P-275 over panel of commissioners composed of Engineer Roderick R. Calapardo, as
the said property by the Register of Deeds; they purchased the said property Team Leader, and Gregorio Cenabre and Engineer Rogelio Zantua, as
from their father Benedicto and were issued on April 25, 1988 Transfer members, to conduct a relocation survey and determine if the respondents’
Certificate of Title No. T-134231 in their names; the property was allegedly property is part of the Mt. Apo National Park. After the survey, the panel
alienable and disposable property within Project 1-B, certified on January 13, submitted its report to the trial court, dated November 7, 1995, stating that:
1931 as per LC Map No. 1412 approved by the Director of Bureau of "the land in case is 92,216 square meters within the certified Alienable and
Forestry, as confirmed by the letter of the petitioner Regional Director, dated
Disposable (A & D) Lands while the remaining portion of 145,682 square that it was a mere scrap of paper for failure of the defendants to incorporate
meters is within the Mt. Apo National Park Reservation."4 any notice of hearing as required by Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules
of Court. Unaware of the June 11, 1997 Order of the RTC, the defendants
In their comment on the report, the plaintiffs claimed that the survey team filed on July 14, 1997 a Manifestation with Notice of Hearing on Motion for
altered the boundary line of their property in the course of the survey and Reconsideration dated July 7, 1997 appending thereto a notice of hearing of
that the team did not take into account Project 1-B per Land Classification their May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration.
Map No. 1412 approved by the Director of the Bureau of Forestry. The
defendants, on the other hand, insisted that the survey team did not alter the In the meantime, on July 18, 1997, the defendants received a copy of the
boundary line of the property and that it took into account Project 1-B and June 11, 1997 Order of the trial court expunging their motion for
Land Classification Map No. 1412 in conducting the survey and preparing its reconsideration. On July 22, 1997, the defendants filed their notice of appeal
report. On motion of the plaintiffs and with the conformity of the defendants, from the decision of the court. The plaintiffs, for their part, filed a motion to
through Assistant Solicitor General Aurora P. Cortez, the RTC issued an dismiss the appeal of the defendants on the ground that their May 30, 1997
order on March 7, 1997 declaring that there were no factual issues involved Motion for Reconsideration was a mere scrap of paper; hence, the motion
in the case and that it would decide the case on the basis of the pleadings did not toll the running of the reglementary period for appeal. Thus, the
and memoranda of the parties as well as the commissioners’ report. defendants allegedly failed to perfect their appeal from the decision of the
court within the reglementary period. On August 11, 1997, the RTC received
On May 6, 1997, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and the defendants’ notice of appeal.
against the defendants finding and declaring that the property occupied by
the defendants was part of the plaintiffs’ property. The RTC ordered the Meanwhile, the presiding judge of Branch 13 retired, and for a time, the said
defendants to vacate the property, restore possession thereof to the plaintiffs RTC branch remained vacant. On January 28, 1999, the RTC, through the
and remove all the improvements thereon made by them. The decretal newly-appointed judge, issued an order giving due course to the defendants’
portion of the decision reads: appeal declaring that they still had a period of five days from July 18, 1997
when they received a copy of the order expunging their notice of appeal or
In view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered sustaining the until July 23, 1997 within which to perfect their appeal from the June 11,
validity and legality of the plaintiff’s right of ownership and possession over 1997 Order. Since the defendants filed their notice of appeal on July 22,
that parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-134231 of 1997, they had perfected their appeal within the reglementary period. The
the Registry of Davao City. Defendants are hereby ordered to vacate the RTC further declared that although the defendants’ May 30, 1997 Motion for
portion of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-134231 of the Reconsideration was defective, the Rules of Court should be liberally
Registry of Deeds of Davao City alluded to by the plaintiffs and to restore construed. The RTC forthwith directed the branch clerk of court to forward
peaceful possession of the same to them. Defendants are further ordered to the records of the case to the Court of Appeals.
remove all the improvements they have introduced thereon.5
On February 5, 1999, however, the RTC issued an ex parte order dismissing
The RTC declared that the report of the panel did not take into account the defendants’ appeal on its finding that in light of jurisprudence brought to
Property 1-B for LC Map 1412; hence, the said report had no probative its attention, they failed to perfect their appeal within the reglementary
weight. According to the RTC, the torrens title of the property prevails over period. When the defendants received the February 5, 1999 Order of the
the relocation survey of the panel of commissioners and that the Director of RTC, they filed a motion for reconsideration thereof, set for hearing on
Forestry declassified the respondents’ property pursuant to Section 1827 of February 19, 1999. On February 8, 1999, the RTC issued an order declaring
the 1987 Revised Administrative Code. that the hearing set on February 19, 1999 was mooted by its Order dated
February 5, 1999 which dismissed the defendants’ appeal. The plaintiffs filed
on February 10, 1999 a motion for execution, claiming that the RTC decision
On May 30, 1997, five days before the expiration of the period to file an had become final and executory. On February 18, 1999, the RTC issued an
appeal, the defendants filed, through registered mail, a motion for the order granting the plaintiffs’ motion and ordered the issuance of a writ of
reconsideration of the RTC decision. On June 11, 1997, the RTC issued ex execution. The defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated
parte an order expunging the said motion for reconsideration on the ground February 26, 1999 of the February 5, 1999 Order of the RTC dismissing their
appeal and their opposition to the issuance of a writ of execution. The petitioners should have instituted a petition for reversion, and not a petition
defendants were unaware that in the interim, the RTC had already granted for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court, as amended.
the plaintiffs’ motion for a writ of execution on February 18, 1999. The
plaintiffs opposed the defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration dated The petitioners filed the instant petition for review on certiorari seeking to
February 26, 1999. reverse and set aside the decision of the CA. The petitioners allege that the
appellate court committed reversible error in finding and declaring that they
On May 6, 1999, the RTC issued an order denying the defendants’ motion failed to perfect their appeal from the decision of the trial court within the
for reconsideration and at the same time denying the plaintiffs’ motion for reglementary period. The CA likewise allegedly erred when it held that the
execution on the ground that public policy prohibited the issuance of a writ of RTC did not commit grave abuse of its discretion amounting to excess or
execution against the government. The RTC recalled the writ of execution it lack of jurisdiction when it dismissed the petitioners’ appeal via its February
earlier issued. 5, 1999 Order. The petitioners contend that by dismissing their petition, the
CA thereby sustained the validity of the respondents’ title despite strong
Thereafter, the defendants, now the petitioners, filed with the Court of evidence that the said property is part of the public forest and, therefore,
Appeals a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court, as inalienable. The petitioners further argue that even if their notice of appeal
amended, for the nullification of the February 5, 1999 and May 6, 1999 was belatedly filed, the rule on perfection of appeals should be suspended
Orders of the RTC alleging that the: and that their appeal should be given due course on grounds of equity and
substantial justice. They submit that if their appeal is not reinstated, the
Republic of the Philippines will be deprived of a part of the Mt. Apo National
I Park consisting of no less than 145,682 square meters. The petitioners cite
the ruling of this Court in Republic v. Court of Appeals.7
RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN ISSUING ITS The petition is meritorious.
ORDER DATED FEBRUARY 5, 1999 AND ORDER DATED MAY 6, 1999.
The Court agrees with the CA that the OSG was negligent when it filed on
II May 30, 1997 the defective motion for reconsideration. Section 2, Rule 37 of
the Rules of Court provides that a motion for reconsideration or a motion for
RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION a new trial shall be made in writing stating the ground or grounds therefor, a
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN SUSTAINING written notice of which shall be served by the movant on the adverse party.
THE VALIDITY AND LEGALITY OF OWNERSHIP OF PRIVATE Such written notice is that prescribed in Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the
RESPONDENTS OVER A PARCEL OF LAND COVERED BY TRANSFER Rules of Court. Under Section 4, paragraph 2 of said rule, a notice of
CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 134231.6 hearing on a motion shall be served by the movant to all the parties
concerned at least three days before the date of hearing.1âwphi1 Section 5
On April 27, 2001, the CA rendered its decision denying due course and of the same rule requires that the notice of hearing shall be directed to the
dismissing the petition for certiorari. The appellate court held that petitioners’ parties concerned and shall state the time and place of the hearing of the
May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration of the RTC decision did not motion. The requirements, far from being merely technical and procedural as
comply with Section 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, as amended; hence, a claimed by the petitioners, are vital elements of procedural due process. 8
mere scrap of paper which did not toll the running of the reglementary period
for appeal. Thus, the RTC decision had already become final and executory. Since the Rules of Court do not fix any period within which the said party
According to the appellate court, the RTC did not commit any grave abuse of may file his reply or opposition, the trial court would have no way of
discretion in dismissing the petitioners’ appeal therein. As such, they were determining whether the adverse party agrees or objects to the motion and,
not entitled to a writ of certiorari. The CA further held that the petitioners, if he objects, to hear him on his objection. Hence, the need for the movant to
through the negligence of the OSG, failed to perfect their appeal. The CA set the time and place of hearing of its motion.9 The requirements entombed
opined that to nullify the title of respondents over the subject property, the in Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court are mandatory and non-
compliance therewith is fatal and renders the motion pro forma; a worthless In a case of recent vintage, the Court took to task the OSG for its
piece of paper which the clerk of court has no right to receive and which the lackadaisical attitude and complacency in the handling of its cases for the
court has no authority to act upon.10 In cases of motions for a new trial or for government and reminded the OSG that:
the reconsideration of a judgment, the running of the period for appeal is not
tolled by the mere filing or pendency of said motion. 11 … just like other members of the Bar, the canons under the Code of
Professional Responsibility apply with equal force on lawyers in government
In this case, the petitioners, through the OSG, received on May 20, 1997 the service in the discharge of their official tasks. These ethical duties are
decision of the RTC; hence, they had until June 4, 1997 within which to file rendered even more exacting as to them because, as government counsel,
their motion for reconsideration or for a new trial or to perfect their appeal they have the added duty to abide by the policy of the State to promote a
from said adverse decision. Although the petitioners filed the motion for high standard of ethics in public service. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon
reconsideration dated May 30, 1997 within the reglementary period, said the OSG, as part of the government bureaucracy, to perform and discharge
motion failed to comply with Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15. The records show its duties with the highest degree of professionalism, intelligence and skill
that there is no proof that the respondents were actually served with a copy and to extend prompt, courteous and adequate service to the public.13
of said motion, as required by Section 10, Rule 13 of the Rules of
Court.1avvphi1 The OSG did not bother to file an amended motion for Trite to state, this Court is impelled to do so anew in this case.1âwphi1 The
reconsideration containing the requirements of Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 CA cannot be faulted for ruling that having lost their right of appeal through
of the Rules of Court. the negligence of the OSG the petitioners are not entitled to a writ of
certiorari under Rule 65 of 1987 Rules of Civil Procedure.14
The OSG offered no valid justification for its failure to comply with Sections 4
and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court except the self-serving claim of Solicitor However, prescinding from all the foregoing, this Court grants not only
Evaristo M. Padilla that his omission was sheer inadvertence, caused by petitioners’ plea that it suspend its own rule on the perfection of appeals but
heavy pressure of work in preparing numerous pleadings and in the almost also directs the reopening of the trial of the case for the parties to adduce
daily attendance in court for naturalization cases and those for nullity of their respective evidence. The Court excepts this case from the said rule in
marriage, among others. Other than the barefaced allegations of Solicitor the interest of justice, to avert a grave miscarriage of justice to the State
Padilla, he offered no specific details as to what pleadings he prepared and through the negligence of the OSG. The State has the right to adduce its
the hearings he attended which prevented him from complying with Sections evidence, testimonial and documentary. Courts should proceed with caution
4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. Moreover, if Solicitor Padilla was so as not to deprive a party of this right but, instead, afford every party
able to prepare within the reglementary period the May 30, 1997 Motion for litigant the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of its
Reconsideration, he offered no valid justification for his failure to incorporate cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.15 The trial court no less
in said motion or append thereto a simple one-paragraph notice of hearing declared in its January 28, 1999 Order that although the petitioners’ May 30,
which could have been accomplished in a few minutes. What is so 1997 Motion for Reconsideration was defective, the Rules of Court should
nettlesome is that the May 30, 1997 Motion for Reconsideration of be liberally construed only to make a volte face and issue ex parte an order
petitioners was signed not only by Solicitor Padilla but also by Assistant dismissing the appeal of the petitioners and canceling the hearing on the
Solicitor General Aurora P. Cortes. Even if Solicitor Padilla, through his petitioners’ motion for reconsideration set on February 19, 1999.
negligence, failed to incorporate in said motion for reconsideration the
requisite notice of hearing, the Assistant Solicitor General should have
noticed the omission before she affixed her signature thereon and sought What is involved in this case is a portion of land consisting of no less than
the immediate rectification thereof by Solicitor Padilla before said motion 145,682 square meters or less than fifteen hectares which they claim is part
was filed. She did not. She offered no valid explanation for her faux pas of the Mt. Apo National Park as shown by the relocation survey of the panel
either. The general rule is that the clients are bound by the mistakes and of commissioners. The case is one of public interest. If the aforesaid
negligence of their counsel.12 property is, indeed, part of the forest reserve as claimed by the petitioners
but their right to adduce their evidence is foreclosed by the dismissal of the
present petition, the said property would be forever lost to the prejudice of
the State. In Republic v. Imperial,16 this Court held that:
The need, therefore, to determine once and for all whether the lands subject Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-
of petitioner’s reversion efforts are foreshore lands constitutes good and Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-
sufficient cause for relaxing procedural rules and granting the third and Morales, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
fourth motions for extension to file appellant’s brief. Petitioner’s appeal
presents an exceptional circumstance impressed with public interest and
must then be given due course.17

The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the respondents as it ordered


the petitioners to vacate that portion of the subject property occupied by
them and to return possession thereof to the respondents, without requiring
the parties to adduce evidence on the factual issues of (a) whether or not the
property covered by the title of the respondents is part of the Mt. Apo
National Park (a forest reserve); (b) whether or not the building constructed
by the petitioners is inside the forest reserve; and (c) whether or not the
petitioners installed a generator unit in the respondents’ property.

It bears stressing that the trial court formed a panel of commissioners to


conduct a relocation survey of the subject property. The panel of
commissioners found that 145,682 square meters which is a portion of the
Mt. Apo National Park had been included in the respondents’ title to the
subject property. The trial court ignored this and did not even bother to
receive the parties’ respective evidence on the said report. The panel of
commissioners was not even called to testify on its findings. The appellate
court will be able to review on appeal the decision of the trial court and
ascertain whether there has been a travesty of justice to the gross prejudice
of the State.

The respondents will not suffer substantial prejudice if the trial is reopened.
The records show that the trial court denied respondents’ motion for a writ of
execution although the trial court had dismissed the appeal of the
petitioners. The respondents did not even assail the order of the trial court.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision of the Court of Appeals


in CA-G.R. SP No. 53440 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The Orders of
the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 13, dated February 5, 1999
and May 5, 1999 in Civil Case No. 23,168-94 are SET ASIDE. The said
Regional Trial Court is DIRECTED to reopen the trial to enable the parties to
adduce their respective evidence. The Office of the Solicitor General is
hereby directed to represent the petitioners during the trial. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines corresponding to the portion previously sold to the Province of Zambales,
SUPREME COURT was issued to the Republic of the Philippines. In 1970, De Valencia sold the
Manila lots covered by TCT Nos. 11865 and 11866 to petitioner Sta. Monica
Industrial and Development Corporation. TCT Nos. 11865 and 11866 were
THIRD DIVISION cancelled and TCT Nos. T-12054 and T-12055 were issued to petitioner.
Petitioner consolidated the two (2) parcels of land and subdivided them into
five hundred thirty-six (536) residential lots which it sold to individual buyers.
G.R. No. 83290 September 21, 1990
In 1985, respondent Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor
STA. MONICA INDUSTRIAL AND DEVELOPMENT General, filed with the Court of Appeals a complaint for the annulment of the
CORPORATION, petitioner, decree in LRC No. 6431, OCT No. 48 (issued to De Perio), TCT No. T-1369
vs. (issued to De Valencia) and TCT No. T-7696 (issued to Baloy). Respondent
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE alleged that the decree in LRC No. 6431 was null and void for lack of
PHILIPPINES, respondents. jurisdiction because the land was inside the U.S. naval reservation and that
it was still within the forest zone in 1912, having been released therefrom
Ocampo, Dizon & Domingo for petitioner. only in 1961, and hence cannot be the subject of disposition or alienation as
private property. Named defendants were De Valencia and her husband,
Baloy and his wife and the Register of Deeds of Zambales. The case was
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 06259.

CORTES, J.:
The Baloy spouses filed their answer to the complaint.

This case arose from proceedings to annul a 1912 decision of the land
registration court. With leave of court, petitioner intervened and filed an answer-in-intervention.
Later, petitioner filed its first motion for preliminary hearing on the affirmative
defense of res judicata, which the Court of Appeals denied. Petitioner did not
In 1912, the Tribuna del Registro de la Propiedad (Court of Land seek reconsideration thereof.
Registration) of Zambales, through Judge James Ostrand, in Land
Registration Case (LRC) No. 6431, confirmed the title of Justo de Perio over
two (2) parcels of land in Zambales. On August 28, 1912, Decree No. 9328 Trial on the merits ensued. The Republic offered its evidence, consisting of a
was issued by the court ordering the registration of the two (2) parcels of land classification map prepared by the Director of Forestry in 1961 to prove
land in the name of De Perio. On December 6, 1912, Original Certificate of that the land became alienable and disposable only in 1961, and rested its
Title No. 48 of the Registry of Deeds of Zambales was issued to De Perio. case. Petitioner then proceeded to present its evidence. This was, however,
Parcel No. 1 consists of an area of eleven thousand six hundred ninety- cut short when the Republic moved to amend its complaint to include as
seven square meters (11,697 sq.m.) while Parcel No. 2 consists of three party defendants all the other transferees of the land and, thereafter, filed its
hundred forty thousand eight hundred twenty square meters (340,820 amended complaint. Petitioner again moved for a preliminary hearing on its
sq.m.). In 1936, a portion consisting of ten thousand four hundred square affirmative defense of res judicata in an effort to shorten the proceedings.
meters (10,400 sq.m.) of Parcel No. 2 was sold to the Province of Zambales.
The sale was annotated at the back of OCT No. 48. In 1954, OCT No. 48 The Court of Appeals, holding that res judicata cannot be invoked as a bar to
was cancelled and TCT No. T-1369 was issued to Mercedes de Valencia an action for annulment of judgment on the ground of lack of jurisdiction,
pursuant to an extrajudicial settlement of De Perio's estate. In 1962, De denied the motion. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was also denied,
Valencia sold Parcel No. 1 to Ricardo Baloy. Baloy was issued TCT No. T- hence this petition.
7696 in 1966. In 1967, De Valencia subdivided Parcel No. 2 into five (5) lots
(Lots 2-A to 2-E). TCT No. T-1369 was cancelled and TCT Nos. 11865, After the comment and reply were filed, the Court gave due course to the
11866, 11867, and 11869 were issued to De Valencia. TCT No. 11 868, petition and, as required, the parties filed their respective memoranda.
On April 2, 1990, the Court set the case for hearing on May 7, 1990 whether or not the land registration court had jurisdiction over the two (2)
because, as stated in the resolution: parcels of land claimed by De Perio, the predecessor-in-interest of the
petitioner herein.
...after deliberating extensively on it, the Court finds the
need to hear the oral arguments of the parties on issues Necessarily, the resolution of this issue requires an inquiry into the nature of
which are considered determinative of the case, including the subject parcels of land in light of the laws prevailing at the time the
the following: judgment in the land registration case was rendered.

1. the nature and classification, under the pertinent laws Petitioner's primary argument, as summarized in its memorandum, was as
traced back to the turn of the century, of the two parcels of follows:
land decreed and originally titled in 1912 to De Perio; and
17. It must, therefore, be presumed that in LRC Case No.
2. the legal considerations that compelled the Government 6431, the court found from the evidence adduced by the
to seek the annulment of the decree of the Court of Land parties that (1) the two parcels of land in question were
Registration issued in favor of De Perio, his title, and the agricultural lands as the phrase is used in Act No. 926, (2)
titles of his successors-in-interest. Justo de Perio had been in the open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession thereof for at least 10
The parties were heard in oral argument and thereafter they were required to years, before July 26, 1912, and (3) his possession of the
submit their memoranda in amplification of their arguments. said parcels of land was in the concept of owner; and thus
the court confirmed Justo de Perio's title thereto and
ordered their registration in his name. If the Attorney
The question presented before the Court is whether or not respondent CA General, the Director of Forestry, the Director of Lands
committed reversible error of law in denying petitioner's motion for and the Director of Public Works opposed the application,
preliminary hearing on its affirmative defense of res judicata. then it must be presumed that the court declared the said
two parcels of land to be agricultural lands over their
As iterated in a long line of cases, the following requisites must concur for a opposition. If they did not oppose, then it must be
prior judgment to constitute a bar to a subsequent case: (1) the judgment presumed that they agreed with the court that the said
must be final; (2) the judgment must have been rendered by a court having lands were really agricultural lands. It must be pointed out
jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the judgment must be that the question as to whether the two parcels of land in
on the merits; and (4) there must be between the first and second actions, question are agricultural lands and not timber lands is a
Identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action [San Diego v. question of fact and the finding of Judge Ostrand that they
Cardona, 70 Phil. 281 (1940); Ipekdjian Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of are agricultural can not be reviewed by this Honorable
Tax Appeals, G.R. No. L-15430, September 30, 1963, 9 SCRA 72; Yusingco Court at this point in time [Petitioner's Memorandum, pp.
v. Ong Hing Lian, G. R. No. L-26523, December 24, 1971, 42 SCRA 589; 8-9; Rollo, pp. 211-212].
Aroc v. People's Homesite and Housing Corporation, G.R. No. L-39674,
January 31, 1978, 81 SCRA 350; Republic v. Alagad, G.R. No. 66807, Additionally, petitioner argued that the boundaries of the two parcels of land,
January 26, 1989, 169 SCRA 455; Vencilao v. Vano G.R. No. as described in Decree No. 9328, debunk the contention that they are forest
L-25660, February 23, 1990]. lands. The parcels of land were bounded by privately owned property.
Moreover, they were described in the notice published in the March 1912
In contending that the judgment in LRC No. 6431 should be annulled issue of the Official Gazette, pp. 766-767 as "lying within the Civil
because the land registration court had no jurisdiction over the subject Reservation, town site of Olongapo, situated in the municipality of Olongapo,
matter of the case, the respondent Republic puts in issue the presence of Province of Zambales, P. I." [Annex "A" of Petitioner's Memorandum; Rollo,
the second requisite. Therefore, the ultimate issue before the Court is pp. 222-223].
On the other hand, the public respondent, through the Office of the Solicitor SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal
General, contended: successors in right, occupying public lands in the
Philippine Islands, or claiming to own any such lands or an
Records disclose that by virtue of Proclamation dated interest therein, but whose titles to such lands have not
November 11, 1908, then Governor-General James F. been perfected, may apply to the Court of Land
Smith reserved for naval purposes certain lands of the Registration of the Philippine Islands for confirmation of
public domain in Subic, Zambales which included the their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
parcels of land embraced under Original Certificate of Title therefor to wit:
(OCT) No. 48 secured by De Perio in 1912. It was only in
1961 that such Proclamation was revoked by a xxx xxx xxx
subsequent issuance, Proclamation No. 731, issued by
then President Garcia on February 2, 1961 and such 6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in
portions already classified as alienable and disposable interest have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and
and not needed for government purposes were declared notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public
open for disposition under R.A. No. 274, in relation to C.A. lands, as defined by said act of Congress of July first,
141 and Act No. 3038. This means that the lands, subject nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide claim of
matter of the case, were portions of the U.S. naval ownership except as against the Government, for a period
reservation and were declared open for disposition only on of ten years next preceding the taking effect of this Act,
February 2, 1961 [Public Respondent's Memorandum, p. except when prevented by war or force majeure shall be
3; Rollo, p. 230]. conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a government grant and to have
Public respondent then reiterated that "[a]t the time Original Certificate of received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of
Title No. 48 was issued on December 9, 1912, the parcel of land covered by title to such land under the provisions of this chapter.
the title was still within the forest zone and it was not until January 31, 1961
that said land was released by the Bureau of Forest Development as xxx xxx xxx
alienable and disposable under Land Classification Map No. 2427" [Ibid].
In other words, a person who had been in open, continuous, exclusive and
It also added that "Land Classification Map No. 665 dated June 7, 1927 ... notorious session and occupation of public agricultural land for a period of at
shows that the parcels of land covered by OCT No. 48 were still part of the least ten (10) years prior to July 24, 1904 could petition for the confirmation
unclassified public forest at the time of the registration" [Public Respondent's of his title over the land he had so possessed and occupied.
Memorandum, p. 4; Rollo, p. 231].
The land registration court confirmed De Perio's title to the two (2) parcels of
Weighing the arguments raised by the parties, we find that the Republic has land after due notice and hearing. From this, the following conclusions may
failed to make out a convincing case for the annulment of the decree in Land be derived:
Registration Case No. 6431. It has been established that the land
registration court had jurisdiction over the two (2) parcels of land, and that
OCT No. 48 and the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) derived from OCT 1. that the two (2) parcels of land are agricultural as defined by law, i.e., that
No. 48 are valid. they are neither timber land nor mineral land [Mapa v. Insular Government,
10 Phil. 175 (1908)];
Act No. 926, known as the Public Land Act, which was enacted into law on
October 7, 1903 but which took effect on July 26, 1904, was the law 2. that De Perio had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
applicable to De Perio's petition for confirmation of his title to the two (2) possession and occupation of the two (2) parcels of land for at least ten (10)
parcels of land. It provided: years prior to 1904;
3. that his possession and occupancy was under a bona fide claim of Moreover, it is now almost thirty (30) years since the land was released in
ownership; and 1961. In a few more months, the possessors of the land would acquire title
to the portions they adversely possess through acquisitive prescription,
4. that under the law De Perio had title to the land as of 1904, although it without need of title or of good faith, pursuant to the Civil Code [Art. 1137].
was confirmed only later in 1912.
Finally, we find the need to emphasize that in an action to annul a judgment,
These conclusions serve as premises to arrive at other conclusions the burden of proving the judgment's nullity rests upon the petitioner. The
determinative of the case. petitioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the judgment
is fatally defective. When the proceedings were originally filed by the
Republic before the Court of Appeals, the petitioner contended that when the
If the land is agricultural as defined by law, and as confirmed by Judge decree in favor of De Perio was issued by Judge Ostrand in 1912 the
Ostrand, it could not have been forest land as claimed by public respondent, parcels of land were still part of the inalienable public forests. However,
the subsequent land classification map notwithstanding. This conclusion is petitioner's case rested solely on land classification maps drawn several
supported by the fact that the two (2) parcels of land were in the Olongapo years after the issuance of the decree in 1912. These maps fail to
townsite and were bounded by privately-owned land. conclusively establish the actual classification of the land in 1912 and the
years prior to that. Before this Court, petitioner reiterates said 'contention
If De Perio had title to the land in 1904, although still imperfect, then it could and refers, for the first time, to a 1908 proclamation reserving the land in
not have been prejudiced by the proclamation of Governor-General Smith in Zambales as a naval reservation and alleging that the subject parcels of land
1908 which reserved for naval purposes land in Subic, Zambales. Said are parts thereof. These, for reasons discussed earlier, are insufficient to
proclamation recognized the existence of private rights, thus: overcome the legal presumption in favor of the decree's regularity, more so
when we consider that notice of the application for registration and the date
xxx xxx xxx of hearing thereof, addressed to the Attorney General, the Director of Lands,
the Director of Public Works and the Director of Forestry, among others, was
published in the Official Gazette and that Governor General Smith's
...por la presente exceptuo de venta o colonizacion hasta Proclamation of 1908 itself recognizes private rights.
nueva orden y separo para reserva naval, salvo los
derechos privados, todos y cada uno de los terrenos
publicos comprendidos dentro de los siguientes limites, a WHEREFORE, the petition is granted and the Court of Appeals is ordered to
saber: [Proclamation del Gobernador General de las Islas DISMISS CA-G.R. SP No. 06259.
Filipinos, 11 Noviembre 1908, para. 2, 6 O.G. 1885 (2
December 1908)]. SO ORDERED.

Public respondent has also failed to explain the Republic's sudden interest in Gutierrez, Jr., Feliciano and Bidin, JJ., concur.
the annulment of the decree and the certificate of title issued to De Perio and
the subsequent titles issued to his successors after some seventy-three (73) Fernan, C.J., is on leave.
years of inaction and after a portion of the land has been developed by
petitioner into a subdivision and hundreds of residences have been built
thereon. At this point in time, that portion of land developed into a
subdivision cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be conceived as forest
land. Anyway, the area wherein the two (2) parcels of land are found, were
released from the unclassified public forest and the territory comprising the
Subic naval reservation way back in 1961.
G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989 law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into
three grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and timber or forest lands.
THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the Commonwealth,
vs. promulgated in 1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973.
RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent. That new charter expanded the classification of public lands to include
industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and grazing lands and
even permitted the legislature to provide for other categories. 3 This
The Solicitor General for petitioner. provision has been reproduced, but with substantial modifications, in the
present Constitution. 4
Quasha, Asperilla, Ancheta, Valmonte, Pena & Marcos for respondents.
Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when
this case arose, only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. 5 Their
disposition was provided for under C.A. No. 141. Mineral and timber or forest
CRUZ, J.: lands were not subject to private ownership unless they were first
reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation.

The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove
swamps, or manglares, as they are commonly known. If they are part of our In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, 6 promulgated in
public forest lands, they are not alienable under the Constitution. If they are 1909, mangrove swamps or manglareswere defined by the Court as:
considered public agricultural lands, they may be acquired under private
ownership. The private respondent's claim to the land in question must be ... mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide,
judged by these criteria. in which grows various kindred plants which will not live
except when watered by the sea, extending their roots
The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps deep into the mud and casting their seeds, which also
located in the municipality of Sapian, Capiz. Ruperto Villareal applied for its germinate there. These constitute the mangrove flats of
registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and his predecessors-in- the tropics, which exist naturally, but which are also, to
interest had been in possession of the land for more than forty years. He some extent cultivated by man for the sake of the
was opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the combustible wood of the mangrove and like trees as well
Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon. Although
Court of First Instance. of Capiz. 1 The decision was affirmed by the Court of these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion
Appeals. 2 The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for that they cannot be so regarded in the sense in which that
review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature term is used in the cases cited or in general American
and not subject to private appropriation. He asks that the registration be jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not
reversed. available for purpose of navigation, and they may be
disposed of without impairment of the public interest in
what remains.
It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private
respondent agree that the land is mangrove land. There is no dispute as to
this. The bone of contention between the parties is the legal nature of xxx
mangrove swamps or manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal and
therefore not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory
agricultural land. The issue before us is legal, not factual. condition of the law, the custom had grown of converting
manglares and nipa lands into fisheries which became a
For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine common feature of settlement along the coast and at the
Bill of 1902, one of the earlier American organic acts in the country. By this same time of the change of sovereignty constituted one of
the most productive industries of the Islands, the 'In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil.
abrogation of which would destroy vested interests and Rep., 175), this Court said that the phrase agricultural
prove a public disaster. lands as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands
acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.
Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so
susceptible of private ownership. Whatever may have been the meaning of the term
'forestry' under the Spanish law, the Act of Congress of
Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the July 1st 1902, classifies the public lands in the Philippine
above-cited case, that mangrove swamps form part of the public forests of Islands as timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and all
this country. This it did in the Administrative Code of 1917, which became public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are
effective on October 1 of that year, thus: necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are
used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary
farm lands.
Section 1820. Words and phrase defined. - For the
purpose of this chapter 'public forest' includes, except as
otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public land, The definition of forestry as including manglares found in
including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest the Administrative Code of 1917 cannot affect rights which
reserves of whatever character. vested prior to its enactment.

It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the
maintained the doctrine in the Montano case when two years later it held in trial court should have considered them agricultural lands.
the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: 7 If they are agricultural lands, then the rights of appellants
are fully established by Act No. 926.
...the words timber land are always translated in the
Spanish translation of that Act (Act of Congress) as The doctrine was reiterated still later in Garchitorena Vda. de Centenera v.
terrenos forestales. We think there is an error in this Obias, 8 promulgated on March 4, 1933, more than fifteen years after the
translation and that a better translation would be 'terrenos effectivity of the Administrative Code of 1917. Justice Ostrand declared for a
madereros.' Lumber land in English means land with trees unanimous Court:
growing on it. The mangler plant would never be called a
tree in English but a bush, and land which has only The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the
bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it cannot be land covered by the application there are mangrove lands
called 'timber land. as shown in his opponent's Exh. 1, but we think this
opposition of the Director of Forestry is untenable,
xxx xxx xxx inasmuch as it has been definitely decided that mangrove
lands are not forest lands in the sense in which this phrase
is used in the Act of Congress.
The fact that there are a few trees growing in
a manglare or nipa swamps does not change the general
character of the land from manglare to timber land. No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the
cases of Montano and Jocson. And in 1977, the above ruling was reaffirmed
in Tongson v. Director of Forestry, 9 with Justice Fernando declaring that the
More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820, mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in nature. The decision even quoted
the Court declared: with approval the statement of the trial court that:
... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove A forested area classified as forest land of the public
species grow, where the trees are small and sparse, fit domain does not lose such classification simply because
only for firewood purposes and the trees growing are not loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover.
of commercial value as lumber do not convert the land into Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
public land. Such lands are not forest in character. They covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin
do not form part of the public domain. cultivators or other farmers. 'Forested lands' do not have
to be on mountains or in out-of-the-way places. Swampy
Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, 10 the Court, citing Krivenko v. areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other
Register of Deeds, 11 reiterated the ruling in the Mapa case that "all public trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be
lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of
lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or its legal nature or status and does not have to be
ordinary farm lands. descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and
until the land classsified as 'forest' is released in an official
proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the
But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the
decisions holding the contrary view. rules on confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply.'

In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 12 promulgated The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate
in 1983, the Court ruled "that the Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to Court, 14 where this Court agreed with the Solicitor General's submission
dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public that the land in dispute, which he described as "swamp mangrove or forestal
domain while such lands are still classified as forest lands. land," were not private properties and so not registerable. This case was
decided only twelve days after the De Porkan case.
Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, 13 the
Court was more positive when it held, again through Justice Gutierrez: Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for
a categorical pronouncement that should resolve once and for all the
The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 question of whether mangrove swamps are agricultural lands or forest lands.
cannot be classified as forest land because it is not thickly
forested but is a 'mangrove swamps.' Although conceding The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the
that 'mangrove swamp' is included in the classification of legislature, which has the authority to implement the constitutional provision
forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the classifying the lands of the public domain (and is now even permitted to
Revised Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no provide for more categories of public lands). The legislature having made
big trees classified in Section 1821 of the said Code as such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of
first, second and third groups are found on the land in their own role, administer our public lands pursuant to their constitutional
question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885, even if it duty " to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed' and in accordance with
is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will step into the picture if the
proceedings because the property had been in actual rules laid down by the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are valid,
possession of private persons for many years, and it is claimed that they are not being correctly observed by the executive.
therefore, said land was already 'private land' better Thus do the three departments, coordinating with each other, pursue and
adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest achieve the objectives of the Constitution in the conservation and utilization
purposes and not required by the public interests to be of our natural resources.
kept under forest classification.

The petition is without merit.


In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the (d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-
Philippines the function of making periodic classifications of public lands, public uses.
thus:
The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from make the classifications provided for in this section, and
time to time classify the lands of the public domain into: may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands
from one class to another.
(a) Alienable or disposable,
As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as
(b) Lumber, and follows:

(c) Mineral lands, Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reserves-
Revocation of same. - Upon there commendation of the
Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such Head, the President of the Philippines may set apart forest
lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their reserves from the public lands and he shall by
administration and disposition. proclamation declare the establishment of such reserves
and the boundaries thereof, and thereafter such forest
Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and reserves shall not be entered, sold, or otherwise disposed
disposition of alienable or disposable lands, the President, of, but shall remain as such for forest uses, and shall be
upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and administered in the same manner as public forest.
Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare what
lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act. The President of the Philippines may in like manner by
proclamation alter or modify the boundaries of any forest
With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law reserve from time to time, or revoke any such
provides: proclamation, and upon such revocation such forest
reserve shall be and become part of the public lands as
For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the though such proclamation had never been made.
lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition
shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural
which such lands are destined, as follows: purposes. - Lands in public forest, not including forest
reserves, upon the certification of the Director of Forestry
(a) Agricultural; that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for
agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by
the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be
(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar declared by the Department Head to be agricultural lands.
productive purposes;
With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion:
(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and
Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within
the public forests of the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820
of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, Thus we held in the Yngson case:
we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in
the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of
unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the lands of the public domain that until timber or forest lands
executive department. More importantly, the said provision has not been are released as disposable and alienable neither the
challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional assuming the Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has authority
requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law to lease, grant, sell or otherwise dispose of these lands for
is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing or other
in the Amunategui case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest purposes, fishpond leases and other modes of utilization.
lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be
descriptive of what the land actually looks like. That determination having
been made and no cogent argument having been raised to annul it, we have The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer
no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall. and dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming
part of the public domain while such lands are still
classified as forest land or timber land and not released for
Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our fishery or other purposes.
agricultural lands should be understood as covering only those lands over
which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917
became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated as forest The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus:
lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right
protected by the due process clause. So we ruled again only two months It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that
ago in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, 15 where the forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It is not
possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it registerable. The adverse possession which can be the
was much later classified as timberland. basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title
cases cannot commence until after the forest land has
It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part been declared alienable and disposable. Possession of
of the mangrove swamps of Sapian, and for which a minor forest license had forest land, no matter bow long cannot convert it into
in fact been issued by the Bureau of Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be private property.'
considered forest land. It could therefore not be the subject of the adverse
possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent in We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the
support of his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released proof the private respondent offers of prescriptive possession thereof is
as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land pursuant to the remarkably meager and of dubious persuasiveness. The record contains no
certification the Director of Forestry may issue under Section 1827 of the convincing evidence of the existence of the informacion posesoria allegedly
Revised Administrative Code. obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone the fact that the
conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it
The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps been shown that the informacion posesoria has been inscribed or registered
approved by the Director of Lands, 16 to prove that the land is registerable. It in the registry of property and that the land has been under the actual and
should be plain, however, that the mere existence of such a plan would not adverse possession of the private respondent for twenty years as required
have the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into by the Spanish Mortgage Law. 17 These matters are not presumed but must
agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly in be established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case.
officious. The Director of Lands was not authorized to act in the premises.
Under the aforecited law, it is the Director of Forestry who has the authority Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were
to determine whether forest land is more valuable for agricultural rather than practically the only basis used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim
forestry uses, as a basis for its declaration as agricultural land and release of possession over the land in question. Tax declarations are, of course, not
for private ownership.
sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in favor of the
declarant, as we have held in countless cases. 18

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

It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition


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

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

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco,


Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado,
JJ., concur.

Fernan, C.J., took no part.


Republic of the Philippines On 2 July 1952, OCT No. 11585 was cancelled to discharge the
SUPREME COURT encumbrance expressly stated in Decree No. 381928. Two transfer
Manila certificates of title were issued: Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-
1277,6 issued in the name of the Province of Cagayan, covering Lot 2472-B
FIRST DIVISION consisting of 100,000 square meters and Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-
1278,7 issued in the name of the private respondents, covering Lot 2472-A
consisting of 6,997,921 square meters.
G.R. No. 155450 August 6, 2008
On 19 May 1994, Bienvenida Taguiam Vda. De Dayag and others filed with
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by the Regional the Regional Office No. 2 of the Department of Environment and Natural
Executive Director, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Resources (DENR), Tuguegarao, Cagayan, a letter-petition requesting the
Regional Office No. 2, petitioners, DENR to initiate the filing of an action for the annulment of Decree No.
vs. 381928 on the ground that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to
COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF ANTONIO CARAG AND VICTORIA adjudicate a portion of the subject property which was allegedly still
TURINGAN, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF CAGAYAN, and the COURT classified as timber land at the time of the issuance of Decree No. 381928.
OF FIRST INSTANCE OF CAGAYAN,respondents.
The Regional Executive Director of the DENR created an investigating team
DECISION to conduct ground verification and ocular inspection of the subject property.

CARPIO, J.: The investigating team reported that:

The Case A) The portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151 as shown in the Plan prepared
for spouses Carag, and covered under LC Project 3-L of
This is a petition for review1 of the 21 May 20012 and 25 September Tuguegarao, Cagayan, was found to be still within the timberland
20023 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 47965. The area at the time of the issuance of the Decree and O.C.T. of the
spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan, and the same was
21 May 2001 Resolution dismissed petitioner Republic of the Philippines’ only released as alienable and disposable on February 22, 1982,
(petitioner) amended complaint for reversion, annulment of decree, as certified by USEC Jose G. Solis of the NAMRIA on 27 May
cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles. The 25 September 2002 1994.
Resolution denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.
B) Petitioner Bienvenida Taguiam Vda. De Dayag and others have
The Facts possessed and occupied by themselves and thru their
predecessors-in-interest the portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151, covered
by LC Project 3-L of LC Map 2999, since time immemorial.8
On 2 June 1930, the then Court of First Instance of Cagayan (trial court)
issued Decree No. 3819284in favor of spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria
Turingan (spouses Carag), predecessors-in-interest of private respondents Thus, the investigating team claimed that "a portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151"
Heirs of Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan (private respondents), covering was "only released as alienable and disposable on 22 February 1982."
a parcel of land identified as Lot No. 2472, Cad. 151, containing an area of
7,047,673 square meters (subject property), situated in Tuguegarao, In a Memorandum dated 9 September 1996, the Legal Division of the Land
Cagayan. On 19 July 1938, pursuant to said Decree, the Register of Deeds Management Bureau recommended to the Director of Lands that an action
of Cagayan issued Original Certificate of Title No. 115855 (OCT No. 11585) for the cancellation of OCT No. 11585, as well as its derivative titles, be filed
in the name of spouses Carag. with the proper court. The Director of Lands approved the recommendation.
On 10 June 1998, or 68 years after the issuance of Decree No. 381928, Reversion/Annulment of Decree, Cancellation and Declaration of
petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a complaint for annulment of Nullity of Titles. It merely alleges that around 2,640,000 square
judgment, cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles 9 on the ground that meters of timberland area within Lot 2472 Cad. 151, had been
in 1930 the trial court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate a portion of the erroneously included in the title of the Spouses Antonio Carag and
subject property, which portion consists of 2,640,000 square meters Victoria Turingan under Decree No. 381928 and O.C.T. No. 11585
(disputed portion). The disputed portion was allegedly still classified as issued on June 2, 1930 and July 19, 1938, respectively; that hence,
timber land at the time of issuance of Decree No. 381928 and, therefore, such adjudication and/or Decree and Title covering a timberland
was not alienable and disposable until 22 February 1982 when the disputed area is null and void ab initio under the provisions of the 1935, 1973
portion was classified as alienable and disposable. and 1987 Constitutions.

On 19 October 1998, private respondents filed a motion to dismiss.10 Private Finally, it is clear that the issues raised in the Amended Complaint as well as
respondents alleged that petitioner failed to comply with Rule 47 of the Rules those in the Motion to dismiss are factual in nature and should be threshed
of Court because the real ground for the complaint was mistake, not lack of out in the proper trial court in accordance with Section 101 of the Public
jurisdiction, and that petitioner, as a party in the original proceedings, could Land Act.14 (Citations omitted)
have availed of the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief
or other appropriate remedies but failed to do so. Private respondents added Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. In its 25 September 2002
that petitioner did not attach to the complaint a certified true copy of the Resolution, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration.
decision sought to be annulled. Private respondents also maintained that the
complaint was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and law of the case
and by Section 38 of Act No. 496.11 Private respondents also stated that not Hence, this petition.
all the heirs of spouses Carag were brought before the Court of Appeals for
an effective resolution of the case. Finally, private respondents claimed that The Issues
the real party in interest was not petitioner but a certain Alfonso Bassig, who
had an ax to grind against private respondents.12 Petitioner raises the following issues:

On 3 March 1999, petitioner filed an amended complaint for reversion, 1. Whether the allegations of the complaint clearly stated that the
annulment of decree, cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles. 13 ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief and other
appropriate remedies are no longer available;
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
2. Whether the amended complaint clearly alleged the ground of
On 21 May 2001, the Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint because of lack of jurisdiction;
lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. The Court of Appeals
declared: 3. Whether the Court of Appeals may try the factual issues raised in
the amended complaint and in the motion to dismiss;
The rule is clear that such judgments, final orders and resolutions in
civil actions which this court may annul are those which the 4. Whether the then Court of First Instance of Cagayan had
"ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other jurisdiction to adjudicate a tract of timberland in favor of respondent
appropriate remedies are no longer available." The Amended spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan;
Complaint contains no such allegations which are jurisdictional
neither can such circumstances be divined from its allegations.
Furthermore, such actions for Annulment may be based only on 5. Whether the fact that the Director of Lands was a party to the
two (2) grounds: extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction. Neither original proceedings changed the nature of the land and granted
ground is alleged in the Amended Complaint which is for jurisdiction to the then Court of First Instance over the land;
6. Whether the doctrine of res judicata applies in this case; and Lot 2472 Cad-151, consequently, the same are null and void ab
initio, and of no force and effect whatsoever.16 (Emphasis supplied;
7. Whether Section 38 of Act No. 496 is applicable in this case. citations omitted)

The Ruling of the Court Petitioner clearly alleged in the complaint and amended complaint that it was
seeking to annul Decree No. 381928 on the ground of the trial court’s lack of
jurisdiction over the subject land, specifically over the disputed portion,
While the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the complaint on procedural which petitioner maintained was classified as timber land and was not
grounds, we will still deny the petition because the complaint for annulment alienable and disposable.
of decree has no merit.
Second, the Court of Appeals also dismissed the complaint on the ground of
Petitioner Complied with Rule 47 of the Rules of Court petitioner’s failure to allege that the "ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal,
petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available."
First, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner failed to allege either of the
grounds of extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction in the complaint for In Ancheta v. Ancheta,17 we ruled:
annulment of decree.15
In a case where a petition for annulment of judgment or final order
We find otherwise. In its complaint and amended complaint, petitioner of the RTC filed under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is grounded on
stated: lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant/respondent or
over the nature or subject of the action, the petitioner need not
11. In view of the fact that in 1930 or in 1938, only the Executive allege in the petition that the ordinary remedy of new trial or
Branch of the Government had the authority and power to reconsideration of the final order or judgment or appeal therefrom
declassify or reclassify land of the public domain, the Court did are no longer available through no fault of her own. This is so
not, therefore, have the power and authority to adjudicate in because a judgment rendered or final order issued by the RTC
favor of the spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan the without jurisdiction is null and void and may be assailed any time
said tract of timberland, portion of the Lot 2472 Cad-151, at the either collaterally or in a direct action or by resisting such judgment
time of the issuance of the Decree and the Original Certificate or final order in any action or proceeding whenever it is invoked,
of Title of the said spouses; and such adjudication and/or Decree unless barred by laches.18
and Title issued covering the timberland area is null and void ab
initio considering the provisions of the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Since petitioner’s complaint is grounded on lack of jurisdiction over the
Philippine constitution. subject of the action, petitioner need not allege that the ordinary remedies of
new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no
xxxx longer available through no fault of petitioner.

15. The issuance of Decree No. 381928 and O.C.T. No. 11585 in Third, the Court of Appeals ruled that the issues raised in petitioner’s
the name of spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan, and all complaint were factual in nature and should be threshed out in the proper
the derivative titles thereto in the name of the Heirs and said trial court in accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act.19
spouses, specifically with respect to the inclusion thereto of
timberland area, by the then Court of First Instance (now the Section 6, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court provides:
Regional Trial Court), and the Register of Deeds of Cagayan is
patently illegal and erroneous for the reason that said Court and/or
the Register of Deeds of Cagayan did not have any authority or SEC. 6. Procedure. - The procedure in ordinary civil cases shall be
jurisdiction to decree or adjudicate the said timberland area of observed. Should a trial be necessary, the reception of evidence
may be referred to a member of the court or a judge of a Regional In this case, petitioner has not alleged that the disputed portion had been
Trial Court. declared as mineral or forest zone, or reserved for some public purpose in
accordance with law, during the Spanish regime or thereafter. The land
Therefore, the Court of Appeals may try the factual issues raised in the classification maps24 petitioner attached to the complaint also do not show
complaint for the complete and proper determination of the case. that in 1930 the disputed portion was part of the forest zone or reserved for
some public purpose. The certification of the National Mapping and
Resources Information Authority, dated 27 May 1994, contained no
However, instead of remanding the complaint to the Court of Appeals for statement that the disputed portion was declared and classified as timber
further proceedings, we shall decide the case on the merits. land.25

Complaint for Annulment of Decree Has No Merit The law prevailing when Decree No. 381928 was issued in 1930 was Act
No. 2874,26 which provides:
Petitioner contends that the trial court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate to
spouses Carag the disputed portion of the subject property. Petitioner claims SECTION 6. The Governor-General, upon the recommendation of
that the disputed portion was still classified as timber land, and thus not the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time
alienable and disposable, when Decree No. 381928 was issued in 1930. In to time classify the lands of the public domain into -
effect, petitioner admits that the adjacent 4,407,673 square meters of the
subject property, outside of the disputed portion, were alienable and
disposable in 1930. Petitioner argues that in 1930 or in 1938, only the (a) Alienable or disposable
Executive Branch of the Government, not the trial courts, had the power to
declassify or reclassify lands of the public domain. (b) Timber and

Lack of jurisdiction, as a ground for annulment of judgment, refers to either (c) Mineral lands
lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defending party or over the subject
matter of the claim.20 Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred by law and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from
and is determined by the statute in force at the time of the filing of the one class to another, for the purposes of their government and
action.21 disposition.

Under the Spanish regime, all Crown lands were per se alienable. Petitioner has not alleged that the Governor-General had declared the
In Aldecoa v. Insular Government,22 we ruled: disputed portion of the subject property timber or mineral land pursuant to
Section 6 of Act No. 2874.
From the language of the foregoing provisions of law, it is deduced
that, with the exception of those comprised within the mineral and It is true that Section 8 of Act No. 2874 opens to disposition only those lands
timber zone, all lands owned by the State or by the sovereign which have been declared alienable or disposable. Section 8 provides:
nation are public in character, and per se alienable and,
provided they are not destined to the use of the public in general or
reserved by the Government in accordance with law, they may be SECTION 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition
acquired by any private or juridical person x x x23 (Emphasis or concession which have been officially delimited and classified
supplied) and, when practicable, surveyed, and which have not been
reserved for public or quasi-public uses, not appropriated by the
Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor
Thus, unless specifically declared as mineral or forest zone, or reserved by those on which a private right authorized and recognized by
the State for some public purpose in accordance with law, all Crown lands this Act or any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having
were deemed alienable. been reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so. However, the
Governor-General may, for reasons of public interest, declare lands to have performed all the conditions essential to a government
of the public domain open to disposition before the same have had grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title. When the land
their boundaries established or been surveyed, or may, for the registration court issued a decision for the issuance of a
same reasons, suspend their concession or disposition by decree which was the basis of an original certificate of title to
proclamation duly published or by Act of the Legislature. (Emphasis the land, the court had already made a determination that the
supplied) land was agricultural and that the applicant had proven that he
was in open and exclusive possession of the subject land for
However, Section 8 provides that lands which are already private lands, as the prescribed number of years. It was the land registration
well as lands on which a private claim may be made under any law, are not court which had the jurisdiction to determine whether the land
covered by the classification requirement in Section 8 for purposes of applied for was agricultural, forest or timber taking into
disposition. This exclusion in Section 8 recognizes that during the Spanish account the proof or evidence in each particular
regime, Crown lands were per se alienable unless falling under timber or case. (Emphasis supplied)
mineral zones, or otherwise reserved for some public purpose in accordance
with law. As with this case, when the trial court issued the decision for the issuance of
Decree No. 381928 in 1930, the trial court had jurisdiction to determine
Clearly, with respect to lands excluded from the classification requirement in whether the subject property, including the disputed portion, applied for was
Section 8, trial courts had jurisdiction to adjudicate these lands to private agricultural, timber or mineral land. The trial court determined that the land
parties. Petitioner has not alleged that the disputed portion had not become was agricultural and that spouses Carag proved that they were entitled to
private property prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874. Neither has the decree and a certificate of title. The government, which was a party in
petitioner alleged that the disputed portion was not land on which a private the original proceedings in the trial court as required by law, did not appeal
right may be claimed under any existing law at that time. the decision of the trial court declaring the subject land as agricultural. Since
the trial court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action, its
decision rendered in 1930, or 78 years ago, is now final and beyond review.
In Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals,27 the Republic sought to
annul the judgment of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, sitting as a
land registration court, because when the application for land registration The finality of the trial court’s decision is further recognized in Section 1,
was filed in 1927 the land was alleged to be unclassified forest land. The Article XII of the 1935 Constitution which provides:
Republic also alleged that the CFI of Rizal had no jurisdiction to determine
whether the land applied for was forest or agricultural land since the SECTION 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public
authority to classify lands was then vested in the Director of Lands as domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils,
provided in Act Nos. 92628 and 2874. The Court ruled: all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the
Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
We are inclined to agree with the respondent that it is legally development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the
doubtful if the authority of the Governor General to declare lands as Philippines, or to corporations or associations at least sixty per
alienable and disposable would apply to lands that have become centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject
private property or lands that have been impressed with a private to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of
right authorized and recognized by Act 2874 or any valid law. By the inauguration of the Government established under this
express declaration of Section 45 (b) of Act 2874 which is quoted Constitution. (Emphasis supplied)
above, those who have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the Thus, even as the 1935 Constitution declared that all agricultural, timber and
public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership mineral lands of the public domain belong to the State, it recognized that
since July 26, 1894 may file an application with the Court of First these lands were "subject to any existing right, grant, lease or
Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government
of their claims and these applicants shall be conclusively presumed established under this Constitution."29 When the Commonwealth
Government was established under the 1935 Constitution, spouses Carag In G. R. No. 127245, petitioner Republic moved for reconsideration on the
had already an existing right to the subject land, including the disputed following grounds:
portion, pursuant to Decree No. 381928 issued in 1930 by the trial court.
I. THE RULE ON RES JUDICATA DOES NOT APPLY TO THE INSTANT
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We DISMISS petitioner Republic of CASES;
the Philippines’ complaint for reversion, annulment of decree, cancellation
and declaration of nullity of titles for lack of merit. II. ASSUMING WITHOUT ADMITTING THAT RES
JUDICATA MAY BE APPLIED, THE REGALIAN
SO ORDERED. DOCTRINE WHICH IS HIGHER AND MORE COMPELLING
THAN RES JUDICATA WARRANTS THE EXEMPTION OF
[G.R. No. 127245.January 30, 2001] THIS CASE FROM THE RULE OF JUDICIAL
PRECEDENTS;
REP. OF THE PHILS vs. CA, et al. III. THE LEGAL PRESUMPTION IS THAT
UNLESS CLEARLY ESTABLISHED AS ALIENABLE AND
DISPOSABLE, UNCLASSIFIED LANDS ARE NOT
EN BANC
ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE; AND

Gentlemen: IV. IF THE DECISION DATED SEPTEMBER 2,


1999 OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IS NOT
RECONSIDERED PETITIONER STANDS TO LOSE VAST
Quoted hereunder for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JAN TRACK (SIC) OF PRIME LAND NOW VALUED AT
30 2001. ABOUT P27,892,900,000.00.

G.R. No. 127245(Republic of the Philippines vs. CA, et al.) Petitioner Republic submits that the decisions of this Court in Margolles et al.
vs. CA 1 230 SCRA 97., Peltan Development Corporation et. al. vs. CA 2 270
G.R. No. 127022 (Firestone Ceramics, Inc. vs. CA, et al.) SCRA 83., and Goldenrod, Inc. vs. CA 3 August 10, 1994 resolution.do not
constitute a bar to the present case based on the rule of res judicata, as the
Before us are (1) two (2) motions for reconsideration of our decision dated said cases pertained to the superiority of conflicting titles of the parties therein
September 2, 1999 filed by petitioner Republic in G. R. No. 127245 and by whereas the present case resolves on the validity of the judgment covering a
petitioners Firestone Ceramics, et al. in G. R. No. 127022, (2) private vast parcel of land rendered at the time when the land was still forest land;
respondent Peltan's motion to dismiss dated September 15, 2000. that the subject matter of the present case is the entire parcel of land covered
by OCT No. 4216 with an area of 996,175 square meters, whereas the cited
Margolles case involved only a 188,254 square meter portion of the land
We shall first rule on the procedural issue. Private respondent Peltan filed a covered by OCT No. 4216. Petitioner insists that it was not a party in the
motion to dismiss alleging that the Republic's petition was filed one day late, Margolles case and that its cause of action in the present case is based on
thus the judgment appealed from has become final and executory. We find the inalienability and indisposability of the subject land and consequent lack
the same to be unmeritorious since it is already too late to raise the issue at of jurisdiction of the land registration court over the same. Thus there is no
this stage of the proceedings and we rule that justice will be best served if identity of parties or of subject matter, or of cause of action that would justify
these cases will be decided on their merits rather than on mere technicality. application of the rule of res judicata.

We now consider the merits of these cases. Petitioner Republic further contends that land not classified as alienable and
disposable remain so and it is the private claimant who bears the burden of
(1) G.R. No. 127245 showing that the Executive Department has in fact classified the land as
disposable and alienable; that under the regalian doctrine, all lands not public land" openly, continuously, exclusively and notoriously, in the concept
otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to of owners "for a period of ten years next preceding the twenty-sixth day of July
belong to the State, thus, whatever title issued before such classification is 1904 were conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
considered null and void ab initio. It contends that during the oral argument, essential to a "government grant" and to have received the same, and shall
the Solicitor General stated that initially it is the government which has the be entitled to a certificate of title to such land, 4 Section 54 (6) Act No. 926 of
burden of proof to show that the title of the Spouses Gana is invalid or not the Philippine Commission otherwise known as the Public Land Act.as a
legal but the burden is shifted to private respondents once the government qualified possessor of "agricultural public land"; that there was no requirement
has established the fact that the title was issued before the land had been under Act No. 926 that the land subject of a government grant must have been
declared as alienable and disposable; that since the land covered by OCT No. previously declared as alienable and disposable by the Governor General.
4216 was still part of the unclassified forest land in 1927, the then CFI of Rizal Respondents claim that it was under Act No. 2874 that the Governor General
sitting as a land registration court, which took cognizance of the land was given for the first time the authority upon recommendation of the
registration case and all the proceedings conducted therein including but not Secretary of Agriculture to classify lands of public domain into alienable and
limited to the issuance of the published notice of initial hearing in the 1927 disposable, timber and mineral, and to transfer such lands from one class to
issue of the Official Gazette were invalid, that land registration courts at the another, for the purposes of their government and disposition. 5 Section 6 Act
time the Ganas filed their application, had no power nor authority to determine No. 2874.Respondents submit that under Act No. 2974 just as in Act No. 926,
whether the land applied for was forest or agricultural land subject of such power of the Governor General did not affect lands that may have
registration since the authority to classify lands was then vested in the Director already become "private property" or have become impressed with a "private
of Lands as provided in Act Nos. 926 (1903) and 2874 (1919). right authorized and recognized by this Act or any other valid law" 6 Section 8
Act No. 2874.and the fact that such properties were not previously covered by
Petitioner Republic also claims that private respondents' reliance on Section a declaration by the Governor General that these lands are alienable and
45 of Act No. 2874 at this final stage of the proceedings, which only indicates disposable does not affect the validity of the titles of the owners, e. g. the friar
that the Gana spouses instituted their application for land registration on lands, the Hacienda de San Pedro Macati, the Tuason Entail, the Hacienda
confirmation of imperfect title supposedly grounded on their alleged "open, de Maricaban, Hacienda de Navotas, the Piedad Estate, which were issued
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation" is fraught before World II. The ownership of these parties who owned property during
with untenable implications since OCT No. 4216 was not evidenced by any the Spanish regime was not affected by Act No. 926 or Act No. 2874, which
judicial record, decision or decree; thus private respondents invocation of referred only to public lands. They further contend that under the laws and
"private rights" is hearsay and self serving. jurisprudence in force at the time the proceedings in LRC Case No. 678
(GLRO Record No. 30406) were conducted, and insofar as the confirmation
of imperfect titles is concerned, the determination of whether land is
On the other hand, private respondents Margolles et al and Peltan argue that "agricultural public land" susceptible of registration in the name of a private
this case must be decided on the basis of the law and jurisprudence in force party, or "forest land" which is not susceptible of private ownership, is a
during 1927-1929 covering the time when the application for registration was question of fact that the land registration court has the power and/or
filed in LRC Case No. 672 (GLRO Record No. 30406) and when OCT No. jurisdiction to determine on the basis of the judicially prescribed or formulated
4216 was issued; that it is not correct to say that no valid torrens title to land test i.e., whether the land is "more valuable for the forestry or the mineral
can be obtained by individuals and entities in a land registration case unless which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes?".
the land was previously covered by an executive proclamation declaring the
land as alienable and disposable. Respondents claim that property that was
already privately owned or under private ownership at the time the Spanish We resolve to deny the motion for reconsideration.
crown ceded sovereignty over the Philippine Islands to the United States
remained private property, even if the owner had not obtained a muniment of Petitioner's arguments have been squarely discussed and were duly
title to his property; thus, such person who has held the property under color considered in our decision and we reiterate that the Court of Appeals did not
of title may institute a land registration case to have the property brought under err in denying the petition to annul judgment in view of the decision of this
the torrens system and have a title issue in his name; that even assuming that Court in the Margolles case. Petitioner's contention that it was never a party
a particular piece of property was not yet privately owned when the Spanish to the Margolles case is not decisive of the issue. We have stated that absolute
crown ceded sovereignty, private individuals or entities who held "agricultural identity of parties is not required but only substantial identity of parties for the
application of the rule on res judicata. We agree with the respondent Court of Thus where a petition is filed to annul the said judgment on the ground that it
Appeals that although petitioner was not a party in the Margolles case, its is fatally void, the burden of proving the nullity rests with the petitioner.
claim in the instant case and that of the losing parties in the Margolles case
raised exactly the same argument and relied on the same evidence to justify In Sta. Monica Industrial and Development Corporation vs. Court of
invalidation of OCT No. 4216, namely, that said title supposedly covers Appeals 8 189 SCRA 792.this Court emphasized "that in an action to annul a
unclassified public land (forest land) so that the CFI of Rizal, sitting as a land judgment, the burden of proving the judgment's nullity rests upon the
registration court in 1929, did not acquire jurisdiction to adjudicate the subject petitioner, and the petitioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence
property in favor of the original applicants, the Gana spouses. Such a shared that the judgment is fatally defective." 9 In that case, the petitioner contended
identity of interest as shown by the identity of the relief sought by one person in the proceedings filed by the Republic in the Court of Appeals, that when the
in a prior case and the second person in the subsequent case, i. e., to declare decree in favor of De Perio was issued by Judge Ostrand in 1912 the parcels
the nullity of OCT No. 4216, is sufficient to make them "privy in of land were still part of the inalienable public forests.However, petitioner's
law" 7 Valencia vs. RTC of Quezon City, 184 SCRA 80; Comilang vs. Buendia, case rested solely on land classification maps drawn several years after the
21 486; Santos vs. Gabriel, 45 SCRA 289; Widows and Orphans issuance of the decree in 1912 which maps fail to conclusively establish the
Associations v. CA, 212 SCRA 360.for purposes of the operation of the rule actual classification of the land in 1912 and the years prior to that.Before this
on res judicata or conclusiveness of judgment. Court, petitioner reiterated said contention and referred, for the first time, to a
1908 proclamation reserving the land in Zambales as a naval reservation and
The main argument of petitioner Republic in seeking annulment of the alleging that the subject parcels of land are parts thereof.The Court held that
decision of the then CFI of Rizal sitting as a land registration court in LRC these maps are insufficient to overcome the legal presumption in favor of the
Case No. 672 (GLRO Record No. 30406) was that the court did not have decree's regularity.The Court held that land classification maps drawn several
jurisdiction over the case because the property subject matter thereof was years after the issuance of the decree in 1912 fail to conclusively establish the
"forest land" since at the time the land registration case was filed in 1927, the actual classification of the land in 1912 and the years prior to that, and are
Governor-General had not issued a proclamation declaring the subject insufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of the decree's regularity.
property as alienable and disposable.
Respondents correctly posit that the court's jurisdiction is determined by the
Since the petitioner is assailing the jurisdiction of the Land Registration Court statute in force at the time of the filing of the action. 10 Moran, Comment on
which rendered the judgment in LRC Case No. 672 (GLRO Record No. 30406) the Rules of Court, Vol. 1, 1995 edition, p. 55.Jurisdiction over the subject
that became the basis for the issuance of OCT No. 4216 seventy (70) years matter is conferred by law and is determined upon the allegations made in the
ago relies on the very same evidence (FAO 4-1141 [1968] implementing LC complaint, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled or not to recover upon
Map No. 2623 Project No. 13-A), (namely land classification maps), that was the claim asserted therein, a matter that can be resolved only after and as a
judicially determined by this Court as insufficient to conclusively establish the result of the trial. 11 Ibid.It bears stress that what the petitioner sought to annul
actual classification of the land in 1929 and to overcome the overwhelming was the 1929 decision of the land registration court which became the basis
documentary evidence adduced to support the validity of OCT No. 4216, we for the issuance of OCT No. 4216. The law prevailing at the time the original
are compelled to affirm the dismissal of the petition to annul the judgment land registration was sought, Act No. 2874 (1919) entitled "An act to amend
which resulted in the issuance of OCT No. 4216. and compile the laws relative to lands of public domain, or better known as
"the Public Land Act" pertinently provides:
We are not unmindful of the long settled rule that a presumption lies in favor
of state ownership and it is the individual who claims that the land is alienable "Section 6. The Governor General, upon the recommendation of the Secretary
and disposable who must present clear, positive and absolute evidence to of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands
over the presumption of state ownership. While it may be true that an applicant of the public domain into-
for original registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of overcoming the
presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of public domain, (a) Alienable or disposable,
compliance with this burden should be proven in the original proceedings
instituted by the Gana spouses in 1927, and must be legally presumed to have (b) Timber, and
been satisfied as a decree was issued in favor of the petitioners-spouses.
(c) Mineral lands, xxx xxx xxx

and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have
to another, for the purposes of their government and disposition. been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim
xxx of acquisition of ownership, except as against the Government, since July
twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, except when prevented by
way of force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
Section 8.Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
concession which have been officially delimited and classified and, when entitled to a certificate of title, under the provisions of this chapter."
practicable, surveyed, and which have not been reserved for public or quasi
public uses, nor appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become
private property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized We are inclined to agree with the respondents that it is legally
by this Act or any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having been doubtful if the authority of the Governor General to declare lands as alienable
reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so. However, the Governor and disposable would apply to lands that have become private property or
General may, for reasons of public interest, declare lands of the public domain lands that have been impressed with a private right authorized and recognized
open to disposition before the same have had their boundaries established or by Act 2874 or any valid law. By express declaration of section 45 (b) of Act
been surveyed, or may, for the same reasons, suspend their concession or 2874 which is quoted above, those who have been in open, continuous,
disposition until they are again declared open to concession or disposition by exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
proclamation duly published or by Act of the Legislature. public-domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership since July
26, 1894 may file an application with the Court of First Instance of the province
where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and these applicants
xxx shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential
to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title. When the
Section 11.Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of land registration court issued a decision for the issuance of a decree which
only as follows, and not otherwise: was the basis of an original certificate of title to the land, the court had already
made a determination that the land was agricultural and that the applicant had
(1) For homestead settlement proven that he was in open and exclusive possession of the subject land for
the prescribed number of years. It was the land registration court which had
(2) By sale the jurisdiction to determine whether the land applied for was agricultural,
forest or timber 12 In Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil 175, Ramos
(3) By lease. instituted appropriate proceedings to have his title registered but opposition
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles: was entered by the Director of Lands on the ground that Ramos had not
acquired a good title from the Spanish government and by the Director of
(a) By administrative legalization (free patent) Forestry on the ground that the first parcel was forest land. The trial court
(b) By judicial legalization. agreed with the oppositors and excluded parcel no. 1. This Court reversed the
judgment and ordered the lower court to register parcel no.1 in the name of
the applicant. It rationalized as follows:
Section 45. The following described citizens of the Philippine Islands and the
United States, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any
such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or 'If in this instance we give judicial sanction to a private claim, let it be noted
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the that the government, in the long run of cases, has its remedy. Forest reserves
land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of public land can be established as provided by law. When the claim of the
of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: citizen and the claim of the government as to a particular piece of property
collide, if the government desires to demonstrate that the land is in reality a
forest, the Director of Forestry should submit to the court convincing proof that
the land is not more valuable for agriculture than forest purposes. Great as 1961, this Court stated that an attorney-at-law "should have known that no
considerations, it must be stated, should and undoubtedly will be, paid by the property around the City of Manila or in Quezon City is as yet not covered by
courts to the opinion of the technical expert who speaks with authority on torrens title". 17 Republic vs. Aricheta, 2 SCRA 469.In this case defendant
forestry matters. But a mere formal opposition on the part of the Attorney claimed that he was a possessor in good faith From petitioners-movants' own
General for the Director of Forestry, unsupported by satisfactory evidence will submission, 18Reply, pp. 14-15, Rollo, pp. 835-836.a part of Las Piñas
not stop the courts from giving title to the claimant." taking into account the comprising 1200 hectares was declared as alienable and disposable on
proof or evidence in each particular case. 13 Ankron vs. Government of September 3, 1928, thus:
Philippine Islands, 40 Phil 10.
"The map showing the area included in the 1200 hectares
Notably, petitioner Republic's petition for annulment of judgment in the was destroyed during the Second World War, and it was in view of
respondent Court of Appeals contended that the decree in favor of the Gana the loss of the map indicating the 1200 hectares that then Sec. Arturo
spouses was issued at the time when the subject land was still forest land, Tanco issued FAO 4-1141 declaring the entire Las Piñas as well as
(unfortunately no copy of the 1929 decision is available) and rested its case part of the adjacent municipalities as alienable and disposable on
solely on the land classification map No. 2623 Project 13-A which failed to January 3, 1968."
conclusively establish the actual classification of the land in 1929 or earlier.
Moreover, FAO No. 4-1 141 signed by then Secretary of Agriculture and The implication is that the 1968 order was meant to confirm or reiterate the
Natural Resources Arturo R. Tanco, Jr, on January 3, 1968, which provides: earlier declaration and serves to affirm that indeed parts of Las
Piñas, albeit the map indicating this area has been lost, were already open to
"1, Pursuant to the provisions of Section 1827 of disposition to private claimants long before the issuance of FAO 4-1141. Since
the Revised Administrative Code, (hereby declare as there are extant numerous titles covering various portions of Las
alienable or disposable and place the same under the control Piñas, 19 Attached to respondents' Comment to the Motion for
of the Bureau of Lands for administration and disposition in Reconsideration is a list given by the Register of Deeds of Pasig, Rizal of at
accordance with the Public Land Act, subject to private least thirty three (33) original OCTs to lands in Las Pinas, issued before World
rights, if any there be and to the conditions herein specified, War II indicating that there are numerous titles other than OCT No. 4216 which
the portions of the public domain situated in the covers parcels of land in Las Pinas, most of which were issued earlier than
Municipalities of xxxxxxxx Las Piñas Province of Rizal which 1929.any conflict or overlapping of titles should be litigated by the interested
are designated and described as alienable or disposable on parties, as what happened in the Margolles, Peltan and Goldenrod cases.
Bureau of Forestry Map LC 2623 approved on January 3,
1968." In sum, resurrecting the issue in Margolles will not only seriously undermine
the principle of res judicata, an old axiom of law, "dictated by wisdom and
categorically avoided intrusion into existing private rights and this sanctified by age" 20 Carandang vs. Venturaza, 133 SCRA 344.and a
pronouncement necessarily includes the issuance of OCT No. 4216 in 1929; fundamental component in every jural system 21 Ibid.that prohibits relitigation
"otherwise, certificates of title issued prior to 1968 could possibly be all of questions already settled by final judgment of the court, in this case, the
nullified." 14 Margolles vs. CA, supra. highest court. Worse, considering that there are numerous certificates of titles
now in the hands of successors-in-interest of the original awardees of OCT
True, prescription does not run against the State. However, probably due to No. 4216, it will imperil the rule on the indefeasibility of titles which is a basic
bureaucratic constraints, vast tracts of land acquired by private parties in underpinning of the torrens system of land registration, and which was
urbanized areas like the city of Manila and Quezon City were released from precisely instituted to quiet title to land. Again, contrary to the submission of
classification as forestland belatedly, or long after their residential character the petitioner that the obtention of OCT No. 4216 has caused "property rights
as private property had become a matter of judicial notice. It appears that the (to be) unsettled and destabilized, and the integrity of the torrens system
City of Manila was declassified as forest land only in 1955 15 Republic vs. compromised", the relitigation of the question on the validity and genuineness
Alano, CA-G.R. SP No. 08376.and Quezon City only on October 24, of OCT No. 4216 would open the floodgates or pave the way for the assertion
1989. 16 See Comment to Motion for Reconsideration; p. 154, Rollo.As early of numerous conflicting claims to 13,495 hectares of land in Rizal and Cavite
covered by FAO-4-1141 22 This covers an appropriate area of 13, 495,22
hectares, situated in Taytay, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Taguig an at this time should be subjected to assiduous scrutiny in the light of the
Pateros, province of Rizal, and in Bacoor and Imus, Province of Cavite.which existence of numerous titles covering lands within the coverage of FAO-4-1
were already titled prior to 1968. 141 which encompasses 13,495 hectares in Rizal and Cavite. In Vasquez vs.
Giap and Li Seng Giap and Sons 23 96 Phil. 447; See also Arsosa Vda. De
Finally, the area covered by FAO-4-1141 is 13,495.22 hectares situated in six Barsobia vs. Cuenco, 113 SCRA 547., this Court upheld the title of an alien
municipalities of Rizal and two municipalities of Cavite. Pursuing the who subsequently became a naturalized Filipino before the State commenced
petitioner's theory that possession before January 3, 1968 could not have escheat proceedings on the ground that the "State is deemed to have waived
ripened into ownership, the State would have to take action to cause the its right to escheat the real property and the title of the alien thereto becomes
reversion of the innumerable parcels of lands which were titled earlier than lawful and valid as of the date of its conveyance or transfer to him". The court
1968. An attempt at this time to single out OCT No. 4216 for cancellation and rationalized that "if the ban on aliens from acquiring lands is to preserve the
resurrect the contention that it is spurious and irregularly obtained, despite the nation's lands for future generations of Filipinos, that aim would not be
pronouncement of this Court positively and categorically vindicating that very thwarted by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who become
same title in three cases, betrays an unbecoming disregard for the final naturalized citizens before the State commences forfeiture proceedings." By
judgment of the highest court and does not elicit sympathy. Indeed, it is time parity of reasoning, even assuming that it was convincingly established that
that the validity of OCT No. 4216 is put to rest. the subject land was indeed still classified as forest land at the time of the
registration proceedings in 1929, the fact that the same was eventually
released or classified as alienable and disposable should stay the hand of the
One final note, our reluctance to give overriding significance to the Republic's Government in bringing an action to question the title issued by a court of land
invocation of the regalian doctrine stems from a consideration of the salient registration, an action which is in rem, considering that the same basic issue
fact that we are here dealing with land which although allegedly to be originally was already resolved with finality by this Court. Indeed, to annul existing
of the public domain was eventually, if belatedly, released for disposition to torrens titles derived from OCT No. 4216 which was issued seventy years ago,
private claimants. Thus the parties who have sought to assert their own title only to enable the government to dispose anew the lands covered thereby to
in this case (by way of intervention) and in the cases of Peltan and Goldenrod new or subsequent applicants would betray a subservience to technicality that
(in petitions to cancel title) are private parties who purportedly acquired will not be in the public interest nor serve our declared national land policies
subsequent certificates of title to, or interests in, the same land. In short, the any useful purpose. This is a simple matter of equity and good sense.
land in question has been the subject of overlapping or conflicting claims of
private parties. Had the Republic's cause of action been one to cause
reversion to the State of public land illegally titled because it cannot be (2)G.R. No. 127022
alienated at all, e.g. military reservations, public parks, or other lands devoted
to public use, and for that reason absolutely insusceptible of private In G. R. No. 127022, petitioners Firestone Ceramics, et al. filed their motion
ownership, the government's plea would have compelled concurrence. As it for reconsideration with the following assigned errors:
is, petitioners Firestone, et al., the losing parties in the Margolles case, have
asserted their "legal interest in the success of the instant Government's action" I. THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED
(Motion for Reconsideration) to annul the 1929 judgment of the land court on IN HOLDING THAT HEREIN PETITIONERS' TITLES
the basis of its subsequent title obtained in 1969 covering a portion of the (DERIVED FROM OCT No. A-S-47) BEING ADVERSE TO
property earlier titled in the name of the Gana spouses. OCT NO. 4216, WERE DECLARED "AS NULL AND VOID"
BY THE DECISION RENDERED IN G.R. NO. 109490
Contrary to the Republic's posture in its initiatory and amended petition, the (MARGOLLES CASE).
State does not stand to be deprived of its patrimony, as the entire municipality
of Las Piñas has already been declared as alienable and disposable and if II. THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED
there is any reversion to be caused in favor of the Republic, the land recovered IN FINDING THAT PETITIONERS, AS MOVANTS-
would not be for public use, but for eventual disposition to other private INTERVENORS IN THE CASE BELOW, "HAVE NO MORE
persons. With the classification of the land in question as alienable and LEGAL INTEREST
disposable in 1968, and in view of the failure of the State to institute reversion IN THE MATTER IN LITIGATION" OVERLOOKING IN THE
proceedings before 1968, any action to cause the cancellation of subject title PROCESS, THAT PETITIONERS' LEGAL INTEREST
THERETO IS BASICALLY ANCHORED IN THE SUCCESS Patrocinio Margolles et al. (private respondents in present petition). What
OF THE GOVERNMENT'S PRESENT ACTION. petitioners Firestone Ceramics, et al. sought to annul in that case was OCT
No. 4216. With the ruling of this Court upholding the validity of OCT No. 4216
III.THE HONORABLE COURT SERIOUSLY the necessary consequence of such decision would be the nullification of the
ERRED IN DECLARING THAT PETITIONERS' TITLES titles adverse to OCT No. 4216. There is no question that intervention is only
LOST IN G.R. NO. 109490 (MARGOLLES CASE), "MAY NO collateral or ancillary to the main action. Hence it has been held that final
LONGER BE REVIVED REGARDLESS OF THE dismissal of the principal action results in the dismissal of said ancillary action.
OUTCOME OF THE MAIN PETITION OF THE We find no reason to dwell on the other issues raised in view of the fact that
PETITIONER REPUBLIC", EVEN AS THE OBJECT OF we are dismissing the principal action of petitioner Republic.
PETITIONERS' INTERVENTION IS TO AVOID
MULTIPLICITY OF SUIT, LACHES AND ESTOPPEL.
WHEREFORE, respondent Peltan's motion to dismiss is DENIED. The
IV. THIS HON. COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN motions for reconsideration filed by petitioner Republic and petitioners
RULING THAT THE PETITION FILED BY PETITIONERS IN Firestone Ceramics et al. are DENIED for lack of merit with FINALITY.
THE INSTANT CONSOLIDATED CASE "ARE BARRED BY
THE DECISIONS IN THE MARGOLLES AND PELTAN
SO ORDERED.
CASES".

Petitioners Firestone Ceramics, et al., contend that there was nothing in the
three (3) cases cited in our decision which declared petitioners' titles as null
and void although petitioners' titles were, in effect, set aside in the Margolles
case on the ground of superiority of titles. They further allege that their
intervention is based on their legal interest in the success of the government's
action which is of direct and material character because <="" span="">"either
gain or lose" by the direct operation and effect of the judgment. They also
contend that in the event that the government succeeds and the mother title
as well as the derivative titles of the private respondents are voided, the
Margolles group had no valid cause to litigate upon the issue of superiority of
title in G. R. No. 109490 and petitioners' derivative titles become the only title
to the extent of the 188,424 square meters; that the intended revival of
petitioners supposed nullified titles in the instant proceedings, by way of
intervention, is imperative in order to avoid multiplicity of suits, otherwise,
without said intervention, petitioners will have no other recourse but to
commence an entirely new action for the recovery of the subject land or
possibly to institute an action to reopen the Margolles case thereby incurring
unnecessary waste of time, money and effort while, in the meantime, the
voided titles of the private respondents will have to be reverted and
consolidated in the name of the Republic to the extreme prejudice of
petitioners.

We cannot sustain the above arguments which are a mere rehash of


the arguments raised in their petition , and which we have already passed
upon in our decision. Moreover, Firestone Ceramics, et al., were the private
respondents in G. R. No. 109490 (Margolles case), which filed a complaint for
annulment of titles, recovery of possession, and quieting of titles against