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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 149679

May 30, 2003

HEIRS OF CLEMENTE ERMAC, namely: IRENEA E. SENO, LIBRADA E. MALINAO, INES E.


MIOZA, SOLEDAD E. CENIZA, RODULFO ERMAC and AMELITA E. BASUBAS, petitioners,
vs.
HEIRS OF VICENTE ERMAC, namely: BENJAMIN, VIRGINIA, PRECIOSA, DANILO, as HEIRS OF
URBANO ADOLFO; BERNARDINO, CLIMACO, CESAR, ELSA, FLORAME and FE, all surnamed
ERMAC, as HEIRS OF CLIMACO ERMAC, ESTELITA ERMAC, ESTANESLAO DIONSON, VICENTE
DIONSON, EUFEMIA LIGARAY, EMIGDIO BUSTILLO and LIZA PARAJELE, LUISA DEL CASTILLO,*
respondents.
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Ownership should not be confused with a certificate of title. Registering land under the Torrens System
does not create or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of
title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein.
The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside the
February 16, 2001 Decision2 and the August 6, 2001 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals4 (CA) in CA-GR
CV No. 59564. The dispositive part of the Decision reads:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED, and the assailed
[D]ecision of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City is hereby AFFIRMED." 5
The assailed Resolution denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The Facts
The factual antecedents of the case are summarized by the CA as follows:
"In their Complaint, [respondents] claim that they are the owners of the various parcels of
real property that form part of Lot No. 666, (plan II-5121 Amd.2) situated in Mandaue City,
Cebu, which lot allegedly belonged originally to Claudio Ermac. Upon the latters death, the
said Lot No. 666 was inherited and partitioned by his children, namely, Esteban, Pedro and
Balbina. Siblings Pedro and Balbina requested their brother Esteban to have their title over

the property registered. Esteban, however, was unable to do so, and the task of registration
fell to his son, Clemente. Clemente applied for registration of the title, but did so in his own
name, and did not include his fathers brother and sister, nor his cousins. Despite having
registered the lot in his name, Clemente did not disturb or claim ownership over those
portions occupied by his uncle, aunt and cousins even up to the time of his death. Among the
occupants of Lot No. 666 are the [respondents] in this case. [Respondents]-heirs of Vicente
Ermac claim ownership over the portions of Lot No. 666 now occupied by them by right of
succession as direct descendants of the original owner, Claudio Ermac. [Respondents] Luisa
Del Castillo and Estaneslao Dionson allegedly derived their title by purchase from the children
of Claudio Ermac. [Respondent] Vicente Dionson, on the other hand, bought his land from the
heirs of Pedro Ermac, while [Respondents] Emigdio Bustillo and Liza Parajele derived their
ownership from the Heirs of Balbina Ermac-Dabon. [respondents] ownership and possession
had been peaceful and undisturbed, until recently when the [petitioners]-heirs of Clemente
Ermac filed an action for ejectment against them. The filing of the said ejectment caused a
cloud of doubt upon the [respondents] ownership over their respective parcels of land,
prompting them to file this action for quieting of title.
"[Petitioners], on the other hand, denied the material allegations of the [respondents], and
claimed that the [respondents] have no cause of action against them. It is essentially claimed
that it was Clemente Ermac and not his grandfather Claudio Ermac who is the original
claimant of dominion over Lot No. 666. During his lifetime, Clemente Ermac was in actual,
peaceful, adverse and continuous possession in the concept of an owner of the entire Lot No.
666. With the help of his children, he cultivated the said lot, and planted corn, peanuts,
cassava and fruit products. Clemente also effected the registration of the subject lot in his
name. Upon Clementes death, [petitioners] inherited Lot No. 666, and they constructed their
residential houses thereon. [Petitioners] claim that [respondents] recent occupation of some
portions of Lot No. 666 was only tolerated by Clemente Ermac and the [petitioners].
[Petitioners] in fact had never surrendered ownership or possession of the property to the
[respondents]. [Petitoners] also set up the defense of prescription and laches.
xxx

xxx

xxx

"After trial, the lower [court] rendered its [D]ecision, finding that the original owner of the lot
in question was Claudio Ermac, and therefore, the property was inherited upon his death by
his children Esteban, Balbina and Pedro. All the heirs of Claudio Ermac, therefore, should
share in the ownership over Lot No. 666, by right of succession. The ruling [was] supported
by the admissions of Irene[a] Seno, witness for the [petitioners] and daughter of Clemente
Ermac, establishing facts which show that [petitioners] and their predecessor Clemente did
not own the entire property, but that the other heirs of Claudio Ermac are entitled to twothirds (2/3) of the lot. Since the entire lot is now registered in the name of Clemente Ermac,
the shares belonging to the other heirs of Claudio Ermac, some of which have already been
purchased by some of the [respondents], are being held in trust by the [petitioners] in favor
of their actual occupants."6
Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The CA held that the factual finding of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) 7 should not be disturbed on
appeal. The latter found that Lot No. 666 was originally owned by Claudio Ermac and, after his death,
was inherited by his children -- Esteban, Balbina and Pedro. It ruled that respondents were able to
prove consistently and corroboratively that they -- as well as their predecessors-in-interests -- had
been in open, continuous and undisturbed possession and occupation thereof in the concept of
owners.

This question is not only late, but also moot. If petitioners truly believed that the issuance of the Writ
was tainted with grave abuse of discretion, they should have challenged it by a special civil action for
certiorari within the reglementary period. Any ruling by the Court at this point would be moot and
academic, as the resolution of the issue would not involve the merits of the case, which this appeal -as it is now -- touches upon.
Second Issue:

According to the appellate court, "[t]he fact that [petitioners] have in their possession certificates of
title which apparently bear out that it [was] Clemente Ermac alone who claimed the entire property
described therein [has] no discrediting effect upon plaintiffs claim, it appearing that such titles were
acquired in derogation of the existing valid and adverse interests of the plaintiffs whose title by
succession were effectively disregarded."8
Hence, this Petition.9
The Issues
In their Memorandum,10 petitioners raise the following issues for our consideration:
"I. The validity of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction dated February 5, 1996 issued by the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 28, directing the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, to
cease and desist from conducting further proceedings in Civil Case No. 2401[;]
"II. Whether or not O.C.T. No. RO-752 issued in the names of [Spouses] Clemente Ermac [and]
Anunciacion Suyco is indefeasible and incontrovertible under the Torrens System[;]
"III. Whether or not the alleged tax declarations and tax receipts are sufficient to defeat the
title over the property in the names of petitioners predecessors-in-interest [Spouses]
Clemente Ermac and Anunciacion Suyco[;]

Indefeasibility and Incontrovertibility of Title


Petitioners posit that pursuant to Section 32 of PD 1529 (the Property Registration Decree), the
certificate of title issued in favor of their predecessor-in-interest, Clemente Ermac, became
incontrovertible after the lapse of one year from its issuance. Hence, it can no longer be
challengedence, it can no longer be challenged.
We clarify. While it is true that Section 3212 of PD 1529 provides that the decree of registration
becomes incontrovertible after a year, it does not altogether deprive an aggrieved party of a remedy 13
in law.14 The acceptability of the Torrens System would be impaired, if it is utilized to perpetuate fraud
against the real owners.15
Furthermore, ownership is not the same as a certificate of title. Registering a piece of land under the
Torrens System does not create or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring
ownership.16 A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular
property described therein.17 Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the
possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it
may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner. 18
Third Issue:
Ownership of the Disputed Lot

"[IV]. Whether or not laches ha[s] set in on the claims by the respondents on portions of Lot
No. 666[.]"11
The Courts Ruling
The Petition is unmeritorious.
First Issue:

Petitioners claim that the CA erred in relying on the hearsay and unsubstantiated testimony of
respondents, as well as on tax declarations and realty tax receipts, in order to support its ruling that
the land was owned by Claudio Ermac.
We are not persuaded. The credence given to the testimony of the witnesses for respondents is a
factual issue already passed upon and resolved by the trial and the appellate courts. It is a hornbook
doctrine that only questions of law are entertained in appeals by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court. The trial courts findings of fact, which the CA affirmed, are generally conclusive and binding
upon this Court.19

Preliminary Injunction
Petitioners assail the validity of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction issued by the RTC to restrain the
ejectment proceedings they had filed earlier.

Moreover, while tax declarations and realty tax receipts do not conclusively prove ownership, they
may constitute strong evidence of ownership when accompanied by possession for a period sufficient
for prescription.20 Considering that respondents have been in possession of the property for a long
period of time, there is legal basis for their use of tax declarations and realty tax receipts as additional
evidence to support their claim of ownership.
Fourth Issue:
Prescription and Laches
Petitioners assert that the ownership claimed by respondents is barred by prescription and laches,
because it took the latter 57 years to bring the present action. We disagree.
When a party uses fraud or concealment to obtain a certificate of title to property, a constructive trust
is created in favor of the defrauded party.21 Since Claudio Ermac has already been established in the
present case as the original owner of the land, the registration in the name of Clemente Ermac meant
that the latter held the land in trust for all the heirs of the former. Since respondents were in actual
possession of the property, the action to enforce the trust, and recover the property, and thereby
quiet title thereto, does not prescribe.22
Because laches is an equitable doctrine, its application is controlled by equitable considerations. 23 It
cannot be used to defeat justice or to perpetuate fraud and injustice. 24 Its application should not
prevent the rightful owners of a property to recover what has been fraudulently registered in the name
of another.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against
petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Corona, JJ., on leave.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------G.R. No. L-23300, Manarpaac et al. v. Cabantan, Director of Lands and Register of Deeds of
Ilocos Nort, 21 SCRA 743
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
October 31, 1967
G.R. No. L-23300
ANDRES MANARPAAC, ET AL., plaintiffs-appellants,
vs.

ROSALINO CABANATAN, THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF ILOCOS
NORTE, in his capacity as such, defendants-appellees.
Herman P. Coloma for plaintiffs-appellants.
Harold M. Hernando for defendant-appellee Rosalino Cabanatan.
Office of the Solicitor General for defendant-appellee Director of Lands.
ANGELES, J.:
On appeal from a decision of the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Norte dismissing the complaint,
without costs.
On December 7, 1960, the plaintiffs, numbering 24 in all, surnamed Manarpaac, filed this action
against Rosalino Cabanatan, the Director of Lands and the Register of Deeds of Laoag, Ilocos Norte, on
a complaint which as amended on December 22, 1960, alleges that the plaintiffs have been, since
time immemorial, in actual possession as owners of two parcels of land, the first with an area of 8,742
sq. m. and assessed at P160.00 under tax declaration No. 034206, in the name of Rogaciano
Manarpaac, the second, with an area of 12211 sq. m. and assessed at P390.00 under tax declaration
No. 030876, both parcels are situated at Barrio 15, Batac, Ilocos Norte, specifically described in
paragraph "2" of the complaint; that such possession has been public, uninterrupted and in the
concept of owner; that they have their houses built on the land; that in the year 1956, the defendant
Rosalino Cabanatan filed an application for free patent of a parcel of agricultural public land situated
at Barrio Suyo, Batac, Ilocos Norte, with an area of 27,788 sq. m., and said defendant "taking
advantage of the ignorance and lack of education of the plaintiffs, wilfully, fraudulently, maliciously,
and surreptitiously without previous notice to the plaintiffs whatsoever, included the above described
parcels of land" (par. "2" of the complaint) in his application for free patent; that on November 7,
1959, a free patent was issued in the name of Rosalino Cabanatan by the Director of Lands, and on
December 3, 1959, certificate of title No. V-105031 was issued in the name of Rosalino Cabanatan by
the register of deeds; that said certificate of title which included the land of the plaintiffs, is null and
void, because the patent was obtained thru "fraudulent misrepresentation"; and that the proceedings
leading to the investigation and survey of the land were without notice and without compliance with
the requirements of the law. Plaintiffs, therefore, prayed that the free patent and the certificate of title
be declared null and void, and the same should be cancelled; "4. That in case the title issued may not
be annulled, that the defendant Rosalino Cabanatan be ordered to reconvey unto the plaintiffs their
lands unlawfully and fraudulently included in said title"; that the defendant be ordered to pay
attorney's fees in the amount of P1,000.00; and "6. That the plaintiffs pray for such further relief and
remedy as may be deemed just and equitable in the premises."
The defendants filed separate answer.
In his answer dated February 8, 1961, Rosalino Cabanatan denied the material allegations in the
complaint, and, as special defense alleged: (a) that the issuance of the free patent and certificate of
title in his name were regular and after compliance with the requirements of the law; (b) that the
plaintiffs never protested with the Director of Lands against the defendant's application for free
patent; they did not appeal from the decision of the Director of Lands awarding the land to said
defendants; and the plaintiffs have failed to exhaust the administrative remedies required by law, and,
therefore, the decision of the Director of Lands has become final; (c) that the original complaint was
for nullity of title, however, the amended complaint is for RECONVEYANCE which is legally
impermissible, for it changed the cause of action, and hence, the amended complaint should have
been dismissed, and the plaintiffs required to file a new complaint.
In its answer dated January 6, 1961, the Director of Lands alleged that the issuance of the free patent
was regular and after compliance with the requirements of the law; that "2. . . . he admits the
allegation in paragraph 6 of the complaint to the effect that one year from the issuance of patent has
not yet elapse"; and that the plaintiffs never filed any protest with the Bureau of Lands against the
application for free patent filed by Rosendo Cabanatan.
The Register of Deeds in his answer dated January 11, 1961, alleged that the issuance of the
certificate of title in the name of Rosalino Cabanatan was in pursuance of a decree of patent presented
to its office and that he merely acted in compliance of the law.
On September 22, 1962, Rosalino Cabanatan filed a motion to dismiss on the following ground: "That
even assuming that plaintiffs have a right over the land in suit, their action has already prescribed and
that the court, therefore, has no jurisdiction", predicating the contention of the rulings that "When any

public lands are alienated, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of Section 22 of
the Land Registration Act and shall become registered land . . . and a certificate of title shall be issued
as in other cases of registered land (Diwaling Sumail, et al. v. CFI of Cotabato, L-8287, April 20, 1955),
and the one year period under Section 38 of Act 496 should, in the case of public land grants (patent),
be counted from the issuance of the patent by the Government under the Public Land Act (Nelayan v.
Nelayan, L-14518. August 29, 1960).
The plaintiffs opposed the motion to dismiss.
On September 23, 1963, the court issued an order dismissing the complaint holding that the free
patent having been issued on November 3, 1959, and the first complaint was filed on December 7,
1960, the action for review of the decree was, therefore, filed more than one year after the issuance of
the patent.
From this order, the plaintiffs appealed directly to this Court.
From the averment of facts in the complaint, it clearly appears that the plaintiffs have been, since
time immemorial in possession as owners of the disputed land, have declared the land for tax
purposes in the names of two of them and have built their houses on the land, but that through fraud
and irregularity, defendant Rosalino Cabanatan succeeded in securing for himself, the certificate of
title in question. The foregoing recital of facts in the complaint are sufficient averment of ownership.
Possession since time immemorial, carries the presumption that the land had never been part of the
public domain, or, that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest. And so, we
said in one case
. . . All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or grant, belong to the
public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of
an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial. FOR SUCH POSSESSION
WOULD JUSTIFY THE PRESUMPTION THAT THE LAND HAVE NEVER BEEN PART OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
OR THAT IT HAD BEEN A PRIVATE PROPERTY EVEN BEFORE THE SPANISH CONQUEST. (Oh Cho v.
Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, citing Cario v. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449, 53 L. Ed. 394.)
Whether this presumption should hold as a fact or not, is a question appropriately determinable only
after the parties have adduced, or at least, are given the opportunity to adduce, their respective
evidence.
The ruling in Susi v. Razon and Director of Lands, 48 Phil. 414 [re-affirmed in Mesin v. Pineda, L-14722,
May 25, 1960] sustained on all fours the validity of plaintiffs' theory, thus
In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph
(b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a
grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession,
personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly,
continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1894, with a right to a certificate of title to said
land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant
in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a
grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued in order that
said grant may be sanctioned by the courts. If by legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in
question by a grant of the state, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become
private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands.
Consequently, in selling the land in question to Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land
over which he had no longer any title or control and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and
Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right.
The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the public domain, the plaintiffappellee cannot maintain an action to recover possession thereof.
If, as above stated, that land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become, by operation
of law, private property, there is lacking only the judicial sanction of his title, Valentin Susi has the
right to bring an action to recover the possession thereof and hold it.
In the case at bar, predicated upon the allegations in the complaint, together with the admission of
defendant Cabanatan in his answer that the amended complaint is an action for reconveyance,
which are deemed admitted on a motion to dismiss, there can hardly be any debate that the
complaint states a sufficient cause of action for recovery of possession of the land for, settled is the
rule that the remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered

in another's name is, after one year from the date of the decree, not to set aside the decree, but
respecting the decree as incontrovertible and no longer open to review, to bring an ordinary action in
the ordinary court of justice for conveyance or, if the property has passed into the hands of an
innocent purchaser for value, for damages. (Casilan v. Espartero, 95 Phil. 799).
WHEREFORE, the order of dismissal appealed from is hereby set aside, and the case is ordered
remanded to the lower court for further proceedings. Costs in this appeal against the defendant
Rosalino Cabanatan.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro and
Fernando JJ., concur.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. L-65129 December 29, 1986
TOMAS AVERIA, JR., petitioner,
vs.
THE HONORABLE MILAGROS V. CAGUIOA, in her capacity as Judge of the Regional Trial
Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch LVII, Lucena City, and VERONICA PADILLO, respondents.

CRUZ, J.:
We gave due course to this petition against a decision of the Court of First Instance of Lucena City, 1
which is questioned on a pure questions of law, more specifically whether or not the court has
jurisdiction to order the registration of a deed of sale which is opposed on the ground of an antecedent
contract to sell.
The oppositor, petitioner herein, refused to participate in the hearing of the registration proceedings
below, claiming the respondent court, acting as a cadastral court, had no competence to act upon the
said case under Section 112 of Act 496, otherwise known as the "Land Registration Act." The
respondent court then held the hearing ex parte and later rendered a decision ordering the
registration prayed for on the basis of the evidence presented by the private respondent herein. 2
In his petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction, it is argued that the lower court
had no competence to act on the registration sought because of the absence of unanimity among the
parties as required under Section 112 of the Land Registration Act. 3 The petitioner cites Fojas as v.
Grey, 4 where this Court, through Justice Serafin Cuevas, declared:

The aforequoted provision of the Land Registration Act (Sec. 112) was relied upon by
appellant Apolinar Fojas in petitioning the court a quo for the annotation of the Deed of
Assignment. However, while he had the right to have the said Deed annotated in the owner's
duplicate of TCT No. T-2376, the serious objection of Saturnina de Grey to the same raises a
substantial controversy between the parties.
In a long line of decisions dealing with proceedings under Section 112 of the Land
Registration Act, it has been held that summary relief under Section 112 of Land Registration
Act can only be granted if there is unanimity among the parties, or there is no adverse claim
or serious objection on the part of any party in interest; otherwise, the case becomes
contentious and controversial which should be threshed out in an ordinary action or in any
case where the incident properly belongs. 5

It appears that the respondent court proceeded to hear the case below notwithstanding the
manifestation by the petitioner of his intention to elevate to this Court the question of jurisdiction he
had raised. 6 The trial court should have given him the opportunity to do so in the interest of due
process, pending a categorical ruling on the issue. As it happened, it arrived at its decision after
considering only the evidence of the private respondent and without regard to the evidence of the
petitioner. 7
WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent court dated September 23, 1983, is set aside. Let a new
trial of Cadastral Case No. 1, GLRO Cad. Record No. 202, Lot No. 2810-B, Lucena Cadastre, MC No.
374-82, be held, at which the petitioner, as well as other interested parties, shall be given the
opportunity to be heard. Our temporary restraining order of October 5, 1983, is hereby lifted except as
to the registration of the questioned deed of sale which shall depend on the outcome of the said case.

While this was a correct interpretation of the said provision, the same is, however, not applicable to
the instant case. The reason is that this case arose in 1982, after the Land Registration Act had been
superseded by the Property Registration Decree, which became effective on June 11, 1979.

SO ORDERED.

In Section 2 of the said P.D. No. 1529, it is clearly provided that:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------FIRST DIVISION

SEC. 2. Nature of registration proceedings; jurisdiction of courts.-Judicial proceedings for the


registration of lands throughout the Philippines shall be in rem and shall be based on the
generally accepted principles underlying the Torrens system.

Yap (Chairman), Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, and Feliciano, JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. L-27873. November 29, 1983.]


HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI, Petitioners, v. DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, Respondent.

Courts of First Instance shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for original
registration of title to lands, including improvements and interests therein, and over all
petitions filed after original registration of title, with power to hear and determine a questions
arising upon such applications or petitions. The court through its clerk of court shall furnish
the Land Registration Commission with two certified copies of all pleadings, exhibits, orders,
and decisions filed or issued in applications or petitions for land registration, with the
exception of stenographic notes, within five days from the filing or issuance thereof.
The above provision has eliminated the distinction between the general jurisdiction vested in the
regional trial court and the limited jurisdiction conferred upon it by the former law when acting merely
as a cadastral court. Aimed at avoiding multiplicity of suits, the change has simplified registration
proceedings by conferring upon the regional trial courts the authority to act not only on applications
for "original registration" but also "over all petitions filed after original registration of title, with power
to hear and determine all questions arising upon such applications or petitions."
Consequently, and specifically with reference to Section 112 of the Land Registration Act (now Section
108 of P.D. No. 1529), the court is no longer fettered by its former limited jurisdiction which enabled it
to grant relief only in cases where there was "unanimity among the parties" or none of them raised
any "adverse claim or serious objection." Under the amended law, the court is now authorized to hear
and decide not only such non-controversial cases but even this contentious and substantial issues,
such as the question at bar, which were beyond its competence before.

[G.R. No. L-30035. November 29, 1983.]


ROQUE BORRE and ENCARNACION DELFIN, Petitioners, v. ANGEL ALPASAN, HEIRS OF
MELQUIADES BORRE, EMETERIO BEREBER and HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI and THE CAPIZ
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE, Respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. CIVIL LAW; PUBLIC LAND ACT; FOREST LAND; CLASSIFICATION NOT LOST EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN
STRIPPED OF FOREST COVER; UNLESS RELEASED IN AN OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION AS DISPOSABLE
LANDS, RULES ON CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE DO NOT APPLY. A forested area classified as
forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers
may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not
have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa
palms, and other tress growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The
classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and 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 agricultural lands of the public
domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.
2. ID.; ID.; FOREST LANDS; ACQUISITIVE OWNERSHIP NOT ACQUIRED. This Court ruled in the leading
case of Director of Forestry v. Muoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how
long, cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we granted the
petition on the ground that the ares covered by the patent and title was not disposable public land, it
being a part of the forest zone and any patent and title to said area is void ab initio. It bears

emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify land which is classified as
forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.
3. ID.; ID.; CONFIRMATION, OF IMPERFECT TITLE CASES; BURDEN OF PROVING THAT THE
REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW HAVE BEEN MET, RESTS ON THE APPLICANT. In confirmation of
imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of proving that he meets the requirements of
Section 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He must overcome the
presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain but that he has an interest
therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name because of an imperfect title such as those
derived from old Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, open, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership for at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his application.
DECISION
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
The two petitions for review on certiorari before us question the decision of the Court of Appeals which
declared the disputed property as forest land, not subject to titling in favor of private persons.
These two petitions have their genesis in an application for confirmation of imperfect title and its
registration filed with the Court of First Instance of Capiz. The parcel of land sought to be registered is
known as Lot No. 885 of the Cadastral Survey of Pilar, Capiz, and has an area of 645,703 square
meters.cralawnad
Roque Borre, petitioner in G.R. No, L-30035, and Melquiades Borre, filed the application for
registration. In due time, the heirs of Jose Amunategui, petitioners in G.R. No. L-27873 filed an
opposition to the application of Roque and Melquiades Borre. At the same time, they prayed that the
title to a portion of Lot No. 885 of Pilar Cadastre containing 527,747 square meters be confirmed and
registered in the names of said Heirs of Jose Amunategui.
The Director of Forestry, through the Provincial Fiscal of Capiz, also filed an opposition to the
application for registration of title claiming that the land was mangrove swamp which was still
classified as forest land and part of the public domain.
Another oppositor, Emeterio Bereber filed his opposition insofar as a portion of Lot No. 885 containing
117,956 square meters was concerned and prayed that title to said portion be confirmed and
registered in his name.
During the progress of the trial, applicant-petitioner Roque Borre sold whatever rights and interests he
may have on Lot No. 885 to Angel Alpasan. The latter also filed an opposition, claiming that he is
entitled to have said lot registered in his name.
After trial, the Court of First Instance of Capiz adjudicated 117,956 square meters to Emeterio Bereber
and the rest of the land containing 527,747 square meters was adjudicated in the proportion of 5/6
share to Angel Alpasan and 1/6 share to Melquiades Borre.
Only the Heirs of Jose Amunategui and the Director of Forestry filed their respective appeals with the
Court of Appeals, The case was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 34190-R.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals held:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . the conclusion so far must have to be that as to the private litigants that have been shown to
have a better right over Lot 885 are, as to the northeastern portion of a little less than 117,956 square
meters, it was Emeterio Bereber and as to the rest of 527,747 square meters, it was the heirs of Jose

Amunategui; but the last question that must have to be considered is whether after all, the title that
these two (2) private litigants have shown did not amount to a registerable one in view of the
opposition and evidence of the Director of Forestry; . . .
". . . turning back the clock thirty (30) years from 1955 when the application was filed which would
place it at 1925, the fact must have to be accepted that during that period, the land was a classified
forest land so much so that timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensee before 1926 and after
that; that even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license to cut timber within the
area; and this can only mean that the Bureau of Forestry had stood and maintained its ground that it
was a forest land as indeed the testimonial evidence referred to above persuasively indicates, and the
only time when the property was converted into a fishpond was sometime after 1950; or a bare five
(5) years before the filing of the application; but only after there had been a previous warning by the
District Forester that that could not be done because it was classified as a public forest; so that having
these in mind and remembering that even under Republic Act 1942 which came into effect in 1957,
two (2) years after this case had already been filed in the lower Court, in order for applicant to be able
to demonstrate a registerable title he must have shown.
"open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for at least thirty (30) years,
preceding the filing of the application;
the foregoing details cannot but justify the conclusion that not one of the applicants or oppositors had
shown that during the required period of thirty (30) years prescribed by Republic Act 1942 in order for
him to have shown a registerable title for the entire period of thirty (30) years before filing of the
application, he had been in
"open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain,
it is evident that the Bureau of Forestry had insisted on its claim all throughout that period of thirty
(30) years and even before and applicants and their predecessors had made implicit recognition of
that; the result must be to deny all these applications; this Court stating that it had felt impelled
notwithstanding, just the same to resolve the conflicting positions of the private litigants among
themselves as to who of them had demonstrated a better right to possess because this Court foresees
that this litigation will go all the way to the Supreme Court and it is always better that the findings be
as complete as possible to enable the Highest Court to pass final judgment;
"IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision must have to be as it is hereby reversed; the application as well as
all the oppositions with the exception of that of the Director of Forestry which is hereby sustained are
dismissed; no more pronouncement as to costs."cralaw virtua1aw library
A petition for review on certiorari was filed by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui contending that the
disputed lot had been in the possession of private persons for over thirty years and therefore in
accordance with Republic Act No. 1942, said lot could still be the subject of registration and
confirmation of title in the name of a private person in accordance with Act No. 496 known as the Land
Registration Act. On the other hand, another petition for review on certiorari was filed by Roque Borre
and Encarnacion Delfin, contending that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in
dismissing their complaint against the Heirs of Jose Amunategui. The Borre complaint was for the
annulment of the deed of absolute sale of Lot No. 885 executed by them in favor of the Heirs of
Amunategui. The complaint was dismissed on the basis of the Court of Appeals decision that the
disputed lot is part of the public domain. The petitioners also question the jurisdiction of the Court of
Appeals in passing upon the relative rights of the parties over the disputed lot when its final decision
after all is to declare said lot a part of the public domain classified as forest land.chanrobles law library
: red

The need for resolving the questions raised by Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin in their petition
depends on the issue raised by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui, that is, whether or not Lot No. 885 is
public forest land, not capable of registration in the names of the private applicants.

The decision of the appellate court is not based merely on the presumptions implicit in Commonwealth
Act No. 141 as amended. The records show that Lot No. 88S never ceased to be classified as forest
land of the public domain.

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified as forest land because it
is not thickly forested but is a "mangrove swamp." Although conceding that a "mangrove swamp" is
included in the classification of forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised
Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in Section 1821 of said Code as
first, second and third groups are found on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot
885, even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because the
property had been in actual possession of private persons for many years, and therefore, said land
was already "private land" better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes
and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest classification.

In Republic v. Gonong (118 SCRA 729) we ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

The petition is without merit.


A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply
because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest
land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers.
"Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by
mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified
as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and 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 agricultural
lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.
This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of
forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56
SCRA 499), we granted the petition on the ground that the area covered by the patent and title was
not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any patent and title to said area is
void ab initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify land
which is classified as forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other
purposes.

"As held in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, all lands that were not acquired from the
Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule
would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors ininterests since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had
never been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish
conquest."cralaw virtua1aw library
In the instant petitions, the exception in the Oh Cho case does not apply. The evidence is clear that Lot
No. 885 had always been public land classified as forest.
Similarly, in Republic v. Vera (120 SCRA 210), we ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . The possession of public land however long the period thereof may have extended, never confers
title thereto upon the possessor because the statute of limitations with regard to public land does not
operate against the State, unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same
under claim of ownership for the required number of years to constitute a grant from the State.
(Director of Lands v. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177, 195)."cralaw virtua1aw library
We, therefore, affirm the finding that the disputed property Lot No. 885 is part of the public domain,
classified as public forest land. There is no need for us to pass upon the other issues raised by
petitioners Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin, as such issues are rendered moot by this
finding.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the petitions in G. R. No. L-30035 and G. R. No. L-27873 are DISMISSED for lack of merit.
Costs against the petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

The findings of the Court of Appeals are particularly well-grounded in the instant petition.

Melencio-Herrera, Plana and Relova, JJ., concur.

The fact that no trees enumerated in Section 1821 of the Revised Administrative Code are found in Lot
No. 885 does not divest such land of its being classified as forest land, much less as land of the public
domain. The appellate court found that in 1912, the land must have been a virgin forest as stated by
Emeterio Berebers witness Deogracias Gavacao, and that as late as 1926, it must have been a thickly
forested area as testified by Jaime Bertolde. The opposition of the Director of Forestry was
strengthened by the appellate courts finding that timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensees
and even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license to cut timber within the area. It
was only sometime in 1950 that the property was converted into fishpond but only after a previous
warning from the District Forester that the same could not be done because it was classified as "public
forest." chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

Teehankee, J., concurs in the result.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 136965. March 28, 2001]
UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. SEGUNDINA ROSARIO, respondent.
DECISION
PARDO, J.:

In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of proving that he meets
the requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942.
He must overcome the presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain but
that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name because of an imperfect
title such as those derived from old Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, open, and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership for at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his application.

The Case

This is an appeali[1] from the decision of the Court of Appealsii[2] setting aside the order of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 217, Quezon City which denied respondent Segundina Rosarios
(hereafter, Segundina) motion to dismissiii[3] and cancelled the notice of lis pendens annotated on
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042.
The Facts

There being no controversy as to the facts and the petition raising pure questions of law, we adopt the
findings of fact of the Court of Appeals, as follows:iv[4]
On September 7, 1971, Datu Ditingke Ramos filed with the Court of First Instance, Quezon City, an
application for registration of title covering a parcel of land situated in Quezon City, with an area of
100,000 square meters and covered by Plan (LRC) SWO-15055, as amended. v[5]

On August 31, 1972, petitioner University of the Philippines (hereafter, U. P.) filed with the trial court
a motion for intervention in the case, claiming that the land covered by the application (by Datu
Ditingke Ramos) is within its property described in Transfer Certificate of Title No. 9462.
On March 15, 1973, U.P. filed with the trial court an opposition and motion to dismiss Datu Ditingke
Ramos application for registration.
On June 6, 1973, the trial court issued an order which reads as follows:
Acting on the motion to dismiss filed by the University of the Philippines and considering the
certification, sketch plan (Exhibits O and P). the testimony of the Acting Chief, Geodetic Engineer
as well as the written manifestation of the Land Registration Commission to the effect that the land
subject matter of this application and covered by plan SWO-15055 does not encroach on the property
of the University of the Philippines and that it is not inside any decreed property, the motion to dismiss
the application is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.vi[6]
On June 8, 1973, the trial court First Instance decided the application as follows:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the application is hereby granted, declaring the applicant Rosario
Alcovendras Vda. de Ramos (surviving spouse of the original applicant who was substituted as party
applicant in the order of April 24, 1973) the absolute owner of the property applied for and covered by
Plan (LRC) SWO-15055, as amended, confirming her title thereto. Upon in the order of April 24, 1973)
the absolute owner of the property applied for and covered by Plan (LRC) SWO 15055, as amended,
confirming her title thereto. Upon this decision becoming final, let the required decree of registration
be issued and after payment of corresponding fees, let the certificate of title be issued in favor of
Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos, widow, Filipino and a resident of Quezon City.
SO ORDERED.vii[7]
On March 19, 1974, the trial courtviii[8] issued an order stating:
The decision rendered by this Court in the above-entitled case under the date of June 8, 1973 having
become final, the Commissioner of the Land Registration Commission is hereby directed to comply
with Section 21 of Act 2347.ix[9]
On May 8, 1974, the Commissioner of Land Registration issued Decree No. N-150604 in favor of
Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos, pursuant to which the Register of Deeds of Quezon City issued
OCT No. 17 in her name.
On November 21, 1976, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City cancelled OCT No. 17 and issued
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 also in the name of Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos due to
errors in the technical description.x[10]
On February 23, 1988, Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos executed a deed of absolute sale in favor
of Segundina Rosario (hereafter Segundina) covering the parcel of land embraced in Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 223619.
On June 11, 1988, fire razed the Quezon City Hall Building which housed the Office of the Register of
Deeds of Quezon City. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 was one of the titles destroyed by the
fire.
Subsequently, Segundina Rosario requested the Register of Deeds to reconstitute Transfer Certificate
of Title No. 223619 resulting in the issuance of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195 (223619).
On March 11, 1993, U.P. filed with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 21, Quezon City xi[11] a petition for
the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. (N-126671) 367316 naming Segundina, Bugnay
Construction and Development Corporation and the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, among others,
as respondents.
On November 10, 1994, Segundina caused the registration with the Register of Deeds of the deed of
absolute sale. Consequently, the Register of Deeds issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042 in
Segundinas name, resulting in the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195(223619).
On November 19, 1996, after the parties had presented their respective evidence, U.P. filed an
amended petition alleging that it is the true, absolute and registered owner of a parcel of land
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 9462 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City and that the
unlawful acts of ownership being exercised by (Segundina) and (Bugnay Construction and
Development Corporation) as well as the existence of their spurious certificates of title, create a cloud
of doubt on the title of (U.P.).

In its third cause of action, U.P. prayed that Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042 or the reconstituted
titles or derivatives thereof be declared null and void ab initio for being spurious and fraudulently
issued.
On May 15, 1997, Segundina filed with the trial court an omnibus motion for the dismissal of U. P.s
third cause of action in the amended petition as well as the cancellation of the notice of lis pendens
annotated on TCT No. 121042.
On November 10, 1997, the trial court denied Segundinas omnibus motion.
On December 30, 1997, Segundina filed with the trial court a motion for reconsideration questioning
the denial of her motion to dismiss and praying for the cancellation of the notice of lis pendens.xii[12]
On April 16, 1998, the trial courtxiii[13] denied Segundinas motion for reconsideration and motion to
cancel the notice of lis pendens.xiv[14]
On November 10, 1997, the trial courtxv[15] again denied Segundinas omnibus motion to dismiss and
cancel notice of lis pendens.xvi[16]
On May 26, 1998, Segundina filed with the Court of Appeals xvii[17] a petition for certiorarixviii[18]
assailing the orders of the trial court denying her motion to dismiss.
On September 18, 1998, the Court of Appeals promulgated its decision in favor of Segundina. The
Court of Appeals reasoned that the third cause of action is barred by res judicata and that the trial
court committed grave abuse of discretion in denying Segundinas motion to dismiss. xix[19] We
quote its dispositive portion:
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby GRANTED. Consequently, the Orders dated
November 10, 1997, and April 16, 1998, are declared NULL and VOID and SET ASIDE insofar as they
deny petitioners Omnibus Motion to Dismiss and Cancel Notice of Lis Pendens. The Third Cause of
Action in respondent University of the Philippines Amended Petition is ordered DISMISSED and the
Notice of Lis Pendens annotated on TCT No. 121042, CANCELLED. The writ of preliminary injunction,
insofar as it relates to the parcel of land covered by TCT No. 121042, is LIFTED.
SO ORDERED.xx[20]
On October 26, 1998, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals, a motion for reconsideration of the
afore-quoted decision.xxi[21]
On December 17, 1998, the Court of Appeals denied petitioners motion for reconsideration. xxii[22]
Hence, this appeal.xxiii[23]
Petitioners Submissions
First, U.P. contends that the Court of Appeals erroneously allowed Segundinas motion to dismiss as
Segundina has yet to prove in a full-blown hearing whether her reconstituted title traces its roots to
OCT No. 17. According to U.P., the issuance of Segundinas title was highly anomalous. xxiv[24]
Second, U.P. assails the issuance of OCT No. 17 in LRC Case No. Q-239 as void ab initio. According to
U.P., the Court of First Instance never acquired jurisdiction over LRC Case Q-239 as the requisite
signature approval of the Director of Lands...over the survey plan...was nowhere to be found. xxv[25]
Third, U.P. asserts that the Court of Appeals ruled on unestablished factual issues...by admitting all
the photocopies annexed to respondent (Segundina) Rosarios petition as evidence despite the fact
that they all still remained subject to authentication and examination by the parties before the trial
court.xxvi[26]
Fourth, U. P. attacks the verification of Segundinas petition in the Court of Appeals as defective.
The Courts Ruling

The petition is meritorious.


We outline the history of the title that Segundina holds (Title No. 121042): First, the land was originally
covered by Plan (LRC) SWO-15055, as amended, which the Court of First Instance declared as not
encroaching on the property of U.P. and as absolutely owned by Rosario Alcovendras Vda. de Ramos.
Thus, OCT No. 17 was issued in her name. Second, OCT No. 17 was cancelled and Transfer Certificate
of Title No. 223619 was issued. Third, Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos executed an absolute deed
of sale over the land in favor of Segundina. Fourth, Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 was
burned in the fire that razed the Quezon City Hall. Fifth, Title No. 223619 was reconstituted and
Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195 was issued in its place. Sixth, Segundina registered the
deed of absolute sale. Thus, Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195 was cancelled and Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 121042 was issued in Segundinas name.

In LRC Q-329 the trial court declared U.P. as having no interest in the land covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 121042. However, UPs contention that OCT No. 17 is void for lack of the
requisite signature approval of the Director of Landsover the survey plan xxvii[27] is worth looking
into.
P. D. No. 1529xxviii[28] requires the Director of Lands to sign and approve the survey plan for the land
applied for, otherwise, the title is void.
Sec. 17. What and where to file - The application for land registration shall be filed with the Court of
First Instance of the province or city where the land is situated. The applicant shall file together with
the application all original muniments of titles or copies thereof and a survey plan approved by the
Bureau of Lands.
The clerk of court shall not accept any application unless it is shown that the applicant has
furnished the Director of Lands with a copy of the application and all the annexes (emphasis ours).
No plan or survey may be admitted in land registration proceedings until approved by the Director of
Lands.xxix[29] The submission of the plan is a statutory requirement of mandatory character. Unless a
plan and its technical description are duly approved by the Director of Lands, the same are of no
value.xxx[30]
Thus, the allegation that the signature approval for the survey plan was nowhere to be found is an
important jurisdictional fact that must be ventilated before the trial court. In Republic v. Intermediate
Appellate Court,xxxi[31] this Court stated that void ab initio land titles issued cannot ripen into private
ownership. Thus, as OCT No. 17 is void and Segundina traces her rights to OCT No. 17, her claim
would have no basis as a spring cannot rise higher than its source. xxxii[32]
Further, the judgment in LRC Q-329 was subject to the qualification that If the parcel of land is found
to be inside decreed properties, this plan is automatically cancelled. xxxiii[33]

Whether the land covered by OCT No. 17 is inside decreed property is an issue of fact that can be best
determined by the trial court after an examination of the evidence. We find meritorious the trial
courts rationale for denying Segundinas motion to dismiss. We quote:
To establish their respective rights over the disputed property, both plaintiff and respondents
submitted documentary exhibits, the genuineness and authenticity of which can only be proved in a
full blown trial.
There is no pretense that the foregoing conflicting claims entail determination of facts. It, thus,
become imperative that both parties be given their day in Court to avoid the danger of committing a
grave injustice if they were denied an opportunity to introduce evidence in their behalf.
It is within this context that the Court considers it appropriate under the present stage of the action
to DENY the instant motion.xxxiv[34]
Pending final ruling on the merits of the case, Segundinas motion to cancel the notice of lis pendens
must be denied.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition. The Court REVERSES the decision of the Court of
Appeals promulgated on September 18, 1998, in CA-G. R. SP No. 47783.
In lieu thereof, the Court orders the case REMANDED to the trial court for trial on the merits.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., on official business abroad.

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xxivSECOND DIVISION[G.R. No. 117734.

February 22, 2001]

VICENTE G. DIVINA, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and VILMA GAJO-SY, respondents.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
Before us is a petition for review of the decision[1] dated October 27, 1994 of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR
CV No. 03068 reversing and setting aside the judgment dated July 7, 1979 of the Court of First Instance of
Sorsogon, Branch II, in LRC Case No. N-147.
The facts of this case are as follows:
Lot No. 1893 located at Gubat, Sorsogon, was originally owned by Antonio Berosa. On July 22, 1960, he sold it
to Teotimo Berosa. The portion is particularly described as:
A parcel of land unirrigated situated in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines, with an area of TWENTY
THOUSAND (20,000) square meters and bounded on the North by Lot #1464 - Fausto Ayson and Lot #1888 Gloria Fajardo: on the East, by Lot # 1446 - Silverio Garcia: on the South, by Lot #1891 - Antonio Escobedo
and on the West, by Lot #1880 - Federico Faronas and Lot #1890 - Eugenia Espedido. Cadastral concrete
posts are the visible signs of boundary. It has no permanent improvement thereon. Designated as Lot 1893
of Antonio Berosa. Declared under Tax No. 13038, valued at P760.00 for the current year in the name of
ANTONIO BEROSA[2]
On March 23, 1961, the Berosa spouses sold the same Lot 1893 to Jose P. Gamos. In the deed of sale to
Gamos, the lot was more particularly described as:
A parcel of RICE land situated in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines, with an area of TWENTY
THOUSAND (20,000) square meters and bounded on the North, by Lot #1462 - Fausto Ayson and Lot #1888 Gloria F. Estonante: on the East, by Lot #1464 Zacarias Espadilla; and Lot #1466 - Felix Arimado; on the
South, by Lot #1898 - Silverio Garcia; and on the West, by Lot #1890 - Eugenia Espedido and Lot #1892 Antonio Escobedo. Concrete cements posts are the visible signs of boundary. No permanent improvements
thereon. Covered by Lot #1893 of Teotimo E. Berosa, and declared under Tax No. 13039, valued at P760.00
for the present year in the name of TEOTIMO E. BEROSA.[3]
On April 26, 1960, Gamos acquired from the heirs of Felix Arimado, a boundary owner of Lot 1893, a 20,687
sq. m. parcel of land identified as Lot 1466, also in Gubat. It adjoins Lot 1893. On March 28, 1961, Gamos
had these two parcels of land under Tax Declaration No. 13237 and declared it had a total area of 4.0867
hectares. He also had the property resurveyed by private land surveyor Antonio Tiotangco. In 1967, Tax
Declaration No. 13237 was cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 9032 in Gamos name.
The re-survey plan (AP-9021), of Lots 1466 and 1893 conducted on June 16, 1961 for Gamos, showed that the
consolidated properties contained a total area of 100,034 sq. m. This plan was approved on July 12, 1961 by
the Acting Director of Lands.
On November 23, 1968, Tax Declaration No. 12927 which cancelled Tax Declaration No. 9032 was secured by
Gamos and declared therein that the area of the consolidated property was 10.0034 hectares with 2500 sq.
m. planted to coconut, 3.8187 irrigated for rice planting and 5.9347 were thickets.
On January 19, 1967, Teotimo Berosa conveyed to Vicente G. Divina, herein petitioner, a portion of Lot 1893
referred to as Lot 1893-B. It is described as follows:
A parcel of dry and thicket land situated in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines, having an area of
54,818 square meters and bounded on the N., by Lot 1888 (Inocencio Eroe); Lot 1887 (Jaime Enaje); and Lot
1462 (Heirs of Zacarias Espadilla); on the (Illegible), by Lot 1466; on the SE, by Lot 1893-A; on the S., by Lot
1898 (Heirs of Silverio Garcia); on the E., by Lot 1892 (Antonio Escobedo) and Lot 1890 (Eugenia Espedido);
and on the NE, by Lot 1889 (Pedro Fajardo); all of Gubat Cadastre. NOTE: This lot is designed as Lot 1893-B,
a portion of Lot 1893, Cad 308-D.[4]
On November 28, 1968, two years from the date of said sale and five (5) days after November 23, 1968, when
Gamos secured Tax Declaration No. 12927 declaring the consolidated property as containing 100,034 sq. m.,
the deed of sale was registered. An undated Subdivision PLAN of Lot 1893, was prepared for petitioner.
The plan, without Bureau of Lands approval, showed that Lot 1893 was divided into two, Lot 1893-A and Lot
1893-B.
On July 24, 1970 Gamos sold the consolidated property to private respondent Vilma Gajo-Sy, for P20,000.00.
The land was particularly described as follows:

A parcel of land located at San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, under Tax Declaration No. 12927 in the name of
Jose P. Gamos, covered by Lots No. 1466 and 1893 of the Gubat Cadastre, with an area of 100,034 sq. m.,
more or less.[5]
On July 29, 1970, Tax Declaration No. 13768 secured by private respondent, was cancelled by Tax Declaration
No. 12509.
On August 28, 1972, she filed an application for registration of title to the property at the then Court of First
Instance of Sorsogon, docketed as LRC Case No. N-147, GLRO Record No. 42920. The application was
amended on March 8, 1973, on order of Branch II of the said court to include therein the postal address of
Inocencio Erpe, adjoining owner of Lot No. 1893 described in Plan AP-9021.
The land registration court, by Decision of July 29, 1975, ordered the registration of private respondents
title over Lots Nos. 1466 and 1893.
On July 13, 1977, pending issuance of the final decree of registration petitioner filed before the same court a
Petition for Review of the July 29, 1975 judgment. He alleged that he is the owner of a portion of Lot 1893
consisting of 54,818 sq. m. conveyed to him by Teotimo Berosa on January 19, 1967; that he was unaware of
the registration proceedings on Lot 1893 due to private respondents failure to give him notice and post any
notice in the subject lot; and that private respondent fraudulently misrepresented herself as the owner of
the disputed portion despite her knowledge that another person had acquired the same.
Private respondent opposed the petition alleging that the registration case had long become final and the
court no longer had any jurisdiction thereon; and that lack of personal notice to the petitioner of the
registration proceedings did not constitute actual fraud.
The trial court, in its Decision[6] dated June 7, 1979, found that the petition for review was timely filed. It
also ruled that the failure of private respondent to include a known claimant in her application for
registration constituted deliberate misrepresentation that the lot subject of her application is not contested
when in fact it was. Private respondent, according to the trial court, should have included in her application
at least the person of petitioners cousin, Elena Domalaon who had, before respondent filed her application
for registration, made known to the latters sister her apprehension of their land being included in
respondents application for registration. This misrepresentation, according to the court, amounted to fraud
within the contemplation of Section 38 of Act 496.[7] The trial court in its decision disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:
(a)Setting aside the Decision rendered in the land registration case and revoking the order for the issuance
of a Decree;
(b)
Declaring petitioner Vicente G. Divina the owner of the portion of the land applied for containing an
area of 54,818 square meters which is described in paragraph 3 of the Petition for Review of Judgment; and
(c)
Allowing this land registration case to proceed as to the portion applied for which is outside the
limits of the portion herein awarded to the petitioner Vicente G. Divina; and
(d)
Ordering a subdivision survey of the lots applied for, delimiting therein the area not contested and
which is registrable in favor of applicant Vilma Gajo-Sy, and the area herein adjudicated to petitioner Vicente
G. Divina, as to whom the land registration proceedings shall likewise be allowed to proceed after he shall
have adduced such other evidence as are appropriate in land registration cases.
SO ORDERED.[8]
Private respondent assailed the decision of the trial court before the Court of Appeals. It averred that the
trial court erred (1) in declaring petitioner-appellee owner of a portion of Lot 1893, in ordering a subdivision
survey, and allowing petitioner-appellee to proceed with registration after adducing evidence as are
appropriate; (2) in declaring respondent-appellant guilty of actual fraud in the land registration case; (3) in
taking cognizance of the petition for review of judgment, setting aside the decision dated June 29, 1975, and
revoking the order of the issuance of the final decree in the land registration case; and (4) in not dismissing
the petition for review of judgment with cost.[9]
The CA reversed the trial court and dismissed the petition. It ruled:
In the case at bar, petitioner-appellee did not indeed appear in the survey plan as an adjoining owner of the
subject property. Neither was he a known claimant or possessor of the questioned portion of Lot 1893 which
was found by the court a quo to be untouched and thickly planted with bigaho. A fortiori, there was no need
to mention in the application for registration the apprehension or claim of at least petitioner-appellees
cousin Evelyn (sic) Domalaon in the application for registration, nor to personally notify Elena about
registration proceeding.

There could, therefore, have been no misrepresentation in any form on the part of respondent-appellee.
xxx
There being no extrinsic or collateral fraud attendant to the registration of the property in the name of
respondent-appellee, We find it unnecessary to discuss the rest of the assigned errors. Suffice it to state
that Lot 1893 bought by Teotimo Berosa which he sold to Jose P. Gamos who in turn sold it to respondentappellee in 1970 was designated by boundaries in such a manner as to put its identity beyond doubt; that
the total area of Lot 1893 lot was determined after a resurvey/relocation was conducted for Gamos in 1961
the result of which is reflected in the Plan approved by the Bureau of Lands also in 1961; that what really
defines a piece of land is not the area but the boundaries therein laid down (Pea, Registration of Land Titles
and Deeds, 1988 Edition, p. 213); that the Lot 1893-B sold to petitioner-appellee made no mention of any
tax declaration covering it, unlike the different deeds of sale covering Lot 1893, thereby raising the
presumption that Lot 1893-B was really part of the Lot 1893 sold by Gamos to respondent-appellant; and
that the subdivision of Lot 1893 into Lots A and B, caused to be made by petitioner-appellee who claims
Lot 1893-B to have been the Lot 1893-B subject of the January 19, 1967 Deed of Sale in his favor which was
registered on November 28, 1968, appears to have been made in 1977, ten years from the date of said deed
of sale, a confirmation that there was no such Lot 1893-B subject of his purchase in 1967; and in any event,
as the subdivision survey prepared for petitioner-appellee was not approved by the Bureau of Lands, it is not
of much value (vide Flores vs. Director of Lands, 17 Phil. 512 [1910]).
In fine, not all the basic elements for the allowance of the reopening or review of the judgment rendered in
the land registration case in respondent-appellants favor are present. The present appeal is thus
meritorious.
WHEREFORE, the assailed judgment is hereby REVERSED and set aside and another rendered DISMISSING
petitioner-appellees petition at the court a quo.[10]
Hence, the present petition. Petitioner now assails the reversal of the Court of Appeals of the trial court
decision. In substance, he raises the primary issue of whether or not, there was deliberate
misrepresentation constituting actual fraud on private respondents part when she failed to give or post
notice to petitioner of her application for registration of the contested land, such that it was error for the
trial court to declare private respondent owner of the disputed land.
Prefatorily, on the timeliness of the petition for review of judgment, we have repeatedly said that the
adjudication in a registration of a cadastral case does not become final and incontrovertible until the
expiration of one year after the entry of then final decree. As long as the final decree is not issued, and the
one year within which it may be revised had not elapsed, the decision remains under the control and sound
discretion of the court rendering the decree, which court after hearing may set aside the decision or decree
or adjudicate the land to another party.[11] In the present case, a certification was issued by the Land
Registration Commission that no final decree of registration had yet been issued and by the order of the trial
court dated September 28, 1977, it restrained the Commission from issuing such a decree. Clearly, the
tolling of the one year period has not even began. Thus, the trial court did not err when it entertained the
petition.
Now, we consider the crux of the petition. Both the trial and appellate courts found that petitioners name
did not appear in the survey plan as an adjacent owner, nor claimant nor possessor. However, the trial and
appellate courts differed in their conclusion on whether or not there was deliberate misrepresentation
constituting fraud in private respondents part when it failed to give notice or post notice to potential
claimant and include their names in the application for registration. The trial court said there was, but the
appellate court disagreed.
Section 15 of P.D. 1529[12] is explicit in requiring that in the application for registration of land titles, the
application shall also state the full names and addresses of all occupants of the land and those of the
adjoining owners if known, and if not known, it shall state the extent of the search made to find them. As
early as Francisco vs. Court of Appeals, 97 SCRA 22 [1980] we emphasized that a mere statement of the lack
of knowledge of the names of the occupants and adjoining owners is not sufficient but what search has been
made to find them is necessary. The trial court was correct when it took notice that respondents sister
Lydia Gajo-Anonuevo admitted that she had a conversation with petitioners cousin Elena Dumalaon about
the latters apprehension that their land may have been included in respondents application for registration
of the disputed land.[13] Respondents omission of this material information prevented petitioner from
having his day in court. The trial court in its decision more than amply supported its conclusion with
jurisprudence to the effect that it is fraud to knowingly omit or conceal a fact upon which benefit is obtained
to the prejudice of a third person.[14] Such omission can not but be deliberate misrepresentation
constituting fraud, a basis for allowing a petition for review of judgment under Section 38 of Act No. 496, The
Land Registration Act.
Additionally, it should be noted that petitioner acquired the bigger portion of Lot 1893 long after the initial
survey of Barrio San Ignacio. Teotimo Berosa sold Lot 1893 to Jose P. Gamos who in turn sold it to
respondent in 1970. Clearly, going by the records, petitioners name would not be found on the said survey
plan approved by the Bureau of Lands in 1961, years before his purchase of the portion of Lot 1893.

Petitioners claim is clearly meritorious.


WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 24, 1994
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The judgment in LRC Case No. N-147 of the then Court of First Instance, Branch
II in Gubat, Sorsogon is REINSTATED. Costs against private respondent.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo (Chairman), Mendoza, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 100993 March 30, 1993


CONCEPCION MUOZ DIVINA as represented by her daughter Amelia Tinoco, petitioner,
vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS and JUANITA N. MUOZ. respondents.
Bermudez, Bermudez-De Jesus Law Office for petitioner.
Milagros Abrogar for private respondent.

NOCON, J.:
The petition before us is an action for recovery of sum of money based on an extra-judicial agreement. The
counsel for the private respondent informed this court that respondent, Juanita Muoz has succumbed to old
age during the pendency of this appeal, and that despite efforts exerted, none of her relatives has come
forward to substitute the deceased in this proceeding.
The contending parties are in-laws, who are contesting the inheritance of the deceased spouse of the now
deceased respondent. Eleuterio M. Muoz was the brother of Trinidad Muoz-Marticio, Maximo M. Muoz and
Concepcion Muoz-Divina (herein petitioner, represented by her daughter Amelia Tinoco). Eleuterio was
married to Juanita, although their union was not blessed with a child. Upon Eleuterio's demise, Juanita invited
her three in-laws to participate in the extra-judicial settlement of the estate of her husband, they being the
only heirs.
Eleuterio's properties, both personal and real, were assessed in the amount of P709,403.00, less the
expenses for the burial, wake and other incidental costs, the remaining balance left for partition amounted to
P669,458.50. Based on the "Extra-Judicial Settlement of Estate of Eleuterio M. Muoz, with Deed of Sale" 1 the
heirs agreed that three-fourths (3/4) of the total net value of the property or P502,093.87 shall be
adjudicated to respondent, Juanita, while the remaining one-fourth (1/4) or the amount of P167,364.00 shall
be divided equally among Eleuterio's brother and sisters, each to receive more or less P55,788.00.
In the same instrument, the heirs agreed that Maximo, Trinidad and Concepcion were to sell to Juanita all
their rights and participation to the estate and in consideration thereof, Juanita is to pay each of the heirs
P55,788.00 or a total of P167,364.00 to expedite the settlement of the estate. The document was prepared
and notarized by Atty. Teodulo C. Gabor, and signed by all the parties on December 18, 1980. On the same
day, Juanita executed an affidavit promising to pay the other heirs their share in Eleuterio's inheritance
within six (6) months from January 18, 1980. 2
On January 24, 1984, Concepcion signed a "Statement of Partition, Assets of the Late Eleuterio M. Muoz". 3
This document itemized the amount due to Concepcion, the agreed deductions and advances made by her
and her daughter, Amelia, from Juanita. Two days thereafter, Concepcion caused Juanita to sign a certification
which states that the residential house located at 4548 Quintos Street, Makati, (where Amelia with her family
used to reside) was part of the inheritance received by Concepcion from the estate of Eleuterio. 4

Sometime on September 1986, Juanita filed an accion publiciana against Ernesto Tinoco, husband of Amelia
and two other tenants occupying the apartments on Quintos Street. The case, docketed as Civil Case No.
15030, 5 was decided in favor of Juanita and became final on March 1988, there being no appeal instituted by
the defendants. Defendant, Ernesto, was ordered to immediately vacate the property and allow plaintiff,
Juanita to recover possession thereof.
On February 1988, or almost eight years after the signing of the extra-judicial settlement, Juanita's in-laws
filed a complaint for revocation and annulment of the extra-judicial settlement of estate of Eleuterio, naming
Juanita as defendant. In due time, however, Maximo and Trinidad withdrew as plaintiffs, leaving Concepcion,
represented by her daughter, Amelia Tinoco, to pursue the case.
The complaint alleges that Juanita, by means of strategy and stealth and through fraud and illegal means,
convinced and lured the plaintiffs therein in executing the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate of Eleuterio
M. Muoz; that defendant Juanita has not paid each of the plaintiffs the amount of P55,788.00 or a total of
P167,364.00 contrary to the stipulation in the said document; and that a certain property (apartment units)
designated as 4544, 4546 and 4548 located at Quintos St., Makati together with the parcel of land on which
the units were constructed were not turned over by defendant to Concepcion as promised by her in the
certification 6 she signed on January 26, 1984.
The trial court, while upholding the validity of the Extra-Judicial Settlement, is of the belief that petitioner
Concepcion was not paid the balance of her share giving credence to the affidavit of respondent Juanita
signed in 1980 acknowledging such fact.
The affidavit, however, was executed on the same day that the extra-judicial partition was signed. On that
very day, it is understandable that respondent did not have the cash to pay her co-heirs and as she testified,
she had to sell some properties in order to give her in-laws their agreed share. 7
On the other hand, the appellate court, while also finding the Extra-Judicial Settlement valid, found that all
the heirs, namely Concepcion, Trinidad and Maximo were indeed paid their share.
Moreover, defendant-appellant's evidence reveal that the three (Maximo Muoz, Trinidad
Marticio and Concepcion Divina) were paid their respective shares on different dates. On
December 1, 1981, Maximo Muoz executed a sworn statement wherein he acknowledged
receipt of P30.000.00 "as evidence and partial payment of my share to the estate (Exh. 13, p.
136, Rec.) Subsequently, on August 11, 1984, he acknowledged receipt of the amount of
P9,762.00 in full payment of (his) share in the estate (p. 131, Rec.). Likewise, Trinidad
Marticio signed a list which showed cash advances in the amount of P23,200.00 taken from
defendant-appellant Juanita Muoz and her share of the estate tax in the amount of
P16,056.00 or a total of P39,256.00. Thus, the total amount due her was only P16,532.00 of
her share of P55,788.00 in the estate of Eleuterio Muoz. She affixed her signature at the
bottom of the statement of partition on January 23, 1984. On January 24, 1984, plaintiffappellee Concepcion Divina likewise acknowledge receipt of a statement of partition (Exh. 2)
similar to those given to Maximo Muoz and Trinidad Marticio. It itemizes the cash advances
taken either by appellee Concepcion Divina or her daughter Amelia Tinoco which totaled
P15,415.00. Her share in the estate tax amounted to P16,056.00. Thus, the total amount due
her was P24,317.00. While appellee's signature appears at the bottom of the statement of
partition (Exh. 2), she, however, denies having signed it. To affirm the fact that the signature
appearing on the statement of partition (Exh. 2 and Exh. E) is not hers, appellee wrote her
name on a piece of paper in open court (Exh. F). The trial court, however, did not find any
need to make a comparison . . . 8
The appellate court, however, found the signature of Concepcion in the statement of partition (Exhibit "2")
evidencing proof of payment of her share by respondent, genuine. Said the court:
We, however, must disagree with the opinion of the trial court that "it cannot lend credence
to the statement of partition (Exh. 2) as proof of payment of Concepcion's share by
defendant." First of all, We are of the view that the signature of appellee Concepcion Divina
on the statement of partition (Exh. 2) is in her genuine signature. We have compared it with
her signatures on the Special Power of Attorney (p. 6, Rec.) and the extra-judicial settlement
agreement (Exh. 8) and We find that it is strikingly similar to the questioned signature. By
the naked eye, and by cursory examination of the three signatures, We are convinced that
they were written by the same person, i.e., appellee Concepcion Divina. Additionally, since
appellee disclaims her signature in Exhibit 2, she should have utilized a handwriting expert to
prove it is a forgery.
Moreover, if it is true that she was not paid her share, Concepcion Divina should have brought
this to the attention of appellant Juanita Muoz within two (2) years from the time she signed
the extra-judicial settlement agreement. There is nothing in the record that she ever made
any written demand for payment of her share. On the contrary, the statement of partition
(Exh. 2) indicates that she was fully paid her share in the estate of her brother. Surely, when
she acknowledged receipt of the statement of partition (Exh. 2), she should have questioned

the amount which reflected the cash advances taken by her or daughter Amelia. She did not
do so at the time of receipt or immediately thereafter. In effect, she confirmed the contents
of the partition settlement. 9
The extra-judicial settlement agreement is a contract, wherein the parties may establish such stipulations,
clauses and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided that the legitime of the compulsory heirs are
preserved. In the absence of fraud and provided all requisites are met, the same should be upheld as valid
and binding between parties.
Extra-judicial partition, being a speedy and less expensive method of distribution of the estate, is specifically
provided for in Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court, that in the absence of a will and where the decedent
left no debts and the heirs are all of age, the heirs may divide the estate among themselves as they see fit by
means of a public instrument, and should they disagree, they may do so in an ordinary action of partition.
In proceeding with the actual partition of the properties mentioned in the deed, the parties, of course, are
duty bound to abide by the mutual waiver of rights agreed upon in the document. 10 A party can not, in law
and in good conscience, be allowed to reap the fruits of a partition, agreement or judgment and repudiate
what does not suit him. 11
WHEREFORE, this petition is DISMISSED. The ruling of the appellate court is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado and Campos, Jr., JJ., concur.
G.R. No. L-21355, Garcia et al. v. Bello and De Guzman, 13 SCRA 769
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
April 30, 1965
G.R. No. L-21355
BENJAMINA GARCIA, ANATALIA GARCIA, FABIAN GARCIA and VICENTE GARCIA, petitioners,
vs.
HON. ELOY B. BELLO, Judge of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan and PEDRO DE GUZMAN,
respondents.
Raymundo Meris-Morales for petitioners.
Castillo and Castillo for respondents.
CONCEPCION, J.:
In their petition for certiorari and prohibition, Benjamina, Anatalia, Fabian and Vicente, all surnamed Garcia,
pray that respondent Hon. Eloy B. Bello, be ordered, as Judge of First Instance of Pangasinan, to desist from
further proceeding in and Registration Case No. 765, G.L.R.O. Record No. 18485, of said Court.
The record shows that, on October 18, 1918, respondent Pedro de Guzman instituted said proceeding for the
registration, in his name, of a tract of land situated in the municipality of San Carlos, Province of Pangasinan;
that, on January 30, 1923, judgment was rendered in said proceeding as prayed for by De Guzman; that on
July 18, 1923, Original Certificate of Title No. 25381 was, accordingly, issued in his favor; that on March 24,
1959, herein petitioners instituted Civil Case No. 13847-II of said court, against De Guzman, for the
reconveyance of the aforementioned land in favor of herein petitioners; that on April 4, 1959, De Guzman
moved to dismiss said Case No. 13847-II upon the ground that the same is barred by the judgment rendered
in Land Registration Case No. 765, that petitioners have no cause of action and that the alleged right of said
petitioners and their action based thereon are barred by the statute of limitations; that on April 27, 1959,
said motion to dismiss was granted; that, on appeal taken by petitioners, the case was docketed in the
Supreme Court as G. R. No. L-15988; that on September 1, 1959, respondent Judge had authorized, in said
land registration case, the issuance of a writ of Possession in favor of De Guzman; that this writ of
possession was not, however, executed, owing to the pendency of said appeal in the Supreme Court; that the
latter rendered, on August 30, 1962, decision affirming order of dismissal appealed from; that soon
thereafter, or oil December 29, 1962, respondent De Guzman reiterated in the aforementioned land
registration case, his motion for issuance of a writ of possession in his favor; that on January 2, 1963,
petitioners herein object to said motion of De Guzman, which was granted by respondent Judge on February
2, 1963; and that, accordingly, on June 4, 1963, petitioners herein instituted the present original action: for
certiorari and prohibition to restrain respondent Judge from enforcing said writ of execution and further

proceeding in said case, upon the ground that the decision rendered in the land registration case is not
binding upon them cause because they were not parties therein and because they had taken possession of
the land in question after the rendition of said decision.
The petition herein is patently devoid of merit. To begin with, a land registration case is a proceeding in rem,
and, accordingly, the decision therein rendered is binding upon the whole world (Sorogon vs. Makalintal, et
al., 80 Phil. 259). Secondly, in civil Case No. 13847-II of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, petitioners
herein sought to compel De Guzman to reconvey the land in question upon the theory that the decree of
registration thereof in his name was based upon a deed of donation dated June 1, 1918 which had been
fraudulently secured by De Guzman from Juan Garcia, the father of petitioners herein, who, allegedly, were in
possession of said land at that time, and remained continuously in possession thereof. Apart from the fact
that petitioners' complaint in said case indicated that petitioners were in possession of said land prior to and
at the time of the institution of the land registration proceedings thus refuting their allegation in the
present case to the effect that the decision in the land registration case does not bind them because their
possession is subsequent to said decision the trial court, whose decision was affirmed by this Court, held
that the alleged fraud in the execution of the aforementioned deed of donation had been disproved by the
fact that, although petitioners' father, Juan Garcia, did not die until 1950, or thirty-two (32) years after the
execution of said deed, he neither sought to annul the same nor opposed De Guzman's petition for the
registration of the land in question in his name. Lastly, it was held in said case No. 13847-II of the lower court
and G.R. No. L-15988 of this Court that the decree of land registration in favor of De Guzman bars the claim
of petitioners herein.
WHEREFORE, the petition herein is, accordingly, dismissed, with costs against the petitioners. It is so
ordered.
Bengzon, C.J., Bautista Angelo, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera, Paredes, Dizon, Regala and Makalintal, JJ., concur.
Zaldivar, J., took no part.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

xxv

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
ManilaEN BANC

G.R. No. 108998 August 24, 1994


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND SPOUSES MARIO B. LAPIA AND FLOR DE VEGA, respondents.
Byron V. Belarmino and Juan B. Belarmino for private respondents.

BIDIN, J.:
Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase
while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor who has complied with the requirements for registration

under the Public Land Act (CA 141)?


The Republic would have us rule on the negative and asks this Court to nullify the decision of the appellate
court which affirmed the judgment of the court a quo in granting the application of respondent spouses for
registration over the lots in question.
On June 17, 1978, respondent spouses bought Lots 347 and 348, Cad. s38-D, as their residence with a total
area of 91.77 sq. m. situated in San Pablo City, from one Cristeta Dazo Belen (Rollo, p. 41). At the time of the
purchase, respondent spouses where then natural-born Filipino citizens.
On February 5, 1987, the spouses filed an application for registration of title of the two (2) parcels of land
before the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Branch XXXI. This time, however, they were no longer
Filipino citizens and have opted to embrace Canadian citizenship through naturalization.
An opposition was filed by the Republic and after the parties have presented their respective evidence, the
court a quo rendered a decision confirming private respondents' title to the lots in question, the dispositive
portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court hereby approves the said application and
confirms the title and possession of herein applicants over Lots 347 and 348, Ap-04-003755 in
the names of spouses Mario B. Lapia and Flor de Vega, all of legal age, Filipino citizens by
birth but now Canadian citizens by naturalization and residing at 14 A. Mabini Street, San
Pablo City and/or 201-1170-124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5M-OK9, Canada.
Once this Decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued. In
the certificate of title to be issued, there shall be annotated an easement of .265 meters road
right-of-way.
SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 25)
On appeal, respondent court affirmed the decision of the trial court based on the following ratiocination:
In the present case, it is undisputed that both applicants were still Filipino citizens when they
bought the land in controversy from its former owner. For this reason, the prohibition against
the acquisition of private lands by aliens could not apply. In justice and equity, they are the
rightful owners of the subject realty considering also that they had paid for it quite a large
sum of money. Their purpose in initiating the instant action is merely to confirm their title
over the land, for, as has been passed upon, they had been the owners of the same since
1978. It ought to be pointed out that registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. The
Torrens System was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land. It
is intended merely to confirm and register the title which one may already have (Municipality
of Victorias vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-31189, March 31, 1987). With particular reference
to the main issue at bar, the High Court has ruled that title and ownership over lands within
the meaning and for the purposes of the constitutional prohibition dates back to the time of
their purchase, not later. The fact that the applicants-appellees are not Filipino citizens now
cannot be taken against them for they were not disqualified from acquiring the land in
question (Bollozos vs. Yu Tieng Su, G.R. No. L-29442, November 11, 1987). (Rollo, pp. 27-28)
Expectedly, respondent court's disposition did not merit petitioner's approval, hence this present recourse,
which was belatedly filed.
Ordinarily, this petition would have been denied outright for having been filed out of time had it not been for
the constitutional issue presented therein.
At the outset, petitioner submits that private respondents have not acquired proprietary rights over the
subject properties before they acquired Canadian citizenship through naturalization to justify the registration
thereof in their favor. It maintains that even privately owned unregistered lands are presumed to be public
lands under the principle that lands of whatever classification belong to the State under the Regalian
doctrine. Thus, before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the jurisdical sense the
true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. Petitioner further argued that it is only when the
court adjudicates the land to the applicant for confirmation of title would the land become privately owned
land, for in the same proceeding, the court may declare it public land, depending on the evidence.
As found by the trial court:
The evidence thus presented established that applicants, by themselves and their
predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, public, peaceful, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of the two adjacent parcels of land applied for
registration of title under a bona-fide claim of ownership long before June 12, 1945. Such
being the case, it is conclusively presumed that all the conditions essential to the

confirmation of their title over the two adjacent parcels of land are sought to be registered
have been complied with thereby entitling them to the issuance of the corresponding
certificate of title pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise
known as the Property Registration Decree. (Rollo, p. 26)
Respondent court echoed the court a quo's observation, thus:
The land sought to be registered has been declared to be within the alienable and disposable
zone established by the Bureau of Forest Development (Exhibit "P"). The investigation
conducted by the Bureau of Lands, Natural Resources District (IV-2) reveals that the disputed
realty had been occupied by the applicants "whose house of strong materials stands
thereon"; that it had been declared for taxation purposes in the name of applicants-spouses
since 1979; that they acquired the same by means of a public instrument entitled "Kasulatan
ng Bilihang Tuluyan" duly executed by the vendor, Cristeta Dazo Belen, on June 17, 1978
(Exhibits "I" and "J"); and that applicants and their predecessors in interest had been in
possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to the filing of the application for
registration. But what is of great significance in the instant case is the circumstance that at
the time the applicants purchased the subject lot in 1978, both of them were Filipino citizens
such that when they filed their application for registration in 1987, ownership over the land
in dispute had already passed to them. (Rollo, p., 27)
The Republic disagrees with the appellate court's concept of possession and argues:
17. The Court of Appeals found that the land was declared for taxation purposes in the name
of respondent spouses only since 1979. However, tax declarations or reality tax payments of
property are not conclusive evidence of ownership. (citing cases)
18. Then again, the appellate court found that "applicants (respondents) and their
predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to
the filing of the application for registration." This is not, however, the same as saying that
respondents have been in possession "since June 12, 1945." (PD No. 1073, amending Sec. 48
[b], CA NO. 141; sec. also Sec. 14, PD No. 1529). So there is a void in respondents'
possession. They fall short of the required possession since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto.
And, even if they needed only to prove thirty (30) years possession prior to the filing of their
application (on February 5, 1987), they would still be short of the required possession if the
starting point is 1979 when, according to the Court of Appeals, the land was declared for
taxation purposes in their name. (Rollo, pp. 14-15)
The argument is myopic, to say the least. Following the logic of petitioner, any transferee is thus foreclosed
to apply for registration of title over a parcel of land notwithstanding the fact that the transferor, or his
predecessor-in-interest has been in open, notorious and exclusive possession thereof for thirty (30) years or
more. This is not, however, what the law provides.
As petitioner itself argues, Section 48 of the Public Land Act (CA 141) reads:
Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public
domain or claiming interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed,
may apply to the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of the province where the
land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title
therefor under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
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(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years
immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when
prevented by wars or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed
all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of
title under the provisions of this chapter. (Emphasis supplied)
As amended by PD 1073:
Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act
are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-ininterest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945.

It must be noted that with respect to possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain, the law employs the terms "by themselves", "the applicant himself or through his
predecessor-in-interest". Thus, it matters not whether the vendee/applicant has been in possession of the
subject property for only a day so long as the period and/or legal requirements for confirmation of title has
been complied with by his predecessor-in-interest, the said period is tacked to his possession. In the case at
bar, respondents' predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession of the disputed land not only since June 12, 1945, but even as early as 1937. Petitioner does not
deny this except that respondent spouses, in its perception, were in possession of the land sought to be
registered only in 1978 and therefore short of the required length of time. As aforesaid, the disputed parcels
of land were acquired by private respondents through their predecessors-in-interest, who, in turn, have been
in open and continued possession thereof since 1937. Private respondents stepped into the shoes of their
predecessors-in-interest and by virtue thereof, acquired all the legal rights necessary to confirm what could
otherwise be deemed as an imperfect title.
At this juncture, petitioner's reliance in Republic v. Villanueva (114 SCRA 875 [1982]) deserves scant
consideration. There, it was held that before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the
juridical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State.
Suffice it to state that the ruling in Republic v. Villanueva (supra), has already been abandoned in the 1986
case of Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court (146 SCRA 509; and reiterated in Director of Lands
v. Iglesia ni Cristo, 200 SCRA 606 [1991]) where the Court, through then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice
Narvasa, declared that:
(The weight of authority is) that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable
public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon
completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other
sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. . . .
Herico in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative:
. . . Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act
No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the
petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more
than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title
over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the
mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public
Land Act as by free patent . . .
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As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the
foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have
acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without
the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases
to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands
to dispose of. The application for confirmation is mere formality, the lack of
which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced
by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said
patent.
Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of
public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by the statute as the equivalent
of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself (Section 48 [b]) that
the possessor(s) ". . . shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title ..." No proof
being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in
truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the
possession claims is of the required character and length of time; and registration
thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The
proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only
confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the
required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cario, ". . .(There are
indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want
of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was
not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by
earlier law. (Emphasis supplied)
Subsequent cases have hewed to the above pronouncement such that open, continuous and exclusive
possession for at least 30 years of alienable public land ipso jure converts the same to private property
(Director of Lands v. IAC, 214 SCRA 604 [1992]; Pineda v. CA, 183 SCRA 602 [1990]). This means that
occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years by an applicant and his predecessors-in-interest, vest title

on such applicant so as to segregate the land from the mass of public and (National Power Corporation v. CA,
218 SCRA 41 [1993]).
The Public Land Act requires that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b)
his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time immemorial or for the period
prescribed in the Public Land Act (Director of Lands v. Buyco, 216 SCRA 78 [1992]). When the conditions set
by law are complied with, the possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a
government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued (National Power Corporation v.
CA, supra). As such, the land ceases to be a part of the public domain and goes beyond the authority of the
Director of Lands to dispose of.
In other words, the Torrens system was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land
(Municipality of Victorias v. CA, 149 SCRA 32 [1987]). It merely confirms, but does not confer ownership. As
could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, private respondents were able to establish the nature of
possession of their predecessors-in-interest. Evidence was offered to prove that their predecessors-ininterest had paid taxes on the subject land and introduced improvements thereon (Exhibits "F" to "F9"). A
certified true copy of the affidavit executed by Cristeta Dazo and her sister Simplicia was also formally
offered to prove that the subject parcels of land were inherited by vendor Cristeta Dazo from her father
Pedro Dazo with the conformity of her only sister Simplicia (Exhibit "G"). Likewise, a report from the Bureau
of Lands was presented in evidence together with a letter from the Bureau of Forest Development, to prove
that the questioned lots were part of the alienable and disposable zone of the government and that no
forestry interest was affected (CA GR No. 28953, Records, p. 33).
In the main, petitioner seeks to defeat respondents' application for registration of title on the ground of
foreign nationality. Accordingly, the ruling in Director of Lands v. Buyco (supra) supports petitioner's thesis.
We disagree.
In Buyco, the applicants therein were likewise foreign nationals but were natural-born Filipino citizens at the
time of their supposed acquisition of the property. But this is where the similarity ends. The applicants in
Buyco sought to register a large tract of land under the provisions of the Land Registration Act, and in the
alternative, under the provisions of the Public Land Act. The land registration court decided in favor of the
applicants and was affirmed by the appellate court on appeal. The Director of Lands brought the matter
before us on review and we reversed.
This Court, speaking through Justice Davide, Jr., stated:
As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, the private respondents do not rely on fee
simple ownership based on a Spanish grant or possessory information title under Section 19
of the Land Registration Act; the private respondents did not present any proof that they or
their predecessors-in-interest derived title from an old Spanish grant such as (a) the "titulo
real" or royal grant (b) the "concession especial" or especial grant; (c) the "composicion con
el estado" title or adjustment title; (d) the "titulo de compra" or title by purchase; and (e) the
"informacion posesoria" or possessory information title, which could become a "titulo
gratuito" or a gratuitous title (Director of Forestry v. Muoz, 23 SCRA 1183 [1968]). The
primary basis of their claim is possession, by themselves and their predecessors-in-interest,
since time immemorial.
If indeed private respondents and their predecessors have been in possession since time
immemorial, the rulings of both courts could be upheld for, as this Court stated in Oh Cho v.
Director of Lands (75 Phil. 890 [1946]):
. . . All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase
or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be
any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his
predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for such possession would
justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public
domain or that if had been a private property even before the Spanish
conquest (Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil 935 [1909]; 212 U.S. 449; 53
Law. Ed., 594) The applicant does not come under the exception, for the
earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessor in interest began in
1880.
. . . alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his
predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the
prescribed statutory period (30 years under the Public Land Act, as amended)
is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said
period, ipso jure. (Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra)
It is obvious from the foregoing rule that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is
alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either

since time immemorial, as ruled in both Cario and Susi, or for the period prescribed in the
Public Land Act. As to the latter, this Court, in Gutierrez Hermanos v. Court of Appeals (178
SCRA 37 [1989]), adopted the rule enunciated by the Court of Appeals, per then Associate
Justice Hugo R. Gutierrez, Jr., . . ., that an applicant for registration under Section 48 of the
Public Land Act must secure a certification from the Government that the lands which he
claims to have possessed as owner for more than thirty (30) years are alienable and
disposable. It is the burden of the applicant to prove its positive averments.
In the instant case, private respondents offered no evidence at all to prove that the property
subject of the application is an alienable and disposable land. On the contrary, the entire
property . . . was pasture land (and therefore inalienable under the then 1973 Constitution).
. . . (P)rivate respondents' evidence miserably failed to establish their imperfect title to the
property in question. Their allegation of possession since time immemorial, . . ., is patently
baseless. . . . When referring to possession, specifically "immemorial possession," it means
possession of which no man living has seen the beginning, and the existence of which he has
learned from his elders (Susi v. Razon, supra). Such possession was never present in the case
of private respondents. . . .
. . ., there does not even exist a reasonable basis for the finding that the private respondents
and their predecessors-in-interest possessed the land for more than eighty (80) years, . . .
xxx xxx xxx
To this Court's mind, private respondents failed to prove that (their predecessor-in-interest)
had possessed the property allegedly covered by Tax Declaration No. 15853 and made the
subject of both his last will and testament and the project of partition of his estate among his
heirs in such manner as to remove the same from the public domain under the Cario and
Susi doctrines. Thus, (when the predecessor-in-interest) died on 31 May 1937, he transmitted
no right whatsoever, with respect to the said property, to his heirs. This being the case, his
possession cannot be tacked to that of the private respondents for the latter's benefit
pursuant to Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the alternative ground relied upon in their
application . . .
xxx xxx xxx
Considering that the private respondents became American citizens before such filing, it goes
without saying that they had acquired no vested right, consisting of an imperfect title, over
the property before they lost their Philippine citizenship. (Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, the application in Buyco were denied registration of title not merely because they were American
citizens at the time of their application therefor. Respondents therein failed to prove possession of their
predecessor-in-interest since time immemorial or possession in such a manner that the property has been
segregated from public domain; such that at the time of their application, as American citizens, they have
acquired no vested rights over the parcel of land.
In the case at bar, private respondents were undoubtedly natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of the
acquisition of the properties and by virtue thereof, acquired vested rights thereon, tacking in the process,
the possession in the concept of owner and the prescribed period of time held by their predecessors-ininterest under the Public Land Act. In addition, private respondents have constructed a house of strong
materials on the contested property, now occupied by respondent Lapias mother.
But what should not be missed in the disposition of this case is the fact that the Constitution itself allows
private respondents to register the contested parcels of land in their favor. Sections 7 and 8 of Article XII of
the Constitution contain the following pertinent provisions, to wit:
Sec. 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or
conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold
lands of the public domain.
Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of
the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands,
subject to limitations provided by law. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 8, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution above quoted is similar to Section 15, Article XIV of the then
1973 Constitution which reads:
Sec. 15. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 14 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of
the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee of private land, for use by
him as his residence, as the Batasang Pambansa may provide.

Pursuant thereto, Batas Pambansa Blg. 185 was passed into law, the relevant provision of which provides:
Sec. 2. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship and
who has the legal capacity to enter into a contract under Philippine laws may be a transferee
of a private land up to a maximum area of one thousand square meters, in the case of urban
land, or one hectare in the case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence. In the case
of married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege herein granted; Provided, That if
both shall avail of the same, the total area acquired shall not exceed the maximum herein
fixed.
In case the transferee already owns urban or rural lands for residential purposes, he shall
still be entitled to be a transferee of an additional urban or rural lands for residential
purposes which, when added to those already owned by him, shall not exceed the maximum
areas herein authorized.
From the adoption of the 1987 Constitution up to the present, no other law has been passed by the
legislature on the same subject. Thus, what governs the disposition of private lands in favor of a natural-born
Filipino citizen who has lost his Philippine citizenship remains to be BP 185.
Even if private respondents were already Canadian citizens at the time they applied for registration of the
properties in question, said properties as discussed above were already private lands; consequently, there
could be no legal impediment for the registration thereof by respondents in view of what the Constitution
ordains. The parcels of land sought to be registered no longer form part of the public domain. They are
already private in character since private respondents' predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous and exclusive possession and occupation thereof under claim of ownership prior to June 12, 1945
or since 1937. The law provides that a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine
citizenship may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of 1,000 sq.m., if urban, or one (1)
hectare in case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence (BP 185).
It is undisputed that private respondents, as vendees of a private land, were natural-born citizens of the
Philippines. For the purpose of transfer and/or acquisition of a parcel of residential land, it is not significant
whether private respondents are no longer Filipino citizens at the time they purchased or registered the
parcels of land in question. What is important is that private respondents were formerly natural-born citizens
of the Philippines, and as transferees of a private land, they could apply for registration in accordance with
the mandate of Section 8, Article XII of the Constitution. Considering that private respondents were able to
prove the requisite period and character of possession of their predecessors-in-interest over the subject lots,
their application for registration of title must perforce be approved.
The dissenting opinion, however, states that the requirements in BP 185, must also be complied with by
private respondents. Specifically, it refers to Section 6, which provides:
Sec. 6. In addition to the requirements provided for in other laws for the registration of titles
to lands, no private land shall be transferred under this Act, unless the transferee shall
submit to the register of deeds of the province or city where the property is located a sworn
statement showing the date and place of his birth; the names and addresses of his parents,
of his spouse and children, if any; the area, the location and the mode of acquisition of his
landholdings in the Philippines, if any; his intention to reside permanently in the Philippines;
the date he lost his Philippine citizenship and the country of which he is presently a citizen;
and such other information as may be required under Section 8 of this Act.
The Court is of the view that the requirements in Sec. 6 of BP 185 do not apply in the instant case since said
requirements are primarily directed to the register of deeds before whom compliance therewith is to be
submitted. Nowhere in the provision is it stated, much less implied, that the requirements must likewise be
submitted before the land registration court prior to the approval of an application for registration of title.
An application for registration of title before a land registration court should not be confused with the
issuance of a certificate of title by the register of deeds. It is only when the judgment of the land registration
court approving the application for registration has become final that a decree of registration is issued. And
that is the time when the requirements of Sec. 6, BP 185, before the register of deeds should be complied
with by the applicants. This decree of registration is the one that is submitted to the office of the register of
deeds for issuance of the certificate of title in favor of the applicant. Prior to the issuance of the decree of
registration, the register of deeds has no participation in the approval of the application for registration of
title as the decree of registration is yet to be issued.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED and the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno,
Vitug, Kapunan, and Mendoza, JJ.,concur.

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