Monday, June 20, 2011

Land registration; alienable and disposable land of the public domain

G.R. No. 179673



NATIVIDAD STA. ANA VICTORIA,                 G.R. No. 179673
Petitioner,
                                                                                Present:
                                                                                CARPIO, 
- versus -                                                                 PERALTA,
ABAD,
PEREZ,* and
MENDOZA, JJ.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent.                                                              Promulgated:
                                                                                    June 8, 2011
x -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

 

DECISION


ABAD, J.:

This case is about the need for an applicant for registration of title to land to prove that the same has been officially declared alienable and disposable land of the public domain.


x x x.


Issues Presented
 
The issues in this case are:

1. Whether or not Victoria amply proved that the subject lot is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; and
2. Whether or not she has amply proved her claim of ownership of the property.

Court’s Ruling

Section 14(1)[4] of the Property Registration Decree has three requisites for registration of title: (a) that the property in question is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; (b) that the applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation; and (c) that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.[5]
A similar right is granted under Sec. 48(b) of the Public Land Act.[6] There are no material differences between Sec. 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree and Sec. 48(b) of the Public Land Act.[7] Sec. 14(1) operationalizes the registration of such lands of the public domain.[8]
Here, the only reason the CA gave in reversing the decision of the MeTC is that Victoria failed to submit the November 6, 2006 Certification issued by the DENR, verifying the subject property as within the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, during the hearing before the MeTC. She belatedly submitted it on appeal.
To prove that the land subject of the application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or statute.[9] The applicant may secure a certification from the government that the lands applied for are alienable and disposable, but the certification must show that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the pubic domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO.[10] The applicant must also present a copy of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable, as declared by the DENR Secretary or as proclaimed by the President.[11]
The DENR Certification submitted by Victoria reads:

This is to certify that the tract of land as shown and described at the reverse side of this Conversion/Subdivision Plan of Lot 5176 MCadm 590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping, Csd-00-000648, containing an area of 17,507 square meters, situated at Bambang, Taguig City, Metro Manila, as surveyed by Geodetic Engineer Justa M. de las Alas for Marissa S. Estopalla, et al., was verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable Land, under Project No. 27-B, Taguig City, Metro Manila as per LC Map 2623, approved on January 3, 1968.[12]


On July 28, 2010 the Court issued a resolution requiring the OSG to verify from the DENR whether the Senior Forest Management Specialist of its National Capital Region, Office of the Regional Technical Director for Forest Management Services, who issued the Certification in this case, is authorized to issue certifications on the status of public lands as alienable and disposable, and to submit a copy of the administrative order or proclamation that declares as alienable and disposable the area where the property involved in this case is located, if any there be.[13]
In compliance, the OSG submitted a certification from the DENR stating that Senior Forest Management Specialist Corazon D. Calamno, who signed Victoria’s DENR Certification, is authorized to issue certifications regarding status of public land as alienable and disposable land.[14] The OSG also submitted a certified true copy of Forestry Administrative Order 4-1141 dated January 3, 1968,[15] signed by then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Arturo R. Tanco, Jr., which declared portions of the public domain covered by Bureau of Forestry Map LC-2623, approved on January 3, 1968, as alienable and disposable.
Since the OSG does not contest the authenticity of the DENR Certification, it seems too hasty for the CA to altogether disregard the same simply because it was not formally offered in evidence before the court below. More so when even the OSG failed to present any evidence in support of its opposition to the application for registration during trial at the MeTC. The attack on Victoria’s proof to establish the nature of the subject property was made explicit only when the case was at the appeal stage in the Republic’s appellant’s brief. Only then did Victoria find it necessary to present the DENR Certification, since she had believed that the notation in the Conversion/Subdivision Plan of the property was sufficient.
In Llanes v. Republic,[16] this Court allowed consideration of a CENRO Certification though it was only presented during appeal to the CA to avoid a patent unfairness. The rules of procedure being mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, the Court is empowered to suspend their application to a particular case when its rigid application tends to frustrate rather than promote the ends of justice.[17] Denying the application for registration now on the ground of failure to present proof of the status of the land before the trial court and allowing Victoria to re-file her application would merely unnecessarily duplicate the entire process, cause additional expense and add to the number of cases that courts must resolve. It would be more prudent to recognize the DENR Certification and resolve the matter now.
Besides, the record shows that the subject property was covered by a cadastral survey of Taguig conducted by the government at its expense. Such surveys are carried out precisely to encourage landowners and help them get titles to the lands covered by such survey. It does not make sense to raise an objection after such a survey that the lands covered by it are inalienable land of the public domain, like a public forest. This is the City of Taguig in the middle of the metropolis.
The CA also erred in not affirming the decision of the MeTC especially since Victoria has, contrary to the Solicitor General’s allegation, proved that she and her predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the subject lot continuously, uninterruptedly, openly, publicly, adversely and in the concept of owners since the early 1940s. In fact, she has submitted tax declarations covering the land way back in 1948 that appeared in her father’s name.
We find no reason to disturb the conclusion of the trial court that Victoria amply established her right to have the subject property registered in her name, given that she has met all the requisites for registration of title under the Property Registration Decree.

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition, REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the June 19, 2007 decision and the September 11, 2007 resolution of the Court of Appeals, and REINSTATES the January 25, 2006 decision of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 74 of the City of Taguig.
SO ORDERED.




* Designated as additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, per raffle dated June 6, 2011.
[1] Act 496, now Presidential Decree 1529 or the Property Registration Decree.
[2] Rollo, pp. 84-89. Penned by Judge Maria Paz R. Reyes-Yson.
[3] CA rollo, pp. 42-43.
[4] The provision reads: “Sec. 14. Who may apply.—The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: (1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. x x x”
[5] Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 489 Phil. 405, 413 (2005).
[6] The provision reads: “The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act [now Property Registration Decree], to wit: x x x (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945 or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeur. 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.”
[7] Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, supra note 5, at 417.
[8] Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 179987, April 29, 2009, 587 SCRA 172, 189.
[9] Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 440 Phil. 697, 710-711 (2002).
[10] Republic v. Heirs of Juan Fabio, G.R. No. 159589, December 23, 2008, 575 SCRA 51, 77.
[11] Id.
[12] CA rollo, p. 49.
[13] Rollo, p. 203.
[14] Id. at 229. Certification of such authority issued on November 23, 2010 by Rolando G. Malamug, Chief, Forest Utilization and Law Enforcement Division, and Ibarra G. Calderon, In-Charge, Office of the Regional Technical Director, Forest Management Service, of the DENR.
[15] Id. at 220. The subject of the order reads: “Land Classification. – Declaring Certain Portions of the Public Domain Situated in the Municipalities of Taytay, Las Piñas, Muntinglupa, Parañaque, Taguig, and Pateros, Province of Rizal and in the Municipalities of Bacoor and Imus, Province of Cavite, Under Project Nos. 5-B, 13-A, 22, 25, 27-B, 29, 6 and 12-A Respectively, as Alienable or Disposable.”
[16] G.R. No. 177947, November 27, 2008, 572 SCRA 258, 268-269.
[17] Id. at 269.

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