Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Titling of public lands

For purposes of legal research of foreign readers visiting this blog, on the subject of the legal system involving the titling of public lands in the Philippines, may I share some basic readings thereon as published in the website of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ( I have also added a relevant 1999 Supreme Court decision on the same subject matter.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can one acquire TITLE?

For original registration, when no title has yet been issued over a parcel
of land, it can be acquired either by:

1. Judicial proceedings - by filing petition for registration in Court.

2. Administrative proceedings - filing an appropriate application for
patent (e.g. homestead) in the Administrative body (DENR) and
registration of this patent becomes the basis for issuance of the
Original Certificate of Title by the Register of Deeds.

What are the main classification of lands as to ownership?

1. Private properties - those which are titled.

2. Public lands - those which have not been titled as
well as those public dominion or outside the commerce
of man such as road, public plaza and rivers.

What are Public Lands?

All Lands that are not acquired by private person or corporation, either by grant or purchase are public lands. The common understanding therefore, is that all lands which have no title or not registered to private individual are public land. These are
grouped into:

1. Alienable or disposable (A & D Lands) - those that can be acquired or issued title. Our constitution provides that only agricultural lands can be disposed of to private citizens.

2. Non-alienable lands - includes timber or forest lands, mineral lands, national parks. No title can be issued over any portion within this area.

What are the modes of disposition or how can one acquire title over A&D lands? The modes are:

1. by Homestead Patent

2. by Sales Patent

3. by Lease

4. By Free Patent or Administrative legalization

What are the evidence or proof of ownership over a parcel of land?

The best evidence of ownership is the certificate of title duly issued by the Register of Deeds concerned. However, in the absence of a title, tax
declaration coupled by actual possession and existence of improvement also substantiate claim for ownership.

What is a TITLE?

A title refers to the legal right to own a property and the certificate of title is the document which confers such right of ownership to an individual, association or corporation.

How can one acquire TITLE?

For original registration, when no title has yet been issued over a parcel of land, it can be acquired either by:

1. Judicial proceedings - by filing petition for registration in Court.

2. Administrative proceedings - filing an appropriate application for patent (e.g. homestead) in the Administrative body (DENR) and registration of this patent becomes the basis for issuance of the Original Certificate of Title by the Register of Deeds.

In subsequent registration of Title, what are necessary to effect the same?

Transfer of title is effected by executing a document such as deed of sale wherein the registered owner (seller) transfer the ownership to a buyer. The capital gains tax and other taxes must be paid before clearance can be secured from the BIR. This will be submitted to the Register of Deeds concerned, together with the title which will be surrendered for issuance of a new title in the name of the buyer.

Subsequent registration of title is a function and jurisdiction of the Register of Deeds under the LRA as the land involved is already a private property outside the jurisdiction of the DENR.

In case the registered owner dies, how can ownership be transferred to the heirs?

When a registered owner died without leaving a last will and testament, the heirs can transfer the title to themselves by executing an extra-judicial settlement of the estate, on condition that the heirs are in agreement of how to
dispose the properties. If there is conflict and heirs can not agree, they should
bring a case before the court which will make a decision for them.

Is possession the same as ownership? Who are informal settlers??

No. Possession means actual and exclusive control of property by physical occupation and this could be in good faith or in bad faith. On the other hand, ownership implies the legal right of possession, control and enjoyment by the owner who has established evidence that he owns the property.

Informal settlers are those in possession of land without the benefit of a title and without consent of the owner. Their possession is not permanent and has no legal basis for occupation. The possessor must strive to acquire title to the land before his possession can become permanent.

In cases where there are conflicting claims, who shall have a better right?

In cases where both claimants have no title, there are many factors to consider
like actual possession. The one who occupies the land especially in good faith has
better right as against someone with doubtful documents or has recently acquired
rights without knowledge of the one in possession. However, all factors must be
fully evaluated to determine preferential rights.


Q. What are the accepted definitions for Foreshore areas?

A string of land margining a body of water, the part of a seashore between the low-water line usually at the seaward margin of a low tide terrace and the upper limit wave wash at high tide usually marked by a beach scarp or berm. (1998 Fisheries Code of the Philippines)

Foreshore land is a part of the shore, which is alternately covered and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the tide. (DAO 99-34, series 1999)

That part of the land adjacent to the sea, which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides. (The Law on Public Land Conflicts in the Philippines by Alfonso S. Borja)

That part of the shore, which is between high and low watermarks and alternately covered with water and left by the flux and reflux of the tides. It is indicated by the middle line between the highest and lowest tide. (Bouvier's Law dictionary, page 825)

Foreshore Lease Application

Q: What is a Foreshore Lease Application (FLA)?

A type of application covering foreshore lands, marshy lands and other lands bordering bodies of water for commercial, industrial or other productive purposes other than agriculture.

Q: Are mangrove areas/timberland covered by this type of application?

No, all mangrove areas are excluded from the coverage of this application.

Q: What is the maximum allowable area that may be leased?

Under DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 34, series of 1999, any person, corporation, association or partnership may lease not more than 144 hectares.

Q: Who are eligible to apply for an FLA?

Any Filipino citizen of lawful age can apply for this application. Furthermore, corporations, associations or partnerships with at least 60% of the capital being owned by Filipino citizens are eligible to apply for an FLA.

Q: Where should one file a Foreshore Lease Application (FLA)?

The FLA or renewal shall be filed with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), which has jurisdiction over the area.

Q: How much does an application fee cost?

An application fee cost Php100.00 plus documentary stamp, which is non-refundable. This is necessary for both new application and renewal.

Q: Who has the authority to collect user’s fee due on foreshore leases?

The DENR Field Office (PENRO/CENRO) may be authorized to collect user’s fee due on leases of foreshore lands and whatever fees accruing in the usage of such areas.

Q: For how long can one lease the foreshore area (FLA term)?

The term of the Foreshore lease Contract shall be for a period of twenty-five (25) years and renewable for another 25 years, at the option of the lessor (DENR).

Q: When should one apply for a renewal of the FLA?

Application for renewal shall be filed sixty (60) days prior to its expiration.

Q: What are the preparatory requirements for the Foreshore Lease Application?

The application shall contain particulars of the following:

1. Nature of the proposed utilization/feasibility study;

2. Nature of development or activity;

3. Location and size of the area;

4. Sketch of the area; boundaries and description of said area;

5. Other information that the DENR may require.

An application shall only be accepted if properly subscribed and sworn to by the applicant, or in the case of juridical person, by its president, general manager or duly authorized agent, and accompanied by the following documents.

1. If the applicant is a government employee, a written permission from the department head or head of the agency concerned

2., If the applicant is a naturalized Filipino citizen, a copy of the following is necessary:

3. Certificate of naturalization;

4. Certification by the Office of the Solicitor General that it has not filed or taken any action for his denaturalization, or any action that may effect his citizenship.

5. If the applicant is a corporation, association or cooperative, 3 copies of the following must be submitted:

6. Articles of incorporation;

7. By-Laws;

8. Minutes of the latest organizational meeting of its stockholders/general assembly, electing the present members of the Board of Directors certified by its Secretary;

9. Minutes of the latest organizational meeting of the Board of Directors, electing the present officers of the corporation, association, or cooperative, certified by its Secretary;

10. Minutes of the latest organizational meeting of the Board of Directors indicating the authority of the officer to file the application in behalf of the corporation.

If the applicant uses a name, style or trade name, 3 copies of the following must be submitted:

1. Certificate of registration of such name, style, or trade name with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) certified by the officer of the said Department;

2. Income tax return for the preceding years, if the applicant was already in existence at the time and required to file said return.

3. Boundaries and description of said area.

4. Other information that the DENR may require.


A free patent is a mode of acquiring a parcel of alienable and disposable public land which is suitable for agricultural purposes, thru the administrative confirmation of imperfect and incomplete title. Agricultural public lands classified as alienable and disposable are subject for disposition under Free Patent.

The applicant for a free patent must comply with the following qualifications:

1. He must be a natural born citizen of the Philippines.

2. He must not be the owner of more than twelve (12) hectares of land.

3. The land must have been occupied and cultivated for at least thirty (30) years prior to April 16, 1990 by the applicant or his predecessors-in-interest and shall have paid the real estate tax thereon.

4. A minor can apply for a free patent, provided he is duly represented by his natural parents or legal guardian and has been occupying and cultivating the area applied for either by himself or his predecessor-in-interest

The following are the steps leading to the approval and issuance of a free patent:

1. Filing of application;

2. Investigation;

3. Posting of notice for two (2) consecutive weeks in the provincial capitol or municipal building and barangay hall concerned;

4. Order of approval of application and issuance of patent;

5. Preparation of Patent in Judicial Form 54 and 54-D and the technical description duly transcribed at the back thereof;

6. Transmittal of the Free Patent to the Register of Deeds concerned for the issuance of the corresponding Original Certificate of Title.

The following officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are authorized to approve applications for homestead and free patents:

1. Up to 5 hectares – Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO)

2. More than 5 Ha. to 10 Ha. – Regional Executive Director of the DENR.



Homestead Patent is a mode of acquiring alienable and disposable lands of the public domain for agricultural purposes conditioned upon actual cultivation and residence.

Where should Homestead Application be filed?

A Homestead application like any other public land applications should be filed at the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office where the land being applied for is located.

Who are qualified to apply

  1. Citizens of the Philippines.
  2. Over 18 years old or head of the family.
  3. Not the owner of more than 12 hectares of land pursuant to the 1987 constitution

Can a married woman make a Homestead entry?

A married woman can now apply for a patent application under DAO-2002-13 dated June 24, 2002 issued by the then Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Heherzon T. Alvarez. This is in accordance with Article II, Section 14 of the Constitution and Republic Act No. 7192 otherwise known as the "Women in Development and Nation Building Act" as implemented by DAO No. 98-15 of May 27, 1998 on "Revised Guidelines on the Implementation of Gender and Development (GAD) Activities in the DENR". This Administrative Order gives women, equal right as men in filing, acceptance, processing and approval of public land applications.

Legal Requirements

  1. Application fee of P50.00;
  2. Entry fee of P5.00;
  3. Final fee of P5.00;
  4. Approved plan and technical description of the land applied for;
  5. Actual occupation and residence by the applicant;

Steps leading to the issuance of a Homestead patent

  1. Filing of application;
  2. Preliminary Investigation;
  3. Approval of application;
  4. Filing of final proof which consists of two (2) parts;
    1. Notice of intention to make Final Proof which is posted for 30 days.
    2. Testimony of the homesteader corroborated by two (2) witnesses mentioned in the notice. The Final Proof is filed not earlier than 1 year after the approval of the application but within 5 years from the said date.
  5. Confirmatory Final Investigation;
  6. Order of Issuance of Patent;
  7. Preparation of patent using Judicial Form No. 67 and 67-D and the technical description duly inscribed at the back thereof;
  8. Transmittal of the Homestead patent to the Register of Deeds concerned.

Signing and Approving Authority For Homestead and Free Patents:

  1. Up to 5 hectares (has.) - PENRO
  2. More than 5 Has. to 10 Has. - RED
  3. More than 10 Has. - DENR Secretary


REPUBLIC ACT NO. 730 is an act permitting sale without public auction of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain for residential purpose.

The application to purchase the land is called the Miscellaneous Sales Application and the corresponding patent is called the Miscellaneous Sales Patent.

Who are Qualified to Apply?

  1. A Filipino citizen of lawful age, married; if single, applicant must be the head or bread winner of the family;
  2. He is not the owner of a home lot in the municipality/city where the land applied for is located;
  3. He must have occupied in good faith the land applied for and constructed a house thereon where he/she and family is actually residing.

Requirements in the filing of a Miscellaneous Sales Application under R. A. No. 730

  1. Application Filing fee of P50.00;
  2. Approved plan and technical description of the land applied for;
  3. Affidavit of the applicant stating that:
    1. He is not the owner of any other home lot in the municipality/city where he resides.
    2. He is requesting that the land be sold to him under the provision of R. A. No. 730.
  4. If the applicant is single, he must submit an affidavit stating that he is the head or bread winner of the family;
  5. The land is not needed for public use.

Maximum area that may be granted to an applicant

The applicant can only be granted a maximum area of 1,000 square meters.

Presidential Decree No. 2004 dated December 30, 1985 amended Section 2 of Republic Act 730 thus, lands acquired under this Act before and after the issuance of patent thereon are no longer subject to any restriction.

Steps in Acquiring a Miscellaneous Sales Patent

  1. Filing of application at the CENRO;
  2. investigation and appraisal of the land applied for;
  3. Survey of the land if not yet surveyed;
  4. Investigation report whether the applicant possesses the qualification for direct sales;
  5. Comment and recommendation of the District/City engineer with the concurrence of the Regional Director, Department of Public works and Highways;
  6. Recommendation to the PENRO for approval of appraisal and request for authority to sell without public auction;
  7. Approval of appraisal and grant of authority to sell by the PENRO;
  8. Posting of notice of sale without public auction for thirty (30) consecutive days in the following places:
    1. CENRO Bulletin board
    2. Municipal building bulletin board
    3. Barangay Hall bulletin board
    4. On the land itself
  9. Submission of the proofs of posting and payment of at least 10% of the appraised value of the land;
  10. Order of Award;
  11. Proof of full payment of the purchase price of the land;
  12. Order issuance of Miscellaneous Sales Patent in Judicial Form No. 167 with the technical description duly inscribed at the back thereof;
  13. Approval and signature of the Miscellaneous Sales Patent by the official concerned;
  14. Transmittal of the Miscellaneous Sales Patent to the Register of Deeds concerned for the issuance of the corresponding Original Certificate of the Title to the applicant.

Supreme Court Decision

Excerpts from:

HEIRS OF MARIANO, JUAN, TARCELA and JOSEFA, all surnamed BRUSAS, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and HEIRS OF SPOUSES INES BRUSAS and CLETO REBOSA, respondents. [G.R. No. 126875. August 26, 1999]

X x x.

The pivotal issues to be resolved are: first, who are the rightful owners of the disputed property - is it the heirs of Mariano, Juan, Josefa and Tarcela Brusas, whose claim of ownership is evidenced by a survey and subdivision plan; or, is it the heirs of spouses Ines Brusas and Cleto Rebosa, whose claim of ownership flows from an original certificate of title in the name of their parents, and covering the litigated property? And second, was there fraud on the part of Ines Brusas in causing the registration of the disputed land under her name thus entitling petitioners to the reconveyance of their shares therein?

It is a fundamental principle in land registration that the certificate of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible and incontrovertible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein. A title once registered under the Torrens System cannot be defeated even by adverse, open and notorious possession; neither can it be defeated by prescription. It is notice to the whole world and as such all persons are bound by it and no one can plead ignorance of the registration.

The real purpose of the Torrens System of land registration is to quiet title to land and stop forever any question as to its legality. Once a title is registered the owner may rest secure without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting on the mirador de su casa, to avoid the possibility of losing his land. Indeed, titles over lands under the Torrens system should be given stability for on it greatly depends the stability of the country's economy. Interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium.

This does not mean, however, that the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name is without remedy in law. When a person obtains a certificate of title to a land belonging to another and he has full knowledge of the rights of the true owner, he is considered guilty of fraud. He may then be compelled to transfer the land to the defrauded owner so long as the property has not passed to the hands of an innocent purchaser for value.

In the instant case, the litigated property is still registered in the name of Ines Brusas, so that insofar as procedure is concerned, petitioners were correct in availing of the remedy of reconveyance. However, an action for reconveyance presupposes the existence of a defrauded party who is the lawful owner of the disputed property. It is thus essential for petitioners to prove by clear and convincing evidence their title to the property, and the fact of fraud committed by Ines Brusas in registering their property in her name, which they miserably failed to do so.

Primarily, the survey and subdivision plan submitted in evidence by petitioners are inferior proofs of ownership and cannot prevail against the original certificate of title in the name of Ines Brusas who remains and is recognized as the registered owner of the disputed property.

The survey of the land in the name of the five (5) children of Sixto Brusas is only an indication that each has an interest over the property, but it does not define the nature and extent of those interests, nor the particular portions of the property to which those interests appertain. The subdivision plan, on the other hand, is of doubtful evidentiary value and can hardly be the basis of a claim of ownership. A careful examination thereof shows that it is nothing but a sketch of the land purportedly prepared by a private land surveyor. It is not apparent therein when and where the partition was made, or who caused the property to be subdivided. Worse, this document was not even signed by any of the parties to the supposed partition to show their conformity thereto, nor acknowledged in writing by any of them or their heirs.

Even petitioners’ tax declarations and tax receipts are unavailing. It is well-settled that they are not conclusive evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land, in the absence of any other strong evidence to support them. The fact that the disputed property may have been declared for taxation purposes in the names of the brothers and sisters of Ines Brusas does not necessarily prove their ownership thereof. The tax receipts and tax declarations are merely indicia of a claim of ownership.

What perhaps militates heavily against petitioners is the Affidavit (of waiver) marked Exh. "4" executed sometime in 1960 by Mariano, Tarcela, Juan and Josefa, whereby they relinquished, ceded and transferred to Ines Brusas their rights and interests over the controversial property, and recognized her as the absolute owner thereof, thus –

WE, MARIANO BRUSAS, JUAN BRUSAS, TARCELA BRUSAS and JOSEFA BRUSAS, all of legal age, married except the last who is a widow, residence (sic) and with postal address at Baao, Camarines Sur, after having been duly sworn to according to law, state the following, to wit –

That we are the brothers and sisters of Ines Brusas, applicant of Free Patent Application No. 10-4375 covering Lots 1 and 2, Psu-116520, situated in Baao, Camarines Sur;

That by virtue of this instrument, we relinquish, cede and transfer whatever rights and interests we might have over Lots 1 and 2, Psu-116520 in favor of our sister, Ines Brusas;

That we do not have any opposition to Ines Brusas acquiring title to said Lots 1 and 2, Psu-116520 by virtue of her Free Patent Application No. 10-4375;

That we recognize our sister, Ines Brusas as the legal and absolute owner of Lots 1 and 2, Psu-116520 as covered by her Free Patent Application No. 10-4375;

WHEREFORE, we sign this instrument of our own will and voluntary act and after the same has been translated in our own native dialect and understood fully its contents, this April 20, 1960 at Naga City.



On the basis of the foregoing reasons alone the instant case should immediately be dismissed. Having failed to show any valid title to the land involved petitioners are not the proper parties who can rightfully claim to have been fraudulently deprived thereof. Nonetheless, for the satisfaction of all and sundry, we shall proceed to refute their accusation of fraud.

First, Ines Brusas allegedly misrepresented in her application for free patent that she was the only claimant of the disputed property, without disclosing that her other brothers and sisters were claiming portions that supposedly belonged to them. It is worthy to emphasize, to the point of being repetitious, that Juan, Tarcela, Mariano and Josefa executed an affidavit of waiver recognizing Ines Brusas as the legal and absolute owner of Lots 1 and 2, and manifesting that they have no opposition to Ines Brusas’ acquiring certificates of title over those lots. It was on the basis of this affidavit of waiver that Ines stated in her application for free patent that she was the sole claimant of Lots 1 and 2. Certainly this is not fraud. At any rate, it appears from the records that Juan, Tarcela, Mariano and Josefa were notified of the application for free patent of Ines Brusas and duly afforded the opportunity to object to the registration and to substantiate their claims, which they failed to do. Hence their opposition was accordingly disregarded and Ines Brusas’ application was given due course. Petitioners cannot thus feign ignorance of the registration. Moreover, it is significant that petitioners never contested the order of the Bureau of Lands disregarding their claims, i.e., by filing a motion for reconsideration, or an appeal, for that purpose. This could only mean that they either agreed with the order or decided to abandon their claims.

Petitioners next assailed the genuineness of Exh. "4" asserting that the signatures therein were forged. However, no evidence was adduced by them to substantiate their allegation. It appears that they submitted for examination by the NBI eighteen (18) specimen signatures of Juan, Tarcela, Mariano and Josefa. Unfortunately, no standard signature could be found for the year 1960 when Exh. "4" was executed. Petitioners admitted that they were unable to produce what was required by the NBI, hence, they “just had to give up.”

Furthermore, there was another Affidavit (Exh. "11") signed in the same year by the Brusases, Ines included, recognizing Mariano Brusas as the sole claimant of Lots 3 and 4 and waiving their interests therein in his favor. This fact all the more confirms that the affidavit of waiver in favor of Ines Brusas was authentic. As correctly observed by the appellate court –

It is significant to note that aside from the supposedly falsified affidavit, Exhibit 4, another affidavit, was executed by Ines, together with Tarcela, Juan and Josefa, all surnamed Brusas, renouncing their rights to Lots 3 and 4 in favor of Mariano Brusas (Exhibit 11). Both appear to have been notarized by the same Notary Public on April 22, 1960. The existence of the two affidavits, Exhibits 4 and 11, strongly suggests that the Brusas[es] recognized Ines Brusas as the sole claimant of Lots 1 and 2 and Mariano Brusas, the sole claimant of Lots 3 and 4.

It is not for private respondents to deny forgery. The burden of proof that the affidavit of waiver is indeed spurious rests on petitioners. Yet, significantly, even as they insist on forgery they never really took serious efforts in establishing such allegation by preponderant evidence. It must be stressed that mere allegations of fraud are not enough. Intentional acts to deceive and deprive another of his right, or in some manner injure him, must be specifically alleged and proved.

The affidavit of waiver in favor of Ines, being a public document duly acknowledged before a notary public, under his hand and seal, with his certificate thereto attached, is prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. Petitioners cannot impugn its validity by mere self-serving allegations. There must be evidence of the clearest and most satisfactory character. Correlatively, in granting the application of Ines Brusas for free patent, the Bureau of Lands enjoyed the presumption of regularity in the performance of its official duties. This presumption has not been rebutted by petitioners as there was likewise no evidence of any anomaly or irregularity in the proceedings which led to the registration of the land.

Finally, as we are not trier of facts, we generally rely upon and are bound by the conclusions of the lower courts, which are better equipped and have better opportunity to assess the evidence first-hand, including the testimony of witnesses. We have consistently adhered to the rule that findings of the Court of Appeals are final and conclusive, and cannot ordinarily be reviewed by this Court as long as they are based on substantial evidence. Among the exceptions to this rule are: (a) when the conclusion is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (b) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (c) where there is grave abuse of discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (e) when the findings of facts are conflicting; and, (f) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, goes beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and appellee. We emphasize that none of these exceptions is present in this case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The 16 July 1996 Decision of the Court of Appeals ordering petitioners to vacate the disputed property and restore respondents in possession thereof, as well as its 30 September 1996 Resolution denying reconsideration, is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.


X x x. (end of quote)

Prepared by:

Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.