HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
GR No. 179987
April 29, 2009
GR No. 179987
April 29, 2009
On 20 February 1998, Mario Malabanan filed an application for land registration before the RTC of Cavite-Tagaytay, covering a parcel of land situated in Silang Cavite, consisting of 71,324 square meters. Malabanan claimed that he had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco, and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, notorious, and continuous adverse and peaceful possession of the land for more than thirty (30) years. Velazco testified that the property was originally belonged to a twenty-two hectare property owned by his great-grandfather, Lino Velazco. Lino had four sons– Benedicto, Gregorio, Eduardo and Esteban–the fourth being Aristedes’s grandfather. Upon Lino’s death, his four sons inherited the property and divided it among themselves. But by 1966, Esteban’s wife, Magdalena, had become the administrator of all the properties inherited by the Velazco sons from their father, Lino. After the death of Esteban and Magdalena, their son Virgilio succeeded them in administering the properties, including Lot 9864-A, which originally belonged to his uncle, Eduardo Velazco. It was this property that was sold by Eduardo Velazco to Malabanan.
Among the evidence presented by Malabanan during trial was a Certification dated 11 June 2001, issued by the Community Environment & Natural Resources Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO-DENR), which stated that the subject property was “verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established under Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.” On 3 December 2002, the RTC approved the application for registration.
The Republic interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that the property belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC had erred in finding that he had been in possession of the property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect title. On 23 February 2007, the Court of Appeals reversed the RTC ruling and dismissed the appliocation of Malabanan.
1. In order that an alienable and disposable land of the public domain may be registered under Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, should the land be classified as alienable and disposable as of June 12, 1945 or is it sufficient that such classification occur at any time prior to the filing of the applicant for registration provided that it is established that the applicant has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier?
2. For purposes of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree may a parcel of land classified as alienable and disposable be deemed private land and therefore susceptible to acquisition by prescription in accordance with the Civil Code?
3. May a parcel of land established as agricultural in character either because of its use or because its slope is below that of forest lands be registrable under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to the provisions of the Civil Code on acquisitive prescription?
4. Are petitioners entitled to the registration of the subject land in their names under Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree or both?
The Pertition is denied.
(1) In connection with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and confirms that “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” have acquired ownership of, and registrable title to, such lands based on the length and quality of their possession.
(a) Since Section 48(b) merely requires possession since 12 June 1945 and does not require that the lands should have been alienable and disposable during the entire period of possession, the possessor is entitled to secure judicial confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared alienable and disposable, subject to the timeframe imposed by Section 47 of the Public Land Act.
(b) The right to register granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
(2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider that under the Civil Code, prescription is recognized as a mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial property. However, public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only with a declaration that these are alienable or disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth, under Article 422 of the Civil Code. And only when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run.
(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the government. The person acquires ownership of patrimonial property by prescription under the Civil Code is entitled to secure registration thereof under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.
(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which patrimonial property may be acquired, one ordinary and other extraordinary. Under ordinary acquisitive prescription, a person acquires ownership of a patrimonial property through possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with just title. Under extraordinary acquisitive prescription, a person’s uninterrupted adverse possession of patrimonial property for at least thirty (30) years, regardless of good faith or just title, ripens into ownership.
It is clear that the evidence of petitioners is insufficient to establish that Malabanan has acquired ownership over the subject property under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. There is no substantive evidence to establish that Malabanan or petitioners as his predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945 or earlier. The earliest that petitioners can date back their possession, according to their own evidence—the Tax Declarations they presented in particular—is to the year 1948. Thus, they cannot avail themselves of registration under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
Neither can petitioners properly invoke Section 14(2) as basis for registration. While the subject property was declared as alienable or disposable in 1982, there is no competent evidence that is no longer intended for public use service or for the development of the national evidence, conformably with Article 422 of the Civil Code. The classification of the subject property as alienable and disposable land of the public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion under Article 420(2) of the Civil Code. Thus, it is insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.