Republic v. Aboitiz
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES v. LUIS MIGUEL O. ABOITIZ
G.R. No. 174626 October 23, 2013
Respondent Aboitiz filed his Application for Registration of Land Title of a parcel of land identified as Lot 11193 of the Cebu Cadastre 12 Extension, before the RTC. In support of his application, Aboitiz attached the original Tracing Cloth Plan with a blueprint copy, the technical description of the land, the certificate of the geodetic engineer surveying the land, and the documents evidencing possession and ownership of the land.
To prove his claim, Aboitiz presented his witness, Sarah Benemerito (Sarah), his secretary, who testified that he entrusted to her the subject property and appointed her as its caretaker; that he purchased the subject property from Irenea Kapuno (Irenea) on September 5, 1994; that he had been in actual, open, continuous, and exclusive possession of the subject property in the concept of an owner; that as per record of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Region VII, the subject property had been classified as alienable and disposable since 1957; that per certification of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Cebu City, the subject property was not covered by any subsisting public land application; and that the subject property had been covered by tax declarations from 1963 to 1994 in Irenea’s name, and from 1994 to present, in his name.
The RTC granted Aboitiz’s application for registration of the subject property. The Republic appealed the RTC ruling before the CA. The CA reversed the ruling of the RTC and denied Aboitiz’s application for registration. The CA ruled that it was only from the date of declaration of such lands as alienable and disposable that the period for counting the statutory requirement of possession since June 12, 1945 or earlier would commence. Possession prior to the date of declaration of the lands alienability was not included.
Is Aboitiz entitled to the registration of land title under Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529, or, in the alternative, pursuant to Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529?
No. Applicants for registration of land title must establish and prove: (1) that the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain; (2) that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same; and (3) that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
Anent the first requisite, to authoritatively establish the subject land’s alienable and disposable character, it is incumbent upon the applicant to present a CENRO or Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) Certification; and a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records. The Court cannot find any evidence to show the subject land’s alienable and disposable character, except for a CENRO certification submitted by Aboitiz. Clearly, his attempt to comply with the first requisite of Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529 fell short due to his own omission. The CENRO is not the official repository or legal custodian of the issuances of the DENR Secretary declaring the alienability and disposability of public lands. Thus, the CENRO Certification should be accompanied by an official publication of the DENR Secretary’s issuance declaring the land alienable and disposable. For this reason, the application for registration of Aboitiz should be denied.
Unfortunately, Aboitiz likewise failed to satisfy this third requisite. As the records and pleadings of this case will reveal, the earliest that he and his predecessor-in-interest can trace back possession and occupation of the subject land was only in the year 1963. Evidently, his possession of the subject property commenced roughly eighteen (18) years beyond June 12, 1945, the reckoning date expressly provided under Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529. Here, he neglected to present any convincing and persuasive evidence to manifest compliance with the requisite period of possession and occupation since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Accordingly, his application for registration of land title was legally infirm.
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.
Under Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529, for acquisitive prescription to commence and operate against the State, the classification of ‘ land as alienable and disposable alone is not sufficient. The applicant must be able to show that the State, in addition to the said classification, expressly declared through either a law enacted by Congress or a proclamation issued, by the President that the subject land is no longer retained for public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Consequently, without an express declaration by the State, the land remains to be a property of public dominion and, hence, not susceptible to acquisition by virtue of prescription.