In an application for registration of land on the ground of prescription, that the land is alienable and disposable must be proved by the applicant.
Case Title: Republic of the Philippines v. Spouses Reynaldo Dela Cruz and Loretto U. Dela Cruz
Date of Promulgation: G.R. No. 220868 | June 15, 2020
FACTS: The case stemmed from a petition for application for land registration filed by the spouses Reynaldo and Loretto dela Cruz (respondents). In said petition, they claimed that the subject land formed part of the alienable and disposable land of public domain and that they have been in an open, public, notorious and continuous possession thereof for more than 34 years.
Reynaldo dela Cruz (Reynaldo) narrated that they bought the subject land from Flordeliza Delos Reyes (Delos Reyes). After the sale, they began occupying the same and started planting trees; and since then, they have been in possession of the same for more than 34 years. Delos Reyes corroborated the testimony of Reynaldo as to the sale of the subject land. Rodolfo Gonzales, Special Investigator of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Los Bafios, Laguna, maintained that the subject land is alienable and disposable portion of the Municipality and can be disposed of.
The Municipal Trial Court (MTC) declared the subject land to be alienable and disposable land. Republic of the Philippines (petitioner), through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied. While the MTC ruling was based on the application of Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529, petitioner took a different stance on its appeal. The petitioner argued that respondents' application falls under Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529. As such, an express government manifestation that the subject land is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public use, public service, or the development of national wealth is necessary for the prescriptive period for acquisition to begin to run.
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.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.
The Court of Appeals (CA) denied the appeal and affirmed in toto the ruling of the MTC.
ISSUE: Was the registration of the subject land proper?
RULING: No. Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529 is based on possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable land of public domain since June 12, 1945 or earlier without regard to whether the land was susceptible to private ownership at that time; on the other hand, Section 14(2) of P.D . No. 1529 is registration of a patrimonial property of the public domain acquired through prescription. Under Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529, the following must be established: a) the land is an alienable and disposable, and patrimonial property of the public domain; (b) the applicant and its predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the land for at least 10 years, in good faith and with just title, or for at least 30 years, regardless of good faith or just title; and (c) the land had already been converted to or declared as patrimonial property of the State at the beginning of the said 10- year or 30-year period of possession.
To prove the classification of a land as alienable and disposable, a positive act of the Executive Department classifying the lands as such is necessary. For this purpose, the applicant may submit: (1) Certification from the CENRO or Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO); and (2) Certification from the DENR Secretary certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records.
Here, respondents failed to submit a Certification from the DENR Secretary manifesting his approval for the release of the subject land as alienable and disposable. Failure of the respondents to establish the first element for land registration warrants the denial of the petition.