In Re: Application For Land Registration, Suprema T. Dumo, Petitioner, V. Republic Of The Philippines, Respondent.
G.R. No. 218269, June 06, 2018
The Heirs of Espinas filed a Complaint for Recovery of Ownership, Possession and Damages with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction against the Heirs of Trinidad. They alleged that the they are the heirs of Marcelino Espinas and the Subject Property was purchased by Espinas from Carlos Calica through a Deed of Absolute Sale dated 19 October 1943. That it had exercised acts of dominion & had also been paying realty taxes.
Meanwhile, the heirs of Trinidad alleged that the land belonged to her mother, who purchased the lots from Florencio Mabalay in August 1951. Mabalay was Dumo’s maternal grandfather and purchased the properties from Carlos Calica. Additionally, Dumo, one of the heirs of Trinidad, filed an application for registration of two parcels of land, and further alleged that through a Deed of Partition with Absolute Sale dated 6 February 1987, she acquired the subject lots from her siblings.
The heirs of Espinas opposed Dumo’s application for land registration on the ground that the properties sought to be registered by Dumo are involved in the accion reivindicatoria case.
Ruling of the RTC: The Regional Trial Court rendered its Joint Decision, finding that the Subject Property was owned by the heirs of Espinas. The RTC ordered the dismissal of Dumo’s land registration application on the ground of lack of registerable title, and ordered Dumo to restore ownership and possession of the lots to the heirs of Espinas.
Ruling of the CA: The Court of Appeals affirmed RTC’s decision dismissing the application for land registration of Dumo, and finding that she failed to demonstrate that she and her predecessors-in interest possessed the property in the manner required by law to merit the grant of her application for land registration. However, it modified the decision of the RTC insofar as it found that the Subject Property still belonged to the public domain, and the heirs of Espinas were not able to establish their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier, it was erroneous for the RTC to declare the heirs of Espinas as the owners of the Subject Property.
(1) Whether or not the questioned lot is part of the alienable and disposable land of public domain, and the determination of this is essential for land registration?
(2) Whether or not Dumo has the right to register the land because she and her predecessors-in-interest have already acquired the land through prescription.
(3) Whether or not Dumo and her predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bonafide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier.
Ruling of the SC:
In the first issue, the Supreme Court held that Dumo failed to submit any of the documents required to prove that the land she seeks to register is alienable and disposable land of the public domain. There are two (2) documents which must be presented: first, a copy of the original classification approved by the Secretary of the DENR and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records, and second, a certificate of land classification status issued by the CENRO or the PENRO based on the land classification approved by the DENR Secretary. In an application for land registration, the applicant has the burden of overcoming the presumption that the State owns the land applied for, and proving that the land has already been classified as alienable and disposable. To overcome the presumption that the land belongs to the State, the applicant must prove by clear and incontrovertible evidence at the time of application that the land has been classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
The second issue, the Supreme Court reiterated that acquisitive prescription only applies to private lands as expressly provided in Article 1113 of the Civil Code. To register land acquired by prescription under PD No. 1529 (in relation to the Civil Code of the Philippines), the applicant must prove that the land is not merely alienable and disposable, but that it has also been converted into patrimonial property of the State. Prescription will start to run only from the time the land has become patrimonial.
In the last issue, the Supreme Court relied on the Court of Appeals findings that Dumo and her predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the land only from 1948, which is the earliest date of the tax declaration presented by Dumo. This fact is expressly admitted by Dumo. Thus, from this admission alone, it is clear that she failed to prove her and her predecessors-in-interest’s possession and occupation of the land for the duration required by law — from 12 June 1945 or earlier.