Lex Rex Ph

Republic v. Lao Digest

“Agricultural and Alienable”

Alexandra Lao filed for an application for registration of title over a parcel of land consisting of 9,349 sqm.

Alexandra Lao (R) ContentionsOSG (P)
Award to me the land based on:
-Property Registration Decree (PD 1529)

-Under CA 141 or Public Land Act “open, continuous, actual, exclusive, notorious and adverse possession and occupancy under bonafide claim for 30 yrs.

-CA 141, Section 48(b) was amended by RA 6940, reduced to 30 yrs. <–Court: Nothing in RA 6940 amends CA 141

-Not required to present certification of reclassification because no opposition was made by appropriate gov agencies. In the absence of proof, it’s a agri and susceptible to private ownership.
Lao  failed to comply with the legally-required period and acts of possession
PD 1529 Section 14(1): “been in open, continuous, exclusive, notorious possession of alienable and disposable lands of public domain since June 12, 1945 or earlier.”
Similar provisions with CA 141:
-She only made sweeping statements
-Tax decs do not corroborate her claim
-Failed to present a certification from the appropriate government agency that land is alienable and disposable

RTC: APPROVED APPLICATION

  • Land is agricultural and not within any forest zone or public domain
  • Continuius possession for more than 30 years

OSG opposed.  Filed with CA.

SC:  OSG petition granted

Was the land disposable? No.

  • Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of public domain belong to the State. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Public land must be reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State to cease from being inalienable public domain. To overcome, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land is alienable or disposable. (Republic v. Lao)
    • Declassification of forest land (public domain) and its conversion to alienable or disposable land for agri or other purposes requires a positive act from the government. It cannot be presumed. “Government” – could be legislative or executive, but it cannot be judicial because it is not a judicial function.
    • Presumption is public dominion and No certification from the appropriate government agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land as alienable and disposable, from which she can claim registration under the Land Registration Act.
    • Judicial confirmation of imperfect – does not grant, but just confirms when it is not complete just yet.

Is Alexandra Lao entitled to the land in question? No.

  • Failed to show incontrovertible evidence that her possession of the land commenced on June 12, 1945 or earlier, which is the first requisite under pertinent provisions of PD1529 (Property Registration Decree) and CA 141 (Public Land Act).
    • Failed to show that the subject land is classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
    • An applicant for registration of land has the burden of proof that property is (1) agricultural and (2) alienable or disposable. She cannot simply presume.  Applicant must overcome the presumption. (Amunategui v. Director of Forestry)
      • The absence of opposition from the government is of no moment. The State cannot be estopped by the omission or error of its agent.

When did Lao start to possess?

  • Purchased in 1994 and had predecessors-in-interest
    • Court: Must be 1945 or earlier – Lao cannot prove she has been in possession or earlier
    • However, the earliest of these documents (TAX DECLARATION) pertained to the year 1948 only, three years short of the required period.
    • Evidence – documentary or testimonial
    • Tax declaration, although not a primary evidence of ownership or possession, it is given due weight in the absence of other stronger evidence. Reason: Why will you pay the tax if you don’t enjoy it. Declare it under your name and pay the tax.

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