Republic vs. Heirs of Sin Digest

Facts

Maxima Sin was the owner of 5.8 ha land in Tambac, New Washington, Aklan. After she died, respondents claim that they are lawful heirs of the late Maxima Sin. In 1991, respondent heirs filed in RTC Kalibo against Aklan National College of Fisheries for recovery of possession etc. on the ground that ANCF usurped a 4.12 ha portion of the property. ANCF countered that the land was subject of Proclamation No. 2074 of late Pres. Marcos. Respondents presented evidence that their mother acquired the subject land via Deed of Sale. ANCF then occupied and converted it for educational purposes. To prove, heirs of Sin presented several tax declarations as early as 1945. MCTC favored respondent heirs on the ground that the sketch shows that the disputed property is an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, was classified as timberland, and observed the phrase “Block II Alien or Disp. LC 2415” was printed on the Map of the Civil Reservation for ANCF under Marcos’ Proclamation, indicating that the land is an alienable and disposable land of the public domain. CA favored the respondents heirs of Sin. The Republic, represented by ANCF and its Superintendent, appealed to SC.

Issue

(1) Should the private rights of heirs over subject land be upheld because DENR failed to declare it timberland before its formal classification?

(2) Should the subject land be released from the mass of public domain and should heirs be awarded with damages?

Ruling

No.

The incontrovertible evidence is that there must be a→ positive act of the government declaring land to be alienable and disposable either thru a Pres. Proc., EO, Admin. Action, BOL and investigative reports, legislative act or statute.

The failure of the Republic to show evidence that the subject land was declared timberland before its formal classification does not lead to the presumption that it is alienable and disposable. The default is that lands are inalienable. Failure to present proof that the land is inalienable gives rise to the presumption is that they are inalienable public lands by virtue of the Regalian Doctrine.

The heirs have not filed an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under the Public Land Act or the Property Registration Decree (CA 141 Section 48(b) and PD 1529 Section 14(1). But the courts treated the complaints of the heirs as applications for judicial confirmation and proceeded.

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