Respondent Lualhati filed with the RTC of Antipolo City an application for original registration covering Lots situated in Antipolo, Rizal. Respondent essentially maintains that she, together with her deceased husband, Andres Lualhati, and their four children have been in possession of the subject lands in the concept of an owner since 1944.
In support of her application, respondent submitted the blueprint of the survey plan and the tracing cloth plan surveyed at the instance of her husband and approved by the Director of Lands, the certified true copy of the surveyor’s certificate, the technical descriptions of the Lots, Tax Declaration issued in the name of her husband, which states that the tax on the properties commenced in 1944, the real property tax register evidencing payment of realty taxes on the subject properties from 1949 to 1958, certifications from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Region IV, City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Antipolo City, that no public land application/land patent covering the subject lots is pending nor are the lots embraced by any administrative title, and a letter from the Provincial Engineer that the province has no projects which will be affected by the registration. Moreover, respondent presented several witnesses to prove her claim.
The RTC granted respondent’s application finding that she had been in open, public, continuous, exclusive, adverse, and notorious possession and occupation of the lands for more than 50 years under a bona fide claim of ownership even prior to June 12, 1945, as required under Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. This was affirmed by the CA.
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari, the petitioner contends that the respondent failed to prove that the land being sough to be registered is alienable and disposable, and that the respondent failed to prove in the concept and period required by law.
Can the respondent validly register the subject lots?
NO. Section 14 (1) of PD 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree provides:
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.
Thus, pursuant to the aforequoted provision, applicants for registration of title must prove that: (1) the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain; and (2) they, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
Under the Regalian Doctrine, which is embodied in our Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land, or alienated to a private person by the State, remain part of the inalienable public domain. The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration, who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be presented to establish that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. Respondent’s reliance on the CENRO certifications is misplaced.
In the oft-cited Republic v. T.A.N. Properties (G.R. NO. 154953), it has been held that it is not enough for the CENRO or the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) to certify that a certain parcel of land is alienable and disposable.
Thus, as it now stands, an application for original registration must be accompanied by: (1) CENRO or PENRO certification; and (2) 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, in order to establish that the land is indeed alienable and disposable. The applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. Unfortunately for respondent, the evidence submitted clearly falls short of the requirements for original registration in order to show the alienable character of the lands subject herein.
In similar regard, the evidence on record likewise fail to establish that respondent, by herself or through her predecessors-in-interest, has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the properties under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. Other than the bare allegations of respondent and her witness, as well as the 1947 tax declaration, respondent did not present any other proof to substantiate her claim of possession beginning in 1944. Neither did she provide any explanation as to why, if she has truly been occupying the properties as early as 1994, it was only in 1947 that she sought to declare the same for purposes of taxation.
To repeat, the law requires open, exclusive, continuous and notorious possession by petitioners and their predecessors-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of ownership, since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Thus, it is imperative for applicants for registration of property to prove, by sufficient evidence, each requisite character and period of possession and occupation for the failure to do so will necessarily prevent the land from being considered ipso jure converted into private property even upon the subsequent declaration of the same as alienable and disposable.
G.R. No. 183511, March 25, 2015
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. EMETERIA G. LUALHATI, Respondent.