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July 1, 2014

Republic vs. CA and Tabangao Realty

Facts:

  • On January 8, 1991, Tabangao Realty, Inc. filed an application for Original Registration of Title over three parcels of land.
  • Applicant Tabangao Realty, Inc. alleged in its application that it acquired the above-mentioned lots by purchase from its previous owners as evidenced by the corresponding Deeds of Sale; that it is the owner of all adjoining lots; that it had been in actual possession of the lots since the time it acquired the same from the previous owners up to the present; and that its possession and occupation as owners including that of its predecessor-in-interest has been open, peaceful, continuous, adverse to the whole world and in the concept of an owner.
  • Tabangao Realty alleged that the plant of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Company is partly erected on the subject lots which improvements are owned by it (applicant).  {There is a lease contract between LPG and Tabangao}
  • Should the property registration decree invoked not be allowed, the applicant in the alternative applied for the benefits under CA No. 141 as amended and thus alleged that together with its predecessors-in-interest it had been in open, continuous, public, peaceful and adverse possession of the subject lots for more than 30 years. 
  • Geron (Tabango’s witness) testified that the applicant-corporation was duly organized and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is authorized to acquire land by purchase and develop, subdivide, sell, mortgage, exchange, lease and hold for investment or otherwise, real estate of all kinds.
  • He also testified that the subject properties in this case were purchased by Tabangao Realty as evidenced by Deed of Sale and that the taxes of the properties were properly paid by the corporation.
  • Marasigan corroborated the testimony of Romeo Geron with regard to the ownership, possession and the status of the lots subject of the application.
  • Loida Maglinao (from the Bureau of Forest Development) testified that the subject properties are within the alienable and disposable area of the public domain and no forestry interest is adversely interposed by the Bureau of Forest Development.
  • RTC and CA granted the petition of Tabangao. Hence, this appeal by the Republic.

Issue: WON Tabangao Realty, Inc. has registerable title over three (3) parcels of land situated in Tabangao, Batangas City applied for.

Held: NO. The ruling of the CA was erroneous.

There is a presumption that all lands belong to the public domain of the State
An applicant seeking to establish ownership over land must conclusively show that he is the owner thereof in fee simple, for the standing presumption is that all lands belong to the public domain of the State, unless acquired from the Government either by purchase or by grant, except lands possessed by an occupant and his predecessors since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been private property even before the Spanish conquest.

The land in question is admittedly public 
The applicant has no title at all. Its claim of acquisition of ownership is solely based on possession. In fact, the parcels of land applied for were declared public land by decision of the Cadastral Court. Such being the case, the application for voluntary registration under P. D. No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree) is barred by the prior judgment of the Cadastral Court. 

The land having been subjected to compulsory registration under the Cadastral Act and declared public land can no longer be the subject of registration by voluntary application under Presidential Decree No. 1529. The second application is barred by res-judicata. As previously held, "[W]here the applicant possesses no title or ownership over the parcel of land, he cannot acquire one under the Torrens System of registration."

There is no sufficient evidence that Tabangao Realty was in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the lands for 30 years
Applicant failed to prove specific acts showing the nature of its possession and that of its predecessors in interest. "The applicant must present specific acts of ownership to substantiate the claim and cannot just offer general statements which are mere conclusions of law than factual evidence of possession." "Actual possession of land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own property."

In other words, facts constituting possession must be duly established by competent evidence.

Hence, the application for registration of the properties must be denied. (Ruled in favor of the Republic.)

Reference:
GR. No. 130174 July 14, 2000
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, 
vs. COURT OF APPEALS AND TABANGAO REALTY, INC., represented by Rodolfo Perez, respondents.

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