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February 16, 2015

Director of Lands vs. Tesalona

Facts:
  • On June 23, 1971, Isabel, Consuelo and Serapia Tesalona filed an application for registration of five (5) parcels of land with the CFI of Quezon, Gumaca Branch. 
  • They alleged that they acquired the lands through succession from their mother Magdalena. 
  • They said that their great grand mother Maria Rosita Lorenzo acquired 7.4343 hectares of land located in Quezon under a possessory information title dated May 20, 1896 under the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894.
  • The Director of Lands through the Assistant Provincial Fiscal of Quezon filed his opposition to the application alleging that neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interest had sufficient title of the land applied for nor had they been in possession thereof for a period of at least thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of the application and that the same is public land.
  • Constancio dela Pena Tan likewise filed an opposition even as he supported the government's contention that the lands applied for are part of the public domain. Tan averred that he had possessed the land as lessee for a period of more than thirty five (35) years. She said that the lands were converted into fishponds and had been subject of a sales application sometime in 1963. 11 The application to purchase filed by Constancio is still pending before the Bureau of Lands.
  • After hearing, the trial court rendered judgment adjudicating Lot Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in favor of the applicants and declaring Lot Nos. 1 and 2 as owned by the government subject to the rights of the lessee, Constancio dela Pena Tan, pending the approval of his sales application.
  • The CA ruled that lots 1-5 should be registered under the names of Tesalona’s siblings.
  • The Director of lands filed the instant petition.



Issue: Whether or not the heirs have rights over lots 1 & 2.

Held: No.

Submission of tracing cloth plan is mandatory which the Tesalona’s were not able to comply
To begin with, the original tracing cloth plan of the land applied for was not submitted in evidence by private respondents. Such omission is fatal to their application as the submission of the original tracing cloth plan is a statutory requirement of mandatory character. 

While a blue print of survey Plan Psu 215382 as surveyed for the Heirs of Magdalena Lizada was presented before the trial court, the same falls short of the mandatory requirement of law. 

Tesalona’s failed to retrieve the OTCP from the LRC
The original tracing cloth plan, together with the duplicate copy of their application for registration of land title were under the custody of the Land Registration Commission (LRC) at that time. But such does not relieve the private respondents of their duty to retrieve the said tracing cloth plan and submit it before the court. 

In the case of Director of Lands v. Reyes,  this Court clearly declared that if the original tracing plan was forwarded to the LRC, "the applicants may easily retrieve the same therefrom and submit the same in evidence."  This was not done. Assuming that the same was in their possession during the trial, private respondents should have made it available to the trial court for verification.

The proofs presented by Tesalona’s were questionable 
The basis of the claim of the Heirs of Tesalona, herein private respondents, is a Spanish title, a possessory information title issued on May 20, 1896 to Maria Rosita Lorenzo pursuant to the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894 for 1.0481 hectares. But private respondents did not submit the original of the possessory information title. 

What was submitted was an unclear, illegible copy of a Spanish document purporting to be the title evidencing the land grant of 1896. Moreover, proof of loss or unavailability of the original document as required by Section 5, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court was not established thus, rendering admissibility of the said secondary evidence questionable and dubious.

Land grants construed in favor of the State
Well-settled is the rule that land grants, being gratuitous in nature, are always construed favorably in favor of the government and strictly against the grantee, and that possessory information titles, assuming them to be valid and legal, are grants from the State which cannot extend beyond the terms thereof.

The application for registration of the Heirs of Isabel Tesalona of Lot Nos. 1 and 2 is hereby DISMISSED. No costs.


Reference:
G.R. No. 66130 
September 8, 1994 
DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, vs. HEIRS OF ISABEL TESALONA and the HONORABLE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, respondents. Rabendranath Y. Uy for private respondents.

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