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SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. L-43105 August 31, 1984

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Director of Lands), Petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS (SECOND DIVISION) AND SANTOS DEL RIO, Respondents.

G.R. No. L-43190 August 31, 1984

AURORA BAUTISTA, OLIMPIO LARIOS, FELICIDAD DE LA CRUZ, ELPIDIO LARIOS, LUCITA BANDA, BENITO SANTAYANA, FRUCTUOSA BANHAO LUCIO VELASCO, GREGORIO DATOY, FELIMON GUTIERREZ, ET AL., Petitioners, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS AND SANTOS DEL RIO, Respondents.

Bonifacio, Perez & Concepcion for petitioners.chanrobles virtual law library

The Solicitor General for respondent Appellate Court.chanrobles virtual law library

Eduardo Cagandahan for respondent Santos del Rio.

CUEVAS, J.:

These two 1 Petitions for Review of the same decision of the defunct Court of Appeals 2 have been consolidated in this single decision, having arisen from one and the same Land Registration Cage (LRC Case No. N-283, Laguna), and presenting as they do issues which may be resolved jointly by this Court.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The questioned decision of the Court of Appeals set aside the judgment of the trial court and ordered the registration of the land in favor of applicant, now private respondent, Santos del Rio. Petitioner Director of Lands in G.R. No. L-43105 claims that the land sought to be registered is part of the public domain and therefore not registerable. Petitioners private oppositors in G.R. No. L-43190, on the other hand, allege that they reclaimed the land by dumping duck egg shells thereon, and that they have been in possession of the same for more than twenty (20) years.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The lot subject matter of this land registration case, with an area of 17,311 square meters, is situated near the shore of Laguna de Bay, about twenty (20) meters therefrom (Exh. D), 3 in Barrio Pinagbayanan, Pila, Laguna. It was purchased by Benedicto del Rio from Angel Pili on April 19, 1909. The Deed of Sale evidencing said purchase is duly recorded with the Registry of Deeds of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The land was declared for tax purposes beginning the year 1918, and the realty taxes thereon had been paid since 1948. When Benedicto del Rio died in 1957, his heirs extrajudicially partitioned his estate and the subject parcel passed on to his son, Santos del Rio, as the latter's share in the inheritance.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Santos del Rio, herein applicant-private respondent, filed his application for registration of said parcel on May 9, 1966. The application was opposed by the Director of Lands and by private oppositors, petitioners in G.R. No. L-43190.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Sometime before 1966, private oppositors obtained permission from Santos del Rio to construct duck houses on the land in question. Although there was no definite commitment as to rentals, some of them had made voluntary payments to private respondent. In violation of the original agreement, private oppositors constructed residential houses on the land which prompted private respondent to file an ejectment suit against the former in 1966. 4 Meanwhile, during the latter part of 1965 and in 1966, private oppositors had simultaneously filed their respective sales applications with the Bureau of Lands, and in 1966, they opposed Santos del Rios application for registration. The Court of First Instance of Laguna dismissed the application for registration. Applicant appealed and obtained a favorable judgment from the Court of Appeals. The Director of Lands and the private oppositors filed their respective Petitions for Review of said decision.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The two consolidated petitions raise substantially the same issues, to wit :

1) whether or not the parcel of land in question is public land; andchanrobles virtual law library

2) whether or not applicant private respondent has registerable title to the land.

Property, which includes parcels of land found in Philippine territory, is either of public dominion or of private ownership. 5 Public lands, or those of public dominion, have been described as those which, under existing legislation are not the subject of private ownership, and are reserved for public purposes. 6 The New Civil Code enumerates properties of public dominion in Articles 420 and 502 thereof. Article 420 provides:

The following things are property of public dominion:chanrobles virtual law library

(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;chanrobles virtual law library

(2) Those which belong to the State without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth.

Article 502 adds to the above enumeration, the following:

(1) Rivers and their natural beds; chanrobles virtual law library

(2) Continuous or intermittent waters of springs and brooks running in their natural beds and the beds themselves; chanrobles virtual law library

(3) Waters rising continuously or intermittently on lands of public dominion; chanrobles virtual law library

(4) Lakes and lagoons formed by Nature on public lands and their beds; chanrobles virtual law library

xxx xxx xxxchanrobles virtual law library

(Emphasis supplied)

The Director of Lands would like Us to believe that since a portion of the land sought to be registered is covered with water four to five months a year, the same is part of the lake bed of Laguna de Bay, or is at least, a foreshore land, which brings it within the enumeration in Art. 502 of the New Civil Code quoted above and therefore it cannot be the subject of registration.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The extent of a lake bed is defined in Art. 74 of the Law of Waters of 1866, as follows:

The natural bed or basin of lakes, ponds, or pools, is the ground covered by their waters when at their highest ordinary depth. (Emphasis supplied)

The phrase "highest ordinary depth" in the above definition has been interpreted in the case of Government of P.I. vs. Colegio de San Jose 7 to be the highest depth of the waters of Laguna de Bay during the dry season, such depth being the "regular, common, natural, which occurs always or most of the time during the year." The foregoing interpretation was the focal point in the Court of Appeals decision sought to be reviewed. We see no reason to disturb the same.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Laguna de Bay is a lake. 8 While the waters of a lake are also subject to the same gravitational forces that cause the formation of tides 9 in seas and oceans, this phenomenon is not a regular daily occurrence in the case of lakes. 10 Thus, the alternation of high tides and low tides, which is an ordinary occurrence, could hardly account for the rise in the water level of the Laguna de Bay as observed four to five months a year during the rainy season. Rather, it is the rains which bring about the inundation of a portion of the land in question. Since the rise in the water level which causes the submersion of the land occurs during a shorter period (four to five months a year) than the level of the water at which the is completely dry, the latter should be considered as the "highest ordinary depth" of Laguna de Bay. Therefore, the land sought to be registered is not part of the bed or basin of Laguna de Bay. Neither can it be considered as foreshore land. The Brief for the Petitioner Director of Lands cites an accurate definition of a foreshore land, to wit:

... that part of (the land) which is between high and low water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides... 11 chanrobles virtual law library

The strip of land that lies between the high and low water mark and that is alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. 12chanrobles virtual law library

As aptly found by the Court a quo, the submersion in water of a portion of the land in question is due to the rains "falling directly on or flowing into Laguna de Bay from different sources. 13 Since the inundation of a portion of the land is not due to "flux and reflux of tides" it cannot be considered a foreshore land within the meaning of the authorities cited by petitioner Director of Lands. The land sought to be registered not being part of the bed or basin of Laguna de Bay, nor a foreshore land as claimed by the Director of Lands, it is not a public land and therefore capable of registration as private property provided that the applicant proves that he has a registerable title. This brings us to the second issue, which is whether or not applicant private respondent has registerable title to the land.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The purpose of land registration under the Torrens System is not the acquisition of lands but only the registration of title which applicant already possesses over the land. 14 Registration under the Torrens Law was never intended as a means of acquiring ownership. Applicant in this case asserts ownership over the parcel of land he seeks to register and traces the roots of his title to a public instrument of sale (Exh. G) in favor of his father from whom he inherited said land. In addition to this muniment of title, he presents tax declarations (Exhs. F, G, H, I) covering the land since 1918 and also tax receipts (Exhs. J, J-1, J-2, J-3, J-4, K, K-1, K-2, K-3) dating back to 1948. While it is true that by themselves tax receipts and declarations of ownership for taxation purposes are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership, 15 they become strong evidence of ownership acquired by prescription when accompanied by proof of actual possession of the property. 16 The then Court of Appeals found applicant by himself and through his father before him, has been in open, continuous, public, peaceful, exclusive and adverse possession of the disputed land for more than thirty (30) years, counted from April 19, 1909, when the land was acquired from a third person by purchase. 17 The record does not show any circumstance of note sufficient enough to overthrow said findings of facts which is binding upon us. Since applicant has possessed the subject parcel in the concept of owner with just title and in good faith, his possession need only last for ten years in order for ordinary acquisitive prescription to set in. 18 Applicant has more than satisfied this legal requirement. And even if the land sought to be registered is public land as claimed by the petitioners still, applicant would be entitled to a judicial confirmation of his imperfect title, since he has also satisfied the requirements of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended by Republic Act No. 1942). Sec. 48 of said Act enumerates as among the persons entitled to judicial confirmation of imperfect title, the following:

(a) ...chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

(b) Those who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under bona fide c of ownership, for at least tirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title ...

The claim of private oppositors, petitioners in G.R. No. L43190, that they have reclaimed the land from the waters of Laguna de Bay and that they have possessed the same for more than twenty (20) years does not improve their position. In the first place, private persons cannot, by themselves reclaim land from water bodies belonging to the public domain without proper permission from government authorities. 19 And even if such reclamation had been authorized, the reclaimed land does not automatically belong to the party reclaiming the same as they may still be subject to the terms of the authority earlier granted. 20Private oppositors-petitioners failed to show proper authority for the alleged reclamation, therefore, their claimed title to the litigated parcel must fall. In the second place, their alleged possession can never ripen into ownership. Only possession acquired and enjoyed in the concept of owner can serve as the root of a title acquired by prescription. 21 As correctly found by the appellate court, the private oppositors-petitioners entered into possession of the land with the permission of, and as tenants of, the applicant del Rio. The fact that some of them at one time or another did not pay rent cannot be considered in their favor. Their use of the land and their non-payment of rents thereon were merely tolerated by applicant and these could not have affected the character of the latter's possession 22 which has already ripened into ownership at the time of the filing of this application for registration.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The applicant private-respondent having satisfactorily established his registerable title over the parcel of land described in his application, he is clearly entitled to the registration in his favor of said land.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the judgment appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED and the registration in favor of applicant private-respondent of the land described in his application is hereby ordered.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Costs against private petitioners.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

SO ORDERED.

Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, Abad Santos and Escolin, JJ., concur.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Aquino, J., took no part.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Makasiar, J., (Chairman), is on leave.

Endnotes:


1 One filed by the Director of Lands which is G.R. No. L-43105; and another one filed by Oppositors Bautista, et al. under G.R. No. L43190.chanrobles virtual law library

2 In CA-G.R. No. 47044-R entitled Santos del Rio, applicant-appellant vs. Director of Lands, et al., oppositors-appellees.chanrobles virtual law library

3 Exhibit D-Plan Psu 220952.chanrobles virtual law library

4 For unknown reasons, the records failed to disclose the status of said ejectment case.chanrobles virtual law library

5 Article 419, New Civil Code.chanrobles virtual law library

6 Montano vs. Insular Govt., 12 Phil. 572, 579.chanrobles virtual law library

7 53 Phil. 423 (1929).chanrobles virtual law library

8 Ibid., p. 426.chanrobles virtual law library

9 Encyclopedia Britanica, Vol. 21; p. 1126.,

10 CA-G.R. No. 47044-R,p. 6, citing Enciclopedia Juridica Española. Vol. XXL.chanrobles virtual law library

11 Petitioner's Brief, p. 10, citing 1 Bouvier's Law Dictionary, 3rd Revision p. 1278.chanrobles virtual law library

12 Ibid., citing 17 Words and Phrases, p. 312.chanrobles virtual law library

13 Court of Appeals Decision, CA-G.R. No. 47044-R, p. 7.chanrobles virtual law library

14 Roxas vs. Enriquez, 29 Phil. 54.chanrobles virtual law library

15 Evangelista vs. Tabayuyong, 7 Phil. 607.chanrobles virtual law library

16 Viernes vs. Agpaoa 41 Phil. 286.chanrobles virtual law library

17 Court of Appeals Decision, CA-G.R. NO. 47044-R, p. 12.chanrobles virtual law library

18 Art. 1117, New Civil Code.chanrobles virtual law library

19 Article 18, Law of Waters of 1866.chanrobles virtual law library

20 Article 5, Law of Water of 1866.chanrobles virtual law library

21 Article 540, New Civil Code.chanrobles virtual law library

22 Article 537, New Civil Code.




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