G. R. No. 107427 - January 25, 2000
JAMES R. BRACEWELL, Petitioner, v. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
Before us is a petition to affirm the Order of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 58, in LRC Case No. M-77,1 which was reversed by respondent Court of Appeals in its Decision dated June 29, 1992 in CA-G.R. CV No. 26122.2 Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration was denied by respondent court on September 30, 1992.3
The controversy involves a total of nine thousand six hundred fifty-seven (9,657) square meters of land located in Las Piñas, Metro Manila. The facts show that sometime in 1908, Maria Cailles, married to James Bracewell, Sr., acquired the said parcels of land from the Dalandan and Jimenez families of Las Piñas; after which corresponding Tax Declarations were issued in the name of Maria Cailles. On January 16, 1961, Maria Cailles sold the said parcels of land to her son, the petitioner, by virtue of a Deed of Sale which was duly annotated and registered with the Registry of Deeds of Pasig, Rizal. Tax Declarations were thereafter issued in the name of petitioner, cancelling the previous Tax Declarations issued to Maria Cailles.
On September 19, 1963, petitioner filed before the then Court of First Instance of Pasig, Rizal an action for confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141.4 The case was docketed as L.R.C. Case No. 4328. On February 21, 1964, the Director of Lands, represented by the Solicitor General, opposed petitioner's application on the grounds that neither he nor his predecessors-in-interest possessed sufficient title to the subject land nor have they been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same for at least thirty (30) years prior to the application, and that the subject land is part of the public domain.5
The registration proceedings were meanwhile suspended on account of an action filed by Crescencio Leonardo against Maria Cailles before the then Court of First Instance of Pasig, Rizal. The case was finally disposed of by this Court in G.R. No. 51263 where the rights of Maria Cailles were upheld over those of the oppositor Leonardo.6
On March 26, 1985, the entire records of the registration case were forwarded to the Makati Regional Trial Court7 where it was docketed as Land Registration Case No. M-77. The Solicitor General resubmitted his opposition to the application on July 22, 1985,8 this time alleging the following additional grounds: (1) the failure of petitioner to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time; and (2) that the tax declarations attached to the complaint do not constitute acquisition of the lands applied for.
On May 3, 1989, the lower court issued an Order granting the application of petitioner.9 The Solicitor General promptly appealed to respondent Court which, on June 29, 1992, reversed and set aside the lower court's Order.10 It also denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration in its Resolution of September 30, 1992.11
Hence, the instant Petition anchored upon the following grounds
The controversy is simple. On one hand, petitioner asserts his right of title to the subject land under Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, having by himself and through his predecessors-in-interest been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject parcels of land, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since 1908. On the other hand, it is the respondents' position that since the subject parcels of land were only classified as alienable or disposable on March 27, 1972,13 petitioner did not have any title to confirm when he filed his application in 1963. Neither was the requisite thirty years possession met.
We agree with respondents.
In Republic vs. Doldol,14 the requisites to acquire title to public land were laid down, as follows
Clear from the above is the requirement that the applicant must prove that the land is alienable public land. On this score, we agree with respondents that petitioner failed to show that the parcels of land subject of his application are alienable or disposable. On the contrary, it was conclusively shown by the government that the same were only classified as alienable or disposable on March 27, 1972. Thus, even granting that petitioner and his predecessors-in-interest had occupied the same since 1908, he still cannot claim title thereto by virtue of such possession since the subject parcels of land were not yet alienable land at that time nor capable of private appropriation. The adverse possession which may be the basis of a grant of title or confirmation of an imperfect title refers only to alienable or disposable portions of the public domain.15
A similar situation in the case of Reyes v. Court of Appeals,16 where a homestead patent issued to the petitioners' predecessor-in-interest was cancelled on the ground that at the time it was issued, the subject land was still part of the public domain. In the said case, this Court ruled as follows
Prior to March 27, 1972, when the subject parcels of land were classified as inalienable or indisposable, therefore, the same could not be the subject of confirmation of imperfect title. There can be no imperfect title to be confirmed over lands not yet classified as disposable or alienable.17 In the absence of such classification, the land remains unclassified public land until released therefrom and open to disposition.18 Indeed, it has been held that the rules on the confirmation of imperfect title do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.19
Neither has petitioner shown proof that the subject Forestry Administrative Order recognizes private or vested rights under which his case may fall. We only find on record the Indorsement of the Bureau of Forest Development20 from which no indication of such exemption may be gleaned.
Having found petitioner to have no cause of action for his application for confirmation of imperfect title, we see no need to discuss the other errors raised in this petition.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. No pronouncement as to costs.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Kapunan and Pardo, JJ., concur.
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