Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence

Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1919 > March 1919 Decisions > G.R. No. 13334 March 18, 1919 - LEONCIO ZARATE v. DIRECTOR OF LANDS

039 Phil 747:



[G.R. No. 13334. March 18, 1919. ]

LEONCIO ZARATE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, objector-appellee.

Aurelio Cecilio for Appellant.

Solicitor-General Paredes for Appellee.


1. APPEAL AND ERROR; "LAW OF THE CASE." — When an appellate court has once declared the law in a case, such declaration continues to be the law of that case even on a subsequent appeal. Such a rule is necessary to enable an appellate court to perform its duties satisfactorily and efficiently, and as a matter of policy in order to end litigation.



In a decision of this Court in the case of Zarate v. Director of Lands, now appearing in volume 34 of the Philippine Reports, at page 416, the dispositive part

"The judgment of the Court of Land Registration is hereby modified and it is declared that the applicant has the right to register title to all of the lands described in the application, with the exception of that portion claimed as a homestead by Apolonio Gamido, which homestead shall be excluded from registration by the applicant provided the Court of Land Registration shall find that said Apolonio Gamido has obtained a patent for said land; but if the Court of Land Registration finds that said Gamido has not yet obtained a patent therefor, then the court shall register title in favor of the applicant to all lands described in the application."cralaw virtua1aw library

On the return of the record to the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, which court after the dissolution of the Court of Land Registration had jurisdiction, an order was issued by the judge, finding that a homestead patent had been issued to Apolonio Gamido and consequently directing the exclusion of this portion of the land described in the main decision in Zarate v. Director of Lands [supra]. The applicant appeals from this order, although his contention is not well grounded, resulting principally through an erroneous conception of the original decision of this court as written in English. In other words, Gamido having complied with the express mandate of the appellate court, his homestead should remain his property. As was said by the United States Supreme Court in the case of St. Louis Smelting and Refining Co. v. Kemp ([1881], 104 U. S., 636), "The patent of the United States is the conveyance by which the nation passes the title to portions of the public domain."cralaw virtua1aw library

We are not insensible to the fact that the decision in Zarate v. Director of Lands [supra] announced the doctrine that "Under Act No. 926, a patent issued under the homestead Law has all the force and effect of a Torrens title acquired under Act No. 496; and that being the case . . . we must respect the title so secured, provided it be a fact that the patent has been secured in any of said homestead proceedings," and that this doctrine has been modified (or reversed) by the later decisions of this court. (See for instance De los Reyes v. Razon [1918], 38 Phil., 480.) Recognition of the expression "Law of the Case" saves the situation.

A well-known legal principle is that when an appellate court has once declared the law in a case, such declaration continues to be the law of that case even on a subsequent appeal. The rule made by an appellate court, while it may be reversed in other cases, cannot be departed from in subsequent proceedings in the same case. The "Law of the Case," as applied to a former decision of an appellate court, merely expresses the practice of the courts in refusing to reopen what has been decided. Such a rule is "necessary to enable an appellate court to perform its duties satisfactorily and efficiently, which would be impossible if a question, once considered and decided by it, were to be litigated anew in the same case upon any and every subsequent appeal." Again, the rule is necessary as a matter of policy in order to end litigation. "There would be no end to a suit if every obstinate litigant could, by repeated appeals, compel a court to listen to criticisms on their opinions, or speculate of chances from changes in its members." (See Great Western Tel. Co. v. Burnham [1895], 162 U. S., 339, 343; Roberts v. Cooper [1857], 20 How., 467, 481; Messinger v. Anderson [1912], 225 U. S., 436.)

The phrase "Law of the Case" is described in a decision coming from the Supreme Court of Missouri in the following graphical

"The general rule, nakedly and badly put, is that legal conclusions announced on a first appeal, whether on the general law or the law as applied to the concrete facts, not only prescribed the duty and limit the power of the trial court to strict obedience and conformity thereto, but they become and remain the law of the case in all after steps below or above on subsequent appeal. The rule is grounded on convenience, experience, and reason. Without the rule there would be no end to criticism, reagitation, reexamination, and reformulation. In short, there would be endless litigation. It would be intolerable if parties litigant were allowed to speculate on changes in the personnel of a court, or on the chance of our rewriting propositions once gravely ruled on solemn argument and handed down as the law of a given case. An itch to reopen questions foreclosed on a first appeal, would result in the foolishness of the inquisitive youth who pulled up his corn to see how it grew. Courts are allowed, if they so choose, to act like ordinary sensible persons. The administration of justice is a practical affair. The rule is a practical and a good one of frequent and beneficial use." (Mangold v. Bacon [1911], 237 Mo., 496, 512.)

Judgment is affirmed with costs against appellant. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Johnson, Carson, Street, Avancena and Moir, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

TORRES, J., with whom concurs ARAULLO, J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

It has not been proven by the petitioner that the land occupied by Apolonio Gamido was his own property, and in view of the fact that the said land is not public land, it can not be the object of a homestead application, and for this reason it follows that the judgment appealed from should be affirmed with costs.

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