CASE DIGEST: Spouses Fortuna vs. Republic

G.R. No. 173423, March 05, 2014 | SPS. ANTONIO FORTUNA AND ERLINDA FORTUNA,Petitioners,v.REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,Respondents. BRION, J.:

FACTS: In December 1994, spouses Fortuna filed an application for registration of a parcel of land located in San Fernando, La Union. They claimed that the land was originally owned by Pastora Vendiola, upon whose death was succeeded by her heirs who later on sold the subject land to Sps. Fortuna in 1984. Sps. Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their predecessors -in-interest, have beenin quiet, peaceful, adverse and uninterrupted possession of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and submitted as evidence the lots survey plan, technical description, and certificate of assessment. Republic of the Philippines opposed the application.The trial court granted the application for registration. The Republic appealed to the CA arguing that there is no official proclamation from the government that the land has been classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land. The CA reversed the RTC decision for failure to comply with the length of possession that the law requires.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Sps. Fortuna has complied with the requisites for acquisition of title to alienable lands of public domain?

HELD: No. CA decision affirmed. There must be a positive act from the government reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain.

Jurisprudence has required that an applicant for registration of title acquired through a public land grant must present incontrovertible evidence that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable by establishing the existence of apositive act of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.

Petitioners rely on the notation in the survey plan stating the land is alienable and disposable. They likewise argue that the certification from the DENR that there is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor title previously issued for the subject parcel. However, neither of these documents is evidence is a positive act from the government reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain.

Mere notations appearing in survey plans are inadequate proof of the covered properties alienable and disposable character. These notations, at the very least, only establish that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved alienable and disposable area per verification through survey by the proper government office.The applicant, however, must also present a copy of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable land, as declared by the DENR Secretary or as proclaimed by the President. The survey plan and the DENR-CENRO certification are not proof that the President or the DENR Secretary has reclassified and released the public land as alienable and disposable. The offices that prepared these documents arenot the official repositories or legal custodian of the issuances of the President or the DENR Secretary declaring the public land as alienable and disposable.

Civil Law: in judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title, the period of possession should commence, at the latest, as of May 9, 1947

PD 1073 was enacted on January 25, 1977 but it was published months later than its enactment. Following the ruling of the court in Tanada v. Tuvera, PD 1073 took effect 15 days after its publication, the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title is May 8, 1947. In other words,applicants must prove that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least 30 years, or at least since May 8, 1947.

In the present case, the spouses were unable to prove that they possessed the lot since May 8, 1947. So even if the lot in question is to be considered as alienable and disposable, the application for registration will still not prosper for failing to sufficiently prove possession since May 8, 1947.

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