Concept of jura regalia

Below is a discussion by Agcaoili (2006) and by the Supreme Court in five different cases regarding the concept of jura regalia or the regalian doctrine.

Generally, under the concept of jura regalia, private title to land must be traced to some grant, express or implied, from the Spanish Crown or its successors, the American Colonial government, and thereafter, the Philippine Republic. The belief that the Spanish Crown is the origin of all land titles in the Philippines has persisted because title to land must emanate from some source for it cannot issue forth from nowhere. In its broad sense, the term “jura regalia” refers to royal rights, or those rights which the King has by virtue of his prerogatives. In Spanish law, it refers to a right which the sovereign has over anything in which a subject has a right of property or propriedad. These were rights enjoyed during feudal times by the King as the sovereign.
The theory of the feudal system was that title to all lands was originally held by the King, and while the use of lands was granted out to others who were permitted to hold them under certain conditions, the King theoretically retained the title. By fiction of law, the King was regarded as the original proprietor of all lands, and the true and only source of title, and from him all lands were held. The theory of jura regalia was therefore nothing more than a natural fruit of conquest.

The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the State’s power of dominium. This was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. The “Regalian Doctrine” or jura regalia is a Western legal concept that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas.

The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of “discovery” and conquest. Consequently, all lands became the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish government took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to Spaniards, both military and civilian. Private land titles could only be acquired from the government either by purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the Crown.

The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. The law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the “Maura Law,” was partly an amendment of the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by previous orders and decrees. This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required the “adjustment” or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert to the state. Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory of the Philippine Islands.

SOURCE: Agcaoili (2006). Property Registration Decree and Related Laws (Land Titles and Deeds) By Oswaldo D. Agcaoili Formerly Associate Justice, Court of Appeals. ISBN 10: 971-23-4501-7. ISBN 13: 978-971-23-4501-2. Rex Book Store. https://www.rexestore.com/law-library-essentials/279-property-registration-decree-and-related-laws.html

CASE #1: The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power of dominium. This was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regalia is a Western legal concept that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas. The Laws of the Indies, i.e., more specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Novisima Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, set the policy of the Spanish Crown with respect to the Philippine Islands in the following manner:

"We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish.

We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts designate at such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period within which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them and to the court officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts, or by virtue of just prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will."

The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of "discovery" and conquest. Consequently, all lands became the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish Government took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to Spaniards, both military and civilian. Private land titles could only be acquired from the government either by purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the Crown.

The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. The law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the "Maura Law," was partly an amendment of the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by previous orders and decrees. This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required the "adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert to the state.

Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory of the Philippine Islands. In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the Philippine Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act. (G.R. No. 135385)

CASE #2: Land, which is an immovable property, may be classified as either of public dominion or of private ownership. Land is considered of public dominion if it either: (a) is intended for public use; or (b) belongs to the State, without being for public use, and is intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth. Land belonging to the State that is not of such character, or although of such character but no longer intended for public use or for public service forms part of the patrimonial property of the State. Land that is other than part of the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities is of private ownership if it belongs to a private individual.

Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the country from the West by Spain through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, all lands of the public domain belong to the State. This means that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the conservation of such patrimony.

All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Also, public lands remain part of the inalienable land of the public domain unless the State is shown to have reclassified or alienated them to private persons. (G.R. No. 179987)

CASE #3: Under the Regalian doctrine or jura regalia, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. Under this doctrine, lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. In instances where a parcel of land considered to be inalienable land of the public domain is found under private ownership, the Government is allowed by law to file an action for reversion, which is an action where the ultimate relief sought is to revert the land to the government under the Regalian doctrine. Considering that the land subject of the action originated from a grant by the government, its cancellation is a matter between the grantor and the grantee.

It has been held that a complaint for reversion involves a serious controversy, involving a question of fraud and misrepresentation committed against the government and it is aimed at the return of the disputed portion of the public domain. It seeks to cancel the original certificate of registration, and nullify the original certificate of title, including the transfer certificate of title of the successors-in-interest because the same were all procured through fraud and misrepresentation. Thus, the State, as the party alleging the fraud and misrepresentation that attended the application of the free patent, bears that burden of proof. Fraud and misrepresentation, as grounds for cancellation of patent and annulment of title, should never be presumed but must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, mere preponderance of evidence not even being adequate. (G.R. No. 152570)

CASE #4: We start our analysis by applying the principle of Jura Regalia or the Regalian Doctrine. Jura Regalia simply means that the State is the original proprietor of all lands and, as such, is the general source of all private titles. Thus, pursuant to this principle, all claims of private title to land, save those acquired from native title, must be traced from some grant, whether express or implied, from the State. Absent a clear showing that land had been let into private ownership through the State’s imprimatur, such land is presumed to belong to the State.

Being an unregistered land, Lot 3 is therefore presumed as land belonging to the State. It is basic that those who seek the entry of such land into the Torrens system of registration must first establish that it has acquired valid title thereto as against the State, in accordance with law. (G.R. No. 180027)

CASE #5: The adoption of the concept of jura regalia that all natural resources are owned by the State embodied in the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, as well as the recognition of the importance of the country's natural resources, not only for national economic development, but also for its security and national defense, ushered in the adoption of the constitutional policy of "full control and supervision by the State" in the exploration, development and utilization of the country's natural resources. The options open to the State are through direct undertaking or by entering into co-production, joint venture; or production-sharing agreements, or by entering into agreement with foreign-owned corporations for large-scale exploration, development and utilization.

Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides:

Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or product-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant. (G.R. No. 98332)

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