Land title registration under Sec. 14(2) of P.D. 1529

In Republic v. RRDC (G.R. No. 190817. Jan. 10, 2018), RRDC failed to establish compliance with the requirements for registration under Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529.

In Heirs of Mario Malabanan vs. Republic (Malabanan; 605 Phil. 244, 274. 2009), the Supreme Court explained that when Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529 provides that persons "who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws," it unmistakably refers to the Civil Code as a valid basis for the registration of lands. The Civil Code is the only existing law that specifically allows the acquisition by prescription of private lands, including patrimonial property belonging to the State.

The Civil Code makes it clear that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by private persons through prescription. This is brought about by Article 1113, which states that all things which are within the commerce of man are susceptible to prescription, and that property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

Nonetheless, this does not necessarily mean that, when a piece of land is declared alienable and disposable part of the public domain, it can already be acquired by prescription. In Malabanan, the High Court ruled that declaration of alienability and disposability is not enough - there must be an express declaration that the public dominion property is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial, thus:
"(2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider that under the Civil Code, prescription is recognized as a mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial property. However, public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only with a declaration that these are alienable or disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth, under Article 422 of the Civil Code. And only when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run."
The classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion under Article 420(2) of the Civil Code. As such, said land, although classified as alienable and disposable, is insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.In Republic v. RRDC (G.R. No. 190817. Jan. 10, 2018), RRDC did not present any evidence which would show that the subject land was expressly declared as no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth, or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Hence, it failed to prove that acquisitive prescription has begun to run against the State, and that it has acquired title to the subject land by virtue thereof.

In fine, RRDC failed to satisfy all the requisites for registration of title to land under either Sections 14(1) or (2) of P.D. No. 1529. RRDC also failed to establish that when it or P.N. Roa Enterprises, Inc., also a corporation and its direct predecessor-in-interest, acquired the subject land, it had already been converted to private property, thus, the prohibition on the corporation's acquisition of agricultural lands of the public domain under Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution applies. RRDC's application for original registration of imperfect title over Lot No. 3009 must perforce be denied.

ALSO READ: Republic v. Estate of Virginia Santos, G.R. No. 218345, 07 December 2016.

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