Is possession required to become registered owner?

Dear PAO,

My father bought a certain land from Pablo, which is covered by a tax declaration issued in 1948. Pablo claimed ownership over the land since 1944. My father had already filed a petition before the appropriate court for the registration of the land, but John opposed it because he or his family allegedly owned the land. John further claimed that his family had been in actual possession of the land since time immemorial. Is the tax declaration issued to Pablo in 1948 enough to contradict the alleged possession of John’s family involving the land?

Berlin

Read more: Possession as requirement for land registration. Persida Acosta. October 25, 2019. https://www.manilatimes.net/2019/10/25/legal-advice/dearpao/possession-as-requirement-for-land-registration/650640.

Dear Berlin,

The applicable provision of law to your situation is found under Section 14 (1), Chapter III of Presidential Decree (PD) 1529 or the “Property Registration Decree.” The said law provides that:

“The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

“(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. xxx”

Thus, it is necessary for the applicant for land registration to prove that he has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain since June 12, 1945. The requirement of possession of occupation of the land has been expounded by the court in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs Rovency Realty and Development Corp. (GR 190817, Jan. 10, 2018), where the Supreme Court, through Associate Justice and incumbent Ombudsman Samuel Martires, stated that: (Read more: Possession as requirement for land registration. Persida Acosta. October 25, 2019. https://www.manilatimes.net/2019/10/25/legal-advice/dearpao/possession-as-requirement-for-land-registration/650640.)

“An applicant for land registration must exhibit that it and its predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier. It has been held that possession is open when it is patent, visible, apparent, notorious, and not clandestine; it is continuous when uninterrupted, unbroken, and not intermittent or occasional; it is exclusive when the adverse possessor can show exclusive dominion over the land and an appropriation of it to his own use and benefit; and notorious when it is so conspicuous, that it is generally known and talked of by the public or the people in the neighborhood.

“In Republic vs Remman Enterprises Inc., the Court held that for purposes of land registration under Section 14(1) of PD 1529, proof of specific acts of ownership must be presented to substantiate the claim of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land subject of the application. Applicants for land registration cannot just offer general statements, which are mere conclusions of law rather than factual evidence of possession. Actual possession is in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such nature as a party would actually exercise over his own property.”

Applying the abovementioned decision in your situation, the tax declaration issued to Pablo in 1948 may fall short of the requirement of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation as provided by Section 14 (1) of PD 1529. The said tax declaration was only issued in 1948; hence, it cannot support the requirement that the applicant has possessed the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Your father must present proof of specific acts of ownership to substantiate his claim of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land.

The actual possession of John’s family over the land, assuming this is true, would negate your father or his predecessor-in-interest’s claim of exclusive dominion over the land.

This opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, the opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net. Read more: Possession as requirement for land registration. Persida Acosta. October 25, 2019. https://www.manilatimes.net/2019/10/25/legal-advice/dearpao/possession-as-requirement-for-land-registration/650640.

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