[G.R. No. 104296.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF IRENE BULLUNGAN, represented by her husband DOMINGO PAGGAO and THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF ISABELA, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch XIX, Cauayan, Isabela declaring Free Patent No. V-79740 and Original Certificate of Title No. P-88 17 in the name of Irene Bullungan null and void so far as the portion of Lot No. 1, Psu- 150801 involved in this case is concerned.
The facts of this case are as follows:
Upon certification of Assistant Public Land Inspector Jose M.
Telmo at Ilagan, Isabela that Irene Bullungan had been in actual, continuous,
open, notorious, exclusive and adverse possession of the land since 1925, the
Director of Lands approved Bullungans application on
Alleging that a portion of Lot No. 1, Psu-150801 covered by the
free patent issued to Irene Bullungan overlapped the lot between Lot No. 763
and Lot No. 764, which he was occupying, Vicente Carrabacan filed a protest on
Vicente Carabbacan also brought an action for the reconveyance of
the portion of Lot No. 1, Psu-150801 and the cancellation of free patent
against Irene Bullungan on
The heirs of Irene Bullungan in turn sought to recover possession
of the land in an action which they brought in the Court of First Instance of
As already stated, the Director of Lands ordered on
Based on these findings, the Chief of the Legal Division of the
Bureau of Lands recommended on
On appeal, however, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts ruling on the ground that, after the lapse of one year from the date of issuance of the patent, the State could no longer bring an action for reversion. The appellate court held that the certificate of title issued in the name of Irene Bullungan became incontrovertible and indefeasible upon the lapse of one year from the issuance of the free patent.
The Republic controverts the ruling of the Court of Appeals. It contends that the doctrine of indefeasibility of Torrens Titles does not bar the filing of an action for cancellation of title and reversion of land even if more than one year has elapsed from the issuance of the free patent in case of fraud in obtaining patents.
We agree with petitioner. To begin with, there is no question that Free Patent No. 79740 and Original Certificate of Title P-8817 were obtained through fraud. The trial court found that Irene Bullungan falsely stated in her application for a free patent that Lot No. 1, Psu-150801 was not claimed or occupied by any other person. The trial court found that a portion of the lot in question had been in the possession and cultivation of Vicente Carabbacan since December 1947. Indeed private respondents admit that before Irene Bullungan filed her application for a free patent, she had filed a complaint for forcible entry against Vicente Carrabacan. The complaint, which was filed in the Justice of the Peace Court of Angadanan, Isabela, was dismissed precisely because the court found that Carabbacan had been in possession of the land long before it was sold to Irene Bullungan by Leonida Tarayao.
The Court of Appeals did not disturb the trial courts finding in this case that Irene Bullungan committed fraud and misrepresentation. Its decision rests solely on the ground that after the lapse of one year from the date of issuance of a free patent an action for the cancellation of patent and title on ground of fraud and misrepresentation can no longer be maintained.
We think that this is error. It is settled that once a patent is registered under Act No. 496 (now P.D. No. 1529) and the corresponding certificate of title is issued, the land ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private property over which the Director of Lands will no longer have either control or jurisdiction. The Torrens Title issued on the basis of a free patent or homestead patent becomes as indefeasible as one which was judicially secured upon the expiration of one year from date of issuance of patent as provided in P.D. No. 1529, 32 (formerly Act No. 496, 38). However, as held in Director of Lands v. De Luna, even after the lapse of one year, the State may still bring an action under 101 of the Public Land Act for the reversion to the public domain of lands which have been fraudulently granted to private individuals. This has been the consistent ruling of this Court.
The failure of Irene Bullungan to disclose that Vicente Carrabacan was in possession of the portion of land in dispute constitutes fraud and misrepresentation and is a ground for annulling her title. Thus 91 of the Public Land Act provides:
91. The statements made in the application shall be considered as essential conditions and parts of any concession, title, or permit issued on the basis of such application, and any false statement therein or omission of facts altering, changing, or modifying the consideration of the facts set forth in such statements, and any subsequent modification, alteration, or change of the material facts set forth in the application shall ipso facto produce the cancellation of the concession, title, or permit granted. It shall be the duty of the Director of Lands, from time to time and whenever he may deem it advisable, to make the necessary investigations for the purpose of ascertaining whether the material facts set out in the application are true, or whether they continue to exist and are maintained and preserved in good faith, and for the purpose of such investigation, the Director of Lands is hereby empowered to issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum and, if necessary, to obtain compulsory process from the courts. In every investigation made in accordance with this section, the existence of bad faith, fraud, concealment, or fraudulent and illegal modification of essential facts shall be presumed if the grantee or possessor of the land shall refuse or fail to obey a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum lawfully issued by the Director of Lands or his authorized delegates or agents, or shall refuse or fail. to give direct and specific answers to pertinent questions, and on the basis of such presumption, an order of cancellation may issue out further proceedings.
The appellate court said in its decision:
We are not, of course, unaware of cases where the patent and the
certificate of title issued pursuant thereto were declared null and void
notwithstanding the expiration of the aforementioned period of one (1) year
simply because of false statement of material and essential facts made in the
application therefor. Be it noted,
however, that in these cases the lots patented or granted were no longer part of
the public domain but private ones segregated from the mass thereof. Consequently, no right whatsoever was awarded
in said cases for it is already settled that a free patent which purports to
convey land to which the government did not have any title at the time of its
issuance does not vest any title in the patentee as against the true owner
(Suva v. Ventura, 40 O.G. 8, 4th sup.
August 23, 1941; Vital v. Anore, 90
Phil. 855; Director of Lands v. Abanilla,
G.R. No. L-26324,
This is not so. Where public land is acquired by an applicant through fraud and misrepresentation, as in the case at bar, the State may institute reversion proceedings even after the lapse of the one-year period.
Nor is there merit in the claim of private respondents that the action taken by the Republic in this case is not in keeping with the policy of State to foster families as the factors of society, to give them a sense. of protection and permanency in their homes. Public policy demands that one who obtains title to a public land through fraud should not be allowed to benefit therefrom. Vicente Carabbacan had been in possession of the land even. before Irene Bullungan bought the possessory rights to the land. It was therefore a misrepresentation for her to state in her application for a free patent that she had been in possession of the lot in question when the fact is that Carabbacan had been there ahead of her.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is REVERSED and the
Regalado (Chairman), Romero, and Puno, JJ., concur.
Torres, Jr., J., on leave.
 Penned by Associate Justice Antonio M. Martinez, Chairman, and concurred in by Associate Justices Asaali Isnani and Regina G. Ordoez-Benitez.
 Presided over by Judge Artemio R. Alivia.
 Complaint, Record, p. 4.
 Regional Trial Court Decision, Record, p. 139.
 Record, p. 138.
 Exh. HH, Record, p. 70.
 Director of Lands v. De Luna, 110 Phil. 28 (1960).
 This provision reads:
101. All actions for reversion to the Government of lands of
the public domain or improvements thereon shall be instituted by the Solicitor
General or the officer acting in his stead, in the proper courts, in the name
of the Republic of the
 E.g., Republic v. Animas, 56 SCRA 499(1974); Piero v. Director of Lands, 57 SCRA 386 (1974); Director of Lands v. Abanilla, 124 SCRA 358 (1983); Republic v. Mina, 114 SCRA 945 (1982): Republic v. Court of Appeals, 183 SCRA 620 (1990).
 Republic v. Mina, 114 SCRA 945 (1982), citing Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 17 SCRA 71(1966).
 Rollo, p.31.
 Rollo, p. 79.