- versus - CARPIO,
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS,
MEDINA, ALBERTO MEDINA, January 28, 2008
The present petition originally stemmed from a Complaint filed by private respondents against petitioner, seeking the cancellation of titles over the parcels of land involved. Subject of the complaint are three (3) parcels of land with areas of approximately 10,064; 48,000; and 5,784 sq m, all situated in Bangkal, Carmona, Cavite and covered respectively by Original Certificates of Title (OCT Nos.) No. P-5518, No. P-5519, and No. P-5482.
Respondents are the heirs of the late
Melanio Medina, Sr. who during his lifetime inherited the properties from his
mother, Rosa Martinez Emitao, who in turn inherited them from her own mother,
Celedonia Martinez (Celedonia). The complaint alleged that sometime in 1992,
petitioner, whose real name as appearing in her birth certificate is Gregoria
Merquines, represented herself as Gregoria Martinez and as thus one of the
descendants of Celedonia, and under that name applied for free patents over the
properties with the Community Environmental and Natural Resources Office of Bacoor,
The complaint was heard by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Imus,
After weighing the evidence of both
sides, the trial court rendered a Decision
ordering the cancellation of petitioners titles. It found that the true
surname of petitioner Gregoria is Merquines and not
The trial court further endeavored to
trace the lineage of petitioner. The baptismal certificate of her father, Pablo
Merquines, showed that he was born on
The trial court observed that notwithstanding the misrepresentations of petitioner in her free patent applications, private respondents were not necessarily entitled to the automatic reconveyance of the subject lots. It simply disposed of the case in this wise:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the cancellation of OCT Nos. P-5518, P-5519 and P-5482 issued in the name of defendant.
Only petitioner interposed an appeal from the trial courts decision to the Court of Appeals.
Before the Court of Appeals, petitioner challenged the findings of fact of the trial court concerning the fraud and misrepresentations which she committed. The appellate court made short shrift of the challenge as follows:
the evidence extant on record, it is at once apparent that appellant committed
fraud and misrepresentation in her application for free patent which later
became the basis for the issuance of the certificates of title in her name. More than the issue of the use of the surname
The documentary evidence adduced by appellles, however, particularly her fathers baptismal certificate plainly shows that he is the son of spouses Faustino Merquines and Juana Sarmiento. Her mother Bartola Cadona was also shown in her baptismal certificate to be the child of spouses Gaspar Cardona and Antonia Realon. These documents indubitably show that neither of appellants parents is the child of Celodonia Martinez and she is not in [anyway] related by blood to the latter. Thus, not only was her application for patents tainted with fraud, she also committed perjury in this case when she lied bold-faced about her lineage which was disproved by the documentary evidence relative to her ancestors.
Petitioner also assigned two other errors which, however, were neither raised in her answer as defenses nor otherwise litigated during the trial. She argued in the main that the trial court erred in adjudicating the case although an indispensable party in the person of the State through the director of lands was not impleaded, and that the titles secured were already indefeasible in view of the lapse of one year from the issuance of the titles.
Sustaining the jurisdiction of the lower court, the Court of Appeals remarked that the jurisdiction of the court is determined by the allegations in the complaint. In their complaint, private respondents asserted private ownership over the subject lands as they had been in possession of and had been cultivating the same for more than 60 years.
The appellate court also noted that the issues were not raised in the petitioners answer and in the subsequent proceedings.
Concerning the alleged indefeasibility of the titles issued to petitioner, the Court of Appeals ruled that the argument is untenable since petitioner employed fraud in the proceedings which led to the issuance of the free patents and the titles.
Before this Court, petitioner reiterates the same two issues previously raised for the first time before the appellate court.
We sustain the Court of Appeals.
It is a well-settled principle that points of law, theories, issues and arguments not adequately brought to the attention of the trial court need not be, and ordinarily will not be, considered by a reviewing court as they cannot be raised for the first time on appeal because this would be offensive to the basic rules of fair play, justice and due process. On this point alone, the petition could be denied outright. Nonetheless, like the Court of Appeals, we deign to decide the case on the merits.
Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only by homestead patent, sale, lease, judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and administrative legalization or free patent. One claiming private rights as basis of ownership must prove compliance with the Public Land Act which prescribes the substantive
as well as the procedural requirements for acquisition of public lands. Each mode of disposition is appropriately covered by a separate chapter of the Public Land Act. There are specific requirements and application procedures for every mode.
The confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles to alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain may be done in two ways: judicial legalization or judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles under Chapter VIII, and administrative legalization or free patent under Chapter VII of the Public Land Act.
Any citizen of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply with the RTC of the province where the land is located for confirmation of his/her claim and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor under the Property Registration Decree. Such applicants must by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation
of alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain,
under a bona fide claim of
acquisition or ownership, since
When the conditions specified in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceased to be
of the public domain, and beyond the authority of the director of lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. For all legal intents and purposes, the land is segregated from the public domain, because the beneficiary is
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
Section 44, Chapter VII of the Public Land Act provides that the applicant for administrative confirmation of imperfect title must be a natural born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more than 12 hectares and who, for at least 30 years prior to the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6940 amending the Public Land Act, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public land subject to disposition, who shall have paid the real estate tax thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person shall be entitled to a free patent over such land/s not to exceed 12 hectares.
Turning again to the first issue raised by petitioner, it is apparent that her insistence that the State through the director of lands is an indispensable party flows from her failure to recognize that private respondents action is one for declaration of nullity of title which is different from an action for reversion of title to the State. In the latter case the director of lands needs to be impleaded, unlike in the first. Thus, we reiterated in Evangelista v. Santiago:
An ordinary civil action for declaration of nullity of free patents and certificates of title is not the same as an action for reversion. The difference between them lies in the allegations as to the character of ownership of the realty whose title is sought to be nullified. In an action for reversion, the pertinent allegations in the complaint would admit State ownership of the disputed
land. Hence, in Gabila v. Barriga [41 SCRA 131], where the plaintiff in his complaint admits that he has no right to demand the cancellation or amendment of the defendants title because even if the title were canceled or amended the ownership of the land embraced therein or of the portion affected by the amendment would revert to the public domain, we ruled that the action was for reversion and that the only person or entity entitled to relief would be the Director of Lands.
On the other hand, a cause of action for declaration of nullity of free patent and certificate of title would require allegations of the plaintiffs ownership of the contested lot prior to the issuance of such free patent and certificate of title as well as the defendants fraud or mistake, as the case may be, in successfully obtaining these documents of title over the parcel of land claimed by plaintiff. In such a case, the nullity arises strictly not from the fraud or deceit but from the fact that the land is beyond the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Lands to bestow and whatever patent or certificate of title obtained therefore is consequently void ab initio. The real party-in-interest is not the State but the plaintiff who alleges a pre-existing right of ownership over the parcel of land in question even before the grant of title to the defendant.
In an earlier case, in reversing the dismissal of the complaint by the trial court, this Court stressed that the allegations of the complaint present an action for nullification of free patent and title, not an action for reversion of title which has to be instituted by the Solicitor General.
It is true that the trial court opined that the next step following the cancellation of petitioners titles is an action for the reversion of the disputed lands back to the public domain. Said observation, found in the body only and not in the dispositive portion of the decision, does not detract from, but in fact even bolsters, the real nature of the complaint as an action for nullification of title.
Now, the second issue. Petitioner claims that her titles are already indefeasible and incontrovertible following the lapse of one year following their issuance.
In Apuyan v. Haldeman, also cited by petitioner, it was held that a certificate of title issued on the basis of a free patent procured through fraud or in violation of the law may be cancelled, as such title is not cloaked with indefeasibility.
It was likewise held in Meneses v. Court of Appeals that the principle of indefeasibility of title is unavailing where fraud attended the issuance of the free patents and titles.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV. No. 70458 is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
DANTE O. TINGA Associate Justice
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
ANTONIO T. CARPIO CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice Associate Justice
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Chairperson, Second Division
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
Penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga concurred by Associate Justices Ruben T. Reyes (now Supreme Court Justice) and Fernanda Lampas Peralta.
v. NLRC, et. al., 328 Phil. 814, 823 (1996), citing Tay Chun Suy v.
Court of Appeals, 229 SCRA 151 (1994);
For example, Chapter IV of the Public Land Act governs
the disposition of alienable public lands through homestead.
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Regional Trial Court of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Property Registration Decree, to wit:
x x x x
(b) 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 acquisition or ownership, since 12 June 1945, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (As amended by P.D. No. 1073).