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Regalian Doctrine

A friend sought advice regarding the property he planned register in the court. He inquired about a certification coming from CENRO about land that is alienable and disposable. He further inquired about the concept of REGALIAN DOCTRINE as applied in titling of properties.

To accommodate him let me discuss a case of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 195097 August 13, 2012, REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. MARLON MEDIDA, Respondent.

On October 22, 2004, Marlon Medida filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Argao, Cebu a petition for registration of title over two parcels of land situated in Poblacion, Boljoon, Cebu, identified as Lot Nos. 817 and 597 of Boljoon Cad. 1049-D and measuring 5,972 and 533 square meters, respectively. The petition was docketed as LRA Case No. AL-31 and raffled to Branch 26 of the RTC, Argao, Cebu.

The initial hearing on the petition was conducted on September 22, 2005, with the attendance of the public prosecutor. The RTC delegated the reception of evidence to its Clerk of Court. Before the court, Medida testified that he purchased the subject properties in February 1997 from one Eufemia Romero, who had previously obtained the lots from Nabor Derama. At the time of the lots’ purchase by Medida, the properties were covered by Tax Declaration No. 08774 under the name of Romero. Medida started occupying the properties in 1997 and had since then declared the properties for tax purposes under his name.2

Asunction Derama Binagatan, daughter of Derama, testified that her father had inherited the subject properties from his uncle, one Florencio Villareal, who possessed the lots even prior to the Second World War. She presented the old Tax Declaration No. 08590 under the name of her father and covering the subject properties. 3

Engr. Rafaella Belleza, the Chief of the Technical Services of the Land Management Services – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Region VII, testified that the lots’ survey conducted by Geodetic Engineer Jose V. Dumaguing (Engr. Dumaguing) was approved by their office. Per the Advance Survey Plans for Lot Nos. 8174 and 5975 identified by Engr. Belleza, the subject properties had already been declared alienable and disposable portions of the public domain.

On June 21, 2006, the trial court ruled in favor of Medida granting title to him. Unsatisfied with the decision of the RTC, petitioner Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed an appeal before the CA based on a lone assignment of error to wit:

The trial court supposedly erred in granting appellee’s petition for registration because the subject lands were not occupied and possessed for the period required by law.

On December 16, 2010, the CA rendered the assailed Decision dismissing the appeal. It ruled that the doctrine invoked by the OSG had been abandoned by recent jurisprudence.

However, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, to wit: “Under the Regalian Doctrine, which is embodied in our Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land, or alienated to a private person by the State, remain part of the inalienable public domain. The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration, who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be presented to establish that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.”

Clearly, the certification alone that the property is alienable, and disposable would not be sufficient. Hence for any applicant one should prove evidence that the has been in position for more than 30 years for him to successfully have a property registered. Write us at carillogerry@yahoo.com.ph