My family has a land dispute with Jon, our neighbor. Jon is claiming that the land, which my family owned since 1943, is part of his ancestor’s land. The land has been classified as alienable and disposable in 1988. My great grandparents (deceased), however, failed to apply for the issuance of title covering the land. They have been paying real- property tax since 1960.
Lately, my grandparents said they would like to file a case in court for the issuance of a title over the land and they convinced several neighbors to testify regarding our claim. Jon was informed about this and he spread rumors that we are not qualified to apply for a title because our possession will be reckoned only in 1988, or when the land was classified as alienable. Is Jon correct?
Jon is not correct in his view that your family’s possession of the land will be reckoned only in 1988, or when the land was classified as alienable and disposable. Possession of land since June 12, 1945 is one requirement for the confirmation of imperfect title. Pursuant to Section 14, Chapter 3 of Presidential Decree 1529, “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.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.
(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under the existing laws.
(4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for by law.
Xxx xxx xxx.”
Your family is qualified to apply for the issuance of original title over the land because the land was already classified as alienable and disposable in 1988, and your possession under claim of ownership started in 1943. In Republic of the Philippines vs. Spouses Roasa (G.R. No. 176022, February 2, 2015), the Supreme Court through Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta ruled:
“Republic v. Naguit [409 Phil. 405] involves the similar question. In that case, this court clarified that Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree should be interpreted to include possession before the declaration of the land’s alienability as long as at the time of the application for registration, the land has already been declared part of the alienable and disposable agricultural public lands. This court also emphasized in that case the absurdity that would result in interpreting Section 14(1) as requiring that the alienability of public land should have already been established by June 12, 1945. Thus, this court said in Naguit:
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner’s position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSG’s [Office of the Solicitor General] view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not yet even considered an independent state.”
Applying this decision in your case, your family clearly satisfies the requirements that the land applied for must be alienable and disposable, and the possession can be reckoned as early as 1943.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or 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 firstname.lastname@example.org