G.R. No. 1413. March 30, 1904

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3 Phil. 537

[ G.R. No. 1413. March 30, 1904 ]




I. The findings of fact made by the court below in its decision are as follows:

“First. That in the year I860, the plaintiffs, and
each one of them, entered into the peaceful and quiet occupation and
possession of the larger part of the lands described in the complaint
of the plaintiffs, to wit [description] :

“Second. That on
the date on which the plaintiffs entered into the occupation and
possession of the said lands, as above set forth, these lands and every
part thereof were public, untilled, and unoccupied, and belonged to the
then existing Government of the Philippine Islands. That immediately
after the occupation and possession of the said lands by the
plaintiffs, the plaintiffs began to cultivate and improve them in a
quiet and peaceful manner.

“Third. That from the said year
1860, the plaintiffs continued to occupy and possess the said lands,
quietly and peacefully, until the year 1892, by themselves, by their
agents and tenants, claiming that they were the exclusive owners of
said lands.

That on or about the 16th day of January, 1892, Manuel Murciano,
defendant in this proceeding, acting on behalf of and as attorney in
fact of Candido Capulong, by occupation a cook, denounced the said
lands to the then existing Government of the Philippine Islands,
declaring that the said lands and every part thereof were public,
untilled, and unoccupied lands belonging to the then existing
Government of the Philippine Islands, and petitioned for the sale of
the same to him.

“Fifth. That before the execution of the
sale heretofore mentioned, various proceedings were had for the survey
and measurement of the lands in question at the instance of the
defendant, Murciano, the latter acting as agent and attorney in fact of
said Candido Capulong, a written protest, however, having been entered
against these proceedings by the plaintiff Andres Valenton.

That on the 14th day of July, 1892, Don Enrique Castellvi e Ibarrola,
secretary of the treasury of the Province of Tarlac, in his official
capacity as such secretary, executed a contract of purchase and sale,
by which said lands were sold and conveyed by him to the
defendant, Manuel Murciano, as attorney for the said Candido Capulong.

That on the 19th day of July, 1892, said Candido Capulong executed a
contract of purchase and sale, by which he sold and conveyed the said
lands to the defendant, Manuel Murciano.

“Eighth. That from
the said 14th day of July, 1892, Manuel Murciano has at no time
occupied or possessed all of the land mentioned, but has possessed only
certain in distinct and indefinite portions of the same. That during
all this time the plaintiffs have opposed the occupation of the
defendant, and said plaintiffs during all the time in question have
been and are in the possession and occupation of part of the said
lands, tilling them and improving them by themselves and by their
agents and tenants.

That never, prior to the said 14th day of July, 1892, has the
defendant, Manuel Murciano, been in the peaceful and quiet possession
and occupation of the said lands, or in the peaceful and quiet
occupation of any part thereof.”

Upon these facts the Court of First Instance ordered judgment for
the defendant on the ground that the plaintiffs had lost all right to
the land by not pursuing their objections to the sale mentioned in the
sixth finding. The plaintiffs excepted to the judgment and claim in
this court that upon the facts found by the court below judgment should
have been entered in their favor. Their contention is that in 1890 they
had been in the adverse possession of the property for thirty years;
that, applying the extra-ordinary period of prescription of thirty
years, found as well in the Partidas as in the Civil Code, they then
became the absolute owners of the land as against everyone, including
the State, and that when the State in 1892 deeded the property to the
defendant, nothing passed by the deed because the State had nothing to

The case presents, therefore, the important question whether or not
during the years from 1860 to 1890 a private person, situated as the
plaintiffs were, could have obtained as against the State the ownership
of the public lands of the State by means of occupation. The court
finds that at the time of the entry by the plaintiff in 1860 the lands
were vacant and were public lands belonging to the then existing
Government, The plaintiffs do not claim to have ever obtained from the
Government any deed for
the lands, nor any confirmation of their possession.

Whether in the absence of any special legislation on the subject a
general statute of limitations in which the State was not expressly
excepted would run against the State as to its public lands we do not
find it necessary to decide. Reasons based upon public policy could be
adduced why it should not, at least as to such public lands as are
involved in this case. (See Act No. 926, sec. 67.) We are, however, of
the opinion that the case at bar must be decided, not by the general
statute of limitation contained in the Partidas, but by those special
laws which from the earliest “times have regulated the disposition of
the public lands in the colonies.

Did these special laws recognize any right of prescription against
the State as to these lands; and if so, to what extent was it
recognized? Laws of a very early date provided for the assignment of
public lands to the subjects of the Crown. Law 1, title 12, book 4 of
the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias is an example of them, and is as follows:

“In order that our subjects may be encouraged to
undertake the discovery and settlement of the Indies, and that they may
live with the comfort and convenience which we desire, it is our will
that there shall be distributed to all those who shall go out to people
the new territories, houses, lots, lands, peonias, and caballerias
in the towns and places which may be assigned to them by the governor
of the new settlement, who, in apportioning the lands, will distinguish
between gentlemen and peasants, and those of lower degree and merit,
and who will add to the possessions and better the condition of the
grantees, according to the nature of the services rendered by them, and
with a view to the promotion of agriculture and stock raising. To those
who shall have labored and established a home on said lands and who
shall have resided in the said settlement for a period of four years we
grant the right thereafter to sell and in every other manner to
exercise their free will over said lands as over their own property.
And we further command that, in accordance with their rank and degree,
the governor, or whoever may be invested with our authority, shall
allot the Indians to them in any distribution made, so that they may
profit by their labor and fines in accordance with the tributes
required and the law controlling such matters.

“And in order that, in allotting said lands, there may be no doubt as to the area of each grant we declare that a peonia
shall consist of a tract fifty feet in breadth by one hundred in
length, with arable land capable of producing one hundred bushels of
wheat or barley, ten bushels of maize, as much land for an orchard as
two yokes of oxen may plough in a day, and for the planting of other
trees of a hardy nature as much as may be plowed with eight yokes in a
day, and including pasture for twenty cows, five mares, one hundred
sheep, twenty goats, and ten breeding pigs. A caballeria shall be a tract one hundred feet in breadth and two hundred in length, and in other respects shall equal five peonias—that
is, it will include arable land capable of producing five hundred
bushels of wheat or barley and fifty bushels of maize, as much land for
an orchard as may be ploughed with ten yokes of oxen in a day, and for
the planting of other hardy trees as much as forty yokes may plough in
a day, together with pasturage for one hundred cows, twenty mares, five
hundred sheep, one hundred goats, and fifty breeding pigs. And we order
that the distribution be made in such a manner that all may receive
equal benefit therefrom, and if this be impracticable, then that each
shall be given his due.”

But it was necessary, however, that action should in all cases be
taken by the public officials before any interest was acquired by the

Law 8 of said title 12 is as follows:

“We command that if a petition shall be presented
asking the grant of a lot or tract of land in a city or town in which
one of our courts may be located, the presentation shall be made to the
municipal council. If the latter shall approve the petition, two deputy
magistrates will be appointed, who will acquaint the viceroy or
municipal president with the council’s judgment in the matter. After
consideration thereof by the viceroy or president and the deputy
magistrates, all will sign the grant, in the presence of the clerk of
the council, in order that the matter may be duly recorded in the
council book. If the petition shall be for the grant of waters and
lands for mechanical purposes, it shall be presented to the viceroy or
municipal president, who will transmit it to the council. If the latter
shall vote to make the grant, one of the magistrates will carry its
decision to the viceroy or president, to the end that, upon
consideration of the matter by him, the proper action may be taken.”

It happened, in the course of time, that tracts of the public land
were found in the possession of persons who either had no title papers
therefor issued by the State, or whose title papers were defective,
either because the proper procedure had not been followed or because
they had been issued by persons who had no authority to do so. Law 14,
title 12, book 4 of said compilation (referred to in the regulations of
June 25, 1880, for the Philippines) was the first of a long series of
legislative acts intended to compel those in possession of the public
lands, without written evidence of title, or with defective title
papers, to present evidence as to their possession or grants, and
obtain the confirmation of their claim to ownership. That law is as

“We having acquired full sovereignty over the
Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore
ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still
pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all
lands which are held without proper and true deeds of grant be restored
to us according as they belong to us, in order that after reserving
before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may
seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those
places which are peopled, taking into consideration not only their
present condition, but also their future and their probable increase,
and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage
and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them
more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain free and
unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish.

therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of
pretorial courts designate, at such time as shall to them seem most
expedient, a suitable period within which all possessors of tracts,
farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them, and to the court
officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto.
And those who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts,
or by virtue of just prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the
rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will.”

While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to a
deed if he proves a possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it
has always insisted that he must make that proof before the proper
administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed, and until he
did that the State remained the absolute owner.

In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct
statement that all those lands belong to the Crown which have not been
granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who preceded him.
This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands not so
granted, that did not belong to the king. It excludes the idea that the
king was not still the owner of all ungranted lands, because some
private person had been in the adverse occupation of them. By the
mandatory part of the law all the occupants of the public lands are
required to produce before the authorities named, and within a time to
be fixed by them, their title papers. And those who had good title or
showed prescription were to be protected in their holdings. It is
apparent that it was not the intention of the law that mere possession
for a length of time should make the possessors the owners of the lands
possessed by them without any action on the part of the authorities. It
is plain that they were required to present their claims to the
authorities and obtain a confirmation thereof. What the period of
prescription mentioned in this law was does not appear, but later, in
1646, law 19 of the same title declared “that no one shall be ‘admitted
to adjustment’ unless he has possessed the lands for ten years,”

In law 15, title 12, book 4 of the same compilation, there is a
command that those lands as to which there has been no adjustment with
the Government be sold at auction to the highest bidder. That law is as

“For the greater good of our subjects, we order and
command that our viceroys and governing presidents shall do nothing
with respect to lands the claims to which have been adjusted by their
predecessors, tending to disturb the peaceful possession of the owners
thereof. As to those who shall have extended their possessions beyond
the limits fixed in the original grants, they will be admitted to a
moderate adjustment with respect to the excess, and new title deeds
will be issued them therefor. And all those lands as to which no
adjustment has been made shall, without exception, be sold at public
auction to the highest bidder, the purchase price therefor to be
payable either in cash or in the form of quitrent, in accordance with
the laws and royal ordinances of the kingdoms of Castile. We leave to
the viceroys and presidents the mode and form in which what is here
ordered shall be carried into effect in order that they may provide for
it at the least possible cost; and in order that all unnecessary
expense with respect to the collections for said lands may be avoided,
we command that the same be made by our royal officers in person,
without the employment of special collectors, and to that end availing
themselves of the services of our royal courts, and, in places where
courts shall not have been established, of the town mayors.

whereas, title deeds to land have been granted by officers not
authorized to issue them, and such titles have been confirmed by us in
council, we command that those holding such a certificate of
confirmation may continue to possess the lands to which it refers, and
will, within the limits stated in the confirmation certificate, be
protected in their possession; and with respect to any encroachment
beyond such limits will be admitted to the benefit of this law.”

Another legislative act of the same character was the royal cedula of October 15, 1754 (4 Legislacion Ultra marina, Rodriguez San Pedro, 673). Articles 3, 4, and 5 of this royal cedula are as follows:

“3. Upon each principal subdelegate’s appointment,
which will be made in the manner prescribed in article 1 of this
cedula, and upon his receipt of these instructions, of which every
principal subdelegate already designated or who may hereafter be
appointed shall be furnished a copy, said subdelegate will in his turn
issue a general order to the courts in the provincial capitals and
principal towns of his district, directing the publication therein, in
the manner followed in connection with the promulgation of general
orders of viceroys, presidents, and administrative courts in matters
connected with my service, of these instructions, to the end that any
and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date of the
promulgation and publication of said order, shall have occupied royal
lands, whether or not the same shall be cultivated or tenanted, may,
either in person or through their attorneys or representatives, appear
and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and patents by virtue of
which said lands are occupied. Said subdelegates will designate as the
period within which such documents must be presented a term sufficient
in length and proportionate to the distance the interested party may
haye to travel for the purpose of making the presentation. Said
subdelegates will at the same time warn the parties interested that in
case of their failure to present their title deeds within the term
designated, without a just and valid reason therefor, they will
be-deprived of and evicted from their lands, and they will be granted
to others.

If it shall appear from the titles or instruments presented, or if it
shall be shown in any other legal manner that said persons are in
possession of such royal lands by virtue of a sale or adjustment
consummated by duly authorized subdelegates prior to the said year
1700, although such action may not have been confirmed by my royal
person, or by a viceroy or president, they shall in no wise be
molested, but shall be left in the full and quiet possession of the
same; nor shall they be required to pay any fee on account of these
proceedings, in accordance with law 15, title 12, book 4 of the Recopilacion de las Indias,
above cited. A note shall be made upon said title deeds to the effect
that this obligation has been complied with, to the end that the owners
of such royal lands and their successors may hereafter be free from
denunciation, summons, or other disturbance in their possession.

such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds it shall be
sufficient if they shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title
by prescription; provided, however, that if the lands shall not be in a
state of cultivation or tillage, the term of three months prescribed by
law 11 of the title and book cited, or such other period as may be
deemed adequate, shall be designated as the period within which the
lands must be reduced to cultivation, with the warning that in case of
their failure so to do the lands will be granted, with the same
obligation to cultivate them, to whomsoever may denounce them.

Likewise neither shall possessors of lands sold or adjusted by the
various subdelegates from the year 1700 to the present time be
molested, disturbed, or denounced, now or at any other time, with
respect to such possession, if such sales or adjustments shall have”
been confirmed by me, or by the viceroy or the president of the court
of the district in which the lands are located while authorized to
exercise this power. In cases where the sales or adjustments shall not
have been so confirmed, the possessors will present to the courts of
their respective districts and to the other officials hereby empowered
to receive the same, a petition asking for the confirmation of said
sales and adjustments. After the proceedings outlined by the sub
delegates in their order with respect to the measurement and valuation
of the said lands, and with reference to the title issued therefor,
shall have been duly completed, said courts and officials will make an
examination of the same for the purpose of ascertaining whether the
sale or adjustment has been made without fraud and collusion, and for
an adequate and equitable price, and a similar examination shall be
made by the prosecuting attorney of the district, to the end that, in
view of all the proceedings and the purchase or adjustment price of the
land, and the media anata having been duly, etc., paid into
the royal treasury, as well as such additional sum as may be deemed
proper, there will be issued to the possessor, in my royal name, a
confirmation of his title, by virtue of which his possession and
ownership of lands and waters which it represents will be fully
legalized, to the end that at no time will he or his heirs or assigns
be disturbed or molested therein.”

The wording of this law is much stronger than that of law 14. As is
seen by the terms of article 3, any person whatever who occupied any
public land was required to present the instruments by virtue of which
he was in possession, within a time to be fixed by the authorities, and
he was warned that if he did not do so he would be evicted from his
land and it would be granted to others. By terms of article 4 those
possessors to whom grants had been made prior to 1700, were entitled to
have such grants confirmed, and it was also provided that not being
able to prove any grant it should be sufficient to prove “that ancient
possession,” as a sufficient title by prescription, and they should be
confirmed in their holdings. “That ancient possession” would be at
least fifty-four years, for it would have to date from prior to 1700.
Under article 5, where the possession dated from 1700, no confirmation
could be granted on proof of prescription alone.

The length of possession required to be proved before the Government
would issue a deed has varied in different colonies and at different
times. In the Philippines, as has been seen, it was at one time ten
years, at another time fifty-four years at least. In Cuba, “6y the
royal cedula of April 24, 1833, to obtain a deed one had to prove, as
uncultivated lands, a possession of one hundred years, and as to
cultivated lands a possession of fifty years. In the same island, by
the royal order of July 16, 1819, a possession of forty years was

In the Philippines at a later date royal order of September 21, 1797 (4 Legislacion Ultramarina Rodriguez San Pedro, p. 688), directed the observance of the said royal
cedula of 1754, but apparently without being subject to the period of prescription therein assigned.

The royal order of July 5, 1862 (Gaceta de Manila, November 15, 1864), also ordered that until regulations on the subject could be prepared the authorities of the Islands
should follow strictly the Laws of the Indies, the Ordenanza of the Intendentes of 1786, and the said royal cedula of 1754.

The royal order of November 14, 1876 (Guia del Comprador de Terrenos,
p. 51), directed the provincial governors to urge those in unlawful
possession of public lands to seek an adjustment with the State in
accordance with the existing laws. The regulations as to the adjustment
(composicion) of the titles to public lands remained in this condition
until the regulations of June 25,1880. This is the most important of
the modern legislative acts upon the matter of “adjustment” as
distinguished from that of the sale of the public lands.

The royal decree approving these regulations is dated June 25, 1880, and is as follows:[1]

“Upon the suggestion of the colonial minister, made
in conformity with the decree of the full meeting of the council of
state, I hereby approve the attached regulations for the adjustment of
royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the
Philippine Islands.”

Articles 1, 4, 5, 8, and part of article 6 are as follows:

“Art. 1. For the purposes of these regulations and
in conformity with law 14, title 12, book 4 of the Be compilation of
Laws of the Indies, the following will be regarded as royal lands: All
lands whose lawful ownership is not vested in some private person, or,
what is the same thing, which have never passed to private ownership by
virtue of cession by competent authorities, made either gratuitously or
for a consideration.”

4. For all legal effects, those will be considered. proprietors of the
royal lands herein treated who may prove that they have possessed the
lands without interruption during the period of ten years, by virtue of
a good title and in good faith.

“Art. 5. In the same manner,
those who without such title deeds may prove that they have possessed
their said lands without interruption for a period of twenty years, if
in a state of cultivation, or for a period of thirty years if
uncultivated, shall be regarded as proprietors thereof. In order that a
tract of land may be considered cultivated, it will be necessary to
show that it has been broken within the last three years.

6. Interested parties not included within the two preceding articles
may legalize their possession and thereby acquire the full ownership of
the said lands, by means of adjustment proceedings, to be conducted in
the following manner: * * *

Those who, entirely without title deeds, may be in possession of lands
belonging to the State and have reduced said lands to a state of
cultivation, may acquire the ownership thereof by paying into the
public treasury the value of the lands at the time such pessessors or
their representatives began their unauthorized enjoyment of the same.

In case said lands shall never have been ploughed, but are still in a
wild state, or covered with forests, the ownership of the same may be
acquired by paying their value at the time of the filing of the claim,
as stated in the fourth paragraph.”

“Art. 8. If the
interested parties shall not ask an adjustment of the lands whose
possession they are unlawfully enjoying within the time of one year,
or, the adjustment having been granted by the authorities, they shall
fail to fulfill their obligation in connection with the compromise, by
paying the proper sum into the treasury, the latter will, by virtue of
the authority vested in it, reassert the ownership of the State over
the lands, and will, after fixing the value thereof, proceed to sell at
public auction that part of the same which either because it may have
been reduced to cultivation or is not located within the forest zone
is not deemed advisable to preserve as the State forest reservation.”

The other articles of the regulations state the manner in which
applications should be made for adjustment, and the proceedings thereon.

Do these regulations declare that those who are included in articles
4 and 5 are the absolute owners of the land occupied by them without
any action on their part, or that of the State, or do they declare that
such persons must seek an adjustment and obtain a deed from the State,
and if they do not do so within the time named in article 8 they lose
all interest in the lands?

It must be admitted from the wording of the law that the question
is not free from doubt. Upon a consideration, however, of the whole
matter, that doubt must, we think, be resolved in favor of the State.
The following are some of the reasons which lead us to that conclusion:

(1) It will be noticed that article 4 does not say that those
persons shall be considered as owners who have occupied the lands for
ten years, which would have been the language naturally used if an
absolute grant had been intended. It says, instead, that those shall be
considered owners who may prove
that they have been in possession
ten years. Was this proof to be made at any time in the future when the
question might arise, or was it to be made in the proceedings which
these very regulations provided for that purpose? We think that the
latter is the proper construction.

(2) Article 1 declares in plain terms that all those lands as to
which the State has never executed any deeds are the property of the
State—that is, that on June 25, 1880, no public lands belonged to
individuals unless they could exhibit a State deed therefor. This is
entirely in consistent with the idea that the same law in its article 4
declares that the lands in question in this case became the property of
the plaintiffs in 1870, and were not in 1880 the property of the State,
though the State had never given any deed for them.

(3) The royal decree, by its terms, relates to lands wrongfully withheld by private persons. The word detentados
necessarily implies this. This is inconsistent with the idea that by
article 4 the plaintiffs, in 1870, became the absolute owners of the
lands in question, and were not, therefore, in 1880, withholding what
did not belong to them.

(4) In the preface to this decree and regulations, the following language is used:

“Sir : The uncertain, and it may be said the
precarious, state of real property in various parts of the Philippine
Islands, as yet sparsely populated; the necessity for. encouraging the
cultivation of these lands; the advantage of increasing the wealth and
products of the Archipelago; the immense and immediate profit which
must result to all classes of interests, public as well as private,
from the substitution of full ownership, with all the privileges which
by law accompany this real right, for the mere possession of the lands,
have long counseled the adoption of the provisions contained in the
following regulations, which, after consultation with the Philippine
council, and in conformity with an order passed at a full meeting of
the council of state, the subscribing minister has the honor to submit
for the royal approval. These regulations refer not only to tenants of
royal lands in good faith and by virtue of a valid title, but also to
those who, lacking these, may, either by themselves reducing such lands
to cultivation or by the application of intelligence and initiative,
causing their cultivation by others who lack these qualities, be
augmenting the wealth of the Archipelago.”[1]

This preface is the most authoritative commentary on the law, and
shows without doubt that those who held with color of title and good
faith were, notwithstanding, holding wrongfully, and that true
ownership should be substituted for their possession.

(5) This doubt suggested by the wording of the law was the subject
of inquiries directed to the officers in Manila charged with its
execution. These inquiries were answered in the circular of August 10,
1881, published in the Gaceta de Manila August 11, 1881, as follows:

“Should possessors of royal lands under color of title and in good faith seek adjustment?

is evident that they must do so, for it is to them that article 4 of
the regulations refers, as also the following article covers other
cases of possession under different circumstances. It should be well
understood by you, and you should in turn have it understood by others,
that the adjustment of lands whose ownership has not passed to private
individuals by virtue of cession by competent authorities, is optional
only for those within the limits of the common district (legua comunal)
as provided by article 7. In all other cases where the interested
parties shall fail to present themselves for the adjustment of the
lands occupied by them they shall suffer the penalties set forth
in article 8 of said regulations.”

In determining the meaning of a law where a doubt exists the
construction placed upon it by the officers whose duty it is to
administer it is entitled to weight.

(6) There is, moreover, legislative construction of these
regulations upon this point found in subsequent laws. The royal decree
of December 26, 1884, (Berriz Anuario, 1888, p. 117), provides in article 1 that—

“All those public lands wrongfully withheld by
private persons in the Philippines which, in accordance with the
regulations of June 25, 1880, are subject to adjustment with the
treasury, shall be divided into three groups, of which the first shall
include those which, because they are included in articles 4 and 5, and
the first paragraph of article 7, are entitled to free adjustment.”

There were exceptions to this rule which are not here important.
Article 10 provides that if the. adjustment is free for those mentioned
in articles 4 and 5, who are included in the second group, the deed
shall be issued by the governor of the province. Article 11 says that
if the adjustment is not free, because the applicant has not proved his
right by prescription, then no deed can be issued until the proper
payment has been made. The whole decree shows clearly that the
legislator intended that those mentioned in articles 4 and 5 should
apply for a confirmation of their titles by prescription, as well as
those mentioned in article 6. In fact, for the adjustment of those of
the first group, which necessarily included only those found within
articles 4 and 5, a board was organized (art. 15) in each pueblo whose
sole duty it was to dispatch applications made under said two articles.

(7) The royal decree of August 31, 1888 (Berriz Anuario,
1888, p. 120), is another legislative construction of this regulation.
That decree repealed the decree of 1884, and divided all lands subject
to adjustment under the regulations of June 25, 1880, into two groups.
In the first group were all those lands which bordered at any point on
other State lands, and those which, though not bordering on State
lands, measured more than 30 hectares. In the second group were those
which were bounded entirely by lands of private persons and did not
exceed 30 hectares. For the second group a provincial board was
organized, and article 10 provides a hearing before this board, and

“If no protest or claim shall be filed, and the
adjustment must be free because the occupant has proved title by
prescription, as provided in articles 4 and 5 of the regulations
promulgated June 25, 1880, the proceedings shall be duly approved, and
the head officer of the province will, in his capacity of deputy
director general of the civil administration, issue the corresponding
title deed.”

The policy pursued by the Spanish Government from the earliest
times, requiring settlers on the public lands to obtain deeds therefor
from the State, has been continued by the American Government in Act
No. 926, which takes effect when approved by Congress. Section 54,
sixth paragraph of that act, declares that the persons named in said
paragraph 6 “shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and to have received the
same.” Yet such persons are required by section 56 to present a
petition to the Court of Land Registration for a confirmation of these

We have considered the regulations relating to adjustment—that is,
those laws under which persons in possession might perfect their
titles. But there were other laws relating to the sale of public lands
which contained provisions fatal to the plaintiffs’ claims. The royal
decree of January 26, 1889 (Gaceta de Manila, March 20, 1889),
approved the regulations for the sale of public lands in the
Philippines, and it was in accordance with such regulations that the
appellee acquired his title. Article 4 of those regulations required
the publication in the Gaceta de Manila
of the application to purchase, with a description of the lands, and
gave sixty days within which anyone could object to the sale. A similar
notice in the dialect of the locality was required to be posted on the
municipal building of the town in which the land was situated, and to
be made public by the crier. Articles 5 and 6 declared to whom such
objections shall be made and the course which they should take. Article
8 is as follows:

“Art. 8. In no case will the judicial authorities
take cognizance of any suit against the decrees of the civil
administration concerning the sale of royal lands unless the plaintiff
shall attach to the complaint documents which show that he has
exhausted the administrative remedy. After the proceedings in the
executive department shall have been terminated and the matter finally
passed upon, anyone considering his interests prejudiced thereby may
commence a suit in court against the State; but in no case shall an
action be brought against the proprietor of the land.”

Similar provisions are found in the regulations of 1883, approved the second time by royal order of February 16 (Gaceta de Manila, June 28, 1883). Articles 18 and 23 of said regulations are as follows:

“Art. 18. Possessors of such lands as may fall
within the class of alienable royal lands shall be obliged to apply for
the ownership of the same, or for the adjustment thereof within the
term of sixty days from the time of the publication in the Bulletin of
Sales of the notice of sale thereof.”

“Art. 23. The judicial
authorities shall take cognizance of no complaint against the decrees
of the treasury department concerning the sale of lands pertaining to
the state unless the complainant shall attach to the complaint
documents which prove that he has exhausted the administrative remedy.”

This prohibition appears also in the royal order of October 26, 1881 (Gaceta de Manila, December 18, 1881), which relates evidently both to sales of public lands and
also to the adjustments with the occupants.

Article 5 of this royal order is as follows:

“During the pendency of proceedings in the executive
department with respect to grants of land, interested parties may
present through executive channels such protests as they may deem
advisable for the protection of their rights and interests. The
proceedings having once been completed, and the grant made, those who
consider their interests prejudiced thereby may proceed in court
against the State, but under no circumstances against the grantees of
the land.”

The American legislation creating the Court of Land Registration is
but an application of this same principle. In both systems the title is
guaranteed to the petitioner, after examination by a tribunal. In the
Spanish system this tribunal was called an administrative one, in the
American a judicial one.

The court finds that the plaintiffs made a written protest against
the sale to the defendants while the proceedings for the measurement
and survey of the land, were being carried on, but that they did not
follow up their protest. This, as held by the court below, is a bar to
their recovery in this action, under the articles above cited.

The plaintiffs state in their brief that a great fraud was committed
on them and the State by the defendant in applying for the purchase of
these lands as vacant and belonging to the public, when they were in
the actual adverse possession of the plaintiffs.

We have seen nothing in the regulations relating to the sale
of the public lands which limited their force to vacant lands. On the
contrary there are provisions which indicate the contrary. In the
application for the purchase the petitioner is by article 3 of the
regulations of 1889 required to state whether any portion of the land
sought has been broken for cultivation, and to whom such improvements
belong. Article 9 provides that if one in possession applies to
purchase the land, he renounces his right to a composicion
under the laws relating to that subject. By article 13 the report of
the officials making the survey must contain a statement as to whether
any part of the land is cultivated or not and if the applicant claims
to be the owner of such cultivated part.

In the regulations of January 19, 1883 (Gaceta de Manila, June 28,1883), is the following article:

“Act. 18. Possessors of such lands as may fall
within the class of royal alienable lands shall be obliged to apply for
the ownership of the same, or for the adjustment thereof, within the
term of sixty days from the time of the publication in the Bulletin of
Sales of the notice of sale thereof.”

In view of all of these provisions it seems impossible to believe
that the legislators ever intended to leave the validity of any sale
made by the State to be determined at any time in the future by the
ordinary courts on parol testimony. Such would be the result if the
contention of the plaintiffs is to be sustained. According to their
claim, this sale and every other sale made by the State can be set
aside if at any time in the future it can be proved that certain
persons had been in possession of the land for the term then required
for prescription.

If this claim is allowed it would result that even though written
title from the State would be safe from such attack by parol evidence,
by means of such evidence damages could have been recovered against the
State for lands sold by the State to which third persons might
thereafter prove ownership by prescription. The unreliability of parol
testimony on the subject of possession is well known. In this case in
the report which the law required to be made before a sale could be had
it is stated by an Ayudante de Montes that the tract had an
area of 429 hectares, 77 ares, and 96 centares uncultivated, and 50
hectares, 19 ares, and 73 centares broken for cultivation. The official
report also says (1890) that the breaking is recent. Notwithstanding
this official report, the plaintiffs introduced evidence from which the
court found that the greater part of the tract had been occupied and
cultivated by the plaintiffs since 1860.

It is hardly conceivable that the State intended to put in force
legislation under which its property rights could be so prejudiced.

We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force in these
Islands by which the plaintiffs could obtain the ownership of these
lands by prescription, without any action by the State, and that the
judgment below declaring the defendant the owner of the lands must be

II. What has been said heretofore makes it unnecessary to consider
the motion for a new trial, made by the defendant on the ground that
the findings of fact are not supported by the evidence.

III. The exception of the defendant to the order vacating the
appointment of the receiver can not be sustained. The defendant at no
time made any showing sufficient to authorize the appointment of a

The case does not fall under No. 4 of section 174 of the Code of
Civil Procedure. Neither party in his pleadings asked any relief as to
the crops. They were not, therefore, “the property which is the subject
of litigation.”

Neither does the case fall under No. 2 of section 174, for the same reason.

Moreover, under No, 2 it must be shown that the property is in
danger of being lost. There was no showing of that kind. The pleadings
say nothing upon the subject.In the motion for the appointment of the
receiver it said that the plaintiffs are insolvent. There is no
evidence, by affidavit or otherwise, to support this statement. A bare,
unsworn statement in a motion that the adverse party is insolvent is
not sufficient to warrant a court in appointing a receiver for property
in his possession.

The judgment of the court below is affirmed. Neither party can recover costs in this court.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Cooper, McDonough, and Johnson , JJ., concur.

[1] Gaceta de Manila, Sept. 10, 1880.

[1] Disposiciones oficiales del Ramo de Montes de Filipinas, p. 34.

Date created: January 22, 2019


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