G.R. No. L-5828. September 29, 1954

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95 Phil. 887

[ G.R. No. L-5828. September 29, 1954 ]



REYES, A., J.:

On February 15, 1940, Pelagio Acierto was granted a homestead patent
to a (portion of public land situate in the municipality of Tuao,
Cagayan province. Two months later, the land was, as required by the
Land Registration Act (section 122), brought under its operation
through the registration of the patent in the register of deeds for the
province and issue of the corresponding certificate of title and
owner’s duplicate thereof.

Pelagio Acierto died on January 20, 1945. On April 3, 1951, his
children, the plaintiffs herein, brought an action in the Court of
First Instance of Cagayan against the defendants Francisco de los
Santos and Maria de los Santos for the recovery of the land in question
and damages, the complaint, as later amended, alleging that the land
was on August 1, 1941 wrested by defendants from plaintiff’s father
through force, intimidation, strategy and stealth, and that defendants
have since then been cultivating the same and harvesting its crops and
refusing, despite repeated demands, to restore its possession to
plaintiffs. Answering the complaint, defendants denied having obtained
possession of the land through any of the means mentioned, and alleged
that the land was in 1939 and then again in 1940 purchased from Pelagio
Acierto by defendant Francisco de los Santos’ landlady, Francisca de
los Santos, and by the latter sold later to the defendant Maria de los
Santos. And further alleging adverse, open, peaceful and continuous
possession of the land by them for more than 12 years, they set up
prescription as a defense.

After trial, the lower court found that the land in dispute was, for
a consideration of P200, sold by Pelagio Acierto to Francisca de los
Santos, a part of it on May 15, 1939 and the whole of it on October 5,
1940, but holding the sale void for having been made before the lapse
of 5 years from the date of the patent, rendered judgment declaring
plaintiffs still owners of the land and entitled to its possession but
under obligation to pay defendant Maria de los Santos the sum of P200.
From this judgment, defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals, but
that court has certified the case here on the ground that the questions
raised are purely legal.

The appeal is without merit.

Section 118 of the Public Land Act, as amended, provides that lands
acquired as a homestead shall not be subject to encumbrance or
alienation from the date of the approval of the application for
homestead and during the five years following the issuance of the
patent. And section 124 of the same Act provides that any acquisition,
conveyance, transfer or any other contract made or executed in
violation of section 118 “shall be unlawful and null and void from its
execution.” It appearing that the cessions or sales agreement on which
defendants rely were executed within the period of the prohibition, the
same must be declared void ab initio.

Appellants, however, contend that the voiding provision of the Act
may not be invoked in favor of plaintiffs as their predecessor in
interest was in par delicto, and that, since the same
provision says the illegal sale shall have the effect of annulling the
grant and cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to
the State, plaintiffs may no longer claim the homestead. Similar
contentions were made in the case of Catalina de los Santos vs.
Roman Catholic Church of Midsayap et al., G. R. No. L-6088, decided
February 25, 1954, but they were there overruled, this Court holding
that the pari delicto doctrine may not be invoked in a case
of this kind since it would run counter to an avowed fundamental policy
of the State, that the forfeiture of the homestead is a matter between
the State and the grantee or his heirs, and that until the State had
taken steps to annul the grant and asserts title to the homestead the
purchaser is, as against the vendor or his heirs, “no more entitled to
keep the land than any intruder.”

The contention that appellants have acquired title to this land by
prescription is untenable. As provided in section 46 of the Land
Registration Act “no title to registered land in derogation to that of
the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse
possession.” And there is no question that, as stated in the beginning,
the land involved in this case has been brought under the operation of
that Act and has therefore become “registered land.” For where land is
granted by the Government to a private individual, as a homesteader,
under the provisions of the Public Land Law, and the corresponding
patent is registered and issued to the grantee, said land is considered
registered within the meaning of the Land Registration Act (El Hogar
Filipino vs. Olviga, 60 Phil., 17, 22; Ramoso vs.
Obligado, 70 Phil., 86, 87.) This is in accordance with section 122 of
the Land Registration Act which provides that after due registration of
the grant and issue of the certificate of title and owner’s duplicate
“such land shall be registered land for all purposes under this Act.”

In view of the foregoing, the judgment below is affirmed in so far
as it adjudges possession of the homestead to plaintiffs and declares
the latter under obligation to pay P200 to defendants. Costs against

Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Jugo, Bautista Angelo, Concepcion and Reyes, J.B.L., JJ., concur.

Date created: July 28, 2017


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