This is a petition for review on certiorari
of the April 26, 1984 Decision of the then Intermediate Appellate Court ** reversing the February 6, 1976 Decision of the then Court of First Instance of Batangas, Branch VI, in Civil Case No. 2044.
The antecedental facts of this case, as found by the then Intermediate Appellate Court, are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Sometime in 1951, the late Modesto Castillo applied for the registration of two parcels of land, Lots 1 and 2, located in Banadero, Tanauan, Batangas, described in Plan Psu-119166, with a total area of 39,755 square meters. In a decision dated August 31, 1951, the said Modesto Castillo, married to Amanda Lat, was declared the true and absolute owner of the land with the improvements thereon, for which Original Certificate of Title No. 0-665 was issued to him by the Register of Deeds at Batangas, Batangas, on February 7, 1952. By virtue of an instrument dated March 18, 1960, the said Lots 1 and 2 covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 0-665, together with Lot No. 12374 covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3254-A and Lot No. 12377 covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3251-A, were consolidated and sub-divided into Lots 1 to 9 under Pcs-1046. After the death of Modesto Castillo, or on August 31, 1960, Amanda Lat Vda. de Castillo, Et Al., executed a deed of partition and assumption of mortgage in favor of Florencio L. Castillo, Et Al., as a result of which Original Certificate of Title No. D-665 was cancelled, and in lieu thereof, new transfer certificates of title were issued to Florencio L. Castillo, Et Al., to wit: Transfer Certificate of Title No. 21703 (Lot 4) (and) Transfer Certificate of Title No. 21704 to Florencio Castillo (Lot 5); Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-21708 to Carlos L. Castillo (Lot 7); Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-21712 to Mariano L. Castillo (Lot 6); Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-21713 to Jose L. Castillo (Lot 9); Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-21718 to Aida C. Herrera (Lot 2); and Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-21727 to Teresita L. Castillo (Lot 8).
"The Republic of the Philippines filed Civil Case No. 2044 with the lower court for the annulment of the certificates of title issued to defendants Amanda Lat Vda. de Castillo, Et Al., as heirs/successors of Modesto Castillo, and for the reversion of the lands covered thereby (Lots 1 and 2, Psu-119166) to the State. It was alleged that said lands had always formed part of the Taal Lake, washed and inundated by the waters thereof, and being of public ownership, it could not be the subject of registration as private property. Appellants herein, defendants below, alleged in their answer that the Government’s action was already barred by the decision of the registration court; that the action has prescribed; and that the government was estopped from questioning the ownership and possession of appellants."cralaw virtua1aw library
After trial, the then Court of First Instance of Batangas, Branch VI, presided over by Honorable Benjamin Relova, in a Decision dated February 6, 1976 (Record on Appeal, pp. 62-69), ruled in favor of herein petitioner Republic of the Philippines. The decretal portion of the said decision, reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"WHEREFORE, the Register of Deeds of Batangas is hereby ordered to cancel Original Certificate of Title No. 0-665 in the name of Modesto Castillo and the subsequent Transfer of Certificates of Title issued over the property in the names of the defendants. Lots Nos. 1 and 2 of Plan Psu-119166 are hereby declared public lands belonging to the state. Without pronouncement as to costs."cralaw virtua1aw library
The Court of Appeals, on appeal, in a Decision promulgated on April 26, 1984, reversed and set aside the appealed decision, and dismissed the complaint (Record, pp. 31-41). Herein petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Record, pp. 42-51), but the same was denied in a Resolution promulgated on October 12, 1984 (Record, p. 52). Hence, the instant petition.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The sole issue raised in this case is whether or not the decision of the Land Registration Court involving shore lands constitutes res adjudicata.
There is no question that one of the requisites of res judicata is that the court rendering the final judgment must have jurisdiction over the subject matter (Ramos v. Pablo, 146 SCRA 24 ; that shores are properties of the public domain intended for public use (Article 420, Civil Code) and, therefore, not registrable. Thus, it has long been settled that portions of the foreshore or of the territorial waters and beaches cannot be registered. Their inclusion in a certificate of title does not convert the same into properties of private ownership or confer title upon the registrant (Republic v. Ayala y Cia, 14 SCRA, 259 , citing the cases of Dizon, Et. Al. v. Bayona, Et Al., 98 Phil. 943; and Dizon, Et. Al. v. Rodriguez, Et Al., 13 SCRA 704).
But an important bone of contention is the nature of the lands involved in this case.
Petitioner contends "that ‘Lots 1 and 2, PSU-119166 had always formed part of the Taal Lake, washed and inundated by the waters thereof. Consequently, the same were not subject to registration, being outside the commerce of men; and that since the lots in litigation are of public domain (Art. 502), par. 4 Civil Code) the registration court (of 1951) did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate said lands as private property, hence, res judicata does not apply. (Rollo, pp. 37-38).
The Government presented both oral and documentary evidence.
As summarized by the Intermediate Appellate Court (now Court of Appeals), the testimonies of the witnesses for the petitioner are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"1. Rosendo Arcenas, a Geodetic Engineer connected with the Bureau of Lands since 1951, testified to the effect that Lots 1 and 2 Psu-119166, which are the lots in question, adjoin the cadastral survey of Tanauan, Batangas (Cad. 168); that the original boundary of the original cadastral survey was foreshore land as indicated on the plan; that the cadastral survey of Tanauan was executed sometime in 1923; that the first survey executed of the land after 1923 was the one executed in 1948 under Plan Psu-119166; that in the relocation survey of the disputed lots in 1962 under SWO-40601, said lots were annotated on the plan as claimed by the Republic of the Philippines in the same manner that it was so annotated in Plan Psu-119166, thus showing that the Government was the only claimant of the land during the survey in 1948; that during the relocation survey made in 1962, old points cannot be identified or located because they were under water by about forty centimeters; that during the ocular inspection of the premises on November 23, 1970, he found that 2 monuments of the lots in question were washed out by the waters of the Baloyboy Creek; that he also found duck pens along the lots in question; that there are houses in the premises as well as some camotes and bananas; and that he found also some shells (’suso’) along the banks of the Taal lake (Tsn, Nov. 16, 1970, pp. 13-21; Feb. 16, 1971, pp. 4-36).
"2. Braulio Almendral testified to the effect that he is a resident of Tanauan, Batangas, near the Taal lake; that like himself there are other occupants of the land among whom are Atanacio Tironas, Gavino Mendoza, Juliano Tirones, Agapito Llarena, etc.; that it was they who filled up the area to make it habitable; that they filled up the area with shells and sand; that their occupation is duck raising; and that the Castillos never stayed in or occupied the premises (Tsn, Nov. 16, 1970, pp. 32-50).
"3. Arsenio Ibay, a Geodetic Engineer connected with the Bureau of Lands since 1968, also testified to the effect that in accordance with the cadastral plan of Tanauan, the only private claim of Sixto Castillo referred to Lots 1006 to 1008; that the Castillos never asserted any private claim to the lots in question during the cadastral survey; that in the preparation of plan Psu-119166, Lots 12374 and 12377 were made as reference to conform to previously approved plans; that lot 12374 is a portion of cadastral lot 10107, SWO-86738 while Lot 22377 is a portion of Lot 10108 of the same plan (Tsn, Nov. 25, 1970, pp. 115-137).chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph
"4. Jose Isidro, a Land Investigator of the Bureau of Lands, testified to the effect that pursuant to the order of the Director of Lands, he, together with Engineer Rufino Santiago and the barrio captain of Tanauan, Batangas, conducted an investigation of the land in question; that he submitted a report of investigation, dated October 19, 1970 (Exh. H-1); that portions of the lot in question were covered by public land applications filed by the occupants thereof; that Engineer Santiago also submitted a report (Exh. H-8); that he had notified Dr. Mariano Castillo before conducting the investigation (Tsn, Nov. 25, 1970, pp. 137-162).
"5. Rufino Santiago, another Geodetic Engineer connected with the Bureau of Lands, testified to the effect that on October 19, 1970, he submitted a report of investigation regarding the land in question; that he noted on the plan Exhibit H-9 the areas on which the houses of Severo Alcantara and others were built; that he found that the land was planted to coconuts which are about 15 years old; that the land is likewise improved with rice puddies; that the occupants thereof are duck raisers; that the area had been elevated because of the waste matters and duck feeds that have accumulated on the ground through the years (Tsn, Nov. 26, 1970, pp. 163-196).
"6. Pablo Tapia, Barrio Captain of Tanauan, Batangas, since 1957, testified to the effect that the actual occupants of Lots 1 and 2 are Atanacio Tirones, etc.; that during the war the water line reached up to a point marked Exhibit A-9 and at present the water has receded to a point up to Exhibit A-12; that the reasons why the waters of Taal lake have receded to the present level is because of the fillings made by the people living in Lots 1 and 2; that there are several duck pens all over the place; that the composition of the soil in a mixture of mud and duck feeds; that improvements consist of bananas, bamboos and palay; that the shoreline is not even in shape because of the Baloyboy Creek; that the people in the area never came to know about the registration case in which the lots in question were registered; that the people living in the area, even without any government aid, helped one another in the construction of irrigated rice paddies; that he helped them file their public land applications for the portions occupied by them; that the Castillos have never been in possession of the premises; that the people depend upon duck raising as their means of their livelihood; that Lots 1 and 2 were yet inexistent during the Japanese occupation; and that the people started improving the area only during liberation and began to build their houses thereon." (Tsn, Nov. 26, 1970, pp. 197-234)
Among the exhibits formally offered by the Government are: the Original Plan of Tanauan, Batangas, particularly the Banader Estate, the Original Plan of PSU-119166, Relocation-Verification Survey Plan, maps, and reports of Geodetic Engineers, all showing the original shoreline of the disputed areas and the fact that the properties in question were under water at the time and are still under water especially during the rainy season (Hearing, March 17, 1971, TSN, pp. 46-47).
On the other hand, private respondents maintain that Lots 1 and 2 have always been in the possession of the Castillo family for more than 76 years and that their possession was public, peaceful, continuous, and adverse against the whole world and that said lots were not titled during the cadastral survey of Tanauan, because they were still under water as a result of the eruption of Taal Volcano on May 5, 1911 and that the inundation of the land in question by the waters of Taal Lake was merely accidental and does not affect private respondents’ ownership and possession thereof pursuant to Article 778 of the Law of Waters. They finally insisted that this issue of facts had been squarely raised at the hearing of the land registration case and, therefore, res judicata (Record on Appeal, pp. 63-64). They submitted oral and documentary evidence in support of their claim.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
Also summarized by respondent Appellate Court, the testimonies of the witnesses of private respondents are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"1. Silvano Reano, testified to the effect that he was the overseer of the property of the late Modesto Castillo located at Banadero, Tanauan, Batangas since 1944 to 1965; that he also knows Lots 1 and 2, the parcels of land in question, since he was managing said property; that the occupants of said Lots 1 and 2 were engaged in duck raising; that those occupants were paying the Castillos certain amount of money because their animals used to get inside the lots in question; that he was present during the survey of the land in 1948; and that aside from the duck pens which are built in the premises, the land is planted to rice (Tsn, April 14, 1971, pp. 62-88).
"2. Dr. Mariano Castillo, testified to the effect that the late Modesto Castillo was a government official who held high positions in the Government; and that upon his death the land was subdivided among his legal heirs." (Appellee’s Brief, pp. 4-9)
As above-stated, the trial court decided the case in favor of the government but the decision was reversed on appeal by the Court of Appeals.
A careful study of the merits of their varied contentions readily shows that the evidence for the government has far outweighed the evidence for the private respondents. Otherwise stated, it has been satisfactorily established as found by the trial court, that the properties in question were the shorelands of Taal Lake during the cadastral survey of 1923.
Explaining the first survey of 1923, which showed that Lots 1 and 2 are parts of the Taal Lake, Engineer Rosendo Arcenas testified as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"ATTY. AGCAOILI:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q Now, you mentioned Engineer that a subject matter of that plan which appears to be Lots 1 and 2 are adjoining cadastral lots of the Tanauan Cadastre, now, will you please state to the Court what is the basis of that statement of yours?
A The basis of that statement is the plan itself, because there is here an annotation that the boundary on the northeastern side is Tanauan Cadastre 168 which indicates that the boundary of the original cadastral survey of Tanauan Cadastre way back in the year 1923 adjoins a foreshore land which is also indicated in this plan as foreshore lands of Taal lake, sir.
x x x
"Q Now, on this plan Exhibit "A-2", there are two lots indicated, namely, Lots 12374 and 12377, what do these lots represent?
A This is the cadastral lot executed in favor of a certain Modesto Castillo that corresponds to Lots 12374 and another Lot 12377, sir.
Q At the time this survey plan Psu-119166 and marked as Exhibit "A-2" was executed in 1948, were these lots 1 and 2 , already in existence as part of the cadastral survey?
A No, sir, because there is already a foreshore boundary.
Q Do I understand from you Mr. Witness at the time of the survey of this land these two lots form part of this portion?
A Yes, sir.
Q When again was the cadastral survey of Tanauan, Batangas, executed if you know?
A In the year 1923, sir." (Hearing of Nov. 16, 1970, TSN pp. 15-17).
Such fact was further verified in the Verification-Relocation Survey of 1948 by Engineer Arcenas who conducted said survey himself and reported the following:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That as per original plan Psu-119166, it appears that Lot 1 and Lot 2, Psu-119166 surveyed and approved in the name of Modesto Castillo is a portion of Taal Lake and as such it appears to be under water during the survey of cadastral Lot No. 12374 and Lot No. 12377, which was surveyed and approved in the name of Modesto Castillo under Cad. 168. To support this theory is the annotation appearing and printed along lines 2-3-4-5 of Lot 1, Psu-119166 and along lines 4-5-6 of Lot 2, Psu-119166 which notations clearly indicates that such boundary of property was a former shorelines of Taal Lake, in other words, it was the extent of cultivation being the shorelines and the rest of the area going to the southwestern direction are already covered by water level.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
"Another theory to bolster and support this idea is the actual location now in the verification-relocation survey of a known geographic point were Barrio Boundary Monument (BBM N. 22) is under water level quite for sometimes as evidence by earthworks (collection of mud) that amount over its surface by eighty (80) centimeters below the ground, see notation appearing on verification-relocation plan previously submitted." (Re-Verification-Relocation Survey Exhibits, pp. 64-65).
Said surveys were further confirmed by the testimonies of witnesses to the effect that from 1950 to 1969, during rainy season, the water of Taal lake even went beyond the questioned lots; and that the water, which was about one (1) foot, stayed up to more or less two (2) to three (3) months (Testimonies of Braulio Almendral and Anastacio Tirones, both residents of Banadero, Tanauan, Batangas (Hearing of Nov. 16, 1970, TSN, pp. 41-42 and Hearing of Nov. 23, 1970, TSN, pp. 93, 98-99, respectively). In the Relocation Survey of 1962, there were no definite boundary or area of Lots 1 and 2 because a certain point is existing which was under water by 40 centimeters (Testimony of Engineer Arcena, Hearing of Nov. 16, 1970, TSN, p. 20).
Lakeshore land or lands adjacent to the lake, like the lands in question must be differentiated from foreshore land or that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides (Castillo, Law on Natural Resources, Fifth Edition, 1954, p. 67).
Such distinction draws importance from the fact that accretions on the bank of a lake, like Laguna de Bay, belong to the owners of the estate to which they have been added (Gov’t. v. Colegio de San Jose, 53 Phil. 423) while accretion on a sea bank still belongs to the public domain, and is not available for private ownership until formally declared by the government to be no longer needed for public use (Ignacio v. Director of Lands, 108 Phil. 335 ).
But said distinction will not help private respondents because there is no accretion shown to exist in the case at bar. On the contrary, it was established that the occupants of the lots who were engaged in duck raising filled up the area with shells and sand to make it habitable.
The defense of long possession is likewise not available in this case because, as already ruled by this Court, mere possession of land does not by itself automatically divest the land of its public character (Cuevas v. Pineda, 143 SCRA 674 ).
PREMISES CONSIDERED, the April 26, 1984 Decision of the then Intermediate Appellate Court is hereby SET ASIDE and REVERSED and the February 6, 1976 Decision of the then Court of First Instance of Batangas is hereby AFFIRMED and REINSTATED.chanrobles.com.ph : virtual law library
Yap (C.J.), Padilla and Sarmiento, JJ.
, I reserve my vote.
** Fourth Civil Cases Division. Decision penned by Associate Justice Marcelino R. Veloso and concurred in by Associate Justices Porfirio V. Sison (Chairman), Abdulwahid A. Bidin, and Desiderio P. Jurado.