This is a petition for review of the decision 1 of the Court of Appeals dismissing the petition to annul the decision of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Cavite, Branch III, 2 in Reg. Case No. N-440, LRC Rec. No. 26961. This case stems from proceedings to annul a 1965 decision of the said land registration court which adjudicated to private respondents certain parcels of land.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The antecedents are as follows: On April 22, 1964, the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, represented by its Mayor, Pablo G. Sarino, sold Lot Nos. 317, 318, 330 and 356, Psu-164199, with an approximate combined area of 3.1437 hectares, located at Barrio Salinas, 3 in the said municipality, to private respondents’ predecessors-in-interest for P188.20 pursuant to Act No. 3312 4 and Municipal Resolution No. 89 as amended by Resolution No. 289. Prior to the sale, private respondents’ predecessor-in-interest, Brigida Francisco, had been in possession of the subject lot and paid the real estate taxes thereon as early as 1907. On October 27, 1964, private respondents filed an application for land registration before the above-mentioned CFI of Cavite, covering the aforesaid lots, docketed as LRC Case No. N-440, LRC Record No. N-26961. On August 4, 1965, a decision was rendered adjudicating to the applicants, herein private respondents, the subject parcels of land, as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"WHEREFORE, this Court, confirming its previous order of general default, hereby adjudges and decrees lots 356, 318, 319 and 330 of plain AP-1377, AP-1378, AP-1379 and AP-1380, respectively, situated in the barrio of Salinas, municipality of Bacoor, province of Cavite, free from any liens and encumbrances to applicants, jointly and equally in undivided shares, in the following manners:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
1. to MARCELA FRANCISCO, widow — 1/3 undivided share.
2. to the HEIRS OF JUANA FRANCISCO, namely:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
BUENAVENTURA CRISOSTOMO, married to Librada Crisostomo;
ANDRES CRISOSTOMO, married to Esperanza Legaspi;
FELICITAS CRISOSTOMO, married to Gregorio Javier;
PEDRO CRISOSTOMO, single (these four own 1/3 undivided share.)
3. to the HEIRS OF BRIGIDA FRANCISCO, namely:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
LIWANAG JAVIER, married to Anastacio Dominguez;
EUDOSIA JAVIER, married to Ernesto de la Cruz;
AMAPURA JAVIER, married to Angel Sebastian;
AURORA JAVIER, single;
DOMINADOR JAVIER, married to Luz Manalili;
FRANKLIN JAVIER, married to Elina Jose (These six own 1/3 undivided share.)
All applicants are Filipinos, of legal ages, and residents of Mabolo, Bacoor, Cavite.
Once this decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued.
SO ORDERED." 5
Pursuant to said judgment, Decree No. N-105464 and the corresponding Original Certificate of Title No. O-468 were issued on October 7, 1965.
Twenty-five years later, or on October 15, 1990, the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) filed with the Court of Appeals a petition to annul the decision of the CFI of Cavite, Decree No. N-105464 and OCT No. O-468 issued pursuant thereto; and to order the restoration or reversion of the subject parcels of land to the mass of the public domain. The OSG alleged that the registration proceedings were null and void for lack of jurisdiction because the parcels of land subject thereof were still classified as forest land, having been released therefrom only on February 21, 1972; that the OSG was not furnished with a copy of the application for registration and other records as mandated by Section 51, of the Public Land Act; and that the applicants have not shown possession and occupation of the lands in the manner and for the length of time required by section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. On August 13, 1992, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision, dismissing for lack of merit as aforesaid, the petition to annul the Decision dated August 4, 1965 of the CFI of Cavite, Br. III in Reg. Case No. N-440, LRC Rec. No. 26961. 6 The Court of Appeals ruled that "by virtue of Act 3312 enacted by the Philippine Legislature on December 2, 1926, the subject lots were previously classified as communal in character; that the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents were able to purchase subject lots as authorized by said Act; that there is no question about the validity of Act 3312 especially the power of the Philippine Legislature at that time to authorize the sale of land then classified as communal land; and that the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents acquired the subject lots pursuant to this law and their right has acquired the sanctity of a vested right which cannot be adversely affected by the subsequent passage of C.A. 141."cralaw virtua1aw library
Hence, the instant petition questioning whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in: (1) relying solely on Act No. 3312 as basis for its conclusion that subject lots are alienable and disposable, in total disregard of the Public Land Act; (2) in holding that the registration court had jurisdiction to adjudicate subject lots as private property of private respondents’ predecessors-in-interest despite their being "communal lands" and, hence, not agricultural lands subject to disposition; (3) in holding that a vested right had been acquired by the predecessors-in-interest of private respondent over the subject lots which could no longer be affected by the Public Land Act; (4) in not finding that the Office of the Solicitor General was never furnished with a copy of the application and other records in the registration proceedings as mandated by Section 51 of the Public Land Act; (5) in considering as non-issue the lack of approval of the provincial board of Cavite and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the sale of subject lots to private respondents’ predecessors-in-interest; (6) in not declaring that the subject lots were only classified and released as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain in February, 1972, hence, beyond the jurisdiction of the registration court; (7) in not holding that the applicants’ predecessors-in-interest had no registrable title over the subject lots at the time the same were adjudicated to them by the registration court; (8) in not declaring the sale of the subject lots by the municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, a mere trustee thereof, as void ab initio for lack of approval or consent of the provincial board of Cavite and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources as required by law.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
As the Court sees it, the assigned errors cognizable by this Court may be reduced into the following, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. Whether the sale of communal lands of the Municipality of Bacoor to private respondents’ predecessors-in-interest was authorized by law; and
2. Whether the land registration court acquired jurisdiction over the parcels of land covered by the decree issued on October 7, 1965 pursuant to the decision of said court of August 4, 1965.
The petition is not impressed with merit.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
First of all, we agree with the Court of Appeals that Act No. 3312, known as the "Act Authorizing the Sale of the Communal Lands in the Municipality of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, and for other purposes," which was enacted into law on December 2, 1926, was the law governing the sale and acquisition by private respondents of the subject parcels of land. It provided:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"SECTION 1. The sale to private parties of the communal lands situated in the municipality of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, Philippine Islands, and held in trust by the municipal council thereof for the benefit of the inhabitants of said municipality, is hereby authorized: Provided, That the present tenants and lessees of the different parcels composing said lands shall have the right to buy their respective leaseholds subject to such rules and regulations which shall be adopted by the municipal council of Bacoor subject to the approval of the Provincial Board of Cavite and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Provided, further, That if any parcel of land is the subject of litigation in court the sale thereof shall be suspended until after the litigation is finally terminated.
x x x."cralaw virtua1aw library
ACT 3312 authorized and recognized the sale of communal lands in the municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, to qualified applicants. By express declaration of Section 1 of Act 3312 quoted above, lands designated as communal lands of the municipality of Bacoor were open to disposition to private parties. Pursuant thereto, the Municipality of Bacoor issued Resolution No. 289, Series of 1962, entitled, "A Resolution to Amend Resolution No. 89, Series of 1956 Authorizing the Sale of Communal Lands in the Municipality of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, and Prescribing Rules and Regulations for the Purpose of Implementing the Provisions of Philippine Legislature Act No. 3312 as approved on December 2, 1926." Among others, Resolution No. 289 imposed as conditions, the following: 1. Buyers should be tenants and lessees as of December 2, 1926 of the different parcels composing said lands as recorded in the communal lands register in the Office of the Mayor; and 2. they must pay the corresponding rental in arrears and other obligations due to the municipality. Presumably, with no proof to the contrary shown, the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents have met all the requirements of the law and the rules and regulations issued pursuant thereto for the execution of the sale.
Notably, petitioner’s petition for annulment of judgment in the Court of Appeals contended that the decree in favor of the private respondents was issued at the time when the subject land was still forest land, based primarily on the Final Report of Investigation of Senior Land Management Officer Romeo B. Manicat dated December 28, 1989. According to his report, the subject parcels of land were found, among others, to be within the forest zone at the time they were adjudicated to the applicants by the land registration court in 1965, as shown by the Land Classification Map No. 2376 under Project No. 6-A. However, a scrutiny of the foregoing documents fails to conclusively establish the actual classification of the land prior to its release as alienable and disposable in February 21, 1972. The aforesaid Land Classification Map drawn several years after the issuance of the decree in 1965 merely shows that the subject lots were part of Project 6-A, a big tract of land in Bacoor, Cavite which was certified and declared as alienable or disposable land on February 21, 1972 under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1253. Contrary to petitioner’s posture, the Report of Senior Land Management Officer Romeo B. Manicat who conducted an investigation of the parcels of land does not prove the real nature and character of the subject lots at the time of their sale and registration. In fact, he indicated in said report that the lands were cleared, converted into a modern community, with permanent improvements. More important, the subject lots were previously classified as communal lands, which were then held in trust by the Municipal Council of Bacoor, Cavite, for the benefit of the inhabitants of said municipality. The private respondents were able to purchase the same pursuant to Act No. 3312 and Resolution No. 289 of the Municipal Council of Bacoor prescribing the Rules and Regulations for the Implementation of Act 3112.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Secondly, it is error to say that private respondents, as qualified applicants, could no longer avail of the benefits of Act 3312, due to the subsequent passage of C.A. 141. True, the sale was perfected and consummated only on April 22, 1964 and the application for registration was filed only on October 27, 1964. But we agree with the Court of Appeals that the right of private respondents had already acquired the sanctity of "vested or acquired rights" which cannot be defeated or adversely affected by the passage of C.A. 141. The right was vested by the fact that their predecessors-in-interest have been occupying the said communal lands embraced by the law since 1907, as found by the registration court. While petitioner contests this finding of fact, we cannot depart from the well-entrenched rule that uniformly holds that findings of facts of the trial court particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals are binding upon the Supreme Court. 7 Further, review by the Supreme Court in a petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is generally limited only to questions of law. 8
Thirdly, we are not persuaded by petitioner’s argument that Act 3312 was repealed by C.A. 141. According to petitioner, as between Act No. 3312, an earlier enactment passed by the Philippine Legislature on December 2, 1926, on one hand, and C.A. 141, enacted on November 7, 1936 on the other, the latter should prevail over the former because the assailed disposition of the subject lots took place in 1964-65, or at a time when C.A. 141 had long been in force and effect. Petitioner adds that while the sale of communal lands situated in the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, was authorized under Act No. 3312, the same should now bow to C.A. 141 limiting the disposition of the lands of the public domain only to agricultural lands. There can be no implied repeal of Act 3312 by the subsequent enactment of C.A. 141 as it is a well-settled rule of statutory construction that repeals of statutes by implication are not favored. 9 If repeal of particular or specific law or laws is intended, the proper step is to so express it. 10 The Public Land Act is a general law governing the administration and disposition of the lands of the public domain; while Act 3312 is a special law on the sale of lands designated as communal situated in the Municipality of Bacoor in Cavite. The presumption against implied repeal is stronger when of two laws, one is special and the other general; and this rule applies even though the terms of the general act are broad enough to include the matter covered by the special statute. 11 Therefore, we apply the rule that unless otherwise repealed by a subsequent law or adjudged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, a law will always be presumed valid and the first and fundamental duty of the court is to apply the law. 12 The other issues raised by petitioner pertaining to the non-transmittal of the records in the registration proceedings to the Solicitor General and that the sale did not bear the approval of the Provincial Board of Cavite and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources deserve scant consideration as these are not jurisdictional prerequisites for the valid exercise of jurisdiction by a court in a land registration case. It must be stated that a petition to annul judgment which is void, is anchored on want of jurisdiction or that it has been obtained by extrinsic fraud. 13 Conformably with this rule, the issues raised must be limited to a discussion of lack of jurisdiction or fraud.
Finally, the Republic as petitioner, does not stand to be deprived of its patrimony, as the said parcels of land had already been declared alienable and disposable and if there is any reversion in favor of the Republic, the land recovered would not be for public use, but for eventual disposition to other private persons. It would be grave injustice and would not serve any declared national land policy to dispossess private respondents of the said parcels of land at this point, where possession has been found to date as far back as 1907, only to enable the government to dispose anew the lands covered thereby to subsequent applicants. 14 Moreover, it is now almost thirty (30) years since the land was released in 1972. In a few more months, the possessors of the land would acquire title to the portions they adversely possess through acquisitive prescription, without need of title or good faith, pursuant to the Civil Code. 15
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit and challenged judgment of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Melo, Vitug, Panganiban and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ.
1. Penned by Associate Justice Reynato S. Puno, Chairman, and concurred in by Associate Justices Jesus M. Elbinias and Consuelo Ynares-Santiago. Justices Puno and Ynares-Santiago are now members of this Court.
2. Presided by Judge Jose B. Jimenez.
3. now Dulong Bayan.
4. An Act authorizing the sale of the communal lands in the municipality of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, and for other purposes.
5. Court of Appeals Records, pp. 50-51.
6. Rollo, p. 49.
7. Fuentes v. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 703 (1997).
8. Deiparine v. Court of Appeals, 299 SCRA 668 (1998).
10. Agujetas v. Court of Appeals, 261 SCRA 17 (1996).
11. Agpalo, Ruben E., Statutory Construction, 1990 ed.
12. People v. Leachon, Jr., 296 SCRA 163 (1998).
13. Regidor v. Court of Appeals, 219 SCRA 530 (1993).
14. En Banc Resolution in G.R. No. 127245 (RP v. CA, Et. Al.) and G.R. No. 127022 (Firestone Ceramics, Inc. v. CA, Et. Al.), promulgated on January 30, 2001.
15. Article 1137, see Titong v. Court of Appeals, 287 SCRA 102 (1998).