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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 12790. February 17, 1919. ]

ANICETO LACSON, Petitioner-Appellant, v. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, objector-appellee.

J. M. Arroyo for Appellant.

Solicitor-General Paredes for Appellee.

SYLLABUS


1. REGISTRATION OF LAND; ADVERSE POSSESSION. — The records show that the two predecessors in interest of the petitioner possessed a piece of and situated in the Island of Sicogon, the inscription of which is in question, from 1887 at least, and that, upon acquiring the said land by purchase in 1896, the petitioner succeeded in the possession which his said predecessors in interest enjoyed till 1915, when this petition was presented. In the absence of proof to the contrary, it follows that the petitioner has been enjoying, together with his predecessors in interest, more than ten years of possession, continuous, quiet, and adverse against all other claimants of the said land.

2. ID.; ID.; EFFECT OF WITHDRAWAL OF OPPOSITIONS. — The fact that some of the residents who occupied the said land withdrew their respective oppositions and the further fact that the municipality of Balasan, in whose jurisdiction the Island of Sicogon is situated, also withdrew its opposition constitute conclusive evidence that they have impliedly recognized the right of ownership and possession which the petitioner actually enjoys over the land in question, which is agricultural in nature, and for this reason there is no legal ground which prevents its inscription in favor of the petitioner, once it has been proven that he is in possession of the said portion of the agricultural land, taking into account the possession enjoyed by his predecessors in interest and also the fact that Section 54, paragraph 6, of Act No. 926 does not require that the agricultural part of the island be cultivated in its entirety by its possessor.


D E C I S I O N


TORRES, J.:


This is an appeal interposed by counsel for Aniceto Lacson from the judgment of October 12, 1916, whereby the judge of the sixteenth judicial district denied the inscription in the registry of property of the Island of Sicogon applied for by the appellant. The petitioner appealed from this judgment and moved for a new trial. This motion was overruled and the appellant excepted thereto and presented the corresponding bill of exceptions which was approved, certified to, and forwarded to the clerk of this court.

Counsel for the petitioner asked in writing the inscription in the name of the latter, in the registry of property, of the entire Island of Sicogon comprised within the territorial limits of the municipality of Balasan, Iloilo, and surrounded on all its sides by the sea, alleging that the said island had been acquired by purchase from its ancient owners and that the possession by the petitioner, added to that of his predecessors in interest and enjoyed in a quiet, pacific, and continuous manner, and under title of owner and adverse to all other claimants, entitles him as owner to the inscription of the same.

The Director of Lands, the Director of Forestry, the municipality of Balasan, and several residents in the said island opposed this claim of the petitioner. But the said municipality, by virtue of an agreement entered into with the petitioner and extended on page 3 of the stenographic notes, withdrew its opposition on condition that it be given a portion of the said land sufficient for a public square of the barrio, another portion for the public cemetery of the same, and a lot sufficient for a school building as well as the municipal streets existing therein. With these conditions imposed by the provincial fiscal and accepted by the petitioner, the opposition on the part of the municipality of Balasan was withdrawn. The oppositions filed by several residents in the said island were also withdrawn, because their counsel had come to an agreement to this effect with the petitioner Lacson. (Record, page 36.)

The petitioner alleged and his witnesses affirmed the following facts: That the Island of Sicogon was ceded by the State through a gratuitous composition title to the firm of Ynchausti & Co., during the Spanish regime, and that Ynchausti & Co. later sold the Island to Ramon Fontanet who in turn ceded it to his creditor Aniceto Lacson in payment of a debt to the amount of three thousand pesos (P3,000), transferring to the latter in an absolute sale, among other property, his rights over the Island of Sicogon together with a herd of cattle consisting of one hundred and thirty (130) head existing in the said island, as shown in a document, Exhibit B, authorized by the municipal captain of the town of Minuloan, Negros Occidental, signed by the secretary of the latter and other witnesses, and sealed with the seal of the said town. The questions, therefore, submitted for the decision of this court in order to determine whether the inscription applied for is proper or not are the following: (1) Whether the Island of Sicogon has really been ceded by the Spanish government to Ynchausti & Co. so that this firm can be considered as absolute owner of the same and (2), in case it is not proven that there was such a cession, or in case that the title of composition was not issued in favor of that corporation, whether it is established that the predecessors in interest of the petitioner, to wit, Ynchausti & Co. and Ramon Fontanet, as well as the petitioner himself, have possessed the said island under title of owner through a possession, continuous, pacific, and adverse to all other claimants, during the time required by law 80 as to give the petitioner the right to inscribe his title to the same in the Registry of Property.

From the evidence adduced by counsel for the petitioner, it is inferred that in 1887 the Spanish government issued in favor of Ynchausti & Co. a composition title adjudicating to it the Island of Sicogon; that about 1890 or 1891 Ynchausti & Co. sold the island to Ramon Fontanet to whom the composition title obtained from the Spanish government by the said firm should have been delivered, but in 1898 Fontanet was caught and later killed by the insurgents who invaded the island where Fontanet resided and his house together with all its furniture was burned, according to the testimony of Fernanda Ontaneres who then lived with Fontanet as mistress of the same (record, page 45). And because Fontanet was assassinated by the insurgents, it was not possible to authenticate his signature appearing on the document Exhibit B, nor was it possible for him to testify in this proceeding.

In fact, the petitioner did not exhibit any document justifying the fact that the said composition title with the State over the Island of Sicogon has been issued, and in the absence of proof to the contrary it is proper to admit as a fact that such a document was included with the other documents which Ramon Fontanet preserved and which was among those burned in the house where he lived, when such house was burned by the insurgents in 1898.

It is a fact proven in the record and not contradicted by the opponents, because it is notorious and public, that the archives of the provincial government of Iloilo as well as the books in the registry of property of the said province were burned during the revolution and that the building in which was installed the office of the forest inspector in the city of Manila together with its archives was burned. This circumstance justifies in a clear manner the fact that the petitioner Lacson could not present any document proving that the composition title to the Island of Sicogon was issued in favor of Ynchausti & Co. And, inasmuch as it has been proven that the above mentioned fires occurred, especially the burning of the house of Ramon Fontanet by the insurgents in 1898, which facts were neither impugned nor contradicted by the opponents, it is not strange that the petitioner was not able to justify the existence of the said title as well as of the document which proves that he has acquired the ownership of the said island by purchase from Ynchausti Co. The period of disorder and disturbance during which the said fires occurred make probable the complete disappearance of the title obtained by Ynchausti & Co. from the Spanish government as well as the assertion by the petitioner that he did not succeed in securing any evidence or any of the antecedents which justify the issuance of the said composition title in favor of Ynchausti & Co., and it is to be admitted that, owing to the fact that the island was large, the certificate of concession must have been issued in the General Office of Civil Administration in this city during the past regime.

Notwithstanding this, the witness Arturo Barcelo testified that he was the secretary of the politico-military government of Iloilo in April, 1885, and that the royal title obtained by Ynchausti & Co. as grantee of the Island of Sicogon had passed through his hands. Bernardino Sison, who was the municipal captain of the town of Talisay in 1896, recognized as his authentic signature the signature appearing in the document Exhibit B, wherein was stated the sale of the Island of Sicogon made by Ramon Fontanet in favor of Aniceto Lacson, Fontanet stating therein that he had in his house in the Island of Sicogon his cedula and the royal title to the island sold. Fernanda Ontaneres, who was a mistress of Fontanet, testified that she lived with the latter about four years in the wooden house formerly owned by Ynchausti & Co. in the said island; that at the outbreak of the revolution the insurgents entered their house, searched for money, drove the inmates away, and burned the house together with the trunks and wardrobes in which Fontanet kept the title and the plan of the Island of Sicogon as well as his clothes and other belongings; that presently the insurgents carried Fontanet to the Island of Calabuan where Fontanet had another house which was also searched for money and later burned; and that Fontanet was at last carried away to the place known as Tabugon where they killed him.

The petitioner Aniceto Lacson testified that a year before he bought the Island of Sicogon he was in the said island invited by Fontanet for a hunting trip, and when the latter proposed to the former the sale of that island, said Fontanet showed him the title thereto granted by the Spanish government and the documents executed by Ynchausti & Co. in favor of Fontanet, but then Lacson did not accept it because of the price; and that later the sale was agreed upon and the document Exhibit B was executed by Fontanet, because Tirso Lizarraga, the head of the firm of Ynchausti & Co. in Iloilo, died in Spain.

Arturo Barcelo, on rebuttal, testified that it was true that the Bureau of Forestry under the American regime, believing perhaps that the forest in the said island belonged to the government, granted to Manuel and Carlos de la Paz, Eulogio Betita and Bonifacio Eleocurria, permission to cut lumber, but immediately after the witness had become aware of the said permission, he, as an attorney in fact for the petitioner Lacson, opposed the issuance of the said permit and accordingly wrote to the Forestry Inspector at Manila informing the latter that the island belonged to the petitioner Lacson. In view of this letter of protest, the cutting of the wood was suspended so-that a great quantity thereof was abandoned on the slope of the mountain in that island.

It was fully proven that the house wherein Ramon Fontanet resided was burned in 1898 by the insurgents and that said Fontanet was the immediate predecessor in interest of the Petitioner Lacson in the ownership of the island. There being no proof to the contrary, it was natural and in accordance with the ordinary course of things that Fontanet had kept in his household furniture the documents relative to the property and ownership which he enjoyed over the said island, together with the other papers and objects of importance which he cared to keep and preserve. Hence, it is logical to believe that when the said house was burned, his furniture and other belongings together with all the papers relative to the acquisition of the ownership of the Island of Sicogon were also destroyed by the fire, and for this reason it is not strange that the petitioner Lacson was unable to present the old documents relative to the Island of Sicogon, inasmuch as the said document were not delivered to him by Fontanet when the sale was executed, as shown in the document Exhibit B.

It was also sufficiently proven and not contradicted at the trial that the archives and the books in the registry of property of the provincial government of Iloilo as well as the building wherein was installed the forestry office of the city of Manila and the archives of the latter were burned. Consequently, it is natural that the petitioner Lacson could not present data or antecedents proving the existence of the composition title obtained by Ynchausti & Co. and the document of sale executed by this firm in favor of Ramon Fontanet and that he could only present the document of the sale of the said hacienda executed between him and the latter, and that is the document Exhibit B.

In view of the foregoing facts, the second question raised remains to be elucidated, that is, whether the predecessors in interest of the petitioner, Ynchausti & Co. and Ramon Fontanet, have been in possession of the Island of Sicogon under title of owner through quiet and adverse possession for the time required by law, and lastly, whether Lacson is holding the said island through a possession quiet, exclusive and adverse to all other claimants, and under a title of owner, for a period of more than ten years till 1904.

The testimony of the witness Arturo Barcelo, Bernardino Sison, Victor Amistoso, Nicolas Roces, Fernanda Ontaneres, and Aniceto Lacson himself proves in a decisive and conclusive manner that Ynchausti & Co., even before acquiring the composition title mentioned above, possessed the Island of Sicogon under title of owner, in good faith, and for more than thirty years, as said Victor Amistoso who was the caretaker of the cattle in the said island assured that he knew one named Pedro, in charge of the firm of Ynchausti & Co. in the said island, who was succeeded by another surnamed Callejo. The latter was succeeded by one surnamed Eloriaga who in turn was succeeded by a Spaniard named Martin, an uncle of Lizarraga, the head of the firm, and lastly, Martin was succeeded by Ramon Fontanet, who after some years acquired the island with the cattle existing therein. The witness Arturo Barcelo stated that he knew Fontanet as the agent of Ynchausti & Co. in the Island of Sicogon who took care of the cattle belonging to the said firm until Fontanet purchased the Island and continued to carry on the business consisting of some one thousand five hundred (1,500) head and also with the business of cutting the wood found therein. Witness further declared that after Fontanet had acquired the island the stock farm had already disappeared, because the insurgents had taken possession of it. The said two witnesses, Barcelo and Amistoso, affirmed the testimony of Fernanda Ontaneres and Nicolas Roces to the effect that nobody could erect a house and till the soil unless with the permission of the agents of Ynchausti & Co. and later of Fontanet, the last agent and afterwards the owner of the island. The witness Roces added that he frequently went to the Island of Sicogon and lodged at Fontanet’s, when he was the contractor for the construction of the lighthouse in Gigante Island, and that he afterwards learned that certain soldiers belonging to the American Army went to that island to get some cows belonging to the petitioner Lacson and transport them to Iloilo.

It is, therefore, undeniable that the petitioner Lacson enjoyed a quiet, continuous, and adverse possession, and under title of owner, which possession added to that of his predecessors in interest covers a period very much longer than the ten years required by Section 54, paragraph 6 of Act No. 926.

The possession enjoyed and which is being enjoyed by Ynchausti & Co. through its agents and by Ramon Fontanet and the actual possessor Aniceto Lacson has been recognized and constantly respected. This fact was affirmed by different witnesses who had been in the island and had given reasons for their testimony which was not rebutted by the two witnesses presented by the opponent. The first of the last-mentioned witnesses affirms that there exist in the island two lots which constitute a forest zone, because various classes of trees are found therein and because said lots appear to be uncultivated; and the second of the said witnesses assures that he had built his house in the island without seeking the permission of anybody and ignored that the petitioner was the owner of the same, which testimony does not show that Lacson was not the possessor of the island.

The fact that the municipality of Balasan withdrew its opposition and demanded as a condition for doing so that it be given by the petitioner some lots for a public square and school and market purposes, maintaining the street open, and the further fact that some of the residents in said island likewise withdrew their oppositions demonstrate beyond the least shadow of a doubt that such opponents headed by the municipality of Balasan decided to recognize impliedly the right of ownership and possession which the petitioner Lacson actually enjoys. Hence, the proceeding offers no legal ground whatsoever or any reasonable and just motive for denying the application for the inscription of the agricultural land in the said island with the exception of the forest zone which is not susceptible to private ownership, because, according to the law in force during the Spanish regime, lands comprised in the forest zone were not subject to private ownership, and because, taking into account the fact that a composition title was issued by the Spanish government in favor of Ynchausti & Co., it is to be believed that the concession was not made so as to include the forest zone.

With respect to the agricultural lands in the said islands, Act No. 926, Section 54, paragraph 6, only requires, as a condition for their inscription, a possession which is open, exclusive and under title of owner, and adverse to all other claimants and for a period of more than ten years prior to 1904. Such conditions concur in the possession enjoyed up to date by the petitioner, taking into account the possession enjoyed by his predecessors in interest for more than thirty years. The fact that the agricultural portion of the island was not entirely cultivated is no impediment to its inscription in favor of the petitioner, inasmuch as such condition is not required by the law in order that the right of the possessor under title of owner may be recognized and in order that the inscription may be granted.

For these reasons, justice demands that the judgment appealed from be reserved and that, upon a prior declaration of general default, we should order, as we hereby order, the inscription in the name of the petitioner Aniceto Lacson of all the portions of the Island of Sicogon which are agricultural in character with the exception of the forest zone contained in the said island, and consequently, the petitioner is hereby ordered to present within the shortest time possible the corresponding plan showing the agricultural portion of the said island and the forest zone that should be excluded from the inscription. The inscription shall be made in accordance with the plan so presented, in conformity with the law, with this decision, and with the corresponding technical description of the agricultural portion to be inscribed in favor of the said petitioner. There is no special finding as to costs. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Araullo, Street, Malcolm and Moir, JJ., concur.

Carson and Johnson, JJ., dissent.

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