confirmation and registration of an imperfect title, under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended, and Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, respectively, should only be granted when: (1) a Filipino citizen, by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural land of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since 12 June 1945, or earlier; and (2) the land in question, necessarily, was already declared alienable and disposable also by 12 June 1945 or earlier. Same; Same; When an individual acquires an imperfect title, he acquires a right to a grant by operation of law. — Stringency and prudence in interpreting and applying Section 48(b) of the Public 176 176 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED Heirs of Mario Malabanan vs. Republic Land Act, as amended, is well justified by the significant consequences arising from a finding that a person has an imperfect title to agricultural land of the public domain. Not just any lengthy occupation of an agricultural public land could ripen into an imperfect title. An imperfect title can only be acquired by occupation and possession of the land by a person and his predecessors-in-interest for the period required and considered by law sufficient as to have segregated the land from the mass of public land. When a person is said to have acquired an imperfect title, by operation of law, he acquires a right to a grant, a government grant to the land, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. As such, the land ceased to be part of the public domain and goes beyond the authority of the State to dispose of. An application for confirmation of title, therefore, is but a mere formality. BRION, J., Concurring and Dissenting Opinion: Constitutional Law; Land Registration Act; Public Land Act; Any consideration of lands of the public domain must begin with the Constitution and its Regalian doctrine and the special laws thereon. —In light of our established hierarchy of laws, particularly the supremacy of the Philippine Constitution, any consideration of lands of the public domain should start with the Constitution and its Regalian doctrine; all lands belong to the State, and he who claims ownership carries the burden of proving his claim. Next in the hierarchy is the PLA for purposes of the terms of the grant, alienation and disposition of the lands of the public domain, and the PRD for the registration of lands. The PLA and the PRD are special laws supreme in their respective spheres, subject only to the Constitution. The Civil Code, for its part, is the general law on property and prescription and should be accorded respect as such. In more concrete terms, where alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are involved, the PLA is the primary law that should govern, and the Civil Code provisions on property and prescription must yield in case of conflict.
- Fall '19
- Appellate court, Real property law