Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands | G.R. No. L-48321, August 31, 1946

  • Reading time:64 mins read

Republic of the Philippines


G.R. No. L-48321 | August 31, 1946

OH CHO, applicant-appellee,
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, oppositor-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta and Assistant Solicitor General Rafael Amparo for appellant.
Vicente Constantino for appellee.
Ferrier, Gomez and Sotelo and J. T. Chuidian as amici curiae.


This is an appeal from a judgment decreeing the registration of a residential lot located in the municipality of Guinayangan, Province of Tayabas in the name of the applicant.

The opposition of the Director of Lands is based on the applicant’s lack of title to the lot, and on his disqualification, as alien, from acquiring lands of the public domain.

The applicant, who is an alien, and his predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the lot from 1880 to filing of the application for registration on January 17, 1940.

The Solicitor General reiterates the second objection of the opponent and adds that the lower court, committed an error in not declaring null and void the sale of the lot to the applicant.

The applicant invokes the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496), or should it not be applicable to the case, then he would apply for the benefits of the Public Land Act (C.A. No. 141).

The applicant failed to show that he has title to the lot that may be confirmed under the Land Registration Act. He failed to show that he or any of his predecessors in interest had acquired the lot from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, under the laws, orders and decrease promulgated by the Spanish Government in the Philippines, or by possessory information under the Mortgaged Law (section 19, Act 496). All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant below to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest. (Cariño vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S., 449; 53 Law. Ed., 594.) The applicant does not come under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessors in interest begun in 1880.

As the applicant failed to show title to the lot, the next question is whether he is entitled to decree or registration of the lot, because he is alien disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain (sections 48, 49, C.A. No. 141).

As the applicant failed to show the title to the lot, and has invoked the provisions of the Public Land Act, it seems unnecessary to make pronouncement in this case on the nature or classifications of the sought to be registered.

It may be argued that under the provisions of the Public Land Act the applicant immediate predecessor in interest would have been entitled to a decree of registration of the lot had they applied for its registration; and that he having purchased or acquired it, the right of his immediate predecessor in interest to a decree of registration must be deemed also to have been acquired by him. The benefits provided in the Public Land Act for applicant’s immediate predecessors in interest should comply with the condition precedent for the grant of such benefits. The condition precedent is to apply for the registration of the land of which they had been in possession at least since July 26, 1894. This the applicant’s immediate predecessors in interest failed to do. They did not have any vested right in the lot amounting to the title which was transmissible to the applicant. The only right, if it may thus be called, is their possession of the lot which, tacked to that of their predecessors in interest, may be availed of by a qualified person to apply for its registration but not by a person as the applicant who is disqualified.

It is urged that the sale of the lot to the applicant should have been declared null and void. In a suit between vendor and vendee for the annulment of the sale, such pronouncement would be necessary, if the court were of the opinion that it is void. It is not necessary in this case where the vendors do not even object to the application filed by the vendee.

Accordingly, judgment is reversed and the application for registration dismissed, without costs.

Moran, C.J., Feria, Pablo, Hilado and Bengzon, JJ., concur.


PERFECTO, J., concurring:

Oh Cho, a citizen of the Republic of China, purchased in 1938 from Antonio, Luis and Rafael Lagdameo a parcel of land located in the residential district of Guinayangan, Tayabas, which has been in the continuous, public, and adverse possession of their predecessors in interest as far back as 1880. on June 17, 1940, Oh Cho applied for the registration of said parcel of land. The Director of Lands opposed the application because, among other grounds, the Constitution prohibits aliens from acquiring public or private agricultural lands.

One of the witnesses for the applicant, on cross-examination, expressly admitted that the land in question is susceptible of cultivation and may be converted into an orchard or garden. Rodolfo Tiquia, inspector of the Bureau of Lands, testifying as a witness for the government, stated that the land, notwithstanding the use to which it is actually devoted, is agricultural land in accordance with an opinion rendered in 1939 by the Secretary of Justice. The pertinent part of said opinion, penned by Secretary Jose Abad Santos, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is as follows:



1. Whether or not the “public agricultural land” in section 1, Article XII, of the Constitution may be interpreted to include residential, commercial or industrial lots for purposes of their disposition.

1. Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution classifies lands of the public domain in the Philippines into agricultural, timber and mineral. This is the basic classification adopted since the enactment of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the Philippines, the term “agricultural public lands” had, therefor, acquired a technical meaning in our public laws. The Supreme Court of the Philippines in the leading case of Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, held that the phrase “agricultural public lands” means those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither timber nor mineral lands. This definition has been followed by our Supreme Court in many subsequent cases. (Montano vs. Ins. Gov’t 12 Phil., 572, 574; Santiago vs. Ins. Gov’t., 12, Phil., 593; Ibañes de Aldecoa vs. Ins. Gov’t., 13 Phil., 159; Ins. Gov’t., vs. Aldecoa & Co., 19 Phil., 505, 516 Mercado vs. Collector of Internal Revenue, 32 Phil., 271, 276; Molina 175, 181; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil., 560, 564; and Ankron vs. Government of the Philippines, 40 Phil., 10, 14.)

Residential, commercial or industrial lots forming part of the public domain must have to be included in one or more of these classes. Clearly, they are neither timber nor mineral, of necessity, therefore, they must be classified as agricultural.

Viewed from the another angle, it has been held that in determining whether lands are agricultural or not, the character of the lands is the test (Odell vs. Durant 62 N. W., 524; Lerch vs. Missoula Brick & Tile Co., 123 p., 25). In other words, it is the susceptibility of the land to cultivation for agricultural or not (State vs. Stewart, 190, p.,129).



Judge Pedro Magsalin, of the Court First Instance of Tayabas, rendered a decision on August 15, 1940, overruling the opposition without must explanation and decreeing the registration prayed for the applicant. The Director of Lands appealed from the decision, and the Solicitor General appearing for appellant, maintains that the applicant, not being a citizen of the Philippines, is disqualified to buy or acquire the parcel of land in question and that the purchase made in question and that the purchase made in 1938 is null and void.

This is the question squarely reversing to us for decision. The majority, although reversing the lower court’s decision and dismissing the application with we agree, abstained from the declaring null and void the purchase made by Oh Cho in 1938 as prayed for the appellant. We deem it necessary to state our opinion on the important question raised, it must be squarely decided.

The Solicitor General argued in his brief as follows:



I. The lower court erred decreeing the registration of the lot in question in favor of the applicant who, according to his own voluntary admission, is a citizen of the Chinese Republic.

(aThe phrase “agricultural land” as used in the Act of the Congress of July 1, 1902, in the Public Land Act includes residential lots.

In this jurisdiction lands of public domain suitable for residential purposes are considered agricultural lands under the Public Land Law. The phrase “agricultural public lands” has well settled judicial definition. It was used for the first time in the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill. Its means those public lands acquired form Spain which are neither mineral nor timber lands (Mapa vs. Insular Government, 12 Phil., 572; Ibañes de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government 13 Phil., 159; Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil., 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil., 560; Ankron vs. Government of the Philippine Islands, 40 Phil., 10). In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government, supra, the Supreme Court, in defining the meaning and scope of that phrase from the context of the sections 13 and 15 of that Act, said:

The phrase “agricultural public lands” as defined by the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, which phrase is also to be found in several sections of the Public Land Act (No. 926) means those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither mineral timber lands.

x x x           x x x           x x x



“We hold that there is to be found in the act of Congress a definition of the phrase “agricultural public lands,” and after careful consideration of the question we are satisfied that only definition which exists in said Act is the definition adopted by the court below. Section 13 say that the Government shall “make and rules and regulations for the lease, sale, or other dispositions of public lands other than timber or mineral lands,” To our minds that is only definition that can be said to be given agricultural lands. In other wordsthat the phrase “agricultural lands” as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. . . .” Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, 178, 182, emphasis added.)



“This phrase “agricultural public lands” was subsequently used in Act No. 926, which is the first public land law of the Philippines. As therein used, the phrase was expressly given by the Philippine Commission the same meaning intended for it by Congress as interpreted in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Governmentsupra. This is a self-evident from a reading of section 1, 10, 32, and 64 (subsection 6 of Act No. 926). Whenever the phrase “agricultural public lands” is used in any of said sections, it is invariably by the qualification “as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two.”

“More specially, in the case of Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Governmentsupra, the Supreme Court held that a residential or building lot, forming part of the public domain, is agricultural land, irrespective of the fact that it is not actually used for purposes of agriculture for the simple reason that it is susceptible of cultivation and may be converted into a rural estate, and because when a land is not mineral or forestal in its nature it must necessarily be included within the classification of a agricultural land. Because of the special applicability of the doctrine laid down in said case, we quote at some length from the decision therein rendered:

“The question set up in these proceedings by virtue of the appeal interposed by counsel for Juan Ibañez de Aldecoa, is whether or not a parcel of land that is susceptible of being cultivated, and ceasing to be agricultural land, was converted into a building lot, is subject to the legal provisions in force regarding Government public lands which may be alienated in favor of private individuals or corporations. . . .

x x x           x x x           x x x

“Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may converted into a field, and planted with all kinds of vegetation ; for this reason, where land is not mining or forestal in its nature, it must necessarily be included within the classification of agriculture land, not because it is actually used for the purposes of agriculture, but because it was originally agricultural and may again become so under other circumstances; besides the Act of Congress (of July 1, 1902) contains only three classifications, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots or urban land that have ceased to be agricultural land. . . .

x x x           x x x           x x x

“From the language of the foregoing provisions of the law, it is deduced that, with the exception of those comprised within the mineral and timber zone, all lands owned by State or by the sovereign nation are public in character, and per se alienable and, provided they are not destine to the use of public in general or reserved by the Government in accordance with law, they may be acquired by any private or juridical person; and considering their origin and primitive state and the general uses to which they are accorded, they are called agricultural lands, urbans lands and building lots being included in this classification for the purpose of distinguishing rural and urban estates from mineral and timber lands; the transformation they may have undergone is no obstacle to such classification as the possessors thereof may again convert them into rural estates.” (Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government 13 Phil., 161, 163 164, 165, 166; emphasis added.).

(bUnder the Constitution and Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Public Land Act), the phrase (Public Land Act), the phrase “public agricultural land” includes lands of the public domain suitable for residential purposes.

“Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution, reads as follows:

“All agricultural timber, and mineral lands of the public domain waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant lease, or concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be alienated . . .” (Emphasis added.).

“Under the above-quote provision, the disposition exploitation, development or utilization of the natural resources, including agricultural lands of the public domain is limited to citizens of the Philippines or to the corporations or associations therein mentioned. It also clearly appears from said provision that natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, are not subject to alienation.

“On November 7, 1936, or more than one year after the adoption of the Constitution, Commonwealth Act No. 141, known as the Public Land Act, was approved. Under this Act the lands of the public have been classified into three divisions: (a) alienable or disposable, (b) timber, and (c) mineral lands. The lands designated alienable or disposable correspond to lands designated in the Constitution as public agricultural lands, because under section 1, Article XII, public agricultural lands are the only natural resources of the country which are the only natural resources of the country which are subject to alienation or deposition.

“Section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 provide that the alienable or disposable public lands shall be classified, according to use or purposes to which they are destined, into a agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, etc., lands. At first blush it would seem that under this classification residential land is different from agricultural land. The difference however, is more apparent than real. ‘Public agricultural land ‘ as that phrase is used in the Constitution means alienable lands of the public domain and therefore this phrase is equivalent to the lands classified by the Commonwealth Act No. 141 as alienable or disposable. The classification provided in section 9 is only for purposes administration and disposition, according to the purposes to which said lands are especially adopted. But notwithstanding this of all said lands are essentially agricultural public lands because only agricultural public lands are subject to alienation or disposition under section 1, Article XII of the Constitution. A contrary view would necessarily create a conflict between Commonwealth Act No. 141 and section 1 of Article XII of the Constitution, and such conflict should be avoided , if possible, and said Act construed in the light of the fundamental provisions of the Constitution and in entire harmony therewith.

“Another universal principles applied in considering constitutional question is, that an Act will be so construed, if possible, as to avoid conflict with the Constitution, although such a construction may not be the most obvious or natural one. “The Court may resort to an implication to sustain a statute, but not to destroy it.” But the courts cannot go beyond the province of legitimate construction, in order to save a statute; and where the meaning is plain, words cannot to be read into it or out of it for that purpose.” ( 1 Sutherland, Statutory Construction, pp. 135, 136.)

“In view of the fact that more than one than one year after the adoption of the Constitution the National Assembly revised the Public Land Law and passed Commonwealth Act No. 141, which a compilation of the laws relative to the lands of the public domain and the amendments thereto, form to the Constitution.

Where the legislature has revised a statute after a Constitution has been adopted, such a revision is to be regarded as a legislative construction that the statute so revised conforms to the Constitution.” (59 C.J., 1102; emphasis added.)

“By the way of illustration, let us supposed that a piece or tract of public land has been classified pursuant to section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as residential land. If, by reason of this classification, it is maintained that said land has ceased to be agricultural public land, it will no longer be subject to alienation or disposition by reason of the constitutional provision that only agricultural lands are alienable; and yet such residential lot is alienable under section 58, 59, and 60 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations mentioned in section 1, Article XII of the Constitution. Therefore, the classification of public agricultural lands into various subdivisions is only for purposes of administration, alienation or disposition, but it does not destroy the inherent nature of all such lands as a public agricultural lands.

“(cJudicial interpretation of doubtful clause or phrase use in the law, controlling.

“The judicial interpretation given to the phrase “public agricultural land” is a sufficient authority for giving the same interpretation to the phrase as used in subsequent legislation, and this is especially so in view of the length of time during which this interpretation has been maintained by the courts. On this point Sutherland has the following to say:

“When a judicial interpretation has once been put upon a clause, expressed in a vague manner by the legislature, and difficult to be understood, that ought of itself to be sufficient authority for adopting the same construction. Buller J., said: “We find solemn determination of these doubtful expressions in the statute, and as that now put another construction has since prevailed, there is no reason why we should now put another construction of the act on account of any suppose change of convenience.” This rule of construction will hold good even if the court be opinion that the practical erroneous; so that if the matter were res integra the court would adopt a different construction. Lord Cairns said: “I think that with regard to statutes … it is desirable not so much that the principle of the decision should be capable at all times of justification, as that the law should be settled, and should, when once settled, be maintained without any danger of vacillation or uncertainty. “Judicial usage and practice will have weight, and when continued for a long time will be sustained though carried beyond the pair purport of the statute.”(II Lewis’ Sutherland Statutory Construction, pp. 892, 893.) .

“An important consideration affecting the weight of contemporary judicial construction is the length of time it has continued. It is adopted, and derives great force from being adopted, soon after the enactment of the law. It may be, and is presumed, that the legislative sense of its policy, and of its true scope and meaning, permeates the judiciary and controls its exposition. Having received at that time a construction which is for the time settled, accepted, and thereafter followed or acted upon, it has the sanction of the of the authority appointed to expound the law, just and correct conclusions, when reached, they are, moreover, within the strongest reasons on which founded the maxim of stare decisis. Such a construction is public given, and the subsequent silence of the legislature is strong evidence of acquiescence, though not conclusive. . . . (II Lewis Sutherland Statutory Construction, pp. 894, 895.)

“Furthermore, when the phrase “public agricultural land” was used in section 1 of Article XII of the Constitution, it is presumed that it was so used with the same judicial meaning therefor given to it and therefor the meaning of the phrase, as used in the Constitution, includes residential lands and another lands of the public domain, but excludes mineral and timber lands.

Adoption of provisions previously construed — ad. Previous construction by Courts. — Where a statute that has been construed by the courts of the last resort has been reenacted in same, or substantially the same, terms, the legislature is presumed to have been familiar with its construction, and to have adopted it is part of the law, unless a contrary intent clearly appears, or a different construction is expressly provided for; and the same rule applies in the construction of a statute enacted after a similar or cognate statute has been judicially construed. So where words or phrases employed in a new statute have been construed by the court to have been used in a particular sense in a previous statute on the same subject, or one analogous to it, they are presumed, in the a absence of clearly expressed intent to the contrary, to be used in the same sense in the statute as in the previous statute.” (59 C.J., 1061-1063.).

Legislative adoption of judicial construction. — In the adoption of the code, the legislature is presumed to have known the judicial construction which have been placed on the former statutes; and therefore the reenactment in the code or general revision of provisions substantially the same as those contained in the former statutes is a legislative adoption of their known judicial constructions, unless a contrary intent is clearly manifest. So the fact that the revisers eliminated statutory language after it had been judicially construed shows that they had such construction in view.” (59 C. J., 1102.)

“II. The lower court erred in not declaring null and void the sale of said land to the appellant (appellee).

“Granting that the land in question has ceased to be a part of the lands of the public domain by reason of the long continuous,, public adverse possession of the applicant’s predecessors in interest, and that the latter had performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and were entitled to a certificate of title under section 48, subsection (b), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, still the sale of said land of December 8, 1938, to the applicant as evidenced by Exhibits B and C, was null and void for being contrary to section 5, Article XII of the Constitution, which reads as follows:

“Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain of the Philippines.”

“The applicant, being a Chinese citizen, is disqualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain (section 1, Article XII of the Constitution; section 12, 22, 23, 33, 44, 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141 ), and consequently also disqualified to buy and acquire private agriculture land.

“In view of the well settled judicial meaning of the phrase public agricultural land,’ as hereinbefore demonstrated, the phrase ‘private agricultural land,’ as used in the above quoted provision, can only mean land of private ownership, whether agricultural, residential, commercial or industrial. And this necessarily so, because the phrase ‘agricultural land used in the Constitution and in the Public Land Law must be given the same uniform meaning to wit, any land of the public domain or any land of private ownership, which is neither mineral or forestal.

“A word or phrase repeated in a statute will bear the same meaning throughout the statute, unless a different intention appears. … Where words have being long used in a technical sense and have been judicially construed to have a certain meaning, and have been adopted by the legislature as having a certain meaning prior to a particular statute in which they are used, the rule of construction requires that the words used in such statute should be construed according to the sense may vary from the strict literal meaning of the words.” (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction., p. 758.) .

“This interpretation is in harmony with the nationalistic policy, spirit and purpose of our Constitution and laws, to wit, `to conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation,’ as solemnly enunciated in the preamble to the Constitution.

“A narrow and literal interpretation of the phrase ‘private agriculture land’ would impair and defeat the nationalistic aim and general policy of our laws and would allow a gradual, steady, and unlimited accumulation in alien hands of a substantial portion of our patrimonial estates, to the detriment of our national solidarity, stability, and independence. Nothing could prevent the acquisition of a great portion or the whole of a city by subjects of a foreign power. And yet a city or urban area is more strategical than a farm or rural land.

“The mere literal construction of section in a statute ought not to prevail if it is opposed to the intention of the legislature apparent by the statute; and if the words are sufficiently flexible to admit of some other construction it is to be adopted to effectuate that intention. The intent prevails over the letter, and the letter will, if possible be so read as to conform to the spirit of the act. While the intention of the legislature must be ascertained from the words used to express it, the manifest reason and the obvious purpose of the law should not be sacrificed to a liberal interpretation of such words.” (II Sutherland, Stat. Construction, pp. 721, 722.)

“We conclude, therefore, that the residential lot which the applicant seeks to register in his name falls within the meaning of private agricultural land as this phrase is used in our Constitution and, consequently, is not subject to acquisition by foreigners except by hereditary succession.”

The argument hold water. It expresses a correct interpretation of the Constitution and the real intent of the Constitutional Convention.

One of our fellow members therein, Delegate Montilla, said:

The constitutional precepts that I believe will ultimately lead us to our desired goal are; (1) the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources; (2) the nationalization of our commerce and industry compatible with good international practices. With the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources it is to be understood that our God-given birthright should be one hundred per cent in Filipino hands. … Lands and natural resources are immovable and as such can be compared to the vital organs of a person’s body, the lack of possession of which may cause instant death or the shortening of life. If we do not completely nationalize these two of our most important belongings, I am afraid that the time will come when we shall be sorry for the time we were born. Our independence will be just a mockery, for what kind of independence are we going to have if a part of our country is not in our hands but in those of foreigner? (2 Aruego, The Framing of the Philippine Constitution, p. 592.).

From the same book of Delegate Aruego, we quote:

The nationalization of the natural resources of the country was intended (1) to insure their conservation for Filipino posterity; (2) to serve as an instrument of national defense, helping prevent the extension into the country of foreign control through peaceful economic penetration; and (3) to prevent making the Philippines a source of international conflict with the consequent danger to its internal security and independence.

x x x           x x x           x x x

. . . In the preface to its report, the committee on nationalization and preservation of lands and other natural resources said;

“International complications have often resulted from the existence of alien ownership of land and natural resources in a weak country. Because of this danger, it is best that aliens should be restricted in the acquisition of land and other natural resources. An example is afforded by the case of Texas. This state was originally province of Mexico. In order to secure its rapid settlements and development, the Mexican government offered free land to settlers in Texas. Americans responded more rapidly than the Mexicans, and soon they organized a revolt against Mexican rule, and then secured annexation to the United States. A new increase of alien landholding in Mexico has brought about the desire a prevent a repetition of the Texas affair. Accordingly the Mexican constitution of 1917 contains serious limitation on the right of aliens to hold lands and mines in Mexico. The Filipinos should profit from this example.”

x x x           x x x           x x x

It was primarily for these reasons that the Convention approved readily the proposed principle of prohibiting aliens to acquire, exploit, develop, or utilize agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines. For the same reasons the Convention approved equally readily the proposed principle of prohibiting the transfer of assignment to aliens of private agricultural land, save in the case of hereditary succession. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine Constitution, pp. 604, 605, 606.).

All the foregoing show why we, having been a member of the Constitutional Convention, agree with Solicitor General’s position and concur in the result in this case, although we would go as far as the outright pronouncement that the purchase made by appelle is null and void.

BRIONES, M., con quien estan conformes PARAS y TUASON, MM., disidente:

El solicitante en este expediente pide el registro del solar de que se trata como terreno de propiedad privada, y tan solo con caracter supletorio invoca las disposiciones del capitulo 8.º de la Ley No. 2874 sobre terrenos publicos (Pieza de Excepciones, pag. 3.)

Por su parte el Director de Terrenos se opone a la solicitud en virtud de tres fundamentos, a saber: (1) porque ni el solicitante ni sus predecesores en interes pueden demonstrar titulo suficiente sobre dicha parcela de terreno, no habiendose adquirido la misma ni por titulo de composicion con el Estado bajo la soberania de España, ni por titulo de informacion posesoria bajo el Real Decreto de 13 de Febrero de 1894; (2) porque el citado solar es una porcion de los terrenos de dominio publico pertenecientes al Commonwealth de Filipinas; (3) porque siendo el solicitante un ciudadano chino, no esta capacitado bajo las disposiciones de la Constitucion de Filipinas para adquirir terrenos de caracter publico o privado (idem, pags. 5 y 6).

Tanto el solicitante como el Director de Terrenos practicaron sus pruebas ante un arbitro nombrado por el Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Tayabas. Con vista de tales pruebas, el Juez Magsalin, del referido Juzgado, dicto sentencia a favor del solicitante, de la cual transcribimos las siguientes porciones pertinentes:

La representacion del opositor Director de Terrenos trata de probar por medio del testimonio del Inspector del Buro de Terrenos que, el terreno objeto de la solicitud es parte del dominio publico y ademas el solicitante es ciudadano chino, pero dicho testigo afirmo que el terreno objeto de la presente solicitud es un solar situado dentro de la poblacion del municipio de Guinayanga, Tayabas, y en el mismo existe una casa de materiales fuertes y careciendo de merito esta oposicion debe desestimarse la misma.

Por tanto, previa desestimacion de la oposicion del Director de Terrenos, se adjudica con sus mejoras la parcela de terreno objeto de la presente solicitud descrito en el plano Psu-109117, a favor del solicitante Oh Cho, ciudadano chino, mayor de edad, casado con Yee Shi, y residente en el municipio de Guinayanga, Tayabas, Islas Filipinas. (Decision, pag. 8, Record on Appeal.)

De lo transcrito se infiere de una manera forzosa lo siguiente: (a) que el tribunal inferior desestimo de plano la oposicion del Director de Terrenos fundada en el supuesto de que el solar cuestionado es parte del dominio publico; (b) que el mismo tribunal rechazo el otro fundamento de la oposicion, esto es, que siendo el solicitante ciudadano chino esta incapacitado bajo nuestra Constitucion para adquirir terreno, ya publico, ya privado, aunque sea un solar de caracter urbano; (c) que, segun el fallo del Juez a quo, no siendo publico el terreno cuestionado, es necesariamente terreno privado.

El Director de Terrenos, no estando conforme con la sentencia, apelo de ella para ante el Tribunal de Apelacion y hace en su alegato dos señalamientos de error, ninguno de los cuales pone en tela de juicio la calidad de privado del terreno cuestionado. El apelante no plantea ninguna cuestion de hecho; plantea solo una cuestion de derecho. Por eso que en la reconstitucion de este expediente — el original se quemo durante la guerra — no ha habido necesidad de incluir las notas taquigraficas ni las pruebas documentales, y de hecho hemos considerado y decidido este asunto sin dichas notas y pruebas. El abogado Constantino, del apelado, en la audiencia para la reconstitucion de los autos, hizo esta manifestacion; “In view also of the fact that the questions involved here are only questions of law, this representation waives the right to present the evidence presented in the trial court . . . .” Por su parte, el Procurador General, al explanar el caso en representacion del apelante Director de Terrenos, principia su alegato con la siguiente declaracion:

This appeal is a test case. There are now several cases of exactly the same nature pending in the trial courts.

Whether or not an alien can acquire a residential lot and register it in his name is the only question raised in this appeal from a decision of the Court of First Instance of Tayabas which sustained the affirmance and decreed the registration of the said property in favor of the applicant who, by his own voluntary admission, is a citizen of the Chinese Republic. This question is raised in connection with the constitutional provision that no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned to foreigners except in cases of hereditary succession. (Pags. 1, 2, alegato del apelante.)

Habiendose apelado de la sentencia para ante el Tribunal de Apelacion ¿por que se elevo este asunto al Tribunal Supremo, ante el cual ya estaba pendiente aun antes de la guerra, y sin resolverse durante la ocupacion japonesa? La razon no consta especificamente en autos, pero como no se trata de una alzada del Tribunal de Apelacaion a la Corte Suprema, la unica explicacion que cabe es que aquel, la percatarse de que en la apelacion no se planteaba mas que una cuestion de derecho, ordeno, como era de rigor, el traslado del asunto a esta Corte por ser de su jurisdiccion y competencia.

Hemos estimado necesario sentar las anteriores premisas porque las mismas sirven de base a la argumentacion que a seguida vamos a desenvolver para fundamentar esta disidencia.

I. De lo expuesto resulta evidente que el Director de Terrenos se ha opuesto al registro solicitado, entre otros fundamentos, porque el terreno es publico; que el tribunal inferior ha desestimado este fundamento por “carecer de merito,” fallando que el terreno es privado; que el Director de Terrenos, en su apelacion ante nosotros, no cuestiona esta conclusion del Juez a quo, sino que dando por admitido que el terreno es de propiedad privada, arguye, sin embargo, que bajo la seccion 5, Articulo XII de la Constitucion de Filipinas el solicitante, por ser extranjero, no puede adquirir terreno agricula privado, estando incluido en este concepto un solar urbano como el de que se trata en este expediente. Planteado el asunto en tales terminos ¿puede esta Corte considerar y resolver un punto no contendido entre las partes — un punto que esta firme y definitivamente resuelto y no es objeto de apelacion? Dicho de otra manera: ¿puede esta Corte, como hace la mayoria en su opinion, revocar una conclusion del tribunal-inferior que no esta discutida en el alegato del apelante? ¿Podemos, en buena ley procesal, declarar publico el terreno en cuestion por nuestra propia iniciativa, cuando el mismo Procurador General, que representa al Estado, admite en su alegato el caracter privado del solar, y solo suscita una cuestion, de derecho, a saber: que bajo nuestra Constitucion ningun acto traslativo de dominio a favor de un extranjero es valido, asi se trata de predio urbano, porque la frase “terreno agricola privado” qe se contiene en la Constitucion abarca no solo las fincas rusticas sino tambien las urbanas? Y, sobre todo, ¿podemos, en equidad y justicia, considerar y revisar un punto que no solo no esta discutido por las partes, pues lo dan por admitido y establecido, sino que es de derecho y de hecho al propio tiempo? ¿Que base tenemos para hacerlo cuando no tenemos delante las pruebas tanto testificales como documentales? Nuestra contestacion es, en absoluto, negativo.

La competencia de esta Corte para revisar las sentencias de los tribunales inferiores, de las cuales se ha interpuesto apelacion, se basa en el principio de que dicha competencia, en su ejercicio, tiene que limitarse a las cuestiones controvertidas, y esto se determina mediante el señalamiento de errores que el apelante hace en su alegato. El articulo 19 del antiguo reglamento de los procedimientos en este Tribunal Supremo decia en su primer parrafo lo siguiente:

Anexo al alegato del apelante y en pliego separado, se acompañara una relacion de los errores de derecho que han de discutirse. La especificacion de cada uno de estos errores se hara por parrafos separados, con toda claridad, de una manera concisa, y sin incurrir en repeticiones, y seran numerados por orden correlativo.

El articulo 20 del mismo reglamento preceptuaba:

Ningun error de derecho fuera del relativo a competencia sobre la materia de un litigio, sera tomado en consideracion como no se halle puntualizado en la relacion de los errores y presentado como uno de los fundamentos en el alegato.

Interpretando estas disposiciones reglamentarias, la Corte hizo en el asunto de Santiago contra Felix (24 Jur. Fil., 391), los siguientes pronunciamientos doctrinales:

1. APELACION; EFECTO DE DEJAR DE PRESENTAR RELACION DE ERRORES; REGLA FIRMEMENTE ESTABLECIDA. — Es regla establecida por la jurisprudencia de los Tribunales de estas Islas, en virtud de repetidas y uniformes sentencias de esta Corte, la de que si en una apelacione el recurrente dejare de hacer señalamiento de los errores en que haya incurrido el Tribunal inferior, y se limitare a discutir cuestiones de hecho en general, no es posible que este Tribunal pueda considerar ni revisar la resolucion adversa a la parte apelante, por el motivo de haberse dictado contra la ley y el peso de las pruebas, sino que es necesario que se señale y se especifique el error o errores que determinaron la decision apelada que el apelante califica de ilegal e injusta.

2. Id.; Id.; Regla Igual a la Adoptada por los Tribunales de los Estados Unidos. — Igual doctrina legal se halla en observancia en los Tribunales de los Estados Unidos de America del Norte, toda vez que una manifestacion general de que el Juzgado erro en dictar sentencia a favor de una de las partes, no es suficiente como base para que la Corte pueda revisar la sentencia apelada, pues que a no ser que la apreciacion hecha por un Juez de los hechos alegados y probados en juicio sea manifestamente contraria al resultado y peso de las pruebas, el Tribunal de alzada suela aceptar el juicio y criterio del Juez sobre las cuestiones de hecho, y no procede revocar sin motivo fundado la sentencia apelada. (Enriquez contra Enriquez, 8 Jur. Fil., 574; Capellania de Tambobong contra Antonio, 8 Jur. Fil., 693; Paterno contra la Ciudad de Manila, 17 Jur. Fil., 26)” (Santiago contra Felix, 24 Jur. Fil., 391.)

Esta doctrina se reitero posteriormente en los siguientes asuntos: Tan Me Nio contra Administrador de Aduanas, 34 Jur. Fil., 995, 996; Hernaez contra Montelibano, 34 Jur. Fil., 1011.

La regla 53, seccion 6, del actual reglamento de los tribunales, dispone lo siguiente:

SEC. 5. Questions that may be decided. — No error which does not affect the jurisdiction over the subject matter will be considered unless stated in the assignment of errors and properly argued in the brief, save as the court, at its option, may notice plain errors not specified, and also clerical errors.

No se dira que la cuestion de si el terreno cuestionado es publico o privado, considerada y resuelta por la mayoria en su decision sin previo señalamiento de error ni apropiada argumentacion en el alegato del Procurador General, esta comprendida entre las salvedades de que habla la regla arriba transcrita porque ni afecta a la jurisdiccion sobre la materia del litigio, ni es un “plain error,” o “clerical error.”

Se notara que en el antiguo reglamento no habia eso de “plain errors not specified” (errores patentes o manifiestos no especificados en el alegato). Pero ¿cabe invocar esta reserva en el caso que nos ocupa Indudablemente que no, por las siguientes razones: (a) los autos no demuestran que el Juez a quo cometio un error patente y manifiesto al declarar en su sentencia que el terreno no es publico sino privado; no tenemos mas remedio que aceptar en su faz la conclusion del Juez sentenciador sobre este respecto por la sencilla razon de que no tenemos ante nosotros las pruebas ni testificales ni documentales, y, por tanto, no hay base para revisar, mucho menos para revocar dicha conclusion, habiendose interpretado esta reserva en el sentido de que solo se puede tomar “conocimiento judicial del error palpable con vista de los autos y procedimientos”; (b) aun admitiendo por un momento, a los efectos de la argumentacion, que Su Señoria el Juez padecio error palpable al sentar dicha conclusion, como quiera que el Procurador General no suscita la cuestion en su alegato debe entenderse que ha renunciado a su derecho de hacerlo, optando por fundamentar su caso en otros motivos y razones; por tanto, no estamos facultados para considerar motu proprio el supuesto error, pues evidentemente no se trata de un descuido u oversight del representante del Estado, sino de una renuncia deliberada, y la jurisprudencia sobre el particular nos dice que “el proposito subyacente, fundamental de la reserva en la regla es el de prevenir el extravio de la justicia en virtud de un descuido.” He aqui algunas autoridades pertinentes:

Purpose of exception as to plain errors. — The proviso in the rule requiring assignments of error, permitting the court, at its option, to notice a plain error not assigned, “was and in intended, in the interest of justice, to reserve to the appellate court the right, resting in public duty, to take cognizance of palpable error on the face of the record and proceedings, especially such as clearly demonstrate that the suitor has no cause of action.” Santaella vs. Otto F. Lange Co. (155 Fed., 719, 724; 84 C. C. A., 145).

The rules does not intend that we are to sift the record and deal with questions which are of small importance, but only to notice errors which are obvious upon inspection and of a controlling character. The underlying purpose of this reservation in the rule is to prevent the miscarriage of justice from oversight. Mast vs. Superior Drill Co. (154 Fed., 45, 51; 83 C. C. A. 157).

II. Hasta aqui hemos desarrollado nuestra argumentacion bajo el supuesto de que la calidad de privado del terreno litigioso no es controversia justiciable en esta instancia por no estar suscitada la cuestion en el alegato del Procurador General ni ser materia de disputa entre las partes en la apelacion pendiente ante nosotros; por lo que, consiguientemente, no estamos facultados para revisar, mucho menos revocar motu proprio la conclusion del tribunal a quo sobre el particular. Ahora vamos a laborar bajo otro supuesto — el de que el Procurador General haya hecho el correspondiente señalamiento de error y la cuestion este, por tanto, propiamente planteada ante esta Corte Suprema para los efectos de la revision. La pregunta naturalmente en orden es la siguiente: ¿cometio error el Juez a quo al declarar y conceptuar como privado el terreno en cuestion, o es, por el contrario, acertada su conclusion a este respecto? Somos de opinion que el Juez no cometio error, que el terreno de que se trata reune las condiciones juridicas necesarias para calificarlo como privado y diferenciarlo de una propiedad de dominio publico, y que, por tanto, el solicitante tiene sobre la propiedad un titulo confirmable bajo las disposiciones de la Ley de Registro de Terrenos No. 496.

Afirmase en la decision de la mayoria que el solicitante no ha podido demostrar que el o cualquiera de sus causantes en derecho adquirio el lote del Estado mediante compra o concesion bajo las leyes, ordenanzas y decretos promulgados por el Gobierno Español en Filipinas, o en virtud de los tramites relativos a informacion posesoria bajo la ley hipotecaria en tiempo de España. De esto la mayoria saca la conclusion de que el terreno cuestionado no es privado porque, segun su criterio, “todos los terrenos que no fueron adquiridos del Gobierno (Gobierno Español, se quiere decir), ya mediante compra, ya por concesion, pertenecen al dominio publico”; y citando como autoridad el asunto clasico de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular la ponencia no admite mas excepcion a la regla que el caso en que un terreno ha estado en la posesion del ocupante y de sus predecesores en interes desde tiempo inmemorial, pues semejante posesion justificaria la presuncion de que el terreno nunca habia sido parte del dominio publico, o que habia sido propiedad privada aun antes de la conquista española.”

Lo que, en primer lugar, no parece correcto es la seguridad con que en la ponencia se afirma que el terreno no se adquirio bajo la soberania española en virtud de cualquiera de los modos conocidos en la legislacion de entonces, pues como no tenemos delante las pruebas, no hay naturalmente manera de comprobar la certeza de la proposicion. Si se tiene en cuenta que el Director deTerrenos se opuso a la solicitud de registro por el fundamento de que el terreno es de dominio publico, y que el tribunal inferior desestimo este fundamento, la presuncion es que la calidad de privado del terreno se probo satisfactoriamente, presuncion que queda robustecida si se considera que el Procurador General, al sostener la apelacion del Gobierno, no discute ni cuestiona en su alegato la conclusion de que el referido terreno es de propiedad particular.

Por otro lado, la mayoria parece dar un caracter demasiado absoluto y rigido a la proposicion de que “todos los terrenos que no fueron adquiridos del Gobierno (en tiempo de España), mediante compra o por concesion, pertenecen al dominio publico.” Interpretando estrictamente la ley, esta Corte Suprema denego el registro solicitado en el celebre asunto de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular que cita la mayoria en su opinion, por eso mismo que se acentua en la ponencia — por el fundamento de que Cariño no pudo demostrar titulo de compra, concesion o informacion posesoria expedido por el Gobierno en tiempo de España, siendo por consiguiente el terreno parte del dominio publico. Pero al elevarse el asunto en grado de apelacion a la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos, la misma revoco la sentencia de esta Corte, declarando el terreno como propiedad privada y decretando su registro a nombre del solicitante. En la luminosa ponencia del Magistrado Holmes se sientan conclusiones que proclama el espiritu liberal de aquel gran jurista y reafirman con vigor democratico los derechos de propiedad de los nativos de estas Islas sobre sus predios en contra del concepto y teoria feudales de que la Corona de España era la dueña absoluta hasta del ultimo palmo de tierra y de que ningun habitante podia ser dueño de nada, a menos que tuviese en sus manos un titulo o papel expedido por aquel Gobierno. He aqui lo que dice el Magistrado Holmes:

We come, then, to the question on which the case was decided below — namely, whether the plaintiff owns the land. The position of government, shortly stated, is that Spain assumed, asserted, and had title to all the land in the Philippines except so far it saw fit to permit private titles to be acquired; that there was no prescripcion against the Crown, and that, if there was, a decree of June 25, 1880, required registration within a limited time to make the title good; that the plaintiff’s land was not registered, and therefore became, if it was not always, public land; that the United States succeeded to the title of Spain, and so that the plaintiff has no rights that the Philippine Government is bound to respect.

If we suppose for the moment that the government’s contention is so far correct that the Crown of Spain in form asserted a title to this land at the date of the treaty of Paris, to which the United States succeeded, it is not to be assumed without argument that the plaintiff’s case is at an end. It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees,”embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled to the treatment accorded to those in the same zone of civilization with themselves. It is true, also that, in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute, and that, as against foreign nations, the United States may assert, as Spain asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of the Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain had such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide. (U. S. Supreme Court Reports, Vol. 212, p. 596.)

Mas adelante se dice lo siguiente en la citada sentencia de la Corte Suprema Federal:

It is true that, by section 14, the Government of the Philippines is empowered to enact rules and prescribe terms for perfecting titles to public lands were some, but not all, spanish conditions has been fulfilled, and to issue patents to natives for not more than 16 hectares of public lands actually occupied by the native or his ancestors before August 13, 1898. But this section perhaps might be satisfied if confined to cases where the occupation was of land admitted to be public land, and had not continued for such a length of time and under such circumstances as to give rise to the understanding that the occupants were owners at that date. We hesitate to suppose that it was intended to declare every native who had not a paper title a trespasser, and to set the claims of all the wilder tribes afloat.

x x x           x x x           x x x

If the applicant’s case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear proof that it was bas by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands, irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at will. For instance, Book 4, title 12, Law 14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a contrary conclusion in Valenton vs. Murciano (3 Phil., 537), while it commands viceroys and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all titles in the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles were admitted to exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their books.

Prescription is mentioned again in the royal cedula of October 15, 1754, cited in (3 Phil., 546): “Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds, it shall be sufficient if they shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription.” It may be that this means possession from before 1700; but, at all events, the principle is admitted. As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was recognized in the Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty.

It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 attributes title to those “who may prove” possession for the necessary time, and we do not overlook the argument that this means may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer would have recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words “may prove” (acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, as not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. The royal decree of February 13, 1894, declaring forfeited titles that were capable of adjustment under the decree of 1880, for which adjustment had not been sought, should not be construed as a confiscation, but as the withdrawal of a privilege. As a matter of fact, the applicant never was disturbed. This same decree is quoted by the court of land registration for another recognition of the common-law prescription of thirty years as still running against alienable Crown land.

x x x           x x x           x x x

. . . Upon a consideration of the whole case we are of opinion that law and justice require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain. (U. S. Supreme Court Reports, Vol. 212, pp. 597-599.)

Resulta evidente de la jurisprudencia sentada en el citado asunto de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular que cualquiera que fuese la teoria acerca del superdominio feudal que la Corona de España asumia sobre todos los terrenos en Filipinas, en la practica y en la realidad se reconocia que el mero lapso de tiempo en la posesion (20 o 30 años, segun el caso) podia establecer y de hecho establecia derechos privados de propiedad por justa prescripcion, y el titulo presuntivo asi adquirido era para todos los efectos equivalente a una concesion expresa o un titulo escrito expedido por el Gobierno. Pero de todas maneras — parafraseando lo dicho por el Magistrado Holmes — aun suponiendo que España tenia semejante soberania o superdominio feudal sobre todas las tierras en este archipielago, y que contra otras naciones los Estados Unidos, al suceder a España, afirmaria dicha suberania, de ello no se sigue que contra los habitantes de Filipinas el Gobierno americano (ahora la Republica filipina) tomaria la posicion de que España tenia tal poder absoluto. Historicamente se sabe que el cambio de soberania tuvo el efecto de liquidar muchas instituciones y leyes españolas que vinieron a ser obsoletas, arcaicas en el nuevo estado de cosas, e incompatibles con el espiritu del nuevo regimen. No habia ninguna razon para que este cambio no produjese tambien sus saludables efectos en las normas juridicas del regimen de la propiedad sobre la tierra. Parafraseando otra vez al Magistrado Holmes, y aplicando la doctrina al presente caso, no hay razon por que, medinate “una refinada interpretacion de una casi olvidada ley de España,” se considere como terreno publico lo que evidentemente, bajo todos los conceptos y normas, es un terreno privado.

La jurisprudencia sentada en el asunto de Cariño contra el Gobierno Insular ha venido a establecer la norma, la autoridad basica en los asuntos de registro ante nuestros tribunales. Al socaire de su sentido y tendencia genuinamente liberal se han registrado bajo el sistema Torrens infinidad de terrenos privados. En casos mucho menos meritorios que el que nos ocupa se ha reconocido por nuestros tribunales el caracter o condicion de propiedad privada de los terrenos sobre que versaban las solicitudes, aplicandose no las habilitadoras y supletorias clausulas de las leyes sobre terrenos publicos — primeramente la Ley No. 926, despues la No. 2874, y finalmente la No. 141 del Commonwealth — sino las disposiciones mas estrictas de la Ley No. 496 sobre registro de terrenos privados, bajo el sistema Torrens. No existe motivo para que esa tendencia liberal y progresiva sufra una desviacion en el presente caso.

Pero aun bajo la legislacion española interpretada estrictamente, creemos que el terreno en cuestion es tan privado como el terreno en el asunto de Cariño, si no mas. Segun la sentencia del inferior — el unido dato para este examen, pues ya se ha dicho repetidas veces que no tenemos delante las pruebas — “el terreno objeto de la presente solicitud era primitivamente de Capitana Gina y que esta estuvo en posesion desde el año 1880, despues paso a ser de Francisco Reformado hasta el año 1885, mas tarde o sea en 1886 fue de Claro Lagdameo, a la muerte de este le sucedio en la posesion su viuda Fortunata Olega de Lagdameo, esta en 1929 lo vendio a sus tres hijos Antonio, Luis y Rafael appellidados Lagdameo, segun los Exhibitos F y G, y estos ultimos a su vez lo vendieron en 1938 al solicitante Oh Cho, segun los Exhibitos B 1-y C-1.” ” … Este terreno es un solar residencial dentro de la poblacion del municipio de Guinayangan, Tayabas, y en el mismo existe una casa de materiales fuertes que ocupa casi todo el terreno …” (Pieza de Excepciones, pag. 8).

Como se ve, por lo menos desde 1880 habia un conocido propietario y poseedor del terreno — la Capitana Gina. Ahora bien, coincide que el 25 de Junio de aquel año que precisamente cuando se expidio el Decreto “para el ajuste y adjudicacion de los terrenos realengos ocupados indebidamente por individuos particulares en las Islas Filipinas.” Si bien es cierto que el objeto del Decreto o ley era el ordenar que se cumpliesen y practicasen los procedimientos de ajuste y registro descritos en el mismo, y en tal sentido el requirir que cada cual obtuviese un documento de titulo o, en su defecto, perder su propiedad. Tambien es cierto que en el Decreto se expresaban ciertas salvedades que paracian denotar que estos tramites formanes no eran de rigurosa aplicacion a todo el mundo. Una de dicha salvedades, por ejemplo, proveia (articulo 5) que, para todos los efectos legales, “todos aquellos que han estado en posesion por ciento periodo de tiempo serian considerados como dueños — para terreno cultivado, 20 20 años sin interrupcion, es suficiente, y para terreno no cultivado, 30 años.” Y el articulo 6 dispone que “las partes interesadas no incluidas en los dos articulos anteriores (los articulos que reconocen la prescripcion de 20 y 30 años) podran legalizar su posesion, y consiguientemente adquirir pleno dominio sobre dichos terrenos, mediante procedimientos de ajuste y adjudicacion tramitados de la siguiente manera.” Esta ultima disposicion parece indicar, por sus terminos, que no es aplicable a aquellos que ya han sido declarados dueños en virtud del simple transcurso de cierto lapso de tiempo (Vease Cariño contra Gobierno Insular, supra, 598).

No consta en la sentencia del inferior que Capitana Gina se haya acogido a las disposiciones del referido Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880, obteniendo un documento de titulo para legalizar su posesion, pero tampoco consta positivamente lo contrario, pues no tenemos ante nosotros las pruebas. Pero aun suponiendo que no se hayan cumplido los tramites formales prescritos en el Decreto, de ello no se sigue que el terreno no era ya privado entonces, pues la presuncion es que no hubo menester de semejante formalidad porque la Capitana Gina o sus causantes en derecho ya habian sido declarados dueños del predio por el mero transcurso de un lapso de tiempo, a tenor de las salvedades de que se ha hecho mencion. Esta presuncion es tanto mas logica cuanto que el articulo 8 del Decreto proveia para el caso de partes que no solicitaban dentro del plazo de un año el ajuste y adjudicacion de terrenos de cuya posesion disfrutaban indebidamente, y conminaba que el Tesoro “reasumira el dominio del Estado sobre los terrenos” y vendera en subasta la parte que no se reserva para si; y no solo no consta en autos que la posesion de Capitata Gina o de sus causahabientes en derecho se haya considerado jamas como ilegal o que el Estao y sus agentes hayan adoptado y practicado contra ellos las diligencias y procedimientos de que trata el cittado articulo 8 del Decreto, sino que, por el contrario, consta en la sentencia que desde Capitana Gina en 1880 hubo sucesivas transmisiones de derechos primeramente a Francisco Reformado en 1885 y despues a Claro Lagdameo en 1886, y a la muerte de este ultimo a su viuda Fortunata Olega de Lagdameo, de quien pase el titulo en virtud de compraventa a sus hijos Antonio, Luis y Rafael apellidados Lagdameo, y la ultima transaccion sobre el solar tuvo lugar en fecha bastante reciente, en 1938, cuando los ultimamente nombrados lo vendieron a Oh Cho el solicitante en el presente expediente de registro. De todo lo cual se deduce que el solar en cuestion fue considerado siempre como propiedad privada — por lomenos alli donde la memoria alcanza — desde 1880 hasta que fenecio la soberania americana en Filipinas, y que ni el Estado ni sus agentes se entrometieron jamas en el hecho de su posesion exclusiva, continua y publica a titulo de dueño por diferentes personas no solo bajo el Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880 tantas veces mencionado, sino aun bajo el Decreto de 13 de Febrero de 1894 (informacion posesoria) que fue practicamente el ultimo decreto expedido en las postrimerias de la soberania española en relacion con el ajuste y adjudicacion de terrenos realengos o publicos. Y no se diga que ello habria sido por inadvertencia de las autoridades, particularmente del Fisco, porque tratandose de un solar situado en la misma poblacion de Guinayangan, uno de los pueblos mas antiguos de la provincia de Tayabas, es indudable que si no reuniera las condiciones y requisitos para ser conceptuado como propiedad privada y la posesion de sus ocupantes sucesivos fuese indebida e ilegal, ya los agentes del Fisco y Tesoro lo hubiesen prestamente confiscado a tenor del articulo 8 ya citado del Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880 (Vease Cariño contra Gobierno Insular, ut supra 598.) El que nada de esto haya acontecido es la mejor prueba de que en tiempo de España los diferentes y sucesivos ocupantes de este solar ya tenian titulo dominical perfecto, y es sencillamente absurdo, ridiculo que ahora, al cabo de 66 años, se declare publico el terreno; y todo ¿por que y para que — para rendir sometimiento, repitiendo de nuevo la sutil ironia del Magistrado Homles, a la “refinada interpretacion de una casi olvidada ley de Espana.” Y resulta mas la futilidad de este tardio tributo a un anacronismo, a una momia juridica de un pasado cada vez mas remoto, si se considera que cuando el Magistrado Homes pronuncio su sentencia a todas luces libera y progresiva (23 de Enero de 1909) estabamos tan solo a escasamente 10 años desde la caida de la soberania española en Filipinas mientras que ahora que se intenta una radical desviacion del surco trazado por la solida reja de dicha sentencia estamos ya casi a medio siglo de distancia, con pleno dominio republicano sobre el territorio nacional. Esto no debiera preocuparnos si no fuese porque esta decision de ahora puede ser interpretada como una abrogacion de tantos precedentes moldeados en la turquesa de la doctrina holmesiana, y al propio tiempo como la demarcacion del punto de partida de una nueva ruta en nuestra jurisprudencia sobre registro de terrenos.

Sin embargo, en la opinion de la mayoria se dice que el solicitante no puede alegar con exito que su lote es terreno privado porque la posesion de su primer predecessor (Capitana Gina) comenzo solo en 1880, mientras que en el asunto de Cariño contra El gobierno Insular, es exige como requisito la posesion desde tiempo inmemorial, posesion que, segun la mayoria. “justificaria la presuncion de que el terreno nunca habia sido parte del dominio publico, o que habia sido propiedad privada aun antes de la conquista española.” No parece sino que se quiere señalar una fecha, un año, como norma para determinar la inmemorialidad del comienzo posesorio. Pero ¿que fecha, que año seria este? ¿1870, ’60, ’50? ¿No seria suficiente v. gr. 1875, ’65, o ’55? En el asunto de Cariño la fecha conocida y recordada de la posesion inicial podia fijarse alrededor de la mitad del siglo pasado, o sea 1849, pues segun las pruebas, Cariño y sus antecesores habian poseido el terreno algo mas de 50 años hasta el tratado de Paris — Abril 11, 1899. En el presente caso, desde Capitana Gina hasta que el solicitante presento su solicitud de registro el 17 de Enero, 1940, habian transcurrido 60 años; de suerte que en cuanto al tiempo de la posesion ambos casos son identicos. Con una ventaja a favor del presente caso, a saber: mientras en el asunto de Cariño las tierras objeto de la solicitud eran pasto, en gran parte, y solo cultivadas unas cuantas porciones, en el que nos ocupa el lote es urbano, sino en uno de los pueblos mas antiguos de Filipinas, con una casa de materiales fuertes enclavada en el. Es innegabl que la posesion de un solar urbano es mas concreta, mas terminante y mas adversa a todo el mundo, sin excluir el Estado.

Pero aun limitandonos a la posesion bajo la soberania española para los efectos de la calificacion del terreno como propiedad privada, todavia se puede sosener que el presente caso es tan bueno si no mejor que el de Cariño. En el asunto de Cariño el punto de partida conocido es alrededor de 1849; en el nuestro, 1880, en que comenzo la posesion de Capitana Gina, segun la sentencia apelada. Pero esto no quiere decir que antes de Capitana Gina el solar no fuese ya finca urbana, habida por algun otro como propiedad particular. Hay que tener en cuenta que se trata de un solar ubicado en la poblacion de Guinayangan, uno de los mas antiguos en Tayabas. No tenemos delante la fecha exacta de la fundacion de dicho pueblo, y no tenemos tiempo ahora para hacer investigacion historica. Pero afortunadamente hemos logrado salvar de la devastacion causada por la reciente guerra una parte sustancial de nuestra biblioteca privada, y uno de los libros salvados es el celebrado Diccionario Geografico, Estadistico e Historico de las Islas Filipinas publicado en Madrid por Fr. Manuel Buzeta y Fr. Felipe Bravo en 1950, segun el pie de imprenta, de dos volumenes. En el 2.º tomo, pp. 70 y 71, se da una descripcion del pueblo de Guinayanga, con buena copia de datos historicos, geograficos, sociales y economicos. Comienza la descripcion de esta manera: “Pueblo con cura y gobernadorcillo, en la Isla de Luzon, provincia de Tayabas, dioc, de Nueva caceres”; . . “tiene como unas 1,500 casas, en general de sencilla construccion, distinguiendose como de mejor fabrica la casa parroquial y la llamada tribunal de justicia, donde esta la carcel. .” Considerando que podemos tomas conocimiento judicial de que en tiempo de España el municipio y la parroquia eran la culminacion de un lento y largo proceso de civilizacion y cristianizacion, podemos, por tanto, presumir que mucho antes de 1850 — 50, 70 o 100 años — el pueblo de Guinayangan ya era una unidad geografiva, civil y espiritual, en toda regla, y con caracteres definitivos de viabilidad urbana. Tambien cabe perfectamente presumir que sus habitantes poseian sus respectivos solares a titulo de dueños, al igual que lo que ocurria en otros municipios debidamente organizados. No cabe presumir que el Estado les permitiera ocupar indebidamente sus solares, sin que tomase contra ellos la accion de que habla el articulo 8 del referido Decreto de 25 de Junio de 1880; y ya hemos visto que no consta en autos que el solar en cuestion haya sido jamas confiscado por los agentes del Fisco o Tesoro, o declarada ilegal la posesion sobre el mismo, a tenor de lo ordenado en el mencionado Decreto. Asi que desde cualquier angulo que se vea el presente asunto, cae perfectamente bajo las normas de posesion inmemorial establecidas en el asunto de Cariño.

III. Demostrado ya que el terreno en cuestion es privado, resulta forzosa la conclusion de que el solicitante tiene derecho a que se confirme su titulo bajo las disposiciones de la Ley de Registro de Terrenos No. 496, de acuerdo con el sistema Torrens. Es doctrina firmemente establecida en esta jurisdiccion que un extranjero tiene perfecto derecho a que se registre a su nombre un terreno privado, bajo el sistema Torrens, y que las disposiciones de la ley de terrenos publicos son inaplicables a terrenos privados (veanse Agari contra Gobierno de las Islas Filipinas, 42 Jur. Fil., 150; Tan Yungquip contra Director de Terrenos, 42 Jur. Fil., 134; Central Capiz contra Ramirez, 40 Jur. Fil., 926). En el primer asunto citado el solicitante era un japones llamado Ichisuke Agari y la solicitud se estimo por tratarse de un terreno privado, adquirido en tiempo de España mediant composicion con el estado. En el segundo asunto el solicitante era un chino y se estimo la solicitud por la misma razon, habiendose probado una posesion conocida y recordada de 30 a 40 años con anteriorida a la presentacion de la solicitud, es decir, un tiempo mas corto que el del presente caso. Lo propio sucedio en el tercer asunto citado, siendo españoles los dueños de la finca. Confirmese, por tanto, la sentencia apelada.