SPOUSES FORTUNA v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
[G.R. No. 173423, March 05, 2014]
Land Titles and Deeds Case Digest by John Paul C. Ladiao (22 Sept 2015)
Topic: Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or Incomplete Titles – Sec. 48(b) of the Public Land Act, C.A. 141FACTS:
In December 1994, the spouses Fortuna filed an application for registration of a 2,597-square meter land identified as Lot No. 4457, situated in Bo. Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. The application was filed with the RTC and docketed as LRC No. 2372.
The spouses Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, have been in quiet, peaceful, adverse and uninterrupted possession of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and submitted as evidence the lot’s survey plan, technical description, and certificate of assessment.
In its Decision dated May 7, 2001, the RTC granted the application for registration in favor of the spouses Fortuna.
In its decision dated May 16, 2005, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision. Although it found that the spouses Fortuna were able to establish the alienable and disposable nature of the land, they failed to show that they complied with the length of possession that the law requires, i.e., since June 12, 1945.
Through the present petition, the spouses Fortuna seek a review of the CA rulings.
They contend that the applicable law is Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141 or the Public Land Act (PLA), as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942. RA No. 1942 amended the PLA by requiring 30 years of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession to acquire imperfect title over an agricultural land of the public domain. This 30-year period, however, was removed by PD No. 1073 and instead required that the possession should be since June 12, 1945. The amendment introduced by PD No. 1073 was carried in Section 14(1) of the PRD.
The spouses Fortuna point out that PD No. 1073 was issued on January 25, 1977 and published on May 9, 1977; and the PRD was issued on June 11, 1978 and published on January 2, 1979. On the basis of the Court’s ruling in Tañada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al., they allege that PD No. 1073 and the PRD should be deemed effective only on May 24, 1977 and January 17, 1979, respectively. By these dates, they claim to have already satisfied the 30-year requirement under the RA No. 1942 amendment because Pastora’s possession dates back, at the latest, to 1947.
Whether or not Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141 or the Public Land Act (PLA), as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942 is applicable for registration of a 2,597-square meter land identified as Lot No. 4457 in favor of the spouses Fortuna.
NO. the petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED insofar as these dismissed the spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna’s application of registration of title.
Although Section 6 of PD No. 1073 states that “[the] Decree shall take effect upon its promulgation,” the Court has declared in Tañada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al. that the publication of laws is an indispensable requirement for its effectivity. “[A]ll statutes, including those of local application and private laws, shall be published as a condition for their effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed by the legislature.” Accordingly, Section 6 of PD No. 1073 should be understood to mean that the decree took effect only upon its publication, or on May 9, 1977. This, therefore, moves the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the PLA to May 8, 1947. In other words, applicants must prove that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least 30 years, or at least since May 8, 1947.
The spouses Fortuna were unable to prove that they possessed Lot No. 4457 since May 8, 1947.
Even if the Court assumes that Lot No. 4457 is an alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain, the spouses Fortuna’s application for registration of title would still not prosper for failure to sufficiently prove that they possessed the land since May 8, 1947.