Saturday, November 14, 2015

THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS v. COURT OF APPEALS [G.R. No. 102858. July 28, 1997]


[G.R. No. 102858. July 28, 1997]


Land Titles and Deeds Case Digest by John Paul C. Ladiao (10 Sept 2015)

Topic: Notice of Initial Hearing – Publication, Opposition of and Default (Section 23)

On December 8, 1986, Private Respondent Teodoro Abistado filed a petition for original registration of his title over 648 square meters of land under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1529. 

The land registration court in its decision dated June 13, 1989 dismissed the petition for want of jurisdiction. 

Consequently, the Court is of the well considered view that it has not legally acquired jurisdiction over the instant application for want of compliance with the mandatory provision requiring publication of the notice of initial hearing in a newspaper of general circulation."

The Court of Appeals ruled that it was merely procedural and that the failure to cause such publication did not deprive the trial court of its authority to grant the application.

Unsatisfied, private respondents appealed to Respondent Court of Appeals which, set aside the decision of the trial court and ordered the registration of the title in the name of Teodoro Abistado.

The subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied in the challenged CA Resolution dated November 19, 1991.

The Director of Lands represented by the Solicitor General thus elevated this recourse to the Supreme Court.

Whether or not the Director of Lands is correct that a newspaper publication of the notice of initial hearing in an original land registration case mandatory or directory?

YES. The petition was granted.

Sec. 23. Notice of initial hearing, publication, etc. -- The court shall, within five days from filing of the application, issue an order setting the date and hour of the initial hearing which shall not be earlier than forty-five days nor later than ninety days from the date of the order.
The public shall be given notice of initial hearing of the application for land registration by means of (1) publication; (2) mailing; and (3) posting.

It should be noted further that land registration is a proceeding in rem.  Being in rem, such proceeding requires constructive seizure of the land as against all persons, including the state, who have rights to or interests in the property. An in rem proceeding is validated essentially through publication. This being so, the process must strictly be complied with. 

The Supreme Court has no authority to dispense with such mandatory requirement. The law is unambiguous and its rationale clear. Time and again, this Court has declared that where the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room for interpretation, vacillation or equivocation; there is room only for application.  There is no alternative. Thus, the application for land registration filed by private respondents must be dismissed without prejudice to reapplication in the future, after all the legal requisites shall have been duly complied with.

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