Cases 1 - Natural Resources

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1 G.R. No. L-30299 August 17, 1972 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES and/or THE SOLICITOR GENERAL petitioners, vs. WILLIAM H. QUASHA, respondent. Office of the Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza for petitioner. Quasha, Asperilla Blanco, Zafra & Tayag for respondent.

REYES J. B. L., J.:p This case involves a judicial determination of the scope and duration of the rights acquired by American citizens and corporations controlled by them, under the Ordinance appended to the Constitution as of 18 September 1946, or the so-called Parity Amendment. The respondent, William H. Quasha, an American citizen, had acquired by purchase on 26 November 1954 a parcel of land with the permanent improvements thereon, situated at 22 Molave Place, in Forbes Park, Municipality of Makati, Province of Rizal, with an area of 2,616 sq. m. more or less, described in and covered by T. C. T. 36862. On 19 March 1968, he filed a petition in the Court of First Instance of Rizal, docketed as its Civil Case No. 10732, wherein he (Quasha) averred the acquisition of the real estate aforesaid; that the Republic of the Philippines, through its officials, claimed that upon expiration of the Parity Amendment on 3 July 1974, rights acquired by citizens of the United States of America shall cease and be of no further force and effect; that such claims necessarily affect the rights and interest of the plaintiff, and that continued uncertainty as to the status of plaintiff's property after 3 July 1974 reduces the value thereof, and precludes further improvements being introduced thereon, for which reason plaintiff Quasha sought a declaration of his rights under the Parity Amendment, said plaintiff contending that the ownership of properties during the effectivity of the Parity Amendment continues notwithstanding the termination and effectivity of the Amendment. The then Solicitor General Antonio P. Barredo (and later on his successors in office, Felix V. Makasiar and Felix Q. Antonio) contended that the land acquired by plaintiff constituted private agricultural land and that the acquisition violated section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution of the Philippines, which prohibits the transfer of private agricultural land to non-Filipinos, except by hereditary succession; and assuming, without conceding, that Quasha's acquisition was valid, any and all rights by him so acquired "will expire ipso facto and ipso jure at the end of the day on 3 July 1974, if he continued to hold the property until then, and will be subject to escheat or reversion proceedings" by the Republic. After hearing, the Court of First Instance of Rizal (Judge Pedro A. Revilla presiding) rendered a decision, dated 6 March 1969, in favor of plaintiff, with the following dispositive portion: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring that acquisition by the plaintiff on 26 November 1954 of, the private agricultural land described in and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 36862

2 in his name was valid, and that plaintiff has a right to continue in ownership of the said property even beyond July 3, 1974. Defendants appealed directly to this Court on questions of law, pleading that the court below erred: (1) In ruling that under the Parity Amendment American citizens and American owned and/or controlled business enterprises "are also qualified to acquire private agricultural lands" in the Philippines; and (2) In ruling that when the Parity Amendment ceases to be effective on 3 July 1974, "what must be considered to end should be the right to acquire land, and not the right to continue in ownership of land already acquired prior to that time." As a historical background, requisite to a proper understanding of the issues being litigated, it should be recalled that the Constitution as originally adopted, contained the following provisions: Article XIII — CONSERVATION AND UTILIZATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES Section 1. 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 their 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, and no license, concession, or lease for the resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twentyfive years, except as to water right for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant. Section 2. No private corporation or association may acquire, lease, or hold public agricultural lands in excess of one thousand and twenty-four hectares, nor may any individual acquire such lands by purchase in excess of one hundred and forty-four hectares, or by lease in excess of one thousand and twenty-four hectares, or by homestead in excess of twenty-four hectares. Lands adapted to grazing not exceeding two thousand hectares, may be leased to an individual, private corporation, or association. xxx xxx xxx Section 5. 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 in the Philippines. Article XIV — GENERAL PROVISIONS

3 Section 8. No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or other entities organized under the laws of the Philippines, sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by citizens of the Philippines, nor shall such franchise, certificate, or authorization be exclusive in character or for a longer period than fifty years. No franchise or right shall be granted to any individual, firm, or corporation, except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the public interest so requires. The nationalistic spirit that pervaded these and other provisions of the Constitution are self-evident and require no further emphasis. From the Japanese occupation and the reconquest of the Archipelago, the Philippine nation emerged with its industries destroyed and its economy dislocated. It was described in this Court's opinion in Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. Guerrero, et al., L-20942, 22 September 1967, 21 SCRA 181, 187, penned by Justice Enrique M. Fernando, in the following terms: It was fortunate that the Japanese Occupation ended when it did. Liberation was hailed by all, but the problems faced by the legitimate government were awesome in their immensity. The Philippine treasury was bankrupt and her economy prostrate. There were no dollar-earning export crops to speak of; commercial operations were paralyzed; and her industries were unable to produce with mills, factories and plants either destroyed or their machineries obsolete or dismantled. It was a desolate and tragic sight that greeted the victorious American and Filipino troops. Manila, particularly that portion south of the Pasig, lay in ruins, its public edifices and business buildings lying in a heap of rubble and numberless houses razed to the ground. It was in fact, next to Warsaw, the most devastated city in the expert opinion of the then General Eisenhower. There was thus a clear need of help from the United States. American aid was forthcoming but on terms proposed by her government and later on accepted by the Philippines. The foregoing description is confirmed by the 1945 Report of the Committee on Territories and Insular Affairs to the United States Congress: When the Philippines do become independent next July, they will start on the road to independence with a country whose commerce, trade and political institutions have been very, very seriously damaged. Years of rebuilding are necessary before the former physical conditions of the islands can be restored. Factories, homes, government and commercial buildings, roads, bridges, docks, harbors and the like are in need of complete reconstruction or widespread repairs. It will be quite some while before the Philippine can produce sufficient food with which to sustain themselves. The internal revenues of the country have been greatly diminished by war. Much of the assessable property basis has been destroyed. Foreign trade has vanished. Internal commerce is but a faction of what it used to be. Machinery, farming implements, ships, bus and truck lines, inter-island transportation and communications have been wrecked.

4 Shortly thereafter, in 1946, the United States 79th Congress enacted Public Law 3721, known as the Philippine Trade Act, authorizing the President of the United States to enter into an Executive Agreement with the President of the Philippines, which should contain a provision that — The disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils,; all forces and sources of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities shall, if open to any person, be open to citizens of the United States and to all forms of business enterprise owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by United States citizens. and that: The President of the United States is not authorized ... to enter into such executive agreement unless in the agreement the Government of the Philippines ... will promptly take such steps as are necessary to secure the amendment of the Constitution of the Philippines so as to permit the taking effect as laws of the Philippines of such part of the provisions of section 1331 ... as is in conflict with such Constitution before such amendment. The Philippine Congress, by Commonwealth Act No. 733, authorized the President of the Philippines to enter into the Executive Agreement. Said Act provided, inter alia, the following: ARTICLE VII 1. The disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, mineral, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces and sources of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities, shall, if open to any person, be open to citizens of the United States and to all forms of business enterprise owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by United States citizens, except that (for the period prior to the amendment of the Constitution of the Philippines referred to in Paragraph 2 of this Article) the Philippines shall not be required to comply with such part of the foregoing provisions of this sentence as are in conflict with such Constitution. 2. The Government of the Philippines will promptly take such steps as are necessary to secure the amendment of the constitution of the Philippines so as to permit the taking effect as laws of the Philippines of such part of the provisions of Paragraph 1 of this Article as is in conflict with such Constitution before such amendment. Thus authorized, the Executive Agreement was signed on 4 July 1946, and shortly thereafter the President of the Philippines recommended to the Philippine Congress the approval of a resolution proposing amendments to the Philippine Constitution pursuant to the Executive Agreement. Approved by the Congress in joint session, the proposed amendment was submitted to a plebiscite and was ratified in November of 1946. Generally known as the Parity Amendment, it was in the form of an Ordinance appended to the Philippine Constitution, reading as follows:

5 Notwithstanding the provision of section one, Article Thirteen, and section eight, Article Fourteen, of the foregoing Constitution, during the effectivity of the Executive Agreement entered into by the President of the Philippines with the President of the United States on the fourth of July, nineteen hundred and forty-six, pursuant to the provisions of Commonwealth Act Numbered Seven hundred and thirty-three, but in no case to extend beyond the third of July, nineteen hundred and seventy-four, the disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces and sources of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities, shall, if OPEN to any person, be open to citizens of the United States and to all forms of business enterprise owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by citizens of the United States in the same manner as to and under the same conditions imposed upon, citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations owned or controlled by citizens of the Philippines. A revision of the 1946 Executive Agreement was authorized by the Philippines by Republic Act 1355, enacted in July 1955. The revision was duly negotiated by representatives of the Philippines and the United States, and a new agreement was concluded on 6 September 1955 to take effect on 1 January 1956, becoming known as the Laurel-Langley Agreement. This latter agreement, however, has no direct application to the case at bar, since the purchase by herein respondent Quasha of the property in question was made in 1954, more than one year prior to the effectivity of the Laurel-Langley Agreement.. I Bearing in mind the legal provisions previously quoted and their background, We turn to the first main issue posed in this appeal: whether under or by virtue of the so-called Parity Amendment to the Philippine Constitution respondent Quasha could validly acquire ownership of the private residential land in Forbes Park, Makati, Rizal, which is concededly classified private agricultural land. Examination of the "Parity Amendment", as ratified, reveals that it only establishes an express exception to two (2) provisions of our Constitution, to wit: (a) Section 1, Article XIII, re disposition, exploitation, development and utilization of agricultural, timber and mineral lands of the public domain and other natural resources of the Philippines; and (b) Section 8, Article XIV, regarding operation of public utilities. As originally drafted by the framers of the Constitution, the privilege to acquire and exploit agricultural lands of the public domain, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and to operate public utilities, were reserved to Filipinos and entities owned or controlled by them: but the "Parity Amendment" expressly extended the privilege to citizens of the United States of America and/or to business enterprises owned or controlled by them. No other provision of our Constitution was referred to by the "Parity Amendment"; nor Section 2 of Article XIII limiting the maximum area of public agricultural lands that could be held by individuals or corporations or associations; nor Section 5 restricting the transfer or assignment of private agricultural lands to those qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain (which under the original Section 1 of Article XIII meant Filipinos exclusively), save in cases of hereditary succession. These sections 2 and 5

6 were therefore left untouched and allowed to continue in operation as originally intended by the Constitution's framers. Respondent Quasha argues that since the amendment permitted United States citizens or entities controlled by them to acquire agricultural lands of the public domain, then such citizens or entities became entitled to acquire private agricultural land in the Philippines, even without hereditary succession, since said section 5 of Article XIII only negates the transfer or assignment of private agricultural land to individuals or entities not qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Clearly, this argument of respondent Quasha rests not upon the text of the Constitutional Amendment but upon a mere inference therefrom. If it was ever intended to create also an exception to section 5 of Article XIII, why was mention therein made only of Section 1 of Article XIII and Section 8 of Article XIV and of no other? When the text of the Amendment was submitted for popular ratification, did the voters understand that three sections of the Constitution were to be modified, when only two sections were therein mentioned? A reading of Sections 1 and 4 of Article XIII, as originally drafted by its farmers, leaves no doubt that the policy of the Constitution was to reserve to Filipinos the disposition, exploitation development or utilization of agricultural lands, public (section 1) or private (section 5), as well as all other natural resources of the Philippines. The "Parity Amendment" created exceptions to that Constitutional Policy and in consequence to the sovereignty of the Philippines. By all canons of construction, such exceptions must be given strict interpretation; and this Court has already so ruled in Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. Guerrero, et al., L-20942, 22 September 1967, 21 SCRA 181, per Justice Enrique M. Fernando: While good faith, no less than adherence to the categorical wording of the Ordinance, requires that all the rights and privileges thus granted to Americans and business enterprises owned and controlled by them be respected, anything further would not be warranted. Nothing less would suffice but anything more is not justified. The basis for the strict interpretation was given by former President of the University of the Philippines, Hon. Vicente G. Sinco (Congressional Record, House of Representatives, Volume 1, No. 26, page 561): It should be emphatically stated that the provisions of our Constitution which limit to Filipinos the rights to develop the natural resources and to operate the public utilities of the Philippines is one of the bulwarks of our national integrity. The Filipino people decided to include it in our Constitution in order that it may have the stability and permanency that its importance requires. It is written in our Constitution so that it may neither be the subject of barter nor be impaired in the give and take of politics. With our natural resources, our sources of power and energy, our public lands, and our public utilities, the material basis of the nation's existence, in the hands of aliens over whom the Philippine Government does not have complete control, the Filipinos may soon find themselves deprived of their patrimony and living as it were, in a house that no longer belongs to them. The true extent of the Parity Amendment, as understood by its proponents in the Philippine Congress, was clearly expressed by one of its advocates, Senator Lorenzo Sumulong:

7 It is a misconception to believe that under this amendment Americans will be able to acquire all kinds of natural resources of this country, and even after the expiration of 28 years their acquired rights cannot be divested from them. If we read carefully the language of this amendment which is taken verbatim from the Provision of the Bell Act, and, which in turn, is taken also verbatim from certain sections of the Constitution, you will find out that the equality of rights granted under this amendment refers only to two subjects. Firstly, it refers to exploitation of natural resources, and secondly, it refers to the operation of public utilities. Now, when it comes to exploitation of natural resources, it must be pointed out here that, under our Constitution and under this amendment, only public agricultural land may be acquired, may be bought, so that on the supposition that we give way to this amendment and on the further supposition that it is approved by our people, let not the mistaken belief be entertained that all kinds of natural resources may be acquired by Americans because under our Constitution forest lands cannot be bought, mineral lands cannot be bought, because by explicit provision of the Constitution they belong to the State, they belong to our Government, they belong to our people. That is why we call them rightly the patrimony of our race. Even if the Americans should so desire, they can have no further privilege than to ask for a lease of concession of forest lands and mineral lands because it is so commanded in the Constitution. And under the Constitution, such a concession is given only for a limited period. It can be extended only for 25 years, renewable for another 25. So that with respect to mineral or forest lands, all they can do is to lease it for 25 years, and after the expiration of the original 25 years they will have to extend it, and I believe it can be extended provided that it does not exceed 28 years because this agreement is to be effected only as an ordinance and for the express period of 28 years. So that it is my humble belief that there is nothing to worry about insofar as our forest and mineral lands are concerned. Now, coming to the operation of public utilities, as every member of the Congress knows, it is also for a limited period, under our Constitution, for a period not exceeding 50 years. And since this amendment is intended to endure only for 28 years, it is my humble opinion that when Americans try to operate public utilities they cannot take advantage of the maximum provided in the Constitution but only the 28 years which is expressly provided to be the life of this amendment. There remains for us to consider the case of our public agricultural lands. To be sure, they may be bought, and if we pass this amendment, Americans may buy our public agricultural lands, but the very same Constitution applying even to Filipinos, provides that the sale of public agricultural lands to a corporation can never exceed one thousand and twenty-four hectares. That is to say, if an American corporation, and American enterprise, should decide to invest its money in public agricultural lands, it will be limited to the amount of 1,024 hectares, no more than 1,024 hectares' (Emphasis supplied). No views contrary to these were ever expressed in the Philippine Legislature during the discussion of the Proposed Amendment to our Constitution, nor was any reference made to acquisition of private agricultural lands by non-Filipinos except by hereditary succession. On the American side, it is significant to observe that the draft of the Philippine Trade Act submitted to the House of Representatives by Congressman Bell, provided in the first Portion of Section 19 the following:

8 SEC. 19. Notwithstanding any existing provision of the constitution and statutes of the Philippine Government, citizens and corporations of the United States shall enjoy in the Philippine Islands during the period of the validity of this Act, or any extension thereof by statute or treaty, the same rights as to property, residence, and occupation as citizens of the Philippine Islands ... But as finally approved by the United States Congress, the equality as to " property residence and occupation" provided in the bill was eliminated and Section 341 of the Trade Act limited such parity to the disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of lands of the public domain, and other natural resources of the Philippines (V. ante, page 5 of this opinion). Thus, whether from the Philippine or the American side, the intention was to secure parity for United States citizens, only in two matters: (1) exploitation, development and utilization of public lands, and other natural resources of the Philippines; and (2) the operation of public utilities. That and nothing else. Respondent Quasha avers that as of 1935 when the Constitution was adopted, citizens of the United States were already qualified to acquire public agricultural lands, so that the literal text of section 5 must be understood as permitting transfer or assignment of private agricultural lands to Americans even without hereditary succession. Such capacity of United States citizens could exist only during the American sovereignty over the Islands. For the Constitution of the Philippines was designed to operate even beyond the extinction of the United States sovereignty, when the Philippines would become fully independent. That is apparent from the provision of the original Ordinance appended to the Constitution as originally approved and ratified. Section 17 of said Ordinance provided that: (17) Citizens and corporations of the United States shall enjoy in the Commonwealth of the Philippinesall the civil rights of the citizens and corporations, respectively, thereof. (Emphasis supplied) The import of paragraph (17) of the Ordinance was confirmed and reenforced by Section 127 of Commonwealth Act 141 (the Public Land Act of 1936) that prescribes: Sec. 127. During the existence and continuance of the Commonwealth, and before the Republic of the Philippines is established, citizens and corporations of the United States shall enjoy the same rights granted to citizens and corporations of the Philippines under this Act. thus clearly evidencing once more that equal rights of citizens and corporations of the United States to acquire agricultural lands of the Philippines vanished with the advent of the Philippine Republic. Which explains the need of introducing the "Parity Amendment" of 1946. It is then indubitable that the right of United States citizens and corporations to acquire and exploit private or public lands and other natural resources of the Philippines was intended to expire when the Commonwealth ended on 4 July 1946. Thereafter, public and private agricultural lands and natural resources of the Philippines were or became exclusively reserved by our Constitution for Filipino citizens. This situation lasted until the "Parity Amendment", ratified in November, 1946, once more reopened to United States citizens and business enterprises owned or controlled by them the lands of the public domain, the natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of the public utilities,

9 exclusively, but not the acquisition or exploitation of private agricultural lands, about which not a word is found in the Parity Amendment..Respondent Quasha's pretenses can find no support in Article VI of the Trade Agreement of 1955, known popularly as the Laurel-Langley Agreement, establishing a sort of reciprocity rights between citizens of the Philippines and those of the United States, couched in the following terms: ARTICLE VI 2. The rights provided for in Paragraph I may be exercised, in the case of citizens of the Philippines with respect to natural resources in the United States which are subject to Federal control or regulations, only through the medium of a corporation organized under the laws of the United States or one of the States hereof and likewise, in the case of citizens of the United States with respect to natural resources in the public domain in the Philippines only through the medium of a corporation organized under the laws of the Philippines and at least 60% of the capital stock of which is owned or controlled by citizens of the United States. This provision, however, does not affect the right of citizens of the United States to acquire or own private agricultural lands in the Philippines or citizens of the Philippines to acquire or own land in the United States which is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and not within the jurisdiction of any state and which is not within the public domain. The Philippines reserves the right to dispose of the public lands in small quantities on especially favorable terms exclusively to actual settlers or other users who are its own citizens. The United States reserves the right to dispose of its public lands in small quantities on especially favorable terms exclusively to actual settlers or other users who are its own citizens or aliens who have declared their intention to become citizens. Each party reserves the right to limit the extent to which aliens may engage in fishing, or engage in enterprises which furnish communications services and air or water transport. The United States also reserves the right to limit the extent to which aliens may own land in its outlying territories and possessions, but the Philippines will extend to American nationals who are residents of any of those outlying territories and possessions only the same rights, with respect to, ownership of lands, which are granted therein to citizens of the Philippines. The rights provided for in this paragraph shall not, however, be exercised by either party so as to derogate from the rights previously acquired by citizens or corporations or associations owned or controlled by citizens of the other party. The words used in Article VI to the effect that — ... This provision does not affect the right of citizen of the United States to acquire or own private agricultural lands in the Philippines, or citizens of the Philippines to acquire or own land in the United States which is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States ... must be understood as referring to rights of United States citizens to acquire or own private agricultural lands before the independence of the Philippines since the obvious purpose of the article was to establish rights of United States and Filipino citizens on a basis of reciprocity. For as already shown, no such right to acquire or own private agricultural lands in the Philippines has existed since the independent Republic was established in 1946. The quoted expressions of the Laurel-Langley Agreement could not expand the rights of United States citizens as to public agricultural lands of the Philippines to

10 private lands, when the Parity Amendment and the Constitution authorize such United States citizens and business entities only to acquire and exploit agricultural lands of the public domain. If the reopening of only public lands to Americans required a Constitutional Amendment, how could a mere Trade Agreement, like the Laurel-Langley, by itself enable United States citizens to acquire and exploit private agricultural lands, a right that ceased to exist since the independence of the Philippines by express prescription of our Constitution? We turn to the second issue involved in this appeal: On the assumption that respondent Quasha's purchase of the private agricultural land involved is valid and constitutional, will or will not his rights expire on 3 July 1974? For the solution of this problem, We again turn to the "Parity Amendment". Under it, Notwithstanding the provision of section one, Article Thirteen, and section eight, Article Fourteen, of the foregoing Constitution, during the effectivity of the Executive Agreement entered into by the President of the Philippines with the President of the United States on the fourth of July, nineteen hundred and fortysix, pursuant to the provisions of Commonwealth Act Numbered Seven hundred and thirty-three, but in no case to extend beyond the third of July, nineteen hundred and seventy-four, the disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces and sources of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities, shall, if open to any person, be open to citizens of the United states and to all forms of business enterprise owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by citizens of the United States in the same manner as to, and under the same conditions imposed upon, citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations owned or controlled by citizens of the Philippines. (Emphasis supplied) It is easy to see that all exceptional rights conferred upon United States citizens and business entities owned or controlled by them, under the Amendment, are subject to one and the same resolutory term or period: they are to last "during the effectivity of the Executive Agreement entered into on 4 July 1946", "but in no case to extend beyond the, third of July, 1974". None of the privileges conferred by the "Parity Amendment" are excepted from this resolutory period. This limitation of time is in conformity with Article X, Section 2, of the Philippine Trade Act of 1946, as embodied in Commonwealth Act No. 733. It says: ARTICLE X 2. This Agreement shall have no effect after 3 July 1974. It may be terminated by either the United States or the Philippines at any time, upon not less than five years' written notice. It the President of the United States or the President of the Philippines determines and proclaims that the other Country has adopted or applied measures or practices which would operate to nullify or impair any right or obligation provided for in this Agreement, then the Agreement may be terminated upon not less than six months' written notice.

11 Respondent Quasha argues that the limitative period set in the "Parity Amendment" should be understood not to be applicable to the disposition, or correlative acquisition, of alienable agricultural lands of the public domain, since such lands can be acquired in full ownership, in which event, under Article 428 of the Civil Code of Philippines — ART, 428. The owner has the right to enjoy and dispose of a thing, without other limitations than those established by law. The owner has also a right of action against the holder and possessor of the thing in order to recover it. and that since any period or condition which produces the effect of loss or deprivation of valuable rights is in derogation of due process of law, there must be "a law which expressly and indubitably limits and extinguishes the ownership of non-citizens over private agricultural lands situated in the Philippines validly acquired under the law existing at the time of acquisition." Strangely enough, this argument ignores the provisions of the "Parity Amendment" prescribing that the disposition and exploitation, etc. of agricultural lands of the public domain are in no case to extend beyond the third of July 1974. This limitation already existed when Quasha in 1954 purchased the Forbes Park property, and the acquisition was subject to it. If the Philippine government can not dispose of its alienable public agricultural lands beyond that date under the "Parity Amendment", then, logically, the Constitution, as modified by the Amendment, only authorizes either of two things: (a) alienation or transfer of rights less than ownership or (b) a resoluble ownership that will be extinguished not later than the specified period. For the Philippine government to dispose of the public agricultural land for an indefinite time would necessarily be in violation of the Constitution. There is nothing in the Civil Law of this country that is repugnant to the existence of ownership for a limited duration; thus the title of a "reservista" (ascendant inheriting from a descendant) in reserva troncal, under Article 891 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, is one such owner, holding title and dominion, although under condition subsequent; he can do anything that a genuine owner can do, until his death supervenes with "reservataries surviving", i.e., relatives within the third degree (Edroso vs. Sablan, 25 Phil. 295; Lunsod vs. Ortega, 46 Phil. 661, 695). In truth, respondent himself invokes Article 428 of the Civil Code to the effect that "the owner has the right to enjoy and dispose of a thing, without other limitations than those established by law". One such limitation is the period fixed on the "Parity Amendment", which forms part of the Constitution, the highest law of the land. How then can he complain of deprivation of due process? That the legislature has not yet determined what is to be done with the property when the respondent's rights thereto terminate on 3 July 1974 is irrelevant to the issues in this case. The law, making power has until that date full power to adopt the apposite measures, and it is expected to do so. One last point: under the "Parity Amendment" the disposition, exploitation, development and utilization of lands of the public domain, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities are open —

12 to citizens of the United States and to all forms of business enterprises owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by citizens of the United States while under the Philippine Constitution (section 1, Article XIII, and section 8, Article XIV) utilization of such lands, natural resources and public utilities are open 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... It is thus apparent that American business enterprises are more favored than Philippine organization during the period of parity in that, first, they need not be owned by American citizens up to 60% of their capital; all that is required is that they be controlled by United States citizens, a control that is attained by ownership of only 51% aof the capital stock; and second, that the control by United States citizens may be direct or indirect (voting trusts, pyramiding, etc.) which indirect control is not allowed in the case of Philippine nationals. That Filipinos should be placed under the so-called Parity in a more disadvantageous position than United States citizens in the disposition, exploitation, development and utilization of the public lands, forests, mines, oils and other natural resources of their own country is certainly rank injustice and inequity that warrants a most strict interpretation of the "Parity Amendment", in order that the dishonorable inferiority in which Filipinos find themselves at present in the land of their ancestors should not be prolonged more than is absolutely necessary. FOR THE FOREGOING REASONS, the appealed decision of the Court of First Instance of Rizal is hereby reversed and set aside; and judgment is rendered declaring that, under the "Parity Amendment" to our Constitution, citizens of the United States and corporations and business enterprises owned or controlled by them can not acquire and own, save in cases of hereditary succession, private agricultural lands in the Philippines and that all other rights acquired by them under said amendment will expire on 3 July 1974. Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando and Esguerra, JJ., concur. Teehankee, Barredo, Makasiar and Antonio, JJ., took no part.

G.R. No. L-46729 November 19, 1982 LAUSAN AYOG, BENITO AYOG, DAMASO AYOG, JULIO AYOG, SEGUNDA AYOG, VICENTE ABAQUETA, BERNARDINO ADORMEO, VIDAL ALBANO, FELICIANO ARIAS, ANTONIO BALDOS, MAXIMO BALDOS, ROMERO BINGZON, EMILIO CADAYDAY, FRUCTUOSO CHUA, SR., HERACLEO CHUA, GUILLERMO DAGOY, ABDON DEIMOS, NICASIO DE LEON, JULIANA VDA. DE DIANNA, DEMOCRITO DEVERO, ALFREDO DIVINAGRACIA, ESTEBAN DIVINAGRACIA, LEODEGARDIO DIVINAGRACIA, NELLO DIVINAGRACIA, MERQUIADES EMBERADOR, JESUS EMPERADO, PORFERIO ENOC, SOFRONIO ENOC, RAFAEL GAETOS, NICOLAS GARLET, TRINIDAD GARLET, FORTUNATA GEONZON, NICOLADA NAQUILA, TORIBIO NAQUILA, EFREN OKAY, ELPIDIO OKAY, SR., DIEGO ONGRIA, ERNESTO PANARES, VICENTE PATULOT, IGNACIA RIBAO, JUANO RICO, JESUS ROSALITA, ARMANDO TANTE and ANSELMO

13 VALMORES, petitioners, vs. JUDGE VICENTE N. CUSI, JR., Court of First Instance of Davao, Branch I, PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF DAVAO, and BINAN DEVELOPMENT CO., INC., respondents. MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES and DIRECTOR OF LANDS, intervenors. AQUINO, J.: This case is about the application of section 11, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution (disqualifying a private corporation from purchasing public lands) to a 1953 sales award made by the Bureau of Lands, for which a sales patent and Torrens title were issued in 1975, and to the 1964 decision of the trial court, ejecting some of the petitioners from the land purchased, which decision was affirmed in 1975 by the Court of Appeals. That legal question arises under the following facts: On January 21, 1953, the Director of Lands, after a bidding, awarded to Biñan Development Co., Inc. on the basis of its 1951 Sales Application No. V-6834 Cadastral Lot No. 281 located at Barrio Tamugan, Guianga (Baguio District), Davao City with an area of about two hundred fifty hectares. Some occupants of the lot protested against the sale. The Director of Lands in his decision of August 30, 1957 dismissed the protests and ordered the occupants to vacate the lot and remove their improvements. No appeal was made from that decision. The Director found that the protestants (defendants in the 1961 ejectment suit, some of whom are now petitioners herein) entered the land only after it was awarded to the corporation and, therefore, they could not be regarded as bona fide occupants thereof. The Director characterized them as squatters. He found that some claimants were fictitious persons (p. 30, Rollo of L-43505, Okay vs. CA). He issued a writ of execution but the protestants defied the writ and refused to vacate the land (p. 28, Rollo of L-43505, Okay vs. CA). ** Because the alleged occupants refused to vacate the land, the corporation filed against them on February 27, 1961 in the Court of First Instance of Davao, Civil Case No. 3711, an ejectment suit (accion publiciana). The forty defendants were Identified as follows: 1. Vicente Abaqueta 21. Eniego Garlic 2. Candido Abella 22. Nicolas Garlic 3. Julio Ayog 23. Rufo Garlic 4. Arcadio Ayong 24. Alfonso Ibales 5. Generoso Bangonan 25. Julian Locacia 6. Lomayong Cabao 26. Filomeno Labantaban 7. Jose Catibring 27. Arcadio Lumantas

14 8. Teodolfo Chua 28. Santos Militante 9. Guillermo Dagoy 29. Toribio Naquila 10. Anastacia Vda. de Didal 30. Elpidio Okay 11. Alfredo Divinagracia 31. Guillermo Omac 12. Silverio Divinagracia 32. Emilio Padayday 13. Galina Edsa 33. Marcosa Vda. de Rejoy 14. Jesus Emperado 34. Lorenzo Rutsa 15. Porfirio Enoc 35. Ramon Samsa 16. Benito Ente 36. Rebecca Samsa 17. German Flores 37. Alfeao Sante 18. Ciriaco Fuentes 38. Meliton Sante 19. Pulong Gabao 39. Amil Sidaani 20. Constancio Garlic 40. Cosme Villegas That ejectment suit delayed the issuance of the patent. The trial court found that the protests of twenty of the abovenamed defendants were among those that were dismissed by the Director of Lands in his 1957 decision already mentioned. On July 18, 1961 the purchase price of ten thousand pesos was fully paid by Binan Development Co., Inc. OnNovember 10, 1961, an official of the Bureau of Lands submitted a final investigation report wherein it was stated that the corporation had complied with the cultivation and other requirements under the Public Land Law and had paid the purchase price of the land (p. 248, Rollo). It was only more than thirteen years later or on August 14, 1975 when Sales Patent No. 5681 was issued to the corporation for that lot with a reduced area of 175.3 hectares. The patent was registered. Original Certificate of Title No. P-5176 was issued to the patentee. The Director of Lands in his memorandum dated June 29, 1974 for the Secretary of Natural Resources, recommending approval of the sales patent, pointed out that the purchaser corporation had complied with the said requirements long before the effectivity of the Constitution, that the land in question was free from claims and conflicts and that the issuance of the patent was in conformity with the guidelines prescribed in Opinion No. 64, series of 1973, of Secretary of Justice Vicente Abad Santos and was an exception to the prohibition in section 11, Article XIV of the Constitution (p. 258, Rollo). Secretary of Natural Resources Jose J. Leido, Jr., in approving the patent on August 14, 1975, noted that the applicant had acquired a nested right to its issuance (p. 259, Rollo).

15 Before that patent was issued, there was a trial in the ejectment suit. Fifteen defendants (out of forty), namely, Julio Ayog, Guillermo Bagoy, Generoso Bangonan, Jose Catibring, Porfirio Enoc, Jose Emperado, Arcadio Lomanto, Toribio Naquila, Elpidio Okay, Alfeo Sante, Meliton Sante, Ramon Samsa, Rebecca Samsa, Arcadio Sarumines and Felix Tahantahan, testified that they entered the disputed land long before 1951 and that they planted it to coconuts, coffee, jackfruit and other fruit trees. (p. 28, Record on Appeal). The trial court did not give credence to their testimonies. It believed the report of an official of the Bureau of Lands that in 1953 the land was free from private claims and conflicts and it gave much weight to the decision of the Director of Lands dismissing the protests of the defendants against the sales award (p. 30, Record on Appeal). Furthermore, the trial court during its ocular inspection of the land on November 8, 1964 found that the plantings on the land could not be more than ten years old, meaning that they were not existing in 1953 when the sales award was made. Hence, the trial court ordered the defendants to vacate the land and to restore the possession thereof to tile company. The Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment on December 5, 1975 in its decision in Binan Development Co., Inc. vs, Sante, CA-G.R. No. 37142- R. The review of the decision was denied by this Court on May 17, 1976 in Elpidio Okay vs. Court of Appeals, L43505. After the record was remanded to the trial court, the corporation filed a motion for execution. The defendants, some of whom are now petitioners herein, opposed the motion. They contended that the adoption of the Constitution, which took effect on January 17, 1973, was a supervening fact which rendered it legally impossible to execute the lower court's judgment. They invoked the constitutional prohibition, already mentioned, that "no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area." The lower court suspended action on the motion for execution because of the manifestation of the defendants that they would file a petition for prohibition in this Court. On August 24, 1977, the instant prohibition action was filed. Some of the petitioners were not defendants in the ejectment case. We hold that the said constitutional prohibition has no retroactive application to the sales application of Biñan Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect. That vested right has to be respected. lt could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioners' prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law. "A right is vested when the right to enjoyment has become the property of some particular person or persons as a present interest" (16 C.J.S. 1173). It is "the privilege to enjoy property legally vested, to enforce contracts, and enjoy the rights of property conferred by the existing law" (12 C.J. 955, Note 46, No. 6) or "some right or interest in property which has become fixed and established and is no longer

16 open to doubt or controversy" (Downs vs. Blount 170 Fed. 15, 20, cited in Balboa vs. Farrales, 51 Phil. 498, 502). The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. "A state may not impair vested rights by legislative enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police power" (16 C.J.S. 1177-78). It has been observed that, generally, the term "vested right" expresses the concept of present fixed interest, which in right reason and natural justice should be protected against arbitrary State action, or an innately just and imperative right which an enlightened free society, sensitive to inherent and irrefragable individual rights, cannot deny (16 C.J.S. 1174, Note 71, No. 5, citing Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, Inc. vs. Rosenthal, 192 Atl. 2nd 587). Secretary of Justice Abad Santos in his 1973 opinion ruled that where the applicant, before the Constitution took effect, had fully complied with all his obligations under the Public Land Act in order to entitle him to a sales patent, there would seem to be no legal or equitable justification for refusing to issue or release the sales patent (p. 254, Rollo). In Opinion No. 140, series of 1974, he held that as soon as the applicant had fulfilled the construction or cultivation requirements and has fully paid the purchase price, he should be deemed to have acquired by purchase the particular tract of land and to him the area limitation in the new Constitution would not apply. In Opinion No. 185, series of 1976, Secretary Abad Santos held that where the cultivation requirements were fulfilled before the new Constitution took effect but the full payment of the price was completed after January 17, 1973, the applicant was, nevertheless, entitled to a sales patent (p. 256, Rollo). Such a contemporaneous construction of the constitutional prohibition by a high executive official carries great weight and should be accorded much respect. It is a correct interpretation of section 11 of Article XIV. In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy. Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the said land from the public domain. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for that land is protected by law. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919). As we cannot review the factual findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, we cannot entertain petitioners' contention that many of them by themselves and through their predecessors-in-interest have possessed portions of land even before the war. They should have filed homestead or free patent applications.

17 Our jurisdiction is limited to the resolution of the legal issue as to whether the 1973 Constitution is an obstacle to the implementation of the trial court's 1964 final and executory judgment ejecting the petitioners. On that issue, we have no choice but to sustain its enforceability. Nevertheless, in the interest of social justice, to avoid agrarian unrest and to dispel the notion that the law grinds the faces of the poor, the administrative authorities should find ways and means of accommodating some of the petitioners if they are landless and are really tillers of the soil who in the words of President Magsaysay deserve a little more food in their stomachs, a little more shelter over their heads and a little more clothing on their backs. The State should endeavor to help the poor who find it difficult to make both ends meet and who suffer privations in the universal struggle for existence. A tiller of the soil is entitled to enjoy basic human rights, particularly freedom from want. The common man should be assisted in possessing and cultivating a piece of land for his sustenance, to give him social security and to enable him to achieve a dignified existence and become an independent, self-reliant and responsible citizen in our democratic society. To guarantee him that right is to discourage him from becoming a subversive or from rebelling against a social order where, as the architect of the French Revolution observed, the rich are choking with the superfluities of life but the famished multitude lack the barest necessities. Indeed, one purpose of the constitutional prohibition against purchases of public agricultural lands by private corporations is to equitably diffuse land ownership or to encourage "owner-cultivatorship and the economic family- size farm" and to prevent a recurrence of cases like the instant case. Huge landholdings by corporations or private persons had owned social unrest. Petitioners' counsel claims that Biñan Development Co., Inc. seeks to execute the judgment in Civil Case No. 3711, the ejectment suit from which this prohibition case arose, against some of the petitioners who were not defendants in that suit (p. 126, Rollo). Those petitioners are not successors-in-interest of the defendants in the ejectment suit. Nor do they derive their right of possession from the said defendants. Those petitioners occupy portions of the disputed land distinct and separate from the portions occupied by the said defendants. We hold that judgment cannot be enforced against the said petitioners who were not defendants in that litigation or who were not summoned and heard in that case. Generally, "it is an axiom of the law that no man shall be affected by proceedings to which he is a stranger" (Ed. A. Keller & Co. vs Ellerman & Bucknall Steamship Co., 38 Phil. 514, 520). To enforce the judgment against those who were not parties to the case and who occupy portions of the disputed land distinct and separate from the portions occupied by the defendants in the ejectment suit, would be violative of due process of law, the law which, according to Daniel Webster in his argument in the Dartmouth College case, is the law of the land, a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial. "The meaning is, that every citizen shall hold his life, liberty, property, and immunities, under the protection of the general rules which

18 govern society." (Cited in Lopez vs. Director of Lands, 47 Phil. 23, 32. See Gatchalian vs. Arlegui, L-35615 and Tang Tee vs. Arlegui, L-41360, February 17, 1977, 75 SCRA 234 and Berses vs. Villanueva, 25 Phil. 473.) Contempt incident.-During the pendency of this case, or at about four o'clock in the morning of December 12, 1978, Ciriaco Tebayan, Domingo Nevasca, Rogelio Duterte and Sofronio Etac, employees of the Crown Fruits and Cannery Corporation, plowed or bulldozed with their tractors a portion of the disputed land which was occupied by Melquiades Emberador, one of the petitioners herein. The disputed land was leased by Biñan Development Co., Inc. to the canning corporation. The four tractor drivers destroyed the improvements thereon worth about five thousand pesos consisting of coffee, coconut and banana plants. Emberador was in the hospital at the time the alleged destruction of the improvements occurred. However, it should be noted that Emberador was not expressly named as a defendant in the ejectment suit. Apparently, he is not included in the trial court's decision although he was joined as a co-petitioner in this prohibition case. The petitioners in their motion of January 11, 1979 asked that the four tractor drivers and Honesto Garcia, the manager of Biñan Development Co., Inc., be declared in contempt of court for having disregarded the restraining order issued by this Court on August 29, 1977, enjoining specifically Judge Vicente N. Cusi and the provincial sheriff from enforcing the decision in the ejectment suit, Civil Case No. 3711 (pp. 46-47, 138- 141, Rollo). Garcia and the four drivers answered the motion. The incident was assigned for hearing to Judge Antonio M. Martinez of the Court of First Instance of Davao. Judge Martinez found that the plowing was made at the instance of Garcia who told the barrio captain, petitioner Lausan Ayog, a Bagobo, that he (Garcia) could not wait anymore for the termination of this case. The record shows that on April 30, 1979 or four months after the said incident, Emberador, in consideration of P3,500, as the value of the improvements on his land, executed a quitclaim in favor of the Crown Fruits and Cannery Corporation (Exh. 1, 2 and 3). We hold that no contempt was committed. The temporary restraining order was not directed to Biñan Development Co., Inc. its officers, agents or privies. Emberador was not named specifically in the trial court's judgment as one of the occupants to be ejected. For the redress of whatever wrong or delict was committed against Emberador by reason of the destruction of his improvements, his remedy is not in a contempt proceeding but in some appropriate civil and criminal actions against the destroyer of the improvements. In resume, we find that there is no merit in the instant prohibition action. The constitutional prohibition relied upon by the petitioners as a ground to stop the execution of the judgment in the ejectment suit has no retroactive application to that case and does not divest the trial court of jurisdiction to enforce that judgment.

19 WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed for lack of merit but with the clarification that the said judgment cannot be enforced against those petitioners herein who were not defendants in the ejectment case, Civil Case No. 3711, and over whom the lower court did not acquire jurisdiction. The contempt proceeding is also dismissed. No costs. SO ORDERED. Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, Abad Santos, Relova and Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., concur. Escolin, J., took no part.

Separate Opinions

VASQUEZ, J., concurring: I concur with the very ably written main opinion. However, I wish to erase any possible erroneous impression that may be derived from the dispositive portion insofar as it declares that the judgment in the ejectment cage may not be enforced against the petitioners who were not defendants in Civil Case No. 3711 and over whom the lower court did not acquire jurisdiction. The judgment in any case is binding and enforceable not only against the parties thereto but also against "their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action" (Sec. 49[b], Rule 39, Rules of Court). We have previously held that the judgment in an ejectment case may be enforced not only against the defendants therein but also against the members of their family, their relatives or privies who derive their right of possession from the defendants (Ariem vs. Delos Angeles, 49 SCRA 343). A further clarification of the dispositive portion is apparently needed to exclude from the effect of the judgment in the ejectment case only the petitioners who do not derive their right of possession from any of the defendants in the ejectment suit.

Fernando, C.J., Teehankee, Melencio-Herrera, Plana, Makasiar and De Castro, JJ., concurs.

Separate Opinions VASQUEZ, J., concurring:

20 I concur with the very ably written main opinion. However, I wish to erase any possible erroneous impression that may be derived from the dispositive portion insofar as it declares that the judgment in the ejectment cage may not be enforced against the petitioners who were not defendants in Civil Case No. 3711 and over whom the lower court did not acquire jurisdiction. The judgment in any case is binding and enforceable not only against the parties thereto but also against "their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action" (Sec. 49[b], Rule 39, Rules of Court). We have previously held that the judgment in an ejectment case may be enforced not only against the defendants therein but also against the members of their family, their relatives or privies who derive their right of possession from the defendants (Ariem vs. Delos Angeles, 49 SCRA 343). A further clarification of the dispositive portion is apparently needed to exclude from the effect of the judgment in the ejectment case only the petitioners who do not derive their right of possession from any of the defendants in the ejectment suit. Fernando, C.J., Teehankee, Melencio-Herrera, Plana, Makasiar and De Castro, JJ., concurs.

G.R. No. L-55289 June 29, 1982 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the Director of Lands, petitioner-appellant, vs. JUDGE CANDIDO P. VILLANUEVA, of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Malolos Branch VII, and IGLESIA NI CRISTO, as a corporation sole, represented by ERAÑO G. MANALO, as Executive Minister,respondents-appellees.

AQUINO, J.: Like L-49623, Manila Electric Company vs. Judge Castro-Bartolome, this case involves the prohibition in section 11, Article XIV of the Constitution that "no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area". Lots Nos. 568 and 569, located at Barrio Dampol, Plaridel, Bulacan, with an area of 313 square meters and an assessed value of P1,350 were acquired by the Iglesia Ni Cristo on January 9, 1953 from Andres Perez in exchange for a lot with an area of 247 square meters owned by the said church (Exh. D). The said lots were already possessed by Perez in 1933. They are not included in any military reservation. They are inside an area which was certified as alienable or disposable by the Bureau of Forestry in 1927. The lots are planted to santol and mango trees and banana plants. A chapel exists on the said land. The land had been declared for realty tax purposes. Realty taxes had been paid therefor (Exh. N). On September 13, 1977, the Iglesia Ni Cristo, a corporation sole, duly existing under Philippine laws, filed with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan an application for the registration of the two lots. It

21 alleged that it and its predecessors-in-interest had possessed the land for more than thirty years. It invoked section 48(b) of the Public Land Law, which provides: Chapter VIII.—Judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. xxx xxx xxx SEC. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefore, under the Land Register Act, to wit: xxx xxx xxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest 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 thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter." (As amended by Republic Act No. 1942, approved on June 22, 1957.) The Republic of the Philippines, through the Direct/r of Lands, opposed the application on the grounds that applicant, as a private corporation, is disqualified to hold alienable lands of the public domain, that the land applied for is public land not susceptible of private appropriation and that the applicant and its predecessors-in-interest have not been in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land since June 12, 1945. After hearing, the trial court ordered the registration of the two lots, as described in Plan Ap-04-001344 (Exh. E), in the name of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, a corporation sole, represented by Executive Minister Eraño G. Manalo, with office at the corner of Central and Don Mariano Marcos Avenues, Quezon City, From that decision, the Republic of the Philippines appealed to this Court under Republic Act No. 5440. The appeal should be sustained. As correctly contended by the Solicitor General, the Iglesia Ni Cristo, as a corporation sole or a juridical person, is disqualified to acquire or hold alienable lands of the public domain, like the two lots in question, because of the constitutional prohibition already mentioned and because the said church is not entitled to avail itself of the benefits of section 48(b) which applies only to Filipino citizens or natural persons. A corporation sole (an "unhappy freak of English law") has no nationality (Roman Catholic Apostolic Adm. of Davao, Inc. vs. Land Registration Commission, 102 Phil. 596. See Register of Deeds vs. Ung Siu Si Temple, 97 Phil. 58 and sec. 49 of the Public Land Law). The contention in the comments of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (its lawyer did not file any brief) that the two lots are private lands, following the rule laid down in Susi vs. Razon and Director of Lands, 48 Phil. 424, is not

22 correct. What was considered private land in the Susi case was a parcel of land possessed by a Filipino citizen since time immemorial, as in Cariño vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449, 53 L. ed. 594, 41 Phil. 935 and 7 Phil. 132. The lots sought to be registered in this case do not fall within that category. They are still public lands. A land registration proceeding under section 48(b) "presupposes that the land is public" (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L-19535, July 10, 1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644). As held in Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, "all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong 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-ininterest 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. " In Uy Un vs. Perez, 71 Phil. 508, it was noted that the right of an occupant of public agricultural land to obtain a confirmation of his title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Law is a "derecho dominical incoativo"and that before the issuance of the certificate of title the occupant is not in the juridical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. The lower court's judgment is reversed and set aside. The application for registration of the Iglesia Ni Cristo is dismissed with costs against said applicant. SO ORDERED. Barredo, Makasiar, Guerrero, Melencio-Herrera, Escolin, Vasquez, Relova and Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., concur. Concepcion, Jr., J., is on leave. Plana, J., took no part.

Separate Opinions

ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring: In the result for the same reasons I have already given in Manila Electric Co. vs. Judge Floreliana CastroBartolome, G.R. No. L-49623. DE CASTRO, J., dissenting: Justice Teehankee cites in his dissenting opinion the case of Herico vs. Dar, 1 the decision in which I am theponente, as reiterating a supposedly well-established doctrine that lands of the public domain which, by reason of possession and cultivation for such a length of time, a grant by the State to the occupant is

23 presumed, and the land thereby ceases to form part of the public domain, but is segregated therefrom as to be no longer subject to the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose under the public land laws or statutes. He would thus consider said land as no longer public land but "private" lands and therefore, not within the prohibition of the New Constitution against corporations from acquiring public lands which provides that "no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares."2 I cannot subscribe to the view that the land as above described has become private land, even before title thereto, which is, as of this stage, said to be still "an incomplete or imperfect title," has been fully vested on the occupant, through the prescribed procedure known as judicial confirmation of incomplete or imperfect title. 3 This is the only legal method by which full and absolute title to the land may be granted, to convert the land into a truly private land. To secure such judicial title, only the courts can be resorted to. The Director of Lands has lost authority over the land, insofar as its disposition is concerned. His authority is limited to another form of disposition of public land, referred to as administrative legalization, resulting in the issuance of free patents, also based on possession, in which case, as in the issuance of homestead and sales patents, the land involved in undoubtedly public land. The possessor of a piece of public land would have the option to acquire title thereto through judicial confirmation or administrative legalization. The difference is that in the latter case, the area disposable to a citizenapplicant by the Director of Lands is limited to 24 hectares. There is no limit to the area subject to judicial confirmation of incomplete or imperfect title, except possibly the limit fixed for a State grant under old Spanish laws and decrees, which certainly is much larger than that set for free patents. It is because of the divestiture of authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of the land subject to judicial confirmation of incomplete and imperfect title that some statements are found in many cases, such as those cited by Justice Teehankee, to the effect that such land has ceased to be public land. What these statements, however, really mean is that the land referred to no longer forms part of the mass of public domain still disposable by the Director of Lands, under the authority granted him by the public land statutes. It, however, would not follow that the land covered by Section 48 of the Public Land Act has itself become private land. The fact that its disposition is provided for in the aforecited Act which deals with "public land" gives rise to the very strong implication, if not a positive conclusion, that the land referred to is still public land. Only when the court adjudicates the land to the applicant for confirmation of title would the land become privately owned land, for in the same proceeding, the court may declare it public land, depending on the evidence. The discussion of the question of whether the land involved is still public or already private land is, however, entirely pointless, or an Idle exercise, if We consider the provision of Section 14, Article XIV of the Constitution which appears to have been lost sight of, which provides that "save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. " As previously stated, by express provision of the Constitution, no corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain, except by lease, not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area.4 Hence, even if the land involved in the present case is considered private land, the cited section prohibits its acquisition by the Meralco or Iglesia which admittedly are "corporations or association" within the meaning of the

24 aforecited provision of the New Constitution. This observation should end all arguments on the issue of whether the land in question is public or private land. Although it may further be observed that supposing a corporation has been in possession of a piece of public land from the very beginning, may it apply for judicial confirmation of the land in question to acquire title to it as owner after possessing the land for the requisite length of time? The answer is believed obvious-it may not. If its possession is not from the beginning but has commenced only upon the transfer to it by the prior possessor, may the corporation apply? The answer is just as obvious with more reason, it may not. This separate opinion should have had no need to be written because the majority opinion written by Justice Aquino is already well-reasoned out and supported by applicable authorities. I •as impelled to write it only because in the dissenting opinion of Justice Teehankee, the case of Herico vs. Dar (supra) which is my ponencia was cited in support of his position. This separate opinion then is more to show and explain that whatever has been stated by me in the Dar case should be interpreted in the light of what I have said in his separate opinion, which I believe, does not strengthen Justice Teehankee's position a bit. FERNANDO, C.J., dissenting: It is with regret that unlike in the case of Meralco v. Judge Castro-Bartolome, 1 where I had a brief concurrence and dissent, I am constrained to dissent in the ably-written opinion of Justice Aquino. I join him in according the utmost respect and deference to this provision in the Constitution: "No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; ... ." 2 If the matter before us be viewed solely from the standpoint of respondent appellee Iglesia ni Cristo being a corporation sole, then I would have no hesitancy in sustaining the conclusion that if the land be considered public, its registration would have to be denied. For me, that is not the decisive consideration. It is my view that the Bill of Rights provision on religious freedom which bans the enactment of any law prohibiting its free exercise, the "enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, [being] forever ... allowed." 3This is not the first time the Court has occasion to recognize the high estate that freedom of religion occupies in our hierarchy of values. Even as against the fundamental objectives, constitutionally enshrined, of social justice and protection to labor, the claim of such free exercise and enjoyment was recognized in the leading case ofVictoriano v. Elizalde Rope Workers' Union. 4 Here the Iglesia ni Cristo, as a corporation sole, seeks the registration. The area involved in the two parcels of land in question is 313 square meters. As admitted in the opinion of the Court, a chapel is therein located. It is that basic consideration that leads me to conclude that the balancing process, which finds application in constitutional law adjudication, equally requires that when two provisions in the Constitution may be relevant to a certain factual situation calls for the affirmance of the decision of respondent Judge allowing the registration. 5 There is for me another obstacle to a partial concurrence. The right of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Administrator of Davao to register land purchased from a Filipino citizen was recognized in The Roman Catholic Apostolic Administrator of Davao v. Land Registration. 6As I view it, therefore, the decision of respondent Judge is equally entitled to affirmance on equal protection grounds. 7 Hence this brief dissent.

25 TEEHANKEE, C.J., dissenting: Involved in these two cases are the applications of petitioner Meralco, a nationalized domestic corporation, in the first case and respondent Iglesia ni Cristo, a religious corporation sole, in the second case (both admittedly Filipino corporations qualified to hold and own private lands), for judicial confirmation of their titles to small parcels of land, residential in character as distinguished from strictly agricultural land, acquired by them by purchase or exchange from private persons publicly recognized as the private owners (who have been in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least thirty [30] years immediately preceding the filing of the applications). This dissent is based on the failure of the majority to adhere to established doctrine since the 1909 case of Cariñoand the 1925 case of Susi down to the 1980 case of Herico, infra, pursuant to the Public Land Act, as amended, that where a possessor has held the open, exclusive and unchallenged possession of alienable public land for the statutory period provided by law (30 years now under amendatory Rep. Act No. 1942 approved on June 22, 1957), the law itself mandates that the possessor "shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title" and" by legal fiction [the land] has already ceased to be of the public domain and has become private property." Accordingly, the prohibition of the 1973 Constitution and of the Public Land Act against private corporations holding lands of the public domain has no applicability in the present cases. What Meralco and Iglesia have acquired from their predecessors-in-interest had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property at the time of the sale to them and therefore their applications for confirmation of title by virtue of their predecessors-in-interest' vested right and title may be duly granted. The land covered by the Meralco application of November 26, 1976 consists of two (2) small lots with a total area of 165 square meters located at Tanay, Rizal with an assessed value of P3,270.00. This land was possessed by Olimpia Ramos before World War II which broke out in the Pacific in 1941. Olimpia Ramos sold the land on July 3, 1947 to the spouses Rafael Piguing and Minerva Inocencio who constructed a house thereon. But because the Meralco had installed the "anchor guy" of its steel posts on the land, the Piguing spouses sold the land to the Meralco on August 13, 1976. The land had been declared for realty tax purposes since 1945 and realty taxes were regularly paid thereon. It is residential in character as distinguished from strictly agricultural land. It is likewise established that it is not included in any military reservation and that since 1927 it had been certified as part of the alienable or disposable portion of the public domain. The Land covered by the Iglesia application of September 3, 1977 likewise consists of two (2) small lots located in Barrio Dampol, Plaridel, Bulacan with a total area of 313 square meters and with an assessed value of P1,350.00. The land was acquired by the Iglesia on January 9, 1953 from Andres Perez in exchange for a lot owned by the Iglesia with an area of 247 square meters. The land was already possessed by Perez in 1933. Admittedly also it is not included in any military reservation and is inside an area which was certified since 1927 as part of the alienable or disposable portion of the public domain.

26 A chapel of the Iglesia stands on the said land. It had been duly declared for realty tax purposes in the name of the Iglesia and realty taxes were regularly paid thereon. Respondent judge in the Meralco case sustained the Republic's opposition and dismissed the application, holding that under both the provisions of the new Constitution and the Public Land Act, Meralco, being a corporation and not a natural person, is not qualified to apply for the registration of title over the public land. On the other hand, in the Iglesia case, the Republic presented no evidence in support of its opposition but expressly "submitted the case for decision on the basis of the evidence submitted by the applicant." Respondent judge in the case accordingly granted the application for registration of the land in the name of the Iglesia, holding that it had been "satisfactorily established that applicant [Iglesia] and its predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, public and adverse possession of the land ... under a bona fide claim of ownership for more than thirty (30) years prior to the filing of the application" and is therefore entitled to the registration applied for under the Public Land Act, as amended. Both decisions are now with the Court for review. I hold that both applications for registration should be granted by virtue of the prevailing principle as enunciated since the 1925 case of Susi vs. Razon and Director of Lands 1 and reaffirmed in a long line of cases down to the 1980 case of Herico vs. Dar 2 that the lands in question ceased, ipso jure, or by operation of law, to be lands of the public domain upon completion of the statutory period of open, continuous, exclusive, notorious and unchallenged possession thereof by the applicants' predecessors-in-interest who were qualified natural persons and entitled to registration by right of acquisitive prescription under the provisions of the Public Land Act, and that accordingly the judgment in the Meralco case should be reversed and a new judgment entered granting Meralco's application, while the judgment in the Iglesia case should stand affirmed. The principal issue at bar may thus be stated: It is expressly provided in section 48, par. (b) of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, approved on June 22, 1957) that citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons who have occupied lands of the public domain but whose titles have not been perfected or completed may apply to the corresponding court of first instance for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of the certificate of title therefor under the Land Registration Act in cases where they "by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in the 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 thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter." 3 In such cases, is the land ipso jure or by operation of law converted into private land upon completion of the 30th year of continuous and unchallenged occupation of the land such that thereafter as such private land, it may be duly transferred to and owned by private corporations or does such land, as held by respondent judge in

27 the Meralco case, remain part of the public domain and does not become private land until after actual judicial confirmation proceedings and the formal court order for the issuance of the certificate of title? 1. This issue has been squarely resolved by this Court since the 1925 case of Susi vs. Razon (and a long line of cases, infra). It is established doctrine as first held therein that an open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law) by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property. (At that time in 1925 in the Susi case, such possession was required "from July 26, 1894" as then provided for in section 45 (b) of the old Public Land Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926; whereas at present as provided for in the corresponding section 48, par. (b) of the later and subsisting Public Land Act, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942 approved on June 22, 1957, in force since 1957, the period of open and unchallenged possession was reduced to "at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription. This is admitted in the main opinion of Mr. Justice Aquino, wherein it is stated that "(I)n the Susi case, this Court applied section 45 (b) of Act No. 2874 which corresponds to what is now section 48(b). It was held that the long possession of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since July 26, 1894 gave rise to the conclusive presumption that the occupant had complied with all the conditions essential to a Government grant and was thus entitled to a certificate of title." 4 The text of the corresponding section 48(b), as amended by Rep. Act 1942 referred to is reproduced verbatim in Mr. Justice Aquino's opinion 5 and quotes the reduced statutory period of open and unchallenged possession of "at leastthirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application. ") Accordingly, the Court held that Susi, as the rightful possessor of the public land for the statutory period, acquired the same by operation of law as a grant from the Government, "not only a right to a grant," and the land thereby "already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property at least by presumption" as expressly provided in the Act. Therefore, any supposed sale by the Director of Lands of the same land to another person was void and of no effect and Susi as the rightful possessor could recover the land as his private property from the supposed vendee who did not acquire any right thereto since it had ceased to be land of the public domain. The Court thus specifically held therein, as applied to the specific facts of the case, that: ... In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure,established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain, openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1894, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi hadalready acquired, by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may

28 be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefor is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question to Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 6 2. The above-quoted ruling in Susi has been affirmed and reaffirmed by this Court in a long unbroken line of cases, as follows: In Mesina vs. Vda. de Sonza, 7 the Court held that "(I)n the case of Susi vs. Razon, et al., 48 Phil. 424, it was observed that where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with through actual physical possession openly, continuously, and publicly, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926 (carried over as Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act No. 141), the possessor is deemed to have already acquired by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of title be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts — an application therefor being sufficient under the provisions of Section 47 of Act No. 2874 (reproduced as Section 50, Commonwealth Act No. 141)," and "(C)onsidering that this case was dismissed by the trial court merely on a motion to dismiss on the ground that plaintiff's action is already barred by the statute of limitations, which apparently is predicated on the theory that a decree of registration can no longer be impugned on the ground of fraud one year after the issuance and entry of the decree, which theory does not apply here because the property involved is allegedly private in nature and has ceased to be part of the public domain, we are of the opinion that the trial court erred in dismissing the case outright without giving plaintiff a chance to prove his claim." In Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 8 the Court stressed that by force of possession, the land in question became private property on the strength of the Susi doctrine. In Manarpaac us. Cabanatan, 9 the Court quoted with favor the text of the above-quoted ruling of Susi, and its ratio decidendi thus: The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the public domain, the plaintiffappellee cannot maintain an action to recover possession thereof. If, as above stated, that land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become, by operation of law, private property, there is lacking only the judicial sanction of his title Valentin Susi has the right to bring an action to recover the possession thereof and hold it. In Miguel us. Court of Appeals, 10 the Court again held that where possession has been continuous, uninterrupted, open, adverse and in the concept of an owner, there is a presumption juris et de jure that all necessary condition for a grant by the State have been complied with and he would have been by

29 force of lawentitled to the registration of his title to the land (citing Pamintuan vs. Insular Government, 8 Phil. 485 and Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil. 424). In the latest 1980 case of Herico vs. Dar, 11 " the Court once more reiterated the Susi doctrine that "(A)nother obvious error of the respondent Court is in holding that after one year from the issuance of the Torrens Title, the same can no longer be reopened to be declared null and void, and has become absolute and indefeasible. ... Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. This is as provided in Republic Act No. 1942, which took effect on June 22, 1957, amending Section 48-b of Commonwealth Act No. 141 which provides: ... As interpreted in several cases when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain, and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent." 3. In fine, since under the Court's settled doctrine, the acquisitive prescription of alienable or disposable public lands provided for now in section 48, par. (b) of the Public Land Act takes place by operation of law and the public land is converted to and becomes private property upon as showing of open and unchallenged possession underbona fide claim of ownership by the applicants' predecessors-in-interest for the statutory period of thirty yearsimmediately preceding the filing of the application and "it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the court" which right is expressly backed up by the conclusive presumption or presumption juris et de jure of the statute that the possessor has "performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant," the applicant Meralco cannot be said to be barred as a corporation from filing the application for registration of the private property duly acquired by it. 4. It should be noted that respondent judge's decision in the Meralco case expressly finds as established facts that the Meralco's predecessors-in- interest had possessed and occupied as owners the land in question for at least over 35 years; Olimpia Ramos having possessed the same since the last world war in 1941 and then having sold the same on July 3, 1947 to the Piguing spouses who built a house thereon and continuously possessed the same until they sold the same in turn to the Meralco on August 13, 1976, 12 Meralco's predecessors-in-interest had therefore acquired by operation of the Public Land Act a Government grant to the property, as well as acquired ownership thereof by right of acquisitive prescription over the land which thereby became private property. The very definition of prescription as a mode of acquiring ownership as set forth in Art. 1106 of the Civil Code provides that "By prescription one acquires ownership and other real rights through lapse of time in the manner and under the conditions laid down by law." The law does I not provide that one acquires ownership of a land by

30 prescriptiononly after his title thereto is judicially confirmed. To this same effect is the ruling in Cariño vs. Insular Government,13 wherein the U.S. Supreme Court speaking through Justice Holmes held that:

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, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. To the same effect is the Court's ruling in Legarda and Prieto vs. Saleeby, 31 Phil. 590, that "an owner does not obtain title by virtue of certificate but rather obtains his certificate by virtue of the fact that he has a fee simple title." 5. Since the public land became private property upon completion of the 30th year of continuous, exclusive, and unchallenged possession of the applicant Meralco's predecessors-in-interest, particularly the Piguing spouses who sold the private land to the Meralco, there is no justification for denying the Meralco's application for registration of its duly acquired title to the land. Meralco's predecessors-ininterest had acquired ownership of the land by acquisitive prescription as provided by the Public Land Act and by the Civil Code. The land became private property and Meralco duly acquired it by right of purchase. To deny Meralco's application to register the property because it is not a natural person is unjustified because neither the new constitutional ban under the 1973 Constitution against private corporations owning lands of the public domain or the Public Land Act's limitation on the right of application for confirmation of imperfect title to lands of the public domain can be invoked any longer as the land had long ceased to be public land but had become private property. Meralco's application in effect seeks confirmation of the acquisition of ownership of the land which had become private property of its predecessors-in-interest, the Piguing spouses who thru their open and unchallenged possession of the land for over thirty years acquired title thereto by acquisitive prescription and by conclusive presumption of the Public Land Act itself. There is no legal nor constitutional obstacle to such title being transferred to the Meralco by right of purchase and traditio — for it is not claimed that there is any legal prohibition against the Piguing spouses transferring the ownership of the land to others (whether natural persons or corporations) such as the applicant Meralco, even before the formal issuance of the certificate of title to them. 6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a

31 technical error in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See Francisco vs. City of Davao 14 ) The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged. 7. All that has been said here applies of course with equal force to the Iglesia case, save that as already stated at the beginning hereof, the Iglesia application was granted because the Republic presented no evidence in support of its opposition and respondent judge held in effect that the property had ceased to be land of the public domain and had become private property, the title to which could be duly issued in the name of the Iglesia as the transferee of its predecessors-in-interest. 8. It should bear emphasis that what are involved here are small parcels of land, of 165 square meters in the Meralco case used for installation of an "anchor guy" for its steel posts in connection with its tasks as a nationalized domestic corporation to furnish electrical service to the consumer public, and of 313 square meters in the Iglesia case used as the site of its church built thereon to minister to the religious needs of its members. In no way, may the letter, intent and spirit of the prohibition of the 1973 Constitution against corporations "holding alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area" (which is beamed against the undue control and exploitation of our public lands and natural resources by corporations, Filipino and foreign-controlled) be deemed violated or disregarded by the granting of the applications at bar. The two corporations in truth and in fact do not hold the small parcels of land at bar for their own use or benefit but for the sole use and benefit of the public. 9. With reference to the separate concurring opinion of Mr. Justice De Castro wherein he would blunt the "supposedly (sic) well-established doctrine" (at page 1) from the 1909 case of Cariño and the 1925 case of Susidown to the 1980 case of Herico (supra, at pages 5 to 11) and support the contrary pronouncement in Mr. Justice Aquino's main opinion that "as between the State and the Meralco, the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b) [of the Public Land Act]" (at page 5), suffice it to cite his own pronouncement in Herico (reiterating the well-established and prevailing doctrine which

32 this Court has not overturned, as it cannot overturn the mandate of the statute that the unchallenged possessor for at least 30 years is "conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant") wherein Mr. Justice De Castro categorically reiterated for the Court that "As interpreted in several cases .....the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain, and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. " It only remains to point out, in order to avoid misapprehension or confusion, that Mr. Justice De Castro's seemingly querulous statement that "the discussion of the question of whether the land involved is still public or already private land, is however, entirely pointless or an Idle exercise, if We consider the provision of Section 14, Article XIV of the Constitution which appears to have been lost sight of, which provides that 'save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the domain'" (at page 2) that "hence, even if the land involved in the present case is considered private land, the cited section prohibits its acquisition by the Meralco or Iglesia which admittedly are 'corporations' or associations within the meaning of the aforecited provision of the New Constitution. The observation should end all arguments on the issue of whether the land in question is public or private land" (idem) might mislead one to the wrong conclusion that corporations with 60% Filipino ownership may not own private lands when the express provisions of Art. XIV, section 9 15 and section 14 as quoted by himself as well as the counterpart provisions of the 1935 Constitution have always expressly permitted Filipinoowned corporations to own private lands, and the only change effected in the 1973 Constitution is section 11 which now prohibits even such Filipino corporations to own or hold lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area. ACCORDINGLY, I vote for reversal of respondent court's judgment in the Meralco case and for the entry of a new judgment granting Meralco's application and for affirmance of judgment in the second case granting the Iglesia application.

Separate Opinions ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring: In the result for the same reasons I have already given in Manila Electric Co. vs. Judge Floreliana CastroBartolome, G.R. No. L-49623. DE CASTRO, J., dissenting:

33 Justice Teehankee cites in his dissenting opinion the case of Herico vs. Dar, 1 the decision in which I am theponente, as reiterating a supposedly well-established doctrine that lands of the public domain which, by reason of possession and cultivation for such a length of time, a grant by the State to the occupant is presumed, and the land thereby ceases to form part of the public domain, but is segregated therefrom as to be no longer subject to the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose under the public land laws or statutes. He would thus consider said land as no longer public land but "private" lands and therefore, not within the prohibition of the New Constitution against corporations from acquiring public lands which provides that "no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares."2 I cannot subscribe to the view that the land as above described has become private land, even before title thereto, which is, as of this stage, said to be still "an incomplete or imperfect title," has been fully vested on the occupant, through the prescribed procedure known as judicial confirmation of incomplete or imperfect title. 3 This is the only legal method by which full and absolute title to the land may be granted, to convert the land into a truly private land. To secure such judicial title, only the courts can be resorted to. The Director of Lands has lost authority over the land, insofar as its disposition is concerned. His authority is limited to another form of disposition of public land, referred to as administrative legalization, resulting in the issuance of free patents, also based on possession, in which case, as in the issuance of homestead and sales patents, the land involved in undoubtedly public land. The possessor of a piece of public land would have the option to acquire title thereto through judicial confirmation or administrative legalization. The difference is that in the latter case, the area disposable to a citizenapplicant by the Director of Lands is limited to 24 hectares. There is no limit to the area subject to judicial confirmation of incomplete or imperfect title, except possibly the limit fixed for a State grant under old Spanish laws and decrees, which certainly is much larger than that set for free patents. It is because of the divestiture of authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of the land subject to judicial confirmation of incomplete and imperfect title that some statements are found in many cases, such as those cited by Justice Teehankee, to the effect that such land has ceased to be public land. What these statements, however, really mean is that the land referred to no longer forms part of the mass of public domain still disposable by the Director of Lands, under the authority granted him by the public land statutes. It, however, would not follow that the land covered by Section 48 of the Public Land Act has itself become private land. The fact that its disposition is provided for in the aforecited Act which deals with "public land" gives rise to the very strong implication, if not a positive conclusion, that the land referred to is still public land. Only when the court adjudicates the land to the applicant for confirmation of title would the land become privately owned land, for in the same proceeding, the court may declare it public land, depending on the evidence. The discussion of the question of whether the land involved is still public or already private land is, however, entirely pointless, or an Idle exercise, if We consider the provision of Section 14, Article XIV of the Constitution which appears to have been lost sight of, which provides that "save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. " As previously stated, by express provision of the Constitution, no corporation or association may hold alienable lands

34 of the public domain, except by lease, not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area.4 Hence, even if the land involved in the present case is considered private land, the cited section prohibits its acquisition by the Meralco or Iglesia which admittedly are "corporations or association" within the meaning of the aforecited provision of the New Constitution. This observation should end all arguments on the issue of whether the land in question is public or private land. Although it may further be observed that supposing a corporation has been in possession of a piece of public land from the very beginning, may it apply for judicial confirmation of the land in question to acquire title to it as owner after possessing the land for the requisite length of time? The answer is believed obvious-it may not. If its possession is not from the beginning but has commenced only upon the transfer to it by the prior possessor, may the corporation apply? The answer is just as obvious with more reason, it may not. This separate opinion should have had no need to be written because the majority opinion written by Justice Aquino is already well-reasoned out and supported by applicable authorities. I was impelled to write it only because in the dissenting opinion of Justice Teehankee, the case of Herico vs. Dar (supra) which is my ponenciawas cited in support of his position. This separate opinion then is more to show and explain that whatever has been stated by me in the Dar case should be interpreted in the light of what I have said in his separate opinion, which I believe, does not strengthen Justice Teehankee's position a bit. FERNANDO, C.J., dissenting: It is with regret that unlike in the case of Meralco v. Judge Castro-Bartolome, 1 where I had a brief concurrence and dissent, I am constrained to dissent in the ably-written opinion of Justice Aquino. I join him in according the utmost respect and deference to this provision in the Constitution: "No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; ... ." 2 If the matter before us be viewed solely from the standpoint of respondent appellee Iglesia ni Cristo being a corporation sole, then I would have no hesitancy in sustaining the conclusion that if the land be considered public, its registration would have to be denied. For me, that is not the decisive consideration. It is my view that the Bill of Rights provision on religious freedom which bans the enactment of any law prohibiting its free exercise, the "enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, [being] forever ... allowed." 3This is not the first time the Court has occasion to recognize the high estate that freedom of religion occupies in our hierarchy of values. Even as against the fundamental objectives, constitutionally enshrined, of social justice and protection to labor, the claim of such free exercise and enjoyment was recognized in the leading case ofVictoriano v. Elizalde Rope Workers' Union. 4 Here the Iglesia ni Cristo, as a corporation sole, seeks the registration. The area involved in the two parcels of land in question is 313 square meters. As admitted in the opinion of the Court, a chapel is therein located. It is that basic consideration that leads me to conclude that the balancing process, which finds application in constitutional law adjudication, equally requires that when two provisions in the Constitution may be relevant to a certain factual situation calls for the affirmance of the decision of respondent Judge allowing the registration. 5 There is for me another obstacle to a partial concurrence. The right of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Administrator of Davao to register land purchased from a Filipino citizen was recognized in The Roman Catholic Apostolic Administrator of Davao v. Land Registration. 6As I view it, therefore, the

35 decision of respondent Judge is equally entitled to affirmance on equal protection grounds. 7 Hence this brief dissent. TEEHANKEE, C.J., dissenting: Involved in these two cases are the applications of petitioner Meralco, a nationalized domestic corporation, in the first case and respondent Iglesia ni Cristo, a religious corporation sole, in the second case (both admittedly Filipino corporations qualified to hold and own private lands), for judicial confirmation of their titles to small parcels of land, residential in character as distinguished from strictly agricultural land, acquired by them by purchase or exchange from private persons publicly recognized as the private owners (who have been in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least thirty [30] years immediately preceding the filing of the applications). This dissent is based on the failure of the majority to adhere to established doctrine since the 1909 case of Cariñoand the 1925 case of Susi down to the 1980 case of Herico, infra, pursuant to the Public Land Act, as amended, that where a possessor has held the open, exclusive and unchallenged possession of alienable public land for the statutory period provided by law (30 years now under amendatory Rep. Act No. 1942 approved on June 22, 1957), the law itself mandates that the possessor "shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title" and" by legal fiction [the land] has already ceased to be of the public domain and has become private property." Accordingly, the prohibition of the 1973 Constitution and of the Public Land Act against private corporations holding lands of the public domain has no applicability in the present cases. What Meralco and Iglesia have acquired from their predecessors-in-interest had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property at the time of the sale to them and therefore their applications for confirmation of title by virtue of their predecessors-in-interest' vested right and title may be duly granted. The land covered by the Meralco application of November 26, 1976 consists of two (2) small lots with a total area of 165 square meters located at Tanay, Rizal with an assessed value of P3,270.00. This land was possessed by Olimpia Ramos before World War II which broke out in the Pacific in 1941. Olimpia Ramos sold the land on July 3, 1947 to the spouses Rafael Piguing and Minerva Inocencio who constructed a house thereon. But because the Meralco had installed the "anchor guy" of its steel posts on the land, the Piguing spouses sold the land to the Meralco on August 13, 1976. The land had been declared for realty tax purposes since 1945 and realty taxes were regularly paid thereon. It is residential in character as distinguished from strictly agricultural land. It is likewise established that it is not included in any military reservation and that since 1927 it had been certified as part of the alienable or disposable portion of the public domain. The Land covered by the Iglesia application of September 3, 1977 likewise consists of two (2) small lots located in Barrio Dampol, Plaridel, Bulacan with a total area of 313 square meters and with an assessed value of P1,350.00. The land was acquired by the Iglesia on January 9, 1953 from Andres Perez in exchange for a lot owned by the Iglesia with an area of 247 square meters. The land was already

36 possessed by Perez in 1933. Admittedly also it is not included in any military reservation and is inside an area which was certified since 1927 as part of the alienable or disposable portion of the public domain. A chapel of the Iglesia stands on the said land. It had been duly declared for realty tax purposes in the name of the Iglesia and realty taxes were regularly paid thereon. Respondent judge in the Meralco case sustained the Republic's opposition and dismissed the application, holding that under both the provisions of the new Constitution and the Public Land Act, Meralco, being a corporation and not a natural person, is not qualified to apply for the registration of title over the public land. On the other hand, in the Iglesia case, the Republic presented no evidence in support of its opposition but expressly "submitted the case for decision on the basis of the evidence submitted by the applicant." Respondent judge in the case accordingly granted the application for registration of the land in the name of the Iglesia, holding that it had been "satisfactorily established that applicant [Iglesia] and its predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, public and adverse possession of the land ... under a bona fide claim of ownership for more than thirty (30) years prior to the filing of the application" and is therefore entitled to the registration applied for under the Public Land Act, as amended. Both decisions are now with the Court for review. I hold that both applications for registration should be granted by virtue of the prevailing principle as enunciated since the 1925 case of Susi vs. Razon and Director of Lands 1 and reaffirmed in a long line of cases down to the 1980 case of Herico vs. Dar 2 that the lands in question ceased, ipso jure, or by operation of law, to be lands of the public domain upon completion of the statutory period of open, continuous, exclusive, notorious and unchallenged possession thereof by the applicants' predecessors-in-interest who were qualified natural persons and entitled to registration by right of acquisitive prescription under the provisions of the Public Land Act, and that accordingly the judgment in the Meralco case should be reversed and a new judgment entered granting Meralco's application, while the judgment in the Iglesia case should stand affirmed. The principal issue at bar may thus be stated: It is expressly provided in section 48, par. (b) of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, approved on June 22, 1957) that citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons who have occupied lands of the public domain but whose titles have not been perfected or completed may apply to the corresponding court of first instance for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of the certificate of title therefor under the Land Registration Act in cases where they "by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in the 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 thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter." 3 In such cases, is the land ipso jure or by operation of law converted into private land upon completion of the 30th year of continuous and unchallenged occupation of the land such that thereafter as such private land, it may be

37 duly transferred to and owned by private corporations or does such land, as held by respondent judge in the Meralco case, remain part of the public domain and does not become private land until after actual judicial confirmation proceedings and the formal court order for the issuance of the certificate of title? 1. This issue has been squarely resolved by this Court since the 1925 case of Susi vs. Razon (and a long line of cases, infra). It is established doctrine as first held therein that an open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law) by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property. (At that time in 1925 in the Susi case, such possession was required "from July 26, 1894" as then provided for in section 45 (b) of the old Public Land Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926; whereas at present as provided for in the corresponding section 48, par. (b) of the later and subsisting Public Land Act, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942 approved on June 22, 1957, in force since 1957, the period of open and unchallenged possession was reduced to "at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription. This is admitted in the main opinion of Mr. Justice Aquino, wherein it is stated that "(I)n the Susi case, this Court applied section 45 (b) of Act No. 2874 which corresponds to what is now section 48(b). It was held that the long possession of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since July 26, 1894 gave rise to the conclusive presumption that the occupant had complied with all the conditions essential to a Government grant and was thus entitled to a certificate of title." 4 The text of the corresponding section 48(b), as amended by Rep. Act 1942 referred to is reproduced verbatim in Mr. Justice Aquino's opinion 5 and quotes the reduced statutory period of open and unchallenged possession of "at leastthirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application. ") Accordingly, the Court held that Susi, as the rightful possessor of the public land for the statutory period, acquired the same by operation of law as a grant from the Government, "not only a right to a grant," and the land thereby "already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property at least by presumption" as expressly provided in the Act. Therefore, any supposed sale by the Director of Lands of the same land to another person was void and of no effect and Susi as the rightful possessor could recover the land as his private property from the supposed vendee who did not acquire any right thereto since it had ceased to be land of the public domain. The Court thus specifically held therein, as applied to the specific facts of the case, that: ... In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure,established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain, openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1894, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi hadalready acquired, by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the

38 Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefor is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question to Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 6 2. The above-quoted ruling in Susi has been affirmed and reaffirmed by this Court in a long unbroken line of cases, as follows: In Mesina vs. Vda. de Sonza, 7 the Court held that "(I)n the case of Susi vs. Razon, et al., 48 Phil. 424, it was observed that where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with through actual physical possession openly, continuously, and publicly, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926 (carried over as Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act No. 141), the possessor is deemed to have already acquired by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of title be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts — an application therefor being sufficient under the provisions of Section 47 of Act No. 2874 (reproduced as Section 50, Commonwealth Act No. 141)," and "(C)onsidering that this case was dismissed by the trial court merely on a motion to dismiss on the ground that plaintiff's action is already barred by the statute of limitations, which apparently is predicated on the theory that a decree of registration can no longer be impugned on the ground of fraud one year after the issuance and entry of the decree, which theory does not apply here because the property involved is allegedly private in nature and has ceased to be part of the public domain, we are of the opinion that the trial court erred in dismissing the case outright without giving plaintiff a chance to prove his claim." In Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 8 the Court stressed that by force of possession, the land in question became private property on the strength of the Susi doctrine. In Manarpaac us. Cabanatan, 9 the Court quoted with favor the text of the above-quoted ruling of Susi, and its ratio decidendi thus: The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the public domain, the plaintiffappellee cannot maintain an action to recover possession thereof. If, as above stated, that land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become, by operation of law, private property, there is lacking only the judicial sanction of his title Valentin Susi has the right to bring an action to recover the possession thereof and hold it. In Miguel us. Court of Appeals, 10 the Court again held that where possession has been continuous, uninterrupted, open, adverse and in the concept of an owner, there is a presumption juris et de jure that all necessary condition for a grant by the State have been complied with and he would have been by

39 force of lawentitled to the registration of his title to the land (citing Pamintuan vs. Insular Government, 8 Phil. 485 and Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil. 424). In the latest 1980 case of Herico vs. Dar, 11 " the Court once more reiterated the Susi doctrine that "(A)nother obvious error of the respondent Court is in holding that after one year from the issuance of the Torrens Title, the same can no longer be reopened to be declared null and void, and has become absolute and indefeasible. ... Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. This is as provided in Republic Act No. 1942, which took effect on June 22, 1957, amending Section 48-b of Commonwealth Act No. 141 which provides: ... As interpreted in several cases when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain, and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent." 3. In fine, since under the Court's settled doctrine, the acquisitive prescription of alienable or disposable public lands provided for now in section 48, par. (b) of the Public Land Act takes place by operation of law and the public land is converted to and becomes private property upon as showing of open and unchallenged possession underbona fide claim of ownership by the applicants' predecessors-in-interest for the statutory period of thirty yearsimmediately preceding the filing of the application and "it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the court" which right is expressly backed up by the conclusive presumption or presumption juris et de jure of the statute that the possessor has "performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant," the applicant Meralco cannot be said to be barred as a corporation from filing the application for registration of the private property duly acquired by it. 4. It should be noted that respondent judge's decision in the Meralco case expressly finds as established facts that the Meralco's predecessors-in- interest had possessed and occupied as owners the land in question for at least over 35 years; Olimpia Ramos having possessed the same since the last world war in 1941 and then having sold the same on July 3, 1947 to the Piguing spouses who built a house thereon and continuously possessed the same until they sold the same in turn to the Meralco on August 13, 1976, 12 Meralco's predecessors-in-interest had therefore acquired by operation of the Public Land Act a Government grant to the property, as well as acquired ownership thereof by right of acquisitive prescription over the land which thereby became private property. The very definition of prescription as a mode of acquiring ownership as set forth in Art. 1106 of the Civil Code provides that "By prescription one acquires ownership and other real rights through lapse of time in the manner and under the conditions laid down by law." The law does I not provide that one acquires ownership of a land by

40 prescriptiononly after his title thereto is judicially confirmed. To this same effect is the ruling in Cariño vs. Insular Government,13 wherein the U.S. Supreme Court speaking through Justice Holmes held that: 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, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. To the same effect is the Court's ruling in Legarda and Prieto vs. Saleeby, 31 Phil. 590, that "an owner does not obtain title by virtue of certificate but rather obtains his certificate by virtue of the fact that he has a fee simple title." 5. Since the public land became private property upon completion of the 30th year of continuous, exclusive, and unchallenged possession of the applicant Meralco's predecessors-in-interest, particularly the Piguing spouses who sold the private land to the Meralco, there is no justification for denying the Meralco's application for registration of its duly acquired title to the land. Meralco's predecessors-ininterest had acquired ownership of the land by acquisitive prescription as provided by the Public Land Act and by the Civil Code. The land became private property and Meralco duly acquired it by right of purchase. To deny Meralco's application to register the property because it is not a natural person is unjustified because neither the new constitutional ban under the 1973 Constitution against private corporations owning lands of the public domain or the Public Land Act's limitation on the right of application for confirmation of imperfect title to lands of the public domain can be invoked any longer as the land had long ceased to be public land but had become private property. Meralco's application in effect seeks confirmation of the acquisition of ownership of the land which had become private property of its predecessors-in-interest, the Piguing spouses who thru their open and unchallenged possession of the land for over thirty years acquired title thereto by acquisitive prescription and by conclusive presumption of the Public Land Act itself. There is no legal nor constitutional obstacle to such title being transferred to the Meralco by right of purchase and traditio — for it is not claimed that there is any legal prohibition against the Piguing spouses transferring the ownership of the land to others (whether natural persons or corporations) such as the applicant Meralco, even before the formal issuance of the certificate of title to them. 6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the

41 land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See Francisco vs. City of Davao 14 ) The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged. 7. All that has been said here applies of course with equal force to the Iglesia case, save that as already stated at the beginning hereof, the Iglesia application was granted because the Republic presented no evidence in support of its opposition and respondent judge held in effect that the property had ceased to be land of the public domain and had become private property, the title to which could be duly issued in the name of the Iglesia as the transferee of its predecessors-in-interest. 8. It should bear emphasis that what are involved here are small parcels of land, of 165 square meters in the Meralco case used for installation of an "anchor guy" for its steel posts in connection with its tasks as a nationalized domestic corporation to furnish electrical service to the consumer public, and of 313 square meters in the Iglesia case used as the site of its church built thereon to minister to the religious needs of its members. In no way, may the letter, intent and spirit of the prohibition of the 1973 Constitution against corporations "holding alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area" (which is beamed against the undue control and exploitation of our public lands and natural resources by corporations, Filipino and foreign-controlled) be deemed violated or disregarded by the granting of the applications at bar. The two corporations in truth and in fact do not hold the small parcels of land at bar for their own use or benefit but for the sole use and benefit of the public. 9. With reference to the separate concurring opinion of Mr. Justice De Castro wherein he would blunt the "supposedly (sic) well-established doctrine" (at page 1) from the 1909 case of Cariño and the 1925 case of Susidown to the 1980 case of Herico (supra, at pages 5 to 11) and support the contrary pronouncement in Mr. Justice Aquino's main opinion that "as between the State and the Meralco, the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b) [of the Public Land Act]" (at page 5), suffice it to cite his own pronouncement in Herico (reiterating the well-established and prevailing doctrine which this Court has not overturned, as it cannot overturn the mandate of the statute that the unchallenged possessor for at least 30 years is "conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential

42 to a government grant") wherein Mr. Justice De Castro categorically reiterated for the Court that "As interpreted in several cases .....the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain, and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. " It only remains to point out, in order to avoid misapprehension or confusion, that Mr. Justice De Castro's seemingly querulous statement that "the discussion of the question of whether the land involved is still public or already private land, is however, entirely pointless or an Idle exercise, if We consider the provision of Section 14, Article XIV of the Constitution which appears to have been lost sight of, which provides that 'save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the domain'" (at page 2) that "hence, even if the land involved in the present case is considered private land, the cited section prohibits its acquisition by the Meralco or Iglesia which admittedly are 'corporations' or associations within the meaning of the aforecited provision of the New Constitution. The observation should end all arguments on the issue of whether the land in question is public or private land" (idem) might mislead one to the wrong conclusion that corporations with 60% Filipino ownership may not own private lands when the express provisions of Art. XIV, section 9 15 and section 14 as quoted by himself as well as the counterpart provisions of the 1935 Constitution have always expressly permitted Filipinoowned corporations to own private lands, and the only change effected in the 1973 Constitution is section 11 which now prohibits even such Filipino corporations to own or hold lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area. ACCORDINGLY, I vote for reversal of respondent court's judgment in the Meralco case and for the entry of a new judgment granting Meralco's application and for affirmance of judgment in the second case granting the Iglesia application.

G.R. No. 73002 December 29, 1986 THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD & VENEER CO. INC., ETC., respondents. D. Nacion Law Office for private respondent.

NARVASA, J.: The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court affirming a decision of the Court of First Instance of Isabela, which ordered registration

43 in favor of Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc. of five parcels of land measuring 481, 390 square meters, more or less, acquired by it from Mariano and Acer Infiel, members of the Dumagat tribe. The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (The Public Land Act). as amended: and the appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial court in said proceedings in this wise: 1. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly organized in accordance with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 23, 1959; 2. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties pursuant to the provisions of the Articles of Incorporation particularly on the provision of its secondary purposes (paragraph (9), Exhibit 'M-l'); 3. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., on October 29, 1962, from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel, both members of the Dumagat tribe and as such are cultural minorities; 4. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale took place on October 29, 1962; 5. That the possession of the Infiels over the land relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., dates back before the Philippines was discovered by Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have possessed and occupied the land from generation to generation until the same came into the possession of Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel; 6. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., is continuous, adverse and public from 1962 to the present and tacking the possession of the Infiels who were granted from whom the applicant bought said land on October 29, 1962, hence the possession is already considered from time immemorial. 7. That the land sought to be registered is a private land pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 3872 granting absolute ownership to members of the non-Christian Tribes on land occupied by them or their ancestral lands, whether with the alienable or disposable public land or within the public domain; 8. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., has introduced more than Forty-Five Million (P45,000,000.00) Pesos worth of improvements, said improvements were seen by the Court during its ocular investigation of the land sought to be registered on September 18, 1982; 9. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to be registered by the applicant was duly recognized by the government when the Municipal Officials of Maconacon, Isabela, have negotiated for the donation of the townsite from Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., and this negotiation came to reality when the Board of Directors of the Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., had donated a part of the land bought by the Company from the Infiels for the townsite of Maconacon Isabela (Exh. 'N') on

44 November 15, 1979, and which donation was accepted by the Municipal Government of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N-l'), during their special session on November 22, 1979. The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution to the matter at hand. Concerning this, he asserts that, the registration proceedings have been commenced only on July 17, 1981, or long after the 1973 Constitution had gone into effect, the latter is the correctly applicable law; and since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public domain, except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares (a prohibition not found in the 1935 Constitution which was in force in 1962 when Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels), it was reversible error to decree registration in favor of Acme Section 48, paragraphs (b) and (c), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, reads: SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx xxx xxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest 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 or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest have been in open. continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof. The Petition for Review does not dispute-indeed, in view of the quoted findings of the trial court which were cited and affirmed by the Intermediate Appellate Court, it can no longer controvert before this Court-the fact that Mariano and Acer Infiel, from whom Acme purchased the lands in question on October 29, 1962, are members of the national cultural minorities who had, by themselves and through their progenitors, possessed and occupied those lands since time immemorial, or for more than the required 30-year period and were, by reason thereof, entitled to exercise the right granted in Section 48 of the Public Land Act to have their title judicially confirmed. Nor is there any pretension that Acme, as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels, is disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said lands under any provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article XIV already referred to. Given the foregoing, the question before this Court is whether or not the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme in 1962 could be confirmed in favor of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in

45 1981 when the 1973 Constitution was already in effect, having in mind the prohibition therein against private corporations holding lands of the public domain except in lease not exceeding 1,000 hectares. The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings in 1981. If they were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the other hand, they were then already private lands, the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private corporations or associations obviously does not apply. In this regard, attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, et al, 1 where a similar set of facts prevailed. In that case, Manila Electric Company, a domestic corporation more than 60% of the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned, had purchased in 1947 two lots in Tanay, Rizal from the Piguing spouses. The lots had been possessed by the vendors and, before them, by their predecessor-in-interest, Olimpia Ramos, since prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941. On December 1, 1976, Meralco applied to the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Makati Branch, for confirmation of title to said lots. The court, assuming that the lots were public land, dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco, a juridical person, was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act which allows only Filipino citizens or natural persons to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to public land. Meralco appealed, and a majority of this Court upheld the dismissal. It was held that: ..., the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b). Because it is still public land and the Meralco, as a juridical person, is disqualified to apply for its registration under section 48(b), Meralco's application cannot be given due course or has to be dismissed. Finally, it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on the one hand) alienable agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect title and (on the other hand) alienable lands of the public domain as to which an occupant has on imperfect title subject to judicial confirmation. Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we should not make any distinction or qualification. The prohibition applies to alienable public lands as to which a Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b). The proceeding under section 48(b) 'presupposes that the land is public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L-19535, July 30, 1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644). The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent, tracing the line of cases beginning with Carino in 1909 2thru Susi in 1925 3 down to Herico in 1980, 4 which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. That said dissent expressed what is the better — and, indeed, the correct, view-becomes evident from a consideration of some of the principal rulings cited therein,

46 The main theme was given birth, so to speak, in Carino involving the Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880 for adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. It was ruled that: It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 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, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. ... That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language, in Susi: .... In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1984, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired, by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question of Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 6 Succeeding cases, of which only some need be mentioned, likeof Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 7 Mesina vs. Vda. de Sonza, 8 Manarpac vs. Cabanatuan, 9 Miguel vs. Court of Appeals 10 and Herico vs. Dar, supra, by invoking and affirming the Susi doctrine have firmly rooted it in jurisprudence. Herico, in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: 11 .... Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. ....

47 xxx xxx xxx As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. 12 Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself 13 that the possessor(s) "... shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title .... " No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Carino, "... (T)here 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, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law." If it is accepted-as it must be-that the land was already private land to which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and transferable title on October 29, 1962 when Acme acquired it from said owners, it must also be conceded that Acme had a perfect right to make such acquisition, there being nothing in the 1935 Constitution then in force (or, for that matter, in the 1973 Constitution which came into effect later) prohibiting corporations from acquiring and owning private lands. Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors, until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land Act, there can be no serious question of Acmes right to acquire the land at the time it did, there also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called "incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only limitation then extant was that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural lands in excess of 1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain cannot defeat a right already vested before that law came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper. This Court has already held, in analogous circumstances, that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights.

48 We hold that the said constitutional prohibition 14 has no retroactive application to the sales application of Binan Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect. That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioner' prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law. xxx xxx xxx The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. 'A state may not impair vested rights by legislative enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police power'(16 C.J.S. 1177-78). xxx xxx xxx In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy. Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the said land from the public domain. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for the land is protected by law. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919).<äre||anº•1àw> 15 The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings, there being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts, the Infiels, under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in themselves confirmed and registered, only a rigid subservience to the letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor-in-interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate. The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no longer deemed to be binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the line of cases already referred to, is that alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. Following that rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts, the land subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby acquired a registrable title, there being at the time no

49 prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a juridical person, Acme is not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather than substantial and, again, finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco: 6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See Francisco vs. City of Davao) The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged. There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for confirmation of title and, after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names, deeding the lands back to Acme. But this would be merely indulging in empty charades, whereas the same result is more efficaciously and speedily obtained, with no prejudice to anyone, by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco. While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no precedent, but only reaffirms and re-established, as it were, doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and inquiry in many past cases. Indeed, it is worth noting that the majority opinion, as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly on the proposition that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973 Constitution and its Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential limited to a brief paragraph in the main opinion, and may, in that context, be considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no constitutional question. WHEREFORE, there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court, the same is hereby affirmed, without costs in this instance.

50 SO ORDERED. Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring: I reiterate my concurrence in Meralco v. Castro-Bartolome, and, therefore, dissent here.

TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring: I am honored by my brethren's judgment at bar that my dissenting opinion in the June, 1982 Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases, 1 which is herein upheld, "expressed what is the better. . . . and indeed the correct view." My dissent was anchored on the landmark 1909 case of Carino 2 through the 1925 case of Susi 3 and the long line of cases cited therein to the latest 1980 case of Herico 4 that "it is established doctrine....... that an open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law [this period was reduced to 'at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title' by amendment of Commonwealth Act No. 141, equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription 5 ]) by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property." I hereby reproduce the same by reference for brevity's sake. But since we are reverting to the old above-cited established doctrine and precedents and discarding the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases which departed therefrom in the recent past, I feel constrained to write this concurrence in amplification of my views and ratio decidendi. Under the express text and mandate of the cited Act, such possessors "shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. " The Court thus held in Susi that under the presumption juris et de jure established in the Act, the rightful possessor of the public land for the statutory period "already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued an order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is sufficient . . . . If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domainand had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands [and beyond his authority to sell to any other person]. " 6

51 The root of the doctrine goes back to the pronouncement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1909 case of Carino (the Igorot chief who would have been deprived of ancestral family lands by the dismissal of his application for registration) which reversed the dismissal of the registration court (as affirmed by the Supreme Court) and adopted the liberal view that under the decree and regulations of June 25, 1880, "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, whenever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law." The Court's decision at bar now expressly overturns the Meralco and related cases subsequent thereto which failed to adhere to the aforecited established doctrine dating back to 1909 and was consistently applied up to June 29, 1982 (when the Meralco decision was promulgated). We reaffirm the established doctrine that such acquisitive prescription of alienable public lands takes place ipso jure or by operation of law without the necessity of a prior issuance of a certificate of title. The land ipso jure ceases to be of the public domain and becomes private property, which may be lawfully sold to and acquired by qualified corporations such as respondent corporation. (As stressed in Herico supra, "the application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title.") Such ipso jure conversion into private property of public lands publicly held under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership is the public policy of the Act and is so expressly stated therein. By virtue of such conversion into private property, qualified corporations may lawfully acquire them and there is no "alteration or defeating" of the 1973 Constitution's prohibition against corporations holding or acquiring title to lands of the public domain, as claimed in the dissenting opinion, for the simple reason that no public lands are involved. It should be noted that respondent corporation purchased the land from the Infiels on October 16, 1962 under the aegis of the 1935 Constitution which contained no prohibition against corporations holding public lands (except a limit of 1,024 hectares) unlike the later 1973 Constitution which imposed an absolute prohibition. Even on the erroneous assumption that the land remained public land despite the Infiels' open possession thereof as owners from time immemorial, respondent corporation's lawful purchase from them of the land in 1962 and P 45million investments redounding presumably to the welfare and progress of the community, particularly the municipality of Maconacon, Isabela to which it donated part of the land for the townsite created a vested right which could not be impaired by the prohibition adopted eleven years later. But as sufficiently stressed, the land of the Infiels had beenipso jure converted into private land and they had a legally sufficient and transferable title conferred by the conclusive presumption of the Public Land Act (which needed only to be established in confirmation of title proceedings for formalization and issuance of the certificate of title) which they lawfully and validly transferred to respondent corporation. In fact, the many amendments to the Act extending the period for the filing of such applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles to alienable and disposable public lands expressly reiterate that it has always been the "policy of the State to hasten the settlement, adjudication

52 and quieting of titles to [such] unregistered lands," i.e. to recognize that such lands publicly and notoriously occupied and cultivated under bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership have ipso jure been converted into private property and grant the possessors the opportunity to establish and record such fact. Thus, the deadline for the filing of such application which would have originally expired first on December 31, 1938 was successively extended to December 31, 1941, then extended to December 31, 1957, then to December 31, 1968, further extended to December 31, 1976 and lastly extended to December 31, 1987. 7 The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may apply thereunder for confirmation of title is in effect a technicality of procedure and not of substance. My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is properly applicable: "The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged." 8 Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented along the same line from the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the Court would characterize such jurisdictional defect that the applicant was Meralco, a juridical person rather than the natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an insurmountable obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be distinguished, the approach followed by us in Francisco v. City of Davao, where the legal question raised, instead of being deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was resolved. By legal fiction and in the exercise of our equitable jurisdiction, I feel that the realistic solution would be to decide the matter as if the application under Section 48(b) were filed by the Piguing spouses, who I assume suffer from no such disability." 9 Justice Vicente Abad Santos, now retired, while concurring in the procedural result, likewise, in effect dissented from the therein majority ruling on the question of substance, and stated his opinion that "the lots which are sought to be registered have ceased to be lands of the public domain at the time they were acquired by the petitioner corporation. They are already private lands because of acquisitive prescription by the predecessors of the petitioner and all that is needed is the confirmation of the title. Accordingly, the constitutional provision that no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain is inapplicable. " 10 To my mind, the reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who may prove their undisputed and open possession of public lands for the required statutory thirty-year period, tacking on their predecessors'-in-interest possession is that only natural persons, to the exclusion of juridical persons such as corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for the required statutory 30-year period. That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious. But when the natural persons have fulfilled the required statutory period of possession, the Act confers on them a legally sufficient and transferable title. It is preferable to follow the letter of the law that they file the applications for confirmation of their title, although they have lawfully transferred their title to the land. But such procedural failure cannot and should not defeat the substance of the law, as stressed in

53 the above-cited opinions, that the lands are already private lands because ofacquisitive prescription by the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would be to consider the application for confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the evidence, confirm their title to the private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully transferred by them to the corporation. The law, after all, recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale of the private land to the corporation. It should not be necessary to go in a round-about way and have the corporation reassign its rights to the private land to natural persons-(as I understand), was done after the decision in the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases) just for the purpose of complying on paper with the technicality of having natural persons file the application for confirmation of title to the private land.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting: Section 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides: SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: (a) ... (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest 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 thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed are the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (c) ... Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution, in part, provides: SEC. 11. .... No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares .... It has to be conceded that, literally, statutory law and constitutional provision prevent a corporation from directly applying to the Courts for the issuance of Original Certificates of Title to lands of the public domain (Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799; Republic vs. Villanueva, 114 SCRA 875; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 119 SCRA 449; Iglesia ni Cristo vs. Hon. Judge, CFI of Nueva Ecija, Br. 1). It is my opinion that the literalism should be adhered to in this case.

54 The reasoning of the majority can be restated in simple terms as follows: (a) The INFIELS can successfully file an application for a certificate of title over the land involved in the case. (b) After the INFIELS secure a certificate of title, they can sell the land to ACME. (c) As ACME can eventually own the certificate of title, it should be allowed to directly apply to the Courts for the Certificate of Title, thus avoiding the circuituous "literal" requirement that the INFIELS should first apply to the courts for the titles, and afterwards transfer the title to ACME. The majority opinion, in effect, adopted the following excerpt from a dissent in Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome (114 SCRA 799, 823 [1982]). To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now." (Paragraphing supplied) The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the statutory provision that only citizens (natural persons) can apply for certificates of title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the constitutional provision (Article XIV, Section 11) which prohibits corporations from acquiring title to lands of the public domain. That interpretation or construction adopted by the majority cannot be justified. "A construction adopted should not be such as to nullify, destroy or defeat the intention of the legislature" (New York State Dept. of Social Services v. Dublino [UST 37 L. Ed 2d 688, 93 S Ct 2507; United States v. Alpers 338 US 680, 94 L Ed 457, 70 S Ct 352; cited in 73 Am Jur. 2nd., p. 351). It has also been said that: In the construction of statutes, the courts start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an effective law, and the legislature is not to be presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a statute. Hence, it is a general principle that the courts should, if reasonably possible to do so interpret the statute, or the provision being construed, so as to give it efficient operation and

55 effect as a whole. An interpretation should, if possible, be avoided, under which the statute or provision being construed is defeated, or as otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative, or nugatory. If a statute is fairly susceptible of two constructions, one of which will give effect to the act, while the other will defeat it, the former construction is preferred. One part of a statute may not be construed so as to render another part nugatory or of no effect. Moreover, notwithstanding the general rule against the enlargement of extension of a statute by construction, the meaning of a statute may be extended beyond the precise words used in the law, and words or phrases may be altered or supplied, where this is necessary to prevent a law from becoming a nullity. Wherever the provision of a statute is general everything which is necessary to make such provision effectual is supplied by implication. (Pliakos vs. Illinois Liquor Control Com. 11 III 2d 456, 143 NE2d 47; cited in 73 AM Jur. 2d pp. 422-423) The statutory provision and the constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for the Court to take is to promote in the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a construction which would alter or defeat that policy. In fine, I confirm my adherence to the ruling of this Court in Meralco vs. Hon. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799 [1982] and related cases.

Separate Opinions GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring: I reiterate my concurrence in Meralco v. Castro-Bartolome, and, therefore, dissent here.

TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring: I am honored by my brethren's judgment at bar that my dissenting opinion in the June, 1982 Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases, 1 which is herein upheld, "expressed what is the better. . . . and indeed the correct view." My dissent was anchored on the landmark 1909 case of Carino 2 through the 1925 case of Susi 3 and the long line of cases cited therein to the latest 1980 case of Herico 4 that "it is established doctrine....... that an open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law [this period was reduced to 'at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title' by amendment of Commonwealth Act No. 141, equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription 5 ]) by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property." I hereby reproduce the same by reference for brevity's sake. But since we are reverting to the old above-cited established doctrine and precedents and

56 discarding the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases which departed therefrom in the recent past, I feel constrained to write this concurrence in amplification of my views and ratio decidendi. Under the express text and mandate of the cited Act, such possessors "shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. " The Court thus held in Susi that under the presumption juris et de jure established in the Act, the rightful possessor of the public land for the statutory period "already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued an order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is sufficient . . . . If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domainand had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands [and beyond his authority to sell to any other person]. " 6 The root of the doctrine goes back to the pronouncement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1909 case of Carino (the Igorot chief who would have been deprived of ancestral family lands by the dismissal of his application for registration) which reversed the dismissal of the registration court (as affirmed by the Supreme Court) and adopted the liberal view that under the decree and regulations of June 25, 1880, "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, whenever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law." The Court's decision at bar now expressly overturns the Meralco and related cases subsequent thereto which failed to adhere to the aforecited established doctrine dating back to 1909 and was consistently applied up to June 29, 1982 (when the Meralco decision was promulgated).<äre||anº•1àw> We reaffirm the established doctrine that such acquisitive prescription of alienable public lands takes place ipso jure or by operation of law without the necessity of a prior issuance of a certificate of title. The land ipso jure ceases to be of the public domain and becomes private property, which may be lawfully sold to and acquired by qualified corporations such as respondent corporation. (As stressed in Herico supra, "the application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title.") Such ipso jure conversion into private property of public lands publicly held under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership is the public policy of the Act and is so expressly stated therein. By virtue of such conversion into private property, qualified corporations may lawfully acquire them and there is no "alteration or defeating" of the 1973 Constitution's prohibition against corporations holding or acquiring title to lands of the public domain, as claimed in the dissenting opinion, for the simple reason that no public lands are involved.

57 It should be noted that respondent corporation purchased the land from the Infiels on October 16, 1962 under the aegis of the 1935 Constitution which contained no prohibition against corporations holding public lands (except a limit of 1,024 hectares) unlike the later 1973 Constitution which imposed an absolute prohibition. Even on the erroneous assumption that the land remained public land despite the Infiels' open possession thereof as owners from time immemorial, respondent corporation's lawful purchase from them of the land in 1962 and P 45million investments redounding presumably to the welfare and progress of the community, particularly the municipality of Maconacon, Isabela to which it donated part of the land for the townsite created a vested right which could not be impaired by the prohibition adopted eleven years later. But as sufficiently stressed, the land of the Infiels had beenipso jure converted into private land and they had a legally sufficient and transferable title conferred by the conclusive presumption of the Public Land Act (which needed only to be established in confirmation of title proceedings for formalization and issuance of the certificate of title) which they lawfully and validly transferred to respondent corporation. In fact, the many amendments to the Act extending the period for the filing of such applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles to alienable and disposable public lands expressly reiterate that it has always been the "policy of the State to hasten the settlement, adjudication and quieting of titles to [such] unregistered lands," i.e. to recognize that such lands publicly and notoriously occupied and cultivated under bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership have ipso jure been converted into private property and grant the possessors the opportunity to establish and record such fact. Thus, the deadline for the filing of such application which would have originally expired first on December 31, 1938 was successively extended to December 31, 1941, then extended to December 31, 1957, then to December 31, 1968, further extended to December 31, 1976 and lastly extended to December 31, 1987. 7 The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may apply thereunder for confirmation of title is in effect a technicality of procedure and not of substance. My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is properly applicable: "The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged." 8 Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented along the same line from the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the Court would characterize such jurisdictional defect that the applicant was Meralco, a juridical person rather than the natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an insurmountable obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be distinguished, the approach followed by us in Francisco v. City of Davao, where the legal question raised, instead of being deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was resolved. By legal fiction and in the exercise of our equitable jurisdiction, I feel that the realistic solution would be to decide the matter as if the application under Section 48(b) were filed by the Piguing spouses, who I assume suffer from no such

58 disability." 9 Justice Vicente Abad Santos, now retired, while concurring in the procedural result, likewise, in effect dissented from the therein majority ruling on the question of substance, and stated his opinion that "the lots which are sought to be registered have ceased to be lands of the public domain at the time they were acquired by the petitioner corporation. They are already private lands because of acquisitive prescription by the predecessors of the petitioner and all that is needed is the confirmation of the title. Accordingly, the constitutional provision that no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain is inapplicable. " 10 To my mind, the reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who may prove their undisputed and open possession of public lands for the required statutory thirty-year period, tacking on their predecessors'-in-interest possession is that only natural persons, to the exclusion of juridical persons such as corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for the required statutory 30-year period. That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious. But when the natural persons have fulfilled the required statutory period of possession, the Act confers on them a legally sufficient and transferable title. It is preferable to follow the letter of the law that they file the applications for confirmation of their title, although they have lawfully transferred their title to the land. But such procedural failure cannot and should not defeat the substance of the law, as stressed in the above-cited opinions, that the lands are already private lands because ofacquisitive prescription by the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would be to consider the application for confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the evidence, confirm their title to the private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully transferred by them to the corporation. The law, after all, recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale of the private land to the corporation. It should not be necessary to go in a round-about way and have the corporation reassign its rights to the private land to natural persons-(as I understand), was done after the decision in the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases) just for the purpose of complying on paper with the technicality of having natural persons file the application for confirmation of title to the private land.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting: Section 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides: SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: (a) ... (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest 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 thirty years immediately preceding the filing of

59 the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed are the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (c) ... Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution, in part, provides: SEC. 11. .... No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares .... It has to be conceded that, literally, statutory law and constitutional provision prevent a corporation from directly applying to the Courts for the issuance of Original Certificates of Title to lands of the public domain (Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799; Republic vs. Villanueva, 114 SCRA 875; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 119 SCRA 449; Iglesia ni Cristo vs. Hon. Judge, CFI of Nueva Ecija, Br. 1). It is my opinion that the literalism should be adhered to in this case. The reasoning of the majority can be restated in simple terms as follows: (a) The INFIELS can successfully file an application for a certificate of title over the land involved in the case. (b) After the INFIELS secure a certificate of title, they can sell the land to ACME. (c) As ACME can eventually own the certificate of title, it should be allowed to directly apply to the Courts for the Certificate of Title, thus avoiding the circuituous "literal" requirement that the INFIELS should first apply to the courts for the titles, and afterwards transfer the title to ACME. The majority opinion, in effect, adopted the following excerpt from a dissent in Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome (114 SCRA 799, 823 [1982]). To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor.

60 It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now." (Emphasis supplied) The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the statutory provision that only citizens (natural persons) can apply for certificates of title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the constitutional provision (Article XIV, Section 11) which prohibits corporations from acquiring title to lands of the public domain. That interpretation or construction adopted by the majority cannot be justified. "A construction adopted should not be such as to nullify, destroy or defeat the intention of the legislature" (New York State Dept. of Social Services v. Dublino [UST 37 L. Ed 2d 688, 93 S Ct 2507; United States v. Alpers 338 US 680, 94 L Ed 457, 70 S Ct 352; cited in 73 Am Jur. 2nd., p. 351). It has also been said that: In the construction of statutes, the courts start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an effective law, and the legislature is not to be presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a statute. Hence, it is a general principle that the courts should, if reasonably possible to do so interpret the statute, or the provision being construed, so as to give it efficient operation and effect as a whole. An interpretation should, if possible, be avoided, under which the statute or provision being construed is defeated, or as otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative, or nugatory. If a statute is fairly susceptible of two constructions, one of which will give effect to the act, while the other will defeat it, the former construction is preferred. One part of a statute may not be construed so as to render another part nugatory or of no effect. Moreover, notwithstanding the general rule against the enlargement of extension of a statute by construction, the meaning of a statute may be extended beyond the precise words used in the law, and words or phrases may be altered or supplied, where this is necessary to prevent a law from becoming a nullity. Wherever the provision of a statute is general everything which is necessary to make such provision effectual is supplied by implication. (Pliakos vs. Illinois Liquor Control Com. 11 III 2d 456, 143 NE2d 47; cited in 73 AM Jur. 2d pp. 422-423) The statutory provision and the constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for the Court to take is to promote in the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a construction which would alter or defeat that policy. In fine, I confirm my adherence to the ruling of this Court in Meralco vs. Hon. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799 [1982] and related cases.

G.R. No. L-44237 February 28, 1989 VICTORIA ONG DE OCSIO, petitioner, vs.

61 COURT OF APPEALS and the RELIGIOUS OF THE VIRGIN MARY, represented by M.O. Leoncia Pacquing, R.V.M., respondents. Elpedio N. Cabasan for petitioner. Padilla Law Office for private respondent.

NARVASA, J.: From the adverse judgment of the Court of Appeals, 1 affirming in toto that of the Trial Court, 2 the petitioner has come to this Court on an appeal by certiorari to plead for reversal of (1) the factual determination that she had sold the lot in controversy to private respondent, and (2) the legal conclusion that neither the 1973 nor the 1987 Constitution disqualifies the corporation known as the Religious of the Virgin Mary, from acquiring the land in question and registering it in its name. In light of the time-honored rule that findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are generally final, and the doctrine lately laid down by this Court on the precise legal issue now raised by petitioner, her appeal must fail. The controversy at bar arose in connection with cadastral proceedings initiated by the Director of Lands, in behalf of the Republic, for the settlement and adjudication of title to a large tract of land measuring 261.5791 hectares, divided into 1,419 lots, situated in the City of Iligan. 3 Victoria Ong de Ocsio (herein petitioner) seasonably presented an answer to the petition. She alleged that she was the owner, by purchase, of two (2) parcels of land with specific boundaries comprehended in the cadastral proceeding: Lot No. 1272, measuring 256 square meters, and Lot 1273 a road lot, measuring 21 square meters; and that as owner, she had been in possession of both lots for fifteen (15) years, and her predecessors-in-interest, for sixty (60) years. 4 Title to the same parcels of land was however claimed by the Religious of the Virgin Mary. 5 In its answer, it averred that it had bought the lots from Victoria Ong de Ocsio and had been in possession as owner thereof for over four years, and its possession and that of its predecessors was immemorial. Evidence was received on these conflicting assertions after which the Cadastral Court rendered judgment, declaring that the evidence satisfactorily established that Victoria Ong de Ocsio had in truth sold Lot No. 1272 to the Religious of the Virgin Mary in virtue of a deed of sale dated April 12, 1956 (Exhibit 1), and Lot No. 1273 was a road right of way granted to the City of Iligan. The judgment contained the following dispositive portion, viz: 6 WHEREFORE, the court renders judgment adjudicating Cadastral Lot 1272, Iligan Cadastre, to the Religious of the Virgin Mary, a duly registered domestic religious corporation, the members of which are all Filipino citizens, with main office in the City of Manila, but the building existing thereon is hereby declared to be the property of claimant Victoria Ong de Ocsio who is hereby ordered to remove Said building out of the premises within 90 days from date hereof. The claim of Victoria Ong de Ocsio with respect to said cadastral lot is dismiss. No pronouncement is made as to costs.

62 Let the corresponding decree issue 30 days after this decision shall have become final. As aforestated, the Court of Appeals affirmed the cadastral court's decision in toto. So, too, will this Court. Both the cadastral Court and the Court of Appeals came to the conclusion, after analysing and weighing the testimonial and documentary evidence adduced by the parties, that Virginia Ong de Ocsio's version of the facts was not true-that it was another property, not Lot No. 1272, that she had conveyed to the religious corporation but that it was indeed Lot No. 1272 that was subject of the sale and had indeed been transferred to the latter. Now, findings of fact of this sort, contained in a decision of the Court of Appeals are by long and uniformly observed rule conclusive on the parties and on the Supreme Court, as well; 7 subject only to a few specified exceptions, 8 none of which obtains here, said findings may not be reviewed on appeal. As regards the issue of law raised by her, petitioner fares no better. Citing Manila Electric Co. v. CastroBartolome,114 SCRA 799 (1982) and Republic v. Villanueva, 114 SCRA 875 (1982), in relation to Section 11, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution, she asserts that as the private respondent is a religious corporation, it is disqualified to obtain judicial confirmation of an imperfect title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act which grants that right only to natural persons. The cited rulings no longer control. Current doctrine, first announced by the Court en banc in Director of Lands v. I.A.C. 146 SCRA 509 (1986), is that open, continuous and exclusive possession of alienable public land for at least thirty (30) years in accordance with the Public Land Act ipso jure converts the land to private property, and a juridical person who thereafter acquires the same may have title thereto confirmed in its name. Virtually the same state of facts obtained in said case that now obtain here. A private corporation had purchased the land originally of the public domain from parties who had, by themselves and through their predecessors-in-interest, possessed and occupied it since time immemorial. It had thereafter instituted proceedings for confirmation of title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. In upholding its right to do so, the court held that the fact that the proceedings had been instituted by said purchaser in its own name and not in the name of the transferors was "xx simply xx (an) accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be confirmed." The ruling was reaffirmed in two later cases, Director of Lands v. Manila Electric Co., 153 SCRA 686 (September 11, 1987), and Republic v. C.A., 156 SCRA 344 (October 30, 1987) where the same question of law was raised. In the latter it was expressly held that the prohibitions in the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions against acquisition or registration of lands by or in behalf of private corporations do not apply to public lands already converted to private ownership by natural persons under the provisions of the Public Land Act. In the present case, Virginia Ong de Ocsio and her predecessors-in-interest having possessed Lot No. 1272 for the period and under the conditions prescribed by law for acquisition of ownership of disposable public land prior to the sale of the property to the Religious of the Virgin Mary, confirmation of title thereto in the latter's name is, under the precedents referred to, entirely in order. WHEREFORE, the judgment of the Court of Appeals subject of the petition for review on certiorari is AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against the petitioner.

63 Cruz, Gancayco, Griño-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 2869

March 25, 1907

MATEO CARIÑO, petitioner-appellant, vs. THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee. Coudert Brothers for appellant. Office of the Solicitor-General Araneta for appellee. ARELLANO, C.J.: Mateo Cariño, the appellant herein, on the 23d of February, 1904, filed his petition in the Court of Land Registration praying that there be granted to him title to a parcel of land consisting of 40 hectares, 1 are, and 13 centares, and situated in the town of Baguio, Province of Benguet, together with a house erected thereon and constructed of wood and roofed with rimo, and bounded as follows: On the north, in lines running 1,048 metes and 20 decimeters with the lands of Sepa Cariño, H. Phelps Whitmarsh, and Calsi; on the east, in lines running 991 meters and 50 decimeters with the land of Kuidno, Esteban Gonzales, and of the Civil Government; on the south, in lines of 115 meters and 60 decimeters, with the lands of Talaca; and on the west, in lines running 982 meters and 20 decimeters, with the lands of Sisco Cariño and Mayengmeng. By order of the court the hearing of this petition, No. 561, and that of Antonio Rebollo and Vicente Valpiedad filed under No. 834, were heard together for the reason that the latter petition claimed a small portion of land included in the parcel set out in the former petition. The Insular Government opposed the granting of these petitions, alleging that the whole parcel of land is public property of the Government and that the same was never acquired in any manner or through any title of egresionfrom the State. After trial, and the hearing of documentary and oral proof, the court of Land Registration rendered its judgment in these terms: Therefore the court finds that Cariño and his predecessors have not possessed exclusively and adversely any part of the said property prior to the date on which Cariño constructed the house now there — that is to say, for the years 1897 and 1898, and Cariño held possession for some years afterwards of but a part of the property to which he claims title. Both petitions are dismissed and the property in question is adjudged to be public land. (Bill of exceptions, p. 15.) The conclusions arrived at the set forth in definite terms in the decision of the court below are the following:

64 From the testimony given by Cariño as well as from that of several of the witnesses for the Government it is deduced, that in or about the year 1884 Cariño erected and utilized as a domicile a house on the property situated to the north of that property now in question, property which, according to the plan attached toexpediente No. 561, appears to be property belonging to Donaldson Sim; that during the year 1893 Cariño sold said house to one Cristobal Ramos, who in turn sold the same to Donaldson Sim, moving to and living on the adjoining property, which appears on the plan aforesaid to be the property of H. Phelps Whitmarsh, a place where the father and the grandfather of his wife, that is to say, Ortega and Minse, had lived . . .. In or about the years 1898 Cariño abandoned the property of Whitmarsh and located on the property described in the plan attached to expediente No. 561, having constructed a house thereon in which he now lives, and which house is situated in the center of the property, as is indicated on the plan; and since which time he has undoubtedly occupied some portion of the property now claimed by him. (Bill of exceptions, pp. 11 and 12.) 1. Therefore it is evident that this court can not decree the registration of all of the superficial extension of the land described in the petition and as appears on the plan filed herein, such extension containing 40 hectares, 1 are, and 13 centares, inasmuch as the documentary evidence accompanying the petition is conclusive proof against the petitioners; this documentary proof consists of a possessory information under date of March 7, 1901, and registered on the 11th day of the same month and year; and, according to such possessory information, the land therein described contains an extension of only 28 hectares limited by "the country road to the barrio of Pias," a road appearing on the plan now presented and cutting the land, as might be said, in half, or running through its center from north to south, a considerable extension of land remaining on the other side of the said road, the west side, and which could not have been included in the possessory information mentioned. 2. As has been shown during the trial of this case, this land, of which mention is made in said possessory information, and upon which is situated the house now actually occupied by the petitioner, all of which is set forth as argument as to the possession in the judgment, is "used for pasture and sowing," and belongs to the class called public lands. 3. Under the express provisions of law, a parcel of land, being of common origin, presumptively belonged to the State during its sovereignty, and, in order to perfect the legitimate acquisition of such land by private persons, it was necessary that the possession of the same pass from the State. And there is no evidence or proof of title ofegresion of this land from the domain of the Spanish Government, nor is there any possessory information equivalent to title by composicion or under agreement. 4, The possessory information filed herein is not the title to property authorized in substitution for that of adjustment by the royal decree of February 13, 1894, this being the last law or legal disposition of the former sovereignty applicable to the present subject-matter of common lands: First, for the reason that the land referred to herein is not covered nor does it come within any one of the three conditions required by article 19 of the said royal decree, to wit, that the land has been in an uninterrupted state of cultivation during a period of six years last past; or that the same has been possessed without interruption during a period of twelve years and has been in a state of cultivation up to the date of the

65 information and during the three years immediately preceding such information; or that such land had been possessed openly without interruption during a period of thirty or more years, notwithstanding the land had not been cultivated; nor is it necessary to refer to the testimony given by the two witnesses to the possessory information for the following reason: Second, because the possessory information authorized by said royal decree or last legal disposition of the Spanish Government, as title or for the purpose of acquiring actual proprietary right, equivalent to that of adjustment with the Spanish Government and required and necessary at all times until the publication of said royal decree was limited in time to one year, in accordance with article 21, which is as follows: " A period of one year, not to be extended, is allowed to verify the possessory informations which are referred to in articles 19 and 20. After the expiration of this period of the right of the cultivators and persons in possession to obtain gratuitous title thereto lapses and the land together with full possession reverts to the state, or, as the case may be, to the community, and the said possessors and cultivators or their assigns would simply have rights under universal or general title of average in the event that the land is sold within a period of five years immediately following the cancellation. The possessors not included under this chapter can only acquire by time the ownership and title to unappropriated or royal lands in accordance with common law." 5. In accordance with the preceding provisions, the right that remained to Cariño, if it be certain that he was the true possessor of the land in question, was the right of average in case the Government or State could have sold the same within the period of five years immediately following for example, if the denouncement of purchase had been carried out by Felipe Zafra or any other person, as appears from the record of the trial of the case. Aside from this right, in such event, his possession as attested in the possessory information herein could not, in accordance with common law, go to show any right of ownership until after the expiration of twenty years from the expiration of twenty years from the verification and registry of the same in conformity with the provisions of article 393 of the Mortgage Law and other conditions prescribe by this law. 6. The right of possession in accordance with common law — that is to say, civil law — remains at all times subordinate to the Spanish administrative law, inasmuch as it could only be of force when pertaining to royaltransferable or alienable lands, which condition and the determination thereof is reversed to the government, which classified and designated the royal alienable lands for the purpose of distinguishing them from those lands strictly public, and from forestry lands which could at no time pass to private ownership nor be acquired through time even after the said royal decree of February 13, 1894. 7. The advent of the new sovereignty necessarily brought a new method of dealing with lands and particularly as to the classification and manner of transfer and acquisition of royal or common lands then appropriated, which were thenceforth merely called public lands, the alienation of which was reserved to the Government, in accordance with section 12 and 13 of the act of Congress of July 1, 1902,1 and in conformity with other laws enacted under this act of Congress by the Philippine Commission prescribing rules for the execution thereof, one of which is Act No. 648,2 herein mentioned by the petitioner, in connection with Act No. 627,3 which appears to be the law upon which the petition herein is founded.

66 8. Section 6 of Act No. 627 admits prescription, in accordance with the provisions contained in Act No. 190, as a basis for obtaining the right of ownership. "The petitioners claims title under the period of prescription of ten years established by that act, as well as by reason of his occupancy and use thereof from time immemorial." (Allegation 1.) But said act admits such prescription for the purpose of obtaining title and ownership to lands "not exceeding more that sixteen hectares in extent." (Sec. 6 of said act.) The land claimed by Cariño is 40 hectares in extent, if we take into consideration his petition, or an extension of 28 hectares, according to the possessory information, the only thing that can be considered. Therefore, it follows that the judgment denying the petition herein and now appealed from was strictly in accordance with the law invoked herein. 9. And of the 28 hectares of land as set out in the possessory information, one part of same, according to the testimony of Cariño, belongs to Vicente Valpiedad, the extent of which is not determined. From all of which it follows that the precise extent has not been determined in the trial of this case on which judgment might be based in the event that the judgment and title be declared in favor of the petitioner, Mateo Cariño. And we should not lose sight of the fact that, considering the intention of Congress in granting ownership and title to 16 hectares, that Mateo Cariño and his children have already exceeded such amount in various acquirements of lands, all of which is shown in different cases decided by the said Court of Land Registration, donations or gifts of land that could only have been made efficacious as to the conveyance thereof with the assistance of these new laws. By reason of the findings set forth it is clearly seen that the court below did not err: 1. In finding that Mateo Cariño and those from whom he claims his right had not possessed and claimed as owners the lands in question since time immemorial; 2. In finding that the land in question did not belong to the petitioner, but that, on the contrary, it was the property of the Government. (Allegation 21.) Wherefore, the judgment appealed from is affirmed with the costs of this instance against the appellant. After the expiration of twenty days from the notification of this decision let judgment be entered in accordance herewith, and ten days thereafter let the case be remanded to the court from whence it came for proper action. So ordered. Torres, Mapa, Willard, and Tracey, JJ., concur. Johnson, J., reserves his vote.

G.R. No. L-27952 February 15, 1982 TESTATE ESTATE OF JOSE EUGENIO RAMIREZ, MARIA LUISA PALACIOS, Administratrix, petitionerappellee, vs. MARCELLE D. VDA. DE RAMIREZ, ET AL., oppositors, JORGE and ROBERTO RAMIREZ, legatees, oppositors- appellants.

67

ABAD SANTOS, J.: The main issue in this appeal is the manner of partitioning the testate estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez among the principal beneficiaries, namely: his widow Marcelle Demoron de Ramirez; his two grandnephews Roberto and Jorge Ramirez; and his companion Wanda de Wrobleski. The task is not trouble-free because the widow Marcelle is a French who lives in Paris, while the companion Wanda is an Austrian who lives in Spain. Moreover, the testator provided for substitutions. Jose Eugenio Ramirez, a Filipino national, died in Spain on December 11, 1964, with only his widow as compulsory heir. His will was admitted to probate by the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch X, on July 27, 1965. Maria Luisa Palacios was appointed administratrix of the estate. In due time she submitted an inventory of the estate as follows: INVENTARIO Una sexta parte (1/6) proindiviso de un te rreno, con sus mejoras y edificaciones, situadoen la Escolta, Manila............................................................. P500,000.00 Una sexta parte (1/6) proindiviso de dos parcelas de terreno situadas en Antipolo, Rizal................... 658.34 Cuatrocientos noventa y uno (491) acciones de la 'Central Azucarera de la Carlota a P17.00 por accion ................................................................................8,347.00 Diez mil ochocientos seize (10,806) acciones de la 'Central Luzon Milling Co.', disuelta y en liquidacion a P0.15 por accion ..............................................1,620.90 Cuenta de Ahorros en el Philippine Trust Co.............................................................................................. 2,350.73 TOTAL.............................................................. P512,976.97 MENOS: Deuda al Banco de las Islas Filipinas, garan-

68 tizada con prenda de las acciones de La Carlota ......... P 5,000,00 VALOR LIQUIDO........................................... P507,976.97 The testamentary dispositions are as follows: A.—En nuda propiedad, a D. Roberto y D. Jorge Ramirez, ambas menores de edad, residentes en Manila, I.F., calle 'Alright, No. 1818, Malate, hijos de su sobrino D. Jose Ma. Ramirez, con sustitucion vulgar a favor de sus respectivos descendientes, y, en su defecto, con sustitucion vulgar reciprocal entre ambos. El precedente legado en nuda propiedad de la participacion indivisa de la finca Santa Cruz Building, lo ordena el testador a favor de los legatarios nombrados, en atencion a que dicha propiedad fue creacion del querido padre del otorgante y por ser aquellos continuadores del apellido Ramirez, B.—Y en usufructo a saber: — a. En cuanto a una tercera parte, a favor de la esposa del testador, Da. Marcelle Ramirez, domiciliada en IE PECO, calle del General Gallieni No. 33, Seine Francia, con sustitucion vulgar u fideicomisaria a favor de Da. Wanda de Wrobleski, de Palma de Mallorca, Son Rapina Avenida de los Reyes 13, b.—Y en cuanto a las dos terceras partes restantes, a favor de la nombrada Da. Wanda de Nrobleski con sustitucion vulgar v fideicomisaria a saber:— En cuanto a la mitad de dichas dos terceras partes, a favor de D. Juan Pablo Jankowski, de Son Rapina Palma de Mallorca; y encuanto a la mitad restante, a favor de su sobrino, D. Horace V. Ramirez, San Luis Building, Florida St. Ermita, Manila, I.F. A pesar de las sustituciones fideiconiisarias precedentemente ordinadas, las usufiructuarias nombradas conjuntamente con los nudo propietarios, podran en cualquier memento vender a tercero los bienes objeto delegado, sin intervencion alguna de los titulares fideicomisaarios. On June 23, 1966, the administratrix submitted a project of partition as follows: the property of the deceased is to be divided into two parts. One part shall go to the widow 'en pleno dominio" in satisfaction of her legitime; the other part or "free portion" shall go to Jorge and Roberto Ramirez "en nuda propriedad." Furthermore, one third (1/3) of the free portion is charged with the widow's usufruct and the remaining two-thirds (2/3) with a usufruct in favor of Wanda. Jorge and Roberto opposed the project of partition on the grounds: (a) that the provisions for vulgar substitution in favor of Wanda de Wrobleski with respect to the widow's usufruct and in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horacio V. Ramirez, with respect to Wanda's usufruct are invalid because the first heirs Marcelle and Wanda) survived the testator; (b) that the provisions for fideicommissary substitutions are also invalid because the first heirs are not related to the second heirs or substitutes within the first degree, as provided in Article 863 of the Civil Code; (c) that the grant of a usufruct over real property in the Philippines in favor of Wanda Wrobleski, who is an alien, violates Section 5, Article III of the Philippine Constitution; and that (d) the proposed partition of the testator's interest in the

69 Santa Cruz (Escolta) Building between the widow Marcelle and the appellants, violates the testator's express win to give this property to them Nonetheless, the lower court approved the project of partition in its order dated May 3, 1967. It is this order which Jorge and Roberto have appealed to this Court. 1. The widow's legitime. The appellant's do not question the legality of giving Marcelle one-half of the estate in full ownership. They admit that the testator's dispositions impaired his widow's legitime. Indeed, under Art. 900 of the Civil Code "If the only survivor is the widow or widower, she or he shall be entitled to one-half of the hereditary estate." And since Marcelle alone survived the deceased, she is entitled to one-half of his estate over which he could impose no burden, encumbrance, condition or substitution of any kind whatsoever. (Art. 904, par. 2, Civil Code.) It is the one-third usufruct over the free portion which the appellants question and justifiably so. It appears that the court a quo approved the usufruct in favor of Marcelle because the testament provides for a usufruct in her favor of one-third of the estate. The court a quo erred for Marcelle who is entitled to one-half of the estate "en pleno dominio" as her legitime and which is more than what she is given under the will is not entitled to have any additional share in the estate. To give Marcelle more than her legitime will run counter to the testator's intention for as stated above his dispositions even impaired her legitime and tended to favor Wanda. 2. The substitutions. It may be useful to recall that "Substitution is the appoint- judgment of another heir so that he may enter into the inheritance in default of the heir originally instituted." (Art. 857, Civil Code. And that there are several kinds of substitutions, namely: simple or common, brief or compendious, reciprocal, and fideicommissary (Art. 858, Civil Code.) According to Tolentino, "Although the Code enumerates four classes, there are really only two principal classes of substitutions: the simple and the fideicommissary. The others are merely variations of these two." (111 Civil Code, p. 185 [1973].) The simple or vulgar is that provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code which reads: ART. 859. The testator may designate one or more persons to substitute the heir or heirs instituted in case such heir or heirs should die before him, or should not wish, or should be incapacitated to accept the inheritance. A simple substitution, without a statement of the cases to which it refers, shall comprise the three mentioned in the preceding paragraph, unless the testator has otherwise provided. The fideicommissary substitution is described in the Civil Code as follows: ART. 863. A fideicommissary substitution by virtue of which the fiduciary or first heir instituted is entrusted with the obligation to preserve and to transmit to a second heir the whole or part of inheritance, shall be valid and shall take effect, provided such substitution does not go beyond one

70 degree from the heir originally instituted, and provided further that the fiduciary or first heir and the second heir are living at time of the death of the testator. It will be noted that the testator provided for a vulgar substitution in respect of the legacies of Roberto and Jorge Ramirez, the appellants, thus: con sustitucion vulgar a favor de sus respectivos descendientes, y, en su defecto, con substitution vulgar reciprocal entre ambos. The appellants do not question the legality of the substitution so provided. The appellants question the sustitucion vulgar y fideicomisaria a favor de Da. Wanda de Wrobleski" in connection with the one-third usufruct over the estate given to the widow Marcelle However, this question has become moot because as We have ruled above, the widow is not entitled to any usufruct. The appellants also question the sustitucion vulgar y fideicomisaria in connection with Wanda's usufruct over two thirds of the estate in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace v. Ramirez. They allege that the substitution in its vulgar aspect as void because Wanda survived the testator or stated differently because she did not predecease the testator. But dying before the testator is not the only case for vulgar substitution for it also includes refusal or incapacity to accept the inheritance as provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code, supra. Hence, the vulgar substitution is valid. As regards the substitution in its fideicommissary aspect, the appellants are correct in their claim that it is void for the following reasons: (a) The substitutes (Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez) are not related to Wanda, the heir originally instituted. Art. 863 of the Civil Code validates a fideicommissary substitution "provided such substitution does not go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted." What is meant by "one degree" from the first heir is explained by Tolentino as follows: Scaevola Maura, and Traviesas construe "degree" as designation, substitution, or transmission. The Supreme Court of Spain has decidedly adopted this construction. From this point of view, there can be only one tranmission or substitution, and the substitute need not be related to the first heir. Manresa, Morell and Sanchez Roman, however, construe the word "degree" as generation, and the present Code has obviously followed this interpretation. by providing that the substitution shall not go beyond one degree "from the heir originally instituted." The Code thus clearly indicates that the second heir must be related to and be one generation from the first heir. From this, it follows that the fideicommissary can only be either a child or a parent of the first heir. These are the only relatives who are one generation or degree from the fiduciary (Op. cit., pp. 193-194.) (b) There is no absolute duty imposed on Wanda to transmit the usufruct to the substitutes as required by Arts. 865 and 867 of the Civil Code. In fact, the appellee admits "that the testator contradicts the establishment of a fideicommissary substitution when he permits the properties subject of the usufruct to be sold upon mutual agreement of the usufructuaries and the naked owners." (Brief, p. 26.)

71 3. The usufruct of Wanda. The appellants claim that the usufruct over real properties of the estate in favor of Wanda is void because it violates the constitutional prohibition against the acquisition of lands by aliens. The 1935 Constitution which is controlling provides as follows: SEC. 5. 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 in the Philippines. (Art. XIII.) The court a quo upheld the validity of the usufruct given to Wanda on the ground that the Constitution covers not only succession by operation of law but also testamentary succession. We are of the opinion that the Constitutional provision which enables aliens to acquire private lands does not extend to testamentary succession for otherwise the prohibition will be for naught and meaningless. Any alien would be able to circumvent the prohibition by paying money to a Philippine landowner in exchange for a devise of a piece of land. This opinion notwithstanding, We uphold the usufruct in favor of Wanda because a usufruct, albeit a real right, does not vest title to the land in the usufructuary and it is the vesting of title to land in favor of aliens which is proscribed by the Constitution. IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez is hereby ordered distributed as follows: One-half (1/2) thereof to his widow as her legitime; One-half (1/2) thereof which is the free portion to Roberto and Jorge Ramirez in naked ownership and the usufruct to Wanda de Wrobleski with a simple substitution in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez. The distribution herein ordered supersedes that of the court a quo. No special pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. L-1411. September 29, 1953.] DIONISIO RELLOSA, Petitioner, vs. GAW CHEE HUN, Respondent. DECISION BAUTISTA ANGELO, J.:

72 This is a petition for review of a decision of the Court of Appeals holding that the sale in question is valid and, even if it were invalid, plaintiff cannot maintain the action under the principle of pari delicto. On February 2, 1944, Dionisio Rellosa sold to Gaw Chee Hun a parcel of land, together with the house erected thereon, situated in the City of Manila, Philippines, for the sum of P25,000. The vendor remained in possession of the property under a contract of lease entered into on the same date between the same parties. Alleging that the sale was executed subject to the condition that the vendee, being a Chinese citizen, would obtain the approval of the Japanese Military Administration in accordance with (seirei) No. 6 issued on April 2, 1943, by the Japanese authorities, and said approval has not been obtained, and that, even if said requirement were met, the sale would at all events be void under article XIII, section 5, of our Constitution, the vendor instituted the present action in the Court of First Instance of Manila seeking the annulment of the sale as well as the lease covering the land and the house above mentioned, and praying that, once the sale and the lease are declared null and void, the vendee be ordered to return to vendor the duplicate of the title covering the property, and be restrained from in any way dispossessing the latter of said property. Defendant answered the complaint setting up as special defense that the sale referred to in the complaint was absolute and unconditional and was in every respect valid and binding between the parties, it being not contrary to law, morals and public order, and that plaintiff is guilty of estoppel in that, by having executed a deed of lease over the property, he thereby recognized the title of defendant to that property. Issues having been joined, and the requisite evidence presented by both parties, the court declared both the sale and the lease valid and binding and dismissed the complaint. The court likewise ordered plaintiff to turn over the property to defendant and to pay a rental of P50 a month from August 1, 1945 until the property has been actually delivered. As this decision was affirmed in toto by the Court of Appeals, plaintiff sued out the present petition for review. One of the issues raised by petitioner refers to the validity of Seirei No. 6 issued on April 2, 1943 by the Japanese authorities which prohibits an alien from acquiring any private land not agricultural in nature during the occupation unless the necessary approval is obtained from the Director General of the Japanese Military Administration. Petitioner contends that the sale in question cannot have any validity under the above military directive in view of the failure of respondent to obtain the requisite approval and it was error for the Court of Appeals to declare said directive without any binding effect because the occupation government could not have issued it under article 43 of the Hague Regulations which command that laws that are municipal in character of an occupied territory should be respected and cannot be ignored unless prevented by military necessity. We do not believe it necessary to consider now the question relative to the validity of Seirei No. 6 of the Japanese Military Administration for the simple reason that in our opinion the law that should govern the particular transaction is not the above directive but the Constitution adopted by the then Republic of the Philippines on September 4, 1943, it appearing that the aforesaid transaction was executed on February 2, 1944. Said Constitution, in its article VIII, section 5, provides that "no private agricultural

73 land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines", which provisions are similar to those contained in our present Constitution. As to whether the phrase "private agricultural land" employed in said Constitution includes residential lands, as the one involved herein, there can be no doubt because said phrase has already been interpreted in the affirmative sense by this court in the recent case of Krivenko vs. Register of Deeds, 79 Phil. 461, wherein this court held that "under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public agricultural lands, including residential lands." This matter has been once more submitted to the court for deliberation, but the ruling was reaffirmed. This ruling fully disposes of the question touching on the validity of the sale of the property herein involved. The sale in question having been entered into in violation of the Constitution, the next question to be determined is, can petitioner have the sale declared null and void and recover the property considering the effect of the law governing rescission of contracts? Our answer must of necessity be in the negative following the doctrine laid down in the case of Trinidad Gonzaga de Cabauatan, et al. vs. Uy Hoo, et al., 88 Phil. 103, wherein we made the following pronouncement: "We can, therefore, say that even if the plaintiffs can still invoke the Constitution, or the doctrine in the Krivenko Case, to set aside the sale in question, they are now prevented from doing so if their purpose is to recover the lands that they have voluntarily parted with, because of their guilty knowledge that what they were doing was in violation of the Constitution. They cannot escape this conclusion because they are presumed to know the law. As this court well said: 'A party to an illegal contract cannot come into a court of law and ask to have his illegal objects carried out. The law will not aid either party to an illegal agreement; it leaves the parties where it finds them.' The rule is expressed in the maxims: 'Ex dolo malo non oritur actio,' and 'In pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis.' (Bough and Bough vs. Cantiveros and Hanopol, 40 Phil., 210, 216.)" The doctrine above adverted to is the one known as In Pari Delicto. This is well known not only in this jurisdiction but also in the United States where common law prevails. In the latter jurisdiction, the doctrine is stated thus: "The proposition is universal that no action arises, in equity or at law, from an illegal contract; no suit can be maintained for its specific performance, or to recover the property agreed to be sold or delivered, or the money agreed to be paid, or damages for its violation. The rule has sometimes been laid down as though it were equally universal, that where the parties are in pari delicto, no affirmative relief of any kind will be given to one against the other." (Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence, Vol. 3, 5th ed., p. 728.) It is true that this doctrine is subject to one important limitation, namely, "whenever public policy is considered as advanced by allowing either party to sue for relief against the transaction" (idem, p. 733). But not all contracts which are illegal because opposed to public policy come under this limitation. The cases in which this limitation may apply only "include the class of contracts which are intrinsically contrary to public policy, contracts in which the illegality itself consists in their opposition to public policy, and any other species of illegal contracts in which, from their particular circumstances, incidental and collateral motives of public policy require relief." Examples of this class of contracts are usurious contracts, marriage-brokerage contracts and gambling contracts. (Idem. pp. 735-737.)

74 In our opinion, the contract in question does not come under this exception because it is not intrinsically contrary to public policy, nor one where the illegality itself consists in its opposition to public policy. It is illegal not because it is against public policy but because it is against the Constitution. Nor may it be contended that to apply the doctrine of pari delicto would be tantamount to contravening the fundamental policy embodied in the constitutional prohibition in that it would allow an alien to remain in the illegal possession of the land, because in this case the remedy is lodged elsewhere. To adopt the contrary view would be merely to benefit petitioner and not to enhance public interest. The danger foreseen by counsel in the application of the doctrine above adverted to is more apparent than real. If we go deeper in the analysis of our situation we would not fail to see that the best policy would be for Congress to approve a law laying down the policy and the procedure to be followed in connection with transactions affected by our doctrine in the Krivenko case. We hope that this should be done without much delay. And even if this legislation be not forthcoming in the near future, we do not believe that public interest would suffer thereby if only our executive department would follow a more militant policy in the conservation of our natural resources as or dained by our Constitution. And we say so because there are at present two ways by which this situation may be remedied, to wit, (1) action for reversion, and (2) escheat to the state. An action for reversion is slightly different from escheat proceeding, but in its effects they are the same. They only differ in procedure. Escheat proceedings may be instituted as a consequence of a violation of article XIII, section 5 of our Constitution, which prohibits transfers of private agricultural lands to aliens, whereas an action for reversion is expressly authorized by the Public Land Act (sections 122, 123, and 124 of Commonwealth Act No. 141). In the United States, as almost everywhere else, the doctrine which imputes to the sovereign or to the government the ownership of all lands and makes such sovereign or government the original source of private titles, is well recognized (42 Am. Jur., 785). This doctrine, which was expressly affirmed in Lawrence vs. Garduo, G. R. No. 16542, and which underlies all titles in the Philippines, (See Ventura, Land Registration and Mortgages, 2nd ed., pp. 2-3) has been enshrined in our Constitution (article XIII). The doctrine regarding the course of all titles being the same here as in the United States, it would seem that if escheat lies against aliens holding lands in those states of the Union where common law prevails or where similar constitutional or statutory prohibitions exist, no cogent reason is perceived why similar proceedings may not be instituted in this jurisdiction. "Escheat is an incident or attribute of sovereignty, and rests on the principle of the ultimate ownership by the state of all property within its jurisdiction.' (30 C.J.S., 1164.) ". . . America escheats belong universally to the state or some corporation thereof as the ultimate proprietor of land within its Jurisdiction." (19 Am. Jur., 382.) "An escheat is nothing more or less than the reversion of property to the state, which takes place when the title fails." (Delany vs. State, 42 N. D., 630, 174 N.W., 290, quoted in footnote 6, 19 Am. Jur., 381.) "As applied to the right of the state to lands purchased by an alien, it would more properly be termed a 'forfeiture' at common law." (19 Am. Jur., 381.)

75 "In modern law escheat denotes a falling of the estate into the general property of the state because the tenant is an alien or because he has died intestate without lawful heirs to take his estate by succession, or because of some other disability to take or hold property imposed by law." (19 Am. Jur., With regard to an action for reversion, the following sections of Commonwealth Act No. 141 are pertinent: "SEC. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized therefor by their charters." "SEC. 123. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of any previous Act, ordinance, royal decree, royal order, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippines with regard to public lands, terrenos baldios y realenqos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons, corporations or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act or to corporate bodies organized in the Philippines whose charters authorize them to do so: Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and legalized by competent courts; Provided, further, That in the event of the ownership of the lands and improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding section being transferred by judicial decree to persons, corporations or associations not legally capacitated to acquire the same under the provisions of this Act, such persons, corporation, or associations shall be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to others so capacitated within the precise period of five years; otherwise, such property shall revert to the Government." "SEC. 124. Any acquisition, conveyance, alienation, transfer, or other contract made or executed in violation of any of the provisions of sections one hundred and eighteen, one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty-one, one hundred and twenty-two, and one hundred and twenty-three of this Act shall be unlawful and null and void from its execution and shall produce the effect of annulling and cancelling the grant, title, patent, or permit originally issued, recognized or confirmed, actually or presumptively, and cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the State." Note that the last quoted provision declared any prohibited conveyance not only unlawful but null and void ab initio. More important yet, it expressly provides that such conveyances will produce "the effect of annulling and cancelling the grant, title, patent, or permit, originally issued, recognized of confirmed, actually or presumptively", and of causing "the reversion of the property and its improvements to the State." The reversion would seem to be but a consequence of the annulment and cancellation of the original grant or title, and this is so for in the event of such annulment or cancellation no one else could legitimately claim the property except its original owner or grantor the state. We repeat. There are two ways now open to our government whereby it could implement the doctrine of this Court in the Krivenko case thereby putting in force and carrying to its logical conclusion the

76 mandate of our Constitution. By following either of these remedies, or by approving an implementary law as above suggested, we can enforce the fundamental policy of our Constitution regarding our natural resources without doing violence to the principle of pari delicto. With these remedies open to us, we see no justifiable reason for pursuing the extreme unusual remedy now vehemently urged by the amici curiae. In view of the foregoing, we hold that the sale in question is null and void, but plaintiff is barred from taking the present action under the principle of pari delicto. The decision appealed from is hereby affirmed without pronouncement as to costs. Labrador, J., concurs. Paras, C.J., Tuason and Montemayor, JJ., concur in theresult.

Separate Opinions

BENGZON, J., concurring: I wish to say that I regard the precedents of Bough vs. Cantiveros and Perez vs. Herranz inapplicable because the parties therein were not equally at fault. However I do not believe that the two ways suggested to solve the problem of alien-acquired lands are exclusive. Perhaps the innocent spouse of the seller and his creditors are not barred from raising the issue of invalidity.

PABLO, M., disidente: No estoy conforme eon la teoria de la mayoria de que el demandante no puede pedir la declaracion de nulidad de la venta de un terreno a un extranjero. El articulo 1306, regla 1.a, del Codigo Civil Espaol, en que se funda la defensa del demandado, dice asi: "Cuando la culpa est de parte de ambos contratantes, ninguno de ellos podra repetir lo que hubiera dado a virtud del contrato." "Culpa es falta mas o menos grave, cometida a sabiendas y voluntariamente." (Diccionario de la Real Academia Espaola). No existe ley que castiga la venta de un inmueble a un extranjero. Han cometido culpa el comprador, el vendedor, o ambos a la vez? Creemos que no, porque la venta de un terreno es la cosa mas ordinaria del mundo. No hubo cusa torpe en el contrato. No se probo que alguno de ellos o ambos, sabiendo que

77 estaba prohibida la venta, la realizaron. No habian cometido falta alguna. Ambas partes realizaron el convenio de venta con la mejor buena fe. Bueno es hacer constar que no se ha probado que alguna de las partes o ambas hayan obrado de mala fe, ni existe pruebas de que, sabiendo las partes que estaba prohibida la venta, la efectuaron sin embargo. La mala fe no se presume: debe probarse. A falta de prueba, la presuncion es que las partes obraron de buena fe. No es aplicable al caso presente el articulo 1306 del Codigo Civil. En el asunto de Bough contra Cantiveros (40 Jur. Fil., 221), estos son los hechos probados: Matilde Cantiveros era la mas rica residente de Carigara, Leyte; ella y su esposo Jose Vasquez firmaron un contrato de separacion conyugal. Basilia Hanopol, prima y protegida de Matilde, y su esposo Gustavos Bough marearon a Matilde con la cantinela de "que Jos Vasquez estaba en el pueblo y podria impugnar el contrato de separacion de bienes conyugales." Los esposos Bough la indujeron a que les vendiese simuladamente por P10,000 sus bienes inmuebles que valian mas de P30,000; ella firmo ante notario la escritura de venta ficticia (Exhibit A). Para convencer a Matilde de que no tenian el proposito de engaarla y privarla de sus bienes, los esposos Bough suscribieron otro documento (Exhibit 1), en virtud del cual donaban a ella todos los bienes que aparecian en el Exhibit A, "donacion que tendria efecto en el caso de que tanto ellos como sus hijos fallecieran antes que Matilde Cantiveros." Matilde, a pesar de la escritura de venta ficticia, continuo poseyendo sus bienes. Despus de algun tiempo, los esposos Bough presentaron demanda contra Matilde, pidiendo que se les restituyera en la posesion de dichos bienes, fundandose la accion en la venta simulada. Porque el Exhibit A es un documento ficticio y ha sido obtenido por medios fraudulentos, este Tribunal confirmo el sobreseimiento de la demanda. En el asunto de Perez contra Herranz y otros (7 Jur. Fil., 715), el demandante pedia la posesion del vapor "Alfred", fundada la accion en un documento en que la propiedad del buque se hizo constar "a nombre tan solo del demandante, por razon de que el, como natural de Filipinas, podia, segun nuestras leyes, aparecer como dueo, al paso que el demandante por ser espaol no podia aparecer como tal" cuando en realidad el demandante solo era dueo de las 10/58 partes del buque y el demandado, de las 48/58 partes del mismo. En los dos asuntos citados, los demandantes pedian el cumplimiento de unos contratos con causa torpe, unos contratos falsos, simulados. que no existen ante los ojos de la ley. Por eso este tribunal aplico en ambos el principio bien establecido de "Ex dolo malo non oritur actio," e "In pari delicto potior est conditio dependentis." "La ley no amparara a ninguna de las partes en un contrato ilicito; les deja en la situacion en que se han colocado." (Bough y otro contra Cantiveros y otro, 40 Jur. Fil., 221), o en otras palabras, "los tribunales no ayudaran ni a una ni a otra parte para hacer cumplir un contrato ilegal, sino que dejan a ambas alli donde las encuentran." (Perez contra Herranz y otros, 7 Jur. Fil., 715.) Pero en el caso presente, el demandante no pide el cumplimiento de la venta anticonstitucional, todo lo contrario, pide que sea declarada nula y que se ordene la devolucion de la cosa que cada parte habia recibido en virtud del contrato. En la venta no medio engao, causa torpe, delito o falta. Los tratadistas clasifican los contratos en nulos y anulables: los primeros son nulos per se, nulos ab initio, no tienen existencia legal; los segundos son anulables por haber sido obtenidos mediante violencia, engao, dolo, delito o falta, etc. Un contrato simulado, un contrato en que no concurren los

78 requisitos que expresa el articulo 1261, son considerados no existentes ante el Derecho. Los contratos celebrados en contravencion de una prohibicion legal se consideran tambien contratos inexistentes. Castan, hablando del origen de la distincion entre actos nulos y anulables, dice que "La distincion entre dos grandes categorias de invalidez: la del acto nulo de pleno derecho o inexistente, de una parte, y la del acto anulable o rescindible, de otra, procede ya del Derecho romano. El acto inexistente no engendraba ningun efecto juridico; era nulo de pleno derecho ab initio. . . . Asi sucedia cuando el acto no reunia las condiciones necesarias para su formacion (por ejemplo, venta sin objeto) o cuando estaba prohibido por la ley (como la donacion entre esposos.)" (2 Castan, 640.) El derecho frances, segun el mismo autor, distingue dos categorias de actos nulos con nulidad absoluta: (a) el acto inexistente (al que falta uno de los elementos esenciales para su formacion) y (b) el acto nulo de pleno derecho (que viola una prescripcion legal). (2 Castan, 641). Sanchez Roman dice que "La causa que no es licita es como si no existiera para el Derecho y degenera, por tanto, en inexistente y no verdadera o falsa para el mismo, produciendo el consiguiente resultado de viciar el consentimiento y anular el contrato." (4 Sanchez Roman, 207). "El contrato Supuesto o falso, dice Manresa en cuanto lo es y se demuestra destruyendo la apariencia del mismo, es el caso mas claro de inexistencia, a tal extremo, que en el se identifican el sentido usual y el juridico de esa palabra." (8 Manresa, 699). En sentencia de 26 de junio de 1903, el Tribunal Supremo de Espaa declaro: "Que el articulo 1806 del Codigo Civil es inaplicable cuando no se trata de un contrato real y efectivo, aunque calebrado con causa torpe, sino simulado: "Que dada tal simulacion, es perfectamente indiferente que el temor que indujo a los otorgantes a figurar el contrato fuese mas o menos fundado y mas o menos licito, puesto que su nulidad e ineficacia no depende de vicio en el consentimiento sino de su real y efectiva inexistencia." (95 Jurisprudencia Civil, 1028). y en 30 de noviembre de 1909 el mismo Tribunal dijo: "Que no es dable confundir un contrato simulado con un contrato nulo o rescindible, toda vez que la simulacion significa indudablemente, por su propia naturaleza, la inexistencia del contrato, al contrario de lo que acontece respecto de los segundos, en los que, supuesta su realidad y certeza, es obligado examinar las condiciones de su celebracion para resolver acerca de la precedencia da la nulidad o rescision, examen absolutamente improcedente por contradictorio cuando el contrato no ha existidc, ya que de la inexistencia no se pueden deducir mas consecuencias juridicas que las que necesariamente se derivan de esta misma inexistencia, o sean las precedentes cual si no se hubiese intentado siquiera la celebracion de tales supuestos contratos." (116 Jurisprudencia Civil, 501.) "Los contratos con causa u objeto ilicitos dice Manresa, se deben reputar ante el derecho inexistentes. Para afirmarlo asi, nos fundamos en que si otros defectos de menor gravedad juridica tal vez son

79 irremediables, no ha de tener mayor eficacia lo ilicito que puede suponer la oposicion mas abierta al derecho, del que no puede exigir amparo lo ilicito. Ademas el interes publico que determina la nulidad, principalmente en estos casos, no ha de quedar a la voluntad, abandono o confirmacion de las partes que lo olvidaron infringiendo la ley." (8 Manresa, 4.a ed., 715.) Y en tratando de contratos celebrados en contravencion de la ley, el Tribunal Supremo de Espaa dijo en su sentencia de 11 de abril de 1894: "Que todo contrato otorgado contra precepto expreso de una ley prohibitiva, engendra la accion necesaria para restablecer la virtualidad de la prohibicion, infringida accion que, teniendo este origen y alcance, no puede menos de ser eficaz desde el momento mismo de la celebracion del referido contrato." (75 Jurisprudencia Civil, 503). El articulo 1334 del Codigo Civil espaol declara nulas las donaciones entre conyuges durante el matrimonio. Geronima Uy Coque dono a su esposo Juan Navas L. Sioca todos sus bienes consistentes en la mitad de los bienes gananciales. Fallecida ella, sus hijos reclamaron la anulacion de la donacion, y este Tribunal, confirmando la decision del juzgado inferior, declaro nulas las escrituras de donacion "A" a "F". (Uy Coque contra Navas L. Sioca, 45 Jur. Fil., 452). En dicha donacion no medio fraude, engao o causa torpe, violencia, delito o falta. Marido y mujer por simple ignorancia de la ley efectuaron la donacion con la mejor buena fe (del modo como obraron el demandante y el demandado en la presente causa), creyendo que no estaba prohibida la donacion entre ellos. Se declaro nula la donacion porque esta prohibida por la ley, porque es contrato considerado inexistente ante el Derecho. Los herederos de la finada consiguieron la declaracion judicial de invalidez de la donacion y recobraron los bienes donados por su madre. Que diremos de la venta de un inmueble a un extranjero, cosa que esta expresamente prohibida por la Constitucion? Es sencillamente un contrato inexistente bajo la ley y la Constitucion. No debe depender de la voluntad de las partes contratantes o de su abandono o ignorancia o buena fe la existencia de ese contrato anticonstitucional. El interes publico debe prevalecer sobre el acuerdo de las partes. Es absurda la teoria de que el vendedor no puede pedir la rescision del contrato hecho en contravencion de la Constitucion para "restablecer la virtualidad de la prohibicion" constitucional o procurar que las cosas vuelvan a su estado normal anterior. Si los herederos de Uy Coque consiguieron la anulacion de las donaciones hechas por su madre porque la donacion entre conyuges es nula por que el vendedor (demandante en la presente causa) no puede pedir la rescision de la venta realizada contra la prohibicion constitucional? Por que es rescindible una donacion hecha en contravencion del Codigo Civil y no es rescindible la venta hecha contra la expresa prohibicion de la Constitucion? La nulidad absoluta, segun Castan, "puede ser reclamada mediante accion o excepcion, por toda persona que tenga interes en ella, porque no afecta la nulidad de los contratos al interes publico, la accion no es en nuestro Derecho publica o cuasipublica, como lo es en otras legislaciones." (El articulo 1047 del Codigo Civil argentino dispone que la nulidad absoluta puede y debe ser declarada por el Juez, aun sin peticion de parte, cuando aparece manifiesta en el acto, y puede pedirse su declaracion por el Ministerio publico, en el interes de la moral o de la ley.) La inexistencia del contrato, segun Castan, "es

80 perpetua e insubsanable, no pudiendo ser objeto de confirmacion ni prescripcion, excluyendo sin embargo los contratos que reunen los requisitos expresados en el articulo 1261." (2 Castan, 644). "Evidente es dice Valverde que nuestro codigo admite tal distincion de nulidad absoluta e inexistencia y nulidad relativa o anulabilidad; mas para el legislador espaol, la nulidad solo interesa a los contratantes, pues aun cuando existen contratos que afectan al orden publico y social y en los cuales la nulidad deberia pedirse de oficio, para el codigo tal accion tiene que ser ejercitada a instancia de parte." (3 Valverde, 299). Declarar que el vendedor no puede recobrar, a cambio de lo que habia pagado, devolviendolo previamente, es frustrar el espiritu que informa la Constitucion; es consentir que los extranjeros continuen acaparando bienes inmuebles en dao y perjuicio del pueblo, en vez de juzgar de acuerdo con el Codigo Civil, inspirandose en el elevado proposito de la Asemblea Constituyente de "conservar y acrecentar el patrimonio de la nacion" y evitar que, por un error judicial, los filipinos al cabo de una generacion - sean simples peones en su propia tierra. Desatender la demanda del vendedor y dejar que el comprador continue gozando de la propiedad comprada a pesar de la prohibicion, no es cumplir con la Constitucion: es violar su espiritu y minar su principio fundamental de propia conservacion. El comprador no puede acogerse a las disposiciones del articulo 1306 del Codigo Civil espaol que es inaplicable, segun el Tribunal Supremo de Espaa, a contratos inexistentes. Con mayor razon dicho articulo no puede oponerse con exito como defensa en una demanda en que se pide la declaracion de nulidad de la venta de un inmueble por ser contraria a la Constitucion y la devolucion de las cosas que las partes habian recibido. En mi opinion, la decision debe ser revocada, la venta debe ser declarada nula y las cosas recibidas por las partes sean restituidas. (Articulo 1303, Codigo Civil.)

REYES, J., dissenting:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary I dissent. The majority opinion holds the sale in question void but denies relief on the ground that the parties were in pari delicto. The doctrine invoked by the majority has no application where, as in the present case, the contract sought to be annulled is against public policy, the same being forbidden by the Constitution. (Vol. 3, Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence, 5th ed., see. 941.) The present case is to be distinguished from that of Trinidad Gonzaga de Cabautan et al. vs. Uy Hoo et al., 88 Phil. 103, where the sale took place when the Constitution was not in force.

G.R. No. L-630

November 15, 1947

81 ALEXANDER A. KRIVENKO, petitioner-appellant, vs. THE REGISTER OF DEEDS, CITY OF MANILA, respondent and appellee. Gibbs, Gibbs, Chuidian and Quasha of petitioner-appellant. First Assistant Solicitor General Reyes and Solicitor Carreon for respondent-appellee. Marcelino Lontok appeared as amicus curies. MORAN, C.J.: Alenxander A. Kriventor alien, bought a residential lot from the Magdalena Estate, Inc., in December of 1941, the registration of which was interrupted by the war. In May, 1945, he sought to accomplish said registration but was denied by the register of deeds of Manila on the ground that, being an alien, he cannot acquire land in this jurisdiction. Krivenko then brought the case to the fourth branch of the Court of First Instance of Manila by means of a consulta, and that court rendered judgment sustaining the refusal of the register of deeds, from which Krivenko appealed to this Court. There is no dispute as to these facts. The real point in issue is whether or not an alien under our Constitution may acquire residential land. It is said that the decision of the case on the merits is unnecessary, there being a motion to withdraw the appeal which should have been granted outright, and reference is made to the ruling laid down by this Court in another case to the effect that a court should not pass upon a constitutional question if its judgment may be made to rest upon other grounds. There is, we believe, a confusion of ideas in this reasoning. It cannot be denied that the constitutional question is unavoidable if we choose to decide this case upon the merits. Our judgment cannot to be made to rest upon other grounds if we have to render any judgment at all. And we cannot avoid our judgment simply because we have to avoid a constitutional question. We cannot, for instance, grant the motion withdrawing the appeal only because we wish to evade the constitutional; issue. Whether the motion should be, or should not be, granted, is a question involving different considerations now to be stated. According to Rule 52, section 4, of the Rules of Court, it is discretionary upon this Court to grant a withdrawal of appeal after the briefs have been presented. At the time the motion for withdrawal was filed in this case, not only had the briefs been prensented, but the case had already been voted and the majority decision was being prepared. The motion for withdrawal stated no reason whatsoever, and the Solicitor General was agreeable to it. While the motion was pending in this Court, came the new circular of the Department of Justice, instructing all register of deeds to accept for registration all transfers of residential lots to aliens. The herein respondent-appellee was naturally one of the registers of deeds to obey the new circular, as against his own stand in this case which had been maintained by the trial court and firmly defended in this Court by the Solicitor General. If we grant the withdrawal, the the result would be that petitioner-appellant Alexander A. Krivenko wins his case, not by a decision of this Court, but by the decision or circular of the Department of Justice, issued while this case was pending before this Court. Whether or not this is the reason why appellant seeks the withdrawal of his appeal and why the Solicitor General readily agrees to that withdrawal, is now immaterial. What is material and indeed

82 very important, is whether or not we should allow interference with the regular and complete exercise by this Court of its constitutional functions, and whether or not after having held long deliberations and after having reached a clear and positive conviction as to what the constitutional mandate is, we may still allow our conviction to be silenced, and the constitutional mandate to be ignored or misconceived, with all the harmful consequences that might be brought upon the national patromony. For it is but natural that the new circular be taken full advantage of by many, with the circumstance that perhaps the constitutional question may never come up again before this court, because both vendors and vendees will have no interest but to uphold the validity of their transactions, and very unlikely will the register of deeds venture to disobey the orders of their superior. Thus, the possibility for this court to voice its conviction in a future case may be remote, with the result that our indifference of today might signify a permanent offense to the Constitution. All thse circumstances were thoroughly considered and weighted by this Court for a number of days and the legal result of the last vote was a denial of the motion withdrawing the appeal. We are thus confronted, at this stage of the proceedings, with our duty, the constitutional question becomes unavoidable. We shall then proceed to decide that question. Article XIII, section 1, of the Constitutional is as follows: Article XIII. — Conservation and utilization of natural resources. SECTION 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, water, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their 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 inaguration of the Government established uunder this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and no licence, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water "power" in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant. The scope of this constitutional provision, according to its heading and its language, embraces all lands of any kind of the public domain, its purpose being to establish a permanent and fundamental policy for the conservation and utilization of all natural resources of the Nation. When, therefore, this provision, with reference to lands of the public domain, makes mention of only agricultural, timber and mineral lands, it means that all lands of the public domain are classified into said three groups, namely, agricultural, timber and mineral. And this classification finds corroboration in the circumstance that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, that was the basic classification existing in the public laws and judicial decisions in the Philippines, and the term "public agricultural lands" under said classification had then acquired a technical meaning that was well-known to the members of the Constitutional Convention who were mostly members of the legal profession.

83 As early as 1908, in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil., 175, 182), this Court said that the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined in 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 for timber lands." This definition has been followed in long line of decisions of this Court. (SeeMontano vs. Insular Government, 12 Phil., 593; Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government, 13 Phil., 159; Ramosvs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil., 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil., 560; Ankron vs. Government of the Philippines, 40 Phil., 10.) And with respect to residential lands, it has been held that since they are neither mineral nor timber lands, of necessity they must be classified as agricultural. In Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government (13 Phil., 159, 163), this Court said: Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may be 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 agricultural 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 contains only three classification, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots or urban lands that have ceased to be agricultural land. In other words, the Court ruled that in determining whether a parcel of land is agricultural, the test is not only whether it is actually agricultural, but also its susceptibility to cultivation for agricultural purposes. But whatever the test might be, the fact remains that at the time the Constitution was adopted, lands of the public domain were classified in our laws and jurisprudence into agricultural, mineral, and timber, and that the term "public agricultural lands" was construed as referring to those lands that were not timber or mineral, and as including residential lands. It may safely be presumed, therefore, that what the members of the Constitutional Convention had in mind when they drafted the Constitution was this well-known classification and its technical meaning then prevailing. Certain expressions which appear in Constitutions, . . . are obviously technical; and where such words have been in use prior to the adoption of a Constitution, it is presumed that its framers and the people who ratified it have used such expressions in accordance with their technical meaning. (11 Am. Jur., sec. 66, p. 683.) Also Calder vs. Bull, 3 Dall. [U.S.], 386; 1 Law. ed., 648; Bronson vs. Syverson, 88 Wash., 264; 152 P., 1039.) It is a fundamental rule that, in construing constitutions, terms employed therein shall be given the meaning which had been put upon them, and which they possessed, at the time of the framing and adoption of the instrument. If a word has acquired a fixed, technical meaning in legal and constitutional history, it will be presumed to have been employed in that sense in a written Constitution. (McKinney vs. Barker, 180 Ky., 526; 203 S.W., 303; L.R.A., 1918 E, 581.) Where words have been 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 in which they have been so previously used,

84 although the sense may vary from strict literal meaning of the words. (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction, p. 758.) Therefore, the phrase "public agricultural lands" appearing in section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution must be construed as including residential lands, and this is in conformity with a legislative interpretation given after the adoption of the Constitution. Well known is the rule that "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.) Soon after the Constitution was adopted, the National Assembly revised the Public Land Law and passed Commonwealth Act No. 141, and sections 58, 59 and 60 thereof permit the sale of residential lots to Filipino citizens or to associations or corporations controlled by such citizens, which is equivalent to a solemn declaration that residential lots are considered as agricultural lands, for, under the Constitution, only agricultural lands may be alienated. It is true that in section 9 of said Commonwealth Act No. 141, "alienable or disposable public lands" which are the same "public agriculture lands" under the Constitution, are classified into agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial and for other puposes. This simply means that the term "public agricultural lands" has both a broad and a particular meaning. Under its broad or general meaning, as used in the Constitution, it embraces all lands that are neither timber nor mineral. This broad meaning is particularized in section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 which classifies "public agricultural lands" for purposes of alienation or disposition, into lands that are stricly agricultural or actually devoted to cultivation for agricultural puposes; lands that are residential; commercial; industrial; or lands for other purposes. The fact that these lands are made alienable or disposable under Commonwealth Act No. 141, in favor of Filipino citizens, is a conclusive indication of their character as public agricultural lands under said statute and under the Constitution. It must be observed, in this connection that prior to the Constitution, under section 24 of Public Land Act No. 2874, aliens could acquire public agricultural lands used for industrial or residential puposes, but after the Constitution and under section 23 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the right of aliens to acquire such kind of lands is completely stricken out, undoubtedly in pursuance of the constitutional limitation. And, again, prior to the Constitution, under section 57 of Public Land Act No. 2874, land of the public domain suitable for residence or industrial purposes could be sold or leased to aliens, but after the Constitution and under section 60 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, such land may only be leased, but not sold, to aliens, and the lease granted shall only be valid while the land is used for the purposes referred to. The exclusion of sale in the new Act is undoubtedly in pursuance of the constitutional limitation, and this again is another legislative construction that the term "public agricultural land" includes land for residence purposes. Such legislative interpretation is also in harmony with the interpretation given by the Executive Department of the Government. Way back in 1939, Secretary of Justice Jose Abad Santos, in answer to a query as to "whether or not the phrase 'public agricultural lands' in section 1 of Article XII (now XIII) of the Constitution may be interpreted to include residential, commercial, and industrial lands for purposes of their disposition," rendered the following short, sharp and crystal-clear opinion:

85 Section 1, Article XII (now XIII) 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' and, therefore, 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 case. . . . 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 another angle, it has been held that in determining whether lands are agricultural or not, the character of the land is the test (Odell vs. Durant, 62 N.W., 524; Lorch vs. Missoula Brick and Tile Co., 123 p.25). In other words, it is the susceptibility of the land to cultivation for agricultural purposes by ordinary farming methods which determines whether it is agricultural or not (State vs. Stewart, 190 p. 129). Furthermore, as said by the Director of Lands, no reason is seen why a piece of land, which may be sold to a person if he is to devote it to agricultural, cannot be sold to him if he intends to use it as a site for his home. This opinion is important not alone because it comes from a Secratary of Justice who later became the Chief Justice of this Court, but also because it was rendered by a member of the cabinet of the late President Quezon who actively participated in the drafting of the constitutional provision under consideration. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine Constitution, p. 598.) And the opinion of the Quezon administration was reiterated by the Secretary of Justice under the Osmeña administration, and it was firmly maintained in this Court by the Solicitor General of both administrations. It is thus clear that the three great departments of the Government — judicial, legislative and executive — have always maintained that lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, mineral and timber, and that agricultural lands include residential lots. Under section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution, "natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be aliented," and with respect to public agricultural lands, their alienation is limited to Filipino citizens. But this constitutional purpose conserving agricultural resources in the hands of Filipino citizens may easily be defeated by the Filipino citizens themselves who may alienate their agricultural lands in favor of aliens. It is partly to prevent this result that section 5 is included in Article XIII, and it reads as follows: Sec. 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land will be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines.

86 This constitutional provision closes the only remaining avenue through which agricultural resources may leak into aliens' hands. It would certainly be futile to prohibit the alienation of public agricultural lands to aliens if, after all, they may be freely so alienated upon their becoming private agricultural lands in the hands of Filipino citizens. Undoubtedly, as above indicated, section 5 is intended to insure the policy of nationalization contained in section 1. Both sections must, therefore, be read together for they have the same purpose and the same subject matter. It must be noticed that the persons against whom the prohibition is directed in section 5 are the very same persons who under section 1 are disqualified "to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines." And the subject matter of both sections is the same, namely, the non-transferability of "agricultural land" to aliens. Since "agricultural land" under section 1 includes residential lots, the same technical meaning should be attached to "agricultural land under section 5. It is a rule of statutory construction that "a word or phrase repeated in a statute will bear the same meaning throughout the statute, unless a different intention appears." (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction, p. 758.) The only difference between "agricultural land" under section 5, is that the former is public and the latter private. But such difference refers to ownership and not to the class of land. The lands are the same in both sections, and, for the conservation of the national patrimony, what is important is the nature or class of the property regardless of whether it is owned by the State or by its citizens. Reference is made to an opinion rendered on September 19, 1941, by the Hon. Teofilo Sison, then Secretary of Justice, to the effect that residential lands of the public domain may be considered as agricultural lands, whereas residential lands of private ownership cannot be so considered. No reason whatsoever is given in the opinion for such a distinction, and no valid reason can be adduced for such a discriminatory view, particularly having in mind that the purpose of the constitutional provision is the conservation of the national patrimony, and private residential lands are as much an integral part of the national patrimony as the residential lands of the public domain. Specially is this so where, as indicated above, the prohibition as to the alienable of public residential lots would become superflous if the same prohibition is not equally applied to private residential lots. Indeed, the prohibition as to private residential lands will eventually become more important, for time will come when, in view of the constant disposition of public lands in favor of private individuals, almost all, if not all, the residential lands of the public domain shall have become private residential lands. It is maintained that in the first draft of section 5, the words "no land of private ownership" were used and later changed into "no agricultural land of private ownership," and lastly into "no private agricultural land" and from these changes it is argued that the word "agricultural" introduced in the second and final drafts was intended to limit the meaning of the word "land" to land actually used for agricultural purposes. The implication is not accurate. The wording of the first draft was amended for no other purpose than to clarify concepts and avoid uncertainties. The words "no land" of the first draft, unqualified by the word "agricultural," may be mistaken to include timber and mineral lands, and since under section 1, this kind of lands can never be private, the prohibition to transfer the same would be superfluous. Upon the other hand, section 5 had to be drafted in harmony with section 1 to which it is supplementary, as above indicated. Inasmuch as under section 1, timber and mineral lands can never be private, and the only lands that may become private are agricultural lands, the words "no land of private

87 ownership" of the first draft can have no other meaning than "private agricultural land." And thus the change in the final draft is merely one of words in order to make its subject matter more specific with a view to avoiding the possible confusion of ideas that could have arisen from the first draft. If the term "private agricultural lands" is to be construed as not including residential lots or lands not strictly agricultural, the result would be that "aliens may freely acquire and possess not only residential lots and houses for themselves but entire subdivisions, and whole towns and cities," and that "they may validly buy and hold in their names lands of any area for building homes, factories, industrial plants, fisheries, hatcheries, schools, health and vacation resorts, markets, golf courses, playgrounds, airfields, and a host of other uses and purposes that are not, in appellant's words, strictly agricultural." (Solicitor General's Brief, p. 6.) That this is obnoxious to the conservative spirit of the Constitution is beyond question. One of the fundamental principles underlying the provision of Article XIII of the Constitution and which was embodied in the report of the Committee on Nationalization and Preservation of Lands and other Natural Resources of the Constitutional Convention, is "that lands, minerals, forests, and other natural resources constitute the exclusive heritage of the Filipino nation. They should, therefore, be preserved for those under the sovereign authority of that nation and for their posterity." (2 Aruego, Framing of the Filipino Constitution, p. 595.) Delegate Ledesma, Chairman of the Committee on Agricultural Development of the Constitutional Convention, in a speech delivered in connection with the national policy on agricultural lands, said: "The exclusion of aliens from the privilege of acquiring public agricultural lands and of owning real estate is a necessary part of the Public Land Laws of the Philippines to keep pace with the idea of preserving the Philippines for the Filipinos." (Emphasis ours.) And, of the same tenor was the speech of Delegate Montilla who said: "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 immovables 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 antionalize 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 foreigners?" (Emphasis ours.) Professor Aruego says that since the opening days of the Constitutional Convention one of its fixed and dominating objectives was the conservation and nationalization of the natural resources of the country. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine Constitution, p 592.) This is ratified by the members of the Constitutional Convention who are now members of this Court, namely, Mr. Justice Perfecto, Mr. Justice Briones, and Mr. Justice Hontiveros. And, indeed, if under Article XIV, section 8, of the Constitution, an alien may not even operate a small jitney for hire, it is certainly not hard to understand that neither is he allowed to own a pieace of land. This constitutional intent is made more patent and is strongly implemented by an act of the National Assembly passed soon after the Constitution was approved. We are referring again to Commonwealth Act No. 141. Prior to the Constitution, there were in the Public Land Act No. 2874 sections 120 and 121 which granted aliens the right to acquire private only by way of reciprocity. Said section reads as follows:

88 SEC. 120. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under this Act; to corporations organized in the Philippine Islands authorized therefor by their charters, and, upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of countries the laws of which grant to citizens of the Philippine Islands the same right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land, or permanent improvements thereon, or any interest therein, as to their own citizens, only in the manner and to the extent specified in such laws, and while the same are in force but not thereafter. SEC. 121. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of the former Public Land Act or of any other Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippine Islands with regard to public lands, terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons, corporations, or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act; to corporate bodies organized in the Philippine Islands whose charters may authorize them to do so, and, upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of the countries the laws of which grant to citizens of the Philippine Islands the same right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land or pemanent improvements thereon or any interest therein, as to their own citizens, and only in the manner and to the extent specified in such laws, and while the same are in force, but not thereafter:Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and legalized by competent courts, nor to lands and improvements acquired or held for industrial or residence purposes, while used for such purposes:Provided, further, That in the event of the ownership of the lands and improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding section being transferred by judicial decree to persons,corporations or associations not legally capacitated to acquire the same under the provisions of this Act, such persons, corporations, or associations shall be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to others so capacitated within the precise period of five years, under the penalty of such property reverting to the Government in the contrary case." (Public Land Act, No. 2874.) It is to be observed that the pharase "no land" used in these section refers to all private lands, whether strictly agricultural, residential or otherwise, there being practically no private land which had not been acquired by any of the means provided in said two sections. Therefore, the prohibition contained in these two provisions was, in effect, that no private land could be transferred to aliens except "upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of Philippine Islands the same right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land." In other words, aliens were granted the right to acquire private land merely by way of reciprocity. Then came the Constitution and Commonwealth Act No. 141 was passed, sections 122 and 123 of which read as follows: SEC. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized thereof by their charters.

89 SEC. 123. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of any previous Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippines with regard to public lands terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain, or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons, corporations or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act or to corporate bodies organized in the Philippines whose charters authorize them to do so: Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and legalized by competent courts: Provided, further, That in the event of the ownership of the lands and improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding section being transferred by judicial decree to persons, corporations or associations not legally capacitated to acquire the same under the provisions of this Act, such persons, corporations, or associations shall be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to others so capacitated within the precise period of five years; otherwise, such property shall revert to the Government. These two sections are almost literally the same as sections 120 and 121 of Act No. 2874, the only difference being that in the new provisions, the right to reciprocity granted to aliens is completely stricken out. This, undoubtedly, is to conform to the absolute policy contained in section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which, in prohibiting the alienation of private agricultural lands to aliens, grants them no right of reciprocity. This legislative construction carries exceptional weight, for prominent members of the National Assembly who approved the new Act had been members of the Constitutional Convention. It is said that the lot question does not come within the purview of sections 122 and 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, there being no proof that the same had been acquired by one of the means provided in said provisions. We are not, however, diciding the instant case under the provisions of the Public Land Act, which have to refer to land that had been formerly of the public domain, otherwise their constitutionality may be doubtful. We are deciding the instant case under section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which is more comprehensive and more absolute in the sense that it prohibits the transfer to alien of any private agricultural land including residential land whatever its origin might have been. And, finally, on June 14, 1947, the Congress approved Republic Act No. 133 which allows mortgage of "private real property" of any kind in favor of aliens but with a qualification consisting of expressly prohibiting aliens to bid or take part in any sale of such real property as a consequence of the mortgage. This prohibition makes no distinction between private lands that are strictly agricultural and private lands that are residental or commercial. The prohibition embraces the sale of private lands of any kind in favor of aliens, which is again a clear implementation and a legislative interpretation of the constitutional prohibition. Had the Congress been of opinion that private residential lands may be sold to aliens under the Constitution, no legislative measure would have been found necessary to authorize mortgage which would have been deemed also permissible under the Constitution. But clearly it was the opinion of the Congress that such sale is forbidden by the Constitution and it was such opinion that

90 prompted the legislative measure intended to clarify that mortgage is not within the constitutional prohibition. It is well to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the Constitution as it is and not as we may desire it to be. Perhaps the effect of our construction is to preclude aliens, admitted freely into the Philippines from owning sites where they may build their homes. But if this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution, we will not attempt to compromise it even in the name of amity or equity. We are satisfied, however, that aliens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from the use of lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in the Philippines is temporary, they may be granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is not forbidden by the Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes and misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire. For all the foregoing, we hold that under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public agricultural lands, including residential lands, and, accordingly, judgment is affirmed, without costs. Feria, Pablo, Perfecto, Hilado, and Briones, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinion PERFECTO, J., concurring: Today, which is the day set for the promulgation of this Court's decision might be remembered by future generations always with joy, with gratitude, with pride. The failure of the highest tribunal of the land to do its duty in this case would have amounted to a national disaster. We would have refused to share the responsibility of causing it by, wittingly or unwittingly, allowing ourselves to act as tools in a conspiracy to sabotage the most important safeguard of the age-long patrimony of our people, the land which destiny of Providence has set aside to be the permanent abode of our race for unending generations. We who have children and grandchildren, and who expect to leave long and ramifying dendriform lines of descendants, could not bear the thought of the curse they may fling at us should the day arrive when our people will be foreigners in their fatherland, because in the crucial moment of our history , when the vision of judicial statemanship demanded on us the resolution and boldness to affirm and withhold the letter and spirit of the Constitution, we faltered. We would have prefered heroic defeat to inglorious desertion. Rather than abandon the sacred folds of the banner of our convictions for truth, for justice, for racial survival. We are happy to record that this Supreme Court turned an impending failure to a glorious success, saving our people from a looming catastrophe. On July 3, 1946, the case of Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, (43 Off. Gaz., 866), was submitted for our decision. The case was initiated in the Court of First Instance of Tayabas on January 17, 1940, when an alien, Oh Cho, a citizen of China, applied for title and registration of a parcel of land located in the residential district of Guinayangan, Tayabas, with a house thereon. The Director of Lands opposed the

91 application, one of the main grounds being that "the applicant, being a Chinese, is not qualified to acquire public or private agricultural lands under the provisions of the Constitution." On August 15, 1940, Judge P. Magsalin rendered decision granting the application. The Director of Lands appealed. In the brief filed by Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta, afterwards Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and now Secretary of Justice, and Assistant Solicitor General Rafael Amparo, appellant made only two assignments of error, although both raised but one question, the legal one stated in the first assignment of error as follows: The lower court erred in declaring the registration of the land in question in favor of the applicant who, according to his own voluntary admission is a citizen of the Chinese Republic. The brief was accompanied, as Appendix A, by the opinion of Secretary of Justice Jose A. Santos — who, while Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, suffered heroic martyrdom at the hands of the Japanese — addressed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce on July 15, 1939, supporting the same theory as the one advanced by the Director of Lands. The same legal question raised by appellant is discussed, not only in the brief for the appellee, but also in the briefs of the several amici curiae allowed by the Supreme Court to appear in the case. As a matter of fact, the case has been submitted for final decision of the Supreme Court since July of 1941, that is, six years ago. It remained undecided when the Pacific War broke out in December, 1941. After the Supreme Court was recognized in the middle of 1945, it was found that the case was among those which were destroyed in February, 1945, during the battle for the liberation of Manila. The case had to be reconstituted upon motion of the office of the Solicitor General, filed with this Court on January 14, 1946, in which it was also prayed that, after being reconstituted, the case be submitted for final adjudication. The case was for the second time submitted for decision on July 3, 1946. After the last submission, it took the Supreme Court many days to deliberate on the case, especially on the legal question as to whether an alien may, under the Constitution, acquire private urban lands. An overwhelming majority answered no. But when the decision was promulgated on August 31, 1946, a majority resolved to ignore the question, notwithstanding our efforts to have the question, which is vital, pressing and far-reaching, decided once and for all, to dispel definitely the uncertainty gnawing the conscience of the people. It has been out lot to be alone in expressing in unmistakable terms our opinion and decision on the main legal question raised by the appellant. The constitutional question was by-passed by the majority because they were of opinion that it was not necessary to be decided, notwithstanding the fact that it was the main and only legal question upon which appellant Director of Lands relied in his appeal, and the question has been almost exhaustively argued in four printed briefs filed by the parties and the amici curiae. Assurance was, nevertheless, given that in the next case in which the same constitutional question is raised, the majority shall make known their stand on the question. The next case came when the present one submitted to us for decision on February 3, 1947. Again, we deliberated on the constitutional question for several days.

92 On February 24, 1947, the case was submitted for final vote, and the result was that the constitutional question was decided against petitioner. The majority was also overwhelming. There were eight of us, more than two-thirds of the Supreme Court. Only three Justices dissented. While the decision was being drafted, somehow, the way the majority had voted must have leaked out. On July 10, 1947, appellant Krivenko filed a motion for withdrawal of his appeal, for the evident purpose of preventing the rendering of the majority decision, which would settle once and for all the allimportant constitutional question as to whether aliens may acquire urban lots in the Philippines. Appellant chose to keep silent as to his reason for filing the motion. The Solicitor General's office gave its conformity to the withdrawal of the appeal. This surprising assent was given without expressing any ground at all. Would the Supreme Court permit itself to be cheated of its decision voted since February 24, 1947? Discussion immediately ensued as to whether the motion should be granted or denied, that is, whether this Court should abstain from promulgating the decision in accordance with the result of the vote taken on February 24, 1947, as if, after more than six years during which the question has been submitted for the decision of the highest tribunal of the land, the same has failed to form a definite opinion. After a two-day deliberation, the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Paras, Mr. Justice Hontiveros, Mr. Justice Padilla and and Mr. Justice Tuason voted to grant the motion for withdrawal. Those who voted to deny the motion were Mr. Justice Feria, Mr. Justice Pablo, ourselves, Mr. Justice Hilado and Mr. Justice Bengzon. The vote thus resulted in a tie, 5-5. The deadlock resulting from the tie should have the effect of denying the motion, as provided by section 2 of Rule 56 to the effect that "where the Court in banc is equally divided in opinion . . . on all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be denied." And we proposed that the rule be complied with, and the denial be promulgated. Notwithstanding this, as Mr. Justice Briones was then absent, our brethren resolved to give him the opportunity of casting his vote on the question, although we insisted that it was unnecessary. Days later, when all the members of the Court were already present, a new vote was taken. Mr. Justice Briones voted for the denial of the motion, and his vote would have resulted, as must be expected, in 6 votes for the denial against 5 for granting. But the final result was different. Seven votes were cast for granting the motion and only four were cast for its denial. But then, by providential design or simply by a happy stroke of luck or fate, on the occasion of the registration by the register of deeds of Manila of land purchases of two aliens, a heated public polemic flared up in one section of the press, followed by controversial speeches, broadcast by radio, and culminating in the issuance on August 12, 1947, of Circular No. 128 of the Secretary of Justice which reads as follows: TO ALL REGISTER OF DEEDS: Paragraph 5 of Circular No. 14, dated August 25, 1945, is hereby amended so as to read as follows:

93 5"(a). Instruments by which private real property is mortgaged in favor of any individual, corporation, or association for a period not exceeding five years, renewable for another five years, may be accepted for registration. (Section 1, Republic Act No. 138.) "(b). Deeds or documents by which private residential, commercial, industrial or other classes of urban lands, or any right, title or interest therein is transferred, assigned or encumbered to an alien, who is not an enemy national, may be registered. Such classes of land are not deemed included within the purview of the prohibition contained in section 5, Article XIII of the Constitution against the acquisition or holding of "private agricultural land" by those who are not qualified to hold or acquire lands of the public domain. This is in conformity with Opinion No. 284, series of 1941, of the Secretary of Justice and with the practice consistently followed for nearly ten years since the Constitution took effect on November 15, 1935. "(c). During the effectivity of the Executive Agreement entered into between the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States on July 4, 1946, in pursuance of the so-called Parity Amendment to the Constitution, citizens of the United States and corporations or associations owned or controlled by such citizens are deemed to have the same rights as citizens of the Philippines and corporations or associations owned or controlled by such are deemed to have the same rights as citizens of the Philippines and corporations or associations owned or controlled by citizens of the Philippines in the acquisition of all classes of lands in the Philippines, whether of private ownership or pertaining to the public domain." ROMAN OZAETA Secretary of Justice Paragraph 5 of Circular No. 14 dated August 25, 1945, amended by the above is as follows: Deeds or other documents by which a real property, or a right, or title thereto, or an interest therein, is transferred, assigned or encumbered to an alien, who is not enemy national, may be entered in the primary entry book; but, the registration of said deeds or other documents shall be denied — unless and/or until otherwise specifically directed by a final decision or order of a competent court — and the party in interest shall be advised of such denial, so that he could avail himself of the right to appeal therefrom, under the provisions of section 200 of the Revised Administrative Code. The denial of registration of shall be predicated upon the prohibition contained in section 5, Article XIII (formerly Article XII) of the Constitution of the Philippines, and sections 122 and 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the former as amended by the Commonwealth Act No. 615. The polemic found echo even in the Olympic serenity of a cloistered Supreme Court and the final result of long and tense deliberation which ensued is concisely recorded in the following resolution adopted on August 29, 1947: In Krivenko vs. Register of Deeds, City of Manila, L-630, a case already submitted for decision, the appellant filed a motion to withdraw his appeal with the conformity of the adverse party. After full discussion of the matter specially in relation to the Court's discretion (Rule 52, section 4, and Rule 58),

94 Mr. Justice Paras, Mr. Justice Hilado, Mr. Justice Bengzon, Mr. Justice Padilla and Mr. Justice Tuazon voted to grant, while the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Feria, Mr,. Justice Pablo, Mr. Justice Perfecto and Mr. Justice Briones voted to deny it. A redeliberation was consequently had, with the same result. Thereupon Mr. Justice Paras proposed that Mr. Justice Hontiveros be asked to sit and break the tie; but in view of the latter's absence due to illness and petition for retirement, the Court by a vote of seven to three did not approve the proposition. Therefore, under Rule 56, section 2, the motion to withdraw is considered denied. Mr. Justice Padilla states that in his opinion the tie could not have the effect of overruling the previous vote of seven against four in favor of the motion to withdraw. Mr. Justice Paras states: Justice Hontiveros is aware of and conversant with the controversy. He has voted once on the motion to withdraw the appeal. He is still a member of the Court and, on a moment's notice, can be present at any session of the Court. Last month, when all the members were present, the votes on the motion stood 7 to 4. Now, in the absence of one member, on reconsideration, another changed his vote resulting in a tie. Section 2 of Rule 56 requires that all efforts be exerted to break a deadlock in the votes. I deplore the inability of the majority to agree to my proposition that Mr. Justice Hontiveros be asked to participate in the resolution of the motion for withdrawal. I hold it to be fundamental and necessary that the votes of all the members be taken in cases like this. Mr. Justice Perfecto stated, for purposes of completeness of the narration of facts, that when the petition to withdraw the appeal was submitted for resolution of this Court two days after this petition was filed, five justices voted to grant and five others voted to deny, and expressed the opinion that since then, according to the rules, the petition should have been considered denied. Said first vote took place many days before the one alluded to by Mr. Justice Padilla. Mr. Justice Tuason states: The motion to withdraw the appeal was first voted upon with the result that 5 were granting and 5 for denial. Mr. Justice Briones was absent and it was decided to wait for him. Some time later, the same subject was deliberated upon and a new voting was had, on which occasion all the 11 justices were present. The voting stood 7 for allowing the dismissal of the appeal and 4 against. Mr. Justice Perfecto and Mr. Justice Briones expressed the intention to put in writing their dissents. Before these dissents were filed, about one month afterwards, without any previous notice the matter was brought up again and re-voted upon; the result was 5 to 5. Mr. Justice Hontiveros, who was ill but might have been able to attend if advised of the necessity of his presence, was absent. As the voting thus stood, Mr. Justice Hontiveros' vote would have changed its result unless he changed his mind, a fact of which no one is aware. My opinion is that since there was no formal motion for reconsideration nor a previous notice that this matter would be taken up once more, and since Mr. Justice Hontiveros had every reason to believe that the matter was over as far as he was concerned, this Justice's vote in the penultimate voting should, if he was not to be given an opportunity to recast his vote, be counted in favor of the vote for the allowance of the motion to withdraw. Above all, that opportunity should not have been denied on grounds of pure technicality never invoked before. I counted that the proceeding was arbitrary and illegal.

95 The resolution does not recite all the reasons why Mr. Justice Hontiveros did not participate in that last two votings and why it became unnecessary to wait for him any further to attend the sessions of the Court and to cast his vote on the question. Appellant Krivenko moved for the reconsideration of the denial of his withdrawal of appeal, alleging that it became moot in view of the ruling made by the Secretary of Justice in circular No. 128, thus giving us a hint that the latter, wittingly or unwittingly, had the effect of trying to take away from the Supreme Court the decision of an important constitutional question, submitted to us in a pending litigation. We denied the motion for reconsideration. We did not want to entertain any obstruction to the promulgation of our decision. If the processes had in this case had been given the publicity suggested by us for all the official actuations of this Supreme Court, it should have been known by the whole world that since July, 1946, that is, more than a year ago, the opinion of the members of this Court had already been crystallized to the effect that under the Constitution, aliens are forbidded from acquiring urban lands in the Philippines, and it must have known that in this case a great majority had voted in that sense on February 24, 1947. The constitutional question involved in this case cannot be left undecided without jeopardizing public interest. The uncertainty in the public mind should be dispelled without further delay. While the doubt among the people as to what is the correct answer to the question remains to be dissipated, there will be uneasiness, undermining public morale and leading to evils of unpredictable extent. This Supreme Tribunal, by overwhelming majority, already knows what the correct answer is, and should not withhold and keep it for itself with the same zealousness with which the ancient families of the Eumolpides and Keryces were keeping the Eleusinian mysteries. The oracle of Delphus must speak so that the people may know for their guidance what destiny has in store for them. The great question as to whether the land bequeathed to us by our forefathers should remain as one of the most cherished treasures of our people and transmitted by inheritance to unending generations of our race, is not a new one. The long chain of land-grabbing invasions, conquests, depredations, and colonial imperialism recorded in the darkest and bloodiest pages of history from the bellicose enterprises of the Hittites in the plains of old Assyria, irrigated by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, and the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos, up to the conquests of Hernan Cortes and Pizarro, the achievements of Cecil Rhodes, and the formation of the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French and German colonial empires, had many of its iron links forged in our soil since Magellan, the greatest navigator of all history, had set foot at Limasawa and paid, for his daring enterprises, with his life at the hands of Lapulapu's men in the battle of Mactan. Since then, almost four centuries ago, our people have continuously been engaged in an unrelentless struggle to defend the national patrimony against the aggressive onslaughts of foreigners bent on grabbing our lands. First came the Spanish encomenderos and other gratuitous concessioners who were granted by the Spanish crown immense areas of land. Immediately came the friars and other religious corporations who, notwithstanding their sacred vow of poverty, felt their greed whetted by the

96 bountiful opportunities for easy and unscrupulous enrichment. Taking advantage of the uncontrollable religious leadership, on one side, and of the Christian virtues of obedience, resignation, humility, and credulity of a people who, after conversion to Catholicism, embraced with tacit faith all its tenets and practiced them with the loyalty and fidelity of persons still immune from the disappointments and bitterness caused by the vices of modern civilization, the foreign religious orders set aside all compunction to acquire by foul means many large estates. Through the practice of confession and other means of moral intimidation, mostly based on the eternal tortures of hell, they were able to obtain by donation or by will the lands of many simple and credulous Catholics who, in order to conquer the eternal bliss of heaven, renounced all their property in favor of religious orders and priests, many under the guise of chaplaincies or other apparently religious purposes, leaving in destitute their decendants and relatives. Thus big religious landed estates were formed, and under the system unbearable iniquities were committed. The case of the family of Rizal is just an index of the situation, which, under the moral leadership of the hero, finally drove our people into a national revolution not only against the Spanish sovereignty under which the social cancer had grown to unlimited proportions. Profiting from the lessons of history, the Delegates to our Constitutional Convention felt it their duty to insert in the fundamental law effective guarantees for conserving the national patrimony, the wisdom of which cannot be disputed in a world divided into nations and nationalities. In the same way that scientists and technicians resorted to radar, sonars, thermistors and other long range detection devices to stave off far-away enemy attacks in war, said Delegates set the guarantees to ward off open inroads or devious incursions into the national patrimony as a means of insuring racial safety and survival. When the ideal of one world should have been translated into reality, those guarantees might not be needed and our people may eliminate them. But in the meantime, it is our inescapable devoir, as the ultimate guardians of the Constitution, never to neglect the enforcement of its provisions whenever our action is called upon in a case, like the one now before us. One of the fundamental purposes of the government established by our Constitution is, in its very words, that it "shall conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation." That mandate is addressed to all departments and branches of our government, without excluding this Supreme Court. To make more specific the mandate, Article XIII has been inserted so as to avoid all doubt that all the natural resources of the country are reserved to Filipino citizens. Our land is the most important of our natural resources. That land should be kept in the hands of our people until, by constitutional amendment, they should decide to renounce that age-long patrimony. Save by hereditary succession — the only exception allowed by the Constitution — no foreigner may by any means acquire any land, any kind of land, in the Philippines. That was the overwhelming sentiment prevailing in the Constitutional Convention, that was the overpowering desire of the great majority of the Delegates, that was the dominating thought that was intended to be expressed in the great document, that was what the Committee on Style — the drafter of the final text — has written in the Constitution, and that was what was solemnly ratified in the plebiscite by our people, who then were rankling by the sore spot of illegally Japanized Davao. The urgency of settling once and forever the constitutional question raised in this case cannot be overemphasized. If we should decide this question after many urban lots have been transferred to and

97 registered in the name of alien purchasers, a situation may be created in which it will be hard to nullify the transfers and the nullification may create complications and problems highly distasteful to solve. The Georgia case is an objective lesson upon which we can mirror ourselves. From pages 22 and 23 of the book of Charless P. Curtiss, Jr. entitled "Lions Under the Throne," we quote the following: It is of interest that it seems to have happened chiefly in important cases. Fletcher vs. Peck, in 1810, is the stock example. That was the first case in which the Court held a state statute void. It involved a national scandal. The 1795 legislature of Georgia sold its western lands, most of Alabama and Mississippi, to speculators. Perhaps it was the greatest real estate steal in our history. The purchase price was only half a million dollars. The next legislature repealed the statute for fraud, the bribery of legislator, but not before the land companies had completed the deal and unloaded. By that time, and increasingly soon afterwards, more and more people had bought, and their title was in issue. Eleven million of the acres had been bought for eleven cents an acre by leading citizens of Boston. How could they clear their title? Alexander Hamilton gave an opinion, that the repeal of the grant was void under the Constitution as an impairment of the obligation of a contract. But could they not get a decision from the Supreme Court? Robert Fletcher of Anhirst, New Hampshire, had bought fifteen thousand acres from John Peck of Boston. He sued Peck, and he won. Fletcher appealed. Plainly it was a friendly suit. Marshall was nobody's fool. He told Cranch that the Court was reluctant to decide the case "as it appeared manifestly made up for the purpose of getting the Court's judgment." John Quincy Adams so reports in his diary. Yet Marshall decided it, and he held the repeal void, just as Hamilton said it was. "The fact that Marshall rendered an opinion, under the circumstances," says Beveridge, "is one of the finest proofs of his greatness. A weaker man than John Marshall, and one less wise and courageous, would have dismissed the appeal." That may be, but it was the act of a stateman, not of a judge. The Court has always been able to overcome its judicial diffidence on state occasions. We see from the above how millions of acres of land were stolen from the people of Georgia and due to legal technicalities the people were unable to recover the stolen property. But in the case of Georgia, the lands had fallen into American hands and although the scandal was of gigantic proportions, no national disaster ensued. In our case if our lands should fall into foreign hands, although there may not be any scandal at all, the catastrophe sought to be avoided by the Delegates to our Constitutional Convention will surely be in no remote offing. We conclude that, under the provisions of the Constitution, aliens are not allowed to acquire the ownership of urban or residential lands in the Philippines and, as consequence, all acquisitions made in contravention of the prohibitions since the fundamental law became effective are null and void per se and ab initio. As all public officials have sworn, and are duty bound, to obey and defend the Constitution, all those who, by their functions, are in charge of enforcing the prohibition as laid down and interpreted in the decision in this case, should spare no efforts so that any and all violations which may have taken place should be corrected.

98 We decide, therefore, that, upon the above premises, appellant Alexander A. Krivenko, not being a Filipino citizen, could not acquire by purchase the urban or residential lot here in question, the sale made in his favor by the Magdalena Estate, Inc. being null and void ab initio, and that the lower court acted correctly in rendering the appealed decision, which we affirm. HILADO, J., concurring: Upon appellant's motion to withdraw his appeal herein with the conformity of the Solicitor General in behalf of appellee, indulging, at that time, all possible intendments in favor of another department, I ultimately voted to grant the motion after the matter was finally deliberated and voted upon. But the votes of the ten Justices participating were evenly divided, and under Rule 52, section 4, in relation, with Rule 56, section 2, the motion was denied. The resolution to deny was adopted in the exercise of the court's discretion under Rule 52, section 4, by virtue of which it has discretion to deny the withdrawal of the appeal even though both appellant and appellee agree upon the withdrawal, when appellee's brief has been filed. Under the principle that where the necessary number have concurred in an opinion or resolution, the decision or determination rendered is the decision or determination of the court (2 C.J.S., 296), the resolution denying the motion to withdraw the appeal was the resolution of the court. Pursuant to Rule 56, section 2, where the court in banc is equally divided in opinion, such a motion "shall be denied." As a necessary consequence, the court as to decide the case upon the merits. After all, a consistent advocate and defender of the principle of separation of powers in a government like ours that I have always been, I think that under the circumstances it is well for all concerned that the Court should go ahead and decide the constitutional question presented. The very doctrine that the three coordinate, co-equal and independent departments should be maintained supreme in their respective legitimate spheres, makes it at once the right and duty of each to defend and uphold its own peculiar powers and authority. Public respect for and confidence in each department must be striven for and kept, for any lowering of the respect and diminution of that confidence will in the same measure take away from the very usefulness of the respective department to the people. For this reason, I believe that we should avert and avoid any tendency in this direction with respect to this Court. I am one of those who presume that Circular No. 128, dated August 12, 1947, of the Secretary of Justice, was issued in good faith. But at the same time, that declaration in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 5 of Circular No. 14, which was already amended, to the effect that private residential, commercial, industrial or other classes of urban lands "are not deemed included within the purview of the prohibition contained in section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution", made at a time when the self-same question was pending decision of this Court, gives rise to the serious danger that should this Court refrain from deciding said question and giving its own interpretation of the constitutional mandate, the people may see in such an attitude an abandonment by this Court of a bounden duty, peculiarly its own, to decide a question of such a momentous transcedence, in view of an opinion, given in advance of its own decision, by an officer of another department. This will naturally detract in no small degree from public respect and confidence towards the highest Court of land. Of course, none of us — the other governmental departments included — would desire such a situation to ensue.

99 I have distinctively noticed that the decision of the majority is confined to the constitutional question here presented, namely, "whether or not an alien under our Constitution may acquire residential land." (Opinion, p. 2) Leases of residential lands, or acquisition, ownership or lease of a house or building thereon, for example, are not covered by the decision. With these preliminary remarks and the statement of my concurrence in the opinion ably written by the Chief Justice, I have signed said decision. BRIONES, M., conforme: Estoy conforme en un todo con la ponencia, a la cual no e puede añadir ni quitar nada, tal es su acabada y compacta elaboracion. Escribo, sin embargo, esta opinion separada nada mas que para unas observaciones, particularmente sobre ciertas fases extraordinarias de este asunto harto singular y extraordinario. I. Conforme se relata en la concurrencia del Magistrado Sr. Perfecto, despues de laboriosas deliberaciones este asunto se puso finalmente a votacion el 24 de Febrero de este año, confirmandose la sentencia apelada por una buena mayoria. En algunos comentarios adelantados por cierta parte de la prensa — impaciencia que solo puede hallar explicacion en un nervioso y excesivo celo en la vigilancia de los intereses publicos, maxime tratandose, como se trata, de la conservacion del patrimonio nacional — se ha hecho la pregunta de por que se ha demorado la promulgacion de la sentencia, habiendose votado el asunto todavia desde case comienzos del año. A simple vista, la pregunta tiene justificacion; pero bien considerados los hechos se vera que no ha habido demora en el presente caso, mucho menos una demora desusada, alarmante, que autorice y justifique una critica contra los metodos de trabajo de esta corte. El curso seguido por el asunto ha sido normal, bajo las circunstancias. En realidad, no yan en esta Corte ahora, sino aun en el pasado, antes de la guerra, hubo mas lentitud en casos no tan dificiles ni tan complicados como el que nos ocupa, en que las cuestiones planteadas y discutidas no tenian la densidad constitucional y juridica de las que se discuten en el presente caso. Hay que tener en cuenta que desde el 24 de Febrero en que se voto finalmente el asunto hasta el 1.0 de Abril en que comenzaron las vacaciones judiciales, no habian transcurrido mas que 34 dias; y cuando se reanudaron formalmente las sesiones de esta Corte en Julio se suscito un incidente de lo mas extraordinario — incidente que practicamente vino a impedir, a paralizar la pronta promulgacion de la sentencia. Me refiero a la mocion que el 10 de Julio persentaron los abogados del apelante pidiendo permiso para retirar su apelacion. Lo sorpredente de esta mocion es que viene redactada escuetamente, sin explicar el por que de la retirada, ni expresar ningun fundamento. Pero lo mas sorpredente todavia es la conformidad dada por el Procurador General, tambien escueta e inceremoniosamente. Digo que es sorprendente la retirada de la apelacion porque pocos casos he visto que hayan sido arguidos con tanta energiaa, tanto interes y tanto celo por la parte apelante como este que nos ocupa. Los abogados del apelante no solo presentaron un alegato concienzudo de 34 paginas, sino que cuando se llamo a vista el asunto informaron verbalmente ante esta Corte argumentando vigorosa y extensamente sobre el caso. El Procurador General, por su parte, ha presentado un alegato igualmente

100 denso, de 31 paginas, en que se discuten acabadamente, hasta el punto maximo de saturacion y agotamiento, todos los angulos de la formidable cuestion constitutional objeto de este asunto. Tambien informo el Procurador General verbalmente ante esta Corte, entablando fuerte lid con los abogados del apelante. Con la mocion de retirada de la apelacion se hubo de retardar necesariamente la promulgacion de la sentencia, pues trabajosas deliberaciones fueron necesarias para resolver la cuestion, dividiendose casi por igual los miembros de la Corte sobre si debia o no permitirse la retirada. Habia unanimidad en que bajo la regla 52, seccion 4, del Reglamento de los Tribunales teniamos absoluta discrecion para conceder o denegar la mocion, toda vez que los alegatos estaban sometidos desde hacia tiempo, el asunto estaba votado y no faltaba mas que la firma y promulgacion de la decision juntamente con las disidencias. Sin embargo, algunos Magistrados opinaban que la discrecion debia ejercitarse en favor de la retirada en virtud de la practica de evitar la aplicacion de la Constitucion a la solucion de un litigio siempre que se puede sentenciarlo de otra manera. (Entre los Magistrados que pensaban de esta manera se incluian algunos que en el fundo del asunto estaban a favor de la confirmacion de la sentencia apelada, es decir, creian que la Constitucion prohibe a los extranjeros la adquisicion a titulo dominical de todo genero de propiedad inmueble, sin excluir los solares residenciales, comerciales e industriales.) Pero otros Magistrados opinaban que en el estado tan avanzado en que se hallaba el asunto los dictados del interes publico y de la sana discrecion requerian imperiosamente que la cuestion se atacase y decidiese frontalmente; que si una mayoria de esta Corte estaba convencida, como al parecer lo estaba, de que existia esa interdiccion constitucional contra la facultad adquisitiva de los extranjeros, nuestro claro deber era apresurarnos a dar pleno y positivo cumplimiento a la Constitucion al presentarse la primera oportunidad; que el meollo del asunto, la lis mota era eso — la interdiccion constitucional — ; por tanto, no habia otra manera de decidirlo mas que aplicando la Constitucion; obrar de otra manera seria desercion, abandono de un deber jurado. Asi estaban las deliberaciones cuando ocurre otro incidente mucho mas extraordinario y sorprendente todavia que la retirada no explicada de la apelacion con la insolita conformidad del Procurador General; algo asi como si de un cielo sereno, sin nubes, cayera de pronto un bolido en medio de nosotros, en medio de la Corte: me refiero a la circular num. 128 del Secretario de Justicia expedida el 12 de Agosto proximo pasado, esto es, 32 dias despues de presentada la mocion de retirada de la apelacion. Esa circular se cita comprensivamente en la ponencia y su texto se copia integramente en la concurrencia del Magistrado Sr. Perfecto; asi que me creo excusado de transcibirla in toto. En breves terminos, la circular reforma el parrafo 5 de la circular num. 14 del mismo Departamento de Justicia de fecha 25 de Agosto, 1945, y levanta la prohibicion o interdiccion sobre el registro e inscripcion en el registro de la propiedad de las "escrituras o documentos en virtud de los cuales terrenos privados residencias, comerciales, industriales u otras clases de terrenos urbanos, o cualquier derecho, titulo o interes en ellos, se transfieren, ceden o gravan a un extranjero que no es nacional enemigo." En otras palabras, el Secretario de Justicia, por medio de esta circular dejaba sin efecto la prohibicion contenida en lacircular num. 14 del mismo Departamento — la prohibicion que precisamente ataca el apelante Krivenko en el asunto que tenemos ante Nos — y authorizaba y ordenaba a todoslos Registradores de Titulos en Filipinas para que inscribiesen las escrituras o documentos de venta, hipoteca o cualquier otro gravamen

101 a favor de extranjeros, siempre que no se tratase de terrenos publicos o de "terrenos privados agricolas," es decir, siempre que los terrenos objeto de la escritura fuesen "residenciales, comerciales e industriales." La comparacion de esa circular con un bolido caido subitamenteen medio de la Corte no es un simple tropo, no esuna mera imagen retorica; refleja una verdadera realidad.Esa circular, al derogar la prohibicion decretada en elparrafo 5 de la circular num. 14 — prohibicion que, comoqueda dicho, es precisamente el objeto del presente asunto — venia practicamente a escamotear la cuestion discutida, lacuestion sub judice sustrayendola de la jurisdiccion de lostribunales. Dicho crudamente, el Departamento de Justiciavenia a arrebatar el asunto de nuestras manos, delas manos de esta Corte, anticipandose a resolverlo por simismo y dando efectividad y vigor inmediatos a su resolucionmediante la correspondiente autorizacion a los Registradoresde Titulos. A la luz de esa circular queda perfectamente explicadala mocion de retirada de la apelacion consentida insolitamentepor el Procurador General. ¿ Para que esperar ladecision de la Corte Suprema que acaso podria ser adversa? ¿ No estaba ya esa circular bajo la cual podian registrarseahora la ventas de terrenos residenciales, comerciales oindustriales a extranjeros? Por eso no es extraño quelos abogados del apelante Krivenko, en su mocion de 1.0 de Septiembre, 1947, pidiendo la reconsideracion de nuestroauto denegando la retirada de la apelacion, dijeran porprimera vez como fundamento que la cuestion ya era simplemente academica ("question is now moot") en vista deesa circular y de la conformidad del Procurador Generalcon la retirada de la apelacion. He aqui las propias palabras de la mocion del apelante Krivenko: In view of Circular No. 128 of the Department of Justice, dated August 12, 1947, which amends Circular No. 14 by expressly authorizing the registration of the sale of urban lands to aliens, and in view of the fact that the Solicitor General has joined in the motion for withdrawal of the appeal, there is no longer a controversy between the parties and the question is now moot. For this reason the court no longer has jurisdiction to act on the case.1 Lo menos que se puede decir de esa accion del Departamentode Justicia atravesandose en el camino de los tribunalesmientras un asunto esta sub judice, es que ello no tieneprecedentes, que yo sepa, en los anales de la administracionde justicia en Filipinas en cerca de medio siglo que llevamosde existencia bajo un gobierno constitucional y sustancialmente republicano. Ni aun en los llamados dias del Imperio, cuando la soberania americana era mas propensa a manejar el baston grueso y afirmar vigorosamente losfueros de su poder y autoridad, se vio jamas a un departamento de Justicia o a alguna de sus dependencias entrometerseen el ejercicio ordenado por los tribunales de sujurisdiccion y competencia. Era una tradicion firmamenteestablecida en las esfersas del Poder Ejecutivo — tradicioninviolada e inviolable — maxime en el Departamento de Justicia y en la Fiscalia General, el inhibirse de expresar algunaopinion sobre un asunto ya sometido a los tribunales, excepto cuando venian llamados a hacerlo, en representaciondel gobierno, en los tramites de un litigio, civil o criminal,propiamente planteado ante dichos tribunales. Fuera deestos casos, la inhibicion era tradicionalmente absoluta,observada con la devocion y la escrupulosidad de un rito.Y la razon era muy sencilla: hamas se queria estorbar nientorpecer la funcion de los tribunales de justicia, loscuales, bajo la carta organica y las leyes, tenian

102 absolutoderecho a actuar con maximo desembarazo, libres de todaingerencia extraña. Esto se hizo bajo la Ley Cooper; estose hizo bajo la Ley Jones; y esto se hizo bajo la Ley Tydings-McDuffie, la ley organica del Commonwealth. Creo que el pueblo filipino tiene derecho a que eso mismo se haga bajo el gobierno de la Republica, que es suyo, que es de su propia hechura. ¡ No faltaba mas que los hombres de su propia raza le nieguen lo que no le negaron gobernantesde otra raza! No se niega la facultad de supervision que tiene el Departamento de Justicia sobre las oficinas y dependenciasque caen bajo su jurisdiccion, entre ellas las varias oficinasde registro de la propiedad en Manila y en las provincias.Tampoco se niega la facultad que tiene dicho Departamentopara expedir circulares, ya de caracter puramente administrativo,ya de caracter semijudicial, dando instrucciones,vgr., a los registradores acerca de como deben desempenarsus funciones. De hecho la circular num. 14 de 25 deAgosto, 1945, es de esta ultima naturaleza: en ella seinstruye y ordena a los registradores de titulos que noregistren ni inscriban ventas de propiedad inmueble aextranjeros, asi sean terrenos residenciales, comerciales oindustriales. Pero la facultad llega solo hasta alli; fuerade esas fronteras el campo ya es pura y exclusivamentejudicial. Cuando una determinada circular del Departamentoa los registradores es combatida o puesta en telade juicio ante los tribunales, ora por fundamentosconstitucionales, ora por razones meramente legales, ya no esel Departamento el que tiene que determinar o resolverla disputa, sino que eso compete en absoluto a los tribunalesde justicia. Asi lo dispone terminantemente el articulo200 del Codigo Administrativo. Segun este articulo, elasunto o disputa debe elevarse en forma de consulta a la Sala Cuarta del Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Manila.La ley no confiere ninguna facultad al Departamento deJusticia para enjuiciar y decidir el caso. Y cuando unaparte no estuviere conforme con la decision de la SalaCuarta, ella puede alzarse de la sentencia para ante laCorte Suprema. He aqui el texto integro del articulo 200 del Codigo Administrativo: SEC. 200. Reference of doubtful matter to judge of fourth branch of Court of First Instance at Manila. — When the register of deeds is in doubt with regard to the proper step to be taken or memorandum to be made in pursuance of any deed, mortgage, or other instrument presented for registration or where any party in interest does not agree with the register of deeds with reference to any such matter, the question shall be referred to the judge of the fourth branch of the Court of First Instance of the Ninth Judicial District either on the certificate of the register of deeds stating the question upon which he is in doubt or upon the suggestion in writing of the party in interest; and thereupon said judge, upon consideration of the matter as shown by the record certified to him, and in case of registered lands, after notice to the parties and hearing, shall enter an order prescribing the step to be taken or memorandum to be made. Tal es lo que ha ocurrido en el presente caso. Krivenkopresento su escritura de compraventa al Registrador de laPropiedad de Manila. Este denego la inscripcion solicitadaen virtud de la prohibicion contenida en la circular num.14. ¿ Que hizo Krivenko entonces? Elevo acaso el asuntoal Departamento de Justicia? No. Lo que hicieron susabogados entonces fue presentar una demanda el 23 de Noviembre, 1945, contra el Registrador de Titulos ante laSala Cuarta del Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Manila,numerandose dicha demanda como consulta num. 1289; ycuando esta Sala decidio el asunto confirmando la acciondel Registrador, Krivenko trajo a esta Corte la apelacionque estamos

103 considerando. Tan elemental es esto que enla misma circular num. 14 se dice que la prohibicion quedadecretada hasta que los tribunales resuelvan lo contrario. He aqui la fraseologia pertinente de dicha circularnum. 14: . . . the registration of said deeds or other documents shall be denied, — unless and /or until otherwise specifically directed by a final decision or order of a competent court — and the party in interest shall be advised of such denial, so that he could avail himself of the right to appeal therefrom, under the provisions of section 200 of the Revised Administrative Code. La posicion de la Corte Suprema ante este caso claro ypositivo de intromision (interference) en sus funciones esde lo mas peculiar. Tenemos en el Reglamento de losTribunales algunas disposiciones que proveen sancion pordesacato para ciertos actos de intromision en el ejercicio de lasfunciones judiciales.2 Pero se preguntara naturalmente;son aplicables estas disposiciones cuando la intromisionprocede de un ramo del poder ejecutivo, el cual, como sesabe, en la mecanica de los poderes del Estado, es — usandoun anglicismo-coigual y coordinado con el poder judicial,maxime si esa intromision se ha realizado so capa de unacto oficial? Cualquiera, pues, puede imaginarse la situaciontremendamente embarazosa, inclusive angustiosa enque esta Corte ha quedado colocada con motivo de esa intromision departamental, exponiendose a chocar con otropoder del Estado. En casos recientes en que estaban envueltos otros poderes, esta Corte, estimando dudosa suposicion constitucional, prefirio adoptar una actitud deelegante inhibicion, de "manos fuera" (hands-off), si bienhay que hacer constar que con la fuerte disidencia dealgunos Magistrados, entre ellos el opinante.3 Tenemos, portanto, un caso de verdadera intromision en que siendo, porlo menos, dudosa la facultad de esta Corte para imponeruna sancion por desacato de acuerdo con el Reglamento delos Tribunales, le queda el unico recurso decente, ordenado:registrar su excepcion sin ambages ni eufemismos contrala intromision, y reafirmar con todo vigor, con toda firmezasu independencia. Se arguye con tenaz persitencia que debiamos de haberconcedido la mocion de retirada de la apelacion, por dosrazones: (a) porque el Procurador General estaba conformecon dicha retirada; (b) para evitar la resolucion delpunto constitucional envuelto, en virtud de la practica,segun se dice, de soslayar toda cuestion constitucionalsiempre que se pueda. Respecto de la primera razon serasuficiente decir que el Procurador General es libre de entraren cualquiera transaccion sobre un asunto en que interviene,pero es evidente que su accion no ata no obliga aesta Corte en el ejercicio de la discrecion que le confierela regla, 52, seccion 4, del Reglamento de los Tribunales,que reza como sigue: Rule 52, SEC. 4 — An appeal may be withdrawn as of right at any time before the filing of appelle's brief.After that brief is filed the withdrawal may be allowed by the court in its discretion. . . . (Las cursivas son nuestras.) Como se ve, nuestra discrecion es absoluta:no estacondicionada por la conformidad o disconformidad de una delas partes. Y la incondicionalidad de esa discrecion es masabsoluta e imperativa alli donde el litigio versa sobre unamateria queno afecta solo a un interes privado, sino quees de interes publico, como el caso presente en que el Procurador General ha transigido no sobre un asunto suyopersonal o de un cliente particular, sino de un cliente demucha mayor monta y significacion — el pueblo filipino —

104 ysiendo materia del litigio la propiedad del suelo, parte, vitalisima del patrimonio nacional que nuestro pueblo hacolocado bajo la salvaguardia de la Constitucion. Respecto del segundo fundamento, o se que debiamospermitir la retirada dela apelacion para no tener queresolver la cuestion constitucional disputada, bastara decirque la practica, prinsipio o doctrina que se invoca, llevaconsigo una salvedad o cualificacion y es que el litigio se pueda resolver de otra mañera. ¿ Podemos soslayar elpunto constitucional discutido en el pleito que nos ocupa? ¿ Podemos decidirlo bajo otra ratio decidendi, esto es, queno sea la constitucionalidad o inconstitucionalidad de laventa del inmueble al apelante Krivenko, en virtud desucondicion de extranjero? Indudablemente que no: la lis mota, la unica, es la misma constitucionalidad de la compraventa de que se trata. Para decidir si al recurrido apelado, Registrador de Titulos de la Ciudad de Manila,le asiste o no razon para denegar la inscripcion solicitada por el recurrente y apelante, Krivenko, la unica disposicionlegal que se puede aplicar es el articulo XIII, seccion 5, dela Constitucion de Filipinas, invocado por el Registrador como defensa e inserto en el parrafo 5 de la circular num.14 como fundamento de la prohibicion o interdiccion contrael registro de las ventas de terreno a extranjeros. Nohay otra ley para el caso. El caso de Oh Cho contra el Director de Terrenos43 Gac. Of., No. 3 pag. 866), que se cita en unade las disidencias, es completamente diferente. Es verdadque alli se planteo tambien la cuestion constitucional de quese trata, por cierto que el que lo planteaba en nombre delGobierno era el actual Secretario de Justicia que entoncesera Procurador General, y lo pleantaba en un sentido absolumente concorde con la circular num. 14. Pero esta Corte, con la disidencia de algunos Magistrados, opto porsoslayar el punot constitucional denegando el registro solicitadopor Oh Cho, por fundamento de que bajo la LeyNo. 2874 sobre terrenos de dominio publico los extranjerosestan excluidos de dichos terrenos; es decir, que el terrenosolicitado se considero como terreno publico. ¿ Podemos hacer la misma evasion en el presente caso, acogiendonosa la ley No. 2874 o a cualquier otra ley? Indudablemente que no porque ningun Magistrado de esta Corte, muchomenos los disidentes, consideran el terreno reclamado por Krivenko como terreno publico. Luego todos los caminosestan bloqueados para nosotros, menos el camino constitucional.Luego el segundo fundamento alegado paracubrir la evasiva tambien debe descartarse totalmente. Se insinua que no debiamos darnos prisa en resolver constitucionalmente el presente asunto, puesto que puedenpresentarse otros de igual naturaleza en tiempo no remoto,y en efecto se cita el caso de Rellosa contraGaw Chee Hun(49 Off. Gaz., 4345), en que los alegatos de ambas partesya estan sometidos y se halla ahora pendiente de decision.Es evidente que esto tampoco arguye en favor de la evasiva,en primer lugar, porque cuando se le somete el deber de iraveriguando en su Escribania si hay casos de igual naturaleza, sino que los casos se someten por orden de prelaciony prioridad de tiempo a medida que esten preparados paracaso debe decidirse por sus propios meritos y conforme ala ley pertinente. La salvedad o cualificacion de la doctrinao practica que se invoca no dice: "hay qoe soslayar la cuestionconstitucional siempre que se pueda resolver de otramanera, reservando dicha cuestion constitucional para otro caso; la salvedad es dentro del mismo caso. De otro modono seria un simple soslayo legal, sino que seria unsub terfugio impropio, indebido, ilegal. En el presente caso no ha habido ninguna prisa, excesivo celo, como se insinua;desde luego no mayor prisa que en otros asuntos.

105 Elcurso, el ritmo de los tramites ha sido normal; en realidad,si ha habido algo, ha sido un poco de parsimonia, lentitud. ¿ Habia justificacion para demorar el pronto, rapido pronunciamento de nuestro veredicto sobre la formidablecuestion constitucional debatida, por lo menos, tan pronto como fuese posible? ¿ Habia alguna razon de interespublico para justificar una evasiva? Absolutamenteninguna. Por el contrario, nuestro deber ineludible, imperioso,era formular y promulgar inmediatamente ese veredicto. Lo debiamos a nuestras conciencias; lo debiamos, sobretodo, al pais para la tranquilidad y conveniencia de todos — del pueblo filipino y de los extranjeros residentes o quetuvieren voluntad de residir o negociar en estas Islas. Asicada cual podria hacer su composicion de lugar, podriaorientarse sin zozobras ni miedo a la incertidumbre. Tantonacionales como extranjeros sabrian donde invertir sudinero. Todo lo que necesitabamos era tener dentro de esta Corte una provee la interdiccion de que se trata. Tuvimosesa mayoria cunado se voto por primera vez este asuntoen Febrero de este año (8 contra 3); la tuvimos cuandodespues de laboriosas deliberaciones quedo denegada lamocion de retirada de la mayoria haya cambiado de opinionsobre el fondo de la cuestion; la tenemos ahora naturalmente.Por tanto, nada hace falta ya para que se de lasenal de "luz verde" a la promulgacion de la sentencia.Toda evasiva seira neglignecia, desidia. Es mas: seriaabandono de un deber jurado, como digo en otra parte deesta concurrencia; y la Corte Suprema naturalmente npha de permitir que se la pueda proferir el cargo de queha abandonado su puesto privilegiado de vigia, de centinela avanzado de la Constitucion. No es que la Corte Suprema, con esto, pretenda tener"un monopolio de la virtud de sostener y poner en vigor,o de suplir una deficiencia en la Constitucion," o que segobierno, como se insinua en una de las disidencias. Nohay tal cosa. El principio de la supremacia judicial no esuna pretension ni mucho menos un ademan de inmodestiao arrogancia, sino que es una parte vital de nuestrasinstutuciones, una condicion peculiarisima de nuestro sistema de gobierno en que la judicatura, como uno de lostres poderes del Estado, corresponde la facultad exclusivade disponer de los asuntos judiciales. Con respecto a losasuntos de registro particularmente esa facultad exclusivano solo se infiere del principio de la supremacia judicial, sino que, como ya se ha dicho en otra parte de esta concurrencia,se halla especificamente estutuida en el articulo 200del Codigo Administrativo transcrito arriba. Este articuloconfiere jurisdiccion exclusiva a los tribunales de justiciapara decidir las cuestiones sobre registro, y esto lo ha reconocido el mismo Departamento de Justicia en su circularnum. 14 al referir tales cuestiones a la determinacion oarbitrio judicial en casos de duda o litigio. Es injustificada la insinuacion de que, al parecer, la mayoria denego la retirada de la apelacion no tanto para resolver el asunto en su fondo o por sus meritos, como paraenrvar los efectos de la circular num. !28 del Departamentode Justicia, pues Krivenko, el apelante, habriaganado entonces su pleito no en virtud de una sentenciajudicial, sino pasando por la puerta trasera abierta por esacircular. Tampoco hay tal cosa. Ya repetidas veces seha dicho que el presente asunto se habia votado muchoantes de que se expidiese esa circular. Lo que mascorrectamente podria decirse es que antes de la expedicion deesa desafortunada circular poderosas razones de interespublico aconsejaban que se denegase la retirada de la apelacion y se diese fin al asunto mediante una sentencia enel fondo, despues de la expidicion esas razones quedaroncentuplicadas. La explicacion es sencilla: nuestra aquiescenciaa la reirada hubiera podico interpretarse entoncescomo que nuestra jurisdiccion. Es mas: hubiera podidointerpretarse como

106 una abyecta rendicion en la pugna porsostener los fueros de cada ramocoigual y coordinado del gobierno. Es todavia mas injustificada la insinuacion de que ladenegacion de la retirada de la apelacion equivale "a asumir queel solicitante-apelante y el Procurador General sehan confabulado con el Departamento de Justicia no solopara ingerirse en las funciones de esta Corte, sino paraenajenar el patrimonio nacional a los extranjeros." Estoes inconcebible. La corte presume que todos han obradode buena fe, de acuerdo con los dictados de su conciencia.Se ha denegado la retirada de la apelacion por razonespuramente juridicas y objectivas, sin consideracion a losmotivos de nadie. Por ultimo, estimo que debe rectificarse la asercion de queel Magistrado Hontiveros fue excluido de la votacion queculmino en un emmpate y que determino el rechazamientode la retirada de la apelacion, a tenor de la regla 56, seccion2, Reglamento de los Tribunales. El Magistrado Hontiverosno estaba presente en la sesion por estar enfermo;pero estaban presentes 10 Magistrados, es decir, mas queel numero necesario para formar quorum y para despacharlos asuntos. La rueda de la justicia en la Corte Supremajamas ha dejado de rodar por la ausencia de uno o dosmiembros, siempre que hubiese quorum. A la votacionprecedieron muy laboriosas y vivas deliberaciones. Ningun Magistrado Ilamo la atencion de la Corte hacia la ausencia del Sr. Hontiveros. Ningun Magistrado pidio que se leesperase o llamase al Sr. Hontiveros. Todos se conformaroncon que se efectuase la votacion, no obstante la ausencia del Sr. Hontiveros. En efecto, se hace la votaciony resulta un empate, es decir, 5 contra 5. De acuerdo conla regla 56, quedaba naturalmente denegrada la mocion deretirada. ¿Donde esta, pues, la "ilegalidad", donde la"arbitrariedad"? Algunos dias despues se presento una mocion de reconsideracion,la misma en que ya se alegaba como ndamentoel hecho de que la cuestion era simplemente academica (moot question) por la conformidad del Procurador Generalcon la retirada y por la circular num. !28 del Departamento de Justicia. Tampoco estaba presente el Sr. Hontiverosal someterse la mocion, la cual fue de nuevo denegada.Pregunto otra vez: ¿donde esta la "arbitrariedad"? Queculpa tenia la Corte de que el Sr. Hontiveros no pudieraestar presente por estar enfermo? ¿Iba a detenerse larueda de la justicia por eso? Conviene, sin embargo, hacerconstar que sobre el fondo de la cuestion el Sr. Hontiverosera uno de los 8 que habian votado en favor de la confirmacion de la sentencia apelada, es decir, en favor delveredicto de que la Contitucion excluye a los extrajerosde la propiedad de bienes raices en Filipinas. II. No queda casi nada decir sobre el fondo de lacuestion. Todos los angulos y fases de la misma estanacabadamente tratados y discutidos en la ponencia. Melimitare, por tanto, a hacer unas cuantas observaciones,unas sobre hermeneutica legal, y otra sobre historia nacionalcontemporanea, aprovachando en este ultimo respectomis reminiscencias y mi experiencia como humilde miembroque fui de la Asamblea Constituyente que redacto y arobola Constitucion de Filipinas. Toda la cuestion, a mi juicio, se reduce a determinar einterpretar la palabra "agricola" (agricultural) usada enel articulo XIII, seccion 5, de la Constitucion. He aqui eltexto completo de la seccion:

107 SEC. 5. — 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 in the Philippines. ¿Incluye la palabra "agricultural" aqui empleada los terrenosresidenciales, comerciales e industriales? Tal es lacuestion: la mayoria de esta Corte que si; los disidentesdicen que no. Es indudable que por razones sanas de hermenuetica legalel articulo XIII de que se trata debe interpretarse como untodo homogeneo, simetrico. En otras palabras, los cocablosalli empleados deben interpretarse en el sentido de quetienen un mismo significado. Es absurdo pensar o suponerque en el texto de una ley, sobre todo dentro del estrechomarco de un articulo, un vocablo tenga dos o mas significadosdistintos, a menos que la misma ley asi to diga expresamente. Lapresuncion es que el legislador sigue y seatiene a las reglas literarias elementales. Ahora bien: el articulo XIII consta de dos partes — laprimera, que trata de los terrenos agricolas de dominiopublico, y la segunda, que se a los terrenos agricolaprivados o partuculares. La primera parte se compone de las secciones 1 y 2que vinculanla propiedad de los terrenos publicos enel Estado y disponen que solo se pueden enajenar a favorde ciudadanos filipinos, o de corporaciones o asociacionesen que el 60 por ciento del cacital, por lo menos, pertenecea tales ciudadanos. En secciones se emplea literalmentela frase "public agricultural land." La segunda parte la componen las secciones 3 y 5: laseccion 3 perceptua que "the Congress may determine bylaw the size of private agricultural land which individuals,coporations, or associations may acquire and hold, subjectto rights existing prior to the enactment of such law"4 ;y la seccion 5 es la que queda transcrita mas arriba y esobjeto del presente litigio. En ambas secciones se emplealiteralmente la frase "private agricultural land." No hay ninguna cuestion de que la frase "public agriculturalland" empleada en la primera parte comprende terrenosresidenciales, comerciales e industriales; lo admitenlos mismos abogados del apelante y los Sres. Magistradosdisidentes. Y ¿por que lo admiten? Sera porque en laConstitucion se define la palabra "agricultural" aplicadaa terrenos publicos, en el sentido de incluir solaresresidenciales, comerciales e industriales? Indudablementeque no, porque en ninguna parte de la Constitucion se datal definicion. Lo admiten porque en esta jurisdicciontenemos una serie consistente de sentencias de esta CorteSuprema en que es jurisprudencia firmamente establecidala doctrina de que la palabra "agricultural" usada en laLey del Congreso de los Estados Unidos de 1902 (LeyCooper) y en nuestras leyes de terrenos publicos comprendey abarca solares residenciales, comerciales, industriales yqualquier otra clase de terrenos, excepto forestales yminerales.5 Es decir, que se aplica a la actual Constitucion deFilipinas una interpretacion clasica, tradicional, embebidaen nuestra jurisprudencia de cerca de medio siglo. Ahora bien, pregunto: si la palabra "agricultural" empleadaen la primera parte del articulo XIII tiene talsignificado — y lo tiene porque la Constitucion no da otrodiferente — ¿por que esa misma palabra empleada en lasegunda parte, unas cuantas lineas mas adelante, no hade tener el mismo significado?

108 ¿Da acaso la Constitucionuna definicion de la palabra "agricultural" cuandose refiere a terreno privado? ¿Donde esta esa definicion? ¿O es que se pretende que la diferenciacion opera no envirtud de la palabra "agricultural", sino en virtud delvocablo "public" o "private", segun que se trate de terrenopublico o privado? Si la intencion de la Asemblea Constituyente fuera eldar a la palabra "agricultural" aplicada a terreno privadoun significado distinto de cuando se refiere a terreno publico, lo hubiese hecho constar asi expresamente en elmismo texto de la Constitucion Si, como se admite, laAsemblea opto por no definir la palabra "agricultural"aplicada a terreno poblico porque contaba para ello con ladefinicion clasica establecida en la jurisprudencia, cuandola misma Asemblea tampoco definio la palabra con relaciona terreno privado, es logico inferir que tuvo la mismaintencion, esto es, aplicar la definicion de la jurisprudenciaa ambos tipos de terreno — el publico y el privado. Pensarde otra manera podria ser ofensivo, insultante; podriaequivaler a decir que aquella Asemblea estaba compuestade miembros ignorantes, desconocederos de las reglas elementalesen la tecnica de redaccion legislativa. Tuve el honor de partenecer a aquella Asemblea comouno de los Delegados por Cebu. Tambien me cupo elhonor de partenecer al llamado Comite de Siete — elcomite encargado finalmente de redactar la ponencia dela Constitucion. No digo que aquella Asemblea estabacompuesta de sabios, pero indudablemente no era inferiora ninguna otra de su tipo en cualquiera otra partedel mundo. Alli habia un plantel de buenos abogados,algunos versados y especialistas en derecho constitucional.Alli estaba el Presidente de la Universidad de FilipinasDr. Rafael Palma; alli estaba el propio Presidentede la Asemblea Constituyente Hon. Claro M. Recto, conlos prestigios de su reconocida cultura juridica y humanista; alli estaba tambien el Dr. Jose P. Laurel, considerado comouna de las primeras autoridades en derecho constitucionaly politico en nuestro pais. En el Comite de Siete o dePonencia figuraban el actual Presidente de Filipinas Hon.Manuel Roxas; el ex-Senador de Cebu Hon. Filemon Sotto;el Hon. Vicente Singson Encarnacion, lider de la minoria en la primera Asemblea Filipina, ex-miembro de la Comisionde FIlipinas, ex-Senador y ex-Secretario de Gabinete;el ex-Magistrado de la Corte Suprema Hon. NorbertoRomualdez; el actual Secretario de Hacienda Hon. MiguelCuaderno; y el ex-Decano del Colegio de Artes Liberalesde la Universidad de Filipinas, Hon. Conrado Benitez. No se puede concebir como bajo la inspiracion y guiade estas personas pudiera redactarse el texto de un articuloenque un vocablo — el vocablo "agricultural" — tuviera dosacepciones diferentes: una, aplicada a terrenos publicos;y otra, aplicada a terrenos privados. Menos se concibeque, si fuese esta la intencion, se incurriese en una comisionimperdonable: la omision de una definicion especifica, diferenciadora, que evitase caos y confusion en la mente delos abogados y del publico. Teniendo en cuenta la innegablecompetencia de los Delegados a la Asemblea Constituyentey de sus liders, lo mas logico pensar es que alno definir la palabra "agricultural" y al no diferenciarsu aplicacion entre terrenos publicos y privados, lo hicierondeliberamente, esto es, conla manifiesta intencion dedejar enteramente la interpretacion de la palabra a la luzde una sola comun definicin — la establecida en la jurisprudenciadel asunto tipico de Mapa contra Gobierno Insular y otrossimilares (supra); es decir, que la palabra "agricultural",aplicada a terrenos privados, incluye tambien solaresresidenciales, comerciales, e industriales.

109 A word or phrase repeated in a statute will bear the same meaning throughout the statute, unless a different intention appears. . . . Where words have been 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 in which they have been so previously used, although that sense may vary from the strict literal meaning of the words." (II Sutherland, Stat. Construction, p. 758.) Pero acaso se diga que la Asemblea Constituyente hadejado sin definir la palabra "agricultural" referente aterreno particular, dando a entendar con su silencio queendosaba la definicion al diccionario o a la usanza popular.La suposicion es igualmente insostenible. ?Por queen un caso se entrega la definicion a la jurisprudencia,y por que en otro al diccionario, o al habla popular?Aparte de que los miembros y dirigentes de la AsembleaConstituyente sabian muy bien que esto causaria unatremenda confusion. Ni los diccionarios, ni mucho menosel lenguaje popular, ofrecen apoyo seguro para una fiely autorizada interpretacion. Si el texto mismo de la ley,con definiciones especificas y casuisticas, todavia ofrecedudas a veces ¿como no el lexico vulgar, con su infinitavariedad de matices e idiotismos? Ahora mismo ¿no estamos presenciando una confusionn,una perplejidad? ¿Hay acaso uniformidad en la definicionde lo que es un terreno privado agricola? No; cadacual lo define a su manera. Uno de los disidentesel Magistrado Sr. Tuason toma su definicion de la palabra "agricultural " del Diccionario Internacional de Webster que dice . . . "of or pertaining to agricultural connected with, or engaged in, tillage; as the agricultural class; agricultural implements, wages etc." Tambien hacereferncia el mismo Magistrado al concepto popular. Otrodisidente el Magistrado Sr. Padilla dice que "the termprivate agricultural land means lands privately owneddevoted to cultivation, to the raising of agriculturalproducts." El Magistrado Sr Paras no da ninguna definicion;da por definida la palabra "agricultural", al parecer, segunel concepto popular. Pero, sobre todo, los abogados del apelante definen elvocablo de una manera distinta. Segun ellos, "land spoken of as `agricultural' naturally refers to land not only susceptible of agricultural or cultivation but more valuable for such than for another purpose, say residential,commercial or educational. . . . The criterion is notmere susceptibility of conversion into a farm but its greater value when devoted to one or the other purpose." Demode que, segun esta definicion, lo que determina la calidaddel terreno es su valor relativo, segun que se dedique alcultivo, o a residencia, o al comercio, o a la industria.Los autores de esta definicion indudablemente tienen encuenta el hecho de que en las afueras de las ciudades existenterrenos immensos que desde tiempo inmemorial se handedicado a la agricultura, pero que se han convertido ensubdivisiones multiplicandose su valor en mil por cientosi no mas. De hecho esos terrenos son agricolas; comoque todavia se ven alli los pilapiles y ciertas partes estancultivadas; pero en virtud de su mayor valor para residencia,comercio e industria se les aquiere colocar fuera dela prohibicion constitucional. En verdad, el criterio nopuede ser mas elastico y convencional, y denota cuanincierta y cuan confusa es la situacion a que da lugar latesis del apelante y de los que le sostienen. Si hubieramos de hacer depender la definicion de loque es un terreno agricola del concepto popular y de losdiccionarios, asi sean los mejores y mas cientificamente elaborados ¿que normas claras, concretas

110 y definitivasde diferenciacion podrian establecerse? ¿Podrian trazarsefronteras inconfundibles entre lo que es agricola y lo quees residencial, comercial e industrial? ¿Podria hacerseuna clasificacion que no fuese arbitraria? Indudablementeque no. El patron mas usual de diferenciacion es lanaturaleza urbana o rural del terreno; se considera comoresidencial, comercial e industrial todo lo que esta dentrode una urbe, ciudad o poblacion. Pero ¿resolveria esto la dificultad? Proporcionaria un patron exacto, cientifico,no arbitrario? Tampoco. Por que dentro de una ciudado poblacio puede haber y hay terrenos agricolas. Comodijo muy bien el Magistrado Sr. Willard en el asunto clasico de Mapa contra Gobierno Insular, "uno de los inconvenientes de la adopcion de este criterio es que es tanvago e indeterminado, que seria muy dificil aplicarlo enla practica. ¿Que terrenos son agricolas por naturaleza? l mismo Fiscal General, en su alegato presentado en este asunto, dice: 'La montaña mas pedregosa y el suelo mas pobre son susceptible de cultivo mediante la mano del hombre'" (Mapa contra Insular, 10 Jur. Fil.,183). Y Luego el Sr. Willard añade las siguietes observacionessumamente petinentes e ilustratives para una correctare solucion del asunto que nos ocupa, a saber: . . . Tales terrenos (agricolas, quiere decir) se pueden encontrar dentro de los limites de cualquier ciudad. Hay dentrode la ciudad de Manila, y en la parte densamente poblada de lamisma, una granja experimental. Esta es por su naturaleza agricola. Contigua a la Luneta, en la misma ciudad, hay una gran extension de terreno denominado Camp Wallace, destinada a sports. El terreno que circuda los muros de la ciudad de Manila, situado entre estos y el paseo del Malecon por el Sur y Este contiene muchas hectareas de extension y es de naturaleza agricola. La Luneta misma podria en cualquier tiempo destinarse al cultivo. La dificultad es mayor tratanndose de diferenciar unterreno agricola de un terreno industrial. En este respectoes preciso tener en cuenta que un terreno industiralno tienee que ser necesariamente urbano; en realidad,la tendencia moderna es a situar las industrias fuera deas ciudades en vastas zonas rurales. Verbigracia; anpredor de la famosa cascada de Maria Cristina en Lanao existen grandes extensiones de terreno agricola, algunasde propiedad particular. Cuando, se industrialice aquellaformidable fuerza hidraulica bajo el llamado Plan Beyster ¿que normas segfuras se podrian establecer para poner envigor la prohibicion constitucional fuese burlada enajenandosetierras agricolas de propiedad privada a favorde extranjeros, ya sean individuos, ya sean corporacioneso asociaciones, so pretexto de ser industriales? Resulta evidence de lo expueto que los redactores denuetra Constitucion no pudienron haber tenido la idea deque el articulo XIII fuera interpretado a la luz de ese criterio vago e indeterminado que llama el Sr. Willard. Es mas logico pensar que el criterio que ellos tenian enla mente era el criterio establicido en la jurisprudencia sentada en el asunto clasico de Mapa contra Gobierno y otros asuntos concomitantes citados — criterio mas frime, mas seguro, menos expuesto a confusion y arbitrariedad, y sobre todo, "que ofrece menos inconvenientes", parafraseando otra vez al Magistrado Sr. Willard, (supra, p. 185). Otro serio inconveniente, La seccion 3, articulo XIIIde;la Constitucion, dispone que "el Congreso puedo determinarpor ley l;a eextension superficial del terrenoprivado agricola que los individous, corporaciones o asociaciones pueden adquirir y poseer, sujeto a los derechos existentes antes de la aprobacion de dicha ley." Si seinterpretase que la frase "private agricultural land" noincluye terrenos

111 residenciales, comerciales e industriales,entonces estas ultimas clases de yterreno quedarian excluidas de la facultad reguladora concedida por la Constitucion al Congreso mediante dicha seccion 3. Entoncesun individuo o una corporacion podrian ser dueños de todoslos terrenos de una ciudad; no habria limite a las adquisicionesy posesiones en lo tocante a terrenos residenciales,comerciales e industriles. Esto parece absurdo, peroseria obligada consecuencia de la tesis sustentada por elapelante. Se hace hincapie en el argumento de que el el procesode tamizacion del articulo XIII durante las deliberacionesde la Asamblea Constituyente y de los Comites de Ponnnnenciay de estilo al principio no figuraba el adjetivo "agricola"en la seccion 5, diciendose solo "terreno privado" y quesolo mas trade se añadio la palabra calificativa agricola—"private agricultural land" De este se quiere inferir quela adicion de la palabra "agricultural" debio de ser poralgun motivo y este no podia ser mas que el de que sequiso excluir los terrenos residenciales comerciales e industriales, limitandose el precepto a los propia o estrictamenteagricolas. La deduccion es incorrecta y sin fundamento. No cabedecir que la adicion de la plabra "agricultural" en estecaso equivale a excuir los terrenos residenciales, comercialese industriales, por la sencilla razon de que la Constitucion no solo no define lo que es residencial comercial e industrial, comercial e industrial. En cambio ya hemosvisto que la palabra "agricultral" tiene una significaciontradicionalmente bien establecida en nuestra jurisprudenciay en nuestro vocabulario juridico: incluye no solo terrenoscultivados o susceptibles fe cultivo, sino tambien residencialescomerciales e industriales. Se admite por todo elmundo que la palabra tiene tal significacion en el articuloXIII, seccion 5, de la Constitucion, en cuanto se refierea terreno publico. Ahora bien; ¿que diferencia hay, despuesde todo, entire un terreno publico agricolo y uno sea a la calidad de agricola, absolutamente ninguna.Uno no es mas menois agricola que el otro. La unicadiferencia se refiere a la propiedad, al titulo dominical — en que el uno es del Estado y el otro es de un particular. En realidad, creo que la diferencia es mas bien psicologica,subjetiva — en que vulgarmente hablando pareceque los conceptos de "agricola" y "residencial" se repelen.No se debe menospreciar la influencia del vulgo en algunascosas; en la misma literatura el vulgo juega su papel; digasi no la formacion popular del romancero. Pero es indudable que cietas cosas estan por encima del conceptovulgar — una de estae la interpretacion de la leyes, lahermeneutica legal. Esto no es exagerar la importancia de la tecnica sino que es simplemente colocar las cosasensu verdadero lugar. La interpretacion de la ley es unafuncion de minoria — los abogados. Si no fuera asi paraque los abogados? ¿Y para que las escuelas de dercho,y para que los exmenes, cada vez mas rigidos, para de purar el alma de la toga, que dijo un gran abogado español?6 Asi que cuando decimos que el precepto constitucional en cuestion debe interpretatarse tecnicamente, a la luz de la jurisprudencia, por ser ello el metodo mas seguro para hallar la verdad judicial, no importa que ello repugne al concepto vulgar a simple vista, no ponemos,en realidad, nionguna pica en Flandes, sino que propugnamos una cosa harto elememntal por lo sabida. Por tanto no es necesario especular o devanarse lossesos tratando de inquirir por que en la tamizacion delprecepto se añadio el adjetivo 'agricultural" a las palabras"private land" en vez de dejarlas solas sin cualificacion.Algunos diran que fue por razon de simentria para hacer"pendant diran que fue por razon de simetria para hacer"pendant" con la frase "public agricultural land" puestamas arriba. Pero esto np

112 tiene ninguna importancia. Loimportante es saber que la añadidura, tal como esta jurisdiccion, de la palbra "agricultural" empleada en dicho texto. Eso es todo; lo demas creo que es puro bizantinis mo. III. Cero que una examen de los documentos y debatesde la Asamblea Constituyente para ver de inquirir la motivacion y finalidad del precepto constitucional que nos ocupapuede ayudar grandemente y arrojar no poca luz en lainterpretacion de la letra y espiritu de dicho precepto.Este genero de inquisicion es perfectamente propio y permisible en hermeneutica constitucional, y se ha hechosiempre, segun las majores autoridades sobre la materia. Cooley, en su authorizado tratado sobre Limitaciones Constitucionales (Constitutional Limitations) dice a este efectolo sigiuente: When the inquiry is directedto ascertaining the mischief designed to be remedied, or the purpose sought to be accomplished by a particular provision, it may be proper to examine the proceedings of the convention which framed the instrument. Where the proceedings clearly point out the purpose of the provision, the aid will be valuable and satisfactory; but where the question is one of abstract meaning, it will be difficult to derive from this source much reliable assistance in interpretation. (1 Cooley on Constitutional Limitations [8th ed.], p. 142.) ¿Que atmosfera prevalecia en la Asamblea sobre elproblema de la tierra en general sobre el problema capitalismo de los terrenos naturales? ¿Cual era la tendenciapredominante entre los Delegados? Y ¿como era tambienel giro de la opinion, del sentimiento publico es decir comoera el pulso del pueblo mismo del cual la Asamblea despuesde todo no era mas que organo e interprete? Varios discursos sobre el particular se pronounciaronen la Asamblea Constituyente. El tono predomionante entodos ellos era un fuerte, profundo nacionalismo. Tanto dentro como fuera de la Asamblea Constituyente era evidente, acusado, el afan unanime y decidido de conservar el patrimonio nacional no solo para las presentes generaciones filipinas, sino tambien para la posteridad. Y patrimonio nacional tenia, en la mente de todos un significadocategorio e indubitable; significion de si es dedominio publico o privado. Muestras tipicas y representativas de este tono pecular y dominantes de la ideologiaconstituyente son ciertas m,anifestaciones que constanen el diario de serines has en el curso de los debateso en el proceso de la redaccion del proyecto constitucionalpor Delegados de palabra autorizadam bien por su significacion personal bein por el papel particula que desempeñaban en las treas constituyentes. Por ejemplo el Delegado Montilla por Negros Occidental, conspicuo representante del agro, usando del privilegio de madia horaparlamentaria dijo en parte lo siguinte: . . . Con la completa nacionnalization de nuestras tierras y recursos natural debe entenderse que nuetro patrimonio nacional debe estar vinculado 100 por 100 en manos filipinas. Tierras y recursos naturales son inm,uebles y como tales pueden compararse con los organos vitales del cuerpo de una persona: la falta de posesion de los mismo puede caussar la muete instantannea o el abreviamiento de la vida (Diario de Sesiones Asamblea Constituyente, inedita, "Framing of the Constitution," tit. 2 0 pag. 592 Libro del Profesor Aruego). Como se ve el Delegado Montilla habla de tierras sin adjetivacion, es decir sin difenciar entre propiedad publica y privada.

113 El Delgado Ledesma, por Iloilo, otro conspicuo representante del agro presidente del comte de agricultura de la Asamblea que los extramnjeros no podian ser mismas palabras: La exclusion de los extranjeros del privilegio de adquirir terrenos publicos agricolas y de poder se dueños de propiedades inmuebles (real estate) es una parte necesaria de las leyes de terrenos publicos de Filipinas para mantener firme la idea de conservar Filipinaspara los filipos' (Diario de Sesiones, id.; Libro de Aruego, supra, pag. 593.) Es harto significtativo que en el informe del Colite de Nacionalizacion y Conservacion de Recursos Naturales de la Asamblea Constituyente la plabra tierra (land) se usa generricamente sin cualificacion de publica o privada. Dice el Comite: Que la tierra, los minerales los bosques y otros recursos naturalesconstituyen la herencia exclusiva de la nacion filipina. Deben,por tanto, ser conservados para aquellos que se halian bajo la autoridad soberana de esa nacion y para su posteridad. (Libro de Aruego, supra, pag. 595.) La conservacion y fomento del patrimonio nacional fue una verdadera obsesion en la Asamblea Constituyente. Sus mienbros que todavia viven recordaran l;a infinita paciencia, el esmero de orfe breria con que se trabajo el preambulo de la Constitucion. Cada frase, cada concepto se sometio a un rigido proceso de seleccion y las gemas resultans es la labor benedictina una de las gemas redel patrimonio nacional. He aqui el preambulo: The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divene Providence,in order to establish a government that shall enbody their ideals, conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and secure to themslves and their posterity the blessings of independence under a regime of justice, liberty, and democracy, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution. El espiritu fuertemente nacionalista que saturaba la Asamblea Constituyente con respecto a la tierre y recursosnaturales es de facil explicacion. Estabamos escribiendouna Constitucion no solo para el Commonwealth, sino tambien para la republica que advendria despues de10 años. Querianos, puesd asegurar firmemente las basesde nuestra nacionalidad. ¿Que cosa major para ello quebildar por los cuatro costrados el cuerpo dela mnacion delcual — parodiando al Delegado Montilla — la tierra y losresoursos naturales son como organos vitales cuya perdidapuede causar la muerte instantanea o el abreviamiento dela vida? Para aprociar el pulso de la nacion en aquel memontohistorico es preciso tener en cuenta las cirucmstancias.Nos debamos perfecta cuenta de nuetra posicion geografica,asi como tambien de nuestras limitaciones demograficas.Se trataba, por ciento de una conciencia agudamenteatormentadora y alarmante. Estabamos roodeadosde enormes mesas humanas — centenares de milliones — economica y biologicamente agresivas, avidad de desbordarsepor tadas partes, poir las areas del Pafico particularmente,en busca de espacio vitales. China, Japon-Japon, sobretodo que estaba entonces en el apogeo de su delirio deengrandecimiento economico y militarista. Teniamos apantadoal mismo corazon, como espada rutilante de Samurrai,el pavoroso problema de Davao, donde, por errores incialesdel Gobierno, Japon tenia el control de la tierra, instituyendos alli una especie de Japon en miniatura, con

114 todaslas amenasas y peligros que ello implicaba para la integridadde nuestra existancia nacional. Como que Davaoya se llamaba popular y sarcasticamente Davaoko, entragica rima con Manchuko. Tambien nos obsesionaban otras lecciones dolorosas dehistoria contemporanea. Texas, Mejico, Cuba y otraspaises del Mar Caribe y de la America Latina que todaviaexpiaban, como una terrible maldicion el error de susgobernantes al permitir la enajenacion del suelo a extranjeros. Con el commercio y la industria principalmente en manosno-filipinas, los Delegados a la Constituyente se haciancargo tambien de la vitalisima necesidad de, por lo menos,vincular el apatrimonio nacional, entre otras cosas la tierra, en manos de los filipinos. Que de extraño habia, pues, que en semejante atmosfera y tales circumstancias se aprobase un articulo rigidamentenacionalismta como es el Article XIII? La motivacion y finalidad, como ya se ha dicho, era triple: (a)consetvar el patrimonio nacional para las presentes yfuturas generaciones filipinas; (b) vincular, por lo menos,la propiedad de la tierra y de los recursos naturales en manos filipinas como la mejor manera de mantener elequilibrio de un sistema economico dominado principalmente por extranjeros en virtud de su tecnica (know-how) superior y de su abudancia de capitales: (c) prefictos y complicaciones internacionales. No se concibe que los Delegados tuvieran la intercionde excluir del precepto los terrenos residenciales comercialese industrial, pues sabian muy bien que los finesque se trataban de conseguir y los peligros quie se trataban de evitar con la politica de nacionalizacion y conservacionrezaban tanto para una clase de terrenos como para otra. ¿Por que se iba a temer, verbigracia, el dominio extranjero sobre un terreno estrictamente, agricola, sujeto a cultivo, y no sobre el terreno en que estuviera instalada unaformidable industria o fabrica? Otro detalle significativo. Era tan vigoroso el sentimiento nacionalista en la Asamblea Constituyente que, noobstante el natural sentimiento de gratitud que nos obligabaa favor de los americanos., a estos no se les concedioningun privilegio en relacion con la tierra y demas recusosnaturales, sino que se les coloco en el mismo plano que alos otros extranjeros. Como que ha habido necesidad deuna reforma constitucional — la llmada reforma sobre laparidad — para equipararlos a los filipinos. The mere literal construction of a 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 latter 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 literal interpretation of such words. (II Sutherland, Stat. Construction, pp. 721, 722.) IV. — Se insinua que no debieramos declarar que laConstitucion excluye a loc extranjeros de la propiedadsobre terrenos residenciales e industriales,porque ello imposibilitaria toda accion legislativa en sentidocontrario para el caso de que el Congreso Ilegagealguna vez a pensar que semejante

115 interdiccio debialevantarse. Se dice que es majes y mas conveniente dejaresta cuestion en manos del Congreso para que haya maselasticidad en las soluciones de los diferentes problemassobre la tierra. Cometeriamos un grave error si esto hicieramos. Estaes una cuestion constitucional por excelencia. Solamenteel pueblo puede disponer del patrimonio nacional. Ni el Congreso, ni mucho menos los tribunales, pueden disponerde ese patrimonio. Lo mas que puede hecer el Congreso es proponer una reforma constitucional mediante los votosde tres cuartas (3/4) de sus miembros; y el pueblo tienela ultima palabra que se expresara en una eleccion oplebiscito convocado al efecto. El argumento de que esto costaria dinero es insostenible. Seria una economia mal entendida. Si no se escatiman gastos para celebrar elctiones ordinarias periodicamente ¿como ha del pueblo en un asunto tan vital como es la disposicion del patrimonio nacional, base de su mismaexistencia? para reformar la Constitucion, apoyado portres cuartas (3/4) del Congreso, por lo menos. En el entretanto el articulo XIII de la Constitucion debequedar tal como es, e interpretarse en la forma como lo interpretamos en nuestra decision. Se confirma la sentencia.

PARAS, J., dissenting: Section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution provides that "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 in the Philippines." The important question that arises is whether private residential land is included in the terms "private agricultural land." There is no doubt that under section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution, quoted in the majority opinion, lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, timber,or mineral. There can be no doubt, also, that public lands suitable or actually used for residential purposes, must of necessity come under any of the three classes. But may it be reasonably supposed that lands already of private ownership at the time of the approval of the Constitution, have the same classification? An affirmative answer will lead to the conclusion — which is at once absurd and anomalous — that private timber and mineral lands may be transferred or assigned to aliens by a mode other than hereditary succession. It is, however, contended that timber and mineral lands can never be private, and reliance is placed on section 1, Article XIII, of the Constitution providing that "all agricultural, timber and mineral lands of the public domain . . . belong to the State," and limiting the alienation of natural resources only to public agricultural land. The contention is obviously untenable. This constitutional provision, far from stating that all timber and mineral lands existing at the time of its approval belong to the State, merely proclaims ownership by the Government of all such lands as are then of the public domain; and although, after the approval of the

116 Constitution, no public timber or mineral land may be alienated, it does not follow that timber or mineral lands theretofore already of private ownership also became part of the public domain. We have held, quite recently, that lands in the possession of occupants and their predecessors in interest since time immemorial do not belong to the Government, for such possession justifies the presumption that said lands had been private properties even before the Spanish conquest. (Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, 43 Off. Gaz., 866.) This gives effect to the pronouncement in Cariño vs. Insular Government (212 U.S., 446; 53 Law. ed., 594), that it could not be supposed that "every native who had not a paper title is a trespasser." It is easy to imagine that some of such lands may be timber or mineral. However, if there are absolutely no private timber or mineral. However, if there are absolutely no private timber or mineral lands, why did the framers of the Constitution bother about speaking of "private agricultural land" in sections 3 and 5 of Article XIII, and merely of "lands" in section 4? SEC. 3. The Congress may determine by law the size of private agricultural land which individuals, corporations, or associations may acquire and hold, subject to rights existing prior to the enactmentof such law. SEC. 4. The Congress may authorize, upon payment of just compensation, the expropriation of lands to be subdivided into small lots and conveyed at cost to individuals. SEC. 5. 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 in the Philippines. Under section 3, the Congress may determine by law the size of private agricultural land which individuals, corporations, or associations may acquire and hold, subbject to rights existing prior to the enactment of such law, and under section 4 it may authorize, upon payment of just compensation, the expropriation of lands to be subdivided into small lots and conveyed at cost to individuals. The latter section clearly negatives the idea that private lands can only be agricultural. If the exclusive classification of public lands contained in section 1 is held applicable to private lands, and , as we have shown, there may be private timber and mineral lands, there would be neither sense nor justification in authorizing the Congress to determine the size of private agricultural land only, and in not extending the prohibition of section 5 to timber and mineral lands. In may opinion, private lands are not contemplated or controlled by the classification of public lands, and the term "agricultural" appearing in section 5 was used as it is commonly understood, namely, as denoting lands devoted to agricultural. In other words, residential or urban lots are not embraced within the inhibition established in said provision. It is noteworthy that the original draft referred merely to "private land." This certainty would have been comprehensive enough to included any kind of land. The insertion of the adjective "agricultural " is therefore significant. If the Constitution prohibits the alienation to foreigners of private lands of and kind, no legislation can ever be enacted with a view to permitting limited areas of land for residential, commercial, or industrial use, and said prohibition may readily affect any effort towards the attainment of rapid progress in Philippine economy. On the other hand, should any danger arise from the absence of such constitutional prohibition, a law may be passed

117 to remedy the situation, thereby enabling the Government to adopt such elastic policy as may from time to time be necessary, unhampered by any inconveniences or difficulties in amending the Constitution. The power of expropriation is, furthermore, a handy safeguard against undersirable effects of unrestricted alienation to, or ownership by, aliens of urban properties. The majority argue that the original draft in which the more general terms "private land" was used, was amended in the same that the adjective "agricultural" was inserted in order merely "to clarify concepts and avoid uncertainties" and because, as under section 1, timber and mineral lands can never be private, "the prohibition to transfer the same, would be superfluous." In answer, it may be stated that section 4 of Article XIII, referring to the right of expropriation, uses "lands" without any qualification, and it is logical to believe that the use was made knowingly in contradistinctions with the limited term "private agricultural land" in section 3 and 5. Following the line of reasoning of the majority, "lands" in section 4 necessarily implies that what may be expropriated is not only private agricultural land but also private timber and mineral lands, as well, of course, as private residential lands. This of course tears apart the majority's contention that there cannot be any private timber or mineral land. Any doubt in the matter will be removed when it is, borne in mind that no less than Honorable Filemon Sotto, Chairman of the Sponsorship Committee of the Constitutional Convention, in supporting section 3 of the Article XIII, explained that the same refers to agricultural land, and not to urban properties, and such explanation is somewhat confirmed by the statement of another member of the Convention (delegate Sevilla) to the effect that said section "is discriminatory and unjust with regard to the agriculturists." Sr. SOTTO (F) Señor Presidente: "Que hay caballeros de laConvencion en el fondo de esta cuestion al parecer inocente yordinaria para que tanto revuelo haya metido tanto en la sesion de ayer como en la de hoy? Que hay de misterios en el fondo de este problem, para que politicos del volumen del caballero por Iloilo y del caballero por Batangas, tomen con gran interes una macion para reconsiderar lo acordado ayer? Voy a ser frio, señores. Parece que es meyor tratar estas cuestiones con calma y no apasionamiento. He prestado atencion, como siempre suelo hacer a todos los argumentos aqui en contra del precepto contenido en el draft y a favor ahora de la reconsideracion y siento decir lo siguiente; todos son argumentos muy buenos a posteriori. Cuando la Asamble Nacional se haya reunido, sera la ocasion de ver si procede o no expropiar terrenos o latifundios existentes ahorao existentes despues. En el presente, yo me limito a invitar la atencion de la Convencion al hecho de que el procepto no tome las medidas necesarias en tiempo oportuno, cuando el problema del latifundismo se haya presentado con caracterres tales que el beinestar, interes y orden publico lo requieran. Permitame la Convencion que lo discuta en globo las dos pates del articulo 9. Hay tal engranaje en los dos mandatos que tiene dicho precepto, hay tral eslabon en una u otra parte que es imposible, que es dificil que quitaramos deslindes si nos limitasemos a considerar una sola parte. La primera parte autoriza a la legislatura para fijar el limite maximo de propiedad agricola que los ciudadanos particulares puede tener. Parece que es un punto que ha pasado desapercibido. No se trata aqui ahora de propiedades urbanas, sino de propiedades agricolas, y es por la razon de que con mucha especialidad en las regiones agricolas, en las zones rusticas es donde el latifundismo se extiende con facilidad, y desde alli los pequeños propietariou precisamente para ahogarles y para intilizarles. Esta pues, a salvo

118 completamente la cuestion de las propiedades urbans. Cietos grandes soleres de nuestras ciudaes que con pretexto de tener cietos eficios, que en realidad no necesitan de tales extensos solares para su existencia ni para su mantenimineto, puedan dormir transquilos. No Vamos contra esas propiedades. Por una causa o por otra el pasado nos legardo ese lastre doloroso. Pero la region agricola, la region menos explotada por nuetro pueblo, la region que necesitamos si queremos vivir cuenta propia la region que es el mayor incentivo no para solo para los grandes capitalistas de fuera merece todos los ciudados del gobierno. Voy a pasar ahora a la relacion que tiene la seggunda parte de la enmiendad con la primera. Una vez demostrado ante la Lehgislatura, una vez convencida la Asamblea Nacional de que existe un latifundismo y que este laitifundismo puede producir males e esta produciendo daños a la comunidad, es cuando entonces la Legislatura puede acordar la expropiacion de los latifundios. Donde esta el mal que los opositores a este es un postulado que todos conocen. Bien, voy a admitir para los propositos del argumento que hoy no existen laifundios, y si los opostores al precepto quieren mas vamos a convenir en que no existrian en el futuro. Pues, entonces, donde este el temor de que el hijo de tal no pueda recibir la herencia de cual? Por lo demas el ejemplo repetidas veces presentado ayer yhoy en cuanto al herdero y al causahabiente no es completamente exacto. Vamos a suponer que efectivamente un padre de familia posee un numero tal de hectareas de terreno, superior o exedente a lo que fija la ley. Creen los Caballeros, creen los opositorees al precepto que la Legislatura, la Asamblea Nacional va a ser tan imprudente, tan loca que inmediatemente disponga por ley que aquella porcion excedente del terreno que ha de recibir un hijo de su padre no podra poseerlo, no podra tenerlo o recibirlo el heredero. Esa es una materia para la Asamblea Nacional. La asamblea Nacional sabe que no puede dictar leyes o medidas imposibles de cumplir. Fijara el plazo, fijara la proporcion de acuedo con las circunstancias del tiempo entonces en que vivamos. Es posible que ahora un numero determinado de hectereas sea excesivo; es posible que por desenvolvimientos economics del paius ese numero de hectareas puede ser elevado o reducido. Es por esto porque el Comite precisamente no ha querido fijar desde ahora el numero de hectareas presamente no ha querido fijar desde ahora el numero de hectareas, prefireindo dejar a la sabiduria, a la prudencia, al patriotismo y a la justicia de la Asambela Nacional el fijar ese numero. Lomismo digo de la expropiacion. Se habla de que el gobierno no tendra dinero; se hablqa de que no podra revender las propieedades. Pero, Caballeros de la Convencion, caballeros opositores del precepto; si la Legislatura, si la AsambleaNacional estuviera convencida de que el gobierno no puede hecer una exporpiacion, va a hecerlo? La Asamblea Nacional dictara una ley autorizando la expropiacion de tal a cual latifundio cuando este convencida, primero, de que la existencia de ese latifundio es amenazante para el publico; y segundo, cuando la asamblea Nacional este convencida de que el gobierno esta disposicion para disponer la expropiacion. Visto, pues, desde este punto el asunto, no es malo autorizar,fijar los limites, ni macho menos es malo autorizar a la Legislatura para dictar leyes de expropiacion.

119 Pero voy a molestaros por un minuto mas. Se ha mentado aquicon algun exito esta mañana — y digo con exito porque he oidoalgunos aplausos — se ha mentado la posibilidad de que los comunistas hagan unissue de esta disposicion que existe en el draft; podran los comunistas pedir los votos del electorado para ser elloslos que dicten las leyes fijando el limite del terreno y ordenen la expropriacion? ¡Que argumento mas bonito si tuviera base! Lo mas natural, creo yo, es que el pueblo, el electorado, al ver queno es una Asamblea Constituyente comunista la que ha puestoesta disposicion, otorgue sus votors a esta misma Asamblea Nacional, o a esos condidatos no comunistas. ¿Quien esta en disposicion de terminar mejor una obra aquel que trazado y puesto los primeros pilares, o aquel que viene de gorra al final de la obra para decir: "Aqui estoy poner el tejado?" Es sensible, sin embargo, que una cuetion de importancia tannacional como este, pretendamos ligarla a los votos de los comulites de terreno; no ha de venir porque nosotros fijemos loslimites de terreno; no ha de venir porque prohibamos los latifundiosmediante expropiacion forzosa, no; ha de venir precisamentepor causa de los grandes propietarios de terreno, y ha de venir,queramoslo o no, porque el mundo esta evolucionando y se va aconvencer de que la vida no es solamente para unos cuantos sinopara todos , porque Dios no la dio, con la libertad, el aire, la luz,la tierra para vivir (Grandes Aplausosz), y por algo se ha dichoque en los comienzos de la vida himana debio haber sido fusilado,matado, a aquel primero que puso un cerco a un pedazo de tierrareclamando ser suya a propiedad. Por estas razones, señor Presidente, y sintiendo que mi tiempoesta para terminar, voy a dar fin a mi discurso agradeciendo a la Convencion. (Speech of Delegate Sotto.) I would further add, Mr. President, that this precept by limiting private individuals to holding and acquiring lands, private agricultural lands . . . is discriminatory and unjust with regard to the agriculturists. Why not, Mr. President, extend this provision also to those who are engaged in commerce and industries? Both elements amass wealth. If the purpose of the Committee, Mr. President, is to distribute the wealth in such a manner that it will no breed discontent, I see no reason for the discrimination against the agricultural. In view of these reasons, Mr. President, I do not want to speak further and I submit this amendment because many reasons have been given already yesterday and this morning. (Speech of Delegate Sevilla.) Delegate Sotto was not interpellated, much less contradicted, on the observation that section 3 of Article XIII does not embrace private urban lands. There is of course every reason to believe that the sense in which the terms "private agricultural lands" were employed in section 3 must be the same as that in section 5, if consistency is to be attributed to the framers of the Constitution. We should not be concluded by te remarks, cited in the majority opinion, made by Delegate Ledesma to the effect that "the exclusion of aleins from the private of acquiring public agricultural lands and of owning real estate is a necessary part of the Public Land Laws," and of the statement of Delegate Montilla regarding "the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources," because (1) the remarks of Delegate Ledesma expressly mentions "public agricultural lands" and the terms "real estate" must undoubtedly carry the same meaning as the preceding words "public agricultural lands", under the

120 principle of "ejusdem generis"; (2) Delegate Ledesma must have in mind purely "agricultural" lands, sicne he was the Chairman of the Committee on Agricultural Development and his speech was made in connection with the national policy on agricultural lands; (3) the general nature of the explanations of both Delegate Ledesma and Delegate Montilla, cannot control the more specific clarification of Delegate Sotto that agricultural lands in section 3 do not include urban propeties. Neither are we bound to give reater force to the view (apparently based on mere mental recollections) of the Justices who were members of the Constitutional Convention than tot he specific recorded manifestation of Delegate Sotto. The decision in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil., 175), invoked by the majority, is surely not controlling, because, first, it dealt with "agricultural public lands" and, secondly, in that case it was expressly held that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. 926 "means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands," — the definition held to be found in section 13 of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902. We hold that there is to found in the act of Congress a definition of the phrase "agricultural public lands," and after a carefully consideration of the question we are satisfied that the only definition which exists in said act is the definition adopted by the court below. Section 13 says that the Government shall "make rules and regulations for the lease, sale or other disposition of the public lands other than timber or mineral lands." To our minds that is the only definition that can be said to be given to agricultural lands. In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands accquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. (Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 182.) The majority, in support of their construction, invoke Commonwealth Act No. 141, enected after the approval of the Constitution, which prohibits the alienation to foreigners of "land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act," (section 122) or "land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of any previous Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippines with regard to public lands, terrenos baldios realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain." (Section 123.) They hold that the constitutional intent "is made more patent and is strongly implemented by said Act." The majority have evidently overlooked the fact that the prohibition contained in said sections refer to lands originally acquired under said sections referto land originally acqured under said Act or otherlegal provisions lands, which of course do not include lands not originally of the public domain. The lands that may be acquired under Act No. 141 necessarily have to be public agricultural lands, since they are the only kinds that are subject to alienation or disposition under the Constitution. Hence, even if they become private, said lands retained their original agricultural character and may not therefore be alienated to foreigners. It is only in this sense, I think, that act No. 141 seeks to carry out and implement the constitutional objective. In the case before us, however, there is no pretense that the land bought by the appellant was originally acquired under said Act or other legal provisions contemplated therein. The majority is also mistaken in arguing that "prior to the Constitution, under section 24 of the Public Land Act No. 2874 aliens could acquire public agricultural lands used for industrial or residential

121 purposes, but after the Constitution and under section 23 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the right of aliens to acquire such kind of lands is completely stricken out, undoubtedly in pursuanceof the Constitutional limitation," and that "prior to the Constitution, under section 57 of the Public Land Act No.2874, land of the public domain suitable for residence or industrial purposes could be sold or leased to aliens, but after the Constitution and under section 60 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, such land may only be leased, but not sold, to aliens, and the lease granted shall only be valid while the land is used for the purpose referred to." Section 1 of article XIII of the Constitution speaks of "public agricultural lands" and quite logically, Commonwealth Act No. 141, enacted after the approval of the Constitution, has to limit the alienation of its subject matter (public agricultural land, which includes public residential or industrial land) to Filipino citizens. But it is not correct to consider said Act as a legislation on, or a limitation against, the right of aliens to acquire residential land that was already of private ownership prior to the approval of the Constitution. The sweeping assertion of the majority that "the three great departments of the Government — Judicial, Legislative and Executive — have always maintained that lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, mineral and timber, and that agricultural lands include residential lots," is rather misleading and not inconsistent, with our position. While the construction mistakenly invoked by the majority refers exclusively to lands of the public domain, our view is that private residential lands are not embraced within the terms "private agricultural land" in section 5 of Article XIII. Let us particularize in somewhat chronological order. We have already pointed out that the leading case of Mapa vs. Insular Government, supra, only held that agricultural public lands are those public landsacquired from Spain which are neither timber nor mineral lands. The opinion of the Secretary of Justice dated July 15, 1939, quoted in the majority opinion, limited itself in affirming that "residential, commercial or industrial lotsforming part of the public domain . . . must be classified as agricultural." Indeed, the limited scope of said opinion is clearly pointed out in the following subsequent opinion of the Secretary of Justice dated September 25, 1941, expressly hoding that "in cases involving the prohibition in section 5 of Article XIII (formerly Article XII) regarding transfer or assignment of private agricultural lands to foreigners, the opinion that residential lots are not agricultural lands is applicable." This is with reference to your first indorsement dated July 30, 1941, forwarding the request of the Register of Deeds of Oriental Misamis for an opinion as to whether Opinion No. 130, dated July 15, 1939, of this Department quoted in its Circular No. 28, dated May 13, 1941, holding among others, that the phrase "public agricultural land" in section 1, Article XIII (formerly article XII) of the Constitution of the Philippines, includes residential, commercial or industrial lots for purposes of their disposition, amends or supersedeas a decision or order of the fourth branch of the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila rendered pursuant to section 200 of the Administrative Code which holds that a residential lot is not an agricultural land, and therefore, the prohibition in section 5, Article XIII (formerly Article XII) of the Constitution of the Philippines does not apply. There is no conflict between the two opinions. Section 1, Artcile XIII (formerly article XII of the Constitution of the Philippines, speaks of public agricultural lands while section 5 of the same article treats of private agricultural lands. A holding,

122 therefore, that a residential lot is not private agricultural land within the meaning of that phrase as found in section 5 of Article XIII (formerly Article XII) does not conflict with an opinion that residential, commercial or industrial lots forming part of the public domain are included within the phrase "public agricultural land" found in section 1, Article XIII (formerly Article XII) of the Constitution of the Philippines. In cases involving the prohibition in section 5 of Article XIII (formerly Article XII) regarding transfer or assignment of private agricultural lands to foreigners, the opinion that residential lots are not agricultural lands is applicable. In cases involving the prohibition in section 1 of Article XIII (formerly Article XII) regarding disposition in favor of, and exploitation, development or utilization by foreigners of public agricultural lands, the opinion that residential, commercial or industrial lots forming part of the public domain are included within the phrase "public agricultural land" found in said section 1 of the Article XIII (formerly Article XII) governs. Commonwealth Act No. 141, passed after the approval of the Constitution limited its restriction against transfers in favor of alien to public agricultural lands or to lands originally acquired under said Act or other legal provisions formerly in force in the Philippines with regard to public lands. On November 29, 1943, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision affirming that of the Court of First rendered a decision affirming that of the Court of First Instance of Tarlac in a case in which it was held that private residential lots are not included in the prohibition in section 5 of Article XIII. (CA-G. R. No. 29.) During theJapanese occupation, the Constitution of the then Republic of the Philippines contained an almost verbatim reproduction of said section 5 of Article XIII; and the then National Assembly passed an Act providing that "no natural or juridical person who is not a Filipino citizen shall acquire directly or indirectly any title to private lands (which are not agricultural lands) including buildings and other improvements thereon or leasehold rights on said lands, except by legal succession of proper cases, unless authorized by the President of the Republic of the Philippines." (Off. Gaz., Vol. I, p. 497, February,1944.) It is true that the Secretary of Justice in 1945 appears to have rendered an opinion on the matter, but it cannot have any persuasive force because it merely suspended the effect of the previous opinion of his Department pending judicial determination of the question. Very recently, the Secretary of Justice issued a circular adopting in effect the opinion of his Department rendered in1941. Last but not least, since the approval of the Constitution, numerous transactions involving transfers of private residential lots to aliens had been allowed to be registered without any opposition on the part of the Government. It will thus be seen that, contrary to what the majority believe, our Government has constantly adopted the view that private residential lands do not fall under the limitation contained in section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution. I do not question or doubt the nationalistic spirit permeating the Constitution, but I will not permit myself to be blinded by any sentimental feeling or conjectural considerations to such a degree as to attribute to any of its provisions a construction not justified by or beyond what the plain written words purport to convey. We need not express any unnecessary concern over the possibility that entire towns and cities may come to the hands of aliens, as long as we have faith in our independence and in our power to supply any deficiency in the Constitution either by its amendment or by Congressional action. There should really have been no occasion for writing this dissent, because the appellant, with the conformity of the appellee, had filed a motion for the withdrawal of the appeal and the same should

123 have been granted outright. In Co Chiong vs. Dinglasan (p. 122, ante),decided only a few days ago, we reiterated the well-settled rule that "a court should not pass upon a constitutional question and decide a law to be unconstitutional or invalid unless such question is raised by the the parties, and that when it is raised, if the record also presents some other ground upon which the court may rest its judgment, that course will be adopted and the constitutional question will be left for consideration until a case arises in which a decision upon such question will be unavoidable." In other words, a court will always avoid a constitutional question, if possible. In the present case, that course of action was not only possible but absolutely imperative. If appellant's motion for withdrawal had been opposed by the appellee, there might be some reasons for its denial, in view of section 4 of Rule 52 which provides that after the filing of appellee's brief, "the withdrawal may be allowed by the court in its discretion." At any rate, this discretion should always be exercised in favor of a withdrawal where a constitutional question will thereby be avoided. In this connection, let us describe the proceedings (called "arbitrary and illegal" by Mr. Justice Tuason) that led to teh denial of the motion for withdrawal. During the deliberation in which all the eleven members were present, seven voted to allow and four to deny. Subsequently, without any previous notice and when Mr. Justice Hontiveros was absent, the matter was again submitted to a vote, and one Justice (who previously was in favor of the withdrawal) reversed his stand, with the result that the votes were five to five. This result was officially released and the motion denied under the technicality provided in Rule of Court No. 56, section 2. It is very interesting to observe that Mr. Justice Hontiveros, who was still a member of the Court and could have attended the later deliberation, if notified and requested, previously voted for the granting of the motion. The real explanation for excluding Mr. Justice Hontiveros, against my objection, and for the reversal of the vote of one Justice who originally was in favor of the withdrawal is found in the confession made in the majority opinion to the effect that the circular of the Department of Justice instructing all registers of deeds to accept for registration transfers of residential lots to aliens, was an "interference with the regular and complete exercise by this Court of its constitutional functions," and that "if we grant the withdrawal, the result is that petitionerappellant Alexander A. Krivenko wins his case, not by a decision of this Court, but by the decision or circular of the Department of Justice issued while this case was pending before this Court." The zealousness thus shown in denying the motion for wuthdrawal is open to question. The denial of course is another way of assuming that the petitioner-appellant and the Solicitor General had connived with the Department of Justice in a scheme not only to interfere with the functions of this Court but to dispose of the national patrimony in favor of aliens. In the absence of any injunction from this Court, we should recognize tha right of the Department of Justice to issue any circular it may deem legal and proper on any subject, and the corollary right of the appellant to take advantage thereof. What is most regrettable is the implication that the Department of Justice, as a part of the Executive Department, cannot be as patriotic and able as this Court in defending the Constitution. If the circular in question is objectionable, the same can be said of the opinion of the Secretary of Justice in 1945 in effect prohibiting the registration of transfers of private residential lots in favor of aliens, notwithstanding the pendency in this Court of the case of Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands (43 Off. Gaz., 866), wherin according to the appellant, the only question raised was whether, or

124 not "an alien can acquire a residential lot and register it in his name," and notwithstanding the fact that in said case the appealed decision was in favor of the alien applicant and that, as hereinbefore stated, the Court of Appeals in another case (CA-G.R. No. 29) had renderd in 1943 a decision holding that private residential lots are not included in the prohibition in section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution. And yet this Court, failing to consider said opinion as an "interference," chose to evade the only issue raised by the appellant and squarely met by the appellee in the Oh Cho case which already required a decision on the constitutional question resolved in the case at bar against, so to say, the will of the parties litigant. In other words, the majority did not allow the withdrawal of the present appeal not so much as to dispose of it on the merits, but to annul the circular of the Department of Justice which is, needless to say, not involved in this case. I cannot accept the shallow excuse of the majority that the denial of the motion for withdrawal was promted by the fear that "our indifference of today might signify a permanent offense to the Constitution," because it carries the rather immodest implication that this Court has a monopoly of the virtue of upholding and enforcing, or supplying any deficiency in, the Constitution. Indeed, the fallacy of the impliation is made glaring when Senator Franscisco lost no time in introducing a bill that would clarify the constitutional provision in question in the sense desired by the majority. Upon the other hand, the majority should not worry about the remoteness of the opportunity that will enable this Court to pass upon this constitutional question, because we can take advance notice of the fact that in Rellosa vs. Gaw Chee Hun (49 Off. Gaz., 4345), in which the parties have already presented. But even disregarding said case, I am sure that, in view of the recent newspaper discussion which naturally reached the length and breadth of the country, there will be those who will dispute their sales of residential lots in favor of aliens and invoke the constitutional prohibition. BENGZON, J., dissenting: It is unnecessary to deliver at this time any opinion about the extent of the constitutional prohibition. Both parties having agreed to writer finis to the litigation, there is no obligation to hold forth on the issue. It is not our mission to give advice to other person who might be interested to give advice to other persons who might be interested to know the validity or invalidity of their sales or purchases. That is the work of lawyers and juriscounsults. There is much to what Mr. Justice Padilla explains regarding any eagerness to solve the constitutional problem. It must be remembered that the other departments of the Government are not prevented from passing on constitutional question arising in the exercise of their official powers. (Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., p. 101.) This Tribunal was not established, nor is it expected to play the role of an overseer to supervise the other Government departments, with the obligation to seize any opportunity to correct what we may believe to be erroneous application of the constitutional mandate. I cannot agree to the suggestion that the way the incumbent Secretary of Justice has interpreted the fundamental law, no case will ever arise before the court, because the registers of deeds under his command, will transfer on thier books all sales to aliens. It is easy to perceive several probabilities: (1) a new secretary may entertain opposite views; (2) parties legally affected — like heirs or or creditors of the seller — may wish to avoid the conveyance to aliens, invoking the constitutional inhibition. Then, in a truly contested case, with opposing litigants actively arguing their sides we shall be in a position to do full justice. It is not enough that briefs — as in this case — have been filed; it is desirable, perhaps

125 essential, to make sure that in a motion for reconsideration, or in a re-hearing in case of tie, our attention shall be invited to points inadequately touched or improperly considered. It is stated that sales to aliens of residential lots are currently being effected. No matter. Those sales will be subject to the final decision we shall reach in a properly submitted litigation. To spell necessity out of the existence of such conveyances, might amount to begging the issue with the assumption that such transfers are obviously barred by the Organic Law. And yet sales to foreigners of residential lots have taken place since our Constitution was approved in 1935, and no one questioned their validity in Court until nine years later in 1945, after the Japanese authorities had shown distaste for such transfers. The Court should have, I submit, ample time to discuss this all-important point, and reflect upon the conflicting politico-economic philosophies of those who advocate national isolation against international cooperation, and vice-versa. We could also delve into several aspects necessarily involved, to wit: (a) Whether the prohibition in the Constitution operated to curtail the freedom to dispose of landowners at the time of its adoption; or whether it merely affected the rights of those who should become landowners after the approval of the Constitution;7 (b) What consequences would a ruling adverse to aliens have upon our position and commitments in the United Nations Organization, and upon our treaty-making negotiations with other nations of the worlds; and (c) When in 1941 Krivenko acquired this land he was a Russian citizen. Under the treaties between the United States and Russia, were Russian nationals allowed to acquire residential lots in places under the jurisdiction of the United States? If so, did our Constitution have the effect of modifying such treaty during the existence of the Commonwealth Government? The foregoing view and doubts induced me to vote for dismissal of the appeal as requested by the parties, and for withholding of any ruling on the constitutional prohibition. However, I am now ready to cast my vote. I am convinced that the organic law bans the sales of agricultural lands as they are popularly understood — not including residential, commercial, industrial or urban lots. This belief is founded on the reasons ably expounded by Mr. Justice Paras, Mr. Justice Padilla and Mr. Justice Tuason. I am particularly moved by the consideration that a restricted interpretation of the prohibition, if erroneous or contrary to the poeple's desire, may be remedied by legislation amplifying it; whereas a liberal and wide application, if erroneous, would need the cumbersome and highly expensive process of a constitutional amendment. PADILLA, J., dissenting: The question submitted for decision is whether a parcel of land of private ownership suitable or intended for residence may be alienated or sold to an alien. Section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution provides:

126 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 in the Philippines. The majority holds that a parcel of land of privateownership suitable or intended or used for residence is included in the term "private agricultural land" and comes within the prohibition of the Constitution. In support of the opinion that lands of private ownership suitable for residence are included in the term "private agricultural land" and cannot be alienated or sold to aliens, the majority invokes the decision of this Court in Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil., 175), which holds that urban lands of the public domain are included in the term "public agricultural land." But the opinion of the majority overlooks the fact that the inclusion by this Court of public lands suitable for residence in the term "public agricultural land" was due to the classification made by the Congress of the United States in the Act of 1 July 1902, commonly known as the Philippine Bill. In said Act, lands of the public domain were classified into agricultural, timber and mineral. The only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain were those belonging to the first class. Hence a parcel of land of the public domain suitable for residence, which was neither timber nor mineral, could not be disposed of or alienated unless classified as public agricultural land. The susceptibility of a residential lot of the public domain of being cultivated is not the real reason for the inclusion of such lot in the classification of public agricultural land, for there are lands, such as foreshore lands, which would hardly be susceptible of cultivation (Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government, 13 Phil., 159, 167-168), and yet the same come under the classification of public agricultural land. The fact, therefore, that parcels of land of the public domain suitable for residence are included in the classification of public agricultural land, is not a safe guide or index of what the framers of the Constitution intended to mean by the term "private agricultural land." It is contrary to the rules of statutory construction to attach technical meaning to terms or phrases that have a common or ordinary meaning as understood by he average citizen. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution (8 February 1935), the Public Land Act in force was Act No. 2874. Under this Act, only citizens of the Philippine Islands or of the United States and corporations or associations described in section 23 thereof, and citizens of countries the laws of which grant to citizens of the Philippine Islands the same right to acquire the public land as to their own citizens, could acquire by purchase agricultural land of the public domain (section 23, Act No. 2874). This was the general rule. There was an exception. Section 24of the Act provides: No person, corporation, association or partnership other than those mentioned in the last preceding section may acquire or own agricultural public land or land of any other denomination or classification, not used for industrial or residence purposes, that is at the time or was originally, really or presumptively, of the public domain, or any permanent improvement thereon, or any real right on such land and improvement: Provided, however, That persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships which at the date upon which this Act shall take effect, hold agricultural public lands or land of any other denomination not used for industrial or residence purposes, that belonged originally, really or presumptively, to the public domain, or permanent improvements on such lands, or a real right upon such lands and improvements, having acquired the same under the laws and regulations in force at the date of such acquisition, shall be authorized to continue holding the same as if such persons,

127 corporations, associations, or partnerships were qualified under the last preceding section; but they shall not encumber, convey, or alienate the same to persons, corporations, associations or partnerships not included in section twenty-three of this Act, except by reason of hereditary succession, duly legalized and acknowledged by competent Courts. (Emphasis supplied.) Section 57 of the Act, dealing with lands of the public domain suitable for residential, commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural, provides: Any tract of land comprised under this title may be leased or sold, as the case may be, to any person, corporation, or association authorized to purchase or lease public lands for agricultural purposes. . . .Provided further, That any person, corporation, association, or partnership disqualified from purchasing public land for agricultural purposes under the provisions of this Act, may purchase or lease land included under this title suitable for industrial or residence purposes, but the title or lease granted shall only be valid while such land issued for the purposes referred to. (Emphasis supplied.) Section 121 of the Act provides: No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of the former Public Land Act or of any other Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippine Islands with regard to public lands, terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain, or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons, corporations, or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act; . . . Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and legalized by competent Courts, nor to lands and improvements acquired or held for industrial or residence purposes, while used for such purposes: . . . (Emphasis supplied.) Under and pursuant to the above quoted provisions of Act No. 2874, lands of the public domain, that were neither timber nor mineral, held for industrial or residence purposes, could be acquired by aliens disqualified from acquiring by purchase or lease public agricultural lands (sections 24, 57, 121, Act No. 2874). The delegates to the Constituent Assembly were familiar with the provisions of the Public Land Act referred to. The prohibition to alienate public agricultural lands to disqualified persons, corporations or associations did not apply to "lands and improvements acquired or held for industrial or residence purposes, while used for such purposes." Even under the provisions of Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, lots for townsites could be acquired by any person irrespective of citizenship, pursuant to section 47 of the said Act. In spite of the nationalistic spirit that pervades all the provisions of Act No. 2874, the Philippine Legislature did not deem it necessary to exclude aliens from acquiring and owning lands of the public domain suitable for industrial or residence purposes. It adopted the policy of excluding aliens from acquiring agricultural lands of the public domain not "suitable for residential, commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes," which, together with timber, mineral and private agricultural lands, constitute the mainstay of the nation. Act No. 2874 was in force for nearly sixteen years — from

128 1919 to 1935. There is nothing recorded in the journals of proceedings of the Constituent Assembly regarding the matter which would have justified a departure from the policy theretofore adopted. If under the law in force at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, aliens could acquire by purchase or lease lands of the public domain, that were neither timber nor mineral, held for industrial or residence purposes, how can it be presumed that the framers of the Constitution intended to exclude such aliens from acquiring by purchase private lands suitable for industrial or residence purposes? If pursuant to the law in force at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, lands of the public domain and improvements thereon acquired or held for industrial or residence purposes were not included in the prohibition found in section 121 of ActNo. 2874, there is every reason for believing that the framers of the Constitution, who were familiar with the law then in force, did not have the intention of applying the prohibition contained in section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution to lands of private ownership suitable or intended or used for residence, there being nothing recorded in the journals of proceedings of the Constituent Assembly regarding the matter which, as above stated, would have justified a departure from the policy then existing. If the term "private agricultural land" comprehends lands of private ownership suitable or intended or used for residence, as held by the majority, there was no need of implementing a self-executory prohibition found in the Constitution. The prohibition to alienate such lands found in section 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 is a clear indication and proof that section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution does not apply to lands of private ownership suitable or intended or used for residence. The term "private agricultural land" means privately owned lands devoted to cultivation, to the raising of agricultural products, and does not include urban lands of private ownership suitable for industrial or residence purposes. The use of the adjective "agricultural" has the effect of excluding all other private lands that are not agricultural. Timber and mineral ands are not, however, included among the excluded, because these lands could not and can never become private lands. From the land grants known as caballerias and peonias under the Laws of Indies down to those under the Royal Decrees of 25 June 1880 and 13 February 1894, the Philippine Bill, Act No. 926, the Jones Law, Act No. 2874, the Constitution, and Commonwealth Act No. 141, timber and mineral lands have always been excluded from alienation. The repeal by sections 23, 60, 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 of the exception provided for in sections 24, 57, 121 of Act No. 2874, did not change the meaning of the term "private agricultural land," as intended by the framers of the Constitution and understood by the people that adopted it. The next question is whether the court below was justified under the in confirming the refusal of the Register of Deeds of Manila to record the sale of the private land for residence purposes to the appellant who is an alien. There is no evidence to show the kind of land, the deed of sale of which is sought to be recorded by the appellant — whether it is one of those described in section 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141; or a private land that had never been a part of the public domain (Carino vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S., 449; Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, 43 Off. Gaz., 866). If it is the latter, the prohibition of section 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 does not apply. If it is the former, section 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, which providesthat —

129 No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of any previous Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippines with regard to public lands,terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of the public domain, or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons, corporations or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act or to corporate bodies organized in the Philippines whose charters authorize them to do so: . . . is similar in nature to section 121 of Act No. 2874. This Court held the last mentioned section unconstitutional, for it violates section 3 of the Act of Congress of 29 August 1916, commonly known as the Jones Law (Central Capizvs. Ramirez, 40 Phil., 883). Section 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, following the rule laid down in the aforecited case, must also be declared unconstitutional, for it violates section 21 (1), Article VI, of the Constitution, which is exactly the same as the one infringed upon by section 121 of Act No. 2874. This does not mean that a law may not be passed by Congress to prohibit alienation to foreigners of urban lands of private ownership; but in so doing, it must avoid offending against the constitutional provision referred to above. Before closing, I cannot help but comment on the action taken by the Court in considering the merits of the case, despite the withdrawal of the appeal by the appellants, consented to by the appellee. If discretion was to be exercised, this Court did not exercise it wisely. Courts of last resort generally avoid passing upon constitutional questions if the case where such questions are raised may be decided on other grounds. Courts of last resort do not express their opinion on a consitutional question except when it is the very lis mota (Yangco vs. Board of Public Utility Commissioners, 36 Phil., 116, 120; Co Chiong vs. Dinglasan, p. 122, ante). Moreover, the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution is no exclusive of the courts. The other coordinate branches of the government may interpret such provisions acting on matters coming within their jurisdiction. And although such interpretation is only persuasive and not binding upon the courts, nevertheless they cannot be deprived of such power. Of course, the final say on what is the correct interpretation of a constitutional provision must come from and be made by this Court in an appropriate action submitted to it for decision. The correct interpretation of a constitutional provision is that which gives effect to the intent of its framers and primarily to the understanding of such provision by the poeple that adopted it. This Court is only an interpreter of the instrument which embodies what its framers had in mind and especially what the people understood it to be when they adopted it. The eagerness of this Court to express its opinion on the constitutional provision involved in this case, notwithstanding of the withdrawal of the appeal, is unusualf or a Court of last resort. It seems as if it were afraid to be deprived by the other coordinate branches of the government of its prerogative to pass upon the constitutional question herein involved. If all the members of the Court were unanimous in the interpretation of the constitutional provision under scrutiny, that eagerness might be justified, but when some members of the Court do not agree to the interpretation placed upon such provision, that eagerness becomes recklessness. The interpretation thus placed by the majority of the Court upon the constitutional provision referred to will be binding upon the other coordinate branches of the government. If, in the course of time, such opinion should turn out to be erroneous and against the welfare of the country,an amendment to the Constitution — a

130 costly process — would have to be proposed and adopted. But, if the Court had granted the motion for the withdrawal of the appeal, it would not have to express its opinion upon the constitutional provision in question. It would let the other coordinate branches of the Government act according to their wisdom, foresight and patriotism. They, too, possess those qualities and virtues. These are not of the exclusive possession of the members of this Court. The end sought to be accomplished by the decision of this Court may be carried out by the enactment of a law. And if the law should turn out to be against the well-being of the people, its amendment or repeal would not be as costly a process as a constitutional amendment. In view of the denial by this Court of the motion to dismiss the appeal, as prayed for by the appellant and consented to by the appellee, I am constrained to record my opinion, that, for the reasons hereinbefore set forth, the judgment under review should be reversed.

TUASON, J., dissenting: The decision concludes with the assertion that there is no choice. "We are construing" it says, "the Constitution as we see it and not as we may wish it to be. If this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution, we cannot compromise it even in the name of equity." We wish deep in our heart that we were given the light to see as the majority do and could share their opinion. As it is, we perceive things the other way around. As we see it, the decision by-passed what according to our humble understanding is the plain intent of the Constitution and groped out of its way in search of the ideal result. The denial by this Court of the motion to withdraw the appeal to which the Solicitor General gave his conformity collides with the professed sorrow that the decision cannot be helped. Section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution reads: 5. 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 in the Philippines. The sole and simple question at issue is, what is the meaning of the term "agricultural land" as used in this section? Before answering the question, it is convenient to refresh our memory of the pertinent rule in the interpretation of constitutions as expounded in decisions of courts of last resort and by law authors. It is a cardinal rule in the interpretation of constitutions that the instrument must be a construed so to give effect to the intention of the people who adopted it. This intention is to be sought in the constitution itself, and the apparent meaning of the words employed is to be taken as expressing it, except in cases where the assumption would lead to absurdity, ambiguity, or contradiction. Black on Interpretation of Laws, 2nd ed., p. 20.)

131 Every word employed in the constitution is to be expounded in its plain, obvious, and common sense, unless the context furnishes some ground to control, qualify, or enlarge it. Constitutions are not designed for metaphysical or logical subtleties, for niceties of expression, for critical propriety, for elaborate shades of meaning, or for the exercise of philosophical acuteness or judicial research. They are instruments of a practical nature founded on the common business of human life adapted to common wants, designed for common use, and fitted for common understandings. The people make them, the people adopt them, the people must be supposed to read them with the help of common sense, and cannot be presumed to admit in them any recondite meaningor any extraordinary gloss. (1 Story, Const. sec. 451.) Marshall , Ch. J., says: The framers of the Constitution, and the people who adopted it, "must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said." (Gibbons vs. Ogdon, 9 Wheat, 1, 188; 6 Law. ed., 23). Questions as to the wisdom, expediency, or justice of constitutional provisions afford no basis for construction where the intent to adopt such provisions is expressed in clear and unmistakable terms. Nor can construction read into the provisions of a constitution some unexpressed general policy or spirit, supposed to underline and pervade the instrument and to render it consonant to the genius of the institutions of the state. The courts are not at liberty to declare an act void because they deem it opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. (12 C.J., 702-703.) There is no obscurity or ambiguity in the section of the Constitution above quoted, nor does a literal interpretation of the words "agricultural land" lead to any un-the majority opinion, the phrase has no technical meaning, and the same could not have been used in any sense other than that in which it is understood by the men in the street. That there are lands of private ownership will not be denied, inspite of the fiction tha all lands proceed from the sovereign. And, that lands of private ownership are known as agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial, is another truth which no one can successfully dispute. In prohibiting the alienation of private agricultural land to aliens, the Constitution, by necessary implication, authorizes the alienation of other kinds of private property. The express mention of one thing excludes all others of the same kind. Let us then ascertain the meaning of the word "agricultural" so that by process of elimination we can see what lands do not fall within the purview of the constitutional inhibition. Webster's New international Dictionary defines this word as "of or pertaining to agriculture connected with, or engaged in, tillage; as, the agricultural class; agricultural implements, wages, etc." According to this definition and according to the popular conception of the word, lands in cities and towns intended or used for buildings or other kinds of structure are never understood to mean agricultural lands. They are either residential, commercial, or industrial lands. In all city plannings, communities are divided into residential, commercial and industrial sections. It would be extremely out of the ordinary, not to say

132 ridiculous, to imagine that the Constitutional Convention considered a lot on the Escolta with its improvement as agricultural land. If extrinsic evidence is needed, a reference to the history of the constitutional provision under consideration will dispel all doubts that urban lands were in the minds of the framers of the Constitution as properties that may be assigned to foreigners. Dean Aruego, himself a member of the Constitutional Convention, is authority for the statement that the committee on nationalization and preservation of lands and other natural resources in its report recommended the incorporation into the Constitution of the following provision: SEC. 4. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no land of private ownership shall be transferred or assigned by the owner thereof except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands; and the Government shall regulate the transfer or assignment of land now owned by persons, or corporations,or associations not qualified under the provisions of this Constitution to acquire or hold lands in the Philippine Islands. In Article XIII, entitled "General Provisions," of the first draft of the Constitution, the sub-committee of seven embodied the following provision which had been recommended in the reports of the committee on agricultural development, national defense, industry, and nationalization and preservation of lands and other natural resources: SEC. 16. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no land of private ownership shall be transferred or assigned by the owner thereof except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines. But on January 22, 1935, the sub-committee of seven submitted to the Convention a revised draft of the articleo n General Provisions of the first draft, which revised draft had been prepared by the committee in consultation with President Quezon. The revised draft as it touches private lands provides as follows: Save in cases of hereditary succession, no agricultural land of private ownership shall be transferred or assigned by the owner thereof except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands, of the public domain in the Philippine Islands. (2 The Framing of the Philippine Constitution, Aruego, 595-599.) The last-quoted proposal became section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution in its final form with sligh alteration in the phraseology. It will thus be seen that two committees in their reports and the sub-committee of seven in its first draft of the Constitution all proposed to prescribe the transfer to non-Filipino citizens of any land of private ownership without regard to its nature or use, but that the last mentioned sub-committee later amended that proposal by putting the word "agricultural" before the word "land." What are we to conclude from this modification? Its self-evident purpose was to confine the prohibition to agricultural lands, allowing the ownership by foreigners of private lands that do not partake of agricultural

133 character. The insertion of the word "agricultural" was studied and deliberated, thereby eliminating any possibility that its implication was not comprehended. In the following paragraphs we shall, in our inadequate way, attempt to show that the conclusions in this Court's decision are erroneous either because the premises are wrong or because the conclusions do not follow the premises. According to the decision, the insertion of the word "agricultural" was not intended to change the scope of the provision. It says that "the wording of the first draft was amended for no other purpose than to clarify concepts and avoid uncertainties." If this was the intention of the Constitutional Assembly, that could not have devised a better way of messing up and obscuring the meaning of the provision than what it did. If the purpose was "to clarify concepts and avoid uncertainties," the insertion of the word "agricultural" before the word "land" produced the exact opposite of the result which the change was expected to accomplish — as witness the present sharp and bitter controversy which would not have arisen had they let well enough alone. But the assumption is untenable. To brush aside the introduction of the word "agricultural" into the final draft as "merely one of words" is utterly unsupported by evidence, by the text of the Constitution, or by sound principles of construction. There is absolutely no warrant or the statement that the Constitutional Convention, which was guided by wise men, men of ability and experience in different fields of endeavor, used the termafter mature deliberation and reflection and after consultation with the President, without intending to give it its natural signification and connotation. "We are not at liberty to presume that the framers of the Constitution, or the people who adopted it, did not understand the force of language." (People vs. Rathbone, 32 N.Y.S., 108.) The Constitution will be scanned in vain for any reasonable indication that its authors made the change with intention that it should not operate according to the rules of grammar and the ordinary process of drawing logical inferences. The theory is against the presumption, based on human experience, that the framers of a constitution "have expressed themselves in careful and measured terms, corresponding with the immense importance of the powers delegated, leaving as little as possible to implication." (1 Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., 128, 129.) "As men, whose intention require no concealment, generally employ the words which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who framed our constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense and to have intended what they have said." (Gibbons vs. Ogden, ante.) When instead of prohibiting the acquisition of private land of any kind by foreigners, as originally proposed, the prohibition was changed to private agricultural lands, the average man's faculty of reasoning tells him that other lands may be acquired. The elementary rules of speech with which men of average intelligence, and, above all, the members of the Constitutional Assembly were familiar, inform us that the object of a descriptive adjective is to specify a thing as distinct from another. It is from this process of reasoning that the maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius stems; a familiar rule of interpretation often quoted, and admitted as agreeable to natural reason.

134 If then a foreigner may acquire private lands that are not agricultural, what lands are they? Timber land or mineral land, or both? As the decision itself says these lands are not susceptible of private ownership, the answer can only be residential, commercial, industrial or other lands that are not agricultural. Whether a property is more suitable and profitable to the owners as residential, commercial or industrial than if he devotes it to the cultivation of crops is a matter that has to be decided according to the value of the property, its size, and other attending circumstances. The main burden of this Court's argument is that, as lands of the public domain which are suitable for home building are considered agricultural land, the Constitution intended that private residential, commercial or industrial lands should be considered also agricultural lands. The Court says that "what the members of the Constitutional Convention had in mind when they drafted the Constitution was this well-known classification (timber, mineral and agricultural) and its technical meaning then prevailing." As far as private lands are concerned, there is no factual or legal basis for this assumption. The classification of public lands was used for one purpose not contemplated in the classification of private lands. At the outset, it should be distinctively made clear that it was this Court's previous decisions and not an Act of Congress which declared that public lands which were not forest or mineral were agricultural lands. Little reflection on the background of this Court's decisions and the nature of the question presented in relation to the peculia rprovisions of the enactments which came up for construction, will bring into relief the error of applying to private lands the classification of public lands. In the first place, we cannot classify private lands in the same manner as public lands for the very simple and manifest reason that only lands pertaining to one of the three groups of public lands — agricultural — can find their way into the hands of private persons. Forest lands and mineral lands are preserved by the State for itself and for posterity. Granting what is possible, that there are here and there forest lands and mineral lands to which private persons have obtained patents or titles, it would be pointless to suppose that such properties are the ones which section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution wants to distinguish from private agricultural lands as lienable. The majority themselves will not admit that the Constitution which forbids the alienation or private agricultural lands allows the conveyance of private forests and mines. In the second place, public lands are classified under special conditions and with a different object in view. Classification of public lands was and is made for purposes of administration; for the purpose principally of segregating lands that may be sold from lands that should be conserved. The Act of July 1, 1902, of the United States Congress designated what lands of the public domain might be alienated and what should be kept by the State. Public lands are divided into three classes to the end that natural resources may be used without waste. Subject to some exceptions and limitation, agricultural lands may be disposed of by the Government. Preservation of forest and mineral lands was and is a dominant preoccupation. These are important parts of the country's natural resources. Private non-agricultural land does not come within the category of natural resources. Natural resources are defined in Webster's Standard Dictionary as materials supplied or produced by nature. The United States Congress evinced very little if any concern with private lands.

135 It should also be distinctively kept in mind that the Act of Congress of the United States above mentioned was an organic law and dealt with vast tracts of untouched public lands. It was enacted by a Congress whose members were not closely familiar with local conditions affecting lands. Under the circumstances, it was natural that the Congress employed "words in a comprehensive sense as expressive of general ideas rather than of finer shades of thought or of narrow distinctions. "The United States Congress was content with laying down a broad outline governing the administration, exploitation, and disposition of the public wealth, leaving the details to be worked out by the local authorities and courts entrusted with the enforcement and interpretation of the law. It was a result of this broad classification that questions crept for a definition of the status of scattered small parcels of public lands that were neither forest, mineral, nor agricultural, and with which the Congress had not bothered itself to mention separately or specifically. This Court, forced by nature of its duty to decide legal controversies, ruled that public lands that were fit for residential purposes, public swamps and other public lands that were neither forest nor mineral, were to be regarded as agricultural lands. In other words, there was an apparent void, often inevitable in a law or constitution, and this Court merely filled that void. It should be noted that this Court did not say that agricultural lands and residential lands are the same or alike in their character and use. It merely said that for the purpose of judging their alienability, residential, commercial or industrial lands should be brought under the class of agricultural lands. On the other hand, section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution treats of private lands with a different aim. This Court is not now confronted with any problem for which there is no specific provision, such as faced it when the question of determining the character of public residential land came up for decision. This Court is not called to rule whether a private residential land is forest, mineral or agricultural. This Court is not, in regard to private lands, in the position where it found itself with reference to public lands, compelled by the limited field of its choice for a name to call public residential lands, agricultural lands. When it comes to determining the character of private non-agricultural lands, the Court's task is not to compare it with forests, mines and agricultural lands, to see which of these bears the closest resembrance to the land in question. Since there are no private timber nor mineral lands, and if there were, they could not be transferred to foreigners, and since the object of section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution is radically at variance withthat of the laws covering public lands, we have to have different standards of comparison and have to look of the intent of this constitutional provision from a different angle and perspective. When a private non-agricultural land demands to know where it stands, we do not acquire, is it mineral, forest or agricultural? We only ask, is it agricultural? To ascertain whether it is within the inhibition of section 5 of Article XIII. The last question in turn resolves itself into what is understood by agricultural land. Stripped of the special considerations which dictated the classification of public lands into three general groups, there is no alternative but to take the term "agricultural land" in its natural and popular signification; and thus regarded, it imports a distinct connotation which involves no absurdity and no contradiction between different parts of the organic law. Its meaning is that agricultural land is specified in section 5 of Article XIII to differentiate it from lands that are used or are more suitable for purposes other than agriculture.

136 It would profit us to take notice of the admonition of two of the most revered writers on constitutional law, Justice Story and Professor Cooley: "As a general thing, it is to be supposed that the same word is used in the same sense wherever it occurs in a constitution. Here again, however, great caution must be observed in applying an arbitrary rule; for, as Mr. Justice Story has well observed; `It does not follow, either logically or grammatically, that because a word is found in one connection in the Constitution with a definite sense, therefore the same is to be adopted in every other connection in which it occurs. This would be to suppose that the framers weighed only the force of single words, as philologists or critics, and not whole clauses and objects, as statesmen and practical reasoners. And yet nothing has been more common than to subject the Constitution to this narrow and mischievous criticism. Men of ingenious and subtle minds, who seek for symmetry and harmony in language, having found in the Constitution a word used in some sense which falls in with their favorite theory of interpreting it, have made that the standard by which to measure its use in every other part of the instrument. They have thus stretched it, as it were, on the bed of Procrustes, lopping off its meaning when it seemed too large for their purposes, and extending it, when it seemed too short. They have thus distorted it to the most unnatural shapes, and crippled where they have sought only to adjust its proportions according to their own opinions? And he gives many instances where, in the National Constitution, it is very manifest the same word is employed in different meanings. So that, while the rule may be sound as one of presumption merely, its force is but slight, and it must readily give way to a different intent appearing in the instrument." (1 Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., 135.) As to the proposition that the words "agricultural lands" have been given a technical meaning and that the Constitution has employed them in that sense, it can only be accepted in reference to public lands. If a technical import has been affixed to the term, it can not be extended to private lands if we are not to be led to an absurdity and if we are avoid the charge that we are resorting to subtle and ingenious refinement to force from the Constitution a meaning which its framers never held. While in the construction of a constitution words must be given the technical meaning which they have acquired, the rule is limited to the "well-understood meaning" "which the people must be supposed to have had in view in adopting them." To give an example. "When the constitution speaks of an ex post facto law, it means a law technically known by that designation; the meaning of the phrase having become definite in the history of constitutional law, and being so familiar to the people that it is not necessary to employ language of a more popular character to designate it." In reality, this is not a departure from the general rule that the language used is to be taken in the sense it conveys to the popular mind, "for the technical sense in these cases is the sense popularly understood, because that is the sense fixed upon the words in legal and constitutional history where they have been employed for the protection of popular rights." (1 Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., 132-133.) Viewed from this angle, "agricultural land" does not possess the quality of a technical term. Even as applied to public lands, and even among lawyers and judges, how many are familiar with the decisions of this Court which hold that public swamps and public lands more appropriate for buildings and other structures than for agriculture are agricultural lands? The same can be truthfully said of members of the Constitutional Assembly.

137 The speeches of delegates Montilla and Ledesma cannot serve as a means of interpretation. The sentiments expressed in those speeches, like the first drafts of section 5 of Article XIII, may have reflected the sentiments of the Convention in the first stages of the deliberation or down to its close. If they were, those sentiments were relaxed and not given full sway for reasons on which we need not speculate. Speeches in support of a project can be a valuable criterion for judging the intention of a law or constitution only if no changes were afterward affected. If anything, the change in section 5 of Article XIII wrought in the face of a strong advocacy for complete and absolute nationalization of all lands, without exception, offers itself as the best proof that to the framers of the Constitution the change was not "merely one of words" but represented something real and substantial. Firm and resolute convictions are expressed in a document in strong, unequivocal and unqualified language. This is specially true when the instrument is a constitution, "the most solemn and deliberate of human writings, always carefully drawn, and calculated for permanent endurance." The decision quotes from the Framing of the Constitution by Dean Aruego a sentence which says that one of the principles underlying the provision of Article XIII of the Constitution is "that lands, minerals, forests and other natural resources constitute the exclusive heritage of the Filipino Nation." In underlying the word lands the Court wants to insinuate that all lands without exceptions are included. This is nothing to be enthusiastic over. It is hyperbole, "a figure of speech in which the statement expresses more than the truth" but "is accepted as a legal form of expression." It is an expression that "lies but does not deceive." When we say men must fight we do not mean all men, and every one knows we don't. The decision says: It is true that in section 9 of said Commonwealth Act No. 141,"alienable or disposable public lands" which are the same as "public agricultural lands" under the Constitution, are classified into agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial and for other purposes. This simply means that the term "public agricultural lands" has both a broad and a particular meaning. Under its broad or general meaning, as used in the Constitution, it embraces all lands that are neither timber nor mineral. This broad meaning is particularized in section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 which classifies "public agricultural lands" for purposes of alienation or disposition, into lands that are strictly agricultural or actually devoted to cultivation for agricultural purposes; lands that are residential; commercial; industrial; or lands for other purposes. The fact that these lands are made alienable or disposable under Commonwealth Act No. 141, in favor of Filipino Citizen, is a conclusive indication of their character as public agricultural lands under said statute and under the Constitution." If I am not mistaken in my understanding of the line of reasoning in the foregoing passage, my humble opinion is that there is no logical connection between the premise and the conclusion. What to me seems clearly to emerge from it is that Commonwealth Act No. 141, so far from sustaining that Court's theory, actually pulls down its case which it has built upon the foundation of parallel classification of public and private lands into forest, mineral and agricultural lands, and the inexistence of such things as residential, industrial or commercial lands. It is to be noted that Act No. 141, section 9, classifies

138 disposable lands into agricultural, industrial, residential, commercial, etc. And these are lands of the public domain. The fact that the provisions regarding alienation of private lands happens to be included in Article XIII, which is entitled "Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources," is no ground for treating public lands and private lands on the same footing. The inference should rather be the exact reverse. Agricultural lands, whether public or private, are natural resources. But residential, commercial, and industrial lands, as we have seen, are not natural resources either in the sense these words convey to the popular mind or as defined in the dictionary. This fact may have been one factor which prompted the elimination of private non-agricultural lands from the range of the prohibition, along with reasons, of foreign policy, economics and politics. From the opinion of Secretary of Justice Jose A. Santos in 1939, the majority can not derive any comfort unless we cling to the serious argument that as public lands go so go private lands. In that opinion the question propounded was whether a piece of public land which was more profitable as a homesite might not be sold and considered as agricultural. The illustrious Secretary answered yes, which was correct. But the classification of private lands was not directly or indirectly involved. It is the opinion of the present Secretary of Justice that is to the point. If the construction placed by the law-officer of the government on a constitutional provision may properly be invoked, as the majority say but which I doubt, as representing the true intent of the instrument, this Court, if it is to be consistent, should adopt Secretary Ozaeta's view. If the Solicitor General's attitude as interested counsel for the government in a judicial action is — as the decision also suggests but which, I think, is still more incorrect both in theory and in practice — then this Court should have given heed to the motion for withdrawal of the present appeal, which had been concurred in by the Solicitor General in line presumably with the opinion of the head of his department. The Court fears that "this constitutional purpose of conserving agricultural resources in the hands of Filipino citizens may easily be defeated by the Filipino citizens themselves who may alienate their agricultural lands in favor of aliens." It reasons that "it would certainly be futile to prohibit the alienation of public agricultural lands to aliens if, after all, they may be freely so alienated upon their becoming private agricultural lands in the hands of Filipino citizens." Sections122 and 123 of Act No. 141 should banish this fear. These sections, quoted and relied upon in the majority opinion, prevent private lands that have been acquired under any of the public land laws from falling into alien possession in fee simple. Without this law, the fear would be well-founded if we adopt the majority's theory, which we precisely reject, that agricultural and residential lands are synonymous, be they public or private. The fear would not materialize under our theory, that only lands which are not agricultural may be owned by persons other than FIlipino citizens. Act No. 141, by the way, supplies the best argument against the majority's interpretation of section 5 of Article XIII. Prohibiting the acquisition by foreigners of any lands originally acquired in any manner under its provisions or under the provisions of any previous law, ordinace, royal order, royal decree, or any other law formerly enforced in the Philippines with regard to public lands, etc., it is a mute eloquent testimony that in the minds of the legislature, whose interpretation the majority correctly say should be

139 looked to as authoritative, the Constitution did not carry such prohibition. For if the Constitution already barred the alienation of lands of any kind in favor of aliens, the provisions of sections 122 and 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 would have been superfluous. The decision says that "if under Article XIV section 8, of the Constitution, an alien may not even operate a small jeepney for hire, it is certainly not hard to understand that neither is he allowed to own a piece of land." There is no similitude between owning a lot for a home or a factory or a store and operating a jeepney for hire. It is not the ownership of a jeepney that is forbidden; it is the use of it for public service that is not allowed. A foreigner is not barred from owning the costliest motor cars, steamships or airplanes in any number, for his private use or that of his friends and relatives. He can not use a jeepney for hire because the operation of public utilities is reserved to Filipino nationals, and the operation of a jeepney happens to be within this policy. The use of a jeepney for hire maybe insignificant in itself but it falls within a class of industry that performs a vital function in the country's economic life, closely associated with its advancing civilization, supplying needs so fundamental for communal living and for the development of the country's economy, that the government finds need of subjecting them to some measure of control and the Constitution deems it necessary to limit their operation by Filipino citizens. The importance of using a jeepney for hire cannot be sneered at or minimized just as a vote for public office by a single foreign citizen can not be looked at with a shrug of the shoulder on the theory that it would not cause a ripple in the political complexion or scene of the nation. This Court quotes with approval from the Solicitor General's brief this passage: "If the term `private agricultural lands' is to be construed as not including residential lots or lands of similar nature, the result will be that aliens may freely acquire and possess not only residential lots and houses for themselves but entire subdivisions and whole towns and cities, and that they may validly buy and hold in their names lands of any area for building homes, factories, industrial plants, fisheries, hatcheries, schools, health and vacation resorts, markets, golf — courses, playgrounds, airfields and a host of other uses and purposes that are not, in appellant's words, strictly agricultural." Arguments like this have no place where there is no ambiguity in the constitution or law. The courts are not at liberty to disregard a provision that is clear and certain simply because its enforcement would work inconvenience or hardship or lead to what they believe pernicious results. Courts have nothing to do with inconvenience or consequences. This role is founded on sound principles of constitutional government and is so well known as to make citations of authorities presumptuous. Granting the possibility or probability of the consequences which this Court and the Solicitor General dread, we should not overlook the fact that there is the Congress standing guard to curtail or stop such excesses or abuses if and when the menace should show its head. The fact that the Constitution has not prohibited, as we contend, the transfer of private non-agricultural lands to aliens does not prevent the Congress from passing legislation to regulate or prohibit such transfer, to define the size of private lands a foreigner may possess in fee simple, or to specify the uses for which lands may be dedicated, in order to prevent aliens from conducting fisheries, hatcheries, vacation resorts, markets, golf-courses, cemeteries. The Congress could, if it wants, go so far as to exclude foreigners from entering the country or settling here. If I may be permitted to guess, the alteration in the original draft of section 5 of Article XIII may have been prompted precisely by the thought that it is the better policy to leave to the political

140 departments of the Government the regulation or absolute prohibition of all land ownership by foreigners, as the changed, changing and ever-changing conditions demand. The Commonwealth Legislature did that with respect to lands that were originally public lands, through Commonwealth Act No. 141, and the Legislative Assembly during the Japanese occupation extended the prohibition to all private lands, as Mr. Justice Paras has pointed out. In the present Congress, at least two bills have been introduced proposing Congressional legislation in the same direction. All of which is an infallible sign that the Constitution does not carry such prohibition, in the opinion of three legislatures, an opinion which, we entirely agree with the majority, should be given serious consideration by the courts (if needed there were any doubt), both as a matter of policy, and also because it may be presumed to represent the true intent of the instrument. (12 C.J., 714.) In truth, the decision lays special emphasis on the fact that "many members of the National Assembly who approved the new Act (No. 141) had been members of the Constitutional Convention." May I add that Senator Francisco, who is the author of one of the bills I have referred to, in the Senate, was a leading, active and influential member of the Constitutional Convention?

G.R. No. L-17587

September 12, 1967

PHILIPPINE BANKING CORPORATION, representing the estate of JUSTINA SANTOS Y CANON FAUSTINO, deceased, plaintiff-appellant, vs. LUI SHE in her own behalf and as administratrix of the intestate estate of Wong Heng, deceased,defendant-appellant. Nicanor S. Sison for plaintiff-appellant. Ozaeta, Gibbs & Ozaeta for defendant-appellant.

CASTRO, J.: Justina Santos y Canon Faustino and her sister Lorenzo were the owners in common of a piece of land in Manila. This parcel, with an area of 2,582.30 square meters, is located on Rizal Avenue and opens into Florentino Torres street at the back and Katubusan street on one side. In it are two residential houses with entrance on Florentino Torres street and the Hen Wah Restaurant with entrance on Rizal Avenue. The sisters lived in one of the houses, while Wong Heng, a Chinese, lived with his family in the restaurant. Wong had been a long-time lessee of a portion of the property, paying a monthly rental of P2,620. On September 22, 1957 Justina Santos became the owner of the entire property as her sister died with no other heir. Then already well advanced in years, being at the time 90 years old, blind, crippled and an invalid, she was left with no other relative to live with. Her only companions in the house were her 17 dogs and 8 maids. Her otherwise dreary existence was brightened now and then by the visits of

141 Wong's four children who had become the joy of her life. Wong himself was the trusted man to whom she delivered various amounts for safekeeping, including rentals from her property at the corner of Ongpin and Salazar streets and the rentals which Wong himself paid as lessee of a part of the Rizal Avenue property. Wong also took care of the payment; in her behalf, of taxes, lawyers' fees, funeral expenses, masses, salaries of maids and security guard, and her household expenses. "In grateful acknowledgment of the personal services of the lessee to her," Justina Santos executed on November 15, 1957 a contract of lease (Plff Exh. 3) in favor of Wong, covering the portion then already leased to him and another portion fronting Florentino Torres street. The lease was for 50 years, although the lessee was given the right to withdraw at any time from the agreement; the monthly rental was P3,120. The contract covered an area of 1,124 square meters. Ten days later (November 25), the contract was amended (Plff Exh. 4) so as to make it cover the entire property, including the portion on which the house of Justina Santos stood, at an additional monthly rental of P360. For his part Wong undertook to pay, out of the rental due from him, an amount not exceeding P1,000 a month for the food of her dogs and the salaries of her maids. On December 21 she executed another contract (Plff Exh. 7) giving Wong the option to buy the leased premises for P120,000, payable within ten years at a monthly installment of P1,000. The option, written in Tagalog, imposed on him the obligation to pay for the food of the dogs and the salaries of the maids in her household, the charge not to exceed P1,800 a month. The option was conditioned on his obtaining Philippine citizenship, a petition for which was then pending in the Court of First Instance of Rizal. It appears, however, that this application for naturalization was withdrawn when it was discovered that he was not a resident of Rizal. On October 28, 1958 she filed a petition to adopt him and his children on the erroneous belief that adoption would confer on them Philippine citizenship. The error was discovered and the proceedings were abandoned. On November 18, 1958 she executed two other contracts, one (Plff Exh. 5) extending the term of the lease to 99 years, and another (Plff Exh. 6) fixing the term of the option of 50 years. Both contracts are written in Tagalog. In two wills executed on August 24 and 29, 1959 (Def Exhs. 285 & 279), she bade her legatees to respect the contracts she had entered into with Wong, but in a codicil (Plff Exh. 17) of a later date (November 4, 1959) she appears to have a change of heart. Claiming that the various contracts were made by her because of machinations and inducements practiced by him, she now directed her executor to secure the annulment of the contracts. On November 18 the present action was filed in the Court of First Instance of Manila. The complaint alleged that the contracts were obtained by Wong "through fraud, misrepresentation, inequitable conduct, undue influence and abuse of confidence and trust of and (by) taking advantage of the helplessness of the plaintiff and were made to circumvent the constitutional provision prohibiting aliens from acquiring lands in the Philippines and also of the Philippine Naturalization Laws." The court was asked to direct the Register of Deeds of Manila to cancel the registration of the contracts and to

142 order Wong to pay Justina Santos the additional rent of P3,120 a month from November 15, 1957 on the allegation that the reasonable rental of the leased premises was P6,240 a month. In his answer, Wong admitted that he enjoyed her trust and confidence as proof of which he volunteered the information that, in addition to the sum of P3,000 which he said she had delivered to him for safekeeping, another sum of P22,000 had been deposited in a joint account which he had with one of her maids. But he denied having taken advantage of her trust in order to secure the execution of the contracts in question. As counterclaim he sought the recovery of P9,210.49 which he said she owed him for advances. Wong's admission of the receipt of P22,000 and P3,000 was the cue for the filing of an amended complaint. Thus on June 9, 1960, aside from the nullity of the contracts, the collection of various amounts allegedly delivered on different occasions was sought. These amounts and the dates of their delivery are P33,724.27 (Nov. 4, 1957); P7,344.42 (Dec. 1, 1957); P10,000 (Dec. 6, 1957); P22,000 and P3,000 (as admitted in his answer). An accounting of the rentals from the Ongpin and Rizal Avenue properties was also demanded. In the meantime as a result of a petition for guardianship filed in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the Security Bank & Trust Co. was appointed guardian of the properties of Justina Santos, while Ephraim G. Gochangco was appointed guardian of her person. In his answer, Wong insisted that the various contracts were freely and voluntarily entered into by the parties. He likewise disclaimed knowledge of the sum of P33,724.27, admitted receipt of P7,344.42 and P10,000, but contended that these amounts had been spent in accordance with the instructions of Justina Santos; he expressed readiness to comply with any order that the court might make with respect to the sums of P22,000 in the bank and P3,000 in his possession. The case was heard, after which the lower court rendered judgment as follows: [A]ll the documents mentioned in the first cause of action, with the exception of the first which is the lease contract of 15 November 1957, are declared null and void; Wong Heng is condemned to pay unto plaintiff thru guardian of her property the sum of P55,554.25 with legal interest from the date of the filing of the amended complaint; he is also ordered to pay the sum of P3,120.00 for every month of his occupation as lessee under the document of lease herein sustained, from 15 November 1959, and the moneys he has consigned since then shall be imputed to that; costs against Wong Heng. From this judgment both parties appealed directly to this Court. After the case was submitted for decision, both parties died, Wong Heng on October 21, 1962 and Justina Santos on December 28, 1964. Wong was substituted by his wife, Lui She, the other defendant in this case, while Justina Santos was substituted by the Philippine Banking Corporation. Justina Santos maintained — now reiterated by the Philippine Banking Corporation — that the lease contract (Plff Exh. 3) should have been annulled along with the four other contracts (Plff Exhs. 4-7) because it lacks mutuality; because it included a portion which, at the time, was in custodia legis;

143 because the contract was obtained in violation of the fiduciary relations of the parties; because her consent was obtained through undue influence, fraud and misrepresentation; and because the lease contract, like the rest of the contracts, is absolutely simulated. Paragraph 5 of the lease contract states that "The lessee may at any time withdraw from this agreement." It is claimed that this stipulation offends article 1308 of the Civil Code which provides that "the contract must bind both contracting parties; its validity or compliance cannot be left to the will of one of them." We have had occasion to delineate the scope and application of article 1308 in the early case of Taylor v. Uy Tieng Piao.1 We said in that case: Article 1256 [now art. 1308] of the Civil Code in our opinion creates no impediment to the insertion in a contract for personal service of a resolutory condition permitting the cancellation of the contract by one of the parties. Such a stipulation, as can be readily seen, does not make either the validity or the fulfillment of the contract dependent upon the will of the party to whom is conceded the privilege of cancellation; for where the contracting parties have agreed that such option shall exist, the exercise of the option is as much in the fulfillment of the contract as any other act which may have been the subject of agreement. Indeed, the cancellation of a contract in accordance with conditions agreed upon beforehand is fulfillment.2 And so it was held in Melencio v. Dy Tiao Lay 3 that a "provision in a lease contract that the lessee, at any time before he erected any building on the land, might rescind the lease, can hardly be regarded as a violation of article 1256 [now art. 1308] of the Civil Code." The case of Singson Encarnacion v. Baldomar 4 cannot be cited in support of the claim of want of mutuality, because of a difference in factual setting. In that case, the lessees argued that they could occupy the premises as long as they paid the rent. This is of course untenable, for as this Court said, "If this defense were to be allowed, so long as defendants elected to continue the lease by continuing the payment of the rentals, the owner would never be able to discontinue it; conversely, although the owner should desire the lease to continue the lessees could effectively thwart his purpose if they should prefer to terminate the contract by the simple expedient of stopping payment of the rentals." Here, in contrast, the right of the lessee to continue the lease or to terminate it is so circumscribed by the term of the contract that it cannot be said that the continuance of the lease depends upon his will. At any rate, even if no term had been fixed in the agreement, this case would at most justify the fixing of a period5 but not the annulment of the contract. Nor is there merit in the claim that as the portion of the property formerly owned by the sister of Justina Santos was still in the process of settlement in the probate court at the time it was leased, the lease is invalid as to such portion. Justina Santos became the owner of the entire property upon the death of her sister Lorenzo on September 22, 1957 by force of article 777 of the Civil Code. Hence, when she leased the property on November 15, she did so already as owner thereof. As this Court explained in upholding the sale made by an heir of a property under judicial administration:

144 That the land could not ordinarily be levied upon while in custodia legis does not mean that one of the heirs may not sell the right, interest or participation which he has or might have in the lands under administration. The ordinary execution of property in custodia legis is prohibited in order to avoid interference with the possession by the court. But the sale made by an heir of his share in an inheritance, subject to the result of the pending administration, in no wise stands in the way of such administration.6 It is next contended that the lease contract was obtained by Wong in violation of his fiduciary relationship with Justina Santos, contrary to article 1646, in relation to article 1941 of the Civil Code, which disqualifies "agents (from leasing) the property whose administration or sale may have been entrusted to them." But Wong was never an agent of Justina Santos. The relationship of the parties, although admittedly close and confidential, did not amount to an agency so as to bring the case within the prohibition of the law. Just the same, it is argued that Wong so completely dominated her life and affairs that the contracts express not her will but only his. Counsel for Justina Santos cites the testimony of Atty. Tomas S. Yumol who said that he prepared the lease contract on the basis of data given to him by Wong and that she told him that "whatever Mr. Wong wants must be followed."7 The testimony of Atty. Yumol cannot be read out of context in order to warrant a finding that Wong practically dictated the terms of the contract. What this witness said was: Q Did you explain carefully to your client, Doña Justina, the contents of this document before she signed it? A I explained to her each and every one of these conditions and I also told her these conditions were quite onerous for her, I don't really know if I have expressed my opinion, but I told her that we would rather not execute any contract anymore, but to hold it as it was before, on a verbal month to month contract of lease. Q But, she did not follow your advice, and she went with the contract just the same? A She agreed first . . . Q Agreed what? A Agreed with my objectives that it is really onerous and that I was really right, but after that, I was called again by her and she told me to follow the wishes of Mr. Wong Heng. xxx xxx xxx

Q So, as far as consent is concerned, you were satisfied that this document was perfectly proper? xxx xxx xxx

145 A Your Honor, if I have to express my personal opinion, I would say she is not, because, as I said before, she told me — "Whatever Mr. Wong wants must be followed."8 Wong might indeed have supplied the data which Atty. Yumol embodied in the lease contract, but to say this is not to detract from the binding force of the contract. For the contract was fully explained to Justina Santos by her own lawyer. One incident, related by the same witness, makes clear that she voluntarily consented to the lease contract. This witness said that the original term fixed for the lease was 99 years but that as he doubted the validity of a lease to an alien for that length of time, he tried to persuade her to enter instead into a lease on a month-to-month basis. She was, however, firm and unyielding. Instead of heeding the advice of the lawyer, she ordered him, "Just follow Mr. Wong Heng."9 Recounting the incident, Atty. Yumol declared on cross examination: Considering her age, ninety (90) years old at the time and her condition, she is a wealthy woman, it is just natural when she said "This is what I want and this will be done." In particular reference to this contract of lease, when I said "This is not proper," she said — "You just go ahead, you prepare that, I am the owner, and if there is any illegality, I am the only one that can question the illegality."10 Atty. Yumol further testified that she signed the lease contract in the presence of her close friend, Hermenegilda Lao, and her maid, Natividad Luna, who was constantly by her side.11 Any of them could have testified on the undue influence that Wong supposedly wielded over Justina Santos, but neither of them was presented as a witness. The truth is that even after giving his client time to think the matter over, the lawyer could not make her change her mind. This persuaded the lower court to uphold the validity of the lease contract against the claim that it was procured through undue influence. Indeed, the charge of undue influence in this case rests on a mere inference12 drawn from the fact that Justina Santos could not read (as she was blind) and did not understand the English language in which the contract is written, but that inference has been overcome by her own evidence. Nor is there merit in the claim that her consent to the lease contract, as well as to the rest of the contracts in question, was given out of a mistaken sense of gratitude to Wong who, she was made to believe, had saved her and her sister from a fire that destroyed their house during the liberation of Manila. For while a witness claimed that the sisters were saved by other persons (the brothers Edilberto and Mariano Sta. Ana)13 it was Justina Santos herself who, according to her own witness, Benjamin C. Alonzo, said "very emphatically" that she and her sister would have perished in the fire had it not been for Wong.14 Hence the recital in the deed of conditional option (Plff Exh. 7) that "[I]tong si Wong Heng ang siyang nagligtas sa aming dalawang magkapatid sa halos ay tiyak na kamatayan", and the equally emphatic avowal of gratitude in the lease contract (Plff Exh. 3). As it was with the lease contract (Plff Exh. 3), so it was with the rest of the contracts (Plff Exhs. 4-7) — the consent of Justina Santos was given freely and voluntarily. As Atty. Alonzo, testifying for her, said: [I]n nearly all documents, it was either Mr. Wong Heng or Judge Torres and/or both. When we had conferences, they used to tell me what the documents should contain. But, as I said, I would always ask the old woman about them and invariably the old woman used to tell me: "That's okay. It's all right."15

146 But the lower court set aside all the contracts, with the exception of the lease contract of November 15, 1957, on the ground that they are contrary to the expressed wish of Justina Santos and that their considerations are fictitious. Wong stated in his deposition that he did not pay P360 a month for the additional premises leased to him, because she did not want him to, but the trial court did not believe him. Neither did it believe his statement that he paid P1,000 as consideration for each of the contracts (namely, the option to buy the leased premises, the extension of the lease to 99 years, and the fixing of the term of the option at 50 years), but that the amount was returned to him by her for safekeeping. Instead, the court relied on the testimony of Atty. Alonzo in reaching the conclusion that the contracts are void for want of consideration. Atty. Alonzo declared that he saw no money paid at the time of the execution of the documents, but his negative testimony does not rule out the possibility that the considerations were paid at some other time as the contracts in fact recite. What is more, the consideration need not pass from one party to the other at the time a contract is executed because the promise of one is the consideration for the other.16 With respect to the lower court's finding that in all probability Justina Santos could not have intended to part with her property while she was alive nor even to lease it in its entirety as her house was built on it, suffice it to quote the testimony of her own witness and lawyer who prepared the contracts (Plff Exhs. 4-7) in question, Atty. Alonzo: The ambition of the old woman, before her death, according to her revelation to me, was to see to it that these properties be enjoyed, even to own them, by Wong Heng because Doña Justina told me that she did not have any relatives, near or far, and she considered Wong Heng as a son and his children her grandchildren; especially her consolation in life was when she would hear the children reciting prayers in Tagalog.17 She was very emphatic in the care of the seventeen (17) dogs and of the maids who helped her much, and she told me to see to it that no one could disturb Wong Heng from those properties. That is why we thought of the ninety-nine (99) years lease; we thought of adoption, believing that thru adoption Wong Heng might acquire Filipino citizenship; being the adopted child of a Filipino citizen.18 This is not to say, however, that the contracts (Plff Exhs. 3-7) are valid. For the testimony just quoted, while dispelling doubt as to the intention of Justina Santos, at the same time gives the clue to what we view as a scheme to circumvent the Constitutional prohibition against the transfer of lands to aliens. "The illicit purpose then becomes the illegal causa"19 rendering the contracts void. Taken singly, the contracts show nothing that is necessarily illegal, but considered collectively, they reveal an insidious pattern to subvert by indirection what the Constitution directly prohibits. To be sure, a lease to an alien for a reasonable period is valid. So is an option giving an alien the right to buy real property on condition that he is granted Philippine citizenship. As this Court said in Krivenko v. Register of Deeds:20

147 [A]liens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from the use of lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in the Philippines is temporary, they may be granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is not forbidden by the Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes and misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire. But if an alien is given not only a lease of, but also an option to buy, a piece of land, by virtue of which the Filipino owner cannot sell or otherwise dispose of his property,21 this to last for 50 years, then it becomes clear that the arrangement is a virtual transfer of ownership whereby the owner divests himself in stages not only of the right to enjoy the land ( jus possidendi, jus utendi, jus fruendi and jus abutendi) but also of the right to dispose of it ( jus disponendi) — rights the sum total of which make up ownership. It is just as if today the possession is transferred, tomorrow, the use, the next day, the disposition, and so on, until ultimately all the rights of which ownership is made up are consolidated in an alien. And yet this is just exactly what the parties in this case did within the space of one year, with the result that Justina Santos' ownership of her property was reduced to a hollow concept. If this can be done, then the Constitutional ban against alien landholding in the Philippines, as announced in Krivenko v. Register of Deeds,22 is indeed in grave peril. It does not follow from what has been said, however, that because the parties are in pari delicto they will be left where they are, without relief. For one thing, the original parties who were guilty of a violation of the fundamental charter have died and have since been substituted by their administrators to whom it would be unjust to impute their guilt.23 For another thing, and this is not only cogent but also important, article 1416 of the Civil Code provides, as an exception to the rule on pari delicto, that "When the agreement is not illegal per se but is merely prohibited, and the prohibition by law is designed for the protection of the plaintiff, he may, if public policy is thereby enhanced, recover what he has paid or delivered." The Constitutional provision that "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 in the Philippines"24 is an expression of public policy to conserve lands for the Filipinos. As this Court said in Krivenko: It is well to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the Constitution as it is and not as we may desire it to be. Perhaps the effect of our construction is to preclude aliens admitted freely into the Philippines from owning sites where they may build their homes. But if this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution, we will not attempt to compromise it even in the name of amity or equity . . . . For all the foregoing, we hold that under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public agricultural lands, including residential lands, and, accordingly, judgment is affirmed, without costs.25 That policy would be defeated and its continued violation sanctioned if, instead of setting the contracts aside and ordering the restoration of the land to the estate of the deceased Justina Santos, this Court should apply the general rule of pari delicto. To the extent that our ruling in this case conflicts with that laid down inRellosa v. Gaw Chee Hun 26 and subsequent similar cases, the latter must be considered as pro tanto qualified.

148 The claim for increased rentals and attorney's fees, made in behalf of Justina Santos, must be denied for lack of merit. And what of the various amounts which Wong received in trust from her? It appears that he kept two classes of accounts, one pertaining to amount which she entrusted to him from time to time, and another pertaining to rentals from the Ongpin property and from the Rizal Avenue property, which he himself was leasing. With respect to the first account, the evidence shows that he received P33,724.27 on November 8, 1957 (Plff Exh. 16); P7,354.42 on December 1, 1957 (Plff Exh. 13); P10,000 on December 6, 1957 (Plff Exh. 14) ; and P18,928.50 on August 26, 1959 (Def. Exh. 246), or a total of P70,007.19. He claims, however, that he settled his accounts and that the last amount of P18,928.50 was in fact payment to him of what in the liquidation was found to be due to him. He made disbursements from this account to discharge Justina Santos' obligations for taxes, attorneys' fees, funeral services and security guard services, but the checks (Def Exhs. 247-278) drawn by him for this purpose amount to only P38,442.84.27 Besides, if he had really settled his accounts with her on August 26, 1959, we cannot understand why he still had P22,000 in the bank and P3,000 in his possession, or a total of P25,000. In his answer, he offered to pay this amount if the court so directed him. On these two grounds, therefore, his claim of liquidation and settlement of accounts must be rejected. After subtracting P38,442.84 (expenditures) from P70,007.19 (receipts), there is a difference of P31,564 which, added to the amount of P25,000, leaves a balance of P56,564.3528 in favor of Justina Santos. As to the second account, the evidence shows that the monthly income from the Ongpin property until its sale in Rizal Avenue July, 1959 was P1,000, and that from the Rizal Avenue property, of which Wong was the lessee, was P3,120. Against this account the household expenses and disbursements for the care of the 17 dogs and the salaries of the 8 maids of Justina Santos were charged. This account is contained in a notebook (Def. Exh. 6) which shows a balance of P9,210.49 in favor of Wong. But it is claimed that the rental from both the Ongpin and Rizal Avenue properties was more than enough to pay for her monthly expenses and that, as a matter of fact, there should be a balance in her favor. The lower court did not allow either party to recover against the other. Said the court: [T]he documents bear the earmarks of genuineness; the trouble is that they were made only by Francisco Wong and Antonia Matias, nick-named Toning, — which was the way she signed the loose sheets, and there is no clear proof that Doña Justina had authorized these two to act for her in such liquidation; on the contrary if the result of that was a deficit as alleged and sought to be there shown, of P9,210.49, that was not what Doña Justina apparently understood for as the Court understands her statement to the Honorable Judge of the Juvenile Court . . . the reason why she preferred to stay in her home was because there she did not incur in any debts . . . this being the case, . . . the Court will not adjudicate in favor of Wong Heng on his counterclaim; on the other hand, while it is claimed that the expenses were much less than the rentals and there in fact should be a superavit, . . . this Court must

149 concede that daily expenses are not easy to compute, for this reason, the Court faced with the choice of the two alternatives will choose the middle course which after all is permitted by the rules of proof, Sec. 69, Rule 123 for in the ordinary course of things, a person will live within his income so that the conclusion of the Court will be that there is neither deficit nor superavit and will let the matter rest here. Both parties on appeal reiterate their respective claims but we agree with the lower court that both claims should be denied. Aside from the reasons given by the court, we think that the claim of Justina Santos totalling P37,235, as rentals due to her after deducting various expenses, should be rejected as the evidence is none too clear about the amounts spent by Wong for food29 masses30 and salaries of her maids.31 His claim for P9,210.49 must likewise be rejected as his averment of liquidation is belied by his own admission that even as late as 1960 he still had P22,000 in the bank and P3,000 in his possession. ACCORDINGLY, the contracts in question (Plff Exhs. 3-7) are annulled and set aside; the land subject-matter of the contracts is ordered returned to the estate of Justina Santos as represented by the Philippine Banking Corporation; Wong Heng (as substituted by the defendant-appellant Lui She) is ordered to pay the Philippine Banking Corporation the sum of P56,564.35, with legal interest from the date of the filing of the amended complaint; and the amounts consigned in court by Wong Heng shall be applied to the payment of rental from November 15, 1959 until the premises shall have been vacated by his heirs. Costs against the defendant-appellant. Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez and Angeles, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

FERNANDO, J., concurring: With the able and well-written opinion of Justice Castro, I am in full agreement. The exposition of the facts leaves nothing to be desired and the statement of the law is notable for its comprehensiveness and clarity. This concurring opinion has been written solely to express what I consider to be the unfortunate and deplorable consequences of applying the pari delicto concept, as was, to my mind, indiscriminately done, to alien landholding declared illegal under the Krivenko doctrine in some past decisions. It is to be remembered that in Krivenko v. The Register of Deeds of Manila,1 this Court over strong dissents held that residential and commercial lots may be considered agricultural within the meaning of the constitutional provision prohibiting the transfer of any private agricultural land to individuals,

150 corporations or associations not qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines save in cases of hereditary succession. That provision of the Constitution took effect on November 15, 1935 when the Commonwealth Government was established. The interpretation as set forth in the Krivenko decision was only handed down on November 15, 1947. Prior to that date there were many who were of the opinion that the phrase agricultural land should be construed strictly and not be made to cover residential and commercial lots. Acting on that belief, several transactions were entered into transferring such lots to alien vendees by Filipino-vendors. After the Krivenko decision, some Filipino vendors sought recovery of the lots in question on the ground that the sales were null and void. No definite ruling was made by this Court until September of 1953, when on the 29th of said month, Rellosa v. Gaw Chee Hun,2 Bautista v. Uy Isabelo,3 Talento v. Makiki,4 Caoile v. Chiao Peng5were decided. Of the four decisions in September, 1953, the most extensive discussion of the question is found in Rellosa v. Gaw Chee Hun, the opinion being penned by retired Justice Bautista Angelo with the concurrence only of one Justice, Justice Labrador, also retired. Former Chief Justice Paras as well as the former Justices Tuason and Montemayor concurred in the result. The necessary sixth vote for a decision was given by the then Justice Bengzon, who had a two-paragraph concurring opinion disagreeing with the main opinion as to the force to be accorded to the two cases,6 therein cited. There were two dissenting opinions by former Justices Pablo and Alex Reyes. The doctrine as announced in the Rellosa case is that while the sale by a Filipino-vendor to an alien-vendee of a residential or a commercial lot is null and void as held in the Krivenko case, still the Filipino-vendor has no right to recover under a civil law doctrine, the parties being in pari delicto. The only remedy to prevent this continuing violation of the Constitution which the decision impliedly sanctions by allowing the alien vendees to retain the lots in question is either escheat or reversion. Thus: "By following either of these remedies, or by approving an implementary law as above suggested, we can enforce the fundamental policy of our Constitution regarding our natural resources without doing violence to the principle of pari delicto."7 Were the parties really in pari delicto? Had the sale by and between Filipino-vendor and alienvendee occurred after the decision in the Krivenko case, then the above view would be correct that both Filipino-vendor and alien-vendee could not be considered as innocent parties within the contemplation of the law. Both of them should be held equally guilty of evasion of the Constitution. Since, however, the sales in question took place prior to the Krivenko decision, at a time when the assumption could be honestly entertained that there was no constitutional prohibition against the sale of commercial or residential lots by Filipino-vendor to alien-vendee, in the absence of a definite decision by the Supreme Court, it would not be doing violence to reason to free them from the imputation of evading the Constitution. For evidently evasion implies at the very least knowledge of what is being evaded. The new Civil Code expressly provides: "Mistakes upon a doubtful or difficult question of law may be the basis of good faith."8

151 According to the Rellosa opinion, both parties are equally guilty of evasion of the Constitution, based on the broader principle that "both parties are presumed to know the law." This statement that the sales entered into prior to the Krivenko decision were at that time already vitiated by a guilty knowledge of the parties may be too extreme a view. It appears to ignore a postulate of a constitutional system, wherein the words of the Constitution acquire meaning through Supreme Court adjudication.1awphîl.nèt Reference may be made by way of analogy to a decision adjudging a statute void. Under the orthodox theory of constitutional law, the act having been found unconstitutional was not a law, conferred no rights, imposed no duty, afforded no protection.9 As pointed out by former Chief Justice Hughes though in Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State Bank:10 "It is quite clear, however, that such broad statements as to the effect of a determination of unconstitutionality must be taken with qualifications. The actual existence of a statute, prior to such a determination, is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot justly be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration. The effect of subsequent ruling as to invalidity may have to be considered in various aspects, — with respect to particular relations, individual and corporate, and particular conduct, private and official. Questions of rights claimed to have become vested, of status, of prior determinations deemed to have finality and acted upon accordingly, of public policy in the light of the nature both of the statute and of its previous application, demand examination." After the Krivenko decision, there is no doubt that continued possession by alien-vendee of property acquired before its promulgation is violative of the Constitution. It is as if an act granting aliens the right to acquire residential and commercial lots were annulled by the Supreme Court as contrary to the provision of the Constitution prohibiting aliens from acquiring private agricultural land. The question then as now, therefore, was and is how to divest the alien of such property rights on terms equitable to both parties. That question should be justly resolved in accordance with the mandates of the Constitution not by a wholesale condemnation of both parties for entering into a contract at a time when there was no ban as yet arising from the Krivenko decision, which could not have been anticipated. Unfortunately, under theRellosa case, it was assumed that the parties, being in pari delicto, would be left in the situation in which they were, neither being in a position to seek judicial redress. Would it not have been more in consonance with the Constitution, if instead the decision compelled the restitution of the property by the alien-vendee to the Filipino-vendor? Krivenko decision held in clear, explicit and unambigous language that: "We are deciding the instant case under section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which is more comprehensive and more absolute in the sense that it prohibits the transfer to aliens of any private agricultural land including residential land whatever its origin might have been . . . . This prohibition [Rep. Act No. 133] makes no distinction between private lands that are strictly agricultural and private lands that are residential or commercial. The prohibition embraces the sale of private lands of any kind in favor of aliens, which is again a clear implementation and a legislative interpretation of the constitutional prohibition. . . . It is well to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the Constitution as it is and not as we may

152 desire it to be. Perhaps the effect of our construction is to preclude aliens, admitted freely into the Philippines, from owning sites where they may build their homes. But if this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution, we will not attempt to compromise it even in the name of amity or equity."11 Alien-vendee is therefore incapacitated or disqualified to acquire and hold real estate. That incapacity and that disqualification should date from the adoption of the Constitution on November 15, 1935. That incapacity and that disqualification, however, was made known to Filipino-vendor and to alien-vendee only upon the promulgation of the Krivenko decision on November 15, 1947. Alien-vendee, therefore, cannot be allowed to continue owning and exercising acts of ownership over said property, when it is clearly included within the Constitutional prohibition. Alien-vendee should thus be made to restore the property with its fruits and rents to Filipino-vendor, its previous owner, if it could be shown that in the utmost good faith, he transferred his title over the same to alien-vendee, upon restitution of the purchase price of course. The Constitution bars alien-vendees from owning the property in question. By dismissing those suits, the lots remained in alien hands. Notwithstanding the solution of escheat or reversion offered, they are still at the moment of writing, for the most part in alien hands. There have been after almost twenty years no proceedings for escheat or reversion. Yet it is clear that an alien-vendee cannot consistently with the constitutional provision, as interpreted in theKrivenko decision, continue owning and exercising acts of ownership over the real estate in question. It ought to follow then, if such a continuing violation of the fundamental law is to be put an end to, that the Filipino-vendor, who in good faith entered into, a contract with an incapacitated person, transferring ownership of a piece of land after the Constitution went into full force and effect, should, in the light of the ruling in the Krivenko case, be restored to the possession and ownership thereof, where he has filed the appropriate case or proceeding. Any other construction would defeat the ends and purposes not only of this particular provision in question but the rest of the Constitution itself. The Constitution frowns upon the title remaining in the alien-vendees. Restoration of the property upon payment of price received by Filipino vendor or its reasonable equivalent as fixed by the court is the answer. To give the constitutional provision full force and effect, in consonance with the dictates of equity and justice, the restoration to Filipino-vendor upon the payment of a price fixed by the court is the better remedy. He thought he could transfer the property to an alien and did so. After the Krivenko case had made clear that he had no right to sell nor an alien-vendee to purchase the property in question, the obvious solution would be for him to reacquire the same. That way the Constitution would be given, as it ought to be given, respect and deference. It may be said that it is too late at this stage to hope for such a solution, the Rellosa opinion, although originally concurred in by only one justice, being too firmly imbedded. The writer however sees a welcome sign in the adoption by the Court in this case of the concurring opinion of the then Justice, later Chief Justice, Bengzon. Had it been followed then, the problem would not be still with us now. Fortunately, it is never too late — not even in constitutional adjudication.

153 G.R. No. L-30523 April 22, 1977 LEE BUN TING and ANG CHIA petitioners, vs. HON. JOSE A. ALIGAEN Judge of the Court of First Instance, of Capiz, 11th Judicial District, Branch II; ATTY. ANTONIO D. AMOSIN, as court-appointed Receiver; RAFAEL A. DINGLASAN, FRANCISCO A. DINGLASAN, CARMEN A. DINGLASAN, RAMON A. DINGLASAN, LOURDES A. DINGLASAN, MERCEDES A. DINGLASAN, CONCEPCION A, DINGLASAN, MARIANO A. DINGLASAN, JOSE A. DINGLASAN, LORETO A. DINGLASAN, RIZAL A. DINGLASAN, JIMMY DINGLASAN, and JESSE DINGLASAN, respondents. Norberto J Quisumbing and Humberto V. Quisumbing for petitioners. Rafael A. Dinglasan for respondents.

ANTONIO, J.: Petition for certiorari to annul the Orders of respondent court dated October 10, 1968 and November 10, 1968 and other related Orders in Civil Case No. V-3064, entitled Rafael A. Dinglasan, et al., vs. Lee Bun Ting, et al.,with prayer for the issuance of writ of preliminary injunction. The antecedent facts are as follows: On June 27, 1956, this Court rendered judgment in G. R. No. L-5996, entitled Rafael Dinglasan, et al. vs. Lee Bun Ting, et al., 1 In that case, We found that: In the month of March, 1936, petitioners-appellants sold to Lee Liong, a Chinese citizen, predecessor in interest of respondents-appellees, a parcel of land situated on the corner of Roxas Avenue and Pavia Street, Capiz (now Roxas City), Capiz, designated as lot 398 and covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3389. The cost was P6,000.00 and soon after the sale Lee Liong constructed thereon a concrete building which he used as a place for his lumber business and in part as residence for himself and family. Petitioners had contended that the sale was a conditional sale, or one with the right of repurchase during the last years of a ten-year period, but the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the sale was an absolute one. Another contention of the petitioners-appellants is that the sale is null and void as it was made in violation of the provision contained in the Constitution (Article XIII, section 5), but the Court of Appeals found that the purchaser was not aware of the constitutional prohibition while petitioners-appellants were because the negotiations for the sale were conducted with the knowledge and direct intervention of Judge Rafael Dinglasan, one of the plaintiffs, who was at that time an assistant attorney in the Department of Justice. ... (P. 42-Q) In reply to the contention of appellants therein that as the sale to Lee Liong is prohibited by the Constitution, title to the land did not pass to said alien because the sale did not produce any juridical effect in his favor, and that the constitutional prohibition should be deemed self-executing in character in order to give effect to the constitutional mandate, this Court said:

154 ... In answer we state that granting the sale to be null and void and can not give title to the vendee, it does not n necessarily follow therefrom that the title remained in the vendor, who had also violated the constitutional prohibition, or that he (vendor) has the right to recover the title of which he has divested himself by his act in ignoring the prohibition. In such contingency another principle of law sets in to bar to equally guilty vendor from recovering the title which he had voluntarily conveyed for a consideration, that of pan delicto We have applied this principle as a bar to the present action in a series of cases thus: xxx xxx xxx We can, therefore, say that even if the plaintiffs can still invoke the Constitution, or the doctrine in the Krivenko case, to set aside the sale in question, they are now prevented from doing so if their purpose is to recover the lands that they have voluntarily parted with, because of their guilty knowledge that what they were doing was in violation of the Constitution. They cannot escape the law. As this Court well said: A party to an illegal contract cannot come into a court of law and ask to have his illegal objects carried out. The law will not aid either party to an illegal agreement; it leaves the parties where it finds them. The rule is expressed in the maxims: Ex dolo malo non oritur actio and In pari delicto potior eat conditio defendentis .... It is not necessary for us to re-examine the doctrine laid down by us in the above cases. We must add in justification of the adoption of the doctrine that the scope of our power and authority is to interpret the law merely, leaving to the proper coordinate body the function of laying down the policy that should be followed in relation to conveyances in violation of the constitutional prohibition and in implementing said policy. The situation of these prohibited conveyances is not different from that of homestead sold within five yearn from and after the issuance of the patent, (Section 118, C.A. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Law), for which situation the legislature has adopted the policy, not of returning the homestead sold to the original homesteader but of forfeiting the homestead and returning it to the public domain again subject to disposition in accordance with law. (Section 124, Id.) The doctrine of in pari delicto bars petitioners-appellants from recovering the title to the property in question and renders unnecessary the consideration of the other arguments presented in appellants brief. There is one other cause why petitioner' remedy cannot be entertained, that is the prescription of the action. As the sale occurred in March, 1936, more than ten years had already elapsed from the time the cause of action accrued when the action was filed (1948). (pp. 431-432) Noting the absence of policy governing lands sold to aliens in violation of the constitutional prohibition, We further said: We take this occasion to call the attention of the legislature to the absence of a law or policy on sales in violation of the Constitution; this Court would have filled the void were we not aware of the fact that the matter falls beyond the scope of oar authority and properly belongs to a co-ordinate power. (P. 432) Accordingly, the petition in the foregoing case was denied.

155 Twelve (12) years later, on the basis of the decision of this Court in Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, 2private respondents Rafael A. Dinglasan, et al. filed a complaint on July 1, 1968 for the recovery of the same parcel of land subject matter of the first-mentioned case. Said complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. V-3064 before respondent court. Private respondents (plaintiffs before the court a quo) reiterated their contention that the sale made to Lee Liong, predecessor-in-interest of petitioners (defendants a quo), was null and void for being violative of the Constitution, and prayed that plaintiffs be declared as the rightful and legal owners of the property in question; that defendants be ordered to vacate the premises, to surrender possession thereof to plaintiffs and to receive the amount of P6,000.00 from the plaintiffs as restitution of the purchase price; and that defendants be ordered to pay damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of P2,000.000 a month from the time of the filing of the complaint until the property is returned to them, as well as the costs of suit. A motion to dismiss, dated September 23, 1968, was filed by defendants- petitioners on the ground of res judicata, alleging that the decision in the case of "Rafael Dinglagan, et al. vs. Lee Bun Ting, et al.", supra, promulgated on June 27, 1956, has definitely settled the issues between the parties. An opposition thereto was filed by plaintiffs, with the averment that the decision in the prior case "cannot be pleaded in bar of the instant action because of new or additional facts or grounds of recovery and because of change of law or jurisprudence. 3 In support of the change in jurisprudence asserted, the decision of this Court in Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, supra, was advanced, upon the contention that said decision warrants a reopening of the case and the return of the parcel of land involved to the plaintiffs, A reply to the opposition was filed by defendants by registered mall on October 16, 1968, alleging that the decision in Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, which was promulgated in 1967, "cannot affect the outcome of the instant case. Said 1967 decision cannot be applied to the instant case where there had been already a final and conclusive determination some twelve years earlier. While a doctrine laid down in previous cases may be overruled, the previous cases themselves cannot thereby be reopened. The doctrine may be changed for future cases but it cannot reach back into the past and overturn finally settled cases.4 However, on October 10, 1968, before the filing of the above reply, respondent court had issued an Order denying the motion to dismiss. The court said: A copy of the decision rendered in the case of Rafael Dinglasan, et al. vs. Lee Bun Ting, et al., G. R. No. L5996 is attached to the motion to dismiss. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that both parties violated the constitutional prohibition (Article XIII, see. 9) for the purchaser was an alien and prohibited to acquire residential lot while the vendors, Filipino citizens, can not also recover the property for having violated the constitutional prohibition, under the principle of pari delicto. The vendee cannot own the property, neither ran the vendor recover what he sold. To fill the void, the Supreme Court pointed out that the coordinate body — Congress of the Philippines — can pass remedial legislation.

156 But Congress failed to act, Neither was there any proceeding after almost twenty years for escheat or reversion instituted by the Office of the Solicitor General after the Krivenko decision which prohibits the transfer to aliens of any private agricultural land including residential lands whatever its origin might have been. But the Supreme Court took a decisive step and in bold relief dispelled darkening clouds in the case of Philippine Banking Corporations vs. Lui She, promulgated September 12, 1967, ... . The concurring opinion of Justice Fernando is very enlightening and elucidating. ... The Court wishes to refer to the concurring opinion of Justice Fernando as an additional authority supporting the herein order. PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Court finds the motion to dismiss unmeritrious and holds that the same be as it is hereby DENIED. 5 A motion for reconsideration of the foregoing Order was filed by defendants, alleging that their reply to plaintiffs' opposition to the motion to dismiss was not even considered by the court a quo because the Order was issued before said reply Could reach the court, Further, it was asserted that the Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She case had the effect of annulling and setting aside only the contracts subject matter thereof "and no other contracts, certainly not contracts outside the issues in said judgment as that in the instant case", and of ordering the return only of the lands involved in said case, and not the land subject of the present action. Moreover, it was averred that "Nowhere in the majority opinion nor in the concurring opinion in said decision of Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She does there appear any statement which would have the effect of reopening and changing previously adjudicated rights of parties and finally settled cases" and that the principle enunciated in such case "should apply after, not on or before, September 12, 1967". The motion for reconsideration was found to have not been well taken and, consequently, was denied by respondent court on November 9, 1968. Defendants were given ten (10) days from receipt of the Order within which to file their answer to the complaint, Which defendants complied with. Defendants' answer, dated December 5, 1968, contained the following allegations, among others: (a) The sale of the parcel of land involved was made in 1935 before the promulgation of the Constitution. (b) Said conveyance ' as an absolute sale, not subject to any right or repurchase ... (c) Upon the purchase of the said parcel of land by the deceased Lee Liong, he and defendant Ang Chia constructed thereon a camarin for lumber business and later a two-storey five door accessoria with an assessed-valuation of P35,000.00, which said improvements were destroyed during the Japanese entry into the municipality of Capiz in April 1942, thereafter, the same improvements were rebuilt. (d) In July 1947, the said Lee Liong being already deceased, defendants as his legal heirs entered into an extrajudicial settlement of said property, there being no creditors or other heirs, and by virtue of said

157 extra-judicial settlement, approximately two-thirds of said property was adjudicated to defendant Ang Chia and Lee Bing Hoo as co-owners and the remaining one-third to defendant Lee Bun Ting (e) The deceased Lee Liong and defendants have been declaring and paying real estate taxes on the said property since 1935 and up to the present year. xxx xxx xxx In addition to the foregoing, defendants reiterated their defense of res judicata, on the basis of the decision of the Supreme Court of June 27, 1956. It was, therefore, prayed that the complaint be dismissed, with counterclaim for attorney's fees and expenses of litigation or, in case of adverse judgment, that plaintiffs be ordered to pay the reasonable equivalent of the value of the property at the time of the restoration, plus reimbursement of improvements thereon. A reply and answer to the counterclaim, dated December 14, 1968, was filed by plaintiffs. On March 31, 1969, respondent court issued an Order denying a motion filed by petitioners for simplification of the issues and for the striking out from the records of the declaration of Rafael Dinglasan under the Survivorship Disqualification Rule. A motion for reconsideration of the foregoing Order was denied on May 7, 1969. During the pendency of the trial, plaintiffs filed a petition for the appointment of a receiver "to receive, collect and hold in trust all income of the property in the form of monthly rentals of P2,000.00", on the premise that defendants have no other visible property which will answer for the payment of said rentals. This petition was opposed by defendants, alleging that plaintiffs will not suffer any irreparable injury or grave damage if the petition for receivership is not granted, particularly as defendants are solvent and further considering that defendants have a building on the parcel of land, the value of which must likewise be considered before plaintiffs can be awarded possession of the land. The matter of receivership was heard by respondent court and on May 17, 1969, it issued an Order appointing respondent Atty. Antonio D. Amosin, Deputy Clerk of Court, as receiver with instructions to take immediate possession of the property in litigation and to preserve, administer and dispose of the same in accordance with law and order of the court, upon the posting of a bond in the amount of P500.00. On May 17, 1969, the appointed receiver took his oath. Hence, the instant petition. Petitioners herein pray that judgment be rendered annulling and setting aside respondent court's complained of Orders (rated October 10, 1968. November 9, 1968, March 31, 1969, May 7, 1969 and May 17, 1969, and ordering the dismissal of Civil Case no. L-3064 of respondent court on the ground of res judicata Petitioners further prayed for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain respondent court from proceeding with the scheduled hearings of the case, and respondent receiver from executing the order to take immediate possession of the property in litigation. On June 16, 1969, this Court issued the writ of preliminary injunction prayed for, restraining respondent court from continuing with the scheduled trial of the case and respondent receiver from executing the order to take immediate possession of the property in litigation and/or otherwise discharging or performing his function as receiver.

158 The issue posed before Us is whether the questions which were decided in Rafael Dinglagan, et al. vs. Lee Bun Ting et al., supra, could still be relitigated in Civil Case No. V-3064, in view of the subsequent decision of this Court in Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, supra. We resolve the issue in the negative. The decision of this Court in G. R. No. L-5996, "Rafael Dinglasan, et al. vs. Lee Bun Ting, et al." constitutes a bar to Civil Case No. V-3064 before the respondent court. Said Civil case, therefore, should have been dismissed because it is a mere relitigation of the same issues previously adjudged with finality, way back in 1956, between the same parties or their privies and concerning the same subject matter. We have consistently held that the doctrine of res judicata applies where, between a pending action and one which has been finally and definitely settled, there is Identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action. The concept of res judicata as a "bar by prior judgment" was explained in Comilang vs. Court of Appeals, et al., promulgated on July 15, 1975, 6 thus: The fundamental principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests is that parties ought not to be permitted to litigate the same issue more than once; that, when a right or fact has been jurisdically tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, or an opportunity for such trial has been given, the judgment of the court, so long as is remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate. ... xxx xxx xxx This principle of res judicata is embodied in Rule 39, Sec. 49(b) and (c) of the Rules oil' Court, as follows; (b) In other cases the judgment or order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same title and in the same capacity. (c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors-in- interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or was actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto. Sec. 49(b) enunciates that concept of res judicata known as 'bar by prior judgment' while Sec. 49(c) refers to 'Conclusiveness of judgment.' There is bar by prior judgment' when, between the first case where the judgment was rendered and the second case which is sought to be barred, there is Identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action. The judgment in the first case constitutes an absolute bar to the subsequent action. It is final as to the claim or demand in controversy, including the parties and those in privity with them, not only as to every matter which was offered and received to sustain or defeat the claim or demand, but as to any other admissible matter which might have been offered for that purpose and of all matters that could have been adjudged in that case. But where between the first and second cases, there is Identity of parties but no Identity or cause of action, the first judgment is

159 conclusive in the second case, only as to those matters actually and directly controverted and determined and not as to matters merely involved therein. (pp. 76-78). A comparison between the earlier case of "Rafael Dinglasan, et al. vs. Lee Bun Ting, et al." (G. R. No. L5996) and the case pending before respondent court 7 reveals that the requisites for the application of the doctrine of res judiciata are present. It is undisputed that the first case was tried and decided by a court of compentent jurisdiction, whose decision was affirmed on appeal by this Tribunal. The parties to the two cases are substantially the same, namely, as plaintiffs, Rafael A. Dinglasan, Carmen A. Dinglasan, Francisco A. Dinglasan, Jr., Ramon A. Dinglasan, Lourdes A. Dinglasan, Mercedes A. Dinglasan, Concepcion A. Dinglasan, Mariano A. Dinglasan, Jose A. Dinglasan, Loreto A. Dinglasan, Manuel A. Dinglasan, Rizal A. Dinglasan and Jimmy Dinglasan (the differences being the inclusions of the minor Vicente Dinglasan in L-5996 and Jesse Dinglasan in the case before respondent court), against defendants Lee Bun Ting and Ang Chia, in her capacity as Widow of the deceased Lee Liong (and Administratrix of his estate in L-5996). The subject matter of the two actions are the same, namely, that "parcel of land, Cadastral Lot No. 398, located at Trece de Agosto Street, now Roxas Avenue, corner of Pavia St., in the municipality of Capiz, now Roxas City, covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3389 of the Office of Register of Deeds of Capiz in the name of ... Francisco Dinglasan and originally declared under Tax (Declaration) No. 19284 also in his name in the municipality of Capiz, but now declared as Cadastral Lots Nos. 398-A and 398-B respectively under Tax Declarations Nos. 7487 and 7490 in the City of Roxas in the names of Ang Chia Vda. de Lee and Lee Bun Ting respectively ... " The causes of action and the reliefs prayed for are identical — the annulment of the sale and the recovery of the subject parcel of land. Notwithstanding the mode of action taken by private respondents, We find that in the ultimate analysis, Civil Case No. V-3064 is but an attempt to reopen the issues which were resolved in the previous case. Contrary to the contentions of private respondents, there has been no change in the facts or in the conditions of the parties. Neither do We find Our ruling in the Philippine Banking Corporation case applicable to the case at bar, considering the rule that posterior changes in the doctrine of this Court cannot retroactively be applied to nullify a prior final ruling in the same proceeding where the prior adjudication was had, whether the case should be civil or criminal in nature. The determination of the questions of fact and of law by this Court on June 27, 1956 in case No. L-5996 has become the law of the case, and may not now be disputed or relitigated by a reopening of the same questions in a subsequent litigation between the same parties and their privies the same subject matter. Thus, inPeople vs. Olarte, 8 We explained this doctrine, as follows: Suffice it to say that our ruling in Case L-13027, rendered on the first appeal, constitutes the law of the case, and, even if erroneous it may no longer be disturbed or modified since it has become final long ago. A subsequent reinterpretation of the law may be applied to new cases bat certainly not to an old one finally and conclusively determined (People, vs. Pinuila, G. R. No. L-11374, May 30, 1958; 55 O.G. 4228). Law of the case' has been defined as the opinion delivered on a former appeal. More specifically, it means that whatever is once irrevocably established the controlling legal rule of decision Between the

160 same parties in the same case continues to 1)(, the law of the case whether correct on general principles or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case before the court. (21 C.J.S. 330). (cited in Pinuila case, supra). As a general rule a decision on a prior appeal of the same case is held to be the law of the case whether that decision is right or wrong, the remedy of the party being to seek a rehearing. (5 C.J.S. 1277). (also cited in Pinuila case) It is also aptly held in another case that: It need not be stated that the Supreme Court, being the court of last resort, is the final arbiter of all legal questions properly brought before it and that its decision in any given case constitutes the law of that particular case. Once its judgment becomes final it is binding on all inferior courts, and hence beyond their power and authority to alter or modify Kabigting vs. Acting Director of Prisons, G. R. No. L-15548, October 30, 1962). More categorical still is the pronouncement of this Court in Pomeroy vs. Director of Prisons, L-14284-85, February 24, 1960: It will be seen that the prisoner's stand assumes that doctrines and rulings of the Supreme Court operate retrospectively and that they can claim the benefit of decisions inPeople vs, Hernandez; People vs. Geronimo, and People vs. Dugonon (L-6025-26, July 18, 1956; L-8936, Oct. 31, 1956; and L-8926, June 29, 1957, respectively), promulgated four or more years after the prisoner applicants had been convicted by final j judgment and started serving sentence. However, the rule adopted by this Court (and by the Federal Supreme Court) is that judicial doctrines have only prospective operation and do not apply to cases previously decided (People vs. Pinuila, L-11374, promulgated May 30, 1958) In the foregoing decision, furthermore, this Court quoted and reiterated the rule in the following excerpts from People vs. Pinuila, G.R No. L-11374, jam cit.: The decision of this Court on that appeal by the government from the order of dismissal, holding that said appeal did not place the appellants, including Absalong Bignay in double jeopardy, signed and concurred in by six justices as against three dissenters headed by the Chief Justice, promulgated way back in the year 1952, has long become the latter of the curse. It may be erroneous, judge by the law on double jeopardy as recently interpreted by this same. Tribunal. Even so, it may not be disturbed and modified. Our recent interpretation of the law may be applied to new cases, but certainly not to an old one finally and conclusively determined. As already stated, the majority opinion in that appeal isnow the law of the case. The same principle, the immutability of the law of the case notwithstanding subsequent changes of judicial opinion, has been followed in civil cases: Fernando vs. Crisostomo, 90 Phil. 585; Padilla vs. Paterno, 93 Phil. 884; Samahang Magsasaka, Inc. vs. Chua Guan, L-7252, February, 1955.

161 It is thus clear that posterior changes in the doctrine of this Court can not retroactively be applied to nullify a prior final ruling in the same proceeding where the prior adjudication was had, whether the case should be civil or criminal in nature. 9 Reasons of public policy, judicial orderliness, economy and judicial time and the interests of litigants, as well as the peace and order of society, all require that stability be accorded the solemn and final judgments of the courts or tribunals of competent jurisdiction. There can be no question that such reasons apply with greater force on final judgments of the highest Court of the land. WHEREFORE, certiorari is granted, the Orders complained of are hereby annulled and set aside, and respondent Judge is directed to issue an Order dismissing Civil Case No. V-3064. With costs against private respondents. Barredo, Aquino and Concepcion, Jr., JJ., concur. Castro, C.J., concurs in the result. Fernando, J., took no part.

G.R. No. L-33048 April 16, 1982 EPIFANIA SARSOSA VDA. DE BARSOBIA and PACITA W. VALLAR, petitioners, vs. VICTORIANO T. CUENCO, respondent.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: Sought to be reviewed herein is the judgment dated August 18, 1970, of the Court of Appeals, 1 rendered in CA-G.R. No. 41318-R, entitled "Victoriano T. Cuenco, Plaintiff-appellant, vs. Epifania Sarsosa Vda. de Barsobia and Pacita W. Vallar, Defendants- appellees, " declaring Victoriano T. Cuenco (now the respondent) as the absolute owner of the coconut land in question. The lot in controversy is a one-half portion (on the northern side) of two adjoining parcels of coconut land located at Barrio Mancapagao, Sagay, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental (now Camiguin province), with an area of 29,150 square meters, more or less. 2 The entire land was owned previously by a certain Leocadia Balisado, who had sold it to the spouses Patricio Barsobia (now deceased) and Epifania Sarsosa, one of the petitioners herein. They are Filipino citizens. On September 5, 1936, Epifania Sarsosa then a widow, sold the land in controversy to a Chinese, Ong King Po, for the sum of P1,050.00 (Exhibit "B"). Ong King Po took actual possession and enjoyed the fruits thereof.

162 On August 5, 1961, Ong King Po sold the litigated property to Victoriano T. Cuenco (respondent herein), a naturalized Filipino, for the sum of P5,000.00 (Exhibit "A"). Respondent immediately took actual possession and harvested the fruits therefrom. On March 6, 1962, Epifania "usurped" the controverted property, and on July 26, 1962, Epifania (through her only daughter and child, Emeteria Barsobia), sold a one-half (1/2) portion of the land in question to Pacita W. Vallar, the other petitioner herein (Exhibit "2"). Epifania claimed that it was not her intention to sell the land to Ong King Po and that she signed the document of sale merely to evidence her indebtedness to the latter in the amount of P1,050.00. Epifania has been in possession ever since except for the portion sold to the other petitioner Pacita. On September 19, 1962, respondent filed a Forcible Entry case against Epifania before the Municipal Court of Sagay, Camiguin. The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction since, as the laws then stood, the question of possession could not be properly determined without first settling that of ownership. On December 27, 1966, respondent instituted before the Court of First Instance of Misamis Oriental a Complaint for recovery of possession and ownership of the litigated land, against Epifania and Pacita Vallar (hereinafter referred to simply as petitioners). In their Answer below, petitioners insisted that they were the owners and possessors of the litigated land; that its sale to Ong King Po, a Chinese, was inexistent and/or void ab initio; and that the deed of sale between them was only an evidence of Epifania's indebtedness to Ong King Po. The trial Court rendered judgment: 1. Dismissing the complaint with costs against plaintiff (respondent herein). 2. Declaring the two Deeds of Sale, Exhibits A and B, respectively, inexistent and void from the beginning; and 3. Declaring defendant Pacita W. Vallar as the lawful owner and possessor of the portion of land she bought from Emeteria Barsobia (pp. 57, 67, Record.) 3 On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the aforementioned Decision and decreed instead that respondent was the owner of the litigated property, thus: xxx xxx xxx In view of all the foregoing considerations, the judgment appealed from is hereby reversed. In lieu thereof, we render judgment: (a) Declaring the plaintiff-appellant Victoriano T. Cuenco the absolute owner of the land in question, with the right of possession thereof; (b) Ordering the defendants-appellees to restore the possession of said land to the plaintiff; (c) Dismissing the defendants' counterclaim;

163 (d) Condemning the defendants to pay to the plaintiff the sum of P10,000.00 representing the latter's share from the sale of copra which he failed to receive since March, 1962 when he was deprived of his possession over the land, and which defendants illegally appropriated it to their own use and benefit, plus legal interest from the filing of the complaint until fully paid; plus P2,000.00 representing expenses and attorney's fees; (e) Sentencing the defendants to pay the costs. SO ORDERED. 4 Following the denial of their Motion for Reconsideration, petitioners filed the instant Petition for Review on certiorari with this Court on January 21, 1971. Petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals erred: I. ... when it reversed the judgment of the trial court declaring petitioner Pacita W. Vallar as the lawful possessor and owner of the portion of land she purchased from Emeteria Barsobia, not a party to this case, there being no evidence against her. II ... when it included petitioner Pacita W. Vallar to pay P10,000.00, with legal interest from the filing of the complaint, representing respondent's share in the harvest and to pay the costs, there being no evidence against her. III. ... when it condemned petitioners to pay P2,000.00 representing expenses and attorney's fees, there being no factual, legal and equitable justification. IV. ... in not applying the rule on pari delicto to the facts of the case or the doctrine enunciated ... in the case of Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, L-17587, September 12, 1967, to ... Petitioner Epifania Sarsosa Vda. de Barsobia. V. ... in denying, for lack of sufficient merits, petitioners' motion for rehearing or reconsideration of its decision. 5 As the facts stand, a parcel of coconut land was sold by its Filipino owner, petitioner Epifania, to a Chinese, Ong King Po, and by the latter to a naturalized Filipino, respondent herein. In the meantime, the Filipino owner had unilaterally repudiated the sale she had made to the Chinese and had resold the property to another Filipino. The basic issue is: Who is the rightful owner of the property? There should be no question that the sale of the land in question in 1936 by Epifania to Ong King Po was inexistent and void from the beginning (Art. 1409 [7], Civil Code) 6 because it was a contract executed against the mandatory provision of the 1935 Constitution, which is an expression of public policy to conserve lands for the Filipinos. Said provision reads: 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. 7

164 Had this been a suit between Epifania and Ong King Po, she could have been declared entitled to the litigated land on the basis, as claimed, of the ruling in Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, 8 reading: ... For another thing, and this is not only cogent but also important. Article 1416 of the Civil Code provides as an exception to the rule on pari delicto that when the agreement is not illegal per se but is merely prohibited, and the prohibition by the law is designed for the protection of the plaintiff, he may, if public policy is thereby enhanced, recover what he has sold or delivered. ... But the factual set-up has changed. The litigated property is now in the hands of a naturalized Filipino. It is no longer owned by a disqualified vendee. Respondent, as a naturalized citizen, was constitutionally qualified to own the subject property. There would be no more public policy to be served in allowing petitioner Epifania to recover the land as it is already in the hands of a qualified person. Applying by analogy the ruling of this Court in Vasquez vs. Giap and Li Seng Giap & Sons: 9 ... if the ban on aliens from acquiring not only agricultural but also urban lands, as construed by this Court in the Krivenko case, is to preserve the nation's lands for future generations of Filipinos, that aim or purpose would not be thwarted but achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization. While, strictly speaking, Ong King Po, private respondent's vendor, had no rights of ownership to transmit, it is likewise inescapable that petitioner Epifania had slept on her rights for 26 years from 1936 to 1962. By her long inaction or inexcusable neglect, she should be held barred from asserting her claim to the litigated property (Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 157 [1978]). Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. (Tijam, et al. vs. Sibonghanoy, et al., No. L21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29, 35). (cited in Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 154 [1978]). Respondent, therefore, must be declared to be the rightful owner of the property. The award of actual damages in respondent's favor of P10,000.00, as well as of attorney's fees and expenses of litigation of P2,000.00, is justified. Respondent was deprived of the possession of his land and the enjoyment of its fruits from March, 1962. The Court of Appeals fixed respondent's share of the sale of copra at P10,000.00 for eight years at four (4) harvests a year. The accuracy of this finding has not been disputed. However, we find merit in the assigned error that petitioner, Pacita Vallar, should not be held also liable for actual damages to respondent. In the absence of contrary proof, she, too, must be considered as a vendee in good faith of petitioner Epifania.

165 The award of attorney's fees and litigation expenses in the sum of P2,000.00 in respondent's favor is in order considering that both petitioners compelled respondent to litigate for the protection of his interests. Moreover, the amount is reasonable. 10 WHEREFORE, except for that portion holding petitioner, Pacita W. Vallar, also liable for damages of P10,000.00, the appealed judgment is hereby affirmed. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED. Teehankee (Chairman), Makasiar, Fernandez, Guerrero and Plana, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 74170 July 18, 1989 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, GUILLERMO GONZALVES,** respondents. Amando Fabio Jr. for private respondent.

NARVASA, J.: The chief question presented in the appeal at bar concerns the validity of a conveyance of residential land to an alien prior to his acquisition of Filipino citizenship by naturalization. The Trial Court's description of the factual background is largely undisputed. The case principally concerns Chua Kim @ Uy Teng Be, who became a naturalized Filipino citizen, taking his oath as such, on January 7,1977. 1 He was the adopted son of Gregorio Reyes Uy Un. The case involved three (3) parcels of land, which were among those included in Land Registration Cases Numbered 405 and 14817 of the Court of First Instance of Quezon Province: Lots Numbered 1 and 2, plan Psu-57676, 2 and Lot No. 549 of plan AP-7521-identical to Plan Psu-54565. 3 These were respectively adjudicated in said land registration cases to two persons, as follows: 1) Lots 1 and 2, Psu-57676, to the Spouses Benigno Mañosca and Julia Daguison (in Opposition No. 51 ); 4 and 2) Lot 549, AP-7521 (Psu-54565), to Gaspar Marquez, married to Marcela Masaganda (in opposition No. 155). 5 However, no decree of confirmation and registration was entered at the time.

166 Lots 1 and 2, Psu-57676, were sold by the owners, the Mañosca Spouses, to Gregorio Reyes Uy Un on Dec. 30, 1934. 6 Lot 549, Psu-54565, was also sold by the Marquez Spouses to Gregorio Reyes Uy Un on December 27, 1934. 7 Subsequently, Gregorio Reyes Uy Un died, and his adopted son, Chua Kim @ Uy Teng, took possession of the property. The three (3) parcels of land above mentioned, together with several others, later became subject of a compromise agreement in a litigation in the Court of First Instance of Quezon Province, docketed as Civil Case No. C-385. 8 The compromise agreement was executed not only by the parties in the case (plaintiffs Domingo Reyes and Lourdes Abustan, and the defendants, So Pick, et al.) — respectively described as "First Parties" and "Second Parties"-but also Chua Kim @ Ting Be Uy, designated therein as "Third Party," although he had not been impleaded as a party to the case. In the agreement, in consideration of Chua Kim's renunciation (a) of "any right or claim of whatever nature in .. (certain specifically identified) parcels of land" and (b) of any other claim against the First Parties and Second Parties, both the latter, in turn waived "any claim of ownership or other right in or to the parcels of land, or the improvements thereon, in Buenavista, Quezon covered by OCT Nos. 3697, 3696, 3439 and 4382 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon," in the name of Gregorio Reyes Uy Un, Chua Kim's adoptive father, and that they (the First and Second Parties) "will not oppose the transfer, by means not contrary to law, of the ownership thereof to the Third Party," said Chua Kim. The compromise agreement was afterwards submitted to the Court 9 which rendered judgment on July 29,1970 (amended by Order dated July 31, 1970), approving the same.10 Chua Kim then filed a petition for issuance of decree of confirmation and registration in Land Registration Case No. 405 (LRC Rec. No. 14817) of the Court of First Instance of Quezon Province. 11 After due proceedings, and on the basis of the foregoing facts found to have been duly proven by the evidence, the Court of First Instance of Quezon 12 promulgated on January 14, 1982 the following Order, to wit: WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds that herein petitioner Chua Kim alias Uy Teng Be has duly established his registerable title over the properties in question in this land registration case in so far as Oppositions Nos. 51 and 155 are concerned, and hereby GRANTS his petition. The decision rendered on January 14, 1933 in so far as Opposition Nos. 51 and 155 are concerned, is hereby amended adjudicating the said properties, better known now as Lots 1 and 2 of plan Psu-57676 in Opposition No. 51 and as Lot.549 of plan Ap-7521, which is Identical to plan Psu-54565 in Opposition No. 155, to herein petitioner Chua Kim alias Uy Teng Be. Upon this order becoming final, let the corresponding decrees of confirmation and registration be entered and thereafter upon payment of the fees required by law, let the corresponding certificate of titles be issued in the name of petitioner, Chua Kim alias Uy Teng Be, married to Amelia Tan, of legal age, a naturalized Filipino citizen, and a resident of the Municipality of Buenavista, Province of Quezon, as his own exclusive properties, free from all liens and encumbrances. SO ORDERED.

167 The Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, challenged the correctness of the Order and appealed it to the Court of Appeals. That Court, however, affirmed the Order "in all respects," in a decision promulgated on March 25,1986. 13 Still not satisfied, the Republic has come to this Court on appeal by certiorari, in a final attempt to prevent the adjudication of the property in question to Chua Kim. The Solicitor General argues that — 1) the deeds and instruments presented by Chua Kim to prove the conveyance to him of the lands in question by the successor-in- interest of the original adjudicates are inadequate for the purpose; and 2) Chua Kim has not proven his qualification to own private agricultural land at the time of the alleged acquisition of the property in question. The Republic's theory is that the conveyances to Chua Kim were made while he was still an alien, i.e., prior to his taking oath as a naturalized Philippine citizen on January 7, 1977, at a time when he was disqualified to acquire ownership of land in the Philippines (ART XIII, SEC. 5, 1935 Constitution; ART. XIV, Sec. 14, 1973 Constitution); hence, his asserted titles are null and void. 14 It is also its contention that reliance on the decision and amendatory order in Civil Case No. C-385 of the CFI, Rizal 15 is unavailing, since neither document declares that the property in question was adjudicated to Chua Kim as his inheritance from his adoptive father, Gregorio Reyes Uy Un. 16 The conclusions of fact of the Intermediate Appellate Court, sustaining those of the Land Registration Court, reached after analysis and assessment of the evidence presented at a formal hearing by the parties, are by firmly entrenched rule binding on and may not be reviewed by this Court. 17 Those facts thus found to exist, and the legal principles subsumed in them, impel rejection of the Republic's appeal. It is a fact that the lands in dispute were properly and formally adjudicated by a competent Court to the Spouses Gaspar and to the Spouses Marquez in fee simple, and that the latter had afterwards conveyed said lands to Gregorio Reyes Uy Un, Chua Kim's adopting parent, by deeds executed in due form on December 27, 1934 and December 30, 1934, respectively. Plainly, the conveyances were made before the 1935 Constitution went into effect, i.e., at a time when there was no prohibition against acquisition of private agricultural lands by aliens. 18Gregorio Reyes Uy Un therefore acquired good title to the lands thus purchased by him, and his ownership was not at all affected either (1) by the principle subsequently enunciated in the 1935 Constitution that aliens were incapacitated to acquire lands in the country, since that constitutional principle has no retrospective application, 19or (2) by his and his successor's omission to procure the registration of the property prior to the coming into effect of the Constitution. 20 It is a fact, furthermore, that since the death of Gregorio Reyes Uy Un in San Narciso, Quezon, in 1946, Chua Kim @ Uy Teng Be had been in continuous possession of the lands in concept of owner, as the putative heir of his adoptive father, said Gregorio Reyes; 21 this, without protest whatever from any person. It was indeed Chua Kim's being in possession of the property in concept of owner, and his status as adopted son of Gregorio Reyes, that were the factors that caused his involvement in Civil Case No. C385 of the CFI at Calauag, Quezon, at the instance of the original parties thereto, 22 and his participation in the Compromise Agreement later executed by all parties. As already mentioned, that compromise

168 agreement, approved by judgment rendered on July 29, 1970, 23implicity recognized Chua Kim's title to the lands in question. Be this as it may, the acquisition by Chua Kim of Philippine citizenship should foreclose any further debate regarding the title to the property in controversy, in line with this Court's rulings relative to persons similarly situated. 24 In Sarsosa Vda. de Barsobia v. Cuenco, 113 SCRA 547, for instance, the ruling was as follows: ... The litigated property is now in the hands of a naturalized Filipino. It is no longer owned by a disqualified vendee. Respondent, as a naturalized citizen, was constitutionally qualified to own the subject property. There would be no more public policy to be served in allowing petitioner Epifania to recover the land as it is already in the hands of a qualified person. Applying by analogy the ruling of this Court in Vasquez vs. Giap and Li Seng Giap & Sons (96 Phil. 447 [1955]), ... if the ban on aliens from acquiring not only agricultural but also urban lands, as construed by this Court in the Krivenko case, is to preserve the nation's land for future generations of Filipinos, that aim or purpose would not be thwarted but achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, and the judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court subject thereof AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED. Cruz, Gancayco, Griño-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. L-3676

January 31, 1955

SOCORRO VASQUEZ, plaintiff-appellant, vs. LI SENG GIAPand LI SENG GIAP & SONS, defendants-appellees. Jose S. Sarte for appellant. Lee, Orendain and Guzman for appellees. PADILLA, J.: This is an action to rescind the sale of a parcel of land together with the improvements erected thereon, described in the complaint, which was sold by the plaintiff to the defendant Li Seng Giap on 22 January 1940, on the ground that the vendee was an alien and under the Constitution incapable to own and hold title to lands. The case was decided upon the following stipulation of facts: Plaintiff and defendants in the above-entitled case, by their respective attorneys, hereby stipulate and agree that the facts involved in this litigation are as follows:.

169 That plaintiff and defendant Li Seng Giap are, and were at all times mentioned herein, of legal age and residents of the City of Manila, Philippines; that defendant Li Seng Giap & Sons, Inc., is a corporation duly organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the Philippines, with principal office in the City of Manila, Philippines. II. That on January 22, 1940, plaintiff sold and transferred to defendant Li Seng Giap, then Chinese citizen, for the sum of P14,500, a parcel of land together with a house of strong materials existing thereon, more particularly bounded and described as follows:. A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot No. 22-A of the subdivision plan Psd-15360, being a portion of Lot No. 22, Block No. 2809 of the Cadastral survey of Manila, G.L.R.O. Cadastral Record No. 192), situated in the District of Tondo, City of Manila. Bounded on the NE. by lot No. 23, Block No. 2809, on the SE. by Lot No. 22-B, Block No. 2809; on the SW. by Lot No. 21, Block No. 2809; and on the NW. by Calle Magdalena; * * * containing an area of four hundred twenty-three square meters and forty-five square decimeters (423.45) more or less. (Assessed Value — P15,579.00). III. That on August 21, 1940, defendant Li Seng Giap sold and transferred unto defendant Li Seng Giap & Sons, Inc., whose shareholdings then were owned by Chinese citizens, for the same sum of P14,500, the above-mentioned parcel, together with the improvements thereon, and duly registered under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 59684 of the Office of the Register of Deeds for the city of Manila on August 23, 1940. IV. That defendant Li Seng Giap was duly naturalized as a Filipino citizen on May 10, 1941, under Certificate of Naturalization No. 515, the records of which were duly reconstituted under an order of this Honorable Court in Case No. R-603 dated May 24, 1946. V. That defendant Li Seng Giap & Sons, Inc., is now a Filipino corporation, 96.67 per cent of its stock being owned by Filipinos, and duly authorized by its articles of incorporation to own, acquire or dispose of real properties. VI. That the following are the names and respective citizenship and shareholdings of the present stockholders of Li Seng Giap & Sons, Inc: Names Citizenship No. of Shares Per cent Total Amount.

170 Li Seng Giap Filipino 3,400 56.67 P340,000.00 Tang Ho de Li Seng Giap Filipino 1,200 20.00 120,000.00 William Lee Filipino 200 3.33 20,000.00 Henry Lee Filipino 200 3.33 20,000.00 Thomas J. Lee Filipino 200 3.33 20,000.00 Sofia Lee Teehankee Filipino 200 3.33 20,000.00 Julian M. Lee Filipino 200 3.33 20,000.00 Anthony P. Lee Chinese 200 3.33 20,000.00 6,000 100.00% P600,000.00. VII. That Henry Lee was duly naturalized as a Filipino citizen on October 21, 1936, under Certificate of Naturalization No. 352, the records of which were duly reconstituted under an order of this Honorable Court in Case No. R-407 dated May 24, 1946. VIII. That Thomas J. Lee was duly naturalized as a Filipino citizen on May 10, 1941, under Certificate of Naturalization No. 516, the records of which were duly reconstituted under an order of this Honorable Court in Case No. R-604 dated May 24, 1946. IX. That William Lee was duly naturalized as a Filipino citizen on November 1, 1948, under Certificate of Naturalization No. 2 of the Court of First Instance of Daet, Camarines Norte. X. That Sofia Lee Teehankee is a Filipino citizen being married to Dr. Rafael Teehankee, a Filipino citizen. XI. That Julia M. Lee and Charles Lee are both Filipinos by operation of law as they were both minors when their father, Li Seng Giap, became a Filipino citizen on May 10, 1941. Manila, Philippines, September 7, 1949. Respectfully Submitted: (Sgd.) JOSE S. SARTE Counsel for the Plaintiff Room 213 Central Hotel, Manila. LEE, ORENDAIN, & GUZMAN Counsel for the Defendants 60 Novaliches St., Manila. By: (Sgd.) LEONARDO M. GUZMAN The Court rendered judgment dismissing the complaint with cost against the plaintiff. She has appealed. In Caoile vs. Yu Chiao, 49 Off. Gaz., 4321; Talento vs. Makiki, 49 Off. Gaz., 4331; Bautista vs. Uy 49 Off. Gaz., 4331; Rellosa vs. Gaw Chee, 49 Off. Gaz., 4345 and Mercado vs. Go Bio, 49 Off. Gaz., 5360, the majority of this Court has ruled that in Sales of real estate to aliens incapable of holding title thereto by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution 1 both the vendor and the vendee are deemed to have

171 committed the constitutional violation and being thus in pari delicto the courts will not afford protection to either party.2 From this ruling three Justices dissented.3 The action is not of rescission because it is not postulated upon any of the grounds provided for in Article 1291 of the old Civil Code and because the action of rescission involves lesion or damage and seeks to repair it. It is an action for annulment under Chapter VI, Title II, Book II, on nullity of contracts, based on a defect in the contract which invalidates it independently of such lesion or damages. 4 It is very likely that the majority of this Court proceeded upon that theory when it applied the in pari delicto rule referred to above. In the United States the rule is that in a sale of real estate to an alien disqualified to hold title thereto the vendor divests himself of the title to such real estate and has no recourse against the vendee despite the latter's disability on account of alienage to hold title to such real estate and the vendee may hold it against the whole except as against the State. It is only the State that is entitled by proceedings in the nature of office found to have a forfeiture or escheat declared against the vendee who is incapable of holding title to the real estate sold and conveyed to him.5 However, if the State does not commence such proceedings and in the meantime the alien becomes naturalized citizen the State is deemed to have waived its right to escheat the real property and the title of the alien thereto becomes lawful and valid as of the date of its conveyance or transfer to him. 6 The Rule in the United States that in a sale of real estate to an alien disqualified to hold title thereto, the vendor divests himself of the title to such real estate and is not permitted to sue for the annulment of his contract, is also the rule under the Civil Code. * * *Article 1302 of the old Civil Code provides: * * *Persons sui juris cannot, however, avail themselves of the incapacity of those with whom they contracted; * * *.". Manresa's comment on this clause of article 1302 of the Civil Code is as follows:. Irresponsabilidad del defecto alegada.— Es la segunda de las condiciones necesarias para el ejercicio de la accion. Algunos la expresan diciendo que solo puede intrenar aquella el perjudicado, pero esta expresion puede conducir a ideas equivocadas, ya quela nulidad es independiente de la lesion, como declara el art. 1.300, y es licito al favorecido economicamente por el contrato pedir la nulidad basandose en causas a el no imputables, y en cambio no autoriza la ley el caso inverso. Sencilla la regla contenida en el parrafo segundo de este articulo,puede complicarse cuando coexisten dos defectos del contrato, comopuede suceder, derivandose a veces de un mismo hecho, verbigracia,el contrato celebrado con un incapaz por quien ignora que lo es: eneste ejemplo es indudable que la persona capaz no podra pedir lanulidad fundado en la incapacidad de la otra, pero si alegar elerror o el dolo que padeciera si las circunstancias del sujetoeran de decisiva influencia en el contrato. (Supra, pp.709-709.). Appellant argues that if at the time of the conveyance of the real property the appellee was incapable of holding title to such real estate, the contract of sale was null or void and may be annulled, and his subsequent naturalization as a Filipino citizen cannot retroact to the date of the conveyance to make it

172 lawful and valid. However, if the ban on aliens from acquiring not only agricultural but also urban lands, as construed by this Court in the Krivenko case, is to preserve the nation's lands for future generations of Filipinos, that aim or purpose would not be thwarted but achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization. The title to the parcel of land of the vendee, a naturalized Filipino citizen, being valid that of the domestic corporation to which the parcel of land has been transferred, must also be valid, 96.67 per cent of its capital stock being owned by Filipinos. The judgment appealed from is affirmed, without costs. Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Montemayor, Reyes, A., Jugo, Bautista Angelo, and Labrador, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions REYES, J.B.L., J., concurring:. I fully concur with the opinion of Justice Padilla, but wish to stress, as an additional reason for the decision in the present case, that when this action was instituted in 1948, the disability of the original vendee had been already removed, since he was naturalized in 1941; and that the stockholders of the second transferee, Li Seng Giap & Sons, Inc., who hold more than 60 per cent of its capital stock, had likewise become Filipino citizens before, and not after, the action to annul was filed.

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