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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No.

L-43938 April 15, 1988 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (DIRECTOR OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT), petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS (THIRD DIVISION) and JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents. G.R. No. L-44081 April 15, 1988 BENGUET CONSOLIDATED, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORIA, BENJAMIN and EDUARDO, all surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by their father JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents. G.R. No. L-44092 April 15, 1988 ATOK-BIG WEDGE MINING COMPANY, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORlA, BENJAMIN and EDUARDO, all surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by their father, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents.

6-9 in 1961 from his mother, Bella Alberto, who declared that the land was planted by Jaime and his predecessors-in-interest to bananas, avocado, nangka and camote, and was enclosed with a barbed-wire fence. She was corroborated by Felix Marcos, 67 years old at the time, who recalled the earlier possession of the land by Alberto's father. 5 Balbalio presented her tax declaration in 1956 and the realty tax receipts from that year to 1964, 6 Alberto his tax declaration in 1961 and the realty tax receipts from that year to 1964. 7 Benguet opposed on the ground that the June Bug mineral claim covering Lots 1-5 was sold to it on September 22, 1934, by the successors-in-interest of James Kelly, who located the claim in September 1909 and recorded it on October 14, 1909. From the date of its purchase, Benguet had been in actual, continuous and exclusive possession of the land in concept of owner, as evidenced by its construction of adits, its affidavits of annual assessment, its geological mappings, geological samplings and trench side cuts, and its payment of taxes on the land. 8 For its part, Atok alleged that a portion of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9 were covered by the Emma and Fredia mineral claims located by Harrison and Reynolds on December 25, 1930, and recorded on January 2, 1931, in the office of the mining recorder of Baguio. These claims were purchased from these locators on November 2, 1931, by Atok, which has since then been in open, continuous and exclusive possession of the said lots as evidenced by its annual assessment work on the claims, such as the boring of tunnels, and its payment of annual taxes thereon. 9 The location of the mineral claims was made in accordance with Section 21 of the Philippine Bill of 1902 which provided that: SEC. 21. All valuable mineral deposits in public lands in the philippine Islands both surveyed and unsurveyed are hereby declared to be free and open to exploration, occupation and purchase and the land in which they are found to occupation and purchase by the citizens of the United States, or of said islands. The Bureau of Forestry Development also interposed its objection, arguing that the land sought to be registered was covered by the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve under Proclamation No. 217 dated February 16, 1929. Moreover, by reason of its nature, it was not subject to alienation under the Constitutions of 1935 and 1973. 10 The trial court * denied the application, holding that the applicants had failed to prove their claim of possession and ownership of the land sought to be registered. 11 The applicants appealed to the respondent court, * which reversed the trial court and recognized the claims of the applicant, but subject to the rights of Benguet and Atok respecting their mining claims. 12 In other words, the Court of Appeals affirmed the surface rights of the de la Rosas over the land while at the same time reserving the sub-surface rights of Benguet and Atok by virtue of their mining claims.

CRUZ, J.: The Regalian doctrine reserves to the State all natural wealth that may be found in the bowels of the earth even if the land where the discovery is made be private. 1 In the cases at bar, which have been consolidated because they pose a common issue, this doctrine was not correctly applied. These cases arose from the application for registration of a parcel of land filed on February 11, 1965, by Jose de la Rosa on his own behalf and on behalf of his three children, Victoria, Benjamin and Eduardo. The land, situated in Tuding, Itogon, Benguet Province, was divided into 9 lots and covered by plan Psu-225009. According to the application, Lots 1-5 were sold to Jose de la Rosa and Lots 6-9 to his children by Mamaya Balbalio and Jaime Alberto, respectively, in 1964. 2 The application was separately opposed by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. as to Lots 1-5, Atok Big Wedge Corporation, as to Portions of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9, and by the Republic of the Philippines, through the Bureau of Forestry Development, as to lots 1-9. 3 In support of the application, both Balbalio and Alberto testified that they had acquired the subject land by virtue of prescription Balbalio claimed to have received Lots 1-5 from her father shortly after the Liberation. She testified she was born in the land, which was possessed by her parents under claim of ownership. 4 Alberto said he received Lots

Both Benguet and Atok have appealed to this Court, invoking their superior right of ownership. The Republic has filed its own petition for review and reiterates its argument that neither the private respondents nor the two mining companies have any valid claim to the land because it is not alienable and registerable. It is true that the subject property was considered forest land and included in the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve, but this did not impair the rights already vested in Benguet and Atok at that time. The Court of Appeals correctly declared that: There is no question that the 9 lots applied for are within the June Bug mineral claims of Benguet and the "Fredia and Emma" mineral claims of Atok. The June Bug mineral claim of plaintiff Benguet was one of the 16 mining claims of James E. Kelly, American and mining locator. He filed his declaration of the location of the June Bug mineral and the same was recorded in the Mining Recorder's Office on October 14, 1909. All of the Kelly claims ha subsequently been acquired by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. Benguet's evidence is that it had made improvements on the June Bug mineral claim consisting of mine tunnels prior to 1935. It had submitted the required affidavit of annual assessment. After World War II, Benguet introduced improvements on mineral claim June Bug, and also conducted geological mappings, geological sampling and trench side cuts. In 1948, Benguet redeclared the "June Bug" for taxation and had religiously paid the taxes. The Emma and Fredia claims were two of the several claims of Harrison registered in 1931, and which Atok representatives acquired. Portions of Lots 1 to 5 and all of Lots 6 to 9 are within the Emma and Fredia mineral claims of Atok Big Wedge Mining Company. The June Bug mineral claim of Benguet and the Fredia and Emma mineral claims of Atok having been perfected prior to the approval of the Constitution of the Philippines of 1935, they were removed from the public domain and had become private properties of Benguet and Atok. It is not disputed that the location of the mining claim under consideration was perfected prior to November 15, 1935, when the Government of the Commonwealth was inaugurated; and according to the laws existing at that time, as construed and applied by this court in McDaniel v. Apacible and Cuisia (42 Phil. 749), a valid location of a mining claim segregated the area from the public domain. Said the court in that case: The moment the locator discovered a valuable mineral deposit on the lands located, and perfected his location in accordance with law, the power of the United States Government to deprive him of the exclusive right to the possession and enjoyment of the located claim was gone, the lands had become mineral lands and they were exempted from lands that could be granted to any other person. The reservations of public lands cannot be made

so as to include prior mineral perfected locations; and, of course, if a valid mining location is made upon public lands afterwards included in a reservation, such inclusion or reservation does not affect the validity of the former location. By such location and perfection, the land located is segregated from the public domain even as against the Government. (Union Oil Co. v. Smith, 249 U.S. 337; Van Mess v. Roonet, 160 Cal. 131; 27 Cyc. 546). "The legal effect of a valid location of a mining claim is not only to segregate the area from the public domain, but to grant to the locator the beneficial ownership of the claim and the right to a patent therefor upon compliance with the terms and conditions prescribed by law. Where there is a valid location of a mining claim, the area becomes segregated from the public domain and the property of the locator." (St. Louis Mining & Milling Co. v. Montana Mining Co., 171 U.S. 650; 655; 43 Law ed., 320, 322.) "When a location of a mining claim is perfected it has the effect of a grant by the United States of the right of present and exclusive possession, with the right to the exclusive enjoyment of all the surface ground as well as of all the minerals within the lines of the claim, except as limited by the extralateral right of adjoining locators; and this is the locator's right before as well as after the issuance of the patent. While a lode locator acquires a vested property right by virtue of his location made in compliance with the mining laws, the fee remains in the government until patent issues."(18 R.C.L. 1152) (Gold Creek Mining Corporation v. Hon. Eulogio Rodriguez, Sec. of Agriculture and Commerce, and Quirico Abadilla, Director of the Bureau of Mines, 66 Phil. 259, 265-266) It is of no importance whether Benguet and Atok had secured a patent for as held in the Gold Creek Mining Corp. Case, for all physical purposes of ownership, the owner is not required to secure a patent as long as he complies with the provisions of the mining laws; his possessory right, for all practical purposes of ownership, is as good as though secured by patent. We agree likewise with the oppositors that having complied with all the requirements of the mining laws, the claims were removed from the public domain, and not even the government of the Philippines can take away this right from them. The reason is obvious. Having become the private properties of the oppositors, they cannot be deprived thereof without due process of law. 13 Such rights were not affected either by the stricture in the Commonwealth Constitution against the alienation of all lands of the public domain except those agricultural in nature for this was made subject

to existing rights. Thus, in its Article XIII, Section 1, it was categorically provided that: SEC. 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 Philipppines 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 60% 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 lands, shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding 25 years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which case beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant. Implementing this provision, Act No. 4268, approved on November 8, 1935, declared: Any provision of existing laws, executive order, proclamation to the contrary notwithstanding, all locations of mining claim made prior to February 8, 1935 within lands set apart as forest reserve under Sec. 1826 of the Revised Administrative Code which would be valid and subsisting location except to the existence of said reserve are hereby declared to be valid and subsisting locations as of the date of their respective locations. The perfection of the mining claim converted the property to mineral land and under the laws then in force removed it from the public domain. 14 By such act, the locators acquired exclusive rights over the land, against even the government, without need of any further act such as the purchase of the land or the obtention of a patent over it. 15 As the land had become the private property of the locators, they had the right to transfer the same, as they did, to Benguet and Atok. It is true, as the Court of Appeals observed, that such private property was subject to the "vicissitudes of ownership," or even to forfeiture by non-user or abandonment or, as the private respondents aver, by acquisitive prescription. However, the method invoked by the de la Rosas is not available in the case at bar, for two reasons. First, the trial court found that the evidence of open, continuous, adverse and exclusive possession submitted by the applicants was insufficient to support their claim of ownership. They themselves had acquired the land only in 1964 and applied for its registration in 1965, relying on the earlier alleged possession of their predecessors-in-interest. 16 The trial judge, who had the opportunity to consider the evidence first-hand and observe the demeanor of the witnesses and

test their credibility was not convinced. We defer to his judgment in the absence of a showing that it was reached with grave abuse of discretion or without sufficient basis. 17 Second, even if it be assumed that the predecessorsin-interest of the de la Rosas had really been in possession of the subject property, their possession was not in the concept of owner of the mining claim but of the property as agricultural land, which it was not. The property was mineral land, and they were claiming it as agricultural land. They were not disputing the lights of the mining locators nor were they seeking to oust them as such and to replace them in the mining of the land. In fact, Balbalio testified that she was aware of the diggings being undertaken "down below" 18 but she did not mind, much less protest, the same although she claimed to be the owner of the said land. The Court of Appeals justified this by saying there is "no conflict of interest" between the owners of the surface rights and the owners of the sub-surface rights. This is rather doctrine, for it is a well-known principle that the owner of piece of land has rights not only to its surface but also to everything underneath and the airspace above it up to a reasonable height. 19 Under the aforesaid ruling, the land is classified as mineral underneath and agricultural on the surface, subject to separate claims of title. This is also difficult to understand, especially in its practical application. Under the theory of the respondent court, the surface owner will be planting on the land while the mining locator will be boring tunnels underneath. The farmer cannot dig a well because he may interfere with the operations below and the miner cannot blast a tunnel lest he destroy the crops above. How deep can the farmer, and how high can the miner, go without encroaching on each other's rights? Where is the dividing line between the surface and the subsurface rights? The Court feels that the rights over the land are indivisible and that the land itself cannot be half agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be categorical; the land must be either completely mineral or completely agricultural. In the instant case, as already observed, the land which was originally classified as forest land ceased to be so and became mineral and completely mineral once the mining claims were perfected. 20 As long as mining operations were being undertaken thereon, or underneath, it did not cease to be so and become agricultural, even if only partly so, because it was enclosed with a fence and was cultivated by those who were unlawfully occupying the surface. What must have misled the respondent court is Commonwealth Act No. 137, providing as follows: Sec. 3. All mineral lands of the public domain and minerals 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 60% 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 government established under the Constitution. SEC. 4. The ownership of, and the right to the use of land for agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential, or for any purpose other than mining does not include the ownership of, nor the right to extract or utilize, the minerals which may be found on or under the surface. SEC. 5. The ownership of, and the right to extract and utilize, the minerals included within all areas for which public agricultural land patents are granted are excluded and excepted from all such patents. SEC. 6. The ownership of, and the right to extract and utilize, the minerals included within all areas for which Torrens titles are granted are excluded and excepted from all such titles. This is an application of the Regalian doctrine which, as its name implies, is intended for the benefit of the State, not of private persons. The rule simply reserves to the State all minerals that may be found in public and even private land devoted to "agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential or (for) any purpose other than mining." Thus, if a person is the owner of agricultural land in which minerals are discovered, his ownership of such land does not give him the right to extract or utilize the said minerals without the permission of the State to which such minerals belong. The flaw in the reasoning of the respondent court is in supposing that the rights over the land could be used for both mining and non-mining purposes simultaneously. The correct interpretation is that once minerals are discovered in the land, whatever the use to which it is being devoted at the time, such use may be discontinued by the State to enable it to extract the minerals therein in the exercise of its sovereign prerogative. The land is thus converted to mineral land and may not be used by any private party, including the registered owner thereof, for any other purpose that will impede the mining operations to be undertaken therein, For the loss sustained by such owner, he is of course entitled to just compensation under the Mining Laws or in appropriate expropriation proceedings. 21 Our holding is that Benguet and Atok have exclusive rights to the property in question by virtue of their respective mining claims which they validly acquired before the Constitution of 1935 prohibited the alienation of all lands of the public domain except agricultural lands, subject to vested rights existing at the time of its adoption. The land was not and could not have been transferred to the private respondents by virtue of acquisitive prescription, nor could its use be shared simultaneously by them and the mining companies for agricultural and mineral purposes. WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent court dated April 30, 1976, is SET ASIDE and that of the trial court dated March 11, 1969, is REINSTATED, without any pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED. Teehankee, C.J., Narvasa, Gancayco and GrioAquino, JJ., concur.

THIRD DIVISION [G.R. No. 31688 : December 17, 1990.] 192 SCRA 296 DIRECTOR OF LANDS, DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioners, vs. HON. JUAN P. AQUINO, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Abra, Second Judicial District and ABRA INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, Respondents. DECISION FERNAN, J.: The center of controversy in the instant petition for review on Certiorari is a limestone-rich 70-hectare land in Bucay, Abra 66 hectares of which are, according to petitioners, within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve. Private respondent Abra Industrial Corporation (AIC for brevity), a duly registered corporation established for the purpose of setting up a cement factory, claims on the other hand, to be the owner in fee simple of the whole 70-hectare area indicated in survey plans PSU-217518, PSU-217519 and PSU217520 with a total assessed value of P6,724.48. Thus, on September 23, 1965, it filed in the then Court of First Instance of Abra an application for registration in its name of said parcels of land under the Land Registration Act or, in the alternative, under Sec. 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 1 as amended by Republic Act No. 1942 inasmuch as its predecessors-in-interest had allegedly been in possession thereof since July 26, 1894. 2 The requisite publication and posting of notice having been complied with, the application was set for hearing. Except for the Director of Lands, nobody appeared to oppose the application. Hence, the court issued an order of default against the whole world except the Director of Lands. After the applicant had rested its case, the provincial fiscal, appearing for the Director of Lands, submitted evidence supporting the opposition filed by the Solicitor General to the effect that AIC had no registerable title and that the highly mineralized parcels of land applied for were within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve which had not yet been released as alienable and disposable land pursuant to the Public Land Law. On July 22, 1966, the lower court 3 favorably acted on the application and ordered the registration of the parcels of land under the Land Registration Act. It ruled that although said land was within the forest zone, the opposition of the Director of Lands was not well-taken because the Bureau of Forestry, thru the District Forester of Abra, "offered no objection to exclude the same area from the forest reserve." 4 It found that the parcels of land had been acquired by purchase and AIC's possession thereof, including that

of its predecessors-in-interest, had been for fortynine (49) years. The Director of Lands, through the provincial fiscal, filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision asserting that except for a 4-hectare area, the land covered by PSU-217518, 217519 and 217520 fell within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve, under Proclamation No. 217 dated February 16, 1929; that although it had been denuded, it was covered with massive, corraline, tufaceous limestone estimated to yield 200,000,000 metric tons about a fifth of which was suitable for the manufacture of high grade portland cement type and that the limestone, being 250 meters thick, could yield 10,000 bags of cement a day for 1,000 years. 5 He contended that, while the land could be reclassified as mineral land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines, the process of exclusion from the Cordillera Forest Reserve had not yet been undertaken pursuant to Sec. 1826 of Republic Act No. 3092 and therefore it was still part of the forest zone which was inalienable under the 1935 Constitution. AIC having filed its opposition to the motion for reconsideration, the lower court denied it on September 28, 1967 holding that the grounds raised therein were relevant and proper only if the Bureau of Forestry and the Bureau of Mines were parties to the case. It added that the motion for intervention filed by the Bureau of Lands and the Bureau of Mines was improper in land registration cases. 6 The Director of Lands filed a petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals but the same was dismissed for having been filed out of time. 7 Hence, on December 22, 1967, the Commissioner of Land Registration issued Decrees Nos. 118198, 118199 and 118200 for the registration of the subject parcels of land in the name of AIC. Within one year from the issuance of said decrees or on May 22, 1968, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, invoking Section 38 of Act No. 496, filed in the Court of First Instance of Abra a petition for review of the decrees of registration and the lower court's decision of July 22, 1966. The Solicitor General alleged that although the evidence presented by AIC showed that it had purchased from individual owners only a total area of 24 hectares, the application included 46 hectares of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve and therefore AIC "employed actual fraud" which misled the court "to error in finding the applicant to have a registerable title over the parcels of land subject of the application." 8 On November 27, 1969, the lower court 9 denied the petition on the ground that if, as alleged by the Solicitor General, then presiding Judge Macario M. Ofilada was mistaken in appreciating the evidence presented, the judicial error was "not synonymous with actual fraud." 10 Without asking for a reconsideration of said order, on February 25, 1970, the Solicitor General, representing the Director of Lands, the Director of Forestry and the Republic of the Philippines, filed the present petition for review on Certiorari under Republic Act No. 5440.:-cralaw The petition was forthwith given due course by the Court 11 but inasmuch as no action was taken on their prayer for the issuance of a temporary

restraining order, the petitioners filed a motion reiterating said prayer. Finding the motion meritorious, the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the private respondent and its agents and representatives "from further acts of possession and disposition to innocent purchasers for value of the parcels of land involved" in this case. 12 AIC filed a motion to dismiss the instant petition on the grounds that it raises "unsubstantial" issues and that it was filed out of time. The motion was denied by the Court 13 but it bears pointing out that AIC's second ground for dismissal, which is premised on its perception that a motion for reconsideration of the order of November 27, 1969 is necessary before the filing of the instant petition, is incorrect. A motion for new trial or reconsideration is not a prerequisite to an appeal, petition for review or a petition for review on Certiorari. 14 The reglementary period for filing the petition for review on Certiorari in the instant case was thirty (30) days from notice of the order or judgment subject of review 15 which period, parenthetically, is now fifteen (15) days pursuant to Section 39 of the Judiciary Act of 1980. 16 Petitioners having been granted a total of sixty (60) days 17 within which to file the petition, the same was timely filed. Petitioners herein contend that the lower court erred in granting the application for registration of the parcels of land notwithstanding its finding that they are within the forest zone. The District Forester's failure to object to the exclusion of the area sought to be registered from the forest reserve was not enough justification for registration because under Commonwealth Act No. 141, the power to exclude an area from the forest zone belongs to the President of the Philippines, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and not the District Forester or even the Director of Forestry. Petitioners also contend that the lower court erred in denying the petition for review based on actual fraud because under Section 38 of Act No. 496, a decree of registration may be reviewed not only by reason of actual fraud but also for a fatal infirmity of the decision upon which the decree is based, provided no innocent purchaser for value will be prejudiced. We find the petition to be meritorious. Once again, we reiterate the rule enunciated by this Court in Director of Forestry vs. Muoz 18 and consistently adhered to in a long line of cases 19 the more recent of which is Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 20 that forest lands or forest reserves are incapable of private appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private properties. This ruling is premised on the Regalian doctrine enshrined not only in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions but also in the 1987 Constitution Article XIII of which provides that: "Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal . . . , forests or timber, . . . and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated." Pursuant to this constitutional provision, the land must first be released from its classification as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land in accordance with the certification issued by the Director of Forestry as provided for by Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code. 21 This is

because the classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the executive department of the government and not of the courts. 22 Moreover, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. 23 Being the interested party, an applicant for registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. 24 In this case, AIC asserts that the land in dispute is no longer part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve because the communal forest in Bucay, Abra which had been established in 1909 by virtue of Forestry Administrative Order No. 2-298, had been "cancelled and de-established" by Forestry Administrative Order No. 2-622 dated October 1, 1965 and issued by then Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Jose Y. Feliciano. 25 AIC therefore tries to impress upon the Court the fact that as there was no longer a forested area, the same area had become alienable more so because its actual occupants, who had been devoting it to agriculture, had relinquished their rights over it in favor of AIC "to give way for greater economic benefits for the people in the locality." 26 It should be emphasized, however, that the classification of the land as forest land is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. 27 Hence, the fact that the contested parcels of land have long been denuded and actually contains rich limestone deposits does not in any way affect its present classification as forest land.: nad While it is true that under Section 1839 of the Revised Administrative Code, the Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department Head, may change the location of a communal forest, such executive action does not amount to a declassification of a forest reserve into an alienable or disposable land. Under Commonwealth Act No. 141, 28 it is no less than the President, upon the recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands. 29 The President shall also declare from time to time what lands are open to disposition or concession. 30 AIC therefore, should prove first of all that the lands it claims for registration are alienable or disposable lands. As it is, AIC has not only failed to prove that it has a registerable title but more important]y, it failed to show that the lands are no longer a part of the public domain. The petitioners therefore validly insisted on the review of the decision ordering the issuance of the decree of registration in view of its patent infirmity. The lower court closed its eyes to a basic doctrine in land registration cases that the inclusion in a title of a part of the public domain nullifies the title. 31 Its decision to order the registration of an inalienable land in favor of AIC under the misconception that it is imperative for the Director of Forestry to object to its exclusion from the forest reserve even in the face of its finding that indeed a sizable portion of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve is involved, cannot be allowed to stay unreversed. It betrays an inherent infirmity which must be corrected.:-cralaw

WHEREFORE, the order of November 27, 1969 denying the petition for review under Section 38 of Act No. 496 and the decision of July 22, 1966 insofar as it orders the registration of land within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve are hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The temporary restraining order issued on April 7, 1970 is hereby made permanent. Costs against the private respondent. SO ORDERED. Gutierrez, Jr. and Bidin, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. L-58867 June 22, 1984 DIRECTOR OF LANDS and DIRECTOR OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT, petitioners, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and ANTONIO VALERIANO, GABRIELA VALERIANO VDA. DE LA CRUZ, LETICIA A. VALERIANO and MARISSA VALERIANO DE LA ROSA, respondents. The Solicitor General for petitioners. Carlos C. Serapio for private respondents.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: Petitioners-public officials, through the Solicitor General, seek a review of the Decision and Resolution of the then Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the former Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch III, decreeing registration of a parcel of land in private respondents' favor. The land in question, Identified as Lot 2347, Cad-302-D, Case 3, Obando Cadastre, under Plan Ap-03-000535, is situated in Obando, Bulacan, and has an area of approximately 9.3 hectares. It adjoins the Kailogan River and private respondents have converted it into a fishpond. In their application for registration filed on May 10, 1976, private respondents (Applicants, for brevity) claimed that they are the co-owners in fee simple of the land applied for partly through inheritance in 1918 and partly by purchase on May 2, 1958; that it is not within any forest zone or military reservation; and that the same is assessed for taxation purposes in their names. The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development opposed the application on the principal ground that the land applied for is within the unclassified region of Obando, Bulacan, per BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927; and that areas within the unclassified region are denominated as forest lands and do not form part of the disposable and alienable portion of the public domain.

After hearing, the Trial Court ordered registration of the subject land in favor of the Applicants. This was affirmed on appeal by respondent Appellate Court, which found that "through indubitable evidence (Applicants) and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, public, continuous, peaceful and adverse possession of the subject parcel of land under a bona fide claim of ownership for more than 30 years prior to the filing of the application" and are, therefore, entitled to registration. It further opined that "since the subject property is entirely devoted to fishpond purposes, it cannot be categorized as part of forest lands. " Before this instance, the principal issues posed are: (1) whether or not Courts can reclassify the subject public land; and (2) whether or not applicants are entitled to judicial confirmation of title. The parties, through their respective counsel, stipulated that the land is within an unclassified region of Obando, Bulacan, as shown by BF Map LC No. 637, dated March 1, 1927. 1 No evidence has been submitted that the land has been released or subsequently classified despite an Indorsement, dated November 17, 1976, of the District Forester, to the Director of Forest Development, containing the following recommendation: Subject area requested for release was verified and found to be within the Unclassified Region of Obando, Bulacan per BF LC Map No. 637, certified March 1, 1927. However, on-the-spot inspection conducted by a representative of this Office, it disclosed that the same was devoid of any forest growth and forms part of a well-developed and 100 percent producing fishponds. Two houses of light materials were erected within the area for the caretakers temporary dwelling. In view thereof, and in fairness to the applicant considering the investment introduced therein this Office believes that the release is in order, Recommended for approval and be disposed of in accordance with the Public Land Law. 2 The Government's case is meritorious. In effect, what the Courts a quo have done is to release the subject property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their competence and jurisdiction. The classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. 3 This should be so under time-honored Constitutional precepts. This is also in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, 4 and that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. 5

The recommendation of the District Forester for release of subject property from the unclassified region is not the ultimate word on the matter. And the fact that BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927 showing subject property to be within the unclassified region was not presented in evidence will not operate against the State considering the stipulation between the parties and under the wellsettled rule that the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents, 6 if omission there was, in fact. While it may be that the Municipality of Obando has been cadastrally surveyed in 1961, it does not follow that an lands comprised therein are automatically released as alienable. A survey made in a cadastral proceeding merely Identifies each lot preparatory to a judicial proceeding for adjudication of title to any of the lands upon claim of interested parties. Besides, if land is within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development, it would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Cadastral Court to register it under the Torrens System. Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever possession Applicants may have had, and, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership. 7 The conversion of subject property into a fishpond by Applicants, or the alleged titling of properties around it, does not automatically render the property as alienable and disposable. Applicants' remedy lies in the release of the property from its present classification. In fairness to Applicants, and it appearing that there are titled lands around the subject property, petitioners-officials should give serious consideration to the matter of classification of the land in question. WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is reversed and the application for registration in Land Registration Case No. N299-V-76 of the former Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch III, is hereby dismissed, without prejudice to the availment by the applicants of the proper administrative remedy. No costs. SO ORDERED. Teehankee (Chairman), Plana, Relova and De la Fuente, JJ., concur. Gutierrez, Jr., J., took no part

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC 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.

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 November 15, 1979, and which donation was accepted by the Municipal Government of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'Nl'), 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

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 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

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-in-interest 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-ininterest 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 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 2 thru 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, 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. .... 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. 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).<re|| an1w> 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 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. SO ORDERED. Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ., concur.