On proving alienable, disposable land under a claim of imperfect title | Inquirer Business
Property rules

On proving alienable, disposable land under a claim of imperfect title

Under relevant land registration laws, and as affirmed by the Supreme Court, one may hold “imperfect” title to alienable and disposable land belonging to the public domain when, among others, he or through his predecessors-in-interest should have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession, and occupation thereof, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership.

Pursuant to the recently enacted Republic Act (R.A.) No. 11573, he should have so possessed and occupied the land for at least 20 years immediately preceding the filing of his application for confirmation of title before the proper court, except when prevented by war or force majeure.

The subject land is then deemed to have been favorably disposed to the applicant once the court confirms his imperfect title.


In Republic of the Philippines v. Spouses Tan, the Supreme Court discussed what would constitute proof of alienable and disposable land that may be acquired through imperfect title.


In this case, respondents Rolly and Grace Tan (collectively, “Spouses Tan”) filed before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) their application for the confirmation and registration of title over a parcel of land. They alleged in their application that they had acquired the subject land from the heirs of Cirilo Garcia and his son, Simeon, as evidenced by a document entitled, “Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate with Waiver of Rights and Absolute Sale.”

In proving their claim, Spouses Tan attached to their application documents, such as, among others, the subject land’s blue print plan, as approved by the Land Management Bureau-Regional Office IV of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), and copies of the tax declaration, official receipts on their payment of real taxes thereon, and certifications from the city treasurer and office of the city assessor.

Subsequently, other documents were presented during the trial stage, including a certification from the concerned city’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) and report from one of this Cenro’s special investigators, both of which affirmed the land’s alienable and disposable status.

The MTCC granted Spouses Tan’s application, directing the administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue the corresponding decree.

Upon appeal by petitioner Republic of the Philippines, the Court of Appeals affirmed the MTCC’s ruling. In this regard, it held that Cenro’s certification, its special investigator’s report, and the original subdivision plan covering the subject land, would sufficiently prove the Philippine Government’s positive act of classifying it as alienable and disposable.

Moreover, the LRA neither objected to Spouses Tan’s application nor raised any issue on the subject land’s alienability and disposability.


In its petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, the Republic now argues that, among others, absent the certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR secretary, Cenro certifications on the alienable and disposable status of any land of public domain, are insufficient.

The Supreme Court partly denied the Republic’s petition and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for reception of Spouses Tan’s evidence. In so ruling, it took judicial notice of R.A. No. 11573, which as mentioned, limited the period for possessing and occupying alienable and disposable land to 20 years for the purpose of claiming imperfect title thereon.

Furthermore, this law requires as proof of alienable and disposable land the corresponding signed certification by a designated DENR geodetic engineer. This certification shall be imprinted in the approved survey plan submitted by the applicant in the land registration court.

Contrary to the Republic’s assertion, the Supreme Court held that the requirements laid out under R.A. No. 11573 effectively superseded its previous rulings that a certified true copy of the original classification approved by the DENR secretary was necessary to prove the land’s alienable and disposable status.

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R.A. No. 11573 retroactively applied because of its curative nature, as can be seen in its declared purpose to simplify, update, and harmonize relevant provisions of land laws, as well as remove ambiguities in their interpretation and implementation.

TAGS: land registration, Property Rules

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