The Philippine National Police (PNP) has lost its bid to register in its name the more than 9.7 hectares of land which it had possessed for more than 30 years in Iba, Zambales.
In a decision written by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, the SC reversed the 2011 ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) which upheld the trial court’s 2006 order that granted PNP’s application to register the land in its name.
The decision that was made public last Aug. 24 granted the petition filed by the government through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which challenged the CA’s decision.
The SC said:
“In fine, We find that the respondent's (PNP) evidence does not suffice to entitle it to register the subject lots. The PNP failed to present any evidence showing that the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary had indeed released the subject lots as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.
“In view of this, We find it unnecessary to determine whether the PNP has complied with the other requirements for original land registration under Section 14 of Presidential Decree 1529.
“Thus, the Court is constrained to reverse the CA's Aug. 16, 2011 Decision and deny the PNP's application for land title registration for failure to observe the rules and requirements on land registration.
“The application for land title registration of respondent Philippine National Police is hereby DISMISSED.”
The land, consisting of six lots, forms part of the Iba Cadastre.
In 2003, PNP filed an application for the registration of land before the regional trial court (RTC). In support of its application, it submitted the tracing cloth plan of Lot No. 713, Cad 191, Iba Cadastre as subdivided, technical descriptions of the subject lots, the approved sketch plan and the respective tax declarations of said lots.
At least three witnesses presented by the PNP during the hearings testified that the PNP had been occupying the land for more than 30 years.
One witness affirmed that the lots were formerly used as a military reservation of the then Philippine Constabulary and was transferred to the PNP in 1991 when the former office was dissolved.
After hearings, the trial court issued its ruling that directed the registration of the land in PNP’s name. The OSG elevated the case to the CA.
The OSG told the CA that the PNP failed to prove that the subject lots are alienable and disposable lands of the public domain since as per the Dec. 19, 2002 Report issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR, the subject lots had been reserved for constabulary (military) purposes per Executive Order No. 87, dated Nov. 6, 1915.
It also told the CA that the subject lots are unregistrable in the absence of a positive act from the government withdrawing the land from being reserved for military purposes.
When the OSG’s petition was dismissed by the CA, it elevated the case to the SC.
Agreeing with the OSG’s arguments, the SC said the subject lots are incapable of registration pursuant to the CENRO Report as it affirmed the OSG’s argument that the PNP's possession of the subject lots for more than 30 years is irrelevant because said lots are inalienable having been reserved for military purposes.
“In the instant case, the PNP did not submit a DENR Certification to the effect that the subject lots are alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, which was the prevailing requirement when its application for land registration was pending with the RTC.
“The PNP merely submitted a subdivision plan of Lot No. 713, Cad 191, Iba Cadastre, which indicated that the subject lots are alienable and disposable.
“Therefore, respondent's reliance on the subject lots' subdivision plan, without the corresponding DENR certification stating that they are entirely within the alienable and disposable zone, which was the prevailing rule during the pendency of its application with the RTC, proved fatal to its case.
“In short, respondent failed to substantially prove that the subject lots are alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.”