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[MUNICIPALITY OF TACLOBAN v. DIRECTOR OP LANDS](http://lawyerly.ph/juris/view/cf49?user=fbGU2WFpmaitMVEVGZ2lBVW5xZ2RVdz09)
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17 Phil. 426

[ G. R. No. 5543, December 09, 1910 ]

THE MUNICIPALITY OF TACLOBAN, PETITIONER AND APPELLEE, VS. THE DIRECTOR OP LANDS, OPPONENT AND APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

TORRES, J.:

On April  6, 1908, the municipal president of Tacloban, in behalf of his municipality, presented a written application in the Court of Land Registration, soliciting the registration of a parcel  of land, of  which the  said municipality is the absolute  owner according to the  Land Registration  Act, situated  in the town proper of Tacloban and bounded  on the north by  Calle  Gran Capitan, on the south by  Calle San Roque, on the east by Calle San Juan, and on the west by the lands of  Juliana Daylo and Norberto  Romualdez, containing" 4,055.91  square meters  and whose description, metes, and bounds are set forth in  the plan accompanying the application.   It was represented that the said property was appraised at  the last assessment, levied for the purpose of the payment  of  the  land  tax,  at  $811 United States currency, and  the buildings at $11,250 United  States currency; that the said land was acquired at a very remote date as a grift from various landowners who were then residents of the pueblo of Tacloban; that there was no encumbrance of any kind on the property, and no person other than the applicant who had any right or interest therein; that the land was occupied by three  buildings of strong  materials; two primary public schools and the municipal building, now occupied by the provincial high school of Leyte; and  that, in the improbable event  of the  said application not being in accordance with the Land Registration Act, the benefits provided in chapter  6 of Act No.  926 would be invoked, inasmuch as the municipality had been in possession of the land since time  immemorial, and for  seventy years  past, more or less, had  used it for building purposes, the property being inclosed on  all  sides by a board and bamboo fence.

In consequence  of the summons and publications made by the Court of Land Registration, the Attorney-General, in behalf of the Director of Lands, opposed the registration applied for' and alleged that the land in question belonged to the Government of the United States and was under the control of the Government of the Philippine Islands, and asked that the said application be denied.

The case was heard on January 18, 1909, and testimony having been produced by  both parties, the court,  in view of the findings reached  thereby and on the same  date,  rendered judgment by decreeing the adjudication and registration of the land described in the application and plan presented, which were attached to the record, a general default first  having been ordered to be  recorded in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 496.  The Solicitor-General excepted to this judgment and moved for a new hearing on the grounds that the findings of fact  of the court were contrary to the weight of the evidence, that the evidence did not sufficiently warrant the judgment, and that the latter was contrary to law; and the proper bill of exceptions being presented,  it was certified and forwarded to the clerk of this court.

As the decision rendered by this court  in case No. 5631,[1] originating in  the Court of Land Registration and brought before us on appeal by the Attorney-General in representation of the Director of Lands, refers to the inscription in the Court of  Land Registration of a  parcel of  land  situated within the town of Catbalogan, the capital of the Province and Island of Samar, which land had been and was occupied by the court-house or municipal building of the said pueblo, so likewise the present decision concerns  the inscription in the Court of Land Registration of a parcel of land situated within the town of  Tacloban,  the capital of the adjoining Province and   Island of Leyte, which  land is at present occupied by three buildings of strong materials and serve, two of them, as primary schools for both sexes, and the other as the courthouse or municipal building of the said pueblo and a part of  which is devoted to the use of the provincial high school.

The question submitted to this court for decision,  through the appeal by the Attorney-General in representation of the Director of Lands, is whether  the lot, at present occupied by two public school buildings and the municipal building of Tacloban and also used  as  quarters for the provincial high school, belongs to  the said municipality,  or is public Government land  under the control  of the Government of these  Islands.

Whereas the land in litigation  is  now  occupied by the court-house or municipal building of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte, and in order to  avoid annoying repetitions, the relevant part of the decision rendered in case No. 5631, concerning the registration of land occupied by  the municipal building or court-house of the pueblo of Catbalogan, the capital of Samar, is herein reproduced and is of the following purport (219-221):

"In order to obtain  a better understanding  of the final conclusion  to be established in this decision, it is meet to state: That for the  purpose of the establishment of new pueblos in this archipelago, at the beginning of its occupation by the Spaniards, an endeavor was always made to find, in favorable places, a certain number of inhabitants and, later, near the pueblos already  established, barrios, which ordinarily served as  a basis for the formation  of other new pueblos that became  as populated as the centers on which they were dependent.
"The  executive authorities and other officials who then represented the Spanish Government in these Islands were obliged to adjust their procedure,  in the fulfillment of their duties, with regard to the establishment and  laying out of new towns, to the Laws of the Indies which determined the course that they were to pursue for such purposes, as may be seen by the following:

"Law 6, title 5, book  4, of the Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies, provides,  among other things:

" 'That within the  boundaries which may be assigned to it, there must be at least thirty residents and each  one of them must have a house, etc.'

"Law 7 of the same title and book contains this provision:

" 'Whoever wishes to  undertake to establish a new town in the manner provided for, of not more than thirty nor less than ten residents, shall be granted the time  and territory necessary for the purpose and under the same conditions.'

"It may be affirmed that years afterwards all the modern pueblos of  the  archipelago were formed by taking as a basis for their establishment the barrios already populated by a large number of residents who, under the agreement to build the church of the new pueblo, the court-house and afterwards the schoolhouse, obtained from the General Government the administrative separation of their barrio from the pueblo on which it depended, in whose territory it was previously comprised.  In such cases a procedure analogous to that prescribed by the Laws of the Indies was observed.

"For the establishment, then, of new pueblos, the administrative authority of the province, in representation of the Governor-General, designated the territory for their location and extension and the metes and bounds of the same; and before allotting the lands  among the new settlers,  a special demarcation was made of the  places which were  to  serve as the public square of the pueblo, for the erection of the church and as sites for the public buildings, among others, the municipal building or the casa real, as well as of the lands which were to constitute the commons, pastures, and propios of the municipality, and the streets and roads which were to intersect the new town were laid out  as may be seen by the following laws:

"Law 7, title 7, book 4, of the Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies, provides:

" 'The district or territory to be given for settlement by composition shall be allotted in the following manner: There shall first be  set apart the portion required for  the lots of the pueblo, the exido or public lands, and.pastures amply sufficient for the stock which the residents may have, and as much more as propios del lugar, or common lands of the locality; the  rest  of. the territory  and district  shall  be divided into four parts - one of them, of his choice, shall be for him who takes upon  himself the  obligation to found the pueblo, and the other three parts shall be apportioned equally among the settlers.'

"Law 8,  of the same title and  book,  prescribes, among other things:

" 'That between the main square and the church there shall be constructed the casas reales or municipal buildings, the cabildo, concejo, customs buildings, etc.'

"Law 14 of the said  title and book also  directs among other things:

" That the viceroys shall have set aside such lands as to them appear suitable as  the common lands (propios) of the pueblos that have none,  therewith to assist in the payment of the salaries of the corregidores and sufficient public lands (exidos) and pasture lands as provided for and prescribed by law.'

"Law 1, title 13 of the  aforesaid book, provides the following:

" 'Such viceroys and governors as have due authority shall designate to each villa and lugar newly founded and settled the lands and lots which they may need and may be given to them, without  detriment to a third party,  as  propios, and a statement shall be sent to us of what was designated and given  to each, in order that we may have  such action approved.'"
The pueblo and municipality of Tacloban,  as the capital of the Island and Province of Leyte, must have been one of the first of the pueblos established and  of which  the said province is composed and there being no record  that its casa real or municipal court-house was erected on any other or different land, it is to be presumed that, on founding that pueblo and on the competent  authority proceeding, to designate and demarcate the area of land to be occupied as a site and for the future extension of the town of Tacloban, with its square, streets, and lots for the temple and other public  buildings, the lot in  question was also designated for the court-house, in accordance with the laws herein before mentioned, and in fact the municipal building was erected thereon very long ago, more than  thirty years, according to the witnesses examined,  and the municipal president, the applicant, averred that the pueblo of Tacloban had acquired the said lot by donation and had possessed it since time immemorial.  It is also to be presumed that the adjudication of the said land in  favor of the municipality to enable it to build  its court-house thereon, was duly confirmed by the Spanish Government, as must be inferred, without proof to the contrary, in view of  its continuous and  peaceable possession for so long a period extending  to the present time; nor does the record show that any other lot or different parcel  of land was adjudicated to it,  inasmuch as it  was necessary  and absolutely indispensable that every pueblo established should have its own casa real or court-house, the seat of its local authority, and also a church where its inhabitants might worship God.

For the same reason, other paragraphs of the said decision are quoted here below and are as follows (pp. 222-224):
"It  is to be noted that, in former times, the court-house buildings of  the pueblos were called  casas reales (royal buildings),  undoubtedly for the purpose of giving greater dignity to the principle of authority represented in them and inculcating respect among the inhabitants  of the pueblo toward the building where the first local authority exercised his governmental duties and at the same time administered justice, for the old peddneos  or petty  mayors, later called capitanes or gobernadorcillos, while they had governmental powers, at the same time administered  justice as local judges.

"In paragraph 92 of the royal ordinances of February 26, 1768, the following appears, among other things:

" 'And because,  while there is a notable excess of pomp in  the  buildings of the  doctrinary ministers and parish priests, there is, on the other hand, great abandonment of the casas reales which, as a general rule, are not  habitable on account of their inconvenient and ruinous  condition, etc., *   *   *  it is ordered that in  all the pueblos, and especially in those of the seats of government, the native inhabitants thereof shall erect decent and convenient municipal  buildings modeled after the  plans to be furnished by the Central Government, and that therein the gobernadorcillos shall have their  court rooms  and their jails  for the  security of pris- oners, and all leaks and other  damages  shall  be repaired in time in order that, through omission, they may not cause greater detriment and expense.'

"If the inhabitants of a pueblo, at the time of its foundation,  were obliged to erect their  casa  real or municipal building,  it is to be  supposed that they built  it on their own ground after a designation of the site had been made by the governmental authority of the province - a designation which had to be made, according to the Laws  of the Indies, at the same time with that of the main plaza and of the site to be  occupied by the temple or church, which latter building is so necessary and indispensable for every pueblo, as well as the casa real or court-house, since in them, respectively,  divine worship is had and the local authorities perform their duties.   The land designated for  the church is considered to belong thereto, and likewise  the land intended for the court-house should be deemed to be the property of the pueblo awarded to it for the purposes of the public service of the municipality, since no pueblo was able to exist administratively  without  having a  church of its own and a court-house which should be the seat of its local authority and its municipal government.

"It should  be remembered that  the court-house and  the church of every pueblo were always  built, in  accordance with the provisions of the Laws of the Indies, on one of the sides of the plaza mayor or  main square of the town, when not on the lateral line itself, each building on  an opposite side; but  the said square occupies nearly always a central site within the territory of the pueblo, with the exception of the frequent case where  the town  has extended toward only one end  or side of the territory, in  which event its main square ceased to be in the center of the town.   However, the said square was never located  outside of the inhabited place, as were the common and pasturages.   (Law  13, title 7, book 4, Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies.)"
In the  document  Exhibit  B, which  is a certified copy of the minutes of the session  held by the  municipal council and the principal elders of the pueblo of Tacloban on September 23, 1901,  it appears to have been recorded, among other things, that the lands belonging to the municipality are the lots where the municipal building  and the schoolhouses for both sexes are built and, in front of these con- structions, the public  square, on one side of which stands the parochial church.  From this description it is  inferred that the said municipal  building and schoolhouses are situated, together with the  square and the church, in a central part of the town of Tacloban,  where,  in accordance  with the express provisions  of  the  Laws  of the Indies,  they should have been established, and the said  buildings could not have been erected and the plaza mayor  or main square located outside the town; therefore it can  neither be presumed nor concluded that the land converted into  a public square and the lots on which the parochial  church and the schoolhouses now stand  formed a part  of  the terreno comunal, exido or public pasturage land of the pueblo before mentioned.

The land in  controversy  belongs to the municipality of Tacloban.

Taking into  account that neither the court-house  of  a pueblo nor its  schoolhouses were constructed outside the town  proper, at a distance from its inhabitants, the existence on the said land of two public schoolhouses, erected a great many years  ago  and used for  purposes of  instruction of children of both sexes residing in Tacloban, supports the characterization  of the property as being private (bien propio), or part of the municipal assets, which is the status of the aforementioned land,  and therefore the lot on which the said municipal building and schoolhouses are  built is not a part of an exido, dehesa (public pasturage),  or terreno comunal (common), because such lands could  only be  situated outside of a town,  in accordance with the provisions contained in laws 13 and 14, title 7, and 12 and 14,  title 12, book 4, and law 8, title 3, book 6, of the Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies, and in No. 53 of the royal ordinances of February 26,1768.

Notwithstanding the circumstances, not  very  favorable to instruction, which prevailed at that epoch, 1550, it was provided withal, by the sovereign of Spain, in law 18, title 1, book 6 of the Recompilation before cited, that instruction should be given to the natives by teachers who should teach them the Spanish language.   Later, in No. 93 of the royal ordinances before referred to, a reminder was given as to compliance with the said Law of the Indies and other old ordinances relative  to the establishment in the  pueblos of schools under the direction of teachers well versed in the Spanish language,  a provision confirmed by royal cedulas of June 11, 1815, and October 20, 1817, which emphasized the need of the  establishment of schools for the instruction and education of the boys and girls.

By royal cedula  of November 14, 1816,  especially addressed to the  "Governor, Captain-General of the Philippines," the king of Spain prescribed that -
"For this  purpose it is ordered,  by the laws and ordinances of the Indies and by various royal cedulas issued for their execution, especially those  of January 28,  1778, November 5, 1782, and June 7, 1815, that the construction of the said schoolhouses be proceeded with in such  pueblos of the Indies where there are  none.  *  *  *   And having again taken this matter into consideration, and desiring to remove the causes  which may tend  to delay the execution of the orders given, and to facilitate in so far as possible the remedying of the damages complained of by the said delegates, in agreement with the statements made to me by my council of the Indies in the consultation had on January 16 of this  year, I hereby authorize you,  after obtaining the  required and indispensable  reports,  immediately to provide for the erection and  establishment of primary schools  in all the pueblos  were they may be deemed necessary and  proper for the civilization  of the Indians.   You shall endow these institutions with the revenues and excises specified in the  said royal cedulas, and in default thereof, with such others as you  may deem more opportune and less onerous,  acting on the advice  of my royal court, which you shall first consult, and you shall report the action taken to my supreme council for its approval, without prejudice, however, to your carrying it into effect.  It is my will that you so do.  Dated at the palace, November 14, 1816.  I, the King."
Finally, the royal decree  of  December 20, 1863,  in  its article 7, provides as follows:
"ART. 7.  The teachers shall enjoy the salary and other advantages provided for by the regulations.   The said salary, as well as the establishment of the school, acquisition and preservation of school material and supplies,  and the rent of the building where there be no public one for the purpose, shall constitute an obligatory expenditure  to  be paid out of the respective local appropriation."
So that the  existence of schools of learning in the pueblos of these Islands really was a need felt and recognized  in those remote  times by the  sovereign  and the  governing authorities of this country;  and if the schools  were, and are, necessary and indispensable for the progress and prosperity of the  pueblos,  and likewise the temples  for divine worship, and the court-houses - the seat of the authorities -  for the government and proper administration  of  a town, it is imperative to recognize that the church, the courthouse and the schoolhouse must have been built on  lands comprised within the territory of each pueblo and expressly set aside for  the purpose by the superior authority, with whose permission the church, municipal building, and school were  erected.   No  one to this date has doubted that the land on which a church is built belongs to the followers  of the faith to which it is dedicated, for the reason that if the government of this country  had not,  in the  name of the sovereign, granted  the land  required for its  construction, churches or temples could not have been built at the time of the foundation of the pueblos.  For the same reason,  it is of course to be presumed that a lot for the court-house and another for a schoolhouse were granted and awarded to the pueblo while in  period of establishment, as propios. A proof that the grant was so made is in the very fact that the said buildings were erected on those lots without op- position or contradiction on the part of the state, or of the superior authorities, under whose permission  the buildings in question were constructed for use as schools and a court-house. There are, in  fact, pueblos which are without buildings for a court-house and schools, owing eitheir to their absolute lack  of means, negligence on the part of  their principal residents or of their municipal councils, or to the central government's  having  provided   that  the  said  buildings should be  devoted to other uses more suitable to the state, in which latter case the government paid the  rental of the urban properties that were used  and served as a school-house and  as municipal offices.

It  having  been provided in article 3  of the said royal decree of December 20, 1863, that there should be at least one school for males and another for females in each pueblo of these Islands, it was prescribed in article 7, preinserted herein,  that  the  salary of the teachers,  the establishment of the school, the acquisition and preservation  of  school material and supplies, and the rental  of the building, where there was  no public one for the purpose, should  constitute an obligatory expenditure to be paid out of the  respective local appropriation.   By this legal, administrative provision it is recognized that in some pueblos there are public-school buildings,  as in the case of the pueblo of Tacloban, due to the zeal and  patriotism of their principal  residents; and it must be concluded that the court-house and the two school-houses aforementioned,  together  with the land  on  which they are erected, are, for lack of proof to the contrary, the private property of and belong to  the said municipality and form  a part of its municipal funds or assets.

In technical administrative terms, bienes propios are cultivated  real  properties, pasturages,  houses or any other property which a city, village,-or hamlet has for the payment of the public expenses. The administration of this class of property  pertained  to  the  municipalities.   It  could  be alienated after proper procedure and authorization of the competent superior authorities, in accordance with the administrative laws.

It  is therefore unquestionable  that the assets  of  each pueblo  comprised its bienes propios and  the  revenues  or products derived therefrom, and this fact is recognized in the "ordenanza de intendentes" of 1786, the forty-seventh article of which reads:
"The funds which  any pueblo may have left over as  an annual  surplus from the products  of its propios and its ar- bitrios, after meeting the expenses specified in its own par- ticular  ordinance, shall be invested in the purchase of real estate and revenue-bearing investments, so that, having a sufficient income for the payment of its obligations and to aid in defraying  its ordinary needs,  the excise taxes, which are always a burden  to the public, may be abolished; and in case it should have no such taxes, nor annuities to redeem on its propios or common properties, the said surplus shall be applied to promote establishments useful to the pueblo and  to  its province, any  such  investment  to be previously proposed by the intendentes and approved by  the  junta superior."
Many years afterwards the royal decree of May 19, 1893, confirmed  the old legislation by  denning, in  its twenty-fourth article, the property and revenues which  constitute the assets of the  pueblos, and which are, among  others: A. The  revenues and products of  urban and rustic properties belonging to the pueblo. From this, the conclusion is drawn that the pueblos may have and hold revenue-bearing property of their own, and with all the more reason if the property had by a municipality is dedicated to the public service, as are the buildings and lot possessed under title of ownership by the municipality  of Tacloban and which, without any doubt whatever, form a part of  its municipal estate  or assets, in accordance with the provisions of the said royal decree of May 19, 1893.

From the aforementioned decision rendered  in case No. 6631, relative to  the  registration of certain real property belonging to the municipality of Catbalogan, the following quotations are also taken (pp. 225, 226):
"The said municipality is to-day in possession of the land in litigation, as the owner thereof, under the protection of the civil and administrative laws which guarantee the right of ownership of the corporations that are  capable of contracting, acquiring, and possessing real and personal property.

"Article 343 of the Civil Code reads:

"'The property of provinces and of towns is divided into property for public use and patrimonial property.'

"Article 344 of the same code prescribes:

"'Property for public use in provinces and in  towns comprises the provincial and town roads, the  squares, streets, fountains,  and public  waters, the promenades, and public works of general service supported  by the said towns or provinces.

"All other property possessed by either is patrimonial, and shall be governed by the provisions of  this  code, unless otherwise prescribed in special laws.'

"Section 2 of Act No. 82, entitled 'A General Act for the organization  of municipal governments in the Philippine Islands,' is as follows:

"'Pueblos incorporated under this Act shall be designated as municipalities (municipios), and shall  he known respectively by the names heretofore adopted. Under such names they may sue and be sued, contract and be contracted with, acquire and hold real and personal property for the general interests of the municipality, and  exercise  all the powers hereinafter conferred upon them.

"'All property and property rights vested in any pueblo under its former  organization shall  continue to be vested in the same municipality after its incorporation under this Act.'

"By this last-cited  Act, of an administrative character, the rights of the old municipalities  to  acquire real and personal property, in accordance with their former organization, are  recognized, and it is  declared that  the said property and rights shall continue to pertain to the municipalities created in harmony with the provisions of the Municipal  Code, on account of such  property  being the patrimonial property of the municipalities."
In accordance with these principles, which harmonize perfectly with both the old and the modern legislation of this country, and taking into consideration the  spirit underlying the Law& of  the Indies, and the purposes and tendencies of their provisions, ever favorable to the original holders of the land where, under the Spanish sovereignty, new towns were organized,  the  municipality  of  Tacloban ought to be considered as  the  owner of the land on  which the municipal building and two schoolhouses,  of a public character,  were erected, on account of having  been awarded to it as  its exclusive property,  on the  founding  of  the said pueblo, for the record of the case offers  no proof nor data whatever contrary to such award or grant. As the said municipality, the applicant, has been occupying the property by its own buildings during such a long space of time, much longer than that required for extraordinary prescription (art. 1959, Civil Code), it can not be denied that the presumption exists, in its favor, that it has been holding the land in its character of owner, since the trial record exhibits no proof that any other parcel of land, distinct from that in  controversy, was awarded to the said municipality for  the  erection thereon of its  court-house and schools,  a  church, schools, and  a municipaf  building being necessary and indispensable for the normal existence of a  regularly constituted pueblo.

The title under which the municipality of Tacloban holds and enjoys the land, the registration of which is in question, is the same as that now recognized to  exist in favor of the said pueblo in  support of its occupancy  of  the territory within which the  town is  established  with its streets and squares, a  title  identical with that held at  the present time by the church,  as a religious institution,  to the land now occupied by the temple that exists in the said pueblo.  The grant and  demarcation of the land to be  occupied by the town,  as well as the distribution arid allotment of the parcels thereof which  were to constitute its squares and streets and of those to be occupied by the church, the municipal and other public buildings, and also of the parcels to be apportioned among its first settlers,  must all have been set forth in a record made at the beginning, and that record must have been preserved at least in the archives of the provincial government, since it is improbable that it  could have been kept in those of the municipal building, considering the changes wrought by time; wherefore it is not  at all strange that the first settlers of a town in formation should lack their respective titles to  accredit their ownership to the parcels of land which fell to each of them in the partition made of  the lots, for in those  remote times fewer records were kept, the archipelago was sparsely populated and  there were abundant lands  for distribution,  for which reasons the mere fact of the erection  of a church, the municipal building, and schools, carries with  it the presumption that the land  on which they are built was allotted to the Church and  to the municipality for  the public  service.  No proof whatever was offered at trial against such  a presumption, and  therefore there exists no legal ground nor  equitable reason why the right of the municipality of Tacloban to the land in question ought not to be respected, a right of ownership consecrated by the laws of every civilized country for the benefit of society, of public order,  and  of  civilization itself.

In view  of  the  facts logically and justly supposed and of the legal grounds above  noted,  it is of course shown that the municipality of Tacloban, as  an administrative entity  susceptible of rights and duties, has no need to rely upon the right that  is  derived from prescription in order that it may be held and  reputed to be the owner of the land or lot on which buildings belonging to it are erected, for the construction of which  the  said  land was assigned and adjudicated to it when the pueblo was founded, as has been amply proven in  the preceding paragraphs.

For the purpose of proving that the said land occupied by the court-house and schools of the pueblo of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte, is  not comprised  within  an exido, dehesa, or terreno comunal, it behooves us to state that in the initial foundation of  a pueblo in these Islands, in accordance  with the provisions of the  Recompilation of the Laws  of  the Indies,  lands were marked  out for it which had an area such as would be inclosed by a perimeter  4 leguas in length, in the figure permitted by the conditions and circumstances  of  the place.  This measure  of  area  was that adopted also when the undertaking of founding a town in a given place, with the authorization" of the Government, was intrusted to a private party by virtue of a contract, as when the legitimate representatives of the sovereign motu proprio proceeded with the organization of a pueblo in the manner and under the conditions required  by the laws in force in that epoch.

In either case, on the  demarcation  of the land to be occupied by the new pueblo and before proceeding to distribute the lots among its settlers, they decided upon the sites for the location of the  public square  and the streets of  the town and the  lots on which the temple, the municipal and other public  buildings should be constructed, and afterwards  they set aside, without the perimeter within which the pueblo was to be situated, a certain area of land which was to constitute the exido, dehesa, or terreno comunal, and all in accordance with the Laws of the Indies.  So that the square and streets,  and  the  lots  to be  occupied by  the temple, the municipal building, and the  schools,  could be in no manner situated nor comprised within the terreno comunal, dehesa, or exido of a pueblo,  inasmuch as the  said lots were  necessarily within the town, and the latter lands without it.

Subsequent provisions of law confirm the foregoing statements, and in this connection the royal decree of February 28,  1883, provides:
"Article 1.  The legua comunal for the Philippine Islands, under the provisions of Law 8, Title 3, Book 6 of the Recopilacion de Indias, so far as the pueblos already established and those which may be established hereafter are concerned, shall be of an area of 20,000 feet, equivalent to a  league of 20 degrees, without regard to the geometrical figure resulting from the topography of the locality, or to conditions relating to property rights over the land itself or  over land adjoining the same.

"Art.  2. The pueblos  not having said land allotted to them  may apply and obtain the same by means of the corresponding proceedings.

"Art. 3. When the conditions so require, the pueblos may institute proceedings to obtain an extension of said comunal land,  in order that the latter  may be in keeping with the number of inhabitants, the number of heads of cattle owned by them, and the topographical conditions of each pueblo."
In  order to comply with and carry  out the said royal decree, the General  Government, on the recommendation of the Direccion General de Administracion Civil, promulgated among other regulations the following:
"For  the legua comunal uncultivated land shall be selected, whenever possible, which may be in proper  condition for the pasture of cattle and cultivation of building timber and the necessary industries to meet the requirements of the inhabitants.

"The  area of the  land having been  determined by the General Government, the Bureau of Forestry shall proceed with  the designation and  the setting  of  boundary marks of the new comunal land, and a certificate  shall be executed in the same form as  previously stated."
And in order to clear up any doubts  with respect to the fulfillment of the said royal decree of February  28, 1883,, it was provided by royal  order of January 17, 1885, that -
"The  legua or dehesa comunal shall be situated  on uncultivated lands within  the territorial limits of the pueblo for whose benefit it was intended  and shall not comprise lands belonging to  the district of another pueblo."
It  having  been proved  in a conclusive  manner that the land in  litigation is  situated within the town of  Tacloban and on one side of its public square, it is  unquestionable that under no consideration could it be comprised within the pasturage land known as dehesa comunal which, if the pueblo of Tacloban  had any,  would be outside the perimetrical limits of the town, though  within its territorial district, among its uncultivated  lands; and therefore the said law 8, title 3, book 6, article 53  of the Ordinances on Good Government, of  February 26, 1768, which treats of the comunal lands of  the pueblos, and the royal decrees, order, and  superior decree  before  referred  to, have no application in the present case, neither  does  the doctrine established in The City of Manila vs. The Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep.,  327)  apply,  inasmuch  as the present case does not concern comunal land, but a lot owned by the municipality of Tacloban, situated in the town, together with the" buildings thereon erected, all held  by it as property of its own of a patrimonial character, without contradiction or proof of any kind to the contrary.   It must not be forgotten that the concession and adjudication of lands or lots for the construction of the temple, the municipal building, and the schoolhouses, were made in  obedience to a need at the time of  the foundation of the pueblo, while the demarcation and concession of comunal land or dehesa comunal were effected for the convenience of its settlers.

We  have  endeavored to  find among the precedents of reported American cases a doctrine opposed to the conclusions herein established, but have found no well-defined one in an  analogous case.   The decision  rendered in the  suit of The United States vs. Santa Fe (165 U. S., 675), involves the right acquired through operation of the law by the city of Santa Fe, to 4 square leagues of land in the immediate vicinity thereof, by virtue of a grant made in fact by the laws of the Recopilacidn de Indias, a right which was not recognized as legitimate by the Supreme Court and it therefore reversed the judgment of the lower court with instruc- tions to dismiss the application  looking to the establishment of that claim.  The case at bar is entirely distinct from that in the case just cited, and therefore the doctrine laid down in the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States is not applicable to this litigation, for the reason that the four leagues of land specified in the Laws of the Indies were those usually assigned to a  pueblo, in the demarcation of the site at the beginning of its foundation, as the territory which it might occupy in its subsequent development,  but, after the said four leagues had been populated, any unappropriated or uncultivated portion of territory which it should  succeed  in annexing to  its original territory had to be so annexed by virtue of an express grant from the sovereign  power as an exido, dehesa, or terreno comunal.   This theory, based entirely on the legal provisions above cited, bears no relation whatever to the case of the segregation of a populated barrio, with its lots and lands of private ownership, from the original pueblo of which it formed a part, and its annexation to another adjoining pueblo,  which  could only  be accomplished through action and  decision taken by  the General  Government,  with the approval of the Government of Spain.

Moreover, it is likewise to be noted that the municipality of Tacloban, in the exercise of the right of ownership over bienes propios exclusively belonging to it, has an independent personality of  its own,  recognized  by law, and  does not act, with respect to its patrimonial property, as a mere delegated agent of the central power, without prejudice to the right of inspection established by the administrative laws for the benefit of the pueblo itself and the  country in general; wherefore the doctrine established in the case of Aguado vs.  The City of Manila  (9 Phil. Kep.,  513) is likewise  inapplicable to this litigation,  inasmuch as  the present case does not concern any contract entered into by the said municipality and a  private  party, nor  administrative acts or  proceedings whereby the municipality might be considered as a delegate of the Government.

For the foregoing reasons, and holding that  the municipality of Tacloban is the legitimate owner of the land now occupied by its court-house and two public schoolhouses and has a perfect right to have  the said land registered in its name in the registry of property, in accordance with law, it is competent, in our opinion, to affirm, as we hereby  do, the judgment appealed from, exactly as pronounced by the Court of Land Registration,

Arellano, C. J., Moreland and Trent, JJ., concur.



[1] Municipality of Catbalogan vs. Director of Lands, page 216, supra.

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