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[ GR No. 45314, Dec 29, 1936 ]



63 Phil. 877

[ G. R. No. 45314, December 29, 1936 ]




The petitioner filed this petition to set aside the proceedings conducted by the Director of Lands in connection with certain applications for homesteads,  and  particularly  the decisions rendered by the respondents dismissing  the petitioner's protest

According to the complaint, the petitioner is the absolute owner, in fee simple, of a parcel of land situated in Palo, municipality of Bato, Province  of  Camarines Sur, bounded on the northwest by  public lands; on the southeast by the Pambuhan River, public lands  and property of Robert E. Manly; on the southwest by the Ragay Gulf, and on  the northwest by the  Quiquiog River  and property of Isidora Oida; with an area of 400 hectares, 18 ares and 45 centiares; the bearings and distances of which appear in Plan 11-3707 approved by the Director of Lands on December 13, 1910. The petitioner claims that  he possesses  a possessory information title and a title by  composition with the State of the land in question, which were issued by the former Spanish Government to Cosme  Zatarain y  Castillo  and Lomas, its predecessors in interest, in the years 1391 and 1892, respectively.  Prior to August 25, 1933,  several persons filed  applications for homesteads  in the Bureau  of Lands, claiming portions included in said land.   On October 31, 1933, the petitioner filed a protest under oath in said office, alleging that it was the exclusive owner of the land and that the Director of Lands had no jurisdiction to consider the applications and adjudicate the  portions  of land claimed as homesteads, and asked that the  applications be  denied.  The Director of  Lands sent two of his inspectors to investigate the condition of  the land and later to submit  their report.  According to the inspectors, the investigation showed  that the petitioner had never been in possession  of  the land or made any improvement thereon and that it was  the  applicants who were in the  material possession  of the portions claimed by them and had made improvements  thereon.  The  petitioner  refrained  from presenting evidence in support of its ownership and possession and while  it presented copies of the records of its titles, it was for the sole purpose of questioning the jurisdiction of the Director of Lands.  The  Director of Lands dismissed its protest  upon the foregoing facts. The petitioner  appealed to the Secretary of Agriculture and  Commerce  but  its  appeal  was overruled on the ground that it was interposed out of time.  It  filed  a  motion for reconsideration which was  acted upon  favorably and, after the filing of its memorandum wherein it  assigned the alleged errors  committed by  the Director of Lands, the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce rendered a decision affirming that of the Director of Lands. The motion for reconsideration filed later was likewise denied.

The  petitioner contends that as  the land is private property, the petitioner being in possession of titles of possession and by composition with the State,  it has ceased to  form a part  of the lands of the public domain, and consequently the respondents  have no jurisdiction to conduct the investigation or to render the decision granting, the portions of said real property as homesteads, and cites in its support sections 2 and 8 of Act No. 2874 as amended.  Although the petitioner  might be the true owner of the land because it alleges that it has titles of possession and composition with the State,  it was not absolutely entitled to have its titles respected in said administrative investigation conducted by the Director of Lands, in view of the fact that the investigation revealed that it was not the petitioner but the applicants for homesteads who were in possession of said land. Section 4 of said Act expressly confers jurisdiction upon the Director of Lands to conduct investigations of this nature and provides  that his conclusions of  facts, once they are approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, are final (Julian vs. Apostol, 52 Phil.,  422).  Not only was the petitioner found not to be in possession of the land but, according to the inspectors who made  an ocular inspection, it never was  in the material  possession  thereof  and did not pay the land tax on said property since 1901.  These being the facts, this court holds that the Director of Lands had jurisdiction to conduct the  investigation and render the decision in question affirmed by the Secretary of Agriculture  and Commerce.  The  decisions of these officials relative to the validity of the petitioner's titles are, of course,  neither final nor indisputable.

There is another reason justifying the denial of the petition filed by the petitioner and it is that,  under the  provision of  section 217 of the Code of Civil Procedure, it shall not be granted when there is a plain,  speedy and adequate remedy in  the ordinary  course of law.   The  petitioner may very well enforce its rights of ownership and possession by bringing an ordinary civil action in the  competent Court of First Instance.   To declare the petitioner in these proceedings the absolute owner of the entire land entitled to the exclusive possession thereof, would  be equivalent to depriving the  Director of Lands of his authority expressly conferred by law to  conduct investigations for the purpose of  determining whether or not certain lands applied for as homesteads are of the public domain.

For the foregoing considerations, the remedy applied for is denied, with costs  to the  petitioner.  So ordered.

Avanceña, C. J., Villa-Real, Abad Santos, Diaz, Laurel, and Concepcion, JJ., concur.