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Republic of the Philippines ago as the years 1894 to 1896, forestal and not agricultural in nature is the fact

agricultural in nature is the fact that


SUPREME COURT there are yet found thereon trees from 50 to 80 years of age.
Manila
We do not stop to decide this contention, although it might be possible, following the
EN BANC doctrine laid down by the United States Supreme Court with reference to Mexican
and Spanish grantes within the United States, where some recital is claimed to be
G.R. No. L-13298 November 19, 1918 false, to say that the possessory information, apparently having taken cognizance of
the requisites for title, should not now be disturbed. (Hancock vs. McKinney [1851], 7
Tex., 192; Hornsby and Roland vs. United States [1869], 10 Wall., 224.) It is sufficient,
CORNELIO RAMOS, petitioner-appellant, as will later appear, merely to notice that the predecessor in interest to the petitioner
vs. at least held this tract of land under color of title.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, objector-appellee.
Subsection 6 of section 54, of Act No. 926, entitled The Public Land Law, as amended
Basilio Aromin for appellant. by Act No. 1908, reads as follows:
Office of the Solicitor-General Paredes for appellee.
6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors and interest have
been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural public lands, as defined by said Act of Congress of
July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide claim of ownership
MALCOLM, J.: except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next preceding
the twenty-sixth day of July, nineteen hundred and four, except when
prevented by war or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have
This is an appeal by the applicant and appellant from a judgment of the Court of First performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and to have
Instance of Nueva Ecija, denying the registration of the larger portion of parcel No. 1 received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to such land
(Exhibit A of the petitioner), marked by the letters A, B, and C on the plan, Exhibit 1, of under the provisions of this chapter.
the Government.
There are two parts to the above quoted subsection which must be discussed. The
One Restituto Romero y Ponce apparently gained possession of a considerable tract first relates to the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
of land located in the municipality of San Jose, Province of Nueva Ecija, in the year occupation of what, for present purposes, can be conceded to be agricultural public
1882. He took advantage of the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, to obtain a land, under a bona fide claim of ownership.
possessory information title to the land, registered as such on February 8, 1896.
Parcel No. 1, included within the limits of the possessory information title of Restituto
Romero, was sold in February, 1907, to Cornelio Ramos, the instant petitioner, and Actual possession of land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of
his wife Ambrosia Salamanca. such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own property. Relative to
actuality of possession, it is admitted that the petitioner has cultivated only about one
fourth of the entire tract. This is graphically portrayed by Exhibit 1 of the Government,
Ramos instituted appropriate proceedings to have his title registered. Opposition was following:
entered by the Director of Lands on the ground that Ramos had not acquired a good
title from the Spanish government and by the Director of Forestry on the ground that
the first parcel was forest land. The trial court agreed with the objectors and excluded
parcel No. 1 from registration. So much for the facts.

As to the law, the principal argument of the Solicitor-General is based on the


provisions of the Spanish Mortgage Law and of the Royal Decree of February 13,
1894, commonly known as the Maura Law. The Solicitor-General would emphasize
that for land to come under the protective gis of the Maura Law, it must have been
shown that the land was cultivated for six years previously, and that it was not land
which pertained to the "zonas forestales." As proof that the land was, even as long
The second division of the law requires consideration of the term "agricultural public
land." The law affirms that the phrase is denied by the Act of Congress of July 1st,
1902, known as the Philippine bill. Turning to the Philippine Bill, we find in sections 13
to 18 thereof that three classes of land are mentioned. The first is variously
denominated "public land" or "public domain," the second "mineral land," and the third
"timber land." Section 18 of the Act of Congress comes nearest to a precise definition,
when it makes the determination of whether the land is more valuable for agricultural
or for forest uses the test of its character.

Although these sections of the Philippine Bill have come before the courts on
numerous occasions, what was said in the case of Jones vs. Insular Government
([1906], 6 Phil., 122), is still true, namely: "The meaning of these sections is not clear
and it is difficult to give to them a construction that will be entirely free from objection."
In the case which gave most serious consideration to the subject (Mapa vs. Insular
Government [1908], 10 Phil., 175), it was found that there does exist in the Act of
Congress a definition of the phrase "agricultural public lands." It was said that the
phrase "agricultural public lands" as used in Act No. 926 means "those public lands
acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands."

The idea would appear to be to determine, by exclusion, if the land is forestal or


mineral in nature and, if not so found, to consider it to be agricultural land. Here,
again, Philippine law is not very helpful. For instance, section 1820 of the
Administrative Code of 1917 provides: "For the purposes of this chapter, 'public forest'
includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public land, including
nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character." This
definition of "public forest," it will be noted, is merely "for the purposes of this chapter."
A little further on, section 1827 provides: "Lands in public forests, not including forest
reserves, upon the certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better
adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required
by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department
The question at once arises: Is that actual occupancy of a part of the land described Head to be agricultural lands." With reference to the last section, there is no
in the instrument giving color of title sufficient to give title to the entire tract of land? certification of the Director of Forestry in the record, as to whether this land is better
lawphil.net adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes.

The doctrine of constructive possession indicates the answer. The general rule is that The lexicographers define "forest" as "a large tract of land covered with a natural
the possession and cultivation of a portion of a tract under claim of ownership of all is growth of trees and underbrush; a large wood." The authorities say that he word
a constructive possession of all, if the remainder is not in the adverse possession of "forest" has a significant, not an insignificant meaning, and that it does not embrace
another. (Barr vs. Gratz's Heirs [1819], 4 Wheat., 213; Ellicott vs. Pearl [1836], 10 land only partly woodland. It is a tract of land covered with trees, usually of
Pet., 412; Smith vs. Gale [1892], 144 U. S., 509.) Of course, there are a number of considerable extent. (Higgins vs. Long Island R. Co. [1908], 114 N. Y. Supp., 262;
qualifications to the rule, one particularly relating to the size of the tract in controversy People vs. Long Island R. Co. [1908], 110 N. Y. Supp., 512.)
with reference to the portion actually in possession of the claimant. It is here only
necessary to apply the general rule. The foresters say that no legal definition of "forest" is practicable or useful. B. H.
Baden-Powell, in his work on Forest Law of India, states as follows:
The claimant has color of title; he acted in good faith; and he has had open,
peaceable, and notorious possession of a portion of the property, sufficient to apprise Every definition of a forest that can be framed for legal purposes will be
the community and the world that the land was for his enjoyment. (See arts. 446, 448, found either to exclude some cases to which the law ought to apply, or on
Civil Code.) Possession in the eyes of the law does not mean that a man has to have the other hand, to include some with which the law ought not to interfere. It
his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be said that he is in may be necessary, for example, to take under the law a tract of perfectly
possession. Ramos and his predecessor in interest fulfilled the requirements of the barren land which at present has neither trees, brushwood, nor grass on it,
law on the supposition that he premises consisted of agricultural public land. but which in the course f time it is hoped will be "reboise;" but any definition
wide enough to take in all such lands, would also take in much that was not experience have found protect their water supply. Certain chiefs have lodged
wanted. On the other hand, the definition, if framed with reference to tree- protests with the Government against other tribes on the opposite side of the
growth, might (and indeed would be almost sure to) include a garden, mountain cultivated by them, in order to prevent other tribes from cutting
shrubbery, orchard, or vineyard, which it was not designed to deal with. timber or destroy cover guarding their source of water for irrigation.

B. E. Fernow, in his work on the Economics of Forestry, states as follows: Dr. M. S. Shaler, formerly Dean of the Lawrence Scientific School, remarked
that if mankind could not devise and enforce ways dealing with the earth,
A forest in the sense in which we use the term, as an economic factor, is by which will preserve this source of like "we must look forward to the time,
no means a mere collection of trees, but an organic whole in which all parts, remote it may be, yet equally discernible, when out kin having wasted its
although apparently heterogeneous, jumbled together by accident as it were great inheritance will fade from the earth because of the ruin it has
and apparently unrelated, bear a close relation to each other and are as accomplished."
interdependent as any other beings and conditions in nature.
The method employed by the bureau of Forestry in making inspection of
The Director of Forestry of the Philippine Islands has said: lands, in order to determine whether they are more adapted for agricultural
or forest purposes by a technical and duly trained personnel on the different
phases of the conservation of natural resources, is based upon a previously
During the time of the passage of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, this prepared set of questions in which the different characters of the land under
question of forest and agricultural lands was beginning to receive some inspection are discussed, namely:
attention and it is clearly shown in section 18 of the above mentioned Act; it
leaves to the Bureau of Forestry the certification as to what lands are for
agricultural or forest uses. Although the Act states timber lands, the Bureau Slope of land: Level; moderate; steep; very steep.
has in its administration since the passage of this act construed this term to
mean forest lands in the sense of what was necessary to protect, for the Exposure: North; South; East; West.
public good; waste lands without a tree have been declared more suitable
for forestry in many instances in the past. The term 'timber' as used in Soil: Clay; sandy loam; sand; rocky; very rocky.
England and in the United States in the past has been applied to wood
suitable for construction purposes but with the increase in civilization and the
application of new methods every plant producing wood has some useful Character of soil cover: Cultivated, grass land, brush land, brush land and
purpose and the term timber lands is generally though of as synonymous timber mixed, dense forest.
with forest lands or lands producing wood, or able to produce wood, if
agricultural crops on the same land will not bring the financial return that If cultivated, state crops being grown and approximate number of hectares
timber will or if the same land is needed for protection purposes. under cultivation. (Indicate on sketch.)

xxx xxx xxx For growth of what agricultural products is this land suitable?

The laws in the United States recognize the necessity of technical advice of State what portion of the tract is wooded, name of important timber species
duly appointed boards and leave it in the hands of these boards to decide and estimate of stand in cubic meters per hectare, diameter and percentage
what lands are more valuable for forestry purposes or for agricultural of each species.
purposes.
If the land is covered with timber, state whether there is public land suitable
In the Philippine Islands this policy is follows to as great an extent as for agriculture in vicinity, which is not covered with timber.
allowable under the law. In many cases, in the opinion of the Bureau of
Forestry, lands without a single tree on them are considered as true forest Is this land more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes? (State
land. For instance, mountain sides which are too steep for cultivation under reasons in full.)
ordinary practice and which, if cultivated, under ordinary practice would
destroy the big natural resource of the soil, by washing, is considered by this
bureau as forest land and in time would be reforested. Of course, examples Is this land included or adjoining any proposed or established forest reserve
exist in the Mountain Province where steep hillsides have been terraced and or communal forest? Description and ownership of improvements.
intensive cultivation practiced but even then the mountain people are very
careful not to destroy forests or other vegetative cover which they from
If the land is claimed under private ownership, give the name of the claimant, submit to the court convincing proof that the land is not more valuable for agricultural
his place of residence, and state briefly (if necessary on a separate sheet) than for forest purposes. Great consideration, it may be stated, should, and
the grounds upon which he bases his claim. undoubtedly will be, paid by the courts to the opinion of the technical expert who
speaks with authority on forestry matters. But a mere formal opposition on the part of
When the inspection is made on a parcel of public land which has been the Attorney-General for the Director of Forestry, unsupported by satisfactory
applied for, the corresponding certificate is forwarded to the Director of evidence will not stop the courts from giving title to the claimant.
Lands; if it is made on a privately claimed parcel for which the issuance of a
title is requested from the Court of Land Registration, and the inspection We hold that the petitioner and appellant has proved a title to the entire tract of land
shows the land to be more adapted for forest purposes, then the Director of for which he asked registration, under the provisions of subsection 6, of section 54, of
Forestry requests the Attorney-General to file an opposition, sending him all Act No. 926, as amended by Act No. 1908, with reference to the Philippine Bill and
data collected during the inspection and offering him the forest officer as a the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, and his possessory information.
witness.
Judgment is reversed and the lower court shall register in the name of the applicant
It should be kept in mind that the lack of personnel of this Bureau, the limited the entire tract in parcel No. 1, as described in plan Exhibit A, without special finding
time intervening between the notice for the trial on an expediente of land and as to costs. So ordered.
the day of the trial, and the difficulties in communications as well as the
distance of the land in question greatly hinder the handling of this work.

In the case of lands claimed as private property, the Director of Forestry, by


means of his delegate the examining officer, submits before the court all
evidence referring to the present forest condition of the land, so that the
court may compare them with the alleged right by the claimant. Undoubtedly,
when the claimant presents a title issued by the proper authority or evidence
of his right to the land showing that he complied with the requirements of the
law, the forest certificate does not affect him in the least as such land should
not be considered as a part of the public domain; but when the alleged right
is merely that of possession, then the public or private character of the
parcel is open to discussion and this character should be established not
simply on the alleged right of the claimant but on the sylvical condition and
soil characteristics of the land, and by comparison between this area, or
different previously occupied areas, and those areas which still preserve
their primitive character.

Either way we look at this question we encounter difficulty. Indubitably, there should
be conservation of the natural resources of the Philippines. The prodigality of the
spendthrift who squanders his substance for the pleasure of the fleeting moment must
be restrained for the less spectacular but surer policy which protects Nature's wealth
for future generations. Such is the wise stand of our Government as represented by
the Director of Forestry who, with the Forester for the Government of the United
States, believes in "the control of nature's powers by man for his own good." On the
other hand, the presumption should be, in lieu of contrary proof, that land is
agricultural in nature. One very apparent reason is that it is for the good of the
Philippine Islands to have the large public domain come under private ownership.
Such is the natural attitude of the sagacious citizen.

If in this instance, we give judicial sanction to a private claim, let it be noted that the
Government, in the long run of cases, has its remedy. Forest reserves of public land
can be established as provided by law. When the claim of the citizen and the claim of
the Government as to a particular piece of property collide, if the Government desires
to demonstrate that the land is in reality a forest, the Director of Forestry should