Civil Law

Director of Lands v. The Roman Catholic Church of Zamboanga, The Municipality of Misamis, G.R. No. L-40851 July 31, 1935 Possession

FACTS:

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Zamboanga sought the registration in the name of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church of four (4) parcels of land, known as lots Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, and the improvements thereon, situated in the center of the town of the municipality of Misamis. The Director of Lands claimed said properties alleging them to be of the public domain, having been reserved for parks by virtue of the Governor-General’s Proclamation No. 360. The municipality of Misamis likewise claimed lots No. 1, 2, and 3, and a southwestern portion of lot No. 4, alleging them to be public plazas.

The trial court rendered judgment ordering the registration of lot No. 4 with the improvements thereon in favor of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Zamboanga and the registration of lots Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in favor of the municipality of Misamis, thereby overruling the claim of the Director of Lands. Only the Roman Catholic Bishop of Zamboanga appealed.

Said four lots were already in the possession of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church some years prior to the year 1789, and the church, belfry and convert which served as dwelling for the parish priests were built on lot No. 4. Heretofore its possession has been quiet, open, public, continuous and under claim of ownership. The so-called lot No. 2 was occupied by nobody except the church through its parish priests, until the local authorities converted it into an extension of Mabini Street which terminated at Norte America Street.

As to lot No. 3, it has always been in the possession of the church but it was occupied by two schools for children during the Spanish regime, which were both destroyed eventually.

ISSUE:

Whether the title to the disputed lands should belong to the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church or to the municipality of Misamis.

 

RULING:

The possession by the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church of the lands in dispute for a period of about a century and a half, under the conditions above stated, can mean nothing more than that said lands were designated by the State itself to be devoted to the building of the church, belfry and convent for the purpose of implanting the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion and maintaining the cult thereof.

In the case of Barlin vs. Ramirez and Municipality of Lagonoy, the plaintiff, in 1902, had been in the lawful possession thereof for more than thirty years and during all that time its possession had never been questioned or disturbed. That possession has been taken away from it and it has the right now to recover the possession from the persons who have so deprived it of such possession, unless the latter can show that they have a better right thereto.

That decision holds that as against one who has been in possession for the length of time the plaintiff has been in possession, and who has been deprived of his possession, and who cannot produce any written evidence of title, the mere fact that the defendant is in possession does not entitle the defendant to retain that possession. In order that he may continue in possession, he must show a better right thereto.

The circumstance that public schools for children were erected on lot No. 3 during the Spanish regime is not conclusive evidence that the land was segregated from the great portion thereof designated for the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church and its cults particularly it we take into account the fact that primary instruction was then under the direct supervision of the parish priests who received subsidy from the government.

Neither does the existence of a monument of Rizal on said land prove the ownership of the municipality of Misamis, nor can the recent occupation thereof be invoked as a title thereto. It should be interpreted as a tolerated possession in accordance with articles 444 and 447 of the Civil Code which in no way can be made the basis for the adjudication of a title.

The circumstance that these lands have been reversed for park purposes by Proclamation No. 360, dated February 7, 1931, is of no importance. Inasmuch as they were not public lands, lands of the public domain or lands particularly belonging to the Government, but properties of private ownership, they could not be lawfully segregated in order to be converted into public parks.

As stated in the beginning, the court found that lots Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are public plazas, as claimed by the municipality of Misamis, and decreed the registration thereof in the name of the said municipality. This decree is untenable. If they are public plazas they are not susceptible or registration in the name of any branch of the State. (Nicolas vs. Jose, 6 Phil., 589; Harty vs. Municipality of Victoria, 13 Phil., 152; 226 U.S., 12; 57 Law. ed., 103.)

The appealed judgment is reversed and it is ordered that the registration of lots Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 with the improvements thereof, except the Rizal monument, be decreed in favor of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Zamboanga,

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