Civil Law

HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN v. REPUBLIC G.R. No. 179987 September 3, 2013 Possession, Property Registration Decree, Regalia Doctrine


Mario Malabanan filed an application for land registration covering the property he purchased from Eduardo Velazco, claiming that the property formed part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, public and adverse possession and occupation of the land for more than 30 years, thereby entitling him to the judicial confirmation of his title.

The application was granted by the RTC. However, the OSG for the Republic appealed the judgment to the CA, which reversed the RTC Judgment.

Due to Malabanan’s intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, his heirs elevated the said decision to this Court through a petition for review on certiorari.

The petition was denied.

Petitioners and the Republic filed Motions for Reconsideration.



  1. What are the classifications of public lands?
  1. Whether or not petitioners were able to prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the public domain.




Classifications of land according to ownership.

Land, which is an immovable property, may be classified as either of public dominion or of private ownership. Land is considered of public dominion if it either:

(a) is intended for public use; or

(b) belongs to the State, without being for public use, and is intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth.

Land belonging to the State that is not of such character, or although of such character but no longer intended for public use or for public service forms part of the patrimonial property of the State.  Land that is other than part of the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities is of private ownership if it belongs to a private individual.

Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the country from the West by Spain through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, all lands of the public domain belong to the State. This means that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the conservation of such patrimony.

All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Also, public lands remain part of the inalienable land of the public domain unless the State is shown to have reclassified or alienated them to private persons.

A positive act of the Government is necessary to enable such reclassification, and the exclusive prerogative to classify public lands under existing laws is vested in the Executive Department, not in the courts. If, however, public land will be classified as neither agricultural, forest or timber, mineral or national park, or when public land is no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, thereby effectively removing the land from the ambit of public dominion, a declaration of such conversion must be made in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or by a Presidential proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law to that effect. Thus, until the Executive Department exercises its prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until Congress or the President declares that the State no longer intends the land to be used for public service or for the development of national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is applicable.


Petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without satisfying the requisite character and period of possession – possession and occupation that is open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious since June 12, 1945, or earlier – the land cannot be considered ipso jure converted to private property even upon the subsequent declaration of it as alienable and disposable.

Prescription never began to run against the State, such that the land has remained ineligible for registration under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. Likewise, the land continues to be ineligible for land registration under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree unless Congress enacts a law or the President issues a proclamation declaring the land as no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth.

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