Case Brief: Salas, et al v Jarencio, et al

G.R. No. L-29788    August 30, 1972

RAFAEL S. SALAS, in his capacity as Executive Secretary; CONRADO F. ESTRELLA, in his capacity as Governor of the Land Authority; and LORENZO GELLA, in his capacity as Register of Deeds of Manila, petitioners-appellants,

vs.

HON. HILARION U. JARENCIO, as Presiding Judge of Branch XXIII, Court of First Instance of Manila; ANTONIO J. VILLEGAS, in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Manila; and the CITY OF MANILA, respondents-appellees.

Facts:

City of Manila – owner in fee simple of a parcel of land known as Lot 1, Block 557 of Cadastral Survey of City of Manila, containing an area of 9689.80 sqm. On various dates in 1927, City of Manila sold portions of the parcel of land. When the last sale was effected August 1924, Transfer Certificate of Title 22547 covering the residue of the land 7490.10 sam was issued in the name of City of Manila.

On September 1960, Municipal Board of Manila adopted a resolution requesting the President to consider the feasibility of declaring the land under Transfer Certificate of Title 25545-25547 as patrimonial property of Manila for the purpose of selling these lots to the actual occupants thereof. The resolution was then transmitted to the Congress. The bill was then passed by Congress and approved by President, and became Republic Act 4118, converting the land from communal property to disposable and alienable land of State.

To implement RA 4118, Land Authority requested City of Manila to deliver the City’s TCT 22547 in order to obtain title thereto in the name of Land Authority. The request was granted with the knowledge and consent of City mayor, cancelling TCT 22547 and issuing TCT 80876 in the name of Land Authority.

City of Manila, for some reasons, brought an action to restrain, prohibit, and enjoin Land Authority and Register of Deeds from implementing RA 4118, and praying for the declaration of RA 4118 as unconstitutional.

Trial court declared RA 4118 to be unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that it deprived City of its property without due process of law and payment of just compensation.

Land Authority and Register of Deeds argued that the land is a communal land, or a portion of public domain owned by State; that the land has not been used by City of Manila for any public purpose; that it was originally a communal land not because it was needed in connection with its organisation as a municipality but rather for the common use of its inhabitants; that the City mayor merely enjoys the usufruct over said land and its exercise of acts of ownership by selling parts thereof did not necessarily convert the land into a patrimonial property of City of Manila nor divert the State of its paramount title.

Issue:
Whether the aforementioned land is a private or patrimonial property of the City of Manila.

Held:

The land is public property.

As a general rule, regardless of the source or classification of the land in the possession of municipality, excepting those which it acquired in its own funds in its private or corporate capacity, such property is held for the State for the benefit of its inhabitants, whether it be for governmental or proprietary purposes. The legal situation is the same if the State itself holds the property and puts it to a different use.

When it comes to property of municipality which it did not acquire in its private or corporate capacity with its own funds (the land was originally given to City by Spain), the legislature can transfer its administration and disposition to an agency of the National Government to be disposed of according to its discretion. Here it did so in obedience to the constitutional mandate of promoting social justice to insure the well-being and economic security of the people.

The property was not acquired by the City of Manila with its own funds in its private or proprietary capacity. The land was part of the territory of City of Manila granted by sovereign in its creation. Furthermore, City expressly recognised the paramount title of the State over its land when it requested the President to consider the feasibility of declaring the lot as patrimonial property for selling.

There could be no more blatant recognition of the fact that said land belongs to the State and was simply granted in usufruct to the City of Manila for municipal purposes. But since the City did not actually use said land for any recognized public purpose and allowed it to remain idle and unoccupied for a long time until it was overrun by squatters, no presumption of State grant of ownership in favor of the City of Manila may be acquiesced in to justify the claim that it is its own private or patrimonial property.

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is hereby reversed, and petitioners shall proceed with the free and untrammeled implementation of Republic Act No. 4118 without any obstacle from the respondents. Without costs.

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