VICENTE VILLAFLOR, substituted by his heirs, petitioner,
COURT OF APPEALS and NASIPIT LUMBER CO., INC., respondents.
G.R. No. 95694 October 9, 1997
The Petitioner bought a large tract of land containing one hundred forty (140) hectares to four (4) different owners in 1940. The land was part of the public domain, but the petitioners predecessor in interest over which he acquired the property, have been in open, exclusive and notorious possession of the same for sometime. After acquisition, petitioner asserts exclusive rights thereof for more than fifty (50) years.
In 1946, petitioner entered into a lease agreement with respondent Nasipit Lumber Co.Inc. However, an “Agreement for the Relinquishment of Rights” was entered into by both parties in 1950. The respondent having complied all the requirements agreed upon, assumed ownership and possession of the property since then. Respondent corporation likewise filed a sales application in 1950 over the property to bolster his claim which the Bureau of Land otherwise granted on the same year as proof of an “Order of Award” issued.
In 1974 or twenty four (24) years had passed, when petitioner, questioned and made several collateral and extraneous claims against the respondent. However, the Bureau of Lands dismissed the claim, arguing that petitioner no longer has any substantial rights to question the validity of acquisition of the respondent and the subsequent issuance of free patent by the Bureau of Lands. Unperturbed, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration at the Ministry of Natural Resources which likewise dismissed the petition.
On July 6, 1978, petitioner filed a complaint in the trial court for “Declaration of Nullity of Contract ( Deed of Relinquishment of Rights), Recovery of Possession (of two parcels of land subject of the contract), and Damages” at about the same time that he appealed the decision of the Minister of Natural Resources to the Office of the President. On January 28, 1983, petitioner died. Petitioner’s heir substituted in his behalf to pursue the claim. The trial court in Butuan City who initially take cognizance of the case ordered the case dismissed, on the grounds that: (1) petitioner admitted the due execution and genuineness of the contract and was estopped from proving its nullity, (2) the verbal lease agreements were unenforceable under Article 1403 (2) (e) of the Civil Code, and (3) his causes of action were barred by extinctive prescription and/or laches.
The heirs appealed to the CA which likewise rendered judgment of dismissal by upholding the lower court’s ruling.
Whether or not the sale is valid.
No. The provision of the law is specific that public lands can only be acquired in the manner provided for therein and not otherwise(Sec. 11, CA. No. 141, as amended). In his sales application, petitioner expressly admitted that said property was public land. This is formidable evidence as it amounts to an admission against interest. The records show that Villaflor had applied for the purchase of lands in question with this Office (Sales Application V-807) on 2 December 1948. There is a condition in the sales application to the effect that he recognizes that the land covered by the same is of public domain and any and all rights he may have with respect thereto by virtue of continuous occupation and cultivation are relinquished to the Government of which Villaflor is very much aware. It also appears that Villaflor had paid for the publication fees appurtenant to the sale of the land. He participated in the public auction where he was declared the successful bidder. He had fully paid the purchase price thereof. It would be a height of absurdity for Villaflor to be buying that which is owned by him if his claim of private ownership thereof is to be believed. The area in dispute is not the private property of the petitioner.
It is a basic assumption of public policy that lands of whatever classification belong to the state. Unless alienated in accordance with law, it retains its rights over the same as dominus. No public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied from the government. It is indispensable then that there be showing of title from the state or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. Such sales applicant manifestly acknowledged that he does not own the land and that the same is a public land under the administration of the Bureau of Lands, to which the application was submitted, all of its acts prior thereof, including its real estate tax declarations, characterized its possessions of the land as that of a “sales applicant”. And consequently, as one who expects to buy it, but has not as yet done so, and is not, therefore, its owner.
The rule on the interpretation of contracts (Article 1371) is used in affirming, not negating, their validity. Article 1373,which is a conjunct of Article 1371, provides that, if the instrument is susceptible of two or more interpretations, the interpretation which will make it valid and effectual should be adopted. In this light, it is not difficult to understand that the legal basis urged by petitioner does not support his allegation that the contracts to sell and the deed of relinquishment are simulated and fictitious. Simulation occurs when an apparent contract is a declaration of a fictitious will, deliberately made by agreement of the parties, in order to produce, for the purpose of deception, the appearance of a juridical act which does not exist or is different from that which was really executed. Such an intention is not apparent in the agreements. The intent to sell, on the other hand, is as clear as daylight. The fact, that the agreement to sell (7 December 1948) did not absolutely transfer ownership of the land to private respondent, does not how that the agreement was simulated. Petitioner‟s delivery of the Certificate of Ownership and execution of the deed of absolute sale were suspensive conditions, which gave rise to a corresponding obligation on the part of the private respondent, i.e., the payment of the last installment of the consideration mentioned in the Agreement. Such conditions did not affect the perfection of the contract or prove simulation Nonpayment, at most, gives the vendor only the right to sue for collection. Generally, in a contract of sale, payment of the price is a resolutory condition and the remedy of the seller is to exact fulfillment or, in case of a substantial breach, to rescind the contract under Article 1191 of the Civil Code. However, failure to pay is not even a breach, but merely an event which prevents the vendor‟s obligation to convey title from acquiring binding force.
The requirements for a sales application under the Public Land Act are: (1) the possession of the qualifications required by said Act (under Section 29) and (2) the lack of the disqualifications mentioned therein (under Sections 121, 122,and 123). Section 121 of the Act pertains to acquisitions of public land by a corporation from a grantee: The private respondent, not the petitioner, was the direct grantee of the disputed land. Sections 122 and 123 disqualify corporations, which are not authorized by their charter, from acquiring public land; the records do not show that private respondent was not so authorized under its charter.