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Linggo, Setyembre 18, 2011

Republic v Leonor (609 SCRA 75)

In a reversion proceeding, premised on the claim that the property is a foreshore land or that the patents were obtained through fraud or misrepresentation, the burden is on the one who claims it to be so.
Mere omission of nformation from the patent application, though essential, does not, per se, cause ipso facto cancellation of the patent.

DENR-Region IV (through the Solicitor General) filed complaints for Cancellation of Free Paten and OCT and Reversion against Ignacio Leonor and Catalino Razon. The complaints averred that Lot No. 10108-8617 and 10109 were part of the non-disposable foreshore land and did not appear in the cadastral map or records of the DENR. These defects allegedly constituted fraud w/c ,ipso facto cancelled the free patents and the corresponding OCTs.  An investigation of Lots 9368 and 9675 resulted in the discovery that although the lots appeared in the cadastral map, they were not cadastrally surveyed and that serious discrepancies existed among the technical descriptions in the certificates of title.
Respondents filed an answer stating that the free patents were issued in accordance with law, that the lots were surveyed by Alexander Jacob (Geodetic Eng’g) of the Bureau of Lands, and that the subject lots were not investigated by DENR.
RTC ruled in favor of respondents due to insufficiency of evidence. CA declared that 2 of the lands were foreshore lands.and sustained the RTC’s finding that there was no sufficient evidence on the rest of the subject lots.

Whether or not the CA committed error when it sustained the validity of the 3 subject free patents.

No. For Lot 8617, records show that the only piece of evidence alluding to this lot being foreshore land is the testimony of Atty. Apuhin from DENR.  His only finding was that the lots had already been developed as a beach resort (owned by Leonor) but the court examined the cadastral map and that there was nothing to indicate that it is a foreshore land. What is obvious is that the lot is close to the waters of Balayan Bay.  However, proximity alone does not necessarily make it a foreshore land. Also petitioner was not able to establish that there was clear and convincing evidence of fraud.
Petitioner also points out that in the free patent application, Leonor did not indicate the name of his predecessors – that this was in violation of the Public Land Act and will ipso facto cancel the free patent. SC said that mere omission of information , though essential, will not ipso facto cancel the patent. It must be shown that the info withheld  would have resulted in the disapproval of the free patent application had it been disclosed.
For Lot 9398, petitioner cited discrepancies in its description. SC stated that such discrepancies would not necessarily imply that respondents employed fraud. Again, there was no proof. Petitioner also argues that the predecessors of Leonor are fictitious persons. The SC does not agree by stating that the predecessors were respondents in a case for accion reivindicatoria and quieting of title.
Conclusion: DENR did not conduct a thorough investigation of the alleged irregularities imputed to respondents in obtaining the free patents. 

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