Regalian Doctrine

Aranda vs. RP ( GR 172331)

Under the Regalian doctrine which is embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.(GR: 172331)

To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.  The applicant may also secure a certification from the Government that the lands applied for are alienable and disposable.

GR : 167707

Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown. The Regalian doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the foundation that all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain.

The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims.

The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony.The doctrine has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions.

All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable public domain.Necessarily, it is up to the State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.

Heirs of Mario Malabanan vs. Republic of the Philippines (GR: 179987)

Critical to the position taken in this Dissent is the reading of the hierarchy of laws that govern public lands to fully understand and appreciate the grounds for dissent.

In the area of public law, foremost in this hierarchy is the Philippine Constitution, whose Article XII (entitled National Economy and Patrimony) establishes and fully embraces the regalian doctrine as a first and overriding principle This doctrine postulates that all lands belong to the State, and that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the State.

Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows and not otherwise:

  1.   For homestead settlement;
  2.   By sale;
  3.   By lease;
  4.   By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title;
  5.   By judicial legalization;
  6.   By administrative legalization (free patent)

Prescription is essentially a civil law term and is not mentioned as one of the modes of acquiring alienable public land under the PLA, (Significantly, the PLA under its Section 48 provides for its system of how possession can ripen into ownership; the PLA does not refer to this as acquisitive prescription but as basis for confirmation of title.) Section 14(2) of the PRD, however, specifies that [t]hose who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws as among those who may apply for land registration. Thus, prescription was introduced into the land registration scheme (the PRD), but not into the special law governing lands of the public domain (the PLA).

GR Nos. 152613, 152628,152619-20, 152870-71 (En Banc)

Due to the pressing concerns in the Diwalwal Gold Rush Area brought about by unregulated small to medium-scale mining operations causing ecological, health and peace and order problems, the President, on 25 November 2002, issued Proclamation No. 297, which declared the area as a mineral reservation and as an environmentally critical area.

This executive fiat was aimed at preventing the further dissipation of the natural environment and rationalizing the mining operations in the area in order to attain an orderly balance between socio-economic growth and environmental protection.

The area being a mineral reservation, the Executive Department has full control over it pursuant to Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7942. It can either directly undertake the exploration, development and utilization of the minerals found therein, or it can enter into agreements with qualified entities.

Since the Executive Department now has control over the exploration, development and utilization of the resources in the disputed area, SEMs exploration permit, assuming that it is still valid, has been effectively withdrawn. The exercise of such power through Proclamation No. 297 is in accord with jura regalia, where the State exercises its sovereign power as owner of lands of the public domain and the mineral deposits found within. Thus, Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution emphasizes:

SEC. 2. All lands of the public domain, water, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or product-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens.

Furthermore, said proclamation cannot be denounced as offensive to the fundamental law because the State is sanctioned to do so in the exercise of its police power. The issues on health and peace and order, as well the decadence of the forest resources brought about by unregulated mining in the area, are matters of national interest.

Republic of the Philippines vs Naguiat (GR: 134209)


Under Section 6 of the Public Land Act, the prerogative of classifying or reclassifying lands of the public domain, i.e., from forest or mineral to agricultural and vice versa, belongs to the Executive Branch of the government and not the court.Needless to stress, the onus to overturn, by incontrovertible evidence, the presumption that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable or disposable rests with the applicant.

Here, respondent never presented the required certification from the proper government agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land applied for as alienable and disposable. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. It calls for proof. Aside from tax receipts, respondent submitted in evidence the survey map and technical descriptions of the lands, which, needless to state, provided no information respecting the classification of the property. As the Court has held, however, these documents are not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.


Author: Born2drinkStuff

SEO/Content/Article/BMR Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s