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Director Of Lands V. Judge Aquino, G.r. No. 31688, Dec. 17, 1990

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Director of Lands v. Judge Aquino, G.R. No. 31688, Dec. 17, 199 !"#RD D#$#%#&N 'G.R. No. 31688 31688 ( Dece)*er 17, 199.+ 19 %-RA 96 D#R-!&R &/ LAND%, D#R-!&R &/ /&R%!R0 and R2L#- &/ !" "#L##N% , Petitioners, Petitioners, vs. "&N. J2AN . A42#N&, as Judge of t5e -ourt of /irst #nstance of A*ra, %econd Judicia District and ARA #ND2%!R#AL -&R&RA!#&N , Respondents. Respondents. D-#%#&N /RNAN, J.: /RNAN, J.: The center of controversy in the instant petition for review on Certiorari  is  is a limestone-rich 70-hectare land in Bucay, Abra 66 hectares of which are, according to petitioners, within the Central Cordillera orest !eserve" #rivate respondent Abra $ndustrial Corporation %A$C for brevity&, a duly registered corporation established for the purpose of setting up a cement factory, claims on the other hand, to be the owner in fee simple of the whole 70-hectare area indicated in survey plans #'(-)*7+*, #'(-)*7+* and #'(-)*7+)0 with a total assessed value of #6,7)."." Thus, on 'eptember )/, *6+, it filed in the then Court of irst $nstance of Abra an application for registration in its name of said parcels of land under the and !egistration Act or, in the alternative, under 'ec" . of Commonwealth Act 1o" *.* * as amended by !epublic Act 1o" *.) inasmuch as its predecessors-in-interest had allegedly been in possession thereof since 2uly )6, *." ) The re3uisite publication and posting of notice having been complied with, the application was set for hearing" 45cept for the irector of ands, nobody appeared to oppose the application" ence, the court issued an order of default against the whole world e5cept the irector of ands" After the applicant had rested its case, the provincial fiscal, appearing for the irector of ands, submitted evidence supporting the opposition filed by the 'olicitor 8eneral to the effect that A$C had no registerable title and that the highly minerali9ed parcels of land applied for were within the Central Cordillera orest !eserve !eserve which had not yet been released as alienable and disposable land pursuant to the #ublic and aw" :n 2uly )), *66, the lower court / favorably acted on the application and ordered the registration registration of the parcels of land under the and !egistration Act" $t ruled that although said land was within the forest 9one, the opposition of the irector of ands was not well-ta;en because the Bureau of orestry orestry,, thru the istrict orester of Ab ra, s possession thereof, including that of its predecessors-in-interest, had been for forty-nine %.& years" The irector of ands, through the provincial fiscal, filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision asserting that e5cept for a .-hectare area, the land covered by #'(-)*7+*, )*7+* and )*7+)0 fell within the Central Cordillera orest !eserve, !eserve, under #roclamation 1o" )*7 dated ebruary *6, *)? that although it had been denuded, it was covered with massive, corraline, tufaceous limestone estimated estimated to yield )00,000,000 metric tons about a fifth of which was suitable for the manufacture of high grade portland cement type and that the limestone, being )+0 meters thic;, could yield *0,000 bags of cement a day for *,000 years" + e contended that, while the land could be reclassified as mineral land under the =urisdiction of the Bureau of @ines, the process of e5clusion from the Cordillera orest !eserve !eserve had not yet been underta;en pursuant to 'ec" *)6 of !epublic Act 1o" /0) and therefore it was still part of the forest 9one which was inalienable under the */+ Constitution" A$C having filed its opposition to the motion for reconsideration, the lower court denied it on 'eptember ), *67 holding that the grounds raised therein were relevant and proper only if the Bureau of orestry and the Bureau of @ines were parties to the case" $t added that the motion for intervention filed by the Bureau of ands and the Bureau of @ines was improper in land registration cases" 6 The irector of ands filed a petition for Certiorari  with  with the Court of Appeals but the same was dismissed for having been filed out of time" 7 ence, on ecember )), *67, the Commissioner of and !egistration issued ecrees 1os" ***, *** and **)00 for the registration of the sub=ect parcels of land in the name of A$C" ithin one year from the issuance of said decrees or on @ay )), *6, the !epublic of the #hilippines, through the 'olicitor 8eneral, invo;ing 'ection / of Act 1o" .6, filed i n the Court of irst $nstance of Abra a petition for review of the decrees of registration and the lower court>s decision of 2uly )), *66" The 'olicitor 8eneral alleged that although the evidence presented by A$C showed that it had purchased from individual owners only a total area of ). hectares, the application included .6 hectares of the Central Cordillera orest !eserve and therefore A$C s second ground for dismissal, which is premised on its perception that a motion for reconsideration of the order of 1ovember )7, *6 is necessary before the filing of the instant petition, is incorrect" A motion for new trial o r reconsideration is not a prere3uisite to an appeal, petition for review or a petition for review on Certiorari " *. The reglementary period for filing the petition for review on Certiorari  in the instant case was thirty %/0& days from notice of the order or =udgment sub=ect of review *+ which period, parenthetically, is now fifteen %*+& days pursuant to 'ection / of the 2udiciary Act of *0" *6 #etitioners having been granted a total of si5ty %60& days *7 within which to file the petition, the same was timely filed" #etitioners herein contend that the lower court erred in g ranting the application for registration of the parcels of land notwithstanding its finding that they are within the forest 9one" The istrict orester>s failure to ob=ect to the e5clusion of the area sought to be registered from the forest reserve was not enough =ustification for registration because under Commonwealth Act 1o" *.*, the power to e5clude an area from the fo rest 9one belongs to the #resident of the #hilippines, upon the recommendation of the 'ecretary of Agriculture and 1atural !esources, and not the istrict orester or even the irector of orestry" #etitioners also contend that the lower court erred in denying the petition for review based on actual fraud because under 'ection / of Act 1o" .6, a decree of registration may be reviewed not only by reason of actual fraud but also for a fatal infirmity of the decision upon which the decree is based, provided no innocent purchaser for value will be pre=udiced" e find the petition to be meritorious" :nce again, we reiterate the rule enunciated by this Court in irector of orestry vs" @uo9 * and consistently adhered to in a long line of cases * the more recent of which is !epublic vs" Court of Appeals, )0 that forest lands or forest reserves are incapable of private appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private properties" This ruling is premised on the !egalian doctrine enshrined not only in the */+ and *7/ Constitutions but also in the *7 Constitution Article D$$$ of which provides that <'ec" )" All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal " " " , forests or timber, " " " and other natural resources are owned by the 'tate" ith the e5ception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated"< #ursuant to this constitutional provision, the land must first be released from its classification as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land in accordance with the certification issued by the irector of orestry as provided for by 'ection *)7 of the !evised Administrative Code" )* This is because the classification of public lands is an e5clusive prerogative of the e5ecutive department of the government and not of the courts" )) @oreover, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable l and for agricultural or other purposes" )/ Being the interested party, an applicant for registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain" ). $n this case, A$C asserts that the land in dispute is no longer part of the Cordillera orest !eserve because the communal forest in Bucay, Abra which had been established in *0 by virtue of orestry Administrative :rder 1o" )-), had been