October 16, 2000
DAR OPINION NO. 28-00
TO : JOSE Z. GRAGEDA
DAR Provincial Office
Naga, Camarines Sur
SUBJECT : Request for Legal Opinion
This refers to your request for opinion on whether or not the lands covered under TCT No. 2884 and TCT No. 2883 identified as owned by Mr. Edgardo L. Santos may be documented. You have furnished us with an additional information that said properties are within the periphery of the Negrito Reservation.
The provision of Republic Act No. 6657 pertinent to your query provides:
"Section 9. Ancestral Lands. — For purposes of this Act, ancestral lands of each indigenous cultural community shall include, but not be limited to, lands in the actual, continuous and open possession and occupation of the community and its members; Provided, That the Torrens System shall be respected. "
Furthermore, R.A. No. 8371, entitled, "An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples, Creating a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefore, and for Other Purposes", provides:
"Section 56. Existing Property Rights Regimes. — Property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon effectivity of this Act, shall be recognized and respected. "
Explicit in the foregoing provisions of laws is that existing and/or vested rights over properties cannot be validly claimed as part of ancestral domains even if said properties are within the bounds thereof. And more so if those properties are covered by Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs).
Moreover, we give more weight to private rights as evidenced by a Torrens title (TCT) which time and again the Supreme Court has ruled that, a title once issued under the Torrens System enjoys the conclusive presumption of validity (Ramos vs. Rodrigues, 244 SCRA 418). Hence, a registered owner thereof cannot be unjustly deprived of the same. It is significant to mention that no Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) or Certificate of Ancestral Land Claim (CALC) issued by the DENR was presented to us to sustain their claim of ownership. Thus, the subject lands covered by TCTs are alienable and disposable in private ownership.
The DAR may, therefore, complete the documentation of said lands considering that a registered title to a property is indefeasible and a registered owner thereof cannot be unjustly deprived of the same on the basis of mere allegation that his land is within the ancestral domain of a cultural community. It bears stressing here, likewise, the general policy of law and jurisprudence that rights granted under Presidential Proclamations are always subject to prior or vested private rights.
Please be guided accordingly.
(SGD.) FEDERICO A. POBLETE
Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, and Policy and Planning