The Court of Appeals (CA) has turned down an appeal filed by the Philippine Savings Bank against the government over its claim to parcels of land which formed part of the original Fort Stotsenberg Military Reservation, now known as the Clark Special Economic Zone.
In an 18-page decision penned on December 12 by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio Santos, the CA’s Special 16th Division denied the bank’s appeal for lack of merit and affirmed the Angeles City regional trial court (RTC Br. 56)’s decision in the case. Associate Justices Manuel M. Barrios and Walter S. Ong concurred.
“When a property is officially declared a military reservation, it becomes inalienable and outside the commerce of man. It may not be the subject of a contract or of a compromise agreement. A property continues to be part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership until there is a formal declaration on the part of the government to withdraw it from being such,” the CA said.
“In this case, the record is bereft of any evidence showing that the subject property has been classified alienable and disposable,” it added.
The petition was originally filed by the government for the reversion of Lot No. 971 located in Sapang Bato, Angeles City consisting of 250,000 square meters and formed part of the original Fort Stotsenberg identified in a proclamation issued by Governor-General James F. Smith in July 1908.
The bank claimed it acquired the property from a foreclosure sale after the non-payment of a loan covered by a mortgage on September 1974. The bank subsequently sold the property in June 2005 to Damian R. Ramos.
Citing precedents, the CA said “any title to an inalienable public land is void (from the start) and “all proceedings of the Land Registration Court (LRC) involving the property are null and void since the LRC never acquired jurisdiction over the property.” (PNA)