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Land Titles and Deeds Case Digest: Lee Hong Kok v. David (1972)

G.R. No. L-30389  December 27, 1972
Lessons Applicable: (Land Titles and Deeds)
  • Sec. 2 Art. XII 1987 Constitution

  • Imperium v. Dominium 

  • legality of the grant is a question between the grantee and the government

  • Aniano David acquired lawful title pursuant to his miscellaneous sales application in accordance with which an order of award and for issuance of a sales patent (*similar to public auction) was made by the Director of Lands on June 18, 1958, covering Lot 2892.

  • On the basis of the order of award of the Director of Lands the Undersecretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources issued on August 26, 1959, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. V-1209 pursuant to which OCT No. 510 was issued by the Register of Deeds of Naga City on October 21, 1959. 

  • Land in question is not a private property as the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources have always sustained the public character for having been formed by reclamation (as opposed to peittioners contention that it is accretion)

  • The only remedy: action for reconveyance on the ground of fraud - But there was no fraud in this case


  1. W/N Lee Hong Kok can question the grant. - NO 

  2. W/N David has original acquisition of title. - YES

HELD: Court of Appeals Affirmed. (no legal justification for nullifying the right of David to the disputed lot arising from the grant made in his favor by respondent officials)
  • Only the Government, represented by the Director of Lands, or the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, can bring an action to cancel a void certificate of title issued pursuant to a void patent. The legality of the grant is a question between the grantee and the government.  Private parties like the plaintiffs cannot claim that the patent and title issued for the land involved are void since they are not the registered owners thereof nor had they been declared as owners in the cadastral proceedings of Naga Cadastre after claiming it as their private property. 

  • Well-settled Rule : no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government

  • Cabacug v. Lao:  holder of a land acquired under a free patent is more favorably situated than that of an owner of registered property. Not only does a free patent have a force and effect of a Torrens Title, but in addition the person to whom it is granted has likewise in his favor the right to repurchase within a period of 5 years.

  • Imperium v. Dominium

  1. Imperium - government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately embraced in the concept of sovereignty

  2. Dominium - capacity to own or acquire property.  The use of this term is appropriate with reference to lands held by the state in its proprietary character.  In such capacity, it may provide for the exploitation and use of lands and other natural resources, including their disposition, except as limited by the Constitution.