I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE IN THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL SYSTEM. A. The Laws of the Indies
The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power of dominium.  This was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regalia is a Western legal concept that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas. The Laws of the Indies, i.e., more specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Novisima Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, set the policy of the Spanish Crown with respect to the Philippine Islands in the following manner: "We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish. We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts designate at such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period within which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them and to the court officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts, or by virtue of just prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will."  The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of "discovery" and conquest. Consequently, all lands became the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish Government took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to Spaniards, both military and civilian.  Private land titles could only be acquired from the government either by purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the Crown.  The Laws of the Indies were 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 law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the "Maura Law," was partly an amendment of the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by previous orders and decrees.  This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required the "adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert to the state. Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory of the Philippine Islands. In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the Philippine Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act. B. Valenton v. Murciano
In 1904, under the American regime, this Court decided the case of Valenton v. Murciano.  Valenton resolved the question of which is the better basis for ownership of land: long-time occupation or paper title. Plaintiffs had entered into peaceful occupation of the subject land in 1860. Defendant's predecessor-in-interest, on the other...
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