Property of Public Dominion; Private Ownership – Articles 419-425

Property and Lease

Property and Lease

Government v. Cabangis – 53 Phil. 112

FACTS: In 1896, A owned a parcel of land, but because of the action of the waves of Manila Bay, part of said land was gradually submerged in the sea. It remained submerged until 1912 when the government decided to make the necessary dredging to reclaim the land from the sea. As soon as the land
had been recovered A took possession of it.

Issue: the ownership of the reclaimed land.

HELD: The government owns the reclaimed land in the
sense that it has become property of public dominion, because
in letting it remain submerged, A may be said to have abandoned
the same. Having become part of the sea or the seashore,
it became property for public use. When the government took
steps to make it land again, its status as public dominion remained
unchanged; therefore, A is not entitled to the land.

Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co., Inc. v. Bercilles – L-40474, Aug. 29, 1975

FACTS: The City Council of Cebu, in 1968, considered as an abandoned road, the terminal portion of one of its streets.

Later it authorized the sale thru public bidding of the property. The Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co. was able to purchase the same. It then petitioned the RTC of Cebu for the registration of the land. The petition was opposed by the Provincial Fiscal(Prosecutor) who argued that the lot is still part of the public domain, and cannot therefore be registered. Issue: May the lot be registered in the name of the buyer?

HELD: Yes, the land can be registered in the name of the buyer, because the street has already been withdrawn from public use, and accordingly has become patrimonial property. The lot’s sale was therefore valid.

Viuda de Tan Toco v. Mun. Council of Iloilo – 49 Phil. 52

FACTS: The municipality of Iloilo bought from the widow of Tan Toco a parcel of land for P42,966.40 which was used for street purposes. For failure of the municipality to pay the debt, the widow obtained a writ of execution against the municipal properties, and by virtue of such writ was able to obtain the attachment of two auto trucks used for street sprinkling, one police patrol automobile, two police stations, and two markets, including the lots on which they had been constructed. The issue is the validity of the attachment.

HELD: The attachment is not proper because municipal-owned real and personal properties devoted to public or governmental purposes may not be attached and sold for the payment of a judgment against a municipality. Just as it is essential to exempt certain properties of individuals (like the bare essentials) from execution, so it is also essential and justifi able to exempt property for public use from execution, otherwise governmental service would be jeopardized. [NOTE: Had the properties been patrimonial, they could have been levied upon or attached. (See Mun. of Pasay v. Manaois, et al., L-3485, June 30, 1950).].

(1) Properties in Political Subdivisions

Art. 424 enumerates the various kinds of properties of political subdivisions, and classifi es them into:

(a) property for public use

(b) patrimonial property

[NOTE: In the case of STATE properties, properties for public service are of public dominion; this is not so in the case of provinces, cities, etc., said properties for public service are patrimonial (since they are not for public use). (Prov. of Zamboanga del Norte v. City of Zamboanga, et al., L-24440, Mar. 28, 1968).].

Province of Zamboanga Del Norte v. City of Zamboanga, et al. – L-24440, Mar. 28, 1968

FACTS: After Zamboanga Province was divided  into two (Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur), Republic Act 3039 was passed providing that — “All buildings, properties, and assets belonging to the former province of Zamboanga and located within the City of Zamboanga are hereby transferred free of charge in favor of the City of Zamboanga.’’ Suit was brought alleging that this grant without just compensation was unconstitutional because it deprived the province of property without due process. Included in the properties were the capital site and capitol building, certain school sites, hospital and leprosarium sites, and high school playgrounds.


a) Are the properties mentioned, properties for public use or patrimonial?

b) Should the city pay for said properties?


a) If we follow the Civil Code classifi cation, only the high school playgrounds are for public use (in the sense that generally, they are available to the general public), and all the rest are PATRIMONIAL (since they are not devoted to public use but to public service; since they are not for public use, under Art. 424 of the Civil Code, they are patrimonial. [NOTE: For public use if ANYBODY can use; for public service if only AUTHORIZED persons can use.].

[NOTE: Had they been owned by the STATE, they would not have been patrimonial but would have been properties of public dominion — for this would include public service, conformably with Art. 420, par. 2.].

BUT if we follow the law of Municipal Corporations (and not the Civil Code), as long as the purpose is for a public service (governmental service like public education, public health, local administration), the property should be considered for PUBLIC USE.

b) If the Civil Code classifi cation is used, since almost all the properties involved are patrimonial, the law would be unconstitutional since the province would be deprived of its own property without just compensation.

If the law on Municipal Corporations would be followed, the properties would be of public dominion, and therefore NO COMPENSATION would be required. It is this law on Municipal Corporations that should be followed. Firstly, while the Civil Code may classify them as patrimonial, they should not be regarded as ordinary private property. They should fall under the control of the State, otherwise certain governmental activities would be impaired. Secondly, Art. 424, 2nd paragraph itself says “without prejudice to the provisions (or PRINCIPLES) of special laws.”

Source: Civil Code, Volume II (Property) – Paras

One response to “Property of Public Dominion; Private Ownership – Articles 419-425

  1. Pingback: Bar Exam Syllabus on Property – Civil Code | Legal Notes·

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