Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Regalian Doctrine

The Regalian Doctrine

The Regalian Doctrine, also known as “jura regalia”, is a fiction of Spanish colonial law that has been said to apply to all Spanish colonial holdings. More specifically, the Regalian Doctrine refers to the feudal principle that private title to land must emanate, directly or indirectly, from the Spanish crown with the latter retaining the underlying title. Lands and resources not granted by the Crown remain part of the public domain over which none but the sovereign holds rights. Generally, under this concept, private title to land must be traced to some grant, express or implied, from the Spanish Crown or its successors, the American Colonial Government, and thereafter, the Philippine Republic. In a broad sense, the term refers to royal rights, or those rights to which the King has by virtue of his prerogatives.

Based on the Laws of the Indies, the capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power of dominium, as cited in the Cruz v. DENR case. This was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regaliais 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.”

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 (Cruz v. DENR).

The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. The doctrine has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions. All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable public domain. Necessarily, it is up to the State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.

For an extended discussion of the Regalian Doctrine, read the article titled The Regalian Doctrine as Embodied in the Philippine Constitution.

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