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SPOUSES SALERA, VS.

SPOUSES RODAJE Leave a comment


SPOUSES SALERA, VS. SPOUSES RODAJE G.R. No. 135900 August 17, 2007 FACTS: The Petitioner spouses Salera filed with the RTC of Leyte, a complaint for quieting of title against spouses Rodaje, The Saleras alleged that they are the absolute owners of a parcel of land situated in Leyte. They acquired the property from the heirs of Brigido Tonacao as shown by a Deed of Absolute Sale; they had the document registered in the RD.

When they asked the Provincial Assessor to declare the property under their names for taxation purposes, they found that the Tax Declaration in the name of Brigido was already cancelled and another one was issued in the names of the Rodajes. Petitioners further alleged that they have been in possession of the property and the house they built thereon because they had paid the purchase price even before the execution of the deed of sale.

In their answer to the complaint, respondents Rodajes claimed that they are the absolute owners of the same property. They acquired it from Catalino Tonacao, the father of Brigido, in a Deed of Absolute Sale and the sale was registered in the RD and a Tax Declaration was issued in their names. Since then, they have been exercising their right of ownership over the property and the building constructed thereon peacefully, publicly, adversely and continuously. Apart from being the first registrants, they are buyers in good faith.

The RTC rendered a Decision declaring petitioners the rightful and legal owners of the property.

On appeal, the CA reversed and set aside the trial courts Decision. Hence, this petition for Review on Certiorari

ISSUE: Which of the two contracts of sale is valid.

HELD: THE ONE IN FAVOR OF PETITIONERS SPOUSES SALERA The petition is GRANTED. court is REINSTATED. The assailed Decision of the CA is REVERSED and the Decision of the trial

The Court of Appeals, in upholding the validity of the sale in favor of respondents, relied on Article 1544 of the Civil Code on double sale, thus: As between two purchasers, the one who registered the sale in his favor has a preferred right over the other who has not registered his title, even if the latter is in actual possession of the immovable property A fortiori the defendants-appellants have a superior right over the contested property

inasmuch as they have both actual possession and prior registration of the conveyance. Dominium a possessione cepisse dicitur. Right is said to have its beginning from possession. xxx Since the controversy involves two deeds of sale over the same property, Article 1544 properly applies thereto.Following the above-quoted provision, the court a quo was not justified in according preferential rights to the plaintiffs-appellees, who had registered the sale in their favor later, as against the defendants-appellants. The Court of Appeals is wrong. Article 1544 of the Civil Code contemplates a case of double sale or multiple sales by asingle vendor. More specifically, it covers a situation where a single vendor sold one and the same immovable property to two or more buyers. It cannot be invoked where the two different contracts of sale are made by two different persons, one of them not being the owner of the property sold. In the instant case, the property was sold by two different vendors to different purchasers. The first sale was between Catalino and herein respondents, while the second was between Brigidos heirs and herein petitioners. Respondents claim that they have been in possession of the lot even before the execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale on June 6, 1986. However, a perusal of the records of the case shows that petitioners are the ones in prior possession of the property. Evidence submitted to the court, oral and documentary, established that respondents knew beforehand that the property was declared in the name of Brigido Tonacao for taxation purposes.Thus, respondents should have been wary in buying the property. Any lot buyer is expected to be vigilant, exercising utmost care in determining whether the seller is the true owner of the property and whether there are other claimants. determined the status of the lot. There is no indication from the record that respondents first

While tax declarations are not conclusive proofs of ownership, however, they are good indicia of possession in the concept of owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or at least constructive possession. Hence, as between Brigido and Catalino, the former had better right to the property. In other words, Catalino, not being the owner or possessor, could not validly sell the lot to respondents. The Court is convinced that respondents had knowledge that the disputed property was previously sold to petitioners by Brigidos heirs. Obviously, aware that the sale to petitioners was not registered, they purchased the property and have the sale registered ahead of petitioners, who although in possession, failed to have their contract of sale registered immediately in the Registry of Deeds. NOTES: 1. Settled is the principle that this Court is not a trier of facts. In Gabriel v. Mabanta we said that (t)his rule, however, is not an iron-clad rule. One of the recognized exceptions is when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court, as in this case. 2. Good faith is something internal. Actually, it is a question of intention. In ascertaining ones intention, this Court must rely on the evidence of ones conduct and outward acts. Good faith, or want of it, is capable of being ascertained only from the acts of one claiming its presence, for it is a condition of the mind which can be judged by actual or fancied tokens or signs. Good faith consists in the possessors belief that the person from whom he received the thing was the owner of the same and could convey his title. Good faith, while it is always to be presumed in the absence of proof to the contrary, requires a well founded belief that the person from whom title was

received was himself the owner of the land, with the right to convey it.

There is good faith where

there is an honest intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another. Contrastingly, in Magat, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, the Court explained that [b]ad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence. It imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of wrong. It means a breach of a known duty through some motive or interest or ill will that partakes of the nature of fraud. In Arenas v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that the determination of whether one acted in bad faith is evidentiary in nature. Thus, [s]uch acts (of bad faith) must be substantiated by evidence. Indeed, the unbroken jurisprudence is that [b]ad faith under the law cannot be presumed; it must be established by clear and convincing evidence.