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Republic of the Philippines did not heed the instruction of Benitez and instead, on September

SUPREME COURT 25, 1975, applied with the Bureau of Lands for a miscellaneous
Manila sales application over 4,000 square meters of land, including that
SECOND DIVISION property covered by Revocable Permit Application No. V-13279 in
G.R. No. L-53983 September 30, 1982 the name of Tomas Benitez. On November 18, 1975 private
SPOUSES LUCIANA DALIDA and PEDRO DALIDA, petitioners,
respondent sent a demand letter to petitioner spouses to vacate
vs.
and turn over the premises to the former. Fr failure of petitioners to
COURT OF APPEALS, HON. JESUS P. ARLEGUI, Presiding
leave the property, a complaint for illegal detainer dated January
Judge, CFI, 8th Judicial District, Branch VII, Balayan,
17, 1976 was filed by private respondent before the Municipal
Batangas and AGUSTIN T. RAMOS, respondents.
Court of Balayan.
CLAO Ministry of justice for petitioners.
Geofredo F. Mabunga for respondents.
In an answer dated January 23, 1976 petitioners alleged that they
DE CASTRO, J.: were never employed as caretakers; that they were in actual and
peaceful occupation and possession of the land in question since
1946; and that they occupied the land when it was still forested
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court
and were the ones who cleared and cultivated the same and
of Appeals which affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance
introduced improvements thereon.
of Batangas, Branch VII which ordered herein petitioners to vacate
the premises in question.
After trial and hearing the court a quo rendered a decision dated
November 28, 1978 in favor of private respondent ordering
The facts of the case are as follows:
petitioners to vacate the premises in question. The said court held
that petitioners were merely caretakers for the whole length of time
Tomas Benitez was the bona fide and the registered holder of
of their stay in the premises.
Revocable Permit Application No. V-13279 issued by the Bureau of
Lands on August 15, 1945 which allowed him to occupy and
On Appeal to the Court of First Instance, the said court in a decision
possess a parcel of land located at Bonbon, Balayan, Batangas.
dated August 17, 1979 affirmed in toto the decision of the court a
While the original land area applied for by Benitez was for 4,000
quo.
square meters, his right to the land was disputed by adjoining land
owners. To settle the dispute the area covered by Recoverable
Permit Application No. V-13279 was reduced to 2,200 square Petitioners then filed a petition for review dated October 25, 1979
meters for Benitez. before the Court of Appeals and on March 10, 1980, the said court,
as earlier mentioned, dismiss the petition for lack of merit and
affirmed the judgment sought to be reviewed; hence, this present
On October 19, 1971 Tomas Benitez died. On August 27, 1975 his
case, petitioners presenting the sole issue as to:
widow Conchita Benitez conveyed all their rights to the 2,200
square meters lot to Agustin Benitez, private respondent herein. On
August 30, 1975 Conchita Benitez formally advised spouses Pedro WHETHER OR NOT THE PRIVATE
Dalida and Luciana Dalida, petitioners herein, who were then
employed as caretakers of the land, to vacate the property and turn RESPONDENT HAS THE BETTER
over the same to private respondent Agustin Ramos. The spouses
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RIGHT OF POSSESSION AS We agree with petitioners that in an action for illegal detainer the
main issue is the determination of who between the rival claimants
AGAINST THE PETITIONERS has a better right of possession with a view to protecting the same
and preventing disorder and breaches of the peace. As found out
Petitioners argue that although there exists Revocable Permit by the court a quo, the Court of First Instance and finally the Court
Application No. V 13279 in favor of private respondent, the said of Appeals, private respondent and/or his predecessor-in-interest,
application was never approved by the Bureau of Lands. Such being bona fide applicant of the land in dispute, had been in open, actual,
the case, the land in question still' belongs to the State forming exclusive and uninterrupted possession of the property in question
part of the public domain since no title thereto either by sale or in the concept of an owner for over thirty (30) years and petitioners
lease has been issued by the government. Petitioners claim that in were in fact residing on the same property as caretakers hired to
a proceeding for unlawful detainer, the' only issue is who between oversee the land and the improvements thereon. On this point, We
the litigants has a better right to the physical possession of the have to restate the settled rule in this jurisdiction that findings of
property. Since they have been in actual, open and continuous fact of the Court of Appeals are binding and conclusive on this
possession of the land in dispute from 1946 up to the present, they Court.
should be given the preferential right to the land being the actual
occupants as against private respondent who only stepped into the In Fortun vs. Novero, 3 this Court, reiterating the ruling in a long
shoes of applicant Tomas Benitez, who never actually possessed line of cases, stressed that on appeal by certiorari from a decision
the land. of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court, the latter may not
review the findings of fact of the former. The rule, of course, is not
As appearing from the records of this case, these arguments have absolute, and among the accepted exceptions are: the conclusion is
been brought out by petitioners in their memorandum dated grounded entirely on speculation and conjectures, or the inferences
November 21, 1977 1 filed in the court a quo and its petition for made are manifestly absurd or impossible, or there is a grave
review dated October 25, 1979 2 presented before the Court of abuse of discretion, or the judgment is based on a misapprehension
Appeals. of facts, or the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went
beyond the issues of the case and the same are contrary to the
submission of both appellant and appellee. 4 None of these
enumerated exceptions obtains in the instant case. There is
therefore no reason for Us to disturb the aforementioned findings of
the Court of Appeals.

We have painstakingly gone over the records of the case to settle


the question as to whether or not the Revocable Permit Application
No. V-13279 was approved by the Bureau of Lands. In the hearing
before the court a quo, Rodolfo V. Torres, District Land Officer of the
Bureau of Lands in Batangas City, testified that an order was issued
by their office on July 17, 1963 giving due course to the application
of Tomas Benitez. 5Likewise, he testified that their records show
that the corresponding permit fee under Revocable Permit

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Application No. V-13279 of Tomas Benitez had been paid from the restraining order issued by this Court on November 18, 1981 is
year 1956 up to 1960; that a permit had been paid on the same hereby lifted. No pronouncement as to costs.
application on March 25, 1965. 6 The testimony of said official
supported by exhibits relative to the claim of private respondent SO ORDERED.
was given credit by the court a quo. Conclusion and findings of fact
by the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal and should Barredo (Chairman), Aquino, Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero and Escolin,
not be disturbed unless for strong and cogent reasons. This is so JJ., concur.
because the trial court is in a better position to examine real
evidence, as well as to observe the demeanor of the witness while Separate Opinions
testifying in the case. 7
ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring:
It is thus clear that private respondent's predecessor-in-interest was
a bona fide applicant of the land in dispute and in his favor was I reiterate my view that when a decision of the Court of Appeals is
duly issued a permit pursuant to Revocable Permit Application No. sustained for the same reasons given by it, as in this case, it is not
V-13279 dated 1945. Petitioners, on the other hand, have nothing time economical to write a decision because a simple denial of the
giving them any right to possession other than that of mere petition for lack of merit is sufficient. For this reason I vote to deny
caretakers as in the allegation of private respondent, who, by the petition.
reason of the permit abovementioned, have solid basis of their
claim to the right of possession with petitioners merely as Separate Opinions
caretakers.
ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring:
There are compelling reasons of policy supporting the recognition
of a right in a bona fide applicant who has occupied the land I reiterate my view that when a decision of the Court of Appeals is
applied for. Recognition of the right encourages actual settlement; sustained for the same reasons given by it, as in this case, it is not
it discourages speculation and land-grabbing. It prevents conflicts time economical to write a decision because a simple denial of the
and the overlapping of claims. It is an act of simple justice to the petition for lack of merit is sufficient. For this reason I vote to deny
diligence of the pioneer, without which land settlement can not be the petition.
encouraged or emigration from thickly populated areas hastened. 8

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby denied and the decision of the


Court of Appeals sought to be reviewed is affirmed. The temporary