HEIRS OF TELESFORO JULAO, namely, ANITA VDA. DE ENRIQUEZ, SONIA J.

TOLENTINO and RODERICK JULAO,

v.

SPOUSES ALEJANDRO and MORENITA DE JESUS

G.R. No. 176020 September 29, 2014

FACTS:

In 1960, Telesforo Julao filed before DENR two Townsite Sales Applications.
Upon his death on June 1, 1971, his applications were transferred to his heirs. On April
30, 1979, Solito Julao (Solito) executed a Deed of Transfer of Rights, transferring
his hereditary share in the property covered by TSA No. V-6667 to respondent spouses
Alejandro and Morenita De Jesus. In 1983, respondent spouses constructed a house on
the property they acquired from Solito. In 1986, Solito went missing.

On December 21, 1998, Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-2446, covering
a 641-square meter property, was issued in favor of the heirs of Telesforo.

On March 2, 1999, petitioners representing themselves to be the heirs of
Telesforo, filed before the RTC of Baguio City, a Complaint or Recovery of Possession of
Real Property against respondent spouses. Petitioners alleged that they are the true and
lawful owners of a 641-square meter parcel of land located at Naguilian Road, Baguio
City, covered by OCT No. P-2446; that the subject property originated from TSA No. V-
2132; that respondent spouses’ house encroached on 70 square meters of the subject
property, among others.

RTC ruled in favor of petitioners. CA reversed the decision on two grounds: (1)
failure on the part of petitioners to identify the property sought to be recovered; and (2)
lack of jurisdiction.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the RTC acquired jurisdiction over the complaint.

HELD:

NO. The Court held that in an action for recovery of possession, the assessed
value of the property sought to be recovered determines the court’s jurisdiction.

In this case, for the RTC to exercisejurisdiction, the assessed value of the
subject property must exceed P20,000.00. Since petitioners failed to allege in their
Complaint the assessed value of the subject property, the CA correctlydismissed
the Complaint as petitioners failed to establish that the RTC had jurisdiction over
it. In fact, since the assessed value of the property was not alleged, it cannot be
determined which trial court had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case.

In an action to recover, the property must be identified.

Moreover, Article 434 of the Civil Code states that “in an action to recover, the
property must be identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his title and not
on the weakness of the defendant’s claim.” The plaintiff, therefore, is duty-bound to clearly
identify the land sought to be recovered, in accordance with the title on which he anchors
his right of ownership.66 It bears stressing that the failure of the plaintiff to establish the
identity of the property claimed is fatal to his case.

In this case, petitioners failed to identify the property they seek to recover as
they failed to describe the location, the area, as well as the boundaries thereof. In fact,
as aptly pointed out by the CA, no survey plan was presented by petitioners to prove that
respondent spouses actually encroached upon the 70-square meterportion of petitioners’
property. Failing to prove their allegation, petitioners are not entitled to the relief prayed
for in their Complaint.

FALLO:

WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated December
4, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 72845 is hereby AFFIRMED.

Casimiro Development Corporation vs. Renato L. Mateo
G.R. No. 175485, July 17, 2011

FACTS:

In 1988, petitioner purchased from China Bank the land in question which was previously
sold by the mother of Mateo to Rodolfo Pe who in turn constituted a mortgage on the
property in favor of China Bank as security for a loan. China Bank foreclosed the
mortgage and consolidated its ownership of the property after Rodolfo failed to redeem.
A TCT was issued in the name of China Bank. In 1991, CDC brought an action for
unlawful detatiner against the respondent’s siblings. Respondent counters that CDC
acquired the property from China Bank in bad faith because it had actual knowledge of
the possession of the property by the respondent and his siblings.

ISSUE:

Whether Or Not CDC had acquired ownership over the property and Whether or not CDC
was an innocent purchaser for value.
HELD:

Respondent Renato Mateo brought suit against petitioner on his right as a co-owner
thereof, and NOT as an agricultural lessee as the decision wrongly found.

This present action for quieting of title and reconveyance is determinative of the issue of
ownership of the subject property over and above the previous case of ejectment,
following Roman Catholic Archbishop of Caceres vs. Heirs of Manuel Abella.

The record demonstrates other overwhelming evidence of petitioner CDC's bad faith
when it purchased the disputed property.

Evidence adduced on Laura Mateo's title is permissible since Laura Mateo herself
introduced evidence on the circumstances surrounding her title.

This action for quieting of title and reconveyance was brought against respondent
corporation by the real owners of the property who entitled to protection under the law.

CDC as well as China Bank never acquired ownership of the property due to a complete
absence of traditio or delivery of property to any of them.

One who deals with property registered under the Torrens system need not go beyond
the certificate of title, but only has to rely on the certificate of title. He is charged with
notice only of such burdens and claims as are annotated on the title. China Bank’s TCT’s
was a clean title, that is, it was free from any lien or encumbrance, CDC had the right to
rely, when it purchased the property, solely upon the face of the certificate of title in the
name of China Bank. The respondent’s siblings’ possession did not translate to an
adverse claim of ownership. They even characterized their possession only as that of
mere agricultural tenants. Under no law was possession grounded on tenancy a status
that might create a defect or inflict a law in the title of the owner. CDC having paid the full
and fair price of the land, was an innocent purchaser for value. The TCT in the name of
CDC was declared valid and subsisting.

FELICIANO vs. ZALDIVAR

G.R. No. 162593; September 26, 2006

FACTS: Feliciano filed against the spouses Aurelio and Luz Zaldivar a complaint for
declaration of nullity of Transfer Certificate of Title and reconveyance of the subject
property in Cagayan de Oro City. The said title is registered in the name of Aurelio
Zaldivar.
In her complaint,Feliciano alleged that she was the registered owner of a parcel of land
covered by a TCT. Sometime in 1974, Aurelio, allegedly through fraud, was able to obtain
a TCT covering the portion of Feliciano’s lot as described in her TCT.

According to Feliciano, the subject lot was originally leased from her by Pio Dalman,
Aurelio’s father-in-law. She further alleged that she was going to mortgage the subject lot
to Ignacio Gil which however, did not push through because Gil took back the money
without returning the receipt she had signed as evidence of the supposed mortgage
contract. Thereafter, in 1974, Aurelio filed with the then CFI of Misamis Oriental a petition
for partial cancellation of theTCT in Feliciano’s name. It was allegedly made to appear
therein that Aurelio and his spouse Luz acquired the subject lot from Dalman who, in turn,
purchased it from Gil. The petition was granted and a TCT was issued in Aurelio’s name.

Remegia denied that she sold the subject lot either to Gil or Dalman. She likewise
impugned as falsified the joint affidavit of confirmation of sale that she and her uncle,
Narciso Labuntog, purportedly executed before a notary public, where Remegia appears
to have confirmed the sale of the subject property to Gil. She alleged that she never parted
with the certificate of title and that it was never lost. As proof that the sale of the subject
lot never transpired, Remegia pointed out that the transaction was not annotated on her
TCT.

In their answer, the spouses Zaldivar denied the material allegations in the complaint and
raised the affirmative defense that Aurelio is the absolute owner and possessor of the
subject lot as evidenced by his TCT and Tax Declaration covering the same. Aurelio
claimed that he acquired the subject lot by purchase from Dalman who, in turn, bought
the same from Gil on April 4, 1951. Gil allegedly purchased the subject lot from Remegia
and this sale was allegedly conformed and ratified by the latter and her uncle, Narciso
Labuntog, before a notary public on December 3, 1965.

After Aurelio obtained a loan from the GSIS, the spouses Zaldivar constructed their house
on the subject lot. They alleged that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been
occupying the said property openly, publicly, adversely and continuously for over 41 years
already. Aurelio filed a petition for the issuance of a new owner’s duplicate copy of
because when he asked Remegia about it, the latter claimed that it had been lost.

The RTC rendered judgment in favor of Remegia. On appeal, the CA reversed the
decision of the RTC and ruled in favor of the spouses Zaldivar. When their MR was denied
by the CA, the heirs of Feliciano (the petitioners) sought recourse to the Court in their
petition for review.

ISSUE: Whether Or Not the CA erred:

1. in ruling that the court who ordered the issuance of new certificate of title despite
existence of owner’s duplicate copy that was never lost has jurisdiction over the case.

2. in concluding that the respondents (defendants-appellants) are the absolute owners of
the subject lot based on the TCT issued to them.
3. in concluding that petitioner’s claim of ownership over the subject lot was barred by
estoppel or laches.

HELD: WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the CA are
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision RTC of Cagayan de Oro City is
REINSTATED with the MODIFICATION that petitioners are likewise ordered to exercise
the option under Article 448 of the Civil Code.

1. YES. As the trial court correctly held, the CFI which granted respondent Aurelio’s
petition for the issuance of a new owner’s duplicate copy did not acquire jurisdiction to
issue such order. It has been consistently ruled that “when the owner’s duplicate
certificate of title has not been lost, but is in fact in the possession of another person, then
the reconstituted certificate is void, because the court that rendered the decision had no
jurisdiction. Reconstitution can validly be made only in case of loss of the original
certificate.” In such a case, the decision authorizing the issuance of a new owner’s
duplicate certificate of title may be attacked any time

2. YES. The court a quo correctly nullified the TCT in Aurelio’s name, emanating as it did
from the new owner’s duplicate, which Aurelio procured through fraud.

The appellate court’s reliance on the joint affidavit of confirmation of sale purportedly
executed by Remegia and her uncle, Narciso Labuntog, is not proper. In the first place,
respondent Aurelio cannot rely on the joint affidavit of confirmation of sale to prove
that they had validly acquired the subject lot because, by itself, an affidavit is not a mode
of acquiring ownership.Moreover, the affidavit is written entirely in English, the
hearing revealing that Feliciano does not understand English.

On this point, Article 1332 of the Civil Code is relevant:

ART.1332. When one of the parties is unable to read, or if the contract is in a language
not understood by him, and mistake or fraud is alleged, the person enforcing the contract
must show that the terms thereof have been fully explained to the former.

If the person enforcing the contract fails to discharge this burden, the presumption of
mistake, if not, fraud, stands unrebutted and controlling. The bare statement of Atty. Velez
(testified for the Zaldivar spouses) that he “read and interpreted” the document to the
affiants and that he asked them as to the correctness of its contents does not necessarily
establish that Remegia actually comprehended or understood the import of the joint
affidavit of confirmation of sale

In a long line of cases, the Court has consistently ruled that lands covered by a title cannot
be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. A claim of acquisitive prescription is
baseless when the land involved is a registered land.

Moreover, respondent Aurelio cannot raise the defense of indefeasibility of [his] title
because “the principle of indefeasibility of a Torrens title does not apply where fraud
attended the issuance of the title. The Torrens title does not furnish a shield for fraud.” As
such, a title issued based on void documents may be annulled.

3. As registered owners of the lots in question, the private respondents have a right to
eject any person illegally occupying their property. This right is imprescriptible. Even if it
be supposed that they were aware of the petitioner’s occupation of the property, and
regardless of the length of that possession, the lawful owners have a right to demand the
return of their property at any time as long as the possession was unauthorized or merely
tolerated, if at all. This right is never barred by laches

Nonetheless, the Court is not unmindful of the fact that respondents had built their house
on the subject lot and, despite knowledge thereof, Remegia did not lift a finger to prevent
it. Article 453 of the Civil Code is applicable to their case:

ART. 453. If there was bad faith, not only on the part of the person who built, planted or
sowed on the land of another, but also on the part of the owner of such land, the rights of
one and the other shall be the same as though both had acted in good faith.

It is understood that there is bad faith on the part of the landowner whenever the act was
done with his knowledge and without opposition on his part.

Under the circumstances, respondents and Remegia are in mutual bad faith and, as such,
would entitle the former to the application of Article 448 of the Civil Code governing
builders in good faith:

ART. 448. The owner of the land on which anything has been built, sown or planted in
good faith, shall have the right to appropriate as his own the works, sowing or planting,
after payment of the indemnity provided for in Articles 546 29 and 548,30 or to oblige the
one who built or planted to pay the price of the land, and the one who sowed, the proper
rent. However, the builder or planter cannot be obliged to buy the land if its value is
considerably more than that of the building or trees. In such a case, he shall pay
reasonable rent, if the owner of the land does not choose to appropriate the building or
trees after the proper indemnity. The parties shall agree upon the terms of the lease and
in case of disagreement, the court shall fix the terms thereof.

Following the above provision, the owner of the land on which anything has been built,
sown or planted in good faith shall have the right to appropriate as his own the building,
planting or sowing, after payment to the builder, planter or sower of the necessary and
useful expenses, and in the proper case, expenses for pure luxury or mere pleasure.

Consequently, the petitioners are obliged to exercise either of the following options:

(1) to appropriate the improvements, including the house, built by the respondents on the
subject lot by paying the indemnity required by law, or

(2) sell the subject lot to the respondents.
Petitioners cannot refuse to exercise either option and compel respondents to remove
their house from the land. In case petitioners choose to exercise the second option,
respondents are not obliged to purchase the subject lot if its value is considerably more
than the improvements thereon and in which case, respondents must pay rent to
petitioners. If they are unable to agree on the terms of the lease, the court shall fix the
terms thereof.

VSD REALTY &DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, -VS- UNIWIDE SALES, INC. AND
DOLORES BAELLO TEJADA,
G.R. NO. 170677, 31 JULY 2013,

FACTS: On June 8, 1995, petitioner VSD Realty and Development Corporation (VSD)
filed a Complaint for annulment of title and recovery of possession of property against
respondents Uniwide Sales, Inc. (Uniwide) and Dolores Baello[3] with the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 126 (trial court). Petitioner sought the nullification
of Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. (35788) 12754 in the name of Dolores Baello
and the recovery of possession of property that is being occupied by Uniwide by virtue of
a contract of lease with Dolores Baello.

Petitioner VSD alleged that it is the registered owner of a parcel of land in Caloocan City,
with an area of 2,835.30 square meters, more or less, and covered by TCT No. T-
285312[4]of the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City. VSD bought the said property from
Felisa D. Bonifacio, whose title thereto, TCT No. 265777, was registered by virtue of an
Order[5]dated October 8, 1992 authorizing the segregation of the same in Land
Registration Commission (LRC) Case No. C-3288. Petitioner also alleged that its right to
the subject property and the validity and correctness of the technical description and
location of the property are duly established in LRC Case No. C-3288.[6] Petitioner alleged
that its title, TCT No. 285312, is the correct, valid and legal document that covers the
subject property, since it is the result of land registration proceedings in accordance with
law.

Petitioner alleged that respondent Baello's title, TCT No. 35788, covering the same
property, is spurious and can only be the result of falsification and illegal machinations,
and has no legal basis to establish any right over the subject property. Moreover, the
technical description of Baello's title is so general that it is impossible to determine with
certainty the exact location of the property covered by it. Petitioner further alleged that the
technical description has no legal basis per the records of the Lands Management Bureau
and the Bureau of Lands. It added that Baello's title described the property to be Lot 3-A
of subdivision plan Psd 706, but an examination of Psd 706 shows that there is no Lot 3-
A in plan Psd 706. Petitioner contends that in view of the foregoing reasons, Baello has
no legal basis to claim the subject property, and Baello's title, TCT No. 35788, is spurious
and illegal and should be annulled. Thus, petitioner sought recovery of possession of the
subject property and the payment of rent from respondents.

Respondent Baello filed a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that the complaint stated no
cause of action, and that the demand for annulment of title and/or conveyance, whether
grounded upon the commission of fraud or upon a constructive trust, has prescribed, and
is barred by laches. The trial court denied Baello's motion to dismiss as well as Baello's
subsequent motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.

Thereafter, respondent Baello filed an Answer, alleging that the subject property was
bequeathed to her through a will by her adoptive mother, Jacoba Galauran. She alleged
that during the lifetime of Jacoba Galauran, the subject property was originally surveyed
on January 24-26, 19237 and, thereafter, on December 29, 1924.[8] Baello alleged that
after Jacoba Galauran died in 1952, her will was duly approved by the probate court, the
Court of First Instance, Pasig, Rizal. Baello stated that she registered the subject property
in her name, and TCT No. (35788) 12754[9] was issued in her favor on September 6,
1954. In 1959, she had the subject property surveyed. On July 15, 1988, she entered into
a Contract of Lease[10]with respondent Uniwide, which erected in full public view the
building it presently occupies. Baello stated that she has been religiously paying realty
taxes for the subject property,[11] and that the Complaint should be dismissed as she
enjoys a superior right over the subject property because the registration of her title
predates the registration of petitioner's title by at least 40 years.

The deposition of respondent Baello, which was taken on October 1, 1998 at the
Philippine Consular Office in San Francisco, California, United States of America,
affirmed the same facts stated in her Answer.

RTC: On October 2, 2000, the trial court rendered a Decision[12] in favor of petitioner. The
trial court held that the evidence for petitioner showed that it is the rightful owner of the
subject lot covered by TCT No. 285312 of the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City. The
lot was purchased by petitioner from Felisa D. Bonifacio, who became the owner thereof
by virtue of her petition for segregation of the subject property from Original Certificate of
Title (OCT) No. 994 of the Register of Deeds of Rizal in LRC Case No. C-3288. TCT No.
265777 was issued to Felisa Bonifacio pursuant to an Order dated October 8, 1992 by
the RTC of Caloocan City in LRC Case No. C-3288. The trial court stated that it cannot
question the Order (in LRC Case No. C-3288) issued by a co-equal court in this respect,
considering that Regional Trial Courts now have the authority to act not only on
applications for original registration, but also over all petitions filed after original
registration of title, with power to hear and determine all questions arising from such
applications or petitions.
Moreover, the trial court found that the technical description in respondent Baello's title is
not the same as the technical description in petitioner's title, and that a mere reading of
the technical description in petitioner's title and that in Baello's title would show that they
are not one and the same. The trial court averred that the technical description of the
subject lot in petitioner's title is recorded with the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City. [13]

The trial court stated that in the face of the documentary and testimonial evidence of
competent government witnesses who affirmed petitioner's right to the technical
description, it was incumbent on respondent Baello to present credible evidence to
overcome the same, but she failed to do so. The trial court held that from the evidence
adduced, petitioner is the registered owner of TCT No. 285312, formerly TCT No. 265777
when Felisa D. Bonifacio was the registered owner, while respondent Baello is the
registered owner of a parcel of land covered by TCT No. (35788) 12754 and respondent
Uniwide is a mere lessee of the land. Baello is the holder of a title over a lot entirely
different and not in any way related to petitioner's title and its technical description.
Petitioner proved its ownership and the identity of the subject property that it sought to
recover, which is an essential requisite in its action for annulment of title and recovery of
possession of property. The dispositive portion of the trial court's Decision reads:

CA: Respondents appealed the trial court's decision to the Court of Appeals, which
rendered a Decision dated May 30, 2005 in favor of respondents, and reversed and set
aside the Decision of the RTC and dismissed petitioner's complaint.

The Court of Appeals stated that the main issue to be resolved was whether or not there
was a valid ground to annul respondent Baello's TCT No. (35788) 12754 to warrant the
reconveyance of the subject property to petitioner. The Court of Appeals stated that based
on existing jurisprudence, a certificate of title may be annulled or cancelled by the court
under the following grounds: (1) when the title is void because (a) it was procured through
fraud, (b) it was issued for a land already covered by a prior Torrens title, (c) it covers
land reserved for military, naval or civil public purposes, and (d) it covers a land which
has not been brought under the registration proceeding; (2) when the title is replaced by
one issued under a cadastral proceeding; and (3) when the condition for its issuance has
been violated by the registered owner.[15] The Court of Appeals averred that while
petitioner sought to annul respondent Baello's TCT No. 35788 on the ground that the
same was spurious, it failed to prove that Baello's title was indeed spurious.

The appellate court also noted that the trial court's decision never mentioned that Baello's
title was spurious. It further stated that any doubt or uncertainty as to the technical
description contained in a certificate of title is not a ground for annulment of title. It held
that since there was no legal basis for the annulment of Baello's TCT No. 35788, the trial
court erred in declaring the said title null and void. It stated that well settled is the rule that
a Torrens title is generally conclusive evidence of ownership of the land referred to
therein, and a strong presumption exists that it was regularly issued and valid. [16] Hence,
respondent Baello's TCT No. 35788 enjoys the presumption of validity.

Petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari before this Court.
ISSUE:
Whether or not petitioner is entitled to recover possession of the subject property; and,
whether or not the title of respondent Baello may be annulled.

HELD:
The established legal principle in actions for annulment or reconveyance of title is that a
party seeking it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear
and convincing evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his. [18]Article 434[19] of
the Civil Code provides that to successfully maintain an action to recover the ownership
of a real property, the person who claims a better right to it must prove two (2)
things: first, the identity of the land claimed, and; second, his title thereto.[20] In an action
to recover, the property must be identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of
his title and not on the weakness of the defendant's claim.[21]

The Court upheld the decision of the trial court that petitioner was able to establish
through documentary and testimonial evidence that the technical description of its
Torrens title, embodying the identity of the land claimed, covers the property that is being
occupied by respondent Uniwide by virtue of a lease contract with respondent Baello, and
that a comparison of the technical description of the land covered by the title of petitioner
and the technical description of the land covered by the title of Baello shows that they are
not the same. Hence, the Court granted the petition, and reversed and set aside the
Decision of the Court of Appeals and its Resolution denying petitioners' motion for
reconsideration; and the Decision of the RTC was reinstated with modification.

G.R. No. 179990 October 23, 2013

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, vs. DIOSDADA I. GIELCZYK,

FACTS: On July 17, 1995, the respondent sought the registration under her name of the
lands denominated as Lot No. 3135-A and Lot No. 3136-A of Plans Csd-072219-004552
and Csd-072219-004551. Both lands were situated in Jugan, Consolacion, Cebu.

In her verified application in LRC Case No. N-452, the respondent claimed that she is the
owner of the two parcels of land, which are situated, bounded and specifically described
in Plans Csd-072219-004552 and Csd-072219-004551.
A parcel of land situated in the Barrio of Jugan, Municipality of Consolacion, Province of
Cebu, Island of Cebu. Containing an area of TWO THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED
EIGHTY FIVE (2,285) SQUARE METERS, more or less.

A parcel of land situated in the Barrio of Jugan, Municipality of Consolacion, Province of
Cebu, Island of Cebu. Containing an area of TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED TEN
(2,610) SQUARE METERS, more or less. The date of original survey July 14, 1987-
November 11, 1987, and that of the subdivision survey executed by Geodetic Engineer
Norvic S. Abella on November 12, 1993 and approved on May 24, 1994.

The respondent further alleged the following: (a) that the said parcels of land were last
assessed for taxation at P2,400.00; (b) that to the best of her knowledge and belief, there
is no mortgage nor encumbrance of any kind affecting said land, nor any person having
interest therein, legal or equitable; (c) that she had been in open, complete, continuous,
and peaceful possession in the concept of an owner over said parcels of land up to the
present time for more than 30 years, including the possession of her predecessors-in-
interest; (d) that she acquired title to said land by virtue of the deeds of absolute sale; and
(e) that said land is not occupied.7

To prove her claim, the respondent submitted the following pieces of evidence:

(a) Approved plans of Lot Nos. 3135-A and 3136-A;9

(b) Approved technical descriptions of the same lots;10

(c) Certification from the Chief, Technical Services Section, Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Region 7, Central Visayas Lands
Management Services in lieu of surveyor’s certificates;11

(d) Latest tax declarations of the lots;12

(e) Latest tax clearance of the same lots;13

(f) Deeds of Sale in favor of the respondent;14

(g) Certifications from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer
(CENRO), Cebu City, that the lots are alienable and disposable;15 and

(h) Certification from the Chief, Records Section, DENR, Region 7, Cebu City that
the same lots are not subject to public land application.16

Furthermore, when the respondent testified in court, her testimony sought to establish the
following:

(i) That the respondent acquired Lot No. 3136-A (which is identical to Lot 20045,
and is situated in Jugan, Consolacion, Cebu, with an area of 2,610 sq m), and Lot
No. 3135-A (which is identical to Lot 20047, and is situated in Jugan, Consolacion,
Cebu, with an area of 2,285 sq m) through purchase from Constancio Ceniza and
Luisa Ceniza respectively;17

(ii) That the respondent was never delinquent in paying the taxes for the said lots.

(iii) That the said parcels of land are alienable and disposable and are not covered
by subsisting public land application;19

(iv) That the respondent and her respective predecessors-in-interest had been in
possession of Lot No. 3135-A and Lot No. 3136-A for more than 40 years in the
concept of an owner, exclusively, completely, continuously, publicly, peacefully,
notoriously and adversely, and no other person has claimed ownership over the
same land;20 and

(v) That the respondent is a Filipino Citizen and that despite her marriage to an
American national, she has retained her Filipino citizenship.21

The petitioner filed an opposition dated September 18, 1995 to the respondent’s
application for registration of title, alleging among others:

1) That neither the respondent nor her predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land in
question since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto;22

(2) That the muniments of title and/or the tax declarations and tax payment receipts
of the respondent attached to or alleged in the application do not constitute
competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the land applied for
or of their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
thereof in the concept of an owner since June 12, 1945, or prior thereto; and that
said muniments of title do not appear to be genuine and the tax declarations and/or
tax payment receipts indicate the pretended possession of the respondent to be of
recent vintage;23

(3) That the respondent can no longer avail of the claim of ownership in fee simple
on the basis of Spanish title or grant since she has failed to file an appropriate
application for registration within the period of six months from February 16, 1976
as required by Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 892. From the records, the petitioner
further alleged that the instant application was filed on July 7, 1995;24

(4) That the parcel of land applied for is a portion of the public domain belonging
to the petitioner and that the said parcel is not subject to private appropriation. 25

On November 3, 1999, the RTC rendered its Decision26 in favor of the respondent, the
dispositive portion of which provides:
WHEREFORE, from all the foregoing undisputed facts supported by oral and
documentary evidence, the Court finds and so holds that the applicant has registrable title
over subject lots, and the same title is hereby confirmed. Consequently, the Administrator,
Land Registration Authority is hereby directed to issue Decree of Registration and
Original Certificate of Title to Lots 3135-A and 3136-A [sic], both situated at Jugan,
Consolacion, Cebu in the name of the applicant DIOSDADA I. GIELCZYK, 44 years old,
Filipino, married to Philip James Gielczyk, American national, resident of No. 4 Noel St.,
UHV, Paranaque, Metro Manila, as her exclusive paraphernal property. Upon finality of
this judgment, let a corresponding decree of registration and original certificate of title be
issued to subject lot in accordance with Sec. 39, PD 1529.

Not convinced of the RTC’s decision, the petitioner filed an appeal dated August 5, 2002
before the CA, which was also denied on September 21, 2007, 28 the dispositive portion
of which provides:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED in
its entirety.29

Thus, the petitioner filed the present Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules
of Court.

ISSUE: Whether Or Not the CA erred in upholding the ruling of the trial court that
respondent was able to prove that she and her predecessors findings rest have been in
open, complete, continuous, notorious, exclusive and peaceful possession over the lands
subject of the application for original registration for a period of over 40 years through
mere tax declarations and in the absence of proof when the subject lots were declared
alienable & disposable lands of public domain.

HELD: The respondent failed to completely prove that there was an expressed State
declaration that the properties in question are no longer intended for public use, public
service, the development of the national wealth and have been converted into patrimonial
property, and to meet the period of possession and occupation required by law.

Section 14 of P.D. No. 1529 or The Property Registration Decree enumerates the persons
who may apply for the registration of title to land, to wit:

Sec. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First
Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their
duly authorized representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in- interest have been
in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. (2) Those who have acquired ownership
of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws.

(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds
by right of accession or accretion under the existing laws.

(4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for
by law.

In the assailed decision granting the respondent’s application for registration of title, the
CA explained that the RTC’s decision was based on Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529 and
not on Section 14(1) of the same decree.32 The CA said:

However, a judicious scrutiny of the attendant facts would reveal that the assailed
decision of the RTC was based not on PD No. 1529, Section 14(1), but under Section
14(2) of said issuance. The pertinent portion of the decision is quoted as follows:

"From the documentary evidence presented and formally offered by the applicant, the
Court is convinced that she and her predecessors-in-interest has (sic) been in open,
complete, continuous, notorious, exclusive and peaceful possession over the lands herein
applied for registration of title, for a period of over 40 years, in the concept of an owner
and that applicant has registrable title over same lots in accordance with Sec. 14, PD
1529."

A closer scrutiny will show that the questioned decision was based on PD No. 1529,
Section 14(2).

In the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals and Naguit, it was ruled
that:

Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073
preclude the application for registration of alienable lands of the public domain,
possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering
Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the
application of "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under
the provisions of existing laws."

"Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. There is a
consistent jurisprudential rule that properties classified as alienable public land may be
converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession
of at least thirty (30) years. With such conversion, such property may now fall within the
contemplation of "private lands" under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to registration
by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of
the alienable public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such
possession being been [sic] open, continuous and exclusive, then the possessor may
have the right to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration
Decree."

In the instant case, applicant-appellee was able to present tax declarations dating back
from 1948. Although tax declarations and realty tax payment of property are not
conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they are good indicia of the 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 the least constructive, possession. They constitute proof that
the holder has a claim of title over the property. The voluntary declaration of a piece of
property for taxation purposes manifests, not only one’s sincere and honest desire to
obtain title to the property, but it also announces his adverse claim against the State and
all other interested parties, including his intention to contribute to the needed revenues of
the Government. All told, such acts strengthen one’s bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership.33 (Citations omitted)

The Court agrees with the CA’s finding that the RTC’s grant of the respondent’s
application for registration of title was based on Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529 and not
on Section 14(1) of the same decree. As the CA, citing Republic of the Philippines v.
Court of Appeals and Naguit,34correctly explained, an applicant may apply for registration
of title through prescription under Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529, stating that patrimonial
properties of the State are susceptible of prescription and that there is a rich
jurisprudential precedents which rule that properties classified as alienable public land
may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive
possession of at least 30 years

From the foregoing testimony of the lone witness (the applicant-respondent herself), the
Court can deduce that, besides intermittently paying the tax dues on Lot No. 3135-A, the
respondent did not exercise acts of dominion over it. Neither can the Court give credence
to the respondent’s claim that her predecessors-in-interest had exercised dominion over
the property since the respondent failed to present any witness who would substantiate
her allegation. The pieces of documentary evidence, specifically the tax declarations and
the deeds of absolute sale, can neither be relied upon because the same revealed no
indication of any improvement that would have the Court conclude that the respondent
exercised specific acts of dominion. For instance, the deed of absolute sale simply said
that the improvements on Lot No. 3135-A consisted of two (2) coconut trees, one (1)
mango tree, one (1) caimito tree and one (1) jackfruit tree. 56 The tax declarations have
not shown any indication supporting the respondent’s claim that she exercised specific
acts of dominion.57

As to Lot No. 3136-A, the deed of absolute sale showed that there were 14 coconut trees,
eight (8) jackfruit trees, and a residential building, which was actually possessed by the
vendor Constancio Ceniza. Moreover, it was only in Tax Declaration Nos. 29200, 04210
and 13275 where it was declared that a residential building has been built in Lot No. 3136-
A.58 And based on the records, Tax Declaration No. 29200, where the residential building
was first indicated, is dated 1981. It may be said then that it was only in 1981 when the
respondent’s predecessors-in-interest exercised specific acts of dominion over Lot No.
3136-A, the period of which consists barely of 14 years. Thus, the respondent has not
completed the required 30 years of "open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation."

Clearly, from the pieces of documentary and testimonial evidence, and considering that
the respondent did not present any other witness to support her claim, the Court has no
other recourse but to declare that she has not presented the premium of evidence needed
to award her title over the two parcels of land.

Finally, the Court cannot end this decision without reiterating the final words of former
Associate Justice Dante O. Tinga in the case of Malabanan 59. Justice Tinga correctly
pointed out the need to review our present law on the distribution of lands to those who
have held them for a number of years but have failed to satisfy the requisites in acquiring
title to such land. Justice Tinga eloquently put the matter before us, thus:

A final word. The Court is comfortable with the correctness of the legal doctrines
established in this decision.1âwphi1 Nonetheless, discomfiture over the implications of
today’s ruling cannot be discounted. For, every untitled property that is occupied in the
country will be affected by this ruling. The social implications cannot be dismissed lightly,
and the Court would be abdicating its social responsibility to the Filipino people if we
simply levied the law without comment.

The informal settlement of public lands, whether declared alienable or not, is a
phenomenon tied to long-standing habit and cultural acquiescence, and is common
among the so-called "Third World" countries. This paradigm powerfully evokes the
disconnect between a legal system and the reality on the ground. The law so far has been
unable to bridge that gap. Alternative means of acquisition of these public domain lands,
such as through homestead or free patent, have proven unattractive due to limitations
imposed on the grantee in the encumbrance or alienation of said properties. Judicial
confirmation of imperfect title has emerged as the most viable, if not the most attractive
means to regularize the informal settlement of alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain, yet even that system, as revealed in this decision, has considerable limits.

There are millions upon millions of Filipinos who have individually or exclusively held
residential lands on which they have lived and raised their families. Many more have tilled
and made productive idle lands of the State with their hands. They have been regarded
for generation by their families and their communities as common law owners. There is
much to be said about the virtues of according them legitimate states. Yet such virtues
are not for the Court to translate into positive law, as the law itself considered such lands
as property of the public dominion.

It could only be up to Congress to set forth a new phase of land reform to sensibly
regularize and formalize the settlement of such lands which in legal theory are lands of
the public domain before the problem becomes insoluble. This could be accomplished, to
cite two examples, by liberalizing the standards for judicial confirmation of imperfect title,
or amending the Civil Code itself to ease the requisites for the conversion of public
dominion property into patrimonial.

One’s sense of security over land rights infuses into every aspect of well-being not only
of that individual, but also to the person s family. Once that sense of security is deprived,
life and livelihood are put on stasis. It is for the political branches to bring welcome closure
to the long pestering problem.60 (Citation omitted and emphasis supplied)

Indeed, the Court can only do as much to bring relief to those who, like herein respondent,
wish to acquire title to a land that they have bought. It is for our lawmakers to write the
law amending the present ones and addressing the reality on the ground, and which this
Court will interpret and apply as justice requires.

WHEREFORE in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the petition is GRANTED
and the Decision dated September 21, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
70078 is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE.