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CEQUEA v. BOLANTE (Ram) 1.

This case refers to a parcel of land in Barangay Bangad, Binangonan,


April 6, 2000 | Panganiban, J. | Possession & Ownership Province of Rizal having an area of 1,728 square meters.
2. Margarito Mendoza and Sinforoso Mendoza are brothers. Petitioners
PETITIONER: Fernanda Mendoza Cequea and Ruperta Mendoza Lirio Fernanda Mendoza Cequea and Ruperta Mendoza Lirio (Heirs of
RESPONDENTS: Honorata Mendoza Bolante Margarito) are the daughters of Margarito Mendoza, while respondent
Honorata Bolante (Honorata) is the daughter of Sinforoso Mendoza.
SUMMARY: Margarito Mendoza and Sinforoso Mendoza are brothers. 3. Prior to 1954, the land in Binangonan, Rizal, was originally declared for
Petitioners Fernanda Mendoza Cequea and Ruperta Mendoza Lirio (Heirs of taxation purposes in the name of Sinforoso Mendoza, father of respondent
Margarito) are the daughters of Margarito Mendoza, while respondent Honorata Honorata Mendoza Bolante and married to Eduarda Apiado. Sinforoso died
Bolante (Honorata) is the daughter of Sinforoso Mendoza. This case refers to a in 1930.
land in Rizal, which was originally declared for taxation purposes in the name of 4. On the basis of an affidavit, the tax declaration in the name of Sinforoso of
Sinforoso. When Sinforoso died in 1930, based on an affidavit the tax declaration the contested lot was cancelled and subsequently declared in the name of
in the name of Sinforoso was cancelled and subsequently declared in the name of Margarito Mendoza, but respondent Honorata is the present occupant of the
Margarito Mendoza. However, Honorata is the present occupant of the land. land.
During a cadastral survey, Honorata and Miguel (son of Margarito) had a dispute 5. In October 1975, Honorata and Miguel Mendoza (son of Margarito) during
over who owns the land. RTC ruled in favor of the heirs of Margarito, but the CA the cadastral survey had a dispute on the ownership of the land.
reversed the ruling. The issues in this case are (1) WoN respondent Honorata 6. RTC ruled in favor of the petitioners (heirs of Margarito) and ordered
enjoys presumption of a preferred possessor by virtue of her actual, physical, Honorata to vacate the property and deliver possession to the heirs of
exclusive and continuous possession of the land since 1985. YES ; (2) WoN Margarito Mendoza.
respondent Honoratas has possession of a better right to claim ownership over the 7. CA however reversed the ruling and sided with Honorata.
land. YES. The SC ruled that possession by the heirs of Margarito does not a. Honorata was in actual, physical, exclusive and continuous
prevail over that of the Honorata. Based on Article 538 of the Civil Code, possession since 1985 gave her a better title under Article 538 of
Honorata is the preferred possessor because benefiting from her father's tax the Civil Code
declaration of the subject lot since 1926, she has been in possession thereof for a b. The probative value of the tax receipts and declarations of the heirs
longer period, whereas petitioners' father acquired joint possession only in of Margarito diminished in comparison to Honoratas adverse
1952. To settle the issue of ownership, there is a need to determine who has possession of the land.
proven acquisitive prescription. Being the sole heir of her father, Honorata showed c. The genuineness and the due execution of the affidavit allegedly
through his tax receipt that she had been in possession of the land for more than signed by the Honorata and her mother had not been sufficiently
ten years since 1932, even after her father died. Her possession was not disturbed established; it was insufficient to overcome the denial of Honorata
until 1953 when Margarito claimed the land. Her possession, which was in the and her mother, Eduarda Apiado. Honorata testified that her
concept of owner public, peaceful, and uninterrupted had already ripened into mother, never having attended school, could neither read nor write.
ownership. Honorata also declared and paid realty taxes for the disputed land. In Also, Honorata said she had never been called "Leonor," which
contrast, the petitioners, despite thirty-two years of farming the subject land, did was how she was referred to in the affidavit.
not acquire ownership. Mere possession and occupation of land cannot ripen into 8. Hence, the heirs of Margarito appealed before the Supreme Court.
ownership. a. Honorata is not the preferred possessor under Article 538 CC
because she was not in notorious, actual, exclusive and continuous
DOCTRINE: Tax receipts and declarations are prima facie proofs of ownership possession of the land since 1985 because she only came into
or possession of the property for which such taxes have been paid. Coupled with possession of the land through force and violence.
proof of actual possession of the property, they may become the basis of a claim b. Actual, physical, exclusive and continuous possession of Honorata
for ownership. By acquisitive prescription, possession in the concept of owner of the land since 1985 does not prove her ownership over the land.
public, adverse, peaceful and uninterruptedmay be converted to ownership. On c. Affidavit must be admissible
the other hand, mere possession and occupation of land cannot ripen into i. The affidavit is the best evidence of their fathers
ownership. ownership of the land.
ii. It was signed and subscribed before a notary public.
FACTS: iii. It is unnecessary to present a witness to establish he
authenticity of the affidavit because it was a declaration
against respondents interest and was an ancient 1. Honorata argues that she was legally presumed to possess the subject land
document. As a declaration against interest, it is an with a just title since she possessed it in the concept of owner, and pursuant
exception to the hearsay rule. to Article 541 of the Code, she is not obliged to show or prove such title.
iv. Affidavit was executed on March 24, 1953 making it a 2. But the Court ruled that the presumption in Article 541 of the Civil Code
self-authenticating ancient document. is merely disputable; it prevails until the contrary is proven. One who is
disturbed in one's possession shall, under this provision, be restored thereto
ISSUES: by the means established by law.
1. WoN respondent Honorata enjoys presumption of a preferred possessor by 3. Article 538 settles only the question of possession, and possession is
virtue of her actual, physical, exclusive and continuous possession of the different from ownership. Ownership in this case should be established in
land since 1985. YES one of the ways provided by law.
2. WoN respondent Honoratas has possession of a better right to claim 4. To settle the issue of ownership, there is a need to determine who has
ownership over the land. YES proven acquisitive prescription.
3. Other Issue (Remedial Law): WoN the affidavit in this case can be 5. Ownership of immovable property is acquired by ordinary prescription
admissible in court as evidence? NO. through possession for ten years.
6. Being the sole heir of her father, Honorata showed through his tax receipt
RULING: Wherefore, petition is DENIED. CA ruling affirmed. that she had been in possession of the land for more than ten years since
1932, even after her father died. When she got married, she and her husband
RATIO: engaged in kaingin inside the disputed lot for their livelihood.
Preference of Possession 7. Her possession was not disturbed until 1953 when Margarito claimed the
1. The Court concedes that although the petitioners dispossessed the land in land.
1985, they did not lose legal possession, because possession cannot be 8. Her possession, which was in the concept of owner public, peaceful, and
acquired through force or violence. To all intents and purposes, a possessor, uninterrupted had already ripened into ownership.
even if physically ousted, is still deemed the legal possessor. Indeed, anyone 9. Moreover, Honorata declared and paid realty taxes for the disputed land.
who can prove prior possession, regardless of its character, may recover Tax receipts and declarations of ownership for taxation, when coupled
such possession. with proof of actual possession of the property, can be the basis of a
2. However, possession by the heirs of Margarito does not prevail over claim for ownership through prescription.
that of the Honorata. Possession by the heirs of Margarito before 1985 10. In contrast, the petitioners, despite thirty-two years of farming the subject
was not exclusive, as Honorata also acquired it before 1985. Petitioners land, did not acquire ownership. Ownership cannot be acquired by mere
father and brother, as well as Honorata and her mother were simultaneously occupation. Unless coupled with the element of hostility toward the true
in adverse possession of the land. owner, occupation and use, however long, will not confer title by
3. Before 1985, the subject land was occupied and cultivated by the Sinforoso prescription or adverse possession.
(Honoratas father), as evidenced by a tax declaration. When Sinforoso died 11. Also, although their father and brother arguably acquired ownership through
in 1930, Margarito took possession of the land and cultivated it with his son extraordinary prescription because of their adverse possession for thirty-two
Miguel, while Honorata and her mother continued residing on the lot. years (1953-1985), this supposed ownership cannot extend to the whole lot,
4. Upon coming of age, Honorata paid realty taxes from 1932-1948, while but must be limited to the portion that they actually farmed.
Margarito declared the lot for taxation in his name in 1953 and paid taxes 12. Petitioners' contention that their ownership of the disputed land was
since 1952. When Margarito died, Miguel continued cultivating the land established before the trial court through the series of tax declarations and
despite Honorata and her mother were also living there. In 1985, Honorata receipts issued in the name of Margarito Mendoza is untenable. Such tax
ousted Miguel on the land. declarations and receipts prove that the holder has a claim of title over
5. Based on Article 538 of the Civil Code, Honorata is the preferred the property. They announce the holder's adverse claim against the state
possessor because benefiting from her father's tax declaration of the and other interested parties.
subject lot since 1926, she has been in possession thereof for a longer 13. However, tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of
period, whereas petitioners' father acquired joint possession only in 1952. ownership. At most, they constitute mere prima facie proof of ownership or
possession of the property for which taxes have been paid.
Ownership/Possession of Better Right
14. In the absence of actual public and adverse possession, the declaration
of the land for tax purposes does not prove ownership. Petitioners' claim
of ownership of the land has no legal basis.

Admissibility of the Affidavit


1. General rule: An affidavit is classified as hearsay evidence, unless the
affiant is placed on the witness stand.
2. Affidavits are not considered the best evidence, if affiants are available as
witnesses.
3. There were no expert testimony or competent witness who attested to the
genuineness of the questioned signatures.
4. Honoratas mother is illiterate, so she could not have executed an affidavit.
5. Before a private document offered as authentic can be received in evidence,
its due execution and authenticity must be proved first.8
6. Before a document is admitted as an exception to the hearsay rule under the
Dead Mans Statute, the offeror must show
a. That the declarant is dead, insane or unable to testify;
b. That the declaration concerns a fact cognizable by the declarant;
c. That at the time the declaration was made, he was aware that the
same was contrary to his interest; and
d. That circumstances render improbable the existence of any motive
to falsify.
7. One of the affiants is still alive Honorata and she testified that the
signature in the affidavit was not hers.
8. A declaration against interest is not admissible if the declarant is available
to testify as a witness.
9. Affidavit cannot be considered an ancient document.
10. An ancient document must on its face appear to be genuine. It must be
a. More than 30 years old
b. Found in the proper custody, and
c. Unblemished by any alteration or by any circumstance of
suspicion.
11. The heirs of Margarito failed to explain how the purported signature of
Eduarda Apiado could have been affixed to the subject affidavit if,
according to the witness, she was an illiterate woman who never had any
formal schooling. This circumstance casts suspicion on its authenticity.
12. Not all notarized documents are exempted from the rule on authentication.
Thus, an affidavit does not automatically become a public document just
because it contains a notarial jurat.
13. The affidavit does not also state how the ownership of the subject land was
transferred from Sinforoso Mendoza to Margarito Mendoza.
14. By itself, an affidavit is not a mode of acquiring ownership.