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THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 111141. March 6, 1998]

MARIO Z. TITONG, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS (4th Division), VICTORICO
LAURIO and ANGELES LAURIO, respondents.

DECISION

ROMERO, J.:

Like a priceless treasure coveted by many, but capable of ownership by only one, this 20,592 square-
meter parcel of land located at Barrio Titong, Masbate, Masbate is claimed by two contestants in this
petition for review on certiorari. Unfortunately, legal title over the property can be vested in only one of
them.

The case originated from an action for quieting of title filed by petitioner Mario Titong. The Regional Trial
Court of Masbate, Masbate, Branch 44i[1] ruled in favor of private respondents, Victorico Laurio and
Angeles Laurio, adjudging them as the true and lawful owners of the disputed land. Affirmed on appeal to
the Court of Appeals, petitioner comes to us for a favorable reversal.

Petitioner alleges that he is the owner of an unregistered parcel of land with an area of 3.2800 hectares,
more or less, surveyed as Lot No. 3918, and declared for taxation purposes in his name. He claims that
on three separate occasions in September 1983, private respondents, with their hired laborers, forcibly
entered a portion of the land containing an area of approximately two (2) hectares, and began plowing the
same under pretext of ownership. Private respondents denied this allegation, and averred that the
disputed property formed part of the 5.5-hectare agricultural land which they had purchased from their
predecessor-in-interest,ii[2] Pablo Espinosa on August 10, 1981.

In his testimony, petitioner identified Espinosa as his adjoining owneriii[3], asserting that no controversy
had sprouted between them for twenty years until the latter sold Lot No. 3479 to private respondent
Victorico Laurio.iv[4] This was corroborated by Ignacio Villamor, who had worked on the land even before
its sale to Espinosa in 1962. The boundary between the land sold to Espinosa and what remained of
petitioners property was the old Bugsayon river. When petitioner employed Bienvenido Lerit as his tenant
in 1962, he instructed Lerit to change the course of the old river and direct the flow of water to the lowland
at the southern portion of petitioners property, thus converting the old river into a riceland.v[5]

For his part, private respondent anchors his defense on the following facts:

He denied petitioners claim of ownership, recounting that the area and boundaries of the disputed land
remained unaltered during the series of conveyances prior to its coming into his hands. According to him,
petitioner first declared the land for taxation purposes under Tax Declaration No. 2916,vi[6] which showed
that the land had an area of 5.5 hectares and was bounded on the North by the Bugsayon River; on the
East by property under the ownership of Lucio Lerit; on the South by property owner by Potenciano
Zaragoza; and on the West by property owned by Agapito de la Cruz.vii[7] Private Respondent then
alleges that, on December 21, 1960, petitioner sold this property to Concepcion Verano vda. de Cabug,
after which Tax Declaration No. 5339viii[8] was issued in her favor. In compliance with their mutual
agreement to repurchase the same, petitioner reacquired the property by way of saleix[9] on August 24,
1962 and then declared it for taxation purposes in his name under Tax Declaration No. 5720.x[10]
However, the property remained in petitioners hands for only four (4) days because, on August 28, 1962,
he sold it to Espinosaxi[11] who then declared it in his name under Tax Declaration No. 12311.xii[12]
Consequently, the property became a part of the estate of Pablo Espinosas wife, the late Segundina Liao
Espinosa. On August 10, 1981, her heirs executed an instrument denominated as Extrajudicial
Settlement of Estate with Simultaneous Sale whereby the 5.5-hectare property under Tax Declaration No.
12311 was sold to private respondentxiii[13] in consideration of the amount of P5,000.00. Thereafter, Tax
Declaration No. 12738 was issued in the name of private respondent. In all these conveyances, the area
and boundaries of the property remained exactly the same as those appearing in Tax Declaration No.
2916 under petitioners name.

It was proved at the proceedings in the court a quo that two (2) surveys were made of the disputed
property. The first surveyxiv[14] was made for petitioner, while the second was the relocation survey
ordered by the lower court. As anticipated, certain discrepancies between the two surveys surfaced.
Thus, contrary to petitioners allegation in his complaint that he is the owner of only 3.2800 hectares, he
was actually claiming 5.9789 hectares, the total areas of Lot Nos. 3918, 3918-A and 3606. On the other
hand, Lot No. 3479 pertaining to Espinosa, was left with only an area of 4.1841 hectares instead of the
5.5 hectares sold by petitioner to him. Apprised of the discrepancy, private respondent filed a
protestxv[15] before the Bureau of Lands against the first survey, likewise filing a case for alteration of
boundaries before the municipal trial court, the proceedings of which, however, were suspended because
of the instant case.xvi[16]

Private respondent testified that petitioner is one of the four heirs of his mother, Leonida Zaragoza. In the
Extrajudicial Settlement with Sale of Estate of the deceased Leonida Zaragoza,xvii[17] the heirs
adjudicated unto themselves the 3.6-hectare property of the deceased. The property involved is
described in the instrument as having been declared under Tax Declaration No. 3301xviii[18] and as
bounded on the North by Victor Verano, on the East by Benigno Titong, on the South by the Bugsayon
River and on the West by Benigno Titong. On September 9, 1969, Tax Declaration No. 8723 was issued
to petitioner for his corresponding share in the estate.

However, instead of reflecting only .9000 hectare as his rightful share in the extrajudicial settlementxix[19]
petitioners share was bloated to 2.4 hectares. It therefore appeared to private respondent that petitioner
encroached upon his (Laurios) property and declared it a part of his inheritance.xx[20] The boundaries
were likewise altered so that it was bounded on the North by Victor Verano, on the East by Benigno
Titong, on the South by property owner Espinosa, and on the West by property owner Adolfo
Titong.xxi[21] Private respondent accordingly denied that petitioner had diverted the course of the
Bugsayon River after he had repurchased the land from Concepcion Verano vda. de Cabugxxii[22]
because the land was immediately sold to Espinosa shortly thereafter.xxiii[23]

The lower court rendered a decision in favor of private respondents, declaring him as the true and
absolute owner of the litigated property and ordering petitioner to respect private respondents title and
ownership over the property and to pay attorneys fees, litigation expenses, costs and moral damages.

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision. On motion for reconsideration,
the same was denied for lack of merit. Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

At the outset, we hold that the instant petition must be denied for the reason that the lower court should
have outrightly dismissed the complaint for quieting of title. The remedy of quieting of title may be availed
of under the circumstances enumerated in the Civil Code:

ART. 476. Whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein, by reason of any
instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth
and in fact invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title, an action
may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title.

An action may also be brought to prevent a cloud from being cast upon title to real property or any
interest therein.

Under this provision, a claimant must show that there is an instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or
proceeding which constitutes or casts a cloud, doubt, question or shadow upon the owners title to or
interest in real property.xxiv[24] The ground or reason for filing a complaint for quieting of title must
therefore be an instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding. Under the maxim expresio unius
est exclusio alterius, these grounds are exclusive so that other reasons outside of the purview of these
reasons may not be considered valid for the same action.xxv[25]

Had the lower court thoroughly considered the complaint filed, it would have had no other course of action
under the law but to dismiss it. The complaint failed to allege that an instrument, record, claim,
encumbrance or proceeding beclouded the plaintiffs title over the property involved. Petitioner merely
alleged that the defendants (respondents herein), together with their hired laborers and without legal
justification, forcibly entered the southern portion of the land of the plaintiff and plowed the same:

He then proceeded to claim damages and attorneys fees. He prayed that, aside from issuing a writ or
preliminary injunction enjoining private respondents and their hired laborers from intruding into the land,
the court should declare him the true and absolute owner thereof. Hence, through his allegations, what
petitioner imagined as clouds cast on his title to the property were private respondents alleged acts of
physical intrusion into his purported property. Clearly, the acts alleged may be considered grounds for an
action for forcible entry but definitely not one for quieting of title.

When the issues were joined by the filing of the answer to the complaint, it would have become apparent
to the court that the case was a boundary dispute. The answer alleged, among other matters, that
petitioner, in bad faith, surreptitiously, maliciously and fraudulently had the land in question included in the
survey of his land which extends to the south only as far as the Bugsayon River which is the visible and
natural and common boundary between the properties.xxvi[26] Moreover, during the hearing of the case,
petitioner proved that it was actually a boundary dispute by evidence showing what he considered as the
boundary of his property which private respondents perceived as actually encroaching on their property.
In this regard, the following pronouncements of the Court are apropos:

x x x (T)he trial court (and likewise the respondent Court) cannot, in an action for quieting of title, order
the determination of the boundaries of the claimed property, as that would be tantamount to awarding to
one or some of the parties the disputed property in an action where the sole issue is limited to whether
the instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding involved constitutes a cloud upon the
petitioners interest or title in and to said property. Such determination of boundaries is appropriate in
adversarial proceedings where possession or ownership may properly be considered and where evidence
aliunde, other than the `instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding itself, may be introduced.
An action for forcible entry, whenever warranted by the period prescribed in Rule 70, or for recovery of
possession de facto, also within the prescribed period, may be availed of by the petitioners, in which
proceeding the boundary dispute may be fully threshed out.xxvii[27]

Nonetheless, even if the complaint below were to be considered as a valid one for quieting of title, still,
the instant petition for review on certiorari must fail.

As a general rule, findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are binding and conclusive upon this Court.
Such factual findings shall not be disturbed normally unless the same are palpably unsupported by the
evidence on record or the judgment itself is based on a misapprehension of facts.xxviii[28] Upon an
examination of the records, the Court finds no evident reason to depart from the general rule.

The courts below correctly held that when petitioner sold, ceded, transferred and conveyed the 5.5-
hectare land in favor of Pablo Espinosa, his rights of ownership and possession pertaining thereto ceased
and these were transferred to the latter. In the same manner, Espinosas rights of ownership over the land
ceased and were transferred to private respondent upon its sale to the latter. This finds justification in the
Civil Code, as follows:
ART. 1458. By the contract of sale one of the contracting parties obligates himself to transfer the
ownership of and to deliver a determinate thing, and the other to pay therefor a price certain in money or
its equivalent.

A contract of sale may be absolute or conditional.

In other words, a sale is a contract transferring dominion and other real rights in the thing sold.xxix[29] In
the case at bar, petitioners claim of ownership must of necessity fail because he has long abdicated his
rights over the land when he sold it to private respondents predecessor-in-interest.

Petitioners claim that he acquired ownership over the disputed land through possession for more than
twenty (20) years is likewise unmeritorious. While Art. 1134 of the Civil Code provides that (o)wnership
and other real rights over immovable property are acquired by ordinary prescription through possession of
ten years, this provision of law must be read in conjunction with Art. 1117 of the same Code. This article
states that x x x (o)rdinary acquisitive prescription of things requires possession in good faith and with just
title for the time fixed by law. Hence, a prescriptive title to real estate is not acquired by mere possession
thereof under claim of ownership for a period of ten years unless such possession was acquired con justo
titulo y buena fe (with color of title and good faith).xxx[30] The good faith of the possessor consists in the
reasonable belief that the person from whom he received the thing was the owner thereof, and could
transmit his ownership.xxxi[31] For purposes of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant
came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the acquisition of
ownership or other real rights but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right.xxxii[32]

Petitioners have not satisfactorily met the requirements of good faith and just title. As aptly observed by
the trial court, the plaintiffs admitted acts of converting the boundary line (Bugsayon River) into a ricefield
and thereafter claiming ownership thereof were acts constituting deprivation of the rights of others and
therefore tantamount to bad faith.xxxiii[33] To allow petitioner to benefit from his own wrong would run
counter to the maxim ex dolo malo non oritur actio (no man can be allowed to found a claim upon his own
wrongdoing). Extraordinary acquisitive prescription cannot similarly vest ownership over the property
upon petitioner. Art. 1137 of the Civil Code states that (o)wnership and other real rights over immovables
prescribe through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of title or of
good faith. Petitioners alleged possession in 1962 up to September 1983 when private respondents
entered the property in question spanned twenty-one (21) years. This period of time is short of the thirty-
year requirement mandated by Art. 1137.

Petitioner basically anchors his claim over the property on the survey plan prepared upon his
request,xxxiv[34] the tax declaration in his name,xxxv[35] the commissioners report on the relocation
survey,xxxvi[36] and the survey plan.xxxvii[37] Respondent court correctly held that these documents do
not conclusively demonstrate petitioner's title over Lot Nos. 3918-A and 3606.

A survey is the act by which the quantity of a parcel of land is ascertained and also a paper containing a
statement of courses, distances, and quantity of land.xxxviii[38] A survey under a proprietary title is not a
conveyance. It is an instrument sui generis in the nature of a partition; a customary mode in which a
proprietor has set off to himself in severalty a part of the common estate.xxxix[39] Therefore, a survey,
not being a conveyance, is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A fortiori, petitioner cannot found his claim
on the survey plan reflecting a subdivision of land because it is not conclusive as to ownership as it may
refer only to a delineation of possession.xl[40]

Furthermore, the plan was not verified and approved by the Bureau of Lands in accordance with Sec. 28,
paragraph 5 of Act No. 2259, the Cadastral Act, as amended by Sec. 1862 of Act No. 2711. Said law
ordains that private surveyors send their original field notes, computations, reports, surveys, maps and
plots regarding a piece of property to the Bureau of Lands for verification and approval.xli[41] A survey
plan not verified and approved by said Bureau is nothing more than a private writing, the due execution
and authenticity of which must be proven in accordance with Sec. 20 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.
The circumstance that the plan was admitted in evidence without any objection as to its due execution
and authenticity does not signify that the courts shall give probative value therefor. To admit evidence and
not to believe it subsequently are not contradictory to each other. This Court cannot alter the conclusions
of the Court of Appeals on the credibility accorded to evidence presented by the parties.xlii[42]

Similarly, petitioners tax declaration issued under his name is not even persuasive evidence of his
claimed ownership over the land in dispute. A tax declaration, by itself, is not considered conclusive
evidence of ownership.xliii[43] It is merely an indicium of a claim of ownership.xliv[44] Because it does not
by itself give title, it is of little value in proving ones ownership.xlv[45] Moreover, the incompatibility in
petitioners tax declaration and the commissioners report as regards the area of his claimed property is
much too glaring to be ignored. Tax Declaration No. 8717 states that petitioners property has an area of
3.2800 hectares while the totality of his claim according to the commissioned geodetic engineers survey
amounts to 4.1385 hectares. There is therefore a notable discrepancy of 8,585 square meters. On the
other hand, private respondents claimed property, as borne out by Tax Declaration No. 12738, totals 5.5
hectares, a more proximate equivalent of the 5.2433-hectare property as shown by the commissioners
report.

There is also nothing in the commissioners report that substantiates petitioners claim that the disputed
land was inside his property. Petitioner capitalizes on the lower courts statement in its decisionxlvi[46]
that as reflected in the commissioners report dated May 23, 1984 (Exhibit 3-3-A), the area claimed is
inside lot 3918 of the defendants (Exhibit 2)xlvii[47] or the private respondents. A careful reading of the
decision would show that this statement is found in the summary of defendants (herein private
respondents) evidence. Reference to Lot No. 3918 may, therefore, be attributed to mere oversight as the
lower court even continues to state the defendants assertion that the 2-hectare land is part of their 5.5-
hectare property. Hence, it is not amiss to conclude that either petitioner misapprehended the lower
courts decision or he is trying to contumaciously mislead or worse, deceive this Court.

With respect to the awards of moral damages of P10,000.00 and attorneys fees of P2,000.00, the Court
finds no cogent reason to delete the same. Jurisprudence is replete with rulings to the effect that where
fraud and bad faith have been established, the award of moral damages is in order.xlviii[48] This
pronouncement finds support in Art. 2219 (10) of the Civil Code allowing the recovery of moral damages
for acts enumerated in Art. 21 of the same Code. This article states that (a)ny person who wilfully causes
loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall
compensate the latter for the damage. The moral damages are hereby increased to P30,000.00. We
agree with the respondent court in holding that the award of attorneys fees is justified because petitioner
filed a clearly unfounded civil action.xlix[49]

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is hereby DENIED and the questioned Decision
of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED. This Decision is immediately executory. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, CJ. (Chairman), Kapunan and Purisima, JJ., concur.


Li Seng Giap vs. Director
59 Phil. 687

DIAZ, J.:
On August 16, 1932, Li Seng Giap & Co., a partnership composed of individuals who are not citizens of
the Philippine Islands nor of the United State's, but aliens, instituted these proceedings in the Court of
First Instance of Camarines Sur, for the registration in its name in the registry of deeds, of the three
parcels of land described in the plans, Exhibits A and B, and technical descriptions attached to its
application, in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 496 and of Chapter VIII of Title II of Act No.
2874.

The Director of Lands filed an opposition to the said application alleging as his grounds that the three
parcels of land in question were public lands belonging to the Government of the United States under the
administration and control of the Government of the Philippine Islands, and that, being an alien, the
applicant partnership cannot invoke the benefits of the provisions of section 45 of the said Act No. 2874.
The aforecited section is contained in Chapter VIII of Title II of the said Act invoked by the applicant. The
Director of Lands has made no reference to Act No. 496 in his opposition for the reason that the Act in
question merely prescribes, in general terms, the manner or procedure to be followed by an applicant in
the obtainment of the certificate of title applied for, or in the denial or issuance thereof, as the case may
be, by the court or by the Government agencies therein mentioned.

After the trial, the Court of First Instance of Camarines Sur rendered judgment therein denying the
application of the applicant partnership on the ground that it is an alien, and holding, at the same time,
that the parcels of land it sought to register in its name are a portion of the public domain. The said
applicant took exception to and appealed from such judgment, claiming that the trial court committed the
following alleged errors, to wit:

"I. The trial court erred in holding that the applicant, Li Seng Giap & Co. being a partnership made up of
individuals who are neither citizens of the Philippine Islands nor of the United States, is not entitled, for
this reason, to register the land described in its application under the provisions of the Land Registration
Act.

"II. The lower court also erred in declaring the land described in the application a part of the public
domain.
"III. The lower court also erred in denying the applicant's motion for reconsideration as well as its motion
for new trial."

It is unnecessary to discuss further the nature of the three parcels of land in question. The record shows
that they are agricultural lands which at present contain coconut trees, abaca and cacao with which they
have been planted for over forty years. The coconut trees thereon range from one to forty years in age.
The said three parcels had likewise been cultivated and had actually been occupied for many years
during the Spanish regime by several natives of the Province of Camarines Sur, named Inocencio Salon,
Lazaro Ceron, Margarito Labordes, Doroteo Quitales and Cornelio Vargas. The occupation or possession
thereof by the above-named persons was under claim of ownership but neither the exact date when such
possession began nor the circumstances under which they acquired the property in question has been
determined. However, it seems certain that such occupation began some fifty-five years ago and
continued without interruption from that time until said persons decide to sell them to Sebastian Palanca
who is also an alien like the herein applicant. Neither is there anything of record to show when the sale
was made but it also seems certain that it took place during the Spanish regime. Sebastian Palanca
continued in possession of the aforesaid three parcels of land from the time he acquired them in the
manner hereinbefore stated until July 22, 1930, when he sold them to the herein applicant-appellant.
However, before selling them and while he was in possession thereof under claim of ownership, as
alleged, he failed to obtain a gratuitous title or even a mere possessory information therefor, which would
serve to protect his claim of ownership, by taking advantage of the benefits afforded by the Royal Decree
of February 13, 1894, which was promulgated in the Philippines and published in the Gaceta de Manila,
No. 106, of April 17th of the same year.

The pertinent parts of said decree, which are also articles 1, 19 and 21 of the Maura Law, and which had
been in force in the Philippines during the last years of the Spanish regime and continued to be so until
the enactment of the Public Land Act and the amendments thereto, read as follows:

"ARTICLE 1. All uncultivated lands, soil, earth, and mountains not included in the following exceptions
shall be considered alienable public lands: First, those which have become subjected to private
ownership and have a legitimate owner. Second, those which belong to the forest zones which the State
deems wise to reserve for reasons of public utility.

*******

"ART. 19. Possessors of alienable public lands under cultivation who have not obtained nor applied for
composition on the date this decree shall be published in the Gaceta de Manila; may obtain a gratuitous
title of property, by means of a possessory information in conformity with the law of civil procedure and
the mortgage law whenever they establish any of the following conditions:

"First. Having, or having had, them under cultivation without interruption during the preceding six years.

"Second. Having had possession of them for twelve consecutive years, and having had them under
cultivation until the date of the information, and for three years before that date.

"Third. Having had them in possession ostensibly and without interruption, for thirty or more years,
although the land is not under cultivation.

*******

"ART. 21. A term of one year, without grace, is granted in order to perfect the informations referred to in
articles 19 and 20."
Article 80 of the regulations for the carrying out of the Royal Decree above-mentioned provided as
follows:

"ART. 80. By virtue of the provision of article 21 of the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, the
inextensible period for carrying out the informations referred to in the two preceding articles, shall be
counted as closed on the 17th day of April, 1895.

"Upon the expiration of this period the right of cultivators and possessors to the obtainment of free title
shall lapse, and the full property right in the land shall revert to the State or, in a proper case, to the public
domain."

Therefore, there can be no doubt but that under the last aforecited article the three parcels of land in
question reverted to the State as property of the public domain upon the expiration of the period specified
therein, by reason of negligence on the part of the possessors thereof.

The applicant-appellant contends that under the provisions of section 54, paragraph 6, of Act No. 926, it
has necessarily acquired the right to have the corresponding certificate of title issued to it upon
registration of the said parcels of land in its name in the registry of deeds, inasmuch as it had actually
been in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession thereof, under claim of ownership, not
only by itself but also through Sebastian Palanca from whom it had purchased them, for more than ten
years prior to July 26, 1904, the date on which the aforesaid Act went into effect, in accordance with the
proclamation of the Governor-General of the Philippine Islands of the same date.

The section invoked by the applicant-appellant reads as follows:

"SEC. 54. The following-described persons or their legal successors in right, occupying public lands in the
Philippine Islands, or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles to such lands
have not been perfected, may apply to the Court of Land Registration of the Philippine Islands for
confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor to wit:

"1. All persons who prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States had fulfilled all the
conditions required by the Spanish laws and royal decrees of the Kingdom of Spain for the purchase of
public lands, including the payment of the purchase price, but who failed to secure formal conveyance of
title;

"2. All persons who prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, having applied for
the purchase of public lands and having secured a survey, auction, and an award, or a right to an award,
of such lands, did not receive title therefor through no default upon their part;

"3. All persons who prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, having applied for
the purchase of public lands and having secured a survey and award of same, did not, through
negligence upon their part, comply with the conditions of full or any payment therefor, but who after such
survey and award shall have occupied the land adversely, except as prevented by war or force majeure,
until the taking effect of this Act;

"4. All persons who were entitled to apply and did apply for adjustment or composition of title to lands
against the Government under the Spanish laws and royal decrees in force prior to the royal decree of
February thirteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, but who failed to receive title therefor through no
default upon their part;
"5. All persons who were entitled to a gratuitous title to public lands by 'possessory proceedings' under
the provisions of articles nineteen and twenty of the royal decree of the King of Spain issued February
thirteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, and who, having complied with all the conditions therein
required, failed to receive the title therefor through no default upon their part; and

"6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public lands, as defined by said Act of
Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide claim of ownership except as against
the Government, for a period of ten years next preceding the taking effect of this Act, except when
prevented by war or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a government grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of
title to such land under the provisions of this chapter.

"All applicants for lands under paragraphs one, two, three, four and five of this section must establish by
proper official records or documents that such proceedings as are therein required were taken and the
necessary conditions complied with: Provided, however, That such requirements shall not apply to the
fact of adverse possession."

It may be noted that the case of the applicant does not come under paragraph 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 of the
aforecited section, which, by the way, conclusively shows that prior to the enactment of Act No. 926, the
said Maura Law was the last law which regulated the acquisition of alienable public lands and the
issuance of the corresponding title to those who could establish their claim that they were entitled thereto.
Being aware of this fact, the applicant has never invoked said paragraphs. He merely confines himself to
invoking the provisions of paragraph 6 thereof, in support of which he cites the rulings of this court in the
cases of Tan Yungquip vs. Director of Lands (42 Phil., 128) and of Central Capiz vs. Ramirez (40 Phil.,
883).

In the former case, it was held that inasmuch as the applicant Tan Yungquip, who was a Chinaman, had
proven: That he had acquired the parcels of land which he sought to register in his name, some by
purchase and others by inheritance; that he and his predecessors in interest had been in the open,
peaceful, continuous and notorious possession of the same for at least thirty years, and that such parcels
of land were agricultural lands, therefore, he was entitled to have them registered in his name under the
provisions of the aforecited section 54 of Act No. 926, for the reason that he filed his application to that
effect more than one year prior to the enactment and enforcement of Act No. 2874. It was likewise held
therein that the matter should be decided in favor of said Tan Yungquip on the ground that no valid law
could be found, at least on that occasion, which prohibited the registration in his name in the registry of
deeds, of the parcels of land of which he claimed to be the owner.

In the latter case above cited, that is, the case of Central Capiz vs. Ramirez, it was likewise held that
lands held in private ownership constitute no part of the public domain and cannot, therefore, come within
the purview of said Act No. 2874 on the ground that said subject (lands held in private ownership) is not
embraced in any manner in the title of the Act, and that the intent of the Legislature in enacting the same
was to limit the application thereof exclusively to lands of the public domain.

Although nothing has been said in the decision rendered in the aforecited case of Tan Yungquip vs.
Director of Lands to the effect that the application of the therein applicant should be granted on the
ground that the provisions of section 54 of Act No. 926, which were therein under consideration and
interpretation, do not distinguish between citizens of the Philippine Islands or of the United States and
aliens, however, the appellant contends that the aforecited section has such scope and that the question
raised in this case should be decided under the latter interpretation.
We do not believe that the rulings in the aforecited two cases and that in the case of Agari vs.
Government of the Philippine Islands (42 Phil., 143), are decisive and applicable to the case under
consideration, on the ground that although it is true that Agari, who was the applicant in the last case, was
an alien, it was likewise true that the persons, from whom he had acquired the land which he sought to
register in his name in the registry of deeds during the time Act No. 926 was still in force, were natives of
the Philippine Islands, who, in turn, had acquired it through their father, who was likewise a native of the
Islands, by composition with the State in accordance with the laws then in force; nor that, under the
provisions of the aforecited section 54 of Act No. 926, the applicantappellant Li Seng Giap & Co. could
have succeeded in securing the certificate of title which it now seeks; in the first place, because the three
aforecited decisions refer to cases which are different from the one now under consideration ; in the
second place, because said decisions were based on the supposition that the parcels of land in question
therein were of private ownership and because at that time no law was known to be in existence, which
prohibited the registration of said parcels of land in the registry of deeds, in the name of the aforesaid
applicants Tan Yungquip, Central Capiz and Agari, and in the third place, because while Act No. 926 was
still in force (it is no longer in force, having been expressly repealed by section 128 of Act No. 2874, on
December 28, 1919), it should have been interpreted in the light of the provisions of the Act of Congress
of July 1, 1902, commonly known as the Organic Law of the Philippine Islands, inasmuch as the former
had been approved under the authority of sections 13, 14, 15 and 62 of the latter Act. The very title of Act
No. 926 above referred to shows that one of the purposes for which it was approved was to carry out the
provisions of sections 13, 14, 15 and 62 of the aforecited Act of Congress, which title reads in part:

"An Act * * * providing for the determination by the Philippines Court of Land Registration of all
proceedings for completion of imperfect titles and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish
concessions and grants in said Islands, as authorized by sections thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and sixty-two
of the Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, entitled 'An Act temporarily to provide for
the administration of the affairs of civil government in the Philippine Islands, and for other purposes'."

Sections 14 and 15 of the aforesaid Act of Congress, which bear relation to the question under
consideration, provide as follows:

"SEC. 14. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and empowered to enact
rules and regulations and to prescribe terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their title to
public lands in said Islands, who, prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, had
fulfilled all or some of the conditions required by the Spanish laws and royal decrees of the Kingdom of
Spain for the acquisition of legal title thereto, yet failed to secure conveyance of title; and the Philippine
Commission is authorized to issue patents, without compensation, to any native of said Islands,
conveying title to any tract of land not more than sixteen hectares in extent, which were public lands and
had been actually occupied by such native or his ancestors prior to and on the thirteenth of August,
eighteen hundred and ninety-eight.

"SEC. 15. That the Government of the Philippine Islands is hereby authorized and empowered, on such
terms as it may prescribe, by general legislation, to provide for the granting or sale and conveyance to
actual occupants and settlers and other citizens of said Islands such parts and portions of the public
domain, other than timber and mineral lands, of the United States in said Islands as it may deem wise,
not exceeding sixteen hectares to any one person and for the sale and conveyance of not more than one
thousand and twenty-four hectares to any corporation or association of persons: Provided, that the grant
or sale of such lands, whether the purchase price be paid at once or in partial payments, shall be
conditioned upon actual and continued occupancy, improvement, and cultivation of the premises sold for
a period of not less than five years, during which time the purchaser or grantee cannot alienate or
encumber said land or the title thereto; but such restriction shall not apply to transfers of rights and title of
inheritance under the laws for the distribution of the estates of decedents."
It may be noted that both of the above-cited sections provide that gratuitous title to property may be
issued only to natives of the Philippine Islands who are in possession of the necessary qualifications
specified therein. It may therefore be inferred from the foregoing that Act No. 926 could not have a
different scope from that given it by the aforecited Act of Congress and, therefore, the phrase "all
persons" employed in paragraphs of section 54 of the former Act should be understood to mean only
citizens of the Philippine Islands or citizens of the United States or of any insular possession thereof.

The parcels of land involved in this case, which as hereinbefore stated, have reverted to the State after
April 17, 1895, by virtue of the Maura Law, are not of private ownership. Neither were they so on or after
the aforesaid date. The applicant herein did not show any title thereto either by possessory proceedings
or otherwise, which may be considered as having been issued by the Government. The only basis on
which it now claims the right to have them registered in its name is its alleged possession thereof together
with that of Sebastian Palanca and of the former possessors, as if to say, that it is entitled to the
registration thereof in its name, inasmuch as the parcels of land in question already belong to it, having
acquired them by prescription through the continuous, open, exclusive and notorious possession thereof,
under claim of ownership, at least since the Spanish regime in the Philippine Islands. However, the truth
is that the law expressly provides that no public land may be acquired by prescription, and that such
mode of acquisition does not hold as against the Government. This provision is contained precisely in the
very law invoked by the applicant, that is section 54, paragraph 6, of Act No. 926. In the case of Ongsiaco
vs. Magsilang (50 Phil., 380, 386), this court said:

"* * * in a controversy between private individuals, where the Government has not intervened, and where
it appears that the land has ceased to be of public domain and has come to be of private ownership, a
petitioner may obtain registration of land upon a title acquired by adverse possession as against
individual opponents. The same rule does not maintain with respect to land claimed by the Government
and as to which the Government is opposing." In the case of Government of the Philippine Islands vs.
Abad (56 Phil., 75, 80), this court, deciding a question similar to the one raised herein by the appellant,
said as follows: "Subsection (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874 is not obnoxious to the constitutional
provision relied upon by the appellant, as depriving the appellant of property without due process of law.
That provision has reference to property to which the citizen has acquired a vested right. It does not
extend to privileges and inchoate rights which have never been asserted or perfected. The contention of
the appellant * * * is therefore without merit." There is no justifiable reason for disturbing the holdings of
this court in the aforecited two cases. On the contrary, it is considered timely to reiterate them herein
inasmuch as they decide the same question.

The provisions of section 54 of Act No. 926 as well as those of section 45, paragraph (b), of Act No. 2874
should necessarily be so construed as not to permit aliens to obtain title to lands in their favor. It should
not be understood, however, that the constitutional guaranty that no person shall be denied the equal
protection of the laws, is violated thereby, because, as this court has said in the case of In re Patterson (1
Phil., 93, 95, 96), "Unquestionably every State has a fundamental right to its existence and development,
as also to the integrity of its territory and the exclusive and peaceable possession of its dominions which it
may guard and defend by all possible means against any attack * * *. Superior to the law which protects
personal liberty, and the agreements which exist between nations for their own interest and for the benefit
of their respective subjects is the supreme and fundamental right of each State to self-preservation and
the integrity of its dominion and its sovereignty." It is upon grounds of public policy that the rights of
individuals, particularly of aliens, cannot prevail against the aforesaid right of the Government of the
Philippine Islands, and more particularly when, as in the present case, far from violating any constitutional
law, it deals precisely with the enforcement of the provisions of the first organic law of the country and
those of the Jones Law (section 9), to the effect that lands of the public domain should not be disposed of
or alienated to persons who are not inhabitants or citizens of the Philippine Islands.

Wherefore, finding that the judgment appealed from is in accordance with the law, it is hereby affirmed in
toto, with the costs against the appellants. So ordered.
Malcolm, Villa-Real, Abad Santos, Hull, and Butte, JJ., concur.

IMPERIAL, J.:
THIRD DIVISION
ALEJANDRO B. TY and INTERNATIONAL G.R. No. 173158
REALTY CORPORATION,

Petitioners,

Present:

- versus -
CORONA, J.,

Chairperson,

CHICO-NAZARIO,
QUEENS ROW SUBDIVISION, INC., NEW
SAN JOSE BUILDERS, INC., VELASCO, JR.,
GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE
SYSTEM and REGISTER OF DEEDS OF
NACHURA, and
CAVITE,
PERALTA, JJ.
Respondents.

Promulgated:

December 4, 2009

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal of the Decisionxxxi[1] of the Court
of Appeals dated 31 January 2005 in CA-G.R. CV No. 62610 and the Resolution of the same Court dated
29 July 2006 denying the Motion for Reconsideration. Said Decision affirmed the Joint Decision dated 18
November 1997 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Imus, Cavite dismissing the separate Complaints for
Declaratory Relief filed by petitioners Alejandro B. Ty and International Realty Corporation (IRC).

The facts of the case are as follows:

Petitioner Ty is the registered owner of a parcel of land situated in Molino, Bacoor, Cavite
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-3967. Petitioner IRC, on the other hand, is the
registered owner of three parcels of land situated in the same barangay covered by TCTs No. T-1510,
No. T-3617 and No. T-3618. The four titles were issued to petitioners sometime in 1960 and 1961.

In 1970, respondent Queens Row Subdivision, Inc. (QRSI) was issued TCTs No. T-54188, No. T-
54185, No. T-54186 and No. T-54187, covering exactly the same areas and containing the same
technical descriptions as those embraced in the titles of petitioners.

On 29 June 1971, mortgages entered into by QRSI in favor of respondent Government Service
Insurance System (GSIS) were annotated at the back of the four titles of QRSI.

In October 1973, petitioners Ty and IRC instituted with the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of
Bacoor, Cavite four Complaints for the cancellation of the four aforementioned certificates of title of QRSI,
impleading only the latter and the Register of Deeds. GSIS was not impleaded, despite the fact that the
mortgage in its favor had already been annotated in the subject titles. The Complaints were docketed as
Civil Cases No. B-44, No. B-45, No. B-48 and No. B-49. Petitioners did not move to have a notice of lis
pendens annotated in the subject titles.

On 8 December 1980, the CFI of Bacoor, Cavite, rendered a Decision declaring that Tys
certificate of title, TCT No. 3967, was validly issued, and ordering the Register of Deeds to cancel QRSIs
TCT No. 54188 for being void. On 20 December 1985, the same CFI rendered a Joint Decision ordering
the Register of Deeds to cancel QRSIs TCTs No. T-54185, No. T-54186 and No. T-54187. Both
Decisions were rendered for failure of respondent QRSI to appear at pre-trial despite filing an Answer to
the Complaints.
QRSI defaulted in the payment of its mortgage indebtedness to GSIS, leading to the foreclosure
of the mortgages. The properties were sold at public auction, with GSIS emerging as the highest bidder.
On 10 April 1986, Certificates of Sale were issued in favor of GSIS.

QRSI failed to redeem the foreclosed properties within the one-year redemption period, allowing
GSIS to consolidate its ownership thereof. TCTs No. T-230070, No. T-230071, No. T-230072 and No. T-
225212 were, thus, issued in the name of GSIS.

Thereupon, GSIS entered into a joint venture agreement with respondent New San Jose
Builders, Inc. (NSJBI) for the development of the properties. NSJBI subsequently commenced
construction and development works thereon.

On 8 November 1993, petitioners counsel, through a letter, demanded that GSIS and NSJBI
vacate the subject properties.

On 7 August 1994, Ty and IRC each filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief to Quiet Title/Remove
Cloud from Real Property against respondents with the RTC of Imus, Cavite, this time impleading all
respondents, QRSI, GSIS, NSJBI, and the Register of Deeds of Cavite. The cases were docketed as Civil
Case No. BSC 94-2 and Civil Case No. 94-3. The cases were consolidated under Branch 20 of said
court.

On 18 November 1997, the RTC of Imus, Cavite, rendered its Joint Decision dismissing the
complaints.

Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals. The appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No.
62610 and was raffled to the Seventh Division. On 31 January 2005, the Court of Appeals rendered its
Decision affirming the Joint Decision of the RTC. On 29 June 2006, the Court of Appeals denied the
Motion for Reconsideration filed by Petitioners.

Hence, this Petition, wherein petitioners present the following issues for our consideration:

I.

PRIVATE RESPONDENT GSIS, BEING A FINANCIAL INSTITUTION, IS CHARGED


WITH THE DUTY TO EXERCISE MORE CARE AND PRUDENCE IN DEALING WITH
REGISTERED LANDS FOR ITS BUSINESS IS ONE AFFECTED WITH PUBLIC
INTEREST KEEPING IN TRUST MONEY BELONGING TO ITS MEMBERS AND
SHOULD GUARD AGAINST LOSSES AND, THEREFORE, CANNOT INVOKE THE
PROTECTED MANTLE OF LAND REGISTRATION STATUTE (ACT 496).

II.

THE TITLE OF PETITIONERS BEING SUPERIOR TO THAT OF PRIVATE


RESPONDENT QUEENS ROW, THE PRINCIPLE OF INDEFEASIBILITY OF TITLE
REMAINED UNAFFECTED AND PETITIONERS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN GUILTY
OF LACHES, ESTOPPEL, MUCH LESS PRESCRIPTION.xxxi[2]

Innocent Purchaser for Value

In the first issue raised by petitioners, they assail the finding of the Court of Appeals that GSIS
was an innocent purchaser for value. The appellate court held:

The records clearly show that the mortgages entered into by Queens Row and
GSIS were already inscribed on the formers titles on June 29, 1971 as shown by the
entries appearing at the back of TCT Nos. T-54188, T-54185, T-54186 and T-54187,
even before Civil Cases Nos. B-44, 45, 48 and 49 were instituted. In spite of this,
petitioners-appellants (plaintiffs then) did not implead the GSIS as a party to the
complaints. Moreso, no adverse claim or notice of lis pendens was annotated by
petitioners-appellants on the titles of Queens Row during the pendency of these cases.
To make matters worse, as earlier stated, petitioners-appellants, after securing favorable
decisions against Queens Row, did not enforce the same for more than ten (10) years.
By their inaction, the efficacy of the decisions was rendered at naught.

Verily, a buyer in good faith is one who buys the property of another without
notice that some other person has a right to or interest in such property. He is a buyer for
value if he pays a full and fair price at the time of the purchase or before he has notice of
the claim or interest of some other person in the property. In the instant case, the GSIS
clearly had no notice of any defect, irregularity or encumbrance in the title of Queens
Row when the latter mortgaged the subject property. Neither did GSIS have any
knowledge of facts and circumstances which should have put it on inquiry, requiring it to
go [beyond] the certificate of title. Obviously, GSIS was an innocent purchaser for value
and in good faith at the time it acquired the subject property.xxxi[3]

Petitioners claim that since GSIS is a financial institution, it is charged with the duty to exercise
more care and prudence in dealing with registered lands. On this basis, petitioners conclude that GSIS
cannot invoke the protection of land registration statutes insofar as they protect innocent purchasers for
value.
While we agree with petitioners that GSIS, as a financial institution, is bound to exercise more
than just ordinary diligence in the conduct of its financial dealings, we nevertheless find no law or
jurisprudence supporting petitioners claim that financial institutions are not protected when they are
innocent purchasers for value. When financial institutions exercise extraordinary diligence in determining
the validity of the certificates of title to properties being sold or mortgaged to them and still fail to find any
defect or encumbrance upon the subject properties after said inquiry, such financial institutions should be
protected like any other innocent purchaser for value if they paid a full and fair price at the time of the
purchase or before having notice of some other persons claim on or interest in the property.

On this note, petitioners insist that GSIS was guilty of gross negligence in its failure to inquire and
investigate the status and condition of the property when it approved the loan of private respondent
Queens Row.xxxi[4] This allegation has no leg to stand on. Respondents allege that GSIS ascertained to
its satisfaction the existence and authenticity of the titles of its predecessor-in-interest, QRSI; and was, in
fact, able to procure true copies of the latters titles from the Registry of Deeds.xxxi[5] GSIS furthermore
conducted an ocular inspection and found that the property was not in the possession of any person
claiming an interest that was adverse to that of its predecessor-in-interest.xxxi[6] Respondents allegations
are much more convincing in light of the fact that NSJBI was able to enter the subject property by virtue of
its joint venture agreement with GSIS, and was able to commence construction and development works
thereon.

Petitioners have presented absolutely no evidence to prove their allegation of fraud on the part of
QRSI and bad faith on the part of GSIS. They want us to merely conclude the same on the ground that
they were able to secure the favorable decisions they obtained in Civil Cases No. B-44, No. B-45, No. B-
48 and No. B-49. However, as shall be discussed later, these are already stale judgments, which cannot
be executed anymore. Furthermore, these judgments were obtained ex parte, for failure of respondent
QRSI to appear at the pre-trial despite filing an Answer to the Complaints. GSIS, on the other hand, was
never impleaded in these four Complaints for cancellation filed in October 1973, despite the fact that the
mortgages in GSISs favor had been annotated on the subject titles since 29 June 1971. GSIS, therefore,
never had any notice of these proceedings.

Petitioners cannot expect GSIS to check the technical descriptions of each and every title in the
Registry of Deeds of Cavite in order to determine whether there is another title to the same property.
There is no one to blame for the failure of GSIS to have notice of such fact other than petitioners
themselves. As stated above, they did not implead GSIS in their actions for cancellation of title despite
the fact that, at the time of the filing of the cases, the mortgages in GSISs favor had already been
annotated on the subject titles. Petitioners likewise neglected to have a notice of lis pendens of the
cancellation cases annotated on the subject titles, fueling respondents suspicions that the former wanted
their actions for cancellation to be uncontested by GSIS, the party really interested in challenging the
same.

Laches
Petitioners challenge the ruling of the Court of Appeals finding them guilty of laches for their
failure to execute the favorable decisions they obtained in Civil Cases No. B-44, No. B-45, No. B-48 and
No. B-49, arguing that laches cannot be raised even as a valid defense for claiming ownership of
registered land, more so, if titles are tainted with fraud in their issuances.xxxi[7] Their basis for this claim
is the 1950 Court of Appeals case Dela Cruz v. Dela Cruz.xxxi[8]

We are not persuaded.

Firstly, as discussed above, while petitioners persistently harp on their allegation of fraud in the
issuance of the title of GSIS, nevertheless, they have not presented any evidence to prove the alleged
fraud on the part of either GSIS or even QRSI.

Secondly, it must be stressed that the Decisions of this Court are the only judicial decisions that
form part of our legal system. While rulings of the Court of Appeals may serve as precedents for lower
courts, they only apply to points of law not covered by any Supreme Court decision.xxxi[9]

Thirdly, this Court has, on several occasions, already ruled that even a registered owner of a
property may be barred from recovering possession of the same by virtue of laches. Thus, in Heirs of
Panganiban v. Dayrit,xxxi[10] this Court discussed several cases wherein the principle of laches was
applied against the registered owner:

In our jurisdiction, it is an enshrined rule that even a registered owner of


property may be barred from recovering possession of property by virtue of
laches. Thus, in the case of Lola v. Court of Appeals, this Court held that petitioners
acquired title to the land owned by respondent by virtue of the equitable principles of
laches due to respondents failure to assert her claims and ownership for thirty-two (32)
years. In Miguel v. Catalino, this Court said that appellants passivity and inaction for
more than thirty-four (34) years (1928-1962) justifies the defendant-appellee in setting up
the equitable defense of laches in his behalf. Likewise, in the case of Mejia de Lucas v.
Gamponia, we stated that while the defendant may not be considered as having acquired
title by virtue of his and his predecessors long continued possession for thirty-seven (37)
years, the original owners right to recover possession of the property and the title thereto
from the defendant has, by the latters long period of possession and by patentees
inaction and neglect, been converted into a stale demand.

Laches is the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that
which by exerting due diligence could or should have been done earlier.xxxi[11] The law serves those
who are vigilant and diligent, and not those who sleep when the law requires them to act.xxxi[12]
The Court of Appeals based its finding of laches on the fact that petitioners Ty and IRC failed to
move for the execution of the favorable ex parte judgments, which they obtained on 8 December 1980
and 20 December 1985, respectively. If we read Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court together with
Article 1144 of the Civil Code, we would see that the winning party in litigation has a period of five years
from the date of entry of judgment to execute said judgment by motion, and another five years to execute
it by action. Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides that a motion for the execution of a final
judgment or order may be filed within five years from the date of its entry. After the lapse of such time,
and before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a judgment may be enforced by action:

Section 6. Execution by motion or by independent action. A final and executory


judgment or order may be executed on motion within five (5) years from the date of its
entry. After the lapse of such time, and before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a
judgment may be enforced by action. The revived judgment may also be enforced by
motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry and thereafter by action before it is
barred by the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations referred to in the above section is found in Article 1144 of the Civil
Code, which provides:

Art. 1144. The following actions must be brought within ten years from the time
the right of action accrues:

(1) Upon a written contract;

(2) Upon an obligation created by law;

(3) Upon a judgment.

While indeed, the above provisions on extinctive prescription cannot be the basis for depriving a
registered owner of its title to a property, they nevertheless prohibit petitioners from enforcing the ex parte
judgment in their favor, which can likewise be the basis of a pronouncement of laches. In Villegas v. Court
of Appeals,xxxi[13] we held that:

But even if Fortune had validly acquired the subject property, it would still be
barred from asserting title because of laches. The failure or neglect, for an unreasonable
length of time to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have been
done earlier constitutes laches. It is negligence or omission to assert a right within a
reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it has either
abandoned it or declined to assert it. While it is by express provision of law that no
title to registered land in derogation of that of the registered owner shall be
acquired by prescription or adverse possession, it is likewise an enshrined rule
that even a registered owner may be barred from recovering possession of
property by virtue of laches. (Emphasis supplied.)
Petitioners neglect in asserting their rights is likewise manifested in their failure to implead GSIS
in the four Complaints for cancellation, which they filed in October 1973, despite the fact that the
mortgages in the GSISs favor had been annotated on the subject titles since 29 June 1971. It even
became more evident from the fact that petitioners failed to have a notice of lis pendens annotated on the
subject titles of the said cancellation of title cases, leading GSIS to believe that there were no other
certificates of title to the same properties when it proceeded to foreclose the subject properties in 1986.
We, therefore, find no reason to overrule the finding of the Court of Appeals that petitioners were guilty of
laches.

WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 31
January 2005 in CA-G.R. CV No. 62610 and the Resolution of the same Court dated 29 July 2006 are
hereby AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 92161 March 18, 1991


SIMPLICIO BINALAY, PONCIANO GANNABAN, NICANOR MACUTAY, DOMINGO ROSALES,
GREGORIO ARGONZA, EUSTAQUIO BAUA, FLORENTINO ROSALES, TEODORO MABBORANG,
PATRICIO MABBORANG and FULGENCIO MORA, petitioners
vs.
GUILLERMO MANALO and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

Josefin De Alban Law Office for Petitioners.

FELICIANO, J.:

The late Judge Taccad originally owned a parcel of land situated in Tumauini, Isabela having an
estimated area of twenty (20) hectares. The western portion of this land bordering on the Cagayan River
has an elevation lower than that of the eastern portion which borders on the national road. Through the
years, the western portion would periodically go under the waters of the Cagayan River as those waters
swelled with the coming of the rains. The submerged portion, however, would re-appear during the dry
season from January to August. It would remain under water for the rest of the year, that is, from
September to December during the rainy season.

The ownership of the landholding eventually moved from one person to another. On 9 May 1959,
respondent Guillermo Manalo acquired 8.65 hectares thereof from Faustina Taccad, daughter of Judge
Juan Taccad. The land sold was described in the Deed of Absolute Sale1 as follows:

. . . a parcel of agricultural land in Balug, Tumauini, Isabela, containing an area of 8.6500


hectares, more or less; bounded on the North by Francisco Forto on the East by National Road;
on South by Julian Tumolva and on the West by Cagayan River; declared for taxation under Tax
Declaration No. 12681 in the name of Faustina Taccad, and assessed at P 750.00. . . .

Later in 1964, respondent Manalo purchased another 1.80 hectares from Gregorio Taguba who had
earlier acquired the same from Judge Juan Taccad. The second purchase brought the total acquisition of
respondent Manalo to 10.45 hectares. The second piece of property was more particularly described as
follows:

. . . a piece of agricultural land consisting of tobacco land, and containing an area of 18,000
square meters, more or less, bounded on the North by Balug Creek; on the South, by Faustina
Taccad (now Guillermo R. Manalo); on the East, by a Provincial Road; and on the West, by
Cagayan River assessed at P 440.00, as tax Declaration No. 3152. . . .2

During the cadastral survey conducted at Balug, Tumauini, Isabela on 21 October 1969, the two (2)
parcels of land belonging to respondent Manalo were surveyed and consolidated into one lot, designated
as Lot No. 307, Pls-964. Lot 307 which contains 4.6489 hectares includes: (a) the whole of the 1.80
hectares acquired from Gregorio Taguba; and (b) 2.8489 hectares out of the 8.65 hectares purchased
from Faustina Taccad. As the survey was conducted on a rainy month, a portion of the land bought from
Faustina Taccad then under water was left unsurveyed and was not included in Lot 307.

The Sketch Plan3 submitted during the trial of this case and which was identified by respondent Manalo
shows that the Cagayan River running from south to north, forks at a certain point to form two (2)
branches—the western and the eastern branches—and then unites at the other end, further north, to form
a narrow strip of land. The eastern branch of the river cuts through the land of respondent Manalo and is
inundated with water only during the rainy season. The bed of the eastern branch is the submerged or the
unsurveyed portion of the land belonging to respondent Manalo. For about eight (8) months of the year
when the level of water at the point where the Cagayan River forks is at its ordinary depth, river water
does not flow into the eastern branch. While this condition persists, the eastern bed is dry and is
susceptible to cultivation.

Considering that water flowed through the eastern branch of the Cagayan River when the cadastral
survey was conducted, the elongated strip of land formed by the western and the eastern branches of the
Cagayan River looked very much like an island. This strip of land was surveyed on 12 December 1969.4

It was found to have a total area of 22.7209 hectares and was designated as Lot 821 and Lot 822. The
area of Lot 822 is 10.8122 hectares while Lot 821 has an area of 11.9087 hectares. Lot 821 is located
directly opposite Lot 307 and is separated from the latter only by the eastern branch of the Cagayan River
during the rainy season and, during the dry season, by the exposed, dry river bed, being a portion of the
land bought from Faustina Taccad. Respondent Manalo claims that Lot 821 also belongs to him by way of
accretion to the submerged portion of the property to which it is adjacent.

Petitioners who are in possession of Lot 821, upon the other hand, insist that they own Lot 821. They
occupy the outer edges of Lot 821 along the river banks, i.e., the fertile portions on which they plant
tobacco and other agricultural products. They also cultivate the western strip of the unsurveyed portion
during summer.5 This situation compelled respondent Manalo to file a case for forcible entry against
petitioners on 20 May 1969. The case was dismissed by the Municipal Court of Tumauini, Isabela for
failure of both parties to appear. On 15 December 1972, respondent Manalo again filed a case for forcible
entry against petitioners. The latter case was similarly dismissed for lack of jurisdiction by the Municipal
Court of Tumauini, Isabela.

On 24 July 1974, respondent Manalo filed a complaints6 before the then Court of First Instance of
Isabela, Branch 3 for quieting of title, possession and damages against petitioners. He alleged ownership
of the two (2) parcels of land he bought separately from Faustina Taccad and Gregorio Taguba for which
reason he prayed that judgment be entered ordering petitioners to vacate the western strip of the
unsurveyed portion. Respondent Manalo likewise prayed that judgment be entered declaring him as
owner of Lot 821 on which he had laid his claim during the survey.

Petitioners filed their answer denying the material allegations of the complaint. The case was then set for
trial for failure of the parties to reach an amicable agreement or to enter into a stipulation of facts.7 On 10
November 1982, the trial court rendered a decision with the following dispositive portion:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises, the Court renders judgment against the
defendants and in favor of the plaintiff and orders:

1. That plaintiff, Guillermo Manalo, is declared the lawful owner of the land in question, Lot No.
821, Pls-964 of Tumauini Cadastre, and which is more particularly described in paragraph 2-b of
the Complaint;

2. That the defendants are hereby ordered to vacate the premises of the land in question, Lot No.
821, Pls-964 of Tumauini Cadastre, and which is more particularly described in paragraph 2-b of
the Complaint;

3. That the defendants are being restrained from entering the premises of the land in question,
Lot No. 821, Pls-964 of Tumauini Cadastre, and which is more particularly described in paragraph
2-b of the Complaint; and

4. That there is no pronouncement as to attorney's fees and costs.

SO ORDERED.8
Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals which, however, affirmed the decision of the trial court. They
filed a motion for reconsideration, without success.

While petitioners insist that Lot 821 is part of an island surrounded by the two (2) branches of the
Cagayan River, the Court of Appeals found otherwise. The Court of Appeals concurred with the finding of
the trial court that Lot 821 cannot be considered separate and distinct from Lot 307 since the eastern
branch of the Cagayan River substantially dries up for the most part of the year such that when this
happens, Lot 821 becomes physically (i.e., by land) connected with the dried up bed owned by
respondent Manalo. Both courts below in effect rejected the assertion of petitioners that the depression
on the earth's surface which separates Lot 307 and Lot 821 is, during part of the year, the bed of the
eastern branch of the Cagayan River.

It is a familiar rule that the findings of facts of the trial court are entitled to great respect, and that they
carry even more weight when affirmed by the Court of Appeals.9 This is in recognition of the peculiar
advantage on the part of the trial court of being able to observe first-hand the deportment of the witnesses
while testifying. Jurisprudence is likewise settled that the Court of Appeals is the final arbiter of questions
of fact.10 But whether a conclusion drawn from such findings of facts is correct, is a question of law
cognizable by this Court.11

In the instant case, the conclusion reached by both courts below apparently collides with their findings
that periodically at the onset of and during the rainy season, river water flows through the eastern bed of
the Cagayan River. The trial court held:

The Court believes that the land in controversy is of the nature and character of alluvion
(Accretion), for it appears that during the dry season, the body of water separating the same land
in controversy (Lot No. 821, Pls-964) and the two (2) parcels of land which the plaintiff purchased
from Gregorio Taguba and Justina Taccad Cayaba becomes a marshy land and is only six (6)
inches deep and twelve (12) meters in width at its widest in the northern tip (Exhs. "W", "W-l", "W-
2", "W-3" and "W-4"), It has been held by our Supreme Court that "the owner of the riparian land
which receives the gradual deposits of alluvion, does not have to make an express act of
possession. The law does not require it, and the deposit created by the current of the water
becomes manifest" (Roxas vs. Tuazon, 6 Phil. 408).12

The Court of Appeals adhered substantially to the conclusion reached by the trial court, thus:

As found by the trial court, the disputed property is not an island in the strict sense of the word
since the eastern portion of the said property claimed by appellants to be part of the Cagayan
River dries up during summer. Admittedly, it is the action of the heavy rains which comes during
rainy season especially from September to November which increases the water level of the
Cagayan river. As the river becomes swollen due to heavy rains, the lower portion of the said
strip of land located at its southernmost point would be inundated with water. This is where the
water of the Cagayan river gains its entry. Consequently, if the water level is high the whole strip
of land would be under water.

In Government of the Philippine Islands vs. Colegio de San Jose, it was held that —

According to the foregoing definition of the words "ordinary" and "extra-ordinary," the highest
depth of the waters of Laguna de Bay during the dry season is the ordinary one, and the highest
depth they attain during the extra-ordinary one (sic); inasmuch as the former is the one which is
regular, common, natural, which occurs always or most of the time during the year, while the
latter is uncommon, transcends the general rule, order and measure, and goes beyond that which
is the ordinary depth. If according to the definition given by Article 74 of the Law of Waters quoted
above, the natural bed or basin of the lakes is the ground covered by their waters when at their
highest ordinary depth, the natural bed or basin of Laguna de Bay is the ground covered by its
waters when at their highest depth during the dry season, that is up to the northeastern boundary
of the two parcels of land in question.

We find the foregoing ruling to be analogous to the case at bar. The highest ordinary level of the waters of
the Cagayan River is that attained during the dry season which is confined only on the west side of Lot
[821] and Lot [822]. This is the natural Cagayan river itself. The small residual of water between Lot [821]
and 307 is part of the small stream already in existence when the whole of the late Judge Juan Taccad's
property was still susceptible to cultivation and uneroded.13

The Court is unable to agree with the Court of Appeals that Government of the Philippine Islands vs.
Colegio de San Jose 14 is applicable to the present case. That case involved Laguna de Bay; since
Laguna de Bay is a lake, the Court applied the legal provisions governing the ownership and use of lakes
and their beds and shores, in order to determine the character and ownership of the disputed property.
Specifically, the Court applied the definition of the natural bed or basin of lakes found in Article 74 of the
Law of Waters of 3 August 1866. Upon the other hand, what is involved in the instant case is the eastern
bed of the Cagayan River.

We believe and so hold that Article 70 of the Law of Waters of 3 August 1866 is the law applicable to the
case at bar:

Art. 70. The natural bed or channel of a creek or river is the ground covered by its waters during
the highest floods. (Emphasis supplied)

We note that Article 70 defines the natural bed or channel of a creek or river as the ground covered by its
waters during the highest floods. The highest floods in the eastern branch of the Cagayan River occur
with the annual coming of the rains as the river waters in their onward course cover the entire depressed
portion. Though the eastern bed substantially dries up for the most part of the year (i.e., from January to
August), we cannot ignore the periodical swelling of the waters ( i.e., from September to December)
causing the eastern bed to be covered with flowing river waters.

The conclusion of this Court that the depressed portion is a river bed rests upon evidence of
record.1âwphi1 Firstly, respondent Manalo admitted in open court that the entire area he bought from
Gregorio Taguba was included in Lot 307.15 If the 1.80 hectares purchased from Gregorio Taguba was
included in Lot 307, then the Cagayan River referred to as the western boundary in the Deed of Sale
transferring the land from Gregorio Taguba to respondent Manalo as well as the Deed of Sale signed by
Faustina Taccad, must refer to the dried up bed (during the dry months) or the eastern branch of the river
(during the rainy months). In the Sketch Plan attached to the records of the case, Lot 307 is separated
from the western branch of the Cagayan River by a large tract of land which includes not only Lot 821 but
also what this Court characterizes as the eastern branch of the Cagayan River.

Secondly, the pictures identified by respondent Manalo during his direct examination depict the
depressed portion as a river bed. The pictures, marked as Exhibits "W" to "W-4", were taken in July 1973
or at a time when the eastern bed becomes visible.16 Thus, Exhibit "W-2" which according to respondent
Manalo was taken facing the east and Exhibit "W-3" which was taken facing the west both show that the
visible, dried up portion has a markedly lower elevation than Lot 307 and Lot 821. It has dike-like slopes
on both sides connecting it to Lot 307 and Lot 821 that are vertical upward and very prominent. This
topographic feature is compatible with the fact that a huge volume of water passes through the eastern
bed regularly during the rainy season. In addition, petitioner Ponciano Gannaban testified that one had to
go down what he called a "cliff" from the surveyed portion of the land of respondent Manalo to the
depressed portion. The cliff, as related by petitioner Gannaban, has a height of eight (8) meters.17
The records do not show when the Cagayan River began to carve its eastern channel on the surface of
the earth. However, Exhibit "E"18 for the prosecution which was the Declaration of Real Property standing
in the name of Faustina Taccad indicates that the eastern bed already existed even before the sale to
respondent Manalo. The words "old bed" enclosed in parentheses—perhaps written to make legitimate
the claim of private ownership over the submerged portion—is an implied admission of the existence of
the river bed. In the Declaration of Real Property made by respondent Manalo, the depressed portion
assumed the name Rio Muerte de Cagayan. Indeed, the steep dike-like slopes on either side of the
eastern bed could have been formed only after a prolonged period of time.

Now, then, pursuant to Article 420 of the Civil Code, respondent Manalo did not acquire private ownership
of the bed of the eastern branch of the river even if it was included in the deeds of absolute sale executed
by Gregorio Taguba and Faustina Taccad in his favor. These vendors could not have validly sold land
that constituted property of public dominion. Article 420 of the Civil Code states:

The following things are property of public dominion:

(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges
constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;

(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some
public service or for the development of the national wealth. (Emphasis supplied)

Although Article 420 speaks only of rivers and banks, "rivers" is a composite term which includes: (1) the
running waters, (2) the bed, and (3) the banks.19 Manresa, in commenting upon Article 339 of the
Spanish Civil Code of 1889 from which Article 420 of the Philippine Civil Code was taken, stressed the
public ownership of river beds:

La naturaleza especial de los rios, en punto a su disfrute general, hace que sea necesario
considerar en su relacion de dominio algo mas que sus aguas corrientes. En efecto en todo rio
es preciso distinguir 1. esta agua corriente; 2. el alveo o cauce, y 3. las riberas. Ahora bien: son
estas dos ultimas cosas siempre de dominio publico, como las aguas?

Realmente no puede imaginarse un rio sin alveo y sin ribera; de suerte que al decir el Codigo
civil que los rios son de dominio publico, parece que debe ir implicito el dominio publico de
aquellos tres elementos que integran el rio. Por otra parte, en cuanto a los alveos o cauces
tenemos la declaracion del art. 407, num 1, donde dice: son de dominion publico . . . los rios y
sus cauces naturales; declaracion que concuerda con lo que dispone el art. 34 de la ley de
[Aguas], segun el cual, son de dominion publico: 1. los alveos o cauces de los arroyos que no se
hallen comprendidos en el art. 33, y 2. los alveos o cauces naturales de los rios en la extension
que cubran sus aguas en las mayores crecidas ordinarias.20 (Emphasis supplied)

The claim of ownership of respondent Manalo over the submerged portion is bereft of basis even if it were
alleged and proved that the Cagayan River first began to encroach on his property after the purchase
from Gregorio Taguba and Faustina Taccad. Article 462 of the Civil Code would then apply divesting, by
operation of law, respondent Manalo of private ownership over the new river bed. The intrusion of the
eastern branch of the Cagayan River into his landholding obviously prejudiced respondent Manalo but
this is a common occurrence since estates bordering on rivers are exposed to floods and other evils
produced by the destructive force of the waters. That loss is compensated by, inter alia, the right of
accretion acknowledged by Article 457 of the Civil Code.21 It so happened that instead of increasing the
size of Lot 307, the eastern branch of the Cagayan River had carved a channel on it.
We turn next to the issue of accretion. After examining the records of the case, the Court considers that
there was no evidence to prove that Lot 821 is an increment to Lot 307 and the bed of the eastern branch
of the river. Accretion as a mode of acquiring property under Article 457 of the Civil Code requires the
concurrence of three (3) requisites: (a) that the deposition of soil or sediment be gradual and
imperceptible; (b) that it be the result of the action of the waters of the river (or sea); and (c) that the land
where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers (or the sea coast).22 The Court notes that
the parcels of land bought by respondent Manalo border on the eastern branch of the Cagayan River.
Any accretion formed by this eastern branch which respondent Manalo may claim must be deposited on
or attached to Lot 307. As it is, the claimed accretion (Lot 821) lies on the bank of the river not adjacent to
Lot 307 but directly opposite Lot 307 across the river.

Assuming (arguendo only) that the Cagayan River referred to in the Deeds of Sale transferring ownership
of the land to respondent Manalo is the western branch, the decision of the Court of Appeals and of the
trial court are bare of factual findings to the effect that the land purchased by respondent Manalo received
alluvium from the action of the aver in a slow and gradual manner. On the contrary, the decision of the
lower court made mention of several floods that caused the land to reappear making it susceptible to
cultivation. A sudden and forceful action like that of flooding is hardly the alluvial process contemplated
under Article 457 of the Civil Code. It is the slow and hardly perceptible accumulation of soil deposits that
the law grants to the riparian owner.

Besides, it is important to note that Lot 821 has an area of 11.91 hectares. Lot 821 is the northern portion
of the strip of land having a total area of 22.72 hectares. We find it difficult to suppose that such a sizable
area as Lot 821 resulted from slow accretion to another lot of almost equal size. The total landholding
purchased by respondent Manalo is 10.45 hectares (8.65 hectares from Faustina Taccad and 1.80
hectares from Gregorio Taguba in 1959 and 1964, respectively), in fact even smaller than Lot 821 which
he claims by way of accretion. The cadastral survey showing that Lot 821 has an area of 11.91 hectares
was conducted in 1969. If respondent Manalo's contention were accepted, it would mean that in a span of
only ten (10) years, he had more than doubled his landholding by what the Court of Appeals and the trial
court considered as accretion. As already noted, there are steep vertical dike-like slopes separating the
depressed portion or river bed and Lot 821 and Lot 307. This topography of the land, among other things,
precludes a reasonable conclusion that Lot 821 is an increment to the depressed portion by reason of the
slow and constant action of the waters of either the western or the eastern branches of the Cagayan
River.

We turn finally to the issue of ownership of Lot 821. Respondent Manalo's claim over Lot 821 rests on
accretion coupled with alleged prior possession. He alleged that the parcels of land he bought separately
from Gregorio Taguba and Faustina Taccad were formerly owned by Judge Juan Taccad who was in
possession thereof through his (Judge Taccad's) tenants. When ownership was transferred to him,
respondent Manalo took over the cultivation of the property and had it declared for taxation purposes in
his name. When petitioners forcibly entered into his property, he twice instituted the appropriate action
before the Municipal Trial Court of Tumauini, Isabela. Against respondent Manalo's allegation of prior
possession, petitioners presented tax declarations standing in their respective names. They claimed
lawful, peaceful and adverse possession of Lot 821 since 1955.

If respondent Manalo had proved prior possession, it was limited physically to Lot 307 and the depressed
portion or the eastern river bed. The testimony of Dominga Malana who was a tenant for Justina Taccad
did not indicate that she was also cultivating Lot 821. In fact, the complaints for forcible entry lodged
before the Municipal Trial Court of Tumauini, Isabela pertained only to Lot 307 and the depressed portion
or river bed and not to Lot 821. In the same manner, the tax declarations presented by petitioners conflict
with those of respondent Manalo. Under Article 477 of the Civil Code, the plaintiff in an action for quieting
of title must at least have equitable title to or interest in the real property which is the subject matter of the
action. The evidence of record on this point is less than satisfactory and the Court feels compelled to
refrain from determining the ownership and possession of Lot 821, adjudging neither petitioners nor
respondent Manalo as owner(s) thereof.

WHEREFORE, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 04892 are hereby
SET ASIDE. Respondent Manalo is hereby declared the owner of Lot 307. The regularly submerged
portion or the eastern bed of the Cagayan River is hereby DECLARED to be property of public dominion.
The ownership of Lot 821 shall be determined in an appropriate action that may be instituted by the
interested parties inter se. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Fernan, C.J., Gutierrez, Jr., Bidin and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. L-17652 June 30, 1962

IGNACIO GRANDE, ET AL., petitioners,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, DOMINGO CALALUNG, and ESTEBAN CALALUNG, respondents.

Bartolome Guirao and Antonio M. Orara for petitioners.


Gonzales and Fernandez for respondents.

BARRERA, J.:

This is an appeal taken by petitioners Ignacio, Eulogia, Alfonso, Eulalia, and Sofia Grande, from the
decision of the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. No. 25169-R) reversing that of the Court of First Instance of
Isabela (Civil Case No. 1171), and dismissing petitioners' action against respondents Domingo and
Esteban Calalung, to quiet title to and recover possession of a parcel of land allegedly occupied by the
latter without petitioners' consent.

The facts of the case, which are undisputed, briefly are: Petitioners are the owners of a parcel of land,
with an area of 3.5032 hectares, located at barrio Ragan, municipality of Magsaysay (formerly Tumauini),
province of Isabela, by inheritance from their deceased mother Patricia Angui (who inherited it from her
parents Isidro Angui and Ana Lopez, in whose name said land appears registered, as shown by Original
Certificate of Title No. 2982, issued on June 9, 1934). Said property is identified as Lot No. 1, Plan PSU-
83342. When it was surveyed for purposes of registration sometime in 1930, its northeastern boundary
was the Cagayan River (the same boundary stated in the title). Since then, and for many years thereafter,
a gradual accretion on the northeastern side took place, by action of the current of the Cagayan River, so
much so, that by 1958, the bank thereof had receded to a distance of about 105 meters from its original
site, and an alluvial deposit of 19,964 square meters (1.9964 hectares), more or less, had been added to
the registered area (Exh. C-1).

On January 25, 1958, petitioners instituted the present action in the Court of First Instance of Isabela
against respondents, to quiet title to said portion (19,964 square meters) formed by accretion, alleging in
their complaint (docketed as Civil Case No. 1171) that they and their predecessors-in-interest, were
formerly in peaceful and continuous possession thereof, until September, 1948, when respondents
entered upon the land under claim of ownership. Petitioners also asked for damages corresponding to the
value of the fruits of the land as well as attorney's fees and costs. In their answer (dated February 18,
1958), respondents claim ownership in themselves, asserting that they have been in continuous, open,
and undisturbed possession of said portion, since prior to the year 1933 to the present.

After trial, the Court of First Instance of Isabela, on May 4, 1959, rendered a decision adjudging the
ownership of the portion in question to petitioners, and ordering respondents to vacate the premises and
deliver possession thereof to petitioners, and to pay to the latter P250.00 as damages and costs. Said
decision, in part, reads:

It is admitted by the parties that the land involved in this action was formed by the gradual deposit
of alluvium brought about by the action of the Cagayan River, a navigable river. We are inclined
to believe that the accretion was formed on the northeastern side of the land covered by Original
Certificate of Title No. 2982 after the survey of the registered land in 1931, because the surveyors
found out that the northeastern boundary of the land surveyed by them was the Cagayan River,
and not the land in question. Which is indicative of the fact that the accretion has not yet started
or begun in 1931. And, as declared by Pedro Laman, defendant witness and the boundary owner
on the northwest of the registered land of the plaintiffs, the accretion was a little more than one
hectare, including the stony portion, in 1940 or 1941. Therefore, the declarations of the defendant
Domingo Calalung and his witness, Vicente C. Bacani, to the effect that the land in question was
formed by accretion since 1933 do not only contradict the testimony of defendants' witness Pedro
Laman, but could not overthrow the incontestable fact that the accretion with an area of 4 hectare
more or less, was formed in 1948, reason for which, it was only declared in that same year for
taxation purposes by the defendants under Tax Dec. No. 257 (Exh. "2") when they entered upon
the land. We could not give credence to defendants' assertion that Tax Dec. No. 257 (Exh. "2")
cancelled Tax Dee. No. 28226 (Exh. "1"), because Exh. "2" says that "tax under this declaration
begins with the year 1948. But, the fact that defendants declared the land for taxation purposes
since 1948, does not mean that they become the owner of the land by mere occupancy, for it is a
new provision of the New Civil Code that ownership of a piece of land cannot be acquired by
occupation (Art. 714, New Civil Code). The land in question being an accretion to the mother or
registered land of the plaintiffs, the accretion belongs to the plaintiffs (Art. 457, New Civil Code;
Art. 366, Old Civil Code). Assuming arguendo, that the accretion has been occupied by the
defendants since 1948, or earlier, is of no moment, because the law does not require any act of
possession on the part of the owner of the riparian owner, from the moment the deposit becomes
manifest (Roxas v. Tuason, 9 Phil. 408; Cortez v. City of Manila, 10 Phil. 567). Further, no act of
appropriation on the part of the reparian owner is necessary, in order to acquire ownership of the
alluvial formation, as the law does not require the same (3 Manresa, C.C., pp. 321-326).

This brings us now to the determination of whether the defendants, granting that they have been
in possession of the alluvium since 1948, could have acquired the property by prescription.
Assuming that they occupied the land in September, 1948, but considering that the action was
commenced on January 25, 1958, they have not been in possession of the land for ten (10)
years; hence, they could not have acquired the land by ordinary prescription (Arts. 1134 and
1138, New Civil Code). Moreover, as the alluvium is, by law, part and parcel of the registered
property, the same may be considered as registered property, within the meaning of Section 46 of
Act No. 496: and, therefore, it could not be acquired by prescription or adverse possession by
another person.

Unsatisfied, respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals, which rendered, on September 14, 1960, the
decision adverted to at the beginning of this opinion, partly stating:

That the area in controversy has been formed through a gradual process of alluvium, which
started in the early thirties, is a fact conclusively established by the evidence for both parties. By
law, therefore, unless some superior title has supervened, it should properly belong to the riparian
owners, specifically in accordance with the rule of natural accession in Article 366 of the old Civil
Code (now Article 457), which provides that "to the owner of lands adjoining the banks of rivers,
belongs the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters."
The defendants, however, contend that they have acquired ownership through prescription. This
contention poses the real issue in this case. The Court a quo, has resolved it in favor of the
plaintiffs, on two grounds: First, since by accession, the land in question pertains to the original
estate, and since in this instance the original estate is registered, the accretion, consequently,
falls within the purview of Section 46 of Act No. 496, which states that "no title to registered land
in derogation to that of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse
possession"; and, second, the adverse possession of the defendant began only in the month of
September, 1948, or less than the 10-year period required for prescription before the present
action was instituted.

As a legal proposition, the first ground relied upon by the trial court, is not quite correct. An
accretion to registered land, while declared by specific provision of the Civil Code to belong to the
owner of the land as a natural accession thereof, does not ipso jure become entitled to the
protection of the rule of imprescriptibility of title established by the Land Registration Act. Such
protection does not extend beyond the area given and described in the certificate. To hold
otherwise, would be productive of confusion. It would virtually deprive the title, and the technical
description of the land given therein, of their character of conclusiveness as to the identity and
area of the land that is registered. Just as the Supreme Court, albeit in a negative manner, has
stated that registration does not protect the riparian owner against the erosion of the area of his
land through gradual changes in the course of the adjoining stream (Payatas Estate Development
Co. v. Tuason, 53 Phil. 55), so registration does not entitle him to all the rights conferred by Land
Registration Act, in so far as the area added by accretion is concerned. What rights he has, are
declared not by said Act, but by the provisions of the Civil Code on accession: and these
provisions do not preclude acquisition of the addition area by another person through
prescription. This Court has held as much in the case of Galindez, et al. v. Baguisa, et al., CA-
G.R. No. 19249-R, July 17, 1959.

We now proposed to review the second ground relied upon by the trial court, regarding the length
of time that the defendants have been in possession. Domingo Calalung testified that he
occupied the land in question for the first time in 1934, not in 1948 as claimed by the plaintiffs.
The area under occupancy gradually increased as the years went by. In 1946, he declared the
land for purposes of taxation (Exhibit 1). This tax declaration was superseded in 1948 by another
(Exhibit 2), after the name of the municipality wherein it is located was changed from Tumauini to
Magsaysay. Calalung's testimony is corroborated by two witnesses, both owners of properties
nearby. Pedro Laman, 72 years of age, who was Municipal president of Tumauini for three terms,
said that the land in question adjoins his own on the south, and that since 1940 or 1951, he has
always known it to be in the peaceful possession of the defendants. Vicente C. Bacani testified to
the same effect, although, he said that the defendants' possession started sometime in 1933 or
1934. The area thereof, he said, was then less than one hectare.

We find the testimony of the said witnesses entitled to much greater weight and credence than
that of the plaintiff Pedro Grande and his lone witness, Laureana Rodriguez. The first stated that
the defendants occupied the land in question only in 1948; that he called the latter's attention to
the fact that the land was his, but the defendants, in turn, claimed that they were the owners, that
the plaintiffs did not file an action until 1958, because it was only then that they were able to
obtain the certificate of title from the surveyor, Domingo Parlan; and that they never declared the
land in question for taxation purposes or paid the taxes thereon. Pedro Grande admitted that the
defendants had the said land surveyed in April, 1958, and that he tried to stop it, not because he
claimed the accretion for himself and his co-plaintiffs, but because the survey included a portion
of the property covered by their title. This last fact is conceded by the defendants who,
accordingly, relinquished their possession to the part thus included, containing an area of some
458 square meters.1äwphï1.ñët

The oral evidence for the defendants concerning the period of their possession — from 1933 to
1958 — is not only preponderant in itself, but is, moreover, supported by the fact that it is they
and not the plaintiffs who declared the disputed property for taxation, and by the additional
circumstance that if the plaintiff had really been in prior possession and were deprived thereof in
1948, they would have immediately taken steps to recover the same. The excuse they gave for
not doing so, namely, that they did not receive their copy of the certificate of title to their property
until 1958 for lack of funds to pay the fees of the surveyor Domingo Parlan, is too flimsy to merit
any serious consideration. The payment of the surveyor's fees had nothing to do with their right to
obtain a copy of the certificate. Besides, it was not necessary for them to have it in their hands, in
order to file an action to recover the land which was legally theirs by accession and of which, as
they allege, they had been illegally deprived by the defendants. We are convinced, upon
consideration of the evidence, that the latter, were really in possession since 1934, immediately
after the process of alluvion started, and that the plaintiffs woke up to their rights only when they
received their copy of the title in 1958. By then, however, prescription had already supervened in
favor of the defendants.
It is this decision of the Court of Appeals which petitioners seek to be reviewed by us.

The sole issue for resolution in this case is whether respondents have acquired the alluvial property in
question through prescription.

There can be no dispute that both under Article 457 of the New Civil Code and Article 366 of the old,
petitioners are the lawful owners of said alluvial property, as they are the registered owners of the land
which it adjoins. The question is whether the accretion becomes automatically registered land just
because the lot which receives it is covered by a Torrens title thereby making the alluvial property
imprescriptible. We agree with the Court of Appeals that it does not, just as an unregistered land
purchased by the registered owner of the adjoining land does not, by extension, become ipso facto
registered land. Ownership of a piece of land is one thing, and registration under the Torrens system of
that ownership is quite another. Ownership over the accretion received by the land adjoining a river is
governed by the Civil Code. Imprescriptibility of registered land is provided in the registration law.
Registration under the Land Registration and Cadastral Acts does not vest or give title to the land, but
merely confirms and thereafter protects the title already possessed by the owner, making it imprescriptible
by occupation of third parties. But to obtain this protection, the land must be placed under the operation of
the registration laws wherein certain judicial procedures have been provided. The fact remain, however,
that petitioners never sought registration of said alluvial property (which was formed sometime after
petitioners' property covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 2982 was registered on June 9, 1934) up
to the time they instituted the present action in the Court of First Instance of Isabela in 1958. The
increment, therefore, never became registered property, and hence is not entitled or subject to the
protection of imprescriptibility enjoyed by registered property under the Torrens system. Consequently, it
was subject to acquisition through prescription by third persons.

The next issue is, did respondents acquire said alluvial property through acquisitive prescription? This is a
question which requires determination of facts: physical possession and dates or duration of such
possession. The Court of Appeals, after analyzing the evidence, found that respondents-appellees were
in possession of the alluvial lot since 1933 or 1934, openly, continuously and adversely, under a claim of
ownership up to the filing of the action in 1958. This finding of the existence of these facts, arrived at by
the Court of Appeals after an examination of the evidence presented by the parties, is conclusive as to
them and can not be reviewed by us.

The law on prescription applicable to the case is that provided in Act 190 and not the provisions of the
Civil Code, since the possession started in 1933 or 1934 when the pertinent articles of the old Civil Code
were not in force and before the effectivity of the new Civil Code in 1950. Hence, the conclusion of the
Court of Appeals that the respondents acquired alluvial lot in question by acquisitive prescription is in
accordance with law.

The decision of the Court of Appeals under review is hereby affirmed, with costs against the petitioners.
So ordered.

Bengzon, C.J., Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Paredes and Dizon, JJ., concur.
Reyes, J.B.L., Regala and Makalintal, JJ., took no part.