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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION

No. 26, Oaiag-Upay, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, more specifically described as follows: RURAL, part of which is riceland and the rest a pasture, bounded on the North by the Heirs of Oligario Cabuyadao and others; on the East, by Tony Cac (formerly Luis Bacud); on the South, by Rufino Macoco et al.; and, on the West by the successors of Eusebio Agdeppa and Luis Cueva, with an area of 11,850 square meters more or less. They further averred that during the cadastral survey of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, unknown to them and without their consent, the above-described property was surveyed and subdivided into Lot Nos. 7452, 7444, and 7450, and that under baseless claims of ownership, David Cabuyadao and Loreto Raguirag threatened to enter Lot No. 7452 and Lot No. 7444, respectively. The petitioners then prayed that they be declared the owners of Lot Nos. 7452 and 7444 and that a writ of preliminary injunction be issued ordering the defendants and their agents and representatives to desist from entering the lots. David Cabuyadao was declared in default 2 for failure to file his answer. In his answer with counterclaim, 3 private respondent (defendant) Loreto Raguirag denied having knowledge of the property claimed by the petitioners but by way of special defense asserted that he is the absolute owner of the parcel of land described as follows: UNCULTIVATED LAND situated at Dumalaoaig, # 19, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, with an area of 3,487 sq. meters, more or less, designated as Lot No. 7444, Cad. 445D of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Bounded on the north by Benigno Raguirag; on the East by Manuel Raguirag; on the South by Felipe Cueva, and on the West by Gregorio Agdeppa. The petitioners' claim of ownership is based on two deeds of absolute sale, one executed on 2 January 1950 by Trinidad Gonzales in favor of petitioner Julio Tapec, 4 and the other executed on 28 May 1949 by Rosario Gonzales in favor of the petitioners, 5 both acknowledged before the same notary public and duly registered with the Office of the Register of Deeds under Act No. 3344 on 8 March 1950 and 29 July 1949, respectively. The property subject of the sale by Trinidad Gonzales is described as follows:

G.R. No. 111952 October 26, 1994 JULIO TAPEC and PRISCA GALANO, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and LORETO RAGUIRAG, respondents. Evangelista & Evangelista for petitioners. Sylvia R.T. Rubio for private respondent.

DAVIDE, JR., J.: In resolving the issue of which document should be given more weight in deciding ownership, the trial court and the Court of Appeals arrived at irreconcilably conflicting judgments. The former held that the deeds of sale in favor of the petitioners, being duly acknowledged before a notary public and registered under Act No. 3344, although executed much later, should prevail over a prior conveyance in a private document in favor of the private respondent's predecessor-in-interest. On appeal by the private respondent, the Court of Appeals held otherwise on the ground that the private document is an ancient document under the rules of evidence and overturned the decision of the trial court. Hence this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. There can be no question that the determination of which of the two documents should prevail, in the manner it was done by the courts below, is a question of law. At its heart, however, is a question of fact which, under the general rule that only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review, should not be entertained by this Court. The instant case, however, falls within one of the exceptions to such rule: that the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court. 1 Accordingly, we gave due course to this petition. The procedural and factual antecedents are disclosed by the pleadings. On 4 December 1994, the petitioners, who are husband and wife, filed a complaint for recovery of ownership with the Regional Trial Court at Batac, Ilocos Norte, against David Cabuyadao and herein private respondent Loreto Raguirag. The petitioners alleged in their complaint that they are the owners of a parcel of land with an area of 11,850 square meters, located at Barangay

A parcel of an unirrigated riceland measuring 4832 sq. m. and pasto 6 measuring 2380 sq. m. and both bounded on the North by Aquilino Oamil and others, East Rufino Diaz and others, South Leocadio Macoco and others and West Felipe Cueva and others and that said land is valued at P180.00 for this current year as per Tax No. 016399 (previously under Tax No. 68663) in the name of Miguel Gonzales. . . . while the parcel sold by Rosario Gonzales is described thus: A parcel of unirrigated riceland measuring 4832 sq. m. and bounded on the North by Oligario Cabuyadao, Manuel Raguirag and Aquilino Oamil, East by Luis Bacud and Rufino Diaz, South by Leocadio Macoco and Ariston Cueva, and West by Eusebio Agdeppa and Felipe Cueva. It is valued at P180 for this current year as per Tax No. 016399 under the name of the late Miguel Gonzales. . . . Respondent Loreto Raguirag, on the other hand, anchored his defense on a document, dated 15 May 1931 7 and handwritten in Ilocano, wherein the brothers Victoriano, Gregorio, Matias, and Alejandro, all surnamed Gonzales, 8sold to the spouses Manuel Raguirag and Clara Tapec, grandparents of respondent Raguirag, for a consideration of P150.00 a pasture situated in Dumalaoing, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, with an area of 3,450 sq. meters and bounded: . . . as follows, North Victoriano Gonzalis I, East Alejandro Gonzalis, Miguel Gonzalis and others, South Pelipi Cuyba West Grigorio Agdippa. 9 Witnesses to the said handwritten document were Manuel Raguirag, Cornelio Cabuyao, and Miguel Gonzales. At the trial, petitioner Julio Tapec identified the deeds of sale executed by Trinidad and Rosario Gonzales and the sketch plan of Lot Nos. 7444, 7450, and 7452 of the Paoay Cadastre 10 and declared that the area sold by Trinidad corresponds to Lot Nos. 7450 and 7452 while the parcel sold by Rosario corresponds to Lot No. 7444. 11He further alleged that he has been in possession of the lots since he purchased them and had them declared for taxation purposes in his name in 1950 12 and that before he bought the property of Trinidad Gonzales, he had to first redeem it from Ireneo Raguirag to whom it was mortgaged by Trinidad for P100.00 on 10 November 1947 and who (Trinidad) was in possession thereof. 13 On the other hand, private respondent Raguirag presented the 1931 private writing which, according to him, was shown to him when he was a boy by his grandfather, Manuel Raguirag, who said, "all of these are our properties of which I bought from Alejandro Gonzales." 14 He claimed that his grandfather was in possession of the property until his death during the Japanese occupation. Then his father, Ireneo Raguirag, continued such possession until he died in 1967. 15 Ireneo had the property declared for taxation purposes in 1962. 16 After his father's death,

Loreto took over the possession of the property and during the cadastral survey of Paoay, it was claimed by Leoncia Raguirag, a sister of Ireneo. The private respondent is merely possessing it as tenant-administrator. Thus: ATTY. LUMBO q I understand that the land in suit has already a lot number, do you know who is the survey claimant of the lot in suit? xxx xxx xxx a Leoncia Raguirag, sir. q Who is this Leoncia Raguirag? a A sister of my father, sir. q You said that from the death of your late father up to the present you are the one possessing this land in suit, my question is, why are you in possession of this property? a Yes, sir, because my father is no longer living. q And since according to you this survey claimant is Leoncia Raguirag, a sister of your late father, in what capacity are you possessing the land in suit? a As a tenant-administrator, sir. q Tiller-administrator of what? a That pastureland in the land of my father, sir. q What is that pastureland you are referring to in the name of your father? a That is the pastureland that is being claimed by Julio Tapec, sir. 17 On 31 October 1989, the trial court rendered a decision, 18 the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

In view of all the foregoing, it is hereby ordered: 1. That the plaintiffs are absolute owners of Lot Nos. 7942 19 and 7444. 2. That the defendants pay the costs. In support thereof, it made the following findings and conclusion: That an impartial assessment of the evidence adduced disclosed that the deed of sale executed in favor of the plaintiffs by the vendees Trinidad Gonzales and Rosario Gonzales marked as Exh. "A" and "B" respectively are public documents registered in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Ilocos Norte while that of the defendant is in a private document. That between a deed of sale in a public document and a deed of sale in private document, the former must prevail; That a contract may be entered into in whatever form except where the law requires a document or other special form. "When the law requires that a contract be in a public document in order that it may be valid or enforceable, such as contracts which have for their object the creation or transmission of rights over immovable property, that requirement is absolute and indispensable." (Manotok Realty, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 35365, 9 April '87, Second Division). Art. 1358 N.C.C. (No. 1). Acts and contracts which have for their object the creation, transmission, modification or extinguishment of real rights over immovable property must appear in a public document (Gallardo vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 67742, 21 Oct. '87, First Division). Loreto Raguirag appealed from the decision to the Court of Appeals which docketed the appeal as CA-G.R. CV No. 26093. In its decision 20 of 20 September 1993, the Court of Appeals reversed the appealed decision. It declared: The plaintiffs-appellee raise for the first time, on appeal, the question of the genuineness of the Deed of Sale offered as documentary evidence by the defendants-appellants. It has been decided by the Supreme Court that objection to the admission of evidence must be made seasonably, at the time it is introduced or offered, otherwise they are

deemed waived and will not be entertained for the first time on appeal. (People of the Philippines vs. Benjamin Baares, G.R. No. 68298, November 25, 1986, 145 SCRA 680) The rule is that evidence not objected to is deemed admitted and may be validly considered by the court in arriving at its judgment. This is true even if by its nature the evidence is inadmissible and would have surely been rejected if it had been challenged at the proper time. (Interpacific Transit, Inc. vs. Rufo Aviles and Josephine Aviles, G.R. No. 86062, June 6, 1990, 186 SCRA 385). Aside from that, a private document may be exempted from proof of due execution and authenticity under the "ancient document rule." Section 22, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides that: Sec. 22. Evidence of execution not necessary. Where a private writing is more than thirty years old, is produced from a custody in which it would naturally be found if genuine, and is unblemished by any alterations or circumstances of suspicion, no other evidence of its execution and authenticity need be given. In this case, the Deed of Sale dated 15 May 1931 complies with the first requirement of Section 22 since it was offered in evidence in 1986. It was presented in court by the proper custodian thereof who is an heir of the person who would naturally keep it complying with the requirement that it be produced from a custody in which it would naturally be found if genuine. (Resurreccion Bartolome, et al., vs. The Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., G.R. No. 76792, March 12, 1990, 183 SCRA 102) Neither is there any evidence of alterations or any circumstances that would cause a doubt on the genuineness of the document. Thus, all the elements of a valid contract of sale under Article 1458 of the Civil Code, are present, such as: (1) consent or meeting of the minds; (2) determinate subject matter; and (3) price certain in money or its equivalent. In addition, Article 1477 of the same Code provides that "the ownership of the thing sold shall be transferred to the vendee upon actual or constructive delivery thereof." The plaintiff-appellee Julio Tapec himself, testified during cross-examination that Ireneo Raguirag (father of defendants-appellants) was already in possession of the parcel of land when the

subject land was offered to him by the vendor, Rosario Gonzales. (Original Records, TSN, June 26, 1986, p. 8) Moreover, Constancia Gonzales, a sister of the vendor of the plaintiffs-appellees, and a witness for the defendants-appellants, testified that the subject pastureland was sold to the grandfather of the defendants-appellants as told to her by her parents; and that the predecessors-in-interest of the defendantsappellants have been in possession of the property since they bought it. (Original Records, TSN, November 23, 1988, pp. 2-3). The validity of the sale of the subject pastureland to the predecessors-in-interest of the defendants-appellants cannot be disputed. Contracts shall be obligatory, in whatever form they may have been entered into, provided all the essential requisites for their validity are present. (Article 1356, New Civil Code) We do not agree with the ruling of the trial judge that under Article 1358 of the New Civil Code, a contract which have for their object the creation, transmission, modification or extinguishment of real rights over immovable property, must appear in a public document to be valid and enforceable. Article 1358 of the New Civil Code enumerates certain contracts that must appear in public or private documents. This provision does not require such form in order to validate the act or contract but to insure its efficacy. Contracts enumerated by this article are, therefore, valid as between the contracting parties, even when they have not been reduced to public or private writings. (Tolentino, Arturo M., Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, Volume Four, 1985 ed., pp. 549550) Therefore, the Deed of Sale in favor of the predecessor-in-interest of the defendantsappellants is considered valid and enforceable, even if it was only embodied in a private writing. In upholding the validity of the 1931 sale of the subject pastureland, we can only conclude that when the land was sold to the plaintiffsappellees in 1950, the vendor had no right to sell the subject property since at that time her family no longer owned the land and thus no legal right was transferred by the vendor to the plaintiffs-appellees. Article 1459 of the New Civil Code requires that the vendor must have a right to transfer the ownership thereof at the time it is delivered, otherwise the contract of sale is void. Article 1544 of the New Civil Code on double sales does not apply in this case. The article provides that if an immovable property

should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership shall belong to the person acquiring it who in good faith first recorded it in the Registry Property. In order that the abovementioned provision may be invoked, it is necessary that the conveyance must have been made by a party who has an existing right in the thing, and the power to dispose of it. It cannot, therefore, be invoked in a case where the two different contracts of sale are made by two different persons, one of them not being the owner of the property sold. (Tolentino, Arturo M., Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, Volume Five, 1959, pp. 83-84). 21 Before us, the petitioners raise the sole issue of whether the deeds of sale to them, which were embodied in public instruments and registered under Act No. 3344, 22 should prevail over the alleged sale to the ancestors of respondent Raguirag executed much earlier in a private instrument. It appears that the petitioners no longer question the validity and due execution of the 1931 deed of conveyance. Nevertheless, they stand firm on their argument that such instrument is valid and enforceable only as to the parties thereto and cannot bind third persons and innocent purchasers. 23 We agree with the Court of Appeals that Exhibit "1" for the private respondent, the deed of sale in a private writing executed on 15 May 1931 in favor of Manuel Raguirag and Clara Tapec, private respondent's grandparents, is an ancient document whose proof of authenticity was no longer necessary because of the concurrence of the requisites in Section 21, 24 Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. 25 It was already more than thirty years old at the time it was offered in evidence in 1986. 26 It was produced from the custody of respondent Raguirag, an heir of the vendees in the said instrument. And it is unblemished by any alteration or circumstances of suspicion. As correctly ruled by the Court of Appeals, the said private instrument is a deed of sale in which all the requisites of a valid contract are present and which is binding upon the parties. The trial court erroneously held that it is invalid because it is not in a public document as required by Article 1358 of the Civil Code and pursuant toManotok Realty, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals. 27 Article 1358 does not invalidate the acts or contracts enumerated therein if they are not embodied in public documents. As one noted civilian has said: This Article enumerates certain contracts that must appear in public or private documents. This provision does not require such form in order to validate the act or contract but to insure its efficacy. It is limited to an enumeration of the acts and contracts which should be reduced to writing in a public or private instrument. The reduction to writing in a public or private document, required in this article, is not an essential requisite for the existence of the contract, but is simply a coercive power granted to the contracting

parties by which they can reciprocally compel the observance of these formal requisites. Contracts enumerated by this article are, therefore, valid as between the contracting parties, even when they have not been reduced to public or private writings. Except in certain cases where public instruments and registration are required for the validity of the contract itself, the legalization of a contract by means of a public writing and its entry in the register are not essential solemnities or requisites for the validity of the contract as between the contracting parties, but are required for the purpose of making it effective as against third person. 28 What the trial court referred to in Manotok is not the ruling of this Court but the claim of the petitioner therein, What this Court stated was that "the sale made by Legarda to Lucero should have been embodied in a public instrument in accordance with Article 1358 of the Civil Code and should have been duly registered with the Register of Deeds to make it binding against third persons." (emphasis supplied). While we uphold the ruling of the Court of Appeals that the 15 May 1931 sale in favor of the private respondent's grandparents was valid and enforceable, we cannot, however, accept its findings that: In upholding the validity of the 1931 sale of the subject pastureland, We can only conclude that when the land was sold to the plaintiffsappellees [petitioners herein] in 1950, the vendor had no right to sell the subject property since at the time her family no longer owned the land and thus no legal right was transferred by the vendor to the plaintiffsappellees. Firstly, it should be remembered that per the testimony of petitioner Julio Tapec, the sale in 1950 was that executed on 2 January 1950 by Trinidad Gonzales and the property subject thereof corresponds to Lot Nos. 7450 and 7452, 29 while the sale executed on 28 May 1949 by Rosario Gonzales 30 corresponds to Lot No. 7444. It is the latter lot which is claimed by the private respondent. 31 The original owner of the property sold by Trinidad and Rosario was their father, Miguel Gonzales, 32 and as indicated in the deeds of sale they executed, the portion each sold was declared for taxation purposes in the name of their father. 33 With respect to the 1931 sale, Miguel Gonzales was not a vendor therein but a mere witness thereto. The vendors were Victoriano, Matias, Alejandro, and Gregorio, all surnamed Gonzales. Obviously, the Court of Appeals erred in finding that Trinidad had no more right to sell the property. Secondly, while the petitioners sufficiently established the identity of the property claimed by them, the private respondent failed to prove the identity of the property covered by Exhibit "1." Since he specified in his special defenses the property he claimed and asked the court in his prayer that he be declared "the lawful owner and possessor" thereof, the burden was on him to prove its identity. 34

Thirdly, it was established that Trinidad Gonzales had mortgaged her property to the private respondent's father, Ireneo Raguirag, on 10 November 1947. 35 The mortgage was redeemed only shortly before its sale to the petitioners in 1950. If Ireneo were its owner as heir of Manuel Raguirag, there was no reason for Ireneo to have accepted the mortgage thereof. Finally, the private respondent categorically admitted that he is only a tenant-administrator of Lot No. 7444. This admission belies any claim of ownership. It was his aunt, Leoncia Raguirag, who claimed ownership over it during the cadastral survey. 36 IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 26093 is hereby REVISED, and the dispositive portion of the decision of Branch 17 of the Regional Trial Court at Batac, Ilocos Norte, in Civil Case No. 1669-17 is REINSTATED, subject to the correction of the portion therein which reads "Lot Nos. 7942" to "Lot Nos. 7452." SO ORDERED. Padilla, Bellosillo, Quiason and Kapunan, JJ., concur.

#Footnotes 1 Remalante vs. Tibe, 158 SCRA 138 [1988]; Medina vs. Asistio, 191 SCRA 218 [1990]; Misa vs. Court of Appeals, 212 SCRA 217 [1992]; Borillo vs. Court of Appeals, 209 SCRA 130 [1992]. 2 OR, 14. 3 Id., 5-8. 4 Exhibit "A"; Id., 61. 5 Exhibit "B"; OR, 62. 6 So in original. Probably should be "pasture." 7 Exhibit "1"; OR. 8 Written in the document as "Gonzalis." 9 Translation of Exhibit "1"; OR, 139. 10 Exhibit "C." 11 TSN, 16 January 1986, 4. 12 Exhibit "D." 13 Exhibits "K" and "K-1" (Translation); TSN, 27 August 1986, 1-3.

14 TSN, 6 November 1986, 2. 15 TSN, 6 November 1986, 5. 16 Exhibit "2."

30 Exhibit "B"; Id., 62. 31 Paragraph 1, Special Defense and Counterclaim; Id., 5-6. 32 TSN, 26 June 1986, 6-7 (a.m.).

17 TSN, 6 November 1986, 6-7. 18 OR, 150-155; Rollo, 17-22. Per Judge Jose P. Tabanda. 19 Should be 7452. 20 Per Associate Justice Eubulo G. Verzola, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Ricardo J. Francisco and Lourdes K. TayaoJaguros. 21 Rollo, 27-30. 22 Act No. 3344 is the law amending Act No. 2837, which in turn amended Section 194 of the Administrative Code, otherwise known as the SYSTEM OF RECORDING FOR UNREGISTERED REAL ESTATE. 23 Rollo, 13. 24 It used to be Section 22, as referred to by the Court of Appeals. Said Section 21 reads: Sec. 21. When evidence of authenticity of private document not necessary. Where a private document is more than thirty years old, is produced from a custody in which it would naturally be found if genuine, and is unblemished by any alterations or circumstances of suspicion, no other evidence of its authenticity need be given. 25 See Claveris vs. Quingco, 207 SCRA 66 [1992]. 26 See RICARDO J. FRANCISCO, Evidence (Rules of Court in the Philippines, Rules 128-134), 1993 ed., 507. 27 149 SCRA 174 [1987]. 28 ARTURO M. TOLENTINO, Civil Code of the Philippines, vol. IV, 1985 ed., 549-550. 29 Exhibit "A"; OR 61. MELO, J.: Before us is a petition for review by certiorari in regard to the decision promulgated by the Court of Appeals on February 23, 1990 in CA-G.R. CV No. 19268 entitled, "Hilariona Fortaleza Dablo, Juanito Dablo and Marta Dablo vs. Cesaria Daban and Remegio Daban". The pertinent facts of the case as culled from the record are as follows: 33 Exhibit "G"; OR, 78; TSN, 6 January 1986, 6. 34 Misa vs. Court of Appeals, 212 SCRA 217 [1992]. 35 Exhibits "K" and "K-1" (Translation). 36 TSN, 6 November 1986, 7.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 93365 September 21, 1993 HILARIONA FORTALEZA DABLO, JUANITO DABLO and MARTA DABLO, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, CESARIA DABAN, and REMEGIO DABAN, respondents. Octavio M. Zayas for petitioners. Rodrigo F. Beltran for private respondents.

On April 1, 1975, petitioners filed a complaint for quieting of title with recovery of possession and ownership, docketed as Civil Case No. 896-I of the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Iba, Zambales, against private respondents. The allegations of the complaint, as summarized by the Court of Appeals, are as follows: In their complaint, plaintiffs alleged inter alia, that Hilariona Fortaleza Dablo is the surviving spouse of Mariano Dablo who died in 1936, while Maria and Juanito, both surnamed Dablo are their legitimate children; that plaintiffs inherited from Mariano Dablo the following described parcel of land, to wit: A parcel of unirrigated riceland located at San Roque, Cabangan, Zambales, containing an area of 21,443 square meters (Lot No. 1137, PLS 468-D) bounded on the North, by Lot No. 582; on the East, by Lot Nos. 1140, 1141, 1142 and 1143; on the Southwest, by Lot No. 1170 and on the West, by Lot No. 1139. This parcel of land is declared for taxation and assessment purposes in the name of the Heirs of Mariano Dablo under Tax Declaration No. 5671 for the year 1974 with an assessment value of P3,940. This parcel of land is covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P3593 in the name of Hrs. of Mariano Dablo; that Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593 was issued in the name of the heirs of Mariano Dablo on June 3, 1974 and was transcribed in the Registry Book of the Resister of Deeds of Zambales on July 25, 1974; that Mariano Dablo had been in peaceful, continuous, open, public and adverse possession of the property as owner thereof since 1911 until his death when the plaintiffs succeeded in the possession of the property, until the defendants illegally entered and occupied the same; that in 1946, Remegio Daban illegally entered and occupied the western portion of the above described parcel of land containing an area of 7,057 square meters without the consent of plaintiffs and continuously occupied the same up to the present; that in 1969, Cesaria Deban illegally entered and occupied the eastern portion of

the above-described parcel of land containing an area of 14,400 square meters without the consent of the plaintiffs and continuously occupied the same up to the present; that the plaintiffs have been paying the yearly taxes of the above-described parcel of land to the government; that the defendants from the time they occupied said respective portions of the land, planted the land yearly with palay; that there exists a cloud on the title of the plaintiffs over the property described above in view of the illegal occupation by the defendants of the same; that defendants refused to vacate the premises illegally occupied by them despite repeated demands made on them by the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs then prayed that after due hearing judgment be rendered declaring plaintiffs the owners of the land in question and defendants be ordered: (a) to surrender and vacate the portions of the land respectively occupied by them; (b) to make an accounting of the harvest of the land and deliver the proper yearly rental to the plaintiffs, and (c) to pay the costs of the suit. (pp. 23-24, Rollo.) Private respondents' answer, as likewise summarized by the Court of Appeals, averred: In their answer, defendants denied the material allegations in the complaint, averring, among others, that the property in question is owned by defendants who actually and physically possessed the same since the year 1933 continuously, openly, publicly and exclusively up to the present; that the late Mariano Dablo, husband of plaintiff Hilariona Fortaleza and father of the two other plaintiffs herein, had sold and transferred in 1933 to defendant Remegio Daban the western portion of the property involved in the case and being claimed by plaintiffs; that as regards the eastern portion of the same parcel, the same was sold con pacto de retro in 1930 to one Ricardo Rivera and that for failure of, vendor a retro Mariano Dablo to redeem the property, said Ricardo Rivera transferred and conveyed by way of exchange said eastern portion to defendant Cesaria Daban in 1960; that plaintiffs' title is not valid and that no demand to vacate was made by plaintiffs except in the present complaint. By way of affirmative and special defenses, defendants alleged that plaintiffs have no valid and legal cause of action; that plaintiffs' title is subject to review on the ground of fraud on the part of plaintiffs in connivance with some personnel of the Bureau of Lands; that because of the lawful acquisition of defendants of the whole parcel in litigation from the late Mariano Dablo, defendants have since then declared said property in their

names for taxation purposes; have religiously paid the realty taxes therefor and have since then been in physical possession of the same to the exclusion of plaintiffs. As counterclaim, defendants alleged that due to the filing of the malicious, unfounded and unwarranted complaint, defendants are entitled to moral damages in the sum of P5,000.00; that defendants have and will incur actual damages of P2,000.00 and P1,000.00 as attorney's fees. Defendants then prayed that the complaint be dismissed and defendants be awarded the sums prayed for in their counterclaim. (p. 25, Rollo.) After trial, Branch LXXI of the Regional Trial Court of the Third Judicial Region stationed in Iba, Zambales rendered a decision declaring petitioners as the legal owners of Lot 1137 covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593 and ordering then defendants, now private respondents, to: (a) vacate the property in question and surrender possession of the same to petitioners herein, (b) pay reasonable rentals of the land in the amount of P1,000.00 per year to the plaintiffs from the filing of the complaint until they actually vacate and surrender the possession of the land to the plaintiffs with interest at 6% per annum, (c) pay attorney's fees in the amount of P1,000, and (d) pay the costs of the suit. Private respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals which, as afore-stated, promulgated its decision perponencia of Justice Jorge S. Imperial with Justices Reynato S. Puno and Artemon Luna concurring, disposing: PREMISES CONSIDERED, the decision appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one rendered: 1. Dismissing the complaint; 2. Declaring defendants as legal owners of the land in question and covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593; and 3. Ordering the cancellation of Original Certificate of title No. P-3593. (p. 34, Rollo.) Hence, the instant petition. Petitioners assail the decision of the Court of Appeals on the following grounds: 1. The rule on ancient document is not applicable in the instant case because the properties claimed by the petitioners is not the same property acquired by private respondents.

2. The Honorable Court of Appeals applied laches even as private respondents did not raise laches as a defense in their answer and therefore laches is deemed waived; 3. The Court of Appeals concluded that the issuance of Original Certificate of Title No. P3593 in favor of petitioners were tainted with fraud, without any evidence that fraud was committed; 4. Prescription does not lie against a title registered under the torrens system. (p. 11, Rollo.) The initial question to be resolved is the identity of the land subject of the controversy. The position taken by petitioners is that the land acquired by private respondents is not identical to the parcel of land claimed by petitioners and presently occupied by Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593 (Exh. A) under the name of the Heirs of Mariano Dablo. Private respondents base their claim over the parcels of land occupied by them on an Escritura de Compra Venta(Exh. 1) wherein the late Mariano Dablo, husband of petitioner Hilariona Fortaleza Dablo and father of the two other petitioners, sold the western portion of the land involved in this case to private respondent Remegio Daban, and on a Deed of Exchange (Exh. 2). Private respondents allege that in 1930 Mariano Dablo sold con pacto de retro the eastern portion of the land herein involved to one Marciana Rivera and that for failure of vendor a retro, Mariano Dablo, to redeem the property, Marciana Rivera transferred and conveyed in 1960 said eastern portion to private respondent Cesaria Daban by means of a Deed of Exchange (Exh. 2). The record further reveals that since 1911, Mariano Dablo and Hilariona Fortaleza Dablo had possessed and occupied the parcel of land covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P3593 and had resided thereon together with their children, petitioners Juanito Dablo and Marta Dablo. Upon the death of Mariano Dablo, petitioners succeeded in the possession of said parcel of land. Mariano Dablo filed an application for free patent of the land, presently covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593. On April 14-15, 1928, a private land survey of the parcel of land aforementioned was made for Mariano Dablo and the corresponding survey plan was approved by the Director of Lands on July 22, 1930 (Exh. H). On May 24, 1933, Mariano Dablo executed an Escritura de Compra Venta (Exh. 1) conveying to private respondent Remegio Daban the western portion of the aforementioned parcel of land, and Remegio immediately entered into possession thereof. On January 11, 1960, by means of a Deed of Exchange (Exh. 2), one Marciana Rivera conveyed to private respondent Cesaria Daban the eastern portion of the aforementioned parcel of land, which eastern portion Marciana Rivera had allegedly previously acquired from petitioner Hilariona Fortaleza (wife of Mariano Dablo and mother of the two other petitioners). Said parcel of

land was declared for tax purposes by respondent Remegio Daban in 1968 under Tax Declaration No. 31184 (Exhibit 9) and respondent Cesaria Daban entered said parcel in 1969. Upon the initiative of Oscar David, a grandson of Mariano Dablo, who followed up the application for free patent of Mariano Dablo, Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593 (Free Patent No. 11-4000845) was issued on June 3, 1974 in the name of the Heirs of Mariano Dablo covering the whole parcel of land in question. An examination of the evidence on record establishes the fact that the pieces of land claimed and occupied by private respondents are comprehended within the boundaries of the land registered under Original Certificate of Title No. P-3593. This conclusion is borne out by the Commissioner's Report (Exh. E) dated February 25, 1980 which states xxx xxx xxx (7) That Lot No. 1137, PLS-468-D, as covered by OCT P-3593, is the same land being occupied by defendant Remegio Daban xxx xxx xxx (p. 343, Record.) We turn attention first to the western portion. We believe that this portion was in truth conveyed by Mariano Dablo to private respondents. Were it otherwise, Mariano Dablo would have certainly demanded that private respondents vacate the land or would have filed an ejectment case against private respondents. But Mariano Dablo, from 1933 when private respondents entered and took possession of the lot in question up to the time of his death in 1936, never made such a demand nor did he file any ejectment case against private respondents. The only logical explanation for such inaction on the part of Mariano Dablo is that he was fully aware that the western portion of the land occupied by private respondents is the very same parcel of land he conveyed and ceded to them under theEscritura de Compra Venta. We agree with the Court of Appeals that the Escritura de Compra Venta (Exh. 1) is genuine and valid as it was already more than 40 years old when it was submitted in evidence and is, therefore, an ancient document. In this regard we adopt the following statements of the Court of Appeals as our own: . . . A circumspect examination of the deed which is in defendants' possession shows that it was executed on May 24, 1933 and as such is more than 36 years old. Considering that the same is in the possession and custody of defendant-vendee, the inference of its genuineness becomes well-nigh unassailable because It is considered that the careful preservation of an instrument by persons

interested in the subject raises an inference of genuineness. Documents are said to be in proper custody where they are in the place in which and under the care of the person with whom they should naturally be. (32 C.J.S. 41.) Being over four decades old, aside from being unmarred by blemishes, alterations or other circumstances which would put such a document under inquiry, the authenticity of such a document hardly becomes open to question because Where a private writing is more than thirty years old, is produced from a custody in which it would naturally be found if genuine, and is unblemished by any alterations or circumstances of suspicion, no other evidence of its execution and authenticity need be given. (Sec. 22, Rule 132, Rules of Court.) The foregoing provision which embodies the evidentiary rule on ancient documents rests on the theory that the document proves itself (Manlugan vs. Manlugan, 52 O.G. 860). Besides, the deed of absolute Sale (Doc. No. 45, Page No. 55, Reg. No. III, Series of 1933 of Notary Public Fernando Gonzales) and the deed of exchange (Doc. No. 3, Page No. 57, Book No. I, Series of 1960 of the Notary Public Eleuterio P. Rivera) are public documents. (pp. 31-32, Rollo.) We, therefore, hold that the private respondents are the true and rightful owners of the western portion of the land in dispute, subject-matter of the Escritura de Compra Venta. However, the remedy granted by respondent Court of Appeals, that is, the cancellation of Original Certificate of Title No P3593, does not appear to be proper and apt. Although a decree of registration binds the land, quiets title thereto, is incontrovertible and conclusive upon all persons, and cannot be reopened or reviewed after the lapse of one year from entry of the decree (Sec. 38, Act No. 496, The Land Registration Act; Ylarde vs. Lichauco, 42 SCRA 641 [1971]), the true and rightful owner of the property registered is not left without recourse; he may seek reconveyance of the property provided the same has not passed to an innocent third party for value (Vda. de Jacinto vs. Vda. de Jacinto, 5 SCRA 371 [1962]; Caladiao vs. Vda. de Blas, 10 SCRA 691 [1964] Pascua vs. Capuyoc, 77 SCRA 78 [1977]).

Petitioners, therefore, should be required to reconvey to private respondents the western portion of the land in dispute, subjectmatter of the Escritura de Compra Venta (Exh. 1). We come now to the eastern portion of the parcel of land in question. Private respondents base their claim of ownership thereover on the Deed of Exchange (Exh. 2) wherein one Marciana Rivera transferred and conveyed to private respondent Cesaria Daban said eastern portion allegedly in exchange for another parcel of land belonging to Cesaria Daban, located in Kiling, Cabangan, Zambales. However, except for the bare stipulation in the Deed of Exchange that Marciana Rivera owns the now disputed eastern portion, the record is barren of any evidence which would prove that Marciana Rivera was indeed the rightful owner of said eastern portion of the land or which would somehow show how she acquired said portion. Under these circumstances, the Deed of Exchange cannot serve as the basis of ownership by private respondents over the eastern portion. Neither would prescription aid the cause of private respondents, not only because the acquisitive prescription of 10 years of possession provided under Article 1134 of the Civil Code of the Philippines has not yet transpired (private respondents entered the eastern portion in 1969 while the complaint to quiet title was filed on April 1, 1975), but also because ownership of registered land under the Torrens System is imprescriptible (St. Peter Memorial Park, Inc. vs. Cleofas, 92 SCRA 389 [1979]; J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 93 SCRA 146 [1979]). Nor will laches bolster the claim of ownership of private respondents over this eastern portion. An action by the registered owner to recover possession based on a Torrens title is not barred by laches. . . . Sulpicia's title over her one- half undivided property remained good and continued to be good when she segregated it into a new title (T.C.T. No. 82275, Exhibit "A") in 1969. Sulpicia's ownership over her one-half of the land and which is the land in dispute was always covered by a Torrens title, and therefore, no amount of possession thereof by the respondents, could ever defeat her proprietary rights thereon. It is apparent, that the right of plaintiff (now petitioner) to institute this action to recover possession of the portion the land in question based on the Torrens Title of Sulpicia Jimenez, T.C.T. No. 82275 (Exhibit "A") is imprescriptible and not barred under the doctrine of laches. (J.M. Tuason & Co. v. Macalindong, L-15398, December 29, 1962, Francisco v. Cruz, et al., 43 O.G. 5105). (Jimenez vs. Fernandez, 184 SCRA 190, 197 [1990]). The case of Bautista vs. Court of Appeals (165 SCRA 507 [1988]) cited by respondent Court of Appeals, is not applicable. In said case, laches was not applied against the holder of the Torrens title but against the claimant of the parcel of land covered by the Torrens title.

The ruling in Bautista is, of course, but a reiteration of J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. vs. Macalindong (6 SCRA 938 [1962]) where the Court held: Moreover, the right of the appellee to file an action to recover possession based on its Torrens Title is imprescriptible and not barred under doctrine of laches (Art. 348, Civil Code; Francisco, et al. v. Cruz, et al., 43 O.G. 5105). On the contrary, the laws on prescription of actions and on estoppel and laches presently operate against appellant. After many years of inaction forty-four years, from July 8, 1914 (issuance of T.C.T. No. 735, Rizal), or nineteen (19) years from May 29, 1939 (issuance of T.C.T. No. 1267), appellant should be completely barred from assailing the decree of registration of the subject property. (at pp. 942-943.) Neither is the other case, Asuncion vs. Court of Appeals (150 SCRA 353 [1967]), cited by respondent Court of Appeals, applicable, wherein as in the Bautista case, laches was applied against the claimant seeking to annul a free patent and an original certificate of title, and not against the holder of the free patent and the original certificate of title. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is partly affirmed and partly reversed, as follows: 1. Petitioners are hereby ordered to execute in favor of private respondents a deed of reconveyance of the western portion of the land in dispute, subject-matter of the Escritura de Compra Venta (Exh. 1), and 2. Private respondents are hereby ordered to vacate the eastern portion of the land covered by Original Certificate of Title No 3593 and to surrender possession thereof to petitioners and to pay reasonable rental of said eastern portion in the amount of P1,000 per year to the petitioners from the filing of the complaint until they actually vacate and surrender the possession of the land to petitioners with interest at 6% per annum. No special pronouncement is made as to costs. SO ORDERED. Bidin, Romero and Vitug, JJ., concur. Feliciano, J., is on leave.

DIGEST