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THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 171056

patent, or subject to the issuance of a Certificate of Land Ownership Award or patent


under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
March 13, 2009

DINAH C. CASTILLO, Petitioner,


vs.
ANTONIO M. ESCUTIN, AQUILINA A. MISTAS, MARIETTA L. LINATOC, AND THE
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari 1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court filed by petitioner Dinah C. Castillo seeking the reversal and setting aside of the
Decision,2 dated 18 October 2005, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 90533, as
well as the Resolution,3 dated 11 January 2006 of the same court denying
reconsideration of its afore-mentioned Decision. The Court of Appeals, in its assailed
Decision, affirmed the Joint Resolution4 dated 28 April 2004 and Joint Order5 dated 20
June 2005 of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and
OMB-L-C-03-0728-F, dismissing petitioner Dinah C. Castillos complaint for grave
misconduct and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and
Corrupt Practices Act, as amended, against respondent public officers Antonio M. Escutin
(Escutin), Aquilina A. Mistas (Mistas) and Marietta L. Linatoc (Linatoc), together with
private individuals Lauro S. Leviste II (Leviste) and Benedicto L. Orense (Orense).
Petitioner is a judgment creditor of a certain Raquel K. Moratilla (Raquel), married to
Roel Buenaventura. In the course of her search for properties to satisfy the judgment in
her favor, petitioner discovered that Raquel, her mother Urbana Kalaw (Urbana), and
sister Perla K. Moratilla (Perla), co-owned Lot 13713, a parcel of land consisting of
15,000 square meters, situated at Brgy. Bugtongnapulo, Lipa City, Batangas, and
covered by Tax Declaration No. 00449.
Petitioner set about verifying the ownership of Lot 13713. She was able to secure an
Order6 dated 4 March 1999 issued by Secretary Horacio R. Morales, Jr. of the
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) approving the application of Summit Point Golf &
Country Club, Inc. for conversion of several agricultural landholdings, including Lot 13713
owned by "Perla K. Mortilla, et al." and covered by Tax Declaration No. 00449, to
residential, commercial, and recreational uses. She was also able to get from the Office
of the City Assessor, Lipa City, a Certification 7 stating that Lot 13713, covered by Tax
Declaration No. 00554-A, was in the name of co-owners Raquel, Urbana, and Perla; and
a certified true copy of Tax Declaration No. 00554-A itself. 8 Lastly, the Register of Deeds
of Lipa City issued a Certification 9 attesting that Lot 13713 in the name of co-owners
Raquel, Urbana, and Perla, was not covered by a certificate of title, whether judicial or

Only thereafter did petitioner proceed to levy on execution Lot 13713, and the public
auction sale of the same was scheduled on 14 May 2002. Sometime in May 2002, before
the scheduled public auction sale, petitioner learned that Lot 13713 was inside the
Summit Point Golf and Country Club Subdivision owned by Summit Point Realty and
Development Corporation (Summit Realty). She immediately went to the Makati City
office of Summit Realty to meet with its Vice President, Orense. However, she claimed
that Orense did not show her any document to prove ownership of Lot 13713 by Summit
Realty, and even threatened her that the owners of Summit Realty, the Leviste family,
was too powerful and influential for petitioner to tangle with.
The public auction sale pushed through on 14 May 2002, and petitioner bought Raquels
1/3 pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713.
On 4 June 2002, petitioner had the following documents, on her acquisition of Raquels
1/3 pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713, recorded in the Primary Entry Book and Registration
Book of the Register of Deeds of Lipa City in accordance with Act No. 3344 10: (a) Notice
of Levy;11 (b) Certificate of Sale;12 (c) Affidavit of Publication;13 and (d) Writ of Execution.14
Subsequently, petitioner was issued by the City Assessor of Lipa City Tax Declaration No.
00942-A,15 indicating that she owned 5,000 square meters of Lot 13713, while Urbana
and Perla owned the other 10,000 square meters.
When petitioner attempted to pay real estate taxes for her 5,000-square-meter share in
Lot 13713, she was shocked to find out that, without giving her notice, her Tax
Declaration No. 00942-A was cancelled. Lot 13713 was said to be encompassed in and
overlapping with the 105,648 square meter parcel of land known as Lot 1-B, covered by
Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 129642 16 and Tax Declaration No. 00949-A,17 both
in the name of Francisco Catigbac (Catigbac). The reverse side of TCT No. 129642 bore
three entries, reflecting the supposed sale of Lot 1-B to Summit Realty, to wit:
ENTRY NO. 184894: SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY: In favor of
LEONARDO YAGIN: For purposes more particularly stipulated in the contract
ratified before Atty. Ernesto M. Vergara of Lipa City as per Doc. No. 639; Page
No. 29; Book No. LXXVI; Series of 1976.
Date of instrument 2-6-1976
Date of inscription 6-26-2002 at 11:20 a.m.

ENTRY NO. 185833: SALE IN FAVOR OF SUMMIT POINT REALTY &


DEVELOPMENT CORP:
ENTRY NO. 185834: BIR CLEARANCE: Of the parcel of land described in
this cert. of title is hereby sold and cancelled TCT No. 134609(SN-6672938) Vol.
671-A, having been issued by virtue of the aforesaid instrument ratified before
Perfecto L. Dimayuga, Notary Public for Makati City as per Doc. No. 148; Page
31, Book No. LXVII, Series of 2002.
Date of instrument: July 22, 2002
Date of inscription: July 25, 2002 at 2:30 P.M.18
On 25 July 2002, at 2:30 p.m., TCT No. 129642 in the name of Catigbac was cancelled
and TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit Realty was issued in its place.
The foregoing incidents prompted petitioner to file a Complaint Affidavit19 before the
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon charging several public officers and private
individuals as follows:
32. I respectfully charge that on or about the months of June 2002 and July 2002 and
onwards in Lipa City, Atty. Antonio M. [Escutin], the Register of Deeds of Lipa City[;]
Aquilina A. Mistas, the Local Assessment Operations Officer III of the City Assessors
Office of Lipa City[;] Marietta Linatoc, Records Clerk, Office of the City Assessor of Lipa
City, who are public officers and acting in concert and conspiring with Lauro S. Leviste II
and Benedicto L. Orense, Executive Vice-President and Vice-President, respectively[,] of
Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation x x x while in the discharge of their
administrative functions did then and there unlawfully, through evident bad faith, gross
inexcusable negligence and with manifest partiality towards Summit caused me injury in
the sum of P20,000,000.00 by cancelling my TD #00942-A in the Office of the City
Assessor of Lipa City and instead issuing in the name of Francisco Catigbac TC #00949A when aforesaid personalities well knew that TCT No. 129642 was already cancelled
and therefore not legally entitled to a new tax declaration thereby manifestly favoring
Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation who now appears to be the
successor-in-interest
of
Francisco
Catigbac,
all
to
my
damage
and
prejudice.20 (Emphasis ours.)

The supposed Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of Summit Realty executed on 22 July
2002 by Leonardo Yagin (Yagin), as Catigbacs attorney-in-fact, appeared to be a "oneway street." It did not express the desire of Summit Realty, as vendee, to purchase Lot 1B or indicate its consent and conformity to the terms of the Deed. No representative of
Summit Realty signed the left margin of each and every page of said Deed. It also did not
appear from the Deed that a representative of Summit Realty presented himself before
the Notary Public who notarized the said document. The Tax Identification Numbers of
Yagin, as vendor, and Summit Realty, as vendee, were not stated in the Deed.
Petitioner also averred that, being a corporation, Summit Realty could only act through its
Board of Directors. However, when the Deed of Absolute Sale of Lot 1-B was presented
for recording before the Register of Deeds, it was not accompanied by a Secretarys
Certificate attesting to the existence of a Board Resolution which authorized said
purchase by Summit Realty. There was no entry regarding such a Secretarys Certificate
and/or Board Resolution, whether on TCT No. 129642 or TCT No. T-134609. A
Secretarys Certificate eventually surfaced, but it was executed only on 30 July 2002, five
days after TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit Realty was already issued.
The Deed of Absolute Sale was presented before and recorded by the Register of Deeds
of Lipa City on 25 July 2002 at 2:30 p.m., at exactly the same date and time TCT No. T134609 was issued to Summit Realty. Petitioner theorizes that for this to happen, TCT
No. T-134609 was already prepared and ready even before the presentation for
recording of the Deed of Absolute Sale before the Register of Deeds.
Moreover, Catigbac had long been dead and buried. The agency Catigbac supposedly
executed in favor of Yagin was extinguished by Catigbacs death. Thus, petitioner
argued, Yagin no longer had authority to execute on 22 July 2002 the Deed of Absolute
Sale of Lot 1-B in favor of Summit Realty, making the said Deed null and void ab initio.

Petitioner asserted that Summit Realty was well-aware of Catigbacs death, having
acknowledged the same in LRC Case No. 00-0376, the Petition for Issuance of New
Owners Duplicate of TCT No. 181 In Lieu of Lost One, filed by Summit Realty before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Lipa City. During the ex parte presentation of evidence in
the latter part of 2000, Orense testified on behalf of Summit Realty that Catigbacs
property used to form part of a bigger parcel of land, Lot 1 of Plan Psu-12014, measuring
132,975 square meters, covered by TCT No. 181 in the name of Catigbac; after
Catigbacs death, Lot 1 was informally subdivided into several parts among his heirs
and/or successors-in-interest, some of whom again transferred their shares to other
Petitioners Complaint Affidavit gave rise to simultaneous administrative and preliminary
persons; Summit Realty separately bought subdivided parts of Lot 181 from their
(criminal) investigations, docketed as OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F,
respective owners, with a consolidated area of 105,648 square meters, and identified as
respectively.
Lot 1-B after survey; despite the subdivision and transfer of ownership of Lot 1, TCT No.
181 covering the same was never cancelled; and the owners duplicate of TCT No. 181
Petitioner pointed out several irregularities in the circumstances surrounding the alleged was lost and the fact of such loss was annotated at the back of the original copy of TCT
sale of Lot 1-B to Summit Realty and in the documents evidencing the same.
No. 181 with the Registry of Deeds. Subsequently, in an Order 21 dated 3 January 2001,

the RTC granted the Petition in LRC Case No. 00-0376 and directed the issuance of a
new owners duplicate of TCT No. 181 in the name of Catigbac, under the same terms
and condition as in its original form.
Petitioner further cast doubt on the acts undertaken by Summit Realty in connection with
Catigbacs property, purportedly without legal personality and capacity. The Special
Power of Attorney dated 6 February 1976 granted Yagin the right to sue on behalf of
Catigbac, yet it was Summit Realty which instituted LRC Case No. 00-0376, and Yagin
had no participation at all in said case. Likewise, it was not Yagin, but Orense, who,
through a letter22dated 27 June 2001, requested the cancellation of TCT No. 181
covering Lot 1 and the issuance of a new certificate of title for Lot 1-B. Hence, it was
Orenses request which resulted in the issuance of TCT No. 129642 in the name of
Catigbac, later cancelled and replaced by TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit
Realty.
Lastly, petitioner questioned why, despite the cancellation of TCT No. 129642 in the
name of Catigbac and the issuance in its place of TCT No. T-134609 in the name of
Summit Realty, it was the former cancelled title which was used as basis for canceling
petitioners Tax Declaration No. 00942-A. Tax Declaration No. 00949-A was thus still
issued in the name of Catigbac, instead of Summit Realty.
Piecing everything together, petitioner recounted in her Complaint Affidavit the alleged
scheme perpetrated against her and the involvement therein of each of the conspirators:
28. Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation went into action right after I paid
Orense a visit sometime May 2002. Summit resurrected from the grave. (sic) Francisco
Catigbac whom they knew to be long dead to face possible litigation. This is the height of
malice and bad faith on the part of Summit through its Lauro Leviste II, the Executive
Vice President and Benedicto Orense, the Vice President. I had only in my favor a tax
declaration to show my interest and ownership over the 5, 000 sq.m. of the subject parcel
of land. Evidently, Leviste and Orense came to the desperate conclusion that they
needed a TCT which is a far better title than any tax declaration.
Both then methodically commenced their evil and illegal scheme by causing on June 26,
2002 at 11:20 a.m. the inscription with the Register of Deeds of Lipa City of a purported
Special Power of Attorney in favor of Leonardo Yagin (Annex "I"). Next, the Deed of
Absolute Sale (Annex "J") was made the following month in order to make it appear that
Yagin unilaterally sold to Summit the subject parcel of land purportedly belonging to
Francisco Catigbac. Since the latter was already dead and realizing that the agency was
already extinguished, Annex "J" was not signed or executed by Leviste or Orense. This
fact however did not deter the two from securing a BIR clearance on July 25, 2002. Also,
on this same day, July 25, 2002, Annex "J" was presented to Atty. [Escutin] at 2:30 p.m.
simultaneously, at exactly the same time of 2:30 p.m. TCT No. T-134609 in Summits
name was issued by Atty. [Escutin] WITHOUT benefit of the submission of the necessary

documentation such as the Board Resolution, DAR Clearance, Revenue Tax Receipts for
documentary stamps, real property tax clearance, proof of payment of transfer tax, tax
declaration, articles of incorporation, SEC certification, license to sell and/or certificate of
registration by HLURB, etc. Without the total and lightning speed cooperation of Atty.
[Escutin] to close his eyes to the total absence of said vital documents, the desperately
needed TCT to erase my interest and ownership would not have come into existence.
Atty. [Escutin] had indeed acted in concert and in conspiracy with Leviste and Orense in
producing Annex "H" and Annex "K".
29. Thereafter, Leviste and Orense utilized the already cancelled TCT No. 129642 in the
name of Francisco Catigbac to be the basis in seeking the cancellation of TD #00942A in
my name (Annex "F"). The Tax Mapping Division of the Office of City Assessor of Lipa
City opined that my 5,000 sq.m. was (sic) part and parcel of the 105,648 sq.m. covered
by TCT No. 129642. A photocopy of the Certification from said division is hereto marked
and attached as Annex "P", hereof. Aquilina Mistas, the Local Assessment Operations
Officer III of the Office of the City Assessor of Lipa City then conveniently caused the
disappearance of my Notice of Levy and other supporting documents which she had
personally received from me on March 13, 2002. For her part of the conspiracy likewise,
Marietta Linatoc, Records Clerk, forthwith cancelled by TD#00942-A and in lieu thereof
she issued TD #00949-A in the name of Francisco Catigbac. I dare say so because
Mistas and Linatoc were presented a cancelled TCT as basis for obliterating my 5,000
sq.m. The fact of cancellation is clearly stated on the posterior side of TCT No. 129642.
Both can read. But the two nevertheless proceeded with dispatch in canceling my TD,
though they had ample time and opportunity to reject the request of Summit who is not
even the registered owner appearing on TCT No. 129642. Francisco Catigbac could not
have been in front of Mistas and Linatoc because he was already six feet below the
ground. Mistas and Linatoc could have demanded presentation of the document
authorizing Summit in requesting for the cancellation of my TD. Also, they could have
demanded from Summit any document transferring my interest and ownership in favor of
a third party. Or, at least, they could have annotated in Tax Declaration No. 00949-A the
fact that I bought my 5,000 sq.m. from a public auction sale duly conducted by the court
sheriff. Alternatively, Linatoc and Mistas should have advised Summit to the effect that
since they already appear to be the owners of the subject parcel of land, the new tax
declaration should bear their name instead. Mistas and Linatoc indeed conspired with
Summit in the illegal and unwarranted cancellation of my TD and in covering up the
behind-the-scenes activities of Summit by making it appear that it was Francisco
Catigbac who caused the cancellation. Even Leonardo Yagin, the alleged attorney-in-fact
did not appear before Mistas and Linatoc. Yagin could not have appeared because he is
rumored to be long dead. The aforementioned acts of the two benefitted (sic) Summit
through their manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or gross inexcusable negligence.
Perhaps, there is some truth to the rumor that Yagin is dead because he does not even
have a TIN in the questioned Deed of Absolute Sale. If indeed Yagin is already dead or
inexistent[,] the allged payment of the purchase price of P5,282,400.00 on July 25, 2002
is a mere product of the fertile imagination of Orense and Leviste.1avvphi1.zw+ To

dispute this assertion[,] the live body of Leonardo Yagin must be presented by Orense
and Leviste.23
After filing her Affidavit Complaint, petitioner attempted to have the Sheriffs Deed of Final
Sale/Conveyance of her 5,000 square meter pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713 registered
with the Register of Deeds of Lipa City. She also sought the annotation of her Affidavit of
Adverse Claim on the said 5,000 square meters on TCT No. T-134609 of Summit Realty.
Escutin, the Register of Deeds of Lipa City, relying on the finding of Examiner Juanita H.
Sta. Ana (Sta. Ana), refused to have the Sheriffs Deed of Final Sale/Conveyance
registered, since:
The Sheriffs Deed of Final Sale/Conveyance is a Mode of Transfers (sic) ownership in
favor of the Plaintiff, [Dinah] C. Castillo, (sic) However[,] it happen (sic) that the
presented Tax Declaration [No.] 00942-A is already transfer (sic) in the name of the said
[Dinah] C. Castillo, therefore[,] the registration of Sheriff (sic) Final Sale is no longer
necessary.24
Escutin likewise denied petitioners request to have her Affidavit of Adverse Claim
annotated on TCT No. T-134609 on the following grounds:
1. The claimants (sic) rights or interest is not adverse to the registered owner.
The registered owner is Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation
under Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-134609 of the Registry of Deeds for Lipa
City.
2. The records of the Registry reveals that the source of the rights or interest of
the adverse claimant is by virtue of a Levy on Execution by the Regional Trial
Court Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 30, San Pablo City, in Civil Case No. SP4489 (1996), [Dinah] C. Castillo vs. Raquel Buenaventura. The registered
owner, Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation nor its predecessorin-interest are not the judgment debtor or a party in the said case. Simply
stated, there is no privity of contract between them (Consulta No. 1044 and
1119). If ever, her adverse claim is against Raquel Buenaventura, the judgment
debtor who holds no title over the property.25
Escutin did mention, however, that petitioner may elevate en consulta to the Land
Registration Authority (LRA) the denial of her request for registration of the Sheriffs Deed
of Final Sale/Conveyance and annotation of her adverse claim on TCT No. T-134609.
This petitioner did on 3 July 2003.
While her Consulta was pending before the LRA, petitioner filed a Supplemental
Complaint Affidavit26 and a Second Supplemental Complaint Affidavit27 with the Office of
the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, bringing to its attention the aforementioned

developments. In her Second Supplemental Complaint Affidavit, petitioner prayed that


Sta. Ana be included as a co-respondent in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728F, averring that the latters actuation deprived petitioner of a factual basis for securing a
new title in her favor over her 5,000 square meter pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713,
because the public auction sale of the said property to her could never become final
without the registration of the Sheriffs Deed.
The persons charged in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F filed their
respective Counter-Affidavits.
Respondent Escutin clarified in his Counter Affidavit that TCT No. T-134609 reflected the
same date and time of entry of the Deed of Absolute Sale between Yagin (as Catigbacs
attorney-in-fact) and Summit Realty, i.e., 25 July 2002 at 2:30 p.m., in accordance with
Section 5628 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property
Registration Decree. He emphasized that his duty as Register of Deeds to register the
Deed of Absolute Sale presented before him was purely ministerial. If the document was
legal and in due form, and there was nothing mutilated or irregular on its face, the
Register of Deeds had no authority to inquire into its intrinsic validity based upon proofs
aliunde. It was not true that he allowed the registration of the Deed of Absolute Sale
notwithstanding the absence of the required documents supporting the application for
registration thereof. On the contrary, all the required documents such as the DAR
Clearance, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Certificate Authorizing Registration (CAR),
Real Property Tax, Transfer Tax, Secretarys Certificate and Articles of Incorporation of
Summit Realty were submitted. While it was true that the Secretarys Certificate did not
accompany the Deed of Absolute Sale upon the presentation of the latter for registration,
Section 117 of the Property Registration Decree gives the party seeking registration five
days to comply with the rest of the requirements; and only if the party should still fail to
submit the same would it result in the denial of the registration. The License to Sell and
the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board Registration of Summit Realty are only
required when a subdivision project is presented for registration. The use of TINs in
certain documents is a BIR requirement. The BIR itself did not require from Yagin as
vendor his TIN in the Deed of Absolute Sale, and issued the CAR even in the absence
thereof. The Register of Deeds, therefore, was only bound by the CAR. As to the
Certification earlier issued by the Register of Deeds of Lipa City attesting that Lot 13713
in the name of co-owners Raquel, Urbana, and Perla, was not covered by any certificate
of title, Escutin explained that the Register of Deeds was not technically equipped to
determine whether a cadastral lot number was within a titled property or not. Lastly,
Escutin denied conspiring or participating in the cancellation of petitioners Tax
Declaration No. 00942-A for, as Register of Deeds, he was not concerned with the
issuance (or cancellation) of tax declarations.
Respondent Mistas, the Assistant City Assessor for Administration of the Office of the
City Assessor, Lipa City, disputed petitioners allegations that she personally received
from petitioner copies of the Notice of Levy and other supporting documents, and that

she caused the disappearance thereof. Although she admitted that said documents were
shown to her by petitioner, she referred petitioner to the Receiving Clerk, Lynie Reyes,
who accordingly received the same. Mistas maintained that she was not the custodian of
records of the Office and she should not be held responsible for the missing documents.
She opined that petitioners documents could have been among those misplaced or
destroyed when the Office of the City Assessor was flooded with water leaking from the
toilet of the Office of the City Mayor. As Assistant City Assessor for Administration, Mistas
identified her main function to be the control and management of all phases of
administrative matters and support. She had no hand in the cancellation of petitioners
Tax Declaration No. 00942-A, and the issuance of Catigbacs Tax Declaration No. 00949A for such function pertained to another division over which she did not exercise
authority. Thus, it was also not within her function or authority to demand the presentation
of certain documents to support the cancellation of petitioners Tax Declaration No.
00942-A or to cause the annotation of petitioners interest on Catigbacs Tax Declaration
No. 00949-A.
Respondent Linatoc averred that as Local Assessment Operation Officer II of the Office
of the City Assessor, Lipa City, she was in charge of safekeeping and updating the North
District Records. With respect to the transfer of a tax declaration from one name to
another, her duty was limited only to the act of preparing the new tax declaration and
assigning it a number, in lieu of the cancelled tax declaration. It was a purely ministerial
duty. She had no authority to demand the presentation of any document or question the
validity of the transfer. Neither was it within her jurisdiction to determine whether
petitioners interest should have been annotated on Catigbacs Tax Declaration No.
00949-A. Examining the documents presented in support of the transfer of the tax
declaration to anothers name was a function belonging to other divisions of the Office of
the City Assessors. The flow of work, the same as in any other ordinary transaction,
mandated her to cancel petitioners Tax Declaration No. 00942-A, and to prepare and
release Catigbacs Tax Declaration No. 00949-A after the transfer had been reviewed and
approved by other divisions of the Office. It was also not true that TCT No. 129642 in the
name of Catigbac was already cancelled when it was presented before the Office of the
City Assessors; the photocopy of said certificate of title with the Office bore no mark of
cancellation.
Leviste and Orense, the private individuals charged with the respondent public officers,
admitted that they were corporate officers of Summit Realty. They related that Summit
Realty bought a parcel of land measuring 105,648 square meters, later identified as Lot
1-B, previously included in TCT No. 181, then specifically covered by TCT No. 129642,
both in the name of Catigbac. As a result of such purchase, ownership of Lot 1-B was
transferred from Catigbac to Summit Realty. Summit Realty had every reason to believe
in good faith that said property was indeed owned by Catigbac on the basis of the latters
certificate of title over the same. Catigbacs right as registered owner of Lot 1-B under
TCT No. 181/No. 129642, was superior to petitioners, which was based on a mere tax
declaration. Leviste and Orense rebutted petitioners assertion that the Deed of Absolute
Sale between Yagin, as Catigbacs attorney-in-fact, and Summit Realty was a "one-way

street." The Deed was actually signed on the left margin by both Yagin and the
representative of Summit Realty. The inadvertent failure of the representative of Summit
Realty to sign the last page of the Deed and of both parties to indicate their TINs therein
did not invalidate the sale, especially since the Deed was signed by witnesses attesting
to its due execution. Questions as regards the scope of Catigbacs Special Power of
Attorney in favor of Yagin and the effectivity of the same after Catigbacs death can only
be raised in an action directly attacking the title of Summit Realty over Lot 1-B, and not in
an administrative case and/or preliminary investigation before the Ombudsman, which
constituted a collateral attack against said title. Leviste and Orense further explained that
since the owners duplicate of TCT No. 181 was lost and was judicially ordered replaced
only on 3 January 2001, entries/inscriptions were necessarily made thereon after said
date. As to Orenses failure to show petitioner any document proving ownership of Lot 1B by Summit Realty when the latter paid him a visit, it was not due to the lack of such
documents, but because of petitioners failure to establish her right to peruse the same.
Orense also denied ever threatening petitioner during their meeting. Finally, according to
Leviste and Orense, petitioners allegations were based on mere conjectures and
unsupported by evidence. That particular acts were done or not done by certain public
officials was already beyond the control of Leviste and Orense, and just because they
benefited from these acts did not mean that they had a hand in the commission or
omission of said public officials.
After more exchange of pleadings, OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F were
finally submitted for resolution.
In a Joint Resolution29 dated 28 April 2004, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for
Luzon gave more credence to respondent Escutins defenses, as opposed to petitioners
charges against him:
Going to the charges against respondent Escutin, he convincingly explained that he
allowed the registration of the allegedly defective Deed of Sale because he, as Register
of Deeds, has no power to look into the intrinsic validity [of] the contract presented to him
for registration, owing to the ministerial character of his function. Moreover, as sufficiently
explained by said respondent, all the documents required for the registration of the Deed
of Sale were submitted by the applicant.
We likewise find said respondents explanation satisfactory that Section 56 of P.D. 1529
mandates that the TCT bear the date of registration of the instrument on which the said
TCTs issuance was based. It is for this reason that TCT 134609 bears the same date
and time as the registration of the Deed of Absolute Sale, which deed served as basis for
its issuance.
As to his denial to register [herein petitioners] Affidavit of Adverse Claim and Sheriffs
Certificate of Final Sale, through the issuance by the Registry of Deeds Examiner Juanita
H. Sta. Ana, of the 29 June 2003 Order denying registration thereof, such matter had

been raised by herein [petitioner] in a letter-consulta to the Administrator of the Land


Registration Authority (LRA) on 03 July 2003. As the criminal and administrative charges
respecting this issue is premised, in part, on a matter still pending with the LRA, we find it
premature to make a finding on the same.

sufficiency of the documents supporting such applications, and on the basis of the
foregoing recommend or order the cancellation of an existing Tax Declaration and direct
the annotation of any fact affecting the property and direct the issuance of a new tax
declaration covering the same property.

It is for the same reason that we deny the motion contained in the Second Supplemental
Complaint Affidavit praying for the inclusion, as additional respondent, of Juanita H. Sta.
Ana, who is impleaded solely on the basis of having signed, by authority of Escutin, the
29 July 2003 Order of denial of [petitioners] application for registration.

In fact, there is even a discrepancy as to the official designation of said respondents.


While [petitioner] impleads Mistas, in her capacity as Local Assessment Officer, and
Linatoc, in her capacity as Records Clerk, Mistas, in her counter-affidavit, alleges a
different designation, i.e., Assistant City Assessor for Administration, while Linatoc claims
to be the Local Assessment Operation Officer II of the City Assessors Office.

Finally, respondent Escutin was able to successfully demonstrate, through Consulta 2103
dated 25 July 1994, wherein the denial of registration by the Examiner of the Registry of
Deeds of Quezon City was upheld by the LRA Administrator, that the (sic) it was practice
in the different Registries that Examiners are given authority by the Register to sign
letters of denial.30
The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon declared in the same Joint Resolution
that there was no basis to hold respondents Mistas and Linatoc administratively or
criminally liable:
In this respect, this Office notes that while [herein petitioner] alleges that Aquilina Mistas
caused the disappearance of the Notice of Levy and other supporting documents
received from [petitioner] on 13 March 2003 when she applied for the issuance of a Tax
Declaration in her favor, she did not present her receiving copy thereof showing that it
was Mistas who received said documents from her. Neither did she show that Mistas is
the employee responsible for record safekeeping.
Next, we find, as convincingly answered, the allegation that respondent Marietta Linatoc
cancelled Tax Declaration No. 00942-A and issued Tax Declaration 00949-Q (sic) on the
basis of a cancelled Transfer Certificate of Title upon the behest of Summit [Realty],
which was not the registered owner of the property.
Respondent Linatoc, meeting squarely [petitioners] allegation, admits having physically
cancelled Tax Declaration No. 00942-A and having prepared a new declaration covering
the same property in Catigbacs [name], as mandated by the flow of work in the City
Assessors Office. However, she denies having the authority or discretion to evaluate the
correctness and sufficiency of the documents supporting the application for the issuance
of the Tax Declaration, arguing that her official function is limited to the physical
preparation of a new tax declaration, the assignment of a new tax declaration number
and the cancellation of the old tax declaration, after the application had passed the other
divisions of the City Assessors Office.
Verily, [petitioner] failed to establish that respondent Mistas and Linatoc, are the ones
officially designated to receive applications for issuance of Tax Declaration, evaluate the

With the scope of work of said respondents not having been neatly defined by
[petitioner], this Office cannot make a definitive determination of their liability for Grave
Misconduct and violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, which charges both relate to
the performance or discharge of Mistas and Linatocs official duties.31
Neither did the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon find any probable cause to
criminally charge private individuals Leviste and Orense for the following reasons:
Anent private respondents, with the alleged conspiracy to unlawfully cause the transfer of
the title of [herein petitioners] property to Summit sufficiently explained by respondent
Register of Deeds, such allegation against private respondents loses a legal leg to stand
on.1avvphi.zw+
Inasmuch as [petitioner] was not able to sufficiently outline the official functions of
respondents Mistas and Linatoc to pin down their specific accountabilities, the imputation
that private respondent (sic) conspired with said public respondents respecting the
cancellation of Tax Declaration No. 00942-A is likewise stripped of any factual and legal
bases.32
As to whether petitioner was indeed unlawfully deprived of her 5,000 square meter
property, which issue comprised the very premise of OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C03-0728-F, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon ruled that such matter was
not within its jurisdiction and should be raised in a civil action before the courts of justice.
In the end, the Office of the Ombudsman decreed:
WHEREFORE premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that : (1) the
administrative case against public respondents ANTONIO M. ESCUTIN, AQUILINA A.
MISTAS and MARIETA L. LINATOC be DISMISSED, for lack of substantial evidence; and
(2) the criminal case against the same respondents including private respondent LAURO
S. LEVISTE II and BENEDICTO L. ORENSE, be DISMISSED, for lack of probable
cause.33

In a Joint Order34 dated 20 June 2005, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon
denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, in its Joint Order, took notice of the
Resolution dated 17 December 2002 of the LRA in Consulta No. 3483, which involved
circumstances similar to those in petitioners case. The LRA distinguished between two
systems of land registration: one is the Torrens system for registered lands under the
Property Registration Decree, and the other is the system of registration for unregistered
land under Act No. 3344 (now Section 113 of the Property Registration Decree). These
systems are separate and distinct from each other. For documents involving registered
lands, the same should be recorded under the Property Registration Decree. The
registration, therefore, of an instrument under the wrong system produces no legal effect.
Since it appeared that in Consulta No. 3483, the registration of the Kasulatan ng
Sanglaan, the Certificate of Sale and the Affidavit of Consolidation was made under Act
No. 3344, it did not produce any legal effect on the disputed property, because the said
property was already titled when the aforementioned documents were executed and
presented for registration, and their registration should have been made under the
Property Registration Decree.
Furthermore, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, in the same Joint Order,
took into account petitioners withdrawal of her appeal en consulta before the LRA of the
denial by the Register of Deeds of her request for registration of the Sheriffs Deed of
Final Sale/Conveyance and Affidavit of Adverse Claim, which prompted the LRA
Administrator to declare the consulta moot and academic. For want of a categorical
declaration on the registerability of petitioners documents from the LRA, the competent
authority to rule on the said matter, there could be no basis for a finding that respondent
public officers could be held administratively or criminally liable for the acts imputed to
them.
Petitioner sought recourse from the Court of Appeals by filing a Petition for Review under
Rule 43 of the Rules of Court challenging the 28 April 2004 Joint Resolution and 20 June
2005 Joint Order of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon. 35 The appeal was
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 90533.1avvphi1
The Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision36 on 18 October 2005, also finding no
reason to administratively or criminally charge respondents. Essentially, the appellate
court adjudged that petitioner can not impute corrupt motives to respondents acts:
Without evidence showing that respondents received any gift, money or other pay-off or
that they were induced by offers of such, the Court cannot impute any taint of direct
corruption in the questioned acts of respondents. Thus, any indication of intent to violate
the laws or of flagrant disregard of established rule may be negated by respondents
honest belief that their acts were sanctioned under the provisions of existing law and
regulations. Such is the situation in the case at bar. Respondent Register of Deeds acted

in the honest belief that the agency recognized by the court in LRC Case No. 00-0376
between the registered owner Francisco Catigbac and Leonardo Yagin subsisted with
respect to the conveyance or sale of Lot 1 to Summit as the vendee, and that the Special
Power of Attorney and Deed of Absolute Sale presented as evidence during said
proceedings are valid and binding. Hence, respondent Escutin was justified in believing
that there is no legal infirmity or defect in registering the documents and proceeding with
the transfer of title of Lot 1 in the name of the new owner Summit. On the other hand,
respondent Linatoc could not be held administratively liable for effecting the cancellation
in the course of ordinary flow of work in the City Assessors Office after the documents
have undergone the necessary evaluation and verification by her superiors.37
The Court of Appeals referred to the consistent policy of the Supreme Court not to
interfere with the exercise by the Ombudsman of his investigatory power. If the
Ombudsman, using professional judgment, finds the case dismissible, the Court shall
respect such findings, unless clothed with grave abuse of discretion. The appellate court
pronounced that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Office of the
Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in dismissing petitioners Complaint Affidavit against
respondents.
Hence, the dispositive portion of the Decision of the Court of Appeals reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack
of merit. The challenged Joint Resolution dated April 28, 2004 and Joint Order dated
June 20, 2005 in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F are hereby
AFFIRMED.38
In its Resolution dated 11 January 2006, the Court of Appeals denied petitioners Motion
for Reconsideration for failing to present new matter which the appellate court had not
already considered in its earlier Decision.
Petitioner now comes before this Court via the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari,
with the following assignment of errors:
I.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PATENTLY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE
CANCELLATION OF THE TAX DECLARATION 00942 OF PETITIONER IN VIOLATION
OF SECTION 109 OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 1529, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE
PROPERTY REGISTRATION ACT (sic);
II.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PATENTLY ERRED IN RULING THAT itself.42 Under the Torrens system, a certificate of title may be an Original Certificate of
RESPONDENTS COULD NOT BE HELD ADMINISTRATIVELY LIABLE FOR UNDULY Title, which constitutes a true copy of the decree of registration; or a Transfer Certificate
FAVORING SUMMIT TO THE DAMAGE AND PREJUDICE OF PETITIONER.39
of Title, issued subsequent to the original registration.
The Petition at bar is without merit.
As to the first issue, petitioner invokes Section 109 of the Property, Registration Decree
which provides:
SEC. 109. Notice and replacement of lost duplicate certificate. In case of loss or theft of
an owners duplicate certificate of title, due notice under oath shall be sent by the owner
or by someone in his behalf to the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the
land lies as soon as the loss or theft is discovered. If a duplicate certificate is lost or
destroyed, or cannot be produced by a person applying for the entry of a new certificate
to him or for the registration of any new instrument, a sworn statement of the fact of such
loss or destruction may be filed by the registered owner or other person in interest and
registered.
Upon the petition of the registered owner or other person in interest, the court may, after
notice and due hearing, direct the issuance of a new duplicate certificate, which shall
contain a memorandum of the fact that it is issued in place of the lost duplicate
certificate, but shall in all respects be entitled to like faith and credit as the original
duplicate, and shall thereafter be regarded as such for all purposes of this decree.
Petitioner argues that the RTC, in LRC Case No. 00-0376, only ordered the issuance of a
new owners duplicate of TCT No. 181 in lieu of the lost one. However, respondents did
not only issue a new owners duplicate of TCT No. 181, but also cancelled petitioners
Tax Declaration No. 00942-A and issued in its place Tax Declaration No. 00949-A in the
name of Catigbac. Respondents did not even annotate petitioners existing right over
5,000 square meters of Lot 1-B or notify petitioner of the cancellation of her Tax
Declaration No. 00942-A. Petitioner maintains that a new owners duplicate of title is not
a mode of acquiring ownership, nor is it a mode of losing one. Under Section 109 of the
Property Registration Decree, the new duplicate of title was issued only to replace the
old; it cannot cancel existing titles.
Petitioners position on this issue rests on extremely tenuous arguments and befuddled
reasoning.
Before anything else, the Court must clarify that a title is different from a certificate of
title. Title is generally defined as the lawful cause or ground of possessing that which is
ours. It is that which is the foundation of ownership of property, real or personal. 40 Title,
therefore, may be defined briefly as that which constitutes a just cause of exclusive
possession, or which is the foundation of ownership of property.41 Certificate of title, on
the other hand, is a mere evidence of ownership; it is not the title to the land

Summit Realty acquired its title to Lot 1-B, not from the issuance of the new owners
duplicate of TCT No. 181, but from its purchase of the same from Yagin, the attorney-infact of Catigbac, the registered owner of the said property. Summit Realty merely sought
the issuance of a new owners duplicate of TCT No. 181 in the name of Catigbac so that
it could accordingly register thereon the sale in its favor of a substantial portion of Lot 1
covered by said certificate, later identified as Lot 1-B. Catigbacs title to Lot 1-B passed
on by sale to Summit Realty, giving the latter the right to seek the separation of the said
portion from the rest of Lot 1 and the issuance of a certificate of title specifically covering
the same. This resulted in the issuance of TCT No. 129642 in the name of Catigbac,
covering Lot 1-B, which was subsequently cancelled and replaced by TCT No. T-134609
in the name of Summit Realty.
Petitioners reliance on Section 109 of the Property Registration Decree is totally
misplaced. It provides for the requirements for the issuance of a lost duplicate certificate
of title. It cannot, in any way, be related to the cancellation of petitioners tax declaration.
The cancellation of petitioners Tax Declaration No. 00942-A was not because of the
issuance of a new owners duplicate of TCT No. 181, but of the fact that Lot 1-B, which
encompassed the 5,000 square meters petitioner lays claim to, was already covered by
TCT No. 181 (and subsequently by TCT No. 129642) in the name of Catigbac. A
certificate of title issued is an absolute and indefeasible evidence of ownership of the
property in favor of the person whose name appears therein. It is binding and conclusive
upon the whole world.43 All persons must take notice, and no one can plead ignorance of
the registration.44 Therefore, upon presentation of TCT No. 129642, the Office of the City
Assessor must recognize the ownership of Lot 1-B by Catigbac and issue in his name a
tax declaration for the said property. And since Lot 1-B is already covered by a tax
declaration in the name of Catigbac, accordingly, any other tax declaration for the same
property or portion thereof in the name of another person, not supported by any
certificate of title, such that of petitioner, must be cancelled; otherwise, the City Assessor
would be twice collecting a realty tax from different persons on one and the same
property.
As between Catigbacs title, covered by a certificate of title, and petitioners title,
evidenced only by a tax declaration, the former is evidently far superior and is, in the
absence of any other certificate of title to the same property, conclusive and indefeasible
as to Catigbacs ownership of Lot 1-B. Catigbacs certificate of title is binding upon the
whole world, including respondent public officers and even petitioner herself. Time and
again, the Court has ruled that tax declarations and corresponding tax receipts cannot be
used to prove title to or ownership of a real property inasmuch as they are not conclusive
evidence of the same.45 Petitioner acquired her title to the 5,000 square meter property

from Raquel, her judgment debtor who, it is important to note, likewise only had a tax
declaration to evidence her title. In addition, the Court of Appeals aptly observed that,
"[c]uriously, as to how and when petitioners alleged predecessor-in-interest, Raquel K.
Moratilla and her supposed co-owners acquired portions of Lot 1 described as Lot 13713
stated in TD No. 00449, petitioner had so far remained utterly silent."46
Petitioners allegations of defects or irregularities in the sale of Lot 1-B to Summit Realty
by Yagin, as Catigbacs attorney-in-fact, are beyond the jurisdiction of the Office of the
Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon to consider. It must be remembered that Summit Realty
had already acquired a certificate of title, TCT No. T-134609, in its name over Lot 1-B,
which constitutes conclusive and indefeasible evidence of its ownership of the said
property and, thus, cannot be collaterally attacked in the administrative and preliminary
investigations conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon. Section 48 of the
Property Registration Decree categorically provides that a certificate of title shall not be
subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct
proceeding in accordance with law. For this same reason, the Court has no jurisdiction to
grant petitioners prayer in the instant Petition for the cancellation of TCT No. T-134609 in
the name of Summit Realty.
Which now brings the Court to the second issue raised by petitioner on the administrative
liability of respondents.

Relative Thereto,' the administrative offense of 'grave misconduct' carries with it the
maximum penalty of dismissal from the service (Sec. IV-C[3], MC No. 8, S. 1970). But
the term 'misconduct' as an administrative offense has a well defined meaning. It was
defined in Amosco vs. Judge Magno, Adm. Mat. No. 439-MJ, Res. September 30, 1976,
as referring 'to a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more
particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer.' It is a misconduct
'such as affects the performance of his duties as an officer and not such only as effects
his character as a private individual.' In the recent case of Oao vs. Pabato, etc., Adm.
Mat. No. 782-MJ, Res. July 29, 1977, the Court defined 'serious misconduct' as follows:
Hence, even assuming that the dismissal of the case is erroneous, this would be merely
an error of judgment and not serious misconduct. The term `serious misconduct is a
transgression of some established and definite rule of action more particularly, unlawful
behavior of gross negligence by the magistrate. It implies a wrongful intention and not a
mere error of judgment. For serious misconduct to exist, there must be reliable evidence
showing that the judicial acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by intention to
violate the law, or were a persistent disregard of well-known legal rules. We have
previously ruled that negligence and ignorance on the part of a judge are inexcusable if
they imply a manifest injustice which cannot be explained by a reasonable interpretation.
This is not so in the case at bar." (Italics supplied.)

To reiterate, for grave misconduct to exist, there must be reliable evidence showing that
Before the Court proceeds to tackle this issue, it establishes that petitioners Complaint the acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law, or were
Affidavit before the Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon gave rise to two charges: (1) a persistent disregard of well-known legal rules. Both the Office of the Deputy
OMB-L-A-03-0573-F involved the administrative charge for Gross Misconduct against Ombudsman for Luzon and the Court of Appeals found that there was no sufficient
respondent public officers; and (2) OMB-L-C-03-0728-F concerned the criminal charge evidence to substantiate petitioners charge of grave misconduct against respondents.
for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act 47 against For this Court to reverse the rulings of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon
respondent public officers and private individuals Leviste and Orense. The Office of the and the Court of Appeals, it must necessarily review the evidence presented by the
Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, dismissed both parties and decide on a question of fact. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of
50
charges. In the Petition at bar, petitioner only assails the dismissal of the administrative the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact.
charge for grave misconduct against respondent public officers. Since petitioner did not
raise as an issue herein the dismissal by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, Factual issues are not cognizable by this Court in a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, of the criminal charge against respondent public the Rules of Court. In order to resolve this issue, the Court would necessarily have to
officers for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the same look into the probative value of the evidence presented in the proceedings below. It is not
became final and executory.48
the function of the Court to reexamine or reevaluate the evidence all over again. This
Court is not a trier of facts, its jurisdiction in these cases being limited to reviewing only
49
In Domingo v. Quimson, the Court adopted the well-written report and recommendation errors of law that may have been committed by the lower courts or administrative bodies
of its Clerk of Court on the administrative matter then pending and involving the charge of performing quasi-judicial functions. It should be emphasized that findings made by an
administrative body, which has acquired expertise, are accorded not only respect but
gross or serious misconduct:
even finality by the Court. In administrative proceedings, the quantum of evidence
51
"Under Section 36, par. (b) [1] of PD No. 807, otherwise known as the Civil Service required is only substantial.
Decree of the Philippines, 'misconduct' is a ground for disciplinary action. And under MC
No. 8, S. 1970, issued by the Civil Service Commission on July 28, 1970, which sets the
'Guidelines in the Application of Penalties in Administrative Cases and other Matters

Absent a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion, the Court shall not disturb findings
of fact. The Court cannot weigh once more the evidence submitted, not only before the

Ombudsman, but also before the Court of Appeals. Under Section 27 of Republic Act No.
6770, findings of fact by the Ombudsman are conclusive, as long as they are supported
by substantial evidence.52 Substantial evidence is the amount of relevant evidence which
a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.53
The Court finds no reason to disturb the finding of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman
for Luzon and the Court of Appeals that respondents did not commit gross misconduct.
Evident from the 28 April 2004 Joint Resolution of the former and the 18 October 2005
Decision of the latter is that they arrived at such findings only after a meticulous
consideration of the evidence submitted by the parties.
Respondents were able to clearly describe their official functions and to convincingly
explain that they had only acted in accordance therewith in their dealings with petitioner
and/or her documents. Respondents also enjoy in their favor the presumption of
regularity in the performance of their official duty. The burden of proving otherwise by
substantial evidence falls on petitioner, who failed to discharge the same.
From the very beginning, petitioner was unable to identify correctly the positions held by
respondents Mistas and Linatoc at the Office of the City Assessor. How then could she
even assert that a particular action was within or without their jurisdiction to perform?
While it may be true that petitioner should have at least been notified that her Tax
Declaration No. 00942-A was being cancelled, she was not able to establish that such
would be the responsibility of respondents Mistas or Linatoc. Moreover, petitioner did not
present statutory, regulatory, or procedural basis for her insistence that respondents
should have done or not done a particular act. A perfect example was her assertion that
respondents Mistas and Linatoc should have annotated her interest on Tax Declaration
No. 00949-A in the name of Catigbac. However, she failed to cite any law or rule which
authorizes or recognizes the annotation of an adverse interest on a tax declaration.
Finally, absent any reliable evidence, petitioners charge that respondents conspired with
one another and with corporate officers of Summit Realty is nothing more than
speculation, surmise, or conjecture. Just because the acts of respondents were
consistently favorable to Summit Realty does not mean that there was a concerted effort
to cause petitioner prejudice. Respondents actions were only consistent with the
recognition of the title of Catigbac over Lot 1-B, transferred by sale to Summit Realty,
registered under the Torrens system, and accordingly evidenced by certificates of title.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition for Review is hereby DENIED.
The Decision dated 18 October 2005 and Resolution dated 11 January 2006 of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 90533 are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against the
petitioner Dinah C. Castillo.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 161034

June 30, 2009

ZENAIDA ACOSTA, EDUARDO ACOSTA, ARNOLD ACOSTA, DELIA ACOSTA, SPS.


TEODULO MACHADO AND AURORA ORENZA, SPS. ROLDAN PALARCA AND
PACITA PANGILINAN, SPS. FROMENCIO JONATAS AND LUCENA M. MARIANO,
SPS. MARCIAL IGLESIA AND VIRGINIA LAPURGA, ATTY.-IN-FACT FELINO
MACARAEG, SPS. MANUEL MANGROBANG AND VALERIANA SOTIO, SPS.
VIRGINIA DELA ROSA AND ROMEO DELA ROSA, SPS. PACIFICO SOTIO AND
LOLITA SORIANO, JUAN DALINOC (DECEASED), REPRESENTED BY DAUGHTER
CONSUELO DALINOC, SPS. MARIANO TORIO AND MAXIMA MACARAEG,
REPRESENTED BY LEGAL HEIRS TORIBIA TORIO AND MAYUMI MACARAEG,
TEOFILO
MOLINA
AND
AVELINO
DIZON, Petitioners,
vs.
TRINIDAD SALAZAR AND ANICETA SALAZAR, Respondents.
DECISION
NACHURA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari assailing the July 25, 2003 Decision1 of the Court
of Appeals (CA) as well as its November 25, 2003 Resolution 2 in CA-G.R. CV No. 70161,
which reversed and set aside the December 20, 2000 Decision3 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 64, Tarlac City in Civil Case No. 7256. Said RTC decision dismissed
the complaint for quieting of title filed by herein respondents Trinidad Salazar and Aniceta
Salazar against petitioners.
Below are the facts.
On November 19, 1985, respondents Trinidad and Aniceta Salazar (hereinafter,
Salazars), filed a petition for the cancellation of the entries annotated at the back of
Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 40287 registered in the names of spouses Juan
Soriano and Vicenta Macaraeg, who died without issue.4 The Salazars claim that two of
the entries Entry Nos. 19756 and 20102 annotated at the back of the aforesaid title
are void since no consolidation of rights appear in the Registry of Deeds (RD) of Tarlac to
support the entries; and that Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 9297, which
supposedly cancelled OCT No. 40287, is non-existent according to a certification issued
by the RD.5 On October 21, 1986, RTC Branch 63 of Tarlac resolved to grant the petition
and ordered the cancellation of Entry No. 20102.6 No respondent was impleaded in the
said petition.
Subsequently, the Salazars filed an urgent motion praying for the issuance of an order to
direct the RD of Tarlac to recall all titles issued under Entry Nos. 19756 and 20102 and to
cancel all the tax declarations issued based thereon. The motion was granted in an
Order issued on November 7, 1986.7

On November 20, 1986, the Salazars filed a second urgent motion praying that the
owners of the affected property be ordered to appear before the court to show cause why
their titles should not be cancelled.8
On October 20, 1987, the Salazars filed a new motion praying that the RD of Tarlac be
ordered to comply with the courts order issued on November 7, 1986. The RD, however,
explained that to comply with the said court order would remove the basis for the
issuance of TCT No. 9297 which title had, in turn, been cancelled by many other transfer
certificates of title and would indubitably result in the deprivation of the right to due
process of the registered owners thereof. 9 On this basis, the RTC denied the motion and
advised the Salazars to elevate the matter en consulta to the Land Registration
Commission (now Land Registration Authority or LRA). After the Salazars moved for
reconsideration, the RTC directed the RD of Tarlac to comply with the October 21, 1986
and November 7, 1986 orders. Threatened with contempt, the RD elevated the matter en
consulta to the National Land Titles and Deeds Registration Administration, which, in
turn, issued a resolution directing the RD to comply with the RTCs orders.10 On March 7,
1989, OCT No. 40287 was reconstituted and TCT No. 219121 was issued in the names
of the Salazars, sans Entry Nos. 19756 and 20102.
It was at this stage of the proceedings that herein petitioners together with other
subsequent purchasers for value of the disputed property twenty-seven (27) titleholders
in all11 filed their formal written comment dated April 17, 1989. 12 In their comment, the
oppositors contended, among others, that they had acquired their titles in good faith and
for value, and that the lower court, acting as a land registration court, had no jurisdiction
over issues of ownership.13
On September 14, 1989, the said court, apparently realizing its mistake, issued an Order,
stating thus:
Upon motion of Atty. Alcantara and without objection on the part of Atty. Molina and Atty.
Lamorena, all the incidents in this case are hereby withdrawn without prejudice to the
filing of an appropriate action in a proper forum.
SO ORDERED.14
This prompted the Salazars to file a complaint for quieting of title impleading herein
petitioners as well as other individuals who claim to have purchased the said property
from the heirs of Juan Soriano. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 7256 before
Branch 64 of the RTC of Tarlac.15 The complaint alleged that TCT No. 219121 was issued
in the names of the Salazars without Entry Nos. 19756 and 20102 at the back of said
title, but the previous TCTs issued by the RD of Tarlac as well as the tax declarations
existing in the Assessors Office have not been cancelled and revoked by the said
government agencies to the detriment and prejudice of the complainants (herein
respondents). They also alleged that Pcs-395, from which Lot Nos. 702-A to 702-V were

taken, is non-existent and, thus, the court should cause the cancellation and revocation
of spurious and null and void titles and tax declarations.16
Defendants filed three separate answers. Defendants Raymundo Macaraeg, Martha
Estacio (both deceased), Adelaida Macaraeg, Lucio Macaraeg, represented by Eufracia
Macaraeg Baluyot as attorney-in-fact, Gregorio Baluyut and Eligia Obcena (hereinafter,
Macaraegs) maintained that the November 7, 1986 order of the RTC is null and void
because the court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case. They also argued that TCT
No. 219121 issued in the name of the Salazars is void and that the case for quieting of
title is not a direct, but a collateral, attack against a property covered by a Torrens
certificate.17
Defendants, now herein petitioners, for their part, maintained that the Plan of
Consolidation Subdivision Survey Pcs-396 had been an existing consolidationsubdivision survey plan annotated on OCT No. 40287 under Entry No. 20102 dated
February 17, 1950 from which TCT No. 9297 was issued covering Lot Nos. 702-A to 702V, inclusive, in the names of the heirs of Juan Soriano. They argued that TCT No. 219121
issued in the name of the Salazars is spurious and null and void from the beginning since
it was acquired pursuant to an illegal order issued by the court. 18 By way of special and
affirmative defenses, they also alleged, among others, (1) that the Salazars were not
among the heirs of the late Juan Soriano, not within the fifth civil degree of consanguinity,
and hence, they have no right to inherit; (2) that TCT No. 219121 constitutes a cloud
upon the Torrens title of herein petitioners, and should therefore be cancelled and
revoked; (3) that assuming, without admitting, that the Salazars have any right over the
lots in question their right to enforce such action had already prescribed by laches or had
been barred by prescription since more than forty (40) years had lapsed since the heirs
of Juan Soriano had registered the lots in question under TCT No. 9297 on February 17,
1950; and (4) that petitioners and/or their predecessors-in-interest acquired the lots in
question in good faith and for value from the registered owners thereof.19
Defendant spouses Francisco Jonatas and Lucena M. Mariano and spouses Manuel
Mangrobang and Valeriana Sotio filed their answers practically raising the same
defenses.20
Meanwhile, on July 29, 1991, petitioners, together with the Macaraegs and Jonatas, et
al., filed before the CA a petition for annulment of judgment21 rendered by RTC Branch 63
of Tarlac, Tarlac. The case, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 25643, was, however,
dismissed on the ground of litis pendencia.22
On December 20, 2000, Branch 64 of the RTC of Tarlac dismissed the complaint for
quieting of title. The trial court faulted the Salazars for failure to present proof that they
are heirs of the late Juan Soriano. 23 It also declared TCT No. 219121 issued in the name
of the Salazars as null and void, and affirmed TCT No. 9297 as well as all certificates of
title derived therefrom.24

Unsatisfied, the Salazars appealed to the CA,25 which ruled in their favor.

Apparently realizing their mistake, the Salazars later on filed an action for quieting of title,
also an action quasi in rem, albeit this time before Branch 64 of the RTC of Tarlac.
Because the Salazars miserably failed to prove the basis for their claim, the RTC
dismissed the complaint.33 In fact, the RTC was bold enough to have pronounced thus:

According to the CA, it was erroneous for Branch 64 of the RTC of Tarlac to reverse and
declare as null and void the decision of Branch 63, which is a court of equal rank. Such
issue should have been properly ventilated in an action for annulment of final judgment.
Consequently, the orders issued by RTC Branch 63, had become final and executory, Who are the heirs of Juan Soriano who caused the consolidation and in whose favor TCT
hence, covered by res judicata.26
No. 9297 was issued? Certainly, they are not the plaintiffs. If the plaintiffs claim that they
are the only heirs, they should file a case against those who executed the consolidation
The CA also struck down the arguments raised by the appellees that the orders of RTC in whose favor [E]ntry [N]o. 20102 was made.
Branch 63 are null and void for lack of proper notice. It ratiocinated that the proceeding is
a land registration proceeding, which is an action in rem. This being so, personal notice
to the owners or claimants of the land sought to be registered is not necessary in order to
vest the court with jurisdiction over the res and over the parties.27
A motion for reconsideration28 was filed, but the same was denied.29 Hence, this petition.
Pivotal to the resolution of this case is the determination of the validity of the action taken
by the Salazars in Branch 63 of the RTC of Tarlac.
We rule for petitioners.
It is true that the registration of land under the Torrens system is a proceeding in rem and
not in personam. Such a proceeding in rem, dealing with a tangible res, may be instituted
and carried to judgment without personal service upon the claimants within the state or
notice by mail to those outside of it. Jurisdiction is acquired by virtue of the power of the
court over the res. Such a proceeding would be impossible were this not so, for it would
hardly do to make a distinction between constitutional rights of claimants who were
known and those who were not known to the plaintiff, when the proceeding is to bar all.30
Interestingly, however, the proceedings instituted by the Salazars both in Branch 63 of
the RTC of Tarlac for the cancellation of entries in OCT No. 40287 and later in Branch 64
of the RTC of Tarlac for quieting of title can hardly be classified as actions in rem. The
petition for cancellation of entries annotated at the back of OCT No. 40287 ought to have
been directed against specific persons: namely, the heirs of Juan Soriano as appearing
in Entry No. 20102 and, indubitably, against their successors-in-interest who have
acquired different portions of the property over the years because it is in the nature of an
action quasi in rem. Accordingly, the Salazars should have impleaded as party
defendants the heirs of Juan Soriano and/or Vicenta Macaraeg as well as those claiming
ownership over the property under their names because they are indispensable parties.
This was not done in this case.31 Since no indispensable party was ever impleaded by
the Salazars in their petition for cancellation of entry filed before Branch 63 of the RTC of
Tarlac, herein petitioners are not bound by the dispositions of the said
court.32 Consequently, the judgment or order of the said court never even acquired
finality.

x x x In its order dated February 24, 2000, this Court ruled that it is necessary that
plaintiffs should prove that they are the heirs of Juan Soriano, the registered owners as
indicated in OCT No. 40287 of (sic) Vicenta Macaraeg, the late spouse. Despite the cue,
the plaintiffs opted not to present evidence on how they became the heirs of Juan
Soriano or Vicenta Macaraeg. There being [no] evidence presented to prove that
plaintiffs are the heirs of the late Juan Soriano and Vicenta Macaraeg, they had no right
and cause of action to prosecute this case.34
Needless to say, the failure of the Salazars to implead indispensable party defendants in
the petition for cancellation of entries in OCT No. 40287 should have been a ground for
the RTC to dismiss, or at least suspend, the proceedings of the case.35 Yet, although the
action proceeded, any judgment or order issued by the court thereon is still null and void
for want of authority on the part of the court to act with respect to the parties never
impleaded in the action.36 Thus, the orders issued by said court dated October 21, 1986
and November 7, 1986 never acquired finality.37 Quod ab initio non valet, in tractu
temporis non convalescit.38
Paraphrasing by analogy this Courts ruling in Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage
System v. Sison,39 a void order is not entitled to the respect accorded to a valid order. It
may be entirely disregarded or declared inoperative by any tribunal in which effect is
sought to be given to it. It has no legal or binding effect or efficacy for any purpose or at
any place and thus cannot affect, impair or create rights. It is not entitled to enforcement
and is, ordinarily, no protection to those who seek to enforce the same. Accordingly, all
proceedings founded on the void court order are themselves regarded as invalid, and the
situation is the same as it would be if there was no order issued by the court. It leaves
the party litigants in the same position they were in before the trial. 40 A void order, like
any void judgment, may be said to be a lawless thing which can be treated as an outlaw
and slain at sight.41
More crucial is the fact that both parties in this case are dealing with property registered
under the Torrens system. To allow any individual, such as the Salazars in this case, to
impugn the validity of a Torrens certificate of title by the simple expediency of filing an ex
parte petition for cancellation of entries would inevitably erode the very reason why the
Torrens system was adopted in this country, which is to quiet title to land and to put a

stop forever to any question on the legality of the title, except claims that were noted, at
the time of registration, in the certificate, or which may arise subsequent thereto. 42 Once
a title is registered under the Torrens system, the owner may rest secure, without the
necessity of waiting in the portals of the courts or sitting in the "mirador su casa" to avoid
the possibility of losing his land.43 Rarely will the court allow another person to attack the
validity and indefeasibility of a Torrens certificate, unless there is compelling reason to do
so and only upon a direct action filed in court proceeded in accordance with law.44
Finally, this Court also takes note of the fact that for more than 30 years from the time
Entry No. 20102 was annotated at the back of OCT No. 40287 on February 17, 1950
until the time of the filing of the ex parte petition for cancellation of entries on the said
certificate of title on November 19, 1985 the Salazars remained deafeningly quiet and
never made any move to question the issue of ownership over the said land before the
proper forum.lawphil.net They also failed to ventilate their claim during the intestate
proceeding filed by the heirs of Juan Soriano sometime in 1939. Likewise, they miserably
failed to stop the transfer of portions of the property to petitioners who, for themselves,
were able to secure TCTs in their own names. All of these would lead to the inevitable
conclusion that if there is any validity to the claim of the Salazars over the said property
although such issue is not the subject of the present case the same had already
prescribed45 or, at the very least, had become stale due to laches.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed July 25, 2003 Decision of the
Court of Appeals including its November 25, 2003 Resolution are hereby SET ASIDE.
Accordingly, the December 20, 2000 Decision rendered by Branch 64 of the Regional
Trial Court of Tarlac City, Tarlac is REINSTATED. Costs against respondents.
SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 173021

October 20, 2010

DELFIN LAMSIS, MAYNARD MONDIGUING, JOSE VALDEZ, JR. and Heirs of


AGUSTIN KITMA, represented by EUGENE KITMA, Petitioners,
vs.
MARGARITA SEMON DONG-E, Respondent.
DECISION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:

There is laches when a party is aware, even in the early stages of the proceedings, of a
possible jurisdictional objection, and has every opportunity to raise said objection, but
fails to do so, even on appeal.
This is a Petition for Review1 assailing the March 30, 2006 Decision2 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 78987 as well as its May 26, 2006 Resolution 3 which
denied petitioners motion for reconsideration. The dispositive portion of the assailed
Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED for lack of
merit and the judgment dated January 8, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City
in Civil Case No. 4140-R is AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.4
Factual antecedents
This case involves a conflict of ownership and possession over an untitled parcel of land,
denominated as Lot No. 1, with an area of 80,736 square meters. The property is located
along Km. 5 Asin Road, Baguio City and is part of a larger parcel of land with an area of
186,090 square meters. While petitioners are the actual occupants of Lot No. 1,
respondent is claiming ownership thereof and is seeking to recover its possession from
petitioners.
According to respondent Margarita Semon Dong-E (Margarita), her familys ownership
and occupation of Lot No. 1 can be traced as far back as 1922 to her late grandfather,
Ap-ap.5 Upon Ap-aps death, the property was inherited by his children, who obtained a
survey plan in 1964 of the 186,090-square meter property, which included Lot No. 1.6 On
the same year, they declared the property for taxation purposes in the name of "The
Heirs of Ap-ap."7 The 1964 tax declaration bears a notation that reads: "Reconstructed
from an old Tax Declaration No. 363 dated May 10, 1922 per true of same presented."8
The heirs of Ap-ap then executed, for a P500.00 consideration, a Deed of Quitclaim 9 on
February 26, 1964 in favor of their brother Gilbert Semon (Margaritas father).
Sometime between 1976 and 1978,10 Gilbert Semon together with his wife Mary Lamsis,
allowed his in-laws Manolo Lamsis and Nancy Lamsis-Kitma, to stay on a portion of Lot
No. 1 together with their respective families.11 They were allowed to erect their houses,
introduce improvements, and plant trees thereon. When Manolo Lamsis and Nancy
Lamsis-Kitma died sometime in the 1980s, their children, petitioners Delfin Lamsis
(Delfin) and Agustin Kitma (Agustin), took possession of certain portions of Lot No. 1.
Delfin possessed 4,000 square meters of Lot No. 1, while Agustin occupied 5,000 square
meters thereof.12 Nevertheless, the heirs of Gilbert Semon tolerated the acts of their first
cousins.

When Gilbert Semon died in 1983, 13 his children extrajudicially partitioned the property
among themselves and allotted Lot No. 1 thereof in favor of Margarita. 14 Since then,
Margarita allegedly paid the realty tax over Lot No. 1 15 and occupied and improved the
property together with her husband; while at the same time, tolerating her first cousins
occupation of portions of the same lot.

actual occupants (who were not named in the resolution) whose improvements are
visible are not in any way related to the applicant or his co-heirs."26

To bolster her claim of ownership and possession, Margarita introduced as evidence an


unnumbered resolution of the Community Special Task Force on Ancestral Lands
(CSTFAL) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), acting
This state of affairs changed when petitioners Delfin and Agustin allegedly began favorably on her and her siblings ancestral land claim over a portion of the 186,090expanding their occupation on the subject property and selling portions thereof. 16 Delfin square meter property.27 The said resolution states:
allegedly sold a 400-square meter portion of Lot No. 1 to petitioner
Maynard17 Mondiguing (Maynard) while Agustin sold another portion to petitioner Jose The land subject of the instant application is the ancestral land of the herein applicants.
Valdez (Jose).18
Well-established is the fact that the land treated herein was first declared for taxation
With such developments, Margarita filed a complaint 19 for recovery of ownership,
possession, reconveyance and damages against all four occupants of Lot No. 1 before
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Baguio City. The case was docketed as Civil Case No.
4140-R and raffled to Branch 59. The complaint prayed for the annulment of the sales to
Maynard and Jose and for petitioners to vacate the portions of the property which exceed
the areas allowed to them by Margarita. 20 Margarita claimed that, as they are her first
cousins, she is willing to donate to Delfin and Agustin a portion of Lot No. 1, provided that
she retains the power to choose such portion.21
Petitioners denied Margaritas claims of ownership and possession over Lot No. 1.
According to Delfin and Agustin, Lot No. 1 is a public land claimed by the heirs of Joaquin
Smith (not parties to the case).22 The Smiths gave their permission for Delfin and
Agustins parents to occupy the land sometime in 1969 or 1970. They also presented
their neighbors who testified that it was Delfin and Agustin as well as their respective
parents who occupied Lot No. 1, not Margarita and her parents.
Delfin and Agustin also assailed the muniments of ownership presented by Margarita as
fabricated, unauthenticated, and invalid. It was pointed out that the Deed of Quitclaim,
allegedly executed by all of Ap-aps children, failed to include two Rita Bocahan and
Stewart Sito.23 Margarita admitted during trial that Rita Bocahan and Stewart Sito were
her uncle and aunt, but did not explain why they were excluded from the quitclaim.

purposes in 1922 under Tax Declaration No. 363 by the applicants grandfather Ap-Ap
(one name). Said application was reconstructed in 1965 after the original got lost during
the war. These tax declarations were issued and recorded in the Municipality of Tuba,
Benguet, considering that the land was then within the territorial jurisdiction of the said
municipality. That upon the death of declarant Ap-Ap his heirs x x x transferred the tax
declaration in their name, [which tax declaration is] now with the City assessors office of
Baguio.
The land consisting of four (4) lots with a total area of ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX
THOUSAND NINETY (186,090) SQUARE METERS, is covered by Psu-198317 duly
approved by the Director of Lands on October 4, 1963 in the name of Ap-Ap (one name).
In 1964, the same land was the subject of a petition filed by Gilbert Semon, as petitioner,
before the Court of First Instance of the City of Baguio in the reopening of Judicial
Proceedings under Civil Case No. 1, GLRO Record No. 211 for the registration and the
issuance of Certificate of Title of said land. The land registration case was however
overtaken by the decision of the Supreme Court declaring such judicial proceedings null
and void because the courts of law have no jurisdiction.

According to Maynard and Jose, Delfin and Agustin were the ones publicly and openly in
possession of the land and who introduced improvements thereon. They also
corroborated Delfin and Agustins allegation that the real owners of the property are the
heirs of Joaquin Smith.24

It has been sufficiently substantiated by the applicants that prior to and at the time of the
pendency of the land registration case and henceforth up to and including the present,
the herein applicants by themselves and through their predecessor-in-interest have been
in exclusive, continuous, and material possession and occupation of the said parcel of
land mentioned above under claim of ownership, devoting the same for residential and
agricultural purposes. Found are the residential houses of the applicants as well as those
of their close relatives, while the other areas planted to fruit trees, coffee and banana,
and seasonal crops. Also noticeable therein are permanent stone and earthen fences,
terraces, clearings, including irrigation gadgets.

In order to debunk petitioners claim that the Smiths owned the subject property,
Margarita presented a certified copy of a Resolution from the Land Management Office
denying the Smiths application for recognition of the subject property as part of their
ancestral land.25 The resolution explains that the application had to be denied because
the Smiths did not "possess, occupy or utilize all or a portion of the property x x x. The

On the matter of the applicant[s] indiguinity [sic] and qualifications, there is no doubt that
they are members of the National Cultural Communities, particularly the Ibaloi tribe. They
are the legitimate grandchildren of Ap-Ap (one name) who lived along the Asin Road
area. His legal heirs are: Orani Ap-Ap, married to Calado Salda; Rita Ap-Ap, married to
Jose Bacacan; Sucdad Ap-Ap, married to Oragon Wakit; and Gilbert Semon, a former

vice-mayor of Tuba, Benguet, [who] adopted the common name of their father Semon, as
it is the customary practice among the early Ibalois. x x x
On the matter regarding the inheritance of the heirs of Ap-Ap, it is important to state [that]
Gilbert Semon consolidated ownership thereof and became the sole heir in 1964, by way
of a "Deed of Quitclaim" executed by the heirs in his favor. As to the respective share of
the applicants[] co-heirs, the same was properly adjudicated in 1989 with the execution
of an "Extrajudicial Settlement/ Partition of Estate with Waiver of Rights."
With regard to the overlapping issue, it is pertinent to state that application No. Bg-L-066
of Thomas Smith has already been denied by us in our Resolution dated November
1997. As to the other adverse claims therein by reason of previous conveyances in favor
of third parties, the same were likewise excluded resulting in the reduction of the area
originally applied from ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX THOUSAND NINETY (186,090)
SQUARE METERS, more or less to ONE HUNDRED TEN THOUSAND THREE
HUNDRED FORTY TWO (110,342) SQUARE METERS, more or less. Considering the
foregoing developments, we find no legal and procedural obstacle in giving due course to
the instant application.
Now therefore, we hereby [resolve] that the application for Recognition of Ancestral Land
Claim filed by the Heirs of Gilbert Semon, represented by Juanito Semon, be granted
[and] a Certificate of Ancestral Land Claim (CALC) be issued to the herein applicants by
the Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Visayas Avenue,
Diliman, Quezon City, through the Regional Executive Director, DENR-CAR, Diego
Silang Street, Baguio City. The area of the claim stated herein above is however subject
to the outcome of the final survey to be forthwith executed.
Carried this 23rd day of June 1998.28
The resolution was not signed by two members of the CSTFAL on the ground that the
signing of the unnumbered resolution was overtaken by the enactment of the Republic
Act (RA) No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA). The IPRA
removed the authority of the DENR to issue ancestral land claim certificates and
transferred the same to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). 29 The
Ancestral Land Application No. Bg-L-064 of the Heirs of Gilbert Semon was transferred to
the NCIP, Cordillera Administrative Region, La Trinidad, Benguet and re-docketed as
Case No. 05-RHO-CAR-03.30 The petitioners filed their protest in the said case before
the NCIP. The same has been submitted for resolution.

Heirs of Ap-ap executed way back in 1962 and the tax declarations thereafter issued to
the respondent and her siblings all support her claim that her family and their
predecessors-in-interest have all been in possession of the property to the exclusion of
others. The court likewise gave credence to the documentary evidence of the transfer of
the land from the Heirs of Ap-ap to respondents father and, eventually to respondent
herself. The series of transfers of the property were indications of the respondents and
her predecessors interest over the property. The court opined that while these pieces of
documentary evidence were not conclusive proof of actual possession, they lend
credence to respondents claim because, "in the ordinary course of things, persons will
not execute legal documents dealing with real property, unless they believe, and have
the basis to believe, that they have an interest in the property subject of the legal
documents x x x."33
In contrast, the trial court found nothing on record to substantiate the allegations of the
petititioners that they and their parents were the long-time possessors of the subject
property. Their own statements belied their assertions. Petitioner Maynard and Jose both
admitted that they could not secure title for the property from the Bureau of Lands
because there were pending ancestral land claims over the property.34 Petitioner
Agustins Townsite Sales Application over the property was held in abeyance because of
respondents own claim, which was eventually favorably considered by the CSTFAL.35
The dispositive portion of the trial courts Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the
[respondent] and against the [petitioners]
(1) Declaring the transfer of a portion of Lot 1 of PSU 198317 made by the
[petitioner] Delfin Lamsis to Menard Mondiguing and Jose Valdez, Jr. null and
void;
(2) Ordering the [petitioners] Delfin Lamsis, Agustin Kitma, Menard Mondiguing
and Jose Valdez, Jr., to vacate the area they are presently occupying that is
within Lot 1 of PSU 198317 belonging to the [respondent] and to surrender
possession thereof to the [respondent];
(3) To pay [respondent] attorneys fees in the amount of P10,000.00; and
(4) To pay the costs of suit.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court31

SO ORDERED.36

After summarizing the evidence presented by both parties, the trial court found that it
preponderates in favor of respondents long-time possession of and claim of ownership
over the subject property.32 The survey plan of the subject property in the name of the

It appears that no motion for reconsideration was filed before the trial court. Nevetheless,
the trial court issued an Order37 allowing the petitioners Notice of Appeal.38

Ruling of the Court of Appeals39


The sole issue resolved by the appellate court was whether the trial court erred in ruling
in favor of respondent in light of the adduced evidence. Citing the rule on preponderance
of evidence, the CA held that the respondent was able to discharge her burden in proving
her title and interest to the subject property. Her documentary evidence were amply
supported by the testimonial evidence of her witnesses.
In contrast, petitioners only made bare allegations in their testimonies that are insufficient
to overcome respondents documentary evidence.
Petitioners moved for a reconsideration40 of the adverse decision but the same was
denied.
Hence this petition, which was initially denied for failure to show that the CA committed
any reversible error.41Upon petitioners motion for reconsideration,42 the petition was
reinstated in the Courts January 15, 2007 Resolution.43
Petitioners arguments
Petitioners assign as error the CAs appreciation of the evidence already affirmed and
considered by the trial court. They maintain that the change in the presiding judges who
heard and decided their case resulted in the appreciation of what would otherwise be
inadmissible evidence.44 Petitioners ask that the Court exempt their petition from the
general rule that a trial judges assessment of the credibility of witnesses is accorded
great respect on appeal.
To support their claim that the trial and appellate courts erred in ruling in favor of
respondent, they assailed the various pieces of evidence offered by respondent. They
maintain that the Deed of Quitclaim executed by the Heirs of Ap-ap is spurious and lacks
the parties and witnesses signatures. Moreover, it is a mere photocopy, which was never
authenticated by the notary public in court and no reasons were proferred regarding the
existence, loss, and contents of the original copy.45 Under the best evidence rule, the
Deed of Quitclaim is inadmissible in evidence and should have been disregarded by the
court.
Respondent did not prove that she and her husband possessed the subject property
since time immemorial. Petitioners argue that respondent admitted possessing and
cultivating only the land that lies outside the subject property.46
Petitioners next assail the weight to be given to respondents muniments of ownership,
such as the tax declarations and the survey plan. They insist that these are not
indubitable proofs of respondents ownership over the subject property given that there

are other claimants to the land (who are not parties to this case) who also possess a
survey plan over the subject property.47
Petitioners then assert their superior right to the property as the present possessors
thereof. They cite pertinent provisions of the New Civil Code which presume good faith
possession on the part of the possessor and puts the burden on the plaintiff in an action
to recover to prove her superior title.48
Petitioners next assert that they have a right to the subject property by the operation of
acquisitive prescription. They posit that they have been in possession of a public land
publicly, peacefully, exclusively and in the concept of owners for more than 30 years.
Respondents assertion that petitioners are merely possessors by tolerance is
unsubstantiated.49
Petitioners also maintain that the reivindicatory action should be dismissed for lack of
jurisdiction in light of the enactment of the IPRA, which gives original and exclusive
jurisdiction over disputes involving ancestral lands and domains to the NCIP.50 They
assert that the customary laws of the Ibaloi tribe of the Benguet Province should be
applied to their dispute as mandated by Section 65, Chapter IX of RA 8371, which states:
"When disputes involve ICCs/IPs,51 customary laws and practices shall be used to
resolve the dispute."
In the alternative that jurisdiction over an accion reivindicatoria is held to be vested in the
trial court, the petitioners insist that the courts should dismiss the reivindicatory action on
the ground of litis pendentia.52 They likewise argue that NCIP has primary jurisdiction
over ancestral lands, hence, the courts should not interfere "when the dispute demands
the exercise of sound administrative discretion requiring special knowledge, experience
and services of the administrative tribunal x x x In cases where the doctrine of primary
jurisdiction is clearly applicable, the court cannot arrogate unto itself the authority to
resolve a controversy, the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative
body of special competence."53 The courts should stand aside in order to prevent the
possibility of creating conflicting decisions.54
Respondents arguments
Respondent opines that the appellate court did not commit any reversible error in
affirming the trial courts decision. The present petition is a mere dilatory tactic to frustrate
the speedy administration of justice.55
Respondent also asserts that questions of fact are prohibited in a Rule 45
petition.56 Thus, the appreciation and consideration of the factual issues are no longer
reviewable.57

The issue of lack of jurisdiction is raised for the first time in the petition before this Court.
It was never raised before the trial court or the CA. Thus, respondent insists that
petitioners are now barred by laches from attacking the trial courts jurisdiction over the
case. Citing Aragon v. Court of Appeals,58 respondent argues that the jurisdictional issue
should have been raised at the appellate level at the very least so as to avail of the
doctrine that the ground lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case may be
raised at any stage of the proceedings even on appeal.59
Respondent maintains that there is no room for the application of litis pendentia because
the issues in the application for ancestral land claim are different from the issue in a
reivindicatory action. The issue before the NCIP is whether the Government, as grantor,
will recognize the ancestral land claim of respondent over a public alienable land; while
the issue in the reivindicatory case before the trial court is ownership, possession, and
right to recover the real property.60
Given that the elements of lis pendens are absent in case at bar, the allegation of forumshopping is also bereft of merit. Any judgment to be rendered by the NCIP will not
amount to res judicata in the instant case.61
Issues
The petitioners present the following issues for our consideration:
1. Whether the appellate court disregarded material facts and circumstances in
affirming the trial courts decision;
2. Whether petitioners have acquired the subject property by prescription;
3. Whether the trial court has jurisdiction to decide the case in light of the
effectivity of RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 at the time
that the complaint was instituted;
4. If the trial court retains jurisdiction, whether the ancestral land claim pending
before the NCIP should take precedence over the reivindicatory action.62
Our Ruling
Whether the appellate court disregarded material facts and circumstances in affirming
the trial courts decision

the evidence of both parties, despite the CAs finding that the trial court committed no
error in appreciating the evidence presented during trial. Hence, petitioners seek a
review of questions of fact, which is beyond the province of a Rule 45 petition. A question
of fact exists if the uncertainty centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. 63 "Such
questions as whether certain items of evidence should be accorded probative value or
weight, or rejected as feeble or spurious, or whether the proofs on one side or the other
are clear and convincing and adequate to establish a proposition in issue, are without
doubt questions of fact."64
Since it raises essentially questions of fact, this assignment of error must be dismissed
for it is settled that only questions of law may be reviewed in an appeal by
certiorari.65 There is a question of law when there is doubt as to what the law is on a
certain state of facts. Questions of law can be resolved without having to re-examine the
probative value of evidence presented, the truth or falsehood of facts being
admitted.66 The instant case does not present a compelling reason to deviate from the
foregoing rule, especially since both trial and appellate courts agree that respondent had
proven her claim of ownership as against petitioners claims. Their factual findings,
supported as they are by the evidence, should be accorded great respect.
In any case, even if petitioners arguments attacking the authenticity and admissibility of
the Deed of Quitclaim executed in favor of respondents father are well-taken, it will not
suffice to defeat respondents claim over the subject property. Even without the Deed of
Quitclaim, respondents claims of prior possession and ownership were adequately
supported and corroborated by her other documentary and testimonial evidence. We
agree with the trial courts observation that, in the ordinary course of things, people will
not go to great lengths to execute legal documents and pay realty taxes over a real
property, unless they have reason to believe that they have an interest over the same.67
The fact that respondents documents traverse several decades, from the 1960s to the
1990s, is an indication that she and her family never abandoned their right to the
property and have continuously exercised rights of ownership over the same.
Moreover, respondents version of how the petitioners came to occupy the property
coincides with the same timeline given by the petitioners themselves. The only difference
is that petitioners maintain they came into possession by tolerance of the Smith family,
while respondent maintains that it was her parents who gave permission to petitioners.
Given the context under which the parties respective statements were made, the Court is
inclined to believe the respondents version, as both the trial and appellate courts have
concluded, since her version is corroborated by the documentary evidence.
Whether petitioners have acquired the subject property by prescription

Both the trial and the appellate courts ruled that respondent has proven her claims of
ownership and possession with a preponderance of evidence. Petitioners now argue that
the two courts erred in their appreciation of the evidence. They ask the Court to review

Assuming that the subject land may be acquired by prescription, we cannot accept
petitioners claim of acquisition by prescription. Petitioners admitted that they had

occupied the property by tolerance of the owner thereof. Having made this admission,
they cannot claim that they have acquired the property by prescription unless they can
prove acts of repudiation. It is settled that possession, in order to ripen into ownership,
must be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful and uninterrupted. Possession not
in the concept of owner, such as the one claimed by petitioners, cannot ripen into
ownership by acquisitive prescription, unless the juridical relation is first expressly
repudiated and such repudiation has been communicated to the other party. Acts of
possessory character executed due to license or by mere tolerance of the owner are
inadequate for purposes of acquisitive prescription. Possession by tolerance is not
adverse and such possessory acts, no matter how long performed, do not start the
running of the period of prescription.68
In the instant case, petitioners made no effort to allege much less prove any act of
repudiation sufficient for the reckoning of the acquisitive prescription. At most, we can
find on record the sale by petitioners Delfin and Agustin of parts of the property to
petitioners Maynard and Jose; but the same was done only in 1998, shortly before
respondent filed a case against them. Hence, the 30-year period necessary for the
operation of acquisitve prescription had yet to be attained.
Whether the ancestral land claim pending before the National Commission on Indigenous
Peoples (NCIP) should take precedence over the reivindicatory action
The application for issuance of a Certificate of Ancestral Land Title pending before the
NCIP is akin to a registration proceeding. It also seeks an official recognition of ones
claim to a particular land and is also in rem. The titling of ancestral lands is for the
purpose of "officially establishing" ones land as an ancestral land. 69 Just like a
registration proceeding, the titling of ancestral lands does not vest ownership 70 upon the
applicant but only recognizes ownership71 that has already vested in the applicant by
virtue of his and his predecessor-in-interests possession of the property since time
immemorial. As aptly explained in another case:
It bears stressing at this point that ownership should not be confused with a certificate of
title. Registering land under the Torrens system does not create or vest title because
registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an
evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. Corollarily,
any question involving the issue of ownership must be threshed out in a separate suit x x
x The trial court will then conduct a full-blown trial wherein the parties will present their
respective evidence on the issue of ownership of the subject properties to enable the
court to resolve the said issue. x x x72 (Emphasis supplied)
Likewise apropos is the following explanation:
The fact that the [respondents] were able to secure [TCTs over the property] did not
operate to vest upon them ownership of the property. The Torrens system does not

create or vest title. It has never been recognized as a mode of acquiring ownership x x x
If the [respondents] wished to assert their ownership, they should have filed a judicial
action for recovery of possession and not merely to have the land registered under their
respective names. x x x Certificates of title do not establish ownership. 73 (Emphasis
supplied)
A registration proceeding is not a conclusive adjudication of ownership. In fact, if it is later
on found in another case (where the issue of ownership is squarely adjudicated) that the
registrant is not the owner of the property, the real owner can file a reconveyance case
and have the title transferred to his name.74
Given that a registration proceeding (such as the certification of ancestral lands) is not a
conclusive adjudication of ownership, it will not constitute litis pendentia on a
reivindicatory case where the issue is ownership. 75 "For litis pendentia to be a ground for
the dismissal of an action, the following requisites must concur: (a) identity of parties, or
at least such parties who represent the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of
rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c)
the identity with respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases is such that any
judgment that may be rendered in the pending case, regardless of which party is
successful, would amount to res judicata in the other case." 76 The third element is
missing, for any judgment in the certification case would not constitute res judicata or be
conclusive on the ownership issue involved in the reivindicatory case. Since there is no
litis pendentia, there is no reason for the reivindicatory case to be suspended or
dismissed in favor of the certification case.
Moreover, since there is no litis pendentia, we cannot agree with petitioners contention
that respondent committed forum-shopping. Settled is the rule that "forum shopping
exists where the elements of litis pendentiaare present or where a final judgment in one
case will amount to res judicata in the other."77
Whether the trial court has jurisdiction to decide the case in light of the effectivity of RA
8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 at the time that the complaint was
instituted
For the first time in the entire proceedings of this case, petitioners raise the trial courts
alleged lack of jurisdiction over the subject-matter in light of the effectivity 78 of the IPRA at
the time that the complaint was filed in 1998. They maintain that, under the IPRA, it is the
NCIP which has jurisdiction over land disputes involving indigenous cultural communities
and indigenous peoples.
As a rule, an objection over subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time of the
proceedings. This is because jurisdiction cannot be waived by the parties or vested by
the agreement of the parties. Jurisdiction is vested by law, which prevails at the time of
the filing of the complaint.

An exception to this rule has been carved by jurisprudence. In the seminal case of Tijam
v. Sibonghanoy,79 the Court ruled that the existence of laches will prevent a party from
raising the courts lack of jurisdiction. Laches is defined as the "failure or neglect, for an
unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due
diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a
right within a reasonable time, warranting the presumption that the party entitled to assert
it either has abandoned or declined to assert it." 80 Wisely, some cases81 have cautioned
against applying Tijam, except for the most exceptional cases where the factual milieu is
similar to Tijam.
In Tijam, the surety could have raised the issue of lack of jurisdiction in the trial court but
failed to do so. Instead, the surety participated in the proceedings and filed pleadings,
other than a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. When the case reached the
appellate court, the surety again participated in the case and filed their pleadings therein.
It was only after receiving the appellate courts adverse decision that the surety awoke
from its slumber and filed a motion to dismiss, in lieu of a motion for reconsideration. The
CA certified the matter to this Court, which then ruled that the surety was already barred
by laches from raising the jurisdiction issue.
In case at bar, the application of the Tijam doctrine is called for because the presence of
laches cannot be ignored. If the surety in Tijam was barred by laches for raising the issue
of jurisdiction for the first time in the CA, what more for petitioners in the instant case who
raised the issue for the first time in their petition before this Court.

When petitioners recoursed to the appellate court, they only raised as errors the trial
courts appreciation of the evidence and the conclusions that it derived therefrom. In their
brief, they once again assailed the CSTFALs resolution as having been rendered functus
officio by the enactment of IPRA.83 But nowhere did petitioners assail the trial courts
ruling for having been rendered without jurisdiction.
It is only before this Court, eight years after the filing of the complaint, after the trial court
had already conducted a full-blown trial and rendered a decision on the merits, after the
appellate court had made a thorough review of the records, and after petitioners have
twice encountered adverse decisions from the trial and the appellate courts that
petitioners now want to expunge all the efforts that have gone into the litigation and
resolution of their case and start all over again. This practice cannot be allowed.
Thus, even assuming arguendo that petitioners theory about the effect of IPRA is correct
(a matter which need not be decided here), they are already barred by laches from
raising their jurisdictional objection under the circumstances.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is denied for lack of merit. The March
30, 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 78987 and its May 26,
2006 Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

At the time that the complaint was first filed in 1998, the IPRA was already in effect but
the petitioners never raised the same as a ground for dismissal; instead they filed a
motion to dismiss on the ground that the value of the property did not meet the
jurisdictional value for the RTC. They obviously neglected to take the IPRA into
consideration.
When the amended complaint was filed in 1998, the petitioners no longer raised the
issue of the trial courts lack of jurisdiction. Instead, they proceeded to trial, all the time
aware of the existence of the IPRA as evidenced by the cross-examination 82 conducted
by petitioners lawyer on the CSTFAL Chairman Guillermo Fianza. In the crossexamination, it was revealed that the petitioners were aware that the DENR, through the
CSTFAL, had lost its jurisdiction over ancestral land claims by virtue of the enactment of
the IPRA. They assailed the validity of the CSTFAL resolution favoring respondent on the
ground that the CSTFAL had been rendered functus officio under the IPRA. Inexplicably,
petitioners still did not question the trial courts jurisdiction.1avvphi1
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 175763

April 11, 2012

HEIRS OF BIENVENIDO AND ARACELI TANYAG, namely: ARTURO TANYAG, AIDA


T. JOCSON AND ZENAIDA T. VELOSO, Petitioners,
vs.
SALOME E. GABRIEL, NESTOR R. GABRIEL, LUZ GABRIEL-ARNEDO married to
ARTURO ARNEDO, NORA GABRIEL-CALINGO married to FELIX CALINGO, PILAR
M. MENDIOLA, MINERVA GABRIEL-NATIVIDAD married to EUSTAQUIO NATIVIDAD,
and ERLINDA VELASQUEZ married to HERMINIO VELASQUEZ,Respondents.

sa aking nasirang ama Mateo Gabriel sa kami lamang dalawa ng aking kapatid
na binabanguit ko na Jose Gabriel siyang mga anak at tagapagmana ng aming
amang nasirang Mateo Gabriel, maliban sa amin ay wala nang iba, kayat kami
ay naghati sa mga ari-arian na na iwan sa amin ng nasirang ama namin na
Mateo Gabriel, na ang lupang kawayanang itoy may nakatanim na walong (8)
punong kawayan at na sa pook na kung pamagatan ay Ruhale nayon ng
Calzada, Tagig, Rizal, at na sa loob ng mga kahanganan at sukat na
sumusunod[:]

DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
This is a petition for review under Rule 45 which seeks to reverse the Decision1 dated
August 18, 2006 and Resolution2 dated December 8, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CV No. 81224. The CA affirmed the Decision3 dated November 19, 2003 of
the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 267 in Civil Case No. 67846 dismissing
petitioners complaint for declaration of nullity of Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No.
1035, reconveyance and damages, as well as respondents counterclaims for damages
and attorneys fees.
Subject of controversy are two adjacent parcels of land located at Ruhale, Barangay
Calzada, Municipality of Taguig (now part of Pasig City, Metro Manila). The first parcel
("Lot 1") with an area of 686 square meters was originally declared in the name of Jose
Gabriel under Tax Declaration (TD) Nos. 1603 and 6425 issued for the years 1949 and
1966, while the second parcel ("Lot 2") consisting of 147 square meters was originally
declared in the name of Agueda Dinguinbayan under TD Nos. 6418 and 9676 issued for
the years 1966 and 1967.4 For several years, these lands lined with bamboo plants
remained undeveloped and uninhabited.
Petitioners claimed that Lot 1 was owned by Benita Gabriel, sister of Jose Gabriel, as
part of her inheritance as declared by her in a 1944 notarized instrument ("Affidavit of
Sale") whereby she sold the said property to spouses Gabriel Sulit and Cornelia Sanga.
Said document states:
DAPAT MALAMAN NG LAHAT NG MAKABABASA
Na, akong Benita Gabriel, balo sa nasirang Calixto Lontoc, Filipina may karapatang
gulang naninirahan sa nayon ng Palingon, Tagig, Rizal, x x x sa pamamaguitan nitoy
ISINASAYSAY KO AT PINAGTITIBAY
1.) Na, sarili ko at tunay na pagaari ang isang lagay na lupang kawayanan na
sapagkat itoy kabahagui ko sa aking kapatid na [J]ose Gabriel, na itoy mana ko

Na, ang kahangan sa Hilagaan Sapang Ruhale at Vicente Bunye, sa Amihanan


Felipe Pagkalinawan, sa Timugan Juan Flores, at sa Habagatan Apolonio Ocol
may sukat na 6 areas at 85 centiareas may halagan amillarada na P80.00)
Pesos alinsunod sa Tax Blg. 20037, sa pangalan ng aking kapatid na Jose
Gabriel. Na, ang lupang itoy hindi natatala sa bisa ng batas Blg. 496 ni sa susog
gayon din sa Hipotecaria Espaola itoy may mga mojon bato ang mga panulok
at walang bakod.
2.) Na, alang-alang sa halagang SIYAMNAPO AT ANIM (P96.00) na Pisong
salaping guinagamit dito sa Filipinas na bago dumating ang mga sandaling itoy
tinaggap ko at ibinayad sa akin ng boong kasiyahang loob ko ng magasawang
GABRIEL SULIT AT CORNELIA SANGA, mga Filipinos may mga karapatang
gulang mga naninirahan sa nayon ng Calzada, Tagig, Rizal, ngayon ay inilipat
ko at ipinagbili ng bilihang tuluyan (Venta real soluta) ang isinasaysay kong
lupang kawayanan sa itaas nito ng nasabi halagang SIYAMNAPO AT ANIM
(P96.00) na Piso at sa nabanguit na magasawang GABRIEL SULIT AT
CORNELIA SANGA, gayon din sa lahat ng mga tagapagmana nila, ngayong
mga arao na ito ay ang may hawak at namamahala ng lupang itoy ang mga
nakabili sa akin na magasawang GABRIEL SULIT AT CORNELIA SANGA.
3.) Na, ang kasulatang itoy ng bilihan ay nais na itala sa bisa ng batas Blg.
3344.
NA SA KATUNAYAN NG LAHAT NG ITOY ako ay lumagda sa kasulatang ito dito sa
Tagig, Rizal, ngayong ika - 28 ng Junio 1944.
(Nilagdaan)
BENITA GABRIEL5
Lot 1 allegedly came into the possession of Benita Gabriels own daughter, Florencia
Gabriel Sulit, when her father-in-law Gabriel Sulit gave it to her as part of inheritance of
his son, Eliseo Sulit who was Florencias husband. Florencia Sulit sold the same lot to
Bienvenido S. Tanyag, father of petitioners, as evidenced by a notarized deed of sale
dated October 14, 1964.6 Petitioners then took possession of the property, paid the real
estate taxes due on the land and declared the same for tax purposes, as shown by TD

No. 11445 issued in 1969 in the name of Bienvenidos wife, Araceli C. Tanyag; TD No.
11445 cancelled TD No. 6425 in the name of Jose Gabriel. TD Nos. 3380 and 00486 also
in the name of Araceli Tanyag were issued in the years 1974 and 1979.7
As to Lot 2, petitioners averred that it was sold by Agueda Dinguinbayan to Araceli
Tanyag under Deed of Sale executed on October 22, 1968. Thereupon, petitioners took
possession of said property and declared the same for tax purposes as shown by TD
Nos. 11361, 3395, 120-014-00482, 120-00-014-20-002-000, C-014-00180 and D-01400182 issued for the years 1969, 1974, 1979, 1985, 1991 and 1994. 8 Petitioners claimed
to have continuously, publicly, notoriously and adversely occupied both Lots 1 and 2
through their caretaker Juana Quinones9; they fenced the premises and introduced
improvements on the land.10
Sometime in 1979, Jose Gabriel, father of respondents, secured TD No. 120-014-01013
in his name over Lot 1 indicating therein an increased area of 1,763 square meters. Said
tax declaration supposedly cancelled TD No. 6425 over Lot 1 and contained the following
inscription11:
Note:
Portions
of
this
in
the
name
of
T.D.#120-014-00858 686 sq. m.

Property
Araceli

is
C.

Also
Tanyag

Declared
under

Also inscribed on TD No. 120-014-0085812 (1979) in the name of Araceli Tanyag covering
Lot 1 are the following:
This
property
is
also
covered
by
T.D.
#120-014-01013
in
the
name
of
Jose
P.
Gabriel
1-8-80
which notation was carried into the 1985, 1990 and 1991 tax declarations, all in the name
of Araceli Tanyag.
On March 20, 2000, petitioners instituted Civil Case No. 67846 alleging that respondents
never occupied the whole 686 square meters of Lot 1 and fraudulently caused the
inclusion of Lot 2 in TD No. 120-014-01013 such that Lot 1 consisting of 686 square
meters originally declared in the name of Jose Gabriel was increased to 1,763 square
meters. They contended that the issuance of OCT No. 1035 on October 28, 1998 over
the subject land in the name of respondents heirs of Jose Gabriel was null and void from
the beginning.13
On the other hand, respondents asserted that petitioners have no cause of action against
them for they have not established their ownership over the subject property covered by
a Torrens title in respondents name. They further argued that OCT No. 1035 had
become unassailable one year after its issuance and petitioners failed to establish that it
was irregularly or unlawfully procured.14

Respondents evidence showed that the subject land was among those properties
included in the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate of Jose P. Gabriel 15 executed on
October 5, 1988, covered by TD No. B-014-00643 (1985) in the name of Jose Gabriel.
Respondents declared the property in their name but the tax declarations (1989, 1991
and 1994) carried the notation that portions thereof (686 sq. ms.) are also declared in the
name of Araceli Tanyag. On October 28, 1998, OCT No. 1035 16 was issued to
respondents by the Register of Deeds of Pasig, Metro Manila under Decree No. N219177 pursuant to the Decision dated September 20, 1996 of the Land Registration
Court in LRC Case No. N-11260, covering Lot 1836 MCadm-590-D, Taguig Cadastral
Mapping, Plan Ap-04-002253, with an area of 1,560 square meters.
On the other hand, respondents TD Nos. D-014-00839 and D-014-01923 issued in 1993
and 1999 respectively, showed that respondents sold 468 square meters of Lot 1 to
Jayson Sta. Barbara.17 The segregation of said 468 square meters pertaining to Jayson
Sta. Barbara was reflected in the approved survey plan of Lot 1836 prepared by
respondents surveyor on March 18, 2000.18
At the trial, petitioners presented their witness Arturo Tanyag, son of Bienvenido Tanyag
and Araceli Tanyag who died on March 30, 1968 and October 30, 1993, respectively. He
testified that according to Florencia Sulit, Benita Gabriel-Lontoc and her family were the
ones in possession of Lot 1 since 1944; Benita Gabriel had executed an Affidavit of Sale
declaring said property as her inheritance and conveying the same to spouses Gabriel
and Cornelia Sulit. He affirmed that they had been in possession of Lot 1 from the time
Bienvenido Tanyag bought the land from Florencia Sulit in 1964. Based on the
boundaries indicated in the tax declaration, they fenced the property, installed Juana
Quinones as their caretaker who also attended to the piggery, put up an artesian well and
planted some trees. From 1964 up to 1978, nobody disturbed them in their possession or
claimed ownership of the land; four years after acquiring Lot 1, they also purchased the
adjacent property (Lot 2) to expand their piggery. Lot 2 was also separately declared for
tax purposes after their mother purchased it from Agueda Dinguinbayan. He had
personally witnessed the execution of the 1968 deed of sale including its notarization,
and was also present during the physical turn over of Lot 2 by the seller. In fact, he was
one of the instrumental witnesses to the deed of sale and identified his signature therein.
He further described the place as inaccessible at that time as there were no roads yet
and they had to traverse muddy tracks to reach their property.19
Arturo further testified that the first time they met Jose Gabriel was when the latter
borrowed from their mother all the documents pertaining to their property. Jose Gabriel
came looking for a piece of property which he claims as his but he had no documents to
prove it and so they showed him their documents pertaining to the subject property; out
of the goodness of her mothers heart, she lent those documents to her brother Jose
Gabriel. During the cadastral survey conducted in 1976, they had both lots surveyed in
preparation for their consolidation under one tax declaration. However, they did not
succeed in registering the consolidated lots as they discovered that there was another

tax declaration covering the same properties and these were applied for titling under the
name of Jose Gabriel sometime in 1978 or 1980, which was after the time said Jose
Gabriel borrowed the documents from their mother. No notice of the hearings for
application of title filed by Jose Gabriel was received by them. They never abandoned
the property and their caretaker never left the place except to report to the police when
she was being harassed by the respondents. He also recalled that respondents had filed
a complaint against them before the barangay but since no agreement was reached after
several meetings, they filed the present case.20
The next witness for petitioners was Juana Quinones, their caretaker who testified that
she had been staying on petitioners property since 1964 or for 35 years already. She
had built a nipa hut and artesian well, raised piggery and poultry and planted some root
crops and vegetables on the land. At first there was only one parcel but later the
petitioners bought an additional lot; Arturo Tanyag gave her money which she used for
the fencing of the property. During all the time she occupied the property there was
nobody else claiming it and she also had not received any notice for petitioners
concerning the property, nor the conduct of survey on the land. On cross-examination,
she admitted that she was living alone and had no Voters ID or any document
evidencing that she had been a resident there since 1964. Although she was living alone,
she asks for help from other persons in tending her piggery.21
Angelita Sulit-delos Santos, cousin of petitioners and also of respondents, testified that
she came to know the subject property because according to her paternal grandfather
Gabriel Sta. Ana Sulit, her maternal grandmother Benita Gabriel-Lontoc mortgaged the
property to him. It was Benita Gabriel Lontoc who took care of her, her siblings and
cousins; they lived with her until her death. She identified the signature of Benita Gabriel
in the 1944 Affidavit of Sale in favor of Gabriel Sulit. Lot 1 consisting of 600 square
meters was vacant property at that time but her family was in possession thereof when it
was sold to Gabriel Sulit; it was her father Eliseo Sulit and uncle Hilario Sulit, who were
incharge of their property. On cross-examination, she was asked details regarding the
supposed mortgage of Lot 1 to Gabriel Sulit but she admitted she does not know
anything as she was still very young then.22

Virginia Villanueva, daughter of Salome Gabriel, testified that they acquired the subject
property from their grandfather Jose Gabriel who had a tax declaration in his name. Her
mother furnished them with documents such as tax declarations and the extrajudicial
settlement of the estate of Jose Gabriel; they also have an approved survey plan
prepared for Salome Gabriel. She does not know the petitioners in this case.25 On crossexamination, she said that the subject property was inherited by Jose Gabriel from his
father Mateo Gabriel; Jose Gabriel was the sole owner of the land while Benita Gabriel
has separate properties in Palingon and Langkokak. 26 Though they are not actually
occupying the property, they visit the place and she does not know anybody occupying it,
except for the portion (486 square meters) which petitioners sold to Sta. Barbara. A ninedoor apartment was built on the said portion without their permission. She had talked to
both Sta. Barbara and with Arturo Tanyag they had meetings before the barangay;
however, petitioners filed the present case in court. She insisted that there is nobody
residing in the subject property; there is still the remaining 901 square meters which is
owned by their mother. She admitted there were plants on the land but she does not
know who actually planted them; it was her grandfather who built a wooden fence and
gumamela in the 1960s. As to the hearings on the application for title, she had not
attended the same; she does not know whether the petitioners were notified of the said
hearings. She also caused the preparation of the survey plan for Salome Gabriel. On the
increased area of the property indicated in the later tax declarations, she admitted the
discrepancy but said there were barangay roads being built at the time.27

Esmeraldo Ramos, Municipal Assessor of Taguig, testified that he was formerly a Land
Appraiser in the Office of the Municipal Assessor of Taguig and in the course of his duties
had certified one of the tax declarations in the name of respondents (TD No. EL-01410585). He identified and verified said document and the other tax declarations
submitted in court by the respondents. He admitted that on January 10, 1980, they made
the entry on TD No. 6425 in the name of Jose Gabriel that the same was cancelled by
TD No. 120-014-01013 also in the name of Jose Gabriel who presented a supposed
deed of sale in favor of Araceli Tanyag which caused the earlier cancellation of TD No.
6425 in his name. However, upon investigation they found out that the seller Florencia
Sulit was not the owner because the declared owner was Jose Gabriel; even the deed of
sale recognized that the property was declared in the name of Jose Gabriel. They also
Respondents first witness was Roberto Gabriel Arnedo, son of Luz Gabriel-Arnedo. He discovered from the cadastral survey and tax mapping of Taguig that the property is in
testified that when he was about 5 or 6 years old (1953 or 1954), his grandfather Jose the name of Jose Gabriel both in the Bureau of Lands and Municipal Assessors Office.
Gabriel used to bring him along to visit the subject property consisting of 1,763 square As far as he knows, it was Jose Gabriel who owned the subject property which he usually
meters based on the tax declaration and OCT. They had picnics and celebrate his visited; he recalled that around the late 70s and 80s, he ordered the fencing of barbed
grandfathers birthday there. He recalled accompanying his grandfather in overseeing the wire and bamboo stalks on the land which is just 3 lots away from his own property. As to
planting of gumamela which served as the perimeter fence. Jose Gabriel had not the discrepancy in the area of the property as originally declared by Jose Gabriel, he
mentioned anything about the claim of petitioners over the same land; Jose Gabriel explained that the boundaries in the original tax declaration do not change but after the
handed the documents pertaining to the land to his eldest aunt and hence it now belongs land is surveyed, the boundaries naturally would be different because the previous owner
to them.23 On cross-examination, he claimed that during those years he had visited the may have sold his property or the present owner inherits the property from his parents.
He admitted that the tax declaration is just for tax purposes and not necessarily proof of
land together with his grandfather, he did not see Florencia Sulit and her family.24
ownership or possession of the property it covers.28

Respondents last witness was Antonio Argel who testified that he had resided for 52
years on a land near the subject property and as far as he knows it was Jose Gabriel
who owns it and planted thereon. On cross-examination, he admitted that Jose Gabriel
was not in physical possession of the property. He just assumed that the present
occupants of the property were allowed by Jose Gabriel to stay therein because he is the
owner. There is an apartment and three small houses existing on the property, and about
five families are living there. He confirmed that there is a piggery being maintained by a
certain Juana who had been residing there maybe for fifteen years already.29
In rebuttal, petitioners presented two witnesses who are owners of properties adjoining
that of the subject land. Rodante Domingo testified that it was only now did he learn that
the property of Arturo Tanyag is already titled in the name of respondents. He was not
aware of the titling proceeding because he never received any notice as adjoining owner.
His own property is already titled in his name and he even asked Arturo Tanyag to act as
a witness in his application for titling. 30 On the other hand, Dado Dollado testified that he
acquired his property in 1979. He likewise affirmed that he did not receive any notice of
the proceedings for application for titling filed by respondents and it was only now that he
learned from Arturo Tanyag that the subject property was already titled in the names of
respondents.31
The last rebuttal witness for petitioners was Dominador Dinguinbayan Ergueza, son of
Agueda Dinguinbayan. He testified that the subject property was formerly owned by his
mother and the present owner is Araceli Tanyag who bought the same from his mother in
1968. He described the boundaries of the property in relation to the adjoining owners at
that time; presently, the left portion is already a street (Rujale St.) going towards the sea.
He admitted that his wife, Livina Ergueza was an instrumental witness in the 1968 deed
of sale in favor of Araceli Tanyag.32
In its decision, the trial court dismissed the complaint as well as the counterclaim, holding
that petitioners failed to establish ownership of the subject property and finding the
respondents to be the declared owners and legal possessors. It likewise ruled that
petitioners were unable to prove by preponderance of evidence that respondents
acquired title over the property through fraud and deceit.
Petitioners appealed to the CA which affirmed the trial courts ruling. The CA found that
apart from the Affidavit executed by Benita Gabriel in 1944 claiming that she inherited Lot
1 from their father, Mateo Gabriel, there is no evidence that she, not Jose Gabriel, was
the true owner thereof. It noted that just four years after Benita Gabriels sale of the
subject property to the Sulit spouses, Jose Gabriel declared the same under his name for
tax purposes, paying the corresponding taxes. The appellate court stressed that
petitioners allegation of bad faith was not proven.
Petitioners motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the CA. Hence, this
petition.

Petitioners assail the CA in not finding that the respondents obtained OCT No. 1035 in
their names fraudulently and in bad faith. They also claim to have acquired ownership of
the subject lots by virtue of acquisitive prescription.
The issues presented are: (1) whether respondents committed fraud and bad faith in
registering the subject lots in their name; and (2) whether petitioners acquired the
property through acquisitive prescription.
Registration of a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title,
because it is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an
evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. 33 Thus,
notwithstanding the indefeasibility of the Torrens title, the registered owner may still be
compelled to reconvey the registered property to its true owners. The rationale for the
rule is that reconveyance does not set aside or re-subject to review the findings of fact of
the Bureau of Lands. In an action for reconveyance, the decree of registration is
respected as incontrovertible. What is sought instead is the transfer of the property or its
title which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another persons name, to its
rightful or legal owner, or to the one with a better right.34
An action for annulment of title or reconveyance based on fraud is imprescriptible where
the plaintiff is in possession of the property subject of the acts. 35 The totality of the
evidence on record established that it was petitioners who are in actual possession of the
subject property; respondents merely insinuated at occasional visits to the land.
However, for an action for reconveyance based on fraud to prosper, this Court has held
that the party seeking reconveyance must prove by clear and convincing evidence his
title to the property and the fact of fraud.36
The CA correctly observed that the only evidence of Benita Gabriels supposed title was
the 1944 Affidavit of Sale whereby Benita Gabriel claimed sole ownership of Lot 1 as her
inheritance from their father, Mateo Gabriel. The property until 1949 was still declared in
the name Jose Gabriel despite the 1944 sale executed by Benita Gabriel in favor of
spouses Gabriel and Cornelia Sulit. As to the alleged fraud perpetrated by Jose Gabriel
and respondents in securing OCT No. 1035 in their name, this was clearly not proven as
Arturo Tanyag testified merely that Jose Gabriel borrowed their documents pertaining to
the property. No document or testimony was presented to show that Jose Gabriel
employed deceit or committed fraudulent acts in the proceedings for titling of the
property.
However, the CA did not address the issue of acquisitive prescription raised by the
petitioners. In their Complaint before the lower court, petitioners alleged
15. Defendants never occupied the whole area of the lot covered by Tax Declaration No.
1603 (686 sq. m.) neither were they able to set foot on the property covered by Tax
Declaration No. 6542 [sic] for the reason that those lots had been in actual, open

continuous, adverse and notorious possession of the plaintiffs against the whole world for
more than thirty years which is equivalent to title.
x x x x37
Such character and length of possession of a party over a parcel of land subject of
controversy is a factual issue. Settled is the rule that questions of fact are not reviewable
in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as only questions
of law shall be raised in such petitions. While this Court is not a trier of facts, if the
inference drawn by the appellate court from the facts is manifestly mistaken, it may, in
the interest of justice, review the evidence in order to arrive at the correct factual
conclusions based on the record.38
In this case, the CA was mistaken in concluding that petitioners have not acquired any
right over the subject property simply because they failed to establish Benita Gabriels
title over said property. The appellate court ignored petitioners evidence of possession
that complies with the legal requirements of acquiring ownership by prescription.
Acquisitive prescription is a mode of acquiring ownership by a possessor through the
requisite lapse of time. In order to ripen into ownership, possession must be in the
concept of an owner, public, peaceful and uninterrupted. 39 Possession is open when it is
patent, visible, apparent, notorious and not clandestine.40 It is continuous when
uninterrupted, unbroken and not intermittent or occasional; exclusive when the adverse
possessor can show exclusive dominion over the land and an appropriation of it to his
own use and benefit; and notorious when it is so conspicuous that it is generally known
and talked of by the public or the people in the neighborhood. The party who asserts
ownership by adverse possession must prove the presence of the essential elements of
acquisitive prescription.41

Petitioners adverse possession is reckoned from 1969 with the issuance of TD No. 1145
in the name of Araceli Tanyag, which tax declaration cancelled TD No. 6425 in the name
of Jose Gabriel.42 It is settled that tax receipts and declarations are prima facie proofs of
ownership or possession of the property for which such taxes have been paid. Coupled
with proof of actual possession of the property, they may become the basis of a claim for
ownership.43 Petitioners caretaker, Juana Quinones, has since lived in a nipa hut,
planted vegetables and tended a piggery on the land. Aside from paying taxes due on the
property, petitioners also exercised other acts of ownership such as selling the 468square meter portion to Sta. Barbara who had constructed thereon a nine-door
apartment building.
It was only in 1979 that respondents began to assert a claim over the property by
securing a tax declaration in the name of Jose Gabriel albeit over a bigger area than that
originally declared. In 1998, they finally obtained an original certificate of title covering the
entire 1,763 square meters which included Lot 1. Did these acts of respondents
effectively interrupt the possession of petitioners for purposes of prescription?
We answer in the negative.
In the case of Heirs of Marcelina Azardon-Crisologo v. Raon44 this Court citing Article
1123 of the Civil Code45held that civil interruption takes place with the service of judicial
summons to the possessor and not by filing of a mere Notice of Adverse Claim. Thus:
Article 1123 of the Civil Code is categorical. Civil interruption is produced by judicial
summons to the possessor. Moreover, even with the presence of judicial summons,
Article 1124 sets limitations as to when such summons shall not be deemed to have
been issued and shall not give rise to interruption, to wit: 1) if it should be void for lack of
legal solemnities; 2) if the plaintiff should desist from the complaint or should allow the
proceedings to lapse; or 3) if the possessor should be absolved from the complaint.

On the matter of prescription, the Civil Code provides:


Art. 1117. Acquisitive prescription of dominion and other real rights may be ordinary or
extraordinary.
Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession of things in good faith and with just
title for the time fixed by law.
Art. 1134. Ownership and other real rights over immovable property are acquired by
ordinary prescription through possession of ten years.
Art. 1137. Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribe through
uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of title or of good
faith. (Emphasis supplied.)

Both Article 1123 and Article 1124 of the Civil Code underscore the judicial character of
civil interruption.1wphi1 For civil interruption to take place, the possessor must have
received judicial summons. None appears in the case at bar. The Notice of Adverse
Claim which was filed by petitioners in 1977 is nothing more than a notice of claim which
did not effectively interrupt respondents possession. Such a notice could not have
produced civil interruption. We agree in the conclusion of the RTC, which was affirmed by
the Court of Appeals, that the execution of the Notice of Adverse Claim in 1977 did not
toll or interrupt the running of the prescriptive period because there remains, as yet, a
necessity for a judicial determination of its judicial validity. What existed was merely a
notice. There was no compliance with Article 1123 of the Civil Code. What is striking is
that no action was, in fact, filed by petitioners against respondents. As a consequence,
no judicial summons was received by respondents. As aptly held by the Court of Appeals
in its affirmance of the RTCs ruling, the Notice of Adverse Claim cannot take the place of
judicial summons which produces the civil interruption provided for under the law. In the

instant case, petitioners were not able to interrupt respondents adverse possession
since 1962. The period of acquisitive prescription from 1962 continued to run in
respondents favor despite the Notice of Adverse Claim. (Emphasis supplied.)
From 1969 until the filing of this complaint by the petitioners in March 2000, the latter
have been in continuous, public and adverse possession of the subject land for 31 years.
Having possessed the property for the period and in the character required by law as
sufficient for extraordinary acquisitive prescription, petitioners have indeed acquired
ownership over the subject property. Such right cannot be defeated by respondents acts
of declaring again the property for tax purposes in 1979 and obtaining a Torrens
certificate of title in their name in 1998.
This notwithstanding, we uphold petitioners right as owner only with respect to Lot 1
consisting of 686 square meters. Petitioners failed to substantiate their claim over Lot 2
by virtue of a deed of sale from the original declared owner, Agueda Dinguinbayan.
Respondents asserted that the 147 square meters covered by the tax declarations of
Dinguinbayan being claimed by petitioners is not the same lot included in OCT No. 1035.
Under Article 434 of the Civil Code, to successfully maintain an action to recover the
ownership of a real property, the person who claims a better right to it must prove two (2)
things: first, the identity of the land claimed; and second, his title thereto. In regard to the
first requisite, in an accion reinvindicatoria, the person who claims that he has a better
right to the property must first fix the identity of the land he is claiming by describing the
location, area and boundaries thereof.46 In this case, petitioners failed to identify Lot 2 by
providing evidence of the metes and bounds thereof, so that the same may be compared
with the technical description contained in OCT No. 1035, which would have shown
whether Lot 2 consisting of 147 square meters was erroneously included in respondents
title. The testimony of Agueda Dinguinbayans son would not suffice because said
witness merely stated the boundary owners as indicated in the 1966 and 1967 tax
declarations of his mother. On his part, Arturo Tayag claimed that he had the lots
surveyed in the 1970s in preparation for the consolidation of the two parcels. However,
no such plan was presented in court.
WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Decision dated August 18, 2006
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 81224 is MODIFIED in that petitioners heirs of
Bienvenido and Araceli Tanyag are hereby declared the owners of 686 square meters
previously declared under Tax Declaration Nos. 11445, 120-014-00486, 120-014-0085,
B-014-00501, E-014-01446, C-014-00893 and D-014-00839 all in the name of Araceli
Tanyag, which lot is presently covered by OCT No. 1035 issued by the Register of Deeds
of Pasig, Metro Manila in the name of respondents Salome Gabriel, Nestor R. Gabriel,
Luz Gabriel-Arnedo, Nora Gabriel-Calingo, Pilar Gabriel-Mendiola, Minerva GabrielNatividad and Erlinda Gabriel-Velasquez. Respondents are ORDERED to RECONVEY
the said 686-square meter portion to the petitioners.

No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 142938

August 28, 2007

MIGUEL INGUSAN, Petitioner,


vs.
HEIRS OF AURELIANO I. REYES, represented by CORAZON REYES-REGUYAL and
ARTEMIO S. REYES,*Respondents.
DECISION
CORONA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari 1 of a decision2 and resolution3 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) dated January 21, 2000 and April 10, 2000, respectively, in CA-G.R. CV
No. 56105 which modified the decision4 dated April 17, 19975 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Branch 25 in Civil Case No. 2145-A1.
This case involves a 1,254 sq. m. residential land located in Poblacion, San Leonardo,
Nueva Ecija6 originally owned by Leocadio Ingusan who was unmarried and childless
when he died in 1932. His heirs were his two brothers and a sister, namely, Antonio,
Macaria and Juan.7 Antonio died and was succeeded by his son Ignacio who also later
died and was succeeded by his son, petitioner Miguel Ingusan. 8 Macaria also died and
was succeeded by her child, Aureliano I. Reyes, Sr. (father of respondents Artemio
Reyes, Corazon Reyes-Reguyal, Elsa Reyes, Estrella Reyes-Razon, Aureliano Reyes,
Jr., Ester Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes and Leonardo Reyes). 9Thus, petitioner is the
grandnephew of Leocadio and Aureliano, Sr. was the latter's nephew.10
After the death of Leocadio, Aureliano, Sr. was designated by the heirs as administrator
of the land.11 In 1972, while in possession of the land and in breach of trust, he applied
for and was granted a free patent over it. 12 As a result, he was issued OCT No. P-6176 in
1973.13
In 1976, petitioner filed an accion reivindicatoria against Aureliano, Sr. and his wife
Jacoba Solomon seeking the recovery of Lot 120-A with an area of 502 sq. m. which was
part of the land at issue here. 14 But the case was dismissed because petitioner did not
pursue it.

Also in 1976, Aureliano, Sr. executed a special power of attorney (SPA) in favor of his
son Artemio authorizing him to mortgage the land in question to any bank. Using that
SPA, Artemio mortgaged the land to secure a loan ofP10,000 from the Philippine
National Bank (PNB).15

When respondent Corazon learned about the cancellation of the annotation of her
affidavit of loss, she executed an affidavit of adverse claim on January 17, 1995 stating
that the cancellation of affidavit of loss and the agreement of subdivision with sale were
both spurious and the signatures appearing thereon were forgeries. This affidavit of
adverse claim was not registered.23

In 1983, Aureliano, Sr. died intestate. He was survived by his children, the respondents.16
In 1986, petitioner paid the PNB loan. The mortgage over the land was released and the
owners duplicate copy of OCT No. P-6176 was given to him.17
On June 19, 1988, respondents and petitioner entered into a Kasulatan ng Paghahatihati Na May Bilihan wherein they adjudicated unto themselves the land in question and
then sold it to their co-heirs, as follows: (a) to petitioner, 1,171 sq. m. and (b) to
respondent Estrella, 83 sq. m. This deed was notarized but not registered.18
On January 8, 1990, respondent Corazon, despite signing the Kasulatan, executed an
affidavit of loss, stating that she could not find the owners duplicate copy of OCT No. P6176. This was registered and annotated on the original copy of said title.19
Subsequently, the following documents appeared purportedly with the following dates:
a) April 23, 199420 - notarized deed of donation of titled property supposedly
executed by the spouses Aureliano, Sr. and Jacoba,21 whereby said spouses
donated 297 sq. m. of the subject land to respondent Artemio and the remaining
957 sq. m. to petitioner;
b) September 5, 1994 - cancellation of affidavit of loss supposedly executed by
respondent Corazon stating that the annotation of the affidavit of loss on the title
should be canceled and the petition for a new title was no longer necessary
because she had already found the missing owners duplicate copy of OCT No.
P-6176;
c) September 27, 1994 agreement of subdivision with sale purportedly
executed by respondent Artemio and petitioner, with the consent of their wives.
Pursuant to this document, the land was subdivided into Lot 120-A with an area
of 297 sq. m. corresponding to the share of Artemio and Lot 120-B with an area
of 957 sq. m. which was the share of petitioner. The document also indicated
that Artemio sold Lot 120-A to one Florentina Fernandez.22

On April 17, 1995, petitioner brought the owners duplicate copy of OCT No. P-6176, the
cancellation of affidavit of loss, deed of donation of titled property and agreement of
subdivision with sale to the Registry of Deeds for registration. Consequently, the
following took place on that same day:
1. Corazons annotated affidavit of loss was canceled;
2. by virtue of Aureliano, Sr. and Jacobas deed of donation of titled property to
Artemio and petitioner, OCT No. P-6176 was canceled and in lieu thereof, TCT
No. NT-241155 in the name of petitioner and TCT No. NT-241156 in the name of
respondent Artemio were issued and
3. by virtue of the agreement of subdivision with sale, TCT Nos. NT-241155 and
NT-241156 were canceled and TCT Nos. NT-239747 and NT-239748 were
issued in the names of petitioner and Florentina Fernandez, respectively.24
On June 27, 1995, petitioner took possession of his portion and built his house thereon.25
On July 4, 1995, respondents filed an action for cancellation, annulment and surrender of
titles with damages against petitioner and Florentina Fernandez in the RTC of
Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Branch 25. In their complaint, they alleged the following,
among others: they inherited the land in question from their father, Aureliano, Sr.;
petitioner caused the preparation of the spurious deed of donation of titled property,
cancellation of affidavit of loss, agreement of subdivision with sale and forged the
signatures appearing thereon except his (petitioner's) own and, in conspiracy with
Fernandez, fraudulently registered said documents which resulted in the cancellation of
OCT No. P-6176 and the eventual issuance to them of TCT Nos. NT-239747 and NT239748. They prayed that these titles be declared null and void and that petitioner and
Fernandez be ordered to surrender the land and pay damages to them.26
In his defense, petitioner alleged that respondents' father, Aureliano, Sr., fraudulently
secured a free patent in his name over the land using a fictitious affidavit dated April 10,
1970 purportedly executed by Leocadio selling to him the land in question and, as a
result, OCT No. P-6176 was issued to him; that it was respondent Artemio who proposed
to petitioner the scheme of partition that would assure the latter of his share with the
condition, however, that he (Artemio) would get a portion of 297 sq. m. (which included
the share of respondent Estrella of 83 sq. m.) because he had already earlier sold it to
Fernandez and in fact had already been partially paidP60,000 for it; that to implement

this scheme, respondent Artemio caused the execution of several documents namely: (1)
deed of donation of titled property; (2) agreement of subdivision with sale and (3)
cancellation of affidavit of loss and that, thereafter, he instructed petitioner to present the
said documents to the Registry of Deeds of Nueva Ecija for registration.27
On October 26, 1995, respondents moved that Fernandez be dropped as defendant
because she was no longer contesting their claim and in fact had surrendered to them
her owners duplicate copy of TCT No.NT-239748. Thus, she was excluded from the
suit.28
In a decision dated April 17, 1997, the RTC dismissed the case and declared OCT No. P6176 as well as the subsequent certificates of title (TCT Nos. NT-239747 and NT239748), the deed of donation of titled property, agreement of subdivision with sale and
cancellation of affidavit of loss as null and void. It held that the aforementioned
documents were spurious since the signatures were falsified by respondent Artemio.
Furthermore, having found that OCT No. P-6176 was issued on the basis of a document
falsified by Aureliano, Sr., the RTC ordered the reversion of the land to its status before
the OCT was issued.
Finally, it held that petitioner, being an innocent victim, was entitled to damages.29
On appeal, the CA modified the RTC decision. It ruled that only TCT Nos. NT-241155,
NT-241156, NT-239747 and NT-239748 were null and void. Their source, OCT No. P6176, remained valid because it had already become indefeasible and could no longer
be attacked collaterally. It also found that petitioner schemed with Artemio in defrauding
their co-heirs and was therefore in pari delicto. Consequently, neither party was entitled
to claim damages from the other.30 Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied.
Hence this petition raising the following issues:

purportedly executed in 1970 by Leocadio (who died in 1932) wherein the latter
supposedly sold the land to Aureliano, Sr. According to petitioner, Aureliano, Sr. used this
to fraudulently and in breach of trust secure a free patent over the land in his name.
We agree with the CA that OCT No. P-6176 remains valid. The issue of the validity of title
(e.g. whether or not it was issued fraudulently or in breach of trust) can only be assailed
in an action expressly instituted for that purpose. 31 A certificate of title cannot be attacked
collaterally. Section 48 of PD 152932 states:
SEC. 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. A certificate of title shall not be
subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or canceled except in a direct
proceeding in accordance with law.
The rationale behind the Torrens System is that the public should be able to rely on a
registered title. The Torrens System was adopted in this country because it was believed
to be the most effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect
their indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and recognized. In Filestate Management, Inc. v. Trono,33 we explained:
It has been invariably stated that the real purpose of the Torrens System is to quiet title to
land and to stop forever any question as to its legality. Once a title is registered, the
owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or
sitting on the "mirador su casa" to avoid the possibility of losing his land.34
Petitioner merely invoked the invalidity of OCT No. P-6176 as an affirmative defense in
his answer and prayed for the declaration of its nullity. Such a defense partook of the
nature of a collateral attack against a certificate of title.35
Moreover, OCT No. P-6176 which was registered under the Torrens System on the basis
of a free patent became indefeasible and incontrovertible after the lapse of one year as
provided in Section 32 of PD 1529:

1) whether OCT No. P-6176 was valid or invalid, and


2) whether or not petitioner is entitled to damages.
There is no doubt that the deed of donation of titled property, cancellation of affidavit of
loss and agreement of subdivision with sale, being falsified documents, were null and
void. It follows that TCT Nos. NT-241155, NT-241156, NT-239747 and NT-239748 which
were issued by virtue of these spurious documents were likewise null and void. Neither
side disputes these findings and conclusions.
The question is whether the source of these titles, OCT No. P-6176, was valid. Petitioner
argues that it should be invalidated because it was issued based on a fictitious affidavit

Sec. 32. Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value. The decree of
registration shall not be reopened or revised by reason of absence, minority, or other
disability of any person adversely affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for
reversing judgment, subject, however, to the right of any person, including the
government and the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest
therein by such adjudication or confirmation of title obtained by actual fraud, to file in the
proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of
registration not later than one year from and after the date of the entry of such decree of
registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an
innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein whose rights
may be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase "innocent purchaser for value" or an equivalent

phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee,


mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.

Petitioner claims that he was not aware of the contents of the falsified documents and
their legal consequences because of his low level of intelligence and educational
attainment. But from his own narration, it is clear that he was aware of the fraudulent
scheme conceived by respondent Artemio:

Upon the expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration and the
certificate of title issued shall become incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by
such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages [Respondent Artemio] approached [petitioner] and propose[d] a [scheme] of partition that
against the applicant or any other person responsible for the fraud. (Emphasis supplied)
[would] assure [petitioner] of getting his share including that which he and his
predecessor-in-interest have purchased from the other heirs of the late LEOCADIO
Indeed, both the RTC and CA found that Aureliano, Sr. fraudulently and in breach of trust INGUSAN, but with the condition that in implementing the document known as
secured OCT No. P-6176 in his name. Unfortunately, petitioner chose not to pursue a PAGHAHATI-HATI NA MAY BILIHAN, the corresponding shares of ESTRELLA RAZON
direct proceeding to have this certificate of title annulled. In 1976, he filed an accion will go to him [respondent Artemio who] has agreed to have it sold in favor of one
reivindicatoria36 against the spouses Aureliano, Sr. and Jacoba questioning the validity of FLORENTINA FERNANDEZ for P120,000.00, partial payment of which has already been
OCT No. P-6176 and seeking to recover a portion of the land (specifically, Lot 120-A with received by [respondent Artemio], which negotiation of SALE and the payment made by
an area of 502 sq. m.) but he voluntarily withdrew the case. 37 Now, the title has FLORENTINA FERNANDEZ was acknowledged to be true. Without much ado, a survey
undeniably become incontrovertible since it was issued in 1973 or more than 30 years of Lot No. 120 was conducted by one Restituto Hechenova upon instruction of
[respondent Artemio], partitioning the land into two (2), one share goes to [petitioner] with
ago.38
an area of 957 square meters and the other with an area of 297 square meters in the
We now proceed to the issue of whether petitioner is entitled to damages. The RTC held name of [respondent Artemio], the latter share was to be sold in favor of Florentina
that he is entitled to moral damages (P50,000), exemplary damages (P30,000) and Fernandez. To have this IMPLEMENTED, incidental documentation must be made thus;
attorney's fees (P20,000) because he was not aware that the documents were falsified A DEED OF DONATION OF REAL PROPERTY allegedly executed by Sps. Aureliano
and he was merely instructed by respondent Artemio to have them registered. The CA Reyes and JACOBA SOLOMON; SUBDIVISION AGREEMENT WITH SALE by and
shared the finding of the RTC that it was respondent Artemio who masterminded the between [petitioner] and [respondent Artemio] as alleged DONEES and SALE in the
preparation and use of the spurious documents.39 Nevertheless, it did not find petitioner same document in favor of Florentina Fernandez, making in the process [petitioner]
presentor of all these questioned documents, adding among others an AFFIDAVIT OF
an innocent victim who was merely dragged into litigation:
LOSS of Original Certificate of Title No. P-6176 allegedly falsified by [petitioner] of the
signature of [respondent] CORAZON REYES REGUYAL.42
...[Petitioner] was far from innocent. [Respondent Artemio] and [petitioner] signed the
bogus "Deed of Donation of Titled Property" and the fraudulently baseless "Agreement of
Subdivision with Sale." It was [petitioner] who personally submitted all the bogus Petitioner does not deny that he signed the fictitious deed of donation of titled property
documents with the Registry of Deeds of Nueva Ecija. He stood to benefit from the and the agreement of subdivision with sale. Even if he reached only grade 3, he could
registration of said fake documents. It was he who received the titles issued in not have feigned ignorance of the net effect of these documents, which was to exclude
consequence of said fraudulent registration. In the natural course of things and in the the other heirs of the spouses and the original owner Leocadio from inheriting the
ordinary experience of man, the conclusion is inevitable that [he] knew [about] the property and, in the process, acquiring a big chunk of the property at their expense. The
spurious nature of said documents but he made use of them because of the benefit cancellation of respondent Corazon's affidavit of loss of the owner's duplicate copy of
which he would derive therefrom. In short, [petitioner] confabulated with [respondent OCT No. P-6176 also removed all obstacles to the registration of the title covering his
portion of the lot. In short, by registering the spurious documents, he had everything to
Artemio] in defrauding all their co-heirs of their shares in said property.40
gain.
We agree. Petitioner was not in good faith when he registered the fake documents.
Good faith is ordinarily used to describe that state of mind denoting "honesty of intention,
and freedom from knowledge of circumstances which ought to put the holder upon
inquiry; an honest intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of
another, even through technicalities of law, together with absence of all information,
notice, or benefit or belief of facts which render the transaction unconscientious."41

Although it was respondent Artemio, an educated individual, who engineered the whole
scheme and prepared the fraudulent documents, still petitioner cannot deny that he was
a willing co-conspirator in a plan that he knew was going to benefit him handsomely.
As a result, there is no basis for the award of damages to petitioner. Coming to the court
with unclean hands, he cannot obtain relief. Neither does he fall under any of the
provisions for the entitlement to damages.

Respondents presented an additional issue involving the recovery of possession of the


subject land. They contend that petitioner, his heirs and relatives illegally occupied it and
constructed houses thereon.43 However, it is well-settled that a party who has not
appealed cannot obtain from the appellate court any affirmative relief other than those
obtained from the lower court whose decision is brought up on appeal. 44 While there are
exceptions to this rule, such as if they involve (1) errors affecting the lower court's
jurisdiction over the subject matter; (2) plain errors not specified and (3) clerical errors,
none applies here.45

Respondent Artemio was the debtor in this case, PNB the creditor and petitioner the third
person who paid the obligation of the debtor. The amount petitioner may recover will
depend on whether Artemio knew or approved of such payment.1avvphi1

Lastly, we note that petitioner entered into certain agreements with respondents to
ensure that he would obtain a portion of the subject land. He not only paid the loan of
respondent Artemio to PNB in order to release the mortgage over the land but also
bought from respondents 1,171 sq. m. (almost 94% of the 1,254 sq. m. lot) under
the Kasulatan ng Paghahati-hati Na May Bilihan. These are undisputed facts. Ultimately,
however, he failed to get his portion of the property. Although petitioner did not demand
the return of the amounts he paid, we deem it just and equitable to direct respondents to
reimburse him for these.

Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means,
acquires or comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just
or legal ground, shall return the same to him.

Article 1236 of the Civil Code provides:


Art. 1236. The creditor is not bound to accept payment or performance by a third person
who has no interest in the fulfillment of the obligation, unless there is a stipulation to the
contrary.
Whoever pays for another may demand from the debtor what he has paid, except
that if he paid without the knowledge or against the will of the debtor, he can
recover only insofar as the payment has been beneficial to the debtor. (emphasis
ours)

Petitioner should also be able recover the amount (if any) he paid to respondents under
the Kasulatan since this agreement was never implemented. Otherwise, it will result in
the unjust enrichment of respondents at the expense of petitioner, a situation covered by
Art. 22 of the Civil Code:

Petitioner is not entitled to legal interest since he never made a demand for it.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. However, respondents are ordered to
return to petitioner the amounts he paid to the Philippine National Bank and under
the Kasulatan ng Paghahati-hati Na May Bilihan. The court a quo is directed to determine
the exact amount due to petitioner. The January 21, 2000 decision and April 10, 2000
resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 56105 are AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.