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[G.R. No. 137944.

April 6, 2000]

FERNANDA MENDOZA CEQUENA and RUPERTA MENDOZA LIRIO, petitioners, vs. HONORATA
MENDOZA BOLANTE, respondent. J lexj

DECISION

PANGANIBAN, J.:

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. By acquisitive prescription, possession in the concept of owner -- public, adverse, peaceful and
uninterrupted -- may be converted to ownership. On the other hand, mere possession and occupation of land cannot
ripen into ownership.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the March 19, 1999 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals[2] (CA) in
CA-GR CV No. 43423. The assailed Decision disposed as follows:[3]

"WHEREFORE, for all the foregoing, the decision of the trial court appealed from
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. In lieu thereof, judgment is hereby rendered declaring x
xxHonorata Mendoza Bolante the rightful owner and possessor of the parcel of land which is the
subject of this appeal." Lexjuris

The Facts

The Petition herein refers to a parcel of land situated in Barangay Bangad, Binangonan, Province of Rizal, having an
area of 1,728 square meters and covered by Tax Declaration No. 26-0027.

The undisputed antecedents of this case are narrated by the Court of Appeals as follows: [4]

"The facts not disputed revealed that prior to 1954, the land was originally declared for taxation
purposes in the name of Sinforoso Mendoza, father of [respondent] and married to
EduardaApiado. Sinforoso died in 1930. [Petitioners] were the daughters of Margarito Mendoza.
On the basis of an affidavit, the tax declaration in the name of Sinforoso Mendoza of the contested
lot was cancelled and subsequently declared in the name of Margarito Mendoza. Margarito and
Sinforoso are brothers. [Respondent] is the present occupant of the land. Earlier, on October 15,
1975, [respondent] and Miguel Mendoza, another brother of [petitioners], during the cadastral
survey had a dispute on [the] ownership of the land. Jurismis

"During the pre-trial conference, parties stipulated the following facts:

1) The land subject of the case was formerly declared for taxation purposes in the name of
Sinforoso Mendoza prior to 1954 but is now declared in the name of Margarito Mendoza.

2) The parties agree[d] as to the identity of the land subject of instant case.

3) [Petitioners] are the daughters of Margarito Mendoza while the [respondent] is the only
daughter of Sinforoso Mendoza.

'4) Margarito Mendoza and Sinforoso Mendoza [were] brothers, now deceased.
5) During the cadastral survey of the property on October 15, 1979 there was already a dispute
between Honorata M. Bolante and Miguel Mendoza, brother of [petitioners].

6) [Respondent was] occupying the property in question.

The only issue involved [was] who [was] the lawful owner and possessor of the
land subject of the case.

"After trial, the court a quo rendered its judgment in favor of [petitioners], the dispositive portion
of which reads as follows:

Wherefore, in view of the foregoing considerations, judgment is hereby rendered


for the [petitioners] and against the [respondent]:

1. Declaring that the parcel of land situated in Bangad, Binangonan, Rizal covered by tax
declaration no. 26-0027 in the name of Margarito Mendoza belong to his heirs, the [petitioners]
herein;

2. Ordering [respondent] to vacate the property subject of the case and deliver possession thereof
to the heirs of Margarito Mendoza. Jjjuris

3. Ordering the [respondent] to indemnify the [petitioners] in the sum of P10,000.00, as actual
damages.

4. Ordering the [respondent] to pay the costs."

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court because the genuineness and the due execution of the affidavit
allegedly signed by the respondent and her mother had not been sufficiently established. The notary public or
anyone else who had witnessed the execution of the affidavit was not presented. No expert testimony or competent
witness ever attested to the genuineness of the questioned signatures.

The CA further ruled that the affidavit was insufficient to overcome the denial of respondent and her mother. The
former testified that the latter, never having attended school, could neither read nor write. Respondent also said that
she had never been called "Leonor," which was how she was referred to in the affidavit.

Moreover, the appellate court held that the probative value of petitioners tax receipts and declarations paled in
comparison with respondents proof of ownership of the disputed parcel. Actual, physical, exclusive and continuous
possession by respondent since 1985 indeed gave her a better title under Article 538 of the Civil Code. lex

Hence, this Petition.[5]

Issues

Insisting that they are the rightful owners of the disputed land, the petitioners allege that the CA committed these
reversible errors:[6]

"1. xxx [I]n not considering the affidavit as an exception to the general rule that an affidavit is
classified as hearsay evidence, unless the affiant is placed on the witness stand; and Jksm
"2. xxx [I]n holding that respondent has been in actual and physical possession, coupled with xxx
exclusive and continuous possession of the land since 1985, which are evidence of the best kind of
circumstance proving the claim of the title of ownership and enjoys the presumption of preferred
possessor."

The Court's Ruling

The Petition has no merit.

First Issue: Admissibility of the Affidavit

Petitioners dispute the CA's ruling that the affidavit was not the best evidence of their father's ownership of the
disputed land, because the "affiant was not placed on the witness stand." They contend that it was unnecessary to
present a witness to establish the authenticity of the affidavit because it was a declaration against respondent's
interest and was an ancient document. As a declaration against interest, it was an exception to the hearsay rule. As a
necessary and trustworthy document, it was admissible in evidence. And because it was executed on March 24,
1953, it was a self-authenticating ancient document. Chief

We quote below the pertinent portion of the appellate court's ruling:[7]

"While it is true that the affidavit was signed and subscribed before a notary public, the general
rule is that affidavits are classified as hearsay evidence, unless affiants are placed on the witness
stand (People's Bank and Trust Company vs. Leonidas, 207 SCRA 164). Affidavits are not
considered the best evidence, if affiants are available as witnesses (Vallarta vs. Court of Appeals,
163 SCRA 587). The due execution of the affidavit was not sufficiently established. The notary
public or others who saw that the document was signed or at least [could] confirm its recitals
[were] not presented. There was no expert testimony or competent witness who attested to the
genuineness of the questioned signatures. Worse, [respondent] denied the genuineness of her
signature and that of her mother xxx. [Respondent] testified that her mother was an illiterate and
as far as she knew her mother could not write because she had not attended school (p. 7, ibid). Her
testimony was corroborated by Ma. Sales BolanteBasa, who said the [respondent's] mother was
illiterate."

The petitioners allegations are untenable. Before a private document offered as authentic can be received in
evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved first. [8] And before a document is admitted as an
exception to the hearsay rule under the Dead Man's Statute, the offeror must show (a) that the declarant is dead,
insane or unable to testify; (b) that the declaration concerns a fact cognizable by the declarant; (c) that at the time the
declaration was made, he was aware that the same was contrary to his interest; and (d) that circumstances render
improbable the existence of any motive to falsify.[9]Esmsc

In this case, one of the affiants happens to be the respondent, who is still alive and who testified that the signature in
the affidavit was not hers. A declaration against interest is not admissible if the declarant is available to testify as a
witness.[10] Such declarant should be confronted with the statement against interest as a prior inconsistent statement.

The affidavit cannot be considered an ancient document either. An ancient document is one that is (1) more than 30
years old, (2) found in the proper custody, and (3) unblemished by any alteration or by any circumstance of
suspicion.[11]It must on its face appear to be genuine. The petitioners herein failed, however, to explain how the
purported signature of EduardaApiado could have been affixed to the subject affidavit if, according to the witness,
she was an illiterate woman who never had any formal schooling. This circumstance casts suspicion on its
authenticity.

Not all notarized documents are exempted from the rule on authentication. Thus, an affidavit does not automatically
become a public document just because it contains a notarial jurat. Furthermore, the affidavit in question does not
state how the ownership of the subject land was transferred from Sinforoso Mendoza to Margarito Mendoza. By
itself, an affidavit is not a mode of acquiring ownership.

Second Issue: Preference of PossessionEsmmis

The CA ruled that the respondent was the preferred possessor under Article 538 of the Civil Code because she was
in notorious, actual, exclusive and continuous possession of the land since 1985. Petitioners dispute this ruling. They
contend that she came into possession through force and violence, contrary to Article 536 of the Civil Code.

We concede that despite their dispossession in 1985, the petitioners did not lose legal possession because possession
cannot be acquired through force or violence.[12] To all intents and purposes, a possessor, even if physically ousted,
is still deemed the legal possessor.[13] Indeed, anyone who can prove prior possession, regardless of its character,
may recover such possession.[14]

However, possession by the petitioners does not prevail over that of the respondent. Possession by the former before
1985 was not exclusive, as the latter also acquired it before 1985. The records show that the petitioners father and
brother, as well as the respondent and her mother were simultaneously in adverse possession of the land. Es-mso

Before 1985, the subject land was occupied and cultivated by the respondent's father (Sinforoso), who was the
brother of petitioners' father (Margarito), as evidenced by Tax Declaration No. 26425. [15] When Sinforoso died in
1930, Margarito took possession of the land and cultivated it with his son Miguel. At the same time, respondent and
her mother continued residing on the lot.

When respondent came of age in 1948, she paid realty taxes for the years 1932-1948.[16] Margarito declared the lot
for taxation in his name in 1953[17] and paid its realty taxes beginning 1952.[18] When he died, Miguel continued
cultivating the land. As found by the CA, the respondent and her mother were living on the land, which was being
tilled by Miguel until 1985 when he was physically ousted by the respondent.[19]

Based on Article 538 of the Civil Code, the respondent is the preferred possessor because, benefiting from her
father's tax declaration of the subject lot since 1926, she has been in possession thereof for a longer period. On the
other hand, petitioners' father acquired joint possession only in 1952. Ms-esm

Third Issue: Possession of Better Right

Finally, the petitioners challenge the CA ruling that "actual and physical coupled with the exclusive and continuous
possession [by respondent] of the land since 1985" proved her ownership of the disputed land. The respondent
argues that she was legally presumed to possess the subject land with a just title since she possessed it in the concept
of owner. Under Article 541 of the Code, she could not be obliged to show or prove such title.

The respondent's contention is untenable. The presumption in Article 541 of the Civil Code is merely disputable; it
prevails until the contrary is proven.[20] That is, one who is disturbed in one's possession shall, under this provision,
be restored thereto by the means established by law.[21] Article 538 settles only the question of possession, and
possession is different from ownership. Ownership in this case should be established in one of the ways provided by
law. E-xsm

To settle the issue of ownership, we need to determine who between the claimants has proven acquisitive
prescription.[22]

Ownership of immovable property is acquired by ordinary prescription through possession for ten years. [23] Being
the sole heir of her father, respondent showed through his tax receipt that she had been in possession of the land for
more than ten years since 1932. When her father died in 1930, she continued to reside there with her mother. When
she got married, she and her husband engaged in kaingin inside the disputed lot for their livelihood.[24]
Respondent's possession was not disturbed until 1953 when the petitioners' father claimed the land. But by then, her
possession, which was in the concept of owner -- public, peaceful, and uninterrupted[25] -- had already ripened into
ownership. Furthermore she herself, after her father's demise, declared and paid realty taxes for the disputed land.
Tax receipts and declarations of ownership for taxation, when coupled with proof of actual possession of the
property, can be the basis of a claim for ownership through prescription. [26]Ky-le

In contrast, the petitioners, despite thirty-two years of farming the subject land, did not acquire ownership. It is
settled that ownership cannot be acquired by mere occupation. [27] Unless coupled with the element of hostility
toward the true owner,[28] occupation and use, however long, will not confer title by prescription or adverse
possession. Moreover, the petitioners cannot claim that their possession was public, peaceful and uninterrupted.
Although their father and brother arguably acquired ownership through extraordinary prescription because of their
adverse possession for thirty-two years (1953-1985),[29] this supposed ownership cannot extend to the entire disputed
lot, but must be limited to the portion that they actually farmed.

We cannot sustain the petitioners' contention that their ownership of the disputed land was established before the
trial court through the series of tax declarations and receipts issued in the name of Margarito Mendoza. Such
documents prove that the holder has a claim of title over the property. Aside from manifesting a sincere desire to
obtain title thereto, they announce the holder's adverse claim against the state and other interested parties. [30]Ky-calr

However, tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership. [31] At most, they constitute
mere prima facie proof of ownership or possession of the property for which taxes have been paid. [32] In the absence
of actual public and adverse possession, the declaration of the land for tax purposes does not prove ownership. [33] In
sum, the petitioners' claim of ownership of the whole parcel has no legal basis.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision and Resolution AFFIRMED. Costs against
petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur. C


January 18, 2017

G.R. No. 221071

EDDIE E. DIZON and BRYAN R. DIZON, Petitioners,


vs.
YOLANDA VIDA P. BELTRAN, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before the Court is the petition for review on certiorari, 1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, with prayer for the
issuance of a temporary Restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction, filed by Eddie E. Dizon (Eddie) and
Bryan James R. Dizon (Bryan) (collectively, the petitioners) to challenge the Decision2 rendered on January 23,
2015 and Resolution3 issued on September 7, 2015 by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 05256-MIN.
The dispositive portion of the assailed decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated 13 June 2012 of the Regional Trial
Court of Davao City, Branch 14, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision dated 11 November 2011 of the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities of Davao City, Branch 1, in Civil Case No. 21 [,]755-A-10, is REINSTATED. The
Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 14, is hereby ORDERED to issue a writ of execution for the en
Corcemen1 of the MTCC Decision dated 11 November 2011.

SO ORDERED. 4

The assailed resolution denied the petitioners' motion for reconsideration.

Antecedents

Eddie started working as a seafarer in the 1980s. 5He has two children, namely, Bryan and James Christopher R.
Dizon (James).6

Eddie and Verona Juana Pascua-Dizon (Verona) (collectively, the Spouses Dizon) got married on March 8,
1995.7Verona was a housewife.8 She and her mother, together with Bryan and James, resided in the house erected on
a 240-square-meter lot (disputed property) at No. 42 Mahogany Street, Nova Tierra Subdivision, Lanang, Davao
City.9The disputed property was covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-35170710 issued in 2002. The
registered owners were "[Verona], married to [Eddie]."

In 2008, Verona filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City a petition for the issuance of Temporary
and Permanent Protection Orders against Eddie and James. 11

On ,April 9, 2008, the Spouses Dizon entered into a Compromise Agreement, 12 whereby they contemplated selling
the disputed property in the amount of not less than ₱4,000,000.00, which price shall be increased by ₱100,000.00
for every succeeding year until the same is finally sold. They would thereafter equally divide the proceeds from the
sale.

On September 27, 2009, Eddie left the Philippines to work on board a ship. 13 Sometime in October of 2009, Verona
was confined at the Adventist Hospital in Bangkal, Davao City. She was transferred to Ricardo Limso Medical
Center on November 30, 2009. 14 She died on December 8, 2009 due to cardio-respiratory arrest, with "leukonoid
reaction secondary to sepsis or malignancy (occult)" as antecedent cause. 15
Eddie claimed that he was unaware of Verona's hospital confinement. On December 9, 2009, his brother Jun Dizon
(Jun), called him through the Telephone and informed him about Verona's death. Eddie intended to promptly return
to the Philippines before Verona's burial. Hence, he advised Jun to ask Verona's relatives to wait for his arrival. 16

It took a while before Eddie's employer finally permitted him to go home. Verona was already buried before Eddie's
arrival on December 21, 2009. 17

Thereafter, a copy of a Deed of Absolute Sale (Deed), 18 dated December, 1, 2009, was shown to Eddie. Its subject
was the disputed property conveyed to herein respondent, Yolanda Vida P. Beltran (Vida), for ₱1,500,000.00. 19

Eddie alleged that the Deed was falsified, and his and Verona's signatures thereat were forgeries. 20 In January of
2010, Eddie filed two complaints against Vida. One was a civil case for nullification of the Deed, and for payment
of damages and attorney's fees.21 The other was a criminal complaint for falsification of public document.22 He also
caused the annotation of a notice of lispenden upon TCT No. T-351707.23

On April 6, 20 l 0, TCT No. T-351707 was cancelled, and in its place, TCT No. T-146-2010002236 was issued in
Vida's name.24 Eddie belatedly discovered about the foregoing fact sometime in May 2010 after Davao Light and
Power Company cut off the electrical connection purportedly upon the advice of the new owner of the disputed
property. 25

Ruling of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities

In June of 2010, Vida filed before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of Davao City an action for unlawful
detainer26 against the petitioners, James and their unnamed relatives, house helpers and acquaintances residing in the
disputed property. 27

Vida alleged that she is the registered owner of the disputed property. While the Deed evidencing the conveyance in
her favor was executed on December 1, 2009, Eddie pre-signed the same on April 9, 2008 before he left to work
abroad. The Spouses Dizon's respective lawyers witnessed the signing. After Verona's death, Vida tolerated the
petitioners' stay in the disputed property. On May 18, 2010, Vida sent a formal letter requiring the petitioners to
vacate the disputed property, but to no avail. 28

The petitioners sought the dismissal of Vida's complaint arguing that at the time the Deed was executed, Verona was
already unconscious. Eddie, on the other hand, could not have signed the Deed as well since he left the Philippines
on September 27, 2009 and returned only on December 21, 2009. Further, Verona's signature appearing on the Deed
was distinctly different from those she had affixed in her petition for the issuance of a temporary protection order
and Compromise Agreement, elated March 26, 2008 and April 9, 2008, respectively. Besides, the purchase price of
₱l,500,000.00 was not in accord with the Spouses Dizon's agreement to sell the disputed property for not less than
₱4,000,000.00. 29

On November 11, 2011, the MTCC rendered a Decision30 directing the petitioners and their co-defendants to turn
over to Vida the possession of the disputed property, and pay ₱1,000.00 monthly rent from July 12, 2010 until the
said property is vacated, ₱20,000.00 as attorney's fees and cost of suit. Vida was, however, ordered to pay therein
defendants ₱414,459.78 as remaining balance relative to the sale. 31

The MTCC rationalized as follows:

The claim of [the petitioners] as to the falsity of the sale is a collateral attack on the generated title itself, which can
only be impugned in a direct proceeding litigated for that matter. The fact that [Eddie] presigned the [Deed] prior to
the death of [Verona], in the presence of counsels[,] which remained unrebutted[,] was in fact giving consent to the
act of disposing the property to answer for any exigency or impending situation that will arise later[,] which may or
may not be entirely connected with the medical requirements of his ailing spouse[,] whose health condition at that
time of the execution [of the Deed] ha[d] apparently started to deteriorate. Records show [that] [Vida] incurred a
hefty sum of One Million Eighty-Five Thousand Five Hundred and Forty pesos and twenty-one
centavos (₱1,085,540.21) for both medical and burial expenses of the deceased of which [Eddie] failed to support in
violation of the Civil Code on the rights and, [sic] obligation of the husband and wife to render mutual support.

x xxx

While evidences were presented to prove the existence of fraud in the execution of the instrument[,] the same cannot
be appreciated in this summary action for want of jurisdiction.

x xx [A] notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due execution, and
documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the presumption of regularity. x xx.

x xxx

x xxThe sole issue to be resolved is whether or not defendants unlawfully withheld the property sold to [Vida.]

x xxx

While it is true that defendants herein filed both civil and criminal cases for the Nullification of the [Deed] and
Falsification alleging forgeries, the issues therein are entirely different from this ejectment case. The criminal case,
[sic] only proves the existence of probable cause to determine criminal culpability. The nullification tackles the
validity or invalidity of the sale on grounds of falsity.

The prevailing doctrine is that suits or actions for the annulment of sale; title or document do not abate any
ejectment action respecting the same property x xx.

x xxx

x xx [C]onsidering the conjugal nature of the property and the subsequent dissolution of the conjugal partnership
upon the death of [Verona] on December 08, 2009, with the execution of conveyance in favor of [Vida], this Court
deemed it equitable and just for [Vida], to return to [Eddie], [sic] the remaining balance of the sale representing the
net amount less the total actual medical and burial expenses of [Verona] from the proceeds of the sale, in the amount
of FOUR HUNDRED, FOURTEEN THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED, FIFTY-NINE PESOS AND
SEVENTY-NINE centavos (P414,459.79) in the absence of evidence to that effect and for reasons of equity. 32

Ruling of the RTC

The petitioners filed an appeal33 before the RTC. During its pendency, Vida filed a motion for the issuance of a writ
of execution. On June 13, 2012, the RTC reversed the MTCC ruling, dismissed the complaint for unlawful detainer
and denied Vida's motion for the issuance of a writ of execution. 34 The RTC explained that:

Under Republic Act No. 7691 expanding the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts, [MTCCs], Municipal
Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, amending Batas Pambansa [Blg.] 129, otherwise known as the
"Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980,["] paragraph 2, of Section 33 therein provides that the court of first level has
"x-x- Exclusive Original jurisdiction over cases of forcible entry and unlawful detainer: Provided, that when, in
such cases, the defendant raises the question of ownership in his pleadings and the question of possession
cannot he resolved without deciding the issue of ownership[, the latter shall be resolved only to determine the
issue of possession[.]["] x xx

In the pleadings of the [petitioners] filed before the court a quo, and even in their memorandum on appeal, they
vigorously raise[d] the question of ownership of [Vida] based on the alleged notarized [Deed] signed by [Eddie] in
favor of [Vida] where the latter derived her so-called ownership over the subject premises[.] Truly indeed upon
examination by any sensible man[,] it would reveal that the signature[s] of [the Spouses Dizon] appearing at the
bottom of the al1eged Deed [were] falsified x xx. Thus, a document challenged by a party in litigation as falsified
may be proved without resorting to an opinion of handwriting experts. x xx.

In another case[,] the Supreme Court held that: "x-x- A finding of forgery does not entirely depend on the testimony
of handwriting experts. Although it is useful[,] the judge still exercises independent judgment on the issue
of authenticity of the signatures under scrutiny by comparing the alleged forged signature and the authentic
and genuine signatures of the person whose signature is theorized upon to have been forged. x xx

This court x xx took occasion in comparing and examining the signature of [Verona] in the [Deed] x xxvis-a-vis her
signature appearing in the compromise agreement executed [with Eddie] x xx[.] [The comparison] lucidly showed
that the signatures of [Verona] [were] x xx very different from each other and [the differences are] detectable by a
human eye. x xx.

x xxx

Another thing that caught the curiosity of this court is the stipulation contained in the compromise agreement x xx
wherein [the Spouses Dizon] agreed x xx that the "x-x- net selling price of the said conjugal property should be sold
not lower than FOUR MILLION (P4,000,000.00) PESOS for the year 2008 x xx."

x xxx

x xx [T]here was never proof adduced that the compromise agreement adverted to was rescinded or modified by the
[Spouses Dizon]. To the view of this Court[,] the consideration of the said [Deed] x xx has an indicia of fraud x xx
[and] the signature[s] of the [Spouses Dizon] as falsified. [A] [f]alsified document cannot give right or ownership to
a party who uses it.

x xxx

x xx To justify an action for unlawful detainer[,] the permission or tolerance must have been present at the
beginning of the possession[.]-x-x-x- Since the complaint did not satisfy the jurisdictional requirement of a valid
cause for unlawful detainer, the [MTCC] had no jurisdiction over the case. x x x. 35 (Emphasis and underlining in the
original)

Ruling of the CA

Vida assailed the foregoing via a petition for review, which the CA granted in the herein assailed decision and
resolution. The CA's reasons are cited below:

[Vida] was able to sufficiently allege and consequently established the requisites of unlawful detainer.

First, [Vida] alleged that she is the registered owner of the [disputed] property and she merely tolerated the
continuous possession of the [petitioners] [of] the [disputed] property after she purchased it and had it titled in her
name. Second, [the petitioners'] possession became illegal upon notice by [Vida] to [the petitioners] of the
termination of the [petitioners'] right of possession as shown by the Notice to Vacate dated 18 May 2010 sent by
[Vida's] counsel to [the petitioners]. Third, [the petitioners] refused to vacate the [disputed] property x xx thereby
depriving [Vida] of the enjoyment thereof. And fourth, [Vida] instituted the complaint dated 03 June 2010 for
unlawful detainer within one (1) year from demand to vacate the premises. x xx.

x xxx

x xx While the said [Deed] was questioned by [the petitioners] for being a nullity in a separate case, yet, it should be
emphasized that the determination of the validity or the nullity of the [Deed] should be properly threshed out in that
separate proceeding and not in the summary action for unlawful detainer. x xx.
x xxx

x xx Nothing is more settled than the rule that "[i]n an unlawful detainer case, the sole issue for resolution is the
physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership by any of the
parties. However, where the issue of ownership is· raised, the courts may pass upon the issue of ownership in order
to determine who has the right to possess the property. The Court stresses, however, that this adjudication is only an
initial determination of ownership for the purpose of settling the issue of possession, the issue of ownership being
inseparably linked thereto. The lower court's adjudication of ownership in the ejectment case is merely provisional
and would not bar or prejudice an action between the same parties involving title to the property. It is, therefore, not
conclusive as to the issue of ownership, which is the subject matter of a separate case for annulment of [the Deed]
filed by [the petitioners].

x xx [T]he RTC[,] in resolving the issue of possession in the unlawful detainer 'case[,] has not only provisionally
passed upon the issue of ownership of the [disputed] property but it in fact made a determinative and conclusive
finding on the ownership thereof, contrary to the settled rule that in [an] unlawful detainer case, the only issue to be
resolve[d] by the court is the physical or material possession or the property involved x xx.

x xx [W]hile the Court may make provisional determination of ownership in order to determine who between [Vida]
and [the petitioners] had the better right to possess the property, yet, the court is proscribed from making a
conclusive finding on this issue. x xx [T]he RTC has already made a preemptive finding on the validity or invalidity
of the document, [but] the resolution thereof properly pertains to a separate proceeding pending before it in a
separate case. x xx.

x xxx

x xx [T]his Court agrees with the contention of [Vida] that the RTC's pronouncement that the signatures in the
[Deed] were forged and [Vida's] title issued pursuant thereto is void is a collateral attack on [Vida's] title which
violates the [principle of] indefeasibility of the Torrens title. x xx.

x xxx

Verily, unless and until [Vida's] title over the [disputed] property is annulled in a separate proceeding instituted by
[the petitioners], the same is valid and [Vida] has the right to possess the subject property, being an attribute of her
ownership over it. x xx.

x xxx

x xx [T]o stay the immediate execution of judgment in ejectment proceedings, the defendant-appellant must: (a)
perfect his appeal, (b) file a supersedeas bond, and (c) periodically deposit the rentals falling due during the
pendency of the appeal.

x xx [T]he supersedeas bond was paid by [the petitioners] only on 02 May 2012. x xx [T]he bond filed by [the
petitioners] in order to stay the: immediate execution of the MTCC Decision was filed out of time as it was not filed
within the period to appeal.

x xx [T]he failure of the [petitioners] in this case to comply with any of the conditions provided under Section 19,
Rule 70 of the Rules of Court is a ground for the outright execution of the judgment, the duty of the court in this
respect being "ministerial and imperative." x xx.

Thus, as the supersedeas bond was filed out of time or beyond the period to appeal, [Vida's] motion for immediate
execution should have been acted upon by the RTC and the writ of execution should have been issued as a matter of
right. 36 (Citations omitted and italics in the original)
The CA, through the herein assailed resolution,37 denied the petitioners' motion for reconsideration. 38

Issues

The instant petition is anchored on the issues of whether or not:

1. Vida has a cause of action for unlawful detainer against the petitioners considering that the Deed she relied
upon in filing her complaint was falsified, hence, null; and
2. the RTC correctly ruled that in an unlawful detainer case, the MTCC can resolve the issue of ownership.39

In support thereof, the petitioners point out that relative to the falsification case filed by Eddie against Vida, the
Office of the Davao City Prosecutor issued a Resolution, 40 dated June 11, 2010, stating that no expert eye is needed
to ascertain that the signatures appearing in the Deed were different from the standard signatures of the Spouses
Dizon. Further, on September 20, 2010, another resolution41 was issued finding probable cause to indict Vida for the
crime of falsification of public documents. Thereafter, the MTCC issued a Warrant of Arrest 42 against Vida.

The petitioners also insist that no Deed was executed conveying the disputed property in Vida's favor. When the
Deed was purportedly executed on December l, 2009, Verona was already unconscious, while Eddie was abroad.
Having been simulated, the Deed was void and inexistent. It produced no effect and cannot create, modify or
extinguish a juridical relation. Hence, Vida had no right to transfer the title in her name using the falsified Deed.
Perforce, her complaint for unlawful detainer against the petitioners had no leg to stand on and should be dismissed.

Citing Spouses De Guzman v. Agbagala,43the petitioners claim that the rule on non-collateral attack of a Torrens title
does not apply in a case where the title is void from the start. An action to declare the nullity of a void title does not
prescribe and is susceptible to direct, as well as to collateral attack. 44

Anent the belated posting of the supersedeas bond, the petitioners stress that fault cannot be ascribed to them. They
waited for the MTCC's order approving and fixing the amount. When the order was finally issued, the petitioners
were required to post the bond before the RTC and deposit the monthly rental as well. The petitioners complied
before the RTC rendered its Decision dated June 13, 2012. 45

As counterclaims, the petitioners impute malice and bad faith against Vida in filing the complaint for unlawful
detainer. The petitioners, thus, pray for the award of ₱1,000,000.00 as moral damages, ₱500,000.00 as exemplary
damages, ₱50,000.00 as attorney's fees, and ₱2,000.00 for each appearance of their counsel. 46

In Vida's Comment,47 she argues that the petitioners' claim of forgery is yet to be proven in court by clear, positive
and convincing evidence. Having been notarized, the Deed enjoys the presumption of due execution, and shall
remain valid unless annulled in a proper proceeding. Besides, the allegation of forgery and nullity of the Deed are
immaterial in a summary action for unlawful detainer. Allowing the foregoing claims to be litigated amounts to a
collateral attack on Vida's title.

Vida also points out that the petitioners paid the supersedeas bond only on May 2, 2012, beyond the period to
perfect an appeal.48

Ruling of the Court

On matters of procedure

While the petitioners explicitly raise only two substantive issues, in the body of the petition, they discuss procedural
matters anent their payment of the sudersedeas bond and an alleged error on the part of the CA in concluding that
the RTC should have issued a writ of execution relative to the MTCC's decision in Vida's favor. 49
The petitioners admit that they posted the supersedeas bond beyond the period to perfect an appeal, but claim that it
was the MTCC, which belatedly fixed the amount. Pending the appeal they had filed before the RTC, they promptly
posted the bond after the amount was determined by the MTCC. 50

In Spouses Chua v. CA,51the Court ruled that:

Petitioners need not require the MTC to fix the amount of the supersedeas bond. They could have computed this
themselves. As early as 1947, we have held in Aylon vs. Jugo and De Pablo that the supersedeas bond is equivalent
to the amount of rentals, damages and costs stated in the judgment. 52

If the cited case were to be applied, the petitioners' failure to post the supersedeas bond within the allowable period
shall result in the immediate execution of the MTCC judgment. Nonetheless, in City of Naga v. Hon. Asuncion, et
al.,53the Court has carved exceptions to immediate execution of judgments in ejectment cases, viz.:

Petitioner herein invokes seasonably the exceptions to immediate execution of judgments in ejectment cases cited
m Hualam Construction and Dev't. Corp. v. Court of Appeals and Laurel v. Abalos, thus:

Where supervening events (occurring subsequent to the judgment) bring about a material change in the situation of
the parties which makes the execution inequitable, or where there is no compelling urgency for the execution
because it is not justified by the prevailing circumstances, the court may stay immediate execution of the judgment.

Noteworthy; the foregoing exceptions were made in reference to Section 8, Rule 70 of the old Rules of Court which
has been substantially reproduced as Section 19, Rule 70 54 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, even if
the appealing defendant was not able to file a supersedeas bond, and make periodic deposits to the appellate court,
immediate execution of the MTC decision is not proper where the circumstances of the case fall under any of the
above-mentioned exceptions. x xx. 55(Citations omitted and underlining ours)

In Laurel, et al. v. Hon. Abalos, etc., et al., 56 therein respondent filed an action for reformation of the deed of sale
against therein petitioners pending the appeal of the unlawful detainer case before the RTC. The RTC thereafter
denied therein petitioners' motion for the issuance of a writ of execution relative to the MTCC judgment, and
required therein respondent to post a supersedeas bond. According to the Court, the peculiar environmental
circumstances obtaining in the case justify the non-immediate execution of the MTCC's judgment pending appeal.
The Court further expounded as follows:

[T]his Court took pains at length to explain that this provision (regarding immediate execution of the judgment of
inferior courts in cases of unlawful detainer) can be availed of only if no question of title is involved and the
ownership or the right to the possession of the property is an admitted fact. Through Mr. Justice Labrador, this Court
said in De los Reyes vs. Castro, et al.:

.... The provision for the immediate execution of a judgment of the justice of the peace court in actions of unlawful
detainer under Section 8 of Rule 72 of the [old] Rules of Court, is not applicable to an action of detainer like the
present, where there is no immediate urgency for the execution because it is not justified by the circumstances. This
view is based on the history of the action of forcible entry. This action originated in the English common law where
it was originally in the form of a criminal proceeding whereby ands or properties seized through the use of force
could immediately be returned. x xx.

It is 'the opinion of the writer that inasmuch as the prope1iy now subject of litigation was originally sold only with
right to repurchase to the plaintiff, so that the plaintiff was not really and originally the owner and possessor of the
property, and since there are reasonable grounds to believe that the contract entered into between them was not one
of lease but one of loan with mortgage of the property, the right of the plaintiff to the immediate possession of the
property is not apparent, clear or conclusive, and neither should his right to the immediate execution of the property
[be] allowed until opportunity to settle the question of ownership is had. In other words, the writer of the opinion
holds that while Section 8 of Rule 72 is applicable also in cases of unlawful detainer, the immediate execution it
provides for may be availed of only if no question of title is involved and the ownership and the right to the
possession of the property is an admitted fact.

x xxx

Where supervening events (occurring subsequent to the judgment) bring about a material change in the situation of
the parties which makes the execution inequitable, or where there is no compelling urgency for the execution
because it is not justified by the prevailing circumstances, the court may stay immediate execution of the judgment.

The assertion by Laput of "ownership" of the house she is occupying, the appeal pending in the [CA] from the
decision in Civil Case 1517 which declared null and void from the beginning the deed of sale in favor of the
petitioners, the latter's unexplained silence in the face of the manifestation filed by Laput informing this Court of the
supervening occurrences, and their failure to submit their comment as required by this Court, are strong and
sufficient additional reasons, cumulatively, to justify the :dismissal of the present petition. 57 (Citations, emphasis
and italics omitted, and underlining ours)

By analogy, in the unlawful detainer case from which the instant petition arose, Eddie was originally a co-owner of
the disputed property, and he remains in possession thereof. Vida, on the other, is not even a resident of Davao
City.58 Moreover, prior to Vida's filing of the unlawful detainer case, Eddie had already instituted actions for
nullification of the Deed and falsification of public documents. The Office of the Davao City Prosecutor had
likewise made a preliminary determination of probable cause that forgery was committed. Eddie, thus, insists that no
valid conveyance was made by Verona to Vida. In the mind of the Court, the foregoing are persuasive; reasons
justifying the non-immediate execution of the MTCC judgment despite the petitioners' belated posting of the
supersedeas bond. Hence, the CA erred in declaring that the RTC improperly denied Vida's motion for the issuance
of a writ of execution pending appeal.

On substantive issues

Being interrelated, the two substantive issues raised shall be discussed jointly. Essentially, the petitioners allege that
the MTCC should have dismissed Vida's complaint for unlawful detainer for lack of basis as the Deed she relied
upon is falsified and void. It is also claimed that the CA erred in not upholding the RTC's ruling that the latter can
take cognizance of the issue of ownership in an unlawful detainer case.

The Court finds merit in the petitioners' arguments.

In Consolacion D. Romero and Rosario S.D. Domingo v. Engracia D. Singson, 59where there were similar
allegations of forgery and the issue of ownership was raised in the ejectment case, the Court pronounced:

In arriving at its pronouncement, the CA passed upon the issue or claim of ownership, which both parties raised.
While the procedure taken is allowed - under Section 16, Rule 7060 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the issue
of ownership may be resolved only to determine the issue of possession - the CA nonetheless committed serious and
patent error in concluding that based solely on respondent's TCT 12575 issued in her name, she must be considered
the singular owner of the subject property and thus entitled to possession thereof - pursuant to the principle that "the
person who has a Torrens Title over a land is entitled to possession thereof." Such provisional determination of
ownership should have been resolved in petitioners' favor.

When the deed of sale in favor of respondent was purportedly executed by the parties thereto and notarized on June
6, 2006, it is perfectly obvious that the signatures of the vendors therein, Macario and Felicidad, were forged. They
could not have signed the same, because both were by then long deceased: Macario died on February 22, 1981,
while Felicidad passed away on September 14, 1997. This makes the June 6, 2006 deed of sale null and void; being
so, it is "equivalent to nothing; it produces no civil effect; and it does not create, modify or extinguish a juridical
relation."
And while it is true that respondent has in her favor a Torrens title over the subject property, she nonetheless
acquired no right or title in her favor by virtue of the null and void June 6, 2006 deed. "Verily, when the instrument
presented is forged, even if accompanied by the owner's duplicate certificate of title, the registered owner does not
thereby lose his title, and neither does the assignee in the forged deed acquire any right or title to the property."

x xxx

Insofar as a person who fraudulently obtained a property is concerned, the registration of the property in said
person's name would not be sufficient to vest in him or her the title to the property. A certificate of title merely
confirms or' records title already existing and vested. The indefeasibility of the Torrens title should not be used as a
means to perpetrate fraud against the rightful owner of real property. Good faith must concur with registration
because, otherwise, registration would be an exercise in futility. A Torrens title does not furnish a shield for fraud,
notwithstanding the long-standing rule that registration is a constructive notice of title binding upon the whole
world. The legal principle is that if the registration of the land is fraudulent, the person in whose name the land is
registered holds it as a mere trustee.

Since respondent acquired no right over the subject property, the same remained in the name of the original
registered owners, Macario and Felicidad. Being heirs of the owners, petitioners and respondent thus became, and
remain co-owners - by succession - of the subject property. As such, petitioners may exercise all attributes of
ownership over the same, including possession - whether de facto or dejure; respondent thus has no right to exclude
them from this right through an action for ejectment.

With the Court's determination that respondent's title is null and void, the matter of direct or collateral attack is a
foregone conclusion as well. "An action to declare the nullity of a void title does not prescribe and is susceptible to
direct, as well as to collateral, attack;" petitioners were not precluded from questioning the validity of respondent's
title in the ejectment case.61 (Citations and emphasis omitted and underlining ours)

In the case at bar, when the Deed was executed on December 1, 2009, Eddie claimed that he was abroad while
Verona was already unconscious. Vida did not directly refute these allegations and instead pointed out that the Deed
was pre-signed in April of 2008. The foregoing circumstances reduced the Deed into the category of a private
instrument as can be drawn from the Court's discussion in AdelaidaMeneses (deceased) v. Venturozo,62 viz.:

As notarized documents, [Deeds] carry evidentiary weight conferred upon them with respect to their clue execution
and enjoy the presumption of regularity which may only be rebutted by evidence so clear, strong and convincing as
to exclude all controversy as to falsity. The presumptions that attach to notarized documents can be affirmed only so
long as it is beyond dispute that the notarization was regular. A defective notarization will strip the document of its
public character and reduce it to a private instrument. Consequently, when there is a defect in the notarization of a
document, the clear and convincing evidentiary standard normally attached to a duly-notarized document is
dispensed with, and the measure to test the validity of such document is preponderance of evidence. 63 (Citations
omitted and underlining ours)

Further, in Dela Rama, et al. v. Papa, et al.,64the Court elucidated that:

Papas['] admissions, refreshing in their self-incriminatory candor, beat legal significance.1âwphi1 With respect to
deeds of sale or conveyance, what spells the difference between a public document and a private document is the
acknowledgment in the former that the parties acknowledging the document appear before the notary public and
specifically manifest under oath that they are the persons who executed it, and acknowledge that the same are their
free act and deed. x xx

x xxx

The presumptions that attach to notarized documents can be affirmed only so long as it is beyond dispute that the
notarization was regular. We cannot ascribe that conclusion at bar to the deed of sale. Respondent failed to confirm
before the RTC that he had actually appeared before the notary public, a bare minimum requirement under Public
Act No. 2103. Such defect will not ipso facto void the deed of sale. However, it eliminates the presumptions that are
carried by notarized public documents and subject the deed of sale to a different level of scrutiny than that relied on
by the [CA]. This consequence is with precedent. In Tigno v. Sps. Aquino, where the public document in question
had been notarized by a judge who had no authority to do so, the Court dispensed with the clear and convincing
evidentiary standard normally attached to duly notarized documents, and instead applied preponderance of evidence
as the measure to test the validity of that doctiment.65 (Citations omitted and underlining ours)

In the instant petition, Vida impliedly admits the irregularity of the Deed's notarization as both of the vendors were
not personally present.1avvphi1 Consequently, clue execution can no longer be presumed. Besides, the extant
circumstances surrounding the controversy constitute preponderant evidence suggesting that forgery was committed.
Eddie promptly filed a criminal case for falsification of documents and a civil case to nullify the Deed. Later, the
Office of the Davao City Prosecutor found probable cause to indict Vida for falsification. Consequently, the issue of
ownership cannot be disregarded in the unlawful detainer case. It bears stressing though that while the RTC aptly
resolved the issue of ownership, it is at best preliminary and shall not be determinative of the outcome of the two
other cases filed by Eddie against Vida.

Other matters

The Court observes that the MTCC ruling, which the CA affirmed, is based partly on equitable grounds. Notably,
the MTCC referred to Verona's medical expenses of ₱l,085,540.21, which Vida had shouldered. 66 The Court
commiserates with Vida, if indeed she remains unpaid by Eddie for Verona's medical and burial expenses. However,
a creditor cannot resort to procedural shortcuts to collect in kind for sums of money owed by a debtor.

In sum, the Court agrees with the RTC that the dismissal of Vida's complaint for unlawful detainer is in order.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Decision and Resolution, dated January 23, 2015 and
September 7, 2015, respectively, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 05256-MIN, are SET ASIDE. The
Decision dated June 13, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch. 14, in Civil Case No. 34,450-2012,
is REINSTATED. Consequently, Yolanda Vida P. Beltran's complaint for unlawful detainer is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.
DELFIN LAMSIS, MAYNARD MONDIGUING, JOSE G.R. No. 173021
VALDEZ, JR. and Heirs of AGUSTIN KITMA,
represented by EUGENE KITMA, Present:
Petitioners, CORONA, C. J., Chairperson,
VELASCO, JR.,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
- versus - DEL CASTILLO, and
PEREZ, JJ.

MARGARITA SEMON DONG-E, Promulgated:


Respondent. October 20, 2010
x--------------------------------------------------------x

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 Review[1] assailing the March 30, 2006 Decision[2] 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.

This state of affairs changed when petitioners Delfin and Agustin allegedly began expanding their occupation on the subject
property and selling portions thereof.[16] Delfin allegedly sold a 400-square meter portion of Lot No. 1 to petitioner
Maynard[17] Mondiguing (Maynard) while Agustin sold another portion to petitioner Jose Valdez (Jose).[18]

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.

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]
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 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 favorably on her and her siblings ancestral land claim over a portion of the 186,090-square meter
property.[27] The said resolution states:

The land subject of the instant application is the ancestral land of the herein applicants. Well-
established is the fact that the land treated herein was first declared for taxation 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.

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.

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.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court[31]

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 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.

SO ORDERED.[36]

It appears that no motion for reconsideration was filed before the trial court. Nevetheless, the trial court issued an
Order[37] allowing the petitioners Notice of Appeal.[38]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals[39]

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 reconsideration[40] 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.[41] Upon 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 forum-shopping 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

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 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

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 ownership[71] 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 x[72] (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 pendentia are 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 cases[81] 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.

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 cross-examination, 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.

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.