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G.R. No. 169956 January 19, 2009 SPOUSES JONEL PADILLA and SARAH PADILLA, Petitioners, vs. ISAURO A. VELASCO, TEODORA A. VELASCO, DELIA A. VELASCO, VALERIANO A. VELASCO, JR., IDA A. VELASCO, AMELITA C. VELASCO, ERIBERTO C. VELASCO, JR., and CELIA C. VELASCO, Respondents. DECISION NACHURA, J.: Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under 1 Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision dated 2 February 11, 2005 and the Resolution dated October 4, 2005 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 69997 entitled Isauro A. Velasco, Teodora A. Velasco, Delia A. Velasco, Valeriano A. Velasco, Jr., Ida A. Velasco, Amelita C. Velasco, Eriberto C. Velasco, Jr. and Celia C. Velasco v. Spouses Jonel Padilla and Sarah Padilla. The facts The facts of the case are as follows: Respondents are the heirs of Dr. Artemio A. Velasco (Artemio), who died single and without any issue on January 22, 1949. During his lifetime, Artemio acquired Lot No. 2161 consisting of 7,791 square meters situated at Barangay Pinagsanjan, Pagsanjan, Laguna, covered by Tax Declaration No. 4739. Artemio acquired the lot from spouses Brigido Sacluti and Melitona Obial, evidenced by a deed of sale dated February 14, 1944. In October 1987, petitioners entered the property as trustees by virtue of a deed of sale executed by the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan in favor of spouses Bartolome Solomon, Jr. and Teresita Padilla (Solomon spouses). Respondents demanded that petitioners vacate the property, but the latter refused. The matter was referred to the barangay for conciliation; however, the parties failed to reach an amicable settlement. Thereafter, petitioners caused the cutting of trees in the area, fenced it and built a house thereon. They harvested the crops and performed other acts of dominion over the property. On October 14, 1991, respondents filed a complaint for accion publiciana, accounting and damages against petitioners before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Santa Cruz, Laguna. They asked the court to order petitioners to vacate the property and to pay moral and exemplary damages, attorneys fees and cost of suit. Isauro A. Velasco (Isauro), the brother of the deceased Artemio, as administrator of the property, was presented as a witness. He testified that Artemio owned the property. As evidence thereof, he presented the Kasulatan ng Bilihang Tuluyan executed by spouses Brigido Sacluti and Melitona Obial in favor of Artemio, and declared that he (Isauro) was present during the signing of the instrument. He offered in evidence tax declarations and tax receipts covering Lot No. 2161 which were all in the name of Artemio. A certification from the Land Registration Authority (LRA) was likewise presented by Isauro which states that based on the records of the LRA, Decree No. 403348 was issued on October 10, 1930 3 covering Lot No. 2161. Rolando R. Flores, a geodetic engineer, also testified that on January 16, 1993, upon prior notice to petitioners, he conducted a survey of the land based on the technical description of the property and the map from the Bureau of Lands. The purpose of the survey was to verify if the area occupied by petitioners was Lot No. 2161. Upon his examination and based on his survey, he concluded that the 4 land occupied by petitioners was Lot No. 2161. On the other hand, petitioners averred that the Solomon spouses owned the property; that the said spouses bought it from the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan as evidenced by a deed of sale dated September 4, 1987; that the land was identified as Lot No. 76-pt, consisting of 10,000 square meters, located at Pinagsanjan, Pagsanjan, Laguna; and that the spouses authorized petitioners to occupy the land and introduce improvements thereon. Petitioners further claimed that subsequent to the sale of the property to the Solomon spouses, Lot No. 76-pt. was levied on in Civil Case No. 320 under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court of Pagsanjan, Laguna. The case was entitled Rural Bank of Pagsanjan, Inc. v. Spouses Hector and Emma Velasco, Valeriano Velasco and Virginia Miso. Petitioners alleged that Valeriano Velasco obtained a loan from the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan, with Hector Velasco as comaker, and the land was mortgaged by Valeriano as collateral. Valerianos failure to pay the loan caused the foreclosure of the land, and on September 17, 1980, Lot No. 76-pt was sold at a public auction by the Provincial Sheriff. The Rural Bank of Pagsanjan was the highest bidder. Pedro Zalameda Trinidad, Jr. (Pedro), as a witness for the petitioners, testified that he was born in Barangay Pinagsanjan, Pagsanjan, Laguna, and had been residing there since birth. He said that based on his knowledge, the land belonged to Nonong (Valeriano) Velasco because he used to buy coconuts harvested from the said land and it was Nonong 5 Velasco who caused the gathering of coconuts thereon. Petitioner Jonel Padilla also took the witness stand. He testified that Pedro was occupying the land when he initially visited it. A representative of the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan disclosed to him that the land previously belonged to Valeriano. He verified from the Municipal Assessor the technical description of the land, but no longer verified from the Bureau of Lands because he trusted the bank. Upon his recommendation, his sister and his brother-in-law purchased the property after verifying the supporting documents. It was his brother-in-law who went to the Bureau of Lands and 6 found that it was Lot No. 2161. 7 On July 27, 1999, the RTC rendered a Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the [respondents] ordering the [petitioners] to vacate the land presently occupied by them and restore possession thereof to the [respondents], to render an accounting of the proceeds from the crop harvested therefrom starting September 1987 up to the time the property is returned to the [respondents], and to remove 8 at their expense all the structures they constructed thereon.

Petitioners filed an appeal before the CA, but on February 11, 2005, the CA issued the assailed decision affirming the decision of the RTC. They consequently filed a motion for reconsideration. However, the same was denied in the assailed resolution dated October 4, 2005. Hence, the instant petition. The Issues Petitioners anchor their petition on the following grounds: I. The alleged sale executed between Brigido Sacluti and Melitona Obial as seller and Dr. Artemio [Velasco] as buyer was never established, respondents having failed to present the original copy thereof during the trial despite their clear and categorical commitment to do so. Furthermore, the purported Original Certificate of Title issued in the name of Brigido Sacluti and Melitona Obial was never presented in evidence, thus, creating the presumption that had it been presented, the same would have been adverse to 9 respondents. II. The spouses Solomon acquired the subject property from 10 its lawful owner in good faith and for value. III. The spouses Solomon acquired the subject property at the public auction sale conducted by the provincial sheriff of Laguna based on the judgment and writ of execution issued by the Municipal Trial Court of Laguna against respondent Valeriano Velasco for non-payment of a loan considering that (1) the issuance of Tax Declaration No. 4624 in the name of respondent Valeriano Velasco is entitled to the presumption of regularity especially since respondents have not explained how and why it was wrongly issued in the name of their own brother, respondent Valeriano Velasco and without any of them taking any action to correct the alleged mistake; and (2) by their failure to assert their alleged ownership of the property and their inaction [by not] questioning the legal action taken by the bank against their co-respondent Valeriano Velasco and the subject property despite their full awareness since 1980, respondents are barred by estoppel from denying the title of the bank and the Solomon 11 spouses. IV. The action a quo was barred by prescription considering that respondents filed their legal action against the petitioners only on October 14, 1991, more than ten (10) years after the bank had acquired the subject property on September 17, 1980 at the public auction conducted by the 12 Provincial Sheriff of Laguna. V. At the very least, respondents are guilty of laches, they having slept on their rights for an unreasonable length of time such that to dispossess petitioners of the property after they had introduced substantial improvements thereon in good faith would result in undue damage and injury to them all due to the silence and inaction of respondents in asserting 13 their alleged ownership over the property. VI. The evidence proves that Lot no. 2161 and Lot no. 76-pt 14 are one and the same. VII. The failure of Atty. Asinas to present other witnesses, additional documents and to respond to certain pleadings brought about by his serious illnesses constitutes excusable negligence or incompetency to warrant a new trial considering that the Supreme Court itself had recognized negligence or incompetency of counsel as a ground for new trial especially if it has resulted in serious injustice or to an 15 uneven playing field. VIII. The overwhelming testimonial and documentary evidence, if presented, would have altered the result and the 16 decision now appealed from. IX. The petitioners should be awarded their counterclaim for 17 exemplary damages, attorneys fees and litigation expenses. The arguments submitted by petitioners may be summed up in the following issues: I. Who, as between the parties, have a better right of possession of Lot No. 2161; II. Whether the complaint for accion publiciana has already prescribed; and III. Whether the negligence of respondents counsel entitles them to a new trial. The Ruling of the Court We deny the instant petition. First. The instant case is for accion publiciana, or for recovery of the right to possess. This was a plenary action filed in the regional trial court to determine the better right to 18 possession of realty independently of the title. Accion publiciana is also used to refer to an ejectment suit where the cause of dispossession is not among the grounds for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, or when possession has been lost for more than one year and can no longer be maintained under Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. The objective of the plaintiffs in accion publiciana is to recover possession only, 19 not ownership. Based on the findings of facts of the RTC which were affirmed by the CA, respondents were able to establish lawful possession of Lot No. 2161 when the petitioners occupied the property. Lot No. 2161 was the subject of Decree No. 403348 based on the decision dated October 10, 1930 in Cadastre (Cad.) Case No. 11, LRC Record No. 208. The Original Certificate of Title to the land was issued to Brigido Sacluti and Melitona Obial. On February 14, 1944, the original owners of the land sold the same to Artemio. From the date of sale, until Artemios death on January 22, 1949, he was in continuous possession of the land. When Artemio died, Isauro acted as administrator of the land with Tomas Vivero as caretaker. In 1987, petitioners occupied the property by virtue of a deed of sale between the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan and the Solomon spouses. The land bought by the Solomon spouses from the Bank is denominated as Lot No. 76-pt and previously owned by Valeriano. However, it was proved during trial that the land occupied by petitioners was Lot No. 2161 in the name of Artemio, whereas the land sold by the bank to the petitioners was Lot No. 76-pt. Given this factual milieu, it can readily be deduced that respondents are legally entitled to the possession of Lot No. 2161. It is a long-standing policy of this Court that the findings of facts of the RTC which were adopted and affirmed by the CA are generally deemed conclusive and binding. This Court is not a trier of facts and will not disturb the factual findings of the lower courts unless there are substantial reasons for

doing so. In the instant case, we find no exceptional reason to depart from this policy. Second. The case filed by respondents for accion publiciana has not prescribed. The action was filed with the RTC on October 14, 1991. Petitioners dispossessed respondents of the property in October 1987. At the time of the filing of the complaint, only four (4) years had elapsed from the time of dispossession. Under Article 555(4) of the Civil Code of the Philippines, the real right of possession is not lost till after the lapse of ten years. It is settled that the remedy of accion publiciana 21 prescribes after the lapse of ten years. Thus, the instant case was filed within the allowable period. Third. Petitioners put in issue that Lot No. 2161 and Lot 76-pt are one and the same, and that the land was owned by Valeriano when it was foreclosed by the bank. This, in effect, is a collateral attack on the title over the property which is registered in the name of Artemio. We cannot countenance this stance of the petitioners, and perforce, must strike it down. Title to a registered land 22 cannot be collaterally attacked. A separate action is necessary to raise the issue of ownership. In accion publiciana, the principal issue is possession, and ownership is merely ancillary thereto. Only in cases where the possession cannot be resolved without resolving the issue of ownership may the trial court delve into the claim of 23 ownership. This rule is enunciated in Refugia v. CA, where the Court declared, viz.: Where the question of who has prior possession hinges on the question of who the real owner of the disputed portion is, the inferior court may resolve the issue of ownership and make a declaration as to who among the contending parties is the real owner. In the same vein, where the resolution of the issue of possession hinges on a determination of the validity and interpretation of the document of title or any other contract on which the claim of possession is premised, the inferior court may likewise pass upon these issues. This is because, and it must be so understood, that any such pronouncement made affecting ownership of the disputed portion is to be regarded merely as provisional, hence, does not bar nor prejudice an action between the same parties involving title to the land. Fourth. Petitioners aver that they are entitled to a new trial due to the failure of their counsel in the proceedings before the RTC to present testimonial and documentary evidence necessary for them to obtain a favorable judgment. They maintain that the failure of their counsel to present these other evidence was due to counsels lingering illness at that time, and therefore, constitutes excusable negligence. It may be reiterated that mistakes of counsel as to the competency of witnesses, the sufficiency and relevancy of evidence, the proper defense, or the burden of proof, as well as his failure to introduce certain evidence or to summon witnesses and to argue the case, are not proper grounds for a new trial, unless the incompetence of counsel be so great that his client is prejudiced and prevented from fairly 24 presenting his case.

In this case, the illness of petitioners counsel and his alleged failure to present additional evidence during the trial of the case do not constitute sufficient ground for a new trial. The 25 Order issued by the trial court in its denial of the motion for new trial filed by petitioners aptly explains the reason why a new trial is unnecessary, viz.: Assuming that Atty. Asinas failed to perform the imputed acts by reason of his ailments, still, the same is insufficient ground to grant a new trial. The evidence on record established the fact that [respondents] and their predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the subject realty for a long time. Their possession was interrupted by [petitioners] who entered the property in [1987] pursuant to a deed of sale between the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan and spouses Bartolome C. Solomon and Teresita Padilla. Considering that this is an accion publiciana and *respondents+ earlier rightful possession of the subject parcel of land has been adequately established, the testimonial and documentary evidence sought to be adduced in a new trial would not adversely affect the findings of the Court. The ownership and possession of the property purchased by the Solomon spouses from the Rural Bank of Pagsanjan could be the subject of an appropriate action. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioners. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 162288 April 4, 2007 MACTAN-CEBU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AUTHORITY, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS, and AIR TRANSPORTATION OFFICE, Petitioners, vs. MILAGROS URGELLO, Respondent. Facts: In 1964, respondent Milagros Urgello and the Civil Aeronautics Administration [CAA] (subsequently known as Bureau of Air Transportation [BAT], then later as the Air Transportation Office [ATO]) entered into a compromise agreement (which stemmed from an expropriation case filed by the CAA) wherein the CAA agreed to purchase Urgellos Lot No. 913-E-3 for P3,105.00 to be used in the expansion of the Lahug Airport in Cebu City, subject to the resolutory condition that in the event that the Republic of the Philippines would no longer use it as an airport, its title or ownership would revert back to respondent or her heirs upon reimbursement of the purchase price of P3,105.00. On April 27, 1966, the Mactan Airport commenced its operations and the Philippine Airlines stopped using the Lahug Airport. Filipinas Airways and Air Manila ceased too to use the Lahug Airport at the end of 1966 and thereafter used the Mactan Airport. By letter of July 8, 1985, respondent Urgello requested the BAT for the reconveyance to her of Lot No. 913-E-3 and she tendered RPB Demand Draft No. 148284 in the amount of P3,105.00. The BAT received the draft, but it did not reconvey the lot, prompting respondent to file on August 9, 1985 a

Complaint for Reconveyance with Damages against it before the RTC of Cebu City, docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-4115. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Urgello. On July 31, 1990, Republic Act No. 6958, the Charter of herein petitioner Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), was signed into law. R.A. 6958 created the MCIAA and transferred to it all the assets of the Lahug Airport. Despite the judgment in CEB-4115, BAT still refused to reconvey to Urgello the property. Other cases were filed by Urgello. In one of these cases a complaint for reconveyance with damages (docketed as CEB-19418) -- Urgello impleaded the MCIAA as one of the defendants. The trial court in this case ruled in favor of Urgello. It declared that the reconveyance of Lot No. 913-E-3 is a solidary obligation of all three (3) defendants Department of Public Works and Highways, MCIAA, and ATO. The ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The MCIAA elevated the case to the Supreme Court. MCIAA claims that since ATO never turned over Lot No. 913-E-3 to it, it cannot be compelled to assume ATOs obligation to reconvey the same. Issue: Has MCIAA assumed ATOs obligation to reconvey Lot No. 913-E-3 to Urgello by virtue of RA No. 6958? Ruling: Yes. Since respondents cause of action against the ATO with regard to Lot No. 913-E-3 refers to its retention of title thereto despite the occurrence of the resolutory condition stipulated in the Conditional Deed of Sale, MCIAAs liability would depend on whether it is ATOs successor-ininterest with respect to the said lot. Section 15 of Republic Act No. 6958 is clear, however, that upon its passage, all existing airport facilities and other properties were thereby transferred to MCIAA, viz: All existing public airport facilities, runways, lands, buildings and other properties, movable or immovable, belonging to or presently administered by the airports, and all assets, powers, rights, interest and privileges relating to airport works or air operations, including all equipment which are necessary for the operation of air navigation, aerodrome control towers, crash, fire, and rescue facilities are hereby transferred to the Authority. Section 17 states that: Upon the transfer to and acceptance by the Authority of the existing physical facilities, intangible assets and completed projects referred to in the preceding sections, all debts, liabilities, and obligations of government agencies or entities concerned in respect of such physical facilities, tangible assets and completed projects within the airports shall likewise be assumed by the Authority. The law must not be read in truncated parts; its provisions must be read in relation to the whole law. It is [a] cardinal rule in statutory construction that a statutes clauses and phrases must not be taken as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part thereof must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts in order to produce a harmonious whole. Section 17 of Republic Act No. 6958 must thus be read vis a viz Section 15 as well as the other provisions of the said law. The "airports" referred to in Section 15 are the "Lahug Air Port" in Cebu City and the "Mactan International Airport in the Province of Cebu," which belonged to the Republic of the Philippines, then under the Air Transportation Office (ATO). It may be reasonable to assume that the term "lands" refer to "lands" in Cebu City then administered by the Lahug Air Port. This section involves a "transfer" of the "lands," among other things, to the petitioner and not just the transfer of the beneficial use thereof, with the ownership being retained by the Republic of the Philippines. This "transfer" is actually an absolute conveyance of the ownership thereof. Thus, Republic Act No. 6958 transferred Lot No. 913-E-3 to MCIAA. MCIAA is thus bound, as ATOs successor-in-interest, to reconvey Lot No. 913-E-3. And it is solidarily liable with its co-petitioners to pay rentals in arrears over the said lot. G.R. No. 164195 (APO FRUITS CORPORATION and HIJO PLANTATION, INC. v. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS and LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES) AFC and Hijo Plantation Inc. were owners of 5 parcels of land (1338.60 has.) located in San Isidro, Tagum, Davao. On 12 October 1995, the two voluntarily offered to sell the properties to the DAR. DAR offered P86.9M for AFCs land and P164.40 for HPIs land. AFC, HPI and DAR cannot agree on a price hence the Complaint for Determination of Just Compensation was filed before the DAR Adjudication Board on 14 February 1997. The DARAB failed to render a decision on the valuation of the land for three years. But nevertheless, the government deposited P26M into AFCs account and P45M into HPIs account as down payment in 1996. The DAR also caused the titling of the land in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. Later, titles were given to farmers under the CARP. Due to DARABs failure to adjudicate, AFC and HPI filed a complaint for determination of just compensation before the RTC of Davao which rendered a decision in favor of AFC and HPI. The RTC ruled, based on the reports it gathered from assessors, that the purchase price should be higher than what was offered by DAR; that the purchase price should be at P103.33/ sq. m; that DAR is to pay AFC and HPI a total of P1.38B. DAR appealed to the CA, the CA reversed the RTC. ISSUE: Whether or not there was just compensation. HELD: No. AFCs and HPIs land were taken in 1996 without just compensation. DARAB, an agency of the DAR which was commissioned by law to determine just compensation, sat on the cases for three years, which was the reason that AFC and HPI filed the cases before the RTC. The RTCs finding is to be sustained as it based its ruling on evidence. DAR was given chance to support its ruling on why the purchase price should

be at a lower amount but DAR failed to present such evidence. To allow the taking of landowners properties, and to leave them empty-handed while government withholds compensation is undoubtedly oppressive. The concept of just compensation embraces not only the correct determination of the amount to be paid to the owners of the land, but also the payment of the land within a reasonable time from its taking. Without prompt payment, compensation cannot be considered just inasmuch as the property owner is being made to suffer the consequences of being immediately deprived of his land while being made to wait for a decade or more before actually receiving the amount necessary to cope with his loss. Just compensation is defined as the full and fair equivalent of the property taken from its owner by the expropriator. It has been repeatedly stressed by this Court that the measure is not the takers gain but the owners loss. The word just is used to intensify the meaning of the word compensation to convey the idea that the equivalent to be rendered for the property to be taken shall be real, substantial, full, and ample. The power of expropriation is by no means absolute (as indeed no power is absolute). The limitation is found in the constitutional injunction that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation and in the abundant jurisprudence that has evolved from the interpretation of this principle. Basically, the requirements for a proper exercise of the power are: (1) public use and (2) just compensation. Section 57 of Republic Act No. 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) provides: SEC. 57. Special Jurisdiction. The Special Agrarian Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners, and the prosecution of all criminal offenses under this Act. The Rules of Court shall apply to all proceedings before the Special Agrarian Courts, unless modified by this Act Section 17 of Republic Act No. 6657, which is particularly relevant, providing as it does the guideposts for the determination of just compensation, reads, as follows: Sec. 17. Determination of Just Compensation. In determining just compensation, the cost of acquisition of the land, the current value of like properties, its nature, actual use and income, the sworn valuation by the owner, the tax declarations, and the assessment made by government assessors shall be considered. The social and economic benefits contributed by the farmers and the farm-workers and by the Government to the property as well as the nonpayment of taxes or loans secured from any government financing institution on the said land shall be considered as additional factors to determine its valuation. Note should be taken that in said Appraisal Report, permanent improvements on AFCs and HPIs lands have been introduced and found existing, e.g., all weather-road network, airstrip, pier, irrigation system, packing houses, among others, wherein substantial amount of capital funding have been invested in putting them up. The agricultural properties of AFC and HPI are just a stones throw from the residential and/or industrial sections of Tagum City, a fact DAR should never ignore. The market value of the property (plus the consequential damages less consequential benefits) is determined by such factors as the value of like properties, its actual or potential use, its size, shape and location. G.R. No. L-48612 January 27, 1983 CRESENCIO ESPEJO, petitioner, vs. MARTINO MALATE and COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF LEYTE, BRANCH I, respondents. VASQUEZ, J.: This is a petition for review on certiorari of the order of the Court of First Instance of Leyte in Civil Case No. 5036, dismissing the case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction after the parties had rested their respective cases. On January 31, 1974, the plaintiff Cresencio Espejo filed said civil case against defendant Martino Malate entitled "Quieting of Title to and Possession of Real Property and Cancellation of Tax Declaration" before the Court of First Instance of Leyte, Branch I then presided by Judge Gregorio Collantes. The complaint alleged, among others, "that the plaintiff is the absolute owner and actual possessor of a parcel of coconut land containing an area of 14 hectares, more or less, and assessed at P14,250.00, situated in Barrio New Kawayan, Tacloban City, which is a portion of Lot No. 5329, Tacloban Cad. No. 220 ... "that the plaintiff acquired said parcel of land by purchase on May 13, 1963 from the brothers Amando and Saturnino Saosas and since then and up to the present time he has been in possession thereof in good faith and with just title, in concept of owner, uninterruptedly and adversely against the claims of any individual person or persons whomsoever, paying land taxes due thereon, and planting coconut trees and introducing thereon other improvements"; "that the plaintiff's Possession tacked to that of his predecessors-in-interest over the said land has been more than forty (40) years, and to proclaim this possession, the plaintiff had this land declared in his name under Tax Declaration No. 18316 (which starts with the year 1962) on May 15, 1963"; "that the defendant Martino Malate, a former tenant of the plaintiff over the land, with evident bad faith, without-the knowledge, much less consent, of the plaintiff, on December 29, 1964, had a portion of the land declared in his name under Tax Declaration No. 19484 (which starts with the year 1963); that the above-cited tax declaration of the defendant, embracing as it does a portion included within the limits of the land described in paragraph 3 of the complaint, coupled with the defendant's claim of ownership of 9.8 hectares therein as described in tax declaration and his attempt to assume possession thereof by clearing the land and gathering the coconut therefrom, the latest of which was in December, 1973, has cast a cloud upon the ownership and possession by the plaintiff of the lot described in paragraph 3 of the complaint"; "that plaintiff's Tax Declaration No. 18316, being based on a bona fide claim of ownership and actual possession which started on May 13, 1963, and being the older tax declaration, should prevail over

Tax Declaration No. 19484 of the defendant; the cancellation of the latter tax declaration is in order"; "that a judicial declaration as to who is the owner and entitled to possession of the parcel of land is imperative to forestall breaches of the peace, bodily injury to persons, mayhem or perhaps even loss of life"; and "that the plaintiff is entitled to have the cloud cast upon his ownership and lawful possession of the land by the defendant removed thru a judicial declaration that the plaintiff is the owner thereof and legally entitled to the possession thereto." (Rollo, page 27, Record on Appeal, pp. 25.) The defendant Martino Malate, on February 20, 1974, answered the complaint denying specifically all the allegations therein and counter-alleged "that he is the absolute and exclusive owner of the land and had been in actual and physical possession thereof, in the concept of an owner since 1926 introducing improvement thereon." He also alleged affirmative special defenses and counterclaims. On November 4, 1974, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the ground: "(a) that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject of the action or suit; and (b) that the court has no jurisdiction over the nature of the action or suit. With respect to the first ground, the defendant argued "that the subject matter of the above-entitled case is a portion of Lot No. 5329, Tacloban Cad. No. 220, which is a public land hence, its disposition is governed by the Public Land Act. Section 4 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, provides that 'subject to said control, the Director of Lands shall have direct control of survey, classification, lease, sale or any other form of concession or disposition and management of the lands of the public domain, and his decision as to questions of facts shall be conclusive when approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.' It is clear that the Director of Lands has the jurisdiction over said subject matter, being a public land. " (Rollo, p. 27, Record on Appeal, pp. 16-17.) The defendant further concluded that the plaintiff had not exhausted the administrative remedy available to him of filing the claim in the Bureau of Lands. As to the second ground, the defendant argued that the action of the plaintiff was for forcible entry, and was not properly filed, because when the plaintiff filed the case in January, 1974, it was only one year from the accrual of the cause of action, which was in December, 1973, as may be gleaned from the complaint; and that being a forcible entry case, it must be brought in the proper municipal or city court, and not in the court of first instance. On November 18, 1974, the plaintiff filed an opposition to motion to dismiss arguing that the respondent Court has jurisdiction over the land in dispute in the matter of deciding as to who, between the plaintiff or the defendant, has the better right of possession. Plaintiff points out that the question of who has prior possession of the land is alleged in paragraphs 4 to 9 of the complaint, paragraphs 3 and 4 of the answer and paragraph 2 of the affirmative defenses; that he has alleged that his possession tacked to that of his predecessors-in-interest has been for more than forty years, while on the other hand, the defendant has averred that he has been in possession of the land in question for more than forty- seven years; that the question presented, therefore, is as to who of them has prior possession over the controverted land; and that the action, therefore, is an accion publiciana over which the respondent Court has jurisdiction, as ruled by the Supreme Court in Rallon vs. Ruiz, 28 SCRA 332. The respondent Court, on December- 5, 1974, denied the motion to dismiss. On July 16, 1975, it issued an order requiring the plaintiff to amend the complaint in order to conform with their claim of possession regarding the property. On July 31,1975, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint eliminating therefrom the allegations as to his claim of ownership, and emphasizing instead his claim of possession. The defendant filed his opposition to the motion to admit amended complaint on the following grounds. A. That the amendment sought to be made is a complete change of the theory of the case both in the complaint and the evidence so far adduced; B. That the amended complaint conferred jurisdiction on the Honorable Court but before the said amendment the Honorable Court did not have jurisdiction to try the case as envisioned on the original complaint and the evidence so far adduced; and C. That court cannot admit the said amended complaint for having no jurisdiction to act on it and that the amended complaint does not conform to the evidence so far adduced by the plaintiff. On August 11, 1975, the Court issued an order admitting the amended complaint reasoning out as follows: ... This court believes that the plaintiff wanted to emphasize who has the prior possession of the land in question, the plaintiff or the defendant. It is admitted that the land in question is a public land, and that the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources have jurisdiction over the disposition of the public land conformably with Section 4 of Commonwealth Act No. 141. The question of ownership will not be decided by this court. The only question that will be decided by this court in this case is, who has the prior possession of the public land in question. Over this question as to who has prior possession of the land in question and, therefore, entitled to the exclusion of the other, this court has jurisdiction as shown by the decision of the Supreme Court ... (Rollo, p. 27, Record on Appeal, pp. 45-46.) For the second time, on September 27, 1975, another motion to dismiss was filed by the defendant on the ground "that the Honorable Court has no jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the case as the plaintiff has not exhausted the

administrative remedies afforded." It was argued that "there is a pending administrative investigation of the subjectmatter of the case at bar between the plaintiff and defendant and, therefore, the instant case should await the resolution of the administrative case." The defendant was referring to a case wherein he is a protestant, in the administrative proceeding entitled Cresencio Espejo vs. H. A. No. 206783 (E121507) Felipe Mendiola Pastor( transferee), Delia Pastor (transferee). The plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion to dismiss, arguing "that the second motion to dismiss filed by the defendant was based on the same ground as that of the first motion to dismiss as well as his opposition to the motion to admit amended complaint; and that the pendency of the case in the Bureau of Lands is no bar to the present action involving merely the question of who has prior possession of the land in question. " The court a quo denied the second motion to dismiss in an order dated December 16, 1975. On June 18, 1976, after the plaintiff had rested his case, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss on demurrer to evidence reiterating the grounds raised in his two previous motions to dismiss. The respondent Court, thru Judge Jesus N. Borromeo (temporarily presiding the sala vacated. by the retirement of Judge Collantes), on September 10, 1976, issued an order denying the defendant's motion for judgment on demurrer to evidence. After the defendant presented his evidence, the court, thru respondent Judge Jose P. Arro ,issued an order dated January 23, 1978 dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and declaring the proceedings taken therein as null and void. In this appeal, the plaintiff-petitioner raises the following assignment of errors: I. The trial court erred in holding that, when the court issued an order to amend the complaint so that the issue of ownership is deleted from the original complaint and for the amended complaint to substantially alter the theory of the' tile complaint fromrecovery of the amended complaint does violence to the provision of Section 3, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court. II. The trial court erred in holdieng that it is without jurisdiction and declaring the proceeding in the case null and void. The defendant-respondent commented that what was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction by the court a quo was an action for reinvindicatoria or action for ownership; that the action being for ownership or accion reinvindicatoria is shown by the contents of the prayers of the complaint itself; and that since the original complaint failed to allege prior possession, the lower court has no power to place in the original complaint the theory of prior possession by a mere stroke of an order to amend the complaint. Both parties were required to submit their respective memoranda. Only the petitioner did, and the case was submitted for decision without any memorandum for the respondents. We agree with the petitioner that the question of who had prior possession of the land was brought out in the original complaint. An examination thereof would reveal that there it contained enough allegations of facts constitutive of the issue of prior possession The allegations relating to the length and nature of possession by the plaintiff of the land in question, the tacking of the plaintiff's possession to that of his predecessors-in-interest; the adverse claim by the defendant; and as to whose tax declaration should prevail, support the contention of the petitioner that the question of "who has prior possession over the controverted land and is, therefore, entitled to such possession to the exclusion 'of the other, is contained in the original complaint. While the said complaint had categorically alleged a claim of ownership, this Court had had the occasion to declare such kind of a complaint as an accion publiciana, and to regard the allegation of ownership therein as a "mere surplusage." In Molina vs. De Bacud 19 SCRA 956, "(i)n her complaint before the Court of First Instance of the province (Isabela), respondent alleged that she was the absolute owner and possessor of these lands, having inherited them from her mother, Catalina Siccuan; that in her lifetime her mother was in 'continuous, public, quiet and adverse possession' of the lands, in the concept of an owner, and that in 1944 Julian Molina, employing violence, force, strategy and intimidation,' seized possession of Lot 1 and a part of Lot 2 and cut the trees found therein. As relief, she asked the Court to declare her the owner of the lands and to order Molina to deliver to her the lands and products and pay her damages. The petitioners therein contended "that after finding that the lands in question are public lands, the trial Court should have dismissed this case because under Section 4 of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141), the authority to dispose of public lands is vested exclusively in the Director of Lands. We struck down said argument as without merit because "the authority given to the Land Department over the disposition of public land does not exclude the courts from their jurisdiction over possessory actions, the public character of the land notwithstanding. This is such an action and the fact that on her complaint respondent claimed the lands in ownership did not change the nature of her action. The allegation of ownership should be regarded as a mere surplusage. In Diaz vs. Macalinao, 102 Phil. 999, involving substantially similar facts, this Court ruled that ... (t)he action presented is not one of ownership, although plaintiffs allege ownership and pray that the land be declared in their favor... The allegation of ownership and the prayer therefor may, therefore, be considered as a mere surplusage and this case be considered as an action for possession. In Reyes vs. Sta. Maria, 91 SCRA 164, an action to quiet title and to recover possession, it was held that ... (s)uch an action was clearly an accion publiciana for the recovery of the right to possess (possession de jure (if not an accion reivindicatoria) falling within the lower court's jurisdiction....

The lower court was clearly in error in issuing its dismissal order on its mistaken notion 'that the allegations of facts are merely constitutive of an action for unlawful detainer' since the complaint shows on its face that respondents' refusal to deliver possession of the property was due to their adverse claim of ownership of the same property and their counter allegation that they bought the same ... and, therefore, petitioners' jurisdiction was clearly one for recovery of their right to possess the property (possession de jure ... .)' (See also Medina vs. Valdellon, 63 SCRA 278; Ledesma v Marcos, 9 Phil. 618.) Scrutinizing the allegations in the original complaint in the light of foregoing pronouncements of this Court, the conclusion comes easy that while the question of ownership was raised in the original complaint, the said pleading likewise placed at issue the question of who had the better or prior right of possession. It has been a recognized principle of law in our jurisdiction that the courts have jurisdiction to determine who has prior possession of public land and entitled to be protected in such possession. (Rallon vs. Ruiz, Jr., 28 SCRA 332; Pitargue vs. Sorella, 92 Phil 5; Molina vs. De Bacud 19 SCRA 956; Villaflor vs. Reyes, 22 SCRA 385; Madamba vs. Araneta, 106 Phil. 103; Bueno vs. Patanao, 9 SCRA 794: Angcao vs. Punzalan, 12 SCRA 706; and Aguilon vs. Bohol, 79 SCRA 482.) Section 15 of Rule 6 of the Rules of Court provides that "all pleadings shall be liberally construed so as to do substantial justice." The original complaint of the petitioner, entitled, "Quieting of Title to and Possession of Real Property and Cancellation of Tax Declaration" could properly be construed as a plenary action to recover possession or an accion publiciana in addition to its being one for recovery of ownership. As the petitioner correctly argued, "there were two (2) issues brought out in the original complaint the principal one, the issue of ownership over the land in dispute, and the secondary but no less important one, the issue of who has prior possession thereof. Over the first issue, the trial court undoubtedly has no jurisdiction, the land in question being a public land, but over the second, the trial court undoubtedly has jurisdiction. The lower court, therefore, erroneously held that it is devoid of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action in declaring that the petitioner's action is solely to quiet title or to recover ownership of real property.1wph1.t The issue of who has the prior possession being unmistakably alleged in the original complaint, the trial court acquired jurisdiction over the case insofar as said issue is concerned. Jurisdiction of the courts is conferred and governed by law (Leoquinco vs. Canada Dry Bottling Co., 37 SCRA 535), and is determined by the pleadings (Pineda vs. CFI of Davao, 1 SCRA 1020), whether it be jurisdiction over the subject, matter or jurisdiction over the nature of the action. "Jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter ... should not be made to depend on the literal averments of the complaint-indirectly on the ability of the parties to word or phrase their pleadings where the actual issues are evident from the record of the case." (Leoquinco vs. Canada Dry Bottling Co., supra). The trial court having acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter as well as over the nature of the action on the original complaint, it could validly issue an order to amend the original complaint. The deletion of the issue of ownership from the original complaint and the amended complaint having limited the issue to prior possession did not substantially alter the theory of the complaint. In determining whether a different cause of action is introduced by amendments to the complaint, what is to be ascertained is whether the defendants shall be required o answer for a liability or legal obligation wholly different from that which was stated in the original complaint. Any amendment will not be considered as stating a new cause of action if the fact alleged in the amended complaint show substantially the same wrong with respect to the same transaction, or if what is alleged refer to the same matter but are more fully and differently stated, or where averment which were implied and made in express, and the subject of the controversy or the liability sought to be enforced remains the same. (Rubio vs. Mariano, 49 SCRA 319.) Besides, a superficial examination of the original complaint, and the amended complaint would show that both pleadings are virtually Identical. The only difference was that the words "absolute owner" were delete from the original complaint, and "prior right of possession" emphasized and particularized in the ammended complaint. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding the new reglementary period given to the defendant within, which to answer the amended complaint, he opted not to file a new answer and instead relied on his original answer. ACCORDINGLY, the petition for review on certiorari is hereby granted. The order dated January 23, 1978 of the respondent Judge is hereby annulled and set-aside, and the trial court is ordered to render judgment on the merits of the case. Costs against private respondent. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 171277 February 15, 2007 ALMARIO BEJAR (Deceased), as substituted by his heirs CARMELITA BEJAR, ALFREDO BEJAR, GREGORIA B. DANCEL, BRENDA B. MIANO, LOURDES B. BENDIJO, and SUSANA B. CAMILO, Petitioners, vs. MARICEL CALUAG, Respondent. DECISION SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.: Before us is the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as 1 amended, assailing the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 23, 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 85430. The factual backdrop of the case is as follows: On August 2, 2002, the late Almario Bejar, substituted by his heirs, herein petitioners, filed with the Metropolitan Trial

Court (MeTC), Branch 12, Manila, a complaint for illegal detainer and damages against Maricel Caluag, herein respondent, docketed as Civil Case No. 173262-CV. The allegations therein are partly reproduced hereunder: xxx 4. Plaintiff is the owner of a residential house made of light materials consisting of wood and galvanized iron roof built on government-owned land located at 777 Coral Street, Tondo, Manila. 5. On December 21, 1981, plaintiff sold one-half (1/2) portion of the said residential house with an area of twenty-two feet in length and fifteen feet in width to Fernando Mijares in the amount of Eleven Thousand (P11,000.00) Pesos x x x 6. Subsequently, plaintiff became the owner in fee simple of the government land where his residential house was built including the one-half portion he sold to Fernando Mijares, located at 777 Coral Street, Tondo, Manila, evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 156220 registered and entered in the Register of Deeds of Manila on August 30, 1983 x x x 7. On September 2, 1991, Fernando Mijares, sold his residential house to Maricel Caluag with residence address at 1391 R.A. Reyes St., Tondo, Manila to be used as a warehouse for her business x x x 8. Plaintiff badly needs the portion of his land occupied by the defendant to build a residential house for use of his family; 9. On April 9, 2002, plaintiff through counsel sent a formal demand letter to defendant for the latter to vacate the portion of the property situated at 777 Coral Street, Tondo, Manila within ten (10) days from receipt of the demand letter x x x 10. Despite formal demand from the plaintiff on April 19, 2002, defendant failed and refused and still fails and refuses to vacate said portion of the property owned by the plaintiff located at 777 Coral Street, Tondo, Manila to the damage and prejudice of plaintiff. xxx On October 15, 2002, respondent filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the MeTC has no jurisdiction over the case as it involves the issue of ownership. On February 10, 2003, respondent filed a supplement to her motion to dismiss alleging that pursuant to the "Kasulatan ng Bilihan ng Bahay," Almario Bejar sold to Fernando Mijares both his house and the entire lot on which it was constructed, citing paragraph 4 of the "Kasulatan" which reads: Na alang alang sa halagang LABING ISANG LIBO PISO (P11,000.00) kuartang Filipino na kasasalukuyang gastahin na aking tinanggap ng buong kasiyahang loob kay FERNANDO MIJARES x x x ay aking ipinagbili, ibinigay, isinulit at inilipat ng buo kong pagaari na kalahating harapan ng bahay ko naipaliwanag sa itaas at ang pagbibili kong ito ay kasama ang lahat kong karapatan sa lupa kung may karapatan ako na 2 kinatitirikan ng bahay. On June 16, 2003, the MeTC issued an Order dismissing Civil Case No. 173262-CV for want of jurisdiction, holding that the actual issue between the parties is the enforceability of the subsequent sale by Fernando Mijares to respondent of the subject property; and that, therefore, jurisdiction properly lies with the Regional Trial Court (RTC). On appeal, the RTC, Branch 47, Manila, on January 5, 2004, rendered its Decision reversing the Order of dismissal of the MeTC. The RTC held that the issue in Civil Case No. 173262CV is who has better possession of the disputed property. The RTC then directed the MeTC to hear the case on the merits. Respondent seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied. Respondent then filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 85430. In its Decision dated May 23, 2005, the Court of Appeals reversed the RTC judgment, thus: WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 47, Manila, in Civil Case No. 03-107631 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The order, dated 16 June 2003, of the Metropolitan Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 12. Manila in Civil Case No. 173262-CV, dismissing Almario Bejars complaint for lack of jurisdiction is hereby REINSTATED. Let this case be remanded to the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 47, Manila for further proceedings pursuant to Section 8, Rule 40 of the Revised Rules of Court. SO ORDERED. The appellate court held that the allegations of the complaint do not make out a case for illegal detainer or forcible entry. Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the above Decision but in its Resolution dated January 27, 2006, the Court of Appeals denied the same. Hence, the instant petition. For our resolution is the issue of whether the MeTC has jurisdiction over Civil Case No. 173262-CV for illegal detainer. There are four (4) remedies available to one who has been deprived of possession of real property. These are: (1) an action for unlawful detainer; (2) a suit for forcible entry; (3) accion publiciana; and (4) accion reinvidicatoria. In unlawful detainer and forcible entry cases, the only issue to be determined is who between the contending parties has 3 better possession of the contested property. Pursuant to Section 33 (2) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7691, it is the Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts in Cities, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts that exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over these cases. The proceedings are governed by the Rule on Summary Procedure, as amended. By contrast, an accion publiciana, also known as accion 4 plenaria de posesion, is a plenary action for recovery of possession in an ordinary civil proceeding in order to determine the better and legal right to possess, 5 independently of title. There are two distinctions between the summary ejectment suits (unlawful detainer and forcible entry) and accion

publiciana. The first lies in the period within which each one can be instituted. Actions for unlawful detainer and forcible entry must be filed within one year from the date possession is lost, while an accion publiciana may be filed only after the expiration of that period but within the period prescribed in the statute of limitations. The second distinction involves jurisdiction. An accion publiciana may only be filed with the RTC, while a complaint for unlawful detainer or forcible entry may only be filed with the first level courts earlier An accion reinvidicatoria, unlike the three remedies previously discussed, involves not only possession, but ownership of the property. The plaintiff in this action sets up title in him and prays that he be declared the owner and be 6 given possession thereof. Otherwise put, the plaintiff alleges ownership of real property and prays for recovery of such ownership. Under Article 434 of the Civil Code, two things must be alleged and proven in an accion reinvidicatoria: (1) the identity of the property and (2) plaintiffs title to it. Sole and exclusive jurisdiction over cases for accion reinvidicatoria is vested in the RTC. We are guided by the elementary principle that what determines the nature of an action as well as which court has jurisdiction over it are the allegations of the complaint and 7 the character of the relief sought. To make out a suit for illegal detainer or forcible entry, the complaint must contain two mandatory allegations: (1) prior physical possession of the property by the plaintiff; and (2) deprivation of said possession by another by means of force, 8 intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. This latter requirement implies that the possession of the disputed property by the intruder has been unlawful from the very start. Then, the action must be brought within one year from the date of actual entry to the property or, in cases where stealth was employed, from the date the plaintiff learned 9 about it. An examination of the allegations in the complaint in Civil Case No. 173262-CV does not show that Almario Bejar was deprived of his possession of the property by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. Here, the case is for unlawful detainer. The complaint clearly alleges that Almario Bejar sold one-half portion of his house to Fernando Mijares; that the latter, in turn, sold the same portion of the house to respondent; that eventually, Almario Bejar became the owner in fee simple of the entire lot where his house was built; that he needs the portion of the lot occupied by respondent for the construction of a house for the use of his family; and that despite demand, respondent failed and still fails to vacate the premises. From the records, it appears that Almario Bejar filed his complaint within one year from the date of his last demand upon respondent to vacate the contested portion of the land. A suit for unlawful detainer will prosper if the complaint sufficiently alleges that there is a withholding of possession or 10 refusal to vacate the property by a defendant. The cause of action arises from the expiration or termination of the defendants right to continue possession which is upon plaintiffs demand to vacate the premises. The complaint for unlawful detainer must then be instituted within one year 11 from the date of the last demand. All these incidents are present in the instant case. Considering that the allegations in Almario Bejars complaint in Civil Case No. 173262-CV show that it is one for illegal detainer, hence, it is the MeTC, Branch 12, Manila which has jurisdiction over Civil Case No. 173262-CV. WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition and REVERSE the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals. The RTC Decision is AFFIRMED. Let the records of this case be remanded to the MeTC, Branch 12, Manila, for further proceedings with dispatch. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 116192 November 16, 1995 EUFEMIA SARMIENTO, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and GENEROSA S. CRUZ, respondents. FACTS: Cruz was the owner of a parcel of land. Adjacent to this lot is one wherein Sarmiento had a house built on. On trying to cause the relocation of her lot, Cruz found out that Sarmiento was encroaching on her property. When Cruz talked to Sarmiento about constructing a new fence, which will cover her true property, the latter vehemently refused to do so and threatened Cruz with legal action. For fear of being sued in court, she sought judicial relief. The trial court decided in favor of Cruz. Sarmiento tried to assail this decision by saying that the issue was on ownership of the portion of land and thus, the action should have been an accion reivindicatoria and not forcible entry. HELD: A careful reading of the facts averred in said complaint filed by Cruz reveals that the action is neither of forcible entry nor of unlawful detainer but essentially involves a boundary dispute, which must be resolved in an accion reivindicatoria on the issue of ownership over the portion of a lot. Forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases are distinct actions. Cruz cannot belatedly claim that petitioners possession of the controverted portion was by mere tolerance. The complaint didnt characterize Sarmientos alleged entry on the landwhether legal or illegal. The complaint admitted also of the fact that the fence had already preexisted on the lot when she acquired the same. This was definitely not a situation obtained in and gave rise to an ejectment suit for two reasons. First, forcible entry into the land is an open challenge to the right of the lawful possessor, the violation of which right authorizes the speedy redress in the inferior court provided for in the Rules. Second, if a forcible entry action in the court is allowed after the lapse of a number of years, then the result may well be no action of forcible entry can really prescribe. No matter how long such defendant is in physical possession, the plaintiff may just throw in a demand, file a suit in court and summarily throw him out of the land.

[CA-G.R. CV NO. 79196, September 05, 2006] SPOUSES ROLANDO C. ABAQUIN & TRINIDAD R. LACUATA, REPRESENTED BY THEIR ATTORNEY-IN-FACT ILDEFONSA LACUATA PELINDARIO, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES, VS. SPOUSES ROLANDO ICASAS & EVELYN ICASAS, DEFENDANTSAPPELLANTS. DECISION BATO, JR., J.: On appeal is the Decision dated May 8, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Paraaque City, Branch 274, in Civil Case No. 98-0447, an accion publiciana case involving a parcel of land located at the corner of Sampaguita and Everlasting Streets, United Paraaque Subdivision IV, Barangay Marcelo, Paraaque City. Spouses Rolando C. Abaquin and Trinidad R. Lacuata, (hereinafter referred to as the appellees), are the registered owners of the disputed lot as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. (S-27387) 95054 and declared for taxation purposes under Tax Declaration No. E-006-09253. Appellees claim that sometime in 1983, when they were already residing abroad, spouses Rolando Icasas and Evelyn Icasas (appellants for brevity), occupied the said parcel of land without their consent and built thereon a carinderia. Appellees discovered the unauthorized occupancy of the appellants sometime in 1990 when they visited the Philippines. Through their lawyer, appellees demanded that appellants vacate the same. In 1998, appellees again visited the Philippines and found that appellants were still occupying their lot. Acting through their counsel, appellees again sent another demand letter to appellants on March 4, 1998 regarding their unauthorized occupancy and gave them the opportunity to buy the lot at the prevailing market value. Receiving no response to their March 4, 1998 demand letter, appellees sent two successive letters to the appellants reiterating their demand for the appellants to vacate from the lot in question. When appellees final demand letter was not heeded by the appellants, the instant case was instituted by the appellees before the trial court on November 24, 1998. In answer to the appellees complaint, appellants claimed that they are the tenants of the so-called Rodriquez Estate which is the real owner of the subject parcel of land, hence, appellees title over the disputed lot is spurious. The appellants did not show-up during the pre-trial conference. Thus, on motion of the appellees, the trial court declared the appellants as in default and appellees were allowed to adduce their evidence ex-parte. After due proceedings, the assailed decision in favor of the appellees was promulgated with the following dispositive portion:

Wherefore, the foregoing considered, decision is hereby rendered for the plaintiffs and against the defendants ordering the latter, and/or their representatives to ;(1) Vacate the parcel of land described and covered by Transfer Certificate Of Title No. (S-27387) 95054 and to surrender possession thereof to the plaintiffs; 2. (2) Pay the plaintiffs P1,000.00 a month for and as rentals on reasonable compensation for the use of the subject lot from the date of demand in August, 1990 until they vacate the same; (3) Pay the plaintiffs the sum of P50,000.0 and P2,000.00 per Court appearance by way of attorneys fees; (4) Pay the costs of suit. SO ORDERED. Hence this appeal wherein appellants contend that: The Court a quo erred: WHEN IT HELD: 1. That the plaintiffs were able to prove the ownership of the lot in question by being the registered owner as shown in TCT# (S-227387) 95054. 2. That Tax Declaration No. E-006-09243 proves the ownership of the land in question. 3. That plaintiffs were able to prove that defendants occupied the property in 1983. 4. The Order dated November 5, 2002 submitting the case for resolution due to the failure of the defendants and their counsel to appear on the scheduled date of hearing, November 5, 2002, has no proof of receipt of the 3 notice/order setting the hearing on the aforesaid date. The focal point of this appeal is to determine who between the parties has the better right to possess the subject property. Accion publiciana, which is a plenary action to recover possession, is proper where the issue is who has the better and legal right to possess or to whom possession de jure 4 pertains. In the case at bar, after a scrutiny of the evidence before us, we affirm the trial courts decision that the appellees have the better right to be in possession of the disputed lot. Appellants defense that the appellees title to the disputed lot was acquired through fraud and is therefore spurious must fail for the simple reason that the validity of a Torrens Title cannot be assailed collaterally. In Ybaez vs. 5 Intermediate Appellate Court, the Supreme Court reiterated the doctrine on the indefeasibility of a Torrens Title in this wise:

It was erroneous for petitioners to question the Torrens Original Certificate of Title issued to private respondent over Lot No. 986 in Civil Case No. 671, an ordinary civil action for recovery of possession filed by the registered owner of the said lot, x x x. Such a defense partakes of the nature of a collateral attack against a certificate of title brought under the operation of the Torrens system of registration pursuant to Section 122 of the Land Registration Act, now Section 103 of P.D. 1259. The case law on the matter does not allow a collateral attack on the Torrens certificate of title on the ground of actual fraud.11 The rule now finds expression in Section 48 of P.D. 1529 otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. The certificate of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein. After the expiration of the one (1) year period from the issuance of the decree of registration upon which it is based, it becomes incontrovertible. The settled rule is that a decree of registration and the certificate of title issued pursuant thereto may be attacked on the ground of actual fraud within one (1) year from the date of its entry and such an attack must be direct and not by a collateral proceeding. The validity of the certificate of title in this regard can be threshed out only in an action expressly filed for the 6 purpose. In fine, whatever right of possession appellants may have over the disputed property cannot prevail over that of appellees because appellants are not the registered owners of the disputed property, while appellees are. If, as appellants alleged, fraud had vitiated the issuance of TCT No. (S-27387) 95054 in appellees name, then their remedy is not this present appeal attacking collaterally by way of an affirmative defense such Torrens Title. Indeed, the longstanding rule is that the person who has a Torrens Title over a land is entitled 7 to possession thereof. Appellants argument that the appellees right to possess the disputed lot has already prescribed must likewise fail. The 8 case of Cutanda vs. Heirs of Roberto Cutanda cited by the appellants wherein the Supreme Court ruled that the remedy of accion publiciana must be availed of within ten years from dispossession, is not applicable in the present case. In the Cutanda case, the subject realty was an unregistered land while the present case involves a land registered under the Torrens System. Instead, what is applicable to the present case is the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Tuason 9 10 & Co. vs. Aguirre cited in the case of Mateo vs. Diaz that an action to recover possession of a registered land never prescribes in view of the provision of Section 44 of Act No. 496 to the effect that no title to registered land in derogation to that of a registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. As a last ditch effort to achieve their cause, appellants contend that they were not able to present their evidence in the trial court because of the actuations of their former lawyer. Hence, they were not given their day in court. Appellants also contend that there is no evidence to prove that their former lawyer indeed received the notice of hearing scheduled on November 5, 2002. First, it has long been settled that a client is bound by the action of his counsel in the conduct of a case and cannot be heard to complain that the result might have been different 11 had he proceeded differently. We see no reason to depart from this settled rule. Second, under Rule 131, Section 3(v) of the Rules of Court, there is a presumption that a letter duly directed and mailed was received in the regular course of the mail. In the present case, the bare denial of the appellants that there is doubt whether their former lawyer received the November 5, 2002 notice of hearing cannot prevail over the ruling of the trial court that appellants lawyer was notified through registered mail as evidenced by Registry Receipt No. 0026155 dated October 24, 2002. Third, even if we consider the evidence of the appellants in reviewing this case, just the same, we still rule in favor of the appellees for reasons already discussed above. Fourth, by virtue of this appeal, appellants cannot now bewail that they have been deprived of their day in court. WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated May 8, 2003 rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Paraaque City, Branch 274, is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.