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SPOUSES SABITSANA V.

MUERTIGUI (c) That Spouses should respect


G.R. 181359, AUGUST 5, 2013 Juanito’s title over the lot
(d) Claim for moral and exemplary
damages
TOPIC: DEALINGS OF UNREGISTERED  Answer with Counterclaim of petitioners
LANDS asserted mainly that the sale between
FACTS: Garcia and Juanito was null and void for
 Sept 2, 1981 – Alberto Garcia executed absence of marital consent (Garcia’s
an unnotarized Deed of Sale in favor of wife). More importantly, they insisted
respondent Juanito Muertegi over a that the RTC of Naval, Biliran did not
7,500 sqm parcel of unregistered land have jurisdiction over the case which
located in Dalutan Island, Talahid, involved title to or interest in a parcel of
Almeira, Biliran, Leyte del Norte covered land which has an assessed value of
by Tax Declaration no. 1996 issued in merely P1230.00.
1985 in Garcia’s name.  Evidence and testimonies during trial:
 Juanito’s father Domingo and brother Muertegis: Atty. Sabitsana was the
Domingo Jr. took possession of the lots family lawyer of Muertegi at the time
and planted thereon coconut and ipil-ipil Garcia sold the lot to Juanito and that as
trees. They also paid the real property such, he was consulted by the family
taces on the lots for the years 1980 up before the sale was executed. After such
to 1998. alleged sale, Domingo Sr. took actual
 1991 – Garcia sold the lot to the possession of the lot.
Muertegi Family lawyer, Atty. Clemencio
Sabitsana through a notarized deed of Sabitsana: After conducting
sale. The deed was registered and investigations regarding the lot, he
eventually issued in Atty. Sabitsana’s concluded that such sale was not
name. recorded due to the fact that the
 As result, both Atty. Sabitsana and document of the sale was missing. He
Juanito’s family (brother and father) discovered that the lot was still in the
have been paying real estate taxes on name of Garcia. Therefore, he
the property. concluded that the Muertegui’s were
 When Domingo (father Muertegi) passed merely bluffing and that they probably
away, his heirs applied for registration did not want him to buy the property
and coverage of the lot under CA 141 or because they were interested in buying
the Public Land Act. it for themselves considering that it was
 On the other hand, Sabitsana opposed adjacent to a lot which they owned.
such application and claimed that he  Lower courts’ decisions
was the true owner of the lost and RTC – Sale was valid, Muertegi won.
asked that the application be held in Sabitsana ordered to pay the family
abeyance until the issue of conflicting because he was not a buyer in good
ownership be resolved. faith.
 April 11, 2000 – Juanito, through his  after conducting an investigation,
attorney-in- fact, Domingo, Jr. filed for Atty. Sabitsana went on to purchase the
quieting of title against petitioner same lot and raced to registerd the sale
Sabitsana and his wife. Muertegui’s ahead of the Muertegis expecting thath
claim the ff: is purchase and prior registration would
(a) the spouses bought the lot in bad prevail over that of his clients. Applying
faith and are exercising acts of the principle under Art. 1544 [double
possession and ownership and thus, sales], Sabitsana’s registration was not
constitute a cloud over his title. in good faith, preference should be
(b) The complaint also prayed for that given to the sale in favor of Juanito, as
the deed of sale be declared null he was the first to take possession of
and void the lot in good faith. MR was filed but
was denied. Under Rule 63, an action to quiet title to
real property or remove clouds
CA – Affirmed in toto the RTC Decision. therefrom may be brought in the
Juanito is the rightful owner of the lot appropriate RTC.
and possessed the requisite cause of In this case, the suit for quieting
action to institute the suit for quieting of of title was prompted by petitioners’
title and obtain judgment in his favor. August 24, 1998 letter-opposition to
RTC was affirmed. respondent’s application for registration.
Thus, in order to prevent a cloud from
ISSUE: being cast upon his application for a
 Who has a better right to the title, respondent filed this action for
disputed lot? (there were a lot of Quieting of Title to obtain a declaration
issues to this case, but this is the most of his rights. In this sense, the action is
relevant to the topic on dealing with one for declaratory relief, which falls
unregistered lands) within the jurisdiction of the RTC
pursuant to Rule 63.
RULING:
1. Muertegui has a better right over
the subject lot.
First, double sales [Art 1544]
does not apply to sales invokving
unregistered land. Suffice it to state that
the issue of the buyers in good or bad
faith is relevant only where the subject
of the sale is registered land, and the
purchaser is buying the same from the
registered owner whose title to the land
is clean. In such case, the purchaser
who relies on the clean title of the
registered owner is protected if he is a
purchaser in good faith for value.
Second, the sale to respondent
Juanito was executed on September 2,
1981 via an unnotarized deed of sale,
while the sale to petitioners was made
via a notarized document only on
October 17, 1991, or ten years
thereafter. Thus, Juanito who was the
first buyer has a better right to the lot,
while the subsequent sale to petitioners
is null and void, because when it was
made, the seller Garcia was no longer
the owner of the lot. Nemo dat quod
non habet.

2. RTC has jurisdiction over the suit for


quieting of title.
On the question of jurisdiction,
it is clear under the rules that an action
for quieting of title may be instituted in
the RTC, regardless of the assessed
value of the real property in dispute.