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G.R. No.

150666               August 3, 2010

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC’s finding.


vs. Aggrieved, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied by
JOSE MACABAGDAL, FE D. MACABAGDAL and VERGON REALTY the appellate court.9 Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.
Briones posited that they must not bear the damage alone. They insist that
they relied with full faith and confidence in the reputation of Vergon’s agents
when they pointed the wrong property to them. Even the President of Vergon,
Facts: Felix Gonzales, consented to the construction of the house when he signed the
building permit.11 Also, Briones are builders in good faith.12
Respondent Spouses Macabagdal purchased from Vergon Realty Investments
Corporation (Vergon) Lot No. 2-R located in Vergonville Subdivision. On the
other hand, Briones, the petitioners are the owners of Lot No. 2-S, which is
adjacent to Lot No. 2-R. The petition is partly meritorious.

Sometime in 1984, after obtaining the necessary building permit and approval, We find that the trial court nonetheless erred in outrightly ordering petitioners
Briones constructed a house on Lot No. 2-R which they thought was Lot No. 2- to vacate the subject property or to pay respondent spouses the prevailing
S. After being informed of the mix up by Vergon’s manager, Spouses price of the land as compensation.
Macabagdal immediately demanded Briones to demolish the house and vacate
the property. Briones, however, refused to heed their demand. Thus, Spouses
Macabagdal filed an action to recover ownership and possession of the said
parcel of land with the RTC of Makati City.3 Article 52714 of the Civil Code presumes good faith, and since no proof exists to
show that the mistake was done by petitioners in bad faith, the latter should be
presumed to have built the house in good faith.

The RTC ruled in favor of Spouses Macabagdal and found that petitioners’ When a person builds in good faith on the land of another, Article 448 of
house was undoubtedly built on Lot No. 2-R. the Civil Code governs.

The RTC further ordered Briones to remove the improvements they have made Said article provides,
on the disputed property or to pay Spouses Macabagdal the prevailing price of
the land as compensation.
ART. 448. The owner of the land on which anything has been built, sown or It is only if the owner chooses to sell his land, and the builder or planter fails to
planted in good faith, shall have the right to appropriate as his own the works, purchase it where its value is not more than the value of the improvements,
sowing or planting, after payment of the indemnity provided for in Articles 546 that the owner may remove the improvements from the land. The owner is
and 548, or to oblige the one who built or planted to pay the price of the land, entitled to such remotion only when, after having chosen to sell his land, the
and the one who sowed, the proper rent. However, the builder or planter other party fails to pay for the same.17
cannot be obliged to buy the land if its value is considerably more than that of
the building or trees. In such case, he shall pay reasonable rent, if the owner of
the land does not choose to appropriate the building or trees after proper
indemnity. The parties shall agree upon the terms of the lease and in case of Moreover, Briones have the right to be indemnified for the necessary and
disagreement, the court shall fix the terms thereof. useful expenses they may have made on the subject property. Articles 546 and
548 of the Civil Code provide,

The above-cited article covers cases in which the builders, sowers or planters
believe themselves to be owners of the land or, at least, to have a claim of title ART. 546. Necessary expenses shall be refunded to every possessor; but only
thereto.15  the possessor in good faith may retain the thing until he has been reimbursed

The builder in good faith can compel the landowner to make a choice
between: Useful expenses shall be refunded only to the possessor in good faith with the
same right of retention, the person who has defeated him in the possession
1. appropriating the building by paying the proper indemnity; or having the option of refunding the amount of the expenses or of paying the
increase in value which the thing may have acquired by reason thereof.
2. obliging the builder to pay the price of the land.

ART. 548. Expenses for pure luxury or mere pleasure shall not be refunded to
The choice belongs to the owner of the land, a rule that accords with the the possessor in good faith; but he may remove the ornaments with which he
principle of accession, i.e., that the accessory follows the principal and not the has embellished the principal thing if it suffers no injury thereby, and if his
other way around. successor in the possession does not prefer to refund the amount expended.

However, even as the option lies with the landowner, the grant to him, In the case at bar, Spouses Macabagdal have the option to appropriate the
nevertheless, is preclusive. He must choose one.16 He cannot, for instance, house on the subject land after payment to Briones of the appropriate
compel the owner of the building to remove the building from the land indemnity or to oblige petitioners to pay the price of the land, unless its value
without first exercising either option. is considerably more than the value of the structures, in which case Briones
shall pay reasonable rent.
In accordance with Depra v. Dumlao, 18 this case must be remanded to the RTC a. The trial court shall grant the Spouses Macabagdal a period of fifteen (15)
which shall conduct the appropriate proceedings to assess the respective days within which to exercise their option under Article 448 of the Civil Code.
values of the improvement and of the land, as well as the amounts of
reasonable rentals and indemnity, fix the terms of the lease if the parties so
agree, and to determine other matters necessary for the proper application of
Article 448, in relation to Articles 546 and 548, of the Civil Code. whether to appropriate the house as their own by paying to petitioners either
the amount of the expenses spent by petitioners for the building of the house,
or the increase in value ("plus value") which the said lot may have acquired by
reason thereof, or to oblige petitioners to pay the price of said land.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated December 11, 2000 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CV No. 48109 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. The award of
moral damages in favor of respondent-spouses Jose and Fe Macabagdal and
the award of compensatory damages and attorney’s fees to respondent The amounts to be respectively paid by the respondent-spouses and
Vergon Realty Investments Corporation are DELETED. The case petitioners, in accordance with the option thus exercised by written notice of
is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 135, for the other party and to the Court, shall be paid by the obligor within fifteen (15)
further proceedings consistent with the proper application of Articles 448, 546 days from such notice of the option by tendering the amount to the Court in
and 548 of the Civil Code, as follows: favor of the party entitled to receive it;

1. The trial court shall determine: b. The trial court shall further order that if the respondent-spouses exercises
the option to oblige petitioners to pay the price of the land but the latter
a. the present fair price of the respondent-spouses’ lot; rejects such purchase because, as found by the trial court, the value of the land
is considerably more than that of the house, petitioners shall give written
b. the amount of the expenses spent by petitioners for the building of their notice of such rejection to the respondent-spouses and to the Court within
house; fifteen (15) days from notice of the respondent-spouses’ option to sell the
c. the increase in value ("plus value") which the said lot may have acquired by
reason thereof;

d. whether the value of said land is considerably more than that of the house In that event, the parties shall be given a period of fifteen (15) days from such
built thereon. notice of rejection within which to agree upon the terms of the lease, and give
the Court formal written notice of such agreement and its provisos.

2. After said amounts shall have been determined by competent evidence,

the Regional Trial Court shall render judgment, as follows: If no agreement is reached by the parties, the trial court, within fifteen (15)
days from and after the termination of the said period fixed for negotiation,
shall then fix the terms of the lease . Upon expiration of the two (2)-year period,
or upon default by petitioners in the payment of rentals for two (2) consecutive
months, the respondent-spouses shall be entitled to terminate the forced
lease, to recover their land, and to have the house removed by petitioners or at
the latter’s expense. The rentals herein provided shall be tendered by
petitioners to the Court for payment to the respondent-spouses, and such
tender shall constitute evidence of whether or not compliance was made G.R. No. L-16218           November 29, 1962
within the period fixed by the Court.
BICERRA, plaintiffs-appellants,
c. In any event, petitioners shall pay the respondent-spouses reasonable vs.
compensation for the occupancy of the respondent-spouses’ land for the TOMASA TENEZA and BENJAMIN BARBOSA, defendants-appellees.
period counted from the year petitioners occupied the subject area, up to the
commencement date of the forced lease referred to in the preceding This case is before us on appeal from the order of the Court of First Instance of
paragraph; Abra dismissing the complaint filed by appellants, upon motion of defendants-
appellate on the ground that the action was within the exclude (original)
jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace Court of Lagangilang, of the same

The complaint alleges in substance that appellants were the owners of the
house, worth P200.00, built on and owned by them and situated in the said
municipality Lagangilang; that sometime in January 1957 appealed forcibly
demolished the house, claiming to be the owners thereof; that the materials of
the house, after it was dismantled, were placed in the custody of the barrio
lieutenant of the place; and that as a result of appellate's refusal to restore the
house or to deliver the material appellants the latter have suffered actual
damages the amount of P200.00, plus moral and consequential damages in the
amount of P600.00. The relief prayed for is that "the plaintiffs be declared the
owners of the house in question and/or the materials that resulted in (sic) its
dismantling; (and) that the defendants be orders pay the sum of P200.00, plus
P600.00 as damages, the costs."

The issue posed by the parties in this appeal is whether the action involves title
to real property, as appellants contend, and therefore is cognizable by the
Court of First Instance (Sec. 44, par. [b], R.A. 296, as amended), whether it
pertains to the jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace Court, as stated in the
order appealed from, since there is no real property litigated, the house having
ceased to exist, and the amount of the demand does exceed P2,000.00 (Sec.
88, id.)1
The dismissal of the complaint was proper. A house is classified as immovable
property by reason of its adherence to the soil on which it is built (Art. 415, par.
1, Civil Code). This classification holds true regardless of the fact that the house
may be situated on land belonging to a different owner. But once the house is
demolished, as in this case, it ceases to exist as such and hence its character as
an immovable likewise ceases. It should be noted that the complaint here is for
recovery of damages. This is the only positive relief prayed for by appellants.
G.R. No. 181435
To be sure, they also asked that they be declared owners of the dismantled
house and/or of the materials. However, such declaration in no wise
constitutes the relief itself which if granted by final judgment could be
enforceable by execution, but is only incidental to the real cause of action to
recover damages.
The order appealed from is affirmed. The appeal having been admitted
in  forma pauperis, no costs are adjudged.

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 filed by the Republic of the

Philippines to assail the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision 2 and Resolution3 in CA-
GR. CV No. 81678. The CA affirmed the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
Decision,4 which granted the Petition5 filed by respondent Rosario L. Nicolas for
the registration of title to a parcel of land located in Barangay (Brgy.) San
Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.6 The appellate court agreed with the conclusion of the
RTC that respondent had convincingly established her ownership of the land
and was therefore entitled to judicial confirmation and registration of title. 7


On 22 March 1996, respondent filed a Petition before the RTC of San Mateo,
Rizal,8 seeking to register her title over Lot 2 of Survey Plan Psu-213331, a
parcel of land located in Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal, with an area of
118,448 square meters.9 She asserted that she was entitled to confirmation and
registration of title, as she had been in "natural, open, public, adverse,
continuous, uninterrupted" possession of the land in the concept of an owner
since October 1964.10

Petitioner Republic of the Philippines filed an Opposition 11 to the Petition. It

contended that (a) neither respondent nor her predecessors-ininterest had
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land since
12 June 1945;12 (b) the Tax Declarations attached to the Petition did not
constitute sufficient evidence of the acquisition or possession of the The following documents were likewise submitted to the trial court: Survey
property;13 (c) respondent failed to apply for registration of title within six Plan PSU-213331,29 a Surveyor's Certificate 30 and technical descriptions of the
months from 16 February 1976 as required by Presidential Decree No. (P.D.) property,31 which purportedly proved that the land had been duly surveyed by
892;14 and (d) the land in question was part of the public domain and not the Land Management Sector; various Tax Declarations and receipts; 32 and a
subject to private appropriation.15 Certification issued by the CENRO that the land applied for was not covered by
any public land application.33
After the conduct of proceedings to confirm compliance with jurisdictional
requisites,16 the RTC directed respondent to submit documents to establish Petitioner, on the other hand, decided to have the case submitted for
that (a) the property that was the subject of the application for registration of resolution without any further submission.34
title was not covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of the
Government; (b) there were no tenants on the property; and (c) the land was THE RULING OF THE RTC
not subject to any homestead, free patent, or grant of title from the Land
Registration Authority (LRA), the Bureau of Lands, or the Department of In a Decision dated 31 July 2002, the RTC granted the Petition and ordered the
Agrarian Reform.17 Respondent was also directed to begin the presentation of issuance of a Decree of Registration in favor of respondent. 35 It declared that
her evidence.18 she had acquired ownership of the land by way of open, continuous, public,
adverse, actual and bona fide possession in the concept of an owner since
In line with this directive, the Community Environment and Natural Resources 1940.36
Office (CENRO) submitted a Report19 on the results of its verification of the
existing records on the subject property. The Report stated that the land Petitioner appealed the RTC Decision to the CA. In the Appellant's Brief, 37 the
"appears to be [n]ot covered by any public land application nor embraced by Republic argued that respondent had failed to clearly and convincingly
any administrative title."20 However, the entry with respect to whether the land establish that she had actual, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession
was within the alienable and disposable zone was left blank with a notation of the property since 12 June 1945 or earlier as required by Section 14(1) of
that the area was "not projected due to [u]navailability of coordinates re[:] Tala P.D. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree. 38 Petitioner further asserted that
Estate Tie-Line."21 there was no basis for the finding of the RTC that she had occupied the land
since 1940.39
The LRA likewise submitted a Report 22 stating that it "was not in a position to
verify whether or not the parcel of land subject of registration is already Respondent failed to file an appellee's brief. 40 Consequently, the CA considered
covered by land patent and is within the area classified as alienable and the case submitted for resolution.41
disposable land of the public domain." 23 Hence, the LRA recommended that
the CENRO of Antipolo, Rizal, be ordered to submit a report on the status of THE RULING OF THE CA
the land.24 This proposal was adopted by the RTC in an Order 25 dated 28
December 1998. On 23 August 2007, the CA dismissed petitioner's appeal. 42 According to the
appellate court, the evidence presented proved that respondent had occupied
During trial, respondent presented three witnesses to prove her right to the land since 1940. Even assuming that her possession of the property started
register the property: Leonila Alfaro, her daughter and attorney-in-fact, who only when she had it privately surveyed in 1964, she had been its occupant for
testified that respondent had occupied the land since 1940 and had paid the more than 30 years. 43 As such, she was still entitled to registration of title under
real estate taxes therefor since 1969; 26 Santiago Eulin, who was allegedly hired Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529.
by respondent to plant vegetables and fruit trees on the land and who acted as
its caretaker since 1942;27 and Roberto M. Valdez of the LRA, who identified the The CA further characterized the land as private property:
original tracing cloth plan for the property.28
The fact that the subject land is covered by a private survey Applications for registration of title to land, both public and private, are
(PSU) (EXH. "J") way back in 1964, which survey was approved governed by Section 14 of P.D. 1529:
on April 1965 by Director Nicanor Jorge of the then Bureau of
Lands, is a clear indication that it is already private in nature. SECTION 14. Who May Apply. -The following persons may file in the proper
Moreover, applicant's evidence consisting of the DENR-CENRO Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether
Certifications (Exhs. "O" and "P") that Lot 2 of PSY 213331 is personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
not covered by any public land application and that its
equivalent is Lot No, 10549 of the Montalban Cadastre have (1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-
substantial probative value which established (sic) that the interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
land is alienable and disposable and not covered by any land notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
grant from the government. disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the Decision. 44 The CA, however,
denied the motion in a Resolution 45 dated 22 January 2008, prompting (2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by
petitioner to elevate the case to this Court. prescription under the provisions of existing laws.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THIS COURT (3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or
abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under
In its Petition for Review, the Republic argues that (a) the decision of the CA the existing laws.
and the RTC to confirm the title of respondent to the land based on her
possession and occupation thereof was not supported by evidence; and (b) the (4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other
testimonial and documentary evidence she presented did not establish manner provided for by law.
possession of the property in the manner and period required by law, that is,
her possession of the property since 12 June 1945 or earlier. Petitioner also Where the land is owned in common, all the co-owners shall
emphasizes that the lower courts gave undue importance to the Tax file the application jointly.
Declarations and receipts presented, 46 as well as to the testimonies of
respondent's witnesses, notwithstanding the inconsistencies in their Where the land has been sold under pacto de retro, the
statements. vendor a retro may file an application for the original
registration of the land, provided, however, that should the
(1) Whether the CA erroneously allowed the judicial period for redemption expire during the pendency of the
confirmation of respondent's title to the property under registration proceedings and ownership to the property
Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529; and consolidated in the vendee a retro, the latter shall be
substituted for the applicant and may continue the
(2) Whether the CA erred in declaring that respondent is proceedings.
likewise entitled to registration of title based on ownership by
acquisitive prescription under Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529. A trustee on behalf of his principal may apply for original
registration of any land held in trust by him, unless prohibited
OUR RULING by the instrument creating the trust.

We GRANT the Petition.

Each paragraph of Section 14 refers to a distinct type of application depending 14, but decided to apply both clauses. In its Decision, it ruled that respondent
on the applicable legal ground. Since each type is governed by its own set of is entitled to register her title under either paragraph:
legal principles, the framework for analysis to be used in resolving an
application would vary depending on the paragraph invoked. 51 Hence, it is From the evidence adduced, applicant-appellee has
important for the Court to first determine the exact legal ground used by an convincingly established her registrable title to the subject
applicant for registration.52 land, which is entitled to confirmation and registration by the
trial court. As testified by the daughter of applicant, her
In this case, we note that the application filed by respondent before the RTC mother commenced occupying the subject land since 1940
did not state the exact legal basis of her request. At best, the pleading implied and up to the present which (sic) has been planted with fruit-
that her claim was one for registration and confirmation of title based on bearing trees and vegetables by their caretaker. Her testimony
her possession and occupation of the property: was corroborated by Santiago Eulin, their caretaker since 1942
who took over after his father, the original caretaker. These
COMES NOW Petitioner Rosario L. Nicolas, of legal age, witnesses declared that they even stayed on the land in
widow, Pilipino [sic] with address at Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez question where the applicant has a hut. It was also established
(formerly Montalban), Rizal Province, Philippines, by her that the applicant had the property surveyed in 1964 resulting
undersigned counsel and to this Honorable Court respectfully in the approval of Plan PS U 213 31 by the Bureau of Lands.
petitions to have the land hereinafter described below brought This qualifies applicant under Section 14, par. 1 of the Property
under the operation of the Land Registration Act and to have Registration Decree.
said land titled, registered and confirmed in her name and
further declares that: Even assuming that applicant's occupation and possession of
the subject land did not start on July 12, 1945 or earlier but
xxxx only in 1964 when she had it surveyed, still she can apply for
registration of title under Sec. 14, par. 2 of the Property
6. Petitioner acquired the subject parcel of land by way of Registration Decree as she has been occupying the land
occupation and has been in natural, open, public, adverse, continuously for more than thirty (30) years from the time the
contin[u]ous, uninterrupted and in the concept of an application was filed in 1996.55 (Emphases supplied)
owner/possessor thereof since October 1964 up to the
present.53 (Emphases supplied) Given these findings, the Court has examined the application for registration in
this case under the legal framework of both Section 14(1) and (2) of P.D. 1529.
From the foregoing allegations, it appears that the claim of respondent is We find that respondent has failed to sufficiently establish the requisites of
anchored on either of the first two paragraphs of Section 14. However, it is both paragraphs; in particular, with respect to the classification and the
unclear whether she sought judicial confirmation and registration of her title character of the land in question. Hence, we are constrained to reverse the CA
pursuant to Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529, or of the registration of her title on the and the RTC Decisions allowing the registration of her title to the property.
ground of acquisitive prescription under Section 14(2) of the same law.
Respondent has failed to prove that the property is alienable and disposable
Similarly, no specific provision in P.D. 1529 was identified by the RTC when it agricultural land that may be registered under Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529.
granted the Petition.54 Its mention of the Civil Code, however, seems to
indicate an application of the principle of acquisitive prescription. The CA, for Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529 governs applications for registration of alienable and
its part, delineated the differences between the first two paragraphs of Section disposable lands of the public domain. This paragraph operationalizes Section
48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended. 56 This provision grants
occupants of public land the right to judicial confirmation of their title. Based prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until Congress or
on these two provisions and other related sections of C.A. 141, registration is the President declares that the State no longer intends the
allowed provided the following requisites have been complied with: land to be used for public service or for the development of
national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is applicable.
1. The applicant is a Filipino citizen.57
In this case, we note that both the RTC and the CA glossed over this
2. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessors-in- requirement. The RTC, for instance, only made a general conclusion as to the
interest, has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious classification and alienability of the property, but without any discussion of the
possession and occupation of the property since 12 June evidence presented:
From the evidence adduced, applicant-appellee has
3. The prope1ty has been declared alienable and disposable as convincingly established her registrable title to the subject
of the filing of the application.59 land which is entitled to confirmation and registration by the
trial court. x x x It was also established that the applicant had
4. If the area applied for does not exceed 12 hectares, the the property surveyed in 1964 resulting in the approval of Plan
application should be filed by 31 December 2020.60 PSU-213331 by the Bureau of Lands. This qualifies applicant
under Sec. 14, par. 1 of the Property Registration Decree. 63
As earlier stated, respondent failed to establish the third requisite, i.e., that the
property subject of the application is alienable and disposable agricultural The CA, on the other hand, simply relied on the fact that the property had
land. been the subject of a private survey in 1964:

The Court has emphasized in a long line of cases 61 that an applicant for From the evidence adduced, the following facts have been
registration under Section 14(1) must prove that the subject property has been duly proved:
classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land by virtue of a positive
act of the Executive Department. In Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic, 62 we xxxx
That the land applied for is neither subject to any water,
Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two oil/nor (sic) mineral rights, not within any government
categories, to wit: (a) patrimonial lands of the State, or those reservation, naval or military, or mineral rights, within the
classified as lands of private ownership under Article 425 of forest zone, and neither is it part of the inalienable or
the Civil Code, without limitation; and (b) lands of the public undisposable land of the public domain nor covered by the
domain, or the public lands as provided by the Constitution, Code on Comprehensive Agrarian Reform or subject to any
but with the limitation that the lands must only be agricultural. subsisting Public Patent application;
Consequently, lands classified as forest or timber, mineral, or
national parks are not susceptible of alienation or disposition xxxx
unless they are reclassified as agricultural. A positive act of the
Government is necessary to enable such reclassification, and That the said parcel of land applied for is duly surveyed for
the exclusive prerogative to classify public lands under existing registration (Exh. "J"), classified as agricultural; that they
laws is vested in the Executive Department, not in the courts. planted mangoes, buko, sometimes corn in the area through
xxx Thus, until the Executive Department exercises its their caretaker x x x.64
While a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 is generally limited to a It is evident from the foregoing enumeration that respondent not only
review of errors of law, the Court may conduct its own review of the evidence if neglected to submit the required CENRO/PENRO certification and DENR
the findings of the lower courts are bereft of legal and factual bases. 65 In this classification, but also presented evidence that completely failed to prove her
case, the conclusions of the RTC and the CA are not only contradicted by the assertion.
evidence on record; they are likewise contrary to law and jurisprudence. As a
result, the Court is constrained to set aside these pronouncements. First, the testimonies of Leonila and Santiago on the classification of the land
have very little evidentiary value. That they consider the property agricultural in
To prove that the property subject of an application for original registration is nature is irrelevant, as their statements are mere opinions bereft of any legal
part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, applicants significance.
must "identify a positive act of the government, such as an official
proclamation, declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for Second, none of the documents submitted by respondent to the trial court
agricultural or other purposes."66 To sufficiently establish this positive act, they indicated that the subject property was agricultural or part of the alienable and
must submit (1) a certification from the CENRO or the Provincial Environment disposable lands of the public domain. At most, the CENRO Report and
and Natural Resources Office (PENRO); and (2) a copy of the original Certification stated that the land was not covered by any kind of public land
classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by application. This was far from an adequate proof of the classification of the
the legal custodian of the official records.67 land. In fact, in Republic v Lualhati, 73 the Court rejected an attempt to prove
the alienability of public land using similar evidence:
Here, respondent presented the following pieces of evidence to establish her
claim that the land had been classified as agricultural and considered alienable Here, respondent failed to establish, by the required evidence,
and disposable: that the land sought to be registered has been classified as
alienable or disposable land of the public domain. The records
(1) A CENRO Report68 stating that the land was not covered by of this case merely bear certifications from the DENR-CENRO,
any public land application or embraced by any administrative Region IV, Antipolo City, stating that no public land
title, but with a notation that that the alienability of the land application or land patent covering the subject lots is pending
was "[n]ot projected due to [u]navailability of coordinates re: nor are the lots embraced by any administrative title. Said
Tala Estate Tieline''; CENRO certifications, however, do not even make any
pronouncement as to the alienable character of the lands in
(2) A CENRO Certification69 that the lot "is not covered by any question for they merely recognize the absence of any
kind of public land application"; pending land patent application, administrative title, or
government project being conducted thereon. But even
(3) A Report70 from the Land Registration Authority (LRA) granting that they expressly declare that the subject lands
declaring that it was "not in a position to verify whether or not form part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public
the parcel of land subject of registration is already covered by domain, these certifications remain insufficient for purposes of
land patent and is within the area classified as alienable and granting respondent's application for registration. As
disposable land of the public domain"; and constantly held by this Court, it is not enough for the CENRO
to certify that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant
(4) The testimonies of Leonila Alfaro,71 her daughter, and for land registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had
Santiago Eulin72 (the caretaker of the land) confirming that the approved the land classification and released the land of the
property is agricultural in nature. public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land
subject of the application for registration falls within the
approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO We do not agree. The Court fields no sufficient basis to allow the registration
or CENRO. Unfortunately for respondent, the evidence of the property under Section 14(2).
submitted clearly falls short of the requirements for original
registration in order to show the alienable character of the By express provision of the law, only private lands that have been acquired by
lands subject herein. prescription under existing laws may be the subject of applications for
registration under Section 14(2). The starting point of the Court's evaluation
Applying these standards to the instant case, we declare that the RTC did not must, therefore, be whether the property involved falls within the scope of the
have sufficient basis for its finding that the property in question was alienable paragraph.
and disposable.
Under the Civil Code, all things within human commerce are generally
The Court also finds that the ruling of the CA on the evidentiary value of the susceptible of prescription.79 Properties of the public dominion, or those
private survey is untenable. The fact that the land has been privately surveyed owned by the State, are expressly excluded by law from this general
is not sufficient to prove its classification or alienable character. While the rule,80 unless they are proven to be patrimonial in character. As the Court
conduct of a survey and the submission of the original tracing cloth plan are explained in Republic of the Philippines v. Tan:
mandatory requirements for applications for original registration of land under
P.D. 1529, they only serve to establish the true identity of the land and to Only private property can be acquired by prescription.
ensure that the property does not overlap with another one covered by a Property of public dominion is outside the commerce of
previous registration.74 These documents do not, by themselves, prove man.1âwphi1 It cannot be the object of prescription because
a1ienability and disposability of the property. In fact, in several cases, 75 the prescription does not run against the State in its sovereign
Court has declared that even a survey plan with a notation that the property is capac.ty. However, when property of public dominion is no
alienable cannot be considered as sufficient evidence of alienability. Here, the longer intended for public use or for public service, it becomes
survey plan and original tracing cloth plan submitted by respondent does not part of the patrimonial property of the State. When this
even bear that notation. Consequently, it was grave error for the CA to happens, the property is withdrawn from public dominion and
consider the mere conduct of a private survey as proof of the classification and becomes property of private ownership, albeit still owned by
the alienability of the land. the State. The property is now brought within the commerce
of man and becomes susceptible to the concepts of legal
Respondent has failed to prove that the land subject of the possession and prescription.81 (Emphasis supplied)
application is part of the patrimonial property of the State
that may be acquired by prescription under Section 14(2) To establish that the land subject of the application has been converted into
of P.D. 1529. patrimonial property of the State, an applicant must prove the following:

As previously noted, the CA also allowed the registration of the property under l. The subject property has been classified as agricultural
Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 based on the following findings: (1) the property is land.82
"private in nature" as shown by the fact that it is "covered by a private
survey";76 (2) respondent had occupied the land continuously for more than 30 2. The property has been declared alienable and disposable. 83
years from the time of the filing of the application in 1996; 77 and (3) the land is
not covered by any public land application based on the DENR-CENRO 3. There is an express government manifestation that the
Certifications submitted by respondent.78 property is already patrimonial, or is no longer retained for
public service or the development of national wealth. 84
It must be emphasized that without the concurrence of these three conditions,
the land remains part of public dominion and thus incapable of acquisition by

Here, the records show that respondent has failed to allege or prove that the
subject land belongs to the patrimonial property of the State.1âwphi1 As
earlier discussed, the evidence she has presented does not even show that the
property is alienable and disposable agricultural land. She has also failed to
G.R. No. 178902               April 21, 2010
cite any government act or declaration converting the land into patrimonial
property of the State.
Contrary to the ruling of the CA, the DENR-CENRO Certifications submitted by
respondent are not enough; they cannot substitute for the three conditions
and PILAR MALCAMPO, Respondents.
required by law as proof that the land may be the subject of prescription under
the Civil Code. For the same reason, the mere conduct of a private survey of a
property - even with the approval of the Bureau of Lands - does not convert
the lot into private land or patrimonial property of the State. Clearly, the
appellate court erred when it relied on the survey to justify its conclusion that
the land is private in nature.
This case is about a husband’s sale of conjugal real property, employing a
challenged affidavit of consent from an estranged wife. The buyers claim valid
Considering the absence of sufficient evidence that the subject land is a
consent, loss of right to declare nullity of sale, and prescription.
patrimonial property of the State, we must consider it part of public dominion
and thus immune from acquisitive prescription.
The Facts and the Case
As a final note, the Court must point out that proof of the classification,
Sabina Tarroza owned a titled 358-square meter lot in Canelar, Zamboanga
alienability and disposability of the subject property is of particular significance
City. On October 11, 1982 she sold it to her son, Tarciano T. Roca (Tarciano)
in applications for the registration of land. Given the general rule that public
under a deed of absolute sale. 1 But Tarciano did not for the meantime have the
lands may not be alienated,86 it is the burden of applicants to prove that the
registered title transferred to his name.
land they seek to register falls within the classifications enumerated in Section
14 of P.D. 1529; in particular, the specific paragraph they invoke as basis for
Six years later in 1988, Tarciano offered to sell the lot to petitioners Manuel
registration.87 Absent that proot: no length of possession or occupation would
and Leticia Fuentes (the Fuentes spouses). They arranged to meet at the office
vest any right of ownership over the property, 88 and registration under P.D.
of Atty. Romulo D. Plagata whom they asked to prepare the documents of sale.
1529 cannot be sanctioned by this Court.
They later signed an agreement to sell that Atty. Plagata prepared 2 dated April
29, 1988, which agreement expressly stated that it was to take effect in six
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision
dated 23 August 2007 and Resolution dated 22 January 2008
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent's application for land registration
The agreement required the Fuentes spouses to pay Tarciano a down payment
is DENIED for lack of merit.
of ₱60,000.00 for the transfer of the lot’s title to him. And, within six months,
Tarciano was to clear the lot of structures and occupants and secure the
consent of his estranged wife, Rosario Gabriel Roca (Rosario), to the sale. Upon Both the Rocas and the Fuentes spouses presented handwriting experts at the
Tarciano’s compliance with these conditions, the Fuentes spouses were to take trial. Comparing Rosario’s standard signature on the affidavit with those on
possession of the lot and pay him an additional ₱140,000.00 or ₱160,000.00, various documents she signed, the Rocas’ expert testified that the signatures
depending on whether or not he succeeded in demolishing the house standing were not written by the same person. Making the same comparison, the
on it. If Tarciano was unable to comply with these conditions, the Fuentes spouses’ expert concluded that they were. 8
spouses would become owners of the lot without any further formality and
payment. On February 1, 2005 the RTC rendered judgment, dismissing the case. It ruled
that the action had already prescribed since the ground cited by the Rocas for
The parties left their signed agreement with Atty. Plagata who then worked on annulling the sale, forgery or fraud, already prescribed under Article 1391 of
the other requirements of the sale. According to the lawyer, he went to see the Civil Code four years after its discovery. In this case, the Rocas may be
Rosario in one of his trips to Manila and had her sign an affidavit of deemed to have notice of the fraud from the date the deed of sale was
consent.3 As soon as Tarciano met the other conditions, Atty. Plagata notarized registered with the Registry of Deeds and the new title was issued. Here, the
Rosario’s affidavit in Zamboanga City. On January 11, 1989 Tarciano executed a Rocas filed their action in 1997, almost nine years after the title was issued to
deed of absolute sale 4 in favor of the Fuentes spouses. They then paid him the the Fuentes spouses on January 18, 1989.9
additional ₱140,000.00 mentioned in their agreement. A new title was issued in
the name of the spouses 5 who immediately constructed a building on the lot. Moreover, the Rocas failed to present clear and convincing evidence of the
On January 28, 1990 Tarciano passed away, followed by his wife Rosario who fraud. Mere variance in the signatures of Rosario was not conclusive proof of
died nine months afterwards. forgery.10 The RTC ruled that, although the Rocas presented a handwriting
expert, the trial court could not be bound by his opinion since the opposing
Eight years later in 1997, the children of Tarciano and Rosario, namely, expert witness contradicted the same. Atty. Plagata’s testimony remained
respondents Conrado G. Roca, Annabelle R. Joson, and Rose Marie R. Cristobal, technically unrebutted.11
together with Tarciano’s sister, Pilar R. Malcampo, represented by her son, John
Paul M. Trinidad (collectively, the Rocas), filed an action for annulment of sale Finally, the RTC noted that Atty. Plagata’s defective notarization of the affidavit
and reconveyance of the land against the Fuentes spouses before the Regional of consent did not invalidate the sale. The law does not require spousal
Trial Court (RTC) of Zamboanga City in Civil Case 4707. The Rocas claimed that consent to be on the deed of sale to be valid. Neither does the irregularity
the sale to the spouses was void since Tarciano’s wife, Rosario, did not give her vitiate Rosario’s consent. She personally signed the affidavit in the presence of
consent to it. Her signature on the affidavit of consent had been forged. They Atty. Plagata.12
thus prayed that the property be reconveyed to them upon reimbursement of
the price that the Fuentes spouses paid Tarciano. 6 On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the RTC decision. The CA found
sufficient evidence of forgery and did not give credence to Atty. Plagata’s
The spouses denied the Rocas’ allegations. They presented Atty. Plagata who testimony that he saw Rosario sign the document in Quezon City. Its jurat said
testified that he personally saw Rosario sign the affidavit at her residence in differently. Also, upon comparing the questioned signature with the specimen
Paco, Manila, on September 15, 1988. He admitted, however, that he notarized signatures, the CA noted significant variance between them. That Tarciano and
the document in Zamboanga City four months later on January 11, 1989. 7 All Rosario had been living separately for 30 years since 1958 also reinforced the
the same, the Fuentes spouses pointed out that the claim of forgery was conclusion that her signature had been forged.
personal to Rosario and she alone could invoke it. Besides, the four-year
prescriptive period for nullifying the sale on ground of fraud had already Since Tarciano and Rosario were married in 1950, the CA concluded that their
lapsed. property relations were governed by the Civil Code under which an action for
annulment of sale on the ground of lack of spousal consent may be brought by
the wife during the marriage within 10 years from the transaction.
Consequently, the action that the Rocas, her heirs, brought in 1997 fell within clashed with his declaration in the jurat that Rosario signed the affidavit in
10 years of the January 11, 1989 sale. Zamboanga City on January 11, 1989.

Considering, however, that the sale between the Fuentes spouses and Tarciano The Court agrees with the CA’s observation that Rosario’s signature strokes on
was merely voidable, the CA held that its annulment entitled the spouses to the affidavit appears heavy, deliberate, and forced. Her specimen signatures,
reimbursement of what they paid him plus legal interest computed from the on the other hand, are consistently of a lighter stroke and more fluid. The way
filing of the complaint until actual payment. Since the Fuentes spouses were the letters "R" and "s" were written is also remarkably different. The variance is
also builders in good faith, they were entitled under Article 448 of the Civil obvious even to the untrained eye.
Code to payment of the value of the improvements they introduced on the lot.
The CA did not award damages in favor of the Rocas and deleted the award of Significantly, Rosario’s specimen signatures were made at about the time that
attorney’s fees to the Fuentes spouses. 13 she signed the supposed affidavit of consent. They were, therefore, reliable
standards for comparison. The Fuentes spouses presented no evidence that
Unsatisfied with the CA decision, the Fuentes spouses came to this court by Rosario suffered from any illness or disease that accounted for the variance in
petition for review.14 her signature when she signed the affidavit of consent. Notably, Rosario had
been living separately from Tarciano for 30 years since 1958. And she resided
The Issues Presented so far away in Manila. It would have been quite tempting for Tarciano to just
forge her signature and avoid the risk that she would not give her consent to
The case presents the following issues: the sale or demand a stiff price for it.

1. Whether or not Rosario’s signature on the document of consent to her What is more, Atty. Plagata admittedly falsified the jurat of the affidavit of
husband Tarciano’s sale of their conjugal land to the Fuentes spouses was consent. That jurat declared that Rosario swore to the document and signed it
forged; in Zamboanga City on January 11, 1989 when, as Atty. Plagata testified, she
supposedly signed it about four months earlier at her residence in Paco, Manila
2. Whether or not the Rocas’ action for the declaration of nullity of that sale to on September 15, 1988. While a defective notarization will merely strip the
the spouses already prescribed; and document of its public character and reduce it to a private instrument, that
falsified jurat, taken together with the marks of forgery in the signature, dooms
3. Whether or not only Rosario, the wife whose consent was not had, could such document as proof of Rosario’s consent to the sale of the land. That the
bring the action to annul that sale. Fuentes spouses honestly relied on the notarized affidavit as proof of Rosario’s
consent does not matter. The sale is still void without an authentic consent.
The Court’s Rulings
Second. Contrary to the ruling of the Court of Appeals, the law that applies to
First. The key issue in this case is whether or not Rosario’s signature on the this case is the Family Code, not the Civil Code. Although Tarciano and Rosario
document of consent had been forged. For, if the signature were genuine, the got married in 1950, Tarciano sold the conjugal property to the Fuentes
fact that she gave her consent to her husband’s sale of the conjugal land spouses on January 11, 1989, a few months after the Family Code took effect
would render the other issues merely academic. on August 3, 1988.

The CA found that Rosario’s signature had been forged. The CA observed a When Tarciano married Rosario, the Civil Code put in place the system of
marked difference between her signature on the affidavit of consent 15 and her conjugal partnership of gains on their property relations. While its Article 165
specimen signatures.16 The CA gave no weight to Atty. Plagata’s testimony that made Tarciano the sole administrator of the conjugal partnership, Article
he saw Rosario sign the document in Manila on September 15, 1988 since this 16617 prohibited him from selling commonly owned real property without his
wife’s consent. Still, if he sold the same without his wife’s consent, the sale is absence of such authority or consent, the disposition or encumbrance shall be
not void but merely voidable. Article 173 gave Rosario the right to have the void. x x x
sale annulled during the marriage within ten years from the date of the sale.
Failing in that, she or her heirs may demand, after dissolution of the marriage, Under the provisions of the Civil Code governing contracts, a void or inexistent
only the value of the property that Tarciano fraudulently sold. Thus: contract has no force and effect from the very beginning. And this rule applies
to contracts that are declared void by positive provision of law, 20 as in the case
Art. 173. The wife may, during the marriage, and within ten years from the of a sale of conjugal property without the other spouse’s written consent. A
transaction questioned, ask the courts for the annulment of any contract of the void contract is equivalent to nothing and is absolutely wanting in civil effects.
husband entered into without her consent, when such consent is required, or It cannot be validated either by ratification or prescription. 21
any act or contract of the husband which tends to defraud her or impair her
interest in the conjugal partnership property. Should the wife fail to exercise But, although a void contract has no legal effects even if no action is taken to
this right, she or her heirs, after the dissolution of the marriage, may demand set it aside, when any of its terms have been performed, an action to declare its
the value of property fraudulently alienated by the husband. inexistence is necessary to allow restitution of what has been given under
it.22 This action, according to Article 1410 of the Civil Code does not prescribe.
But, as already stated, the Family Code took effect on August 3, 1988. Its Thus:
Chapter 4 on Conjugal Partnership of Gains expressly superseded Title VI, Book
I of the Civil Code on Property Relations Between Husband and Wife. 18 Further, Art. 1410. The action or defense for the declaration of the inexistence of a
the Family Code provisions were also made to apply to already existing contract does not prescribe.
conjugal partnerships without prejudice to vested rights. 19 Thus:
Here, the Rocas filed an action against the Fuentes spouses in 1997 for
Art. 105. x x x The provisions of this Chapter shall also apply to conjugal annulment of sale and reconveyance of the real property that Tarciano sold
partnerships of gains already established between spouses before the without their mother’s (his wife’s) written consent. The passage of time did not
effectivity of this Code, without prejudice to vested rights already acquired in erode the right to bring such an action.
accordance with the Civil Code or other laws, as provided in Article 256. (n)
Besides, even assuming that it is the Civil Code that applies to the transaction
Consequently, when Tarciano sold the conjugal lot to the Fuentes spouses on as the CA held, Article 173 provides that the wife may bring an action for
January 11, 1989, the law that governed the disposal of that lot was already the annulment of sale on the ground of lack of spousal consent during the
Family Code. marriage within 10 years from the transaction. Consequently, the action that
the Rocas, her heirs, brought in 1997 fell within 10 years of the January 11,
In contrast to Article 173 of the Civil Code, Article 124 of the Family Code does 1989 sale. It did not yet prescribe.
not provide a period within which the wife who gave no consent may assail her
husband’s sale of the real property. It simply provides that without the other The Fuentes spouses of course argue that the RTC nullified the sale to them
spouse’s written consent or a court order allowing the sale, the same would be based on fraud and that, therefore, the applicable prescriptive period should
void. Article 124 thus provides: be that which applies to fraudulent transactions, namely, four years from its
discovery. Since notice of the sale may be deemed given to the Rocas when it
Art. 124. x x x In the event that one spouse is incapacitated or otherwise unable was registered with the Registry of Deeds in 1989, their right of action already
to participate in the administration of the conjugal properties, the other prescribed in 1993.
spouse may assume sole powers of administration. These powers do not
include the powers of disposition or encumbrance which must have the But, if there had been a victim of fraud in this case, it would be the Fuentes
authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse. In the spouses in that they appeared to have agreed to buy the property upon an
honest belief that Rosario’s written consent to the sale was genuine. They had Indeed, they willingly made a 30 percent down payment on the selling price
four years then from the time they learned that her signature had been forged months earlier on the assurance that it was forthcoming.
within which to file an action to annul the sale and get back their money plus
damages. They never exercised the right. Further, the notarized document appears to have comforted the Fuentes
spouses that everything was already in order when Tarciano executed a deed
If, on the other hand, Rosario had agreed to sign the document of consent of absolute sale in their favor on January 11, 1989. In fact, they paid the
upon a false representation that the property would go to their children, not to balance due him. And, acting on the documents submitted to it, the Register of
strangers, and it turned out that this was not the case, then she would have Deeds of Zamboanga City issued a new title in the names of the Fuentes
four years from the time she discovered the fraud within which to file an action spouses. It was only after all these had passed that the spouses entered the
to declare the sale void. But that is not the case here. Rosario was not a victim property and built on it. He is deemed a possessor in good faith, said Article
of fraud or misrepresentation. Her consent was simply not obtained at all. She 526 of the Civil Code, who is not aware that there exists in his title or mode of
lost nothing since the sale without her written consent was void. Ultimately, the acquisition any flaw which invalidates it.
Rocas ground for annulment is not forgery but the lack of written consent of
their mother to the sale. The forgery is merely evidence of lack of consent. As possessor in good faith, the Fuentes spouses were under no obligation to
pay for their stay on the property prior to its legal interruption by a final
Third. The Fuentes spouses point out that it was to Rosario, whose consent was judgment against them.24 What is more, they are entitled under Article 448 to
not obtained, that the law gave the right to bring an action to declare void her indemnity for the improvements they introduced into the property with a right
husband’s sale of conjugal land. But here, Rosario died in 1990, the year after of retention until the reimbursement is made. Thus:
the sale. Does this mean that the right to have the sale declared void is forever
lost? Art. 448. The owner of the land on which anything has been built, sown or
planted in good faith, shall have the right to appropriate as his own the works,
The answer is no. As stated above, that sale was void from the beginning. sowing or planting, after payment of the indemnity provided for in Articles 546
Consequently, the land remained the property of Tarciano and Rosario despite and 548, or to oblige the one who built or planted to pay the price of the land,
that sale. When the two died, they passed on the ownership of the property to and the one who sowed, the proper rent. However, the builder or planter
their heirs, namely, the Rocas. 23 As lawful owners, the Rocas had the right, cannot be obliged to buy the land if its value is considerably more than that of
under Article 429 of the Civil Code, to exclude any person from its enjoyment the building or trees. In such case, he shall pay reasonable rent, if the owner of
and disposal.1avvphi1 the land does not choose to appropriate the building or trees after proper
indemnity. The parties shall agree upon the terms of the lease and in case of
In fairness to the Fuentes spouses, however, they should be entitled, among disagreement, the court shall fix the terms thereof. (361a)
other things, to recover from Tarciano’s heirs, the Rocas, the ₱200,000.00 that
they paid him, with legal interest until fully paid, chargeable against his estate. The Rocas shall of course have the option, pursuant to Article 546 of the Civil
Code,25 of indemnifying the Fuentes spouses for the costs of the improvements
Further, the Fuentes spouses appear to have acted in good faith in entering the or paying the increase in value which the property may have acquired by
land and building improvements on it. Atty. Plagata, whom the parties reason of such improvements.
mutually entrusted with closing and documenting the transaction, represented
that he got Rosario’s signature on the affidavit of consent. The Fuentes WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition and AFFIRMS WITH
spouses had no reason to believe that the lawyer had violated his commission MODIFICATION the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV 00531
and his oath. They had no way of knowing that Rosario did not come to dated February 27, 2007 as follows:
Zamboanga to give her consent. There is no evidence that they had a
premonition that the requirement of consent presented some difficulty.
1. The deed of sale dated January 11, 1989 that Tarciano T. Roca executed in
favor of Manuel O. Fuentes, married to Leticia L. Fuentes, as well as the
Transfer Certificate of Title T-90,981 that the Register of Deeds of Zamboanga
City issued in the names of the latter spouses pursuant to that deed of sale are

2. The Register of Deeds of Zamboanga City is DIRECTED to reinstate Transfer

Certificate of Title 3533 in the name of Tarciano T. Roca, married to Rosario

3. Respondents Gonzalo G. Roca, Annabelle R. Joson, Rose Marie R. Cristobal,

and Pilar Malcampo are ORDERED to pay petitioner spouses Manuel and
Leticia Fuentes the ₱200,000.00 that the latter paid Tarciano T. Roca, with legal
interest from January 11, 1989 until fully paid, chargeable against his estate;

4. Respondents Gonzalo G. Roca, Annabelle R. Joson, Rose Marie R. Cristobal,

and Pilar Malcampo are further ORDERED, at their option, to indemnify
petitioner spouses Manuel and Leticia Fuentes with their expenses for
introducing useful improvements on the subject land or pay the increase in
value which it may have acquired by reason of those improvements, with the
spouses entitled to the right of retention of the land until the indemnity is
made; and

5. The RTC of Zamboanga City from which this case originated is DIRECTED to
receive evidence and determine the amount of indemnity to which petitioner
spouses Manuel and Leticia Fuentes are entitled.