Petitioner asserts that Manna Properties has
failed to prove its possession of the land for the period of time required by
law. Petitioner alleges that the trial court and the Court of Appeals
based their findings solely on their evaluation of the tax declarations
presented by Manna Properties.
The jurisdiction of this Court under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is limited to the review and revision of errors of law. This Court is not bound to analyze and weigh evidence already considered in prior proceedings. Absent any of the established grounds for exception, this Court is bound by the findings of fact of the trial and appellate courts.
The issue of whether Manna Properties has presented sufficient proof of the required possession, under a bona fide claim of ownership, raises a question of fact. It invites an evaluation of the evidentiary record. Petitioner invites us to re-evaluate the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the trial and appellate courts. Generally, Rule 45 does not allow this. Matters of proof and evidence are beyond the power of this Court to review under a Rule 45 petition, except in the presence of some meritorious circumstances. We find one such circumstance in this case. The evidence on record does not support the conclusions of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals.
Petitioner claimed in its opposition to the application of Manna Properties that, as a private corporation, Manna Properties is disqualified from holding alienable lands of the public domain, except by lease. Petitioner cites the constitutional prohibition in Section 3 of Article XII in the 1987 Constitution. Petitioner also claims that the land in question is still part of the public domain.
On the other hand, Manna Properties claims that it has established that the land in question has been in the open and exclusive possession of its predecessors-in-interest since the 1940s. Thus, the land was already private land when Manna Properties acquired it from its predecessors-in-interest.
The governing law is Commonwealth Act No. 141 (“CA 141”) otherwise known as the “Public Land Act.” Section 48(b) of the said law, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, provides:
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945 or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Emphasis supplied)
Lands that fall under Section 48 of CA 141 are effectively segregated from the public domain by virtue of acquisitive prescription. We have held that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by CA 141 ipso jure converts such land into private land. Judicial confirmation in such cases is only a formality that merely confirms the earlier conversion of the land into private land, the conversion having occurred in law from the moment the required period of possession became complete.
Under CA 141, the reckoning point is June 12, 1945. If the predecessors-in-interest of Manna Properties have been in possession of the land in question since this date, or earlier, Manna Properties may rightfully apply for confirmation of title to the land. Following our ruling in Director of Lands v. IAC, Manna Properties, a private corporation, may apply for judicial confirmation of the land without need of a separate confirmation proceeding for its predecessors-in-interest first.
We rule, however, that the land in question has not become private land and remains part of the public domain.
Under the Regalian doctrine, the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land. This is premised on the basic doctrine that all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Any applicant for confirmation of imperfect title bears the burden of proving that he is qualified to have the land titled in his name. Although Section 48 of CA 141 gives rise to a right that is only subject to formal recognition, it is still incumbent upon any claimant to first prove open, continuous and adverse possession for the requisite period of time. It is only when the applicant complies with this condition that he may invoke the rights given by CA 141.
The evidence submitted by Manna Properties to prove the required length of possession consists of the testimony of one of its predecessors-in-interest, Manuel Sobrepeña (“Manuel”), transferee’s affidavits, and several tax declarations covering the land in question.
We have ruled that while a tax declaration by itself is not sufficient to prove ownership, it may serve as sufficient basis for inferring possession. However, the tax declarations presented by Manna Properties do not serve to prove their cause. Although Manna Properties claimed during trial that they were presenting the tax declaration proving possession since 12 June 1945, a scrutiny of the tax declaration reveals that it is not the tax declaration Manna Properties claimed it to be. Exhibit Q-16 was in fact a substitute tax declaration allegedly issued on 28 November 1950. The annotation at the back of this tax declaration indicates that it was issued to replace the 1945 tax declaration covering the land in question. A substitute is not enough.
The 1945 tax declaration must be presented considering that the date, 12 June 1945, is material to this case. CA 141 specifically fixes the date to 12 June 1945 or earlier. A tax declaration simply stating that it replaces a previous tax declaration issued in 1945 does not meet this standard. It is unascertainable whether the 1945 tax declaration was issued on, before or after 12 June 1945. Tax declarations are issued any time of the year. A tax declaration issued in 1945 may have been issued in December 1945. Unless the date and month of issuance in 1945 is stated, compliance with the reckoning date in CA 141 cannot be established.
There is another reason why the application for registration of Manna Properties must fail. The tax declaration allegedly executed in 1950 and marked as Exhibit Q-16 bears several irregularities. A small annotation found at the bottom of the back page of Exhibit Q-16 states it cancels a previous tax declaration. Beyond stating that the cancelled tax declaration was issued in 1945, Exhibit Q-16 does not provide any of the required information that will enable this Court or any interested party to check whether the original 1945 tax declaration ever existed.19 The blanks left by Exhibit Q-16 render any attempt to trace the original tax declaration futile. Moreover, on its face Exhibit Q-16 lacks any indication that it is only a substitute or reconstituted tax declaration. The net effect is an attempt to pass off Exhibit Q-16 as the original tax declaration.
The form used to prepare the tax declaration marked as Exhibit Q-16 states that it was “FILED UNDER SECTION 202 OF R.A. 7160.” Republic Act No. 7160 is the Local Government Code of 1991. The sworn undertaking by the Deputy Assessor who allegedly prepared the tax declaration reads, “Subscribed and sworn before me this 28 (sic) day of Nov. 1950…” This means that the tax declaration was issued more than forty (40) years before the form used came into existence. Manna Properties gave no explanation why its tax declaration used a form that did not exist at the time of the alleged issuance of the tax declaration. The totality of these circumstances leads this Court to conclude that Exhibit Q-16 was fabricated for the sole purpose of making it appear that Manna Properties’ predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the land in question since 12 June 1945.
The earliest of the “un-cancelled” tax declarations presented by Manna Properties is dated 1950. This is clearly insufficient to prove possession of the land since 12 June 1945. The same can be said of the transferee’s affidavit, which was dated 1955. Manna Properties’ reliance on Manuel’s testimony is similarly misplaced. Not only is such evidence insufficient and self-serving on its own but, Manuel did not also specifically testify that he, or his parents or predecessors-in-interest were in possession of the land since 12 June 1945 or earlier. The only clear assertion of possession made by Manuel was that his family used to plant rice on that piece of land.20
Other than the mentioned pieces of evidence, Manna Properties did not present sufficient proof that its predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous and adverse possession of the land in question since 12 June 1945. At best, Manna Properties can only prove possession since 1952. Manna Properties relied on shaky secondary evidence like the testimony of Manuel and substitute tax declarations. We have previously cautioned against the reliance on such secondary evidence in cases involving the confirmation of an imperfect title over public land.21 Manna Properties’ evidence hardly constitutes the “well-nigh incontrovertible” evidence necessary to acquire title through adverse occupation under CA 141.22
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the instant petition. We REVERSE the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 20 December 2000 in CA-G.R. CV No. 52562. The Application for Registration filed by Manna Properties, Inc. over Lots No. 9515 and 1006 of Cad. 539-D, with a total area of One Thousand Four Hundred Eighty (1,480) square meters situated in Barangay Pagdaraoan, San Fernando, La Union, is DENIED.
SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 146527, January 31, 2005 ] REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER, VS. MANNA PROPERTIES, INC., REPRESENTED BY ITS PRESIDENT, JOSE TANYAO, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries