Palomata v. Colmenares (G.R. No. 174251; December 15, 2010)


FACTS: This case involves a parcel of land along the Camambugan Creek in Balasan, Iloilo on which stand petitioner Raul Palomata's house and talyer. Letecia Colmenares claiming ownership over the said land, filed a criminal complaint for squatting against Raul in 1981. However, for reasons undisclosed by the records, the case was eventually dismissed. In order to prevent further ejectment from the subject property, Raul, together with his father Alipio, filed a complaint in 1984 before the RTC, sitting as a Court of Agrarian Relations (CAR), for maintenance and damages against Letecia, her son Nestor Colmenares, and Teresa Gurrea. The complaint alleged that Alipio Palomata (Alipio) was the bona fide agricultural lessee of Letecia. After the issuance of Presidential Decree No. 27,an approximate two-hectare portion of Colmenares landholding was awarded to Alipio, who was issued Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) No. 10055.Raul contended that the subject property occupied by his house and talyer was part of Alipio's farmlot. Thus, Raul and Alipio prayed to be maintained in the subject property and that the Colmenareses be ordered to refrain from ejecting the Palomatas from the subject property.

The Colmenareses admitted that Alipio was their agricultural lessee but denied any knowledge of the survey which led to the issuance of the CLT in Alipios favor.The Colmenareses countered that the property claimed by Raul is within their subdivision, not within the agricultural land tenanted by Alipio.They prayed that the subject property be excluded from Alipios land transfer certificate.Should the property be included in Alipios CLT, they prayed that the same be declared null and void because they were not informed of the survey conducted by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The trial court ruled in favor of the Colmenareses. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTCs decision.

ISSUE: Did the trial and appellate courts err in the appreciation of facts when they ruled that the subject property belongs to respondents?

HELD: In their complaint, the Palomatas recognized the Colmenareses as the owners of the subject property, but the Palomatas claimed entitlement to the subject property by virtue of Alipios CLT which awarded a farmlot to Alipio. But the said CLT did not indicate the metes and bounds of the awarded farmlot; it only stated that the farmlot awarded to Alipio consisted of two hectares.Hence, it became necessary to prove, beyond the CLT, that the subject property is actually included in Alipio's farmlot. The Palomatas, however, failed to discharge this burden.On the contrary, what appeared during the trial was that the subject property was actually not included in Alipio's farmlot.Instead of helping the Palomatas cause, the trial court found the stated southern boundary of the farmlot (the Camambugan Creek) as evidence that the subject property was not included therein.The ocular inspection revealed that the subject property lies on the other side of the Camambugan Creek, physically separate from Alipios farmlot.The trial court thus concluded that the subject property is not part of the farmlot, which conclusion is not unwarranted.The declaration that the farmlot is bounded on the south by the Camambugan Creek reveals Alipios admission and understanding that his farmlot extends up to the creek only, and not across.Since the subject property is across the creek, it is but fair to conclude that it is not part of the farmlot.This is particularly significant considering that the Palomatas failed to offer any contrary explanation and considering that the tax declaration was their very own evidence.

The other pieces of evidence offered by the Palomatas to prove that the subject property was within Alipios farmlot were the two investigation reports of the DAR.The Palomatas were relying on the fact that it was stated therein that the Bureau of Lands surveyed the land and found that the subject property lies within Alipios farmlot.However, the findings of the two reports weredisavowedon the witness stand by the officials who participated therein.

In sum, the CLT, tax declaration and investigation reports offered by the Palomatas as evidence of their right to the subject property are, at best, inconclusive and insufficient to prove their claim that the subject property is included in Alipios farmlot.In fact, they even prove quite the opposite: that the subject property is actually not included in the farmlot. DENIED.