Valiao v. Republic (G.R. No. 170757; November 28, 2011)


CASE DIGEST: PACIFICO M. VALIAO, for himself and in behalf of his co-heirs LODOVICO, RICARDO, BIENVENIDO, all Surnamed VALIAO and NEMESIO M. GRANDEA, Petitioners, v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, MACARIO ZAFRA, and MANUEL YUSAY, Respondents.

FACTS: On August 11, 1987, petitioners filed with the RTC an application for registration of a parcel of land situated in Barrio Galicia, Municipality of Ilog, Negros Occidental.

On June 20, 1988, private oppositors filed their Motion to Dismiss the application on the following grounds: (1) the land applied for has not been declared alienable and disposable; (2) res judicata has set in to bar the application for registration; and (3) the application has no factual or legal basis.

On August 24, 1988, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application for registration.

On July 3, 1989, the RTC denied private oppositors' Motion to Dismiss. Trial thereafter ensued.

In support of their application for registration, petitioners alleged that they acquired the subject property in 1947, upon the death of their uncle Basilio who purchased the land from a certain Fermin Payogao, pursuant to a Deed of Sale dated May 19, 1916 entirely handwritten in Spanish language. Basilio possessed the land in question from May 19, 1916 until his death in 1947. Basilio's possession was open, continuous, peaceful, adverse, notorious, uninterrupted and in the concept of an owner. Upon Basilio's death, the applicants as co-heirs possessed the said land until 1966, whenoppositor Zafra unlawfully and violently dispossessed them of their property, which compelled them to file complaints of Grave Coercion and Qualified Theft against Zafra.
The RTC, in its Decision dated December 15, 1995, granted petitioners' application for registration of the subject property.
Aggrieved by the Decision, the private oppositors and the Republic, through Assistant Prosecutor Josue A. Gatin, filed an appeal with the CA, which reversed the trial court's findings in its Decision dated June 23, 2005.
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by the CA. Hence, the present petition.

ISSUE:

Is the piece of land in question alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
HELD: Under Rule 45, the principle is well-established that this Court is not a trier of facts and that only questions of law may be raised. This rule, however, is subject to certain exceptions. One of these is when the findings of the appellate court are contrary to those of the trial court. Due to the divergence of the findings of the CA and the RTC, the Court will now re-examine the facts and evidence adduced before the lower courts.

Under Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, petitioners need to prove that: (1) the land forms part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain; and (2) they, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of ownership from June 12, 1945 or earlier.

No such evidence was offered by the petitioners to show that the land in question has been classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. In the absence of incontrovertible evidence to prove that the subject property is already classified as alienable and disposable, we must consider the same as still inalienable public domain. Verily, the rules on the confirmation of imperfect title do not apply unless and until the land subject thereof is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.

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