Case Digest: Mercado vs. Valley Mountain

G.R. No. 141019



Subject of controversy are five parcels of land situated at Barangay Sungay, Iruhin, Tagaytay City. Lot 4867 was originally declared under the name "Heirs of Narciso Olimpiada" with Rosa Cabrera as the named Administrator in Tax Declaration. On the other hand, the declared owners of Lots 7539, 7540, 7541 and 4831-B are the Heirs of Juan Desenga. The heirs of Narciso Olimpiada and heirs of Juan Desenga were in actual possession of the aforesaid properties. For failure to pay the real property taxes for several years, the subject lots were sold by the City Government of Tagaytay in a public auction to Purchaser issued in favor of Valley Mountain Mines Exploration, Inc. (VMMEI).

To save their property, the heirs of Narciso Olimpiada, through their attorney-in-fact, Rosa Cabrera Mendoza, executed a "Deed of Sale of an Unregistered Parcel of Land With Assignment of Rights and Assumption of Obligations" in favor of Jose Teofilo T. Mercado (Mercado). The heirs of Juan Desenga through their attorney-in-fact Primitivo Mendoza likewise executed a similar deed in favor of Mercado.

The present controversy generated a prolonged litigation on the issue of ownership. On the one hand is the dispute between Mercado and VMMEI as to who had validly acquired rights over Lot 4867 in the tax delinquency sale conducted by the City Government of Tagaytay and, on the other, is the persistent albeit unsubstantiated claim of the Olimpiada Heirs-Fabella Group that they are co-owners of the auctioned property as descendants of the alleged brothers of Narciso Olimpiada, Juan and Sergio Olimpiada.

The RTC rendered its Decision confirming VMMEIs ownership of the 5 properties. The RTC Decision was affirmed by the CA on appeal.


I. Whether or not VMMEI has properly acquired ownership over the properties


Petitioner Mercado assails the CA in affirming the trial courts ruling that the subject lots auctioned by the City Government of Tagaytay were validly sold to respondent VMMEI in view of his insufficient and belated payment of redemption price.

There can be no dispute that the RTC in the application for original registration may pass upon the issue of ownership to determine whether the applicant is entitled to the relief he seeks. Records showed that the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) informed the trial court of an existing case concerning the subject property. However, the trial court rendered its Decision without waiting for the receipt by the LRA of the abovementioned verification reports on the correctness of the plan and status of the land applied for registration. Apparently, the LRA was not notified that a decision had already been rendered.

Again, there is no showing that the above recommendation was duly considered and acted upon by the trial court. It also did not wait for the submission of reports requested by the LRA from the aforementioned agencies concerning the status of the property, whether it is covered by any kind of public land application/land patent, is a portion of or identical to any parcel of land covered by previously approved isolated survey, and is inside the alienable and disposable land of the public domain. It should be stressed that a person who seeks registration of title to a piece of land must prove the claim by clear and convincing evidence, and is duty bound to identify sufficiently and satisfactorily the property. Otherwise stated, all facts must indicate that no other person, including the government, will be prejudiced by the adjudication of the land to the applicant. Indeed, a land registration court has no jurisdiction to order the registration of land already decreed in the name of another in an earlier land registration case. A second decree for the same land would be null and void.

In this case, the only evidence submitted before the trial court to show the character of the lands applied for is the Certification issued by CENRO Records Officer Benjamin Aukay stating the status of each lot as "not applied". This hardly suffices to prove the character of the land as it did not even state whether the subject lots are within the alienable and disposable zone of the public domain. It must also be stressed that the tax delinquency sale is no proof of registrability of the land. Both Mercado and VMMEI failed to submit a certification from the proper government agency to prove that the lands subject for registration are indeed alienable and disposable. An application for original registration of title over a parcel of land must be accompanied by a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records in order to establish that the land indeed is alienable and disposable.

Considering the foregoing, there is a need to remand the case to the RTC so that it may take into account the rulings of the LRA and conduct further proceedings.