3rd party's right to file terceria

The right of a third-party claimant to file a terceria is founded on his title or right of possession. Corollary thereto, before the court can exercise its supervisory power to direct the release of the property mistakenly levied and the restoration thereof to its rightful owner, the claimant must first unmistakably establish his ownership or right of possession thereon. In Spouses Sy v. Hon. Discaya,[1] the Supreme Court declared that for a third-party claim or a terceria to prosper, the claimant must first sufficiently establish his right on the property:
A third person whose property was seized by a sheriff to answer for the obligation of the judgment debtor may invoke the supervisory power of the court which authorized such execution. Upon due application by the third person and after summary hearing, the court may command that the property be released from the mistaken levy and restored to the rightful owner or possessor. What said court can do in these instances, however, is limited to a determination of whether the sheriff has acted rightly or wrongly in the performance of his duties in the execution of judgment, more specifically, if he has indeed taken hold of property not belonging to the judgment debtor. The court does not and cannot pass upon the question of title to the property, with any character of finality. It can treat of the matter only insofar as may be necessary to decide if the sheriff has acted correctly or not. It can require the sheriff to restore the property to the claimant's possession if warranted by the evidence. However, if the claimant's proofs do not persuade the court of the validity of his title or right of possession thereto, the claim will be denied.[2]
In the case of Villasi v. Spouses Garcia (G.R. No. 190106, January 15, 2014), as the party asserting their title, the Spouses Garcia failed to prove that they have a bona fide title to the building for which they filed terceria. Aside from their postulation that as title holders of the land, the law presumes them to be owners of the improvements built thereon, the Spouses Garcia were unable to adduce credible evidence to prove their ownership of the property. In contrast, Villasi was able to satisfactorily establish the ownership of Fil-Garcia Construction, Inc. (FGCI) thru the pieces of evidence she appended to her opposition. Worthy to note is the fact that the building in litigation was declared for taxation purposes in the name of FGCI and not in the name of Spouses Garcias.[2a] While it is true that tax receipts and tax declarations are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute credible proof of claim of title over the property.[3] In Buduhan v. Pakurao,[4] the significance of a tax declaration as proof that a holder has claim of title was emphasized, and, the Supreme Court gave weight to the demonstrable interest of the claimant holding a tax receipt:
Although tax declarations or realty tax payment of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they are good indicia of possession in the concept of owner for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or at least constructive possession. They constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not only one’s sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property and announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties, but also the intention to contribute needed revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens one’s bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership.[5]

[1] 260 Phil. 401 (1990).

[2] Id. at 406-407.

[2a] G.R. No. 190106, January 15, 2014.

[3] Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68946, 22 May 1992, 209 SCRA 214, 227-228.

[4] 518 Phil. 285 (2006).

[5] Id. at 296 citing Ganila v. Court of Appeals, 500 Phil. 212, 224 (2005).