G.R. No. 190165, June 19, 2017


[ G.R. No. 190165, June 19, 2017 ]



Please take notice that the Court, First Division, issued a Resolution dated June 19, 2017 which reads as follows:

"G.R. No. 190165 (Catalina Cinco v. Rafael Bartolome).- Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] assailing the Decision[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 00691. The CA affirmed the dismissal[3] by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of the complaint for accion reivindicatoria filed by Catalina Cinco (Catalina) against Elpedio Bartolome (Elpedio).[4]Catalina prays for the reversal of the CA Decision for being contrary to the evidence on record. She argues that her Tax Declarations and the findings of the court-appointed commissioner have sufficiently established that the subject parcel of land was part of the inheritance of her grandfather, Arsenio Cinco, Sr. (Arsenio). She also claims that the lot was not among the three parcels of land delivered to Coleta Bartolome (Coleta) sometime in 1981 as a result of the complaint for redemption that the latter had filed against Arsenio in 1975.


Catalina and Elpedio are the great-grandchildren of Catalina Langara. In a 1947 partition agreement among Langara's heirs,[5] Catalina's grandfather, Arsenio Cinco, Sr. (Arsenio), was given a parcel of land described as follows:
2. The portion of Appendix "1" identified with the words "Arsenio 2" and within the perimeter of points 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 to 35. It is bounded on the north by portion "Coling 1", on the east by the national highway, on the south by portion "Binay 2", and on the west by Maria Brozas. Its dividing line from portion "Binay 2" has been stated above in describing the latter portion. Its dividing line from portion "Coling 1" is a straight line drawn from point 39 located near a "dalakit" tree passing thru point 38 at the edge of a [rice field] to point 37 ten meters from the point of a sloping mounting. It is [a] small part of parcel identified with letter "(d)" in the complaint.[6]
Catalina claims that the lot described above was declared for taxation under Arsenio's name in TD No. 18610.[7] Arsenio subsequently bequeathed the lot to her by way of a Deed of Extra- judicial Partition.[8] Hence, in 1974, she was issued TD No. 2067[9] for the same lot.

The lot is described in TD Nos. 18610 and 2067 as follows:
Location - Lawayan, San Pelagio, Gandara, Samar
Lot No.-30932
Boundaries - North: Coleta Mendiola
South: Provincial Road
East : Coleta Mendiola
West: Silvina Cinco
In 1992, Catalina filed against Elpedio a Complaint[11] to recover ownership of the lot described above. She alleged that in 1987, Elpedio had unceremoniously prevented her from cultivating the lot, claiming that it belonged to him.

In his Answer,[12] Elpedio alleged that the disputed lot was actually the southwest portion of the nine-hectare land that he had inherited from Coleta and it was covered by his TD No. 6791.[13] He elaborated that the lot had been the subject of two civil cases between the Bartolomes and the Cincos.[14] The first case was filed in 1975, when Coleta sought to redeem three parcels of land from Arsenio. The second case was the ejectment complaint that Elpedio filed against Catalina in 1987. In both cases, the courts ruled against the Cincos and ordered them to restore possession of the lot to the Bartolomes.

Before the pretrial, Catalina moved for the appointment of a commissioner.[15] The trial court thus appointed a commissioner to relocate the parcels of land described in TD Nos. 2067 and 6791.[16]

The Commissioner's Report[17] reads:
xxx Based on the informations [sic] described on [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 2067 of the plaintiff and [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 6791 of the defendant contained in paragraph 2 of the complaint and paragraph 2 of the answer respectively, the facts are, to wit:

1. That plaintiff acquired her property from her grandfather, the late Arsenio Cinco, Sr., while the defendant inherited his property from his late mother, Coleta Mendiola, who in turn inherited the same from her father, the late Elpedio Mendiola.

2.That said Arsenio Cinco, Sr. is the owner of one parcel of land in the vicinity, north along the provincial road, under [T]ax [Declaration no. 18610. Coleta Mendiola on the other hand is the owner of two adjacent parcels of land in the same vicinity under [T]ax [Declaration [N]os. 20330 and 20329. The first is also north along the provincial road and the second is farther on the top northeast of the first.

3. That based on the sketches and boundary descriptions, these three parcels of land are contiguous. Had the assessor's sketch of the land on the back page of the subject tax declaration been perfectly done, the undersigned would have considered reproducing them here to reinforce this fact. Furthermore, the boundary descriptions clearly showed that parcel under [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 18610 adjoined to the west side of parcel under [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 20330, while parcel under [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 20329 adjoined to the northeast side of it. In other words, 20330 is the link between 18610 and 20329.

4. That before the Cadastral survey, [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 18610 was cancelled and superseded by [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 2067 in the name of plaintiff, Catalina Cinco. Tax [Declaration [N]os. 20329 and 20330 were only revised and superseded by [T]ax [Declaration [N]os. 2428 and 2429 respectively under the same owner, Coleta Mendiola. All these three latest tax declarations are existing(sic) up to the present.

5. That during the Cadastral survey of the Municipality of Gandara, these three contiguous parcels of land were surveyed and recorded as one whole [L]ot [N]o. 1040, Cad. 444-D, Case 1, with an area of 189,787 square meters. As a consequence, parcel under [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 2067 disappeared from the map of the vicinity.

6. That subsequently [L]ot [N]o. 1040 was declared for taxation. Instead of cancelling and superseding current [T]ax declaration nos. 2428 and 2429 which covered most part of it, a new [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 1445 was improperly issued under the new owner, heirs of Elpedio Mendiola. A clear case of duplication of tax declaration.

7. After [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 1445 was revised and superseded by [T]ax [D]eclaration [N]o. 1272, it was eventually subdivided in two equal lots, each containing 94,893.50 square meters. One, under [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. in the name of Norberto Bartolome and the other, [N]o. in the name of Elpedio Bartolome, the herein defendant. The area covered by [T]ax [Declaration [N]o. 6790 is marked on plan with letter C and [N]o. 6791 with letters A and B.

8.That the property in question, marked letter A on plan with an area of 24,199 square meters is positively part and parcel of cadastral [L]ot [N]o. 1040.

9. That the location and boundary of the property in question fitted to the description of the land under [T]ax [D]eclaration [N]o. 2067 except the area which is over by 5,763 square meters.

10. That the actual area (189,787 sq.m.) of [Lot No.] 1040 is considerably much lesser than the aggregate of [T]ax [D]eclaration [N]os. 20329, 20330, and 2067 (249,383 "sq. meters). Aside from the area (about 12,000 sq. mts.) which was cut by the widening of the provincial road (now national highway), the [still] big [discrepancy] could be attributed to the following circumstances:
  1. the possibility of boundary encroachment.

  2. the precision of measurement work done by the assessor as against the cadastral survey team.

  3. the system of area computation.[18]
Elpedio objected to the admission of the Report. He pointed out that the commissioner disregarded the court decisions in the previous disputes between the parties. As a result, the commissioner failed to consider that the Bartolomes' ownership and possessory rights had been recognized by the courts in those cases. Moreover, his findings, especially paragraph 6 above, were contrary to the court's pronouncements in the ejectment case that Elpedio had filed against Catalina.[19]

The RTC sustained the objections of Elpedio to the findings of the commissioner. It noted that the latter's task was only to relocate the properties described in the Tax Declarations presented by the parties. The Report, however, contained factual and legal conclusions that were beyond his authority. Nonetheless, the trial court adopted the Commissioner's Sketch as a reference for the location, area, description and other matters relative to the property and its adjoining lots.[20]

After trial on the merits, the RTC dismissed the complaint of Catalina for failure to establish the identity of the lot she was claiming. The trial court did not rely on the Commissioner's Report because of the distinct deficiencies and inconsistencies in its findings. First, the commissioner raised the possibility of the encroachment of boundaries; yet he did not state the specific metes and bounds of the subject lot in order to delineate it from the adjoining properties of the Bartolomes. Second, there were significant discrepancies in the reported measurements. The land area stated in Catalina's Tax Declaration was 8,436 square meters. On the other hand, the sketch attached to the Report stated that the area of the disputed lot was 24,199 square meters. In paragraph 9 of the Report, however, the commissioner reported only a 5,763-square-meter variance between his actual measurement and the land area indicated in the Tax Declaration. On cross-examination, he opined that the part of the lot described in Catalina's Tax Declaration was probably traversed by the New Maharlika Highway during the period of construction. The RTC, however, found this explanation insufficient to justify the substantial discrepancies in his findings on the actual area of the lot.[21]

Likewise, the RTC noted Catalina's lack of action to protect her interest in previous legal proceedings in which the Cincos' claim over the lot was at stake. In Coleta's Complaint against Arsenio in 1975, the description of the properties in question included the lot being claimed by Catalina. The latter, however, did not intervene in that case. Similarly, she did not register her claim over the lot during the cadastral survey in 1976. Instead, the Heirs of Elpedio Mendiola solely claimed the lot as part of a bigger parcel of land that was declared for taxation under Coleta's name in TD No. 2429.[22] Consequently, this bigger lot covered by TD No. 2429, together with its adjoining parcel of land that was also declared for taxation under Coleta's name in TD No. 2428,[23] was surveyed as Cadastral Lot No. 1040.[24] The trial court concluded that Catalina's silence meant that she had no true ownership claim over the lot.[25]

In contrast, the RTC found that Elpedio had sufficiently established his ownership through his TD No. 6791 and its antecedent Tax Declarations; the Decisions of the trial and the appellate courts on Coleta's Complaint for recovery and redemption against Arsenio; and the two Documents Upon Delivery,[26] which Coleta and Catalina's father (Arsenio, Jr.) had executed in 1981. From those documents, the RTC concluded that the lot being claimed by Catalina was, indeed, a portion of the parcel of land identified as "Parcel 1" in Coleta's Complaint and in the Document upon Delivery. Significantly, it was Arsenio, Jr. who witnessed and acknowledged the delivery, but he did not assert Catalina's claim over the disputed lot.

The RTC noted that the Commissioner's Sketch and testimony on cross-examination even strengthened Elpedio's ownership claim. Based on the commissioner's illustration, the lot described in Catalina's TD No. 2067 was inside the perimeters of Cadastral Lot No. 1040, particularly the portion covered by Elpedio's TD No. 6791.

On the other hand, the RTC differed from the commissioner's finding that TD No. 1445[27] was a mere duplication of TD Nos. 2428 and 2429. It ruled that TD No. 1445 only reflected the actual boundaries and correct total land areas of parcels of land that were declared in those Tax Declarations, and determined only during the cadastral survey. Elpedio sufficiently traced his Tax Declaration to Coleta's TD No. 2429 by showing that Cadastral Lot No. 1040 was subsequently divided into two equal parts. One part was declared for taxation under the name of Norberto Bartolome in TD No. 6790; the other part, under the name of Elpedio in TD No. 6791.[28]

Based on the above findings, the RTC concluded that the disputed lot was indeed a portion of the land described in Elpedio's TD No. 6791.

Catalina then filed an appeal with the CA,[29] questioning the RTC's appreciation of the evidence on record. She maintained that the lot described in her TD No. 2067 was not included in the civil case filed by Coleta against Arsenio, Sr. way back in 1975.[30]

The CA, however, denied Catalina's appeal and sustained the trial court's finding that ownership and possession of the subject land by Elpedio were sufficiently established by his Tax Declaration and the cadastral survey. It noted that Catalina's TD No. 2067 was derived from TD No. 18610, but that the latter was a doubtful proof of ownership by the Cincos, as it bore this marginal note: "This is part of the land declared in the name of Elpedio Mendiola under Tax 13908 and was transferred to said owner." Even then, the series of Tax Declarations issued to Elpedio's predecessors-in-interest had sufficiently refuted Catalina's claim of ownership and continuous possession of the lot. Likewise, the appellate court noted that the RTC had correctly observed that Elpedio's claim was bolstered by the bearings and distances that were established during the cadastral survey.

The CA also found the Commissioner's Report unreliable. In addition to the defects of the Report that the RTC had noted, the appellate court observed that the commissioner had made conclusions, instead of merely stating the location and description of the lot. Hence, the CA ruled that the RTC had correctly sustained Elpedio's objection to the Report.[31]

Finally, the CA rejected Catalina's claim that she was not notified of the cadastral survey in 1976 at the Municipality of Gandara. It noted that the cadastral proceedings were done publicly, and that Catalina was both a farmer and contractor. As such, it was unbelievable that she was unaware of the cadastral survey, or that she had no opportunity thereafter to question its results.

Catalina then filed the instant petition without filing a motion for reconsideration before the CA.


The sole issue that we shall resolve in this case is whether or not the CA erred in affirming the RTC's dismissal of Catalina's Complaint.


We deny the petition.

Without question, the disputed lot is part of the bigger tract of unregistered land, which was identified as Cadastral Lot No. 1040 after the cadastral survey in the Municapality of Gandara in 1976. Lot No. 1040 was declared for taxation under the name of the Heirs of Elpedio Bartolome in TD No. 1445, then it was divided into two equal parts between Elpedio and his brother, Norberto. Elpedio's portion, which has an area of 9 hectares, 48 ares, and 93.5 centares[32] - 94,893.5 square meters - encompasses the disputed lot and the whole mass is now declared for taxation under Elpedio's name in TD No. 6791.

Catalina argues, however, that the Bartolomes encroached on her lot. She cites the Commissioner's Report as proof that her lot is different from Cadastral Lot No. 1040. She claims that Elpedio failed to refute Report with credible evidence and misled the RTC into believing that her lot was among those that Coleta had successfully recovered from Arsenio, Sr. in 1981. As a result, the RTC made the wrong conclusion that the disputed lot was part of Coleta's estate.

Catalina is raising factual matters that are beyond our jurisdiction. The question of whether she has adequately identified her lot requires a delineation of actual boundaries in accordance with the tax declarations, deeds of conveyance, survey plans, and sketches on record.[33] Moreover, the arguments she raises cannot be completely resolved without reviewing the admissibility and credibility of the evidence on record. These processes properly fall under the trial court's original jurisdiction and the CA's appellate jurisdiction.

We cannot entertain factual questions in a petition for review on certiorari, simply because we are not a trial court. Unless the party availing of the remedy of review on certiorari clearly demonstrates that the petition falls under any of the established exceptions to this rule,[34] our jurisdiction is limited solely to a review of legal questions.[35] Consequently, we shall confine our review to any reversible error that the CA might have committed in affirming the trial court's dismissal of Catalina's Complaint.

Article 434 of the Civil Code requires a person who seeks to recover ownership of real property to prove two things: first, the identity of the land claimed; and second, the claimant's title over the disputed area. The law further requires the plaintiff to rely on the strength of the title held, rather than on the weakness of the defendant's claim.

Both the trial court and the CA found the evidence of the identity of the lot of Catalina nebulous. We agree. It is claimed that the lot described in TD No. 2067 is separate from Cadastral Lot No. 1040. Yet, as the lower courts have correctly observed, neither the Commissioner's Report nor the sketches submitted by Catalina stated the metes and bounds of her lot, so these may be compared with the bearings and distances of Cadastral Lot No. 1040 determined in the cadastral survey in 1976.[36] After all, a piece of land is not identified by the size or area mentioned in its description, but by the boundaries therein laid down as enclosing the land and indicating its limits.[37]

It has been said that in determining the limits of a piece of land, boundary owners cannot be relied upon. Unlike natural boundaries like rivers and streams, boundary owners are likely to change and a corresponding change in the limits of the property may occur.[38] Notably, TD No. 18610 was issued way back in 1949, and its description of the lot's boundaries was based on the named boundary owners in the 1947 Partition Agreement. The intervening period of more than four decades from the issuance of TD 18610 and the filing of the Complaint should have cautioned the commissioner that the description of boundaries in Catalina's Tax Declarations was already inaccurate. Without any explanation, the commissioner still preferred the description In Catalina's old Tax Declarations over the official results of the cadastral survey in 1976. Given these facts, we must reject Catalina's argument that the description in her Tax Declarations, as well as the sketch provided by the commissioner, sufficiently establish the identity of her lot.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, and the Court of Appeals Decision dated 8 October 2009 in CA-G.R. CV No. 00691 is AFFIRMED.

Very truly yours,

Deputy Division Clerk of Court

[1] Rollo, pp. 12-34.

[2] Id. at 35-46. The Decision, dated 8 October 2009, was penned by Associate Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos with Associate Justices Franchito N. Diamante and Samuel H. Gaerian concurring.

[3] Id. at 75-90. The Decision, dated 29 October 2004, was penned by Judge Rasario B. Bandal.

[4] Elpedio died in 1994 while the case was pending, so he was substituted by his heirs represented by Rafael Bartolome.

[5] Folder of Exhibits for the Plaintiff (Folder No. 2), pp. 30-39.

[6] Id. at 36.

[7] Id. at 42. The Tax Declaration number stamped on the face of the document is 18810.

[8] Id. at 40-41.

[9] Id. at 44.

[10] 84 ares and 36 centares is equal to 8,436 square meters.

[11] RTC Records, pp. 1-2.

[12] Id. at 5-7.

[13] Id. at 5.

[14] The first was for redemption and recovery of property, docketed as CA-G.R. No. 63901-R, and entitled "Coleta Barlolome v. Elpedio Cinco, et al. " The second case was an ejectment complaint docketed as Civil Case No. 219 and entitled "Elpedio Dartolome v. Catalina Cinco. "

[15] RTC records, pp. 10-11.

[16] Id. at 12.

[17] Id. at 16-18. It was submitted to the trial court on 13 August 1992.

[18] Id. at 16-17.

[19] Id. at 20-21.

[20] Id. at 79.

[21] Id. at 336; rollo, pp. 86.

[22] Id. at 294.

[23] Id. at 295.

[24] Id. at 285.

[25] Id. at 336-337; id. at 86-87.

[26] Id. at 280-282.

[27] Id. at 296.

[28] Id. at 298.

[29] Rollo, pp. 47-74.

[30] Id. at 38-39.

[31] Id. at 41-43.

[32] RTC Records, p. 326.

[33] See Mendoza v. Valte, G.R. No. 172961, 7 September 2015, citing Bagimu v. Spouses Aggabao, 671 Phil. 183, 193(2011).

[34] A question of fact can be entertained in a Rule 45 petition for the following exceptions/reasons: (1) the conclusion is grounded on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) there is no citation of specific evidence on which the factual findings are based; (7) the finding of absence of facts is contradicted by the presence of evidence on record; (8) the findings of the CA are contrary to the findings of the trial court; (9) the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant and undisputed facts that, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (10) the findings of the CA are beyond the issues of the case; and (11) such findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties. [Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. v, Custodio, 661 Phil. 324 (2011) citing Serrano v. People, 637 Phil. 319(2010)].

[35] Fernandez v. Spouses Ronulo, G.R. No. 187400, 13 July 2016; Mendoza v. Valte, supra. Spouses Peraltav. Heirs of Abalon, G.R. Nos. 183448& 183464, 30 June 2014.

[36] See Heirs of Spouses Tanyag v. Gabriel, 685 Phil. 517 (2012).

[37] Turquesa v. Valera, 379 Phil. 618 (2000).

[38] Francisco v. Spouses Magbitang, 255 Phil. 379 (1989).

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