Identity of land; proof of title; recovery of ownership

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.[1]In the case of Cinco v. Bartolome (G.R. No. 190165, June 19, 2017), both the trial court and the Court of Appeals (CA) found the evidence of the identity of the lot of Catalina nebulous; and the Supreme Court agreed. In this case, it is claimed that the lot described in TD No. 2067 is separate from Cadastral Lot No. 1040. However, 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] In Cinco v. Bartolome, as cited above, 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, Catalina's argument that the description in her Tax Declarations must be rejected; the sketch provided by the commissioner cannot be held sufficient to establish the identity of her lot.


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

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

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