This is a petition for review on certiorari
seeking the reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 33028 entitled "Jacinta Reyes, Et. Al. v. Florentino Reyes, et al" 1 which affirmed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 58 rendered in favor of private respondents.
The antecedent facts as found by the lower court and adopted by the Court of Appeals are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
On July 29, 1970, a Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement was allegedly entered into between petitioner Florentino and his sisters (private respondents herein) Jacinta, Paula and Petra, all surnamed Reyes. The subject of the alleged partition was a parcel of land located in Bangkal, Makati measuring Three Hundred Eighty Three (383) Square Meters. Said parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 22801 was registered in the name of Bernardino Reyes, the father of petitioner and private respondents.
The Deed which allegedly partitioned the subject parcel of land extrajudicially among petitioner and private respondents stated that the latter waived their rights, interest and participation therein in favor of the former. Thereunder, one of the private respondents, Paula Reyes Palmenco was given a share of fifty (50) square meters.
On March 16, 1971, petitioner caused the registration of the alleged Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement with the Register of Deeds of Rizal. Subsequently, he managed to obtain Transfer Certificate of Title No. 318944 with 333 square meters in his name and 50 square meters in the name of Paula Palmenco.
Sometime in May 1985, private respondents, having discovered the registration of the said Deed denied having knowledge of its execution and disclaimed having signed the same; nor did they ever waive their rights, shares and interest in the subject parcel of land.
Similarly, private respondent Paula Palmenco denied having ever executed said Deed. According to private respondents, subject Deed was fraudulently prepared by petitioner and that their signatures thereon were forged. They also assert that one Atty. Jose Villena, the Notary Public who notarized the said Deed was not even registered in the list of accredited Notaries Public of Pasay City.
Thereafter, petitioner executed a Deed of Absolute Sale selling 240 square meters of the land to his children while retaining 93 square meters for himself. The 50 square meter portion given to Paula Palmenco as originally provided in the Deed remained in her name.
After the property was partitioned, Petitioner
, his children and private respondent Paula Palmenco allegedly executed a Deed of Co-owners’ Partition dividing the property among themselves. Each of the alleged co-owners, namely, Petitioner
, his children Eduardo, Teodoro, Engracia, Norma and Alberto, as well as Paula Palmenco, allocated for themselves a specific portion of one-seventh (1/7) each.
On May 27, 1985, private respondents filed a Complaint for "Annulment of Sale and Damages With Prayer for Preliminary Injunction/Restraining Order" before the Makati Regional Trial Court against petitioner and the Register of Deeds of Makati. Private respondents Petra Reyes and Paula Palmenco who died on May 23, 1988 and October 20, 1987, respectively, were duly substituted by their respective children. Private respondent Jacinta Reyes and the children of Petra and Paula then filed an amended complaint praying for the annulment of the following: (1) Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement dated July 29, 1970 and TCT No. 318944 of the Registry of Deeds of Makati, Metro Manila; (2) Deed of Absolute Sale dated May 15, 1979; (3) Deed of Co-owners’ Partition dated August 24, 1984 and (4) the seven (7) Transfer Certificates of Titles Nos. 135257, 135258, 135259, 135260, 135261, 135262, and 135263 of the Registry of Deeds of Makati, Metro Manila as null and void.
On June 1, 1985, the lower court issued an order enjoining the Register of Deeds of Makati from issuing and delivering the Transfer Certificates of Title in question to the petitioners and from collecting the monthly rentals due on the subject parcel of land. After trial on the merits, the lower court ruled that the private respondents’ signatures on the questioned Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement were indeed forged and simulated. As a result of such finding, the lower court permanently enjoined the Registry of Deeds of Makati from issuing and delivering TCT Nos. 135257, 135258, 135259, 135260, 135261, 135262, and 135263 to petitioner Florentino and his children, and petitioners from collecting the monthly rentals due on the properties. The lower court also declared the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement, Transfer Certificate of Title No. 318944 of the Registry of Deeds of Makati, Deed of Absolute Sale, Deed of Co-owner’s Partition, and the seven (7) TCT Nos. 135257 to 135263 of the Registry of Deeds of Makati as null and void. 2
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court. Hence, this petition. Petitioners assign the following errors:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE DEED OF EXTRAJUDICIAL PARTITION AND SETTLEMENT WAS A FORGERY;
ASSUMING ARGUENDO THE AFORESAID FORGERY, THE COURT A QUO ERRED NONETHELESS IN NOT FINDING THAT PETITIONER HAS BECOME AN ABSOLUTE OWNER OF THE LAND IN DISPUTE BY VIRTUE OF ACQUISITIVE PRESCRIPTION;
IN LIGHT OF AFORESAID ERRORS, THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN NOT DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT AND AWARDING THE RELIEFS PRAYED FOR BY PETITIONERS IN THEIR COUNTERCLAIMS.
The Court of Appeals, in affirming the decision of the lower court, declared that petitioners failed to convincingly overturn the factual findings of the trial court which ruled on the fake and forged character of the document on the following points:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. The signatures at the bottom page of the Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement appear to have been written by one and the same hand and not by individual signatories thereto except the signature of Rustico Reyes.
2. The acknowledgment in the Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement appears to have been signed by one Jose D. Villena who was never commissioned as Notary Public for and in the province of Rizal on July 31, 1970 in Pasay City.
3. The word "Pasay, Rizal" in handwriting was superimposed on the word "Makati", supposedly the place where the document was notarized.
4. The residence certificates of the parties who allegedly executed the Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement were all issued on July 30, 1970 in Pasay City except that of Encarnacion Reyes and Rustico Reyes when in fact they were residents of Makati, Metro Manila, specifically, at Evangelista Street in Bangkal, less than a kilometer away from the Municipal Hall of Makati, while Pasay City is 10 kilometers away from Bangkal, Makati. 3
Aside from the above factual findings of the lower court which the Court of Appeals agreed with, the latter also noted that under the certification of one Pedro P. Rollon, OIC, Record and Notarial Reports of Pasay City, no such Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement subject of this case notarized by a certain Atty. Jose Villena was ever recorded. Nor was Atty. Villena officially appointed as Notary Public for and in Pasay City on the aforesaid date.
Instead, it appears that the original copy of the Deed, as published in the Daily Mirror, was notarized by one Atty. Primo M. Beltran in Pasay City and not in Makati, as shown by the Affidavit of Publication. More importantly, petitioners did not dispute the fact that the alleged residence certificates of private respondents shown to the trial court were in the possession of petitioner Florentino which the Court of Appeals found to be unnatural since residence certificates are supposed to be in the physical possession of their owners as ready proofs of their identities and for purposes of dealing with the government and other agencies. It added that it cannot be inferred that the Deed was indeed executed by petitioners by facilely presenting a group picture purportedly showing the parties before the signing of the questioned document when said group picture may have been taken on another occasion. 4
Clearly, the main issue to be resolved is the authenticity of the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement which is a question of fact rather than of law. In the case of Manila Bay Club Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 5 this Court held that for a question to be one of law, it must involve no examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. To reiterate the distinction between the two types of questions: there is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is pertaining to a certain state of facts, and there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or the falsity of alleged facts.
In the case at bar, petitioners cast doubt on the findings of the lower court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals regarding the existence of forgery.
In the case of Chua Tiong Tay v. CA, 6 this Court held that the factual findings of the trial court, adopted and confirmed by the Court of Appeals, are final and conclusive and may not be reviewed on appeal. The exceptions to this rule are laid down in the case of Floro v. Llenado 7 citing Remalante v. Tibe, 8 as follows: (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (2) when there is a grave abuse of discretion; (3) when the finding is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is based on misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion and (10) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record.
Petitioners failed to show that any of the above-cited exceptions exists in instant case as to warrant a review of the findings of fact made by the lower court and upheld by the Court of Appeals. Contrary to the assertion of petitioners, the findings of the lower court, as well as those of the Court of Appeals, are substantially supported by the evidence presented by the parties.
This being a petition for certiorari
under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, this Court is empowered to review errors of law committed by the Court of Appeals. It is not the function of this court, however, to re-examine the evidence submitted by the parties unless the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are not supported by the evidence on record or the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts. 9
The conclusion arrived at by the lower court is consistent with its findings that the signatures of private respondents were indeed simulated. This conclusion is even buttressed by the Court of Appeals, which, aside from agreeing with the findings of the lower court, arrived at conclusions which support said findings.
Petitioners, on the other hand, assail the findings of both courts that the subject Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement was a "fakery and a forgery." They claim that private respondents’ signatures thereon, as well as their alleged signatures in the residence certificates and in the verification of the complaint, were obviously similar. However, they failed to rebut the observation made by the lower court that the signatures on the Deed appear to have been written by one and the same hand and not by the individual signatories thereto, except the signature of Rustico Reyes. 10
Petitioners’ assertion that the steps taken leading to the transfer of the subject property to them were duly evidenced by public documents do not disprove the finding that the subject Deed was indeed a fake and the signatures of private respondents, simulated. Neither does the requisite publication in a newspaper of general circulation refute said finding. 11
This Court agrees with private respondents that while Rustico Reyes, Jr., son of petitioner Florentino and private respondents’ only other brother did not join the complaint, neither did he sign the subject Deed considering that he should have been a signatory thereto, being the heir of the brother of the parties.12
Petitioners’ ludicrous claim that private respondents imputed no deception on his part but only forgery of the subject Deed and the simulation of their signatures is nothing short of being oxymoronic. For what is forgery and simulation of signatures if not arrant deception!
The allegation made by petitioner that the execution of a public document ratified before a notary public cannot be impugned by the mere denial of the signatory is baseless. It should be noted that there was a finding that the subject Deed was notarized by one Atty. Villena who at that time was not commissioned as a notary in Pasay City. Neither was the alleged Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement recorded in the Record and Notarial Reports of Pasay City as certified by the OIC of such office. This finding was never satisfactorily disputed by petitioner. 13
With respect to the second assignment of error, petitioners contend that even assuming that there was forgery, they had become absolute owners of the subject property by virtue of acquisitive prescription citing Articles 1117 and 1134 of the Civil Code as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Art. 1117. Acquisitive prescription of dominion and other real rights may be ordinary or extraordinary.
Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession of things in good faith and with just title for the time fixed by law.
x x x
Art. 1134. Ownership and other real rights over immovable property are acquired by ordinary prescription through possession of ten years."cralaw virtua1aw library
By virtue of said articles, they claim that they have been possessors of the contested parcel of land in good faith, for ten years and with a just title for the period required by law.
This Court is not impressed with this argument. Petitioners cannot justify their ownership and possession of the subject parcel of land since they could not meet the requisites provided by the provisions they have cited. Regarding the requirement of good faith, the first paragraph of Article 526 states, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"He is deemed a possessor in good faith who is not aware that there exists in his title or mode of acquisition any flaw which invalidates it."cralaw virtua1aw library
From the above-cited provision, petitioners could not have been possessors in good faith of the subject parcel of land considering the finding that at the very inception they forged the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Settlement which they claim to be the basis for their just title.
Having forged the Deed and simulated the signatures of private respondents, Petitioners
, in fact, are in bad faith. The forged Deed containing private respondents’ simulated signatures is a nullity and cannot serve as a just title.
Moreover, this Court agrees with the private respondents that there can be no acquisitive prescription considering that the parcel of land in dispute is titled property, i.e., titled in the name of the late Bernardino Reyes, the father of both petitioner Florentino and the private respondents. 14 This fact, petitioners do not deny. 15 Hence, even if they allege adverse possession that should ripen into ownership due to acquisitive prescription, their title cannot defeat the real rights of private respondents who stepped into the shoes, as it were, of their father as successors-in-interest. As it is, petitioners cannot even claim adverse possession as they admit that the private respondents likewise resided and continue to reside on the subject property. 16
Having found the subject Deed to be a nullity, this Court sees no need to discuss the third assignment of error.
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error, the petition is DISMISSED.
Regalado, Puno, Mendoza and Torres, Jr., JJ.
1. Ninth Division, penned by Associate Justice Manuel C. Herrera, with Justices Asaali S. Isnani and Ricardo P. Galvez, concurring; promulgated January 28, 1993.
2. Rollo, p. 38.
3. Culled from the findings of fact of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. 10698 as cited in the Court of Appeals Decision in C.A.-G.R. CV No. 33028.
4. Culled from the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 33028.
5. 245 SCRA 715 (1995).
6. 243 SCRA 183 (1995).
7. 244 SCRA 713 (1995).
8. 158 SCRA 138, 145 (1988).
9. New Testament Church of God v. CA, 246 SCRA 266 (1995).
10. p. 39, Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 33028, Rollo.
11. p. 40, supra.
12. p. 68, Private Respondents’ Comment, Rollo.
13. p. 40, Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 33028, Rollo.
14. p. 34, supra.
15. p. 15, Petition, Rollo.
16. p. 12, Petition, Rollo.