In the present petition for review on certiorari
under Rule 45, petitioners Clara C. de la Cruz and Claudia C. Manadong assail the Decision 1 dated May 14, 1996 2 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 46524 which affirmed that of Branch 3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Guiuan, Eastern Samar in favor of Respondent
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The case involves two parcels of land, one located in Bulajo, Mayana, Guiuan, Eastern Samar and the other in Surok, Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
Esteban, Andrea and Tomasa, all surnamed Cabsag, were siblings and are now all deceased. 3
Esteban is survived by his daughters-herein petitioners Clara C. de la Cruz and Claudia C. Manadong 4 who have since 1972 been residing in Manila. 5
Andrea is survived by her children. 6
Tomasa, who died in 1963 without issue, was survived by her husband Eugenio Nadonga who later married respondent Rosario Opana. Eugenio Nadonga died in 1973.
Upon the death of Tomasa in 1963, her husband Eugenio Nadonga continued to live in Guiuan and occupy the lands in question until his death in 1973 upon which his second wife-herein respondent continued peaceful possession thereof until April 24, 1992 when Esteban’s daughters-herein petitioners filed a complaint for partition 7 against her before the RTC of Guiuan where it was docketed as Civil Case No. 765, now the subject of the present petition.
The questioned parcels of land were more particularly described in petitioners’ complaint as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. An agricultural land situated at Bulajo, Mayana, Guiuan, E. Samar declared previously in the name of Tomasa Cabsag under Tax Declaration No. 29824 and at present declared under Tax Declaration No. 45509 in the name of Rosario Opana; bounded on the North by the land of Nicolas Calumpiano; on the East bounded by the land of Benito Lacro; on the South bounded by the land of Sabino Lacro and on the West bounded by the land of Catalina Naing with a total area of 24,715 sq.m. and is assessed at P1,460.
2. An agricultural land situated at Brgy. Surok, Guiuan, E. Samar presently declared under Tax Declaration No. 38210 in the name of Rosario Opana; bounded on the North by the land of Ricardo Abrera; on the East bounded by the land of Alejandro Abrera; on the South bounded by the land of Federico Yodico and Pascual Yodico and on the West bounded by the land of Estefa Odang.
The complaint alleged that, inter alia, petitioners are the nieces and legal heirs of the late Tomasa Cabsag; that during the existence of the marriage of Eugenio Nadonga to his second wife-herein respondent, the couple, without the knowledge of petitioners, surreptitiously managed to have the above-described parcels of land declared in the name of respondent which fraudulent act came only to their recent knowledge; that petitioners, being the nieces of Eugenio Nadonga’s first wife Tomasa Cabsag, have the right to demand the partition of the properties among the legal heirs; and that respondent’s refusal to divide the properties constrained petitioners to litigate and incur expenses.
Denying the material allegations of the complaint, respondent, in her Answer, 8 alleged that the questioned lands were, during the lifetime of her husband Eugenio Nadonga, donated to her by a "Deed of Donation" of June 4, 1965; that the real property described and located at Surok is covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 8860 while that in Mayana is covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 8859, both titles of which were issued in her name in 1974; that the first property was inherited from Nadonga’s late father Miguel Nadonga, and the other was bought by him before his marriage to his first wife Tomasa; that assuming arguendo that they were Tomasa’s paraphernal properties and that petitioners are indeed entitled to partition, petitioners’ filing of the complaint only in 1992 amounts to laches, she (respondent) having been in actual possession of the lands in the concept of an owner since 1965 and she even had them registered in her name in 1974 without any positive action on petitioners’ part.
During the trial, the identity of the two parcels of land as described in the complaint 9 was raised in issue, private respondent maintaining that the territorial boundaries and description of the land situated in Mayana as they appeared in the complaint, are different and distinct from those owned by her. Thus, she declared, quoted verbatim:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
x x x
ATTY. CABLAO [lawyer for the defense]:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
From plaintiff (sic) document even in their complaint the land situated at Brgy. Mayana the boundaries are different because in the North the boundary is Nicolas Calumpiano whereas in the boundary of the defendant in the north is Teresa Naing.
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Yes, so there is a disparity.
x x x 10 (Emphasis supplied
Maintaining that the property located in Mayana is theirs, petitioners presented Tax Declaration No. 29824 showing that it was originally declared in 1948 in the name of the late Tomasa Cabsag; 11 Tax Declaration No. 40509 issued for the year 1974 in the name of the late Eugenio Nadonga; 12 and Tax Declaration No. 45509 for the year 1977 in the name of herein respondent Rosario Opana. 13
As for their claim over the property in Surok, petitioners presented two documents denominated as "Karigunan Ha Pag Ka Butungan" 14 (Deed of Absolute Sale) executed on May 11, 1950 and May 15, 1950, showing that the property covered thereby which had the following boundaries:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
North — Ricardo Abrera
South — Federico Yodico and Pascual Yodico
West — Estefa Odang
East — Alejandro Abrera,
was sold to Tomasa Cabsag while she was still single and was thus her paraphernal property. 15
Upon the other hand, respondent offered the following documentary evidence: (a) Marriage Contract; 16 Deed of Donation; 17 OCT (Original Certificate of Title) No. 8859 covering the lot at Mayana; 18 OCT No. 8860 covering the lot at Surok; 19 Tax Receipt No. 1245524 M dated February 27, 1987; 20 Tax Receipt No. 1260617 dated February 1, 1988; 21 Tax Receipt No. 113551, dated March 18, 1991; 22 Tax Receipt No. 3756906, dated March 25, 1992; 23 Tax Receipt No. 1151234, dated February 17, 1993; 24 Tax Receipt No. 5080280, dated March 9, 1981; 25 Tax Receipt No. 1260625, dated February 1, 1988; 26 Tax Receipt No. 1113519, dated March 11, 1991; 27 Tax Receipt No. 3756907, dated March 25, 1992; 28 Tax Declaration No. 45509. 29
By Decision of May 5, 1994, the trial court rendered judgment 30 in favor of respondent, the decretal portion of which reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the Defendant, Rosa Opana, and against the Plaintiffs, Clara C. de la Cruz and Claudia C. Manadong, DISMISSING the complaint with costs against the plaintiffs and DECLARING the Defendant the true, absolute and exclusive owner of the two (2) parcels of land described in the complaint and in the Original Certificate of Titles issued in the name of the Defendant. (Emphasis supplied
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dissatisfied, petitioners elevated the case to the Court of Appeals where it was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 46524.
Before the appellate court, petitioners raised the following errors:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(A) THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN SIMPLY DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT BY CLAIMING THAT IT IS PURELY OF PARTITION, WITHOUT DETERMINING HEIRSHIP;
(B) THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT DECLARED THAT ROSA OPANA IS THE TRUE, ABSOLUTE AND EXCLUSIVE OWNER OF THE TWO (2) PARCELS OF LAND DESCRIBED IN THE COMPLAINT;
(C) THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED IN CLAIMING THAT APPELLANTS ARE BARRED BY LACHES IN THE SAME WAY THAT IT SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT APPLIED THE CASE OF "RODRIGUEZ VS. RAVILAN, 17 PHIL 63."cralaw virtua1aw library
The appellate court, by the decision on review, affirmed the trial court’s decision, it ratiocinating as follows:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
As shown by the record, the late Eugenio Nadonga executed a Deed of Donation dated June 4, 1965 in favor of the defendant Rosario Opana over two (2) parcels of land, one of which he inherited from his late father Miguel Nadonga, and the other he bought before he got married to his first wife Tomasa Cabsag. The Deed of Donation was acknowledged before a notary public and transmitted all his rights to the donee who accepted the donation.
As a matter of fact, the defendant Opana had said parcels of land registered in her name and as early as 1974 obtained original certificate of titles over the same.
In the instant case, even assuming that Tomasa Cabsag owned the disputed parcel of land as claimed by the plaintiffs upon her death, her surviving spouse Eugenio Nadonga became the owner of the property by law of intestate succession (Art. 995, Civil Code). When the said surviving spouse executed a Deed of Donation in favor of the defendant Rosario Opana, he had the right to donate the properties and ownership passed to the latter . . .
Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration 31 having been denied by the appellate court by Resolution of December 5, 1996, 32 the present petition was filed posing the following question:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
IS IT WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE TRIAL COURT TO RULE ON THE OWNERSHIP OF THE PARCELS OF LAND IN QUESTION IN TH[ESE] PROCEEDINGS?
Petitioners insist that what they filed before the trial court was one for probate — the settlement of the estate of Tomasa Cabsag, the complaint’s denomination as one for partition notwithstanding; that the declaration by the trial court that respondent is the "true, absolute and exclusive owner of the two (2) parcels of land described in the complaint and in the Original Certificate of Titles issued in the name of the Defendant," which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, was rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction, for as the case is one for probate, it necessitated the initial determination and identification of the heirs of Tomasa Cabsag which the trial court failed to do.
The petition fails.
First. Contrary to the assertion of petitioners, since the defendant-herein respondent alleged exclusive ownership, the action for partition, which assumes that the parties are co-owners, had, as correctly held by the trial court, it citing Rodriguez v. Ravilan, 33 become one for recovery of property.
Petitioners harp on Tax Declaration No. 29824 covering the property in Mayana, but the boundaries set forth therein do not jibe with those of the property in Mayana in the possession of and registered in the name of Respondent
Atty. Cablao [defense counsel]:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
But your Honor our claim is different, the property the one situated at Brgy. Mayana is a property that was inherited by Eugenio Nadonga from his father so it has nothing to do with the property of Tomasa Cabsag. The property situated at Brgy. Surok is a property he purchased when he was still single before marriage to Tomasa Cabsag.
Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
That is your evidence already. That is why when you asked [the defendant] the question is the property being claimed by the plaintiff different property that is now in your owner’s certificate of title.
Atty. Cablao:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Yes, your Honor.
Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The Court observes that it is misleading because according to her it is different.
Atty. Chua [the plaintiffs’ counsel]:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
No, your Honor please her testimony awhile ago says that the property donated to her by Eugenio Nadonga at Brgy. Mayana is at present covered by owner’s certificate of title no. 8859.
Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Yes, it is correct, but she also stated that is not the property of Tomasa Cabsag . . . 34
In Gesmundo v. Court of Appeals, 35 this Court held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A person who claims ownership of real property is duty bound to clearly identify the land being claimed in accordance with the document on which he anchors his right of ownership. When the record does not show that the land subject matter of the action has been exactly determined, such action cannot prosper. Proof of ownership together with identity of the land is the basic rule. (Citations omitted
, Emphasis supplied
Petitioners failed to come up with a clear description of the land sought or claimed. On that score alone, their case fails.
Second. The late Eugenio Nadonga disposed of the questioned two parcels of land to respondent during his lifetime by a duly notarized "Deed of Donation" dated June 4, 1965, the pertinent portions of which are reproduced below, quoted verbatim:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
x x x
That the DONOR is the owner in fee simple of that certain real property with coconuts planted thereon situated in Bo. Mayana and Surok, Guiuan, Samar, Philippines, with both parcels of land described hereunder, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
North — bounded by Teresa Naing;
South — bounded by Miguel Nadonga;
East — bounded by Hilario Parcela; and
West — bounded by Pascual Ecleo and Dominga Hamihan
And the land situated in Bo. Surok, Guiuan, Samar, Philippines, has the following boundaries, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
North — bounded by Ricardo Abrera;
South — bounded by Alejandro Abrera;
East — bounded by Federico Yodico and Pascual Yodico, and on the West — bounded by Estefa Odang
That the abovementioned properties are my personal properties which I inherited from my father (Miguel Nadonga) and the other parcel was purchased by me personally before I married my first wife Tomasa Cabsag.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
That for and in consideration of the love and affection which the DONOR has for the DONEE, the said DONOR, by these presents transfers and conveys, by way of DONATION, unto said DONEE, her heirs and assigns, the above-described real property with all the plants and improvements thereon, . . .
x x x
That the DONEE does hereby accept this donation of the above-described real property, and does hereby express her gratitude for the kindness and liberality of the DONOR.
x x x (Emphasis supplied
A notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due execution. 36 It enjoys the presumption of validity. 37 To overcome it, the evidence must be so clear, strong and convincing as to exclude all reasonable controversy as to its falsity. 38 Petitioners, however, proffered no such evidence.
Third. Assuming arguendo that the questioned lands were paraphernal properties of Tomasa Cabsag, they have, however, been registered in 1974 under OCT No. 8859 with respect to the property in Mayana and OCT No. 8860 with respect to the property in Surok. The rule is settled that a land registration case is an action in rem and is binding on the whole world, including petitioners.
Fourth. The deed of donation aside, respondent has not only proven actual continuous possession of the questioned properties for decades; she has presented tax receipts and declarations covering them. "Tax receipts and declarations are prima facie proofs of ownership or possession of the property for which such taxes have been paid. Coupled with proof of actual possession of the property, they may become the basis of a claim for ownership." 39
At all events, petitioners’ filing of the action only in 1992 or after a lapse of several years despite, not only their knowledge of Eugenio Nadonga’s and respondent’s continuous possession of the properties, but also the registration thereof in respondent’s name demonstrates laches which this Court cannot tolerate.
Laches means the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which, by observance of due diligence, could or should have been done earlier. It is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting the presumption that the party entitled to assert his right either has abandoned or declined to assert it. 40" (Emphasis supplied
WHEREFORE, the present petition is DENIED for lack of merit and the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is, in light of the foregoing reasons, hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Puno, Panganiban and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ.
, is on official leave.
1. Fifteenth Division, Associate Justice Salome A. Montoya, ponente and concurred in by Associate Justices Godardo A. Jacinto and Maximiano C. Asuncion.
2. Rollo at 37–40.
3. TSN, November 10, 1993 at 162–164.
5. TSN, June 14, 1993 at 18–19.
7. Records at 1–3.
8. Id. at 6–10.
9. TSN, November 5, 1993 at 121.
10. TSN, November 5, 1993 at 124–125.
11. Exhibit "A," Folder of Exhibits.
12. Exhibit "E," id.
13. Exhibit "D," id.
14. Exhibits "B" and "C," id.
15. Offer of Plaintiffs’ Documentary Evidence, Records at 34–35.
16. Exhibit "1," id.
17. Exhibit "2," id.
18. Exhibit "3," id.
19. Exhibit "4," id.
20. Exhibit "5," id.
21. Exhibit "5-A," id.
22. Exhibit "5-B," id.
23. Exhibit "5-C," id.
24. Exhibit "5-D," id.
25. Exhibit "6," id.
26. Exhibit "6-A," id.
27. Exhibit "6-B," id.
28. Exhibit "6-C," id.
29. Exhibits "7" - "7-B" [Exhibit "D," ], id.
30. Records at 50–57.
31. Rollo at 41–47.
32. Id. at 48.
33. 17 Phil. 63 (1910).
34. TSN, November 5, 1993 at 121–123, quoted verbatim.
35. 321 SCRA 487 (1999).
36. Norgene Potenciano, Et. Al. v. Dwight "Ike" B. Reynoso, Et Al., G.R. No. 140707, April 22, 2003.
37. Favor v. Court of Appeals, 194 SCRA 308 (1991).
38. Mendezona v. Phil. Sugar Estates Development Co., 41 Phil. 475 (1921).
39. Cequena v. Bolante, 330 SCRA 216 (2000).
40. Isabela Colleges, Inc. v. Heirs of Nieves Tolentino-Rivera, 344 SCRA 95 (2000).