G.R. No. 149750
June 16, 2003
AND SOCORRO DE LEON,
While a Contract of Sale is perfected by mere consent, ownership of the thing sold is acquired only upon its delivery to the buyer. Upon the perfection of the sale, the seller assumes the obligation to transfer ownership and to deliver the thing sold, but the real right of ownership is transferred only "by tradition" or delivery thereof to the buyer.
Before Us is a petition for review  under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside the February 9, 2001 decision and the August 31, 2001 resolution of the Court of Appeals  (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 47587. The dispositive portion of the assailed decision reads as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The assailed resolution  denied petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration.
The antecedents of the case were summarized by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) and adopted by the CA as follows:chanrobles virtual law library
On August 23, 1994, the RTC (Branch 48) of Urdaneta, Pangasinan  rendered its decision  in favor of herein petitioner. It ruled that respondents’ claim was barred by laches, because more than 18 years had passed since the land was sold. It further ruled that since it was a notarial document, the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition in favor of Rodolfo de Leon was presumptively authentic.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In reversing the RTC, the CA held that laches did not bar respondents from pursuing their claim. Notwithstanding the delay, laches is a doctrine in equity and may not be invoked to resist the enforcement of a legal right.cralaw
The appellate court also held that since Rodolfo de Leon was not the owner of the land at the time of the sale, he could not transfer any land rights to petitioner. It further declared that the signature of Hermoso de Leon on the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition and Quitclaim -- upon which petitioner bases her claim -- was a forgery. It added that under the above circumstances, petitioner could not be said to be a buyer in good faith. chanrobles virtual law library
Hence, this Petition. 
Petitioner raises the following issues for our consideration:chanrobles virtual law library
The Petition has no merit.cralaw
First Issue: Validity of the Deed of Absolute Sale
Petitioner argues that, having been perfected, the Contract of Sale executed on December 6, 1975 was thus binding upon the parties thereto.cralaw
A contract of sale is consensual. It is perfected by mere consent,  upon a meeting of the minds  on the offer and the acceptance thereof based on subject matter, price and terms of payment.  At this stage, the seller’s ownership of the thing sold is not an element in the perfection of the contract of sale. chanrobles virtual law library
The contract, however, creates an obligation on the part of the seller to transfer ownership and to deliver the subject matter of the contract.  It is during the delivery that the law requires the seller to have the right to transfer ownership of the thing sold.  In general, a perfected contract of sale cannot be challenged on the ground of the seller’s non-ownership of the thing sold at the time of the perfection of the contract. 
Further, even after the contract of sale has been perfected between the parties, its consummation by delivery is yet another matter. It is through tradition or delivery that the buyer acquires the real right of ownership over the thing sold. 
Undisputed is the fact that at the time of the sale, Rodolfo de Leon was not the owner of the land he delivered to petitioner. Thus, the consummation of the contract and the consequent transfer of ownership would depend on whether he subsequently acquired ownership of the land in accordance with Article 1434 of the Civil Code.  Therefore, we need to resolve the issue of the authenticity and the due execution of the Extrajudicial Partition and Quitclaim in his favor.cralaw
Second Issue: Authenticity of the Extrajudicial Partition
Petitioner contends that the Extrajudicial Partition and Quitclaim is authentic, because it was notarized and executed in accordance with law. She claims that there is no clear and convincing evidence to set aside the presumption of regularity in the issuance of such public document. We disagree. chanrobles virtual law library
As a general rule, the due execution and authenticity of a document must be reasonably established before it may be admitted in evidence.  Notarial documents, however, may be presented in evidence without further proof of their authenticity, since the certificate of acknowledgment is prima facie evidence of the execution of the instrument or document involved.  To contradict facts in a notarial document and the presumption of regularity in its favor, the evidence must be clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant. 
The CA ruled that the signature of Hermoso de Leon on the Extrajudicial Partition and Quitclaim was forged. However, this factual finding is in conflict with that of the RTC. While normally this Court does not review factual issues,  this rule does not apply when there is a conflict between the holdings of the CA and those of the trial court,  as in the present case.cralaw
After poring over the records, we find no reason to reverse the factual finding of the appellate court. A comparison of the genuine signatures of Hermoso de Leon  with his purported signature on the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition with Quitclaim  will readily reveal that the latter is a forgery. As aptly held by the CA, such variance cannot be attributed to the age or the mechanical acts of the person signing. 
Without the corroborative testimony of the attesting witnesses, the lone account of the notary regarding the due execution of the Deed is insufficient to sustain the authenticity of this document. He can hardly be expected to dispute the authenticity of the very Deed he notarized.  For this reason, his testimony was - as it should be - minutely scrutinized by the appellate court, and was found wanting. chanrobles virtual law library
Third Issue: Possession in Good Faith
Petitioner claims that her possession of the land is in good faith and that, consequently, she has acquired ownership thereof by virtue of prescription. We are not persuaded.cralaw
It is well-settled that no title to registered land in derogation of that of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession.  Neither can prescription be allowed against the hereditary successors of the registered owner, because they merely step into the shoes of the decedent and are merely the continuation of the personality of their predecessor in interest.  Consequently, since a certificate of registration  covers it, the disputed land cannot be acquired by prescription regardless of petitioner’s good faith.cralaw
Fourth Issue: Prescription of Action and Laches
Petitioner also argues that the right to recover ownership has prescribed, and that respondents are guilty of laches. Again, we disagree.cralaw
Article 1141 of the New Civil Code provides that real actions over immovable properties prescribe after thirty years. This period for filing an action is interrupted when a complaint is filed in court.  Rodolfo de Leon alleged that the land had been allocated to him by his brother Hermoso de Leon in March 1963,  but that the Deed of Extrajudicial Partition assigning the contested land to the latter was executed only on September 16, 1963.  In any case, the Complaint to recover the land from petitioner was filed on February 24, 1993,  which was within the 30-year prescriptive period. chanrobles virtual law library
On the claim of laches, we find no reason to reverse the ruling of the CA. Laches is based upon equity and the public policy of discouraging stale claims.  Since laches is an equitable doctrine, its application is controlled by equitable considerations.  It cannot be used to defeat justice or to perpetuate fraud and injustice.  Thus, the assertion of laches to thwart the claim of respondents is foreclosed, because the Deed upon which petitioner bases her claim is a forgery.cralaw
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.cralaw
Puno, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez,
Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
Rollo, pp. 9-20.