G. R. No. 148727 - April 9, 2003
HERMOGENA G. ENGRESO with spouse JOSE ENGRESO, Petitioner, v. NESTORIA DE LA CRUZ and HERMINIO DE LA CRUZ, respondents.
This is a petition for review on certiorari to set aside the Decision of the Court of Appeals1 affirming the Decision of the court a quo2 which declared private respondent Nestoria de la Cruz the lawful owner of one-half () of Lot No. 10561 and of the residential / commercial building standing thereon.
Sometime in 1993 private respondent Nestoria de la Cruz instituted an action for declaration of ownership, possession and damages against petitioner spouses Hermogena and Jose Engreso.3 In her complaint, Nestoria alleged that in 1979 she purchased from her sister Hermogena one-half () of an unregistered property located in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, designated as Lot No. 10561, containing an area of 112.5 square meters, more or less, as specified and delineated in the deed of sale.
Nestoria further averred that their deceased father Romeo Gajelloma had constructed a residential/commercial building on their adjoining properties such that a part of the structure stood on her property and the remaining half on Hermogenas land. During his lifetime, Romeo lived in the building and leased a portion thereof to third parties. After Romeos death petitioner spouses deprived her of her rights over the purchased property as well as the building thereon. Private respondent Nestoria also complained that her sister Hermogena mortgaged Lot No. 10561 with all its improvements in favor of the Rural Bank of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, without her knowledge and consent. In support of her complaint Nestoria presented in evidence a notarized Deed of Sale dated 20 January 1979 attesting to the fact that in consideration of P3,000.00 Hermogena sold to her an identified portion of the disputed property. Private respondent prayed that she be declared owner of one-half () portion of Lot No. 10561 as well as the building thereon, and that petitioner spouses be ordered to render an accounting of the rentals derived from the lease of the property.
Petitioner spouses moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that private respondent failed to allege whether earnest efforts towards a compromise had been made.
In its Order dated 20 May 1993 the trial court denied the motion; instead, it ordered Nestoria to amend her complaint to indicate whether efforts towards a compromise had been undertaken.4 Forthwith, private respondent filed an amended complaint stating that petitioner spouses had rebuffed all attempts towards an amicable resolution of their dispute.
In due time, the trial court rendered its decision declaring private respondent Nestoria de la Cruz owner of a portion of the disputed parcel of land, which was designated as Lot No. 10561-A, as well as one-half () of the residential/commercial building standing thereon. The trial court ordered petitioner Hermogena Engreso to deliver to private respondent possession of Lot No. 10561-A and one-half () of the building thereon as well as one-half () of the rentals derived from the lease of the property beginning February 1993. In support of its decision the trial court ratiocinated that a recital in a public document celebrated with all the legal formalities under the safeguard of a notarial certificate constituted evidence against the parties and a high degree of proof would be necessary to overcome the legal presumption that such recital was true. The trial court ruled that the biased and interested testimony of petitioner Hermogena could not overcome the evidentiary force of the 20 January 1979 Deed of Sale which was ratified before a notary public, Atty. Luz Teves, who even testified in favor of the authenticity and genuineness of the document.
Petitioner spouses went to the Court of Appeals on a petition for certiorari insisting that it was error for the trial court not to have dismissed the complaint and to have declared valid the "falsified deed of sale." The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal and held that the trial court could validly order the plaintiff to amend the complaint to conform with the requirements set forth in Art. 222 of the New Civil Code for as long as the amendment did not actually confer jurisdiction on the court in which the action was filed. The appellate court likewise upheld the findings of facts made by the trial court rationalizing that the latter was in a better position to analyze and assess the probative value of the evidence adduced during trial. Hence, this petition.
The principle is well-established that this Court is not a trier of facts. Therefore, in an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of The Rules of Court, only questions of law may be raised. The resolution of factual issues is the function of trial courts the findings of which on these matters are received with respect and are, as a rule, binding on this Court unless it is shown that they are grounded on speculations, surmises or conjectures.5 In the present case, whether the Deed of Sale dated 20 January 1979 is authentic and genuine, and whether petitioner spouses are bound to deliver the property object of the sale to private respondent are essentially factual issues and, after a prudent study of the contentions of both sides, we find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the trial court which have been affirmed in toto by the Court of Appeals.
Indeed, under the law on sales the vendor is bound to transfer ownership of and deliver the thing object of the sale to the vendee.6 In the present case, although the sale was made through a public document and hence equivalent to delivery of the thing sold, petitioner Hermogena vehemently denied the fact of the sale and interposed her objection to private respondents enjoyment of the property. As such, fiction must yield to reality and petitioners obligation to deliver the sold portion of Lot No. 10561, or Lot No. 10561-A, to private respondent remains.
However, we take exception to the order of the courts a quo directing petitioner spouses to deliver to private respondent Nestoria de la Cruz one-half () of the building standing on Lot No. 10561. Although Nestoria is indeed the sole owner of a specified portion of the disputed parcel of land she only co-owns the structure standing thereon.
It is a basic principle in civil law that before a property owned in common is actually partitioned, all that the co-owner has is an ideal or abstract quota or proportionate share in the entire property. A co-owner has no right to demand a concrete, specific or determinate part of the thing owned in common because until division is effected his right over the thing is represented only by an ideal portion.7
As such, the only effect of an action brought by a co-owner against a co-owner will be to obtain recognition of the co-ownership; the defendant cannot be excluded from a specific portion of the property because as a co-owner he has a right to possess and the plaintiff cannot recover any material or determinate part of the property.8 Thus, the courts a quo erred when they ordered the delivery of one-half () of the building in favor of private respondent.
At this instance, it must be noted that the building subject of this controversy was built not by the contending parties but by their father Romeo Gallejoma who died years prior to this controversy. Following the rules on succession and in the absence of proof that the estate of Romeo had been judicially or extrajudicially partitioned all his surviving heirs have a right over the building having succeeded him from the moment of his death. Although Leon Gallejoma, brother of Nestoria and Hermogena, admitted that the building was given by their deceased father to his squabbling sisters,9 such testimony should not prejudice and bind the other heirs who have not relinquished their rights over the aforesaid building.
Lastly, petitioner Hermogenas encumbrance of Lot No. 10561 and the building thereon in favor of the Rural Bank of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, affects only her share in the property but not that of private respondent or that of the other heirs who were not parties to the mortgage.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision is AFFIRMED with the sole MODIFICATION that petitioner Hermogena Engreso and private respondent Nestoria de la Cruz are declared co-owners of the residential/commercial building standing on Lots Nos. 10561 and 10561-A and they may exercise jointly the right of dominion over the aforesaid structure until they effect its partition and until their respective portions are properly determined. This is without prejudice to the rights of the other heirs of Romeo Gajelloma, if any, to demand their share in the building. No costs.
Quisumbing, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.
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