G.R. No. 139136 - January 16, 2002
LINA ABALON LUBOS, Petitioner, vs. MARITES GALUPO, DELIA GALUPO, JUAN GALUPO, PRUDENCIO GALUPO, PRECIOSA GALUPO and MANSUETO GALUPO, JR., Respondents.
In this appeal,1 petitioner seeks to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals2 affirming that of the Regional Trial Court,3 Makati, Branch 66, ruling that respondents are the absolute owners of the parcel of land involved in the complaint.
The facts, as found by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:
On November 26, 1992, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
Petitioner Lubos and the spouses Poldo appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals.6
On August 29, 1997, the Court of Appeals promulgated a decision7 affirming in toto the decision of the trial court.
On October 21, 1997, Lubos filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for reconsideration8 of the decision. However, the Court of Appeals denied the motion.9
Hence, this appeal.10
The issue is, who as between the parties have a better right or title to the subject lot?
The Court's Ruling
We deny the petition. The issue raised is factual.
It is a well-settled rule that 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.11
Article 1141, Civil Code, governs prescription of real action over immovables. It provides:
To determine if the respondents may still file an action to recover realty it becomes necessary to determine if petitioner Lubos has acquired the land by acquisitive prescription.
Acquisitive prescription of dominion and other real rights may be ordinary or extraordinary, depending on whether the property is possessed in good faith and with just title for the time fixed by law.12
Articles 1134 and 1137 of the Civil Code fixed the periods of possession, which provide:
For the purposes of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right.13 On the other hand, good faith consists in the reasonable belief that the person from whom the possessor received the thing was its owner but could not transmit the ownership thereof.14
The trial court found that the contract entered into between petitioner Lubos and her father, Juan Abalon, was fictitious, to which we agree. Consequently, petitioner has not acquired a just title to the property.
Petitioner's lack of good faith was also apparent.
Petitioner Lubos has not offered any documentary proof of the transaction between her father and Victoriana Dulay, the original owner. What she presented were the testimonies of the tenants who worked on the land.15 From these testimonies, it would appear that Juan Abalon was in possession as early as 1963.
Note, however, that the nature of Juan Abalon's possession cannot be categorically determined from the testimonies given. Tenant Jose Morillo admitted that he did not exactly know who the owner is, while tenant Arturo Tuballas admitted that he did not know how Juan Abalon came to possess the land.
The property was still declared in the name of Victoriana Dulay at the time that Juan Abalon sold the land to petitioner Lubos.16
Acquisitive prescription is a mode of acquiring ownership by a possessor through the requisite lapse of time. In order to ripen into ownership, possession must be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful and uninterrupted. Thus, possession with a juridical title, such as by a usufructuary, a trustee, a lessee, agent or a pledgee, not being in the concept of an owner, cannot ripen into ownership by acquisitive prescription unless the juridical relation is first expressly repudiated and such repudiation has been communicated to the other party.17
Assuming that Lina Abalon and her father possessed the property in the concept of owner, still, acquisition of ownership by prescription has not run in their favor.
When the respondents filed the instant case on October 10, 1991, petitioner Lubos was in possession of the property for only twenty-eight (28) years counted from 1963 as testified to by petitioner's witnesses. This is short of the required thirty years of uninterrupted adverse possession without just title and good faith.
The respondent Galupos, on the other hand, presented the escritura de compra y venta which showed that the land was sold by Victoriana Dulay to Juan Galupo.18 Upon Juan Galupo's death, the property was inherited by his heir, Mansueto Galupo, Sr. Likewise, respondents inherited the land from the their father upon the latter's death in 1981.
The trial court admitted the escritura de compra y venta as an ancient document.
Petitioner assails the admission of the escritura de compra y venta as there was no translation thereof. Petitioner further claimed that the authenticity and due execution of the escritura de compra y venta must be proven. She further assails the relevance of the said document for failure to show that the land described therein is the same land subject of the present controversy.
With respect to the admissibility of the escritura de compra y venta, we agree with the Court of Appeals that it is admissible even if not translated from its Spanish text because it was not objected to and was an ancient document.19
Obviously, petitioner has failed to establish the chain of title through which the land passed to her. As heretofore stated, no proof was presented to show that, indeed, the land was transferred from its original owner, Victoriana Dulay, to petitioner's father, Juan Abalon.
In contrast, the respondents have shown that the land came to their possession as heirs of Mansueto Galupo, Sr. who was the heir of Juan Galupo, the person to whom Victoriana Dulay transferred the land.
WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition and AFFIRMS the decision of the Court of Appeals.20
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Kapunan, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
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