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January 21, 2015

Rizal vs. Rizalvo

Facts:
  • On December 7, 2000, respondent Teodoro P. Rizalvo, Jr. filed before the MTC of Bauang, La Union an application for the registration of a parcel of land referred to in Survey Plan Psu-200706,4 located in Bauang, La Union and containing an area of 8,957 square meters.
  • Respondent alleged that he is the owner in fee simple of the subject parcel of land, that he obtained title over the land by virtue of a Deed of Transfer (he alleged he bought the property from his mother) dated December 31, 1962, and that he is currently in possession of the land. 
  • In support of his claim, he presented a tax declaration under his name and a Proof of Payment of real property taxes from 1952 up to the time of his filing of the application.
  • On April 20, 2001, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed an Opposition alleging that neither respondent nor his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject property since June 12, 1945 or earlier and that the tax declarations and tax payment receipts did not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of ownership. 
  • The OSG also asserted that the subject property was a portion of public domain and hence not subject to private acquisition.
  • The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) submitted a verified record stating the technical description of the property, that the land was in an alienable & disposable zone and that Rizalvo was in an actual occupation and possession of the land. 
  • The MTC approved the application of Rizalvo.
  • The CA affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Hence, this petition.



Issue: WON respondent and his predecessors-in-interest were in open, continuous, adverse, and public possession of the land in question in the manner and length of time required by law as to entitle respondent to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.

Held: NO.

Applicant failed to comply with PD 1529
Existing law and jurisprudence provides that an applicant for judicial confirmation of imperfect title must prove compliance with Section 14 of PD No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree. 

Under Section 14 (1), applicants for registration of title must sufficiently establish: 
1. that the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain; 
2. that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same;
3. that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

The first requirement was satisfied
The certification and report dated July 17, 2001 submitted by Special Investigator I Dionisio L. Picar of the CENRO of San Fernando City, La Union, states that the entire land area in question is within the alienable and disposable zone, certified as such since January 21, 1987.

In Limcoma Multi-Purpose Cooperative v. Republic,20 we have ruled that a certification and report from the DENR-CENRO enjoys the presumption of regularity and is sufficient proof to show the classification of the land described therein.

The third requirement was satisfied
The MTC and the CA both agreed that respondent has presented sufficient testimonial and documentary evidence to show that he and his predecessors-in-interest were in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question. Said findings are binding upon this Court absent any showing that the lower courts committed glaring mistakes or that the assailed judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts.

The second requirement was NOT satisfied
Rizalvo merely presented a certification and report from the DENR-CENRO dated July 17, 2001 certifying that the land in question entirely falls within the alienable and disposable zone since January 21, 1987; that it has not been earmarked for public use; and that it does not encroach any area devoted to general public use.

Unfortunately, such certification and report is not enough in order to commence the thirty (30)-year prescriptive period under Section 14 (2). There is no evidence in this case indicating any express declaration by the state that the subject land is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth. Thus, there appears no basis for the application of the thirty (30)-year prescriptive period in this case.

Even if the DENR-CENRO report was enough, Rizalvo would still not be entitled to the registration of the land
Indeed, even assuming arguendo that the DENR-CENRO certification and report is enough to signify that the land is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth, respondent is still not entitled to registration because the land was certified as alienable and disposable in 1987, while the application for registration was filed on December 7, 2000, a mere thirteen (13) years after and far short of the required thirty (30) years under existing laws on prescription.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.


Reference:
G.R. No. 172011 
March 7, 2011 
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. TEODORO P. RIZALVO, JR., Respondent.

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