TITONG v. CA
For one to file an action to quiet title to a parcel of land, the requisites in Art 476 of the NCC must be complied with meaning there should be an instrument, record, claim, encumbrance setting forth the cloud or doubt over the title. Otherwise, the action to be filed can either be ejectment, forcible entry, unlawful detainer, accion reivindicatoria or accion publiciana.
A 20,592 square meter parcel of land located at Barrio Titiong, Masbate is the subject property being disputed in this case. The property is being claimed by 2 contestants, however legal title over the property can only be given to one of them.
The case originated from an action for quieting of title filed by petitioner Mario Titong. The RTC of Masbate decided in favor of private respondents, Vicente Laurio and Angeles Laurio as the true and lawful owners of the disputed land. The CA affirmed the decision of the RTC.
Titong asserts that he is the owner of an unregistered parcel of land with an area of 3.2800 hectares and declared for taxation purposes. He claims that on three separate occasions, private resps, with their hired laborers, forcibly entered a portion of the land containing an approximate area of 2 hectares and began plowing the same under pretext of ownership. On the other hand, private resps denied the claim and said that the subject land formed part of the 5.5 hectare agricultural land which they had purchased from their predecessor-in-interest, Pablo Espinosa.
Titong identified Espinosa as the his adjoining owner asserting that no controversy had sprouted between them for 20 years until the latter sold lot 3749 to V. Laurio. The boundary between the land sold to Espinosa and what remained of Titong’s property was the old Bugsayon river. When Titong employed Lerit as his tenant, he instructed the latter to change the course of the old river and direct the flow of water to the lowland at the southern portion of Titong’s property, thus converting the old river into a Riceland.
Private resps, on the other hand, denied claim of Titong’s, saying that the area and boundaries of disputed land remained unaltered during the series of conveyances prior to its coming into his hands. Accdg to him, Titong first declared land for taxation purposes which showed that the land had an area of 5.5 hectares and was bounded on the north by the B. River; on the east by property under ownership by Zaragoza, and on the west by property owned by De la Cruz. He also alleges that Titong sold property to Verano. The latter reacquired the property pursuant to mutual agreement to repurchase the same.
However, the property remained in Titong’s hands only for 4 days because he sold it to Espinosa. It then became a part of the estate of Espinosa’s wife, late Segundina Espinosa. Later on, her heirs executed an “Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate with Simultaneous Sale” whereby the 5.5 hectares was sold to Laurio for 5,000 pesos. In all these conveyances, the area and boundaries of the property remained exactly the same as those appearing in the name of Titong’s.
The court found out that 2 surveys were made of the property. First survey was made by Titong, while the second was the relocation survey ordered by the lower court. Because of which, certain discrepancies surfaced. Contrary to Titong’s allegation, he was actually claiming 5.9789 hectares, the total areas of lot nos 3918, 3918-A and 3606. The lot 3479 pertaining to Espinosa’s was left with only an area of 4.1841 hectares instead of the 5.5 hectares sold by Titong to him.
Apprised of the discrepancy, private resps filed a protest before Bureau of Lands against 1st survey, and filing a case for alteration of boundaries before the MTC, proceedings of which were suspended because of instant case.
Private resps. Avers that Titong is one of the four heirs of his mother, Leonida Zaragoza. In the Extrajudicial Settlement with Sale of Estate of late Zaragoza, the heirs adjudicated unto themselves the 3.6 hectares property of the deceased. The property was bounded by the north by Verano, on the east by Bernardo Titong, on the south by the Bugsayon River and on the west by Benigno Titong.
Instead of reflecting only .9000 hectares as his rightful share in the extrajud settlement, Titong’s share bloated to 2.4 hectares. It then appeared to Laurio that Titong encroached upon his property and declared it as part of his inheritance.
The boundaries were likewise altered so that it was bounded on the north by Verano, on the east by B. Titong, on the south by Espinosa and on the west by Adolfo Titong. Laurio also denied that Titong diverted course of the B. river after he had repurchased the land from Verano because land was immediately sold to Espinosa thereafter.
Whether or not Titong is the rightful owner of the subject property
The remedy for quieting of title may be availed of under the circumstances mentioned in Art 476 of the NCC wherein it says that action to quiet title may be made as a remedial or preventive measure. Under 476, a claimant must show that there is an instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which casts a cloud, doubt, question or shadow upon owner’s title to or interest in real property. The ground for filing a complaint for quieting title must be “instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding.”
In the case at bar, Titong failed to allege that there was an instrument, claim etc be clouded over his property. Through his allegations, what Titong imagined as clouds cast on his title were Laurio’s alleged acts of physical intrusion into his purported property. The grounds mentioned are for action for forcible entry and not quieting title.
In addition, the case was considered to be a boundary dispute. The RTC and CA correctly held that when Titong sold the 5.5 hectare land to Espinosa, his rights and possession ceased and were transferred to Laurio upon its sale to the latter.
Thus, it is now a contract of sale wherein it is a contract transferring dominion and other real rights in the thing sold. Titong also cannot rely on the claim of prescription as ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession in good faith and with just title for the time fixed by law.