G.R. No. 130876 December 5, 2003
In a decision dated January 31, 2002, it was declared that:
“… neither Tomas N. Alonso nor his son Francisco M. Alonso or the latter’s heirs are the lawful owners of Lot No. 727 in dispute. Neither has the respondent Cebu Country Club, Inc. been able to establish a clear title over the contested estate. The reconstitution of a title is simply the re-issuance of a lost duplicate certificate of title in its original form and condition. It does not determine or resolve the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed title. A reconstituted title, like the original certificate of title, by itself, does not vest ownership of the land or estate covered thereby.”
Herein petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration contending among others that the core issues of fraud and want of jurisdiction afflicting the reconstitution of respondent Cebu Country Club’s title were not squarely and frontally met, to the prejudice and damage of the petitioners.
Whether or not there were fraud and want of jurisdiction afflicting the reconstitution of respondent’s title
Needless to stress, mere allegations of fraud are not enough. Fraud is never presumed but must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, a mere preponderance of evidence not even being adequate. Petitioners failed to discharge that burden. When he was alive, Tomas Alonso did not exert any effort to have the title of the disputed property reconstituted in his name or seek recovery thereof from the respondent which was in possession since 1931. Significantly, Tomas Alonso had caused the reconstitution of his title on Lot 810, which is adjacent to the disputed property, sometime in 1946 and yet petitioners failed to show that Tomas Alonso exerted the same effort to reconstitute his alleged title to the subject property. As successors-in-interest, petitioners merely stepped into the shoes of Tomas Alonso. They cannot claim a right greater than that of their predecessor. Notably, Tomas Alonso and his son Francisco Alonso were not ordinary or unschooled men. They were learned men of the law. They belonged to the landed gentry and, thus, had adequate financial resources at their disposal. Tomas Alonso was even a member of Congress. The length of time that has elapsed, spanning six decades, before the institution of the suit to recover the property, begs for a valid explanation, of which none was convincingly offered. Petitioners’ silent acquiescence for several decades and belated invocation of an alleged right speak strongly of the staleness of their claim. Their claims can hardly evoke judicial compassion. Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt.“If eternal vigilance is the price of safety, one cannot sleep on one’s right for more than a tenth of a century and expect it to be preserved in its pristine purity”.