Civil Law,  Legally Yours

Catholic Vicar Apostolic of Mountain Province v. CA

Catholic Vicar Apostolic of Mountain Province v. CA

CATHOLIC VICAR APOSTOLIC OF THE MOUNTAIN PROVINCE v. COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF EGMIDIO OCTAVIANO AND JUAN VALDEZ
G.R. No. 80294-95 September 21, 1988
Gancayco, J.

FACTS:

The Catholic Vicar Apostolic of the Mountain Province (VICAR for brevity) filed with the Court of First Instance of Baguio Benguet an application for registration of title over Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Psu-194357, situated at Poblacion Central, La Trinidad, Benguet, said Lots being the sites of the Catholic Church building, convents, high school building, school gymnasium, school dormitories, social hall, stonewalls, etc.

The Heirs of Juan Valdez and the Heirs of Egmidio Octaviano filed their Answer/Opposition on Lots Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, asserting ownership and title thereto. After trial on the merits, the land registration court promulgated its Decision confirming the registrable title of VICAR to Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4. The Court of Appeals rendered its decision reversing the decision of the land registration court and dismissing the VICAR’s application as to Lots 2 and 3, the lots claimed by the two sets of oppositors in the land registration case (and two sets of plaintiffs in the two cases now at bar), the first lot being presently occupied by the convent and the second by the women’s dormitory and the sister’s convent.

The plaintiffs argue that the defendant Vicar is barred from setting up the defense of ownership and/or long and continuous possession of the two lots in question since this is barred by prior judgment of the Court of Appeals under the principle of res judicata. Plaintiffs contend that the question of possession and ownership have already been determined by the Court of Appeals and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Defendant Vicar maintains that the principle of res judicata would not prevent them from litigating the issues of long possession and ownership because the dispositive portion of the prior merely dismissed their application for registration and titling of lots 2 and 3. Defendant Vicar contends that only the dispositive portion of the decision, and not its body, is the controlling pronouncement of the Court of Appeals

ISSUE:

May the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated a long time ago can properly be considered res judicata by respondent Court of Appeals in the present two cases between petitioner and two private respondents?

HELD:

Yes. Petitioner was in possession as borrower in commodatum up to 1951, when it repudiated the trust by declaring the properties in its name for taxation purposes. When petitioner applied for registration of Lots 2 and 3 in 1962, it had been in possession in the concept of an owner only for eleven years. Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession for ten years, but always with just title. Extraordinary acquisitive prescription requires 30 years.

Petitioner did not meet the requirement of 30 years possession for acquisitive prescription over Lots 2 and 3. Neither did it satisfy the requirement of 10 years possession for ordinary acquisitive prescription because of the absence of just title. The appellate court did not believe the findings of the trial court that Lot 2 was acquired from Juan Valdez by purchase and Lot 3 was acquired also by purchase from Egmidio Octaviano by petitioner Vicar because there was absolutely no documentary evidence to support the same and the alleged purchases were never mentioned in the application for registration.

Respondent appellate court did not commit any reversible error, much less grave abuse of discretion, when it held that the Decision of the Court of Appeals is governing, under the principle of res judicata, hence the rule, in the present cases CA-G.R. No. 05148 and CA-G.R. No. 05149. The facts as supported by evidence established in that decision may no longer be altered.

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