FERNANDA MENDOZA CEQUEÑA and RUPERTA MENDOZA LIRIO, petitioners,
HONORATA MENDOZA BOLANTE, respondent.
G.R. No. 137944 (330 SCRA 216)
April 6, 2000
Prior to 1954, the land having an area of 1,728 square meters and covered by Tax Declaration No. 26-0027 situated in Binangonan, Rizal was declared for taxation purposes in the name of Sinforoso Mendoza, the father of respondent. Sinforoso died in 1930. On the basis of an affidavit, the tax declaration in the name of Sinforoso Mendoza of the contested lot was cancelled and subsequently declared in the name of Margarito Mendoza, the father of the petitioners and brother of Sinforoso.
During the cadastral survey, respondent Honorata is the present occupant of the land together with Miguel Mendoza, another brother of the petitioners. The trial court rendered the petitioners as the lawful owner and possessors of the land. However, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision because the genuineness and the due execution of the affidavit. It was said to be insufficient to overcome the denial of respondent and her mother. Moreover, the probative value of petitioners’ tax receipts and declarations paled in comparison with respondent’s proof of ownership of the disputed parcel. The actual, physical, exclusive and continuous possession by respondent since 1985 gave her a better title under Article 538 of the Civil Code. The petitioners contended otherwise that she came into possession through force and violence, contrary to Article 536 of the Civil Code.
1.) Whether or not the respondent has the actual, physical, exclusive and continuous possession of the land.
2.) Whether or not tax declarations and receipts are conclusive evidence of ownership or possession.
1.) Yes. Possession by the petitioner before 1985 was not exclusive, as the
respondent also acquired it before 1985. The records show that the petitioners’ father and brother, as well as the respondent and her mother were simultaneously in adverse possession of the land.
Based on Article 538 of the Civil Code, the respondent is the preferred possessor because, benefitting from her father’s tax declaration of the subject lot since 1926, she has been in possession thereof for a longer period. On the other hand, petitioners’ father acquired joint possession only in 1952.
2.) No. Tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership. At most, they constitute mere prima facie proof of ownership or possession of the property for which taxes have been paid. In the absence of actual public and adverse possession, the declaration of the land for tax purposes does not prove ownership. The petitioners’ claim of ownership of the whole parcel has no legal basis.