Civil Law

Delos Reyes and Peralta v. Municipality of Kalibo, Aklan G.R. No. 214587, February 26, 2018 Accretion, Ownership, Torrens Title

FACTS:

The subject lot located in Kalibo, is registered in the name of Ana O. Peralta. Upon her demise, her property passed on to her brother, Jose Peralta, who caused registration of the same in his name. 

Jose later had the property divided into Lots 2076-A and 2076-B, and sold the latter portion. Lot 2076-A, on the other hand, remained in Jose’s name.

In the meantime, allegedly through accretion, land was added to Lot No. 2076.

When Jose died, Lot 2076-A, together with the supposed area of accretion, was transferred to his son, Juanito. The area of accretion was apportioned and registered under Tax Declarations, in the names of siblings Juanito, Javier, Josephine delos Reyes, and Julius Peralta. 

On the other hand, the Municipality of Kalibo sought to convert more or less four (4) hectares of said area of accretion into a garbage dumpsite. 

Juanito, in his capacity as his siblings’ representative, opposed said project. 

Despite the Peraltas’ opposition, the Municipality of Kalibo continued the project under the justification that the contested property is actually part of the public domain.

The Peraltas filed a Complaint for quieting of title over the two (2) portions of accretion declared in their names for taxation purposes.

The Peraltas’ prayer for an injunctive writ against the construction of the dumpsite was denied, but the RTC ruled in their favor, declaring the aforedescribed parcels of land as an accretion and not a public land.

Undaunted, the Municipality of Kalibo brought the matter to the CA Cebu, which granted its appeal and reversed the assailed RTC ruling.

The subsequent Motion for Reconsideration was denied. 

Hence, the instant petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the CA committed an error when it reversed the RTC, which declared the subject parcels of land as accretion and not part of the public domain.

RULING:

The Court rules in the negative.

In order that an action for quieting of title may prosper, the plaintiff must have legal or equitable title to, or interest in, the property which is the subject matter of the action. 

While legal title denotes registered ownership, equitable title means beneficial ownership. In the absence of such legal or equitable title, or interest, there is no cloud to be prevented or removed. Likewise, the plaintiff must show that the deed, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding that purportedly casts a cloud on their title is in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.

It must be noted that the Peraltas are not even registered owners of the area adjacent to the increment claimed, much less of the subject parcels of land. Only the late Juanito became the registered owner of Lot 2076-A, the lot next to the supposed accretion. Assuming that the petitioners are Juanito’s rightful successors, they still did not register the subject increment under their names. It is settled that an accretion does not automatically become registered land just because the lot that receives such accretion is covered by a Torrens Title. 

Ownership of a piece of land is one thing; registration under the Torrens system of that ownership is another. Ownership over the accretion received by the land adjoining a river is governed by the Civil Code; imprescriptibility of registered land is provided in the registration law. Registration under the Land Registration and Cadastral Act does not vest or give title to the land, but merely confirms and, thereafter, protects the title already possessed by the owner, making it imprescriptible by occupation of third parties. But to obtain this protection, the land must be placed under the operation of the registration laws, wherein certain judicial procedures have been provided.

Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited along the banks of rivers. The deposit of soil, to be considered accretion, must be: (a) gradual and imperceptible; (b) made through the effects of the current of the water; and (c) taking place on land adjacent to the banks of rivers.

Upon inspection by the Bureau of Lands, the subject area was predominantly composed of sand rather than soil. In addition, the DENR has remained firm and consistent in classifying the area as land of the public domain for being part of either the Visayan Sea of the Sooc Riverbed and is reached by tide water.

Considering the aforementioned facts, the plaintiffs have neither legal nor equitable title over the contested property.

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