Civil Law, Remedial Law

GATCHALIAN v. FLORES G.R. No. 225176 January 19, 2018 Ejectment, Torrens Title

FACTS:

Petitioner is one of the co-owners of a parcel of land (Road Lot 23) covered by TCT No. 79180, registered under the name of petitioner’s parents, spouses Sixto and Liceria Gatchalian. 

The survey conducted on the property established that the lot of Segundo Mendoza encroached a portion of Road Lot 23 which the Gatchalian’s had tolerated. But after several years, the lot of Segundo was sold and ‘subdivided among the new owners including herein respondents. 

When the latter demonstrated acts of gross ingratitude to the Gatchalian family, petitioner and his family were constrained to withdraw their tolerated possession, use and occupation of the portion of Road Lot 23. 

Verbal and written demands to vacate were then served upon them but remained unheeded. Their dispute remained unresolved before the Lupong Tagapamayapa. 

Hence, the filing of the ejectment case against the respondents.

Respondents, however, denied that they usurped the property of petitioner. According to them, it was the Gatchalians who have encroached on Road Lot 23. They insisted that Road Lot 23 is a public road, and is constituted as a right of way. Respondents believed that petitioner has no cause of action against them and has no authority to file the instant case because it is the City Government of ParaƱaque which has the right to do so.

The MeTC rendered a Decision ordering respondents to vacate Road Lot 23.

Respondents appealed the same to the RTC, which reversed the ruling of the MeTC.

On appeal, the CA reversed the RTC and reinstated the ruling of the MeTC. However, upon reconsideration, the CA reversed itself and affirmed the RTC.

Hence, this petition.

ISSUES:

I.

Whether or not the subject property is a private property.

II.

Whether the subject property has been converted into public property by virtue of laches.

RULING:

The petition is granted.

I.

At the outset, petitioner filed before the MeTC an action for ejectment against the respondents. It is settled that in ejectment proceedings, the only issue for the Court’s resolution is, who between the parties is entitled to the physical or material possession of the subject property. Issues as to ownership are not involved, except only for the purpose of determining the issue of possession.

It is undisputed that the road lot is registered under the name of petitioner’s parents. Even the respondents did not dispute this fact. It is also undisputed that the municipal government has not undertaken any expropriation proceedings to acquire the subject property neither did the petitioner donate or sell the same to the municipal government. 

Therefore, absent any expropriation proceedings and without any evidence that the petitioner donated or sold the subject property to the municipal government, the same is still private property.

Woodridge School, Inc. v. ARB Construction Co., Inc., ruled:

In the case of Abellana, Sr. v. CA, the Court held that “the road lots in a private subdivision are private property, hence, the local government should first acquire them by donation, purchase or expropriation, if they are to be utilized as a public road.” Otherwise, they remain to be private properties of the owner-developer.

Contrary to the position of petitioners, the use of the subdivision roads by the general public does not strip it of its private character. The road is not converted into public property by mere tolerance of the subdivision owner of the public’s passage through it. To repeat, “the local government should first acquire them by donation, purchase or expropriation, if they are to be utilized as a public road.”

Since the local government of ParaƱaque has not purchased nor undertaken any expropriation proceedings, neither did the petitioner and his siblings donate the subject property, the latter is still a private property and Ordinance No. 88-04 did not convert the same to public property.

II.

As to the CA’s finding that by virtue of laches the subject property has been converted into public property, We do not agree.

It is well-settled that an “owner of [a] registered land does not lose his rights over a property on the ground of laches as long as the opposing claimant’s possession was merely tolerated by the owner.”

A torrens title is irrevocable and its validity can only be challenged in a direct proceeding. A torrens title is an indefeasible and impresciptible title to a property in favor of the person in whose name the title appears. The owner is entitled to all the attributes of ownership of the property, including possession. The person who has a torrens title over a land is entitled to possession thereof. As such, petitioner can file an ejectment case against herein respondents who encroached upon a portion of petitioner’s property.

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