Civil Law

Municipality of Victorias v. CA G.R. No. L-31189 March 31, 1987 Sale, Delivery of the thing Sold, Torrens Title, Proof of Ownership

FACTS:

Respondent Norma Leuenberger inherited Lot No. 140, a sugar land located in Bo. Madaniog, Victorias, Negros Occidental from her grandmother, Simeona J. Vda. de Ditching. 

In 1963, she discovered that the parcel of land, more or less 4 ha. or 33,747 sq.m. used by Petitioner Municipality of Victorias, as a cemetery from 1934, is within her property which is now Identified as Lot 76 and covered by TCT No. 34546.

Hence, Respondent wrote the Mayor of Victorias, demanding payment of past rentals and requesting delivery of the area allegedly illegally occupied by Petitioner.

The Mayor replied that Petitioner in fact, bought the land and thereafter referred her to the municipal treasurer who refused to show proof of the said sale.

Respondents filed a complaint for recovery of possession of the parcel of land occupied by the municipal cemetery. 

In its answer, petitioner Municipality, by way of special defense, alleged ownership of the lot, subject of the complaint, having bought it from Simeona Jingco Vda. de Ditching sometime in 1934.

The lower court decided in favor of the Municipality. 

On appeal, respondent Appellate Court set aside the decision of the lower court.

Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

ISSUE:

Whether or not there was a valid Sale between Petitioner Municipality and Simeona Jingco Vda. de Ditching.

RULING:

There is merit in the petition.

It is undisputed that petitioner failed to present before the Court a Deed of Sale to prove its purchase of the land in question.

Moreover, it is expressly provided by law that the thing sold shall be understood as delivered, when it is placed in the control and possession of the vendee. (Civil Code Art. 1497). 

Where there is no express provision that title shall not pass until payment of the price, and the thing sold has been delivered, title passes from the moment the thing sold is placed in the possession and control of the buyer.

Delivery produces its natural effects in law, the principal and most important of which being the conveyance of ownership, without prejudice to the right of the vendor to payment of the price. 

Similarly, when the sale is made through a public instrument, the execution thereof shall be equivalent to the delivery of the thing which is the object of the contract, if from the deed, the contrary does not appear or cannot be clearly inferred. (Civil Code Art. 1498).

The execution of the public instrument operates as a formal or symbolic delivery of the property sold and authorizes the buyer to use the document as proof of ownership. 

In the case at bar it is undisputed that petitioner had been in open, public, adverse and continuous possession of the land for a period of more than thirty years. In fact, according to the municipal treasurer there are over 1000 graves in the cemetery.

Unfortunately, the purchaser Municipality of Victorias failed to register said Deed of Sale; hence, when Simeona Jingco Vda. de Ditching died, respondent Norma Leuenberger claimed to have inherited the land in dispute and succeeded in registering said land under the Torrens system.

it is well-settled that under the Torrens System “Every person receiving a certificate of title in pursuance of a decree of registration, . . . shall hold the same free of all encumbrance except those noted on said certificate.

In the instant case, however, respondent merely stepped into the shoes of her grandmother and she cannot claim a better right than her predecessor-in-interest. When she applied for registration of the disputed land, she had no legal right to do so as she had no ownership of the land since land registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership but only of confirming ownership of the land.

The Torrens System was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land, …” It is intended merely to confirm and register the title which one may already have on the land. Where the applicant possesses no title or ownership over the parcel of land, he cannot acquire one under the Torrens system of Registration. 

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the judgment of the respondent appellate court was SET ASIDE and the decision of the lower court declaring the cemetery site as the property of the Municipality of Victorias, was REINSTATED.

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