ESTATE OF SERRA VS. HEIRS OF PRIMITIVO HERNAEZ G.R. No. 142913. August 9, 2005

FACTS:
On December 27, 1967, the heirs of Eleuterio Hernaez: Primitivo, Rogaciana, and Luisa, filed for a petition for reconstitution of alleged lost original certificates of title and owner’s duplicate copies, for parcels of land in Negros Occidental. On April 6, 1968, the Court of First Instance of Bacolod City granted the petition and ordered the reconstitution of the subjects OCTs and its duplicate copies. However, the reconstituted OCTs were cancelled upon presentation of Hernaez of a “declaration of heirship” for which a Transfer of Certificate of Title were issued in their names. Salvador Serra Serra, upon learning of the existence of the TCTs, registered in behalf of their co-heirs, their adverse claim and moved for the cancellation of reconstituted titles. They claimed that they are the holders of valid and existing certificates of title over the subject properties and have been in continuous and actual possession thereof. The trial court denied the petitioners’s motion, but instead granted Hernaez’ prayer they be placed in possession of the subject properties. On June 7, 1971, the appellate court issued a writ of preliminary injunction which was ordered lifted in a resolution dated August 3, 1971. Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied, hence they filed before this Court a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, docketed as G.R. No. L-34080 and consolidated with G.R. No. L-34693, seeking to annul the resolution lifting the writ of preliminary injunction.

ISSUE:
Whether or not the petitioners are the actual owners of the subject lands.

RULING:
No, petitioners are not the actual owners of the subject land. Petitioners’ alleged possession of TCTs and actual possession of the subject lands, although strong proof of ownership, are not necessarily conclusive where the assertion of proprietary rights is founded on dubious claim of ownership. They claimed that their title over the subject properties emanated from Salvador Serra Serra; yet they failed to present in evidence the OCT in the name of the latter. Since petitioners impugn the proprietary claim of Hernaez over the properties, the burden rests on them to establish their superior right over the latter. To recall, the trial court found that the evidence they presented have not established superior proprietary rights over the respondents’ on the subject lots. It held that the non-presentation of the OCTs cast doubt on the veracity of their claim. He who asserts must prove. It is also undisputed that petitioners are all Spanish citizens. Under Philippine law, foreigners can acquire private lands only by hereditary succession or when they were formerly natural-born Filipinos who lost their Philippine citizenship. In this case, petitioners did not present proof that they acquired the properties by inheritance. Neither did they claim to be former natural-born Filipinos. On the contrary, they declare in this petition that they are all Spanish citizens residing in Mallorca, Spain.

Digest Credit: Shem Gasatan

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