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Heirs of Leonilo P. Nuñez Sr. v Heirs of Gabino T. Villanoza, G.R. No. 21866, April 26, 2017, 825 SCRA 264
Heirs of Leonilo P. Nuñez Sr. v Heirs of Gabino T. Villanoza,
G.R. No. 21866, April 26, 2017, 825 SCRA 264
Leonilo Sebastian Nuñez (Sebastian) owned a land measuring "more or less" 2.833 hectares (28,333 square meters) located at Barangay Castellano, San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija. This land was covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. NT-143003 and was registered on March 16, 1976 to "Leonilo Sebastian . . . married to Valentina Averia."
On July 7, 1976, Sebastian mortgaged this property to then ComSavings Bank or Royal Savings and Loan Association, now GSIS Family Bank, to secure a loan. His loan matured on June 30, 1978, but the bank did nothing to collect the payment due at that time.
In 1981, tenant-farmer Gabino T. Villanoza (Villanoza) started tilling Sebastian's land.
It was only on December 11, 1997, about 19 years after the maturity of Sebastian's loan, that GSIS Family Bank extrajudicially foreclosed his mortgaged properties including the land tenanted by Villanoza. A public auction was held, and GSIS Family Bank emerged as "the highest and only bidder."
Sebastian's land title was cancelled and TCT No. NT-271267 was issued in the name of the new owner, GSIS Family Bank.
On June 20, 2000, Sebastian filed a complaint before the Regional Trial Court to annul the extrajudicial foreclosure sale. Sebastian argued that an action to foreclose the mortgage prescribed after 10 years. GSIS Family Bank's right of action accrued on June 30, 1978, but it only foreclosed the property 19 years later. Thus, its right to foreclose the property was already barred.
While the case was pending at the Regional Trial Court, the Department of Agrarian Reform sent a notice of coverage under Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program to GSIS Family Bank, then landowner of the disputed property. Neither GSIS Family Bank nor Sebastian exercised any right of retention within 60 days from this notice of coverage.
1. Whether the Court of Appeals properly exercised its appellate jurisdiction.
2. Whether Nuñez v. GSIS Family Bank binds respondents.
3. Whether petitioners have a right of retention over the land measuring "more or less" 2.833 hectares awarded to farmer beneficiary Gabino T. Villanoza?
1. The Court of Appeals properly exercised its jurisdiction in finding that "Leonilo P. Nuñez, Sr." was different from "Leonilo Sebastian Nuñez." Contrary to petitioners' allegations, the Court of Appeals could not be estopped simply because the issue was never raised before the Department of Agrarian Reform. In the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals is empowered to have an independent finding of fact or adopt those set forth in the decision appealed from. This is true especially when the factual finding on the matter contradicts the evidence on record.
2. This Court cannot apply Nuñez v. GSIS Family Bank in petitioners' favor or to respondents' prejudice.
First, neither Villanoza nor his heirs were impleaded in that case. Villanoza and his heirs were non-parties to the mortgage and did not participate in the proceedings for foreclosure and annulment of foreclosure of mortgage. No person can be affected by any proceeding to which he or she is a stranger. Being complete strangers in that case, respondents are not bound by the judgment rendered by this Court.
Second, the Court of Appeals properly found that petitioners did not furnish timely and sufficient evidence to prove that "Leonilo P. Nuñez, Sr." was also "Leonilo Sebastian Nuñez."
In their defense, petitioners aver that they sought for the execution of Nuñez v. GSIS Family Bank, only that the sheriff did not implement it. However, they did not show any evidence to prove their claim. "Bare allegations, unsubstantiated by evidence, are not equivalent to proof." The one alleging a fact has the burden of proving it.
3. Assuming that Sebastian could properly exercise his retention right, this could not cover
the land awarded to Villanoza. Petitioners cite Santiago, et al. v. Ortiz-Luiz to claim that an emancipation grant cannot "defeat the right of the heirs of the deceased landowner to retain the [land]." However, in that case, this Court denied the landowner's retention right for exceeding what the law provides. There is no cogent reason why this Court should rule differently in this case.
Finally, the issuance of the title to Villanoza could no longer be revoked or set aside by Secretary Pangandaman. Acquiring the lot in good faith, Villanoza registered his Certificate of Land Ownership Award title under the Torrens system. He was issued a new and regular title, TCT No. NT-299755, in fee simple; that is to say, it is an absolute title, without qualification or restriction.
The petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals' Decision dated September 26, 2014 and Resolution dated June 4, 2015 in CA-G.R. SP No. 130544, which affirmed the Office of the President's Decision dated August 11, 2011 and reinstated the Department of Agrarian Reform Regional Director's Order dated February 23, 2005, are AFFIRMED.