Respondent Prudencio filed a complaint for recovery of possession and damages against petitioner with the RTC Baguio alleging that: he is the owner of a two-storey residential house, that such property was constructed solely from his own funds and declared in his name under Tax Declaration No. 47048, he commenced the construction of said house in 1972 until its completion three years later, when the second floor of said house became habitable in 1973, he allowed petitioner’s parents, Florentino and Susan, to move therein and occupy the second floor while the construction of the ground floor was on-going to supervise the construction and to safeguard the materials; when the construction of the second floor was finished in 1975, respondent allowed petitioner’s parents and children to transfer and temporarily reside thereat; it was done out of sheer magnanimity as petitioner’s parents have no house of their own and since respondent’s wife is the older sister of Florentino, petitioner’s father; in November 1985, respondent wrote Florentino a notice for them to vacate the said house as the former was due for retirement and he needed the place to which petitioner’s parents heeded when they migrated to U.S. in 1986; however, without respondent’s knowledge, petitioner and his family unlawfully entered and took possession of the ground floor of respondent’s house; petitioner’s refusal to vacate the house despite repeated demands prompted respondent to file the instant action for recovery of possession. He contended that: his parents are the co-owners of the said residential house, i.e., the upper story belongs to respondent while the ground floor pertains to petitioner’s parents; he is occupying the ground floor upon the instruction of his father, Florentino, with respondent’s full knowledge; his parents spent their own resources in improving and constructing the said two-storey house as co-owners thereof; the late Florentino was an awardee of the land on which the house stands and as a co-owner of the house, he occupied the ground floor thereof; the demand to vacate was respondent’s attempt to deprive petitioner’s parents of their rights as co-owner of the said house; that respondent had filed ejectment case as well as criminal cases against them involving the subject house which were all dismissed. RTC rendered a decision stating that the house is co-owned by Florentino Parel and herein plaintiff Simeon Prudencio and as such the plaintiff cannot evict the defendant as heirs of the deceased Florentino Parel from said property, nor to recover said premises from herein defendant. Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the ruling and and declared respondent as the sole owner of the subject house and ordered petitioner to surrender possession of the ground floor thereof to respondent immediately. Hence this instant appeal.
WON Rule 132, Sec. 34 or Rule 133, Sec. 7 of the Rules of Court applies in the case at bar.
The latter applies.
Respondent had shown sufficient evidence to support his complaint for recovery of possession of the ground floor of the subject house as the exclusive owner thereof and also was religiously paying the taxes therein. While tax receipts and declarations are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The house which petitioner claims to be co-owned by his late father had been consistently declared for taxation purposes in the name of respondent, and this fact, taken with the other circumstances above-mentioned, inexorably lead to the conclusion that respondent is the sole owner of the house subject matter of the litigation. Respondent having established his claim of exclusive ownership of the subject property, it was incumbent upon petitioner to contravene respondent’s claim. The burden of evidence shifted to petitioner to prove that his father was a co-owner of the subject house. In the case of Jison vs. CA, he records show that although petitioner’s counsel asked that he be allowed to offer his documentary evidence in writing, he, however, did not file the same. Thus, the CA did not consider the documentary evidence presented by petitioner. Section 34 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:
Section 34. Offer of evidence. – The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. The purpose for which the evidence is offered must be specified.
A formal offer is necessary because it is the duty of a judge to rest his findings of facts and his judgment only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties to the suit. It is a settled rule that the mere fact that a particular document is identified and marked as an exhibit does not mean that it has thereby already been offered as part of the evidence of a party.
Petitioner insists that although his documentary evidence were not formally offered, the same were marked during the presentation of the testimonial evidence, thus it can properly be taken cognizance of relying in Bravo, Jr. v. Borja, which is wrong as in Bravo Jr., the court allowed evidence on minority by admitting the certified true copy of the birth certificate attached to a motion for bail even if it was not formally offered in evidence. This was due to the fact that the birth certificate was properly filed in support of a motion for bail to prove petitioner’s minority which was never challenged by the prosecution and it already formed part of the records of the case. The rule referred to in the Bravo case was Section 7 of Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, and not Section 34 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court which is the one applicable to the present case. Section 7 states that:
Section 7. Evidence on motion.- When a motion is based on facts not appearing of record, the court may hear the matter on affidavits or depositions presented by the respective parties, but the court may direct that the matter be heard wholly or partly on oral testimony or depositions.
Even assuming arguendo that the documentary evidence of petitioner should be considered in his favor, the evidence showing that respondent had filed civil and criminal cases against petitioner which were dismissed as well as the alleged Special Power of Attorney of petitioner’s parents whereby they authorized petitioner to stay in the ground floor of the house, did not establish co-ownership of Florentino and respondent of the subject house; all witnesses failing to state thast there was co-ownership in the property.