I am a retired Philippine Navy Officer, after being in the service from 1975 to 2010. My younger brother, Camilo, is also a member of the service since 1984 until the present. Sometime in 1990, a mistah of mine sold to me and Camilo a registered parcel of land situated in San Marcelino, Zambales. Thus, the Certificate of Title was transferred unto Camilo’s name and mine. Around 2002, Camilo started exclusively using the said property as I was already based in Manila then, and had no time to take care of it, much less, sow the land and harvest its crops.
In 2013, our relationship turned sour. I demanded that we partition the lot in half or that he pays me for my proportionate share in Philippine peso. Camilo rejected my demand and claims that he is already the lawful owner of the lot, because of his open, continuous and exclusive possession as an owner for a long period of time already. Is he correct?
Dear Col. Brando,
No, Camilo is incorrect in his supposition. Based on the facts you have narrated, it appears that you and Camilo are both co-owners of a registered parcel of land situated in San Marcelino, Zambales. Considering that the Certificate of Title reflects both your names as owners, your co-ownership is not affected by the fact that Camilo took sole and adverse possession of the property since 2002.
It is apparent that, as a co-owner of the said property, you may demand at any time the partition of the property corresponding to your share. This much is clear from Article 494 of our New Civil Code (NCC) which provides thus:
“Article 494. No co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership. Each co-owner may demand at any time the partition of the thing owned in common, insofar as his share is concerned.
Nevertheless, an agreement to keep the thing undivided for a certain period of time, not exceeding ten years, shall be valid. This term may be extended by a new agreement.
A donor or testator may prohibit partition for a period which shall not exceed twenty years.
Neither shall there be any partition when it is prohibited by law.
No prescription shall run in favor of a co-owner or co-heir against his co-owners or co-heirs so long as he expressly or impliedly recognizes the co-ownership.” [Emphasis supplied.]
Moreover, Camilo did not acquire, as he could not have acquired, sole ownership of the entire property by prescription due to his alleged open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the property since 2002, because of the following reasons:
The above-quoted Article 494 also provides that no prescription shall run in favor of a co-owner as long as he expressly or impliedly recognizes the co-ownership, and,
A registered land cannot be acquired by prescription or adverse possession as provided under Section 47 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, to wit:
“Section 47. Registered land not subject to prescriptions. No title to registered land in derogation of the title of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession.”
Tested against all the foregoing, Camilo is indeed wrong to reject your demand for partition and to claim sole absolute ownership over the property. Thus, you may lawfully demand the partition of your co-owned property from Camilo.
We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, the opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com.