SPOUSES PATRICIO and MYRNA BERNALES vs. HEIRS OF JULIAN SAMBAAN G.R.No. 163271, January 15, 2010 Del Castillo, J.:

Facts: Spouses Julian and Guillerma Sambaan were the registered owner of a property located in Bulua, Cagayan de oro City. The respondents and the petitioner Myrna Bernales are the children of Julian and Guillerma. Myrna, who is the eldest of the siblings, is the present owner and possessor of the property in question.

Julian died in an ambush in 1975. Before he died, he requested that the property in question be redeemed from Myrna and her husband Patricio Bernales.  Thus, in 1982 one of Julian’s siblings offered to redeem the property but the petitioners refused because they were allegedly using the property as tethering place for their cattle.

In January 1991, respondents received an information that the subject property was already transferred to Myrna Bernales. The Deed of Absolute Sale dated December 7, 1970 bore the forged signatures of their parents, Julian and Guillerma.

On April 1993, the respondents, together with their mother Guillerma, filed a complaint for Annulment of Deed of Absolute Sale and cancellation of TCT No. T-14204 alleging that their parent’s signatures were forged. The trial court rendered a decision on August 2, 2001 cancelling the TCT and ordering another title to be issued in the name of the late Julian Sambaan.

Petitioners went to the CA and appealed the decision. The CA affirmed the decision of the lower court. A motion for reconsideration of the decision was, likewise, denied in 2004. Hence, this petition for certiorari.

Issue: Whether or not the Deed of Absolute Sale is authentic as to prove the ownership of the petitioners over the subject property.

Held: It is a question of fact rather than of law. Well-settled is the rule that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts.  Factual findings of the lower courts are entitled to great weight and respect on appeal, and in fact accorded finality when supported by substantial evidence on the record. Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla of evidence.  It is that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise. But to erase any doubt on the correctness of the assailed ruling, we have carefully perused the records and, nonetheless, arrived at the same conclusion.  We find that there is substantial evidence on record to support the Court of Appeals and trial court’s conclusion that the signatures of Julian and Guillerma in the Deed of Absolute Sale were forged.

Conclusions and findings of fact by the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal and should not be disturbed unless for strong and cogent reasons because the trial court is in a better position to examine real evidence, as well as to observe the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying in the case. The fact that the CA adopted the findings of fact of the trial court makes the same binding upon this court.

Thus, we hold that with the presentation of the forged deed, even if accompanied by the owner’s duplicate certificate of title, the registered owner did not thereby lose his title, and neither does the assignee in the forged deed acquire any right or title to the said property.

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