GULLAS LAW SCHOOL
UNIVERSITY OF THE VISAYAS
Property Registration Decree
(P.D. 1529) and Related laws
A Digest of Selected 2007 Supreme Court Decisions
Dean Teodoro A. Almase
For a full and comprehensive understanding of the following
doctrinal jurisprudence, the students of law must still read the entire text
(not just the syllabi) of these selected Supreme Court Decisions
SURVEY OF 2007 CASES INVOLVING LAND TITLES AND LAND REGISTRATION
I. LAND TITLES:
ACTIONS INVOLVING TITLES
Ingusan vs. Hrs. of Reyes (531 SCRA 315) No collateral attack on title allowed
Invoking the invalidity of an original certificate of title as an affirmative defense in an answer and the prayer for the declaration of its nullity is a collateral attack on a certificate of title and is not allowed.
Taparuc vs. Loquellano vda de Mende (512 SCRA 97) No collateral attack on title
A Torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The question on the validity of a Torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, can be raised only in an action expressly instituted for that purpose. The title represented by the certificate cannot be changed, altered, modified, enlarged, diminished, or cancelled in a collateral proceeding. The action for the declaration of nullity of deed of sale commenced by the petitioners in the RTC is not the direct proceeding required by law to attack a Torrens certificate of title.
Rodriguez vs. Rodriguez (532 SCRA 642) No collateral attack on title
A Torrens certificate of title is indefeasible. The power to pass upon the validity of such certificate of title at first instance belongs to the Regional Trial Court in a direct proceeding for the cancellation of title. The alleged invalidity of a Torrens certificate of title may not be raised by way of a defense in an ejectment case where the question of ownership may be provisionally ruled upon only for the sole purpose of determining who is entitled to possession de facto.
Azana vs. Lumbo (518 SCRA 707) Quieting of Title
An action for quieting of title may be brought by the owner of a property who is disturbed in any way in his right by an unfounded claim.
Heirs of Marcelino Doronio vs. Hrs. of Fortunato Doronio
(G.R. No. 169454. December 27, 2007.]
The rules on quieting of title expressly provide that any declaration in a suit to quiet title shall not prejudice persons who are not parties to the action.
Hrs. of Rosa Dumaliang vs. Serban (516 SCRA 343) Reconveyance is imprescriptible if title still in name of person who caused wrongful registration
The real owner has the right to sue for reconveyance (an action in personam) of a property. The action is imprescriptible if the land wrongfully registered is still in the name of the person who caused the registration.
Pedrano vs. Hrs. Benedicto Pedrano
[G.R. No. 159666. December 4, 2007.] No prescription where no title issued
An action for the reconveyance of a parcel of land based on implied or constructive trust, as we have already explained in this case, prescribes in 10 years, the point of reference being the date of registration of the deed or the date of the issuance of the certificate of title of the property; however, where no OCT has yet been issued despite an order from the court to title the lots, the date from whence the prescriptive period could be reckoned is unknown and it could not be determined if indeed the period had already lapsed or not. Thus, we agree with the CA that prescription has not yet set in.
Llemos vs. Llemos (513 SCRA 128)
Santos vs. Lumbao (519 SCRA 408) Reconveyance is imprescriptible where plaintiff is in possession
An action for annulment of title/reconveyance based on fraud is imprescriptible where the plaintiff is in possession of the property subject of the acts.
Antonio vs. Santos (538 SCRA 1) Reconveyance resulting from fraud prescribes 4 years from discovery of fraud which discovery is deemed to have taken place upon issuance of certificate of title
Note should be taken of the established doctrine that an action for reconveyance resulting from fraud prescribes four (4) years from the discovery of the fraud. Such discovery is deemed to have taken place upon the issuance of the certificate of title over the property. Registration of real property is considered constructive notice to all persons, thus, the four-year period shall be counted therefrom.
Hrs. of Zoilo Espiritu vs. Landrito (520 SCRA 383) Reconveyance based on implied trust prescribes 10 years after date of registration
An action for reconveyance prescribes 10 years from the date of registration of the certificate of sale if the action is based on implied trust arising from a wrongful foreclosure with iniquitous interest. The principal obligation still stands however the interest is set at 12% per annum which should be paid.
Azana vs. Lumbo (518 SCRA 707)
Non-declaration of property for tax purposes does not necessarily negate ownership.
Tapuroc vs. Loquellano vda de Mende (512SCRA 100)
If title to property is coupled with payment of realty taxes and possession in concept of owner for more than 30 years, then the title to land became indefeasible and possession by registered owner cannot be disturbed
Pascual vs. Coronel (527 SCRA 474)
A registered owner with title has a better right to possess the land as opposed to a vendee with an unregistered sale.
Hrs. of Dumaliang vs. Serban (516 SCRA 343)
It is the better rule that courts under the principle of equity will not be guided by the doctrine of laches when to do so, manifest wrong or injustice will result.
Llemos vs. Llemos (513 SCRA 128)
Laches cannot be used to defeat justice or perpetrate fraud or injustice.
D’Oro Land Realty & Devt. Corporation vs. Claunan (516 SCRA 681) Squatters cannot invoke defense of laches
A squatter has no right of possession that may be prejudiced by his eviction. Unless there are intervening rights of third persons which may be affected or prejudiced by a decision ordering the return of the lots to the registered owner, the equitable defense of laches will not apply as against the latter.
Although a registered owner may lose his right to recover possession of his registered property by reason of laches, the equitable defense is unavailing to one who has not shown any color of title to the property such as a squatter.
Estate of the Late Jesus Yujuico vs. Republic (537 SCRA 513)
An action to recover lands of the public domain is imprescriptible. Such right however can be barred by laches/estoppel under Sec. 32 of P.D. 1529 which recognizes the rights of innocent purchasers for value above the interests of the government.
Taparuc vs. Loquellano vda. De Mende (512 SCRA 97)
A complaint for declaration of nullity of an alleged forged deed filed 29 years from execution was held barred by laches.
Life Homes Realty vs. Court of Appeals (516 SCRA 6) Corrections in Plans
“ The Court agrees with the CA that such defects in plans prepared in connection with areas adjudicated in ordinary or voluntary registration proceedings may be corrected after the cadastral survey in accordance with Sec. 108 of P.D. No. 1529, thus:
SEC. 108. Amendment and alteration of certificates. — No erasure, alteration, or amendment shall be made upon the registration book after the entry of a certificate of title or of a memorandum thereon and the attestation of the same by Register of Deeds, except by order of the proper Court of First Instance. A registered owner or other person having an interest in registered property, or, in proper cases, the Register of Deeds with the approval of the Commissioner of Land Registration, may apply by petition to the court upon the ground that registered interests of any description, whether vested, contingent, expectant or inchoate appearing on the certificate, have terminated and ceased; or that new interest not appearing upon the certificate have arisen or been created; or that an omission or error was made in entering a certificate or any memorandum thereon, or, on any duplicate certificate; . . . or upon any other reasonable ground; and the court may hear and determine the petition after notice to all parties in interest, and may order the entry or cancellation of a new certificate, the entry or cancellation of a memorandum upon a certificate, or grant any other relief upon such terms and conditions, requiring security or bond if necessary, as it may consider proper; Provided, however, That this section shall not be construed to give the court authority to reopen the judgment or decree of registration, and that nothing shall be done or ordered by the court, which shall impair the title or other interest of a purchaser holding a certificate for value and in good faith, or his heirs and assigns, without his or their written consent. . . .
All petitions or motions filed under this Section as well as under any other provision of this Decree after original registration shall be filed and entitled in the original case in which the decree or registration was entered.
The last paragraph above provides that a petition for correction shall be filed and entitled in the original case in which the decree of registration was entered. As stated by the CA, the jurisdiction to entertain the petition lies with the Land Registration Court which heard and decided the voluntary registration proceedings filed by private respondent. The rule aims to prevent confusion and to avoid difficulty in tracing the origin of entries in the registry. (Noblejas, Registration of Land Titles and Deeds, 1986 ed., p. 190.11)
Manotok Realty Inc. vs. CLT Realty Devt. Corp. Jurisdiction of Cadastral Courts
[G.R. No. 123346. December 14, 2007.]
The reality that cadastral courts may have jurisdiction over lands already registered in ordinary land registration cases was acknowledged by this Court in Pamintuan v. San Agustin. 43 Phil. 558 (1922). Such jurisdiction is "limited to the necessary correction of technical errors in the description of the lands, provided such corrections do not impair the substantial rights of the registered owner, and that such jurisdiction cannot operate to deprive a registered owner of his title." (Id. at 561.) It was further clarified in Timbol v. Diaz (44 Phil. 587 (1923))that the limited jurisdiction of the cadastral court over such lands even extends to the determination of "which one of the several conflicting registered titles shall prevail[, as such] power would seem to be necessary for a complete settlement of the title to the land, the express purpose of cadastral proceedings, and must therefore be considered to be within the jurisdiction of the court in such proceedings." (Id. at 590.)
Alfonso vs Office of the President (520 SCRA 64) Duty of Register of Deeds To Require Submission of Approved Subdivision Plan, Technical Description & Owner’s Duplicate Certificate of Title Before Issuing New Titles
The observations of the LRA and the DOJ on petitioner's failure to require the presentation of the subdivision plan for Rivera's three titles are in keeping with the provisions of Sections 50 and 58 of P.D. No. 1529, as follows:
SEC. 50. Subdivision and consolidation plans. — Any owner subdividing a tract of registered land into lots which do not constitute a subdivision project as defined and provided for under P.D. 957, shall file with the Commissioner of Land Registration or with the Bureau of Lands a subdivision plan of such land on which all boundaries, streets, passageways and waterways, if any, shall be distinctly and accurately delineated.
If a subdivision plan, be it simple or complex, duly approved by the Commissioner of Land Registration or the Bureau of Lands together with the approved technical descriptions and the corresponding owner's duplicate certificate of title is presented for registration, the Register of Deeds shall, without requiring further court approval of said plan, register the same in accordance with the provisions of the Land Registration Act, as amended. . . .
xxx xxx xxx
SEC. 58. Procedure where conveyance involves portion of land. — If a deed of conveyance is for a part of the land described in a certificate of title, the Register of Deeds shall not enter any transfer certificate of title to the grantee until a plan of such land showing all the portions or lots into which it has been subdivided and the corresponding technical descriptions shall have been verified and approved pursuant to Section 50 of this Decree. . . .
Upon the approval of the plan and technical descriptions, the original of the plan, together with a certified copy of the technical descriptions shall be filed with the Register of Deeds for annotation in the corresponding certificate of title and thereupon said officer shall issue a new certificate of title to the grantee for the portion conveyed, and at the same time cancel the grantor's certificate partially with respect only to the said portion conveyed. . . .
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
It is clearly evident from the above provisions that for petitioner- register of deeds to issue a new certificate of title, she must require the submission of the approved subdivision plan together with the approved technical descriptions and the corresponding owner's duplicate certificate of title. Therefore, she could not have dispensed with the submission of the subdivision plan and relied solely on the technical descriptions provided in the court's Order.
Likewise, this Court holds that petitioner should have required proof of payment of inheritance tax over the portions that were transferred to Rivera because these lots were conveyances from the estate of her alleged grandmother, Maria Consolacion Vidal, in whose name the lots were originally registered under OCT No. 994.
Taguinod vs. Court of Appeals (533 SCRA 403)
The rights of a homestead patentee are superior to that of a tenant under the Agrarian Reform Law.
Justalero vs. Gonzales (517 SCRA 341)
Where the predecessor of a free patent applicant did not avail of any legal remedy to assail a decision adverse to him, his successors are bound thereby.
Estate of the Late Jesus Yujuico vs Republic (537 SCRA 513)
Reversion suits were originally utilized to annul titles/patents administratively issued by the Director of the Lands Management Bureau or the Secretary of the DENR.
National Housing Authority vs. Soledad Pascual,
[G.R. No. 158364. November 28, 2007.] Nullification of award by the government if it involves annulment of a title issued, may be filed in court.
In a number of cases decided by this Court, we have sustained the propriety of the action for annulment of title and the consequent nullification of awards granted by the government in favor of wrongful grantees who obtained said grants in violation of public policy or through fraudulent means. In Swan v. Court of Appeals, (G.R. No. 97319, August 4, 1992, 212 SCRA 114) this Court set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeals dismissing the complaint for annulment and cancellation of title which also prayed for the annulment of the award by the NHA of the disputed lot. In sustaining the stand of petitioner therein, the Court held:
. . . Their action in the court below . . . being one for annulment of title of the private respondents, the Regional Trial Courts have original jurisdiction to entertain the same. What Raymundo prohibits is the cognizance by the courts of actions to annul NHA awards of sale of its lots. Actually, the next step for annulling an NHA award of sale is an appeal to the Office of the President within 33 days from receipt of the NHA decision awarding the lot to another party. After which step, the aggrieved party can go to the Courts via Rule 65. (Id. at 121-122.29)
National Housing Authority vs. Soledad Pascual,
[G.R. No. 158364. November 28, 2007. Courts may not review power of government agencies to grant awards if no nullification of title is involved.
The ruling of this Court in Raymundo v. People's Homesite and Housing Corporation(200 Phil. 191 (1982) still stands that the power to dispose of the lands placed under the administration of the Philippine Homesite and Housing Corporation (now National Housing Authority) is lodged in said body. There is no provision of law authorizing courts to review decisions of respondent PHHC and to take cognizance of actions to annul awards of sale of any other action made by it pursuant to the authority granted it by law, unless a prayer for nullification of title is in the Complaint.
REGISTRATION OF DEEDS
Tanglao vs. Parungao (535 SCRA 123)
The act of registration by the second buyer must be coupled with good faith and no knowledge of any defect or lack of title of the vendor or that he is not aware of facts which should put him upon inquiry and investigation as must be necessary to acquaint him with defects in the title.
Fudot vs. Cattleya Land Inc. (533 SCRA 351)
Knowledge gained by first buyer of second sale cannot defeat first buyer’s rights, except where the second buyer registers in good faith the second sale ahead of the first. It is essential to merit the protection of Art. 1544 of the New Civil Code, that the second realty buyer must act in good faith in registering his deed of sale.
Hrs. of Rosa Dumaliang vs. Serban (516 SCRA 343)
Registration under the Torrens system does not create nor vest title if title was based on a forged deed.
Amodia vda de Melencion vs. Court of Appeals (534 SCRA 62) Registration Under Art. 1544 of the New Civil Code; Registration of Sale of Titled Land Under Act 3344
The registration under Art. 1544 of the New Civil Code refers to registration under the torrens system which considers the act of registration as the operative act that gives validity to the transfer or creates a lien upon the land.
If a parcel of land is registered under the Land Registration Act and has a torrens certificate of title and is sold and the sale is registered not under Land Registration Act but under Act 3344, such sale is not considered registered as the term is used under Article 1544 of the New Civil Code.
The loss of a certificate of title of a titled land does not convert the land into unregistered land.
Hrs. of Zoilo Espiritu vs. Landrito (520 SCRA 385)
Registration of a foreclosure sale (where debtors were not given opportunity to settle their debt at the correct amount without iniquitous interest) cannot transfer any rights over mortgaged property – even after the expiration of 1 year from registration of sale.
Santos vs. Lumbao (519 SCRA 408)
The failure of a contracting party to have a document registered does not affect its validity and enforceability as between the contracting parties for registration serves chiefly to bind third persons not parties to a contract that a transaction involving the property has been entered into.
Pineda vs. Arcalas (538 SCRA 596) A levy on execution registered takes preference over a prior unregistered sale – a registered lien is entitled to preferential consideration. An exception to the preference given to a registered lien is the case where a party has actual knowledge of the claimant’s actual, open, continuous and notorious possession of the disputed property at the time the levy or attachment is registered.
The Court held that a registered writ of attachment is a proceeding in rem. It is against a particular property, enforceable against the whole world. The attaching creditor acquires a specific lien on the attached property which nothing can subsequently destroy except the very dissolution of the attachment or levy itself. An exception to the preference given to a registered lien is the case where a party has actual knowledge of the claimant’s actual, open, continuous and notorious possession of the disputed property at the time the levy or attachment is registered
Heirs of Marcelino Doronio vs. Hrs. of Fortunato Doronio
(G.R. No. 169454. December 27, 2007.] No registration is made in cases of illegal transfers
The system merely confirms ownership and does not create it. Certainly, it cannot be used to divest the lawful owner of his title for the purpose of transferring it to another who has not acquired it by any of the modes allowed or recognized by law. It cannot be used to protect a usurper from the true owner, nor can it be used as a shield for the commission of fraud; neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the expense of another. Where such an illegal transfer is made, as in the case at bar, the law presumes that no registration has been made and so retains title in the real owner of the land.
Sanchez vs. Mapalad Realty Corporation
[G.R. No. 148516. December 27, 2007.] Buyer acquires no title if sale was done with fraud
Where a deed of sale was attended by fraud and proved to be fictitious, the buyer acquired no title to the subject property. The sale of four parcels of prime land along Roxas Boulevard surrendered by a former associate of President Marcos to the Aquino government bears the earmarks of a grand scam perpetrated by the very same persons appointed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to safeguard the assets of the sequestered companies.
Heirs of Marcelino Doronio vs. Hrs. of Fortunato Doronio
(G.R. No. 169454. December 27, 2007.] Conveyance of real estate must be made in a proper instrument to transfer title
It is settled that a donation of real estate propter nuptias under the Old Civil Code, is void unless made by public instrument. In the instant case, the donation propter nuptias executed when the Old Civil Code was in effect, did not become valid. Neither did it create any right because it was not made in a public instrument. Hence, it conveyed no title to the land in question to petitioners' predecessors.
SALE OF REAL ESTATE
Domingo Realty Inc vs. Court of Appeals (513 SCRA 40) Caveat Emptor Principle
Hopefully this case will serve as a precaution to prospective parties to a contract involving titled lands for them to exercise the diligence of a reasonably prudent person by undertaking measures to ensure the legality of the title and the accurate metes and bounds of the lot embraced in the title. It is advisable that such parties (1) verify the origin, history, authenticity, and validity of the title with the Office of the Register of Deeds and the Land Registration Authority; (2) engage the services of a competent and reliable geodetic engineer to verify the boundary, metes, and bounds of the lot subject of said title based on the technical description in the said title and the approved survey plan in the Land Management Bureau; (3) conduct an actual ocular inspection of the lot; (4) inquire from the owners and possessors of adjoining lots with respect to the true and legal ownership of the lot in question; (5) put up signs that said lot is being purchased, leased, or encumbered; and (6) undertake such other measures to make the general public aware that said lot will be subject to alienation, lease, or encumbrance by the parties. Respondent Acero, for all his woes, may have a legal recourse against lessor David Victorio who inveigled him to lease the lot which turned out to be owned by another.
Esguerra vs. Trinidad (518 SCRA 186) Unit Price Contract vs. Lump Sum
In a unit price contract, the statement of area of immovable is not conclusive and the price may be reduced or increased depending on the area actually delivered. If the vendor delivers less than the area agreed upon, the vendee may oblige the vendor to deliver all that may be stated in the contract or demand for the proportionate reduction of the purchase price if delivery is not possible. If the vendor delivers more than the area stated in the contract, the vendee has the option to accept only the amount agreed upon or to accept the whole area, provided he pays for the additional area at the contract rate.
In the sale of real estate, made for a lump sum and not at the rate of a certain sum for a unit of measure or number, there shall be no increase or decrease of the price, although there be a greater or less areas or number than that stated in the contract.
In a contract of sale of land in a mass, it is well established that the specific boundaries stated in the contract must control over any statement with respect to the area contained within its boundaries. It is not of vital consequence that a deed or contract of sale of land should disclose the area with mathematical accuracy. It is sufficient if its extent is objectively indicated with sufficient precision to enable one to identify it. An error as to the superficial area is immaterial. Thus, the obligation of the vendor is to deliver everything within the boundaries, inasmuch as it is the entirety thereof that distinguishes the determinate object.
TORRENS CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
Borbe vs. Calalo (535 SCRA 89) Torrens Certificate Is Constructive Notice
The issuance of a torrens certificate of title is constructive notice to the whole word that the person in whose name it is issued has become the owner of the lot described therein.
Republic vs. Mendoza, Sr. (519 SCRA 203) Reliability of Title
One who deals with property registered under Torrens system may safely rely on the title and is charged only with burdens and claims annotated on the title.
Tanglao vs. Parungao (535 SCRA 123)
Indefeasibility of title does not extend to transferees who take the certificate of title in bad faith.
D’Oro Land Realty & Devt Corp vs. Claunan (516 SCRA 681)
A certificate of title can not be defeated by adverse, open and notorious possession by third persons.
Ochoa vs. Apeta (533 SCRA 235)
No title to registered land in derogation to that of registered owner or his hereditary successors (who merely step into the shoes of the decedent) shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession.
Barstowe vs. Republic (519 SCRA 148)
The Republic may not go after innocent purchasers of lots of a subdivision owner (who is guilty of securing titles fraudulently) who looked into TCTs of developer and found nothing to raise doubts as to their validity and authenticity.
Antonio vs. Santos (538 SCRA 1) When two certificates of title are issued to different persons covering the same land in whole or in part, the earlier in date must prevail and Holder of a prior certificate is entitled to the land as against a person who relies on a subsequent certificate.
This court has ruled that, when two certificates of title are issued to different persons covering the same land in whole or in part, the earlier date must prevail; and in case of successive registrations where more than one certificate is issued over the same land, the person holding a prior certificate is entitled to the land as against a person who relies on a subsequent certificate.
II. LAND REGISTRATION:
P.D. 1529 SEC. 14 (1) AND (2)
Buenaventura vs. Republic (517 SCRA 271)
Limcoma Multipurpose Cooperative vs. Republic (527 SCRA 233)
Applicant may acquire title by prescription under Sec. 14(2) of P.D. 1529 even if he cannot prove possession since June 12, 1945
Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the application of "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws."
It becomes crystal clear from the aforesaid ruling of the Court that even if the possession of alienable lands of the public domain commenced only after 12 June 1945, application for registration of the said property is still possible by virtue of Section 14 (2) of the Property Registration Decree which speaks of prescription.
Under the Civil Code, prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership. Article 1106 of the Civil Code provides:
By prescription, one acquires ownership and other real rights through the lapse of time in the manner and under the conditions laid down by law.
Also in Article 1113 of the Civil Code, it is provided that:
All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its subdivision not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.
Likewise, Article 1137 of the Civil Code states that:
Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith. (Emphasis supplied.)
It is well-settled that properties classified as alienable and disposable land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least 30 years. Such property now falls within the contemplation of "private lands" under Section 14 (2), over which title by prescription can be acquired. Hence, because of Section 14 (2) of Presidential Decree No. 1529, those who are in possession of alienable and disposable land, and whose possession has been characterized as open, continuous and exclusive for 30 years or more, may have the right to register their title to such land despite the fact that their possession of the land commenced only after 12 June 1945. 29
JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE
Republic vs. San Lorenzo (513 SCRA 294)
Reyes vs. Republic (512 SCRA 217)
Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended (Public Land Act), and Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, require that the applicants must prove that the land is alienable and disposable public land; and that they or through their predecessors in interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945.
Republic vs. Sarmiento (518 SCRA 250 ) Applicant Under Act 141 must prove how his title was acquired from State
It is well settled that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government, and it is indispensable that the person claiming title to public land should show that his title was acquired from the State or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law.
Limcoma Multi-Purpose Cooperative vs. Republic (527 SCRA 233) Difference Between Registration Proceedings Under P.D. 1529 and Act 141
Notably, Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree and Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act, as amended, are original registration proceedings, against the whole world, and the decree of registration issued for both is conclusive and final. It is evident from the above-cited provisions that an application for land registration must conform to three requisites: (1) the land is alienable public land; (2) the applicant's open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation thereof must be since June 12, 1945, or earlier; and (3) it is under a bona fide claim of ownership.
The laws vary only with respect to their operation. Under the Property Registration Decree, there already exists a title which the court need only confirm while the Public Land Act works under the presumption that the land applied for still pertains to the State, and the occupants and possessors merely claim an interest in the land by virtue of their imperfect title or continuous, open, and notorious possession thereof.
CERTIFICATE OF ALIENABILITY
Republic vs. Bibonia (525 SCRA 268) Land must be alienable and disposable as of time of filing of application for registration of title not necessarily as of June 12, 1945
Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529 is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property.
Republic vs. Mendoza (519 SCA 203) Courts cannot inquire into reasons why a land is reclassified into alienable and disposable land
X X X it cannot be gainsaid that the prerogative of classifying public lands pertains to administrative agencies which have been specially tasked by statutes to do so and that the courts will not interfere on matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government and/or quasi-judicial agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under their special technical knowledge and training. It should be stressed that the function of administering and disposing of lands of the public domain in the manner prescribed by law is not entrusted to the courts but to executive officials. And as such, courts should refrain from looking into the underlying reasons or grounds which impelled the classification and declaration of Silot Bay as timberland and its subsequent release as alienable and disposable land. From the facts of the case, it is evident that the Bureau of Forestry released Silot Bay as alienable and disposable by virtue of the Memorandum issued by then President Marcos on 16 January 1967 which clearly empowered said bureau to identify and locate the 700,000 hectares of fishpond areas and to release said areas as alienable and disposable. Hence, the courts, in view of the clear legal directive by which said area was released as alienable and disposable, will refrain from questioning the wisdom of such classification or declaration.
Domingo vs. Landicho (531 SCRA 606)
Republic vs. Barandiaran (538 SCRA 705)
Applicant must prove positive act of government that land is alienable and disposable
All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State, and unless it has been shown that they have been reclassified by the State as alienable or disposable to a private person, they remain part of the inalienable public domain.
To prove that a land is alienable, an applicant must conclusively establish the existence of a positive act of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order, or administrative action, investigation reports of the Bureau of Lands investigator or a legislative act or statute.
Republic vs. San Lorenzo (513 SCRA 294) Certificate of Alienability Is Not Proof of Possession
Second, the acceptance by the courts a quo of the CENRO certificate of alienability and disposability as evidence of possession since the date of said certificate is patently erroneous. According to the CENRO certification, the subject land was alienable and disposable public land since June 7, 1938. This certification does not in any way indicate that the respondent and its predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the property as far back as 1938.
Republic vs. Sarmiento (518 SCRA 250 ) Surveyor’s Certification Is Not Proof That Land Is Alienable and Disposable
A mere surveyor has no authority to reclassify lands of the public domain. By relying solely on the said surveyor's assertion, petitioners have not sufficiently proven that the land in question has been declared alienable. It is not enough to rely on blue print copy of the conversion and subdivision plan approved by the DENR Center which bears the notation of the surveyor-geodetic engineer that "this survey is inside the alienable and disposable area, Project No. 27-B. L.C. Map No. 2623, certified on January 3, 1968 by the Bureau of Forestry."
Republic vs. Barandiaran (538 SCRA 1) A mere notation on the advance plan to the effect that said properties are alienable and disposable is not the kind of proof required by law to prove that land is alienable.
Republic vs. Consunji (533 SCRA 269)
Republic vs. Barandiaran (538 SCRA 705)
Buenaventura vs. Republic (517 SCRA 271)
Certification from the Government/DENR that land is alienable and disposable is sufficient to prove its status as such.
The certification from the DENR that the land subject of the application is within the alienable and disposable project, is sufficient to establish the true nature and character of the subject properties. Similarly, it enjoys a presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory evidence.
Herce, Jr. vs. Municipality of Cabuyao, Laguna (512 SCRA 332, 333) The Court may order the striking out of one or more parcels or the severance of the application for registration of title which refers to more than one parcel of land
An application for land registration may include two or more parcels of land, but the court may at any time order an application to be amended by striking out one or more of the parcels or order a severance of the application.
DEATH OF AN APPLICANT DURING PENDENCY OF
APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION OF TITLE
Domingo vs. Landicho ((531 SCRA 606) The Court must order the substitution of heirs of an applicant who died during pendency of the land registration case
When a party dies in an action that survives and no order is issued by the court for the appearance of the legal representative or of the heirs of the deceased in substitution of the deceased, and as a matter of fact no substitution has ever been effected, the proceedings held by the court without such legal representatives or heirs and the judgment rendered after such trial are null and void because the court acquired no jurisdiction over the person of the legal representative or of the heirs upon whom the trial and judgment would be binding. Unlike, however, jurisdiction over the subject matter which is conferred by law, jurisdiction over the person of the parties to the case may, however, be waived either expressly or impliedly.
Republic vs. San Lorenzo (513 SCRA 294) Initial Hearing Beyond the 90-Day Period
The duty and the power to set the hearing date lie with the land registration court. After an applicant has filed his application, the law requires the issuance of a court order setting the initial hearing date. The notice of initial hearing is a court document. The notice of initial hearing is signed by the judge and copy of the notice is mailed by the clerk of court to the LRA [Land Registration Authority]. This involves a process to which the party applicant absolutely has no participation. X X X Respondent should not be faulted if the initial hearing that was conducted on September 23, 1995 was outside the 90-day period set forth under Section 23 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, and (b) that respondent might have substantially complied with the requirement thereunder relating to the registration of the subject land." Hence, on the issue of jurisdiction, we find for the respondent, in that its application for registration was rightfully given due course by the MTCC.
Hrs. of Regalado vs. Republic (516 SCRA 38) Technical Description of Smaller Lots Sought to Be Registered Must Be Published
If what is sought to be registered are sublots of a bigger lot, the publication must contain the technical descriptions of the smaller lots since the adjoining owners of the mother lot are not the adjoining owners of the smaller lots.
EVIDENCE OF POSSESSION
A. TAX DECLARATIONS
Republic vs. Consunji (533 SCRA 269) Even if earliest tax declarations do not date back to 1945, still if there is credible testimony, court will grant petition for registration.
The fact that the earliest tax declarations of the lots were for the year 1955 will not mitigate against respondent. In Recto v. Republic (440 SCRA 79) it was held that:
. . . the belated declaration of the lot for tax purposes does not necessarily mean that possession by the previous owners thereof did not commence in 1945 or earlier. As long as the testimony supporting possession for the required period is credible, the court will grant the petition for registration.
Hrs. of Marina Regalado vs. Republic (516 SCRA 38) Delayed declaration for tax purpose negates claim of continuous, exclusive and uninterrupted possession as owner
While it is a good indication of possession in the concept of owner, delayed declaration of property for tax purposes negates a claim of continuous, exclusive, and interrupted possession in the concept of an owner.
Republic vs. Sta. Ana Burgos (523 SCRA 309)
Buenaventura vs. Republic (517 SCRA 271) Tax declarations especially dating back to 1948 or 1945 are good indicia of ownership
As a rule, tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they are good indicia of possession in the concept of owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or constructive possession. They constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not only one's sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property and announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties, but also the intention to contribute needed revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens one's bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership.
Republic vs. Barandiaran (538 SCRA 1) Tax receipts and declarations when accompanied by proof of actual possession of the property become evidence of ownership acquired by prescription.
It is settled that tax receipts and declarations of ownership for tax purposes are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership; they only become evidence of ownership acquired by prescription when accompanied by proof of actual possession of the property.
TRACING CLOTH/SURVEY PLAN
Republic vs. Munoz (536 SCRA 108) Original tracing cloth plan may be dispensed with if there is duly certified blue print copy of tracing cloth with technical description
In the case of Recto vs. Republic (440 SCRA 79), the Supreme Court held that a duly certified blue print copy of the tracing cloth with the technical description is sufficient compliance and the submission of the survey plan on tracing cloth may be dispensed with.
Dolino vs. Court of Appeals (401 SCRA 695) DENR officials may be compelled to conduct a survey of land subject of an application for registration of title notwithstanding the PP No. 932 which DENR says has withdrawn subject lot from entry, sale, disposition and settlement.
A survey of the land subject of an application for registration is an essential requirement for without the lot being surveyed, an applicant would not be able to initiate proper land registration proceedings. The DENR may be compelled to conduct a survey and inspection of lots subject of application for registration for this would not automatically result in the adjudication of lots to the applicants if the land is not alienable and disposable and if they have not possessed it for the length of time and manner required by law.
Ting vs. Hrs. of Lirio (518 SCRA 336) Final and executory judgment in land registration case need not be enforced by motion or an action under Sec 6 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court
Sta. Ana v. Menla, et al. (111 Phil. 947, 951 (1961) enunciates the raison d'etre why Section 6, Rule 39 does not apply in land registration proceedings, viz:
We fail to understand the arguments of the appellant in support of the above assignment, except in so far as it supports his theory that after a decision in a land registration case has become final, it may not be enforced after the lapse of a period of 10 years, except by another proceeding to enforce the judgment or decision. Authority for this theory is the provision in the Rules of Court to the effect that judgment may be enforced within 5 years by motion, and after five years but within 10 years, by an action (Sec. 6, Rule 39.) This provision of the Rules refers to civil actions and is not applicable to special proceedings, such as a land registration case. This is so because a party in a civil action must immediately enforce a judgment that is secured as against the adverse party, and his failure to act to enforce the same within a reasonable time as provided in the Rules makes the decision unenforceable against the losing party. In special proceedings the purpose is to establish a status, condition or fact; in land registration proceedings, the ownership by a person of a parcel of land is sought to be established. After the ownership has been proved and confirmed by judicial declaration, no further proceeding to enforce said ownership is necessary, except when the adverse or losing party had been in possession of the land and the winning party desires to oust him therefrom.
Furthermore, there is no provision in the Land Registration Act similar to Sec. 6, Rule 39, regarding the execution of a judgment in a civil action, except the proceedings to place the winner in possession by virtue of a writ of possession. The decision in a land registration case, unless the adverse or losing party is in possession, becomes final without any further action, upon the expiration of the period for perfecting an appeal.
Republic vs. Nillas (512 SCRA 286) Failure of administrative authorities to issue decree cannot oust prevailing party from ownership of land
The provision lays down the procedure that interposes between the rendition of the judgment and the issuance of the certificate of title. No obligation whatsoever is imposed by Section 39 on the prevailing applicant or oppositor even as a precondition to the issuance of the title. The obligations provided in the Section are levied on the land court (that is to issue an order directing the Land Registration Commissioner to issue in turn the corresponding decree of registration), its clerk of court (that is to transmit copies of the judgment and the order to the Commissioner), and the Land Registration Commissioner (that is to cause the preparation of the decree of registration and the transmittal thereof to the Register of Deeds). All these obligations are ministerial on the officers charged with their performance and thus generally beyond discretion of amendment or review.
The failure on the part of the administrative authorities to do their part in the issuance of the decree of registration cannot oust the prevailing party from ownership of the land. Neither the failure of such applicant to follow up with said authorities can. The ultimate goal of our land registration system is geared towards the final and definitive determination of real property ownership in the country, and the imposition of an additional burden on the owner after the judgment in the land registration case had attained finality would simply frustrate such goal.
ESTOPPEL AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT
Hrs. of Regalado vs. Republic (516 SCRA 38)
The failure of the Republic to file any opposition or answer to the application for registration, despite receipt of notice thereof, did not deprive its right to appeal the RTC decision.
Barstowe Philippines Corporation vs. Republic (519 SCRA 238)
Republic vs. Mendoza (519 SCRA 203)
Exception to rule that estoppel does not lie vs. government
The general rule is that the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes or errors of its officials or agents. However, like all general rules, this is also subject to exceptions, viz:
"Estoppels against the public are little favored. They should not be invoked except in rare and unusual circumstances, and may not be invoked where they would operate to defeat the effective operation of a policy adopted to protect the public. They must be applied with circumspection and should be applied only in those special cases where the interests of justice clearly require it. Nevertheless, the government must not be allowed to deal dishonorably or capriciously with its citizens, and must not play an ignoble part or do a shabby thing; and subject to limitations . . . the doctrine of equitable estoppel may be invoked against public authorities as well as against private individuals."
xxx xxx xxx
It is only fair and reasonable to apply the equitable principle of estoppel by laches against the government to avoid an injustice to the innocent purchasers for value.
Likewise time-settled is the doctrine that where innocent third persons, relying on the correctness of the certificate of title, acquire rights over the property, courts cannot disregard such rights and order the cancellation of the certificate. Such cancellation would impair public confidence in the certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the Torrens system would have to inquire in every instance whether the title has been regularly issued or not. This would be contrary to the very purpose of the law, which is to stabilize land titles. Verily, all persons dealing with registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor, and the law or the courts do not oblige, them to go behind the certificate in order to investigate again the true condition of the property. They are only charged with notice of the lions and encumbrances on the property that are noted on the certificate.
Estate of Late Jesus Yujuico vs. Republic (537 SCRA 513) Estoppel may lie against the Government if it did not act to contest title for unreasonable length of time
Subject to its limitations, the doctrine of equitable estoppel may be invoked against public authorities when the lot is alienated to innocent purchasers for value and the government did not undertake any act to contest the title for an unreasonable length of time.
ISSUANCE OF A DECREE
Hrs. of Tama Tan Buto vs. Luy (528 SCRA 522)
Petition for Review of Decree must be filed within 1 year from issuance of decree otherwise title becomes indefeasible
When the petition for review of decree is filed after the expiration of one (1) year from the issuance of the decree of registration, the certificate of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears thereon. The certificate of title that was issued attained the status of indefeasibility one year after its issuance. The aggrieved party cannot defeat title previously issued by subsequently filing an application for registration of land previous registered.
See also Esguerra vs. Trinidad (518 SCRA 186)
Ingusan vs. Hrs. of Aureliano Reyes (513 SCRA 315)
When an original certificate of title is secured fraudulently and in breach of trust, a direct attack on the title is a petition for review of decree of registration under Sec. 32 of P.D. 1529.
Hrs. of Maximo Labanon vs. Hrs. of Constancio Labanon (530 SCRA 97) If petition for review of decree is not possible, there are other remedies for reconveyance of property to rightful owner
Contrary to petitioners' interpretation, Sec. 32 of P.D. 1529 does not totally deprive a party of any remedy to recover the property fraudulently registered in the name of another. Section 32 of PD 1529 merely precludes the reopening of the registration proceedings for titles covered by the Torrens System, but does not foreclose other remedies for the reconveyance of the property to its rightful owner. As elaborated in Heirs of Clemente Ermac v. Heirs of Vicente Ermac (403 SCRA 291, 297):
While it is true that Section 32 of PD 1529 provides that the decree of registration becomes incontrovertible after a year, it does not altogether deprive an aggrieved party of a remedy in law. The acceptability of the Torrens System would be impaired, if it is utilized to perpetuate fraud against the real owners. 7
A more succinct explanation is found in Vda. De Recinto v. Inciong (77 SCRA 196, 201.) thus:
The mere possession of a certificate of title under the Torrens system does not necessarily make the possessor a true owner of all the property described therein for he does not by virtue of said certificate alone become the owner of the land illegally included. It is evident from the records that the petitioner owns the portion in question and therefore the area should be conveyed to her. The remedy of the land owner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another's name is, after one year from the date of the decree, not to set aside the decree, but, respecting the decree as incontrovertible and no longer open to review, to bring an ordinary action in the ordinary court of justice for reconveyance or, if the property has passed into the hands of an innocent purchaser for value, for damages.
Manotok Realty Inc. vs. CLT Realty Devt. Corp.
[G.R. No. 123346. December 14, 2007.] It is from date of issuance of a title when the decree of registration is transcribed that a certificate of title is to take effect
With the plain language of the law as mooring, this Court in two vintage and sound rulings made it plain that the original certificate of title is issued on the date the decree of registration is transcribed. In the first ruling, it was held that there is a marked distinction between the entry of the decree and the entry of the certificate of title; the entry of the decree is made by the chief clerk of the land registration and the entry of the certificate of title is made by the register of deeds. (Antiporda v. Mapa, 55 Phil. 89, 91 (1930). Such difference is highlighted by Sec. 31 of Act No. 496 as it provides that the certificate of title is issued in pursuance of the decree of registration. In the second, it was stressed that what stands as the certificate of the title is the transcript of the decree of registration made by the registrar of deeds in the registry. (PNB v. Tan, 51 Phil. 317, 321 (1927))
Otherwise stated, what is actually issued by the register of deeds is the certificate of title itself, not the decree of registration, as he is precisely the recipient from the land registration office of the decree for transcription to the certificate as well as the transcriber no less. Since what is now acknowledged as the authentic OCT No. 994 indicates that it was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds of Rizal on 3 May 1917, it is that date that is the date of registration since that was when he was able to transcribe the decree in the registration book, such entry made in the book being the original certificate of title. (See Act No. 496, Sec. 41.) Moreover, it is only after the transcription of the decree by the register of deeds that the certificate of title is to take effect..
Hrs. Tama Tan Buto vs. Luy (528 SCRA 522)
A previous final and executory judgment awarding the lot in favor of a party bars the losing party from later filing an application for registration of title covering the same lot.
RECONSTITUTION OF TITLES
Hrs. of Venturanza vs. Republic (528 SCRA 238)
A court has no jurisdiction to order the reconstitution of title over land which was never registered. The records of the Register of Deeds of Camarines Sur, do not show how the land covered by TCT No. 140 supposedly in the name of Florencio Mora was registered. A land may be considered as not having been originally registered if there is no decree number, original certificate of title number or LRC Record.
Barstowe Philippines Corporation vs. Republic (519 SCRA 148) Judicially reconstituted titles are superior to administratively reconstituted titles.
Reconstituted titles shall have the same validity and legal effect as the originals thereof" unless the reconstitution was made extrajudicially. In contrast to the judicial reconstitution of a lost certificate of title which is in rem, the administrative reconstitution is essentially ex-parte and without notice. The reconstituted certificates of title do not share the same indefeasible character of the original certificates of title for the following reason —
The nature of a reconstituted Transfer Certificate Of Title of registered land is similar to that of a second Owner's Duplicate Transfer Certificate Of Title. Both are issued, after the proper proceedings, on the representation of the registered owner that the original of the said TCT or the original of the Owner's Duplicate TCT, respectively, was lost and could not be located or found despite diligent efforts exerted for that purpose. Both, therefore, are subsequent copies of the originals thereof. A cursory examination of these subsequent copies would show that they are not the originals. Anyone dealing with such copies are put on notice of such fact and thus warned to be extra-careful. .
REVERSION BY THE GOVERNMENT
Hrs. of Venturanza vs. Republic (528 SCRA 238) The Government can file reversion proceedings to recover inalienable lands of public domain even if in hands of innocent purchasers for value.
It is, thus, safe to conclude that the land subject of TCT No. 2574 could not have been registered in the name of petitioners or their predecessors-in-interest for the simple reason that under the Constitution, timberlands, which are part of the public domain, cannot be alienated. A certificate of title covering inalienable lands of the public domain is void and can be cancelled in whosever hand said title may be found. Thus, we have ruled that a certificate of title is void when it covers property of the public domain classified as forest or timber and mineral lands. And any title issued on non-disposable lands even if in the hands of alleged innocent purchaser for value, shall be cancelled.
Estate of the Late Jesus Yujuico vs. Republic (537 SCRA 513) Action for reversion which seeks to cancel a judgment of the RTC awarding lot to an applicant should be filed before Court of Appeals under Rule 47 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure
While CA No. 141 did not specify whether judicial confirmation of titles by a land registration court can be subject of a reversion suit, the government availed of such remedy by filing actions with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) to cancel titles and decrees granted in land registration applications, but the situation changed on 14 August 1981 upon the effectivity of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which gave the Intermediate Appellate Court the exclusive original jurisdiction over actions for annulment of judgments of Regional Trial Courts. When the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure became effective on 1 July 1997, it incorporated Rule 47 on annulment of judgments or final orders and resolutions of the Regional Trial Courts. Effective 1 July 1997, any action for reversion of public land instituted by the Government was already covered by Rule 47 and the same should be filed with the Court of Appeals, not the Regional Trial Court.