Republic of the
REPUBLIC OF THE
- versus -
G.R. No. 133168
PUNO, J., Chairperson,
March 28, 2006
D E C I S I O N
Assailed and sought to be set aside in this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is the decision dated February 12, 1998 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 50298 affirming an earlier decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City in Civil Case No. 89-3899, entitled “Petition for Amendment of Plan and Technical Description of Original Certificate of Title No. 0-28 in the name of Benjamin Guerrero, Registry of Deeds of Quezon City.”
The assailed decision of the CA recites the facts as follows:
Sometime in December 1964, respondent Benjamin Guerrero
filed with the Bureau of Lands (now Lands Management Bureau) a Miscellaneous
Sales Application No. V-83191 covering a parcel of land situated at Pugad
Subsequently, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 8991 dated
A formal investigation was conducted by the Bureau of
Lands, after which the Director of Lands issued an order dismissing the protest
of Angelina Z. Bustamante. The dismissal of the protest was affirmed by the
then Minister of Natural Resources and by the Office of the President in a
Bustamante filed a motion for reconsideration of the
Pursuant to the order of the Office of the President, an ocular investigation and relocation survey was conducted by the DENR. A report (Exhibit “K”) was thereafter submitted with a finding that 83 square meters of the titled property of Guerrero consisting of 174 square meters is under ACTUAL PHYSICAL POSSESSION of Marcelo Bustamante (husband of Angelina Bustamante) with only 91 square meters under the physical possession of Guerrero. It was also found out that OCT No. 0-28 is supposed to be traversed by a road 3 meters wide, as even the Order of Award in favor of Guerrero, shows by the boundaries of the land indicated therein, viz: bounded on the N-Lot No. 10-C, Psd-37801, S-Culiat Creek, E-Road and W-Public Land.
On January 10, 1989, the Office of the President, upon receipt of the [DENR] Ocular Investigation and Relocation Survey Report (Exhibit “K”) …, issued an order directing the DENR to implement the … Report for the ‘proper correction’ of the technical description of the land covered by OCT No. 0-28 issued to respondent.
Pursuant to the directive of the Office of the President,
the Director of Lands [on behalf of the Republic of the
On April 6, 1990, the [respondent] Benjamin Guerrero filed a motion to dismiss the petition …, alleging among other things, that the RTC of Quezon City was without jurisdiction over the Director of Lands’ petition and that the said petition was defective in form and substance, inasmuch as it failed to name [Guerrero] who holds a certificate of title (OCT No. 0-28) over the properties subject of the petition, as respondent in the action, and that the title sought to be amended was irrevocable and can no longer be questioned.
In its order dated
petitioner interposed an appeal to the CA, which, in a decision dated
It is a settled rule that a certificate of title issued pursuant to any grant or patent involving public lands is as conclusive and indefeasible as any other certificate of title issued upon private lands in ordinary or cadastral registration proceedings. The effect of registration of a homestead or any other similar patent and the issuance of a certificate of title to the patentee is to vest in him an incontestable title to the land, in the same manner as if ownership had been determined by final decree of the court, and the title so issued is absolutely conclusive and indisputable.
In the same way, therefore, that a decree of registration may be reviewed or reopened within one year after the entry thereof, upon a charge of actual fraud, a patent awarded in accordance with the Public Land Law may be reviewed within one year from the date of the order for the issuance of the patent also on the ground of actual fraud.
xxx xxx xxx
xxx there is no showing … that at the time the [respondent] applied for his miscellaneous sales patent, there were third persons who had been in occupation of the land applied for. While subsequent survey documents, prepared as a consequence of the protest filed by the Bustamentes, report the possession of the Bustamantes of a portion of the land, and the erection of their house thereon, these reports do not indicate if such structures were existing at the time the application of the [respondent] was filed in 1964.
There is no support, therefore, to the submission that the [respondent] was guilty of actual fraud in the acquisition of his miscellaneous sales patent, and subsequently, OCT No. 0-28. (Words in bracket added)
Petitioner then moved for a
reconsideration of the above decision but the same was denied by the appellate
court in its resolution of
I. That a certificate of title issued pursuant to any grant or patent involving public lands is conclusive and indefeasible despite the fact that respondent’s title was procured through fraud and misrepresentation.
II. That there is no basis for the submission that respondent was guilty of actual fraud in the acquisition of his miscellaneous sales patent despite the final ruling of the Office of the President from which ruling respondent did not appeal.
III. That the Director of Lands cannot raise the issue of possession of a third person of the land, or a portion thereof, after the award and issuance of the patent to the applicant despite the obvious fact that the protest was filed within one year from the issuance of patent.
Petitioner argues in esse that respondent procured his sales patent and certificate of title through fraud and misrepresentation. To support its basic posture, petitioner points to the verification survey conducted by Engr. Ernesto Erive of the DENR, which, to petitioner, argues for the proposition that respondent’s entitlement to a public land award should have been limited to a 91-square meter area instead of the 174 square meters eventually granted.
On the other hand, respondent contends that his
OCT No. 0-28 which he secured pursuant to a sales patent is conclusive and
indefeasible under the
At the outset, it must be pointed out that the essential issue raised in this Petition ― the presence of fraud ― is factual. As a general rule, this Court does not review factual matters, as only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari filed with this Court. And as the Court has consistently held, factual findings of trial courts, when adopted and confirmed by the CA, are final and conclusive on this Court, save when the judgment of the appellate court is based on a misapprehension of facts or factual inferences manifestly incorrect or when that court overlooked certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion. Obviously, petitioner is invoking these exceptions toward having the Court review the factual determinations of the CA.
The basic issue in this case turns on whether or not petitioner has proven by clear and convincing evidence that respondent procured Miscellaneous Sales Patent (MSP) No. 8991 and OCT No. 0-28 through fraud and misrepresentation.
It bears to stress that the
property in question, while once part of the lands of the public domain and
disposed of via a miscellaneous sales
arrangement, is now covered by a
Section 122 of Act No. 496 provides:
SEC. 122. Whenever public lands … belonging to the Government of the [Republic of the Philippines] are alienated, granted, or conveyed to persons or to public or private corporations, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Act and shall become registered lands. It shall be the duty of the official issuing the instrument of alienation, grant, or conveyance in behalf of the Government to cause such instrument before its delivery to the grantee, to be filed with the register of deeds for the province where the land lies and to be there registered like other deeds and conveyances, whereupon a certificate shall be entered as in other cases of registered land, and an owner’s duplicate certificate issued to the grantee. The deed, grant, or instrument of conveyance from the Government shall not take effect as a conveyance or bind the land, but shall operate only as a contract between the Government and the grantee and as evidence of authority to the clerk or register of deeds to make registration. The act of registration shall be the operative act to convey and affect the land, and in all cases under this Act registration shall be made in the office of the register of deeds for the province where the land lies. xxx. (Words in bracket added)
Upon its registration, the land falls under the
operation of Act No. 496 and becomes
registered land. Time and again, we have said that a
However, Section 38 of Act No. 496 recognizes the right of a person deprived of land to institute an action to reopen or revise a decree of registration obtained by actual fraud. Section 38 of Act No. 496 says so:
SEC. 38. ― xxx. Every
decree of registration shall bind the land, and quiet title thereto, subject
only to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be conclusive
upon and against all persons, including the [Republic of the
Fraud is of two kinds: actual or constructive. Actual or positive fraud proceeds from an intentional deception practiced by means of the misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact. Constructive fraud is construed as a fraud because of its detrimental effect upon public interests and public or private confidence, even though the act is not done with an actual design to commit positive fraud or injury upon other persons.
Fraud may also be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Fraud is regarded as intrinsic where the fraudulent acts pertain to an issue involved in the original action, or where the acts constituting the fraud were or could have been litigated therein. The fraud is extrinsic if it is employed to deprive parties of their day in court and thus prevent them from asserting their right to the property registered in the name of the applicant.
The distinctions assume significance because only actual and extrinsic fraud had been accepted and is contemplated by the law as a ground to review or reopen a decree of registration. Thus, relief is granted to a party deprived of his interest in land where the fraud consists in a deliberate misrepresentation that the lots are not contested when in fact they are; or in willfully misrepresenting that there are no other claims; or in deliberately failing to notify the party entitled to notice; or in inducing him not to oppose an application; or in misrepresenting about the identity of the lot to the true owner by the applicant causing the former to withdraw his application. In all these examples, the overriding consideration is that the fraudulent scheme of the prevailing litigant prevented a party from having his day in court or from presenting his case. The fraud, therefore, is one that affects and goes into the jurisdiction of the court.
We have repeatedly held that relief on the ground of fraud will not be granted where the alleged fraud goes into the merits of the case, is intrinsic and not collateral, and has been controverted and decided. Thus, we have underscored the denial of relief where it appears that the fraud consisted in the presentation at the trial of a supposed forged document, or a false and perjured testimony, or in basing the judgment on a fraudulent compromise agreement, or in the alleged fraudulent acts or omissions of the counsel which prevented the petitioner from properly presenting the case.
Petitioner fails to convince the Court that the facts relied upon by it to justify a review of the decree constitute actual and extrinsic fraud. It has not adduced adequate evidence that would show that respondent employed actual and extrinsic fraud in procuring the patent and the corresponding certificate of title. Petitioner miserably failed to prove that it was prevented from asserting its right over the lot in question and from properly presenting its case by reason of such fraud. In fact, other than its peremptory statement in its petition filed before the trial court that “the patentee, Benjamin Guerrero, obtained the above indicated sales patent through fraud, false statement of facts and/or omission of material facts,” petitioner did not specifically allege how fraud was perpetrated by respondent in procuring the sales patent and the certificate of title. Nor was any evidence proffered to substantiate the allegation. Fraud cannot be presumed, and the failure of petitioner to prove it defeats it own cause.
Well-settled is the rule that the party alleging fraud or mistake in a transaction bears the burden of proof. The circumstances evidencing fraud are as varied as the people who perpetrate it in each case. It may assume different shapes and forms; it may be committed in as many different ways. Thus, the law requires that fraud be established, not just by preponderance of evidence, but by clear and convincing evidence.
Petitioner relies heavily on the verification survey report which stated that respondent Guerrero was entitled to only 91 square meters of the subject lot instead of 174 square meters which was awarded to him. There is, however, no proof that the area eventually awarded to respondent was intentionally and fraudulently increased. It was never proven that respondent was a party to any fraud that led to the award of a bigger area of 174 square meters instead of 91 square meters. Petitioner even failed to give sufficient proof of any error which may have been committed by its agents who had surveyed the subject property nor had petitioner offered a sensible explanation as to the reason for such discrepancy. Thus, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions must be respected.
This Court agrees with the RTC that the issuance of the sales patent over the subject lot was made in accordance with the procedure laid down by Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, otherwise known as the Public Land Act. Under Section 91 thereof, an investigation should be conducted for the purpose of ascertaining the veracity of the material facts set out in the application. The law also requires sufficient notice to the municipality and barrio where the land is located in order to give adverse claimants the opportunity to present their claims.
In the instant case,
records reveal that on
If there is
any adverse claim to the land, such claim must be filed at the Bureau of Lands,
Further, the “Order of
dated May 20, 1971, as well as the “Issuance of Patent”
dated June 28, 1982 were both duly signed by the Director of Lands. The “Order
of Award” even declared that Guerrero has in good faith established his
residence on the land in question. On the other hand, the “Issuance of Patent”
stated that the land consisting of 174 square meters is free from any adverse
claim and that Guerrero has fully paid the purchase price of the lot. Having
complied with all the requirements of the law preliminary to the issuance of
the patent, respondent was thus issued MSP No. 8991 dated
At any rate, by legal
presumption, public officers are deemed to have regularly performed their
official duties. Thus, the proceedings
for land registration that led to the issuance of MSP No. 8991 and OCT No. 0-28
in respondent’s name are presumptively regular and proper. To overturn this legal presumption will not
only endanger judicial stability, but also violate the underlying principle of
Granting that Guerrero committed extrinsic and actual fraud, petitioner failed to avail itself of the remedy within the prescribed period. Under Section 38 of Act No. 496, a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration must be filed within one year from the date of entry of said decree.
In the case of public land grants or patents, the one-year period commences from the issuance of the patent by the government.
In the instant case, the sales patent was issued to respondent on August 16, 1982, while petitioner instituted an action to amend respondent’s certificate of title on November 7, 1989 or after the lapse of more than seven (7) years from the issuance of the patent. Clearly, petitioner failed to timely avail of the remedy to contest Guerrero’s title.
Petitioner argues that the right of the State for the reversion of unlawfully acquired property is not barred by prescription. Thus, it can still recover the land granted to respondent.
True, prescription, basically, does not run against the State and the latter may still bring an action, even after the lapse of one year, for the reversion to the public domain of lands which have been fraudulently granted to private individuals. However, this remedy of reversion can only be availed of in cases of fraudulent or unlawful inclusion of the land in patents or certificates of title. In the present case, petitioner cannot successfully invoke this defense for, as discussed earlier, it was never proven that respondent’s patent and title were obtained through actual fraud or other illegal means.
Lest it be overlooked, a piece of land covered by a registered patent and the corresponding certificate of title ceases to be part of the public domain. As such, it is considered a private property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction.
Petitioner likewise insists that
respondent’s title had yet to attain the status of indefeasibility. As argued, Angelina
Bustamante was able to timely file a protest on
We do not agree.
While Angelina Bustamante indeed protested the award of a sales patent in favor of respondent, the protest was, however, filed with the Bureau of Lands instead of with the regional trial court as mandated by the aforequoted provision of Section 38 of Act No. 496. Said provision expressly states that a petition for review of a decree of registration shall be filed in the “proper Court of First Instance” (now Regional Trial Court). The law did not say that such petition may be filed with an administrative agency like the Bureau of Lands. To be sure, what the law contemplates in allowing a review of the decree of registration is a full-blown trial before a regular court where each party could be afforded full opportunity to present his/its case and where each of them must establish his case by preponderance of evidence and not by mere substantial evidence, the usual quantum of proof required in administrative proceedings. The concept of “preponderance of evidence” refers to evidence which is of greater weight, or more convincing, than that which is offered in opposition to it; at bottom, it means probability of truth. On the other hand, substantial evidence refers to such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds equally reasonable might conceivably opine otherwise.
the review of a decree of registration constitutes an attack on the very
integrity of land titles and the
to petitioner’s assertion, the
protest filed by Bustamante with
the Bureau of Lands cannot be
considered in the context of a petition to review the decree of registration
issued to respondent. It was only on
It is worth
stressing that the
Instead of stabilizing
While the Torrens
system is not
a mode of acquiring titles to lands but merely a system of registration of titles to lands, justice and equity
demand that the
titleholder should not be made to bear
the unfavorable effect of
the mistake or negligence of the State’s
agents, in the absence of proof of his complicity in a fraud or
of manifest damage to
third persons. The real purpose
of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and put a stop forever
to any question
as to the legality of the title, except claims
that were noted
in the certificate
at the time of the registration or that
may arise subsequent thereto.
Otherwise, the integrity of the
Respondent’s certificate of title, having been
registered under the
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed decision is AFFIRMED.
CANCIO C. GARCIA
REYNATO S. PUNO
RENATO C. CORONA
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chairperson, Second Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
 In Petitioner’s Motion for Extension
of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari, the case was entitled,
“Petition for Amendment of Plan and Technical Description of Original
Certificate of Title No. O-28 in the Name of Benjamin Guerrero, Registry of
 Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo V. Cosico with Associate Justices Delilah Vidallon- Magtolis (now ret.) and Artemio G. Tuquero (now ret.), concurring; Rollo, pp. 19-25.
 CA Decision, pp. 2-4; Rollo, pp. 20-22.
 CA Decision, pp. 5-6; Rollo, pp. 23-24.
 Rollo, p. 27.
 Rollo, p. 12.
 Producers Bank of the
 New Sampaguita Builders Construction, Inc. vs. Philippine National Bank, G.R. No. 148753, July 30, 2004, 435 SCRA 565; Tansipek vs. Philippine Bank of Communications, G.R. No. 146096, December 14, 2001, 372 SCRA 456; Baricuatro vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 105902, February 9, 2000, 325 SCRA 137.
 Noblejas, Land Titles and Deeds, 1986 ed., p. 32.
 Republic vs. Court of Appeals,
G.R. Nos. L-46626-27,
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 116111,
of Roxas vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 118436,
 Libudan vs. Gil, G.R. Nos. L-21163
 Records, p. 2.
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-95815,
 Republic vs. Heirs of Felipe Alejaga, Sr., G.R. No. 146030, December 3, 2002, 393 SCRA 361.
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102096,
 Records, p. 82-A.
 An Act to Amend and Compile the Laws Relative to Land of the Public Domain, effective December 1, 1936.
 Section 91 of the Public Land Act provides:
“SEC 91. The statements made in the application shall be considered as essential conditions and parts of any concession, title, or permit issued on the basis of such application, and any false statement therein or omission of facts altering, changing, or modifying the consideration of the facts set forth in such statements, and any subsequent modification, alteration or change of the material facts set forth in the application shall ipso facto produce the cancellation of the concession, title, or permit granted. It shall be the duty of the Director of Lands, from time to time and whenever he may deem it advisable, to make the necessary investigations for the purpose of ascertaining whether the material facts set out in the application are true, or whether they continue to exist and are maintained and preserved in good faith, and for the purposes of such investigation, the Director of Lands is hereby empowered to issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum and, if necessary, to obtain compulsory process from the courts. xxx.”
 Section 46 of the Public Land Act provides:
“SEC. 46. If, after the filing of the application and the investigation, the Director of Lands shall be satisfied with the truth of the allegations contained in the application and the applicant comes with provisions of this chapter, he shall cause a patent to issue to the applicant or his legal successor for the tract so occupied and cultivated, provided its area does not exceed twenty-four hectares; Provided, That no application shall be finally acted upon until notice thereof has been published in the municipality and barrio in which the land is located and adverse claimants have had an opportunity to present their claims.”
 Records, p. 75-A.
 Records, p. 77.
 Records, p. 72.
 Records, p. 73.
 Tichangco vs. Enriquez, G.R. No. 150629,
vs. Garingan, G.R. No. 144095,
 Republic vs. Heirs of Felipe Alejaga, Sr., See Note #18, supra; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104296, March 29, 1996, 255 SCRA 335.
 Jison vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124853,
Piece Workers Association vs. Laguesma, G.R. No. 114911,
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 106657,
 Supra note 18.
 Peña, Registration of Land Titles and Deeds, 1988 ed., p. 27.
 Cagayan de Oro City Landless Residents Association, Inc. (COCLAI) vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 106043, March 4, 1996, 254 SCRA 220.