G.R. Nos. 162335 and 162605 — SEVERINO M. MANOTOK IV, FROILAN M. MANOTOK, FERNANDO M. MANOTOK, FAUSTO M. MANOTOK III, MA. MAMERTA M. MANOTOK, PATRICIA L. TIONGSON, PACITA L. GO, ROBERTO LAPERAL III, MICHAEL MARSHALL V. MANOTOK, MARY ANN V. MANOTOK, FELISA MYLENE V. MANOTOK, IGNACIO V. MANOTOK, JR., MILAGROS V. MANOTOK, SEVERINO MANOTOK III, ROSA R. MANOTOK, MIGUEL A.B. SISON, GEORGE M. BOCANEGRA, MA. CRISTINA E. SISON, PHILIPP L. MANOTOK, JOSE CLEMENTE L. MANOTOK, RAMON SEVERINO L. MANOTOK, THELMA R. MANOTOK, JOSE MARIA MANOTOK, JESUS JUDE MANOTOK, JR., and MA. THERESA L. MANOTOK, represented by their Attorney-in-fact, ROSA R. MANOTOK, Petitioners,  - versus - HEIRS OF HOMER L. BARQUE, represented by TERESITA BARQUE- HERNANDEZ, Respondents.

                                              

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION

 

 

CARPIO, J.:

 

The Antecedents

 

         On 22 October 1996, Homer L. Barque, Sr. (Barque, Sr.) represented by Teresita Barque-Hernandez filed a petition for administrative reconstitution of the original copy of TCT No. 210177 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City.  TCT No. 210177 was allegedly destroyed when a fire gutted the Quezon City Hall on 11 June 1988.  In support of the petition, Barque, Sr. submitted the owner’s duplicate certificate of title, Real Estate Tax Receipts and Tax Declaration.

 

 

 

         Atty. Benjamin M. Bustos (Atty. Bustos), Reconstituting Officer and Chief of the Reconstitution Division, Land Registration Authority (LRA) wrote a letter dated 29 October 1996,[1] addressed to Engineer Privadi J. Dalire (Engineer Dalire), Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau, Binondo, Manila.  Atty. Bustos requested Engineer Dalire to furnish him with a certified copy of Subdivision Plan Fls-3168-D (Fls-3168-D).  Atty. Bustos wrote a similar but undated letter addressed to the Chief of the Surveys Division of the Lands Management Services, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Capital Region (LMS-DENR-NCR).[2]

 

In his reply dated 7 November 1996,[3] Engineer Dalire informed Atty. Bustos that the Lands Management Bureau has no record of Fls-3168-D.  In a letter dated 28 November 1996,[4] Engineer Ernesto S. Erive (Engineer Erive), Chief of the Surveys Division of the LMS-DENR-NCR, informed Atty. Bustos that a microfilm copy of Fls-3168-D is on file in the Technical Records and Statistical Section of their office.

The letter of Engineer Erive confirming the existence of a microfilm copy of Fls-3168-D conflicted with the letter of Engineer Dalire that his office has no record of Fls-3168-D.  Thus, Atty. Bustos sent another letter dated 2 December 1996[5] to Engineer Dalire requesting for clarification.  In a letter dated 5 December 1996,[6] Engineer Dalire requested the Regional Technical Director of LMS-DENR-NCR for a copy of Fls-3168-D for evaluation.  Engineer Dalire wrote:

 

In connection with the letter of clarification dated December 2, 1996 of the Reconstituting Officer and Chief Reconstitution Division of LRA relative to the certified reproduction plan FLS-3168-D (microfilm) issued by the Chief, Technical Records & Statistical Section on September 23, 1996 and our letter dated November 7, 1996 that we have no record of Fls-3168-D.  In this regards (sic), please forward to us the copy on file in that office (DENR-NCR) from where the Chief of Technical Records and Statistical Section reproduced a copy he issued to LRA for our evaluation.

In the machine copy of Fls-3168-D (furnished to us by LRA) from the copy of that office issued to LRA, the said copy on file in your office did not emanate from this Office.  The stamp, particularly, bearing the name of this office and the Chief of Geodetic Surveys is not the same stamp we are using.

 

Please forward to us the said plan for evaluation and comment. 

 

A letter dated 2 January 1997,[7] purportedly from Engineer Dalire, addressed to the LRA Administrator, was handcarried to, and received by the LRA General Records Section on 7 January 1997.  The letter states:

 

SUBJECT: Copy of Plan FLS-3168-D

                    Caloocan, M.M.

 

                 02 January 1997

 

The Administrator

Attn: The Reconstituting Officer &

Chief, Reconstitution Division

Land Registration Authority

East Avenue, Quezon City

 

Sir:

             

            In reply to your letter dated December 2, 1996, please be informed that the copy of the subject plan was forwarded to this office by the Chief, Technical Records and Statistical Section of the National Capital Region Lands Management Sector for our evaluation.  As per verification and comparison made in our microfilm records, it was found out that they are identical and bore the same stamps and initials used in this office.

 

            In view hereof, it is further informed that in our reply letter dated Nov. 7, 1996 we indicated the status thereof because we failed to verify from our index cards then for our last result, hence, this case be given due course for Administrative reconstitution (sic). 

 

                        Very truly yours,

                 

                        For the Director,

             Lands Management Bureau

 

                                (SGD.)

                  PRIVADI J. G. DALIRE

Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division

 

Interestingly, Engineer Dalire wrote another letter dated 5 January 1997[8] addressed to the Regional Technical Director, LMS-DENR-NCR, thus:

 

This is a follow-up to our previous request dated 05 December 1996 to that Office in connection with the letter of clarification dated December 2, 1996 of the Reconstituting Officer and Chief Reconstitution Division of the Land Registration Authority relative to the certified reproduction of plan Fls-3168-D (microfilm) issued by that office (signed by Carmelita A. Soriano, Chief of Technical Records and Statistics Section) on September 23, 1996 to Teresita Hernandez and our letter dated November 7, 1996 to the LRA that we have no records of Fls-3168-D.

 

The Land Registration Authority however, furnished us with machine copy of Fls-3168-D reproduced from the copy issued by that Office and we found out that the copy of Fls-3168-D file (sic) in your office did not emanate from this Office.  We reiterate that we have no records (sic) of Fls-3168-D.

 

May we request you again to please forward to us the said copy of plan Fls-3168-D on file in your office for our evaluation and comment. 

 

 

         Engineer Dalire sent another letter dated 31 January 1997[9] to the LRA Administrator.  The letter states:

 

         31 January 1997

        The Administrator

        Attn:  The Reconstituting Officer

                 and Chief, Reconstitution Division

        Land Registration Authority

        East Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City

 

              Sir:

 

            In your letter dated December 2, 1996 (IN RE: Administrative Reconstitution of the Original Transfer Certificate of Title No. 210177 in the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, Homer L. Barque, Sr., Represented by Teresita Barque-Hernandez, Petitioner) you requested us to clarify the fact that the Regional Office has a microfilm copy of plan Fls-3168-D, while our office does not have a record of the same.  In that letter, you attached for our reference the following:

 

1.      Xerox copy of a certified true copy of plan Fls-3168-D, issued by the TRSS, NCR;

2.      Reply letter of Engineer Ernesto S. Erive, dated Nov. 28, 1996;

3.      Our reply letter dated November 7, 1996 to your letter dated October 29, 1996

 

            In this connection, please be informed that we wrote on December 5, 1996 the DENR-NCR about your letter dated December 2, 1996 informing them that the plan Fls-3168-D filed in that Office from where the reproduced copy furnished to LRA did not emanate from our office.  We requested them to forward to us the said plan for our evaluation and comment.  Likewise, on January 5, 1997, we made a follow-up, reiterating that we have no records (sic) of Fls-3168-D and requesting them to forward the plan for our evaluation and comment.  It is regretted, they did not respond.

            Upon examination of the copy of Fls-3168-D allegedly issued by DENR-NCR, it is certain that the source of the copy is a spurious plan which may have been inserted in the file.  We requested for the copy in their file last 05 December 1996 and 05 January 1997 but until this writing, NCR has not sent us the copy for authentication as required by DENR Administrative Order.  We are sure that the copy did not come from this Office.  The reasons are:

 

a.       Our inventory of approved plans enrolled in our file, our Microfilm Computer list of plans available for decentralization all show that we do not have this plan Fls-3168-D, logically we cannot issue any copy.

 

b.      The copy of the plan Fls-3168-D shows visible signs that it is a spurious copy.

 

1)      The certification (rubber stamp) serves a two piece stamp.  The certification and the signing official are separate.  Ours is one-piece.

2)      The alignment of: Lands, GEODETIC, this, Privadi, and Chief in the syndicates (sic) stamp differ from our stamp.  Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division is our stamp, their (sic) is Survey without the “s” plural.

3)      We do not stamp the plan twice as the syndicate did on the copy.

4)      The size of the lettering in the rubber stamp “Not for Registration/Titling For Reference Only” is smaller than our stamp.  It is also incomplete as an (sic) Stamp, in addition to [the] above is “of _________”.

5)      The copy bears forged initials of my action officer and myself.  I sign completely certification.

6)      The name of the claimant is very visible to have been tampered in the master copy.

7)      Again, it is certified that this Bureau does not have copy of Fls-3168-D.

 

            In view of the foregoing, the copy of Fls-3168-D furnished your Office as well as the alleged letter authenticating it should be disregarded or rejected as they come from spurious sources.  This involves the reconstitution of title allegedly lot 823-A of Fls-3168-D with an area of 171,473 Sq. M.  Surely, the use of the spurious copy of Fls-3168-D for the reconstitution of title will create land problem involving prime lots in that area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Meanwhile, we requested our Records Division to find out to whom lot 823 (or portion thereof) Piedad Estate was conveyed.

 

        Very truly yours,

 

        For the Director,

        Lands Management Bureau:

   

               (SGD.)

        PRIVADI  J.G. DALIRE

       Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division

 

         In a letter dated 13 February 1997[10] to the LRA Administrator, Engineer Dalire explained that the 2 January 1997 letter was forged.  Thus:

 

13 February 1997

 

The Administrator

Land Registration Authority

East Avenue, NIA Road

Quezon City

 

                          ATTN:  Atty. Benjamin M. Bustos

                                                        Reconstituting Officer

            Sir:

 

            In reply to your letter dated January 28, 1997 which we received today, please be informed that as per the inventory of approved surveys which are officially enrolled in our file, the locator cards, the microfilm, list of plans on file which were decentralized to our regions, that are on file in this Bureau show that plan Fls-3168-D is not among the plans in our file.  The non-existence of plan Fls-3168-D in our file, hence there is none to decentralize to our National Capital Region, is the subject of our reply to you dated 07 November 1996 (copy attached).

 

            With respect to the letter dated 02 January 1997, xerox copy attached to your letter, this letter definitely did not come from this office; it is a forged document.  The statement that the subject plan was forwarded to us by the Chief, Technical Records Statistics Section of the NCR-LMS is not true.  Until now the NCR has not turned over the plan they reproduced in compliance with our urgent requests dated 03 January 1996 and followed up by our letters 03 January 1997 and 06 February 1997 (copies attached).

 

 

            With respect to the questioned plan of Fls-3168-D, xerox copy attached to your letter of December 2, 1996, our detailed findings tending to prove it is a spurious copy have been discussed in our letter-reply dated 31 January 1997.

 

            Meanwhile, we are retrieving the plan allegedly in the file of NCR for investigation and/or validation under DENR Administrative Order No. 40, s. 1991. 

 

            Very truly yours,

 

                     (SGD.)

        PRIVADI J.G. DALIRE

Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division

 

            Finally, in a letter dated 19 February 1997,[11] Engineer Dalire requested Atty. Bustos to disregard Fls-3168-D for being spurious, thus:

 

19 February 1997

 

Atty. Benjamin M. Bustos

Reconstituting Officer

Land Registration Authority

East Avenue, Quezon City

 

Dear Atty. Bustos:

 

            In reply to your query whether or not

a)      the copy of plan Fls-3168-D submitted to you involving lot 823,  Piedad Estate as surveyed for Emiliano Setosta;

b)      the letter dated 07 November 1996, and

c)      the letter dated 02 January 1997

 

            are authentic and really coming from this office.

             

            The letter dated 07 November 1996 (copy attached) stating that this Bureau has no records of Fls-3168-D is authentic.  Our Inventory Record of Approved Surveys, our computerized list of plans officially filed in this Bureau, the Locator Cards, and the microfilm all show that we have no records or information about Plan Fls-3168-D.

 

            The copy of Fls-3168-D attached to your letter dated December 2, 1996 is not issued by this Office.  There are many markings on the copy to prove it did not come from LMB.  Reasons, among others, are:

 

1)        We have no copy of Fls-3168-D on file so how can we issue a copy of plan that is non-existing?

2)        The copy of plan bears two “Certifications” at the top and at lower half.  This is not our practice;

3)        The rubber-stamp shows there are two pieces; one for the certification and another for the signing official.  We use one piece rubber stamp.  The alignment of the letters/words of one rubber stamp is different from this marking on this spurious plan;

4)        The plan shows only initial.  I sign in full copies of plans with the initials of my action officers and their codings below my signature.  These are not present in the spurious copy of plan;

5)        The letter size of the rubber stamp “NOT FOR REGISTRATION/TITLING, FOR REFERENCE ONLY” is smaller than our rubber stamp;

6)        The spurious copy of plan you furnished us does not carry our rubber stamp “GOVERNMENT PROPERTY NOT TO BE SOLD:  FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY OF ___________________ “This is stamped on all microfilm copies we issue because all microfilm copies are for official use only of our LMS.  We have shown you our rubber stamps to prove that the copy of Fls-3168-D in your possession is a spurious plan.

 

            I firmly deny having prepared and issued the letter dated 02 January 1997 stating that copy of subject plan (Fls-3168-D) was forwarded to us by the Chief Technical Records and Statistics Section of the NCR and that as per verification, the plan is identical to the microfilm and that the case be given due course for administrative reconstitution.  Certainly this is not true.  This is the handiwork of forgers.  How can this be when NCR has never given us the alleged copy in their file for validation.  The forwarding of the copy to us is mandatory under DAO No. 49 for our validation.  This is the subject of our letters to NCR dated 05 December 1996, 03 January 1997 and 06 February 1997 (copies attached).  Definitely this letter was never prepared and issued by this Office.  Our record books and file attest to this.  We do not use letterheads for letters involving this topic.

 

            Apparently our letter of 31 January 1997 (copy attached) was intercepted and did not reach you.

 

            For all intent and purposes, please disregard the plan Fls-3168-D and the letter dated 02 January 1997 as they are proven to be spurious documents.

 

            Very truly yours,

 

            For the Director of Lands:

 

                       (SGD.)

            PRIVADI J.G. DALIRE

                 Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division

 

The Ruling of the Reconstituting Officer

 

         In an Order dated 30 June 1997,[12] Atty. Bustos denied the petition for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 on the following grounds:

 

1.  Lots 823-A and 823-B, Fls-3168-D, containing areas of 171,473 Sq. Mtrs. and 171,472, respectively, covered by TCT No. 210177, appear to duplicate Lot 823 Piedad Estate, containing an area of 342,945 Sq. Mtrs., covered by TCT No. 372302 registered in the name of Severino M. Manotok, et al., reconstituted under Adm. Reconstitution No. Q-213 dated February 01, 1991;

2. The submitted plan Fls-3168-D is a spurious document as categorically stated by Engineer Privadi J.G. Dalire, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, Lands Management Bureau, in his letter dated February 19, 1997.[13] (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

 

 

         Barque, Sr. moved for reconsideration of the Order.  In an Order dated 10 February 1998,[14] Atty. Bustos denied the motion for lack of merit.

 

The Heirs of Barque (Barques) filed an appeal with the LRA, docketed as Admin. Recons. No. Q-547-A [97].

 

The Ruling of the Land Registration Authority

 

         In a Resolution dated 24 June 1998,[15] the LRA gave due course to the appeal.  The LRA ruled that under LRA Circular No. 13,[16] only the owner’s or co-owner’s duplicate of an original or transfer certificate of title may be used as a source of administrative reconstitution.  Hence, Atty. Bustos erred in requiring the submission of documents other than the owner’s duplicate TCT.  The LRA further ruled that Engineer Dalire failed to deny or question the genuineness of his signature in the letter of 2 January 1997.  The LRA held that the 2 January 1997 letter is an official communication from Engineer Dalire.  The LRA Administrator personally opined that the Manotoks’ TCT No. RT-22481 [372302] is sham and spurious.  Thus:

 

It is undisputed that Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, the property in question, is located at Barrio Matandang Balara, Quezon City.  Several documents submitted by oppositors particularly the several Deeds of Sale and Unilateral Deed of Conveyance including the real estate tax receipts would show that Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate is located at Barrio Payong, and/or Barrio Culiat [Annexes “2” to “77” inclusive “79”, “84” and “85” of Opposition] which is grossly inaccurate.  The map of Quezon City [Annex “N” of Petitioners’ Position Paper] would show that there is no such barrio as Payong.  It must likewise be noted that there is a Barrio Culiat but the same is separate and distinct from Barrio Matandang Balara and they do not adjoin each other.  Quite perplexing though is the fact that the real estate tax receipts for payments made after the Quezon City Hall was gutted by fire on 11 June 1988 would show that the property covered thereby is already situated at Barrio Matandang Balara [Annexes “91” to “104” inclusive of Opposition], while in other tax payment receipts [Annexes “103” to “114” inclusive of Opposition], Barrio Capitol is indicated as the location of the property in question.  This is highly questionable and likewise highly irregular.  The said real estate tax receipts also reflect the tax declaration of the property covered thereby.  It is highly irregular that the tax declaration numbers indicated therein would vary and those tax declarations which appear to have been canceled would again be revived.

The claim of the oppositors that the property in question per TCT No. RT-22481 [372302] covers only one [1] lot is also inaccurate and without any basis.  Plan FLS 3168D shows that the property in question indeed consists of two [2] lots, Lot 823-A and Lot 823-B.  The same is being buttressed and corroborated by the certified copy of the tax map over the property in question issued by the Quezon City Assessor’s Office [annex “H” of Petitioners Position Paper].  Said tax map shows that similar to TCT No. 210177 and Plan FLS 3168D, the property in question covers two [2] lots, Lot 823-A and Lot 823-B.  Granting arguendo that Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate has not yet been subdivided into two [2] lots from the date of original survey in 1907, it is highly irregular that TCT No. RT-22481 [372302] would have Lot 822-A Psd 2498, Lot 818-A and Lot 818-C Psd 2507 as boundaries when at the time of the original survey,  there were no such Psd’s yet. 

 

Examination of the technical decription and boundaries appearing in TCT No. RT-22481 [372302] would show that the same do not, in all respects, conform to the certified technical description and boundaries of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate [property in question] which are the B. L. Form No. 28-37-R and B. L. Form No. 31-10 issued by the Bureau of Lands [Annexes “I” and “J” of Petitioners’ Position Paper].  There was never any mention of Payatas Estate nor Tuazon Estate as the boundaries of the lot in question.  The lot in question does not at all adjoin the Payatas Estate which was surveyed only on January 12, 1923 as per certification issued by the LMS-DENR-NCR [Annex “L” Petitioners’ Position Paper].  As correctly pointed out by petitioners, Lot 822 was mentioned as one of the boundaries of TCT No. RT-22481 [372302].  It was not, however, indicated whether or not it was Lot 822 of the Piedad Estate.[17]

 

However, the LRA ruled that TCT No. 210177 may only be reconstituted after a court of competent jurisdiction cancelled TCT     No. RT-22481 (372302) in the name of the Manotoks.  The dispositive portion of the LRA Resolution reads:

 

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is hereby ordered that reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr. shall be given due course after cancellation of TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) in the name of the Manotoks upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

SO ORDERED.[18] (Emphasis supplied)

 

         The Manotoks filed a motion for reconsideration.  In an Order dated 14 June 2001,[19] the LRA denied the motion.

 

         The Manotoks filed a petition for review docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 66642 before the Court of Appeals challenging the 24 June 1998 Resolution and 14 June 2001 Order of the LRA. 

 

 

 

         The Barques filed a petition for review docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 66700 praying for the modification of 24 June 1998 Resolution and 14 June 2001 Order of the LRA.  The Barques prayed for the immediate reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 without prior cancellation of TCT        No. RT-22481 (372302) by a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

 

CA-G.R. No. 66642

 

         CA-G.R. No. 66642 was initially dismissed in the Resolution of 23 October 2001[20] for failure to show that Rosa Manotok was authorized to sign the verification and certification against forum shopping in behalf of the other petitioners.  Upon motion for reconsideration filed by the Manotoks,   the petition was reinstated in the Resolution of 27 November 2001.[21]

 

         In its Decision of 29 October 2003,[22] the Court of Appeals denied the Manotoks’ petition and affirmed the LRA Resolution of 24 June 1998.  However, upon motion for reconsideration of the Barques, the Court of Appeals promulgated an Amended Decision on 24 February 2004,[23] the dispositive portion of which reads:

 

            WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby GRANTED.  The Decision of this Court dated 29 October 2003 is RECONSIDERED and a new one is entered ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel petitioners’ TCT No. RT-22481 and directing the LRA to reconstitute forthwith respondents’ TCT No. T-210177.

            SO ORDERED.[24]       

         The Manotoks came to this Court for relief.  Their petition was docketed as G.R. No. 162335.

 

CA-G.R. SP No. 66700

 

         In a Decision promulgated on 13 September 2002,[25] the Court of Appeals dismissed the Barques’ petition and affirmed the LRA Resolution of 24 June 1998.  The Barques moved for reconsideration of the Decision.

 

         In an Amended Decision promulgated on 7 November 2003,[26] the Court of Appeals reconsidered its 13 September 2002 Decision, as follows:

 

         WHEREFORE, our decision dated 13 September 2002 is hereby reconsidered.  Accordingly, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City is hereby directed to cancel TCT No. RT-22481 of private respondents and the LRA is hereby directed to reconstitute forthwith petitioners’ valid, genuine and existing Certificate of Title No. T-210177.

            No pronouncement as to costs.

                        SO ORDERED.[27]

 

 

         The Manotoks filed a motion for reconsideration of the Amended Decision.  In its Resolution of 12 March 2004,[28] the Court of Appeals denied the motion.

 

The Manotoks filed a petition for review with this Court, docketed as G.R. No. 162605.

 

 

 

The cases were consolidated in the Court’s Resolution of 2 August 2004.

 

In a Decision dated 12 December 2005,[29] the First Division of this Court denied the petitions and affirmed the Amended Decisions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 66642 and CA-G.R. SP No. 66700.  In its 19 April 2006 Resolution,[30] the Special First Division of this Court denied the Manotoks motion for reconsideration.  No proceeding of any kind took place before any trial court assailing the validity of the Torrens title of the Manotoks.   Yet, as the final resolution of the Barques’ simple petition for administrative reconstitution, the First Division of this Court cancelled the Torrens title of the Manotoks and declared the title of the Barques not only reconstituted, but also valid.  

 

In a Resolution dated 12 September 2006, this Court, among others, granted the Motion for Leave to Intervene filed by Felicitas B. Manahan and Rosendo Manahan (Manahans).

 

In a Resolution dated 19 July 2006, the Special First Division of this Court referred the cases to the Court en banc.  In its 26 July 2006 Resolution, the Court en banc accepted the cases.   In the Oral Argument on 24 July 2007, the Court en banc considered the following issues:

 

1.      Does the Court of Appeals have jurisdiction to cancel petitioners’ TCT No. RT-22481 without a trial before the proper regional trial court in a proceeding directly assailing the validity of petitioners’ title?

 

 

 

2.      Does the LRA have jurisdiction to administratively reconstitute the allegedly lost TCT No. 210177 in the name of respondents despite the previously reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 of the petitioners over the same property?

 

3.      Does the LRA have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the validity of petitioners’ TCT No. RT-22481 in the administrative reconstitution case filed by respondents with the LRA?

 

4.      Does the Court of Appeals or the LRA have jurisdiction to decide the ownership of the disputed property in the administrative reconstitution of title filed by respondents?

 

 

The Ruling of This Court

 

We set aside the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division of this Court.  

 

First, the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division of this Court overturns well-entrenched doctrines of this Court, such as the decision in Sps. Antonio and Genoveva Balanon-Anicete, et al. v. Pedro Balanon.[31]  Second, the LRA has no jurisdiction to reconstitute the Barques’ title because of the pre-existing Torrens title of the Manotoks.  Third, a Torrens title can only be cancelled if a direct proceeding assailing its validity is filed before the proper Regional Trial Court.  Fourth, the Barques submitted patently forged documents in the administrative reconstitution of their title, and even in the attachments to their Memorandum of 23 August 2007.

 

FOUR FIRSTS IN PHILIPPINE JURISPRUDENCE

 

 

The 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division made four “firsts.”  First, it is the first decision in Philippine jurisprudence where an administrative reconstitution of title resulted in the cancellation of the Torrens title of another person without a direct attack of the cancelled title in any trial court.   Second, it is the first decision in Philippine jurisprudence authorizing the LRA to reconstitute administratively a Torrens title despite the existence of a previously issued Torrens title over the same property in the name of another person.  Third, it is the first decision in Philippine jurisprudence where the issue of ownership of land is decided with finality in a petition for administrative reconstitution of title.  And fourth, it is the first decision in Philippine jurisprudence where the petitioner in an administrative petition praying for a simple reconstitution of title received an unexpected and undeserved windfall — the declaration of validity of his reconstituted title and the cancellation of a previously issued Torrens title in the name of another person over the same property.  

 

LANDMARK DOCTRINES OVERTURNED

 

The Decision of the First Division overturns three doctrines firmly established in numerous decisions of this Court, both en banc and in division, many of them landmark rulings.   To name a few of these decisions starting in the year 1915:  Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby,[32] Magay, etc. v. Estiandan,[33] Republic v. Court of Appeals,[34] Alabang Development Corporation, et al. v. Valenzuela, etc., et al.,[35]  MWSS v. Hon. Sison, etc., et al.,[36] Liwag v. Court of Appeals,[37] Ybañez v. Intermediate Appellate Court,[38]  Serra Serra v. Court of Appeals,[39] Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership v. Velasco,[40]  Heirs of Santiago v. Heirs of Santiago,[41]  and Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.[42] 

 

The three well-established doctrines that the Decision of the First Division has overturned are:

 

1.      A Torrens title can be cancelled only in a proceeding directly attacking the title’s validity before the proper regional trial court.[43]   This is the bedrock principle that provides enduring stability to Torrens titles.

 

2.      A reconstitution of Torrens title, whether judicial or administrative, cannot proceed once it is shown that another Torrens title has already been issued to another person over the same property. The reconstituting body or court has no jurisdiction to issue another Torrens title over the same property to the petitioner.[44]  The existence of a prior title ipso facto nullifies the reconstitution proceedings.[45] The proper recourse is to assail directly in a proceeding before the regional trial court the validity of the Torrens title already issued to the other person.

 

3.      The reconstituting officer or court has no jurisdiction to decide the issue of ownership over the property or the validity of the title.[46]  The purpose of reconstitution is solely to replace a certificate of title that was lost or destroyed in the same legal status it existed at the time of the loss or destruction. The validity of a Torrens title, reconstituted or not, is a separate issue from the reconstitution of title.  

 

 

DOCTRINE OF IMMUTABILITY NOT APPLICABLE

 

 

         The dissenting opinion asserts that the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division has already become final and executory, and thus has become immutable and unalterable.  The dissenting opinion states that there is no compelling reason to depart from the doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions.

 

         On the contrary, the 12 December 2005 Decision never became final and executory.  The doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions necessarily applies only to final and executory decisions.  If the decision never became final and executory, the doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions has no application.   Before finality of a decision, a court has “plenary power to alter, modify or even set aside, its own decisions, and even order a new trial, at any time before the decision becomes final.”[47]

        

There are two compelling jurisdictional reasons why the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division never became final and executory.  First, the First Division has no jurisdiction to overturn a doctrine laid down by the Court en banc or in division.  The Court en banc has ruled in Group Commander, Intelligence and Security Group, Philippine Army v. Dr. Malvar[48] that a decision of a division is void if it overturns a doctrine established by the en banc or another division. There, the Court held:   

 

  Section 4, sub-paragraph (3), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, provides:

 

“x x x no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the (Supreme) Court en banc or its Divisions may be modified or reversed except by the Court sitting en banc.”

 

  A Decision rendered by a Division of this Court in violation of the above constitutional provision would be in excess of jurisdiction and, therefore, invalid.[49]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

A void decision vests no right, creates no obligation, grants no title, and settles no issue.  A void decision protects no one and is subject to attack, directly or collaterally,[50] at any time. A void decision has no existence in law.  Therefore, a void decision cannot become final and executory against, or in favor of, any one.

 

         Second, the doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions applies only if the trial court or hearing officer has jurisdiction over the subject matter.  A decision rendered by a trial court or hearing officer without jurisdiction over the subject matter is void and cannot become final and executory.  Such decision cannot even become res judicata because there can be no conclusiveness of judgment if the trial court or hearing officer has no jurisdiction over the subject matter.[51] 

 

In these cases, the LRA has no jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the title of the Barques because such reconstitution constitutes an indirect or collateral attack on the pre-existing Torrens title of the Manotoks over the same property. Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree[52]  states that a “certificate of title shall not be subject to a collateral attack.”  The LRA, or even any court for that matter, has no jurisdiction to entertain a collateral attack[53] on a Torrens title. The Manotoks’ prior title must be deemed valid and subsisting as it cannot be assailed through collateral attack in the reconstitution proceedings.[54]

 

 

THE MANOTOKS’ PRIOR TITLE NULLIFIES RECONSTITUTION PROCEEDINGS OF BARQUES

 

In fact, the existence of a prior Torrens title over the same property in the name of another person ipso facto nullifies the reconstitution proceedings and renders the reconstituted title void.[55]    Demetriou v. Court of Appeals,[56] penned by Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, is instructive and summarizes the law on this matter:

 

But a judgment otherwise final may be annulled not only on the ground of extrinsic fraud but also because of lack of jurisdiction of the court which rendered it. In Serra Serra v. Court of Appeals, on facts analogous to those involved in this case, this Court already held that if a certificate of title has not been lost but is in fact in the possession of another person, the reconstituted title is void and the court rendering the decision has not acquired jurisdiction. Consequently, the decision may be attacked any time. Indeed, Rep. Act No. 26, § 18 provides that “in case a certificate of title, considered lost or destroyed be found or recovered, the same shall prevail over the reconstituted certificate of title.” It was, therefore, error for the Court of Appeals to dismiss the petition for annulment of judgment of the petitioners.[57] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

Even before Demetriou, this Court had already ruled in Republic v. Court of Appeals[58] that the existence of a prior Torrens title ipso facto nullifies the reconstitution proceedings, thus:

 

The existence of the two titles of the Government for Lots Nos. 915 and 918 ipso facto nullified the reconstitution proceedings and signified that the evidence in the said proceedings as to the alleged ownership of Laborada and Bombasi cannot be given any credence. The two proceedings were sham and deceitful and were filed in bad faith. Such humbuggery or imposture cannot be countenanced and cannot be the source of legitimate rights and benefits.

 

Republic Act No. 26 provides for a special procedure for the reconstitution of Torrens certificates of title that are missing and not fictitious titles or titles which are existing. It is a patent absurdity to reconstitute existing certificates of title that are on file and available in the registry of deeds.

 

The reconstitution proceedings in Civil Cases Nos. C-677 and C-763 are void because they are contrary to Republic Act No. 26 and beyond the purview of that law since the titles reconstituted are actually subsisting in the registry of deeds and do not require reconstitution at all. As a rule, acts executed against the provisions of mandatory laws are void (Art. 5, Civil Code).

 

To sustain the validity of the reconstituted titles in these cases would be to allow Republic Act No. 26 to be utilized as an instrument for landgrabbing (See Republic vs. Court of Appeals, Ocampo and Anglo, L-31303-04, May 31, 1978, 83 SCRA 453, 480, per J. G.S. Santos) or to sanction fraudulent machinations for depriving a registered owner of his land, to undermine the stability and security of Torrens titles and to impair the Torrens system of registration.[59]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

These rulings of the Court are so essential in providing stability to land titles that overturning them now would be catastrophic to our Torrens system of land registration. 

 

A  TORRENS TITLE CAN ONLY BE CANCELLED IN A DIRECT ACTION ASSAILING ITS VALIDITY BEFORE THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT

 

 

The LRA has also no jurisdiction to cancel the Torrens title of the Manotoks because the exclusive original jurisdiction to cancel a Torrens title belongs to the Regional Trial Court.  The LRA, moreover, has no jurisdiction to decide the ownership dispute over a parcel of land[60] between the Barques and the Manotoks because jurisdiction to adjudicate ownership of disputed real properties belongs to courts of justice.

 

         Two specific provisions of law confer exclusive original jurisdiction on Regional Trial Courts to cancel a Torrens title.  Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree provides:

 

Section 48.  Certificate not subject to collateral attack. -  A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law. (Emphasis supplied)

 

Section 19 of the Judiciary Act[61] provides that the Regional Trial Court shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction x x x  in all civil actions, which involve the title to  x x x  real property.” 

 

 

 

 

         That the proper Regional Trial Court has exclusive original jurisdiction to entertain any action to cancel a Torrens title is reinforced by Section 108 of the Property Registration Decree.   Section 108 states that “no erasure, alteration or amendment shall be made upon the registration book after the entry of a certificate of title x x x, except by order of the proper Court of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court).”  

 

 

LRA DECISION ON RECONSTITUTION DOES NOT

 BECOME FINAL AND EXECUTORY

 

 

The doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions applies only to decisions that are capable of becoming final and executory.  Decisions of the LRA on administrative reconstitutions of title never become final and executory.  An administrative reconstitution of title is merely a restoration or replacement of a lost or destroyed title in its original form at the time of the loss or destruction.[62]  The issuance of a reconstituted title vests no new rights and determines no ownership issues.[63]   At any time, the LRA can revoke its issuance of a reconstituted title if the lost or destroyed title is subsequently found.[64]  The issuance by the LRA of a reconstituted title is an executive function, not a judicial or quasi-judicial function. Only judicial or quasi-judicial decisions can become res judicata. This Court stated in A.G. Development Corp. v.  Court of Appeals:[65][T]he doctrine of res judicata applies only to judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and not to the exercise of administrative powers or to legislative, executive or ministerial determination.[66]  

 

The 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division grants to the Barques much more than what the Barques prayed for in their petition for administrative reconstitution of title.  In their petition before the LRA, the Barques only prayed for the reconstitution of their allegedly destroyed title.  The Decision of the First Division grants the reconstitution, declares the reconstituted title valid, awards ownership over the disputed property to the Barques, and cancels the Torrens title of the Manotoks.  This violates the “cardinal principle that (a court) cannot grant anything more than what is prayed for”[67] in the petition.  

 

A SURFEIT OF FORGERIES AND BADGES OF FRAUD

 

 

Equally disturbing, there are patent forgeries, badges of fraud, and other dubious circumstances that the First Division inexplicably brushed aside in its Decision.  These forgeries alone are more than sufficient grounds to deny the reconstitution of the Barques’ title.  These forgeries provide  compelling reasons for this Court to require compliance with Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree in determining the validity of the Manotoks’ title.  Section 48 requires a proceeding before the proper Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of the Torrens title before such title can be cancelled.

 

First: Forged Plan Fls-3168-D

 

The Barques submitted to the LRA reconstituting officer patently forged documents in support of their petition.  On 31 January 1997, Engineer Dalire wrote the LRA reconstituting officer that the copy of the Barques’ plan Fls-3168-D submitted to the LRA “bears forged initials of my section officer and myself,”[68] and that the Lands Management Bureau National Office “does not have copy of Fls-3168-D.”[69]   Engineer Dalire urged the LRA that plan Fls-3168-D and the accompanying authentication letter “be disregarded or rejected as they come from spurious sources.”[70]

 

Plan Fls-3168-D is vital in establishing the authenticity of the Barques’ Torrens title, which contains two lots as subdivided by plan Fls-3168-D from the original Lot 823.   The Manotoks’ title covers only one lot, Lot 823, without subdivision.   Both the Manotoks and the Barques claim the same original Lot 823.   If there is no record in the Lands Management Bureau National Office of plan Fls-3168-D showing the subdivision of Lot 823 into two lots, then the Barques’ title is spurious.  

 

During the oral argument of these cases, counsel for the Barques was asked if the Barques have ever secured a copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National Office.  Counsel for the Barques showed the Court a copy of what purported to be plan Fls-3168-D but on closer examination the copy was certified not by the Lands Management Bureau National Office but by the NCR Regional Office. What counsel for the Barques showed was the same copy of plan Fls-3168-D that Engineer Privadi Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, had rejected as a forgery in his  31 January 1997 and 19 February 1997 letters to Atty. Bustos.  In his letters, Engineer Dalire stated that there is no plan Fls-3168-D in the files of the Lands Management Bureau National Office.

 

Second:  Forged 2 January 1997 Letter

 

 

On 13 February 1997, Engineer Privadi J. Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, wrote the LRA reconstituting officer that the 2 January 1997 letter, purportedly coming from Engineer Dalire, “definitely did not come from this office; it is a forged document.”[71]  

 

In his 19 February 1997 letter, Engineer Dalire also informed the LRA reconstituting officer that the 2 January 1997 letter purportedly coming from him was the “handiwork of forgers.”[72]  In the questioned 2 January 1997 letter[73] addressed to the LRA reconstituting officer, Engineer Dalire allegedly stated that the Chief of the Technical Records and Statistics of the National Capital Region-Lands Management Bureau (NCR Regional Office) had forwarded a copy of Fls-3168-D to Engineer Dalire’s office.  Engineer Dalire has repeatedly denounced this 2 January 1997 letter as a forgery, not only because he never signed this letter, but also because his office never received a copy of Fls-3168-D from the NCR Regional Office.

Third:  Plan Fls-3168-D Is Void Unless Validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division  

 

 

During the oral argument, counsel for the Barques then undertook to present to the Court a copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National Office.   In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, counsel for the Barques explained why they could not present a copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National Office:

 

Following the order of the Honorable Justice Carpio for respondents to secure a certified true copy of Fls-3168-D from the Land Management Bureau, National Office,  they went to said National Office to secure said certified true copy of Fls-33168-D but were instead given a copy of a form letter (Annex “J”) issued in reply to a prior request for transmittal of Plan FLS-3168-D with the information that records of said plan had already been turned over to the National Capital Region.

 

 

 

The form letter (Annex “J”) from the Records Management Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, that the Barques attached to their Memorandum, states 

 

x x x plan  FLS-3168-D covering parcel/s of and situated in Caloocan Rizal was among those survey records already turned-over/decentralized to DENR-National Capital Region (NCR), Roxas Boulevard, Manila on April 5, 1979 as recorded in our file no. NCR-199, for their reference/file purposes.

 

 

The form letter bears the printed name of Rainier D. Balbuena, OIC, Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau National Office although someone whose signature is not legible signed for Rainier D. Balbuena.

 

 

         The Barques also submitted a Certification dated 19 June 2007 (Annex “E-I”) signed by Rainier D. Balbuena,OIC, Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau National Office, stating:

 

This is to certify that according to the verification of the Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau, Binondo, Manila, EDP’s Listing has available record with Fls-3168-D, Lot 823, Xerox copy of which is herewith attached, situated in Caloocan, Rizal (Now Quezon City), in the name of Survey Claimant Emiliano Setosta.

 

 

         In sharp contrast, the Manotoks attached to their Memorandum dated 23 August 2007 a certification signed by three persons from the Lands Management Bureau National Office, namely, Bienvenido F. Cruz, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division; Rodel Collantes, Chief, Technical Services & Survey Records Documentation Section; and Teodoro A. de Castro, researcher. This certification, dated 2 August 2007, states:

 

August 2, 2007

LUISA T. PADORA

2830 Juan Luna St. Tondo

Manila

 

S i r /M a d a m:

 

This is in connection with your request on the verification of survey plan.  As per our inventory we found out the following:

 

            Survey No.                            Accession No.

            Location                                                                                                       

                       Fls-3168-D                             Not listed in EDP listing.

 

Verified By:

 

          (Sgd)

RODEL COLLANTES

Chief, Technical Services & Survey

Records Documentation Section

 

 

 

 

 

            Researched by:

 

                         (Sgd)

            TEODORO A. DE CASTRO                           Very truly yours,                          

                                                                                                  (Sgd)

                                                                                      BIENVENIDO F. CRUZ

                                                                                Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division

 

OR#: 3041650

Date: 08/02/07

Amt. Php 40.00

 

 

           

         The certification of the Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division prevails over the certification of the OIC, Records Management Division. Under paragraph 2.4 of Lands Memorandum Order No. 368-92 dated 17 August 1992, “no copies of white print, blue prints or photographic copies of plans shall be issued unless said secondary copies have been validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division.” The same paragraph 2.4 further states that unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Divisions, copies of such plans “should be temporarily expunged from the records of the Records Division until they are validated and returned for official file.”

 

         Thus, no secondary copies of plans, like the Barques’ Fls-3168-D plan, can have any evidentiary value unless validated by the Geodetics Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office.  More importantly, copies of plans, like the Barques’ Fls-3168-D plan, which have not been validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division, are deemed “expunged from the Records of the Records Division.”   The inescapable conclusion is that the form letter (Annex “J”) issued by the Records Management Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, and the Certification dated 19 June 2007 (Annex “E-I”) signed by Rainier D. Balbuena, OIC, Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau National Office, both of which refer to the existence of the Barques’ Fls-3168-D plan, are absolutely worthless and are mere scraps of paper. 

 

            The Barques’ explanation is further belied by the 19 February 1997 letter of Engineer Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, that: 

 

 x x x Our Inventory Record of Approved Surveys, our computerized list of plans officially filed in this Bureau, the Locator Cards, and the microfilm all show that we have no records or information about Plan Fls-3168-D.

 

x x x

x x x How can this be when NCR has never given us the alleged copy in their file for validation.  The forwarding of the copy to us is mandatory under DAO No. 49 for our validation.  This is the subject of our letters to NCR dated 05 December 1996, 03 January 1997 and 06 February 1997 (copies attached). x x x.[74]   (Emphasis supplied)

 

As pointed out by Engineer Dalire, under DENR Administrative Order No. 49, series of 1991, the copy of plan Fls-3168-D must be forwarded by the NCR Regional Office for validation by the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office.  No copy of the survey plan can be issued by the NCR Regional Office without the validation of the Geodetic Surveys Division.  Sections 4.3 and 4.5 of DENR Administrative Order No. 49 states:

 

Section 4. Preparation of Certified True Copies of Approved Plans.  The following considerations on the preparation of Certified True Copies of Approved Plans shall be observed:

 

x x x

 

4.3       Decentralized whiteprints or photographic copies of plans especially those marked “SGD” (i.e. SIGNED) shall not be used for the issuance of patent or certified true copy or titling purposes, EXCEPT, upon or prior authentication by the Lands Management Bureau (LMB) after diligent comparison with the records of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and other depository of surveys records.

x x x

 

4.5       The Chief of the Regional Surveys Division of the Lands Management Service in the concerned Regional Office shall certify all copies for land registration and for other purposes as true, correct and exact replica of the original plan.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

The requirement of validation by the Geodetic Surveys Division is reiterated and amplified in Lands Memorandum Order No. 368-92 dated 17 August 1992, thus:

 

2.4  No copies of white print, blue prints or photographic copies of plans shall be issued unless said secondary copies have been validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division (see paragraph 4.3, DENR A.O. 49, s-1991).  The Survey Records Section shall turn over all print (white, blue, xerox) copies and photographic copies in its file to the Geodetic Surveys Division for examination, investigation and/or validation.  These copies should temporarily be expunged from the records of the Records Division until they are validated and returned for official file.   (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

 

Unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, secondary copies of survey plans, such as the Barques’ plan Fls-3168-D, have no evidentiary value because they are “temporarily x x x expunged from the records of the Records Division.” 

 

         The Geodetic Surveys Division validates the survey plans based on the “back-up file in the Central Records Office.”   Despite the decentralization of the records of survey plans, the Lands Management Bureau National Office retained “back-up files” of the decentralized records.   Lands Memorandum Order No. 368-92 states:

 

 

 

 

1.      General Policy

1.1     It is the general policy that all isolated survey plans and other survey records be decentralized immediately to the Lands Management Sector for their reference and file after establishing a back-up file in the Central office for records preservation.  The latter can be done thru microfilming or reproduction of the original records.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

         The NCR Regional Office failed to submit to the Geodetics Survey Division a copy of plan Fls-3168-D despite repeated requests from Engineer Dalire.  In his 31 January 1997 letter to the reconstituting officer, Atty. Bustos,  Engineer Dalire stated:

 

 x x x please be informed that we wrote on December 5, 1996 the DENR-NCR about your letter dated December 2, 1996 informing them that the plan Fls-3168-D filed in that Office from where the reproduced copy furnished to LRA (sic) did not emanate from our office. We requested them to forward to us the said plan for our evaluation and comment. Likewise, on January 5, 1997, we made a follow-up, reiterating that we have no records (sic) of Fls-3168-D and requesting them to forward the plan for our evaluation and comment. It is regretted, they did not respond.[75]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

This repeated and manifest failure by the NCR Regional Office is echoed by the glaring failure of the Barques to submit, as they had promised to the Court during the oral argument, a copy of  plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National Office.       

 

         This Court has already recognized that copies of survey plans are void unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division in accordance with DENR Administrative Order No. 49, series of 1991.  In Fil-Estate Golf and Development, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[76]  the Court held:

 

Finally, private respondents’ cause of action against petitioner is defeated by the findings of Mr. Privadi Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Bureau of Lands, contained in his letters to the Regional Technical Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Region IV dated 12 November 1992 and 15 December 1992, respectively:

 

12 November 1992

x x x                   

MEMORANDUM:

15 December 1992    

 

FOR:   The Regional Technical Director of Lands

           The Chief, Regional Surveys Division

           DENR, Region IV

           L & S Building, Roxas Boulevard

           Manila

FROM:           L M B

SUBJECT:      Psu-201

 

Records show that the region furnished us a white print copy certified by Engineer Robert Pangyarihan to have been “prepared from a tracing cloth plan on file in the NCR” for validation. We returned the white print plan prepared by Engineer Pangyarihan because we should examine the “tracing cloth plan” and it is the tracing cloth plan, white prints and photographic copies sent by the Central Records Division to be returned to LMB for validation by this Division.

 

In the letter dated 27 November 1992, Engineer Pangyarihan explained that he prepared the copy which he certified from a white print plan on file in the region as the applicant claims to have lost the tracing cloth. While the explanation may be considered, yet the preparation of the plan is not yet in accordance with Sections 1.3 and 4.3 of DENR Administrative Order No. 49, s-1991 which requires that the white prints or photographic print of the plan other than the original plan which have been decentralized must first be authenticated by this Bureau before a certified true copy is issued by the region. It is evident therefore that the issuance of a certified true copy of Psu-201 from a white print is premature, and considered void ab initio.

 

Consider also that if the record of the Bureau is different from the print copy is subjected to field ocular inspection of the land and on the basis of the findings, the region may reconstruct the plan to be approved as usual. Certified copies may now be issued based on the reconstructed and approved plan. The white print of Psu-201 should therefore be subjected to ocular inspection.

Our records of inventory of approved plans show Psu-201 as a survey of J. Reed covering a piece of land in Malate, Manila. That plan was heavily damaged and its reconstruction was not finalized. This should be included in the investigation.

 

For the Director of Lands:

(SGD.) PRIVADI J.G. DALIRE

Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division.[77]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

Clearly, in the present cases the copy of the Barques’ plan Fls-3168-D issued by the NCR Regional Office is likewise void unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division in accordance with DENR Administrative Order No. 49, series of 1991, as amplified in Lands Memorandum Order No. 368-92.  Up to this time, the Barques have failed to submit a copy of their plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Geodetic Surveys Division.  The inescapable conclusion is that the Barques’ plan Fls-3168-D is void ab initio.

 

In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques submitted to the Court a copy of plan Fls-3168-D, certified by the NCR Regional Office, to support the authenticity of the plan Fls-3168-D that the Barques had earlier submitted to the reconstituting officer, Atty. Bustos, thus:

 

c.  Photo Copy of Plan FLS-3168 (microfilm) duly certified by Carmelito A. Soriano for the Chief, Regional Technical Director, NCR, Annex “H” hereof.  This microfilm copy is exactly the same as the Tracing Cloth Plan copy, Annex G. 

 

First, there does not appear in Annex “H” a signature over the printed name Carmelito A. Soriano, Chief, Regional Technical Director, NCR National Office.

 

Second, Annex “H” is not certified by the Chief of the Regional Surveys Division, Lands Management Service of the NCR Regional Office as required by Section 4.5 of DENR Administrative Order No. 49.   

 

Third, Annex “H” is the same copy of Fls-3168-D that purportedly originated from the office of Engineer Privadi Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau.   Annex “H” is also the same copy of plan Fls-3168-D that counsel for the Barques showed to the Court during the oral argument.  Engineer Privadi Dalire has categorically declared this copy of Fls-3168-D as “spurious” in his 19 February 1997 letter to Atty. Bustos, thus:

 

            The copy of Fls-3168-D attached to your letter dated December 2, 1996 is not issued by this Office.  There are many markings on the copy to prove it did not come from LMB. Reasons, among others, are:

 

1.                 We have no copy of Fls-3168-D on file so how can we issue a copy of plan that is non-existing?

2.                 The copy of plan bears two “Certifications” at the top and at lower half.  This is not our practice;

3.                 The rubber-stamp shows there are two pieces; one for th certification and another for the signing official.  We use one piece rubber stamp.  The alignment of the letters/words of one rubber stamp is different from this marking on this spurious plan;

4.                        The plan shows only initial.  I sign in full copies of plans with the initials of my action officers and their codings below my signature.  These are not present in the spurious copy of plan;

5.                        The letter size of the rubber stamp “NOT FOR REGISTRATION/TITLING, FOR REFERENCE ONLY” is smaller than our rubber stamp;

6.                        The spurious copy of plan you furnished us does not carry our rubber stamp “GOVERNMENT PROPERTY NOT TO BE SOLD: FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY OF ___________________ “This is stamped on all microfilm copies we issue because all microfilm copies are for official use only of our LMS.  We have shown you our rubber stamps to prove that the copy of Fls-3168-D in your possession is a spurious plan.[78] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

 

Engineer Dalire ended his letter by advising Atty. Bustos to “disregard the plan Fls-3168-D and the letter dated 02 January 1997 as they are proven to be spurious documents.”[79]

 

Again, in his 31 January 1997 letter to Atty. Bustos, Engineer Dalire reiterated that plan Fls-3168-D, which purportedly was certified by him, did not come from his office.  Engineer Dalire stated in his 31 January 1997 letter:

 

x x x  We are sure that the copy did not come from this Office.  The reasons are:

 

a.  Our inventory of approved plans enrolled in our file, our Microfilm Computer list of plans available for decentralization all show that we do not have this plan Fls-3168-D, logically we cannot issue any copy.

 

                        b.   The copy of the plan Fls-3168-D shows visible signs that it                is a spurious copy.

                             

                               1) The certification (rubber stamp) serves a two piece stamp.            The certification and the signing official are separate.  Ours                    is one-piece.

2)                                                      The alignment of: Lands, GEODETIC, this, Privadi, and Chief in the syndicates (sic) stamp differ from our stamp. Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division is our stamp, their (sic) is Survey without the “s” plural.

3)                                                      We do not stamp the plan twice as the syndicate did on the copy.

4)                                                      The size of the lettering in the rubber stamp “Not for Registration/Titling For Reference Only” is smaller than our stamp.  It is also incomplete as an (sic) Stamp, in addition to [the] above is “of _________”.

5)                                                      The copy bears forged initials of my action officer and myself.  I sign completely certification.

6)                                                      The name of the claimant is very visible to have been tampered in the master copy.

7)                                                      Again, it is certified that this Bureau does not have copy of Fls-3168-D.

 

In view of the foregoing, the copy of Fls-3168-D furnished your Office as well as the alleged letter authenticating it should be disregarded or rejected as they come from spurious sources.  This involves the reconstitution of title allegedly lot 823-A of Fls-3168-D with an area of 171,473 Sq. M.  Surely, the use of the spurious copy of Fls-3168-D for the reconstitution of title will create land problem involving prime lots in that area.[80] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

The Barques have the temerity to foist on this Court their copy of plan Fls-3168-D which has been repeatedly denounced as a forgery by Engineer Dalire, the very person whom the Barques claim certified their copy of Fls-3168-D.   Engineer Dalire is the best person to determine the authenticity of Fls-3168-D not only because he allegedly signed it as claimed by the Barques, but also because he is the Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, the office that has the “inventory of approved plans x x x (and) Microfilm Computer list of plans available for decentralization.” 

 

 

Fourth: The Barques Submitted a Tampered Copy of Administrative Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96)

 

 

On 7 February 1997, the Barques had written the LRA Administrator complaining against the LRA reconstituting officer’s alleged “pattern of effort to delay the administrative reconstitution.”[81]   The Barques attached to their 7 February 1997 letter an alleged order of reconstitution signed by Atty. Bustos approving the reconstitution of the Barques’ TCT No. 210177.  In his 14 February 1997 reply to the LRA Administrator, Atty. Bustos exposed the alleged order of reconstitution submitted by the Barques as a “tampered document.”

 

The Barques also informed the LRA Administrator that there was a “recommendation dated January 2, 1997 by the Chief, Geodetic Surveys, Lands Management Bureau, DENR, Manila, to give due course to the said reconstitution.”  However, in his 13 February 1997 letter[82] to the LRA reconstituting officer, Engineer Dalire, the Chief, Geodetic Surveys, Lands Management Bureau, disowned this 2 January 1997 letter as a forgery.  

 

On 14 February 1997, the LRA reconstituting officer wrote the LRA Administrator that:[83]

            1.  There is no effort to delay the administrative reconstitution of the aforesaid title.  What we are doing is a thorough check of the authenticity of the submitted documents;

 

            2.  The order of reconstitution containing TCT No. 210177 and the name of Homer L. Barque, attached to the aforesaid letter is a tampered document.  For your comparison, herewith is a copy of the genuine order of reconstitution, marked as annex “A”;

 

            3.  The alleged letter-recommendation dated January 2, 1997, by the Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, LMB-DENR, is also a forged document.  Attached for your reference is a copy of the letter which is self-explanatory, together with its enclosures, directly received by the undersigned from Engineer Privadi J.G. Dalire, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, LMB-DENR, marked as annex “B”;

 

            4.  Lots 823-A & 823-B, Fls-3168-D, containing areas of 171,473 Sq. m. & 171, 472 Sq. m., respectively, purportedly covered by TCT No. 210177, appear to duplicate Lot 823, Piedad Estate, containing an area of 342,945 Sq. m. covered by TCT No. 372302, registered in the name of Severino M. Manotok, et al., copy of which is hereto attached as annex “C.” (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

 

 

         In his 14 February 1997 letter, the LRA reconstituting officer complained to the LRA Administrator that “there is an attempt to mislead us into favorable action by submitting forged documents.”

 

The tampering refers to the insertion of (1) the name of “Homer L. Barque,” and (2) the title number “210177” in Administrative  Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).    The Barques justified the authenticity of the copy they presented by claiming that their copy was “initialed in each and every page.”[84]   However, the Barques’ copy of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) differed from the original of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) that the LRA reconstituting officer himself signed on 27 January 1997. To repeat, the original of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) was an order issued and signed by the LRA reconstituting officer, Atty. Bustos.  Indeed, the Barques’ copy[85] of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) shows that it was signed by the same LRA reconstituting officer, Atty. Bustos, handling the Barques’ then pending petition for administrative reconstitution.    

 

The Barques also failed to explain why they still pursued their petition for administrative reconstitution of their title if indeed they had already obtained an approved reconstitution on 27 January 1997 under their copy of Administrative Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96).   On 13 August 1998, the LRA reconstituting officer filed before the LRA Administrator the following Comment:

2.  That we maintain our position denying the reconstitution of TCT No. 210177, on the grounds stated in our Order dated June 30, 1997, and on the following additional grounds, to wit:

2.1  If the late Homer L. Barque, really purchased the subject property in the year 1975, why did he not take possession of it upon purchase, and up to now his descendants, the Petitioners, are not in possession of the property, but the Oppositors?;

2.2 Why was the property declared, and realty taxes were paid in the name of Barque, only in the year 1996? Whereas, the Oppositors and their predecessors have been paying realty taxes on the property since the year 1965;

       2.3 Why did the Petitioner try to mislead us by submitting a tampered copy of Adm. Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96)?[86]   (Emphasis supplied)

 

The LRA reconstituting officer ended his Comment by urging the LRA Administrator that “this case be referred to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission for investigation.”  

 

In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques explained the circumstances of the order of reconstitution they submitted to the LRA in this manner:

 

The said resolution was issued on January 27, 1997 when there was, as yet, no opposition from anyone to the Barques’ petition for reconstitution and after the Barque had already submitted their Owner’s Duplicate Copy of TCT No. 210177 which entitled them, like the several other petitioners listed in Mr. Bustos’ aforesaid Resolution, to a reconstitution thereof under R.A. 6732.

 

In his letter, Atty. Turgano surmised that:

 

“The animosity and bias of Mr. Bustos against petitioners may be explained by the fact that he was responsible in giving due course and approving with dispatch the administrative reconstitution of the Manotok title which is TCT No. RT-22481 (372302).

 

 

            Mr. Bustos’ bias was likewise shown when he alerted the Manotoks of the Barques’ Petition for Reconstitution which prompted them to file their opposition to the Barques’ petition on April 14, 1997. He, therefore, apparently had the motive to delete the title and name of the Barques from his resolution.

 

 

 

 

 

            At any rate, said resolution of Bustos was completely irrelevant to the LRA proceedings since it is his Order denying Barques’ petition for reconstitution that was raised on appeal before the LRA Administrator. (Emphasis supplied)

 

         In short, the Barques represent to this Court that their copy of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96), listing their TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr. as one of the titles approved for reconstitution by Atty. Bustos, is authentic, genuine and untampered.   This is contrary to the categorical declaration of Atty. Bustos that the copy of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) submitted by the Barques is a “tampered document,” and that the original Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) that Atty. Bustos himself signed, which original is on file in his office in the LRA, does not include TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr.  

 

Ironically, the Barques put the blame on Atty. Bustos for “delet(ing) the title and name of the Barques from the resolution.”   The Barques are now accusing Atty. Bustos of falsification by deleting the Barques’ name and title in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).  Before such deletion, the Barques insist that Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) included the Barques’ name and title, which is the copy that the Barques submitted to the LRA Administrator. 

 

In the first place, there was no reason whatsoever for Atty. Bustos to include the Barques’ title and name in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).  When Atty. Bustos signed the order on 27 January 1997, he was still corresponding with Engineer Dalire on the forgery found in the Barques’ plan Fls-3168-D.  The last letter of Engineer Dalire to Atty. Bustos was on 31 January 1997.  On 14 February 1997, Atty. Bustos even wrote the LRA Administrator about the “attempt to mislead us (LRA) into favorable action by submitting forged documents.”   Clearly, Atty. Bustos could not have included the Barques’ title and name in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).

 

In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques gave the lame excuse that Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) is now “completely irrelevant” because what was raised on appeal to the LRA was the order of Atty. Bustos denying the Barques’ petition for reconstitution.   If their copy of Administrative Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96) is truly authentic and untampered, the Barques should insist that their petition for administrative reconstitution was in fact approved by the reconstituting officer Atty. Bustos.  The Barques do not claim or even mention this now, instead they agree that Atty. Bustos denied their petition, contrary to their claim that Atty. Bustos granted their petition by including the Barques’ title and name in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).

 

The Barques cannot simply brush aside their submission of tampered or forged documents. These patent forgeries are grounds to render the Barques’ reconstituted title void ab initio.  Section 11 of Republic Act No. 6732 (RA 6732),[87] the law allowing administrative reconstitution of titles, provides:

 

SEC. 11.   A reconstituted title obtained by means of fraud, deceit or other machination is void ab initio as against the party obtaining the same and all persons having knowledge thereof.   (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

 

This Court would never countenance these blatant and glaring forgeries.  The present cases involve 34 hectares of prime land located beside the Ayala Heights Subdivision in Quezon City.  Its value is estimated conservatively at P1.7 billion. 

 

 

Fifth: The Barques’ Title Surfaced Eight Years after the Quezon City Hall Fire

 

 

The Barques filed their petition for administrative reconstitution on 22 October 1996, eight years after the original of their Torrens title was allegedly burned in the 11 June 1988 fire that destroyed the records of the Quezon City Register of Deeds.  In contrast, the Manotoks administratively reconstituted their Torrens title on 1 February 1991, three years after the fire and just one year after the effectivity on 17 July 1989 of RA 6732 allowing again administrative reconstitution of titles under certain circumstances. 

 

 

Sixth: The Barques Cannot Explain Erasure of Notation on their Tax Declarations

 

 

The Manotoks claim that the Barques erased the following notation in the tax declarations they submitted to the LRA reconstituting officer: “Memo: This property appear (sic) to duplicate the property of Manotok Realty, Inc., declared under TD No. B-067-02136 with area of 343,945 sq.m./P.I. no. 21-4202.”[88]   In their Petition For Review dated 30 March 2004, the Manotoks submitted certified true copies of the Barques’ Tax Declarations 06892[89] and 06895[90] containing this notation. In their Memorandum of 23 August 2007, the Manotoks again submitted copies of the Barques’ tax declarations containing the same notation.  

 

During the oral argument, counsel for the Barques denied the erasure of the notation on the Barques’ tax declarations. However, counsel for the Barques admitted that he has not seen the original tax declarations on file with the Assessor’s Office, thus:

 

Justice Carpio:

x x x  The Manotoks are claiming that the Barques erased, removed annotation in the tax declaration of the Barques that in the tax declaration on file with the Assessor’s Office the tax declaration of the Barques is supposed to contain annotation that this property appears to be registered in the name of Manotok Realty Inc., is that correct?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

Well, that is a serious accusation, Your honor and I have no knowledge about that.

 

            Justice Carpio:

But does the tax declaration of the Barques contain that notation?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

There is none that I know, Your Honor.

 

            Justice Carpio:

How about the tax declaration on file with the Assessor’s Office?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

I have not seen those, Your Honor.

 

            Justice Carpio:

You have not seen those?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

I have not seen those. [91]

 

 

 

 

In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques ignored completely the Manotoks’ claim that the Barques erased the notation.

 

Seventh: The Barques Paid Realty Tax only for 1987 to 1996

 

The Barques first paid real estate tax on the property only in 1996,[92] for realty taxes for the years 1987 to 1996, because the Barques were required to pay the current and preceding years’ realty taxes before they could file their petition for administrative reconstitution.  The Barques have not paid any realty tax after 1996, or before 1987.[93]  In contrast, the LRA reconstituting officer found that the Manotoks have been paying realty taxes on the property since 1965.  In their Memorandum dated 23 August 2007, the Manotoks claim that they paid their realty taxes on the property from 1933 until the present, attaching to their Memorandum representative copies of their realty tax payments.

 

 

Eighth: The Barques Have Never Set Foot on the Property

 

 

The Barques have never set foot on the property since the time Homer L. Barque, Sr. allegedly purchased the property in 1975.  Counsel for the Barques admitted this when he stated during the oral argument that the Barques merely “went around” the walled property.  On the other hand, the Manotoks assert that the property is publicly known in their neighborhood as the Manotok Compound.  The Manotoks further claim:

 

[A]s owners of said Lot 823, oppositors (Manotoks) had introduced substantial improvements, amounting to several millions, thereon consisting of, among others, high wall hollow block fence; their respective houses, apartments; offices and employees quarters, as early as in 1960, photographs of which are hereto attached as Annexes “115” to “134”;[94]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

During the oral argument, the Manotoks showed on the projector screen the pictures of the various houses, buildings and concrete perimeter fence that the Manotoks constructed on the property since 1960.

 

 

Ninth: LRA Administrator Relied only on Map Submitted by Barques

 

 

         In calling the Manotoks’ title “sham and spurious,” the LRA Administrator cited the non-existence of Barrio Payong in Quezon City.  The LRA Administrator stated: “The map of Quezon City [Annex “N” of Petitioners’ Position paper] would show that there is no such barrio as Payong.[95]  This is a finding of fact that is based not only on self-serving and suspect evidence, but also on a patently erroneous claim.

 

The LRA Administrator relied on Annex “N” of “Petitioners,” that is, the map of the Barques who were the petitioners before the LRA Administrator assailing the LRA reconstituting officer’s denial of their reconstitution on the ground of pre-existence of the Manotoks’ title and the  submission of a spurious document by the Barques.   Obviously, this Court should not rely on the LRA Administrator’s findings which were admittedly based on the map of the Barques, who had earlier submitted forged documents to the LRA reconstituting officer. 

 

The existence of Barrio Payong in Quezon City has been judicially acknowledged almost three decades ago in the Decision of the Court of Agrarian Relations, the court of origin in Spouses Tiongson, et al. v. Court of Appeals and Macaya,[96]   involving the same property under dispute in these cases.  In Spouses Tiongson, the Court of Agrarian Relations made an ocular inspection of Barrio Payong in Quezon City, thus:

 

On June 20, 1978, the Court issued an Order directing the Clerk of Court to conduct an ocular inspection of the landholding in question, which is as follows:

 

           “Conformably with ‘Urgent Motion For An Ocular Inspection’ filed with this Court on even date and as stated in paragraph 2 thereof, the Clerk of Court is hereby directed to conduct an ocular inspection of the landholding in question situated at Payong, Quezon City, which as agreed upon between them is set on June 23, 1978 at 8:30 o’clock A.M. (sic), wherein the parties shall meet at the site of said landholding and to determine:

 

                                   (a)   Portions of the property planted to rice (sic) by the plaintiff and/or his children;

                                   (b)   Portions of the property where the rice paddies are located;

                                   (c)  Portions of the property planted to (sic) corn and vegetables;

                                   (d)   Portions of the property where the houses of the plaintiff and/or his children are built and located;

                                   (e)    Portion of the property which, according to the defendants, had been, before the filing of the complaint in this case, worked on by Victorino Macaya and returned by him to the defendants, through Atty. Perpetua Bocanegra, with an area of more or less one hectare;

                                   (f)   Portions burned by the plaintiff.”

           Upon accomplishment thereof, said Clerk of Court is hereby directed to submit his report as well as his sketch plan for further disposition of the Court.

          

            On June 27, 197[8], the Clerk of Court submitted his “REPORT”, which is as follows:

 

 

 

           In compliance with the Order of the Honorable Court dated June 20, 1978, undersigned together with Mr. Victor Flores of this Branch, proceeded to Barrio Payong, Quezon City on June 23, 1978, to conduct an ocular inspection of the landholding involved in this case. x x x”[97]  (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

 

         The recognition of the Court of Agrarian Relations that Barrio Payong exists in Quezon City is based on the ocular inspection conducted on 23 June 1978 by the Clerk of Court of the Court of Agrarian Relations.  In contrast, the statement of the LRA Administrator that there is no Barrio Payong in Quezon City is based merely on the map that the Barques submitted in their petition for administrative reconstitution, which was filed only on 22 October 1996.    

 

In Spouses Tiongson, there were 28 petitioners.[98]  Of these 28 petitioners, at least sixteen are petitioners composing part of the Manotoks in these cases.  Of these sixteen petitioners, eight —  Miguel A.B. Sison, Ma. Cristina E. Sison, George M. Bocanegra, Philipp Manotok, Maria Theresa Manotok, Ramon Severino Manotok, Jesus Jude Manotok, Jr., and Jose Maria Manotok — were then minors at the time of Spouses Tiongson and were thus represented by judicial guardians.  These eight are now of age in these cases.

 

Tenth: The Barques Bought the Property Knowing the Manotoks Had Constructed Buildings and Perimeter Wall on the Property

 

 

During the oral argument, the Manotoks showed on the projector screen a picture of the 34-hectare Manotok compound completely surrounded by a high concrete perimeter wall.  When counsel for the Barques was asked if his clients made an ocular inspection of the property at the time his clients purchased it in 1975, Barques’ counsel answered as follows:

 

Justice Velasco:   

Did your client prior to buying the lot from Mr. Setosta go to the land to investigate the ownership of Mr. Setosta?

 

         Atty. Flaminiano:  

The one who bought the property was the father of Barques now.

 

            Justice Velasco:

Would you know if the father of respondent visit and inspect and investigate the ownership of Mr. Setosta?

            Atty. Flaminiano:

I was told that he visited the property because the father of the Barques used to work for Mr. Antonio Florendo.  I think he was the manager of one of the businesses of Mr. Florendo in Davao City having to do with accessory parts of cars and trucks and he was at one time also the operator of a public transportation company.

 

            Justice Velasco:

Okay. Did the father of Mr. Barque find any building or structures on the land now subject of this dispute?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

We would not know because Mr. Barque died already, Your Honor.[99]

 

 x x x x

 

 

 

 

Justice Carpio:

Now, when did they take possession of the property since Mr. Homer L. Barque purchased it in 1975, when did he take possession of the property?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

The reason why they could not take really possession of the property because they were trying to get some papers from an Aunt of Mr. Barque to whom the property was mortgaged before he died.  I understand that the property was mortgaged for something like One Million to Two Million Pesos.

 

            Justice Carpio:

So, from 1975 to the present they have not taken possession of the property?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

There were attempts to take possession, Your Honor.

 

            Justice Carpio:

What kind of attempts, did they file ejectment suit?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

In fact Your Honor I understand that some of the Barque girls even went around the property.

 

            Justice Carpio:

Went around the property (interrupted)

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

Went around the property to take a look at the property but after that they left for the United States and for one reason or another they have not been able to take the proper steps (interrupted)

 

            Justice Carpio:

So, they never filed any suit to recover possession of the property, is that right?         

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

None that I know, Your Honor.

 

            Justice Carpio:

Did they send any demand letter to the Manotoks to vacate the property since they were the owners?

 

            Atty. Flaminiano:

None that I know, Your Honor.

 

Clearly, the Barques have never set foot on the property from 1975 up to the present.  The Barques merely “went around” the fully fenced property.  The Barques never sent a demand letter to the Manotoks to vacate the property. The Barques never filed an ejectment or any action to recover possession of the property. 

 

Eleventh: The Barques’ Chain of Title Stops in 1975

 

The Manotoks can trace their Torrens title to the purchase by their predecessors-in-interest of the property from the Government in 1919.   In their Memorandum dated 23 August 2007, the Manotoks state:

 

            9.5       The Manotok chain of titles began with the purchase by Zacarias Modesto, Regina Geronimo  and Feliciano Villanueva of Lot 823 from the Philippine government on March 10, 1919.  Attached hereto as Annex E is a Land Management Bureau-certified xerox copy of Sale Certificate No. 1054 issued by the Friar Lands Division, Bureau of Lands, to Modesto, Geronimo and Villanueva. Ownership over Lot 823 was later consolidated in Modesto, who in 1920 assigned his interests thereon to M. Teodoro and Severino Manotok.  Attached hereto as Annexes F and G are Land Management Bureau-certified xerox copies of Assignments of Certificate of Sale No. 1054 dated March 11, 1919 and June 7, 1920.

 

            9.6  In 1923, M. Teodoro assigned his share and interests over Lot 823 to Severino Manotok, making him the sole and exclusive owner of Lot 823.  A certified xerox copy of Assignment of Certificate of Sale   No. 1054 dated May 4, 1923 is attached hereto as Annex H.

 

            9.7  Through a series of transfers within the Manotok family and the Manotok Realty, Inc., a company owned by petitioners, Lot 823 was titled under TCT No. 372302 on October 16, 1987 in the names of all of the Manotoks.  The Manotok’s chain of titles to the property, with deeds of conveyances, are attached hereto as Annex I, with sub-annexes.

 

            9.8  Fire gutted the Quezon City ROD on June 11, 1988, and shortly thereafter (i.e., on August 31, 1988) the Manotoks filed reconstitution proceedings before the LRA, and were issued a reconstituted certificate of title, TCT No. RT-22841 (372302), by the ROD of Quezon city in 1991.  A xerox copy of the petition for reconstitution filed by the Manotoks with the ROD, with attachments, is attached hereto as Annex J, while a certified true copy of TCT No. 372302 (the title sought to be reconstituted in this petition) is attached hereto as Annex J-1.

 

On the other hand, the Barques can trace their chain of title only up to 1975 when Homer Barque, Sr. purchased the property from Emiliano Setosta, who the Barques claim bought the property directly from the Government in the 1940s. The Barques have not presented the deed of  conveyance by the Government to Setosta.   The claim of the Barques that Setosta purchased the property directly from the Government in the 1940s is belied by the 1927 Annual Report of the Director of Lands, stating that:

 

With the exception of the estates of Calamba, Imus, Isabela, Lolomboy, Naic,   San Francisco de Malabon, Santa Cruz de Malabon, Santa Maria de Pandi, and Talisay-Minglanilla, where there are still some vacant lands, all the others of the 23 Friar land estates had already been entirely disposed of. x x x.[100]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

At the end of 1927, the Government had already sold all of the Piedad Estate, a Friar land.  Thus, the Government could not have sold directly to Setosta the disputed property in the 1940s.

 

Twelfth:  Lands Management Bureau Relocation Survey Shows Barques’ Property Located 5.6 Kilometers from Piedad Estate

 

 

Intervenors Felicitas and Rosendo Manahan (Manahans) have submitted a relocation survey made by the Lands Management Bureau NCR Regional Office of the Barques’ plan Fls-3168-D showing that the Barques’ property is located “some 5.6 kilometers away from Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate, outside of Quezon City.”[101]  The relocation survey plan is signed by Ludivina L. Aromin, Chief of the Technical Services Division, and Engineer III Evelyn G. Celzo.  In their Memorandum dated 22 August 2007, the Manahans attached as Annex “M” a copy of the Lands Management Bureau relocation survey of plan Fls-3168-D.

 

 

A DULY ISSUED TORRENS TITLE IS ONE ISSUED

BY THE REGISTER OF DEEDS IN THE REGULAR PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTIES

 

 

This Court ruled in Alabang Development Corporation, et al. v. Valenzuela, etc., et al.[102] that courts have no jurisdiction over petitions for reconstitution of title involving a property already covered by an existing Torrens title in the name of another person.   The dissenting opinion claims that the Barques’ title was already existing at the time of the reconstitution of the Manotoks’ title in 1991.  This is an egregious error.  When the Manotoks’ title was reconstituted in 1991, the Barques’ title had not been reconstituted, and even up to now the reconstitution of the Barques’ title is still pending resolution in the instant case.  In contrast, when the Barques filed their reconstitution in 1996, the Manotoks’ title had already been finally reconstituted and existing.  Clearly, it is the Barques’ still pending reconstitution that can no longer proceed because of the existing title of the Manotoks.  

 

In Alabang, the Court held that a “duly issued existing Torrens title x x x cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles by third parties without first securing by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles.”   The phrase “duly issued existing Torrens title” simply means a title verifiably issued by the proper Register of Deeds.  The validity or invalidity of the title is not material at that point.  What is material is whether the Register of Deeds actually issued the title as part of his regular functions.

 

Clearly, at the time of the reconstitution of the Manotoks’ title, the Barques had no “duly issued existing Torrens title” from the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. When the Barques filed the reconstitution of their title, the Manotoks already had a prior title, which was the only “duly issued existing Torrens title” over the property issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City.  The Manotoks’ title could be verified against the reconstituted original title on file with the Register of Deeds. In fact, the LRA Administrator has admitted that the Manotoks’ title “is existing as a reconstituted title at the Office of the Register of Deeds.”[103]

 

The Barques could not produce even up to now a “duly issued existing Torrens title” from the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. The Barques’ owner’s duplicate certificate of title could not be verified with the Register of Deeds of Quezon City because the Barques’ title has no corresponding original title, whether reconstituted or not, on file with the Register of Deeds.  Thus, the reconstitution of the Barques’ title, which is still pending in this case, can no longer proceed. 

 

Once the reconstituting court or officer establishes that the Register of Deeds has in fact issued an existing title in the name of another person, the proper step is to file an action before the Regional Trial Court to annul such title.  It is in such proceeding before the regional trial court that the validity or invalidity of the title is determined.  In such proceeding, any party may introduce in evidence the LRA Administrator or the NBI’s  findings.   In the meantime, no reconstitution proceeding can prosper until after the cancellation by final judgment of such existing title.

 

The Alabang ruling necessarily involves a situation where there is an existing title issued by the Register of Deeds at the time of filing of a petition to reconstitute another title over the same property in the name of another person.  The Alabang ruling states that in such a situation the reconstituting authority has no jurisdiction to proceed with the reconstitution until a final judgment cancels the other title.   This is clear from the Court’s ruling in Alabang:

 

The Court stresses once more that lands already covered by duly issued existing Torrens titles (which become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from their issuance under Section 38 of the Land Registration Act) cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles filed by third parties without first securing by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles. (And as the Court reiterated in the recent case of Silvestre vs. Court of Appeals,  “in cases of annulment and/or reconveyance of title, a party seeking it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his.”) The courts simply have no jurisdiction over petitions by such third parties for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles over lands that are already covered by duly issued subsisting titles in the names of their duly registered owners. The very concept of stability and indefeasibility of titles covered under the Torrens System of registration rules out as anathema the issuance of two certificates of title over the same land to two different holders thereof. A fortiori, such proceedings for “reconstitution” without actual notice to the duly registered owners and holders of Torrens Titles to the land are null and void. Applicants, land officials and judges who disregard these basic and fundamental principles will be held duly accountable therefor.[104]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

The Decision of the First Division misapplies the Alabang ruling by holding that the LRA Administrator can adjudicate on the validity of a Torrens title by a finding that the title was not “duly issued.”  Even the Register of Deeds, who physically issues a Torrens title as part of his regular functions, cannot adjudicate on the validity of a title.  The Decision states that the “function of the (LRA) is adjudicatory in nature —­ it can properly deliberate on the validity of the titles submitted for reconstitution.”   This is grave error.

 

Time and again, this Court has ruled that reconstitution, even judicial reconstitution, does not confirm or adjudicate ownership over a property.[105]  Reconstitution merely restores a missing certificate of title in the same condition that it was when lost or destroyed, nothing more.  If the original title had a legal defect at the time of the loss or destruction, as when the land covered is part of the public forest,[106] the reconstituted title does not cure such defect.   As this Court held in Director of Lands v. Gan Tan:[107]

 

But the lower court claims that petitioner, even if he complied with all the requirements of the law, is not entitled to have his title reconstituted for the reason that, being an alien, he is not qualified to acquire the land covered by said title under our Constitution. However, we find this claim untenable in the light of the theory that a Torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The rule on this matter is that this issue can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for that purpose (Legarda vs. Saleeby, 31 Phil., 590). Moreover, it is a well known doctrine that a Torrens title, as a rule, is irrevocable and indefeasible (Bachrach Motor Co. vs. Kane, 61 Phil., 504), and our duty is to see to it that this title is maintained and respected unless challenged in a direct proceeding.

 

To our mind, the only issue here is whether there is a title to be reconstituted. That is the only purpose of the law (Rep. Act No. 26). If there is, then it is the duty of the court to comply with its mandate. Whether the petitioner has the right to acquire the land or not, is beyond the province of this proceeding. That should be threshed out in a proper action. The two proceedings are distinct and should not be confused.[108]  (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

 

 

The fallacy in the dissenting opinion’s argument is that it assumes that the LRA Administrator can adjudicate on the validity of a Torrens title. The original jurisdiction to adjudicate or to decide the validity of a Torrens title is vested by law exclusively in the Regional Trial Court pursuant to Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree.   Section 19 of the Judiciary Act vests in the Regional Trial Court the “exclusive original jurisdiction” to decide factual and legal issues “which involve the title to x x x real property.”  This means the Regional Trial Court first decides the validity of the Torrens title, and this power to first decide is to the exclusion of all other organs of the State.   Not even the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court can usurp this exclusive original power of the Regional Trial Court.  Any judgment resulting from such usurpation is void.

 

What the LRA Administrator or agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can issue are administrative, non-adjudicatory findings on whether a Torrens title is spurious or authentic.  These findings are mere evidences that must be submitted to the Regional Trial Court, which alone has the power to adjudicate whether the title is void.   Findings by the LRA or the NBI that a title is spurious are merely administrative opinions, not a judicial determination that settles rights and obligations between parties over a disputed property.  These findings are merely evidences, not the judgment itself of validity or invalidity which can only come from the Regional Trial Court.   These findings do not become res judicata, while the judgment of the Regional Trial Court can become res judicata.

 

Clearly, the grant of a reconstituted title is not an adjudication of the title’s validity.  The Barques received an undeserved windfall when the First Division declared their reconstituted title valid when the only relief they sought in the administrative reconstitution was the restoration of their title in its condition at the time of the alleged loss or destruction.  This Court has ruled in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.:[109]

 

Respondent relies solely on its reconstituted title which, by itself, does not determine or resolve the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed title. The reconstitution of a title is simply the re-issuance of a lost duplicate certificate of title in its original form and condition. It does not determine or resolve the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed title. A reconstituted title, like the original certificate of title, by itself does not vest ownership of the land or estate covered thereby.[110] (Emphasis in original)

 

 

Thus, the LRA has no jurisdiction, in administrative reconstitution proceedings, to rule which between two titles over the same property is valid, or who between two claimants over the same property is the lawful owner.   Section 19 of the Judiciary Act vests in courts of justice the “exclusive original jurisdiction” to decide factual and legal issues involving “the title to x x x real property.”

 

EQUITY JURISDICTION DOES NOT APPLY

 

The dissenting opinion further argues that the Manotoks are estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the LRA Administrator or the LRA reconstituting officer.  The dissenting opinion asserts that the Manotoks failed to question in the proceedings before these LRA officials their jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the Barques’ title.  This invocation of equity jurisdiction in favor of the LRA Administrator and the LRA reconstituting officer   for the benefit of the Barques - is grossly erroneous.

 

First, the settled doctrine is “he who seeks equity must come to court with clean hands.”[111]  The Barques have submitted patently forged documents to the LRA reconstituting officer.  In the development of equity jurisdiction through the ages, the constant principle from which there was no deviation was that equity could never be used to reward those who commit fraud.  This Court should not depart from the noble intention that motivated the development and use of equity jurisdiction.   As this Court aptly stated in Pagasa Industrial Corporation v. Court of Appeals, et al.:[112]

 

Pagasa cannot rely on equity because he who comes into equity must come with clean hands. Equity refuses to lend its aid in any manner to one seeking its active interposition who has been guilty of unlawful or inequitable conduct in the matter with relation to which he seeks relief[113] (30 C.J.S. 1009).   (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

Second, the principle of jurisdiction by estoppel applies only to those who have sought affirmative relief in the wrong court, lost there, and then assail the adverse decision of that court.  This estoppel applies against a party “who has invoked the jurisdiction of a court in a particular matter to secure an affirmative relief, to afterwards deny that same jurisdiction to escape an adverse decision.”[114]  However, it was the Barques, not the Manotoks, who sought the affirmative relief of a reconstituted title.  In their Opposition[115] before the LRA reconstituting officer, the Manotoks sought a defensive, negative relief  -  that the Barques’ petition “be dismissed for lack of merit.”  It was also the Barques, not the Manotoks, who invoked the jurisdiction of the LRA, which had no jurisdiction over the Barques’ petition because of the pre-existing title of the Manotoks.  Moreover, it was the Barques, not the Manotoks, who lost before the LRA reconstituting officer and who assailed the adverse decision before the LRA Administrator.  The Barques even lost before the LRA Administrator who refused to reconstitute the Barques’ title without the intervention of a “court of competent jurisdiction.”   Clearly, jurisdiction by estoppel cannot apply to the Manotoks. 

 

Third, the LRA Administrator and the LRA reconstituting officer refused to assume jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the Barques’ title.  The LRA Administrator denied the Barques’ petition because of the existence of the Manotoks’ title, which in the words of the LRA Administrator must first be cancelled by a court of competent jurisdiction” before the Barques’ petition may be given due course.  The LRA reconstituting officer also denied the Barques’ petition because of the existence of the Manotoks’ title which the LRA had already reconstituted. In short, these LRA officials admitted that they had no jurisdiction over the Barques’ petition.   Since these LRA officials refused to assume jurisdiction, there was no assumption of equity jurisdiction that the Manotoks could have questioned.  For the same reason, there is no assumption of jurisdiction that this Court can now recognize and validate through equity principles. 

 

Fourth, the principle of equity jurisdiction arising from estoppel or any other reason applies only to courts of justice.   The jurisdiction of courts of justice arises from either statute or equity, or both.  In legal systems which recognize equity jurisdiction, equity is an inherent power of courts by virtue of their duty to dispense justice to the full extent possible.  Equity jurisdiction is a judicial power.  Administrative agencies or officers exercising administrative, executive, or ministerial functions cannot assume equity jurisdiction because they do not exercise judicial functions.   Thus, it is gross error to invest on the LRA Administrator and the LRA reconstituting officer equity jurisdiction because these LRA officers perform administrative or executive functions in petitions for administrative reconstitution of titles.

 

Fifth, the Manotoks did in fact raise the issue of the LRA Administrator’s jurisdiction in relation to the LRA Administrator’s opinion that the Manotoks’ title was “sham and spurious.”   In their Motion for Reconsideration dated 27 August 1998 before the LRA Administrator,[116] the Manotoks stated:

 

Moreover, it is not disputed that herein oppositors are the holder of an existing valid and effective TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) covering the same land embraced by TCT No. 210177 in question found which, as stated, is non-existing and spurious. Given said fact, no administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 should proceed. As held by the Supreme Court, to wit:

 

So too, this Court has stressed “that lands already covered by duly issued existing Torrens titles (which become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from their issuance under section 38 of the Land Registration Act) cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles filed by third parties without first securing by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles.” (Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership vs. Velasco, 234 SCRA 458 [1994])[117]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

Sixth, the principle of estoppel applies only if the LRA had in fact jurisdiction to rule on the validity of the Torrens title of the Manotoks, so as to bar the Manotoks, who previously claimed that the LRA had no jurisdiction, from later taking a contrary position.   Thus, the Court declared in People v. Casiano:[118]

4. The operation of the principle of estoppel on the question of jurisdiction seemingly depends upon whether the lower court actually had jurisdiction or not. If it had no jurisdiction, but the case was tried and decided upon the theory that it had jurisdiction, the parties are not barred, on appeal, from assailing such jurisdiction, for the same “must exist as a matter of law, and may not be conferred by consent of the parties or by estoppel” (5 C.J.S., 861-863). However, if the lower court had jurisdiction, and the case was heard and decided upon a given theory, such, for instance, as that the court had no jurisdiction, the party who induced it to adopt such theory will not be permitted, on appeal, to assume an inconsistent position — that the lower court had jurisdiction. Here, the principle of estoppel applies. x x x[119]   (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

The LRA never had jurisdiction to rule on the validity of the Torrens title of the Manotoks.   Jurisdiction, as ruled in People v. Casiano, “must exist as a matter of law, and may not be conferred by consent of the parties or by estoppel.”  It is axiomatic that only the law can confer jurisdiction. No amount of estoppel can vest jurisdiction on an officer or court that the law has not conferred jurisdiction.  

 

         The LRA Administrator expressly admitted that only the proper Regional Trial Court has the jurisdiction to cancel the Torrens title of the Manotoks.   Only the Barques insist that the LRA has jurisdiction to cancel a Torrens title of a third party in an administrative reconstitution proceedings filed by another party, a contention that is patently baseless. 

 

Seventh, and most important of all, equity jurisdiction can never be used to violate the law.  Equity jurisdiction aims to attain complete justice in cases where a court of law is unable to render judgment to meet the special circumstances of a case because of the limitations of its statutory jurisdiction.[120]  However, equity follows the law, and courts exercising equity jurisdiction must still apply the law and have no discretion to disregard the law.[121]  Where the law prescribes a particular remedy with fixed and limited boundaries, the court cannot, by exercising equity jurisdiction, extend the boundaries further than the law allows.[122]    Thus, this Court has ruled:

 

 

As for equity, which has been aptly described as ‘a justice outside legality,’ this is applied only in the absence of, and never against, statutory law or, as in this case, judicial rules of procedure. Aequetas nunquam contravenit legis. The pertinent positive rules being present here, they should pre-empt and prevail over all abstract arguments based only on equity.[123]   (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

Hence, no court can extend equity jurisdiction to the LRA where the law has expressly reserved exclusive original jurisdiction to the Regional Trial Court. No court, invoking equity jurisdiction, can also allow a collateral attack on a Torrens title, either before the LRA or before itself, in gross violation of Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree expressly prohibiting collateral attacks on Torrens titles. 

 

This rule has special application to Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree, enacted specifically to foreclose any possible collateral attack on a Torrens title, as well as any possible cancellation or modification of a Torrens title without a proceeding in the Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of the title.   Strict compliance with Section 48 is what gives Torrens titles enduring stability, preventing confusion and fraud in land ownership.   To extend equity jurisdiction to LRA officers to allow them to entertain collateral attacks on a Torrens title is a gross and blatant violation of the clear and express command of a positive law.  Any extension of equity jurisdiction that operates to negate Section 48 will destroy the most basic safeguard in the Property Registration Decree.   Certainly, equity jurisdiction cannot be used for this purpose.

 

WHETHER ASSAILED AS FRAUDULENTLY ISSUED OR NOT, A TORRENS TITLE CAN ONLY BE CANCELLED IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 48 OF THE PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE

 

 

In cancelling the Manotoks’ Torrens title without any trial before any court, the First Division of this Court completely disregarded Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree and Section 19 of the Judiciary Act.   Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree provides that a Torrens title “cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.”

 

 That law is Section 19 of the Judiciary Act which states that the “Regional Trial Court shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction  x x x in all civil actions, which involve the title to x x x real property.”  These two provisions mandate that no Torrens title can be cancelled unless there is a proceeding in the proper Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of such title. 

 

Thus, the Court of Appeals committed a gross violation of Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree and Section 19 of the Judiciary Act when it ordered the cancellation of the Torrens title of the Manotoks without a prior proceeding before the proper Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of the Manotoks’ title.   Likewise, the First Division of this Court committed the same violation — totally disregarding Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree and Section 19 of the Judiciary Act, and in the process overturning well-entrenched doctrines of this Court. 

 

The validity of a Torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, can be assailed only in a direct proceeding before the proper Regional Trial Court in accordance with Section 48.  In Ladignon v. Court of Appeals,[124]  the Court declared:

 

What is worse, in ordering the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 383675, respondent Court of Appeals acted without jurisdiction.  After all, it is hornbook law that a torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue of validity of a torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, may be posed only in an action brought to impugn or annul it.  Unmistakable, and cannot be ignored, is the germane provision of Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, that a certificate of title can never be the subject of a collateral attack.  It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding instituted in accordance with law. x x x.[125]  (Emphasis supplied) 

 

 

The LRA Administrator has admitted that the Torrens title of the Manotoks “is thus presumed valid.”[126]  The law recognizes that the Manotoks’ Torrens title is “evidence of an indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein.”[127]  Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the prior title of the Manotoks is spurious, still under Ladignon v. Court of Appeals,[128] such title can only cancelled by the proper Regional Trial Court in a direct proceeding assailing its validity.

 

 

         The dissenting opinion cites Rexlon Realty Group, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, et al.[129]  as authority that the Court of Appeals and this Court “have jurisdiction to declare the title void even if the appealed case was not originally filed with the Regional Trial Court for nullification of title” under Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree.  The ponente has obviously misread Rexlon Realty.   Rexlon Realty was a petition filed with the Court of Appeals for annulment of judgment of the Regional Trial Court on the ground that the trial court had no jurisdiction to grant the reconstitution of lost owner’s duplicates of titles to respondent Alex David.  Rexlon Realty proved that the titles were not lost but were in its possession as the first buyer of the properties from Alex David who had later sold again the properties to Paramount Development Corporation.   Rexlon Realty also proved that Alex David delivered the titles to Rexlon Realty pursuant to the sale.

 

         Rexlon Realty does not involve two conflicting titles over the same property, which is the situation in the present case.  In Rexlon Realty, the opposing parties agreed that there was only one set of titles covering the same properties.  The only issue in Rexlon Realty was whether the titles were lost, and if so, the trial court had jurisdiction to grant the reconstitution of the titles; but if the titles were not lost, then the trial court had no jurisdiction to grant the reconstitution of titles.

 

         Rexlon Realty did not question the validity of the titles of Alex David, which covered properties that Rexlon Realty had purchased from Alex David.  Rexlon Realty’s obvious interest was to maintain the validity of the titles to the properties it had purchased, the titles to which were in Rexlon Realty’s possession.  Thus, Rexlon Realty did not invoke Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree, the law requiring a direct proceeding in the proper regional trial court in any attack assailing the validity of a Torrens title. To reiterate, the validity of a Torrens title, which is at issue in direct proceedings under Section 48, is a separate and distinct issue from the propriety of a reconstitution of title. 

 

         What Rexlon Realty questioned was the jurisdiction of  the trial court in issuing replacement titles to the properties  in the name of Alex David who claimed that he lost the titles.  In assailing as void the trial court’s judgment,  Rexlon Realty invoked, as stated by the Court, “Section 2, of Rule 47 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure,” which provides “the grounds to annul a judgment of a lower court x x x [based on] fraud and lack of jurisdiction.”  Thus, the Court in Rexlon Realty ruled:

 

            x x x In the Strait Times case and in Demetriou v. Court of Appeals, also on facts analogous to those involved in this case, we held that if an owner’s duplicate copy of a certificate of title has not been lost but is in fact in the possession of another person, the reconstituted title is void and the court rendering the decision has not acquired jurisdiction. Consequently, the decision may be attacked any time. In the case at bar, the authenticity and genuineness of the owner’s duplicate of TCT Nos. T-52537 and T-52538 in the possession of petitioner Rexlon and the Absolute Deed of Sale in its favor have not been disputed. As there is no proof to support actual loss of the said owner’s duplicate copies of said certificates of title, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction and the new titles issued in replacement thereof are void.  

 

x x x

 

            In this case at bar, we simply annulled the decision of the RTC, acting as a land registration court in L.R.C. Record No. 8843, to issue new owner's duplicate copies of TCT Nos. T-52537 and T-52538, for lack of jurisdiction. The dispute between petitioner Rexlon and respondent David regarding ownership over the parcels of land will have to be threshed out or determined in a more appropriate proceeding. In a petition for the issuance of a new owner's duplicate copy of a certificate of title in lieu of one allegedly lost, the RTC, acting only as a land registration court, has no jurisdiction to pass upon the question of actual ownership of the land covered by the lost owner’s duplicate copy of the certificate of title. Possession of a lost owner’s duplicate copy of a certificate of title is not necessarily equivalent to ownership of the land covered by it. The certificate of title, by itself, does not vest ownership; it is merely an evidence of title over a particular property.  [130] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

 

 

 

         Indeed, Rexlon Realty supports the Manotoks’ contention that once it is shown that there is a pre-existing title duly issued by the Register of Deeds over the same property which is the subject of reconstitution proceedings,  the reconstitution cannot proceed for either of two reasons.  First, the reconstituting officer or court has no jurisdiction to reconstitute a title that has never been lost or destroyed. Second, the reconstituting officer or court has no authority to decide which of two conflicting titles is valid. Thus, Rexlon Realty categorically ruled that in reconstitution proceedings, whether administrative or judicial, the reconstituting officer or court has no jurisdiction “to pass upon the question of actual ownership of the land” covered by the lost title because the “certificate of title, by itself, does not vest ownership.” 

 

GUARANTY OF STABILITY OF THE TORRENS SYSTEM

 

 

Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree is the cornerstone of our land registration system providing stability to land titles.  Without Section 48, our land registration system will crumble. Section 48 guarantees every landowner with a Torrens title that his title can never be cancelled unless the validity of his title is first directly assailed in court where he can adduce evidence in his favor.  The Decision of the First Division erases this guarantee.  In one stroke, the Decision of the First Division has overturned over a century of jurisprudence fortifying a guarantee essential to the stability of our land registration system. 

 

In 1915, after the introduction in 1903[131] of the Torrens system in this country, this Court waxed poetic in Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby[132] in describing the cornerstone of the then new system of land registration.  Declared the Court:

 

         x x x The real purpose of that system is to quiet title to land; to put a stop forever to any question of the legality of the title, except claims which were noted at the time of registration, in the certificate, or which may arise subsequent thereto. That being the purpose of the law, it would seem that once a title is registered the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting in the “mirador de su casa,” to avoid the possibility of losing his land.  x x x

 

            x x x The title once registered, with very few exceptions, should not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged, or diminished, except in some direct proceeding permitted by law. Otherwise, all security in registered titles would be lost. x x x[133]  (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

 

 

            This Court has reiterated the doctrine in Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby, now embodied in Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree, in innumerable decisions.  In the 2003 case of Heirs of Santiago v. Heirs of Santiago,[134] a decision penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, this Court declared:

 

Section 48 of P.D. 1529, the Property Registration Decree, provides that a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack and can not be altered, modified, or canceled except in a direct proceeding. An action is an attack on a title when the object of the action is to nullify the title, and thus challenge the judgment or proceeding pursuant to which the title was decreed. The attack is direct when the object of an action is to annul or set aside such judgment, or enjoin its enforcement. On the other hand, the attack is indirect or collateral when, in an action to obtain a different relief, an attack on the judgment or proceeding is nevertheless made as an incident thereof.[135]  (Emphasis supplied) 

 

 

 

The Decision of the First Division cancels a Torrens title without any proceeding in a trial court directly attacking the title as required by law. What this Court warned against in Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby is now before us — a situation where “all security in registered titles [is] lost.”   Every landowner holding a Torrens title will now have to camp in the corridors of the courts, or constantly watch in the balcony of his house, just to avoid losing his titled land.  The Decision of the First Division, by destroying the stability of land titles, will usher in an era of land disputes, which before the advent of the Torrens system were often violent and bloody.

 

The Decision of the First Division denies to the Manotoks a basic guarantee under the Constitution — that no person shall be deprived of his property without due process of law.[136]  The Decision deprives the Manotoks of their P1.7 billion property without any trial in any court contrary to the clear and express mandate of Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree.  This Court should never allow such blatant, gross and shocking violation of a fundamental constitutional right. 

 

 

A  FINAL WORD ON RECONSTITUTION OF TITLES

 

This Court has often warned of the pitfalls of reconstitutions of titles, which have resulted in innocent landowners losing their titled lands to crime syndicates specializing in forged titles and documents.   The patently forged documents presented in these cases remind us of what this Court stated in Heirs of Pedro Pinote v. Dulay:[137]

 

 

There is no gainsaying the need for courts to proceed with extreme caution in proceedings for reconstitution of titles to land under R.A. 26. Experience has shown that this proceeding has many times been misused as a means of divesting a property owner of the title to his property. Through fraudulent reconstitution proceedings, he wakes up one day to discover that his certificate of title has been cancelled and replaced by a reconstituted title in someone else’s name.[138] (Emphasis supplied)

 

Accordingly, I vote to (1) GRANT petitioners’ letter motion for reconsideration dated 19 July 2006, (2) REVERSE the Court’s First Division Decision dated 12 December 2005 and Resolution dated 19 April 2006, (3) RECALL the Entry of Judgment dated 2 May 2006, and            (4) DENY the petition for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 filed by respondents Heirs of Homer L. Barque, Sr.

 

 

                                                                  ANTONIO T. CARPIO

                                                                      Associate Justice

 

 



[1]              Rollo, (G.R. No. 162335), p. 131.  The letter states:

 

                         In connection with the examination/verification of the petition for administrative               reconstitution of TCT No. 210177, supposedly registered in the name of Homer L. Barque       Sr., please furnish us with a certified copy of subdivision plan Fls-3168-D, for our record and               reference.

                        Attached is a xerox copy of  TCT No. 210177 for your reference. 

[2]              Id. at 133.  The letter states:

 

                                In connection with the examination/verification of the above-entitled petition, please       furnish us with a certification as to the existence and authenticity of plan Fls-3168-D,       supposedly covered by TCT No. 210177, for our record and reference.

 

                         Attached is a xerox copy of  TCT No. 210177 for your reference.

[3]              Id. at 132.  The letter states:

 

                                In reply to your letter dated October 29, 1996 requesting for certified copy of plan Fls-     3168-D   for reference in connection with administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177.          Relative to the plan Fls-3168-D, please be informed that we have no records (sic) of Fls-3168-    D.

[4]              Id. at 134.  The letter states:

 

                               In reply to your undated letter, please be informed that a microfilm copy of Plan FLS-       3168-D   is on file in the Technical Records and Statistical Section of this Office.

[5]              Id. at  135.  The letter states:

 

                                               Relative to the above-entitled petition, we would like to clarify the fact that the Regional                 Office has a microfilm copy of Plan Fls-3168-D, while your Office does not have a record of the            same.

 

                        Attached for your reference are the following:

 

a.        Xerox copy of a certified true copy of plan Fls-3168-D, issued by the TRSS, NCR;

b.       Reply letter of Engineer Ernesto S. Erive, dated Nov. 28, 1996;

c.        Your reply letter dated November 7, 1996.

 

                            Your clarification is of utmost importance in the resolution of the instant case.

[6]              Id. at 136.

[7]              Id. at 137. Emphasis supplied.

[8]              Id. at 138. Emphasis supplied.

[9]              Id. at 139-140. Emphasis supplied.

[10]             Id. at 142. Emphasis supplied.

[11]             Id. at 144-145. Emphasis supplied.

[12]             Id. at 146.

[13]             Id.

[14]             Id. at 147.

[15]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), pp. 88-95.  Penned by Administrator Reynaldo Y. Maulit. 

[16]             Re: Administrative Reconstitution of Original Copies of Lost or Destroyed Certificates of Title      Pursuant to Republic Act No. 6732.

 

[17]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), pp. 93-94.

[18]             Id. at 95.

[19]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), pp. 96-97.  Penned by Administrator Senecio O. Ortile. 

[20]             CA rollo, pp. 78-79.

[21]             Id. at  90-91.

[22]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162335), pp. 106-111.  Penned by Justice Eubulo G. Verzola, with Justices                Remedios Salazar-Fernando and Edgardo F. Sundiam, concurring.

[23]             Id. at 113-118.

[24]             Id. at 117.

[25]             CA rollo, pp. 244-248. Penned by Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr., with Justices Buenaventura J.         Guerrero and Eloy R. Bello, Jr., concurring.

[26]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), pp. 56-69. Penned by Associate Justice Buenaventura J. Guerrero with     Associate Justices Eloy R. Bello, Jr., Edgardo P. Cruz and Danilo B. Pine, concurring and             Associate Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr., dissenting.

[27]             Id. at 65.

[28]             Id. at 71-73.

[29]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), pp. 667-683.

[30]             Id. at 830-832.

[31]             450 Phil. 615 (2003).

[32]             31 Phil. 590 (1915).

[33]             161 Phil. 586 (1976).  

[34]             183 Phil. 426 (1979).

[35]             201 Phil. 727 (1982). 

[36]             209  Phil. 325 (1983).

[37]             G.R. No. 86074, 20 December 1989, 180 SCRA 420.

[38]             G.R. No. 68291, 6 March 1991, 194 SCRA 743.

[39]             G.R. No. 34080, 22 March 1991, 195 SCRA 482.

[40]             G.R. No. 109645, 25 July 1994, 234 SCRA 455.

[41]             452 Phil. 238 (2003).

[42]             Resolution, 462 Phil. 546 (2003).

[43]             Section 48, PD 1529;   Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby, supra note 32; Magay, etc. v. Estiandan,    supra note 33; Ybañez v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra note 38; Heirs of Santiago v. Heirs             of Santiago, supra note 41.

[44]             Alabang Development Corporation, et al. v. Valenzuela, etc. et al., supra note 35;  MWSS  v. Hon.             Sison, etc., et al., supra note 36;  Serra Serra v.  Court of Appeals, supra note 39; Ortigas &     Company Limited Partnership v. Velasco, supra note 40.

[45]             Republic v. Court of Appeals, supra note 34.

[46]             Serra Serra v. Court of Appeals, supra note 39; Liwag v. Court of Appeals, supra note 37; Alonso               v.  Cebu Country Club, Inc., supra note 42.

[47]             Francisco v. Bautista, G.R. No. 44167, 19 December 1990, 192 SCRA 388.

[48]             438 Phil. 252 (2002); Vir-Jen Shipping and Marine Services, Inc. v. NLRC, et al., 210 Phil. 482        (1983).

[49]             Id. at 278-279.

[50]             Estoesta, Sr. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 74817, 8 November 1989, 179 SCRA 203.

[51]             Calalang v. Register of Deeds of Quezon City,  G.R. No. 76265, 11 March 1994, 231 SCRA 88.

[52]             Presidential Decree No. 1529.

[53]             A direct attack on a Torrens title is an action whose principal purpose is to alter or annul              the title.                 Such direct attack can be filed only before the proper regional trial court.  An indirect or       collateral attack is an action whose principal purpose is other than to alter or annul a title but its   indirect consequence is at the very least to put doubt on the validity of the title.  A petition for                 reconstitution of title over property that is already covered by a pre-existing Torrens title is an      indirect attack on such Torrens title.  See Leyson v. Bontuyan, et al., G.R. No. 156357, 18           February 2005, 452 SCRA 94.

[54]             Caraan v. Court of Appeals, G.R No. 140752, 11 November 2005, 474 SCRA 543.

[55]             Republic v. Court of Appeals, supra note 34;  Demetriou v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 115595, 14                November 1994, 238 SCRA 158; Alipoon v. Court of Appeals, 364 Phil. 591, 597-598 (1999). In              Alipoon, the Court ruled:

 

      We are convinced that based on the evidence presented, the Court of Appeals correctly upheld the genuineness of TCT No. T-17224 issued by the Register of Deeds of Negros Occidental on March 16, 1933 covering Lot No. 663 in the name of Marcelina P. Alvarez, predecessor of private respondents herein.  Inasmuch as TCT No. T-17224 has been in existence as early as March 16, 1933, the issuance in 1989 of a reconstituted original certificate of title bearing the number OCT No. RO-12890 (N.A.) over Lot No. 663 in the name of petitioners’ parents Fausto Alipoon and Silveria Duria is rendered legally doubtful, and the reconstituted title is void.  (Emphasis supplied)

[56]                            G.R. No. 115595, 14 November 1994, 238 SCRA 158.

[57]             Id. at 161-162.

[58]             Supra note 34. 

[59]             Id. at 432-433.       

[60]             See note 46.

[61]             Batas Pambansa Blg. 129.

[62]             Zafra v. Caballes, 93 Phil. 875 (1953); Bunagan v.  Branch VI CFI of Cebu, 186 Phil. 31 (1980).

[63]             Serra Serra v. Court of Appeals, supra note 39.

[64]             Section 18 of RA No. 26 allows the Register of Deeds to cancel the reconstituted title if   the lost   title is subsequently found and both titles are still in the name of the same registered owner.    Section 18 states:

      SECTION 18. In case a certificate of title, considered lost or destroyed, be found or recovered, the same shall prevail over the reconstituted certificate of title, and, if both titles appear in the name of the same registered owner, all memoranda of new liens or encumbrances, if any, made on the latter, after its reconstitution, except the memorandum of the reservation referred to in section seven of this Act, shall be transferred to the recovered certificate of title. Thereupon, the register of deeds shall cancel the reconstituted certificate of title and spread upon the owner’s duplicate, as well as on the co-owner’s, mortgagee’s or lessee’s duplicate, if any has been issued, such annotations of subsisting liens or encumbrances as may appear on the recovered certificate of title, cancelling at the same time the memorandum of the reservation referred to in section seven hereof: Provided, however, That if the reconstituted certificate of title has been cancelled by virtue of any deed or instrument, whether voluntary or involuntary, or by an order of the court, and a new certificate of title has been issued, the recovered certificate of title shall be likewise cancelled, but all subsisting liens or encumbrances, if any, appearing thereon shall be transferred to the new certificate of title and to its owner’s duplicate, as well as to any co-owner’s mortgagee’s or lessee’s duplicate that may have been issued, the memorandum of the reservation referred to in section seven of this Act, if any, being thereby ipso facto cancelled.  (Emphasis supplied)

[65]             346  Phil. 136 (1997). 

[66]             Emphasis supplied.

[67]             Potenciano v. Court of Appeals, 104 Phil. 156 (1958).   

[68]             Supra note 9.

[69]            Id.  

[70]             Id.

[71]             Supra note 10.

[72]             Supra note 11.

[73]         Supra note 7.

[74]             Supra, note 11.

[75]             Supra, note 9.

[76]             G.R. No. 120958, 16 December 1996, 265 SCRA 614.

[77]             Id. at 642-643.

[78]             Supra, note 11.

[79]             Id.

[80]             Supra, note 9.

[81]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162335), p. 141.  The Barques’ 7 February 1997 letter states in full:

 

                                                                                                                     February 7, 1997

               Hon. Reynaldo Y. Maulit

               Administrator

               Land Registration Authority

 

               Sir:

                      Re: Administrative Reconstitution of TCT No. 210177    

                                           of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City 

 

               We write in behalf of our clients, the Heirs of the late Homer L. Barque, Sr., the registered owner of the properties covered by TCT No. 210177.

 

               We are constrained to bring to your immediate attention a pattern of effort to delay the administrative reconstitution of the above title in accordance with the provisions of R.A. No. 6732 and LRA Circular No. 13 dated July 26, 1989 SR [sic] notwithstanding the recommendation dated January 2, 1997 by the Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, Land Management Bureau, DENR, Manila, to give due course to the said reconstitution.

               We respectfully request that this matter be looked into in order to expedite the long overdue reconstitution of the title to the said properties.

 

               With our highest esteem.

 

                                                                                   Very truly yours,

                             (SGD.)

                                                                              BENJAMIN D. TURGANO

                                                              Counsel of the Heirs of Homer L. Barque

                                                                       Lot 9, Blk 11, Don Jose Avenue

                                                          Don Jose Heights, Fairview, Quezon City

[82]             Supra note 10.

[83]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162335), p. 143.  The 14 February 1997 letter of the LRA reconstituting officer         states in full:

                                                                                                      February 14, 1997

               Hon. Reynaldo Y. Maulit

               Administrator

               This Authority

 

               Sir:

 

               In connection with the letter dated February 7, 1997, of Benjamin D. Turgano, counsel of the Heirs of Homer L. Barque, petitioners in the Administrative Reconstitution of TCT No. 210177, please be informed of the following:

 

 

               1.  There is no effort to delay the administrative reconstitution of the aforesaid title.  What we are doing is a thorough check of the authenticity of the submitted documents;

 

               2.  The order of reconstitution containing TCT No. 210177 and the name of Homer L. Barque, attached to the aforesaid letter is a tampered document.  For your comparison, herewith is a copy of the genuine order of reconstitution, marked as annex “A”;

               3.  The alleged letter-recommendation dated January 2, 1997, by the Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, LMB-DENR, is also a forged document.  Attached for your reference is a copy of the letter which is self-explanatory, together with its enclosures, directly received by the undersigned from Engineer Privadi J.G. Dalire, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, LMB-DENR, marked as annex “B”;

 

               4.  Lots 823-A & 823-B, Fls-3168-D, containing areas of 171,473 Sq. m. & 171, 472 Sq. m., respectively, purportedly covered by TCT No. 210177, appear to duplicate Lot 823, Piedad Estate, containing an area of 342,945 Sq. m. covered by TCT              No. 372302, registered in the name of Severino M. Manotok, et al., copy of which is hereto attached as annex “C”.

 

               From the foregoing, it is evident that there is an attempt to mislead us into favorable action by submitting forged documents, hence it is recommended that this case be referred to the PARAC for investigation and filing of charges against perpetrators as envisioned by this office under your administration.

 

                                                                                                             Very truly yours,

                              

                                                                                                                  (SGD.)

                                                                                                  BENJAMIN M. BUSTOS

                                                                                                                         Reconstituting Officer

                                                                                     and Chief, Reconstitution Division

[84]             LRA Records, p. 204.

[85]             Id. at 357-360.

[86]             Id. at 253.  The LRA reconstituting officer’s Comment reads in full: 

 

               Republic of the Philippines

               Department of Justice

               LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY

                                                                           QUEZON CITY

 

               IN THE MATTER OF THE ADMINISTRA­TIVE RECONSTITUTION OF THE ORIGINAL COPY OF TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 210177 OF THE REGISTER OF DEEDS FOR QUEZON CITY 

 

 

               HEIRS OF HOMER L. BARQUE,

                                                      Petitioner.

                                                                                               ADMIN. RECONS. NO. Q-547(97) 

 

                                COMMENT ON OPPOSITOR’S

               MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

               dated July 27, 1998

               COMES NOW,  the undersigned   Reconstituting Officer, by way of comment to the Oppositor’s Motion for Reconsideration,  respectfully states: 

 

               1. That we support the Oppositor’s prayer that the challenged Resolution dated June 24, 1998, be reconsidered, reversed, and set aside for lack of factual and legal basis;

 

               2.  That we maintain our position denying the reconstitution of TCT No.  210177, on the grounds stated in our Order dated June 30, 1997, and on the following additional grounds, to wit:

 

   2.1  If the late Homer L. Barque, really purchased the subject property in the year 1975, why did he not take possession of it upon purchase, and up to now his descendants, the Petitioners, are not in possession of the property, but the Oppositors?;

 

   2.2  Why was the property declared, and realty taxes were paid in the name of Barque, only in the year 1996? Whereas, the Oppositors and their predecessors have been paying realty taxes on the property since the year 1965; 

 

   2.3  Why did the Petitioner try to mislead us by submitting a tampered copy of Adm. Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96)?   (Emphasis supplied)

 

   WHEREFORE, it is prayed that the Oppositor’s Motion for Reconsideration be given due course; the challenged Resolution be set aside; and the Order dated June 30, 1997 be upheld.

 

                It is further prayed that this case be referred to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commision for investigation.

 

      Quezon City, Philippines, August 13, 1998.

 

       (SGD.)  BENJAMIN M. BUSTOS                                                                                        Reconstituting Officer & Chief, Reconstitution Division

                   Enclosure:

                   Xerox Copy of tampered Adm. Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96)                                                                                                           

[87]           An Act Allowing the Administrative Reconstitution of Original Copies of Certificates of Titles Lost or Destroyed Due to Fire, Flood and other Force Majeure, Amending for the Purpose Section One Hundred Ten of Presidential Decree Numbered Fifteen Twenty-Nine and Section Five of Republic Act Numbered Twenty-Six.

 

[88]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), p. 438.

[89]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162335), p. 213.  Annex “BB,” Manotoks’ Petition for Review dated 30 March         2004.

[90]             Id. at 214. Annex “BB-1,” Manotoks’ Petition for Review dated 30 March 2004.

[91]             TSN, Oral Argument, pp. 353-355.

[92]             Supra note 86.

[93]             Annex “M-21,” Petitioners’ Memorandum dated 23 August 2007.

[94]             LRA Records, p. 412, Opposition dated 8 April 1997.

[95]             Rollo (G.R. No. 162335), p. 99.

[96]             215 Phil. 430 (1984).

[97]                       Rollo (G.R. No. 162335), pp. 174-175.

[98]           SPOUSES CAYETANO and PATRICIA TIONGSON, SPOUSES EDWARD and PACITA GO, SPOUSES ROBERTO and MYRNA LAPERAL III, ELISA R. MANOTOK, SPOUSES IGNACIO and PACITA MANOTOK, SEVERINO MANOTOK, JR., SPOUSES FAUSTO and MILAGROS MANOTOK, ROSA R. MANOTOK, Minors MIGUEL A. B. SISON and MA. CRISTINA E. SISON, represented by their judicial guardian FILOMENA M. SISON, SPOUSES MAMERTO and PERPETUA M. BOCANEGRA, GEORGE M. BOCANEGRA, represented by his judicial guardian MAMERTO BOCANEGRA, SPOUSES FRANCISCO and FILOMENA SISON, JOSE CLEMENTE MANOTOK, SPOUSES JESUS and THELMA MANOTOK, Minors PHILIP MANOTOK, MARIA TERESA MANOTOK and RAMON SEVERINO MANOTOK, represented by their judicial guardian SEVERINO MANOTOK, JR., Minors JESUS JUDE MANOTOK, JR. and JOSE MARIA MANOTOK, represented by their judicial guardian JESUS MANOTOK, petitioners, vs. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and TEODORO S. MACAYA, respondents.  Supra note 96.

[99]             TSN,  Oral Argument of 24 July 2007, pp. 445-447.

[100]            Annual Report of the Director of Lands For the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1927, p. 106, Annex  “M-22,” Petitioners’ Memorandum dated 23 August 2007.

[101]            Intervenors’ Memorandum dated 22 August 2007, p. 22. In its 12 September 2006 Resolution, this                 Court granted the Motion for Leave to Intervene of Felicitas B. Manahan and Rosendo Manahan

[102]            Supra note 35.

[103]            Rollo (G.R. No. 162605), p. 94. LRA Resolution dated 24 June 1998.

[104]            Supra note 35 at 744.

[105]            Serra Serra v. Court of Appeals, supra note 39.

[106]            Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 235 Phil. 680 (1987).

[107]            89 Phil. 184 (1951).

[108]            Id. at  186-187.

[109]            Supra note 42.

[110]            Id. at 565.

[111]            Catingub v. Court of Appeals, et al., 206 Phil. 83 (1983); Luzon Brokerage Co., Inc. v. Maritime    Building Co., Inc., 175 Phil. 476 (1978).

[112]            216 Phil. 533 (1984).

[113]            Id. at 535.

[114]            The dissenting opinion cited Tijam v. Sibonghanay, et al., 131 Phil. 556 (1968).

[115]            Supra, note 94. 

[116]            LRA Records, pp. 254-277.

[117]            Id. at 273.

[118]            111 Phil. 73 (1961).

[119]            Id. at 93-94.

[120]            Reyes v. Lim,  456 Phil. 1 (2003).

[121]            Arsenal v. IAC, 227 Phil. 36 (1986).

[122]            Alvendia v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 72138, 22 January 1990, 181 SCRA 252.

[123]            Imperial Victory Shipping Agency v. NLRC, G.R. No. 84672, 5 August 1991, 200 SCRA 178, 184    citing  Zabat, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 226 Phil. 489 (1986).

[124]            390 Phil. 1161 (2000).

[125]            Id. at 1174.

[126]            See note 15. 

[127]            Tirado v. Sevilla, G.R. No. 84201, 3 August 1990, 788 SCRA 321; Eduarte v. Court of Appeals,      370 Phil. 18 (1999).

[128]            Supra.

[129]            429 Phil. 31 (2002).

[130]            Id. at 44-46.

[131]            Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act, was approved by the Philippine         Commission on 6 November 1902 and took effect on 1 February 1903.  See Sotto v. Sotto, 43 Phil.               688 (1922).

[132]            Supra note 32.

[133]            Id. at 593-594.

[134]            Supra note 41.

[135]            Id. at 252-253.  

[136]            Section 1, Article III, 1987 Constitution.   

[137]            G.R. No. 56694, 2 July 1990, 187 SCRA 12.

[138]            Id. at 20.