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April L Fernandez

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-24864 April 30, l985 FORTUNATO HALILI, doing business under the name and style HALILI TRANSIT (substituted by EMILIA DE VERA DE HALILI), petitioner vs. COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and HALILI BUS DRIVERS and CONDUCTORS UNION (PTGWO),respondents. G.R. No. L-27773 April 30, l985 EMILIA DE VERA VDA. DE HALILI, petitioner, vs. COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and HALILI BUS DRIVERS AND CONDUCTORS UNION (PTGWO),respondents. G.R. No. L-38655 April 30, l985 FELICIDAD M. TOLENTINO, et al., petitioners, vs. COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, et al., respondents. G.R. No. L-30110 April 30, l985 EMILIA DE VERA VDA. DE HALILI petitioner, vs. HALILI BUS DRIVERS AND CONDUCTORS UNION-PTGWO and COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS,respondents. RESOLUTION

MAKASIAR, J.: Before Us for resolution is the urgent motion to cite Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda, Ricardo Capuno and Manila Bank (Cubao Branch) in contempt for the alleged continued failure of aforenamed parties to comply with the temporary mandatory restraining order issued by this Court on September 1, 1983 and with the resolution dated September 13, 1983 which again directed Atty. Pineda and union administrator Capuno to comply with the aforesaid mandatory restraining order and which ordered 1|Page

the Manila Bank to transfer the funds allocated for the workers to the NLRC (p. 376, L-24864, rec.; p. 301, L027773 rec.). The issuance of the temporary mandatory restraining order stemmed from the questioned orders of September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 issued by Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela in Case No. 1099-V before the NLRC which orders respectively allowed the sale of the property awarded to satisfy or answer for the claims of the union members in these four cases and authorized the distribution of the proceeds of the purchase. For a better appreciation of the aforesaid motion for contempt, We must recall certain prefatory facts which the Solicitor General has so aptly summed up. Thus: The above-entitled cases involve disputes regarding claims for overtime of more than five hundred bus drivers and conductors of Halili Transit. Litigation initially commenced with the filing of a complaint for overtime with the defunct Court of Industrial Relations on August 20, 1958 docketed as CIR Case No. 1099-V. The disputes were eventually settled when the contending parties reached an Agreement on December 23, 1974, the pertinent portions of which are as follows: WHEREAS, in the face of this strong urging on the part of the Supreme Court Justices upon the parties to put an immediate end to this case by amicable settlement, the parties repeatedly came to conference, conscientiously explored all avenues of settlement, and finally arrived at the tentative agreement (tentative because of the condition that the same be sanctioned by the court in the estate case) whereby the Administratrix would transfer to the employees title to that tract of land, covered by TCT No. 36389, containing an area of approximately 33,952 square meters, situated in the Barrio of San Bartolome, Municipality of Caloocan, Province of Rizal, and pay in addition the cash amount of P25,000.00 in full and final satisfaction of all the claims and causes of action of all of the employees against the estate of Fortunato F. Halili subject of CIR Case No. 1099-V. xxx xxx xxx NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing and of the covenants, stipulations and undertakings hereinafter contained, the parties have agreed as follows: l. The UNION, its officers and members-claimants relative to CIR Case No. 1099-V, shall withdraw and dismiss with prejudice Case No. 1099-V filed by the UNION in behalf of its members-claimants before the Court of Industrial Relations and all its incidents thereto. 2. The ESTATE shall deliver or cause to be delivered, to the UNION the following: (a) Deed of Transfer of a parcel of land situated in Barrio San Bartolome, Caloocan City, containing an area of THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO (33,952) Square Meters, more or less, and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 35389 of 2|Page

the Registry of Deeds of Rizal, to be made, upon authority and approval granted by the Court of First of Rizal, Branch IV, at Quezon City, in Proc. No. Q-10852 in the name of the Halili Bus Drivers & Conductors Union (PTGWO), free from any and all liens encumbrances, and any and all claims whatsoever. (b) Negotiable Check for TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND (P25,000.00) PESOS in the name of Domingo D. Cabading, President of the UNION. 3. The transfer of the above-described parcel of land and receipt of the amount of P25,000.00 constitute the full and final satisfaction of the claims and award in said CIR Case No. 1099-V, as well as any and all attorney's liens in said case, for and in consideration of which the UNION members-claimants in CIR Case No. 1099-V by these present now and forever release and quitclaim Halili Enterprises, Halili Transit, Fortunato F. Halili his estate, heirs and successors by reason of CIR Case No. 1099-V, it being their intention that they be absolutely, completely and finally absolved and released from any and all liability in said case, including attorneys' liens the transfer of the property and payment of the amount hereinabove stated constituting for all intents and purposes a full, final and complete settlement and satisfaction of the award in CIR Case No. 1099-V and all incidents thereto. 4. The UNION and its undersigned officers hereby warrant that the UNION is a duly registered labor organization and that in a special meeting called for the purpose they were duly authorized on December 22, 1974, by all the members- claimants in CIR Case No. 1099-V to sign this Memorandum of Agreement with Release and Quitclaim which was unanimously approved and ratified by said members-claimants as evidenced by a Resolution dated December 22, 1974, a copy of which is attached hereto and made a part hereof as Annex "B", and hereby jointly and severally hold the estate and heirs of Fortunato F. Halili free and harness from, and undertake to indemnify them for, any and all liability for any claims by members of the UNION, their heirs, assigns and agents relating to CIR Case No. 1099-V or attorneys' liens in connection therewith (69 SCRA 509-510). On January 6, 1975, pursuant to the Agreement, the administratrix of the estate of Fortunato F, Halili executed a Deed of Conveyance of Real Property, transferring the aforementioned parcel of land to the Halili Bus and Conductors Union (PTGWO) in trust for the members of the union claimants. The parcel of land was eventually registered in the name of the Union on February 14, 1975. Hence, on February 10, 1976, the contending parties moved for the dismissal of G.R. No. L-30110 and G.R. No. L-38655, which this Honorable Court granted on February 27, 1976 (69 SCRA 505). The two other cases, G.R. No. L-24864 and G.R. No. L- 27773, were previously disposed of on February 26, 1968 and December 28, 1970, respectively (22 SCRA 785. and 36 SCRA 522). On August 9, 1982, the Union, through Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda, filed an urgent motion with the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) requesting for authority to sell and dispose of the property. The motion was granted in an order dated September 23, 1982. A prospective buyer, the Manila Memorial Park Cemetery, inc. expressed its 3|Page

misgivings on the authority of the Union to sell the property in view of sec. 66 of PD 1529 which requires no less than an order from a court of competent jurisdiction as authority to sell property in trust. So, Atty. Pineda filed a motion with the Supreme Court on December 1, 1982 requesting for authority to sell the property, This Honorable Court, however, merely noted the motion in a resolution dated December 8, 1982. Nevertheless, Atty. Pineda, without authority from the Supreme Court but relying on the earlier authority given him by the Ministry of Labor, filed another urgent motion with the latter, praying that the Union be authorized to sell the lot to the Manila Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc. and to make arrangements with it such that payment will be advanced for the real estate taxes inclusive of penalties, attorney's lien which is equivalent to a thirty-five percent (35%) of the total purchase price, and home developer's fee of P69,000.00. Apparently, the prospective purchaser had decided to withdraw its objection regarding the Union's authority to sell. In an Order dated February 9, 1983, Labor Arbiter Raymundo R. Valenzuela granted the motion. So, the sale was finally consummated on June 7, 1983, resulting in the execution of an escrow agreement on June 8, 1983 wherein the purchase price was deposited under escrow with the Manila Bank-Cubao Branch. The Bank then released the amounts due the claimants in accordance with the escrow agreement" (pp. 352- 356, L-24864 rec.). The dispositive portion in L-24864 is re-stated hereunder: WHEREFORE, the appealed order and resolution en banc are hereby affirmed and the Court of Industrial Relations is hereby enjoined to make a judicial determination of the union membership of the claimants, while the Examining Division of said court shall proceed with its computation of the compensable hours of work rendered by, and the corresponding compensation payable to, the drivers and conductors admitted by both parties to be union members since October 1, 1956 and those contended by the union to be such members but disputed by the employer. No costs. So ordered (p. 186, L24864 rec.). When Atty. Jose C. Espinas (herein movant and alleged original counsel for the Union) learned of the sale and apportionment of the proceeds from past Union president Amado Lopez, he requested Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela to allow him to look into the records of Case No. 1099-V. The latter, however, told him that the records of the aforecited case were missing. Thereupon, Atty. Espinas requested Director Pascual Reyes of the NLRC to locate the records (p. 356, L24864 rec.). Hence, Atty. Espinas filed the urgent motion with prayer for a temporary mandatory restraining order on August 26, 1983 and the supplement thereto on August 29, 1983 (pp. 215, 227, L-24864 rec.). On August 30, 1983, the records of Case No. 1099-V were finally found and Atty. Espinas was dully informed of the development,

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The above two motions question the legality of the orders dated September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 issued by Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela in Case No. 1099-V before the NLRC which authorized the sale of the awarded property and the distribution of the proceeds from such purchase. Movants Union and counsel Espinas upon filing of the motions urgently pray of thisourt to: 1. Require Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda to deposit with the NLRC the amount of P712,992.00 paid to him or deposited to his account at Manila Bank, Cubao Branch,allegedly representing 35% attorney's fees on the sale of 33,952 square meters of the lot registered in the name of the Union; 2. Require the Halili Drivers and Conductors Union through Domingo Cabading or any of his representatives to deposit with the NIRC the 6% alleged union expenses paid to them or similarly deposited to their account; 3. Implead with leave of court this Manila Bank Cubao Branch to require the said bank to prevent further withdrawals of amount deposited in the name of Atty. Pineda and/or the Halili Drivers and Conductors Union or any of its officers and to turn over any remaining deposits to the NLRC for proper disposition; 4. Should Atty. Pineda and the Union officers have already withdrawn the deposits or parts thereof, require them to post a bond in the equivalent amounts of 35% (attorney's fee), 6% (union expenses), and 5% (broker's fee) respectively of the total proceeds of the sale of the property, solidarity (p. 219, L-24864 rec.; p. 160, L-27773 rec.). Likewise, and after due consideration of the merits, movants prayed that 1. the order of Arbiter Valenzuela dated February 9, 983 be nullified insofar as it allows Atty. Pineda 35% attorney's fees; 2. the NLRC be directed to locate the records of Case No. 1099-V or reconstitute the same and thereafter to equitably dispose 20% as fees to all lawyers who participated in the proceedings and any excess amounts to be again distributed to the workers; and 3. these cases be remanded to the NLRC with instructions as above-stated and that the proper penalty be imposed on those involved and who have acted fraudulently and illegally (p. 220, L-24864 rec.; p. 165, L-27773 rec.). The succeeding pleadings and developments which are common to all these cases are now presented chronologically. On August 29, 1983, Atty. Espinas, for himself and members of the respondent Union, filed a supplement to urgent motion stating that the prayers in the urgent motion of August 26, 1983 are reiterated and praying for the nullification of Arbiter Valenzuela's order not only on the award of attorney's fees but also on the allowance of payment of "union obligations" not previously authorized nor approved by the NLRC (p. 227, L-24864, rec.; p. 176, L-27773 rec.). 5|Page

In its resolution dated September 1, 1983, this Court impleaded the Manila Bank, Cubao Branch as party respondent and directed the issuance of a temporary mandatory restraining order (p. 234, L24864 rec. & p. 187, L-27773 rec.). This Court correspondingly issued a temporary mandatory restraining order on the same date which enjoined Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda or his agents or any person acting in his stead to deposit with the NLRC the amount of P712,992.00 paid to him or deposited in his account at Manila Bank, Cubao Branch allegedly representing 35% attorney's fees on the sale of 33,952 square meters of the lot registered in the name of Halili Drivers and Conductors Union; directed the Union thru Domingo Cabading or his agents to deposit with the NLRC 6% alleged union expenses paid to the Union or similarly deposited to its account; and ordered the NLRC and Manila Bank, Cubao Branch, or their agents or persons in their stead not to allow withdrawals of amounts deposited in the name of Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda and/or the Union or any of its officers (P. 235, L-24864; p. 188, L-27773 rec.). On September 6, 1983, respondent Union, thru Atty. Pineda, filed its comment, in compliance with the resolution of September 1, 1983, on the urgent motion and the supplement thereto both filed by counsel Espinas, alleging therein that the subject matter sought to be enjoined or mandated by the restraining order ceased to exist rendering the same moot and academic, and thus praying for the dismissal of the said motion and the supplement thereto (p. 237, L-24864 rec.; p. 191, L-27773 rec.). On September 7, 1983, Atty. Pedro Lopez, an original associate of Atty. Espinas, filed his motion for leave to intervene, with the submission that the lawyers involved should only divide 20% fees as per the workers' contract and the rest refunded by Atty. Pineda and the alleged "union officers" for redistribution to the members (p. 265, L-24864, rec.; p. 219. L-27773 rec.). Atty. Espinas, in behalf of the workers, filed a manifestation and motion to require Atty, Pineda and the union to comply with the temporary mandatory restraining order on September 9, 1983, with prayer that the Manila Bank be ordered to transfer the funds allocated for the workers to the NLRC, which should be instructed to pay the workers upon proper Identification (without prejudice to additional shares) or to mail such amounts by money order or manager's check to the workers' addresses as furnished to the NLRC (p. 274, L-24864, rec.; p. 231, L-27773 rec.). On September 12, 1983, petitioner filed a manifestation in compliance with the resolution of September 2, 1983 stating, among other things, that its liability had been completely extinguished with the approval of the Memorandum of Agreement with Release and Quitclaim in L-38655 and L30110; that said agreement operated as an absolute and complete release of petitioner from any liability to the Union; and that petitioner had not been given any notice of any proceedings respecting cases subsequent to the promulgation of the decisions aforestated (p. 281, L-24864, rec.; p. 237, L27773 rec.). Counsel Espinas (for the workers involved) filed his reply to comments of respondent Union on September 14, 1983 praying for this Court to: 1. nullify the order of February 9, 1983 issued by Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela in CIR Case No. 1099-V and others connected therewith regarding the distribution of proceeds of the sale of the land belonging to the members-claimants for lack of due process and for being contrary to law; 6|Page

2. nullify the 35% attorney's fees of Atty. Benjamin Pineda as illegal and unconscionable and in disregard of other lawyers in the case; 3. require reimbursement to the members-from the Union P101,856.00 allocated without their consent as Union expenses; P101,856 unreceipted brokers' fees less P4,020.40 expenses for the transfer of title; to refund the 1 % of the net proceeds, P9,596.18, for named claimants; and to secure a refund of P308,000.00 from the P712,992.00 fees of Atty. Pineda (the excess of 20% fees for all lawyers); 4. subject the balance of P404,992.00 of the remainder of Atty. Pineda's 35% fees for distribution among the three lawyers as may be determined by the NLRC; and 5. should this Court so decides, fix the fees (p. 285, L- 24864 rec.; p. 240, L-27773 rec.). On September 13, 1983, the Solicitor General filed his comment on the urgent motion and the supplement thereto dated August 25, 1983 and August 29, 1983, respectively with the recommendations that (1) the orders of Arbiter Valenzuela dated September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 be nullified for having been issued without due process; (2) the case must be remanded to the NLRC for further proceedings; and (3) the temporary restraining order issued by this Court on September 1, 1983 be maintained, pending final resolution by the NLRC (p. 351, L-24864 rec.). The Solicitor General, on October 6, 1983, filed his manifestation and motion in lieu of comment on the motion of Atty. Pedro Lopez for leave to intervene in L-24864 and L-27773 (p. 360, L-24864 rec.; p. 289, L-27773 rec.). On October 6, 1983, counsel Espinas filed his comment on the intervention of Atty. Pedro Lopez wherein he offers no objection to the latter's intervention and states that said counsel is also entitled to attorney's fees in accordance with his participation (p. 364, L-24864 rec.; p. 292, L-27773 rec.). Atty. Pineda filed his comment and manifestation on October 7, 1983, in compliance with the resolution of September 13, 1983, alleging therein that as per Retainer's Contract dated January 1, 1967, he handled Case No. 1099-V before the Court of Industrial Relations alone. On the mandatory restraining order, Atty. Pineda claims that as of October 4, 1983, he had a balance of P2,022.70 in his account with the Manila Bank (p. 370, L-24864 rec.; p. 295, L-27773 rec.). In its resolution dated October 18, 1983, this Court (1) set, aside as null and void the orders of September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 of Arbiter Raymundo R. Valenzuela; (2) allowed the intervention of Atty. Pedro Lopez; (3) directed the Manila Bank (Cubao Branch), Atty. Benjamin Pineda, and the Halili Drivers and Conductors Union through Domingo Cabading or any of his representatives, to comply with the temporary mandatory restraining order issued on September 1, 1983 and the resolution dated September 13, 1983, within ten [10] days from receipt thereof; and (4) remanded these cases to the NLRC for further proceedings (p. 374, L-24864 rec.; p. 299, L-27773 rec.). The day before or on October 17, 1983, Sergio de Pedro, as representative of the workers and assisted by Atty. Espinas, thus fided the urgent motion to cite Atty. Pineda, Ricardo Capuilo and Manila Bank (Cubao Branch) in contempt, alleging therein that after two letters dated October 6 and October l4, l983 to the NLRC which inquired as to whether or not compliant, with the restraining order had been 7|Page

made, the Commission certified that as of October 14, 1983, no deposits had been effected by the parties so (directed (p. 376, L-24864 rec.; p. 301, L-27773 rec.). In its manifestation and motion filed on November 2, 1983, respondent Manila Banking Corporation (Rustan-Cubao Branch), in compliance with this Court's resolution of September 13, 1983, stated that it transmitted or paid to the NLRC the amount of P417,380.64 under Cashier's Check No. 34084190 for the account of the Union and P2,022.70 under Cashier's Check No. 34084191 for the account of Atty. Pineda and thus prayed therein that the aforesaid transmittals be deemed as sufficient compliance with the aforecited resolution and that the urgent motion to cite respondents in contempt dated October 17, 1983 be considered moot and academic (p. 390, L-24864 rec.). On November 8, 1983, respondent Atty. Pineda filed his manifestation and motion in lieu of comment in compliance with this Court's resolution of October 20, 1983, stating that he and respondent Union thereby adopt the aforecited manifestation and motion of respondent Manila Banking Corporation and thus prayed that since they have complied with this Court's resolution of September 13, 1983, the urgent motion to cite them for contempt be considered moot and academic (p. 394, L-24864 rec.; p. 310, L-27773 rec.). On November 10, 1983, respondent Manila Banking Corporation filed another manifestation and motion in lieu of commence, by way of compliance with the Court's resolution of October 20, 1983 with prayer that its previous manifestation and motion dated October 28, 1983 and filed on November 2, 1983 be considered as sufficient compliance with the resolution of September 13, 1983 which would render the urgent motion to cite respondents in contempt moot and academic (p. 396, L-24864 rec. p. 312, L-27773 rec.). On the foregoing manifestations and motions, representative Sergio de Pedro, with the assistance of Atty. Espinas, filed a comment on November 16,1983 wherein he alleged that out of the P2,037,120.00 purchase price, only Pl,940,127.29 was deposited with the Manila Bank; that Atty. Pineda has yet to return the balance of P710,969,30; and that the Union has still to account for P111,452.18 (p. 399, L24864 rec.; p. 315, L-27773 rec.). December 14, 1983, respondent Union filed its reply to Mr. de Pedro's above unsigned comment therein stating among other things that the alleged missing amount of P96.992.71 was used for the payment of outstanding real estate taxes on real property of said Union covered by TCT No. 205755 and that the amount of P2,022.70 only was remitted by Manila Bank to the NLRC for the account of Atty. Pineda (p. 323, L-27773 rec.) On December 20, 1983, Mr. de Pedro and Atty. Espinas, for the workers involved, filed their rejoinder to the comment of Atty. Pineda and Mr. Capuno reiterating therein their plea to declare Atty. Pineda and Mr. Capuno in contempt of court and to mete out the proper penalty (p. 328, L-27773 rec.). The Manila Banking Corporation filed its compliance with the Court resolution of November 22, 1983 on February 3, 1984, praying that its report to the NLRC on the amount of withdrawals be considered as sufficient compliance with the said resolution (p. 343, L-27773 rec.).

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Atty. Espinas filed his comment and motion on March 15, 1984, stating among other things that as per report of the Manila Bank to the NLRC, Atty. Pineda has not yet complied with the said order. He thus moved that Atty. Pineda be required to post a bond on the undeposited balance in the amounts of P710,969.30 and that Mr. Capuno be also required to post a bond before the NLRC on the undeposited balance of P52,236.04 during the pendency of the motion for contempt (p. 373, L-27773 rec.). On April 4, 1984, Mr. Sergio de Pedro filed his reply to the aforesaid comment of the Union administrator and Atty. Pineda stating therein that there are still questions to be resolved on the merits before the NLRC and hence, prays that Arbiter Antonio Tirona be required to continue hearing the merits of the case pending in the said Commission (p. 377, L-27773 rec.). Before We resolve the motion for contempt, certain crucial facts which have surfaced and which precipitated Our issuance of the resolution of October 18, 1983 declaring the two questioned orders of Arbiter Valenzuela as null and void, must be retraced. Then Union President Amado Lopez, in a letter dated August 21, 1958, informed J.C. Espinas and Associates that the general membership of the said Union had authorized a 20% contingent fee for the law firm based on whatever amount would be awarded the Union (p. 267, L-24864 rec.). Atty. Jose C. Espinas, the original counsel, established the award of 897 workers' claim in the main cases before the defunct CIR and the Supreme Court. In L-24864, the Notice of Judgment of this Court dated February 26, 1968 was served on Messrs. J.C. Espinas & Associates (p. 188, L-24864 rec.). In L27773, the Notice of Judgment dated December 29, 1970 was sent to Atty. B.C. Pineda & Associates under same address-716 Puyat Bldg., Suit 404 at Escolta, Manila (p. 147, L-27773 rec.) Note that this is the same address of Atty. J.C. Espinas & Associates. When Atty. 'Pineda appeared for the Union in these cases, still an associate of the law firm, his appearance carried the firm name B.C. Pineda and Associates," giving the impression that he was the principal lawyer in these cases. Atty. Pineda joined the law firm of Atty. Espinas in 1965 when these cases were pending resolution. He always held office in the firm's place at Puyat Building, Escolta until 1974, except in 1966 to 1967 when he transferred to the Lakas ng Manggagawa Offices. During this one-year stint at the latter office, Atty. Pineda continued handling the case with the arrangement that he would report the developments to the Espinas firm. When he rejoined the law firm in 1968, he continued working on these cases and using the Puyat Building office as his address in the pleadings. When Atty. Pineda rejoined the Espinas firm in 1968, he did not reveal to his partners (he was made the most senior partner) that he had a retainer's contract entered into on January 1, 1967 which allegedly took effect in 1966. He stayed with the law firm until 1974 and still did not divulge the 1967 retainer's contract. Only the officers of the Union knew of the contract. The alleged retainer's contract between Atty. Pineda and the Union appears anomalous and even illegal as well as unethical considering that9|Page

1. The contract was executed only between Atty. Pineda and the officers of the Union chosen by about 125 members only. It was not a contract with the general membership, Only 14% of the total membership of 897 was represented. This violates Article 242 (d) of the Labor Code which provides: The members shall determine by secret ballot, after due deliberation, any question of major policy affecting the entire membership of the organization, unless the nature of the organization or force majeure renders such secret ballot impractical, in which case the board of directors of the organization may make the decision in behalf of the general membership (emphasis supplied). 2. The contingent fee of 30% for those who were still working with Halili Transit and the 45% fee for those who were no longer working worked to the prejudice of the latter group who should and were entitled to more benefits. Thus, too, when the alleged retainer's contract was executed in 1967, the Halili Transit had already stopped operations in Metro Manila. By then, Atty. Pineda knew that all the workers would be out of work which would mean that the 45% contingent fee would apply to all. 3. The contract which retroactively took effect on January 1, 1966, was executed when Atty. Espinas was still handling the appeal of Halili Transit in the main case before the Supreme Court. Atty. Pineda would have but did not substitute himself in place of Atty. Espinas or the law firm on the basis of such contract. 4. When Atty. Pineda filed his motion for approval of his attorney's lien with Arbiter Valenzuela on February 8, 1983, he did not attach the retainer's contract. 5. The retainer's contract was not even notarized (p. 248, L-24864 rec.). The Manila Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc., as the prospective buyer, initially expresses its misgivings over the authority of the Union to sell subject property conformably with Section 66 of P.D. No. 1529, which requires an order from a court of competent jurisdiction authorizing the sale of a property in trust. The pertinent portion of Section 66 provides: No instruments which transfers or mortgages or in any way deals with registered land in trust shall be registered, unless the enabling power thereto is expressly conferred in the trust instrument, or unless a final judgment or order of a court of competent jurisdiction has construed the instrument in favor of the power, in which case a certified copy of such judgment or order may be registered. The decision of aforenamed purchaser to stop questioning the Union's authority to sell and the expeditious manner by which Arbiter Valenzuela granted Atty. Pineda's motion for such authority to sell the property make the entire transaction dubious and irregular. Thus, without notice to the other lawyers and parties, Atty. Pineda commenced the proceeds before the NLRC with the filing of a motion and manifestation on August 9, 1982 with Arbiter Valenzuela of the NLRC Office of the Labor Ministry wherein he asked for authority to sell the property. On September 23, 1983 or just over a month, Arbiter Valenzuela approved the motion per order of the same date. Notably, only Atty. Pineda and the lawyers of the purchaser were informed of such order. 10 | P a g e

On February 4, 1983, again without notice to Atty. Espinas and Atty. Lopez, Atty. Pineda filed a motion with Arbiter Valenzuela wherein he asked for authority to distribute the proceeds of the sale of the property. This distribution would include his attorney's fee which was allegedly the subject of a retainer contract entered into between him and the alleged Union officers, On February 9, 1983, or barely five days from the day the motion was filed, Arbiter Valenzuela, without informing the other lawyers and relying exclusively on the unverified motion of Atty. Pineda (the records of the case were not on hand), approved the said motion which authorized the appointment. This Court, as earlier stated, nullified said orders dated September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 of Labor Arbiter Valenzuela as violative of the due process clause. It is a settled rule that in administrative proceedings, or cases coming before administrative tribunals exercising quasi-judicial powers, due process requires not only notice and hearing, but also the consideration by the administrative tribunal of the evidence presented; the existence of evidence to support the decision; its substantiality a decision based thereon or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties; such decision by the administrative tribunal resting on its own independent consideration of the law and facts of the controversy; and such decision acquainting the parties with the various issued involved and the reasons therefore (Ang Tibay vs. Court, 69 Phil. 635, cited on p. 84, Philippine Constitutional Law, Fernando, 1984 ed.) Significantly Atty. Pineda's act of filing a motion with this Court on December 1, 1982 praying for authority to sell was by itself an admission on his part that he did not possess the authority to sell the property and that this Court was the proper body which had the power to grant such authority. He could not and did not even wait for such valid authority but instead previously obtained the same from the labor arbiter whom he knew was not empowered to so authorize. Under Article 224 (a) of the Labor Code, only final decisions or awards of the NLRC, the Labor Arbiter, or compulsory or voluntary arbitrators may be implemented or may be the subject of implementing orders by aforenamed body or officers. When Atty. Espinas discovered the sale of the property, he went to Arbiter Valenzuela to look into the transaction who told him that the records of CIR Case No. 1099-V were missing. It took director Pascual Reyes of the NLRC to locate the records. The 45% attorney's lien on the award of those union members who were no longer working and the 30% lien on the benefits of those who were still working as provided for in the alleged retainer's contract are very exorbitant and unconscionable in view of Section 11, Rule VIII of Book III which explicitly provides: Sec. 11. Attorney's feesAttorney's fees on any judicial or administrative proceedings for the recovery of wages shall not exceed 10% of the amount awarded. The fees may be deducted from the total amount due the winning party. The amount of P101,856.00 which Atty. Pineda donated to the Union and which actually corresponds to 5% of the total 35% attorney's fees taken from the proceeds (p. 263, L-24864, rec.) appears improper since it amounts to a rebate or commission. This amount was subsequently treated as union miscellaneous operating expenses without the consent of the general membership. 11 | P a g e

Thus, in the case of Amalgamated Laborers' Association vs. Court of Industrial Relations (L-23467, 22 SCRA 1267 [March 27, 1968]), We declared: We strike down the alleged oral agreement that the union president should share in the attorney's fees. Canon 34 of Legal Ethics condemns this arrangement in terms clear and explicit. It says: 'No division of fees for legal services is proper, except with another lawyer, based upon a division of service or responsibility.' The union president is not the attorney for the laborers. He may seek compensation only as such president. An agreement whereby a union president is allowed to share in attorney's fees is immoral. Such a contract we emphatically reject. It cannot be justified. A contingent fee contract specifying the percentage of recovery an attorney is to receive in a suit 'should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case, including the risk and uncertainty of the compensation, but should always be subject to the supervision of a court, as to its reasonableness. (emphasis supplied). A deeper scrutiny of the pleadings in L-24864 notably indicates a fraudulent or deceitful pattern in the actuations of Atty. Pineda. Thus, in his motion for execution of judgment filed on September 18, 1965 in this case, he signed for and in behalf of "J.C. Espinas & Associates" (p. 323, rec.). In his manifestation dated December 10, 1968, he signed as "B.C. Pineda," lone counsel for petitioner (p. 327, rec.); and yet, he carried the address of Espinas & Associates at 716 G. Puyat Building, Escolta. However, in the October 29, 1968 resolution of this Court, a copy thereof was served on "Messrs. J.C. Espinas, B.C Pineda, J.J. dela Rosa & Associates" at Puyat Building, Escolta (p. 324, rec.). In the notice of judgment dated December 29, 1970, this Court addressed the said pleading to "Attys. B.C. Pineda & Associates with the same Puyat Building address (p. 325, rec.). Notably also, then Union President Amado Lopez addressed his letter dated August 21, 1958 to J.C. Espinas & Associates" wherein he informed the latter that the general membership of the Union had authorized them a 20%, contingent fee on whatever award would be given the workers (p. 267, rec.). The Manila Banking Corporation (Cubao Branch) has manifested that it turned over to the NLRC the amount of P417,380.64 for the Union's account, which appears to be the balance of P950,021.76 corresponding to the net proceeds for distribution to the workers after deducting P525,480.40, the total payments to claimants. The amount of P417,380.64 appears lacking, since accurately computed, the balance should be P424,541,36. However, the Union has yet to account for P101,856.00, the 5% donation or share from Atty. Pineda's attorney's fee of 35%. For the account of Atty. Pineda, the Manila Banking Corporation has remitted to the NLRC the amount of P2,022.70 only. This means that Atty. Pineda is still accountable for the amount of P710,969.30. He is directed to return the amount of P712,992.00 representing the 35% attorney's fees he unlawfully received. In view of Our resolution of October 18, 1983, which set aside as null and void the questioned orders dated September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 issued by Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela, the sale of 12 | P a g e

the Union property and the distribution of the proceeds therefrom had been effected without authority and, therefore, illegal Consequently. Atty. Pineda and Arbiter Valenzuela become liable for their unauthorized acts, Atty. Pineda should be cited for indirect contempt under paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of Section 3, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court, The said paragraphs read thus: Sec. 3. indirect contempts to be punished after charge and hearing. xxx xxx xxx (b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, judgment, or company court, or injunction granted by a court or judge, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto; (c) Any abuse of or any interference with the process or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under section 1 of this rule; (d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice. Contempt of court is a defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court; such conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant or their witnesses during litigation (12 Am. jur. 389, cited in 14 SCRA 813). Contempt of court is defined as a disobedience to the court by acting in opposition to its authority, justice and dignity. It signifies not only a willful disregard or disobedience of the court's orders, but such conduct as tends to bring the authority of 'the court and the administration of law into disrepute or in some manner to impede the due administration of justice (17 C.J.S. 4). This Court has thus repeatedly declared that the power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts and is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings and to the enforcement of judgments, orders, and mandates of the court, and consequently, to the due administration of justice (Slade Perkins vs. Director of Prisons, 58 Phil. 271; In re Kelly, 35 Phil. 944; Commissioner of Immigration vs. Cloribel, 20 SCRA 1241; Montalban vs. Canonoy, 38 SCRA 1). In the matter of exercising the power to punish contempts, this Court enunciated in the Slade Perkins case that "the exercise of the power to punish contempts has a twofold aspect, namely (1) the proper punishment of the guilty party for his disrespect to the court or its order; and (2) to compel his performance of some act or duty required of him by the court which he refuses to perform. Due to this twofold aspect of the exercise of the power to punish them, contempts are classified as civil or criminal. A civil contempt is the failure to do something ordered to be done by a court or a judge for 13 | P a g e

the benefit of the opposing party therein; and a criminal contempt, is conduct directed against the authority and dignity of a court or of a judge, as in unlawfully assailing or discrediting the authority or dignity of the court or judge, or in doing a duly forbidden act. Where the punishment imposed, whether against a party to a suit or a stranger, is wholly or primarily to protect or vindicate the dignity and power of the court, either by fine payable to the government or by imprisonment, or both, it is deemed a judgment in a criminal case. Where the punishment is by fine directed to be paid to a party in the nature of damages for the wrong inflicted, or by imprisonment as a coercive measure to enforce the performance of some act for the benefit of the party or in aid of the final judgment or decree rendered in his behalf, the contempt judgment will, if made before final decree, be treated as in the nature of an interlocutory order, or, if made after final decree, as remedial in nature, and may be reviewed only on appeal from the final decree, or in such other mode as is appropriate to the review of judgments in civil cases. ... The question of whether the contempt committed is civil or criminal, does not affect the jurisdiction or the power of a court to punish the same. ... (58 Phil. 271, 272). For civil contempt, Section 7, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court explicitly provides: Sec. 7, Rule 71. Imprisonment until order obeyed. When the contempt consists in the omission to do an act which is yet in the power of the accused to perform, he may be imprisoned by order of a superior court until he performs it. Thus, in the case of Harden vs. Director of Prisons (L-2349, 81 Phil. 741 [Oct. 22, 1948]), where petitioner was confined in prison for contempt of court, this Court, in denying the petition and resolving the question of petitioner's indefinite confinement, had the occasion to apply and clarify the aforequoted provision in the following tenor: The penalty complained of is neither cruel unjust nor excessive. In Ex-parte Kemmler 136 U.S. 436, the United States Supreme Court said that 'punishments are cruel when they involve torture or a lingering death, but the punishment of death is not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used in the constitution. It implies there something inhuman and barbarous, something more than the extinguishment of life. The punishment meted out to the petitioner is not excessive. It is suitable and adapted to its objective; and it accords with section 7, Rule 64 of the Rules of Court which provides that "when the contempt consists in the omission to do an act which is yet in the power of the accused to perform, he may be imprisoned by order of a superior court until he performs it." If the term of imprisonment in this case is indefinite and might last through the natural life of the petitioner, yet by the terms of the sentence the way is left open for him to avoid serving any part of it by complying with the orders of the court, and in this manner put an end to his incarceration. In these circumstances, the judgment cannot be said to be excessive or unjust. (Davis vs. Murphy [1947], 188 P., 229- 231.) As stated in a more recent case (De Wees [1948], 210 S.W., 2d, 145-147), 'to order that one be imprisoned for an indefinite period in a civil contempt is purely a remedial measure. Its purpose is to coerce the contemner to do an act within his or her power to perform. He must have the means by which he may purge himself of the contempt . The latter 14 | P a g e

decision cites Staley vs. South Jersey Realty Co., 83 N.J. Eq., 300, 90 A., 1042, 1043, in which the theory is expressed in this language: In a "civil contempt" the proceeding is remedial, it is a step in the case the object of which is to coerce one party for the benefit of the other party to do or to refrain from doing some act specified in the order of the court. Hence, if imprisonment be ordered, it is remedial in purpose and coercive in character, and to that end must relate to something to be done by the defendant by the doing of which he may discharge himself. As quaintly expressed, the imprisoned man carries the keys to his prison in his own pocket (pp. 747-748). Likewise. American courts had long enunciated these rulings: The commitment of one found in contempt of a court order only until the contemnor shall have purged himself of such contempt by complying with the order is a decisive characteristic of civil contempt. Maggio v. Zeitz, 333 US 56, 92 L. ed. 476, 68 S Ct 401. Civil or quasi-criminal contempt is contemplated by a statute providing that if any person refused to obey or perform any rule, order, or judgment of court, such court shall have power to fine and imprison such person until the rule, order, or judgment shall be complied with. Evans v. Evans, 193 Miss 468, 9 So 2d. 641. (17 Am. Jur. 2d.) The reason for the inherent power of courts to punish for contempt is that respect of the courts guarantees the stability of the judicial institution. Without such guarantee said institution would be resting on a very shaky foundation (Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 61 Phil. 724; Cornejo vs. Tan, 85 Phil. 722), Likewise, Atty. Pineda should be subject to disbarment proceedings under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which provides: Sec. 27. Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds.A member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corrupt or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. The Court may suspend or disbar a lawyer for any conduct on his part showing his unfitness for the confidence and trust which characterize the attorney and client relations, and the practice of law before the courts, or showing such a lack of personal honesty or of good moral character as to render him unworthy of public confidence (7 C.J.S. 733).

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It is a well-settled rule that the statutory grounds for disbarment or suspension are not to be taken as a limitation on the general power of the courts in this respect. The inherent powers of the court over its officers cannot be restricted (In re Pelaez, 44 Phil. 567). Finally, Atty. Pineda could be prosecuted for betrayal of trust by an attorney under Article 209 of the Revised Penal Code. Said article provides: Art. 209. Betrayal of must by an attorney or solicitor. Revelation of secrets.In addition of the proper administrative action , the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period, or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos, or both shall be imposed upon any attorney-at-law or solicitor (procurador judicial) who, by any malicious breach of professional duty or inexcusable negligence or ignorance,shall prejudice his client, or reveal any of the secrets of the latter learned by him in his professional capacity (emphasis supplied). The aforequoted criminal sanction for unprofessional conduct of an attorney is without prejudice to proper administrative action, such as disbarment or suspension of attorneys (p. 503, Criminal Law Annotated, Padilla, 1972 Ed.). Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela should be made to answer for having acted without or beyond his authority in proper administrative charges. He could also be prosecuted before the Tanodbayan under the provisions of the Anti-Graft Law. Independently of his liabilities as a government officer, he could be the subject of disbarment proceedings under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court. Atty. Benjamin Pineda could also be held liable under Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) which makes it unlawful for any person knowingly to induce or cause any public official to commit any of the offenses defined in Section 3 of said act. Section 3 enumerates the corrupt practices which public officers may be prosecuted for. Atty. Pineda knowingly induced or caused Labor Arbiter Valenzuela to issue the questioned orders without or beyond the latter's authority and to which orders the former was not entitled, considering that he was not the sole and proper representative. The Manila Banking Corporation (Cubao Branch) per manifestation and motion dated October 28, 1983 and reiterated on November 10, 1983, had transmitted to the NLRC the remaining balance of P417,380.64 and P2,022.70 for the account of the Union and Atty. Pineda, respectively. This turnover of the aforecited amounts is a sufficient compliance with Our restraining order and resolution of September 13, 1983 and hence, the Manila Banking Corporation can no longer be liable for contempt of court. Very recently, on August 23, 1984, respondent Union, thru Acting Administrator Ricardo Capuno, filed its motion to drop Halili Bus Drivers and Conductors Union from the contempt charge in view of these reasons: 1. The Manila Bank has already turned over to the NLRC the amount of P59,716.14 which represents the remaining balance of 5% earmarked for Union expenses incurred in the case aside from the 16 | P a g e

amounts deposited in escrow for the workers. The amount of P42,140.00 was spent legitimately by the Union for administration purposes relative to the subject property. The Union asserts that it is ready and willing to account for all expenses and withdrawals from the bank before the NLRC. 2. The alleged 5% donation of Atty. Pineda to the Union taken from the 35% attorneys' fees was given to and received by then President Domingo Cabading alone, who thereafter left for the United States. 3. The 1% allocated for unknown claimants or those not previously listed in the amount of P9,596.18 can easily be accounted for by the Union before the NLRC. In the same motion, Mr. Capuno clarifies that with regard to attorneys' fees, Atty. Pineda made the Union officers believe that he would be the one to pay the fees of Attys. Espinas and Lopez for which reason, the 35% increased fees was approved by the Union's board in good faith. The Union likewise confirms that Atty. Pineda came into the picture only when he was assigned by Atty. Espinas in, 1965 to execute the CIR decision which, thru Atty. Espinas handling, was upheld by this Court in L-24864 in 1968. The Union officers were aware that Atty. Espinas was the principal counsel even after Atty. Pineda's assignment. They also knew of the original contract for 20% attorney's fees which was increased to 35% by Atty. Pineda upon the arrangement that with the increase, he would answer for the payment of Attys. Espinas and Lopez' fees and for necessary representation expenses (p. 450, L24864 rec.). Acting on the aforesaid motion, this Court in its resolution of August 28, 1964, dropped the Union and its officers from the within contempt charge (p. 455, L-24864 rec.). WHEREFORE, ATTY. BENJAMIN PINEDA IS HEREBY FOUND GUILTY OF INDIRECT CONTEMPT OF COURT FOR WHICH HE IS HEREBY SENTENCED TO IMPRISONMENT IN THE MANILA CITY JAIL UNTIL THE ORDERS OF THIS COURT DATED SEPTEMBER 1 AND SEPTEMBER 13, 1983 ARE COMPLIED WITH. ATTY. BENJAMIN PINEDA IS ALSO DIRECTED TO SHOW CAUSE WHY HE SHOULD NOT BE DISBARRED UNDER RULE 138 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT. LET COPIES OF THIS RESOLUTION AND THE RESOLUTION OF OCTOBER 18, 1983 BE FURNISHED THE MINISTRY OF LABOR AND THE TANODBAYAN FOR APPROPRIATE ACTION. SO ORDERED. Fernando, C.J., Teehankee, Aquino, Melencio-Herrera, Escolin, De la Fuente, Cuevas and Alampay, JJ., concur. Concepcion Jr., Plana, Relova and Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., took no part. Abad Santos, J., I reserve my vote.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 150413 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. ALEXANDRA LAO, respondent. YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.: This petition for review assails the decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 56230, which affirmed the judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, in Land Registration Case No. TG-719. On September 4, 1995, respondent Alexandra Lao filed with the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, an application for the registration of title over a parcel of land designated as Lot No. 3951, Cad. 452-D, Silang Cadastre, Plan Ap-04-007770, consisting of nine thousand three hundred forty nine (9,349) square meters under Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. Respondent alleged that she acquired the land by purchase from the siblings Raymundo Noguera and Ma. Victoria A. Valenzuela, who inherited it from Generosa Medina. The latter, in turn, inherited the land from her father, Jose Medina, who acquired the same from Edilberto Perido by transfer. In the alternative, respondent prayed that the land be awarded to her under the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, also known as the Public Land Act, based on her and her predecessors open, public, actual, continuous, exclusive, notorious and adverse possession and occupancy under bona fide claim of ownership for more than thirty (30) years. At the hearing in the lower court, respondent presented the following witnesses: Candido Amoroso, who testified on the ownership of the land by Edilberto Perido in 1932; Vicente Laudato, who testified on respondents purchase of the property from Raymundo and Ma. Victoria; and Fina Victoria SoLiwanag, who assisted respondent in her application for registration. Respondent likewise presented in evidence the Deed of Absolute Sale3 dated April 19, 1994 executed by Raymundo and Victoria in her favor, the survey plan and technical description of the property, and the tax declarations in the name of respondent as well as her predecessors-in-interest. On June 28, 1996, the trial court made the following findings, to wit: x x x the applicant acquired the subject parcel of land by purchase from Raymundo Noguera and Ma. Victoria A. Valenzuela in 1994, and that applicant and her predecessors-in-interest have been in continuous, uninterrupted, open, public, adverse and in the concept of an owner possession of the subject parcel of land for more than thirty (30) years now; and that the same 18 | P a g e July 1, 2003

parcel was declared for taxation purposes; that the realty taxes due thereon have been duly paid; that the land involved in this case is not covered by any land patent. Likewise, this Court could well-discern from the survey plan covering the same property, as well as technical description and other documents presented, that the land sought to be registered is agricultural and not within any forest zone or public domain; and that tacking her predecessors-in-interests possession to hers, applicant appears to be in continuous and public possession thereof for more than thirty (30) years.4 The dispositive portion of the decision reads: WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the operation of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the land described in Plan Ap-04-007770 and containing an area of nine thousand three hundred forty-nine (9,349) square meters as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to other proofs adduced in the name of ALEXANDRA A. LAO, of legal age, married to NELSON O. LAO, Filipino citizen, with residence at 1648 Yakal Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila. Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue. SO ORDERED.5 Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, appealed to the Court of Appeals which was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 56230. On October 15, 2001, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.6 Hence, this petition for review raising the following errors: THERE IS NO SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO WARRANT THE ORIGINAL REGISTRATION OF TITLE OF SUBJECT PROPERTY IN THE NAME OF RESPONDENT.7 A. RESPONDENT FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE LEGALLY REQUIRED PERIOD AND ACTS OF POSSESSION.8 B. THE TAX DECLARATIONS PRESENTED BY RESPONDENT DO NOT CORROBORATE HER CLAIM OF THE LEGALLY REQUIRED PERIOD OF POSSESSION.9 C. RESPONDENT FAILED TO PRESENT A CERTIFICATION FROM THE APPROPRIATE GOVERNMENT AGENCY THAT THE LAND SUBJECT OF HER APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION IS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LAND OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.10 In sum, the issues presented before us are (a) whether or not respondent was able to prove, by the quantum of evidence mandated by law, that she met the required period of open, exclusive, continuous and notorious possession, in the concept of an owner, of the subject parcel of land; and (b) whether or not respondent was able to show that the land subject of her application was disposable and alienable land of the public domain. 19 | P a g e

Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 states: Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: (1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessor-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. On the other hand, Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Section 4 of Presidential Decree No. 1073, provides: The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945. Thus, before one can register his title over a parcel of land, the applicant must show that (a) he, by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier; and (b) the land subject of the application is alienable and disposable land of the public domain. Respondent submits that Section 48 (b) of CA 141 was amended by Republic Act No. 6940, which reduced the required period of possession to thirty years immediately prior to the filing of the application. Said law became effective on April 15, 1990. However, petitioner maintains that the required period of possession remained the same. RA 6940 explicitly states that its provisions amended sections 44, 45 and 47 of CA 141. Nothing in RA 6940 amends Section 48 (b). In other words, the requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title set forth therein remains the same, namely, (1) possession of the subject land from June 12, 1945, and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. In Public Estates Authority v. Court of Appeals,11 we held that: Under the public land act, judicial confirmation of imperfect title required possession en concepto de dueo since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894. Under C.A. No. 141, this requirement was retained. However, on June 22, 1957, Republic Act No. 1942 was enacted amending C.A. No. 141. This later enactment required adverse possession for a period of only thirty (30) years. On January 25, 1977, the President enacted P.D. No. 1073, further amending C.A. No. 141, extending the period for filing applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles to December 31, 1987. Under this decree, "the provisions of Section 48 (b) and Section 48 (c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable land of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the 20 | P a g e

applicant himself or thru his predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945. The aforequoted ruling was reiterated in Republic v. Court of Appeals,12 thus: This Court has held in Republic vs. Doldol [295 SCRA 359, (1998)] that, originally, "Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141 provided for possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since July 26, 1894. This was superseded by R.A. No. 1942 which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period of occupation by an applicant for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The same, however, has already been amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, approved on January 25, 1977." As amended Section 48 (b) now reads: (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when prevented by wars or force majeure. Those shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. Petitioner argues that respondent failed to prove by incontrovertible evidence that she had been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land, in the concept of an owner, since June 12, 1945 or earlier. According to petitioner, respondents witnesses did not state the exact period when respondents predecessors-in-interest started occupying the subject land. They only made sweeping statements to the effect that respondent had been in possession of the property for more than thirty years. Hence, it can not be conclusively determined whether respondent and her predecessors-in-interest have truly been in possession of the property since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Furthermore, respondent failed to show how the property was transferred from Generosa Medina to Raymundo Noguera and Ma. Victoria A. Valenzuela. No extrajudicial settlement of property was established. Consequently, respondent can not tack her possession with those of Generosa Medina and her predecessors-in-interest. There is merit in the petition. Candido Amoroso, respondents first witness, testified that he first knew of the property in 1932 and that it was owned by a certain Edilberto Perido. However, no evidence was presented to support his claim. Respondent submitted the tax declarations in the name of her predecessors-in-interest, including that of Edilberto. However, the earliest of these documents pertained to the year 1948 only, three years short of the required period. Respondents other witness, Vicente Laudato, claimed that he had known about the property since he was ten years old, which was in 1945, and that Edilberto Perido owned the property. On cross-examination, however, he testified that he based his information on Edilbertos ownership of the land on the fact that the latter used to greet him and his family whenever he passed by their house. Vicente later on admitted that he did not know with certainty whether Edilberto was indeed the owner and possessor of the property.13

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Finally, respondent failed to present the extrajudicial settlement or other document evidencing the transfer of the land from Generosa Medina to Raymundo Noguera and Ma. Victoria A. Valenzuela. She likewise did not show the relationship between these parties. She only presented the deed of sale between her and the latter, where it was stated that Raymundo and Ma. Victoria inherited the property from Generosa. Hence, respondent can not tack her possession with those of Generosa and her predecessors-in-interest. At most, respondents possession can only be reckoned from the time that Raymundo and Ma. Victoria claimed possession of the property. Respondent having thus failed to show by incontrovertible evidence that her possession of the land commenced on June 12, 1945 or earlier, she failed to meet the first requisite under the pertinent provisions of PD 1529 and CA 141. Petitioner further submits that respondent failed to show that the land subject of her application is classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. Under the Regalian doctrine which is embodied in our Constitution,14 all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land.15 All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State.16 Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain.17 To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.18 In De Ocampo v. Arlos,19 it was held that: x x x a title may be judicially confirmed under Section 48 of the Public Land Act only if it pertains to alienable lands of the public domain. Unless such assets are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. Verily, Presidential Decree No. 1073 clarified Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act by specifically declaring that the latter applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. In the case at bar, no certification from the appropriate government agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land as alienable and disposable was presented by respondent. Respondent merely submitted the survey map and technical descriptions of the land, which contained no information regarding the classification of the property. These documents are not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Respondent argues that she was not required to present any certification stating that the land is open for disposition because no opposition to her application was ever made by the appropriate government agencies. She claims that in the absence of any proof to the contrary, lands of the public domain are agricultural in nature and thus susceptible to private ownership. As an applicant for registration of a parcel of land, respondent had the initial obligation to show that the property involved is agricultural. Being the interested party, it was incumbent upon her to prove that the land being registered is indeed alienable or disposable. She cannot rely on the mere presumption that it was agricultural and, therefore, alienable part of the public domain.20 Thus, in Director of Lands v. Funtilar,21 we held: 22 | P a g e

It was rather sweeping for the appellate court to rule that after an applicant files his application for registration, the burden shifts totally to the government to prove that the land forms part of the unclassified forest zone. The ruling in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry (126 SCRA 69) governs applications for confirmation of imperfect title. The applicant shoulders the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Moreover, the absence of opposition from the government agencies is of no moment because the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents.22 It bears stressing at this point that declassification of forest land and its conversion into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes requires an express and positive act from the government.23 It cannot be presumed; but must be established by convincing proof.24 WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 56230 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The application for original registration of title over Lot No. 3951, Cad. 452-D, Silang Cadastre, Plan Ap-04-007770, which was docketed as Land Registration Case No. TG-719 before the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, is DENIED. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Vitug, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 149679 May 30, 2003

HEIRS OF CLEMENTE ERMAC, namely: IRENEA E. SENO, LIBRADA E. MALINAO, INES E. MIOZA, SOLEDAD E. CENIZA, RODULFO ERMAC and AMELITA E. BASUBAS, petitioners, vs. HEIRS OF VICENTE ERMAC, namely: BENJAMIN, VIRGINIA, PRECIOSA, DANILO, as HEIRS OF URBANO ADOLFO; BERNARDINO, CLIMACO, CESAR, ELSA, FLORAME and FE, all surnamed ERMAC, as HEIRS OF CLIMACO ERMAC, ESTELITA ERMAC, ESTANESLAO DIONSON, VICENTE DIONSON, EUFEMIA LIGARAY, EMIGDIO BUSTILLO and LIZA PARAJELE, LUISA DEL CASTILLO,* respondents. PANGANIBAN, J.: Ownership should not be confused with a certificate of title. Registering land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. The Case Before us is a Petition for Review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside the February 16, 2001 Decision2 and the August 6, 2001 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals4 (CA) in CAGR CV No. 59564. The dispositive part of the Decision reads: "WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED, and the assailed [D]ecision of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City is hereby AFFIRMED."5 The assailed Resolution denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The Facts The factual antecedents of the case are summarized by the CA as follows: "In their Complaint, [respondents] claim that they are the owners of the various parcels of real property that form part of Lot No. 666, (plan II-5121 Amd.2) situated in Mandaue City, Cebu, which lot allegedly belonged originally to Claudio Ermac. Upon the latters death, the said Lot No. 666 was inherited and partitioned by his children, namely, Esteban, Pedro and Balbina. Siblings Pedro and Balbina requested their brother Esteban to have their title over the property registered. Esteban, however, was unable to do so, and the task of registration fell to his son, Clemente. Clemente applied for registration of the title, but did so in his own name, and did 24 | P a g e

not include his fathers brother and sister, nor his cousins. Despite having registered the lot in his name, Clemente did not disturb or claim ownership over those portions occupied by his uncle, aunt and cousins even up to the time of his death. Among the occupants of Lot No. 666 are the [respondents] in this case. [Respondents]-heirs of Vicente Ermac claim ownership over the portions of Lot No. 666 now occupied by them by right of succession as direct descendants of the original owner, Claudio Ermac. [Respondents] Luisa Del Castillo and Estaneslao Dionson allegedly derived their title by purchase from the children of Claudio Ermac. [Respondent] Vicente Dionson, on the other hand, bought his land from the heirs of Pedro Ermac, while [Respondents] Emigdio Bustillo and Liza Parajele derived their ownership from the Heirs of Balbina Ermac-Dabon. [respondents] ownership and possession had been peaceful and undisturbed, until recently when the [petitioners]-heirs of Clemente Ermac filed an action for ejectment against them. The filing of the said ejectment caused a cloud of doubt upon the [respondents] ownership over their respective parcels of land, prompting them to file this action for quieting of title. "[Petitioners], on the other hand, denied the material allegations of the [respondents], and claimed that the [respondents] have no cause of action against them. It is essentially claimed that it was Clemente Ermac and not his grandfather Claudio Ermac who is the original claimant of dominion over Lot No. 666. During his lifetime, Clemente Ermac was in actual, peaceful, adverse and continuous possession in the concept of an owner of the entire Lot No. 666. With the help of his children, he cultivated the said lot, and planted corn, peanuts, cassava and fruit products. Clemente also effected the registration of the subject lot in his name. Upon Clementes death, [petitioners] inherited Lot No. 666, and they constructed their residential houses thereon. [Petitioners] claim that [respondents] recent occupation of some portions of Lot No. 666 was only tolerated by Clemente Ermac and the [petitioners]. [Petitioners] in fact had never surrendered ownership or possession of the property to the [respondents]. [Petitoners] also set up the defense of prescription and laches. xxx xxx xxx

"After trial, the lower [court] rendered its [D]ecision, finding that the original owner of the lot in question was Claudio Ermac, and therefore, the property was inherited upon his death by his children Esteban, Balbina and Pedro. All the heirs of Claudio Ermac, therefore, should share in the ownership over Lot No. 666, by right of succession. The ruling [was] supported by the admissions of Irene[a] Seno, witness for the [petitioners] and daughter of Clemente Ermac, establishing facts which show that [petitioners] and their predecessor Clemente did not own the entire property, but that the other heirs of Claudio Ermac are entitled to two-thirds (2/3) of the lot. Since the entire lot is now registered in the name of Clemente Ermac, the shares belonging to the other heirs of Claudio Ermac, some of which have already been purchased by some of the [respondents], are being held in trust by the [petitioners] in favor of their actual occupants."6 Ruling of the Court of Appeals The CA held that the factual finding of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)7 should not be disturbed on appeal. The latter found that Lot No. 666 was originally owned by Claudio Ermac and, after his death, 25 | P a g e

was inherited by his children -- Esteban, Balbina and Pedro. It ruled that respondents were able to prove consistently and corroboratively that they -- as well as their predecessors-in-interests -- had been in open, continuous and undisturbed possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owners. According to the appellate court, "[t]he fact that [petitioners] have in their possession certificates of title which apparently bear out that it [was] Clemente Ermac alone who claimed the entire property described therein [has] no discrediting effect upon plaintiffs claim, it appearing that such titles were acquired in derogation of the existing valid and adverse interests of the plaintiffs whose title by succession were effectively disregarded."8 Hence, this Petition.9 The Issues In their Memorandum,10 petitioners raise the following issues for our consideration: "I. The validity of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction dated February 5, 1996 issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 28, directing the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, to cease and desist from conducting further proceedings in Civil Case No. 2401[;] "II. Whether or not O.C.T. No. RO-752 issued in the names of [Spouses] Clemente Ermac [and] Anunciacion Suyco is indefeasible and incontrovertible under the Torrens System[;] "III. Whether or not the alleged tax declarations and tax receipts are sufficient to defeat the title over the property in the names of petitioners predecessors-in-interest [Spouses] Clemente Ermac and Anunciacion Suyco[;] "[IV]. Whether or not laches ha[s] set in on the claims by the respondents on portions of Lot No. 666[.]"11 The Courts Ruling The Petition is unmeritorious. First Issue: Preliminary Injunction Petitioners assail the validity of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction issued by the RTC to restrain the ejectment proceedings they had filed earlier. This question is not only late, but also moot. If petitioners truly believed that the issuance of the Writ was tainted with grave abuse of discretion, they should have challenged it by a special civil action for certiorari within the reglementary period. Any ruling by the Court at this point would be moot and 26 | P a g e

academic, as the resolution of the issue would not involve the merits of the case, which this appeal -as it is now -- touches upon. Second Issue: Indefeasibility and Incontrovertibility of Title Petitioners posit that pursuant to Section 32 of PD 1529 (the Property Registration Decree), the certificate of title issued in favor of their predecessor-in-interest, Clemente Ermac, became incontrovertible after the lapse of one year from its issuance. Hence, it can no longer be challengedence, it can no longer be challenged. We clarify. While it is true that Section 3212 of PD 1529 provides that the decree of registration becomes incontrovertible after a year, it does not altogether deprive an aggrieved party of a remedy13 in law.14 The acceptability of the Torrens System would be impaired, if it is utilized to perpetuate fraud against the real owners.15 Furthermore, ownership is not the same as a certificate of title. Registering a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership.16 A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein.17 Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.18 Third Issue: Ownership of the Disputed Lot Petitioners claim that the CA erred in relying on the hearsay and unsubstantiated testimony of respondents, as well as on tax declarations and realty tax receipts, in order to support its ruling that the land was owned by Claudio Ermac. We are not persuaded. The credence given to the testimony of the witnesses for respondents is a factual issue already passed upon and resolved by the trial and the appellate courts. It is a hornbook doctrine that only questions of law are entertained in appeals by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The trial courts findings of fact, which the CA affirmed, are generally conclusive and binding upon this Court.19 Moreover, while tax declarations and realty tax receipts do not conclusively prove ownership, they may constitute strong evidence of ownership when accompanied by possession for a period sufficient for prescription.20Considering that respondents have been in possession of the property for a long period of time, there is legal basis for their use of tax declarations and realty tax receipts as additional evidence to support their claim of ownership.

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Fourth Issue: Prescription and Laches Petitioners assert that the ownership claimed by respondents is barred by prescription and laches, because it took the latter 57 years to bring the present action. We disagree. When a party uses fraud or concealment to obtain a certificate of title to property, a constructive trust is created in favor of the defrauded party.21 Since Claudio Ermac has already been established in the present case as the original owner of the land, the registration in the name of Clemente Ermac meant that the latter held the land in trust for all the heirs of the former. Since respondents were in actual possession of the property, the action to enforce the trust, and recover the property, and thereby quiet title thereto, does not prescribe.22 Because laches is an equitable doctrine, its application is controlled by equitable considerations.23 It cannot be used to defeat justice or to perpetuate fraud and injustice.24 Its application should not prevent the rightful owners of a property to recover what has been fraudulently registered in the name of another. WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED. Puno, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur. Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Corona, JJ., on leave.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-23300 October 31, 1967

ANDRES MANARPAAC, ET AL., plaintiffs-appellants, vs. ROSALINO CABANATAN, THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF ILOCOS NORTE, in his capacity as such, defendants-appellees. Herman P. Coloma for plaintiffs-appellants. Harold M. Hernando for defendant-appellee Rosalino Cabanatan. Office of the Solicitor General for defendant-appellee Director of Lands. ANGELES, J.: On appeal from a decision of the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Norte dismissing the complaint, without costs. On December 7, 1960, the plaintiffs, numbering 24 in all, surnamed Manarpaac, filed this action against Rosalino Cabanatan, the Director of Lands and the Register of Deeds of Laoag, Ilocos Norte, on a complaint which as amended on December 22, 1960, alleges that the plaintiffs have been, since time immemorial, in actual possession as owners of two parcels of land, the first with an area of 8,742 sq. m. and assessed at P160.00 under tax declaration No. 034206, in the name of Rogaciano Manarpaac, the second, with an area of 12211 sq. m. and assessed at P390.00 under tax declaration No. 030876, both parcels are situated at Barrio 15, Batac, Ilocos Norte, specifically described in paragraph "2" of the complaint; that such possession has been public, uninterrupted and in the concept of owner; that they have their houses built on the land; that in the year 1956, the defendant Rosalino Cabanatan filed an application for free patent of a parcel of agricultural public land situated at Barrio Suyo, Batac, Ilocos Norte, with an area of 27,788 sq. m., and said defendant "taking advantage of the ignorance and lack of education of the plaintiffs, wilfully, fraudulently, maliciously, and surreptitiously without previous notice to the plaintiffs whatsoever, included the above described parcels of land" (par. "2" of the complaint) in his application for free patent; that on November 7, 1959, a free patent was issued in the name of Rosalino Cabanatan by the Director of Lands, and on December 3, 1959, certificate of title No. V-105031 was issued in the name of Rosalino Cabanatan by the register of deeds; that said certificate of title which included the land of the plaintiffs, is null and void, because the patent was obtained thru "fraudulent misrepresentation"; and that the proceedings leading to the investigation and survey of the land were without notice and without compliance with the requirements of the law. Plaintiffs, therefore, prayed that the free patent and the certificate of title be declared null and void, and the same should be cancelled; "4. That in case the title issued may not be annulled, that the defendant Rosalino Cabanatan be ordered to reconvey unto the plaintiffs their lands unlawfully and fraudulently included in said title"; that the defendant be ordered to pay 29 | P a g e

attorney's fees in the amount of P1,000.00; and "6. That the plaintiffs pray for such further relief and remedy as may be deemed just and equitable in the premises." The defendants filed separate answer. In his answer dated February 8, 1961, Rosalino Cabanatan denied the material allegations in the complaint, and, as special defense alleged: (a) that the issuance of the free patent and certificate of title in his name were regular and after compliance with the requirements of the law; (b) that the plaintiffs never protested with the Director of Lands against the defendant's application for free patent; they did not appeal from the decision of the Director of Lands awarding the land to said defendants; and the plaintiffs have failed to exhaust the administrative remedies required by law, and, therefore, the decision of the Director of Lands has become final; (c) that the original complaint was for nullity of title, however, the amended complaint is for RECONVEYANCE which is legally impermissible, for it changed the cause of action, and hence, the amended complaint should have been dismissed, and the plaintiffs required to file a new complaint. In its answer dated January 6, 1961, the Director of Lands alleged that the issuance of the free patent was regular and after compliance with the requirements of the law; that "2. . . . he admits the allegation in paragraph 6 of the complaint to the effect that one year from the issuance of patent has not yet elapse"; and that the plaintiffs never filed any protest with the Bureau of Lands against the application for free patent filed by Rosendo Cabanatan. The Register of Deeds in his answer dated January 11, 1961, alleged that the issuance of the certificate of title in the name of Rosalino Cabanatan was in pursuance of a decree of patent presented to its office and that he merely acted in compliance of the law. On September 22, 1962, Rosalino Cabanatan filed a motion to dismiss on the following ground: "That even assuming that plaintiffs have a right over the land in suit, their action has already prescribed and that the court, therefore, has no jurisdiction", predicating the contention of the rulings that "When any public lands are alienated, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of Section 22 of the Land Registration Act and shall become registered land . . . and a certificate of title shall be issued as in other cases of registered land (Diwaling Sumail, et al. v. CFI of Cotabato, L-8287, April 20, 1955), and the one year period under Section 38 of Act 496 should, in the case of public land grants (patent), be counted from the issuance of the patent by the Government under the Public Land Act (Nelayan v. Nelayan, L-14518. August 29, 1960). The plaintiffs opposed the motion to dismiss. On September 23, 1963, the court issued an order dismissing the complaint holding that the free patent having been issued on November 3, 1959, and the first complaint was filed on December 7, 1960, the action for review of the decree was, therefore, filed more than one year after the issuance of the patent. From this order, the plaintiffs appealed directly to this Court.

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From the averment of facts in the complaint, it clearly appears that the plaintiffs have been, since time immemorial in possession as owners of the disputed land, have declared the land for tax purposes in the names of two of them and have built their houses on the land, but that through fraud and irregularity, defendant Rosalino Cabanatan succeeded in securing for himself, the certificate of title in question. The foregoing recital of facts in the complaint are sufficient averment of ownership. Possession since time immemorial, carries the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain, or, that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest. And so, we said in one case . . . All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial. FOR SUCH POSSESSION WOULD JUSTIFY THE PRESUMPTION THAT THE LAND HAVE NEVER BEEN PART OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN OR THAT IT HAD BEEN A PRIVATE PROPERTY EVEN BEFORE THE SPANISH CONQUEST. (Oh Cho v. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, citing Cario v. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449, 53 L. Ed. 394.) Whether this presumption should hold as a fact or not, is a question appropriately determinable only after the parties have adduced, or at least, are given the opportunity to adduce, their respective evidence. The ruling in Susi v. Razon and Director of Lands, 48 Phil. 414 [re-affirmed in Mesin v. Pineda, L-14722, May 25, 1960] sustained on all fours the validity of plaintiffs' theory, thus In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1894, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts. If by legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the state, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question to Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the public domain, the plaintiff-appellee cannot maintain an action to recover possession thereof. If, as above stated, that land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become, by operation of law, private property, there is lacking only the judicial sanction of his title, Valentin Susi has the right to bring an action to recover the possession thereof and hold it. 31 | P a g e

In the case at bar, predicated upon the allegations in the complaint, together with the admission of defendant Cabanatan in his answer that the amended complaint is an action for reconveyance, which are deemed admitted on a motion to dismiss, there can hardly be any debate that the complaint states a sufficient cause of action for recovery of possession of the land for, settled is the rule that the remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another's name is, after one year from the date of the decree, not to set aside the decree, but respecting the decree as incontrovertible and no longer open to review, to bring an ordinary action in the ordinary court of justice for conveyance or, if the property has passed into the hands of an innocent purchaser for value, for damages. (Casilan v. Espartero, 95 Phil. 799). WHEREFORE, the order of dismissal appealed from is hereby set aside, and the case is ordered remanded to the lower court for further proceedings. Costs in this appeal against the defendant Rosalino Cabanatan. Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro and Fernando JJ.,concur.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. L-65129 December 29, 1986 TOMAS AVERIA, JR., petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE MILAGROS V. CAGUIOA, in her capacity as Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch LVII, Lucena City, and VERONICA PADILLO, respondents.

CRUZ, J.: We gave due course to this petition against a decision of the Court of First Instance of Lucena City, 1 which is questioned on a pure questions of law, more specifically whether or not the court has jurisdiction to order the registration of a deed of sale which is opposed on the ground of an antecedent contract to sell. The oppositor, petitioner herein, refused to participate in the hearing of the registration proceedings below, claiming the respondent court, acting as a cadastral court, had no competence to act upon the said case under Section 112 of Act 496, otherwise known as the "Land Registration Act." The respondent court then held the hearing ex parte and later rendered a decision ordering the registration prayed for on the basis of the evidence presented by the private respondent herein. 2 In his petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction, it is argued that the lower court had no competence to act on the registration sought because of the absence of unanimity among the parties as required under Section 112 of the Land Registration Act. 3 The petitioner cites Fojas as v. Grey, 4 where this Court, through Justice Serafin Cuevas, declared: The aforequoted provision of the Land Registration Act (Sec. 112) was relied upon by appellant Apolinar Fojas in petitioning the court a quo for the annotation of the Deed of Assignment. However, while he had the right to have the said Deed annotated in the owner's duplicate of TCT No. T-2376, the serious objection of Saturnina de Grey to the same raises a substantial controversy between the parties. In a long line of decisions dealing with proceedings under Section 112 of the Land Registration Act, it has been held that summary relief under Section 112 of Land Registration Act can only be granted if there is unanimity among the parties, or there is no adverse claim or serious objection on the part of any party in interest; otherwise, the case becomes contentious and controversial which should be threshed out in an ordinary action or in any case where the incident properly belongs. 5 33 | P a g e

While this was a correct interpretation of the said provision, the same is, however, not applicable to the instant case. The reason is that this case arose in 1982, after the Land Registration Act had been superseded by the Property Registration Decree, which became effective on June 11, 1979. In Section 2 of the said P.D. No. 1529, it is clearly provided that: SEC. 2. Nature of registration proceedings; jurisdiction of courts.-Judicial proceedings for the registration of lands throughout the Philippines shall be in rem and shall be based on the generally accepted principles underlying the Torrens system. Courts of First Instance shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for original registration of title to lands, including improvements and interests therein, and over all petitions filed after original registration of title, with power to hear and determine a questions arising upon such applications or petitions. The court through its clerk of court shall furnish the Land Registration Commission with two certified copies of all pleadings, exhibits, orders, and decisions filed or issued in applications or petitions for land registration, with the exception of stenographic notes, within five days from the filing or issuance thereof. The above provision has eliminated the distinction between the general jurisdiction vested in the regional trial court and the limited jurisdiction conferred upon it by the former law when acting merely as a cadastral court. Aimed at avoiding multiplicity of suits, the change has simplified registration proceedings by conferring upon the regional trial courts the authority to act not only on applications for "original registration" but also "over all petitions filed after original registration of title, with power to hear and determine all questions arising upon such applications or petitions." Consequently, and specifically with reference to Section 112 of the Land Registration Act (now Section 108 of P.D. No. 1529), the court is no longer fettered by its former limited jurisdiction which enabled it to grant relief only in cases where there was "unanimity among the parties" or none of them raised any "adverse claim or serious objection." Under the amended law, the court is now authorized to hear and decide not only such non-controversial cases but even this contentious and substantial issues, such as the question at bar, which were beyond its competence before. It appears that the respondent court proceeded to hear the case below notwithstanding the manifestation by the petitioner of his intention to elevate to this Court the question of jurisdiction he had raised. 6 The trial court should have given him the opportunity to do so in the interest of due process, pending a categorical ruling on the issue. As it happened, it arrived at its decision after considering only the evidence of the private respondent and without regard to the evidence of the petitioner. 7 WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent court dated September 23, 1983, is set aside. Let a new trial of Cadastral Case No. 1, GLRO Cad. Record No. 202, Lot No. 2810-B, Lucena Cadastre, MC No. 374-82, be held, at which the petitioner, as well as other interested parties, shall be given the opportunity to be heard. Our temporary restraining order of October 5, 1983, is hereby lifted except as to the registration of the questioned deed of sale which shall depend on the outcome of the said case. SO ORDERED. 34 | P a g e

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-21355 April 30, 1965

BENJAMINA GARCIA, ANATALIA GARCIA, FABIAN GARCIA and VICENTE GARCIA, petitioners, vs. HON. ELOY B. BELLO, Judge of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan and PEDRO DE GUZMAN,respondents. Raymundo Meris-Morales for petitioners. Castillo and Castillo for respondents. CONCEPCION, J.: In their petition for certiorari and prohibition, Benjamina, Anatalia, Fabian and Vicente, all surnamed Garcia, pray that respondent Hon. Eloy B. Bello, be ordered, as Judge of First Instance of Pangasinan, to desist from further proceeding in and Registration Case No. 765, G.L.R.O. Record No. 18485, of said Court. The record shows that, on October 18, 1918, respondent Pedro de Guzman instituted said proceeding for the registration, in his name, of a tract of land situated in the municipality of San Carlos, Province of Pangasinan; that, on January 30, 1923, judgment was rendered in said proceeding as prayed for by De Guzman; that on July 18, 1923, Original Certificate of Title No. 25381 was, accordingly, issued in his favor; that on March 24, 1959, herein petitioners instituted Civil Case No. 13847-II of said court, against De Guzman, for the reconveyance of the aforementioned land in favor of herein petitioners; that on April 4, 1959, De Guzman moved to dismiss said Case No. 13847-II upon the ground that the same is barred by the judgment rendered in Land Registration Case No. 765, that petitioners have no cause of action and that the alleged right of said petitioners and their action based thereon are barred by the statute of limitations; that on April 27, 1959, said motion to dismiss was granted; that, on appeal taken by petitioners, the case was docketed in the Supreme Court as G. R. No. L-15988; that on September 1, 1959, respondent Judge had authorized, in said land registration case, the issuance of a writ of Possession in favor of De Guzman; that this writ of possession was not, however, executed, owing to the pendency of said appeal in the Supreme Court; that the latter rendered, on August 30, 1962, decision affirming order of dismissal appealed from; that soon thereafter, or oil December 29, 1962, respondent De Guzman reiterated in the aforementioned land registration case, his motion for issuance of a writ of possession in his favor; that on January 2, 1963, petitioners herein object to said motion of De Guzman, which was granted by respondent Judge on February 2, 1963; and that, accordingly, on June 4, 1963, petitioners herein instituted the present original action: for certiorari and prohibition to restrain respondent Judge from enforcing said writ of execution and further proceeding in said case, upon the ground that the decision rendered in the land registration case is not binding upon them cause because they were not parties therein and because they had taken possession of the land in question after the rendition of said decision. 35 | P a g e

The petition herein is patently devoid of merit. To begin with, a land registration case is a proceeding in rem, and, accordingly, the decision therein rendered is binding upon the whole world (Sorogon vs. Makalintal, et al., 80 Phil. 259). Secondly, in civil Case No. 13847-II of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, petitioners herein sought to compel De Guzman to reconvey the land in question upon the theory that the decree of registration thereof in his name was based upon a deed of donation dated June 1, 1918 which had been fraudulently secured by De Guzman from Juan Garcia, the father of petitioners herein, who, allegedly, were in possession of said land at that time, and remained continuously in possession thereof. Apart from the fact that petitioners' complaint in said case indicated that petitioners were in possession of said land prior to and at the time of the institution of the land registration proceedings thus refuting their allegation in the present case to the effect that the decision in the land registration case does not bind them because their possession is subsequent to said decision the trial court, whose decision was affirmed by this Court, held that the alleged fraud in the execution of the aforementioned deed of donation had been disproved by the fact that, although petitioners' father, Juan Garcia, did not die until 1950, or thirty-two (32) years after the execution of said deed, he neither sought to annul the same nor opposed De Guzman's petition for the registration of the land in question in his name. Lastly, it was held in said case No. 13847-II of the lower court and G.R. No. L-15988 of this Court that the decree of land registration in favor of De Guzman bars the claim of petitioners herein. WHEREFORE, the petition herein is, accordingly, dismissed, with costs against the petitioners. It is so ordered.1wph1.t Bengzon, C.J., Bautista Angelo, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera, Paredes, Dizon, Regala and Makalintal, JJ., concur. Zaldivar, J., took no part.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 95608 January 21, 1997 SPOUSES IGNACIO PALOMO and TRINIDAD PASCUAL, and CARMEN PALOMO VDA. DE BUENAVENTURA,petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, FAUSTINO J. PERFECTO, RAFFY SANTILLAN, BOY ARIADO, LORENZO BROCALES, SALVADOR DOE, and other DOES, respondents.

ROMERO, J.: The issue in the case at bar pertains to ownership of 15 parcels of land in Tiwi, Albay which form part of the "Tiwi Hot Spring National Park." The facts of the case are as follows. On June 13, 1913, then Governor General of the Philippine Islands, William Cameron Forbes issued Executive Order No. 40 which reserved for provincial park purposes some 440,530 square meters of land situated in Barrio Naga, Municipality of Tiwi, Province of Albay pursuant to the provisions of Act 648 of the Philippine Commission. 1 Subsequently, the then Court of First Instance of Albay, 15th Judicial District, United States of America, ordered the registration of 15 parcels of land covered by Executive Order No. 40 in the name of Diego Palomo on December 9, 1916; 2 December 28, 3 and January 17, 1917. 4 Diego Palomo donated these parcels of land consisting of 74,872 square meters which were allegedly covered by Original Certificates of Title Nos. 513, 169, 176 and 173 5 to his heirs, herein petitioners, Ignacio and Carmen Palomo two months before his death in April 1937. 6 Claiming that the aforesaid original certificates of title were lost during the Japanese occupation, Ignacio Palomo filed a petition for reconstitution with the Court of First Instance of Albay on May 30, 1950. 7 The Register of Deeds of Albay issued Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 3911, 3912, 3913 and 3914 sometime in October 1953. 8 On July 10, 1954 President Ramon Magsaysay issued Proclamation No. 47 converting the area embraced by Executive Order No. 40 into the "Tiwi Hot Spring National Park," under the control, management, protection and administration of the defunct Commission of Parks and Wildlife, now a division of the Bureau of Forest Development. The area was never released as alienable and disposable portion of the public domain and, therefore, is neither susceptible to disposition under the 37 | P a g e

provisions of the Public Land Law (CA 141) nor registrable under the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496). The Palomos, however, continued in possession of the property, paid real estate taxes thereon 9 and introduced improvements by planting rice, bananas, pandan and coconuts. On April 8, 1971, petitioner Carmen vda. de Buenaventura and spouses Ignacio Palomo and Trinidad Pascual mortgaged the parcels of land covered by TCT 3911, 3912, 3913 and 3914 to guarantee a loan of P200,000 from the Bank of the Philippine Islands. In May 7, 1974 petitioner Carmen vda. de Buenaventura and spouses Ignacio Palomo and Trinidad Pascual filed Civil Case No. T-143 before the then Court of First Instance of Albay for Injunction with damages against private respondents Faustino J. Perfecto, Raffy Santillan, Boy Ariado, Lorenzo Brocales, Salvador Doe and other Does who are all employees of the Bureau of Forest Development who entered the land covered by TCT No. 3913 and/or TCT 3914 and cut down bamboos thereat, totally leveling no less than 4 groves worth not less than P2,000.00. On October 11, 1974, the Republic of the Philippines filed Civil Case No. T-176 for annulment and cancellation of Certificates of Title involving the 15 parcels of land registered in the name of the petitioners and subject of Civil Case T-143. Impleaded with the petitioners as defendants were the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Legazpi Branch and the Register of Deeds of Albay. The case against the Bank of Philippine Islands was dismissed because the loan of P200,000 with the Bank was already paid and the mortgage in its favor cancelled. A joint trial of Civil Case T-143 and T-176 was conducted upon agreement of the parties and on July 31, 1986, the trial court rendered the following decision: WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered: IN CIVIL CASE No. T-143, in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs, dismissing the complaint for injunction and damages, as it is hereby DISMISSED. Costs against the plaintiffs. In CIVIL CASE No. T-176, in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants: (1) Declaring null and void and no force and effect the Order dated September 14, 1953, as well as the Original Certificate of Titles Nos. 153, 10 169, 173 and 176 and Transfer Certificates of Titles Nos. 3911, T-3912, T-3913, and T-3914, all of the Register of Deeds of Albay and all transactions based on said titles. (2) Forfeiting in favor of the plaintiff Government any and all improvements on the lands in question that are found therein and introduced by the defendants; (3) Declaring Lot Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 8, 9,10, 11 and 12, Plan II-9299 and Lots 1, 21, 11 3 and 4 of Plan II-9205 as part of the Tiwi Hot Spring National Park; 38 | P a g e

(4) and Finally, the Register of Deeds of Albay is hereby ordered to cancel the alleged Original Certificates of Titles Nos. 513, 169, 173 and 176, Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. T-3911, T-3912, T-3913 and T-3914. Costs against the defendants. So Ordered. 12 The court a quo in ruling for the Republic found no sufficient proof that the Palomos have established property rights over the parcels of land in question before the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War at the end of the century. The court further stated that assuming that the decrees of the Court of First Instance of Albay were really issued, the Palomos obtained no right at all over the properties because these were issued only when Executive Order No. 40 was already in force. At this point, we take note that although the Geodetic Engineer of the Bureau of Lands appointed as one of the Commissioners in the relocation survey of the properties stated in his reamended report that of the 3,384 square meters covered by Lot 2, Plan II-9205, only 1,976 square meters fall within the reservation area, 13 the RTC ordered TCT 3913 covering the entire Lot 21 (sic) Plan II-9205 cancelled. The petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals which affirmed in toto the findings of the lower Court; hence this petition raising the following issues: 1. The respondent Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion in affirming in toto the decision of the lower court. 2. The declaration of nullity of the original certificates of title and subsequent transfer certificates of titles of the petitioners over the properties in question is contrary to law and jurisprudence on the matter. 3. The forfeiture of all improvements introduced by the petitioners in the premises in favor of the government is against our existing law and jurisprudence. The issues raised essentially boil down to whether or not the alleged original certificate of titles issued pursuant to the order of the Court of First Instance in 1916-1917 and the subsequent TCTs issued in 1953 pursuant to the petition for reconstitution are valid. Petitioners contend that the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century recognized the property rights of Spanish and Filipino citizens and the American government had no inherent power to confiscate properties of private citizens and declare them part of any kind of government reservation. They allege that their predecessors in interest have been in open, adverse and continuous possession of the subject lands for 20-50 years prior to their registration in 1916-1917. Hence, the reservation of the lands for provincial purposes in 1913 by then Governor-general Forbes was tantamount to deprivation of private property without due process of law. In support of their claim, the petitioners presented copies of a number of decisions of the Court of First Instance of Albay, 15th Judicial District of the United States of America which state that the 39 | P a g e

predecessors in interest of the petitioners' father Diego Palomo, were in continuous, open and adverse possession of the lands from 20 to 50 years at the time of their registration in 1916. We are not convinced. The Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown by discovery and conquest in the 16th century. Before the Treaty of Paris in April 11, 1899, our lands, whether agricultural, mineral or forest were under the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. Hence, private ownership of land could only be acquired through royal concessions which were documented in various forms, such as (1) Titulo Real or Royal Grant," (2) Concesion Especial or Special Grant, (3) Titulo de Compra or Title by Purchase and (4) Informacion Posesoria or Possessory Information title obtained under the Spanish Mortgage Law or under the Royal Decree of January 26, 1889. Unfortunately, no proof was presented that the petitioners' predecessors in interest derived title from an old Spanish grant. Petitioners placed much reliance upon the declarations in Expediente No. 5, G.L.R.O. Record Decision No. 9820, dated January 17, 1917; Expediente No. 6, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9821, dated December 28, 1916; Expediente No. 7, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9822, dated December 9, 1916; Expediente No. 8, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9823, dated December 28, 1916 and Expediente No. 10, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9868, dated December 9, 1916 of the Court of First Instance of Albay, 15th Judicial District of the United States of America presided by Judge Isidro Paredes that their predecessors in interest were in open, adverse and continuous possession of the subject lands for 20-50 years. 14 The aforesaid "decisions" of the Court of First Instance, however, were not signed by the judge but were merely certified copies of notification to Diego Palomo bearing the signature of the clerk of court. Moreover, despite claims by the petitioners that their predecessors in interest were in open, adverse and continuous possession of the lands for 20 to 50 years prior to their registration in 1916-1917, the lands were surveyed only in December 1913, the very same year they were acquired by Diego Palomo. Curiously , in February 1913 or 10 months before the lands were surveyed for Diego Palomo, the government had already surveyed the area in preparation for its reservation for provincial park purposes. If the petitioners' predecessors in interest were indeed in possession of the lands for a number of years prior to their registration in 1916-1917, they would have undoubtedly known about the inclusion of these properties in the reservation in 1913. It certainly is a trifle late at this point to argue that the government had no right to include these properties in the reservation when the question should have been raised 83 years ago. As regards the petitioners' contention that inasmuch as they obtained the titles without government opposition, the government is now estopped from questioning the validity of the certificates of title which were granted. As correctly pointed out by the respondent Court of Appeals, the principle of estoppel, does not operate against the Government for the act of its agents. 15 Assuming that the decrees of the Court of First Instance were really issued, the lands are still not capable of appropriation. The adverse possession which may be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases applies only to alienable lands of the public domain. There is no question that the lands in the case at bar were not alienable lands of the public domain. As testified by the District Forester, records in the Bureau of Forestry show that the subject lands were 40 | P a g e

never declared as alienable and disposable and subject to private alienation prior to 1913 up to the present. 16 Moreover, as part of the reservation for provincial park purposes, they form part of the forest zone. It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It is not registrable and possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot convert it into private property, 17 unless such lands are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable. Neither do the tax receipts which were presented in evidence prove ownership of the parcels of land inasmuch as the weight of authority is that tax declarations are not conclusive proof of ownership in land registration cases. 18 Having disposed of the issue of ownership, we now come to the matter regarding the forfeiture of improvements introduced on the subject lands. It bears emphasis that Executive Order No. 40 was already in force at the time the lands in question were surveyed for Diego Palomo. Petitioners also apparently knew that the subject lands were covered under the reservation when they filed a petition for reconstitution of the lost original certificates of title inasmuch as the blueprint of Survey Work Order Number 21781 of Plan II-9299 approved by the Chief of the Land Registration Office Enrique Altavas in 1953 as a true and correct copy of the Original Plan No. II-9299 filed in the Bureau of Lands dated September 11, 1948 19 contains the following note, "in conflict with provincial reservation."20 In any case, petitioners are presumed to know the law and the failure of the government to oppose the registration of the lands in question is no justification for the petitioners to plead good faith in introducing improvements on the lots. Finally, since 1,976 square meters of the 3,384 square meters covered by TCT 3913 fall within the reservation, TCT 3913 should be annulled only with respect to the aforesaid area. Inasmuch as the bamboo groves leveled in TCT 3913 and subject of Civil Case T-143, 21 were within the perimeter of the national park, 22 no pronouncement as to damages is in order. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that TCT 3913 be annulled with respect to the 1,976 square meter area falling within the reservation zone. SO ORDERED.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-55152 August 19, 1986 FLORDELIZA L. VALISNO and HONORIO D. VALISNO, petitioners, vs. HON. JUDGE ANDRES B. PLAN, Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Isabela, Second Branch, and VICENCIO CAYABA, respondents. Francisco A. Lava, Jr. for petitioners. Diosdado B. Ramirez for private respondent.

FERNAN, J.: Challenged in this petition for certiorari with prayer for a temporary restraining order are two [2] orders issued by respondent judge in Land Registration Case No. Branch 11-N-204 of the then Court of First Instance of Isabela, Second Branch, entitled, "Application for Registration of Title, Vicencio Q. Cayaba, Applicant, vs. Flordeliza Valisno and Honorio D. Valisno, Oppositors," the order dated July 2, 1980, dismissing the opposition filed by petitioners on the ground of res judicata, and the order dated September 19, 1980, denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration. The antecedents are as follows: On August 21, 1964, petitioners-spouses Flordeliza and Honorio Valisno purchased from the legal heirs of Agapita V. Blanco, namely, Guillermo, Guillermo, Jr., Manuel and Rosario, all surnamed Blanco, two parcels of land, particularly described as follows: [a] a tract of land situated at Sitio Sisim Barangay Cabaruan, Municipality of Cauayan, Province of Isabela, having an area of Five Thousand (5,000) square meters or fifty (50) meters facing the Provincial Road by one hundred (100) meters long; bounded on the North by Pedro del Rosario, on the South by Alberto Tungangui, on the East by the Provincial Road; and on the West, by Terreno del Estado, now Matias del Rosario; and, [c] a parcel of land situated in the Municipality of Cauayan, Province of Isabela, having an area of Six Thousand Two Hundred Fifty (6,250) square meters or fifty (50) meters at the east side by one hundred twenty-five (125) meters at the North and South; bounded on the north by Matias del Rosario, on the south by Alberto Tungangui, on 42 | P a g e

the east by Agapita Blanco and on the west by Cauayan Diversion Road and Matias del Rosario. [Annex "B", Petition, pp. 41-42, Rollo.] Thereafter, petitioners declared the above-described parcels of land in their name for taxation purposes and exercised exclusive possession thereof in the concept of owners by installing as caretaker one Fermin Lozano, who had his house built thereon. On August 12, 1968, private respondent Vicencio Q. Cayaba, claiming to be the owner of the land in question by virtue of a deed of sale executed in his and one Bienvenido G. Noriega's favor on June 30, 1967 by the heirs of Dr. Epifanio Q. Verano, ousted Fermin Lozano from possession of the land. He subsequently erected a six-door apartment on said land. On January 22, 1970, petitioners instituted before the then Court of First Instance of Isabela a complaint against private respondent for recovery of possession of said parcels of land. The case, docketed as Civil Case No. Branch II-895, was in due time resolved in favor of petitioners who were declared owners thereof. On appeal, however, by private respondent to the then Court of Appeals, the appeal being docketed as CA-G.R. No. 60142-R, the appellate court in a decision promulgated on January 19, 1978, reversed the decision of the lower court and dismissed the complaint of petitioners on a finding that: Firstly, the 'land in question described in the complaint and sketched in Exhibit C ... by Dr. Guillermo Blanco,' is completely different from the land appearing in the Subdivision Plan of the appelles appellant, their respective area and boundaries being completely dissimilar. Clearly, we fail to see anything in the evidence of the appellees showing that their property encroaches, much less covers that of the property presently occupied by the appellant, except the self-serving sketch prepared by the appellees' own witness, Dr. Blanco. We refuse to give any weight to this piece of evidence because it was prepared by someone who' has an incentive to exaggerate or give false color to his statement or to suppress or prevent the truth or to state what is false. [Deering v. Wisona Harvester Workers, 155 U.S. Sup. Ct. Rep. 238] Therefore, as the land occupied by the appellant has not been successfully Identified with that described in the complaint, the instant action should have been dismissed outright, in view of the provision of Article 434 of the New Civil Code which reads. Art. 434. In an action to recover, the property must be Identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the defendant's claim' as well as the doctrine enunciated in a long line of decision [sic] starting from Lim vs. Director of Lands, 64 Phil. 343. Secondly, it is undisputed that the appellant is the present occupant of the land since he purchased the same from Tomasita F. Verano on June 30, 1967, having constructed a six-door apartment in the premises which he lets to both transients and residents of the locality. Being the actual possessor of the property, he, therefore, possesses it with 43 | P a g e

a just title and he need not show or prove why he is possessing the same. [Arts. 433 and 541 of the New Civil Code]. Finally, between the evidence of the appellees and that of the appellant, We unhesitatingly choose the latter in the matter of Identifying the property in question because it is a vicinity plan [Exhibit "8"] showing the position of the land in relation not only to the properties adjoining the same but also with known boundaries and landmarks in the area. On the other hand, the appellees' evidence, particularly the description in Tax Declaration No. 17009, is unreliable, since the area and boundaries of the property are mere estimations, reached thru pure guess-work. [Smith Bell & Co. vs. Director of Lands, 50 Phil. 8791]. Expressing the same sentiment, one noted authority states: The proposition that in Identifying a particular piece of land its boundaries and not the area are the main factors to be considered holds true only when the boundaries given are sufficiently certain and the Identity of the land proved by the boundaries clearly indicates that an erroneous statement concerning the area can be disregarded.' [Bilog, Effective Judicial Implementation of Land and Forestry Laws, Fourth Advanced Course for Municipal Courts (1971), cit. Paterno v. Salud, L-15620, September 30, 19631. (Annex "C-l," Petition, pp. 5355, Rollo.] A petition for review on certiorari of said decision filed by petitioners before this Court was denied due course. Subsequently, on September 25, 1979, private respondent filed before the Court of First Instance of Isabela an application for registration in his name of the title of the lands in question, basing his entitlement thereto on the aforementioned deed of sale as well as the decision of the appellate court in CA-G.R. No. 60142-R, [Annex "A", Petition, pp. 32-40, Rollo). On April 26, 1980, petitioners filed an opposition to the application. [Annex "B", Petition, p. 41, Rollo] Private respondent, however, moved for the dismissal of said opposition on the ground that the same is barred by a prior judgment, i.e., the appellate court's decision in CA-G.R. No. 60142-R. Despite the opposition of petitioners to said motion to dismiss, the lower court issued the first of the assailed orders dismissing the petitioner's opposition on the ground of res judicata. [Annex "E", Petition, p. 83, Rollo] When their motion for reconsideration was denied, petitioners filed the instant petition, raising as grounds therefor the following: RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED GRAVELY IN DISMISSING PETITIONERS' OPPOSITION TO RESPONDENTS' APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION OF TITLE, WHICH IS HIGHLY IRREGULAR IN LAND REGISTRATION PROCEEDINGS. RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED GRAVELY IN DISREGARDING THE PRECEDENT OF ABELLERA VS. FAROL THAT RES JUDICATA CANNOT BE SET UP IN A LAND REGISTRATION CASE.

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RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED GRAVELY IN HOLDING THAT THE REQUISITES FOR RES JUDICATAEXIST IN THE CASE AT BAR, ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT A MOTION TO DISMISS OPPOSITION IS PROPER IN A LAND REGISTRATION CASE, AND THAT RES JUDICATA MAYBE RAISED IN SAID MOTION TO DISMISS. RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED GRAVELY IN DEPRIVING PETITIONERS HEREIN OF THEIR DAY IN COURT, SPECIALLY IN THE FACE OF STRONG INDICATIONS, ALREADY IN THE RECORD, THAT RESPONDENT CAYABA IS ACTUALLY TRYING TO SECURE TITLE TO WHAT REALLY IN THE LAND OF THE PETITIONERS. RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED GRAVELY, WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AND IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN ISSUING HIS ORDERS OF JULY 2,1980 [ANNEX "E"] AND SEPTEMBER 19, 1980 [ANNEX "H"]. (pp. 18-19, Rollo) On April 1, 1981, this Court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to file their briefs. Petitioners did so on August 26, 1981. Private respondent, on the other hand, failed to file his brief within the given period which expired on October 9, 1981. Thus, the case was consider submitted for decision without the brief of private respondent. On July 8, 1985, this Court received a copy of the motion to amend application filed by Bienvenido G. Noriega, Sr., thru counsel, in LRC Case No. Br. II-N-204, praying that he be included as co-applicant to the land sought to be registered. In the course of our study of pertinent jurisprudence, We observe that the situation obtaining in the case at bar, i.e., a motion to dismiss the opposition having been filed and more importantly, granted, is indeed unique and peculiar. But while this may be so, it is not highly irregular as petitioners would characterize it. Verily, the Land Registration Act [Act 496] does not provide for a pleading similar or corresponding to a motion to dismiss. Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, however, allows the application of the rules contained therein in land registration proceedings in a suppletory character or whenever practicable and convenient. Thus, for the expeditious termination of the land registration case, this Court in Duran v. Oliva, 3 SCRA 154, sustained the dismissal of the application for registration of therein appellants upon a motion to dismiss filed by five [5] oppositors, it having been indubitably shown that the court a quo did not have jurisdiction over the res as the lands sought to be registered in appellants' name had previously been registered in the names of the oppositors. To have allowed the registration proceeding to run its usual course would have been a mere exercise in futility. The same consideration applies to the case at bar. It must be noted that the opposition partakes of the nature of an answer with a counterclaim. In ordinary civil cases, the counterclaim would be considered a complaint, this time with the original defendant becoming the plaintiff. The original plaintiff, who becomes defendant in the counterclaim may either then answer the counterclaim or be declared in default, or may file a motion to dismiss the same. The latter choice was what respondent Cayaba opted for. Although as We have earlier said, such situation rarely, if ever, happens in land registration cases, the irregularity that petitioners complain of 45 | P a g e

stems basically from the infrequent use of a motion to dismiss in land registration cases, and not from it being unauthorize. The case of Abellera vs. Farol 74 Phil. 284, heavily relied upon by petitioners needs re-evaluation. In said case, Mr. Justice Bocobo, speaking for the Court, ruled that "while in a cadastral case, res judicata is available to a claimant in order to defeat the alleged rights of another claimant, nevertheless, prior judgment can not be set up in a motion to dismiss. " Concurring in said opinion were then Chief Justice Yulo and Associate Justices Moran and Ozaeta. Mr. Justice Paras dissented, saying "in my opinion, Rule 132 in connection with Rule 8 of the Rules of Court, instead of prohibiting expressly authorizes the lower court in land registration or cadastral proceedings to entertain a motion for dismissal on the ground of res judicata or prescription. Of course, the dismissal of petitioner's claim will not necessarily or automatically mean adjudication of title to the individual respondents but it will certainly facilitate the consideration of their claims which cease to be contested. Prompt disposal of cases or such claims is the main purpose of said rules. Let there be no retrogression in the application of sound rules and doctrines." [Ibid, pp. 286-287) In support of his opinion, Justice Paras cited the cases of Menor v. Quintana, 56 Phil. 657, Versoza v. Nicolas, 29 Phil. 425 and Santiago v. Santos, 54 Phil. 619, wherein the Court invariably ruled that a "final judgment in an ordinary civil case determining the ownership of certain land is res judicata in a registration case when the parties and the property are the same as in the former case. " [Menor v. Quintana,supra.] There is no doubt that the principle of res judicata operates in the case at bar. For said principle to apply: [a] the former judgment must be final, [b] it must have been' rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and of the parties, [c] it must be a judgment on the merits and [d] there must be between the first and second actions identity of parties, of subject matter and of cause of action. [Carandang v. Venturanza, 133 SCRA 344] The decision in CA-G. R. No. 60142-R is a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court which had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties. There is, between the registration case under consideration and the previous civil action for recovery of property, identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action. The inclusion of private respondent Cayaba's co-owner, Bienvenido Noriega, Sr., in the application for registration does not result in a difference in parties between the two cases. One right of a co-owner is to defend in court the interests of the co-ownership. [Paras, Civil Code of the Philippines, Annotated, Vol. II, 7th Edition, p. 258] Thus, when private respondent Cayaba defended his ownership over the land in question, he was doing so in behalf of the co-ownership. This is evident from the fact that one of the evidence he presented to prove ownership was the deed of sale executed by the heirs of Dr. Epifanio Q. Verano is his and Bienvenido Noriega's favor. With respect to the subject matter, there can be no question that the land sought to be recovered by petitioners are the very same parcels of land being sought to be registered in Cayaba's and Noriega's names. While the complaint in the first action is captioned for recovery of possession, the allegations and the prayer for relief therein raise the issue of ownership. In effect, it is in the nature of an accion reinvidicatoria. The second case is for registration of title. Consequently, between the two cases there is identity of causes of action because in accion reinvidicatoria, possession is sought on the basis of ownership and the same is true in registration cases. Registration of title in one's name is based on 46 | P a g e

ownership. In both cases, the plaintiff and the applicant seek to exclude other persons from ownership of the land in question. The only difference is that in the former case, the exclusion is directed against particular persons, while in the latter proceedings, the exclusion is directed against the whole world. Nonetheless, the cause of action remains the same. In fact, this Court held in Dais v. Court of First Instance of Capiz, [51 Phil. 896] that the answers in a cadastral proceedings partake of an action to recover title, as real rights are involved therein. It is only the form of action which is different. "But the employment of two different forms of action, does not enable one to escape the operation of the principle that one and the same cause of action shall not be twice litigated." [Yusingco v. Ong Hing Lian, 42 SCRA 590 and the cases cited therein, Gonzales v. Gonzales, 26 SCRA 76; Aguilar v. Tuason Co., 22 SCRA 690; Albano v. Coloma, 21 SCRA 411; Sumarariz v. Development Bank of the Phil., 21 SCRA 1378; Abes, et al. v. Rodil, et al., 17 SCRA 824; Cayco, et al. v. Cruz et al., 106 Phil. 68; Ma. Garcia de Lim Toco v. Go Pay, 81 Phil. 258; San Diego v. Cardona, et al., 70 Phil. 281]. It does not matter that the first case was decided by a court of general jurisdiction, while the second case is being heard by one of a limited jurisdiction, such as a registration court. It is enough that the court which decided the first case on the merits had validly acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties. That both courts should have equal jurisdiction is not a requisite of res judicata. If, as the Abellera case, supra, held that res judicata can be set up by a claimant to defeat the alleged right of another claimant, what useful purpose would be served by allowing a party to present evidence of ownership over the land sought to be registered when the final result would necessarily be in favor of the claimant who had set up the defense of res judicata? And supposing the land registration court finds that the party against whom the principle of res judicata operates does have a better right or title to the land, what happens to the principle of res judicata? Can a court sitting as a land registration court in effect, annul a final judgment of another court of general jurisdiction? To our mind, therefore, the better policy, both for practicality and convenience, is to grant the dismissal of either the application for registration or the opposition thereto, once it has been indubitably shown, as in the case at bar, that one or the other is barred by a prior judgment. The ruling in the Abellera case, should therefore be, as it is, hereby abandoned. Petitioners complain that by dismissing their opposition, respondent court had denied them their day in court. It is well to remind petitioners that they had their day in court in Civil Case No. Branch II-895 as well as CA-G.R. No. 60142-R, where their claim over the land in question was fully aired and ventilated. The conflicting claims of petitioners and respondent Cayaba [in behalf of the co-ownership] with respect to the land under consideration had been put to rest in CA-G.R. No. 60142-R. Said decision having attained finality, the same remains the law of the case between the parties. Finding no error to have been committed by respondent judge in dismissing petitioners' opposition, such dismissal must be affirmed. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby dismissed. Cost against petitioners. SO ORDERED. 47 | P a g e

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC

G.R. No. 108998 August 24, 1994 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS AND SPOUSES MARIO B. LAPIA AND FLOR DE VEGA, respondents. Byron V. Belarmino and Juan B. Belarmino for private respondents.

BIDIN, J.: Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor who has complied with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)? The Republic would have us rule on the negative and asks this Court to nullify the decision of the appellate court which affirmed the judgment of the court a quo in granting the application of respondent spouses for registration over the lots in question. On June 17, 1978, respondent spouses bought Lots 347 and 348, Cad. s38-D, as their residence with a total area of 91.77 sq. m. situated in San Pablo City, from one Cristeta Dazo Belen (Rollo, p. 41). At the time of the purchase, respondent spouses where then natural-born Filipino citizens. On February 5, 1987, the spouses filed an application for registration of title of the two (2) parcels of land before the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Branch XXXI. This time, however, they were no longer Filipino citizens and have opted to embrace Canadian citizenship through naturalization. An opposition was filed by the Republic and after the parties have presented their respective evidence, the court a quo rendered a decision confirming private respondents' title to the lots in question, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court hereby approves the said application and confirms the title and possession of herein applicants over Lots 347 and 348, Ap04-003755 in the names of spouses Mario B. Lapia and Flor de Vega, all of legal age, Filipino citizens by birth but now Canadian citizens by naturalization and residing at 14 A. Mabini Street, San Pablo City and/or 201-1170-124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5MOK9, Canada. 48 | P a g e

Once this Decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued. In the certificate of title to be issued, there shall be annotated an easement of .265 meters road right-of-way. SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 25) On appeal, respondent court affirmed the decision of the trial court based on the following ratiocination: In the present case, it is undisputed that both applicants were still Filipino citizens when they bought the land in controversy from its former owner. For this reason, the prohibition against the acquisition of private lands by aliens could not apply. In justice and equity, they are the rightful owners of the subject realty considering also that they had paid for it quite a large sum of money. Their purpose in initiating the instant action is merely to confirm their title over the land, for, as has been passed upon, they had been the owners of the same since 1978. It ought to be pointed out that registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. The Torrens System was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land. It is intended merely to confirm and register the title which one may already have (Municipality of Victorias vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-31189, March 31, 1987). With particular reference to the main issue at bar, the High Court has ruled that title and ownership over lands within the meaning and for the purposes of the constitutional prohibition dates back to the time of their purchase, not later. The fact that the applicants-appellees are not Filipino citizens now cannot be taken against them for they were not disqualified from acquiring the land in question (Bollozos vs. Yu Tieng Su, G.R. No. L-29442, November 11, 1987). (Rollo, pp. 27-28) Expectedly, respondent court's disposition did not merit petitioner's approval, hence this present recourse, which was belatedly filed. Ordinarily, this petition would have been denied outright for having been filed out of time had it not been for the constitutional issue presented therein. At the outset, petitioner submits that private respondents have not acquired proprietary rights over the subject properties before they acquired Canadian citizenship through naturalization to justify the registration thereof in their favor. It maintains that even privately owned unregistered lands are presumed to be public lands under the principle that lands of whatever classification belong to the State under the Regalian doctrine. Thus, before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the jurisdical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. Petitioner further argued that it is only when the court adjudicates the land to the applicant for confirmation of title would the land become privately owned land, for in the same proceeding, the court may declare it public land, depending on the evidence. As found by the trial court:

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The evidence thus presented established that applicants, by themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, public, peaceful, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the two adjacent parcels of land applied for registration of title under a bona-fide claim of ownership long before June 12, 1945. Such being the case, it is conclusively presumed that all the conditions essential to the confirmation of their title over the two adjacent parcels of land are sought to be registered have been complied with thereby entitling them to the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. (Rollo, p. 26) Respondent court echoed the court a quo's observation, thus: The land sought to be registered has been declared to be within the alienable and disposable zone established by the Bureau of Forest Development (Exhibit "P"). The investigation conducted by the Bureau of Lands, Natural Resources District (IV-2) reveals that the disputed realty had been occupied by the applicants "whose house of strong materials stands thereon"; that it had been declared for taxation purposes in the name of applicants-spouses since 1979; that they acquired the same by means of a public instrument entitled "Kasulatan ng Bilihang Tuluyan" duly executed by the vendor, Cristeta Dazo Belen, on June 17, 1978 (Exhibits "I" and "J"); and that applicants and their predecessors in interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to the filing of the application for registration. But what is of great significance in the instant case is the circumstance that at the time the applicants purchased the subject lot in 1978, both of them were Filipino citizens such that when they filed their application for registration in 1987, ownership over the land in dispute had already passed to them. (Rollo, p., 27) The Republic disagrees with the appellate court's concept of possession and argues: 17. The Court of Appeals found that the land was declared for taxation purposes in the name of respondent spouses only since 1979. However, tax declarations or reality tax payments of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership. (citing cases) 18. Then again, the appellate court found that "applicants (respondents) and their predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to the filing of the application for registration." This is not, however, the same as saying that respondents have been in possession "since June 12, 1945." (PD No. 1073, amending Sec. 48 [b], CA NO. 141; sec. also Sec. 14, PD No. 1529). So there is a void in respondents' possession. They fall short of the required possession since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto. And, even if they needed only to prove thirty (30) years possession prior to the filing of their application (on February 5, 1987), they would still be short of the required possession if the starting point is 1979 when, according to the Court of Appeals, the land was declared for taxation purposes in their name. (Rollo, pp. 14-15) The argument is myopic, to say the least. Following the logic of petitioner, any transferee is thus foreclosed to apply for registration of title over a parcel of land notwithstanding the fact that the 50 | P a g e

transferor, or his predecessor-in-interest has been in open, notorious and exclusive possession thereof for thirty (30) years or more. This is not, however, what the law provides. As petitioner itself argues, Section 48 of the Public Land Act (CA 141) reads: Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx xxx xxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by wars or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Emphasis supplied) As amended by PD 1073: Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945. It must be noted that with respect to possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, the law employs the terms "by themselves", "the applicant himself or through his predecessor-in-interest". Thus, it matters not whether the vendee/applicant has been in possession of the subject property for only a day so long as the period and/or legal requirements for confirmation of title has been complied with by his predecessor-in-interest, the said period is tacked to his possession. In the case at bar, respondents' predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the disputed land not only since June 12, 1945, but even as early as 1937. Petitioner does not deny this except that respondent spouses, in its perception, were in possession of the land sought to be registered only in 1978 and therefore short of the required length of time. As aforesaid, the disputed parcels of land were acquired by private respondents through their predecessors-in-interest, who, in turn, have been in open and continued possession thereof since 1937. Private respondents stepped into the shoes of their predecessors-ininterest and by virtue thereof, acquired all the legal rights necessary to confirm what could otherwise be deemed as an imperfect title.

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At this juncture, petitioner's reliance in Republic v. Villanueva (114 SCRA 875 [1982]) deserves scant consideration. There, it was held that before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the juridical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. Suffice it to state that the ruling in Republic v. Villanueva (supra), has already been abandoned in the 1986 case of Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court (146 SCRA 509; and reiterated in Director of Lands v. Iglesia ni Cristo, 200 SCRA 606 [1991]) where the Court, through then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice Narvasa, declared that: (The weight of authority is) that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. . . . Herico in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: . . . Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-ininterest, title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent . . . xxx xxx xxx As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by the statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself (Section 48 [b]) that the possessor(s) ". . . shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title ..." No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claims is of the required character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the 52 | P a g e

land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cario, ". . .(There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. (Emphasis supplied) Subsequent cases have hewed to the above pronouncement such that open, continuous and exclusive possession for at least 30 years of alienable public land ipso jure converts the same to private property (Director of Lands v. IAC, 214 SCRA 604 [1992]; Pineda v. CA, 183 SCRA 602 [1990]). This means that occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years by an applicant and his predecessors-in-interest, vest title on such applicant so as to segregate the land from the mass of public and (National Power Corporation v. CA, 218 SCRA 41 [1993]). The Public Land Act requires that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time immemorial or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act (Director of Lands v. Buyco, 216 SCRA 78 [1992]). When the conditions set by law are complied with, the possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued (National Power Corporation v. CA, supra). As such, the land ceases to be a part of the public domain and goes beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. In other words, the Torrens system was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land (Municipality of Victorias v. CA, 149 SCRA 32 [1987]). It merely confirms, but does not confer ownership. As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, private respondents were able to establish the nature of possession of their predecessors-in-interest. Evidence was offered to prove that their predecessors-in-interest had paid taxes on the subject land and introduced improvements thereon (Exhibits "F" to "F9"). A certified true copy of the affidavit executed by Cristeta Dazo and her sister Simplicia was also formally offered to prove that the subject parcels of land were inherited by vendor Cristeta Dazo from her father Pedro Dazo with the conformity of her only sister Simplicia (Exhibit "G"). Likewise, a report from the Bureau of Lands was presented in evidence together with a letter from the Bureau of Forest Development, to prove that the questioned lots were part of the alienable and disposable zone of the government and that no forestry interest was affected (CA GR No. 28953, Records, p. 33). In the main, petitioner seeks to defeat respondents' application for registration of title on the ground of foreign nationality. Accordingly, the ruling in Director of Lands v. Buyco (supra) supports petitioner's thesis. We disagree. In Buyco, the applicants therein were likewise foreign nationals but were natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of their supposed acquisition of the property. But this is where the similarity ends. The applicants in Buyco sought to register a large tract of land under the provisions of the Land Registration Act, and in the alternative, under the provisions of the Public Land Act. The land 53 | P a g e

registration court decided in favor of the applicants and was affirmed by the appellate court on appeal. The Director of Lands brought the matter before us on review and we reversed. This Court, speaking through Justice Davide, Jr., stated: As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, the private respondents do not rely on fee simple ownership based on a Spanish grant or possessory information title under Section 19 of the Land Registration Act; the private respondents did not present any proof that they or their predecessors-in-interest derived title from an old Spanish grant such as (a) the "titulo real" or royal grant (b) the "concession especial" or especial grant; (c) the "composicion con el estado" title or adjustment title; (d) the "titulo de compra" or title by purchase; and (e) the "informacion posesoria" or possessory information title, which could become a "titulo gratuito" or a gratuitous title (Director of Forestry v. Muoz, 23 SCRA 1183 [1968]). The primary basis of their claim is possession, by themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, since time immemorial. If indeed private respondents and their predecessors have been in possession since time immemorial, the rulings of both courts could be upheld for, as this Court stated in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands (75 Phil. 890 [1946]): . . . All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that if had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest (Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil 935 [1909]; 212 U.S. 449; 53 Law. Ed., 594) The applicant does not come under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessor in interest began in 1880. . . . alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under the Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. (Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra) It is obvious from the foregoing rule that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time immemorial, as ruled in both Cario and Susi, or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act. As to the latter, this Court, in Gutierrez Hermanos v. Court of Appeals (178 SCRA 37 [1989]), adopted the rule enunciated by the Court of Appeals, per then Associate Justice Hugo R. Gutierrez, Jr., . . ., that an applicant for registration under Section 48 of the Public Land Act must secure a certification from the Government that the lands which he claims to have possessed as owner for more 54 | P a g e

than thirty (30) years are alienable and disposable. It is the burden of the applicant to prove its positive averments. In the instant case, private respondents offered no evidence at all to prove that the property subject of the application is an alienable and disposable land. On the contrary, the entire property . . . was pasture land (and therefore inalienable under the then 1973 Constitution). . . . (P)rivate respondents' evidence miserably failed to establish their imperfect title to the property in question. Their allegation of possession since time immemorial, . . ., is patently baseless. . . . When referring to possession, specifically "immemorial possession," it means possession of which no man living has seen the beginning, and the existence of which he has learned from his elders (Susi v. Razon, supra). Such possession was never present in the case of private respondents. . . . . . ., there does not even exist a reasonable basis for the finding that the private respondents and their predecessors-in-interest possessed the land for more than eighty (80) years, . . . xxx xxx xxx To this Court's mind, private respondents failed to prove that (their predecessor-ininterest) had possessed the property allegedly covered by Tax Declaration No. 15853 and made the subject of both his last will and testament and the project of partition of his estate among his heirs in such manner as to remove the same from the public domain under the Cario and Susi doctrines. Thus, (when the predecessor-in-interest) died on 31 May 1937, he transmitted no right whatsoever, with respect to the said property, to his heirs. This being the case, his possession cannot be tacked to that of the private respondents for the latter's benefit pursuant to Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the alternative ground relied upon in their application . . . xxx xxx xxx Considering that the private respondents became American citizens before such filing, it goes without saying that they had acquired no vested right, consisting of an imperfect title, over the property before they lost their Philippine citizenship. (Emphasis supplied) Clearly, the application in Buyco were denied registration of title not merely because they were American citizens at the time of their application therefor. Respondents therein failed to prove possession of their predecessor-in-interest since time immemorial or possession in such a manner that the property has been segregated from public domain; such that at the time of their application, as American citizens, they have acquired no vested rights over the parcel of land. In the case at bar, private respondents were undoubtedly natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of the acquisition of the properties and by virtue thereof, acquired vested rights thereon, tacking in the process, the possession in the concept of owner and the prescribed period of time held by their 55 | P a g e

predecessors-in-interest under the Public Land Act. In addition, private respondents have constructed a house of strong materials on the contested property, now occupied by respondent Lapias mother. But what should not be missed in the disposition of this case is the fact that the Constitution itself allows private respondents to register the contested parcels of land in their favor. Sections 7 and 8 of Article XII of the Constitution contain the following pertinent provisions, to wit: Sec. 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law. (Emphasis supplied) Section 8, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution above quoted is similar to Section 15, Article XIV of the then 1973 Constitution which reads: Sec. 15. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 14 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee of private land, for use by him as his residence, as the Batasang Pambansa may provide. Pursuant thereto, Batas Pambansa Blg. 185 was passed into law, the relevant provision of which provides: Sec. 2. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship and who has the legal capacity to enter into a contract under Philippine laws may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of one thousand square meters, in the case of urban land, or one hectare in the case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence. In the case of married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege herein granted; Provided, That if both shall avail of the same, the total area acquired shall not exceed the maximum herein fixed. In case the transferee already owns urban or rural lands for residential purposes, he shall still be entitled to be a transferee of an additional urban or rural lands for residential purposes which, when added to those already owned by him, shall not exceed the maximum areas herein authorized. From the adoption of the 1987 Constitution up to the present, no other law has been passed by the legislature on the same subject. Thus, what governs the disposition of private lands in favor of a natural-born Filipino citizen who has lost his Philippine citizenship remains to be BP 185. Even if private respondents were already Canadian citizens at the time they applied for registration of the properties in question, said properties as discussed above were already private lands; consequently, there could be no legal impediment for the registration thereof by respondents in view of what the Constitution ordains. The parcels of land sought to be registered no longer form part of 56 | P a g e

the public domain. They are already private in character since private respondents' predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous and exclusive possession and occupation thereof under claim of ownership prior to June 12, 1945 or since 1937. The law provides that a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of 1,000 sq.m., if urban, or one (1) hectare in case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence (BP 185). It is undisputed that private respondents, as vendees of a private land, were natural-born citizens of the Philippines. For the purpose of transfer and/or acquisition of a parcel of residential land, it is not significant whether private respondents are no longer Filipino citizens at the time they purchased or registered the parcels of land in question. What is important is that private respondents were formerly natural-born citizens of the Philippines, and as transferees of a private land, they could apply for registration in accordance with the mandate of Section 8, Article XII of the Constitution. Considering that private respondents were able to prove the requisite period and character of possession of their predecessors-in-interest over the subject lots, their application for registration of title must perforce be approved. The dissenting opinion, however, states that the requirements in BP 185, must also be complied with by private respondents. Specifically, it refers to Section 6, which provides: Sec. 6. In addition to the requirements provided for in other laws for the registration of titles to lands, no private land shall be transferred under this Act, unless the transferee shall submit to the register of deeds of the province or city where the property is located a sworn statement showing the date and place of his birth; the names and addresses of his parents, of his spouse and children, if any; the area, the location and the mode of acquisition of his landholdings in the Philippines, if any; his intention to reside permanently in the Philippines; the date he lost his Philippine citizenship and the country of which he is presently a citizen; and such other information as may be required under Section 8 of this Act. The Court is of the view that the requirements in Sec. 6 of BP 185 do not apply in the instant case since said requirements are primarily directed to the register of deeds before whom compliance therewith is to be submitted. Nowhere in the provision is it stated, much less implied, that the requirements must likewise be submitted before the land registration court prior to the approval of an application for registration of title. An application for registration of title before a land registration court should not be confused with the issuance of a certificate of title by the register of deeds. It is only when the judgment of the land registration court approving the application for registration has become final that a decree of registration is issued. And that is the time when the requirements of Sec. 6, BP 185, before the register of deeds should be complied with by the applicants. This decree of registration is the one that is submitted to the office of the register of deeds for issuance of the certificate of title in favor of the applicant. Prior to the issuance of the decree of registration, the register of deeds has no participation in the approval of the application for registration of title as the decree of registration is yet to be issued. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED and the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED. 57 | P a g e

SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, and Mendoza, JJ.,concur.

Separate Opinions

CRUZ, J., dissenting: With all due respect, I have to dissent. The ponencia begins by posing the issue thus: Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor who has complied with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)? There is no question that the property is private land and thus subject to registration by qualified persons. It was really needless to elaborate on Buyco, which is clearly inapplicable here. We can agree that the ruling case is Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, which is not challenged in this petition. But I think the ponencia misses the point. The finding that the respondent spouses were natural-born Filpinos at the time they acquired the land does not settle the question posed. The important point is that the respondent spouses are no longer citizens of the Philippines but naturalized Canadians. It does not follow that because they were citizens of the Philippines when they acquired the land, they can register it in their names now even if they are no longer Filipinos. Section 7 of Article XII of the Constitution is irrelevant because it is not disputed that the respondent spouses were qualified to acquire the land in question when it was transferred to them. Section 8 of the same article is not applicable either because it speaks of a transfer of private land to a former natural-born citizen of the Philippines after he became a foreigner. Thus it states: Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.

58 | P a g e

Even if it be assumed that the provision is applicable, it does not appear that the private respondents have observed "the limitations provided by law." The ponencia finds that all the requisites for the registration of the land in the private respondents' name have been complied with. I do not believe so for there is no showing that B.P. 185 has also been enforced. The view has been expressed that we should confine ourselves to the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act. I respectfully submit that the requirements in B.P. 185 have been read into the Act and should also be applied. Strict compliance is necessary because of the special privilege granted to former Filipinos who have become foreigners by their own choice. If we can be so strict with our own citizens, I see no reason why we should be less so with those who have renounced our country. Feliciano, J.: concurring I agree with the great bulk of the majority opinion written by Mr. Justice Bidin and the result reached therein. This separate statement is concerned only with the last two (2) paragraphs, just before the dispositive portion, of the majority opinion. In my view, it should be stressed that B.P. Blg. 185 which took effect on 16 March 1982, doesnot purport to cover the set of facts before the Court in this case: i.e., the respondent spouses became transferees (on 17 June 1978) of the land here involved while they were natural-born Philippine citizens who happened sometime later to have been naturalized as citizens of another country. B.P. Blg. 185, as far as I can determine, addresses itself only to a situation of persons who were already foreign nationals at the time they became transferees of private land in the Philippines, but who were previously natural-born Philippine citizens. It is difficult, therefore, to see how B.P. Blg. 185 can become applicable to the present situation even at the subsequent time when the respondent spouses would come before the Register of Deeds. B.P. Blg. 185, especially Section 6 thereof, imposes certain requirements, including a specific limitation on the quantity of land (not more than 1,000 square meters) which may be acquired thereunder, an amount limitation which must not be exceeded both by the land of which such foreign national becomes transferee and by such land taken together with other land previously acquired by such foreign national. (2nd paragraph, Section 2, B.P. Blg. 185) B.P. Blg. 185 would, of course, apply to subsequent purchases of land by the respondent spouses, that is, purchases made after they were naturalized as Canadian nationals.
Separate Opinions

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

With all due respect, I have to dissent. The ponencia begins by posing the issue thus: 59 | P a g e

Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor who has complied with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)? There is no question that the property is private land and thus subject to registration by qualified persons. It was really needless to elaborate on Buyco, which is clearly inapplicable here. We can agree that the ruling case is Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, which is not challenged in this petition. But I think the ponencia misses the point. The finding that the respondent spouses were natural-born Filpinos at the time they acquired the land does not settle the question posed. The important point is that the respondent spouses are no longer citizens of the Philippines but naturalized Canadians. It does not follow that because they were citizens of the Philippines when they acquired the land, they can register it in their names now even if they are no longer Filipinos. Section 7 of Article XII of the Constitution is irrelevant because it is not disputed that the respondent spouses were qualified to acquire the land in question when it was transferred to them. Section 8 of the same article is not applicable either because it speaks of a transfer of private land to a former natural-born citizen of the Philippines after he became a foreigner. Thus it states: Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law. Even if it be assumed that the provision is applicable, it does not appear that the private respondents have observed "the limitations provided by law." The ponencia finds that all the requisites for the registration of the land in the private respondents' name have been complied with. I do not believe so for there is no showing that B.P. 185 has also been enforced. The view has been expressed that we should confine ourselves to the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act. I respectfully submit that the requirements in B.P. 185 have been read into the Act and should also be applied. Strict compliance is necessary because of the special privilege granted to former Filipinos who have become foreigners by their own choice. If we can be so strict with our own citizens, I see no reason why we should be less so with those who have renounced our country. Feliciano, J.: concurring

60 | P a g e

I agree with the great bulk of the majority opinion written by Mr. Justice Bidin and the result reached therein. This separate statement is concerned only with the last two (2) paragraphs, just before the dispositive portion, of the majority opinion. In my view, it should be stressed that B.P. Blg. 185 which took effect on 16 March 1982, doesnot purport to cover the set of facts before the Court in this case: i.e., the respondent spouses became transferees (on 17 June 1978) of the land here involved while they were natural-born Philippine citizens who happened sometime later to have been naturalized as citizens of another country. B.P. Blg. 185, as far as I can determine, addresses itself only to a situation of persons who were already foreign nationals at the time they became transferees of private land in the Philippines, but who were previously natural-born Philippine citizens. It is difficult, therefore, to see how B.P. Blg. 185 can become applicable to the present situation even at the subsequent time when the respondent spouses would come before the Register of Deeds. B.P. Blg. 185, especially Section 6 thereof, imposes certain requirements, including a specific limitation on the quantity of land (not more than 1,000 square meters) which may be acquired thereunder, an amount limitation which must not be exceeded both by the land of which such foreign national becomes transferee and by such land taken together with other land previously acquired by such foreign national. (2nd paragraph, Section 2, B.P. Blg. 185) B.P. Blg. 185 would, of course, apply to subsequent purchases of land by the respondent spouses, that is, purchases made after they were naturalized as Canadian nationals.

61 | P a g e

SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 136965 March 28, 2001

UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. SEGUNDINA ROSARIO, respondent. The Case This is an appeal1 from the decision of the Court of Appeals2 setting aside the order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 217, Quezon City which denied respondent Segundina Rosario's (hereafter, "Segundina") motion to dismiss3 and cancelled the notice of lis pendens annotated on Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042. The Facts There being no controversy as to the facts and the petition raising pure questions of law, we adopt the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals, as follows:4 On September 7, 1971, Datu Ditingke Ramos filed with the Court of First Instance, Quezon City, an application for registration of title covering a parcel of land situated in Quezon City, with an area of 100,000 square meters and covered by Plan (LRC) SWO-15055, as amended.5 On August 31, 1972, petitioner University of the Philippines (hereafter, "U. P.") filed with the trial court a "motion for intervention" in the case, claiming that the land covered by the application (by Datu Ditingke Ramos) is within its property described in Transfer Certificate of Title No. 9462. On March 15, 1973, U.P. filed with the trial court an opposition and motion to dismiss Datu Ditingke Ramos' application for registration. On June 6, 1973, the trial court issued an order which reads as follows: "Acting on the motion to dismiss filed by the University of the Philippines and considering the certification, sketch plan (Exhibits "O" and "P") the testimony of the Acting Chief, Geodetic Engineer as well as the written manifestation of the Land Registration Commission to the effect that the land subject matter of this application and covered by plan SWO-15055 does not encroach on the property of the University of the Philippines and that it is not inside any decreed - property, the motion to dismiss the application is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. "SO ORDERED."6 On June 8, 1973, the trial court First Instance decided the application as follows: 62 | P a g e

"IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the application is hereby granted, declaring the applicant Rosario Alcovendras Vda. de Ramos (surviving spouse of the original applicant who was substituted as party applicant in the order of April 24, 1973) the absolute owner of the property applied for and covered by Plan (LRC) SWO-15055, as amended, confirming her title thereto. Upon in the order of April 24, 1973) the absolute owner of the property applied for and covered by Plan (LRC) SWO 15055, as amended, confirming her title thereto. Upon this decision becoming final, let the required decree of registration be issued and after payment of corresponding fees, let the certificate of title be issued in favor of Rosario Alcovendras Vda. de Ramos, widow, Filipino and a resident of Quezon City. "SO ORDERED."7 On March 19, 1974, the trial court8 issued an order stating: "The decision rendered by this Court in the above-entitled case under the date of June 8, 1973 having become final, the Commissioner of the Land Registration Commission is hereby directed to comply with Section 21 of Act 2347."9 On May 8, 1974, the Commissioner of Land Registration issued Decree No. N-150604 in favor of Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos, pursuant to which the Register of Deeds of Quezon City issued OCT No. 17 in her name. On November 21, 1976, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City cancelled OCT No. 17 and issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 also in the name of Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos due to errors in the technical description.10 On February 23, 1988, Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos executed a "deed of absolute sale" in favor of Segundina Rosario (hereafter Segundina) covering the parcel of land embraced in Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619. On June 11, 1988, fire razed the Quezon City Hall Building which housed the Office of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 was one of the titles destroyed by the fire. Subsequently, Segundina Rosario requested the Register of Deeds to reconstitute Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 resulting in the issuance of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195 (223619). On March 11, 1993, U.P. filed with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 21, Quezon City 11 a petition for the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. (N-126671) 367316 naming Segundina, Bugnay Construction and Development Corporation and the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, among others, as respondents. On November 10, 1994, Segundina caused the registration with the Register of Deeds of the "deed of absolute sale." Consequently, the Register of Deeds issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042 in Segundina's name, resulting in the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195(223619). 63 | P a g e

On November 19, 1996, after the parties had presented their respective evidence, U.P. filed an amended petition alleging that it is "the true, absolute and registered owner of a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 9462" of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City and that the "unlawful acts of ownership being exercised by (Segundina) and (Bugnay Construction and Development Corporation) as well as the existence of their spurious certificates of title, create a cloud of doubt on the title of (U.P.)." In its third cause of action, U.P. prayed that Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042 or the reconstituted titles or derivatives thereof be declared null and void ab initio for being spurious and fraudulently issued. On May 15, 1997, Segundina filed with the trial court an "omnibus motion" for the dismissal of U. P.'s third cause of action in the amended petition as well as the cancellation of the notice of lis pendens annotated on TCT No. 121042 On November 10, 1997, the trial court denied Segundina's omnibus motion. On December 30, 1997, Segundina filed with the trial court a motion for reconsideration questioning the denial of her motion to dismiss and praying for the cancellation of the notice of lis pendens.12 On April 16, 1998, the trial court13 denied Segundina's motion for reconsideration and motion to cancel the notice of lis pendens.14 On November 10, 1997, the trial court15 again denied Segundina's omnibus motion to dismiss and cancel notice oflis pendens.16 On May 26, 1998, Segundina filed with the Court of Appeals17 a petition for certiorari18 assailing the orders of the trial court denying her motion to dismiss. On September 18, 1998, the Court of Appeals promulgated its decision in favor of Segundina. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the third cause of action is barred by res judicata and that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in denying Segundina's "motion to dismiss."19 We quote its dispositive portion: "WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby GRANTED. Consequently, the Orders dated November 10, 1997, and April 16, 1998, are declared NULL and VOID and SET ASIDE insofar as they deny petitioner's Omnibus Motion to Dismiss and Cancel Notice of Lis Pendens. The Third Cause of Action in respondent University of the Philippines' Amended Petition is ordered DISMISSED and the Notice of Lis Pendens annotated on TCT No. 121042, CANCELLED. The writ of preliminary injunction, insofar as it relates to the parcel of land covered by TCT No. 121042, is LIFTED. "SO ORDERED."20 On October 26, 1998, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals, a motion for reconsideration of the afore-quoted decision.21 64 | P a g e

On December 17, 1998, the Court of Appeals denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.22 Hence, this appeal.23 Petitioner's Submissions First, U.P. contends that the Court of Appeals erroneously allowed Segundina's "motion to dismiss" as Segundina has yet to prove in a "full-blown hearing" whether her reconstituted title traces its roots to OCT No. 17. According to U.P., the issuance of Segundina's title was "highly anomalous."24 Second, U.P. assails the issuance of OCT No. 17 in LRC Case No. Q-239 as void ab initio. According to U.P., the Court of First instance never acquired jurisdiction over LRC Case Q-239 as the requisite "signature approval of the Director of Lands... over the survey plan... was nowhere to be found."25 Third, U.P. asserts that the Court of Appeals ruled on "unestablished factual issues... by admitting all the photocopies annexed to respondent (Segundina) Rosario's petition as evidence despite the fact that they all still remained subject to authentication and examination by the parties before the trial court."26 Fourth, U. P. attacks the verification of Segundina's petition in the Court of Appeals as defective. The Court's Ruling The petition is meritorious. We outline the history of the title that Segundina holds (Title No. 121042): First, the land was originally covered by Plan (LRC) SWO-15055, as amended, which the Court of First Instance declared as not encroaching on the property of U.P. and as absolutely owned by Rosario Alcovendras Vda. de Ramos. Thus, OCT No. 17 was issued in her name. Second, OCT No. 17 was cancelled and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 was issued. Third, Rosario Alcovendas Vda. de Ramos executed an "absolute deed of sale" over the land in favor of Segundina.Fourth, Transfer Certificate of Title No. 223619 was burned in the fire that razed the Quezon City Hall. Fifth, Title No. 223619 was reconstituted and Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195 was issued in its place. Sixth, Segundina registered the "deed of absolute sale." Thus, Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-78195 was cancelled and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042 was issued in Segundina's name. In LRC Q-329 the trial court declared U.P. as having no interest in the land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 121042. However, UP's contention that OCT No. 17 is void for lack of the requisite "signature approval of the Director of Lands... over the survey plan"27 is worth looking into. P. D. No. 152928 requires the Director of Lands to sign and approve the survey plan for the land applied for, otherwise, the title is void. "SECTION 17. What and where to file The application for land registration shall be filed with the Court of First Instance of the province or city where the land is situated. The applicant shall 65 | P a g e

file together with the application all original muniments of titles or copies thereof and a survey plan approved by the Bureau of Lands. "The clerk of court shall not accept any application unless it is shown that the applicant has furnished the Director of Lands with a copy of the application and all the annexes (emphasis ours)." No plan or survey may be admitted in land registration proceedings until approved by the Director of Lands.29 The submission of the plan is a statutory requirement of mandatory character. Unless a plan and its technical description are duly approved by the Director of Lands, the same are of no value.30 Thus, the allegation that the signature approval for the survey plan was nowhere to be found is an important jurisdictional fact that must be ventilated before the trial court. In Republic v. Intermediate Appellate Court,31 this Court stated that "void ab initio land titles issued cannot ripen into private ownership." Thus, as OCT No. 17 is void and Segundina traces her rights to OCT No. 17, her claim would have no basis as a spring cannot rise higher than its source.32 Further, the judgment in LRC Q-329 was subject to the qualification that "If the parcel of land is found to be inside decreed properties, this plan is automatically cancelled."33 Whether the land covered by OCT No. 17 is inside decreed property is an issue of fact that can be best determined by the trial court after an examination of the evidence. Welfind meritorious the trial court's rationale for denying Segundina's motion to dismiss. We quote: "To establish their respective rights over the disputed property, both plaintiff and respondents submitted documentary exhibits, the genuineness and authenticity of which can only be proved in a full blown trial. "There is no pretense that the foregoing conflicting claims entail determination of facts. It, thus, become imperative that both parties be given their day in Court to avoid the danger of committing a grave injustice if they were denied an opportunity to introduce evidence in their behalf. "It is within this context that the Court considers it appropriate under the present stage of the action to DENY the instant motion."34 Pending final ruling on the merits of the case, Segundina's motion to cancel the notice of lis pendens must be denied. WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition. The Court REVERSES the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on September 18, 1998, in CA-G. R. SP No. 47783. In lieu thereof, the Court orders the case REMANDED to the trial court for trial on the merits. No costs. SO ORDERED. 66 | P a g e

SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 117734 February 22, 2001

VICENTE G. DIVINA, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and VILMA GAJO-SY, respondets. QUISUMBING, J.: Before us is a petition for review of the decision1 dated October 27, 1994 of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 03068 reversing and setting aside the judgment dated July 7, 1979 of the Court of First Instance of Sorsogon, Branch II, in LRC Case No. N-147. The facts of this case are as follows: Lot No. 1893 located at Gubat, Sorsogon, was originally owned by Antonio Berosa. July 22, 1960, he sold it to Teotimo Berosa. The portion is particularly described as: "A parcel of land unrrigated situated in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines, with an area of TWENTY THOUSAND (20,000) square meters and bounded on the North by Lot #1464 Fausto Ayson and Lot #1888 - Gloria Fajardo: on the East, by Lot # 1446 - Silverio Garcia: on the South, by Lot #1891 - Antonio Escobedo and on the West, by Lot #1880 - Federico Faronas and Lot #1890 - Eugenia Espedido. Cadastral concrete posts are the visible signs of boundary. It has no permanent improvement thereon.Designated as Lot 1893 of Antonio Berosa. Declared under Tax No. 13038, valued at P760.00 for the current year in the name of ANTONIO BEROSA"2 On March 23, 1961, the Berosa spouses sold the same Lot 1893 to Jose P. Gamos. In the deed of sale to Gamos, the lot was more particularly described as: "A parcel of RICE land situatted in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines, with an area of TWENTY THOUSAND (20,000) square meters and bounded on the North, by Lot #1462 Fausto Ayson and Lot #1888 - Gloria F. Estonante: on the East, by Lot #1464 - Zacarias Espadilla; and Lot #1464 - Felix Arimando; on the South, by Lot #1898 - Silverio Garcia; and on the West, by Lot #1890 - Eugenia Espedido and Lot #1892 - Antonio Escobedo. Concrete cements posts are the visible signs of boundary. No permanent improvements thereon. Covered by Lot #1893 of Teotimo E. Berosa, and declared under Tax No. 13039, valued at P760.00 for the present year in the name of TEOTIMO E. BEROSA."3 On April 26, 1960, Gamos acquired from the heirs of Felix Arimado, a boundary owner of Lot 1893, a 20,687 sq. m. parcel of land identified as Lot 1466, also in Gubat. It adjoins Lot 1893. On March 28, 1961, Gamos had these two parcels of land under Tax Declaration No. 13237 and declared it had a 67 | P a g e

total area of 4.0867 hectares. He also had the property resurveyed by private land surveyor Antonio Tiotangco. In 1967, Tax Declaration No. 13237 was cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 9032 in Gamo's name. The re-survey plan (AP-9021), of Lots 1466 and 1893 conducted on June 16, 1961 for Gamos, showed that the consolidated properties contained a total area of 100,034 sq. m. This plan was approved on July 12, 1961 by the Acting Director of Lands. On November 23, 1968, Tax Declaration No. 12927 which cancelled Tax Declaration No. 9032 was secured by Gamos and declared therein that the area of the consolidated property was 10.0034 hectares with 2500 sq. m. planted to coconut, 3.8187 irrigated for rice planting and 5.9347 were thickets.1wphi1.nt On January 19, 1967, Teotimo Berosa conveyed to Vicente G. Divina, herein petitioner, a portion of Lot 1893 referred to as Lot 1893-B. It is described as follows: "A parcel of dry and thicket land situated in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines, having an area of 54,818 square meters and bounded on the N., by Lot 1888 (Inocencio Eroe); Lot 1887 (Jaime Enaje); and Lot 1462 (Heirs of Zacarias Espadilla); on the (Illegible), by Lot 1466; on the SE, by Lot 1893-A; on the S., by Lot 1898(Heirs of Siverio Garcia); on the E., by Lot 1892 (Antonio Escobedo) and Lot 1890 (Eugenia Espedido); and on the NE, by Lot 1889 (Pedro Fajardo); all of Gubat Cadastre. NOTE: This lot is designed as Lot 1893-B, a portion of Lot 1893, Cad 308-D".4 On November 28, 1968, two years from the date of said sale and five (5) days after November 23, 1968, when Gamos secured Tax Declaration No. 12927 declaring the consolidated property as containing 100,034 sq. m., the deed of sale was registered. An undated "Subdivision PLAN" of Lot 1893, was prepared for petitionr. The plan, without Bureau of Lands approval, showed that Lot 1893 was divided into two, Lot 1893-A and Lot 1893-B. On July 24, 1970 Gamos sold the consolidated property to private respondent Vilma Gajo-Sy, for P20,000.00. The land was particularly described as follows: "A parcel of land located at San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon, under Tax Declaration No. 12927 in the name of Jose P. Gamos, covered by Lots No. 1466 and 1893 of the Gubat Cadastre, with an area of 100,034 sq. m., more or less"5 On july 29, 1970, Tax Declaration No. 13768 secured by private respondent, was cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 12509. On August 28, 1972, she filed an application for registration of title to the property at the then Court of First Instance of Sorsogon, docketed as LRC Case No. N-147, GLRO Record No. 42920. The application was amended on March 8, 1973, on order of Branch II of the said court "to include therein the postal address of Inocencio Erpe, adjoining owner of Lot No. 1893 described in Plan AP-9021".

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The land registration court, by Decision of July 29, 1975, ordered the registration of private respondent's title over Lots Nos. 1466 and 1893. On July 13, 1977, pending issuance of the final decree of registration petitioner filed before the same court a Petition for Review of the July 29, 1975 judgment. He alleged that he is the owner of a portion of Lot 1893 consisting of 54,818 sq. m. conveyed to him by Teotimo Berosa on January 19, 1967; that he was unaware of the registration proceedings on Lot 1893 due to private respondent's failure to give him notice and post any notice in the subject lot; and that private respondent fraudulently misrepresented herself as the owner of the disputed portion despite her knowledge that another person had acquired the same. Private respondent opposed the petition alleging that the registration case had become final and the court no longer had any jurisdiction thereon; and that lack of personal notice to the petitioner of the registration proceedings did not constitute actual fraud. The trial court, in its Decision6 dated June 7, 1979, found that the petition for review was timely filed. It also ruled that the failure of private respondent to include a known claimant in her application for registration consituted "deliberate misrepresentation that the lot subject of her application for registration consituted "deliberate misrepresentation that the lot subject of her application is not contested when in fact it was. Private respondent, according to the trial court, should have inlcuded in her application at least "the person of petitioner's cousin, Elena Domalaon"who had, before respondent filed her application for registration, made known to the latter's sister her apprehension of "their land" being included in respondent's application for registration. This misrepresentaion , according to the court, amounted to fraud within the contemplation of Section 38 of Act 496.7The trial court in its decision disposed as follows: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered: (a) Setting aside the Decision rendered in the land registration case and revoking the order for the issuance of a Decree; (b) Declaring petitioner Vicente G. Divina the owner of the portion of the land applied for containing an area of 54,818 square meters which is described in paragraph 3 of the Petition for Review of Judgment; and (c) Allowing this land registration case to proceed as to the portion applied for which is outside the limits of the portion herein awarded to the petitioner Vicente G. Divina; and (d) Ordering a subdivision survey of the lots applied for, delimiting therein the area not contested and which is registrable in favor of applicant Vilma Gajo-Sy, and the area herein adjudicated to petitioner Vicente G. Divina, as to whom the land registration proceedings shall likewise be allowed to proceed after he shall have adduced such other evidence as are appropriate in lanf registration cases. SO ORDERED.8 69 | P a g e

Private respondent assailed the decision of the trial court before the Court of Appeals. It averred that the trial court erred (1) in declaring petitioner-appellee owner of a portion of Lot 1893, in ordering a subdivison survey, and allowing petitioner-appellee to proceed with registration after adducing evidence as are appropriate; (2) in declaring respondent-appellant guilty of "actual fraud" in the land registration case; (3) in taking cognizance of the petition for review of judgment, setting aside the decision dated June 29, 1975, and revoking the order of the issuance of the final decree in the land registration case; and (4) in not dismissing the petition for review of judgment with cost.9 The CA reversed the trial court and dismissed the petition. It ruled: In the case at bar, petitioner-appellee did not indeed appear in the survey plan as an adjoining owner of the subject property. Neither was he a known claimant or possessor of the questioned portion of Lot 1893 which was found by the court a quo to be untouched and thickly planted with bigaho. A fortiori, there was no need to mention in the application for registration the apprehension or claim of "at least" petitioner-appellee's cousin Evelyn(sic) Domalaon in the application for registration, nor to personally notify Elena about registration proceeding. There could, therefore, have been no misrepresentation in any form on the part of respondentappellee. xxx There being no extrinsic or collateral fraud attendant to the registration of the property in the name of respondent-appellee, We find it unnecessary to discuss the rest of the assigned errors. Suffice it to state that Lot 1893 bought by Teotimo Berosa which he sold to Jose P. Gamos who in turn sold it to respondent-appellee in 1970 was designated by boudaries in such a manner as to put its identity beyond doubt; that the total area of Lot 1893 lot was determined after a resurvey/relocation was conducted for Gamos in 1961 the result of which is reflected in then Plan approved by the Bureau of Lands also in 1961; that what really defines a piece of land is not the area but the boundaries therein laid down (Pea, Registration of Land Titles and Deeds, 1988 Edition, p. 213); that the "Lot 1893-B" sold to petitioner-appellee made no mention of any tax declaration covering it, unlike the different deeds of sale covering Lot 1893, therby raising the presumption that "lot 1893-B" was really part of the Lot 1893 sold by Gamos to respondent-appellant; and that the "subdivision" of Lot 1893 into Lots A and B caused to be made by petitioner-appellee who claims Lot 1893-B to have been the "Lot 1893-B" subject of the January 19, 1967 Deed of Sale in his favor which was registered on November 28, 1968, appears to have been made in 1977, ten years from the date of said deed of sale,a confirmation that there was no such "Lot 1893-B" subject of his purchase in 1967; and in any event, as the subdivision survey prepared for petitioner-appellee was not approved by the Bureau of Lands, it is not of much value (vide Flores vs. Director of Lands, 17 Phil. 512[1910]). In fine, not all the basic elements for the allowance of the reopenign or review of the judgment rendered in the land registration case in respondent-appellant's favor are present. The present appeal is thus meritorious. 70 | P a g e

WHEREFORE, the assailed judgement is hereby REVERSED and set aside and another rendered DISMISSING petitioner-appellee's petition at the court a quo.10 Hence, the present petition. Petitioner now assails the reversal of the Court of Appeals of the trial court decision. In substance, he raises the primary issue of whether or not, there was deliberate misrepresentation constitutiing actual fraud on private respondent's part when she failed to give or post notice to petitioner of her application for registration of the contested land, such that it was error for the trial court declare private respondent owner of the disputed land. Prefatorily, on the timeliness of the petition for review of judgment, we have repeatedly said that the adjudication in a registration of a cadastral case does not become final and incontrovertible until the expiration of one year after the entry of then final decree. As long as the final decree is not issued, and the one year within which it may be revised had not elapsed, the decision remains under the control and sound dicretion of the court rendering the decree, which court after hearing may set aside the decision or decree or adjudicate the land to another party.11In the present case, a cerification was issued by the Land Registration Commission that no final decree of registration had yet been issued and by the order of the trial court dated September 28, 1977, it restrained the Commission from issuing such a decree. Clearly, the tolling of the one year period has not even began. Thus, the trial court did not err when it entertained the petition. Now, we consider the crux of the petition. Both the trial and appellate courts found that petitioner's name did not appear in the survey plan as an adjacent owner, nor claimant nor possessor. However, the trial and appellate courts differed in their conclusion on whether or not there was deliberate misrepresentation constituting fraud in private respondent's part when it failed to give notice or post notice to petential claimant and include their names in the application for registration. The trial court said there was, but the appellate court disagreed. Section 15 of P.D. 152912 is explicit in requiring that in the application for registration of land titles, the application "shall also state the full names and addresses of all occupants of the land and those of the adjoining owners if known, and if not known, it shall state the extent of the search made to find them." As early as Francisco vs. Court of Appeals, 97 SCRA 22 [1980] we emphasized that a mere statement of the lack of knowledge of the names of the occupants and adjoining owners is not sufficient but "what search has been made to find them is necessary." The trial court was correct when it took notice that respondent's sister Lydia Gajo-Anonuevo admitted that she had a conversation with petitioner's cousin elena Dumalaon about the latter's apprehension that their land may have been included in respondent's application for registration of the disputed land.13 Respondent's omission of this material information prevented petitioner from having his day in court. The trial court in its decision more than amply supported its conclusion with jurisprudence to the effect that it is fraud to knowingly omit or conceal a fact upon which benefit is obtained to the prejudice of a third person.14 Such omission can not but be deliberate misrepresentation constituting fraud, a basis for allowing a petition for review of judgment under Section 38 of Act No. 496, The Land Registration Act. Additionally, it should be noted that petitioner acquired the bigger portion of Lot 1893 long after the initial survey of Barrio San Ignacio. Teotimo Berosa sold Lot 1893 to Jose P. Gamos whi in turn sold it to respondent in 1970. Clearly, going by the records, petitioner's name would not be found on the 71 | P a g e

said survey plan approved by the Bureau of Lands in 1961, years before his purchase of the portion of Lot 1893. Petitioner's claim is clearly meritorious. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 24, 1994 isREVERSED and SET ASIDE. The judgment in LRC Case No. N-147 of the then Court of First Instance, Branch II in Gubat, Sorsogon is REINSTATED. Costs against privae respondent. SO ORDERED.

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SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. L-49776 January 28, 1980 RODOLFO, ANDRELINA, NORMA, LYDIA, VIRGINIA, SONIA, ELSA, ROGELIO and RAFAEL, all surnamed ZUIGA, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS (First Division), FELISA CERDENA, MARCIANA CERDENA, Heirs of EUSTAQUIO CERDENA, Heirs of PLACIDO CERDENA, Heirs of ROSA CERDENA, and Heirs of CELESTINA CERDENA,respondents. Virginia Zuiga-de Vega for and in his own behalf. Dakila F. Castro & Associates for private respondents. ANTONIO, J.: Petition for review by certiorari, to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals, dated August 11, 1978 (CA-G.R. No. 50537-R), vacating the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan of August 31, 1971. This decision of the trial court ordered the registration of a parcel of land, situated in Meycauayan, Bulacan, described in Plan Ap-19129 (Exhibit "E") and its accompanying technical description (Exhibit "F"), in ten (10) undivided shares each in favor of Rodolfo, Andrelina, Norma, Lydia, Sonia, Virginia, Elsa, Rafael and Rogelio, all surnamed Zuiga, and the minors Pablito, Anselmo Marina and Alex Zuiga, represented by their mother, Adoracion Padilla. The thrust of the petition is that the respondent Court of Appeals, in declaring that the trial court had no jurisdiction in passing upon questions involving ownership of the land in dispute, had decided the question in a manner contrary to law and applicable decisions of this Court. The present proceedings originated from the application for the registration of title filed on January 22, 1970 by Felisa Cerdea, Marciana Cerdea, and the Heirs of Eustaquio, Placido, Rosa and Celestino, all surnamed Cerdea, with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, over a certain parcel of land in Meycauayan, Bulacan. They alleged, among others, that they are owners of the land in fee simple, having inherited the same from their deceased parents, Canuto Cerdea and Francisca Serrano.M At the initial hearing, nobody appeared to oppose the application, except the heirs of Felix Zuiga. An order of general default was entered against the whole world, with the exception of the aforementioned oppositors. In their opposition, the oppositors (now petitioners) alleged, inter alia, that they are the owners in fee simple and in undivided share and interest over the parcel of land subject of registration, having inherited the same from their father, Felix Zuiga, who died intestate on January 31, 1966 in Meycauayan, Bulacan; that the property was previously owned in common by Felix Zuiga and Francisco Serrano, having purchased the same on March 4, 1919 from Benita Francia y Abacan that 73 | P a g e

after the death of Francisca Serrano, her heirs, namely, Celestino, Rosa, Felisa, Marciana and Sixta all surnamed Cerdea, sold the share which they inherited from their mother, Francisca Serrano, consisting of one-half (1/2) thereof to Felix Zuiga and Rustica Tapispisan, parents of the oppositors. Hence, the oppositors Rodolfo, Andrelina, Norma, Lydia, Virginia, Sonia, Elsa, Rogelio and Rafael, all surnamed Zuiga, together with their nephews and nieces, as the legitimate heirs of Felix Zuiga who died intestate on January 31, 1966 at Meycauayan, Bulacan, became the exclusive and absolute owners of the entire property. They further ' alleged therein that they had been in actual, physical, peaceful, public, uninterrupted and continuous possession of the same as the true and lawful owners thereof and have caused the cadastral survey of the land now known as Lot No. 4400, Meycauayan Cadastre, and the issuance of Plan Ap-19129 in the name of the Heirs of Felix Zuiga. During the course of the hearing, the applicants, Felisa Cerdea, et al., filed on March 29, 1971, a motion praying that a document handwriting expert from the National Bureau of Investigation be appointed to conduct an examination of the deeds or documents submitted by oppositors at the hearing on February 22, 1971, consisting of; (a) a deed of sale executed on March 4, 1919 by Benita Francia (Exhibit "1-Oppositors"); and (b) a deed of sale executed on November 27, 1946 by Rosa Cerdea and Celestina Cerdea (Exhibit "2-Oppositors"). This motion was granted by the trial court on May 4, 1971. On May 27, 1971, Felisa Cerdea, et al. filed with the trial court an urgent ex parte motion for amendment/modification of the order of May 4, 1971 to the effect "that the Provincial Assessor for the Province of Bulacan submits or surrenders to the National Bureau of Investigation, Manila for examination purposes, the documents (Exhibits 1 and 2, oppositors), as well as instruments available thereat bearing sample standards of the thumbmarks of Benita Francia of Meycauayan, Bulacan, ... and directing the National Bureau of Investigation to examine said documents, firstly: to determine the genuineness and authenticity as to age, type and execution, and secondly: to examine the thumbmarks appearing on said documents with sample standards furnished by the Provincial Assessor for Bulacan, with respect to Benita Francia, and those furnished by the applicants herein, the latter upon previous notice to oppositors or counsel." On May 31, 1971, the trial court issued an order, declaring that it was the duty of the applicants "to search for and provide the documents to serve as standards of comparison for the examination", and if the applicants are aware of such documents," they should submit the same to this Court for approval as standards, otherwise the order for examination of the documents will be cancelled." On June 11, 1971, applicants Felisa Cerdea, et al. again presented a motion for the transfer of the custody of the deeds of sale submitted by the oppositors from the Provincial Assessor of Bulacan to the Acting Chief, Dactyloscopy Section, Criminalistics Division, National Bureau of Investigation, Manila, for examination. This was granted by the trial court on June 14, 1971. On August 31, 1971, the trial court rendered decision, declaring and stating as follows: The facts as found by the Court from the evidence are as follows: The land was originally owned by Benita Francia, who sold it in 1919 to Francisca Serrano and Felix Zuiga. (Exh. 1, 1-A and 1-B). Felix Zuiga was the grandson of Francisca Serrano, being the son of the latter's daughter, Celestina Cerdea. Francisca Serrano died in 1933, and her half of the property was inherited by her children Celestina, Rosa, Felisa and Marciana Cerdea. Under a public document dated November 27, 1946, they sold their 74 | P a g e

half of the property to Felix Zuiga (Exh. 2). Ownership therefore became consolidated in Felix Zuiga, and upon his death on January 31, 1966 his heirs, oppositors in this case, executed an extrajudicial settlement of the estate with waiver (Exh. 4). Applicants, who are led by Felisa Cerdea and Sixta Cerdea, denied that they executed Exhibit 2 and that the thumbprints appearing thereon were theirs. The document was submitted to the NBI for a determination of the authenticity of the thumbprints. The NBI examiner, Tomas Toribio, found the question prints to be slurred, smudged, or fragmentary, and declared that they cannot be used as basis for an examination The mere denial by Felisa Cerdea and Sixta Cerdea that the thumbmarks were theirs is not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the notarial document was validly and regularly executed. It appears further that the Zuigas have always been in possession of the property, to the exclusion of the applicants. This fact bolsters the claim of the oppositors that their father owned the property. This ownership, which is traced back to the purchase of the property from Benita Francia in 1919 has lasted for at least 50 years. It having been satisfactorily established that oppositors and their predecessors-ininterests have been in open, public, continuous, adverse and notorious possession of the land aforementioned under a bona fide claim of ownership for more than fifty years prior to the filing of the application oppositors are therefore entitled to the registration applied for under C.A. 141. WHEREFORE, the Court hereby orders the registration of the parcel of land covered by plan Ap-19129 (Exh. E) and its accompanying technical description (Exh. F) in the following manner: 1/10 undivided shares each in favor of Rodolfo Zuiga, married to Lucia Urian; Andrelina Zuiga, married to Luis Porras Norma Zuiga, married to Epifanio Diano; Lydia Zuiga, married to Leopoldo Jaime, Jr., Virginia Zuiga, married to Arsenio de Vega; Elsa Zuiga, married to Beltran Fitalcorin; Rafael Zuiga, married to Aida Arzadon; Rogelio Zuiga, single; all of legal age, Filipinos, and residents of Malhacan, Meycauayan, Bulacan; and 1/10 undivided shares in favor of Pablito, Anselmo, Marissa, and Alex, all surnamed Zuiga, represented by their mother, Adoracion Padilla, minors, Filipinos, and residents of Malhacan, Meycauayan, Bulacan as their exclusive property. This decision was appealed by Felisa Cerdea, et al. to the Court of Appeals, contending that the lower court erred in finding that: (a) the land applied for was sold by Benita Francia in 1919 to Francisco Serrano and Felix Zuiga; (b) the heirs of Francisco Serrano sold their half of the property to Felix Zuiga; (c) the possession by the Zuigas of the property bolster their claim that their father owned the property, and, as a consequence, in ordering the registration of the property in the names of the oppositors. It was on the basis of the afore-cited facts that the Court of Appeal instead of solving the factual issues raised, declared the court a quo as without jurisdiction to pass upon questions involving the 75 | P a g e

ownership of the land in dispute and vacated the judgment appealed from without prejudice to having the issue of ownership litigated in an ordinary action before a before court of first instance. The purposes of the land registration law, in general, are: the ascertain once and for all the absolute title over a given landed property; to make, so far as it is possible, a certificate of title issued by the court to the owner of the land absolute proof of such title; to quiet title to the land and to put a stop forever any question of legality to a title; and to decree that land title to be final, irrevocable and, undisputable." 1 It is true that a court of first instance acting as a land registration court has limited and special jurisdiction. lt cannot be denied, however, that when the law confers jurisdiction upon a court, the latter is deemed to have all the necessary powers to exercise such jurisdiction to make it effective. 2 The purpose of the applicant is to prove that he has an absolute or simple title over the property sought to be registered, otherwise his application will be denied. All absolute oppositor claims a dominical right totally adverse to that of the applicant. If successful, registration will be decreed in favor of the oppositor. As to whether or not private respondents have absolute or fee simple title over the property sought to be registered necessarily requires a resolution of the question as to whether or not the oppositors had a dominical right totally adverse to that of the applicants. hence, the relevancy of the issue of the validity of the conveyances in question. This issue is not foreign but intimately related to the principal question involved in the registration proceedings. Conceding the materiality of this question, both parties submitted for resolution to the court a quo the issue on the genuineness and authenticity of the deed of sale, executed by Benita Francia on March 4, 1919 in favor of Francisca Serrano and Felix Zuiga (Exhibits "1", "1-A" and "I-B"). and the deed of sale executed by applicants on November 27, 1946 in favor of Felix Zuiga (Exhibit "2"). Thus, private respondents, as applicants in the afore-mentioned proceedings, moved on March 29, 1971 before the land registration court, for the appointment of a handwriting expert to conduct an examination of the aforesaid deed of sale submitted by oppositors on the hearing of March 22, 1971. Even after this motion was granted by the trial court on May 4, 1971, private respondents again on May 27, 1971 sought the modification of the order of the trial court of May 4, 1971 to the effect that the Provincial Assessor of Bulacan should submit to the National Bureau of Investigation for examination purposes "the documents (Exhs. I and 2, Oppositors) as well as instruments available thereat bearing sample standards of the thumbmarks of Benita Francia of Meycauayan, Bulacan." Subsequently on June 11, 1971, applicants moved for the transfer of the possession and custody of the afore-cited documents from the Provincial Assessor to the Acting Chief, Dactyloscopy Section, Criminalistics Division, NBI, Manila for examination, which motion was granted by the Court on June 14, 1971. The result of the examination was discussed in the decision of the trial court. The validity of the aforesaid conveyances was, therefore, duly threshed out in the hearings before the trial court. Full opportunities were given to both parties in the presentation of their respective sides and in the submission of evidence in support thereof. The evidence presented by the parties was fully considered by the court in its decision. As a matter of fact, on appeal, the main assignment of error of private respondents before the Court of Appeals dealt with the sufficiency of the finding of fact of the trial court that the land in question was sold to the oppositors. In Franco, et at v. Monte de Piedad 3 this court stated in emphatic terms that although the general rule is that a land 'registration court has no power to decide cases involving issues properly litigated in ordinary actions, yet inasmuch as in this jurisdiction it is the courts of first instance that also function as courts of land registration, our 76 | P a g e

jurisprudence recognizes exceptions to said rule, where the parties have acquiesced in submitting the issues for determination in the registration proceedings. and they are given full opportunity to present their respective sides and submit their evidence. 4From the cases, it may be gathered that, from the otherwise rigid rule that the jurisdiction of a land registration court, being special and limited in character and proceedings thereon summary in nature, does not extend to issues properly litigatable in ordinary civil action, deviations have been sanctioned under the following conditions: (1) the parties mutually agreed or have acquiesced in submitting the aforesaid issues for determination by the court in the registration proceedings; (2) the parties have been given full opportunity in the presentation of their respective sides of the issues and of the evidence in support thereof; and (3) the court has considered the evidence already of record and is convinced that the same is sufficient and adequate for rendering a decision upon the issues. 5 The foregoing situations exist in the case at bar. To require that this case be litigated anew in another action between the parties would lead to multiplicity of suits, abet unnecessary delays in the administration of justice and negate the constitutional right of all persons "to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasijudicial, or administrative bodies." 6 WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the decision of respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 50537-R is hereby set aside, and the respondent Court is hereby directed to decide the appeal on the basis of the questions of fact raised by the parties. SO ORDERED. Concepcion, Jr., Barredo and Abad Santos, JJ. concur. Separate Opinions AQUINO, J., concurring: I concur in the result. The Court of Appeals misapplied and misunderstood the rule that "questions which involved the ownership of the litigated lands are not within the province of a court of land registration" (Tomada vs. Tomada L-21887, July 30, 1969, 28 SCRA 1028). That rule applies only to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court of First Instance, acting as a land registration court, subsequent to the original registration of the land, or to incidents affecting registered land such as the cases arising under section 112 of Act No. 496, regarding alteration or amendment of the certificate of title. It does not apply to the land registration proceeding itself where the basic question in issue is the ownership of the land or whether the applicant or oppositor has a registerable title to the land or the land should be declared public land. The instant case is an original land registration proceeding. So, naturally, the question of ownership and all the incidents thereof have to be decided by the land registration court that is, whether it is the Cerdea applicants or the Zuiga oppositors who have an imperfect title that may be confirmed under section 48 of the Public Land Law. (See Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890.) 77 | P a g e

In this case, the Court of First Instance, in order to determine the issue of ownership or the registerability of the title of the Cerdeas or Zuigas correctly passed upon the issue of whether the deed of sale relied upon by the Zuiga oppositors was forged or is authentic. That issue is a mere incident in the proceeding. A separate action to determine that issue is not necessary. The determination of that issue falls within the exclusive competence of the trial court acting as a land registration court in an original land registration proceeding as distinguished from a proceeding involving land already registered or a proceeding subsequent to the original land registration proceeding. Separate Opinions AQUINO, J., concurring: I concur in the result. The Court of Appeals misapplied and misunderstood the rule that "questions which involved the ownership of the litigated lands are not within the province of a court of land registration" (Tomada vs. Tomada L-21887, July 30, 1969, 28 SCRA 1028). That rule applies only to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court of First Instance, acting as a land registration court, subsequent to the original registration of the land, or to incidents affecting registered land such as the cases arising under section 112 of Act No. 496, regarding alteration or amendment of the certificate of title. It does not apply to the land registration proceeding itself where the basic question in issue is the ownership of the land or whether the applicant or oppositor has a registerable title to the land or the land should be declared public land. The instant case is an original land registration proceeding. So, naturally, the question of ownership and all the incidents thereof have to be decided by the land registration court that is, whether it is the Cerdea applicants or the Zuiga oppositors who have an imperfect title that may be confirmed under section 48 of the Public Land Law. (See Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890.) In this case, the Court of First Instance, in order to determine the issue of ownership or the registerability of the title of the Cerdeas or Zuigas correctly passed upon the issue of whether the deed of sale relied upon by the Zuiga oppositors was forged or is authentic. That issue is a mere incident in the proceeding. A separate action to determine that issue is not necessary. The determination of that issue falls within the exclusive competence of the trial court acting as a land registration court in an original land registration proceeding as distinguished from a proceeding involving land already registered or a proceeding subsequent to the original land registration proceeding.

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SECOND DIVISION [G.R. No. 133465. September 25, 2000] AMELITA DOLFO, petitioner, vs. THE REGISTER OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF CAVITE, TRECE MARTIRES CITY, THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY, CESAR E. CASAL, RUSTICO A. CASAL, ERNESTO A. CASAL, RODOLFO A. CASAL, ALFREDO A. CASAL, JR., EMMANUEL A. B. CASAL, RAFAEL S. CASAL, JR., C. JOSEFINA S. CASAL, CELEDONIA S. CASAL, WILHELMINA S. CASAL, MELANIO MEDINA, ADELAIDA MEDINA, AURORA MEDINA, C. P. G. AGRICOM CORPORATION and HEIRS OF DAMIAN ERMITANIO and CELEDONIA MARTINEZ, respondents. DECISION MENDOZA, J.: This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision[1] of the Sixteenth Division of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 41896 entitled, "Amelita Dolfo v. Hon. Novato T. Cajigal, et al." Said decision upheld the orders dated May 7, 1996 and August 22, 1996 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite, in LRC Case Nos. B-89-14 and B-90-6 denying petitioner's motion for leave to intervene and/or admit complaint in intervention as well as her motion for reconsideration. The petition likewise assails the appellate court's resolution denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration and the trial court's joint decision recognizing the rights of private respondents over a parcel of land located in Barangay Lantic, Carmona, Cavite which is the subject of the abovesaid LRC Cases. The pertinent facts are as follows: On March 5, 1996, petitioner and Yangtze Properties, Inc. (Yangtze) filed a motion for leave to file and/or admit complaint-in-intervention in LRC Cases Nos. B-94-60, B-89-14 and B-90-6 pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite. The first case is for reconstitution of Original Certificate of Title No. 362 purportedly covering the subject real property, while the last two were cases for registration of title. Petitioner alleged that she is the registered owner of the real property subject of the said LRC Cases as shown by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-320601 issued in her name by the Register of Deeds of Trece Martires City. Yangtze, petitioner's co-movant, had earlier entered into a Contract to Sell with petitioner over the said property.[2] In its order dated May 7, 1996, the trial court denied the aforementioned motion on the grounds that: 1) it is a procedural error to file a complaint for intervention in cases involving original application for land registration, the proceedings therein being in rem; and 2) there had already been an order of general default entered by the court against those who failed to oppose the applications. The trial court noted petitioner's failure to exercise any act of dominion over the subject property consistent with her allegation of ownership.[3] On May 15, 1996, petitioner and Yangtze filed a motion for reconsideration of the May 7, 1996 order. The trial court, treating the motion as a motion to lift the order of general default, denied the same in its order dated August 22, 1996. The trial court gave greater weight to the report of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) that petitioner's certificate of title was issued without any legal basis and the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that the signature of Antonia Cabuco, the Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite signatory on the certificate, was a forgery. This is 79 | P a g e

notwithstanding the documents proffered by petitioner allegedly showing the genuineness of the signature of Antonia Cabuco on the certificate of title. The trial court opined that petitioner's title over the subject property was of doubtful nature and that allowing her to intervene in the LRC cases would unduly delay the proceedings.[4] Meanwhile, on August 1, 1996, Atty. Artemio Caa, in his capacity as Acting Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite, filed a complaint for the annulment of petitioner's certificate of title before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 89, Bacoor, Cavite.[5] The matter remains pending in that court. On the other hand, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite rendered a joint decision recognizing and confirming the rights of private respondents over the litigated property and ordered the issuance of a Decree of Registration in their favor.[6] Later, petitioner filed before the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari and mandamus to annul and set aside the above orders of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite. Petitioner also prayed that the latter be compelled to give due course to her motion for leave to intervene and/or admit complaint-in-intervention. The petition was later amended to include the LRA as party respondent.[7] On October 20, 1997, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision denying the petition due course, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED DUE COURSE and is DISMISSED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED.[8] The Court of Appeals likewise denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration in its resolution dated April 21, 1998.[9] Petitioner now contends that: I. THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE PROPER REMEDY IN THE LAND REGISTRATION CASES IS AN OPPOSITION TO THE APPLICATION OF THE APPLICANTS, AND NOT A MOTION TO INTERVENE IN THE PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE TRIAL COURT. II. THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT ADMITTING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR INTERVENTION ON THE BASIS OF PETITIONER'S POSSESSION OF HER INDEFEASIBLE TITLE OVER THE SUBJECT PROPERTIES. III. THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT UPHOLDING THE TITLE OF THE PETITIONER, TCT NO. T-320601, OVER THE PROPERTIES IN QUESTION DESPITE PETITIONER'S OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO PROVE THE GENUINENESS AND DUE EXECUTION OF HER TITLE, AND DESPITE ITS EXPRESS AND CATEGORICAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE FACT THAT PETITIONER INDEED PRESENTED NUMEROUS DOCUMENTS TO PROVE THE AUTHENTICITY OF HER TITLE. We find petitioner's contentions unmeritorious. 80 | P a g e

First. The provisions of 14 and 25 of P.D. No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree) show that the applicant and the oppositor are the only parties in cases of original applications for land registration, unlike in ordinary civil actions where parties may include the plaintiff, the defendant, third party complainants, cross-claimants, and intervenors. It is now settled that a motion to intervene in a land registration case cannot be allowed. A party wishing to be heard should ask for the lifting of the order of general default, and then if lifted, file an opposition to the application for registration. This is so because proceedings in land registration are in rem and not in personam, the sole object being the registration applied for, not the determination of any right connected with the registration.[10] Second. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals made a factual finding that petitioner's title to the land is of doubtful authenticity. Having jurisdiction only to resolve questions of law, this Court is bound by the factual findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals.[11]Even if intervention is allowed in cases of original registration of title, petitioner cannot rely on her certificate of title in view of the evidence respecting its genuineness. As correctly held by the Court of Appeals: Moreover, even if intervention is proper, petitioner's reliance on her title is infirm. While she presented numerous documents to prove its authenticity, however, they have been disputed by Benjamin Flestado, Chief of the Inspection and Investigation Division of the Land Registration Authority (LRA), in his Report showing that her T.C.T. No. T-320601 was issued without legal basis and that no document was on file with the Primary Entry Book of the Registry of Deeds of Trece Martires City to support the issuance thereof. This Report concludes that petitioner's T.C.T. No. T-320601 is spurious. Such finding is reinforced by the NBI Report dated June 20, 1996 showing that the signature of Register of Deeds Antonia Cabuco appearing on petitioner's title is a forgery. Consequently, Atty. Artemio Cana, Acting Register of Deeds of Cavite, filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 89 at Bacoor for annulment of petitioner's title.[12] The rule that a title issued under the Torrens System is presumed valid and, hence, is the best proof of ownership of a piece of land does not apply where the certificate itself is faulty as to its purported origin.[13] In this case, petitioner anchors her arguments on the premise that her title to the subject property is indefeasible because of the presumption that her certificate of title is authentic. However, this presumption is overcome by the evidence presented, consisting of the LRA report dated May 24, 1996[14] that TCT No. T-320601 was issued without legal basis and the NBI report dated June 20, 1996[15] that the signature of Antonia Cabuco was a forgery. Although petitioner submitted documents purporting to show the genuineness of Antonia Cabuco's signature, she has not refuted the findings contained in the LRA report that her certificate of title has no legal basis. Thus, in its report, the LRA stated: Verification conducted in the Registry of Deeds of Cavite Province on 21 May 1996 disclosed that there is no document on file in the registry vault to support the issuance of TCT No.T-320601 in favor of Amelita Dolfo. Even the Primary Entry Book for Act 496 under the date 18 November 1991 does not indicate that a document was presented for registration in favor of Amelita Dolfo affecting TCT No. 81 | P a g e

11520 which resulted in the issuance of TCT No. T-320601. Instead, page 232 of the Primary Entry Book, Volume 47 (Annex "B") shows that under the date - 18 November 1991 there appears no document entered therein at 11:05 a.m. in favor of Amelita Dolfo or in her behalf affecting the parcel of land described in TCT No. T-320601. This Investigator also failed to locate despite the thorough search of the vault clerks, TCT No. 11520 the supposed title from whence the subject TCT No. T-320601 was derived. What are filed in the title volume are certificates of titles, including TCT No. T-11519 and TCT No. T-11521 both issued by RD Cuevas on 5 November 1964 at 9:00 a.m. (see Annexes "C" & "C-1"). In other words, TCT No. 11520 was supposed to have been issued by RD Cuevas in November 1964.In the absence of the title, it cannot however be determined if TCT No. T-11520 covers the same parcel of land in the subject title of Amelita Dolfo. Records of this Authority show that Judicial Forms 109 and 109-D (CB printed) with Serial No. 2061717 were requisitioned by and issued to Cavite Registry of Deeds on 21 October 1991. There appears no report of consumption pertaining to those title-forms was submitted by the Cavite Registry of Deeds (see Annexes "D" to "D-5"). On the other hand, records of the Cavite Registry of Deeds show that Judicial Forms 109-109-D with Serial No. 2061717 were consumed and used for a certificate and of title, TCT No. 322182, in favor of Manuel dela Cruz and not for issuance of TCT No. T-320601 in favor of Amelita Dolfo. This is confirmed by the Certification of Deputy Register of Deeds, dated 21 May 1996 (Annex "E"), which attests: This is to certify that as per records on file in the issuance book dated October 25, 1991, Judicial Form 109-109-D with Serial No. 2061717 was issued to Manuel dela Cruz with corresponding TCT No. 322182 and not TCT No. T-320601 in favor of Amelita Dolfo. It is, however, also unfortunate that TCT No. 322182 (with Serial No. 2061717) and the certificate of title with Serial No. 2061716 are not also filed in the corresponding title (book) volume. What are filed therein are certificates of title, including TCT No. T-322180 (with Serial No. 2061715) and TCT No. T322183 (with Serial No. 2061718) both issued by RD Cabuco on 8 August 1993 and 25 October 1991, respectively (see Annexes "F" & "F-1"). The Issuance Book of title-forms on file in the Cavite RD, particularly page 134 (Annex "G"), also confirms that Judicial Form 2061717 was issued or released for TCT No. 322182 and not for TCT No. T320601. Furthermore, registry records show, particularly the same Issuance Book of title-forms, page 88 (Annex "H"), that the Judicial Forms 109 and 109-D used for the genuine TCT No. 320601 were with Serial No. 2037534 (erroneously typed in the certification as 2037519); and that the said TCT No. 320601 was issued in the name of Molino Homes and not in favor of Amelita Dolfo. This is confirmed by the Certification of DRD Diosdado A. Concepcion, dated 21 May 1996, which states (Annex "H-1"):

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This is to certify that as per records on file in this registry, dated October 8, 1991 Judicial Form 109109-D with Serial Number 2037519 TCT No. 320601 Book No. 1701 Page 101 issued in the name of Molino Homes and was received by Amania Jimenez. When interviewed, DRD Concepcion disclosed to this Investigator that the supposed original of TCT No. T-320601 in the name of Amelita Dolfo is detached from the title volume. He could not tell where it is now, not even the vault clerks of the registry. However, Atty. Concepcion surmised that the same is in the possession/custody of Ms. Melany Victoria, OIC Deputy Registry of Deeds. Atty. Concepcion furnished this Investigator a certified copy (of a xerox copy in his file) of the subject TCT No. T-320601 (see Annex "I"). He further intimated that based on his own personal verification he believes that the supposed title in the name of Amelita Dolfo is of doubtful authenticity. In fact, Atty. Concepcion further averred, that former Register of Deeds Antonia Cabuco disowned the signature above the typewritten name "Antonia B. Cabuco, Register of Deeds" in the subject TCT No.T-320601.[16] In an effort to remove any doubt on the veracity of her certificate of title, petitioner questioned the credibility of Atty. Artemio Caa who filed an action for annulment of her title. However, her evidence to prove the genuineness of her certificate of title was the letter of the LRA Administrator, Reynaldo Maulit, who, in declaring the existence of TCT No. T-320601 in the vaults of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite, referred to the letter-report of the same Atty. Artemio Caa dated April 30, 1996.[17] Thus, petitioner cannot invoke the indefeasibility of her certificate of title. It bears emphasis that the Torrens system does not create or vest title but only confirms and records one already existing and vested.[18] Thus, while it may be true, as petitioner argues, that a land registration court has no jurisdiction over parcels of land already covered by a certificate of title, it is equally true that this rule applies only where there exists no serious controversy as to the authenticity of the certificate. Fourth. Indeed, to allow petitioner to intervene in the LRC cases would not avoid multiplicity of suits in view of the case for annulment and cancellation of TCT No. T-320601 now pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 89, Bacoor, Cavite. It is premature for petitioner to intervene in the LRC cases because her certificate of title, supposedly her best proof of ownership over the property described therein, is questionable. Besides, inasmuch as the authenticity of her certificate of title is also being questioned in the LRC cases, the evidence that she will present to the prove the contrary would be the same evidence she will present in the case for annulment of title. At this point, where there is already a decree of registration issued in favor of private respondents, it is moot and academic to allow petitioner to participate in the LRC cases for the purpose of preventing possible double titling of property. As the trial court correctly stated, petitioner is not left without remedy even if she was not allowed to intervene. If it is shown that her certificate of title is genuine and that she is the true owner of the litigated property, the proceedings in the land registration cases would then be null and void because the trial court has no jurisdiction on the matter. Otherwise, she could sue for damages. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decision and the resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED.

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SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 76265 April 22, 1992 VIRGINIA CALALANG, Petitioner, vs. REGISTER OF DEEDS OF QUEZON CITY, ADMINISTRATOR OF NATIONAL LAND TITLES AND DEEDS REGISTRATION ADMINISTRATION, LUCIA DE LA CRUZ, CONSTANCIO SIMANGAN and IGLESIA NI KRISTO, Respondents. G.R. No. 83280 April 22, 1992 AUGUSTO M. DE LEON, JOSE M. DE CASTRO, JOSE A. PANLILEO, FELICIDAD VERGARA VDA. DE PINEDA, FERNANDO L. VITUG I, FERNANDO M. VITUG II, FERNANDO M. VITUG III, FAUSTINO TOBIA, ELENA M. OSTREA and FELISA C. CRISTOBAL-GENEROSO, Petitioners, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS and BISHOP ERAO MANALO, Respondents. GUTIERREZ, JR., J.: The subject of controversy in these two consolidated petitions is a parcel of land - Lot 671-A of the Piedad Estate located in Barrio Culiat, Diliman. The petitioners are individual lot owners who claim to have bought their respective portions from Amando Clemente in the 1950's. Amando Clemente is alleged to be the registered owner of said land evidenced by Transfer of Certificate Title No. 16212 covering about 81,160 square meters who converted it into a subdivision known as Clemville Subdivision. Lot 671-A is actually part of a bigger parcel known as Lot 671 which is claimed by respondent Iglesia ni Kristo (INK), which bought said property from Lucia dela Cruz in 1975. Dela Cruz was adjudged the rightful owner of Lot 671 in the case of dela Cruz v. dela Cruz (130 SCRA 666 [1984]). INK began fencing the whole area and placed the following sign "NO TRESPASSING - IGLESIA NI KRISTO PROPERTY SUPREME COURT CASE NO. 61969, July 25, 1984." Briefly, the dela Cruz v. dela Cruz case is an action for reconveyance founded on breach of trust filed by Augustina dela Cruz, et al. against Lucia dela Cruz and INK. Augustina and her co-plaintiffs charged that the parcel of land purchased by the INK from Lucia dela Cruz was actually a part of their inheritance share in the estate of their late grandfather, Policarpio dela Cruz but which, in breach of trust known to the INK, Lucia sold to the latter. Augustina's suit was originally decided in her favor by the trial court. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the judgment was reversed and the questioned sale by Lucia dela Cruz to the INK was upheld. Consequently, Augustina went to the Supreme Court on a petition for review on certiorari, docketed as G. R. No. 61969. 84 | P a g e

On July 25, 1984, the Court rendered a decision in affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals. The validity of the sale of Lucia to the INK was thereby upheld and the title of INK to the subject realty (Lot 671) was validated as well. This Supreme Court decision spawned the two (2) petitions now before us assailing the validity of Lucia dela Cruz's title over Lot 671 which in turn was sold to INK. In G.R. No. 76265, petitioner Virginia Calalang alleged that she is the registered owner of a portion of Lot 671-A (subdivision plan PSD 32221) as evidenced by TCT Nos. 17556, 17564 and 17562. She allegedly came to know of INK'S claim only when a prospective buyer inspected the land on August 1986 and saw the "no trespassing" sign. Petitioner Calalang lost no time in inquiring into the status of the land and learned about the pending consulta case (LRC 1978) filed before the Administrator of the National Land Titles and Deeds Registration Administration (NLTDRA). This consulta came about when the Register of Deeds doubted the registrability of the documents presented before it in the light of his findings that the land affected was covered by two (2) sets of titles issued in the names of different owners. On September 9, 1986, the petitioner filed a Motion to Intervene requesting the Administrator to conduct an investigation of the supposed anomaly committed in connection with the reconstitution of TCT No. RT-58 in the name of Lucia dela Cruz. This was denied by the Administrator invoking our ruling in dela Cruz v. dela Cruz to the effect that TCT RT-58 in the name of respondent Lucia dela Cruz is the valid title. (Rollo, pp. 44-47) Consequently, a Motion for Reconsideration was filed by herein petitioner but this was likewise denied by the Administrator on October 20, 1986 on the ground that the issues raised therein have already been passed upon and that the issues being litigious in nature cannot be decided in a consulta case "where the only question to be determined is the registrability of the document presented for registration." Hence, on October 27, 1986, the petitioner file the instant Special Civil Action for Certiorari and Prohibition in G.R. No. 76265 against the Administrator of the NLTDRA, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City and private respondents Lucia dela Cruz, Constancio Simangan and Iglesia ni Kristo. Lucia dela Cruz and Constancio Simangan were impleaded as they were predecessors-in-interest of INK. INK and the Administrator filed their comments on January 5, 1987 and June 29, 1987 respectively. For failure to locate Constancio Simangan's whereabouts despite diligent efforts and considering further that INK is the indispensable party and the one interested in upholding the validity of the reconstituted title of respondent Lucia dela Cruz, the petitioner moved to drop him as respondent. This was granted by the Court in a resolution dated April 13, 1988. (Rollo, p. 189) Taking the cue from the Administrator that present certificates of title must be cancelled to avoid duplication, the Register of Deeds, instead of filing its comment initiated cancellation proceedings of more than 100 titles, against 81 defendants which included herein petitioner on the basis of this Court's declaration in the case of dela Cruz that the reconstituted title of respondent Lucia dela Cruz is 85 | P a g e

the valid title. This petition was filed by the Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG) on January 5, 1987 with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City docketed as Civil Case No. Q-49900. Consequently, the petitioner moved to dismiss on the ground that the complaint was premature and maliciously filed with knowledge of the instant petition with this Court. INK, on the other hand, filed a Motion to Intervene in said case. Claiming ownership over Lot 671, it prayed for damages against some of the defendants namely Augusto de Leon, Jose M. Panlilio and Felicidad Vda. de Pineda who filed an injunction suit against it (Civil Case No. Q-45767) with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City on September 12, 1985. Despite opposition of the petitioner to respondent INK's Motion to Intervene, presiding Judge Benigno T. Dayaw granted the motion of INK and denied petitioner's Motion to Dismiss on the ground that the issues raised in the instant petition (G. R. No. 76265) will not substantially affect said civil case. The subsequent motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioner was likewise denied considering that no restraining order has been issued (Rollo, pp. 198-216). However, instead of filing an answer to the complaint in Civil Case No. Q-49900, the petitioners filed on July 15, 1988 a supplemental petition before this Court to include as additional respondent, the Honorable Judge Benigno T. Dayaw and petitioner's children who were named as defendants in said Civil Case, as additional petitioners. At the same time the petitioner prayed for a restraining order (Rollo, p.197). To this supplemental petition, the OSG in behalf of the Republic filed its comment pursuant to the Court's resolution granting the petitioner's motion for leave to include additional parties and to admit supplemental petition (Rollo, p. 228). In the meantime, fire gutted the records of the Register of Deeds in Quezon City, so respondent Judge required the parties to agree to a stipulation of facts instead of trial. In G.R. No. 83280, the petitioners alleged that they and/or their predecessors in interest were issued their corresponding titles to the lots purchased from Amando Clemente in the 1950's yet. They alleged that they took physical possession of their lots in Clemville Subdivision by actually occupying the same, declaring them in their names for tax purposes, fencing or marking them off and entrusting their care to "katiwalas". From the time they acquired their Torrens Title they and they alone to the exclusion of INK exercised all acts of undisturbed, peaceful and uninterrupted ownership and possession including the payment of their realty taxes. On or about the second week of August, 1985, INK started to enclose the entire Clemville Subdivision with "sawali" fences with billboards randomly posted which read:

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NO TRESPASSING I.N.C. PROPERTY SC DECISION 2ND DIVISION G. R. NO. L 61969 JULY 25, 1984 INK also destroyed the concrete/hollow block fence surrounding the lot of petitioner de Castro and started the construction of housing structures therein. At the same time, it commenced the delivery of construction materials to the former premises of petitioner Panlilio to erect a permanent structures of strong materials on it. Thus, on August 22, 1985, the petitioners filed with the RTC-Branch 101 a petition for injunction with damages. This case was docketed an Civil Case No. 45767. Later, this petition was amended to include Elena Ostrea and Feliza C. Cristobal-Generoso as additional petitioners. August 25, 1985, presiding Judge Santiago issued a restraining order and set the case for hearing the writ for preliminary injunction on September 5, 1985. The September 5 hearing was however, reset to September 19, 1985 with respondent Erao Manalo volunteering to maintain the status quo until then or until the matter had been resolved by the trial court. On September 19, by agreement of the parties and in open court, the Judge issued an order, granting the parties' motion to enter into a stipulation of facts instead of going on with the hearing and to maintain the status quo. In the course of the exchange of pleadings between the parties, the trial judge issued an Order on December 6, 1985 denying the petitioners' prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction on the grounds that: From the exchange of written arguments and the authorities cited, it appears that the petitioners' titles which were issued some ten years earlier than that of respondent's emanated from a reconstituted TCT No. RT-52, which covered portion of Lot 671 of the Piedad Estate of Quezon City. Petitioner's parcels of land are within that estate. This reconstituted TCT No. RT-52 was the subject of a case, "De la Cruz v. De la Cruz", 130 SCRA 66 [1984], wherein the Honorable Supreme Court declared the said reconstituted title null and void. The principal argument of petitioners that they were not parties thereto can not be given serious extended discussion as they could acquire no more rights than the source of their titles. For brevity, at this initial stage, suffice it to say that under the foregoing discussed circumstances, the petitioners have not shown a clear and positive right to a temporary relief. (Emphasis supplied) (Rollo, p. 35) Assailing this order, the petitioners by way of certiorari elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 08146. 87 | P a g e

On April 9, 1986, the Court of Appeals promulgated a Decision with the following dispositive portion: WHEREFORE, the petition is given due course and is hereby RESOLVED by setting aside the Order dated December 6, 1985 in Civil Case No. Q-45767 and directing that the application for preliminary injunctive relief therein be properly heard and evidence for or against the same be adduced in due course. (Rollo, p. 39) On February 12, 1987, respondent INK filed with the lower court a motion to dismiss the petitioners' complaint for injunction on the ground that it does not state a cause of action. On August 7, 1987, the lower court issued an Order with the following dispositive portion: WHEREFORE, premises considered, finding respondent's Motion to Dismiss justified, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED, with costs against petitioners. (Rollo, p. 48) Seeking relief from the dismissal, the petitioners filed the two pleadings, to wit: 1) "Motion for Reconsideration Ad Cautelam" dated September 18, 1987 filed with the RTC, NCR, Branch 101 Quezon City; and 2) "Omnibus Motion Incident to Execution of the Decision dated April 9, 1986" dated September 29, 1987 filed with the Court of Appeals. On December 10, 1987, the Court of Appeals denied petitioners' Omnibus Motion. The petitioners' motion for reconsideration was likewise denied in a resolution by the RTC dated May 4, 1988. Hence, the instant petition with the following assignment of errors. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, IN ITS DECEMBER 10, 1987 RESOLUTION, ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ORDERS OF DECEMBER 12, 1986 AND AUGUST 7, 1986 RELATE TO INCIDENTS IN CIVIL CASE NO. 45767 TOTALLY ALIEN TO THE SUBJECT MATTER OF CA-G.R. SP NO. 08146. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN VALIDATING THE ORDER OF AUGUST 7, 1986. (Rollo, p. 16) In a resolution dated August 30, 1989, G.R. No. 83280 was consolidated with G.R. No. 76265. Although other minor issues are involved in these consolidated cases, the principal and crucial issue that alone needs to be resolved is the applicability of this Court's decision in the dela Cruz case to these cases now before us. The petitioners argue that the dela Cruz case could not be applied to them since they were not parties in that case nor were they ever notified of such case pending between the parties. The petitioners explained that the de la Cruzcase was a case among the heirs of Policarpio de la Cruz. Since they acquired their properties from an entirely different person, Amando Clemente and not from any of the heirs of Policarpio de la Cruz, they could not be considered privies to any of them. 88 | P a g e

In denying applicability, however, the petitioners assail the Court's ruling that "the reconstituted title of Lucia dela Cruz over Lot 671 (TCT No. RT 58) was valid. As the registered and rightful owner, Lucia dela Cruz had the perfect and legal right to sell, assign, and convert the property to respondent INK who as purchaser for value in good faith holds the same free from all encumbrances except those noted in said certificate." With this Court's ruling promulgated in 1984, it is our considered view that the petitioner can not raise anew the question of ownership of Lucia dela Cruz over Lot 671 which had been determined by the Court of Appeals and affirmed by the Supreme Court in the dela Cruz case. Well-settled is the rule enunciated in Church Assistance Program, Inc. v. Sibulo, 171 SCRA 408 [1989] that: When a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, so long as it remains unreversed, it should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate. The Court's ruling has long been final and the issue on ownership of Lot 671 finally disposed of several years ago. This declaration must be respected and followed in the instant case applying the principle of res judicata or, otherwise, the rule on conclusiveness of judgment. The less familiar concept or less terminological usage of res judicata as a rule on conclusiveness of judgment refers to the situation where the judgment in the prior action operates as an estoppel only as to the matters actually determined therein or which were necessarily included therein (De la Cruz v. Court of Appeals, 187 SCRA 165 [1990]). Inevitably, the dela Cruz ruling should be applied to the present petitions since the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case before us now (See Rivas v. SEC, 190 SCRA 295 [1990]). Even the petitioners substantially adopt the same findings of facts in their pleadings. The factual inquiry with regards to the history of Lot 671 has already been laid to rest and may no longer be disturbed. We quote: The undisputed facts indicate that the parcel of land in question is Lot 671 of the Piedad Estate, GLRO Rec. No. 5975, with an area of 184, 268 square meters, more or less, situated in Barrio Culiat, Quezon City; that the totality of the Piedad Estate consists of a vast tract of land, registered on March 12, 1912, in the name of the Philippine Government, under Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 614 of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Rizal; that when the Piedad Estate was subdivided (with Lot No. 671 as one of the resulting parcels) whoever was in possession of a particular lot was given priority and/or preference in the acquisition thereof provided that the price and the cost of titling would be paid; that upon such payment, the government would issue the corresponding certificate of title; that Policarpio dela Cruz and his wife Luciana Rafael were originally in possession of the land; that they had three children, namely (1) Maximo de la Cruz (married to Feliza Yabut); (2) Filomeno de la Cruz (married to Narcisa Santiago); and (3) defendant-appellant Lucia de la Cruz (a widow); 89 | P a g e

that the plaintiffs-appellees herein are the descendants of the two sons (Maximo and Filomeno) of Policarpio; that on April 25, 1940, Lot No. 671 was segregated from the totality of the Piedad Estate, covered by OCT No. 614 and a separate title was issued in the name of "Eugenia de la Paz, soltera" and "Dorotea de la Cruz, viuda" (this was Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 40355 of the Register of Deeds for the Province of Rizal); that on November 29, 1941, a deed of sale over Lot No. 671 was executed by Eugenia de la Paz and Dorotea de la Cruz (the registered owners) in favor of defendant-appellant Lucia de la Cruz; that said deed of sale was registered with the office of the Register of Deeds on July 17, 1943 and the corresponding certificate of title was issued to Lucia de la Cruz; that in 1971, Lucia de la Cruz obtained from the land registration court a reconstituted title (TCT No. RT-59 over Lot No. 671), the transfer certificate of title previously issued to her in 1943 having been lost; that subsequently, Lot No. 671 (this time, already covered by TCT No. RT-58) was subdivided into three (3) lots, each of which was issued a separate title, as follows: (a) Lot No. 671-A containing an area of 30,000 square meters and covered by TCT No. 168320; (b) Lot No. 671-B, containing an area of 4,268 square meters and covered by TCT No. 168321; and (c) Lot No. 671-C, containing an area of 150,000 square meters and covered by TCT No. 168322; that meanwhile TCT No. 40355 (already previously issued to and in the names of Eugenia de la Paz and Dorotea de la Cruz) continued to exist; that when the title was transferred from the Rizal Registry to the Quezon City Registry, from the latter Registry assigned to this TCT a new number, RT-52; that this same Lot (No. 671) was later subdivided into two lots, each with a title: (a) Lot No. 671-A (TCT No. 16212) (b) Lot No. 671-B (TCT No. 16213) both in the names of Eugenia de la Paz and Dorotea de la Cruz; that the second lot (lot No. 671-B, with an area of 103,108 square meters) was sold on December 17, 1952 to one Narcisa Vda. de Leon (to whom TCT No. 2009 was later issued); that on May 6, 1964, Narcisa Vda. de Leon transferred the same Lot 671-B to Nieves Paz Eraa (who was later issued in her own name TCT No. 79971). The undisputed facts further show that in 1971, Nieves Paz Eraa filed before the Court of First instance of Quezon City Civil Case No. 16125 for 'quieting of title' against Lucia de la Cruz, et al., praying that TCT No. RT-58, (the reconstituted title of Lucia de la Cruz), as well as all titles derived therefrom, be declared null and void; that the case ended with the parties submitting a compromise agreement with Lucia de la Cruz, among other things, paying plaintiff Eraa the amount of P250,000.00 to cover the acquisitive cost of the 103,108 square meters of land included in the certificate of title of defendant Lucia de la Cruz; that on July 17, 1975, Lucia de la Cruz sold a portion of Lot No. 671-C (one of the three portions to which the lot included in RT-58 had been subdivided, and which portion was covered by TCT No. 168322), consisting of 103,108 square meters to defendant-appellant Iglesia Ni Cristo, for the amount of P2,108,850.00; that this sale was later registered in the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City, 90 | P a g e

with a new title, TCT No. 209554 being issued in the name of the Iglesia Ni Cristo; that another deed of absolute sale was executed for the remaining 84,356 square meters in favor also of the Iglesia and said sale was annotated on TCT No. 168322. In view of said sales and the fact that registration of the involved parcels is now in the name (separately) of Lucia de la Cruz and the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the present action for reconveyance with damages was instituted. (Emphasis supplied) Apparently, there is no mention of Amando Clemente in the above recital of facts. A closer perusal of the records in G. R. 76265 would, however, reveal that TCT No. 16212 was issued for Lot 671-A in the name of Amando Clemente on August 9, 1951 per report of the Acting Administrator of the NLTDRA (Rollo, p. 92). Amando Clemente's TCT No. 16212 emanated from TCT No. 40355 in the name of Eugenia de la Paz and Dorotea dela Cruz. Thus, Amando Clemente's predecessors-in-interest are Eugenia dela Paz and Dorotea dela Cruz whom the Court found to have lost their rights over Lot 671 by virtue of the sale made to Lucia dela Cruz. The Register of Deeds correctly observed that this is a clear case where there is a duplication or overlapping of titles issued to different names over the same land which thereby compelled him to file the consulta case with the NLTDRA: (1) Lucia dela Cruz's reconstituted title (RT-58) which was divided into 3 Lots, Lot 671-A, Lot 671-B and Lot 671-C and was subsequently sold to INK; (2) Eugenia dela Paz and Dorotea dela Cruz's reconstituted title (RT-52) which was divided into 2 lots, Lot 671-A and Lot 671-B. Notwithstanding, it is undisputed that Lot 671 was sold to Lucia dela Cruz by Eugenia dela Paz and Dorotea dela Cruz as evidenced by Entry No. 258, page 7, Vol. 7, Primary Entry Book of the Registry of Deeds of Manila. (de la Cruz v. de la Cruz, supra, pp. 697-698) This is a finding which can not be disturbed. We need not emphasize the fact that the Supreme Court by tradition and in our system of judicial administration, has the last word on what the law is. It is the final arbiter of any justiciable controversy. There is only one Supreme Court from whose decisions all other courts should take their bearings. Consequently, we cannot and should not review a case already passed upon by the Highest Tribunal. It is only proper to allow the case to take its rest. (Church assistance Program, Inc. v. Sibulo, supra.). The sale of the land to Lucia dela Cruz and the subsequent registration thereof in the Primary Book of the Registry of Deeds, Manila constitutes constructive notice to the whole world. (Heirs of Maria Marasigan v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 152 SCRA 253 [1987]; People v. Reyes, 175 SCRA 597 [1988]) Since it is the act of registration which transfers ownership of the land sold (Government Service Insurance System v. Court of Appeals, 169 SCRA 244 [1989]). Lot 671 was already owned by Lucia dela Cruz as early as 1943. Amando Clemente's alleged title meanwhile which was issued on August 9, 1951 was very much later. Thus, the petitioners, who merely stepped into the shoes of Amando Clemente cannot claim a better right over said land. "Prior est temporae, prior est in jura" (he who is first in time is preferred in right) (Garcia v. Court of Appeals, 95 SCRA 380 [1980]). The fact that Amando Clemente 91 | P a g e

possessed a certificate of title does not necessarily make him the true owner. And not being the owner, he cannot transmit any right to nor transfer any title or interest over the land conveyed (Beaterio del Santisimo Rosario de Molo v. Court of Appeals, 137 SCRA 459 [1985]; Treasurer of the Phil. v. Court of Appeals, 153 SCRA 359 [1987]). Moreover, the petition for reconstitution of title by Lucia dela Cruz which the court held to be valid was a proceedingin rem. It is well established that in rem proceedings such as land registration constitute constructive notice to the whole world. The petitioners cannot now claim that they were not notified of the reconstitution proceedings over said lot. Under the facts of the case, the title in the name of Lucia dela Cruz (TCT No. RT 58) has become indefeasible and incontrovertible. Likewise, the INK was also issued a Torrens Title over Lot 671 as a result of the sale made to it by the rightful owner, Lucia dela Cruz in 1975. Under the Torrens System of registration, the Torrens Title became indefeasible and incontrovertible one year from its final decree (Tirado v. Sevilla, 188 SCRA 321 [1990]). A Torrens Title is generally a conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land referred to therein. (Ching v. Court of Appeals, 181 SCRA 9 [1990]) It is, therefore, too late in the day for the petitioners to reopen or question the legality of INK's title over Lot 671 at this time. The petitioners also contend that what INK purchased from Lucia dela Cruz in 1975 was Lot 671-C-4 LRC 322534 which corresponds roughly to Lot 671-B (Psd-32221) and did not affect Lot 671-A of Amando Clemente at all. This is, however, belied by the fact that the sale made by Dorotea dela Cruz to Lucia dela Cruz (as indicated in Entry No. 258) was Lot 671 which was later on conveyed to INK. In challenging the validity of the reconstitution of Lucia dela Cruz's title, the petitioners are not alleging fraud, collusion and illegality in the procurement of the certificate of title of Lucia dela Cruz. It must be recalled that G.R. No. 76265 stemmed merely from a consulta case with the National Land Titles and Deeds Administration. Undeniably, the arguments and issues raised by the petitioner require adjudication of facts which, under the circumstances of this case, we are not prepared to do as this Court is not a trier of facts. Moreover, the present petition is not the proper remedy in challenging the validity of certificates of titles since the judicial action required is a direct and not a collateral attack. (Natalia Realty Corp. v. Vallez, 173 SCRA 534 [1989]). The Court had this to say: We note with approval the lower court's patient explanation that, inter alia the certificate of title issued in the name of the plaintiff in accordance with the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496) is indefeasible after the expiration of one year from the entry of the decree of registration. Under Section 38 thereof, a petition for review of the decree must be presented within one year after its entry as described and defined in Section 40 of the same. After the lapse of one year, the decree of registration becomes incontrovertible and is binding upon and conclusive against all persons whether or not they were notified of or participated in the registration proceedings. . . Even assuming arguendo that said titles may still be challenged, the present case does not provide the vehicle for that remedy since the judicial action required is a direct, and not a collateral attack. In fact, under the existing law, Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree expressly provides that a 92 | P a g e

certificate of title cannot be subject to collateral attack and can be altered, modified or cancelled only in a direct proceeding in accordance with law. (at p. 542) In our capacity as the court of last resort, the petitioners try to convince us to look or inquire into the validity of the reconstitution proceedings initiated by Lucia dela Cruz, contending that the implementation of de la Cruz ruling would deprive them of their properties without due process of law. We have looked long and hard into the records of the case but the facts and circumstances plus law and jurisprudence on the matter do not warrant such action from the Court. INK's title over Lot 671 which necessarily included Lot 671-A had already become incontrovertible and indefeasible. To reopen or to question the legality of INK's title would defeat the purpose of our Torrens system which seeks to insure stability by quieting titled lands and putting to a stop forever any question of the legality of the registration in the certificate or questions which may arise therefrom. (de la Cruz v. de la Cruz, supra.) In fairness to INK, as registered owner it is entitled to rest secure in its land title. In view of all the foregoing, it would be for the public interest and the maintenance of the integrity and stability of the Torrens system of land registration that all transfer certificates of title derived from the reconstituted title of Eugenia dela Paz and Dorotea dela Cruz be annulled in order to prevent the proliferation of derivative titles which are null and void. The legality or validity of INK's title over Lot 671 has been settled. The Court has spoken and it has done so with finality, logically and rightly so as to assure stability in legal relations and avoid confusion. (see Ver v. Quetulio, 163 SCRA 80 [1988]) WHEREFORE, the petitions in G. R. Nos. 76265 and 83280 are hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. SO ORDERED.

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