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2005

FACTS:
Private respondents as the surviving heirs of the late Homer Barque, filed a petition with the LRA for administrative reconstitution of the original copy of TCT No. 210177
issued in the name of Homer L. Barque, which was destroyed in the fire that gutted the Quezon City Hall, including the Office of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, sometime in 1988.
In support of the petition, petitioners submitted the owners duplicate copy of TCT No. 210177, real estate tax receipts, tax declarations and the Plan FLS 3168 D covering the property.
Upon being notified of the petition for administrative reconstitution, petitioners filed their opposition thereto claiming that the lot covered by the title under
reconstitution forms part of the land covered by their reconstituted title TCT No. RT-22481, and alleging that TCT No. 210177 in the name of petitioners predecessors-ininterest is spurious.
Atty. Bustos, as reconstituting officer, denied the reconstitution of TCT No. 210177on grounds that:
1. Lots 823-A and 823-B, Fls-3168-D, containing areas of 171,473 Sq. Mtrs. and 171,472 Sq. Mtrs., respectively, covered by TCT No.
210177, appear to duplicate Lot 823 Piedad Estate, containing an area of 342,945 Sq. Mtrs., covered by TCT No. 372302 registered in the name of
Severino M. Manotok, et. al., reconstituted under Adm. Reconstitution No. Q-213 dated February 01, 1991;
2. The submitted plan Fls-3168-D is a spurious document as categorically stated by Engr. Privadi J.G. Dalire, Chief, Geodetic Surveys
Division, Land Management Bureau, in his letter dated February 19, 1997.
Due to being denied of reconstitution the respondents appeal to the LRA. The LRA ruled that the reconstituting officer should not have required the submission of
documents other than the owners duplicate certificate of title as bases in denying the petition and should have confined himself with the owners duplicate certificate of title. The LRA
further declared:
Based on the documents presented, petitioners have established by clear and convincing evidence that TCT NO. 210177 was, at the
time of the destruction thereof, valid, genuine, authentic and effective. Petitioners duly presented the original of the owners duplicate copy of TCT No.
210177 .... The logbook of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City lists TCT No. 210177 as among the titles lost .... The Register of Deeds of Quezon City
himself acknowledged the existence and authenticity of TCT No. 210177 when he issued a certification to the effect that TCT No. 210177 was one of the
titles destroyed and not salvaged from the fire that gutted the Quezon City Hall on 11 June 1988 ....
It is likewise noteworthy that the technical description and boundaries of the lot reflected in TCT No. 210177 absolutely conform to the
technical description and boundaries of Lot 823 Piedad Estate ... as indicated in the B. L. Form No. 28-37-R dated 11-8-94 and B. L. Form No. 31-10
duly issued by the Bureau of Lands ....
It therefore becomes evident that the existence, validity, authenticity and effectivity of TCT No. 210177 was established indubitably and
irrefutably by the petitioners. Under such circumstances, the reconstitution thereof should be given due course and the same is mandatory.[9]
It would be necessary to underscore that the certified copy of Plan FLS 3168 D was duly issued by the office of Engr. Ernesto Erive, Chief,
Surveys Division LMS-DENR-NCR whose office is the lawful repository of survey plans for lots situated within the National Capital Region including the
property in question. Said plan was duly signed by the custodian thereof, Carmelito Soriano, Chief Technical Records and Statistics Section, DENRNCR. Said plan is likewise duly supported by Republic of the Philippines Official Receipt No. 2513818 Q dated 9-23-96 .... Engr. Erive in his letter dated
28 November 1996 addressed to Atty. Bustos confirmed that a microfilm copy of Plan FLS 3168D is on file in the Technical Records and Statistics
Section of his office. Engr. Dalire, in his letter dated 2 January 1997 addressed to Atty. Bustos even confirmed the existence and authenticity of said plan.
The claim of Engr. Dalire in his letter dated 19 February 1997 that his office has no records or information about Plan FLS 3168-D is
belied by the certified copy of the computer print-out duly issued by the Bureau of Lands indicating therein that FLS 3168D is duly entered into the
microfilm records of the Bureau of Lands and has been assigned Accession Number 410436 appearing on Page 79, Preliminary Report No. 1, List of
Locator Cards and Box Number 0400 and said computer print-out is duly supported by an Offical Receipt .
The said Plan FLS 3168D is indeed authentic and valid coming as it does from the legal repository and duly signed by the custodian
thereof. The documentary evidence presented is much too overwhelming to be simply brushed aside and be defeated by the fabricated statements and
concoctions made by Engr. Dalire in his 19 February 1997 letter. [10]
Nevertheless, notwithstanding its conclusion that petitioners title was fraudulently reconstituted, the LRA noted that it is only the Regional Trial Court (RTC) which can
declare that the same was indeed fraudulently reconstituted. It thus opined that respondents title may only be reconstituted after a judicial declaration that petitioners title was void and
should therefore be cancelled.
The dispositive portion of the LRA ordered the reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr. shall be given due course after cancellation of TCT No. RT-22481
(372302) in the name of Manotoks upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration which was opposed by respondents with a prayer that reconstitution be ordered immediately.
On June 14, 2001, petitioners motion for reconsideration and respondents prayer for immediate reconstitution were denied.
From the foregoing, respondents filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 66700 and praying that the LRA be directed to
immediately reconstitute TCT No. 210177 without being subjected to the condition that petitioners TCT No. RT-22481 [372302] should first be cancelled by a court of competent
jurisdiction. Petitioners likewise filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 66642.
Both CA Divisions ruled in affirming the Resolution of LRA to reconstitute Certificate of Title No. T-210177 and to deny petition for review and ordered to cancel RT-22481
of private respondents
ISSUE:
The two parties file separate petitions for review before the SC.
In sum, petitioners contend that (a) the LRA has no authority to annul their title; (b) the reconstitution of respondents Torrens title would be a collateral attack on
petitioners existing title; (c) they were not given the opportunity to be heard, specifically the chance to defend the validity of their Torrens title; (d) the Court of Appeals, in resolving the

appeal from the LRA, has no jurisdiction to order the cancellation of petitioners title; and (e) the ruling in Ortigas was misapplied.
HELD:
The petitions must be denied.
The LRA properly ruled that the reconstituting officer should have confined himself to the owners duplicate certificate of title prior to the reconstitution. Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) No.
26[28] clearly provides:
Section 3. Transfer certificates of title shall be reconstituted from such of the sources hereunder enumerated as may be available, in the following
order:
(a) The owners duplicate of the certificate of title;
....
When respondents filed the petition for reconstitution, they submitted in support thereof the owners duplicate certificate of title, real estate tax receipts and tax
declaration. Plainly, the same should have more than sufficed as sources for the reconstitution pursuant to Section 3 of RA No. 26 which explicitly mandates that the reconstitution shall
be made following the hierarchy of sources as enumerated by law. In addition, Section 12 of the same law requires that the petition shall be accompanied with a plan and technical
description of the property only if the source of the reconstitution is Section 3(f) of RA No. 26. Thus:
Section 12. Provided, That in case the reconstitution is to be made exclusively from sources enumerated in section 2(f) or 3(f) of this Act, the petition
shall further be accompanied with a plan and technical description of the property duly approved by the Chief of the General Land Registration Office, or
with a certified copy of the description taken from a prior certificate of title covering the same property.[29]
Since respondents source of reconstitution is the owners duplicate certificate of title, there is no need for the reconstituting officer to require the submission of the plan,
much less deny the petition on the ground that the submitted plan appears to be spurious. By enumerating the hierarchy of sources to be used for the reconstitution, it is the intent of the
law to give more weight and preference to the owners duplicate certificate of title over the other enumerated sources.
The factual finding of the LRA that respondents title is authentic, genuine, valid, and existing, while petitioners title is sham and spurious, as affirmed by the two divisions
of the Court of Appeals, is conclusive before this Court. It should remain undisturbed since only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
Findings of fact of administrative bodies are accorded respect, even finality by this Court and, when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are no longer reviewable except
only for very compelling reasons. Basic is the rule that factual findings of agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions are accorded not only respect but even finality, aside from the
consideration that this Court is essentially not a trier of facts.
Questions like these are not reviewable by this court which, as a rule, confines its review of cases decided by the Court of Appeals only to questions of law raised in the
petition and therein distinctly set forth. A petition for review should only cover questions of law. Questions of fact are not reviewable.
It is no longer necessary to remand the case to the RTC for the determination of which title, petitioners' or respondents', is valid or spurious. This has been ruled upon by
the LRA and duly affirmed by the two divisions of the Court of Appeals.
The LRA has the jurisdiction to act on petitions for administrative reconstitution. It has the authority to review, revise, reverse, modify or affirm on appeal the decision of
the reconstituting officer. The function is adjudicatory in nature it can properly deliberate on the validity of the titles submitted for reconstitution. Logically, it can declare a title as sham or
spurious, or valid on its face. Otherwise, if it cannot make such declaration, then there would be no basis for its decision to grant or deny the reconstitution. The findings of fact of the
LRA, when supported by substantial evidence, as in this case, shall be binding on the Court of Appeals.
In the reconstitution proceedings, the LRA is bound to determine from the evidence submitted which between or among the titles is genuine and existing to enable it to
decide whether to deny or approve the petition. Without such authority, the LRA would be a mere robotic agency clothed only with mechanical powers.
The Court of Appeals also properly exercised its appellate jurisdiction over the judgment of the LRA. Under Sections 1 and 3, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, the appellate
court has jurisdiction on appeals from judgments or final orders of the LRA, whether the appeal involves questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law.
Indeed, it would be needlessly circuitous to remand the case to the RTC to determine anew which of the two titles is sham or spurious and thereafter appeal the trial
courts ruling to the Court of Appeals. After all, the LRA and the two divisions of the appellate court have already declared that petitioners title is forged. In Mendoza v. Court of Appeals,
[35] we ruled that:
Now, technically, the revocation and cancellation of the deed of sale and the title issued in virtue thereof in de los Santos favor should be
had in appropriate proceedings to be initiated at the instance of the Government. However, since all the facts are now before this Court, and it is not
within de los Santos power in any case to alter those facts at any other proceeding, or the verdict made inevitable by said facts, for this Court
to direct at this time that cancellation proceedings be yet filed to nullify the sale to de los Santos and his title, would be needlessly circuitous
and would unnecessarily delay the termination of the controversy at bar, .... This Court will therefore make the adjudication entailed by the
facts here and now, without further proceedings, as it has done in other cases in similar premises.
No useful purpose will be served if a case or the determination of an issue in a case is remanded to the trial court only to have its decision raised again to the Court of
Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. The remand of the case or of an issue to the lower court for further reception of evidence is not necessary where the Court is in position to
resolve the dispute based on the records before it and particularly where the ends of justice would not be subserved by the remand thereof.
The Alabang ruling was premised on the fact that the existing Torrens title was duly issued and that there is only one title subsisting at the time the petition for
reconstitution was filed. In the instant case, it cannot be said that petitioners title was duly issued much less could it be presumed valid considering the findings of the LRA and the Court
of Appeals that the same is sham and spurious.
The Court of Appeals properly applied the doctrine laid down in Ortigas in refusing to remand the case to the trial court. As expressly declared in Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership
v. Velasco:[39]

Ordinarily, the relief indicated by the material facts would be the remand of the reconstitution case (LRC No. Q-5405) to the Court of origin with
instructions that Ortigas and the Solicitor Generals appeals from the judgment rendered therein, which were wrongly disallowed, be given due course
and the records forthwith transmitted to the appellate tribunal. This, in fact, is a relief alternatively prayed for by petitioner Ortigas. Considering however
the fatal infirmities afflicting Molinas theory or cause of action, evident from the records before this Court, such a remand and subsequent appeal
proceedings would be pointless and unduly circuitous. Upon the facts, it is not possible for Molinas cause to prosper. To defer adjudication thereon would
be unwarranted and unjust.
The same rationale should apply in the instant case. As already discussed, the validity of respondents and petitioners title have been squarely passed upon by the LRA and reviewed and
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, which factual findings are no longer reviewable by this Court.
A careful examination of the case of Spouses Cayetano, et al. v. CA, et al.,[40] where this Court, as claimed by petitioners, have affirmed their title over the disputed property, would
reveal that the sole issue resolved therein is whether or not a tenancy relationship exists between the parties.[41] There was no adjudication on ownership. In fact, it cannot even be
discerned if the property subject of the Spouses Cayetano case refers to the property subject of the instant controversy.
There is no basis in the allegation that petitioners were deprived of their property without due process of law when the Court of Appeals ordered the cancellation of their
Torrens title, even without a direct proceeding in the RTC. As already discussed, there is no need to remand the case to the RTC for a re-determination on the validity of the titles of
respondents and petitioners as the same has been squarely passed upon by the LRA and affirmed by the appellate court. By opposing the petition for reconstitution and submitting their
administratively reconstituted title, petitioners acquiesced to the authority and jurisdiction of the reconstituting officer, the LRA and the Court of Appeals, and recognized their authority to
pass judgment on their title. All the evidence presented was duly considered by these tribunals. There is thus no basis to petitioners claim that they were deprived of their right to be heard
and present evidence, which is the essence of due process.
As held in Yusingco v. Ong Hing Lian:[42]
Therefore, it appearing from the records that in the previous petition for reconstitution of certificates of title, the parties acquiesced in
submitting the issue of ownership for determination in the said petition, and they were given the full opportunity to present their respective sides of the
issues and evidence in support thereof, and that the evidence presented was sufficient and adequate for rendering a proper decision upon the issue, the
adjudication of the issue of ownership was valid and binding.
The reconstitution would not constitute a collateral attack on petitioners title which was irregularly and illegally issued in the first place.[43] As pertinently held in Dolfo v. Register of Deeds
for the Province of Cavite:[44]
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.
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 that
TCT No. T-320601 was issued without legal basis
.
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. 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.
This Court has ruled that wrongly reconstituted certificates of title secured through fraud and misrepresentation cannot be the source of legitimate rights and benefits.
WHEREFORE, the petitions are DENIED. In G.R. No. 162335, the February 24, 2004 Amended Decision of the Third Division of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 66642, ordering
the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel petitioners TCT No. RT-22481 and directing the Land Registration Authority to reconstitute respondents TCT No. 210177; and in G.R. No.
162605, the November 7, 2003 Amended Decision of the Special Division of Five of the Former Second Division in CA-G.R. SP No. 66700 directing the Register of Deeds of Quezon City
to cancel petitioners TCT No. RT-22481, and the Land Registration Authority to reconstitute respondents TCT No. T-210177 and the March 12, 2004 Resolution denying the motion for
reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.
2008
FACTS:
On 22 October 1996, Homer L. Barque, Sr. (Barque, Sr.) represented by Teresita Barque-Hernandez filed a petition for administrative reconstitution of the original copy of TCT No.
210177 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. TCT No. 210177 was allegedly destroyed when a fire gutted the Quezon City Hall on 11 June 1988. In support of the petition, Barque, Sr.
submitted the owners duplicate certificate of title, Real Estate Tax Receipts and Tax Declaration.
Atty. Benjamin M. Bustos (Atty. Bustos), Reconstituting Officer and Chief of the Reconstitution Division, Land Registration Authority (LRA) wrote a letter dated 29 October 1996,
addressed to Engineer Privadi J. Dalire (Engineer Dalire), Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau, Binondo, Manila. Atty. Bustos requested Engineer
Dalire to furnish him with a certified copy of Subdivision Plan Fls-3168-D (Fls-3168-D). Atty. Bustos wrote a similar but undated letter addressed to the Chief of the Surveys Division of the
Lands Management Services, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Capital Region (LMS-DENR-NCR).
In his reply dated 7 November 1996, Engineer Dalire informed Atty. Bustos that the Lands Management Bureau has no record of Fls-3168-D. In a letter dated 28 November 1996,
Engineer Ernesto S. Erive (Engineer Erive), Chief of the Surveys Division of the LMS-DENR-NCR, informed Atty. Bustos that a microfilm copy of Fls-3168-D is on file in the Technical
Records and Statistical Section of their office.
The letter of Engineer Erive confirming the existence of a microfilm copy of Fls-3168-D conflicted with the letter of Engineer Dalire that his office has no record of Fls-3168-D. Thus, Atty.
Bustos sent another letter dated 2 December 1996 to Engineer Dalire requesting for clarification. In a letter dated 5 December 1996, Engineer Dalire requested the Regional Technical
Director of LMS-DENR-NCR for a copy of Fls-3168-D for evaluation. Engineer Dalire wrote:
In connection with the letter of clarification dated December 2, 1996 of the Reconstituting Officer and Chief Reconstitution Division of LRA relative to the certified reproduction plan FLS-

3168-D (microfilm) issued by the Chief, Technical Records & Statistical Section on September 23, 1996 and our letter dated November 7, 1996 that we have no record of Fls-3168-D. In
this regards (sic), please forward to us the copy on file in that office (DENR-NCR) from where the Chief of Technical Records and Statistical Section reproduced a copy he issued to LRA
for our evaluation.
In the machine copy of Fls-3168-D (furnished to us by LRA) from the copy of that office issued to LRA, the said copy on file in your office did not emanate from this Office.
The stamp, particularly, bearing the name of this office and the Chief of Geodetic Surveys is not the same stamp we are using.
Please forward to us the said plan for evaluation and comment.
Two letters were purportedly written by Eng. Dalire, he 1 st, dated 2 January 1997, confirming Fls-3168-D is indeed within there records and the 2 nd, dated 5 January 1997, that there were
no records of such plan
The Land Registration Authority however, furnished us with machine copy of Fls-3168-D reproduced from the copy issued by that Office and we found out that the copy of
Fls-3168-D file (sic) in your office did not emanate from this Office. We reiterate that we have no records (sic) of Fls-3168-D.
May we request you again to please forward to us the said copy of plan Fls-3168-D on file in your office for our evaluation and comment.
Upon examination of the copy of Fls-3168-D allegedly issued by DENR-NCR, it is certain that the source of the copy is a spurious plan which may have been inserted in the
file. We requested for the copy in their file last 05 December 1996 and 05 January 1997 but until this writing, NCR has not sent us the copy for authentication as required by DENR
Administrative Order. We are sure that the copy did not come from this Office. The reasons are:
a. Our inventory of approved plans enrolled in our file, our Microfilm Computer list of plans available for decentralization all show that we do not have this plan Fls-3168-D, logically we
cannot issue any copy.
b. The copy of the plan Fls-3168-D shows visible signs that it is a spurious copy.
1) The certification (rubber stamp) serves a two piece stamp. The certification and the signing official are separate. Ours is one-piece.
2) The alignment of: Lands, GEODETIC, this, Privadi, and Chief in the syndicates (sic) stamp differ from our stamp. Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division is our stamp, their (sic) is Survey
without the "s" plural.
3) We do not stamp the plan twice as the syndicate did on the copy.
4) The size of the lettering in the rubber stamp "Not for Registration/Titling For Reference Only" is smaller than our stamp. It is also incomplete as an (sic) Stamp, in addition to [the] above
is "of _________".
5) The copy bears forged initials of my action officer and myself. I sign completely certification.
6) The name of the claimant is very visible to have been tampered in the master copy.
7) Again, it is certified that this Bureau does not have copy of Fls-3168-D.
In view of the foregoing, the copy of Fls-3168-D furnished your Office as well as the alleged letter authenticating it should be disregarded or rejected as they come from
spurious sources. This involves the reconstitution of title allegedly lot 823-A of Fls-3168-D with an area of 171,473 Sq. M. Surely, the use of the spurious copy of Fls-3168-D for the
reconstitution of title will create land problem involving prime lots in that area.
Meanwhile, we requested our Records Division to find out to whom lot 823 (or portion thereof) Piedad Estate was conveyed.
In a letter dated 13 February 1997 to the LRA Administrator, Engineer Dalire explained that the 2 January 1997 letter was forged. In a letter dated 19 February 1997, 11 Engineer Dalire
requested Atty. Bustos to disregard Fls-3168-D for being spurious:
I firmly deny having prepared and issued the letter dated 02 January 1997 stating that copy of subject plan (Fls-3168-D) was forwarded to us by the Chief Technical Records
and Statistics Section of the NCR and that as per verification, the plan is identical to the microfilm and that the case be given due course for administrative reconstitution.
Certainly this is not true. This is the handiwork of forgers. How can this be when NCR has never given us the alleged copy in their file for validation. The forwarding of the
copy to us is mandatory under DAO No. 49 for our validation. This is the subject of our letters to NCR dated 05 December 1996, 03 January 1997 and 06 February 1997
(copies attached). Definitely this letter was never prepared and issued by this Office. Our record books and file attest to this. We do not use letterheads for letters involving
this topic.
The Ruling of the Reconstituting Officer
Atty. Bustos denied the petition for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 on the following grounds:
1. Lots 823-A and 823-B, Fls-3168-D, containing areas of 171,473 Sq. Mtrs. and 171,472, respectively, covered by TCT No. 210177, appear to duplicate Lot 823 Piedad Estate,
containing an area of 342,945 Sq. Mtrs., covered by TCT No. 372302 registered in the name of Severino M. Manotok, et al., reconstituted under Adm. Reconstitution No. Q-213
dated February 01, 1991;

2. The submitted plan Fls-3168-D is a spurious document as categorically stated by Engineer Privadi J.G. Dalire, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, Lands Management Bureau, in
his letter dated February 19, 1997.13 (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)
The Heirs of Barque (Barques) filed an appeal with the LRA, docketed as Admin. Recons. No. Q-547-A [97].
The Ruling of the Land Registration Authority
In a Resolution dated 24 June 1998, the LRA gave due course to the appeal. The LRA ruled that under LRA Circular No. 13, only the owners or co-owners duplicate of an original or
transfer certificate of title may be used as a source of administrative reconstitution. Hence, Atty. Bustos erred in requiring the submission of documents other than the owners duplicate
TCT. The LRA further ruled that Engineer Dalire failed to deny or question the genuineness of his signature in the letter of 2 January 1997. The LRA held that the 2 January 1997 letter is
an official communication from Engineer Dalire.
However, the LRA ruled that TCT No. 210177 may only be reconstituted after a court of competent jurisdiction cancelled TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) in the name of the Manotoks.
The dispositive portion of the LRA Resolution reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is hereby ordered that reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr. shall be given due course after cancellation of
TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) in the name of the Manotoks upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
The Manotoks filed a petition for review docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 66642 before the Court of Appeals challenging the 24 June 1998 Resolution and 14 June 2001 Order of the LRA.
The Barques filed a petition for review docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 66700 praying for the modification of 24 June 1998 Resolution and 14 June 2001 Order of the LRA. The Barques
prayed for the immediate reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 without prior cancellation of TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
CA-G.R. No. 66642
Court of Appeals denied the Manotoks petition and affirmed the LRA Resolution of 24 June 1998. However, upon motion for reconsideration of the Barques, the Court of Appeals
promulgated an Amended Decision on 24 February 2004,23 the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of this Court dated 29 October 2003 is RECONSIDERED and a new one is entered ordering the
Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel petitioners TCT No. RT-22481 and directing the LRA to reconstitute forthwith respondents TCT No. T-210177.
The Manotoks came to this Court for relief. Their petition was docketed as G.R. No. 162335.
CA-G.R. SP No. 66700
Court of Appeals dismissed the Barques petition and affirmed the LRA Resolution of 24 June 1998. The Barques moved for reconsideration of the Decision.
In an Amended Decision promulgated on 7 November 2003,26 the Court of Appeals reconsidered its 13 September 2002 Decision, as follows:
WHEREFORE, our decision dated 13 September 2002 is hereby reconsidered. Accordingly, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City is hereby directed to cancel TCT No. RT-22481 of
private respondents and the LRA is hereby directed to reconstitute forthwith petitioners valid, genuine and existing Certificate of Title No. T-210177.
The Manotoks filed a motion for reconsideration of the Amended Decision. In its Resolution of 12 March 2004,28 the Court of Appeals denied the motion.
The Manotoks filed a petition for review with this Court, docketed as G.R. No. 162605.
ISSUE:
1. Does the Court of Appeals have jurisdiction to cancel petitioners TCT No. RT-22481 without a trial before the proper regional trial court in a proceeding directly assailing the validity of
petitioners title?
2. Does the LRA have jurisdiction to administratively reconstitute the allegedly lost TCT No. 210177 in the name of respondents despite the previously reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 of
the petitioners over the same property?
3. Does the LRA have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the validity of petitioners TCT No. RT-22481 in the administrative reconstitution case filed by respondents with the LRA?
4. Does the Court of Appeals or the LRA have jurisdiction to decide the ownership of the disputed property in the administrative reconstitution of title filed by respondents?
HELD:
The Ruling of This Court

We set aside the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division of this Court.
First, the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division of this Court overturns well-entrenched doctrines of this Court, such as the decision in Sps. Antonio and Genoveva
Balanon-Anicete, et al. v. Pedro Balanon.31 Second, the LRA has no jurisdiction to reconstitute the Barques title because of the pre-existing Torrens title of the Manotoks. Third, a Torrens
title can only be cancelled if a direct proceeding assailing its validity is filed before the proper Regional Trial Court. Fourth, the Barques submitted patently forged documents in the
administrative reconstitution of their title, and even in the attachments to their Memorandum of 23 August 2007.
FOUR FIRSTS IN PHILIPPINE JURISPRUDENCE
The 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division made four "firsts." First, it is the first decision in Philippine jurisprudence where an administrative reconstitution of title resulted in
the cancellation of the Torrens title of another person without a direct attack of the cancelled title in any trial court. Second, it is the first decision in Philippine jurisprudence authorizing the
LRA to reconstitute administratively a Torrens title despite the existence of a previously issued Torrens title over the same property in the name of another person. Third, it is the first
decision in Philippine jurisprudence where the issue of ownership of land is decided with finality in a petition for administrative reconstitution of title. And fourth, it is the first decision in
Philippine jurisprudence where the petitioner in an administrative petition praying for a simple reconstitution of title received an unexpected and undeserved windfall the declaration of
validity of his reconstituted title and the cancellation of a previously issued Torrens title in the name of another person over the same property.
LANDMARK DOCTRINES OVERTURNED
The Decision of the First Division overturns three doctrines firmly established in numerous decisions of this Court, both en banc and in division, many of them landmark rulings. To name
a few of these decisions starting in the year 1915: Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby,32 Magay, etc. v. Estiandan,33 Republic v. Court of Appeals,34 Alabang Development Corporation, et al.
v. Valenzuela, etc., et al.,35 MWSS v. Hon. Sison, etc., et al.,36 Liwag v. Court of Appeals,37 Ybaez v. Intermediate Appellate Court,38 Serra Serra v. Court of Appeals,39 Ortigas & Company
Limited Partnership v. Velasco,40 Heirs of Santiago v. Heirs of Santiago,41 and Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.42
The three well-established doctrines that the Decision of the First Division has overturned are:
1. A Torrens title can be cancelled only in a proceeding directly attacking the titles validity before the proper regional trial court. 43 This is the bedrock principle that provides enduring
stability to Torrens titles.
2. A reconstitution of Torrens title, whether judicial or administrative, cannot proceed once it is shown that another Torrens title has already been issued to another person over the same
property. The reconstituting body or court has no jurisdiction to issue another Torrens title over the same property to the petitioner. 44 The existence of a prior title ipso facto nullifies the
reconstitution proceedings.45 The proper recourse is to assail directly in a proceeding before the regional trial court the validity of the Torrens title already issued to the other person.
3. The reconstituting officer or court has no jurisdiction to decide the issue of ownership over the property or the validity of the title. 46 The purpose of reconstitution is solely to replace a
certificate of title that was lost or destroyed in the same legal status it existed at the time of the loss or destruction. The validity of a Torrens title, reconstituted or not, is a separate issue
from the reconstitution of title.
DOCTRINE OF IMMUTABILITY NOT APPLICABLE
The dissenting opinion asserts that the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division has already become final and executory, and thus has become immutable and unalterable. The
dissenting opinion states that there is no compelling reason to depart from the doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions.
On the contrary, the 12 December 2005 Decision never became final and executory. The doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions necessarily applies only to final and
executory decisions. If the decision never became final and executory, the doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions has no application. Before finality of a decision, a court
has "plenary power to alter, modify or even set aside, its own decisions, and even order a new trial, at any time before the decision becomes final." 47
There are two compelling jurisdictional reasons why the 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division never became final and executory. First, the First Division has no jurisdiction
to overturn a doctrine laid down by the Court en banc or in division. The Court en banc has ruled in Group Commander, Intelligence and Security Group, Philippine Army v. Dr. Malvar 48
that a decision of a division is void if it overturns a doctrine established by the en banc or another division. There, the Court held:
Section 4, sub-paragraph (3), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, provides:
"x x x no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the (Supreme) Court en banc or its Divisions may be modified or reversed except by the Court sitting en banc."
A Decision rendered by a Division of this Court in violation of the above constitutional provision would be in excess of jurisdiction and, therefore, invalid .49 (Emphasis
supplied)
A void decision vests no right, creates no obligation, grants no title, and settles no issue. A void decision protects no one and is subject to attack, directly or collaterally, 50 at any time. A
void decision has no existence in law. Therefore, a void decision cannot become final and executory against, or in favor of, any one.
Second, the doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions applies only if the trial court or hearing officer has jurisdiction over the subject matter. A decision rendered by a trial
court or hearing officer without jurisdiction over the subject matter is void and cannot become final and executory. Such decision cannot even become res judicata because there can be
no conclusiveness of judgment if the trial court or hearing officer has no jurisdiction over the subject matter.51
In these cases, the LRA has no jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the title of the Barques because such reconstitution constitutes an indirect or collateral attack on the preexisting Torrens title of the Manotoks over the same property. Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree52 states that a "certificate of title shall not be subject to a collateral
attack." The LRA, or even any court for that matter, has no jurisdiction to entertain a collateral attack 53 on a Torrens title. The Manotoks prior title must be deemed valid and subsisting
as it cannot be assailed through collateral attack in the reconstitution proceedings.54

THE MANOTOKS PRIOR TITLE NULLIFIES RECONSTITUTION PROCEEDINGS OF BARQUES


In fact, the existence of a prior Torrens title over the same property in the name of another person ipso facto nullifies the reconstitution proceedings and renders the reconstituted title
void.55 Demetriou v. Court of Appeals,56 penned by Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, is instructive and summarizes the law on this matter:
But a judgment otherwise final may be annulled not only on the ground of extrinsic fraud but also because of lack of jurisdiction of the court which rendered it. In Serra Serra v. Court of
Appeals, on facts analogous to those involved in this case, this Court already held that if a certificate of title has not been lost but is in fact in the possession of another person,
the reconstituted title is void and the court rendering the decision has not acquired jurisdiction. Consequently, the decision may be attacked any time . Indeed, Rep. Act No.
26, 18 provides that "in case a certificate of title, considered lost or destroyed be found or recovered, the same shall prevail over the reconstituted certificate of title." It was, therefore,
error for the Court of Appeals to dismiss the petition for annulment of judgment of the petitioners. 57 (Emphasis supplied)
Even before Demetriou, this Court had already ruled in Republic v. Court of Appeals58 that the existence of a prior Torrens title ipso facto nullifies the reconstitution proceedings, thus:
The existence of the two titles of the Government for Lots Nos. 915 and 918 ipso facto nullified the reconstitution proceedings and signified that the evidence in the said
proceedings as to the alleged ownership of Laborada and Bombasi cannot be given any credence. The two proceedings were sham and deceitful and were filed in bad faith. Such
humbuggery or imposture cannot be countenanced and cannot be the source of legitimate rights and benefits.
Republic Act No. 26 provides for a special procedure for the reconstitution of Torrens certificates of title that are missing and not fictitious titles or titles which are existing. It is a patent
absurdity to reconstitute existing certificates of title that are on file and available in the registry of deeds.
The reconstitution proceedings in Civil Cases Nos. C-677 and C-763 are void because they are contrary to Republic Act No. 26 and beyond the purview of that law since the
titles reconstituted are actually subsisting in the registry of deeds and do not require reconstitution at all . As a rule, acts executed against the provisions of mandatory laws are
void (Art. 5, Civil Code).
To sustain the validity of the reconstituted titles in these cases would be to allow Republic Act No. 26 to be utilized as an instrument for landgrabbing (See Republic vs. Court
of Appeals, Ocampo and Anglo, L-31303-04, May 31, 1978, 83 SCRA 453, 480, per J. G.S. Santos) or to sanction fraudulent machinations for depriving a registered owner of his
land, to undermine the stability and security of Torrens titles and to impair the Torrens system of registration.59 (Emphasis supplied)
These rulings of the Court are so essential in providing stability to land titles that overturning them now would be catastrophic to our Torrens system of land registration.
A TORRENS TITLE CAN ONLY BE CANCELLED IN A DIRECT ACTION ASSAILING ITS VALIDITY BEFORE THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT
The LRA has also no jurisdiction to cancel the Torrens title of the Manotoks because the exclusive original jurisdiction to cancel a Torrens title belongs to the Regional Trial Court. The
LRA, moreover, has no jurisdiction to decide the ownership dispute over a parcel of land 60 between the Barques and the Manotoks because jurisdiction to adjudicate ownership of
disputed real properties belongs to courts of justice.
Two specific provisions of law confer exclusive original jurisdiction on Regional Trial Courts to cancel a Torrens title. Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree provides:
Section 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. - A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct
proceeding in accordance with law. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 19 of the Judiciary Act61 provides that the "Regional Trial Court shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction x x x in all civil actions, which involve the title to x x x real
property."
That the proper Regional Trial Court has exclusive original jurisdiction to entertain any action to cancel a Torrens title is reinforced by Section 108 of the Property Registration Decree.
Section 108 states that "no erasure, alteration or amendment shall be made upon the registration book after the entry of a certificate of title x x x, except by order of the proper Court of
First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court)."
LRA DECISION ON RECONSTITUTION DOES NOTBECOME FINAL AND EXECUTORY
The doctrine of immutability and unalterability of decisions applies only to decisions that are capable of becoming final and executory. Decisions of the LRA on administrative
reconstitutions of title never become final and executory. An administrative reconstitution of title is merely a restoration or replacement of a lost or destroyed title in its original form at the
time of the loss or destruction. 62 The issuance of a reconstituted title vests no new rights and determines no ownership issues. 63 At any time, the LRA can revoke its issuance of a
reconstituted title if the lost or destroyed title is subsequently found.64 The issuance by the LRA of a reconstituted title is an executive function, not a judicial or quasi-judicial
function. Only judicial or quasi-judicial decisions can become res judicata. This Court stated in A.G. Development Corp. v. Court of Appeals:65 "[T]he doctrine of res judicata applies
only to judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and not to the exercise of administrative powers or to legislative, executive or ministerial determination."66
The 12 December 2005 Decision of the First Division grants to the Barques much more than what the Barques prayed for in their petition for administrative reconstitution of title. In their
petition before the LRA, the Barques only prayed for the reconstitution of their allegedly destroyed title. The Decision of the First Division grants the reconstitution, declares the
reconstituted title valid, awards ownership over the disputed property to the Barques, and cancels the Torrens title of the Manotoks. This violates the "cardinal principle that (a court)
cannot grant anything more than what is prayed for"67 in the petition.
A SURFEIT OF FORGERIES AND BADGES OF FRAUD
Equally disturbing, there are patent forgeries, badges of fraud, and other dubious circumstances that the First Division inexplicably brushed aside in its Decision. These forgeries
alone are more than sufficient grounds to deny the reconstitution of the Barques title. These forgeries provide compelling reasons for this Court to require compliance with Section 48 of
the Property Registration Decree in determining the validity of the Manotoks title. Section 48 requires a proceeding before the proper Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of
the Torrens title before such title can be cancelled.

First: Forged Plan Fls-3168-D


The Barques submitted to the LRA reconstituting officer patently forged documents in support of their petition. On 31 January 1997, Engineer Dalire wrote the LRA reconstituting officer
that the copy of the Barques plan Fls-3168-D submitted to the LRA "bears forged initials of my section officer and myself,"68 and that the Lands Management Bureau National Office
"does not have copy of Fls-3168-D."69 Engineer Dalire urged the LRA that plan Fls-3168-D and the accompanying authentication letter "be disregarded or rejected as they come
from spurious sources."70
Plan Fls-3168-D is vital in establishing the authenticity of the Barques Torrens title, which contains two lots as subdivided by plan Fls-3168-D from the original Lot 823. The Manotoks title
covers only one lot, Lot 823, without subdivision. Both the Manotoks and the Barques claim the same original Lot 823. If there is no record in the Lands Management Bureau National
Office of plan Fls-3168-D showing the subdivision of Lot 823 into two lots, then the Barques title is spurious.
During the oral argument of these cases, counsel for the Barques was asked if the Barques have ever secured a copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management
Bureau National Office. Counsel for the Barques showed the Court a copy of what purported to be plan Fls-3168-D but on closer examination the copy was certified not by the Lands
Management Bureau National Office but by the NCR Regional Office. What counsel for the Barques showed was the same copy of plan Fls-3168-D that Engineer Privadi Dalire, Chief of
the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, had rejected as a forgery in his 31 January 1997 and 19 February 1997 letters to Atty. Bustos. In his
letters, Engineer Dalire stated that there is no plan Fls-3168-D in the files of the Lands Management Bureau National Office.
Second: Forged 2 January 1997 Letter
On 13 February 1997, Engineer Privadi J. Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, wrote the LRA reconstituting officer that the 2
January 1997 letter, purportedly coming from Engineer Dalire, "definitely did not come from this office; it is a forged document."71
In his 19 February 1997 letter, Engineer Dalire also informed the LRA reconstituting officer that the 2 January 1997 letter purportedly coming from him was the "handiwork of forgers."72
In the questioned 2 January 1997 letter 73 addressed to the LRA reconstituting officer, Engineer Dalire allegedly stated that the Chief of the Technical Records and Statistics of the National
Capital Region-Lands Management Bureau (NCR Regional Office) had forwarded a copy of Fls-3168-D to Engineer Dalires office. Engineer Dalire has repeatedly denounced this 2
January 1997 letter as a forgery, not only because he never signed this letter, but also because his office never received a copy of Fls-3168-D from the NCR Regional Office.
Third: Plan Fls-3168-D Is Void Unless Validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division
During the oral argument, counsel for the Barques then undertook to present to the Court a copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National Office. In their
Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, counsel for the Barques explained why they could not present a copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National
Office:
Following the order of the Honorable Justice Carpio for respondents to secure a certified true copy of Fls-3168-D from the Land Management Bureau, National Office, they went to said
National Office to secure said certified true copy of Fls-33168-D but were instead given a copy of a form letter (Annex "J") issued in reply to a prior request for transmittal of Plan FLS3168-D with the information that records of said plan had already been turned over to the National Capital Region.
The form letter (Annex "J") from the Records Management Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, that the Barques attached to their Memorandum, states
x x x plan FLS-3168-D covering parcel/s of and situated in Caloocan Rizal was among those survey records already turned-over/decentralized to DENR-National Capital Region (NCR),
Roxas Boulevard, Manila on April 5, 1979 as recorded in our file no. NCR-199, for their reference/file purposes.
The form letter bears the printed name of Rainier D. Balbuena, OIC, Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau National Office although someone whose signature is
not legible signed for Rainier D. Balbuena.
The Barques also submitted a Certification dated 19 June 2007 (Annex "E-I") signed by Rainier D. Balbuena,OIC, Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau National
Office, stating:
This is to certify that according to the verification of the Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau, Binondo, Manila, EDPs Listing has available record with Fls-3168-D,
Lot 823, Xerox copy of which is herewith attached, situated in Caloocan, Rizal (Now Quezon City), in the name of Survey Claimant Emiliano Setosta.
In sharp contrast, the Manotoks attached to their Memorandum dated 23 August 2007 a certification signed by three persons from the Lands Management Bureau National Office,
namely, Bienvenido F. Cruz, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division; Rodel Collantes, Chief, Technical Services & Survey Records Documentation Section; and Teodoro A. de Castro,
researcher. This certification, dated 2 August 2007, states:
The certification of the Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division prevails over the certification of the OIC, Records Management Division. Under paragraph 2.4 of Lands Memorandum Order No.
368-92 dated 17 August 1992, no copies of white print, blue prints or photographic copies of plans shall be issued unless said secondary copies have been validated by the
Geodetic Surveys Division. The same paragraph 2.4 further states that unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Divisions, copies of such plans should be temporarily expunged
from the records of the Records Division until they are validated and returned for official file.
Thus, no secondary copies of plans, like the Barques Fls-3168-D plan, can have any evidentiary value unless validated by the Geodetics Surveys Division of the Lands Management
Bureau National Office. More importantly, copies of plans, like the Barques Fls-3168-D plan, which have not been validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division, are deemed "expunged
from the Records of the Records Division." The inescapable conclusion is that the form letter (Annex "J") issued by the Records Management Division of the Lands
Management Bureau National Office, and the Certification dated 19 June 2007 (Annex "E-I") signed by Rainier D. Balbuena, OIC, Records Management Division, Lands
Management Bureau National Office, both of which refer to the existence of the Barques Fls-3168-D plan, are absolutely worthless and are mere scraps of paper.
The Barques explanation is further belied by the 19 February 1997 letter of Engineer Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office,
that:

x x x Our Inventory Record of Approved Surveys, our computerized list of plans officially filed in this Bureau, the Locator Cards, and the microfilm all show that we have no records or
information about Plan Fls-3168-D.
xxx
x x x How can this be when NCR has never given us the alleged copy in their file for validation. The forwarding of the copy to us is mandatory under DAO No. 49 for our validation.
This is the subject of our letters to NCR dated 05 December 1996, 03 January 1997 and 06 February 1997 (copies attached). x x x. 74 (Emphasis supplied)
As pointed out by Engineer Dalire, under DENR Administrative Order No. 49, series of 1991, the copy of plan Fls-3168-D must be forwarded by the NCR Regional Office for
validation by the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office. No copy of the survey plan can be issued by the NCR
Unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, secondary copies of survey plans, such as the Barques plan Fls-3168-D, have no
evidentiary value because they are "temporarily x x x expunged from the records of the Records Division."
The Geodetic Surveys Division validates the survey plans based on the "back-up file in the Central Records Office." Despite the decentralization of the records of survey plans, the
Lands Management Bureau National Office retained "back-up files" of the decentralized records.
The NCR Regional Office failed to submit to the Geodetics Survey Division a copy of plan Fls-3168-D despite repeated requests from Engineer Dalire.
This repeated and manifest failure by the NCR Regional Office is echoed by the glaring failure of the Barques to submit, as they had promised to the Court during the oral argument, a
copy of plan Fls-3168-D as certified by the Lands Management Bureau National Office.
This Court has already recognized that copies of survey plans are void unless validated by the Geodetic Surveys Division in accordance with DENR Administrative Order No. 49, series of
1991.
Finally, private respondents cause of action against petitioner is defeated by the findings of Mr. Privadi Dalire, Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Bureau of
Lands, contained in his letters to the Regional Technical Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Region IV dated 12 November 1992 and 15
December 1992
The Barques have the temerity to foist on this Court their copy of plan Fls-3168-D which has been repeatedly denounced as a forgery by Engineer Dalire, the very person whom the
Barques claim certified their copy of Fls-3168-D. Engineer Dalire is the best person to determine the authenticity of Fls-3168-D not only because he allegedly signed it as claimed by
the Barques, but also because he is the Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the Lands Management Bureau National Office, the office that has the "inventory of approved plans x x
x (and) Microfilm Computer list of plans available for decentralization."
Fourth: The Barques Submitted a Tampered Copy of Administrative Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96)
On 7 February 1997, the Barques had written the LRA Administrator complaining against the LRA reconstituting officers alleged "pattern of effort to delay the administrative
reconstitution." The Barques attached to their 7 February 1997 letter an alleged order of reconstitution signed by Atty. Bustos approving the reconstitution of the Barques TCT
No. 210177. In his 14 February 1997 reply to the LRA Administrator, Atty. Bustos exposed the alleged order of reconstitution submitted by the Barques as a "tampered document."
The Barques also informed the LRA Administrator that there was a "recommendation dated January 2, 1997 by the Chief, Geodetic Surveys, Lands Management Bureau,
DENR, Manila, to give due course to the said reconstitution." However, in his 13 February 1997 letter 82 to the LRA reconstituting officer, Engineer Dalire, the Chief, Geodetic
Surveys, Lands Management Bureau, disowned this 2 January 1997 letter as a forgery.
On 14 February 1997, the LRA reconstituting officer wrote the LRA Administrator that:
1. There is no effort to delay the administrative reconstitution of the aforesaid title. What we are doing is a thorough check of the authenticity of the submitted documents;
2. The order of reconstitution containing TCT No. 210177 and the name of Homer L. Barque, attached to the aforesaid letter is a tampered document. For your comparison,
herewith is a copy of the genuine order of reconstitution, marked as annex "A";
3. The alleged letter-recommendation dated January 2, 1997, by the Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, LMB-DENR, is also a forged document. Attached for your reference is a
copy of the letter which is self-explanatory, together with its enclosures, directly received by the undersigned from Engineer Privadi J.G. Dalire, Chief, Geodetic Surveys Division, LMBDENR, marked as annex "B";
4. Lots 823-A & 823-B, Fls-3168-D, containing areas of 171,473 Sq. m. & 171, 472 Sq. m., respectively, purportedly covered by TCT No. 210177, appear to duplicate Lot 823,
Piedad Estate, containing an area of 342,945 Sq. m. covered by TCT No. 372302, registered in the name of Severino M. Manotok, et al., copy of which is hereto attached as
annex "C." (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)
In his 14 February 1997 letter, the LRA reconstituting officer complained to the LRA Administrator that "there is an attempt to mislead us into favorable action by submitting forged
documents."
The tampering refers to the insertion of (1) the name of "Homer L. Barque," and (2) the title number "210177" in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96). The Barques justified the
authenticity of the copy they presented by claiming that their copy was "initialed in each and every page." 84 However, the Barques copy of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96)
differed from the original of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) that the LRA reconstituting officer himself signed on 27 January 1997. To repeat, the original of Administrative
Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) was an order issued and signed by the LRA reconstituting officer, Atty. Bustos. Indeed, the Barques copy85 of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q535(96) shows that it was signed by the same LRA reconstituting officer, Atty. Bustos, handling the Barques then pending petition for administrative reconstitution.
The Barques also failed to explain why they still pursued their petition for administrative reconstitution of their title if indeed they had already obtained an approved reconstitution on 27
January 1997 under their copy of Administrative Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96). On 13 August 1998, the LRA reconstituting officer filed before the LRA Administrator the following
Comment:
2. That we maintain our position denying the reconstitution of TCT No. 210177, on the grounds stated in our Order dated June 30, 1997, and on the following additional grounds, to wit:
2.1 If the late Homer L. Barque, really purchased the subject property in the year 1975, why did he not take possession of it upon purchase, and up to now his descendants, the
Petitioners, are not in possession of the property, but the Oppositors?;
2.2 Why was the property declared, and realty taxes were paid in the name of Barque, only in the year 1996? Whereas, the Oppositors and their predecessors have been paying realty
taxes on the property since the year 1965;
2.3 Why did the Petitioner try to mislead us by submitting a tampered copy of Adm. Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96)? 86 (Emphasis supplied)
The LRA reconstituting officer ended his Comment by urging the LRA Administrator that "this case be referred to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission for
investigation."
In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques explained the circumstances of the order of reconstitution they submitted to the LRA in this manner:
The said resolution was issued on January 27, 1997 when there was, as yet, no opposition from anyone to the Barques petition for reconstitution and after the Barque had already
submitted their Owners Duplicate Copy of TCT No. 210177 which entitled them, like the several other petitioners listed in Mr. Bustos aforesaid Resolution, to a reconstitution thereof
under R.A. 6732.
In his letter, Atty. Turgano surmised that:
"The animosity and bias of Mr. Bustos against petitioners may be explained by the fact that he was responsible in giving due course and approving with dispatch the administrative

reconstitution of the Manotok title which is TCT No. RT-22481 (372302).


Mr. Bustos bias was likewise shown when he alerted the Manotoks of the Barques Petition for Reconstitution which prompted them to file their opposition to the Barques petition on April
14, 1997. He, therefore, apparently had the motive to delete the title and name of the Barques from his resolution.
At any rate, said resolution of Bustos was completely irrelevant to the LRA proceedings since it is his Order denying Barques petition for reconstitution that was raised on appeal before
the LRA Administrator. (Emphasis supplied)
In short, the Barques represent to this Court that their copy of Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96), listing their TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr. as one of the
titles approved for reconstitution by Atty. Bustos, is authentic, genuine and untampered. This is contrary to the categorical declaration of Atty. Bustos that the copy of Administrative
Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) submitted by the Barques is a "tampered document," and that the original Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) that Atty. Bustos himself
signed, which original is on file in his office in the LRA, does not include TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, Sr.
Ironically, the Barques put the blame on Atty. Bustos for "delet(ing) the title and name of the Barques from the resolution." The Barques are now accusing Atty. Bustos of falsification
by deleting the Barques name and title in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96). Before such deletion, the Barques insist that Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) included
the Barques name and title, which is the copy that the Barques submitted to the LRA Administrator.
In the first place, there was no reason whatsoever for Atty. Bustos to include the Barques title and name in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96). When Atty. Bustos signed the
order on 27 January 1997, he was still corresponding with Engineer Dalire on the forgery found in the Barques plan Fls-3168-D. The last letter of Engineer Dalire to Atty. Bustos was on
31 January 1997. On 14 February 1997, Atty. Bustos even wrote the LRA Administrator about the "attempt to mislead us (LRA) into favorable action by submitting forged documents."
Clearly, Atty. Bustos could not have included the Barques title and name in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).
In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques gave the lame excuse that Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96) is now "completely irrelevant" because what was
raised on appeal to the LRA was the order of Atty. Bustos denying the Barques petition for reconstitution. If their copy of Administrative Reconstitution Order No. Q-535(96) is truly
authentic and untampered, the Barques should insist that their petition for administrative reconstitution was in fact approved by the reconstituting officer Atty. Bustos. The Barques do not
claim or even mention this now, instead they agree that Atty. Bustos denied their petition, contrary to their claim that Atty. Bustos granted their petition by including the Barques title and
name in Administrative Reconstitution No. Q-535(96).
The Barques cannot simply brush aside their submission of tampered or forged documents. These patent forgeries are grounds to render the Barques reconstituted title void ab initio.
Section 11 of Republic Act No. 6732 (RA 6732),87 the law allowing administrative reconstitution of titles, provides:
SEC. 11. A reconstituted title obtained by means of fraud, deceit or other machination is void ab initio as against the party obtaining the same and all persons having knowledge thereof.
(Emphasis supplied)
This Court would never countenance these blatant and glaring forgeries. The present cases involve 34 hectares of prime land located beside the Ayala Heights Subdivision in Quezon
City. Its value is estimated conservatively at P1.7 billion.
Fifth: The Barques Title Surfaced Eight Years after the Quezon City Hall Fire
The Barques filed their petition for administrative reconstitution on 22 October 1996, eight years after the original of their Torrens title was allegedly burned in the 11 June 1988 fire that
destroyed the records of the Quezon City Register of Deeds. In contrast, the Manotoks administratively reconstituted their Torrens title on 1 February 1991, three years after the fire and
just one year after the effectivity on 17 July 1989 of RA 6732 allowing again administrative reconstitution of titles under certain circumstances.
Sixth: The Barques Cannot Explain Erasure of Notation on their Tax Declarations
The Manotoks claim that the Barques erased the following notation in the tax declarations they submitted to the LRA reconstituting officer: "Memo: This property appear (sic) to
duplicate the property of Manotok Realty, Inc., declared under TD No. B-067-02136 with area of 343,945 sq.m./P.I. no. 21-4202."88 In their Petition For Review dated 30 March
2004, the Manotoks submitted certified true copies of the Barques Tax Declarations 06892 89 and 0689590 containing this notation. In their Memorandum of 23 August 2007, the Manotoks
again submitted copies of the Barques tax declarations containing the same notation.
During the oral argument, counsel for the Barques denied the erasure of the notation on the Barques tax declarations. However, counsel for the Barques admitted that he has not seen
the original tax declarations on file with the Assessors Office, thus:
Justice Carpio:
x x x The Manotoks are claiming that the Barques erased, removed annotation in the tax declaration of the Barques that in the tax declaration on file with the Assessors Office the tax
declaration of the Barques is supposed to contain annotation that this property appears to be registered in the name of Manotok Realty Inc., is that correct?
In their Memorandum dated 6 September 2007, the Barques ignored completely the Manotoks claim that the Barques erased the notation.
Seventh: The Barques Paid Realty Tax only for 1987 to 1996
The Barques first paid real estate tax on the property only in 1996, 92 for realty taxes for the years 1987 to 1996, because the Barques were required to pay the current and
preceding years realty taxes before they could file their petition for administrative reconstitution. The Barques have not paid any realty tax after 1996, or before 1987 .93 In
contrast, the LRA reconstituting officer found that the Manotoks have been paying realty taxes on the property since 1965. In their Memorandum dated 23 August 2007, the Manotoks
claim that they paid their realty taxes on the property from 1933 until the present, attaching to their Memorandum representative copies of their realty tax payments.
Eighth: The Barques Have Never Set Foot on the Property
The Barques have never set foot on the property since the time Homer L. Barque, Sr. allegedly purchased the property in 1975. Counsel for the Barques admitted this when he stated

during the oral argument that the Barques merely "went around" the walled property. On the other hand, the Manotoks assert that the property is publicly known in their neighborhood as
the Manotok Compound. The Manotoks further claim:
[A]s owners of said Lot 823, oppositors (Manotoks) had introduced substantial improvements, amounting to several millions, thereon consisting of, among others, high wall hollow block
fence; their respective houses, apartments; offices and employees quarters, as early as in 1960, photographs of which are hereto attached as Annexes "115" to "134"; 94 (Emphasis
supplied)
During the oral argument, the Manotoks showed on the projector screen the pictures of the various houses, buildings and concrete perimeter fence that the Manotoks constructed on the
property since 1960.
Ninth: LRA Administrator Relied only on Map Submitted by Barques
In calling the Manotoks title "sham and spurious," the LRA Administrator cited the non-existence of Barrio Payong in Quezon City. The LRA Administrator stated: " The map of Quezon
City [Annex "N" of Petitioners Position paper] would show that there is no such barrio as Payong."95 This is a finding of fact that is based not only on self-serving and suspect
evidence, but also on a patently erroneous claim.
The LRA Administrator relied on Annex "N" of "Petitioners," that is, the map of the Barques who were the petitioners before the LRA Administrator assailing the LRA reconstituting
officers denial of their reconstitution on the ground of pre-existence of the Manotoks title and the submission of a spurious document by the Barques. Obviously, this Court should not
rely on the LRA Administrators findings which were admittedly based on the map of the Barques, who had earlier submitted forged documents to the LRA reconstituting officer.
The existence of Barrio Payong in Quezon City has been judicially acknowledged almost three decades ago in the Decision of the Court of Agrarian Relations, the court of origin
in Spouses Tiongson, et al. v. Court of Appeals and Macaya,96 involving the same property under dispute in these cases. In Spouses Tiongson, the Court of Agrarian Relations made an
ocular inspection of Barrio Payong in Quezon City, thus:
On June 20, 1978, the Court issued an Order directing the Clerk of Court to conduct an ocular inspection of the landholding in question, which is as follows:
"Conformably with Urgent Motion For An Ocular Inspection filed with this Court on even date and as stated in paragraph 2 thereof, the Clerk of Court is hereby directed to conduct an
ocular inspection of the landholding in question situated at Payong, Quezon City, which as agreed upon between them is set on June 23, 1978 at 8:30 oclock A.M. (sic), wherein the
parties shall meet at the site of said landholding and to determine:
(a) Portions of the property planted to rice (sic) by the plaintiff and/or his children;
(b) Portions of the property where the rice paddies are located;
(c) Portions of the property planted to (sic) corn and vegetables;
(d) Portions of the property where the houses of the plaintiff and/or his children are built and located;
(e) Portion of the property which, according to the defendants, had been, before the filing of the complaint in this case, worked on by Victorino Macaya and returned by him to the
defendants, through Atty. Perpetua Bocanegra, with an area of more or less one hectare;
(f) Portions burned by the plaintiff."
Upon accomplishment thereof, said Clerk of Court is hereby directed to submit his report as well as his sketch plan for further disposition of the Court.
On June 27, 197[8], the Clerk of Court submitted his "REPORT", which is as follows:
"In compliance with the Order of the Honorable Court dated June 20, 1978, undersigned together with Mr. Victor Flores of this Branch, proceeded to Barrio Payong, Quezon
City on June 23, 1978, to conduct an ocular inspection of the landholding involved in this case. x x x"97 (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)
The recognition of the Court of Agrarian Relations that Barrio Payong exists in Quezon City is based on the ocular inspection conducted on 23 June 1978 by the Clerk of Court of the
Court of Agrarian Relations. In contrast, the statement of the LRA Administrator that there is no Barrio Payong in Quezon City is based merely on the map that the Barques submitted
in their petition for administrative reconstitution, which was filed only on 22 October 1996.
In Spouses Tiongson, there were 28 petitioners. 98 Of these 28 petitioners, at least sixteen are petitioners composing part of the Manotoks in these cases. Of these sixteen petitioners,
eight Miguel A.B. Sison, Ma. Cristina E. Sison, George M. Bocanegra, Philipp Manotok, Maria Theresa Manotok, Ramon Severino Manotok, Jesus Jude Manotok, Jr., and Jose Maria
Manotok were then minors at the time of Spouses Tiongson and were thus represented by judicial guardians. These eight are now of age in these cases.
Tenth: The Barques Bought the Property Knowing the Manotoks Had Constructed Buildings and Perimeter Wall on the Property
During the oral argument, the Manotoks showed on the projector screen a picture of the 34-hectare Manotok compound completely surrounded by a high concrete perimeter wall.
When counsel for the Barques was asked if his clients made an ocular inspection of the property at the time his clients purchased it in 1975, Barques counsel answered as follows:
Justice Velasco:
Did your client prior to buying the lot from Mr. Setosta go to the land to investigate the ownership of Mr. Setosta?
Atty. Flaminiano:
The one who bought the property was the father of Barques now.
Justice Velasco:
Would you know if the father of respondent visit and inspect and investigate the ownership of Mr. Setosta?
Atty. Flaminiano:
I was told that he visited the property because the father of the Barques used to work for Mr. Antonio Florendo. I think he was the manager of one of the businesses of Mr. Florendo in
Davao City having to do with accessory parts of cars and trucks and he was at one time also the operator of a public transportation company.
Justice Velasco:
Okay. Did the father of Mr. Barque find any building or structures on the land now subject of this dispute?
Atty. Flaminiano:
We would not know because Mr. Barque died already, Your Honor.99
xxxx
Justice Carpio:
Now, when did they take possession of the property since Mr. Homer L. Barque purchased it in 1975, when did he take possession of the property?

Atty. Flaminiano:
The reason why they could not take really possession of the property because they were trying to get some papers from an Aunt of Mr. Barque to whom the property was mortgaged
before he died. I understand that the property was mortgaged for something like One Million to Two Million Pesos.
Justice Carpio:
So, from 1975 to the present they have not taken possession of the property?
Atty. Flaminiano:
There were attempts to take possession, Your Honor.
Justice Carpio:
What kind of attempts, did they file ejectment suit?
Atty. Flaminiano:
In fact Your Honor I understand that some of the Barque girls even went around the property.
Justice Carpio:
Went around the property (interrupted)
Atty. Flaminiano:
Went around the property to take a look at the property but after that they left for the United States and for one reason or another they have not been able to take the proper steps
(interrupted)
Justice Carpio:
So, they never filed any suit to recover possession of the property, is that right?
Atty. Flaminiano:
None that I know, Your Honor.
Justice Carpio:
Did they send any demand letter to the Manotoks to vacate the property since they were the owners?
Atty. Flaminiano:
None that I know, Your Honor.
Clearly, the Barques have never set foot on the property from 1975 up to the present. The Barques merely "went around" the fully fenced property. The Barques never sent a demand
letter to the Manotoks to vacate the property. The Barques never filed an ejectment or any action to recover possession of the property.
Eleventh: The Barques Chain of Title Stops in 1975
The Manotoks can trace their Torrens title to the purchase by their predecessors-in-interest of the property from the Government in 1919. In their Memorandum dated 23
August 2007
On the other hand, the Barques can trace their chain of title only up to 1975 when Homer Barque, Sr. purchased the property from Emiliano Setosta, who the Barques claim bought the
property directly from the Government in the 1940s. The Barques have not presented the deed of conveyance by the Government to Setosta. The claim of the Barques that Setosta
purchased the property directly from the Government in the 1940s is belied by the 1927 Annual Report of the Director of Lands, stating that:
With the exception of the estates of Calamba, Imus, Isabela, Lolomboy, Naic, San Francisco de Malabon, Santa Cruz de Malabon, Santa Maria de Pandi, and Talisay-Minglanilla, where
there are still some vacant lands, all the others of the 23 Friar land estates had already been entirely disposed of. x x x.100 (Emphasis supplied)
At the end of 1927, the Government had already sold all of the Piedad Estate, a Friar land. Thus, the Government could not have sold directly to Setosta the disputed property in
the 1940s.
Twelfth: Lands Management Bureau Relocation Survey Shows Barques Property Located 5.6 Kilometers from Piedad Estate
Intervenors Felicitas and Rosendo Manahan (Manahans) have submitted a relocation survey made by the Lands Management Bureau NCR Regional Office of the Barques plan Fls3168-D showing that the Barques property is located "some 5.6 kilometers away from Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate, outside of Quezon City ."101 The relocation survey plan is
signed by Ludivina L. Aromin, Chief of the Technical Services Division, and Engineer III Evelyn G. Celzo. In their Memorandum dated 22 August 2007, the Manahans attached as Annex
"M" a copy of the Lands Management Bureau relocation survey of plan Fls-3168-D.
A DULY ISSUED TORRENS TITLE IS ONE ISSUEDBY THE REGISTER OF DEEDS IN THE REGULAR PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTIES
This Court ruled in Alabang Development Corporation, et al. v. Valenzuela, etc., et al.102 that courts have no jurisdiction over petitions for reconstitution of title involving a property already
covered by an existing Torrens title in the name of another person. The dissenting opinion claims that the Barques title was already existing at the time of the reconstitution of the
Manotoks title in 1991. This is an egregious error. When the Manotoks title was reconstituted in 1991, the Barques title had not been reconstituted, and even up to now the reconstitution
of the Barques title is still pending resolution in the instant case. In contrast, when the Barques filed their reconstitution in 1996, the Manotoks title had already been finally reconstituted
and existing. Clearly, it is the Barques still pending reconstitution that can no longer proceed because of the existing title of the Manotoks.
In Alabang, the Court held that a "duly issued existing Torrens title x x x cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles by third parties
without first securing by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles." The phrase "duly issued existing Torrens title" simply means a title verifiably issued by the proper
Register of Deeds. The validity or invalidity of the title is not material at that point. What is material is whether the Register of Deeds actually issued the title as part of his regular
functions.
Clearly, at the time of the reconstitution of the Manotoks title, the Barques had no "duly issued existing Torrens title" from the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. When the Barques filed
the reconstitution of their title, the Manotoks already had a prior title, which was the only "duly issued existing Torrens title" over the property issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon
City. The Manotoks title could be verified against the reconstituted original title on file with the Register of Deeds. In fact, the LRA Administrator has admitted that the Manotoks title "is
existing as a reconstituted title at the Office of the Register of Deeds."103
The Barques could not produce even up to now a "duly issued existing Torrens title" from the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. The Barques owners duplicate certificate of title could
not be verified with the Register of Deeds of Quezon City because the Barques title has no corresponding original title, whether reconstituted or not, on file with the Register of Deeds.
Thus, the reconstitution of the Barques title, which is still pending in this case, can no longer proceed.

Once the reconstituting court or officer establishes that the Register of Deeds has in fact issued an existing title in the name of another person, the proper step is to file an action before
the Regional Trial Court to annul such title. It is in such proceeding before the regional trial court that the validity or invalidity of the title is determined . In such proceeding, any
party may introduce in evidence the LRA Administrator or the NBIs findings. In the meantime, no reconstitution proceeding can prosper until after the cancellation by final
judgment of such existing title.
The Alabang ruling necessarily involves a situation where there is an existing title issued by the Register of Deeds at the time of filing of a petition to reconstitute another title over the
same property in the name of another person. The Alabang ruling states that in such a situation the reconstituting authority has no jurisdiction to proceed with the reconstitution until a
final judgment cancels the other title. This is clear from the Courts ruling in Alabang:
The Court stresses once more that lands already covered by duly issued existing Torrens titles (which become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from their issuance
under Section 38 of the Land Registration Act) cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles filed by third parties without first
securing by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles. (And as the Court reiterated in the recent case of Silvestre vs. Court of Appeals, "in cases of annulment and/or
reconveyance of title, a party seeking it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his.")
The courts simply have no jurisdiction over petitions by such third parties for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles over lands that are already covered by duly issued
subsisting titles in the names of their duly registered owners. The very concept of stability and indefeasibility of titles covered under the Torrens System of registration rules out
as anathema the issuance of two certificates of title over the same land to two different holders thereof . A fortiori, such proceedings for "reconstitution" without actual notice to the
duly registered owners and holders of Torrens Titles to the land are null and void. Applicants, land officials and judges who disregard these basic and fundamental principles will be held
duly accountable therefor.104 (Emphasis supplied)
The Decision of the First Division misapplies the Alabang ruling by holding that the LRA Administrator can adjudicate on the validity of a Torrens title by a finding that the title was not "duly
issued." Even the Register of Deeds, who physically issues a Torrens title as part of his regular functions, cannot adjudicate on the validity of a title. The Decision states that the "function
of the (LRA) is adjudicatory in nature it can properly deliberate on the validity of the titles submitted for reconstitution." This is grave error.
Time and again, this Court has ruled that reconstitution, even judicial reconstitution, does not confirm or adjudicate ownership over a property .105 Reconstitution merely
restores a missing certificate of title in the same condition that it was when lost or destroyed, nothing more. If the original title had a legal defect at the time of the loss or destruction, as
when the land covered is part of the public forest,106 the reconstituted title does not cure such defect. As this Court held in Director of Lands v. Gan Tan:107
But the lower court claims that petitioner, even if he complied with all the requirements of the law, is not entitled to have his title reconstituted for the reason that, being an alien, he
is not qualified to acquire the land covered by said title under our Constitution. However, we find this claim untenable in the light of the theory that a Torrens title cannot be
collaterally attacked. The rule on this matter is that this issue can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for that purpose (Legarda vs. Saleeby, 31 Phil., 590).
Moreover, it is a well known doctrine that a Torrens title, as a rule, is irrevocable and indefeasible (Bachrach Motor Co. vs. Kane, 61 Phil., 504), and our duty is to see to it that this title is
maintained and respected unless challenged in a direct proceeding.
To our mind, the only issue here is whether there is a title to be reconstituted. That is the only purpose of the law (Rep. Act No. 26). If there is, then it is the duty of the court to comply with
its mandate. Whether the petitioner has the right to acquire the land or not, is beyond the province of this proceeding. That should be threshed out in a proper action. The
two proceedings are distinct and should not be confused.108 (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)
The fallacy in the dissenting opinions argument is that it assumes that the LRA Administrator can adjudicate on the validity of a Torrens title. The original jurisdiction to adjudicate or to
decide the validity of a Torrens title is vested by law exclusively in the Regional Trial Court pursuant to Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree. Section 19 of the Judiciary Act
vests in the Regional Trial Court the "exclusive original jurisdiction" to decide factual and legal issues "which involve the title to x x x real property." This means the Regional Trial
Court first decides the validity of the Torrens title, and this power to first decide is to the exclusion of all other organs of the State. Not even the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court
can usurp this exclusive original power of the Regional Trial Court. Any judgment resulting from such usurpation is void.
What the LRA Administrator or agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can issue are administrative, non-adjudicatory findings on whether a Torrens title is
spurious or authentic. These findings are mere evidences that must be submitted to the Regional Trial Court, which alone has the power to adjudicate whether the title is
void. Findings by the LRA or the NBI that a title is spurious are merely administrative opinions, not a judicial determination that settles rights and obligations between
parties over a disputed property. These findings are merely evidences, not the judgment itself of validity or invalidity which can only come from the Regional Trial Court.
These findings do not become res judicata, while the judgment of the Regional Trial Court can become res judicata.
Clearly, the grant of a reconstituted title is not an adjudication of the titles validity. The Barques received an undeserved windfall when the First Division declared their
reconstituted title valid when the only relief they sought in the administrative reconstitution was the restoration of their title in its condition at the time of the alleged loss or destruction. This
Court has ruled in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.:109
Respondent relies solely on its reconstituted title which, by itself, does not determine or resolve the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed title. The reconstitution of a
title is simply the re-issuance of a lost duplicate certificate of title in its original form and condition. It does not determine or resolve the ownership of the land covered by
the lost or destroyed title. A reconstituted title, like the original certificate of title, by itself does not vest ownership of the land or estate covered thereby .110 (Emphasis in
original)
Thus, the LRA has no jurisdiction, in administrative reconstitution proceedings, to rule which between two titles over the same property is valid, or who between two claimants over the
same property is the lawful owner. Section 19 of the Judiciary Act vests in courts of justice the " exclusive original jurisdiction" to decide factual and legal issues involving "the title to x
x x real property."
EQUITY JURISDICTION DOES NOT APPLY
The dissenting opinion further argues that the Manotoks are estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the LRA Administrator or the LRA reconstituting officer. The dissenting opinion
asserts that the Manotoks failed to question in the proceedings before these LRA officials their jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the Barques title. This invocation of equity
jurisdiction in favor of the LRA Administrator and the LRA reconstituting officer for the benefit of the Barques - is grossly erroneous.
First, the settled doctrine is "he who seeks equity must come to court with clean hands."111 The Barques have submitted patently forged documents to the LRA reconstituting officer.
In the development of equity jurisdiction through the ages, the constant principle from which there was no deviation was that equity could never be used to reward those who commit

fraud. This Court should not depart from the noble intention that motivated the development and use of equity jurisdiction. As this Court aptly stated in Pagasa Industrial Corporation v.
Court of Appeals, et al.:112
Pagasa cannot rely on equity because he who comes into equity must come with clean hands. Equity refuses to lend its aid in any manner to one seeking its active interposition
who has been guilty of unlawful or inequitable conduct in the matter with relation to which he seeks relief113 (30 C.J.S. 1009). (Emphasis supplied)
Second, the principle of jurisdiction by estoppel applies only to those who have sought affirmative relief in the wrong court, lost there, and then assail the adverse decision of that court.
This estoppel applies against a party "who has invoked the jurisdiction of a court in a particular matter to secure an affirmative relief, to afterwards deny that same jurisdiction
to escape an adverse decision."114 However, it was the Barques, not the Manotoks, who sought the affirmative relief of a reconstituted title. In their Opposition 115 before the LRA
reconstituting officer, the Manotoks sought a defensive, negative relief - that the Barques petition "be dismissed for lack of merit." It was also the Barques, not the Manotoks, who
invoked the jurisdiction of the LRA, which had no jurisdiction over the Barques petition because of the pre-existing title of the Manotoks. Moreover, it was the Barques, not the Manotoks,
who lost before the LRA reconstituting officer and who assailed the adverse decision before the LRA Administrator. The Barques even lost before the LRA Administrator who refused to
reconstitute the Barques title without the intervention of a "court of competent jurisdiction." Clearly, jurisdiction by estoppel cannot apply to the Manotoks.
Third, the LRA Administrator and the LRA reconstituting officer refused to assume jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the Barques title. The LRA Administrator denied the Barques
petition because of the existence of the Manotoks title, which in the words of the LRA Administrator must first be cancelled by "a court of competent jurisdiction" before the Barques
petition may be given due course. The LRA reconstituting officer also denied the Barques petition because of the existence of the Manotoks title which the LRA had already
reconstituted. In short, these LRA officials admitted that they had no jurisdiction over the Barques petition. Since these LRA officials refused to assume jurisdiction, there was no
assumption of equity jurisdiction that the Manotoks could have questioned. For the same reason, there is no ass_umption of jurisdiction that this Court can now recognize and validate
through equity principles.
Fourth, the principle of equity jurisdiction arising from estoppel or any other reason applies only to courts of justice. The jurisdiction of courts of justice arises from either statute or
equity, or both. In legal systems which recognize equity jurisdiction, equity is an inherent power of courts by virtue of their duty to dispense justice to the full extent possible. Equity
jurisdiction is a judicial power. Administrative agencies or officers exercising administrative, executive, or ministerial functions cannot assume equity jurisdiction because they do not
exercise judicial functions. Thus, it is gross error to invest on the LRA Administrator and the LRA reconstituting officer equity jurisdiction because these LRA officers perform administrative
or executive functions in petitions for administrative reconstitution of titles.
Fifth, the Manotoks did in fact raise the issue of the LRA Administrators jurisdiction in relation to the LRA Administrators opinion that the Manotoks title was "sham and spurious." In their
Motion for Reconsideration dated 27 August 1998 before the LRA Administrator,116 the Manotoks stated:
Moreover, it is not disputed that herein oppositors are the holder of an existing valid and effective TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) covering the same land embraced by TCT No. 210177 in
question found which, as stated, is non-existing and spurious. Given said fact, no administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 should proceed. As held by the Supreme Court,
to wit:
So too, this Court has stressed "that lands already covered by duly issued existing Torrens titles (which become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from their issuance
under section 38 of the Land Registration Act) cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles filed by third parties without first securing
by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles." (Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership vs. Velasco, 234 SCRA 458 [1994])117 (Emphasis supplied)
Sixth, the principle of estoppel applies only if the LRA had in fact jurisdiction to rule on the validity of the Torrens title of the Manotoks, so as to bar the Manotoks, who previously
claimed that the LRA had no jurisdiction, from later taking a contrary position. Thus, the Court declared in People v. Casiano:118
4. The operation of the principle of estoppel on the question of jurisdiction seemingly depends upon whether the lower court actually had jurisdiction or not. If it had no jurisdiction, but
the case was tried and decided upon the theory that it had jurisdiction, the parties are not barred, on appeal, from assailing such jurisdiction, for the same "must exist as a
matter of law, and may not be conferred by consent of the parties or by estoppel" (5 C.J.S., 861-863). However, if the lower court had jurisdiction, and the case was heard and
decided upon a given theory, such, for instance, as that the court had no jurisdiction, the party who induced it to adopt such theory will not be permitted, on appeal, to
assume an inconsistent position that the lower court had jurisdiction. Here, the principle of estoppel applies. x x x119 (Emphasis supplied)
The LRA never had jurisdiction to rule on the validity of the Torrens title of the Manotoks. Jurisdiction, as ruled in People v. Casiano, "must exist as a matter of law, and may not be
conferred by consent of the parties or by estoppel." It is axiomatic that only the law can confer jurisdiction. No amount of estoppel can vest jurisdiction on an officer or court that the
law has not conferred jurisdiction.
The LRA Administrator expressly admitted that only the proper Regional Trial Court has the jurisdiction to cancel the Torrens title of the Manotoks. Only the Barques insist that the LRA
has jurisdiction to cancel a Torrens title of a third party in an administrative reconstitution proceedings filed by another party, a contention that is patently baseless.
Seventh, and most important of all, equity jurisdiction can never be used to violate the law. Equity jurisdiction aims to attain complete justice in cases where a court of law is unable to
render judgment to meet the special circumstances of a case because of the limitations of its statutory jurisdiction. 120 However, equity follows the law, and courts exercising equity
jurisdiction must still apply the law and have no discretion to disregard the law.121 Where the law prescribes a particular remedy with fixed and limited boundaries, the court cannot,
by exercising equity jurisdiction, extend the boundaries further than the law allows.122 Thus, this Court has ruled:
As for equity, which has been aptly described as a justice outside legality, this is applied only in the absence of, and never against, statutory law or, as in this case, judicial rules
of procedure. Aequetas nunquam contravenit legis. The pertinent positive rules being present here, they should pre-empt and prevail over all abstract arguments based only on equity. 123
(Emphasis supplied)
Hence, no court can extend equity jurisdiction to the LRA where the law has expressly reserved exclusive original jurisdiction to the Regional Trial Court. No court, invoking
equity jurisdiction, can also allow a collateral attack on a Torrens title, either before the LRA or before itself, in gross violation of Section 48 of the Property Registration
Decree expressly prohibiting collateral attacks on Torrens titles.
This rule has special application to Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree, enacted specifically to foreclose any possible collateral attack on a Torrens title, as well as any
possible cancellation or modification of a Torrens title without a proceeding in the Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of the title. Strict compliance with Section
48 is what gives Torrens titles enduring stability, preventing confusion and fraud in land ownership. To extend equity jurisdiction to LRA officers to allow them to entertain collateral attacks

on a Torrens title is a gross and blatant violation of the clear and express command of a positive law. Any extension of equity jurisdiction that operates to negate Section 48 will destroy
the most basic safeguard in the Property Registration Decree. Certainly, equity jurisdiction cannot be used for this purpose.
WHETHER ASSAILED AS FRAUDULENTLY ISSUED OR NOT, A TORRENS TITLE CAN ONLY BE CANCELLED IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 48 OF THE PROPERTY
REGISTRATION DECREE
In cancelling the Manotoks Torrens title without any trial before any court, the First Division of this Court completely disregarded Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree and
Section 19 of the Judiciary Act. Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree provides that a Torrens title "cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in
accordance with law."
That law is Section 19 of the Judiciary Act which states that the "Regional Trial Court shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction x x x in all civil actions, which involve the title
to x x x real property." These two provisions mandate that no Torrens title can be cancelled unless there is a proceeding in the proper Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity
of such title.
Thus, the Court of Appeals committed a gross violation of Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree and Section 19 of the Judiciary Act when it ordered the cancellation of the
Torrens title of the Manotoks without a prior proceeding before the proper Regional Trial Court directly assailing the validity of the Manotoks title. Likewise, the First Division of this Court
committed the same violation totally disregarding Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree and Section 19 of the Judiciary Act, and in the process overturning well-entrenched
doctrines of this Court.
The validity of a Torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, can be assailed only in a direct proceeding before the proper Regional Trial Court in accordance with Section 48. In
Ladignon v. Court of Appeals,124 the Court declared:
What is worse, in ordering the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 383675, respondent Court of Appeals acted without jurisdiction. After all, it is hornbook law that a torrens title
cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue of validity of a torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, may be posed only in an action brought to impugn or annul it.
Unmistakable, and cannot be ignored, is the germane provision of Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, that a certificate of title can never be the subject of a collateral
attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding instituted in accordance with law. x x x.125 (Emphasis supplied)
The LRA Administrator has admitted that the Torrens title of the Manotoks "is thus presumed valid." 126 The law recognizes that the Manotoks Torrens title is "evidence of an indefeasible
title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein." 127 Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the prior title of the Manotoks is spurious, still under Ladignon v.
Court of Appeals,128 such title can only cancelled by the proper Regional Trial Court in a direct proceeding assailing its validity.
The dissenting opinion cites Rexlon Realty Group, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, et al.129 as authority that the Court of Appeals and this Court "have jurisdiction to declare the title void even if
the appealed case was not originally filed with the Regional Trial Court for nullification of title" under Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree. The ponente has obviously misread
Rexlon Realty. Rexlon Realty was a petition filed with the Court of Appeals for annulment of judgment of the Regional Trial Court on the ground that the trial court had no jurisdiction
to grant the reconstitution of lost owners duplicates of titles to respondent Alex David. Rexlon Realty proved that the titles were not lost but were in its possession as the first buyer of the
properties from Alex David who had later sold again the properties to Paramount Development Corporation. Rexlon Realty also proved that Alex David delivered the titles to Rexlon
Realty pursuant to the sale.
Rexlon Realty does not involve two conflicting titles over the same property, which is the situation in the present case. In Rexlon Realty, the opposing parties agreed that there was only
one set of titles covering the same properties. The only issue in Rexlon Realty was whether the titles were lost, and if so, the trial court had jurisdiction to grant the reconstitution of the
titles; but if the titles were not lost, then the trial court had no jurisdiction to grant the reconstitution of titles.
Rexlon Realty did not question the validity of the titles of Alex David, which covered properties that Rexlon Realty had purchased from Alex David. Rexlon Realtys obvious interest was
to maintain the validity of the titles to the properties it had purchased, the titles to which were in Rexlon Realtys possession. Thus, Rexlon Realty did not invoke Section 48 of
the Property Registration Decree, the law requiring a direct proceeding in the proper regional trial court in any attack assailing the validity of a Torrens title. To reiterate, the validity of a
Torrens title, which is at issue in direct proceedings under Section 48, is a separate and distinct issue from the propriety of a reconstitution of title.
What Rexlon Realty questioned was the jurisdiction of the trial court in issuing replacement titles to the properties in the name of Alex David who claimed that he lost the titles. In
assailing as void the trial courts judgment, Rexlon Realty invoked, as stated by the Court, "Section 2, of Rule 47 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure," which provides "the
grounds to annul a judgment of a lower court x x x [based on] fraud and lack of jurisdiction." Thus, the Court in Rexlon Realty ruled:
x x x In the Strait Times case and in Demetriou v. Court of Appeals, also on facts analogous to those involved in this case, we held that if an owners duplicate copy of a certificate of
title has not been lost but is in fact in the possession of another person, the reconstituted title is void and the court rendering the decision has not acquired jurisdiction.
Consequently, the decision may be attacked any time. In the case at bar, the authenticity and genuineness of the owners duplicate of TCT Nos. T-52537 and T-52538 in the possession
of petitioner Rexlon and the Absolute Deed of Sale in its favor have not been disputed. As there is no proof to support actual loss of the said owners duplicate copies of said certificates
of title, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction and the new titles issued in replacement thereof are void.
xxx
In this case at bar, we simply annulled the decision of the RTC, acting as a land registration court in L.R.C. Record No. 8843, to issue new owner's duplicate copies of TCT Nos. T-52537
and T-52538, for lack of jurisdiction. The dispute between petitioner Rexlon and respondent David regarding ownership over the parcels of land will have to be threshed out or
determined in a more appropriate proceeding. In a petition for the issuance of a new owner's duplicate copy of a certificate of title in lieu of one allegedly lost, the RTC,
acting only as a land registration court, has no jurisdiction to pass upon the question of actual ownership of the land covered by the lost owners duplicate copy of the
certificate of title. Possession of a lost owners duplicate copy of a certificate of title is not necessarily equivalent to ownership of the land covered by it. The certificate of
title, by itself, does not vest ownership; it is merely an evidence of title over a particular property. 130 (Emphasis supplied)
Indeed, Rexlon Realty supports the Manotoks contention that once it is shown that there is a pre-existing title duly issued by the Register of Deeds over the same property which is the
subject of reconstitution proceedings, the reconstitution cannot proceed for either of two reasons. First, the reconstituting officer or court has no jurisdiction to reconstitute a title that has
never been lost or destroyed. Second, the reconstituting officer or court has no authority to decide which of two conflicting titles is valid. Thus, Rexlon Realty categorically ruled that in
reconstitution proceedings, whether administrative or judicial, the reconstituting officer or court has no jurisdiction " to pass upon the question of actual ownership of the land" covered

by the lost title because the "certificate of title, by itself, does not vest ownership."
GUARANTY OF STABILITY OF THE TORRENS SYSTEM
Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree is the cornerstone of our land registration system providing stability to land titles. Without Section 48, our land registration system will
crumble. Section 48 guarantees every landowner with a Torrens title that his title can never be cancelled unless the validity of his title is first directly assailed in court where he can
adduce evidence in his favor. The Decision of the First Division erases this guarantee. In one stroke, the Decision of the First Division has overturned over a century of jurisprudence
fortifying a guarantee essential to the stability of our land registration system.
In 1915, after the introduction in 1903131 of the Torrens system in this country, this Court waxed poetic in Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby 132 in describing the cornerstone of the then new
system of land registration. Declared the Court:
x x x The real purpose of that system is to quiet title to land; to put a stop forever to any question of the legality of the title, except claims which were noted at the time of registration, in
the certificate, or which may arise subsequent thereto. That being the purpose of the law, it would seem that once a title is registered the owner may rest secure, without the
necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting in the "mirador de su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land. x x x
x x x The title once registered, with very few exceptions, should not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged, or diminished, except in some direct
proceeding permitted by law. Otherwise, all security in registered titles would be lost. x x x133 (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)
This Court has reiterated the doctrine in Legarda and Prieto v. Saleeby, now embodied in Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree, in innumerable decisions. In the 2003 case of
Heirs of Santiago v. Heirs_ of Santiago,134 a decision penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, this Court declared:
Section 48 of P.D. 1529, the Property Registration Decree, provides that a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack and can not be altered, modified, or canceled
except in a direct proceeding. An action is an attack on a title when the object of the action is to nullify the title, and thus challenge the judgment or proceeding pursuant to which the
title was decreed. The attack is direct when the object of an action is to annul or set aside such judgment, or enjoin its enforcement. On the other hand, the attack is indirect
or collateral when, in an action to obtain a different relief, an attack on the judgment or proceeding is nevertheless made as an incident thereof.135 (Emphasis supplied)
The Decision of the First Division cancels a Torrens title without any proceeding in a trial court directly attacking the title as required by law. What this Court warned against in Legarda
and Prieto v. Saleeby is now before us a situation where "all security in registered titles [is] lost." Every landowner holding a Torrens title will now have to camp in the corridors of
the courts, or constantly watch in the balcony of his house, just to avoid losing his titled land. The Decision of the First Division, by destroying the stability of land titles, will usher in an era
of land disputes, which before the advent of the Torrens system were often violent and bloody.
The Decision of the First Division denies to the Manotoks a basic guarantee under the Constitution that no person shall be deprived of his property without due process of law. 136 The
Decision deprives the Manotoks of their P1.7 billion property without any trial in any court contrary to the clear and express mandate of Section 48 of the Property Registration
Decree. This Court should never allow such blatant, gross and shocking violation of a fundamental constitutional right.
A FINAL WORD ON RECONSTITUTION OF TITLES
This Court has often warned of the pitfalls of reconstitutions of titles, which have resulted in innocent landowners losing their titled lands to crime syndicates specializing in forged titles
and documents. The patently forged documents presented in these cases remind us of what this Court stated in Heirs of Pedro Pinote v. Dulay:137
There is no gainsaying the need for courts to proceed with extreme caution in proceedings for reconstitution of titles to land under R.A. 26. Experience has shown that this proceeding
has many times been misused as a means of divesting a property owner of the title to his property. Through fraudulent reconstitution proceedings, he wakes up one day to
discover that his certificate of title has been cancelled and replaced by a reconstituted title in someone elses name.138 (Emphasis supplied)
Accordingly, I vote to (1) GRANT petitioners letter motion for reconsideration dated 19 July 2006, (2) REVERSE the Courts First Division Decision dated 12 December 2005 and
Resolution dated 19 April 2006, (3) RECALL the Entry of Judgment dated 2 May 2006, and (4) DENY the petition for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 filed by respondents
Heirs of Homer L. Barque, Sr.
2010
FACTS: Same
CA Findings
Examining the entire evidence on record, the CA found that none of the parties were able to prove a valid alienation of Lot 823 of Piedad Estate from the government in accordance with
the provisions of Act No. 1120 otherwise known as the Friar Lands Act. Notably lacking in the deed of conveyance of the Manotoks is the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Commerce as required by Section 18 of the said law. Upon close scrutiny, the factual allegations and voluminous documentary exhibits relating to the purchase of Lot 823 by the
predecessors-in-interest of the claimants revealed badges of fraud and irregularity.
Manotoks Claim
In our Resolution promulgated on December 18, 2008, the Court already made initial observations when we re-evaluated the points raised against the Manotok title and found these to be
serious enough, thus:
...The apparent flaws in the Manotoks claim are considerable and disturbing enough. The Court, as the ultimate citadel of justice and
legitimacy, is a guardian of the integrity of the land registration system of the Philippines. We will be derelict in our duty if we remain silent on the
apparent defects of the Manotok title, reflective as they are of a scourge this Court is dedicated to eliminate.
Many of these flaws have especially emerged through the petition-for-intervention of Felicitas and Rosendo Manahan, whom we have
allowed to intervene in these cases. The Manahans had filed a petition with the OSG seeking that it initiate cancellation/reversion proceedings against
the Manotok title. That petition was referred by the OSG to the LMB of the DENR, which duly investigated the claim of the Manahans. The Chief of the

Legal Division of the LMB recommended that the appropriate proceedings be taken in the proper court for the cancellation of the Manotok title, through a
Memorandum dated 17 April 2000.
Around the same time, the LMB referred to the DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Roseller S. dela Pea a query on whether a deed of
conveyance could be issued to Felicitas Manahan. The DENR Undersecretary, in answering that query through a Memorandum dated 6 July 2000,
pointed out that the titles of the Manotoks could not have been derived from OCT No. 614, the mother title of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate. The
chain of transfers leading from OCT No. 614 to the Manotok title was a TCT No. 22813, purportedly issued by the Office of the Register of Deeds for the
Province of Rizal. The copy of said TCT No. 22813 submitted to the Court is truncated in the upper half, to the point that it is not visually
discernible what year the same was issued. More crucially, a certification was issued by the Register of Deeds of Rizal dated 7 January 2000
stating thus:
After a thorough verification from the files of this Office, it appears that the documents leading to the issuance
of TCT No. 22813, Blk. T-92 cannot be found from the files of this Office.
These findings were twice verified with due diligence and reconfirmed by the DENR, according to Undersecretary Dela Pea.
The DENR also requested the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in conducting the said investigation. The NBI
examined various sales certificates and assignment of sales certificates in the names of the purported predecessors-in-interest of the Manotoks Regina
Geronimo, Modesto Zacarias, and Felicisimo Villanueva certificates that were all dated prior to 1930. In its Chemistry Report No. C-99-152 dated 10
June 1999, the Forensic Chemistry Division of the NBI concluded that the said documents could not be as old as it (sic) purports to be.
xxxx
Also on record is an Investigation Report on Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate dated 5 July 1989, authored by Evelyn C. dela Rosa, Land
Investigator of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), NCR-North Sector and addressed to the CENRO Officer, North
CENRO. It was narrated therein that Lot No. 823 had actually been in the possession of a Valentin Manahan beginning in 1908. In 1939, Valentin
Manahan applied for the purchase of the land, and he was issued Sales Certificate No. 511. The Investigation Report stated:
Records show that the Sale Certificate No. 511 covering Lot 823, Piedad Estate, was issued to Valentin
Manahan as purchaser and transferred to Hilaria de Guzman Manahan as (Assignee) and sold to Felicitas Manahan by way
of Deed of Absolute Sale dated August 23, 1974. Based on my research at the Land Management Bureau (LMB), Central
Office, it appears that original claimant of lot 823 was Valentin Manahan.
All told, these apparent problems with the Manotoks claim dissuade us from being simply content in reflexively dismissing the administrative
petition for reconstitution filed by the Barques. Indeed, we have to take further action.[288]
But since the Court recognized there was yet no sufficient evidence to warrant the annulment of the Manotok title, the case had to be remanded to the CA for further reception of evidence
for the Manotoks, as well as the Barques and Manahans, to prove a valid acquisition from the Government of Lot No. 823.
Evaluating the documentary and testimonial evidence adduced by the Manotoks, the CA concluded that they still failed to establish a valid claim over Lot 823. It cited the finding of the
NBI Forensic Chemistry Division that the result of the chemical analysis of the documents of Assignment of Sale Certificate No. 1054 dated March 11, 1919, June 7, 1920, May 4, 1923
and April 19, 1930 executed by the original claimants of Lot 823 in favor of Severino Manotok showed they were not really as old as they purport to be considering that (1) the handwritten
entries were found to be made in ballpoint pen and sign pen inks, which were not yet commercially available in the Philippines until 1953 and 1965; and (2) the physical signs in the paper
itself such as the uneven discoloration, artificial tears on the edges to make the document appear much older, and other tell-tale marks on the punch and staple wire holes. To contradict
the findings of NBI Chemist Magsipoc, the Manotoks presented Dr. Sorra of the PNP Crime Laboratory who testified that she examined the questioned documents of the Manotoks and
found them to be genuine and authentic. The CA, however, found Dr. Sorras opinion of less probative value as it was based merely on the physical appearance of the questioned
documents, and she did not subject these to chemical analysis or other more reliable procedures.[289]
The most fatal defect stressed by the CA in its Commissioners Report is the lack of signature of the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands (now Director of Lands) on Sale Certificate No.
1054 and approval by the Secretary of Interior/Agriculture and Commerce on the Manotoks Sale Certificate No. 1054 and Deed of Conveyance No. 29204, as required under Act No.
1120. For being null and void ab initio, Sale Certificate No. 1054 cannot thus be the source of any legal right over Lot 823 and no valid transfer or assignment could have been made by
the original claimants in favor of Severino Manotok. The CA found that the Manotoks documentary evidence even showed a discrepancy since the Assignment of Sale Certificate No.
1054 marked as Exhs. 11, 12 and 13 showed a signature at the dorsal portion above the printed words Director of Lands, but such signature is absent in the supposedly certified true
copies obtained from the National Archives (Supplemental offer of Rebuttal Evidence, Exhs. 142, 143 and 144).[290] As to Manotoks longtime possession evidenced by tax declarations,
tax receipts and buildings constructed on the land as early as 1933, the CA considered these immaterial, the property being friar land which forms part of the States patrimonial property.
Barques Claim
With the admission made by Teresita Barque-Hernandez that their Exh. 1[291] (certified true copy of Deed of Conveyance Record No. 4562 with Sale Certificate No. V-321) is a fake and
spurious document, no legal right was acquired over Lot 823 by their predecessor-in-interest Emiliano Setosta who allegedly sold the lot to her father, Homer L. Barque. The CA noted
that on its face, this document dated May 6, 1937 is spurious considering that while its heading indicated Republic of the Philippines Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the
consideration for the conveyance in Japanese war notes, it is of judicial notice that the Republic of the Philippines was established only on July 4, 1946, and the identified owner of
Piedad Estate should be Gobierno de las Islas Filipinas as stated in OCT No. 614. Moreover, Teresita J. Reyes, whose name appears in Exh. 1 as the officer who certified and verified the
documents in the records of the LMB, denied that the signature appearing above her printed name was her signature.[292]
The Barques themselves realized their mistake in presenting Exh.1 and so they submitted another document, a photocopy of Deed of Conveyance No. 4562 dated January 25, 1938
(Exh. 44) with accompanying Certification dated 14 March 1997 (Exh. 43) of Amando V. Bangayan, Chief, LMB-RMD stating that the only available record on file with their office is the
said Deed of Conveyance No. 4562 issued to Emiliano Setosta covering Lot 823 of Piedad Estate, Caloocan, Rizal.[293] The CA, however, gave scant weight to the aforesaid
documents, particularly as the Deed of Conveyance No. 4562 lacks the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, thus:
...The veracity of the certification is seriously contradicted by the reply letter of Atty. Fe Tuanda (Exhibit LVI, Manahans) to the letter of
Felicitas B. Manahan (Exhibit LV, Manahans). In her reply, Atty. Fe Tuanda, OIC, Records Management Division, LMB categorically declared that xxx
please be informed that according to our verification, this Office has no record/copy of the alleged Deed of Conveyance No. 4562 purportedly issued in
the name of EMILIANO P. SETOSTA supposedly covering a parcel of land identified as Lot No. 823, Piedad Estate, Quezon City. Atty. Fe Tuanda further
declared that (F)urther verification of our records shows that the Deed of Conveyance No. V-4562 was issued on June 28, 1955 in favor of PAULINO
BIGALBAL covering a parcel of land situated in Naic, Cavite identified as Lot No. 1540-N, Naic Friar Land Estate containing an area of 1.1396 hectares,
and the same was transmitted to the Register of Deeds of Cavite on July 13, 1955. In his Judicial Affidavit dated July 17, 2009, former DENR
Undersecretary Roseller de la Pea declared that Deed of Conveyance Record No. 4562 and Sales Certificate No. V-321 are not in the records of the

LMB and DENR. Also, DENR-NCR Land Investigator Evelyn G. Celzo, declared in her Judicial Affidavit dated July 15, 2009, that she made a thorough
research in the files of the Central Office of the LMB but did not find Sales Certificate No. V-321 and a Deed of Conveyance in the name of Emiliano
Setosta. With the foregoing evidence seriously controverting the veracity of Exhibit 43, the BARQUES should have presented Amando Bangayan as a
witness in Court to confirm the veracity of her certification. The accuracy of the certification should be confirmed by Amando Bangayan on the witness
stand wherein the other parties would be given the opportunity to cross-examine him on the veracity of his certification. Also, it must be pointed out that the
attachment to Exhibit 43 marked and offered as Exhibit 44 is a mere photocopy of the so-called DEED No. 4562 which has no probative value. The Barques has
not accounted for the original copy for them to be allowed to present a photocopy as secondary evidence. Curiously, Exhibit 44 refers to a photocopy of DEED
NO. 4562 which also appeared as Deed No. 4562 in the left upper portion of the spurious document pre-marked as Exhibit 1 for the Barques and offered as
Exhibit XLI for the Manahans. At any rate, even if Exhibit 44 will be considered as a secondary evidence, the same is null and void ab initio for the same lacks
the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce as explicitly required by law.[294] (Italics supplied.)
Aside from the absence of a valid deed of conveyance and/or sale certificate in the name of the Barques predecessor-in-interest, Emiliano Setosta, the basis for the issuance of TCT No.
210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque is further put seriously in doubt in view of the Barques failure to prove the existence of Subdivision Plan Fls-3168-D duly authenticated by the
Geodetic Surveys Division, LMB National Office. TCT No. 210177, purportedly a transfer from TCT No. 13900[295] -- which title until now the Barques said they could no longer find a
copy despite diligent search -- is itself questionable, considering that TCT No. 13900 was not issued in the name of Emiliano Setosta but Manotok Realty, Inc.[296] We recall that the
evidence of the Barques in support of their claim over Lot 823 was found by this Court to be exceedingly weak, but which nonetheless was erroneously accorded credence by the First
Division in its December 12, 2005 Decision. We quote from our Resolution dated December 18, 2008:
The Barque title, or TCT No. 210177, under which the Barques assert title to Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, states that it was transferred from
TCT No. 13900. The Barques assert that they bought the subject property from a certain Setosta. Thus, it could be deduced that TCT No. 13900 should
have been registered under the name of Setosta. However, it was not. TCT No. 13900 was registered under the name of Manotok Realty, Inc. This
detracts from the Barques claim that the Manotoks do not have title to the property, as in fact the Barque title was a transfer from a title registered under
the name of the Manotoks. The Barques have failed to explain the anomaly.
The Barques hinge their claim on a purported subdivision plan, FLS-3168-D, made in favor of Setosta. However, based on the records, it
appears that there is a conflict as to its actual existence in the files of the government. Revelatory is the exchange of correspondence between the LMB
and the LRA. The LMB did not have any copy of FLS-3168-D in the EDP listing, nor did the LMB have a record of the plan. However, a microfilm copy of
FLS-3168-D was on file in the Technical Records and Statistical Section of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources National Capital
Region (DENR-NCR). The copy with the Technical Records and Statistical Section, which bore the stamp of the LMB, was denied by the LMB as having
emanated from its office.
Further, the letter dated 2 January 1997 from the LMB stated that the copy of FLS-3168-D as verified from its microfilm file was the same as
the copy sent by the Technical Records and Statistics Section of the National Capital Region Lands Management Sector. The LMB, however, denied
issuing such letter and stated that it was a forged document. To amplify the forged nature of the document, the LMB sent a detailed explanation to prove
that it did not come from its office. In a letter to the administrator of the LRA, the hearing officer concluded that it is evident that there is an attempt to
mislead us into favorable action by submitting forged documents, hence it is recommended that this case [be] referred to the PARAC for investigation
and filing of charges against perpetrators as envisioned by this office under your administration.
There are significant differences between the technical description of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate as stated in FLS-3168-D, the subdivision
plan relied on by the Barques, and the technical description provided by the DENR.
xxxx
The Barques offered no credible explanation for the discrepancy... They also do not contradict the finding of the National Archives that there
is no copy in its files of the deed of sale allegedly executed between Setosta and Barque.
Lastly, in the 1st Indorsement issued by the Land Projection Section of the LRA dated 23 August 2006, that Section stated that upon
examination it was found out that the land as described in the Barque title when plotted thru its tie line falls outside Quezon City. This is material, since
Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate is within the boundaries of Quezon City. A similar finding was made by the Land Management Bureau (LMB). It attested that
the line or directional azimuth of Lot No. 823 per the Barque title locates it at 5,889 meters away from point 1 of Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate.
These discrepancies highlight the error of the LRA and the Court of Appeals in acknowledging the right of the Barques to seek reconstitution
of their purported Barque title. Even assuming that the petition for reconstitution should not have been dismissed due to the Manotok title, it is apparent
that the Barques claim of ownership is exceedingly weak.[297]
The Barques Exh. 6, Fls-3168-D dated June 21, 1940, contained a certification dated September 23, 1996 prepared by Romy A. Felipe that it is allegedly the Microfilm enlargement of
Fls-3168-D with the signatures of Privadi J.G. Dalire and Carmelito Soriano.[298] However, Engr. Dalire, who served as Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division of the LMB, DENR from
1988 to 1998, had earlier prepared a Report[299] and also executed an Affidavit dated November 18, 2006[300] setting forth the exchange of correspondence with the LRA relative to Fls3168-D, and attesting that after having scrutinized all records while he was still Chief of the Geodetic Surveys Division, he found that no such Fls-3168-D exists.
Manahans Claim
From the existing records in the DENR and LMB, it appears that the original claimant/applicant over Lot 823 of Piedad Estate was Valentin Manahan who supposedly had the lot surveyed
on November 10, 1938, with the plan designated as Fls-3164 approved by the Director of Lands on December 13, 1939, and Sale Certificate No. 511 in the name of Valentin Manahan
subsequently issued. However, the CA seriously doubted the existence of Sale Certificate No. 511, as well as the veracity of their claim of actual possession before armed men allegedly
barred their caretakers from the premises in the 1950s, thus:
...There is no competent evidence showing that Felicitas Manahan and/or her predecessor-in-interest have ever been in actual possession
of the subject lot. The Investigation Report of Land Investigator Evelyn de la Rosa (Evelyn G. Celzo) that Valentin Manahan, as a farmer, took
possession of the subject lot in 1908 is not supported by credible evidence. Evelyn de la Rosa conducted the ocular inspection only on May 15, 1989
and her Investigation Report dated July 5, 1989 (Exhibit XV, Manahan) did not mention nor identify the person who allegedly gave her the above
information when she conducted an ocular inspection of the subject lot. A closer examination of her Investigation Report narrating specific events in 1948
like the lingering illness of Lucio Manahan who died in 1955 and the alleged reports of caretakers of heavily armed men taking the subject lot by force
are tell-tale evidence of a scripted report of Land Investigator Evelyn de la Rosa. Indubitably, the Investigation Report is dovetailed to portray actual
possession of the predecessor-in-interest of Felicitas Manahan. It is no coincidence that the Investigation Report is practically a replica or summation of
Felicitas Manahans allegations embodied in her petition (Exhibit 1, Manahans, Rollo, pp. 991-995) for cancellation/reversion of TCT No. RT-22481 in the
name of Severino Manotok she filed before the OSG and forwarded to the LMB.
xxxx

...the claim of actual possession in 1908 up to about 1948 when allegedly armed men forcibly wrested possession from the caretakers of Lucio Manahan is negated by the absence of tax
declarations and receipts showing that the MANAHANS who claimed to be owners of the subject lot declared the subject lot for taxation and paid the real property tax during the said
period. One who claim to be the owner of a parcel of land should declare it and pay the corresponding real property tax. Possession of a tax declaration and payment of real property tax
will certainly bolster the claim of possession and ownership over a parcel of land. No evidence was even formally offered by the MANAHANS showing that they declared the subject lot
for taxation purposes in 1948. The only documentary evidence offered by the MANAHANS is Real Property Tax Bill Receipt No. 712650 (Exhibit IX, Manahans) showing payment of real
property tax only for the taxable year 1990-1991 in the sum of P102,319.22. On the other hand, Severino Manotok declared the subject lot for taxation, as shown in various tax
declarations (Exhibits 26-A to 26-N, Manotoks), the earliest of which was dated July 28, 1933 per Tax Declaration No. 12265 (Exhibit 26, Manotoks) and paid the real property tax as
evidenced by tax bill receipts (Exhibits 27 to 27-KKKKKKK, Manotoks). Thirdly, the Court entertains serious doubt on the existence of Sale Certificate No. 511 allegedly issued to Valentin
Manahan after paying the purchase price of P2,140.00 stated in the Investigation Report of Evelyn de la Rosa. Although, Sale Certificate No. 511 was mentioned as one of the documents
attached to the Investigation Report, nonetheless, no certified copy of Sale Certificate No. 511 issued to Valentin Manahan was presented and formally offered as evidence in Court. As a
matter of fact, Sale Certificate No. 511 was not among the documents secured from the LMB and DENR by the OSG and formally offered as evidence in Court. Also, Rosendo Manahan
declared in Court that he tried on several occasions, after reading the Investigation Report, to secure a certified true copy of Sale Certificate No. 511, but despite a thorough search for the
said document, no original or certified true copy is on file in the records of the LMB and DENR (TSN, November 19, 2009, pp. 25-26). Sans a copy of Sale Certificate No. 511 in the files
of the LMB and DENR, it is quite perplexing to note where and how Hilaria de Guzman secured a photocopy of Sale Certificate No. 511 dated June 24, 1913 (Exhibit XXXVII, Manahans).
No explanation was offered by Felicitas Manahan and Rosendo Manahan when they testified in Court. Therefore, We cannot accord probative value on the said photocopy of Sale
Certificate No. 511 dated June 24, 1913 as secondary evidence for the simple reason that it is of questionable existence and of dubious origin.
ISSUE:
The core issue presented is whether the absence of approval of the Secretary of the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources in Sale Certificate No. 1054 and Deed of Conveyance No.
29204 warrants the annulment of the Manotok title.
HELD:
From the proceedings in the CA, it was established that while records of the DENR-LMB indicate the original claimant/applicant of Lot 823 as a certain Valentin Manahan,
only the Manotoks were able to produce a sale certificate in the name of their predecessors-in-interest, certified by the LMB Records Management Division (Exh. 10). In addition, the
Manotoks submitted photocopies of original documents entitled Assignment of Sale Certificate dated March 11, 1919, June 7, 1920 and May 4, 1923 (Exhs. 11, 12 and 13). On the other
hand, only two (2) of these documents were submitted by the OSG certified as available in the files of LMB: Assignment of Sale Certificate dated March 11, 1919 and May 4, 1923 (Exhs.
33 and 34-OSG-LMB).
Sale Certificate No. 1054 dated March 10, 1919 (Exh. 10) was not signed by the Director of Lands nor approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Exhibits 33 and 34-OSGLMB contained only the signature of the Director of Lands. The Manotoks belatedly secured from the National Archives a certified copy of Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 dated
December 7, 1932 (Exh. 51-A) which likewise lacks the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources as it was signed only by the Director of Lands.
Section 18 of Act No. 1120 provides:
SECTION 18. No lease or sale made by Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands under the provisions of this Act shall be valid until approved
by the Secretary of the Interior. (Emphasis supplied.)
It is clear from the foregoing provision that the sale of friar lands shall be valid only if approved by the Secretary of the Interior (later the Secretary of Agriculture and
Commerce). In Solid State Multi-Products Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[312] this Court categorically declared that the approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce is
indispensable for the validity of the sale of friar lands. This was reiterated in Liao v. Court of Appeals,[313] where sales certificates issued by the Director of Lands in 1913 were held to be
void in the absence of approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In their Memorandum, the Manotoks pointed out that their photocopy of the original Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 (Exh. 51-A), sourced from the National Archives, shows on the
second page a poorly imprinted typewritten name over the words Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which name is illegible, and above it an even more poorly imprinted
impression of what may be a stamp of the Secretarys approval. Considering that the particular copy of said deed of conveyance on which the transfer certificate of title was issued by the
Register of Deeds in the name of the buyer Severino Manotok is required by law to be filed with and retained in the custody of the Register of Deeds in accordance with Sec. 56 of Act
No. 496 and Sec. 56 of P.D. No. 1529, the Manotoks contend that we can assume that the Manotok deed of conveyance was in fact approved by the Department Secretary because the
register of deeds did issue TCT No. 22813 in the name of the buyer Severino Manotok. It is also argued that since the Bureau of Lands was required by law to transmit the deed of
conveyance directly to the Register of Deeds, said office is legally presumed to have observed the laws requirements for issuing that deed. The presumption of regularity therefore stands
as uncontradicted proof, in this case, that all...requirements for the issuance of that deed of conveyance had been obeyed. In any event, the Manotoks assert that even if we were to
ignore the presumption of validity in the performance of official duty, Department Memorandum Order No. 16-05 issued on October 27, 2005 by then DENR Secretary Michael T.
Defensor, supplies the omission of approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in deeds of conveyances over friar lands.
These arguments fail.
Applying the rule laid down in Solid State Multi-Products Corporation v. Court of Appeals and Liao v. Court of Appeals, we held in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.,[314] that the absence
of approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce in the sale certificate and assignment of sale certificate made the sale null and void ab initio. Necessarily, there can be no valid
titles issued on the basis of such sale or assignment. The Manotoks reliance on the presumption of regularity in the statutorily prescribed transmittal by the Bureau of Lands to the
Register of Deeds of their deed of conveyance is untenable. In our Resolution[315] denying the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc., we
underscored the mandatory requirement in Section 18, as follows:
Section 18 of Act No. 1120 or the Friar Lands Act unequivocally provides: No lease or sale made by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands
(now the Director of Lands) under the provisions of this Act shall be valid until approved by the Secretary of the Interior (now, the Secretary of Natural
Resources). Thus, petitioners claim of ownership must fail in the absence of positive evidence showing the approval of the Secretary of Interior.
Approval of the Secretary of the Interior cannot simply be presumed or inferred from certain acts since the law is explicit in its mandate. This
is the settled rule as enunciated in Solid State Multi-Products Corporation vs. Court of Appeals and reiterated in Liao vs. Court of Appeals. Petitioners
have not offered any cogent reason that would justify a deviation from this rule.
x x x x[316]
DENR Memorandum Order No. 16,[317] invoked by both the Manotoks and the Manahans, states:
WHEREAS, it appears that there are uncertainties in the title of the land disposed of by the Government under Act 1120 or the Friar Lands
Act due to the lack of the signature of the Secretary on the Deeds of Conveyance;
WHEREAS, said Deeds of Conveyance were only issued by the then Bureau of Lands (now the Land Management Bureau) after full
payment had been made by the applicants thereon subject to the approval of the Secretary of the then Department of Interior, then Department of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, and presently the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in accordance with Act 1120;

WHEREAS, some of these Deeds of Conveyance on record in the field offices of the Department and the Land Management Bureau do not
bear the signature of the Secretary despite full payment by the friar land applicant as can be gleaned in the Friar Lands Registry Book;
WHEREAS, it is only a ministerial duty on the part of the Secretary to sign the Deed of Conveyance once the applicant had already made full
payment on the purchase price of the land;
WHEREFORE, for and in consideration of the above premises, and in order to remove all clouds of doubt regarding the validity of these
instruments, it is hereby declared that all Deeds of Conveyance that do not bear the signature of the Secretary are deemed signed or otherwise
ratified by this Memorandum Order, provided, however, that full payment of the purchase price of the land and compliance with all the other
requirements for the issuance of the Deed of Conveyance under Act 1120 have been accomplished by the applicant;
This Memorandum Order, however, does not modify, alter or otherwise affect any subsequent assignments, transfers and/or transactions
made by the applicant or his successors-in-interest or any rights arising therefrom after the issuance of a Transfer Certificate of Title by the concerned
Registry of Deeds.
The CA opined that the Manotoks cannot benefit from the above department issuance because it makes reference only to those deeds of conveyance on file with the records of the
DENR field offices. The Manotoks copy of the alleged Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 issued in 1932, was sourced from the National Archives. Apparently, for the Manotoks,
Memorandum Order No. 16 provides the remedy for an inequitable situation where a deed of conveyance unsigned by the Department Secretary could defeat their right to the subject lot
after having fully paid for it. They point out that the Friar Lands Act itself states that the Government ceases reservation of its title once the buyer had fully paid the price.
The first paragraph of Section 15 states:
SECTION 15. The Government hereby reserves the title to each and every parcel of land sold under the provisions of this Act until the
full payment of all installments or purchase money and interest by the purchaser has been made, and any sale or encumbrance made by him
shall be invalid as against the Government of the Philippine Islands and shall be in all respects subordinate to its prior claim.
x x x x (Emphasis supplied.)
Indeed, in the early case of Director of Lands v. Rizal,[318] this Court ruled that in the sale of friar lands under Act No. 1120, the purchaser, even before the payment of
the full price and before the execution of the final deed of conveyance is considered by the law as the actual owner of the lot purchased, under obligation to pay in full the purchase price,
the role or position of the Government being that of a mere lien holder or mortgagee. Subsequently, in Pugeda v. Trias,[319] we declared that the conveyance executed in favor of a buyer
or purchaser, or the so-called certificate of sale, is a conveyance of the ownership of the property, subject only to the resolutory condition that the sale may be cancelled if the price
agreed upon is not paid for in full.
In Dela Torre v. Court of Appeals,[320] we held:
This is well-supported in jurisprudence, which has consistently held that under Act No. 1120, the equitable and beneficial title to the land
passes to the purchaser the moment the first installment is paid and a certificate of sale is issued. Furthermore, when the purchaser finally pays
the final installment on the purchase price and is given a deed of conveyance and a certificate of title, the title, at least in equity, retroacts to the time he
first occupied the land, paid the first installment and was issued the corresponding certificate of sale.
All told, notwithstanding the failure of the government to issue the proper instrument of conveyance in favor of Mamerto or his
heirs, the latter still acquired ownership over the subject land.[321] (Emphasis supplied.)
Clearly, it is the execution of the contract to sell and delivery of the certificate of sale that vests title and ownership to the purchaser of friar land.[322] Such certificate of
sale must, of course, be signed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as evident from Sections 11, 12 and the second paragraph of Section 15, in relation to Section 18,
of Act No. 1120:
SECTION 11. Should any person who is the actual and bona fide settler upon, and occupant of, any portion of said lands at the time the
same is conveyed to the Government of the Philippine Islands desire to purchase the land so occupied by him, he shall be entitled to do so at the actual
cost thereof to the Government, and shall be granted fifteen years from the date of the purchase in which to pay for the same in equal annual
installments, should he so desire paying interest at the rate of four per centum per annum on all deferred payments.
The terms of purchase shall be agreed upon between the purchaser and the Director of Lands, subject to the approval of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
SECTION 12. ...When the cost thereof shall have been thus ascertained, the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall give the said settler
and occupant a certificate which shall set forth in detail that the Government has agreed to sell to such settler and occupant the amount of
land so held by him, at the price so fixed, payable as provided in this Act. . .and that upon the payment of the final installment together with all
accrued interest the Government will convey to such settler and occupant the said land so held by him by proper instrument of conveyance, which shall
be issued and become effective in the manner provided in section one hundred and twenty-two of the Land Registration Act.
SECTION 15.
The right of possession and purchase acquired by certificates of sale signed under the provisions hereof by purchasers of friar lands,
pending final payment and the issuance of title, shall be considered as personal property for the purposes of serving as security for mortgages, and shall
be considered as such in judicial proceedings relative to such security. (Emphasis supplied.)
In the light of the foregoing, we hold that the Manotoks could not have acquired ownership of the subject lot as they had no valid certificate of sale issued to them by the Government in
the first place. Sale Certificate No. 1054 dated March 10, 1919 (Exh. 10) purportedly on file with the DENR-LMB, conspicuously lacks the signature of the Director of Lands and the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In fact, Exh. 10 was not included among those official documents submitted by the OSG to the CA. We underscore anew that friar lands
can be alienated only upon proper compliance with the requirements of Sections 11, 12 and 18 of Act No. 1120. It was thus primordial for the Manotoks to prove their acquisition of its title
by clear and convincing evidence.[323] This they failed to do. Accordingly, this Court has no alternative but to declare the Manotok title null and void ab initio, and Lot 823 of the Piedad
Estate as still part of the Governments patrimonial property, as recommended by the CA.
The decades-long occupation by the Manotoks of Lot 823, their payment of real property taxes and construction of buildings, are of no moment. It must be noted that the Manotoks
miserably failed to prove the existence of the title allegedly issued in the name of Severino Mantotok after the latter had paid in full the purchase price. The Manotoks did not offer any
explanation as to why the only copy of TCT No. 22813 was torn in half and no record of documents leading to its issuance can be found in the registry of deeds. As to the certification
issued by the Register of Deeds of Caloocan, it simply described the copy presented (Exh. 5-A) as DILAPIDATED without stating if the original copy of TCT No. 22813 actually existed in
their records, nor any information on the year of issuance and name of registered owner. While TCT No. 22813 was mentioned in certain documents such as the deed of donation
executed in 1946 by Severino Manotok in favor of his children and the first tax declaration (Exh. 26), these do not stand as secondary evidence of an alleged transfer from OCT No. 614.

This hiatus in the evidence of the Manotoks further cast doubts on the veracity of their claim.
As we stressed in Alonso:
Neither may the rewards of prescription be successfully invoked by respondent, as it is an iron-clad dictum that prescription can never lie
against the Government. Since respondent failed to present the paper trail of the propertys conversion to private property, the lengthy possession and
occupation of the disputed land by respondent cannot be counted in its favor, as the subject property being a friar land, remained part of the patrimonial
property of the Government. Possession of patrimonial property of the Government, whether spanning decades or centuries, can not ipso facto
ripen into ownership. Moreover, the rule that statutes of limitation do not run against the State, unless therein expressly provided, is founded on the the
great principle of public policy, applicable to all governments alike, which forbids that the public interests should be prejudiced by the negligence of the
officers or agents to whose care they are confided.[324] (Emphasis supplied.)
With respect to the claim of the Manahans, we concur with the finding of the CA that no copy of the alleged Sale Certificate No. 511can be found in the records of either
the DENR-NCR, LMB or National Archives. Although the OSG submitted a certified copy of Assignment of Sale Certificate No. 511 allegedly executed by Valentin Manahan in favor of
Hilaria de Guzman, there is no competent evidence to show that the claimant Valentin Manahan or his successors-in-interest actually occupied Lot 823, declared the land for tax
purposes, or paid the taxes due thereon.
Even assuming arguendo the existence and validity of the alleged Sale Certificate No. 511 and Assignment of Sale Certificate No. 511 presented by the Manahans, the
CA correctly observed that the claim had become stale after the lapse of eighty six (86) years from the date of its alleged issuance. As this Court held in Liao v. Court of Appeals, the
certificates of sale x x x became stale after ten (10) years from its issuance and hence can not be the source documents for issuance of title more than seventy (70) years later.[325]
Considering that none of the parties has established a valid acquisition under the provisions of Act No. 1120, as amended, we therefore adopt the recommendation of the CA declaring
the Manotok title as null and void ab initio, and Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate as still part of the patrimonial property of the Government.
WHEREFORE, the petitions filed by the Manotoks under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, as well as the petition-in-intervention of the Manahans, are DENIED.
The petition for reconstitution of title filed by the Barques is likewise DENIED. TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) in the name of Severino Manotok IV, et al., TCT No. 210177 in the name of
Homer L. Barque and Deed of Conveyance No. V-200022 issued to Felicitas B. Manahan, are all hereby declared NULL and VOID. The Register of Deeds of Caloocan City and/or
Quezon City are hereby ordered to CANCEL the said titles. The Court hereby DECLARES that Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, Quezon City, legally belongs to the NATIONAL
GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, without prejudice to the institution of REVERSION proceedings by the State through the Office of the Solicitor General.
2012
FACTS:
At bar are the motions for reconsideration separately filed by the Manotoks, Barques and Manahans of our Decision promulgated on August 24, 2010, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
WHEREFORE, the petitions filed by the Manotoks under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, as well as the
petition-in-intervention of the Manahans, are DENIED. The petition for reconstitution of title filed by the Barques is likewise DENIED. TCT No. RT-22481
(372302) in the name of Severino Manotok IV, et al., TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque and Deed of Conveyance No. V-200022 issued to
Felicitas B. Manahan, are all hereby declared NULL and VOID. The Register of Deeds of Caloocan City and/or Quezon City are hereby ordered to
CANCEL the said titles. The Court hereby DECLARES that Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, Quezon City legally belongs to the NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, without prejudice to the institution of REVERSION proceedings by the State through the Office of the
Solicitor General.
With costs against the petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
ISSUE:
The Manotoks raised the following grounds in their motion for reconsideration with motion for oral arguments:
1. It is unjust and oppressive to deprive the Manotoks of property they have long held and acquired from the State, on consideration fully
paid and received, and under registered title issued by the State itself, on nothing more than the assumed failure of the States agents to inscribe a
ministerial approval on the transaction deeds.
2. The annulment of Friar Land sales, simply because physical evidence of the Secretarys ministerial approval can no longer be found,
may void transactions involving thousands of hectares of land, and affect possibly millions of people to whom the lands may have since been parceled
out, sold and resold.
3. The Manotoks were given no due notice of the issue of reversion, which this case on appeal did not include, and which was thrust
upon the Manotoks only in the final resolution disposing of the appeal.
It would be error for the Honorable Court to let this matter go without a serious and full re-examination. This can be accomplished,
among others, by allowing this motion for reconsideration to be heard on oral argument, to try to permit all pertinent considerations to be aired before the
Court and taken into account.
4. These G.R. Nos. 162335 and 162605 were an appeal from administrative reconstitution proceedings before LRA Reconstitution
officer Benjamin Bustos. But the Resolution dated 18 December 2008 which finally reversed the CAs rulings, affirmed the denial by Bustos of the
application for administrative reconstitution of the Barques purported transfer certificate of title, and terminated the appeal introduced a new case on the
Manotok property. It ordered evidence-taking at the CA, on which the Supreme Court proposed itself to decide, in the first instance, an alleged ownership
controversy over the Manotok property.
5. The Manotoks objected to the remand on jurisdictional and due process grounds. The original and exclusive jurisdiction over the
subject matter of the case is vested by law on the regional trial courts.
6. The Honorable Court erred in proceeding to judgment divesting the Manotoks of their title to Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, without a
trial in the courts of original and exclusive jurisdiction, and in disregard of process which the law accords to all owners-in-possession.
7. The Honorable Court erred in concluding that the Manotoks, despite being owners in possession under a registered title, may be
compelled to produce the deeds by which the Government had transferred the property to them, and failing which can be divested of their ownership in
favor of the Government, even if the latter has not demanded a reversion or brought suit for that purpose.
8. The Honorable Court erred in imposing on the Manotoks, contrary to Art. 541 of the Civil Code, the obligation to prove their ownership
of the subject property, and in awarding their title to the Government who has not even sued to contest that ownership.
9. The Honorable Court erred in finding that Sale Certificate No. 1054, which Severino Manotok acquired by assignment in 1923, was
not approved by the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and in finding that a Sale Certificate without the
Secretarys approval is void.
10. The Honorable Court erred in concluding that the Manotoks had no valid Deed of Conveyance of Lot 823 from the Government The
original of Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 gave the register of deeds the authority to issue the transfer certificate of title in the name of the buyer
Severino Manotok, which is required by law to be filed with and retained in the custody of the register of deeds.We presume that the copy thereof

actually transmitted to and received by the register of deeds did contain the Secretarys signature because he in fact issued the TCT. And we rely on this
presumption because the document itself can no longer be found.
11. Assuming arguendo that the original Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 the register of deeds received did not bear the Department
Secretarys signature, DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 dated October 27, 2005 cured the defect. To deny the Manotoks the benefit of ratification
under said MO, on the erroneous interpretation that it covered only those found in the records of the field offices of the DENR and LMB, would be
discriminatory. The Department Secretarys (assumed) failure to affix his signature on the deed of conveyance could not defeat the Manotoks right to the
lot after they had fully paid for it.
Republic Act No. 9443 must be applied, mutatis mutandis, to the Manotoks and the Piedad Estate.
12. The Honorable Court erred in denying their right to be informed of the CAs report and be heard thereon prior to judgment, as basic
requirements of due process.
The Barques anchor their motion for reconsideration on the following:
I
THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR RECONSTITUTION FILED BY RESPONDENTS HEIRS
OF BARQUE WITHOUT STATING THE GROUNDS FOR SUCH DENIAL.
II
THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN INSTANTLY DECLARING IN THE DISPOSITIVE PORTION OF THE DECISION THAT
ALONG WITH FELICITAS B. MANAHANS TITLE, RESPONDENTS HEIRS OF BARQUES TITLE TCT NO. 210177 IS LIKEWISE NULL AND VOID,
WITHOUT STATING A CLEAR AND DEFINITE BASIS THEREFOR.
III
THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DECLARING TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 210177 IN THE NAME OF
HOMER L. BARQUE NULL AND VOID.
IV
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS FACTUAL FINDINGS, ADOPTED BY THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURT IN THE DECISION DATED 24
AUGUST 2010, ARE CONTRARY TO THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED.
V
THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURTS FINDINGS IN THE DECISION DATED 24 AUGUST 2010 ARE CONTRARY TO LAW.
As to the Manahans, they seek a partial reconsideration and to allow further reception of evidence, stating the following grounds:
I. As the original of Sale Certificate No. 511 could not be found in the files of the LMB or the DENR-NCR at the time of the hearings before the
Commissioners, the existence of the certificate was proven by secondary evidence. The Commissioners erred in ignoring secondary
evidence of the contents of Sale Certificate No. 511 because of mere doubt and suspicion as to its authenticity and in the absence of
contradicting evidence.
II. The OSG which has been tasked by the Honorable Court to obtain documents from the LMB and DENR-NCR relative to the conveyance of Lot 823,
Piedad Estate, furnished intevenors with a certified true copy of Sale Certificate No. 511 which it obtained from the DENR-NCR on
September 11, 2010, together with the explanation of DENR-NCR why the document is available only now. (Certified true copy of Sale
Certificate No. 511 and Sworn Explanation of Evelyn G. Celzo attached as Annexes I and II.
III. When Valentin Manahan offered to purchase Lot 823, Piedad Estate, being the actual settler and occupant who under the law enjoyed preference to
buy the lot, his status as actual settler and occupant must have been verified by the Bureau of Public Lands because the presumption is that
official duty has been regularly performed. The administrative determination of the status of Valentin Manahan as actual settler and occupant
can not now be reviewed after the lapse of about eight (8) decades when parties, witnesses, documents and other evidence are hardly or no
longer available.
IV. Abundant evidence was submitted by intervenors that they and their predecessors-in-interest occupied and possessed Lot 823 up to 1948 when they
were dispossessed by armed men. It was error for the Commissioners to ignore the evidence of the intervenors, there being no contradicting
proof.
V. The Commissioners committed palpable error in not according evidentiary value to the Investigation Report of Evelyn dela Rosa because it is
allegedly practically a replica or summation of Felicitas B. Manahans allegations embodied in her petition. Examination of the dates of the
documents will show that the Investigation Report preceded the Petition. The Petition, therefore, is based on the Investigation Report, and
not the other way around.
VI. The pronouncement of the Commissioners that Sale Certificate No. 511 is stale is incorrect. Intervenors made continuing efforts to secure a deed of
conveyance based on Sale Certificate No. 511. Defense of staleness or laches belongs to the party against whom the claim is asserted; it is
only that party who can raise it. It can also be waived, as in this case when the LMB which had the sole authority under Act No. 1120 to
convey friar lands, issued to intervenor Felicitas B. Manahan Deed of Conveyance No. V-2000-22.
VII. The requirement of Act No. 1120 that a deed of conveyance of friar land must be signed by the Secretary of Interior was dispensed with pursuant to
law and Presidential issuances which have the force of law.
VIII. Deeds of conveyance lacking the signature of the Department Secretary were ratified by President Joseph Estrada and DENR Secretary Michael T.
Defensor.
The motions are bereft of merit.
Upon the theory that this Court had no power to cancel their certificate of title over Lot 823, Piedad Estate in the resolution of the present controversy, the Manotoks contend that our
Resolution of December 18, 2008 terminated the appeal from the Land Registration Authority (LRA) administrative reconstitution proceedings by reversing the CAs rulings and affirming
the denial by LRA Reconstitution Officer Benjamin M. Bustos of the application for administrative reconstitution of the Barques Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 210177. The appeal
having been terminated, the Manotoks argued that the remand to the CA for evidence-taking had introduced a new case in which this Court will decide, in the first instance, an alleged
ownership issue over the property. Such action is legally infirm since the law has vested exclusive original jurisdiction over civil actions involving title to real property on the trial courts.
HELD:
The argument is untenable.
In our December 18, 2008 Resolution, we set aside the December 12, 2005 Decision rendered by the First Division and recalled the entry of judgment. We ruled that
neither the CA nor the LRA had jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title, a relief sought by the Barques in the administrative reconstitution proceedings. The Court En Banc proceeded with
the reevaluation of the cases on a pro hac vice basis. During the oral arguments, there were controversial factual matters which emerged as the parties fully ventilated their respective
claims, in the course of which the Barques claim of ownership was found to be exceedingly weak. Indeed, both the LRA and CA erred in ruling that the Barques had the right to seek
reconstitution of their purported title. Reevaluation of the evidence on record likewise indicated that the Manotoks claim to title is just as flawed as that of the Barques. Following the
approach in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.[1] also involving a Friar Land, Republic v. Court of Appeals[2] and Manotok Realty Inc. v. CLT Realty Development Corporation,[3] the
majority resolved to remand this case for reception of evidence on the parties competing claims of ownership over Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate. Given the contentious factual issues, it
was necessary for this Court to resolve the same for the complete determination of the present controversy involving a huge tract of friar land. It was thus not the first time the Court had

actually resorted to referring a factual matter pending before it to the CA.


Maintaining their objection to the order for reception of evidence on remand, the Manotoks argue that as owners in possession, they had no further duty to defend their title pursuant to
Article 541 of the Civil Code which states that: [a] possessor in the concept of owner has in his favor the legal presumption that he possesses with a just title and he cannot be obliged to
show or prove it. But such presumption is prima facie, and therefore it prevails until the contrary is proved.[4]In the light of serious flaws in the title of Severino Manotok which were
brought to light during the reconstitution proceedings, the Court deemed it proper to give all the parties full opportunity to adduce further evidence, and in particular, for the Manotoks to
prove their presumed just title over the property also claimed by the Barques and the Manahans. As it turned out, none of the parties were able to establish by clear and convincing
evidence a valid alienation from the Government of the subject friar land. The declaration of ownership in favor of the Government was but the logical consequence of such finding.
We have ruled that the existence of Sale Certificate No. 1054 in the records of the DENR-LMB was not duly established. No officer of the DENR-NCR or LMB having
official custody of sale certificates covering friar lands testified as to the issuance and authenticity of Exh. 10 submitted by the Manotoks. And even assuming that Exh. 10 was actually
sourced from the DENR-LMB, there was no showing that it was duly issued by the Director of Lands and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DENR). On this
point, the Manotoks hinted that the LMBs certifying the document (Exh. 10) at the Manotoks request was a deliberate fraud in order to give them either a false document, the usual
unsigned copy of the signed original, or a fake copy.
The Manotoks further assert that this would imply that the LMB either did not produce the genuine article, or could not produce it. This could only mean that the document
which the NBI found to be fake or spurious, if this Court accepts that finding, was planted evidenceor evidence inserted in the LMB files to discredit the Manotok title. Nonetheless, the
Manotoks insist there were independent evidence which supposedly established the prior existence of Sale Certificate No. 1054. These documents are: (a) photocopy of Assignment of
Sale Certificate No. 1054 dated 1929; (b) official receipt of payment for said certified copy; (c) photocopies of the other assignment deeds dated 1923; (d) official receipts of installment
payments on Lot 823 issued to Severino Manotok; (e) file copies in the National Archives of the Deed of Conveyance No. 29204; and (f) the notarial registers in which the said Deed of
Conveyance, as well as the assignment documents, were entered.
The contentions have no merit, and at best speculative. As this Court categorically ruled in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.,[5] approval by the Secretary of Agriculture
and Commerce of the sale of friar lands is indispensable for its validity, hence, the absence of such approval made the sale null and void ab initio. In that case, the majority declared that
no valid titles can be issued on the basis of the sale or assignment made in favor of petitioners father due to the absence of signature of the Director of Lands and the Secretary of the
Interior, and the approval of the Secretary of Natural Resources in the Sale Certificate and Assignment of Sale Certificate. Applying the Alonso ruling to these cases, we thus held that no
legal right over the subject friar land can be recognized in favor of the Manotoks under the assignment documents in the absence of the certificate of sale duly signed by the Director of
Lands and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
That a valid certificate of sale was issued to Severino Manotoks assignors cannot simply be presumed from the execution of assignment documents in his favor. Neither
can it be deduced from the alleged issuance of the half-torn TCT No. 22813, itself a doubtful document as its authenticity was not established, much less the veracity of its recitals
because the name of the registered owner and date of issuance do not appear at all. The Manotoks until now has not offered any explanation as to such condition of the alleged title of
Severino Manotok; they assert that it is the Register of Deeds himself who should be in a position to explain that condition of the TCT in his custody. But then, no Register of Deeds had
testified and attested to the fact that the original of TCT No. 22813 was under his/her custody, nor that said certificate of title in the name of Severino Manotok existed in the files of the
Registry of Deeds of Caloocan or Quezon City. The Manotoks consistently evaded having to explain the circumstances as to how and where TCT No. 22813 came about. Instead, they
urge this Court to validate their alleged title on the basis of the disputable presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty. Such stance hardly satisfies the standard of clear
and convincing evidence in these cases. Even the existence of the official receipts showing payment of the price to the land by Severino Manotok does not prove that the land was legally
conveyed to him without any contract of sale having been executed by the government in his favor. Neither did the alleged issuance of TCT No. 22183 in his favor vest ownership upon
him over the land nor did it validate the alleged purchase of Lot 283, which is null and void. The absence of the Secretarys approval in Certificate of Sale No. 1054 made the supposed
sale null and void ab initio.[6]
In the light of the foregoing, the claim of the Barques who, just like the Manahans, were unable to produce an authentic and genuine sale certificate, must likewise fail.
The Decision discussed extensively the findings of the CA that the Barques documentary evidence were either spurious or irregularly procured, which even buttressed the earlier findings
mentioned in the December 18, 2008 Resolution. The CAs findings and recommendations with respect to the claims of all parties, have been fully adopted by this Court, as evident in our
disquisitions on the indispensable requirement of a validly issued Certificate of Sale over Lot 823, Piedad Estate.
As to the motion of the Manahans to admit an alleged certified true copy of Sale Certificate No. 511 dated June 23, 1913 in the name of Valentin Manahan which, as
alleged in the attached Sworn Explanation of Evelyn G. Celzo, the latter hadinadvertently failed to attach to her Investigation Report forwarded to the CENRO, this Court cannot grant said
motion.
This belatedly submitted copy of Sale Certificate No. 511 was not among those official documents which the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) offered as evidence, as
in fact no copy thereof can be found in the records of either the DENR-NCR or LMB. Moreover, the sudden emergence of this unauthenticated document is suspicious, considering that
Celzo who testified, as witness for both the OSG and the Manahans, categorically admitted that she never actually saw the application to purchase and alleged Sale Certificate No. 511 of
the Manahans. The relevant portions of the transcript of stenographic notes of the cross- examination of said witness during the hearing before the CA are herein quoted:
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
How about this part concerning Valentin Manahan having applied for the purchase of the land? Did you get this from the neighbors or from Felicitas
Manahan?
xxxx
WITNESS:
No, sir. Only the Records Section, sir, that Valentin Manahan applied, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
You did not see Valentin Manahans application but only the Records Section saw it?
WITNESS:
Yes, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
Did they tell you that they saw the application?
WITNESS:
I did not go further, sir.
xxxx
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
And this report of yours says that Valentin Manahan was issued Sale Certificate No. 511 after completing the payment of the price of P2,140?
WITNESS:
Yes, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
You also got this from the records of the LMB, is that correct?
WITNESS:
Yes, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
You actually saw the sale certificate that was issued to Valentin Manahan after he paid the price of P2,140?
WITNESS:
No, sir. I did not go further.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
You did not see the sale certificate?
WITNESS:
Yes, Sir, but I asked only.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:

Who did you ask?


WITNESS:
The records officer, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
Whose name you can no longer recall, correct?
WITNESS:
I can no longer recall, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
And the information to you was the Sale Certificate No. 511 was issued after the price was fully paid?
WITNESS:
Yes, sir.
ATTY. SAN JUAN:
And it was only after he applied for the purchase of the lot sometime after the survey of 1939 that he was issued sale certificate No. 511?
WITNESS:
I am not aware of the issuance of sale certificate. I am aware only of the deed of assignment, Sir.
x x x x[7] (Emphasis supplied.)
In view of the above admission, Celzos explanation that the copy of Sale Certificate No. 511 signed by the Director of Lands and Secretary of the Interior was originally attached to her
Investigation Report, cannot be given credence. Even her testimony regarding the conduct of her investigation of Lot 823, Piedad Estate and the Investigation Report she submitted
thereafter, failed to impress the CA on the validity of the Manahans claim. Indeed, records showed that Celzos findings in her report were merely based on what Felicitas Manahan told
her about the alleged occupation and possession by Valentin Manahan of the subject land.
In their Offer of Additional Evidence, the Manahans submitted a photocopy of a letter dated December 21, 2010 allegedly sent by Atty. Allan V. Barcena (OIC, Director) to their counsel,
Atty. Romeo C. dela Cruz, which reads:
This has reference to your letter dated August 20, 2010 addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) requesting that Deed of Conveyance No. V-200022 issued on October 30, 2000 over Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate in favor of
Felicitas B. Manahan be ratified or confirmed for reasons stated therein. The Office of the DENR Secretary in turn referred the letter to us for appropriate
action.
Records of this Office on Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, show that the Deed of Conveyance No. V-200022 covering said lot in favor
of Felicitas Manahan was issued by then Director of the Land Management Bureau (LMB), now Undersecretary Ernesto D. Adobo, Jr., on
October 30, 2000. The Deed was issued based on General Memorandum Order (GMO) No. 1 issued by then Secretary Jose J. Leido, Jr. of the
Department of Natural Resources on January 17, 1977, which authorized the Director of Lands, now Director of LMB, to approve contracts of sale and
deeds of conveyance affecting Friar Lands.
It is stressed that the confirmation of the Deed by this office is only as to the execution and issuance based on the authority of LMB Director
under GMO No. 1. This is without prejudice to the final decision of the Supreme Court as to its validity in the case of Severino Manotok IV, et al. versus
Heirs of Homer L, Barque (G.R. No. 162335 & 162605).
Please be guided accordingly.[8] (Emphasis supplied.)
However, in the absence of a valid certificate of sale duly signed by the Secretary of Interior or Agriculture and Natural Resources, such alleged confirmation of the
execution and issuance by the DENR-LMB of Deed of Conveyance No V-00022 in favor of Felicitas Manahan on October 30, 2000 is still insufficient to prove the Manahans claim over
the subject land.
In a Supplemental Manifestation dated November 18, 2010, the Manotoks submitted an affidavit supposedlyexecuted on November 11, 2010 by former DENR Secretary
Michael T. Defensor(Defensor Affidavit) clarifying that MO 16-05 applies to all Deeds of Conveyance that do not bear the signature of the Secretary of Natural Resources, contrary to the
CA and this Courts statement that said issuance refers only to those deeds of conveyance on file with the records of the DENR field offices.
By its express terms, however, MO 16-05 covered only deeds of conveyances and not unsigned certificates of sale. The explanation of Secretary Defensor stated
theavowed purpose behind the issuance, which is to remove doubts or dispel objections as to the validity of all Torrens transfer certificates of title issued over friar lands thereby ratifying
the deeds of conveyance to the friar land buyers who have fully paid the purchase price, and are otherwise not shown to have committed any wrong or illegality in acquiring such lands.
The Manahans propounded the same theory that contracts of sale over friar lands without the approval of the Secretary of Natural Resources may be subsequently ratified, but pointed
out that unlike the Manotoks Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 (1932), their Deed of Conveyance No. V-2000-22 (2000) was issued and approved by the Director of Lands upon prior
authority granted by the Secretary.
In their Consolidated Memorandum dated December 19, 2010, the Manahans reiterated their earlier argument that the LMB Director himself had the authority to approve
contracts of sale and deeds of conveyance over friar lands on the basis of General Memorandum Order No. 1 issued in 1977 by then Secretary of Natural Resources Jose J. Leido, Jr.
delegating such function to the Director of Lands. This delegated power can also be gleaned from Sec. 15, Chapter 1, Title XIV of the Administrative Code of 1987 which provides that the
Director of Lands shall perform such other functions as may be provided by law or assigned by the Secretary. Moreover, former President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order No.
131 dated January 20, 1987 reorganizing the LMB and providing that the LMB Director shall, among others, perform other functions as may be assigned by the Minister of Natural
Resources.
On the basis of Art. 1317[9] of the Civil Code, the Manahans contend that deeds of conveyance not bearing the signature of the Secretary can also be ratified. Further, they cite
Proclamation No. 172 issued by former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada which declared that there should be no legal impediment for the LMB to issue such deeds of conveyance since
the applicants/purchasers have already paid the purchase price of the lot, and as sellers in good faith, it is the obligation of the Government to deliver to said applicants/purchasers the
friar lands sold free of any lien or encumbrance whatsoever. Eventually, when MO 16-05 was issued by Secretary Defensor, all these deeds of conveyance lacking the signature of the
Secretary of Natural Resources are thus deemed signed or otherwise ratified. The CA accordingly erred in holding that MO 16-05 cannot override Act No. 1120 which requires that a deed
of conveyance must be signed by the Secretary, considering that MO 16-05 is based on law and presidential issuances, particularly EO 131, which have the force of law.
Meanwhile, in compliance with our directive, the Solicitor General filed his Comment on the Defensor Affidavit submitted by the Manotoks. The Solicitor General contends that said
document is hearsay evidence, hence inadmissible and without probative value. He points out that former DENR Secretary Defensor was not presented as a witness during the hearings
at the CA, thus depriving the parties including the government of the right to cross-examine him regarding his allegations therein. And even assuming arguendo that such affidavit is
admissible as evidence, the Solicitor General is of the view that the Manotoks, Barques and Manahans still cannot benefit from the remedial effect of MO 16-05 in view of the decision
rendered by this Court which ruled that none of the parties in this case has established a valid alienation from the Government of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, and also because the
curative effect of MO 16-05 is intended only for friar land buyers whose deeds of conveyance lack the signature of the Secretary of the Interior or Agriculture and Natural Resources, have
fully paid the purchase price and are otherwise not shown to have committed any wrong or illegality in acquiring the friar lands. He then emphasizes that this Court has ruled that it is not
only the deed of conveyance which must be signed by the Secretary but also the certificate of sale itself. Since none of the parties has shown a valid disposition to any of them of Lot 823
of the Piedad Estate, this Court therefore correctly held that said friar land is still part of the patrimonial property of the national government.
The Court is not persuaded by the ratification theory espoused by the Manotoks and Manahans.
The argument that the Director of Lands had delegated authority to approve contracts of sale and deeds of conveyances over friar landsignores the consistent ruling of
this Court in controversies involving friar lands. The aforementioned presidential/executive issuances notwithstanding, this Court held in Solid State Multi-Products Corporation v. CA,

[10] Liao v. Court of Appeals,[11]and Alonso v. Cebu Country Club[12] that approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce (later the Natural Resources) is indispensable to the
validity of sale of friar land pursuant to Sec. 18 of Act No. 1120 and that the procedure laid down by said law must be strictly complied with.
As to the applicability of Art. 1317 of the Civil Code, we maintain that contracts of sale lacking the approval of the Secretary fall under the class of void and inexistent contracts
enumerated in Art. 1409[13] which cannot be ratified. Section 18 of Act No. 1120 mandated the approval by the Secretary for a sale of friar land to be valid.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Antonio T. Carpio disagreed with the majoritys interpretation of Section 18 of Act No. 1120, and proposed that based on Section 12 of the same Act, it is
the Deed of Conveyance that must bear the signature of the Secretary of Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources because it is only when the final installment is paid that the Secretary
can approve the sale, the purchase price having been fully paid. It was pointed out that the majority itself expressly admit that it is only a ministerial duty on the part of the Secretary to
sign the Deed of Conveyance once the applicant had made full payment on the purchase price of the land, citing jurisprudence to the effect that notwithstanding the failure of the
government to issue the proper instrument of conveyance when the purchaser finally pays the final installment of the purchase price, the purchase of the friar land still acquired
ownership.
We are unable to agree with the view that it is only the Director of Lands who signs the Certificate of Sale.
The official document denominated as Sale Certificate clearly required both the signatures of the Director of Lands who issued such sale certificate to an applicant settler/occupant and
the Secretary of the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources indicating his approval of the sale. These forms had been prepared and issued by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands
under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior, consistent with Act No. 1120 as may be necessary x x x to carry into effect all the provisions [thereof] that are to be administered by
or under [his] direction, and for the conduct of all proceedings arising under such provisions.[14]
We reiterate that Section 18 of Act No. 1120, as amended, is plain and categorical in stating that:
SECTION 18. No lease or sale made by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands under the provisions of this Act shall be valid until
approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
Section 12 did not mention the requirement of signature or approval of the Secretary in the sale certificate and deed of conveyance.
SECTION 12. It shall be the duty of the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands by proper investigation to ascertain what is the actual
value of the parcel of land held by each settler and occupant, taking into consideration the location and quality of each holding of land, and any other
circumstances giving [it] value. The basis of valuation shall likewise be, so far as practicable, such [as] the aggregate of the values of all the holdings
included in each particular tract shall be equal to the cost to the Government to the entire tract, including the cost of surveys, administration and interest
upon the purchase money to the time of sale. When the cost thereof shall have been thus ascertained, the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall give
the said settler and occupant a certificate which shall set forth in detail that the Government has agreed to sell to such settler and occupant the amount
of land so held by him, at the price so fixed, payable as provided in this Act at the office of the Chief of Bureau of Public Lands, in gold coin of the United
States or its equivalent in Philippine currency, and that upon the payment of the final installment together with [the] accrued interest the Government will
convey to such settler and occupant the said land so held by him by proper instrument of conveyance, which shall be issued and become effective in the
manner provided in section one hundred and twenty-two of the Land Registration Act. The Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands shall, in each instance
where a certificate is given to the settler and occupant of any holding, take his formal receipt showing the delivery of such certificate, signed by said
settler and occupant.
On the other hand, the first paragraph of Section 15 provides for the reservation of title in the Government only for the purpose of ensuring payment of the purchase
price, which means that the sale was subject only to the resolutory condition of non-payment, while the second paragraph states that the purchaser thereby acquires the right of
possession and purchase by virtue of a certificate of sale signed under the provisions [thereof]. The certificate of sale evidences the meeting of the minds between the Government and
the applicant regarding the price, the specific parcel of friar land, and terms of payment. In Dela Torre v. Court of Appeals,[15]we explained that the non-payment of the full purchase price
is the only recognized resolutory condition in the case of sale of friar lands. We have also held that it is the execution of the contract to sell and delivery of the certificate of sale that vests
title and ownership to the purchaser of friar land.[16] Where there is no certificate of sale issued, the purchaser does not acquire any right of possession and purchase, as implied from
Section 15. By the mandatory language of Section 18, the absence of approval of the Secretary of Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources in the lease or sale of friar land would
invalidate the sale. These provisions read together indicate that the approval of the Secretary is required in both the certificate of sale and deed of conveyance, although the lack of
signature of the Secretary in the latter may not defeat the rights of the applicant who had fully paid the purchase price.
Justice Conchita Carpio Morales dissent asserted that case law does not categorically state that the required approval must be in the form of a signature on the
Certificate of Sale, and that there is no statutory basis for the requirement of the Secretarys signature on the Certificate of Sale apart from a strained deduction of Section 18.
As already stated, the official forms being used by the Government for this purpose clearly show that the Director of Lands signs every certificate of sale issued covering a specific parcel
of friar land in favor of the applicant/purchaser while the Secretary of Interior/Natural Resources signs the document indicating that the sale was approved by him. To approve is to be
satisfied with; to confirm, ratify, sanction, or consent to some act or thing done by another; to sanction officially.[17] The Secretary of Interior/Natural Resources signs and approves the
Certificate of Sale to confirm and officially sanction the conveyance of friar lands executed by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands (later Director of Lands). It is worth mentioning
thatSale Certificate No. 651 in the name of one Ambrosio Berones dated June 23, 1913,[18]also covering Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate and forming part of the official documents on file
with the DENR-LMB which was formally offered by the OSG as part of the official records on file with the DENR and LMB pertaining to Lot 823, contains the signature of both the Director
of Lands and Secretary of the Interior. The Assignment of Sale Certificate No. 651 dated April 19, 1930 was also signed by the Director of Lands.[19]
Following the dissents interpretation that the Secretary is not required to sign the certificate of sale while his signature in the Deed of Conveyance may also appear
although merely a ministerial act, it would result in the absurd situation wherein thecertificate of sale and deed of conveyance both lacked the signature and approval of the Secretary, and
yet the purchasers ownership is ratified, courtesy of DENR Memorandum Order (MO) No. 16-05. It is also not farfetched that greater chaos will arise from conflicting claims over friar
lands, which could not be definitively settled until the genuine and official manifestation of the Secretarys approval of the sale is discerned from the records and documents presented.
This state of things is simply not envisioned under the orderly and proper distribution of friar lands to bona fide occupants and settlers whom the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands was
tasked to identify.[20]
The existence of a valid certificate of sale therefore must first be established with clear and convincing evidence before a purchaser is deemed to have acquired
ownership over a friar land notwithstanding the non-issuance by the Government, for some reason or another, of a deed of conveyance after completing the installment payments. In the
absence of such certificate of sale duly signed by the Secretary, no right can be recognized in favor of the applicant. Neither would any assignee or transferee acquire any right over the
subject land.
In Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.,[21] the Court categorically ruled that the absence of approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce in the sale certificate
and assignment of sale certificate made the sale null and void ab initio. Necessarily, there can be no valid titles issued on the basis of such sale or assignment.[22]
Justice Carpio, however, opined that the ruling in Alonso was superseded with the issuance by then Department of [Environment] and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Michael T.
Defensor of DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05. It was argued that the majority had construed a limited application when it declared that the Manotoks could not benefit from said
memorandum order because the latter refers only to deeds of conveyance on file with the records of the DENR field offices.
We disagree with the view that Alonso is no longer applicable to this controversy after the issuance of DENR MO No. 16-05 which supposedly cured the defect in the Manotoks title.
First, DENR MO No. 16-05 explicitly makes reference only to Deeds of Conveyances, not to Sale Certificates by which, under the express language of Section 15, the purchaser of friar
land acquires the right of possession and purchase pending final payment and the issuance of title, such certificate being duly signed under the provisions of Act No. 1120. Although the
whereas clause of MO No. 16-05 correctly stated that it was only a ministerial duty on the part of the Secretary to sign the Deed of Conveyance once the applicant had made full payment
on the purchase price of the land, it must be stressed that in those instances where the formality of the Secretarys approval and signature is dispensed with, there was a valid certificate
of sale issued to the purchaser or transferor. In this case, there is no indication in the records that a certificate of sale was actually issued to the assignors of Severino Manotok, allegedly
the original claimants of Lot 823, Piedad Estate.
Second, it is basic that an administrative issuance like DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 must conform to and not contravene existing laws. In the interpretation and construction of
the statutes entrusted to them for implementation, administrative agencies may not make rules and regulations which are inconsistent with the statute it is administering, or which are in
derogation of, or defeat its purpose. In case of conflict between a statute and an administrative order, the former must prevail.[23] DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 cannot
supersede or amend the clear mandate of Section 18, Act No. 1120 as to dispense with the requirement of approval by the Secretary of the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources of
every lease or sale of friar lands.
But what is worse, as the dissent suggests, is that MO 16-05 would apply even to those deeds of conveyances not found in the records of DENR or its field offices, such as the Manotoks
Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 sourced from the National Archives. It would then cover cases of claimants who have not been issued any certificate of sale but were able to produce a

deed of conveyance in their names. The Bureau of Lands was originally charged with the administration of all laws relative to friar lands, pursuant to Act No. 2657 and Act No. 2711.
Under Executive Order No. 192,[24] the functions and powers previously held by the Bureau of Lands were absorbed by the Lands Management Bureau (LMB) of the DENR, while those
functions and powers not absorbed by the LMB were transferred to the regional field offices. [25] As pointed out by the Solicitor General in the Memorandum submitted to the CA, since
the LMB and DENR-NCR exercise sole authority over friar lands, they are naturally the sole repository of documents and records relative to Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate.[26]
Third, the perceived disquieting effects on titles over friar lands long held by generations of landowners cannot be invoked as justification for legitimizing any claim or acquisition of these
lands obtained through fraud or without strict compliance with the procedure laid down in Act No. 1120. This Court, in denying with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner
in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc.[27] reiterated the settled rule that [a]pproval by the Secretary of the Interior cannot simply be presumed or inferred from certain acts since the law is
explicit in its mandate.[28] Petitioners failed to discharge their burden of proving their acquisition of title by clear and convincing evidence, considering the nature of the land involved.
As consistently held by this Court, friar lands can be alienated only upon proper compliance with the requirements of Act No. 1120. The issuance of a valid certificate of sale is a condition
sine qua non for acquisition of ownership under the Friar Lands Act. Otherwise, DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 would serve as administrative imprimatur to holders of deeds of
conveyance whose acquisition may have been obtained through irregularity or fraud.
Contrary to the dissent of Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno that our decision has created dangers for the system of property rights in the Philippines, the Court simply adhered strictly to
the letter and spirit of the Friar Lands Act and jurisprudence interpreting its provisions. Such imagined scenario of instability and chaos in the established property regime, suggesting
several other owners of lands formerly comprising the Piedad Estate who are supposedly similarly situated, remains in the realm of speculation. Apart from their bare allegations,
petitioners (Manotoks) failed to demonstrate how the awardees or present owners of around more than 2,000 hectares of land in the Piedad Estate can be embroiled in legal disputes
arising from unsigned certificates of sale.
On the other hand, this Court must take on the task of scrutinizing even certificates of title held for decades involving lands of the public domain and those lands which
form part of the Governments patrimonial property, whenever necessary in the complete adjudication of the controversy before it or where apparent irregularities and anomalies are
shown by the evidence on record. There is nothing sacrosanct about the landholdings in the Piedad Estate as even prior to the years when Lot 823 could have been possibly sold or
disposed by the Bureau of Lands, there were already reported anomalies in the distribution of friar lands in general.[29]
Significantly, subsequent to the promulgation of our decision in Alonso, Republic Act No. (RA) 9443 was passed by Congress confirming and declaring, subject to certain
exceptions, the validity of existing TCTs and reconstituted certificates of title covering the Banilad Friar Lands Estate situated in Cebu. Alonso involved a friar land already titled but
without a sale certificate, and upon that ground we declared the registered owner as not having acquired ownership of the land. RA 9443 validated the titles notwithstanding the lack of
signatures and/or approval of the then Secretary of Interior (later Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources) and/or the then Chief of the Bureau of Public lands (later Director of
Public Lands) in the copies of the duly executed Sale Certificate and Assignments of Sale Certificates, as the case may be, now on file with the Community Environment and Natural
Resources Office (CENRO), Cebu City.
The enactment of RA 9443 signifies the legislatures recognition of the statutory basis of the Alonso ruling to the effect that in the absence of signature and/or approval of the Secretary of
Interior/Natural Resources in the Certificates of Sale on file with the CENRO, the sale is not valid and the purchaser has not acquired ownership of the friar land. Indeed, Congress found
it imperative to pass a new law in order to exempt the already titled portions of the Banilad Friar Lands Estate from the operation of Section 18. This runs counter to the dissents main
thesis that a mere administrative issuance (DENR MO No. 16-05) would be sufficient to cure the lack of signature and approval by the Secretary in Certificate of Sale No. 1054 covering
Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate.
In any event, the Manotoks now seek the application of RA 9443 to the Piedad Estate, arguing that for said law to be constitutionally valid, its continued operation must
be interpreted in a manner that does not collide with the equal protection clause. Considering that the facts in Alonso from which RA 9443 sprung are similar to those in this case, it is
contended that there is no reason to exclude the Piedad Estate from the ambit of RA 9443.
Justice Carpios dissent concurs with this view, stating that to limit its application to the Banilad Friar Lands Estate will result in class legislation. RA 9443 supposedly
should be extended to lands similarly situated, citing the case of Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.[30]
In the aforesaid case, the Court extended the benefits of subsequent laws exempting all rank-and-file employees of other government financing institutions (GFIs) from
the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) to the rank-and-file employees of the BSP. We upheld the position of petitioner association that the continued operation of Section 15 (c), Article II
of RA 7653 (the New Central Bank Act), which provides that the compensation and wage structure of employees whose position fall under salary grade 19 and below shall be in
accordance with the rates prescribed under RA 6758 (SSL), constitutes invidious discrimination on the 2,994 rank-and-file employees of the [BSP]. Thus, as regards the exemption from
the SSL, we declared that there were no characteristics peculiar only to the seven GFIs or their rank-and-file so as to justify the exemption from the SSL which BSP rank-and-file
employees were denied. The distinction made by the law is superficial, arbitrary and not based on substantial distinctions that make real differences between BSP rank-and-file and the
seven other GFIs.[31]
We are of the opinion that the provisions of RA 9443 may not be applied to the present case as to cure the lack of signature of the Director of Lands and approval by the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources in Sale Certificate No. 1054.
The Court has explained the nature of equal protection guarantee in this manner:
The equal protection of the law clause is against undue favor and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or the
oppression of inequality. It is not intended to prohibit legislation which is limited either in the object to which it is directed or by territory within
which it is to operate. It does not demand absolute equality among residents; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like
circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced. The equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation
which applies only to those persons falling within a specified class, if it applies alike to all persons within such class, and reasonable grounds exist for
making a distinction between those who fall within such class and those who do not.[32] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Section 1 of RA 9443 provides:
Section 1. All existing Transfer Certificates of Title and Reconstituted Certificates of Title duly issued by the Register of Deeds
of Cebu Province and/or Cebu City covering any portion of the Banilad Friar Lands Estate, notwithstanding the lack of signatures and/or approval of the
then Secretary of the Interior (later Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources) and/or the then Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands (later Director of
Public Lands) in the copies of the duly executed Sale Certificates and Assignments of Sales Certificates, as the case may be, now on file with
the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Cebu City, are hereby confirmed and declared as valid titles and the
registered owners recognized as absolute owners thereof.
This confirmation and declaration of validity shall in all respects be entitled to like effect and credit as a decree of registration, binding the
land and quieting the title thereto and shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the national government and al1 branches thereof;
except when, in a given case involving a certificate of title or areconstituted certificate of title, there is clear evidence that such certificate of
title or reconstituted certificate of title was obtained through fraud, in which case the solicitor general or his duly designated representative shall
institute the necessary judicial proceeding to cancel the certificate of title or reconstituted certificate of title as the case may be, obtained through such
fraud.(Emphasis supplied.)
Without ruling on the issue of violation of equal protection guarantee if the curative effect of RA 9443 is not made applicable to all titled lands of the Piedad Estate, it is clear that the
Manotoks cannot invoke this law to confirm and validate their alleged title over Lot 823 . It must be stressed that the existence and due issuance of TCT No. 22813 in the name of
Severino Manotok was not established by the evidence on record. There is likewise no copy of a duly executed certificate of sale on file with the DENR regional office. In the absence of
an existing certificate of title in the name of the predecessor-in-interest of the Manotoks and certificate of sale on file with the DENR/CENRO, there is nothing to confirm and validate
through the application of RA 9443.
Moreover, RA 9443 expressly excludes from its coverage those cases involving certificates of title which were shown to have been fraudulently or irregularly issued. As
the reconstitution and remand proceedings in these cases revealed, the Manotoks title to the subject friar land, just like the Barques and Manahans, is seriously flawed. The Court cannot
allow them now to invoke the benefit of confirmation and validation of ownership of friar lands under duly executed documents, which they never had in the first place. Strict application by
the courts of the mandatory provisions of the Friar Lands Act is justified by the laudable policy behind its enactment -- to ensure that the lands acquired by the government would go to the
actual occupants and settlers who were given preference in their distribution.[33]
The dissent reiterates that the existence of Sale Certificate No. 1054 was clearly and convincingly established by the original of Assignment of Sale Certificate No. 1054
dated May 4, 1923 between M. Teodoro and Severino Manotok as assignors and Severino Manotok as assignee (approved by the Director of Lands on June 23, 1923), which is on file

with the LMB, as well as the Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 secured from the National Archives which is the repository of government and official documents, the original of Official
Receipt No. 675257 dated 20 February 1920 for certified copy of Assignment of Sale Certificate No. 1054 on Lot 823 and the original of the Provincial Assessors declaration of title in
Severino Manotoks name for tax purposes on August 9, 1933 assessing him beginning with the year 1933. The dissent further listed some of those alleged sale certificates, assignment
deeds and deeds of conveyance either signed by the Director of Lands only or unsigned by both Director of Lands and Secretary of Interior/Natural Resources, gathered by the Manotoks
from the LMB. It was stressed that if MO 16-05 is not applied to these huge tracts of land within and outside Metro Manila, [H]undreds of thousands, if not millions, of landowners would
surely be dispossessed of their lands in these areas, a blow to the integrity of our Torrens system and the stability of land titles in this country.
The Court has thoroughly examined the evidence on record and exhaustively discussed the merits of the Manotoks ownership claim over Lot 823, in the light of
established precedents interpreting the provisions of the Friar Lands Act. The dissent even accused the majority of mistakenly denigrating the records of the National Archives which,
under R.A. No. 9470 enacted on May 21, 2007, is mandated to store and preserve any public archive transferred to the National Archives and tasked with issuing certified true copies or
certifications on public archives and for extracts thereof.
The Friar Lands Act mandated a system of recording all sale contracts to be implemented by the Director of Lands, which has come to be known as the Friar Lands Sales
Registry.
SEC. 6. The title, deeds and instruments of conveyance pertaining to the lands in each province, when executed and delivered by said
grantors to the Government and placed in the keeping of the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands, as above provided, shall be by him transmitted to the
register of deeds of each province in which any part of said lands lies, for registration in accordance with law. But before transmitting the title, deeds,
and instruments of conveyance in this section mentioned to the register of deeds of each province for registration, the Chief of the Bureau of
Public Lands shall record all such deeds and instruments at length in one or more books to be provided by him for that purpose and retained
in the Bureau of Public Lands, when duly certified by him shall be received in all courts of the Philippine Islands as sufficient evidence of the contents
of the instrument so recorded whenever it is not practicable to produce the originals in court. (Section 1, Act No. 1287).
It is thus the primary duty of the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands to record all these deeds and instruments in sales registry books which shall be retained in the
Bureau of Public Lands. Unfortunately, the LMB failed to produce the sales registry book in court, which could have clearly shown the names of claimants, the particular lots and areas
applied for, the sale certificates issued and other pertinent information on the sale of friar lands within the Piedad Estate. Witness Teresita J. Reyes, a retired Assistant Chief of the
Records Management Division (RMD), LMB who was presented by the Manahans, testified that when the LMB was decentralized, the sales registry books pertaining to friar lands were
supposedly turned over to the regional offices. These consisted of copies of the appropriate pages of the sales registry books in the LMB RMD main office which has an inventory of lots
subject of deeds of conveyance and sales certificates. However, Reyes said that the sales registry book itself is no longer with the RMD. On the other hand, the alleged affidavit of
Secretary Defensor dated November 11, 2010 states that MO 16-05 was intended to address situations when deeds of conveyance lacked the signature of the Secretary of Agriculture
and Commerce, or such deeds or records from which the Secretarys signature or approval may be verified were lost or unavailable.
Whether the friar lands registry book is still available in the LMB or properly turned over to the regional offices remains unclear. With the statutorily prescribed recordkeeping of sales of friar lands apparently in disarray, it behooves on the courts to be more judicious in settling conflicting claims over friar lands. Titles with serious flaws must still be
carefully scrutinized in each case. Thus, we find that the approach in Alonso remains as the more rational and prudent course than the wholesale ratification introduced by MO 16-05.
The prospect of litigants losing friar lands they have possessed for years or decades had never deterred courts from upholding the stringent requirements of the law for a
valid acquisition of these lands. The courts duty is to apply the law. Petitioners concern for other landowners which may be similarly affected by our ruling is, without doubt, a legitimate
one. The remedy though lies elsewhere -- in the legislature, as what R.A. 9443 sought to rectify.
WHEREFORE, the present motions for reconsideration are all hereby DENIED withFINALITY.The motions for oral arguments and further reception of evidence are likewise DENIED.