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Manotok v. Barque, the Lot No.

823, Piedad Estate Ownership Controversy There is no basis in the allegation that petitioners were deprived of “their
Part I : The December 12, 2005 Decision 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 . . .
Last March 6, 2012, the Supreme Court en banc promulgated its resolution in [T]here is no need to remand the case to the RTC for a re-determination on the
Manotok vs. Barque, G.R. Nos. 162335 & 162605, the case involving Lot No. 823 of validity of the titles of [the Barques] and [the Manotoks] as the same has been
the Piedad Estate (a former friar land) located in Quezon City. squarely passed upon by the LRA and affirmed by the appellate court. By
opposing the petition for reconstitution and submitting their administratively
Voting 9-6, the High Tribunal DENIED WITH FINALITY the motions for reconstituted title, petitioners acquiesced to the authority and jurisdiction of the
reconsideration filed by all parties in this case. It REITERATED its August 24, reconstituting officer, the LRA and the Court of Appeals, and recognized their
2012 decision declaring that the subject lot legally belongs to the national authority to pass judgment on their title. All the evidence presented was duly
government of the Republic of the Philippines, and denying the respective claims considered by these tribunals. There is thus no basis to petitioners' claim that
of the opposing parties (the Manotoks as petitioners, the Barques as respondents, they were deprived of their right to be heard and present evidence, which is the
and the Manahans as intervenors) over Lot No. 823. essence of due process.

In this four-part series, I will endeavour to sequentially summarize the series of xxx xxx xxx
opinions rendered by the Supreme Court in this case, to wit:
(1) Part I (this entry) – The December 12, 2005 decision of the 1st Division (4-1 The reconstitution would not constitute a collateral attack on petitioners' title
vote, Ynares-Santiago, J., ponente), which denied the Manotoks’ consolidated which was irregularly and illegally issued in the first place. xxx.
petitions and sustained the order for the cancellation of the Manotoks’ title and
for the reconstitution of the Barques’ title; Only Chief Justice Davide fully concurred with Justice Ynares-Santiago. Justices
(2) Part II – The December 18, 2008 en banc resolution (8-6-1 vote, Tinga, J., Quisumbing and Azcuna wrote separate opinions concurring in the result.
ponente), which reversed the decision of the 1st Division and remanded the
petitions to the CA for further proceedings; The fifth member of the 1st Division, Justice Carpio, dissented and voted to
(3) Part III – The August 24, 2010 en banc decision (9-5-1 vote, Villarama, J., REVERSE the appealed CA resolutions. He summarized his opinion thus:
ponente), which denied the Manotoks’ consolidated petitions and declared their
title null and void, but also denied the petition for reconstitution of the Barques [T]he Heirs of Barque filed before the Register of Deeds an administrative petition
and declared that the subject lot legally belongs to the national government of the to reconstitute their allegedly destroyed TCT. The Register of Deeds, as
Republic of the Philippines; reconstituting officer, denied the petition of the Heirs of Barque because, based on
(4) Part IV – The March 6, 2012 en banc resolution (9-6 vote, Villarama, J., official records, the property involved is already registered under the Torrens
ponente) denying with finality the motions for reconsideration of the parties. system in the name of Manotok, et al. The LRA affirmed the Register of Deeds,
stating that only the proper trial court could cancel the TCT of Manotok, et al.
What went before : The facts although the LRA believed that the TCT of Manotok, et al. was a sham. The LRA
recognized that in an administrative reconstitution, the decision of the
The Barques filed a petition for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 reconstituting body is either to deny or approve the reconstitution of the
issued in the name of their predecessor, Homer L. Barque, which was allegedly applicant's title, never to cancel the Torrens title of a third party. However, on
destroyed in the fire that gutted the Quezon City Hall, including the Office of the appeal, the Court of Appeals declared the TCT of Manotok, et al. void and the TCT
Register of Deeds of Quezon City, sometime in 1988. of the Heirs of Barque valid. Clearly, the Court of Appeals deprived Manotok, et al.
of their property without due process of law. The Court of Appeals blatantly
The Manotoks filed their opposition to the Barques’ petition, claiming that the lot disregarded Section 48 of PD 1529 and Section 19 of BP Blg. 129 which confer on
covered by the title sought to be reconstituted by the latter forms part of the land the proper trial court exclusive original jurisdiction to cancel a Torrens title in an
covered by the former’s own reconstituted title, TCT No. RT-22481, and alleging action directly attacking the validity of the Torrens title. The Court should not
that TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque is spurious. countenance this gross injustice and patent violation of the law.

On June 30, 1997, the reconstituting officer denied the reconstitution of TCT No. Manotok v. Barque, Part II : The December 18, 2008 En Banc Resolution
210177 on grounds that the two lots covered by the Barques’ title appear to Part I of this four-part series is a summary of the December 12, 2005 decision of
duplicate the lot covered by the Manotoks’ own reconstituted title; and that the the Supreme Court 1st Division denying the Manotoks’ consolidated petitions and
Barques’ plan, Fls-3168-D, is a spurious document. sustaining the order for the cancellation of the their title without a direct
proceeding before the RTC and for the reconstitution of the Barques’ title.
On appeal by the Barques, the LRA reversed the reconstituting officer and
ordered that reconstitution of the Barques’ title be given due course, but only In this entry, we look into the December 18, 2008 en banc resolution that
after the Manotoks’ own title has been cancelled upon order of a court of reversed the decision of the 1st Division and remanded the petitions to the CA for
competent jurisdiction. further proceedings.

The parties separately appealed to the CA. The two divisions of the CA where the The intervening facts
cases landed similarly modified the LRA decision, ordering the Register of Deeds
of Quezon City to cancel the Manotoks’ title without a direct proceeding with the After the promulgation of the December 12, 2005 decision, the Manotoks filed
RTC, and directing the LRA to reconstitute the Barques' title. several motions for reconsideration with the 1st Division but these were all
DENIED by the Court.
Thus, the Manotoks filed these petitions to the SC.
On May 2, 2006, the decision of the 1st Division was entered in the Book of
The December 12, 2005 decision of the SC 1st Division Entries of Judgment. But when the Barques moved for the execution of the
decision, the Manotoks sought the referral of the motion to the Court en banc,
The consolidated petitions were DENIED by the Supreme Court 1st Division, which the Court en banc accepted on July 26, 2006.
which AFFIRMED the appealed CA resolutions. Justice Ynares-Santiago, wrote the
opinion for the 1st Division, reasoning that “[t]he LRA properly ruled that the On September 7, 2006, the Manahans sought to intervene in the case, alleging that
reconstituting officer should have confined himself to the owner's duplicate their predecessor-in-interest, Vicente Manahan, was issued Sales Certificate No.
certificate of title prior to the reconstitution.” She went on to state: 511 covering the subject lot.

The factual finding of the LRA that [the Barques’] title is authentic, genuine, valid, On December 18, 2008, the Court promulgated an en banc that SET ASIDE the
and existing, while [the Manotoks’] title is sham and spurious, as affirmed by the decision and resolutions of the 1st Division and RECALLED the entry of judgment.
two divisions of the Court of Appeals, is conclusive before this Court. It should Voting 8-6 with 1 abstention, the Court REVERSED the decisions and resolutions
remain undisturbed since only questions of law may be raised in a petition for of the CA and the LRA, and REMANDED the cases to the CA for further
review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. proceedings.

xxx xxx xxx How the court en banc voted


The Court en banc decided to accept the cases from the 1st Division “on a pro hac cancellation of the Manotok title cannot arise incidentally from the administrative
vice basis to lend much needed jurisprudential clarity as only the Court en banc proceeding for reconstitution of the Barque title even if the evidence from that
can constitutionally provide.” proceeding revealed the Manotok title as fake. Nor could it have emerged
incidentally in the appellate review of the LRA's administrative proceeding.
J. Tinga wrote the opinion for the Court. He was joined by CJ Puno, and JJ. Austria-
Martinez, Velasco and Brion. Concurring with their respective separate opinions There is no doubt that the Court of Appeals does not have original jurisdiction to
were J. Carpio, with whom J. Carpio-Morales joined, and J. Corona. annul Torrens titles or to otherwise adjudicate questions over ownership of
property. Its exclusive original jurisdiction is determined by law, particularly by
J. Ynares-Santiago, the ponente of the 1st Division decision and resolutions, wrote Batas Pambansa (B.P. 129). Section 9 of that law restricts the exclusive original
a dissenting opinion. She was joined by JJ. Quisumbing, Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to special civil actions and to actions for
Reyes, and Leonardo-De Castro. J. Nachura did not take part. annulment of judgments of the regional trial court. Still, the Court of Appeals did
acquire jurisdiction over the Barques’ and the Manotoks’ petitions, albeit in the
Issue: Can the Court en banc validly re-evaluate the decision of the 1st Division? exercise of its exclusive appellate jurisdiction over the ruling of the LRA, also
pursuant to Section 9 of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended. Thus, for the appellate court to
The Court first grappled with what it called “procedural unorthodoxies” involved be able to direct the cancellation of a Torrens title in the course of reviewing a
in the re-evaluation of the Manotoks’ petitions even after an entry of judgment decision of the LRA, the LRA itself must have statutory authority to cancel a
had already been made by the 1st Division in favor of the Barques. Torrens title in the first place.

The Court justified its pro hac vice re-evaluation of the petitions based on the xxx xxx xxx
constitutional principle that “no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the
[C]ourt in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed Nowhere in [Section 6 of P.D. No. 1529 where the general functions of the Land
except by the court sitting en banc.” This, according to the Court, is necessitated Registration Commissioner are enumerated] is it stated that the LRA has the
by the argument “that the 2005 Decision of the First Division is inconsistent with power to cancel titles. Indeed, the Barques are unable to point to any basis in law
precedents of the Court, and leaving that decision alone without the imprimatur that confirms the power of the LRA to effect such cancellation, even under
of the Court en banc would lead to undue confusion . . . over whether the earlier Republic Act (R.A.) No. 26 as amended by Rep. Act No. 6732, which authorizes the
ruling of the Division constitutes the current standard with respect to administrative reconstitution of titles in limited cases. In fact . . . such laws take
administrative reconstitution of titles.” great care to ensure that a petition for administrative reconstitution of title will
not disturb existing Torrens titles.
Issue: Did the LRA and the CA have jurisdiction to annul the Manotoks’ title?
It is thus clear that neither the Court of Appeals nor the LRA had jurisdiction to
The Court held that the LRA and the CA had no jurisdiction to direct the cancel the Manotok title.
annulment of the Manotoks’ title. It reasoned:
Issue: Should the Supreme Court, after dismissing the Barques’ petition for
Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 . . . provides that “[a] certificate of title administrative reconstitution, act further on the apparent problems of the
shall not be subject to collateral attack [...and] cannot be altered, modified, or Manotoks’ title?
cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.” Clearly, the
cancellation of the Manotok title cannot arise incidentally from the administrative After noting the apparent flaws in the Manotoks’ claim, which it described as
proceeding for reconstitution of the Barque title even if the evidence from that “considerable and disturbing enough,” the Court decided to remand the case to
proceeding revealed the Manotok title as fake. Nor could it have emerged the CA for reception of evidence on the validity of the Manotoks’ title. It explained
incidentally in the appellate review of the LRA's administrative proceeding. this extraordinary step in the following wise:

There is no doubt that the Court of Appeals does not have original jurisdiction to It must be borne in mind that the disputed property is part of the “Friar Lands”
annul Torrens titles or to otherwise adjudicate questions over ownership of over which the Government holds title and are not public lands but private or
property. Its exclusive original jurisdiction is determined by law, particularly by patrimonial property of the Government and can be alienated only upon proper
Batas Pambansa (B.P. 129). Section 9 of that law restricts the exclusive original compliance with the requirements of Act No. 1120 or the Friar Lands Act.
jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to special civil actions and to actions for
annulment of judgments of the regional trial court. Still, the Court of Appeals did xxx xxx xxx
acquire jurisdiction over the Barques’ and the Manotoks’ petitions, albeit in the
exercise of its exclusive appellate jurisdiction over the ruling of the LRA, also The Alonso [v. Country Club] approach [of declaring that a former friar land still
pursuant to Section 9 of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended. Thus, for the appellate court to legally belongs to the national government for failure of the private claimant to
be able to direct the cancellation of a Torrens title in the course of reviewing a establish a clear title thereto] especially appeals to us because, as in this case, the
decision of the LRA, the LRA itself must have statutory authority to cancel a subject property therein was a Friar Land which under the Friar Lands Law (Act
Torrens title in the first place. No. 1120) may be disposed of by the Government only under that law. Thus, there
is greater concern on the part of this Court to secure its proper transmission to
xxx xxx xxx private hands, if at all.

Nowhere in [Section 6 of P.D. No. 1529 where the general functions of the Land At the same time, the Court recognizes that there is not yet any sufficient evidence
Registration Commissioner are enumerated] is it stated that the LRA has the for us to warrant the annulment of the Manotok title. All that the record indicates
power to cancel titles. Indeed, the Barques are unable to point to any basis in law thus far is evidence not yet refuted by clear and convincing proof that the
that confirms the power of the LRA to effect such cancellation, even under Manotoks’ claim to title is flawed. To arrive at an ultimate determination, the
Republic Act (R.A.) No. 26 as amended by Rep. Act No. 6732, which authorizes the formal reception of evidence is in order. This Court is not a trier of fact or
administrative reconstitution of titles in limited cases. In fact . . . such laws take otherwise structurally capacitated to receive and evaluate evidence de novo.
great care to ensure that a petition for administrative reconstitution of title will However, the Court of Appeals is sufficiently able to undertake such function.
not disturb existing Torrens titles.
The Separate Concurring Opinion of Justice Carpio
It is thus clear that neither the Court of Appeals nor the LRA had jurisdiction to
cancel the Manotok title. Like the majority, J. Carpio holds that the the re-evaluation of the consolidated
petitions is proper even after entry of the 1st Division’s decision. He does not
Issue: Did the LRA and the CA have jurisdiction to annul the Manotoks’ title? however join the majority in remanding the case to the CA. He merely voted to
GRANT of the Manotoks’ motion for reconsideration, REVERSE the 1st Division’s
The Court held that the LRA and the CA had no jurisdiction to direct the decision and resolution and RECALL its Entry of Judgment, and DENY the petition
annulment of the Manotoks’ title. It reasoned: for administrative reconstitution respondents Heirs of Homer L. Barque, Sr.

Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 . . . provides that “[a] certificate of title J. Carpio argued that the doctrine of immutability is not applicable in this case
shall not be subject to collateral attack [...and] cannot be altered, modified, or since “the 12 December 2005 Decision never became final and executory,” thus:
cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.” Clearly, the
There are two compelling jurisdictional reasons why the 12 December 2005 doctrine of immutability of final and executory decisions precludes the Court
Decision of the First Division never became final and executory. First, the First from taking this unprecedented action.
Division has no jurisdiction to overturn a doctrine laid down by the Court en banc
or in division [“such as the decision in Sps. Antonio and Genoveva Balanon- Particularly, the lady justice found “no justifiable basis to disturb the LRA finding
Anicete, et al. v. Pedro Balanon”]. xxx. that [the Barques’] Plan FLS-3168-D indeed exists in the official files of LMB,
DENR;” thus, she held that “[the Barques’] title, TCT No. 210177, which describes
xxx xxx xxx Lot 823 as subdivided into Lots 823-A and 823-B in accordance with Fls-3168-D,
[is] in order.”
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 She would also sustain the LRA finding that the Manotoks’ reconstituted title is
decision rendered by a trial court or hearing officer without jurisdiction over the “spurious, considering petitioners' failure to prove facts contrary to the LRA
subject matter is void and cannot become final and executory. Such decision findings.” She concluded that “since the property covered by [the Manotoks’]
cannot even become res judicata because there can be no conclusiveness of reconstituted title is not the property in Matandang Balara that they are
judgment if the trial court or hearing officer has no jurisdiction over the subject occupying as clearly shown by their own documentary evidence, it necessarily
matter. follows that they are not the owners of such property.”

In these cases, the LRA has no jurisdiction to reconstitute administratively the On the issue of the jurisdiction of the CA to order the cancellation of the
title of the Barques because such reconstitution constitutes an indirect or Manotoks’ title and the reconstitution of the Barques’ title, she held:
collateral attack on the pre-existing Torrens title of the Manotoks over the same
property. Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree states that a “certificate The Court of Appeals . . . has the corresponding authority and jurisdiction to
of title shall not be subject to a collateral attack.” The LRA, or even any court for decide the appealed case on the basis of the uncontroverted facts and admissions
that matter, has no jurisdiction to entertain a collateral attack on a Torrens title. contained in the petition, comment, reply, rejoinder, and memoranda, filed by the
The Manotoks’ prior title must be deemed valid and subsisting as it cannot be parties, and to apply the law applicable in administrative reconstitution
assailed through collateral attack in the reconstitution proceedings. proceeding which is Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6732.

J. Carpio noted “a surfeit of forgeries and badges of fraud” regarding the Barque Section 10, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court specifically mandates that “the findings
title. He also distinguished the Manotoks’ and the Barques’ situations, thus: “[A]t of fact of the court or agency concerned, when supported by substantial evidence,
the time of the reconstitution of the Manotoks’ title, the Barques had no “duly shall be binding on the Court of Appeals.” Since petitioners were not able to show
issued existing Torrens title" from the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. When the that the LRA findings of fact were unsupported by evidence, the Court of Appeals
Barques filed the reconstitution of their title, the Manotoks already had a prior committed no error of jurisdiction when it confirmed such findings.
title, which was the only “duly issued existing Torrens title” over the property
issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City.” Moreover, Section 11 of R.A. No. 6732 provides that:
SEC. 11. A reconstituted title obtained by means of fraud, deceit or other
On the question of whether the LRA has jurisdiction, in administrative machination is void ab initio as against the party obtaining the same and all
reconstitution proceedings, to rule which between two titles over the same persons having knowledge thereof.
property is valid, or who between two claimants over the same property is the
lawful owner, J. Carpio held in the negative, thus: Thus, the Court of Appeals had the authority to order the cancellation of
petitioners’ reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 after it affirmed the findings of the
...[R]econstitution, even judicial reconstitution, does not confirm or adjudicate LRA that petitioners’ TCT No. RT-22481 is spurious and void ab initio. Having also
ownership over a property. Reconstitution merely restores a missing certificate of affirmed the LRA finding that respondents’ title, TCT No. 210177, is genuine, valid
title in the same condition that it was when lost or destroyed, nothing more. If the and existing, the Court of Appeals likewise had the authority to order its
original title had a legal defect at the time of the loss or destruction, as when the reconstitution since this was the final step in the administrative reconstitution
land covered is part of the public forest, the reconstituted title does not cure such process.
defect. xxx.
On the issue of whether the LRA has jurisdiction to administratively reconstitute
On the question of whether equity can be used to justify the collateral attack on the Barques’ title despite the Manotoks’ previously reconstituted title, J. Ynares-
the Manotoks’ title at the LRA level, he reasoned: “no court can extend equity Santiago held in the affirmative. She cited the fact that it appears from the records
jurisdiction to the LRA where the law has expressly reserved exclusive original that the location and technical description of the properties described in the
jurisdiction to the Regional Trial Court. No court, invoking equity jurisdiction, can parties’ respective titles are not the same. Thus, “[i]t is . . . misleading and baseless
also allow a collateral attack on a Torrens title, either before the LRA or before for [the Manotoks] to assert that their previously reconstituted title . . . covers the
itself, in gross violation of Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree same property as that identified and described in [the Barques’ title] so as to
expressly prohibiting collateral attacks on Torrens titles.” deprive the LRA of jurisdiction over [the Barques’] petition for reconstitution.”

The Separate Opinion of Justice Corona However, even assuming that both parties’ respective titles cover the same
property, the LRA would still have jurisdiction over respondents' petition for
J. Corona’s joined the majority in reversing the 1st Division and in remanding the reconstitution, thus:
case to the CA for further proceedings. According to him, “the First Division . . .
enlarged the scope of the authority of the [LRA] in administrative reconstitution As [the Manotoks] themselves admit, they caused the administrative
proceedings when it recognized the authority of the LRA to rule that petitioners’ reconstitution of their TCT No. RT 22481 in 1991 under R.A. No. 6732. On the
certificate of title was a sham, spurious and not duly issued” since “under PD other hand, [the Barques’] TCT No. 210177 shows that it was issued on
1529, the LRA has no authority to rule on the authenticity and validity of a September 24, 1975 by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. Its existence was
certificate of title.” likewise confirmed by the LRA in its Resolution of June 24, 1998 based on the
logbook of the Register of Deeds, which contains the list of titles lost during the
The referral of the case to the CA for the “complete determination of contentious fire that destroyed its records in 1988.
factual issues” is necessitated because “the investigation and appreciation of facts
is beyond the province of [the Supreme Court] as it is neither a trier of fact nor [The Barques’] TCT No. 210177 was, therefore, in existence at the time [the
capacitated to appreciate evidence at the first instance. On the other hand, the Manotoks] filed their petition for reconstitution. In Alipoon v. Court of Appeals,
[CA] has the competence to perform that task.” the Court ruled that:
[I]nasmuch as TCT No. T-17224 has been in existence as early as March 16, 1933,
The dissenting opinion of Justice Ynares-Santiago the issuance in 1989 of a reconstituted original certificate of title bearing the
number OCT No. RO 12890 (N.A.) over Lot No. 663 in the name of petitioners'
J. Ynares-Santiago found no compelling reason to further require the referral of parents Fausto Alipoon and Silveria Duria is rendered legally doubtful, and the
these cases to the RTC or the CA for a re-litigation of the issues already raised and reconstituted title is void.
resolved by the two divisions of the CA and affirmed by the Court's 1st Division in
its final and executory decision dated December 12, 2005. She reasoned that the It, therefore, follows that [the Manotoks’] reconstituted title, even assuming the
same to have been duly reconstituted, was deemed nullified by the mere existence
of [the Barques’] title at the time of the administrative reconstitution of [the The Court voted 9-5 with 1 abstention. Justice Villarama, Jr. wrote the opinion for
Manotoks’] title. xxx. the Court. Concurring with him were Chief Justice Corona, and Justices Leonardo-
De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Abad, Perez, and Mendoza.
On whether the LRA has jurisdiction to adjudicate the validity of the Manotoks’
title in the administrative reconstitution proceedings filed by the Barques, J. Justice Carpio, with whom Justices Velasco, Jr., and Brion concurred, wrote a
Ynares-Santiago held in the affirmative, reasoning that “[s]ince the LRA had the dissenting opinion. Justice Carpio Morales wrote a concurring and dissenting
duty to resolve the petition for reconstitution as well as [the Manotoks’] opinion. Justice Sereno likewise dissented and reserved the right to issue a
opposition thereto, it necessarily had to examine the title of the parties, using its separate opinion. Justice Nachura did not take part.
technical expertise, to determine if the petition for reconstitution should be given
due course, or denied as prayed for by the [Manotoks].” The issue

On whether the LRA or the CA has jurisdiction to decide the ownership of the The “core issue” identified and resolved by the Court was: Does the absence of
disputed property in the administrative reconstitution of title filed by the approval of the Secretary of the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources in
Manotoks, J. Ynares-Santiago also held in the affirmative: “[S]ince [the Manotoks] Sale Certificate No. 1054 and Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 in favor of the
themselves laid before the LRA and the Court of Appeals all their evidence to Manotoks warrant the annulment of their title?
prove the genuineness of their reconstituted title and their ownership of the
property in dispute, the Court of Appeals had the corresponding authority and The Court’s ruling
jurisdiction to pass upon these issues.”
Manotok v. Barque, Part III : The August 24, 2010 En Banc Decision The Court ruled in the AFFIRMATIVE and held that the absence of approval of the
Secretary of the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources in Sale Certificate No.
Part I of this four-part series is a summary of the December 12, 2005 decision of 1054 and Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 in favor of the Manotoks’ predecessor-
the Supreme Court 1st Division denying the Manotoks’ consolidated petitions and in-interest warrants the annulment of the Manotok title.
sustaining the order for the cancellation of the their title without a direct
proceeding before the RTC and for the reconstitution of the Barques’ title. The ponencia of Justice Villarama

Part II, on the other hand, is a summary of the December 18, 2008 en banc Justice Villarama cited as the central legal basis of the Court’s ruling Section 18 of
resolution that reversed the decision of the 1st Division and remanded the Act No. 1120, which provides: “SECTION 18. No lease or sale made by Chief of the
petitions to the CA for further proceedings. Bureau of Public Lands under the provisions of this Act shall be valid until
approved by the Secretary of the Interior.” He then explained:
In this entry, we will look at the summary of the Court’s August 24, 2010 en banc
decision that (1) DENIED that the Manotoks’ petitions, the Manahans’ petition-in- It is clear from the foregoing provision that the sale of friar lands shall be valid
intervention, and the Barques’ petition for reconstitution; (2) declared NULL AND only if approved by the Secretary of the Interior (later the Secretary of Agriculture
VOID TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) in the name of Severino Manotok IV, et al., TCT and Commerce). . . [T]he approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce
No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque, and Deed of Conveyance No. V- is indispensable for the validity of the sale of friar lands. xxx.
200022 issued to Felicitas B. Manahan; (3) ordered The Register of Deeds of
Caloocan City and/or Quezon City to CANCEL the said titles; and (4) DECLARED xxx xxx xxx
that the subject Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, Quezon City, legally belongs to the
NATIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, without [T]he absence of approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce in the
prejudice to the institution of REVERSION proceedings by the State through the sale certificate and assignment of sale certificate made the sale null and void ab
Office of the Solicitor General. We will also look at the dissenting opinions of the initio. Necessarily, there can be no valid titles issued on the basis of such sale or
minority. 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 denying the motion for
The intervening facts reconsideration filed by petitioners in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc., we
underscored the mandatory requirement in Section 18, as follows:
After the promulgation of the December 12, 2005 decision, the Manotoks filed Section 18 of Act No. 1120 or the Friar Lands Act unequivocally provides: “No
several motions for reconsideration with the 1st Division but these were all lease or sale made by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands (now the Director of
DENIED by the Court. The decision of the 1st Division was later entered in the Lands) under the provisions of this Act shall be valid until approved by the
Book of Entries of Judgment. But when the Barques moved for the execution of Secretary of the Interior (now, the Secretary of Natural Resources).” Thus,
the decision, the Manotoks sought the referral of the motion to the Court en banc, petitioners’ claim of ownership must fail in the absence of positive evidence
which the Court en banc accepted on July 26, 2006. 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-
Meanwhile, the Manahans sought to intervene in the case, alleging that their Products Corporation vs. Court of Appeals and reiterated in Liao vs. Court of
predecessor-in-interest, Vicente Manahan, was issued Sales Certificate No. 511 Appeals. Petitioners have not offered any cogent reason that would justify a
covering the subject lot. deviation from this rule.

On December 18, 2008, the Court promulgated an en banc resolution that SET xxx xxx xxx
ASIDE the decision and resolutions of the 1st Division and RECALLED the entry of
judgment. Voting 8-6 with 1 abstention, the Court REVERSED the decisions and In the light of the foregoing, we hold that the Manotoks could not have acquired
resolutions of the CA and the LRA, and REMANDED the cases to the CA for further ownership of the subject lot as they had no valid certificate of sale issued to them
proceedings to determine the validity of the Manotoks’ title. 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
In due time, the CA received evidence with primary focus on whether the signature of the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Manotoks can trace their claim of title to a valid alienation by the Government of Resources. In fact, Exh. 10 was not included among those official documents
Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate, which was a Friar Land. The Barques and submitted by the OSG to the CA. We underscore anew that friar lands can be
Manahans were likewise allowed to present evidence on their respective claims alienated only upon proper compliance with the requirements of Sections 11, 12
that may have an impact on the correct determination of the status of the and 18 of Act No. 1120. It was thus primordial for the Manotoks to prove their
Manotok title. acquisition of its title by clear and convincing evidence. This they failed to do.
Accordingly, this Court has no alternative but to declare the Manotok title null and
The CA then submitted to the SC a Commissioner’s Report that served as basis for void ab initio, and Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate as still part of the Government's
Court’s August 24, 2010 en banc decision. patrimonial property, as recommended by the CA.

How the court en banc voted 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 Manotok after the latter had paid in full the T]he ruling in Alonso was superseded with the issuance by then Department of
purchase price. The Manotoks did not offer any explanation as to why the only Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Michael T. Defensor of
copy of TCT No. 22813 was torn in half and no record of documents leading to its DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05, which provides:
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- WHEREAS, it appears that there are uncertainties in the title of the land disposed
A) as “DILAPIDATED” without stating if the original copy of TCT No. 22813 by the Government under Act 1120 or the Friar Lands Act due to the lack of the
actually existed in their records, nor any information on the year of issuance and signature of the Secretary on the Deeds of Conveyance;
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 WHEREAS, said Deeds of Conveyance were only issued by the then Bureau of
favor of his children and the first tax declaration (Exh. 26), these do not stand as Lands (now the Land Management Bureau) after full payment had been made by
secondary evidence of an alleged transfer from OCT No. 614. This hiatus in the the applicants thereon subject to the approval of the Secretary of the then
evidence of the Manotoks further cast doubts on the veracity of their claim. Department of Interior, then Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources
and presently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in
As we stressed in Alonso: accordance with Act 1120;
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 WHEREAS, some of these Deeds of Conveyance on record in the field offices of the
Government. Since respondent failed to present the paper trail of the property's Department and the Land Management Bureau do not bear the signature of the
conversion to private property, the lengthy possession and occupation of the Secretary despite full payment by the friar land applicant as can be gleaned in the
disputed land by respondent cannot be counted in its favor, as the subject Friar Lands Registry Book;
property being a friar land, remained part of the patrimonial property of the
Government. Possession of patrimonial property of the Government, whether WHEREAS, it is only a ministerial duty on the part of the Secretary to sign the
spanning decades or centuries, can not ipso facto ripen into ownership. Deed of Conveyance once the applicant had already made full payment on the
Moreover, the rule that statutes of limitation do not run against the State, unless purchase price of the land;
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 WHEREFORE, for and in consideration of the above premises, and in order to
be prejudiced by the negligence of the officers or agents to whose care they are remove all clouds of doubt regarding the validity of these instruments, it is hereby
confided.” (Emphasis supplied.) 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
xxx xxx xxx 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
Considering that none of the parties has established a valid acquisition under the Conveyance under Act 1120 have been accomplished by the applicant;
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 This Memorandum Order, however, does not modify, alter or otherwise affect any
Piedad Estate as still part of the patrimonial property of the Government. 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
The dissent of Justice Carpio Transfer Certificate of Title by the concerned Registry of Deeds. (Italicization and
boldfacing supplied)
Justice Carpio dissented from the majority opinion insofar as it declared that the
absence of approval by the Secretary of the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Despite the issuance of DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05, the majority still
Resources of Sale Certificate No. 1054 and Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 hold that the memorandum order does not apply to the Manotoks' title. The
warrants the annulment of the Manotoks’ title. majority assert that the Manotoks could not benefit from DENR Memorandum
Order No. 16-05 because the memorandum order refers only to deeds of
On the majority’s reliance on §18 of Act No. 1120, which provides that “[n]o lease conveyance on file with the records of DENR “field offices.”
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,” Justice Carpio I find the majority's limited application of DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05
noted: erroneous.

Under Section 18, any sale of friar land by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands While the third WHEREAS clause of DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 refers
(now Director of Lands) shall not be valid until approved by the Secretary. This to Deeds of Conveyance on record in the “field offices” of the DENR, the
means that the Secretary, under Section 18, approves the sale and thus signs the dispositive portion categorically states that “all Deeds of Conveyance that do not
Deed of Conveyance upon full payment of the purchase price. However, under bear the signature of the Secretary are deemed signed or otherwise ratified” by
Section 12 of Act No. 1120, the Director of Lands signs the Sales Certificate upon the Memorandum Order. The word “all” means everything, without exception.
payment of the first instalment. xxx. DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 should apply to all Deeds of Conveyance, as
declared in its dispositive portion, and should not be limited to those on file in
xxx xxx xxx DENR “field offices.” Clearly, as expressly stated in Section 20 of Executive Order
No. 192, all DENR Regional Offices, including the Regional Office in NCR, are “field
Under Section 12, it is only the Director of Land who signs the Sales Certificate. offices” of the DENR.
The Sales Certificate operates as a contract to sell which, under the law, the
Director of Lands is authorized to sign and thus bind the Government as seller of
the friar land. This transaction is a sale of private property because friar lands are Quezon City, where the land in question is situated, is under DENR's NCR “field
patrimonial properties of the Government. In short, the law expressly authorizes office.” In 1919, when the Government sold the subject friar land to the
the Director of Lands to sell private or patrimonial property of Government under Manotoks' predecessors-in-interest, the land was part of the province of Rizal,
a contract to sell. On the other hand, under Section 18, the Secretary signs the which also has a “field office.” Indisputably, DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05
Deed of Conveyance because the Secretary must approve the sale made initially applies to all Deeds of Conveyance of friar lands anywhere in the Philippines
by the Director of Lands. The Deed of Conveyance operates as a deed of absolute without exception. Thus, conveyances of land within the NCR, including the
sale which the Secretary signs upon full payment of the purchase price. The Deed conveyance to the Manotoks, are covered by DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-
of Conveyance, when presented, is authority for the Register of Deeds to issue a 05.
new title to the buyer as provided in Section 122 of the Land Registration Act.
The first WHEREAS clause clearly states that what DENR Memorandum Order No.
On the citation by the majority of the ruling in Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc. 16-05 seeks to cure are the “uncertainties in the title of the land disposed by the
and other cases, which held that the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Government under Act 1120 or the Friar Lands Act due to the lack of signature of
Commerce is indispensable for the validity of the sale of friar lands, Justice Carpio the Secretary on the Deeds of Conveyance.” If we apply DENR Memorandum Order
disagreed and held: No. 16-05 only to Deeds of Conveyance on record in the “field offices” outside of
NCR, the purpose of the issuance of DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 will
not be fully accomplished.
xxx xxx xxx the Deed of Conveyance was issued except that it lacked the signature of the
Secretary which the majority erroneously hold is still indispensable pursuant to
The total area of friar lands in NCR, specifically in Muntinlupa, Piedad, San Alonso. However, Alonso should not be applied to the Manotoks' title because
Francisco de Malabon, Santa Cruz de Malabon, and Tala is 86,567.50 acres or DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 was not yet issued when the Court decided
35,032.624 hectares. If DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 will not be applied Alonso. The absence of the Secretary’s signature in the Deed of Conveyance in
to these areas, the Court will be disquieting the titles held by generations of Alonso was never cured and hence the Court in Alonso voided the Deed of
landowners since the passage in 1904 of Act No. 1120. Thousands, if not Conveyance. Besides, in Alonso the corresponding Torrens title was never issued
hundreds of thousands, of landowners could be dispossessed of their lands in even after a lapse of 66 years from the date of the Deed of Conveyance. In sharp
these areas. contrast, here the lack of the Secretary’s signature in the Manotoks’ Deed of
Conveyance No. 29204 was cured by the issuance of DENR Memorandum Order
Justice Carpio held that Manotoks became owners of the subject land upon their No. 16-05, which expressly states that “all Deeds of Conveyance that do not bear
full payment of the purchase price to the Government on 7 December 1932. Upon the signature of the Secretary are deemed signed or ratified x x x.” Moreover, the
such full payment, the Manotoks had the right to demand conveyance of the land Manotoks have been issued their torrens title way back in 1933. Section 122 of
and issuance of the corresponding title to them. He continued: Act No. 496 states that “[i]t shall be the duty of the official issuing the instrument
of alienation, grant, or conveyance in behalf of the Government to cause such
Thus, the Court has held that in cases of sale of friar lands, the only recognized instrument, before its delivery to the grantee, to be filed with the register of deeds
resolutory condition is non-payment of the full purchase price. Pursuant to for the province where the land lies and to be there registered like other deeds
Section 12 of Act No. 1120, “upon payment of the last installment together with and conveyances, whereupon a certificate shall be entered as in other cases of
all accrued interest[,] the Government will convey to [the] settler and occupant registered land, and an owner's duplicate certificate issued to the grantee.” TCT
the said land so held by him by proper instrument of conveyance, which shall be No. 22813 would not have been issued in the name of Severino Manotok if Deed
issued and become effective in the manner provided in section one hundred and of Conveyance No. 29204 had not been delivered to the Register of Deeds of the
twenty-two of the Land Registration Act.” Once it is shown that the full purchase Province of Rizal to which the land covered by the Manotoks’ title then belonged.
price had been paid, the issuance of the proper certificate of conveyance The Manotoks should not be punished if the documents leading to the issuance of
necessarily follows. There is nothing more that is required to be done as the title TCT No. 22813 could no longer be found in the files of the government office,
already passes to the purchaser. considering that these were pre-war documents and considering further the lack
of proper preservation of documents in some government agencies.

The Court has ruled that equitable and beneficial title to the friar land passes to The fact remains that the Manotoks were able to present a certified true copy of
the purchaser from the time the first installment is paid and a certificate of sale is Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 secured from the National Archives which is the
issued. When the purchaser finally pays the final installment on the purchase official repository of government and public documents. This Deed of
price and is given a deed of conveyance and a certificate of title, the title, at least Conveyance No. 29204 was signed by the Director of Lands and lacked only the
in equity, retroacts to the time he first occupied the land, paid the first installment signature of the Secretary of Interior/Agriculture. Memorandum Order No. 16-05
and was issued the corresponding certificate of sale. The sequence then is that a speaks of “all Deeds of Conveyance that do not bear the signature of the
certificate of sale is issued upon payment of the first installment. Upon payment Secretary” and thus includes Deed of Conveyance No. 29204. Under
of the final installment, the deed of conveyance is issued. Memorandum Order No. 16-05, such Deeds of Conveyance “are deemed signed”
by the Secretary. Clearly, Memorandum Order No. 16-05 applies squarely to the
It is the Deed of Conveyance that must bear the signature of the Secretary of Manotoks’ title for two reasons. First, Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 was signed
Interior/Agriculture because it is only when the final installment is paid that the by the Director of Lands but lacked only the signature of the Secretary. Second,
Secretary can approve the sale, the purchase price having been fully paid. This is the purchase price for the land subject of Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 had been
why DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 refers only to the Deed of Conveyance, fully paid on 7 December 1932, more than 77 years ago.
and not to the Sale Certificate, as the document that is “deemed signed” by the
Secretary. In short, Section 18 of Act No. 1120 which states that “(n)o xxx sale xxx The concurring and dissenting opinion of Justice Carpio Morales
shall be valid until approved by the Secretary of Interior” refers to the approval by
the Secretary of the Deed of Conveyance. Justice Carpio Morales held that the absence of the signature of the Secretary of
the Interior/Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Manotoks’ Sale Certificate
DENR Memorandum Order No. 16-05 expressly acknowledges that “it is only a No. 1054 and Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 issued in 1919 and 1932,
ministerial duty on the part of the Secretary to sign the Deed of Conveyance once respectively, does not warrant the annulment of their title.
the applicant had already made full payment on the purchase price of the land.”
The majority expressly admit in their Reply to the Dissenting Opinion that She advanced the thesis the “[t]here is no absence of approval to speak of, since
Memorandum Order No. 16-05: [the Manotoks’] Deed of Conveyance is, pursuant to Order 16-05, deemed signed
x x x correctly stated that it is only a ministerial duty on the part of the Secretary by the Department Secretary, and there is no legal basis for requiring another
to sign the Deed of Conveyance once the applicant had made full payment on the signature of the Department Secretary on the Sale Certificate.” She continued:
purchase price of the land. Jurisprudence teaches us that notwithstanding the “Contrary to the ponencia's position, Order 16-05 does not contravene Act No.
failure of the government to issue the proper instrument of conveyance when the 1120. Order 16-05 did not dispense with the requirement of the Department
purchaser finally pays the final installment of the purchase price, the purchaser of Secretary’s approval. It recognizes that the approval of the Secretary is still
friar land still acquired ownership over the subject land. (Italicization supplied) required, the grant or ratification of which is made subject only to certain
conditions, precisely “to remove all clouds of doubt regarding the validity of these
xxx xxx xxx instruments” which do not bear his signature. The fulfillment of the conditions
must be proven to be extant in every case.”
To repeat, Deed of Conveyance No. 29204 expressly and unequivocally
acknowledged that Severino Manotok had fully paid the purchase price to the Justice Carpio Morales likewise submitted the proposition that “there is no
Government. Since the majority expressly admit that upon full payment of the statutory basis for the requirement of the Department Secretary's signature on
purchase price it becomes the ministerial duty of the Secretary to approve the the Certificate of Sale, apart from a strained deduction of Section 18.” On the
sale, then the majority must also necessarily admit that the approval of the majority’s general proposition that a claim of ownership must fail in the absence
Secretary is a mere formality that has been complied with by the issuance of of positive evidence showing the Department Secretary’s approval, which cannot
Memorandum Order No. 16-05. Since the majority further expressly admit that simply be presumed or inferred from certain acts, Justice Carpio Morales
upon full payment of the purchase price ownership of the friar land passes to the countered: “Jurisprudential review is gainful only insofar as settling that the
purchaser, despite the failure of the Secretary to sign the Deed of Conveyance, “approval” by the Department Secretary is indispensable to the validity of the
then the majority must also necessarily admit that the Manotoks became the sale. Case law does not categorically state that the required “approval” must be in
absolute owners of the land upon their full payment of the purchase price on 7 the form of a signature on the Certificate of Sale.”
December 1932.
On what constitutes the positive evidence of “approval” to lend validity to the sale
xxx xxx xxx of friar lands, Justice Carpio Morales held:

Indisputably, upon full payment of the purchase price, full and absolute The ponencia concludes, as a matter of course on the strength of Sections 11, 12
ownership passes to the purchaser of friar land. In the case of the Manotoks’ title, and 15, that the certificate of sale must be signed by the Department Secretary for
the sale to be valid. As discussed earlier, these three Sections neither support the
theory that such signing is required in the sale certificate nor shed light to the
specifics of approval.

I submit that the Department Secretary’s signature on the certificate of sale is not
one of the “requirements for the issuance of the Deed of Conveyance under Act
No. 1120.” To require another signature of the Department Secretary on the
Certificate of Sale, on top of that deemed placed by Order 16-05 on the Deed of
Conveyance, is to impose a redundant requirement and render irrelevant the
spirit of said Order.

IN FINE, petitioners having complied with the conditions for the applicability of
Order 16-05, their Deed of Conveyance is “deemed signed or otherwise ratified”
by said Order.

It bears emphasis that Order 16-05 is a positive act on the part of the Department
Secretary to remedy the situation where, all other conditions having been
established by competent evidence, the signature of the Department Secretary is
lacking. The Order aims to rectify a previous governmental inaction on an
otherwise legally valid claim, or affirm an earlier approval shown to be apparent
and consistent by a credible paper trail.

Obviously, the incumbent Department Secretary can no longer probe into the
deep recesses of his deceased predecessors, or unearth irretrievably tattered
documents at a time when the country and its records had long been torn by war,
just to satisfy himself with an explanation in the withholding of the signature.
The meat of Order 16-05 contemplates such bone of contention as in the present
case.

The cloud of doubt regarding the validity of the conveyance to petitioners’


predecessors-in-interest having been removed by Order No. 16-05, petitioners’
title over Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate is, I submit, valid.