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G.R. No. 121038 July 22, 1999 TEOTIMO EDUARTE vs.

COURT OF APPEALS, DOMINGO BELDA and ESTELITA ANA Nature: A petition for certiorari assailing the decision of the CA. Facts: Domingo Belda and Estelita Ana were the registered owners of a parcel of land denominated as Lot 118 located at Sorsogon and covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P-4991 issued on October 5, 1962. On March 1, 1963, a letter was sent by the Land Investigator Serafin Valcarcel of the Bureau of Lands to Domingo and Cipriano Bulan calling them to a conference to settle the wrongful issuance of title to the property they both occupy. At this conference, neither Domingo nor Bulan appeared but Teotimo Eduarte did. On August 9, 1963, Eduarte wrote a letter to the Director of Lands requesting him not to give due course to Domingo and Estelitas application for a free patent title over lot 118 since what Domingo and Estelita are occupying is Lot 138 which was titled in the name of Bulan who refused to accept said title. After the Office of the Director of lands took note of Eduartes protest, an investigation was conducted which revealed that Eduarte is in actual possession of lot 118 while Domingo and Estelita occupy lot 138. The District Land Officer recommended that the free patent application of respondents should refer to lot 138 and the homestead application of petitioner should refer to lot 118. Eduarte remained and continuously occupied lot 118 until on December 10, 1986 Domingo and Estelita filed with the RTC of Irosin, a complaint for recovery of possession and damages against Eduarte, averring that sometime in August 1985, Eduarte by means of force, threats and intimidation entered the subject to lot without their consent thereby depriving them of their possession of the premises. Traversing the complaint, Eduarte asserts that he is the rightful owner of the property in question; that he has been in possession of the same since 1942; that the title relied upon by Domingo and Estelita was erroneously issued in their name which was acknowledged by the Bureau of Lands; that Domingo and Estelita fully know that they are not the owners of the lot in dispute. The lower court also ruled that petitioner can attack the validity of respondents' title only through a direct and not by a collateral proceeding. Decision affirmed by CA, with modifications. Issue: Whether or not Eduarte can, in an ordinary civil action for recovery of possession filed by Domingo and Estelita, the registered owners, assail the validity of their title. Held: It must be stressed that a certificate of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein. After the expiration of the one year period from the issuance of the decree of registration upon which it based, it becomes incontrovertible. The decree of registration and the certificate

of title issued pursuant thereto may be attacked on the ground of fraud within one year from the date of its entry and such an attack must be direct and not by a collateral proceeding. In the case at bench, petitioner raised the following affirmative defense in his answer: 3. That the defendant is the true and lawful owner and in actual possession of that certain parcel of land which is more particularly described as follows: xxx xxx xxx 5. That the sole basis of the plaintiff in adversely claiming the aforesaid property is due to the erroneous issuance of OCT No. P-4991 in his name which covers said Lot No. 118 and this mistaken and erroneous issuance has been duly acknowledged and investigated no less by the Bureau of Lands; 6. That plaintiff has never been in actual possession of said Lot No. 118 and therefore he is not lawfully entitled to such certificate of title No. P4991, which under the circumstances he is obliged to reconvey the same to the defendant; The foregoing allegations attack the validity of the original certificate of title issued in favor of private respondents by the Registry of Deeds of Sorsogon. This is not permitted under the principle of indefeasibility of a Torrens title. The issue of the validity of title, i.e. whether or not it was fraudulently issued, can be raised in an action expressly instituted for that purposes. Whether or not respondents have the right to claim ownership of the subject land is beyond the province of the instant petition.