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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 96259. September 3, 1996.]

HEIRS OF LUIS J. GONZAGA, namely ROMANA, FERNANDO, PAZ, LUISA and LUIS ANTONIO, all surnamed GONZAGA, Petitioners, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and SPOUSES JOSE LEELIN and LILIA SEVILLA, Respondents.

[G.R. No. 96274. September 3, 1996.]

GUILLERMO Y. MASCARIÑAS, Petitioner, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and SPOUSES JOSE LEELIN and LILIA SEVILLA, Respondents.


SYLLABUS


LAND TITLES AND DEEDS; LAND REGISTRATION; THE COURT IS BOUND BY ITS RULING IN MWSS VS. COURT OF APPEALS. — In the present controversy, judicial adjudication hinges on the question as to who, between petitioners and private respondents, have the legal and valid title to the two lots. In resolving this question, we are bound by our ruling in the aforecited earlier case of MWSS, not only because the latter involved the same OCT No. 994 and the same Cadastral Survey of Kaloocan City under Cadastral Case No. 34, but also because we squarely dealt with and ruled upon this same issue in the case of MWSS. In that case we had ruled: "The main issue to be resolved is: In case of overlapping titles, which title should prevail. It is the contention of petitioner MWSS that since its TCT No. 41028 was issued in 1940 while the TCT No. 15167 of private respondents was issued only in 1978, petitioner’s title prevails over that of private respondents’ in point of priority of issuance. We do not agree. Although petitioner’s title was issued in 1940, it will be noted that petitioner’s title over Lots 2693 and 2695 both with an area of 599 square meters was based on the Cadastral Survey of Kaloocan City, Cadastral Case No. 34, while private respondents’ title was derived from OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917. In the case of Pamintuan v. San Agustin, this Court ruled that in a cadastral case the court has no jurisdiction in an earlier land registration case and a second decree for the same land is null and void. It must be observed that the title of petitioner MWSS was a transfer from TCT No. 36957 which was derived from OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. Upon the other hand, private respondents’ title was derived from the same OCT No. 994 but dated April 19, 1917. Where two certificates (of title) purport to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails. . . In successive registrations, where more than one certificate is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is entitled to the estate or interest; and the person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate issued in respect thereof. Hence, in point of priority of priority of issuance, private respondents’ title prevails over that of petitioner MWSS. Lastly, a certificate is not conclusive evidence of title if it is shown that the same land had already been registered and an earlier certificate for the same is in existence. Since the land in question has already been registered under OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917, the subsequent registration of the same land on May 3, 1917 is null and void." We emphasize with petitioner Mascariñas who may be a purchaser for value and in good faith, but whose title, which is only a derivative of the void OCT No. 994 dated May 3, 1917, could not possibly be of force and effect more than its parent title. Certainly the spring cannot rise higher than its source.


D E C I S I O N


HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:


Assailed in these consolidated petitions is the decision 1 of the Court of Appeals 2 in the exercise of its review jurisdiction over a case for annulment of Torrens title and/or quieting of title with damages 3 filed before the then Court of First Instance, now the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City. 4

There were two (2) defendants in the said case, namely, Luis J. Gonzaga, now deceased, and petitioner Guillermo Y. Mascariñas. The latter’s appeal from the herein assailed decision was docketed as G.R. No. 96274, while the former was substituted by his heirs whose appeal from the same decision was docketed as G.R. No. 96259. Considering that the two appeals raised the same questions and issues and involved the same private respondents, we ordered them consolidated upon petitioner Mascariñas’ motion. 5

The irreconcilable conflict between petitioners and private respondents centers on two parcels of land which they each claim in full exclusive ownership.

We gather from the records that one Jose Eugenio had once been the registered owner of lot nos. 3619 and 3620 of the Cadastral Survey of Caloocan under Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 17519. Sometime in 1960, Eugenio sold the two lots to deceased defendant Luis J. Gonzaga. 6 Consequently, Eugenio’s TCT No. 17519 was cancelled, and the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Rizal issued on November 29, 1960, TCT No. 81338 7 in the name of Gonzaga. On September 28, 1981, Gonzaga sold the two lots to petitioner Mascariñas. 8 Following the conveyance, Gonzaga’s TCT No. 81338 was cancelled, and issued in the name of Mascariñas was TCT No. 48078 9 covering the same two lots.

Equally borne out by the records, however, is the fact that another subsisting Torrens title covers the same two lots subject of the sale between Eugenio and Gonzaga and that between Gonzaga and petitioner Mascariñas. This other title is TCT No. C-26086 10 in the name of private respondent Lilia Sevilla, married to Jose Seelin, issued on August 2, 1979 by the Registry of Deeds for Metro Manila, District III. TCT No. C-26086 covers a number of lots, among them, lot nos. 65 and 66 which are identical with lot nos. 3619 and 3620 embraced by the titles issued in the names of Eugenio, Gonzaga and petitioner Mascariñas.

We note on the face of TCT No. C-26086 that the same is a transfer from Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 which was registered on April 19, 1917 pursuant to Decree No. 36455. The court a quo made the following findings of fact as regards the circumstances of that transfer, as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . plaintiff [private respondent] purchased the two lots described as Lots No. 65 and 66 from Felicidad Rivera, Benito Rivera and Victoria Rivera, the legal heirs of Bartolome Rivera, as evidenced by a deed of absolute sale . . . which was registered on August 2, 1979, under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 26086 . . .

x       x       x


Bartolome Rivera and his co-plaintiffs in Civil Case No. C-424 are the successors-in-interests of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, and in a Decision, dated December 29, 1965, rendered by the Court of First Instance of Rizal in Civil Case No. C-424, an action for partition and accounting . . . it ordered the partition for the plaintiffs of the properties described under Original Certificates of Titles Nos. 982, 983, 984, 985 and 994. [Emphasis supplied]

In Civil Case No. 4557, the then Court of First Instance of Rizal under Presiding Judge Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, ordered the Register of Deeds of Rizal to cancel the name of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal from Original Certificate of Title No. 994 and substitute in lieu thereof the name of Bartolome Rivera and his co-plaintiffs.

Evidently, Bartolome Rivera, the predecessor-in-interest of herein plaintiffs appears as co-owner in the Original Certificate of Title No. 994 . . ." 11

The present controversy arose when private respondents filed on October 14, 1981, a complaint for annulment of Gonzaga’s Torrens title insofar as it embraced lot nos. 3619 and 3620 which are identical with those described in private respondents’ own title as lot nos. 65 and 66. Before the court a quo, Gonzaga interposed an answer asserting that since he had already sold and conveyed the subject lots on September 28, 1981 to petitioner Mascariñas, private respondents no longer have any cause of action against him. Consequently, private respondents filed an amended complaint to include petitioner Mascariñas as party-defendant.

Both the court a quo and the respondent appellate court recognize that the two conflicting TCTs were derived from one common OCT, viz., OCT No. 994. However, while both the court a quo and the respondent appellate court found that OCT No. 994 was registered on May 3, 1917, we find that on the one hand, petitioners’ titles indicate original registration to have been made on May 3, 1917, but on the other hand, private respondents’ title indicates original registration to have been made on April 19, 1917.

The court a quo resolved the conflicting claims in favor of private respondents. It ratiocinated in this wise:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"As matters stand, the Court is once more called upon to determine which of the conflicting titles is valid.

Let us examine the hard facts.

A deepening scrutiny over the evidence in record bares a relevant distinction between plaintiffs’ [private respondents’] and defendants’ [petitioners’] titles as to their origin. As may be seen, defendants’ [petitioners’] titles were registered under Cadastral Proceedings in Cadastral Case No. 34, Cadastral Record No. 1606, Cadastral Survey of Caloocan.

Whereas, as the Court finds, plaintiffs’ [private respondents’] title was derived from the Original Certificate of Title No. 994, issued in Land Registration Case No. 4429, pursuant to Decree 36455 in 1917.

As indubitably shown in a Deed of Absolute Sale dated January 14, 1977 . . . plaintiffs [private respondents] acquired the two properties in question, together with other several parcels of land, from Felicidad Rivera, Benito Rivera and Victoria Rivera, the legal heirs of one Bartolome Rivera.

Bartolome Rivera and other co-plaintiffs are the successors-in-interests to the undivided share of Maria Concepcion Vidal in several parcels of land under Original Certificates of Titles Nos. 982, 983, 984, 985, and 994, as duly established in the two Decisions rendered in Civil Case No. C-424 and in Civil Case No. C-1796 by the Court of First Instance of Rizal . . .

As may be seen, Maria Concepcion Vidal was one of the original co-owners of the properties registered under the Original Certificate of Title No. 994, issued by the Land Registration Court in Land Registration Case No. 4429, pursuant to Decree No. 36455 . . .

Thus, in said Decision . . . dated December 29, 1965, it ordered a partition of the subject properties among the plaintiffs being the successors-in-interest of Maria Concepcion Vidal.

It bears emphasis that in said Decision of December 29, 1965 . . . it states, in part, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

‘. . . This undivided share of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, consisting of 1-189/1000 per cent of the properties described in Original Certificates of Title Nos. 982, 983, 984, 985 and 994, has never been sold or disposed of by said Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, and therefore, her said share now belongs to the herein plaintiffs who are the surviving heirs of the said Maria de la Concepcion Vidal and entitled to said undivided share in the following proportions: Bartolome Rivera, 1/3 of 1-189/1000 per cent . . . These plaintiffs, therefore, are now co-owners of the parcels of land described in Original Certificates of Title Nos. 982, 983, 984, 985 and 994, in the aforestated proportions and entitled to demand the partition of said properties.’ (Emphasis supplied)

Evidently, the sale of the property by Jose Eugenio to defendant Luis Gonzaga on November 29, 1960 has no valid basis.

In final focus is the Court Order issued by the Court of First Instance of Rizal . . . in Civil Case No. C-1796 ordering the issuance of a transfer certificate of title in favor of plaintiffs [private respondents] over several parcels of land including the two lots in question.

x       x       x


Considering the findings and the dispositive portion of the Decision of the then Court of First Instance . . . to the effect that there being no valid ground why the torrens title should not be issued to the petitioners . . . [private respondents], considering the deed of sale executed by Victoria, Benito and Felicidad all surnamed Rivera . . . in favor of petitioners [private respondents] were duly acknowledged before a notary public and the same found to be regular and in due form, thereby divesting the land in fee simple form, the registered owner Bartolome Rivera or his heirs in favor of petitioners . . . [private respondents] their corresponding technical descriptions having been approved and verified by the Bureau of Lands, this Court finds plaintiffs’ [private respondents’] rights and title over the properties in question indubitably established.

True, it is that defendant’ [petitioners’] title was issued by a Cadastral Court in Cadastral Case No. 34, G.L.R.O. Cadastral Record No. 1106, which was undeniably subsequent to the Land Registration Case No. 4429 of 1917 . . . but well-settled in a catenna [sic] of cases is the doctrine that in a cadastral case the Court has no jurisdiction to decree again the registration of land already decreed in an earlier land registration case and a second decree for the same land is NULL and VOID." 12

Accordingly, the court a quo rendered judgment declaring private respondents’ TCT No. C-26086 as valid and legal and ordering the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City to cancel Gonzaga’s TCT No. 81338 and petitioner Mascariñas’ TCT No. 48079, the same being null and void.

Petitioners appealed that decision to the respondent court. Petitioners reiterated specific errors allegedly committed by the court a quo, especially as regards appreciation of the document denominated as Report and Recommendation issued by the Land Registration Commission (LRC). Said document was formally offered by petitioner Mascariñas 13 but had been apparently ignored by the court a quo and considered of little probative value by respondent court for being a mere xerox copy. In that Report and Recommendation, the LRC concluded that all titles emanating from Bartolome Rivera under OCT No. 994 have been issued through fraud and misrepresentation essentially because Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, indicated on the LRC records to have died at the age of only nine (9) years old, could not have possibly borne children, among them, Severo who is said to be the ascendant of Bartolome Rivera from whose heirs, in turn, private respondents purchased the subject lots.

Likewise rebuffed by the respondent court, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which was however denied in a resolution 14 dated November 13, 1990.

The respondent Court of Appeals, in affirming the findings and ruling of the court a quo, gave nary a significance to the aforecited LRC Report and Recommendation. It ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"While We agree with appellants’ [petitioners’] thesis that their respective titles are valid, the same observation must likewise be extended as regards appellee [private respondent] Sevilla’s title, the contrary view not having been adequately substantiated through relevant and competent evidence. This benefit of the doubt stands notwithstanding the xeroxed copy of the Land Registration Commission’s purported "Report and Recommendation." . . the appended [sic] copy purportedly to be that of the Commission’s report was merely a xerox copy and never a certified true copy thereof as expressly mandated by Sections 25 and 26, Rule 132, of the Revised Rules of Court as reiterated in Section 7, Rule 130, of the Revised Rules of Evidence. Moreover, worth noting is the fact that said xerox copy bore no signatures of the supposed officials who executed the same . . . No wonder the court a quo did not bother to lend any weight to this piece of evidence, notwithstanding the failure of Sevilla to interpose a timely objection thereto. The lack of objection may make any incompetent evidence admissible . . . But admissibility of evidence should not be equated with weight of evidence . . . Failure to object to the presentation of incompetent evidence does not give probative value to the evidence . . .

Granting arguendo, that the Land Registration Commission issued such a report on February 2, 1981, We believe that the same suffers from a congenital infirmity as it could not have possibly overruled the final decisions of the various branches of the then Court of First Instance of Rizal in Civil Case No. C-424, enjoining Bartolome Rivera and his co-heirs to partition the properties described under OCT Nos. 982, 983, 984, 985, and 994 . . . Civil Case No. 4557, ordering the cancellation of the name of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal from OCT No. 994 and substitute in lieu thereof the name of Bartolome Rivera and his co-heirs; and in Land Registration Case No. 1796, in which the subject realty was ordered to be registered in the name of herein appellee [private respondent] . . . Incidentally, LRC NO. 1796, dealt with a Land Registration case which is a proceeding in rem, dealing with a tangible res, and may be instituted and carried to judgment without personal service upon the claimants within the state or notice by mail to those outside of it . . . Jurisdiction is secured by the power of the court over the res . . . Accordingly, in a registration proceeding, such as LRC-1796, instituted with or without opposition, the judgment of the court confirming the title of the applicant . . . [private respondent] and ordering its registration in his [sic] name constitutes, when final, res judicata against the whole world (Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, 17 Phil. 49), herein appellants [petitioners] included." 15

Petitioners now come before us seeking a reversal of the aforecited decisions of the trial court and the respondent appellate court on the basis of the following issues:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"(1) Whether or not the trial court may invalidate transfer certificate of title which have [sic] been previously cancelled.

(2) Whether or not there is a cause of action against Luis Gonzaga.

(3) Whether or not the respondent court should rule on Mascariñas motion to hold in abeyance.

(4) Whether or not Sevilla’s petition to order the City Register of Deeds of Caloocan City to issue Transfer Certificate of Title in the Name of the Petitioner in case #C-1796 in CFI Rizal — Branch 32 Caloocan City is a proceeding in rem.

(5) Whether or not Luis Gonzaga was barred from questioning the title of Sevilla for his failure to file a petition for review within one year from the decree of registration issued in favor of Sevilla." 16

Unfortunately neither can we accord petitioners the relief they seek. In fact, we must affirm the decisions assailed in this petition, for we are confronted with facts that are exactly the same as those that we have passed and ruled upon in the case of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) v. Court of Appeals. 17

The antecedent facts of that case are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Jose B. Dimson was the registered owner of a parcel of land situated in Balintawak, Kalookan City . . . and covered by TCT No. C-15167 which was registered on June 8, 1978. Said parcel of land was originally Lot 28 of the Maysilo Estate (LRC 5268) covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 which was registered on April 19, 1917 pursuant to Decree No. 36455 issued in Land Registration Case No. 4429.

It appears that one of the original owners of OCT No. 994 was the late Maria Concepcion Vidal married to Pioquinto Rivera. Among the four children was Severo Rivera y Vidal who died in 1907 leaving Bartolome Rivera as the sole surviving heir.

Bartolome Rivera executed a Deed of Transfer and Conveyance in favor of Jose B. Dimson whereby he agreed to transfer twenty-five percent (25%) of whatever land he is entitled in Lot 28 and Lots 25, 26, 27 and 29, all of which are covered by OCT No. 994.

In an action for partition and accounting docketed as Civil Case No. C-424 filed by Bartolome Rivera and his co-heirs, the then Court of First Instance of Rizal rendered a decision dated December 29, 1965 ordering the partition of the properties described in OCT Nos. 994, 983, 984 and 985 among Bartolome Rivera and his co-heirs being co-owners and successors-in-interest of the late Maria Concepcion Vidal.

In an order dated June 13, 1966, the then Court of First Instance of Rizal approved the Deed of Transfer and Conveyance executed by Bartolome Rivera in favor of Jose B. Dimson over Lot 28 and directed the Register of Deeds of Rizal to cancel the name of Maria Concepcion Vidal from OCT No. 994 and to substitute the names of Bartolome Rivera and his co-heirs.

In a verified petition docketed as Special Proceedings No. 732 filed by Jose B. Dimson, the validity of the court Order dated June 13, 1966 was confirmed . . .

x       x       x


On the other hand, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS, for brevity) claimed that it is the registered owner of Lots 2693 and 2695, both with an area of 599 square meters covered by TCT No. 41028 issued by the Register of Deeds of Kalookan City on July 29, 1940 and based on the Cadastral Survey of Kalookan City, Cadastral Case No. 34. It appeared that both lots covered or included the parcels of land owned by Jose B. Dimson . . . It further appeared on the face of TCT No. 41028 that it was a transfer from TCT No. 36957 which was derived from OCT No. 994 dated May 3, 1917." 18

In the present controversy, judicial adjudication hinges on the question as to who, between petitioners and private respondents, have the legal and valid title to the two lots. In resolving this question, we are bound by our ruling in the aforecited earlier case of MWSS, not only because the latter involved the same OCT No. 994 and the same Cadastral Survey of Kaloocan City under Cadastral Case No. 34, but also because we squarely dealt with and ruled upon this same issue in the case of MWSS. In that case we had ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The main issue to be resolved is: In case of overlapping titles, which titles should prevail.

It is the contention of petitioner MWSS that since its TCT No. 41028 was issued in 1940 while the TCT No. 15167 of private respondents was issued only in 1978, petitioner’s title prevails over that of private respondents’ in point of priority of issuance.

We do not agree.

Although petitioner’s title was issued in 1940, it will be noted that petitioner’s title over Lots 2693 and 2695 both with an area of 599 square meters was based on the Cadastral Survey of Kaloocan City, Cadastral Case No. 34, while private respondents’ title was derived from OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917. In the case of Pamintuan v. San Agustin, this Court ruled that in a cadastral case the court has no jurisdiction in an earlier land registration case and a second decree for the same land is null and void.

It must be observed that the title of petitioner MWSS was a transfer from TCT No. 36957 which was derived from OCT NO. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. Upon the other hand, private respondents’ title was derived from the same OCT No. 994 but dated April 19, 1917. Where two certificates (of title) purport to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails. . . . In successive registrations, where more than one certificate is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is entitled to the estate or interest; and the person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate issued in respect thereof. Hence, in point of priority of issuance, private respondents’ title prevails over that of petitioner MWSS.

Lastly, a certificate is not conclusive evidence of title if it is shown that the same land had already been registered and an earlier certificate for the same is in existence. Since the land in question has already been registered under OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917, the subsequent registration of the same land on May 3, 1917 is null and void." 19

We empathize with petitioner Mascariñas who may be a purchaser for value and in good faith, but whose title, which is only a derivative of the void OCT No. 994 dated May 3, 1917, could not possibly be of force and effect more than its parent title. Certainly the spring cannot rise higher than its source.

WHEREFORE, the consolidated petitions are hereby DISMISSED. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Bellosillo, Vitug and Kapunan, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Dated May 17, 1990, penned by Justice Antonio M. Martinez, Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 88-93; Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, pp. 102-107.

2. Second Division with members, Associate Justices Antonio M. Martinez, Jose A. R. Melo, and Filemon H. Mendoza.

3. Civil Case No. C-9581.

4. Branch 120, presided by Judge Arturo A. Romero.

5. Resolution dated March 13, 1991, Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, p. 154.

6. Deed of Absolute Sale dated November 28, 1960, Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, p. 45; Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, p. 37.

7. Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 46-48; Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, pp. 29-31.

8. Deed of Absolute Sale dated September 24, 1981; Rollo of G.R. NO. 96259, pp. 49-50; Rollo of G.R. NO. 96274, pp. 41-42.

9. Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 51-52; Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, pp. 43-44.

10. Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 23-24; Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, pp. 27-28.

11. Decision of the RTC dated November 3, 1988, penned by Judge Arturo A. Romero, pp. 1-2; Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 75-76.

12. Decision supra, pp. 3-5, Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 77-79.

13. Formal offer of Evidence for Defendant Mascariñas dated March 16, 1987, p. 2; Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, p. 72.

14. Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, pp. 127-129.

15. Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 21240, dated May 17, 1990, pp. 3-4; Rollo of G.R. No. 96274, pp. 104-105.

16. Petition, p. 5; Rollo of G.R. No. 96259, p. 10.

17. 215 SCRA 783 (1992).

18. MWSS v. Court of Appeals, supra, pp. 784-786.

19. Ibid, pp. 787-788.

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