G.R. No. 173120 - SPOUSES YU HWA PING AND MARY GAW, PETITIONERS, v. AYALA LAND, INC., RESPONDENT.[G.R. No. 173141] HEIRS OF SPOUSES ANDRES DIAZ AND JOSEFA MIA, PETITIONERS, v. AYALA LAND, INC., RESPONDENT.
This resolves respondent Ayala Land, Inc.'s (ALI) Second Motion for Reconsideration filed on February 9, 2018 against the July 26, 2017 Decision1 of the Court, and ALI's supplement to the motion to refer the instant case to the Court en banc as mandated by the Constitution, on the ground that the said Decision supposedly modified and reversed doctrines and principles of law (on land registration, prescription and Torrens System) previously laid down by the Court in decisions rendered en banc or in Division.
To recall, in the July 26, 2017 Decision, the Court granted the petitions in the instant case, reversed and set aside the June 19, 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV Nos. 61593 & 70622, and reinstated the February 8, 2005 Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals. On September 28, 2017, ALI filed a Motion for Reconsideration2 with motion to refer the case to the Court en banc. On December 4, 2017, the Court issued a Minute Resolution3 unanimously denying with finality the said motions.
ALI then filed on February 14, 2018 the instant Second Motion for Reconsideration4 and supplement to the motion to refer the case to the Court en banc5 which were then assigned to Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, in view of the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the Member-in-charge of the first motion for reconsideration, by virtue of a motion for inhibition filed by ALI after the denial of the first motion for reconsideration. By a vote of three (3) to one (1), the undersigned wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Associate Justices Alexander G. Gesmundo and Ramon Paul L. Hernando, with Associate Justice Leonen dissenting, and Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo on official leave.
The referral of the case to the Court en banc and ALI's Second Motion for Reconsideration are hereby denied. As will be discussed below, the July 26, 2017 Decision of the Court neither modified nor reversed a doctrine or principle laid down by the Court en banc or by a Division, but merely applied the pertinent law and jurisprudence to the factual findings of the trial court and the appellate court. The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, is not an appellate court vis-a-vis its Divisions, and it exercises no appellate jurisdiction over the latter.6 Each division of the Court is considered not a body inferior to the Court en banc, and sits veritably as the Court en banc itself.7
Section 2, Rule 52 of the Rules of Court prohibits a second motion for reconsideration by the same party. Section 3, Rule 15 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court echoes the prohibition, providing thusly:
Section 3. Second motion for reconsideration. — The Court shall not entertain a second motion for reconsideration, and any exception to this rule can only be granted in the higher interest of justice by the Court en banc upon a vote of at least two-thirds of its actual membership. There is reconsideration "in the higher interest of justice" when the assailed decision is not only legally erroneous, but is likewise patently unjust and potentially capable of causing unwarranted and irremediable injury or damage to the parties. A second motion for reconsideration can only be entertained before the ruling sought to be reconsidered becomes final by operation of law or by the Court's declaration.
In the Division, a vote of three Members shall be required to elevate a second motion for reconsideration to the Court En Banc.
Public policy frowns upon the piecemeal impugnment of a judgment or final order by the filing of successive motions for reconsideration. This rule is also consistent with the equally important policy that all litigations must come to an end at some point.8
A second motion for reconsideration, albeit prohibited, may be entertained in the higher interest of justice, such as when the assailed decision is not only legally erroneous but also patently unjust and potentially capable of causing unwarranted and irremediable injury or damage to the moving party.9
In this case, ALI failed to assert any meritorious reason to allow its second motion for reconsideration. Glaringly, the arguments raised by ALI are mere reiterations of its previous arguments in its Memorandum and First Motion for Reconsideration.
ALI did not anymore raise any genuine or novel issue that has not been threshed out by the Court. Verily, the Court cannot entertain a second motion for reconsideration that essentially raises the same grounds that have been repeatedly denied.
that the substantive issues reiterated by ALI shall be entertained by the Court, the second motion for reconsideration still lacks merit.The titles of ALI are void due
to the erroneous technical
descriptions sourced from
void ab initio surveys
ALI essentially argues that the transfer certificate of titles (TCTs)
registered under its name cannot be declared void simply because the survey conducted on the subject land was not valid. It emphasizes that the survey of the subject land is not part and parcel of the TCTs, thus, it is immaterial whether the survey suffered from any defect.
The argument fails.
Although a certificate of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible and incontrovertible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein,10
it is not a conclusive proof of ownership. It is a well-settled rule that ownership is different from a certificate of title. The fact that a person was able to secure a title in his name does not operate to vest ownership upon him of the subject land. Registration of a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title, because it is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. It cannot bused to protect a usurper from the true owner; nor can it be used as a shield for the commission of fraud; neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the expense of others. Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.11
One of the distinguishing marks of the Torrens system is the absolute certainty of the identity of a registered land. Consequently, the primary purpose of the requirement that the land must first be surveyed is to fix the exact or definite identity of the land as shown in the plan and technical description.12
It is imperative in an application for original registration that the applicant submit to the court, aside from the original or duplicate copies of the muniments of title, a copy of a duly approved survey plan of the land sought to be registered. The survey plan is indispensable as it provides a reference on the exact identity of the property.13
Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen argues that ALI's titles should have been respected over those of petitioners' because ALI's predecessors-in-interest had their titles issued 20 and 12 years ahead of those of petitioners' predecessors. It appears from such argument that only the date of registration should be considered, while the surveys over the land should be disregarded. The Court must stress, however, that the survey of the land is vital and essential to uphold the validity of a certificate of title.
A survey plan precisely serves to establish the true identity of the land to ensure that it does not overlap a parcel of land or a portion thereof already covered by a previous land registration, and to forestall the possibility that it will be overlapped by a subsequent registration of any adjoining land.14
Thus, if the survey plan is evidently erroneous, then the exact and finite identity of the land cannot be reflected in the technical description of the certificate of title.
In Veterans Federation of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals,15
the Court ruled that "it is well-established that errors in the certificate of title that relate to the technical description and location cannot just be disregarded as mere clerical aberrations that are harmless in character, but must be treated seriously so as not to jeopardize the integrity and efficacy of the Torrens system of registration of real rights to property. Thus, when the technical description appearing in the title is clearly erroneous, the courts have no other recourse but to order its cancellation
and cause the issuance of a new one that would conform to the mutual agreement of the buyer and seller as laid down in the deed of sale."
It was further discussed therein that the simple possession of a certificate of title is not necessarily conclusive of the holder's true ownership of all the property described therein for said holder does not by virtue of said certificate of title alone become the owner of what has been either illegally or erroneously included.
It has been held by this Court that "if a person or entity obtains a title which includes by mistake or oversight land which cannot be registered under the Torrens system or over which the buyer has no legal right, said buyer does not, by virtue of said certificate alone, become the owner of the land illegally or erroneously included. In fact, when an area is erroneously included in a relocation survey and in the title subsequently issued, the said erroneous inclusion is null and void and of no effect. And on the rare occasion where there is such an error, the courts may decree that the certificate of title be cancelled and a correct one issued to the buyer."16
Consequently, the invalidity of the survey affects the technical description of the land, which is found on the title. Glaring and substantial errors in the technical description should not be simply disregarded as trivial or formal errors because these precisely affect the identity of the land. Regrettably, never addressed are the numerous and manifest mistakes in the identity of the purported lands covered by the titles of ALI that will be discussed below.
In Dizon v. Rodriguez17
and Republic v. Ayala y Cia,18
the Court confronted the validity of the surveys conducted on the lands to determine whether the title was properly subdivided. It was ruled therein that "subdivision plan Psd-27941 was erroneous because it was "prepared not in accordance with the technical descriptions in TCT No. T-722 but in disregard of it, supports the conclusion reached by both the lower court and the Court of Appeals that Lots 49 and 1 are actually part of the territorial waters and belong to the State."19
Accordingly, the sole method for the Court to determine the validity of the title was to dissect the survey upon which it was sourced. As a result, it was discovered that the registered titles therein contained areas which belong to the sea and foreshore lands.
In this case, the TCTs of petitioners originated from Original Transfer Certificate (OCT)
No. 8510, which was based on survey plan Psu-25909 dated March 17, 1921. On the other hand, the TCTs of ALI originated from OCT No. 242, 244 and 1609, which were based on survey plans Psu-47035 dated October 21, 1925, Psu-80886 dated July 28, 1930, and Psu-80886/SWO-20609 dated March 6, 1931.
As will be thoroughly discussed later, survey plans Psu-47035, Psu-80886, Psu-80886/SWO-20609 contain numerous and glaring irregularities. Consequently, as the surveys were marred with blatant anomalies, the technical descriptions contained in OCT No. 242, 244 and 1609 are also void and erroneous. Verily, these technical descriptions in the said certificate of titles do not refer to a valid and exact portion of the lands. In fact, as noted by the trial court, the lands therein were described to be located in different places. Further, the land surveyed in Psu-47035, Psu-80886, Psu-80886/SWO-20609 patently overlaps with the land surveyed in Psu-25909, even though the latter was issued in an earlier date. Once a land has been surveyed, it is highly irregular to conduct a second survey to overlap with the same parcel of land. Indeed, when the survey of the land is null and void, the technical description of the land is also null and void. As a result, the validity of OCT No. 242, 244 and 1609 cannot be upheld.There were numerous
irregularities in the survey of
As threshed out in the decision of the Court, the surveys in OCT No. 242, 244 and 1609 contain numerous irregularities that strikes out the validity of these titles. The said irregularities are as follows:First,
Psu-25909 was conducted by a certain A.N. Feliciano in favor of Andres Diaz and was approved on May 26, 1921. Curiously, the subsequent surveys of Psu-47035 for a certain Dominador Mayuga, Psu-80886 for a certain Guico and Psu-80886/SWO-20609 for a certain Yaptinchay, were also conducted by A.N. Feliciano. It is dubious how the same surveyor or agrimensor conducted Psu-47035, Psu-80886 and Psu-80886/SWO-20609 even though an earlier survey on Psu-25909, which the surveyor should obviously be aware, was already conducted on the same parcel of land. Engr. Pada, witness of the Spouses Yu, also observed this irregularity and stated that this practice is not the standard norm in conducting surveys.Second,
even though a single entity conducted the surveys, the lands therein were described to be located in different places.
Psu-25909, the earliest dated survey, indicated its location at Sitio Kay Monica, Barrio Pugad Lawin, Las Piñas, Rizal, while Psu-47035 and Psu-80886 stated their locations at Sitio May Kokek, Barrio Almanza, Las Piñas, Rizal, and Barrio Tindig na Mangga, Las Piñas, Rizal, respectively. Again, Engr. Pada observed this peculiarity and pointed out that the subject properties should have had the same address. ALI did not provide an explanation to the discrepancies in the stated addresses. Thus, it led the CA to believe that the same surveyor indicated different locations to prevent the discovery of the questionable surveys over the same parcel of land.Third,
there is a discrepancy as to who requested the survey of Psu-47035.
The photocopy of Psu-47035, as submitted by ALI, shows that it was done for a certain Estanislao Mayuga. On the other hand, the certified true copy of Psu-47035 depicts that it was made for Dominador Mayuga. Once more, Engr. Pada noticed this discrepancy on the said survey. ALI, however, did not give any justification on the diverging detail, which raises question as to the authenticity and genuineness of Psu-47035.Fourth, Psu-80886 does not contain the signature of then Director of Lands, Serafin P. Hidalgo;
rather, the prefix "Sgd." was simply indicated therein. As properly observed by the CA in its February 8, 2005 decision, any person can place the said prefix and it does not show that the Director of Lands actually signed and gave his imprimatur
to Psu-80886. The absence of the approval of the Director of Lands on Psu-80886 added doubt to its legitimacy. The excuse proffered by ALI - that Psu-80886 is regular and valid simply because land registration proceedings were undertaken - is insufficient to cure the crucial defect in the survey.
In University of the Philippines v. Rosario,20
it was held that "[n]o plan or survey may be admitted in land registration proceedings until approved by the Director of Lands.
The submission of the plan is a statutory requirement of mandatory character. Unless a plan and its technical description are duly approved by the Director of Lands, the same are of no value.
" Hence, the lack of approval by the Director of Lands of Psu-80886 casts doubt on its legality. It also affects the jurisdictional facts before the land registration courts which relied on Psu-80886 for registration.
In Del Rosario v. Republic,21
the Court emphasized that the submission in evidence of the original tracing cloth plan, duly approved by the Bureau of Lands,
in cases for application of original registration of land is a mandatory requirement. The reason for this rule is to establish the true identity of the land to ensure that it does not overlap a parcel of land or a portion thereof already covered by a previous land registration, and to forestall the possibility that it will be overlapped by a subsequent registration of any adjoining land.Fifth,
Psu-80886 was issued
on July 28, 1930
but it referred
to a specific monument
described as B.L.L.M No. 4. According to the LMB-DENR, the said monument was only established on November 27, 1937,
more than seven years after Psu-80886 was issued.22
This discrepancy was duly noted in the findings of the verification report and it was affirmed by the testimony of Engr. Pada. Thus, both the RTC of Las Piñas and the CA in its February 8, 2005 decision properly observed that it was highly irregular for Psu-80886 to refer to B.L.L.M No. 4 because the said monument existed seven years later.
The metes and bounds in the technical description of the title are of utmost importance. It is well settled that what defines a piece of titled property is not the numerical data indicated as the area of the land, but the boundaries or "metes and bounds" of the property specified in its technical description as enclosing it and showing its limits.23
Thus, if there is an erroneous designation of the metes and bounds as indicated in the survey due to a non-existent monument, then such inaccurate data shall also be reflected in the technical description of the certificate of title.Sixth, ALI attempted to explain
this anomaly by stating that Psu-80886 was amended
by Psu-80886/SWO-20609, a Special Work Order, in view of the discrepancies of the former. While Psu-80886/SWO-20609 is dated March 6, 1931, ALI insists that it was actually conducted in 1937 and approved in 1940. However, in its February 8, 2005 decision, the CA noted that said testimony crumbled under cross-examination as ALI's witness, Engr. Felino Cortez (Cortez), could not reaffirm the said justification for Psu-80886's manifest error of including a latter dated monument.
Also, the Court observed that ALI's other witness, Engr. Percival Bacani, testified that he does not know why B.L.L.M No. 4 was used in preparing Psu-80886 even though the said monument appears on all the titles.24
Moreover, the alleged explanation provided by ALI to justify the existence of B.L.L.M No. 4 in Psu-80886 was not indicated at all in the verification report and survey plan they submitted before the RTC of Las Piñas. Accordingly, ALI did not resolve the uncertainty surrounding the reference to B.L.L.M No. 4 by Psu-80886 and it seriously damages the validity of the said survey.Seventh,
ALI explained that Psu-80886/SWO-20609 was undertaken to correct a discrepancy in Psu-80886. Its witness, Engr. Cortez, confirmed that Psu-80886/SWO-20609 was commenced to resolve the mistake in the timeline. He added that the timeline published in the notice of initial hearing in the Official Gazette for Psu-80886 was different from the approved plan in Psu-80886/SWO-20609. He also noted some differences in the area of Psu-80886 compared to Psu-80886/SWO-20609.25These admissions show that Psu-80886 was flawed from the very beginning. Yaptinchay merely requested the conduct of Psu-80886/SWO-20609 in order to resurrect or salvage the erroneous Psu-80886 and to wrongfully acquire OCT No. 242.
It does not, however, erase the fact that Psu-80886, from which ALI's titles originated, is marred with irregularities. This is a badge of fraud that further runs counter to the legitimacy of the surveys that ALI relied upon.Eight,
the RTC of Las Piñas continuously observed the irregularities in Psu-80886. It stated that "the total area of the property covered by the document bear many erasures, particularly two erasures as to the total area in terms of number and one erasure as to that total area in terms of unit of measurement."26
Manifestly, no explanation was provided why it was necessary to make erasures of the crucial data in the survey regarding the total area.Ninth,
the RTC of Las Piñas continued its observations regarding Psu-80886's anomalies. It added that "[a]n examination of the same reveals that the lower right hand corner of the plan, which bears the serial number Psu-80886, is manifestly different from the main document in terms of the intensity of its contrast, and that the change in the intensity of the shading is abrupt as one examines the document starting from the lower right-hand corner to anywhere else in the same document. Also, it is worth observing that the main document, minus the lower right hand corner mentioned, does not indicate anything to even suggest that it pertains to plan Psu-80886. For these reasons, the contention of the plaintiffs that this lower right-hand corner of the plan appears to be a spurious attachment to the main document, to make the main document look like it is actually plan Psu-80886, has merit."27
These observations were based on the first-hand examination of the surveys, verification reports, and witnesses by the RTC of Las Piñas.Tenth,
as correctly emphasized by the CA in its February 8, 2005 decision, the Supreme Court had previously noted the defects surrounding Psu-80886 in the case of Guico v. San Pedro.28
The said case involved the application of registration of Guico of a tract of land covered by Psu-80886, subdivided into eleven (11) lots, filed on November 4, 1930 before the Court of First Instance of Rizal (CFI).
The said land originated from Pedro Lopez de Leon, covered by Psu-16400. It was transferred to his son, Mariano Lopez de Leon, and then one-third portion thereof was conveyed to Guico. Several oppositors appeared therein to assail Guico's application. On August 19, 1935, the CFI ruled that only Lot Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 10 may be registered in the name of Guico.
On appeal, the CA disposed the case in this wise:
Adjudicamos a Eduardo C. Guico los lotes 2 y 3 de su plano y las porciones que quedan de las adjudicadas a él por el Juzgado inferior y que no están comprendidos en los terrenos reclamados por Valeriano Miranda, Nicasio San Pedro, José Dollenton, Gregorio Arciaga, Donato Navarro, León Navarro, Dionisio Dollenton, Basilio Navarro, Bernardo Mellama y Lorenzo Dollenton, debiendo al efecto presentar un plano enmendado debidamente aprobado por el Director de Terrenos, confirmado así la decisión apelada en lo que estuviera conforme, y revocandola en lo que no estuviera.29
When translated, the text reads:
We adjudicate to Eduardo C. Guico Lots 2 and 3 of his plan and the portions that remain adjudicated to him by the lower court and that are not included in the lands claimed by Valeriano Miranda, Nicasio San Pedro, Jose Dollenton, Gregorio Arciaga, Donato Navarro, Leon Navarro, Dionisio Dollenton, Basilio Navarro, Bernardo Mellama, and Lorenzo Dollenton, under the obligation to present an amended properly approved plan to the Director of Lands, confirming therefore the appealed decision in what is consistent with this and revoking it on what is not.30
Undeterred, Guico filed an appeal before the Supreme Court alleging that the CA erred in declaring that there was no imperfect title in favor of Pedro Lopez de Leon, his predecessor-in-interest.
In its Decision dated June 20, 1941, the Court dismissed the appeal of Guico and affirmed the CA ruling. It was held that "la solicitud de Pedro Lopez de Leon composicion con el Estado no fue aprobada porque no pudo hacerse la medicion correspondiente.
" Its translation stated that the application of Pedro Lopez de Leon regarding the composition of the estate was not approved because he was not able to submit the corresponding measurements, referring to Psu-16400, from which Psu-80886 was derived.
In addition, the Supreme Court noted that "while abundant proof is offered concerning the filing of the application for composition title by the original possessor, the record nowhere exhibits compliance with the operative requirement of said Section 45(a) of Act. No. 2874, that 'such applicants or grantees and their heirs have occupied and cultivated said lands continuously since the filing of their applications."'31
Consequently, the Court observed two major irregularities
in the application of Guico under Psu-80886: (1) his predecessor-in-interest did not submit any valid measurement
of the estate from which Psu-80886 was derived; and (2) that the applicant or his grantees failed to occupy or cultivate the subject land continuously.
These findings are substantial and significant as these affect the validity of Psu-80886.
ALI insisted that Guico v. San Pedro
should actually be construed in their favor, because the Court affirmed the ruling of the CA which awarded Lot Nos. 2 and 3 to Guico, hence, Psu-80886 was valid.
The Court is not persuaded.
A reading of the dispositive portion of the CA decision in Guico v. San Pedro
does not categorically state that Lot Nos. 2 and 3 were absolutely and completely awarded to Guico. The award of the said lots was subject to the vital and primordial condition or obligation to present to the court an amended, properly approved, plan to the Director of Lands. Evidently, the Court was not satisfied with Psu-80886 because it lacked the requisites for a valid survey. Thus, it required Guico to secure an amended and correctly approved plan, signed by the Director of Lands. The purpose of this new plan was to confirm that the appealed decision was consistent with the facts established therein. The records, however, did not show that Guico indeed secured an amended and properly approved plan. Psu-80886/SWO-20609 obviously was not the required amended order because a special work order is different from an amended survey.32
Moreover, the said special work order was initiated by Yaptinchay, and not Guico. The insufficiency of Psu-80886 is evident in this decision.
Thus, as Guico did not subject Psu-80886 to a valid amended approved plan, he was not awarded Lot Nos. 2 and 3 for registration. It can be seen from OCT Nos. 242, 244, and 1609 that Guico never secured their registration because the Court discovered the anomalous Psu-80886. The Court's pronouncement in Guico v. San Pedro,
although promulgated more than half a century ago, must be respected in accordance with the rule on judicial adherence.Lastly,
the Court also agrees with the finding of the CA in its February 8, 2005 decision that Psu-25909, from which the titles of petitioners were sourced, bears all the hallmarks of verity. It was established that Andres Diaz was the very first claimant of the subject property and was the proponent of Psu-25909. The said survey clearly contained the signatures of the surveyor and the Director of Lands, as can be seen on its face. In stark contrast with Psu-80886, which contained alterations and erasures, Psu-25909 has none. The original ofPsu-25909 was, likewise, on file with the Bureau of Lands and a microfilm reproduction was readily obtained from the file of the said office, unlike in Psu-80886 and Psu-47909.
The RTC of Las Piñas shared this examination. It ruled that Psu-25909 was a true copy of an official document on file with the Bureau of Lands. It also gave great weight and appreciation to the said survey because no irregularity
was demonstrated in the preparation thereof. The trial court added that Engr. Remolar, as the appropriate government custodian and court appointed commissioner, certified the authenticity of Psu-25909.Psu-25909 bore all the hallmarks of verity because it contains the signatures of the surveyor and the Director of Lands, and it did not contain any erasure or alterations thereon. Likewise, a duly authenticated copy of Psu-25909 is readily available in the Bureau of Lands.
In contrast, the Court cannot subscribe to the finding of the CA in its June 19, 2006 decision that the numerous defects in Psu-47909, Psu-80886 and Psu-80886/SWO-20609 are "not enough to deprive the assailed decree of registration of its conclusive effect, neither are they sufficient to arrive at the conclusion that the survey was definitely, certainly, [and] conclusively spurious."33
The Court cannot close its eyes to the blatant defects on the surveys upon which the original titles of ALI were derived, as reflected in their technical descriptions, simply because its titles were registered. To allow these certificates of title in the registration books, even though these were sourced from invalid surveys and contain erroneous technical descriptions, would tarnish and damage the Torrens system of registration, rather than uphold its integrity.
It is an enshrined principle in this jurisdiction that registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title merely confirms or records title already existing and vested. The indefeasibility of a Torrens title should not be used as a means to perpetrate fraud against the rightful owner of real property. Good faith must concur with registration because, otherwise, registration would be an exercise in futility. A Torrens title does not furnish a shield for fraud, notwithstanding the long-standing rule that registration is a constructive notice of title binding upon the whole world. The legal principle is that if the registration of the land is fraudulent, the person in whose name the land is registered holds it as a mere trustee.34
When a land registration decree is marred by severe irregularity that discredits the integrity of the Torrens system, the Court will not think twice in striking down such illegal title in order to protect the public against scrupulous and illicit land ownership. Thus, due to the numerous, blatant and unjustifiable errors in Psu-47909, Psu-80886, and Psu-80886/SWO-20609, these must be declared void. Likewise, OCT Nos. 242, 244, and 1609, their transfer certificates, and instruments of conveyances that relied on the anomalous surveys, must be absolutely declared void ab initio.When there is an overlapping
boundary in the titles, a
verification survey must be
Another argument of ALI is that the Court should have applied the rule that, in case of two certificates of title purporting to include the same land, the earlier date prevails.
The argument also fails.
As discussed in the Decision of the Court, the rule that "in case of two certificates of title purporting to include the same land, the earlier date prevails" is not an absolute and conclusive rule; rather, it is merely a general rule. This was first discussed in Legarda v. Saleeby,35
The question, who is the owner of land registered in the name of two different persons, has been presented to the courts in other jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, where the "torrens" system has been adopted, the difficulty has been settled by express statutory provision. In others it has been settled by the courts. Hogg, in his excellent discussion of the "Australian Torrens System," at page 823, says: "The general rule is that in the case of two certificates of title, purporting to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails, whether the land comprised in the latter certificate be wholly, or only in part, comprised in the earlier certificate. xxx 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 that 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 x x x.36
Justice Leonen asserts that the Decision of the Court went against the doctrine of "Primus Tempora, Fortior Jure,"
or "First in Time, Stronger in Right." This is because the mother title of the Spouses Yu's predecessor-in-interest was issued more than two (2) decades after those issued to ALI's predecessors-in-interest, yet this did not prevent the Court from upholding the later issued title over the earlier issued one.
The rule on superiority, however, is not absolute
. The same case of Legarda v. Saleeby
explains the exception to the rule, viz.:
Hogg adds however that, "if it can be clearly ascertained by the ordinary rules of construction relating to written documents, that the inclusion of the land in the certificate of title of prior date is a mistake, the mistake may be rectified by holding the latter of the two certificates of title to be conclusive."37
Accordingly, if the inclusion of the land in the earlier registered title was a result of a mistake, then the latter registered title will prevail. The ratio decidendi
of this exception is to prevent a title that was earlier registered, which erroneously contained a parcel of land that should not have been included, from defeating a title that was later registered but is legitimately entitled to the said land. It reinforced the doctrine that "[r]egistering a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein."38
Several jurists or authors on land registration affirm that the general and the exceptional rule in Legarda v. Saleeby.
In his book, Land Registration and Related Proceedings,39
Atty. Amado D. Aquino explained that the principle of according superiority to a certificate of title earlier in date cannot, however, apply if it was procured through fraud or was otherwise jurisdictionally flawed. Thus, if there is a compelling and genuine reason to set aside the rule on the superiority of earlier registered title, the Court may look into the validity of the title bearing the latter date of registration, taking into consideration the evidence presented by the parties.
Similarly, in his book Property Registration Decree and Related Laws,40
retired Court of Appeals Justice Oswaldo D. Agcaoili affirmed that the general rule – where two certificates purport to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails – is valid only absent any anomaly or irregularity tainting the process of registration.41
He further cites the exception in Legarda v. Saleeby
that where the inclusion of land in the certificate of prior date is a mistake, the mistake may be rectified by holding the latter of the two certificates to be conclusive. Indeed, a certificate of title is not conclusive where it is the product of a faulty or fraudulent registration.42
In Golloy v. Court of Appeals,43
there were two conflicting titles with overlapping boundaries. The first title was registered on March 1, 1918, while the second title was registered on August 15, 1919. Despite having been registered at a prior date, the Court did not allow the earlier registered title of the respondents to prevail because of the continuing possession of the petitioners therein and the laches committed by the respondents. Hence, the holder of an earlier registered title does not, in all instances, absolutely triumph over a holder of a latter registered title.
To reiterate, the general rule
is that in case of two certificates of title purporting to include the same land, the earlier date prevails. The exception to the rule
is that if the inclusion of the land in the earlier registered title was a result of a mistake, then the latter registered title will prevail.When there are two registered
titles with overlapping or
conflicting boundaries, the
court must conduct a
Likewise, to subscribe to the argument of ALI – that the rule on the earlier dated title is absolute – would be absurd. It will limit the court to a mere mechanical arbiter that will simply view the dates of the two registered titles with overlapping boundaries to determine the prevailing title.
The better approach would be for the court to order the conduct of a verification survey on the titles which have overlapping boundaries. In Cambridge Realty and Resources Corp. v. Eridanus Development, Inc.,44
it was ruled that a case of overlapping of boundaries or encroachment depends on a reliable, if not accurate, verification survey; barring one, no overlapping or encroachment may be proved successfully, for obvious reasons. The first step in the resolution of such cases is for the court to direct the proper government agency concerned to conduct a verification or relocation survey and submit a report to the court, or constitute a panel of commissioners for the purpose. In that case, the Court lamented that the trial court therein did not order the conduct of a verification survey and the appointment of geodetic engineers as commissioners, to wit:
This is precisely the reason why the trial court should have officially appointed a commissioner or panel of commissioners and not leave the initiative to secure one to the parties: so that a thorough investigation, study and analysis of the parties' titles could be made in order to provide, in a comprehensive report, the necessary infom1ation that will guide it in resolving the case completely, and not merely leave the determination of the case to a consideration of the parties' more often than not self-serving evidence.45
Similarly, in Chua, et al. v. B.E. San Diego, Inc.,46
the Court ruled that in overlapping boundary disputes, the verification survey must be actually conducted on the very land itself. In that case, the verification survey conducted was merely based on the technical description of the defective titles. The opinion of the surveyor lacked authoritativeness because his verification survey was not made on the land itself.
Indeed, in case there are two registered titles with overlapping boundaries, the more prudent and technical approach would be to conduct a verification survey over the titles. After the verification survey, the court would be given all the necessary and technical analysis and data over the two titles. At that point, the court can judiciously and properly determine whether to apply (1) the general rule
that in case of two certificates of title purporting to include the same land, the earlier date prevails; (2) the exception
that if the inclusion of the land in the earlier registered title was a result of a mistake, then the latter registered title will prevail.
In this case, the Court must commend the RTC of Las Piñas for taking the correct procedure in resolving such issue. When faced with the issue of two registered titles with overlapping boundaries based on their surveys and technical descriptions, it issued an Order47
dated December 5, 1997, which directed the parties to conduct a verification survey pursuant to the prescribed rules. Engr. Veronica Ardina-Remolar (Remolar),
from the Bureau of Lands of the DENR, was the court-appointed commissioner who supervised and coordinated the verification survey. Engrs. Rolando Nathaniel Pada (Pada)
and Alexander Ocampo (Ocampo)
were the geodetic engineers for the Spouses Yu; while Engr. Lucal Francisco (Francisco)
was the geodetic engineer for ALI. They conducted actual verification survey on April 5, 6, 7 and 16, 1998 and June 8, 1998. Afterwards, Engr. Remolar submitted her Report48
dated November 4, 1998, to the trial court, which stated that there were overlapping areas
in the contested surveys. Likewise, Engrs. Pada and Francisco submitted their Verification Reports and Survey Plans,49
which were approved by the DENR. Then, the parties presented their respective witnesses.
The RTC of Las Piñas had a technical and accurate understanding and appreciation of the overlapping surveys of Psu-25909, Psu-47035, Psu-80886, and Psu-80886/SWO-20609. In its Decision dated May 7, 2001, it ruled in favor of the petitioner Spouses Yu and it discussed extensively its observations and findings regarding the overlapping areas, to wit:
From the evidence on record, it appears that the following plans were made on the dates and by the surveyor specified herein:
Survey No. PSU-25909 March 17, 1921 A.N. Feliciano
Survey No. PSU-47035 October 21, 1925 A.N. Feliciano
Survey No. PSU-80886 July 28, 1930 A.N. Feliciano
Survey No. SWO-20609 March 6, 1931 A.N. Feliciano
Plan PSU-25909 (Exhibit "F") invoked by the plaintiffs and the authenticity of which is certified by appropriate government custodians including Engineer Remolar, the court-designated commissioner, appears to have been prepared on March 17, 1921 for one Andres Diaz and recites the following entries:
"THE ORIGINAL FIELD NOTES, COMPUTATIONS AND PLAN OF THIS SURVEY EXECUTED BY [A.N.] FELICIANO HAVE BEEN CHECKED AND VERIFIED IN THIS OFFICE IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTIONS 1858 TO 1865, ACT 2711 AND ARE HEREBY APPROVED MAY 26, 1921."
"This is to certify that this is a true and correct plan of Psu-25909 as traced from the mounted paper of plan Psu-25909 which is on file at T.R.S. Lands Management Sector, N.C.R.
"This a true copy of the plan [as] requested by the Chief Technical Records Section, as contained in a letter dated February 15, 1989.
TEODORICO C. CALISTERIO
Chief, Topographic 7 Special Maps Section
Traced by: F. SUMAGUE
Checked by: A.O. VENZON (Sgd.) 4/28/89
Thus, the Court holds that plan PSU-25909 (Exhibit "F") is a true copy of an official document on file with the Bureau of Lands and is, therefore, entitled to great weight and appreciation, there being no irregularity demonstrated in the preparation thereof.
On the other hand, an examination of Plan PSU-47035 (Exhibit "G") invites suspicion thereto. As observed by Engineer Pada in his verification survey report, the photocopy of plan PSU-47035 submitted by the defendant shows that the plan appears to have been done for one Estanislao Mayuga, while in the certified true copy of the pertinent decree (Exhibit "HH"/Exhibit 20), it appears that the same was done for a certain Dominador Mayuga. Viewing this discrepancy in the light of the fact that the plan for PSU-47035 was undertaken on October 21, 1925, or more than four years after the survey for plan PSU-25909 was done, the same discrepancy leads the Court to conclude that PSU-47035 is spurious and void.
The third plan enumerated above, plan PSU-80886 (Exhibit "II/Exhibit 29), prepared on July 28, 1930, or more than five years since plan PSU-25909 was done for Andres Diaz, also invites suspicion. An examination of the same reveals that the lower right-hand corner of the plan, which bears the serial number PSU-80886, is manifestly different from the main document in terms of the intensity of its contrast, and that the change in the intensity of the shading is abrupt as one examines the document starting from the lower right-hand corner to anywhere else in the same document. Also, it is worth observing that the main document, minus the lower right-hand corner mentioned, does not indicate anything to even suggest that it pertains to plan PSU-80886. For these reasons, the contention of the plaintiffs that this lower right hand corner of the plan appears to be a spurious attachment to the main document to make the main document look like it is actually plan PSU-80886, has merit.
Another discrepancy invites further suspicion under the circumstances. The main document bears what appears to be the actual signature of the surveyor, Mr. A.N. Feliciano, while the lower right-hand corner of the plan mentions only the name "Serafin P. Hidalgo – Director of Lands" with the prefix "Sgd." But without any actual signature. An interesting query arises: Why would the document bear an actual signature of the surveyor without bearing the signature of the Director of Lands which in essence is the more important signature for authentication purposes?
Still another discrepancy is with respect to a monument appearing in PSU-80886 (Exhibit "II"). At the upper off-right portion thereof are entries referring to a monument more specifically described as B.L.L.M. No. 4. According to Engineer Pada, citing a certified document taken from the Land Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, this monument was established only on November 27, 1937 (TSN, March 24, 2000, pp. 18-20) which is more than seven years after PSU-80886 was undertaken. How a monument which was established only in November 1937 can actually exist in a plan made on July 28, 1930 is absolutely incredible.
In view of the foregoing, the Court finds good reason to consider PSU-80886 (Exhibit "II" and 29), relied upon by the defendant, spurious and void as well:
The fourth and last plan mentioned is SWO-20609, done on March 6, 1931.
It is admitted by the geodetic engineer of the defendant that a specific work order (SWO) co-exists with a survey plan, and that in particular, SWO-20609 was undertaken in view of alleged errors in plan PSU-80886 (TSN, February 16, 2001, pp. 31-32). Therefore, SWO-20609 must be evaluated in relation to plan PSU-80886. From this perspective, the Court also notes that SWO-20609 is attended with discrepancies thus rendering it devoid of any credence.
For the record, in PSU-80886 (Exhibit "II"/Exhibits 29 and 30), the land concerned appears to have been surveyed for one Eduardo C. Guico, while in PSU-80886/SWO-20609 (Exhibit "H"/Exhibit 35), the same land appears to have been surveyed for one Alberto Yaptinchay. In addition, it is evident in PSU-80886 (Exhibits 29 and 30) that vital entries regarding the total area of the property covered by the document bear many erasures, particularly two erasures as to the total area in terms of number and one erasure as to that total area in terms of unit of measurement.
The Court likewise notes with suspicion the fact that all four survey plans were purportedly undertaken by one and the same surveyor, a Mr. A.N. Feliciano. It seems extremely unusual why the same A.N. Feliciano, who surveyed the same property for Andres Diaz in 1921, would do so again in 1925 with different results, and again in 1930 once more with different results, and still one more time in 1931 with still different results. The only reasonable and logical conclusion under these telling circumstances is that the second, third and last surveys corresponding to PSU-47035, PSU-80886 and PSU-80886/SWO-20609 are all spurious and void, too.
The Court went through the record of the case and no satisfactory explanation has been offered by the defendant regarding these discrepancies. Even the documentary evidence presented by the defendant offers no plausible reason for the Court to reject the contentions of the plaintiffs. This all the more strengthens the view of the Court to effect that PSU-47035, PSU-80886 and PSU-80886/SWO-20609 are spurious and void ab initio. This view is also strengthened by the credentials of Engineer Pada whom the Court considers as a very credible witness.
All in all, the Court is convinced that the title of the plaintiffs to the properties in dispute is superior over those invoked by the defendant.50
As discussed in the Decision of the Court, the trial court was able to determine that the exception to the rule is applicable
– if the inclusion of the land in the earlier registered title was a result of a mistake, then the latter registered title will prevail – because the verification survey showed that the survey on the titles of ALI contained numerous anomalies.The case of Spouses Carpo v.
Ayala Land, Inc. does bar the
adjudication of this present
One argument raised for ALI is that the Court could not anymore examine the validity of OCT No. 242 because it was already declared valid in Spouses Carpo v. Ayala Land, Inc.51(Spouses Carpo v. ALI).
Justice Leonen agrees that since the Court already resolved the validity o£ OCT No. 242 and 1609 in the said case and Realty Sales v. IAC,
then it cannot be questioned.
The argument is unmeritorious.
In Spouses Carpo v. ALI,
the contested titles were TCT No. 296463, registered under the Spouses Carpo, which was sourced from OCT No. 8575;
and TCT No. T-5333,
registered under ALI, which was sourced from OCT No. 242.
Evidently, OCT No. 242 is a vast tract of land and it borders several other registered parcels of land. The Court ruled therein that insofar as the contested lands are concerned, TCT No. T-5333, which was sourced from OCT No. 242, prevails over TCT No. 296463, which was sourced from OCT No. 8575 because the Spouses Carpo utterly failed to present evidence regarding the irregularity of the issuance and survey of OCT No. 242. Manifestly, the case therein was only decided by the trial court on the basis of a summary judgment. No verification survey was conducted. Thus, insofar as TCT No. 296463 and TCT No: T-5333 are concerned, the latter triumphs. There is nothing therein which prevented any adjudication on the validity of OCT No. 242 with respect to other bordering titles aside from that of OCT No. 8575.
In Realty Sales v. IAC,
one of the contested titles was TCT No. 2048, which was sourced from OCT No. 1609. Again, these OCT Nos. 1609 and 242 cover a vast tract of land and it borders several other registered parcels of land, thus, it was later on divided into several parcels of land.
On the contrary, in this case, the contested titles are TCT Nos. 287416, 287411, 287412, 39408 and 64549,
registered under petitioners, which was sourced from OCT No. 8510; and TCT Nos. 41325, 41263, 41262 and 41261,
registered under ALI, which was sourced from OCT No. 1609, 242 and 244.
Accordingly, the contesting titles are different from that of Spouses Carpo v. ALI
and Realty Sales v. IAC.
Moreover, the present case only adjudicates the title in favor of petitioners insofar as they overlap
with the erroneous titles of ALI because the issue involves overlapping boundaries in different registered titles. Thus, the present case does not in any way affect the controversy between TCT No. 296463 and TCT No. T-5333 in Spouses Carpo v. ALI.
More importantly, in this case, there was a presentation of evidence and a verification survey was conducted between OCT No. 8510 and OCT Nos. 1609, 242 and 244. After a rigorous study by technical experts, it was determined that OCT Nos. 1609, 242 and 244 suffered from numerous infirmities; while OCT No. 8510 bore the hallmarks of validity.
In fine, there is nothing in Spouses Carpo v. ALI
and Realty Sales v. IAC
that would prevent the judgment of the Court in this present case as they pertain to completely different subject matters.A void title can always be attacked
In its last ditch attempt to overturn the Decision of the Court, ALI reiterates that the Court cannot anymore assail the validity of its titles because the cause of action of petitioners has prescribed.
The argument likewise fails.
As discussed in the Decision, between OCT No. 8510 and OCT Nos. 1609, 242 and 244, latter titles are null and void due to the invalid surveys and technical descriptions. It is a well-settled rule that a void title cannot give rise to a valid title.52
Further, an action to declare the nullity of a void title does not prescribe and is susceptible to direct, as well as to collateral attack.53
In certain instances, even an action for reconveyance involving a void title does not prescribe. Uy v. Court of Appeals54
remarkably explained the prescriptive periods of an action for reconveyance depending on the ground relied upon, to wit:
The law creates the obligation of the trustee to reconvey the property and its title in favor of the true owner. Correlating Section 53, paragraph 3 of PD No. 1529 and Article 1456 of the Civil Code with Article 1144 (2) of the Civil Code, the prescriptive period for the reconveyance of fraudulently registered real property is ten (10) years reckoned from the date of the issuance of the certificate of title. This ten-year prescriptive period begins to run from the date the adverse party repudiates the implied trust, which repudiation takes place when the adverse party registers the land. An exception to this rule is when the party seeking reconveyance based on implied or constructive trust is in actual, continuous and peaceful possession of the property involved. Prescription does not commence to run against him because the action would be in the nature of a suit for quieting of title, an action that is imprescriptible.
The foregoing cases on the prescriptibility of actions for reconveyance apply when the action is based on fraud, or when the contract used as basis for the action is voidable. Under Article 1390 of the Civil Code, a contract is voidable when the consent of one of the contracting parties is vitiated by mistake, violence, intimidation, undue influence or fraud. When the consent is totally absent and not merely vitiated, the contract is void. An action for reconveyance may also be based on a void contract. When the action for reconveyance is based on a void contract, as when there was no consent on the part of the alleged vendor, the action is imprescriptible. The property may be reconveyed to the true owner, notwithstanding the TCTs already issued in another's name. The issuance of a certificate of title in the latter's favor could not vest upon him or her ownership of the property; neither could it validate the purchase thereof which is null and void. Registration does not vest title; it is merely the evidence of such title. Our land registration laws do not give the holder any better title than what he actually has. Being null and void, the sale produces no legal effects whatsoever.
Whether an action for reconveyance prescribes or not is therefore determined by the nature of the action, that is, whether it is founded on a claim of the existence of an implied or constructive trust, or one based on the existence of a void or inexistent contract. x x x.55
Thus, petitioners may always attack the validity of ALI's void title. Accordingly, in this case, the Spouses Yu sought to reconvey to them once and for all the titles over the subject properties. To prove that they had a superior right, they questioned the validity of the surveys which were the bases of OCT Nos. 242, 244 and 1609, the origin of ALI's TCTs. Moreover, they also sought to recover the possession that was clandestinely taken away from them. Thus, as the subject matter of this case is the ownership and possession of the subject properties, the Spouses Yu's complaint is an action for reconveyance, which is not prohibited by Section 38 of Act No. 496. The title under OCT Nos. 242, 244 and 1609, cannot be transferred or conveyed to any person because it is a void title. Hence, ALI cannot acquire a lawful title because these were sourced from OCT Nos. 242, 244 and 1609, and the said void title can always be attacked, whether directly or collaterally.
Likewise, it must be noted that the present action involves two consolidated petitions: the petition of the Spouses Yu and the petition of the heirs of the Spouses Diaz. Glaringly, ALI never questioned the timeliness of the petition of the heirs of the Spouses Diaz because the action was filed within the prescriptive period under Section 38 of Act No. 496, as amended.56
The action of the heirs of the Spouses Diaz originated when the OCT No. 8510 was issued on May 19, 1970. Then, within the one-year period, on May 17, 1971, CPJ Corporation, then owner of the land covered by TCT No. 190713, which originated from OCT No. 242, filed an action for review of the decree of registration against the Spouses Diaz. Accordingly, the RTC and the CA considered the case because it was timely filed. Necessarily, the Court can also adjudicate the merits of the case with respect to OCT No. 8510, issued in the name of the Spouses Diaz.
Justice Leonen posits that there was no notice that should have put ALI on guard of any defect in the title they intended to purchase, and it was not duty-bound to look beyond the face of the title, much more to inspect the documents submitted for the registration of the original title, such as the survey plan.
Unfortunately, ALI cannot be considered an innocent purchaser for value of the subject properties under OCT Nos. 1609, 242 and 244. As discussed by the RTC of Las Piñas, when ALI purchased the subject lots from their predecessors-in-interest in 1988, the titles bore notices of the pending cases and adverse claims sufficient to place it on guard.
In the TCTs of ALI, the notices of lis pendens
indicated therein were sufficient notice that the ownership of the properties were being disputed. The trial court added that even the certified true copy of Psu-80886 had markings that it had been used in some other cases as early as March 7, 1959.57
Accordingly, ALI is covered by the present action for reconveyance. As both the cases of petitioners were properly filed and are not barred by prescription, these can be adjudicated by the Court on the merits.
Evidently, ALI cannot invoke. mere rules of technicality to hide the inescapable invalidity of their titles, which were sourced from OCT Nos. 1609, 242 and 244 vis-à-vis
the titles of petitioners, which were sourced from OCT No. 1609.
Justice Leonen further claims that the Spouses Yu and Diaz committed forum shopping. The Court is unconvinced. When Diaz opposed the issuance of OCT No. 242, 244 and 1609, and when CPJ Corporation opposed the issuance of OCT No. 8510, the issue therein involves the issuance of the certificate of title. However, when the Spouses Yu initiated their complaint, they were not questioning the certificate of title, but the ownership of ALI over the lands itself. As there are different subject matters in these cases, there can be no forum shopping to speak of.
To recall, ownership is different from a certificate of title. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein, and it cannot be used to protect a usurper from the true owner; nor can it be used as a shield for the commission of fraud; neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the expense of others.58
Thus, the Court, in its July 26, 2017 Decision, allowed the action of the Spouses Yu because it is an action for reconveyance that attacks the right of ownership of ALI over the land, resulting into void contracts of conveyances. As discussed in the said Decision, between OCT No. 8510 and OCT Nos. 1609, 242 and 244, the latter titles are null and void due to the invalid surveys and technical descriptions. It is settled that a void title cannot give rise to a valid title,59
and that an action to declare the nullity of a void title does not prescribe and is susceptible to direct, as well as to collateral attack.60
The second motion for reconsideration and the motion for referral to the en banc
of ALI are hereby DENIED
Accordingly, let an Entry of Judgment issue immediately. The Judicial Records Office to report compliance within ten (10) days from notice.SO ORDERED.Gesmundo
and Hernando, JJ.,
see dissent.Del Castillo, J.,
on official leave.
Any case that overturns or modifies an existing doctrine should be decided by this Court En Banc.
A second motion for reconsideration may be elevated to the En Banc
when at least three (3) members of a division vote for its elevation. Nonetheless, a second motion for reconsideration will only be entertained if it is shown that the assailed decision is legally erroneous, patently unjust, and capable of causing unwarranted injury to the parties.
On July 26, 2017, this Court in Spouses Yu Hwa Ping v. Ayala Land, Inc.1
granted the petition of Spouses Yu Hwa Ping and Mary Gaw2
(Spouses Yu) upheld the validity of their certificate of title over respondent Ayala Land, Inc.'s titles.
In its Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Refer the Case to the Court En Banc,3
respondent asserts that Spouses Yu
altered well-settled and long-settled doctrines when it discarded the "general rule governing the resolution of conflicting titles over the same parcel of land and instead carved out a curious exception thereto based on wholly inapplicable legal authorities or highly questionable justification."4
Respondent cautions that Spouses Yu
may destroy the stability and trust reposed in the Torrens system. With its promulgation, respondent asserts that a buyer could no longer rely on the assurances granted by a certificate of title. Instead, he or she must peruse not only the mother title, but also the decree of registration, survey plans, and all other evidence presented in the original land registration proceedings.5
Respondent asserts that since Spouses Yu
attempts to modify or reverse doctrines or principles of law, it was but proper that its Motion for Reconsideration be elevated to En Banc for its deliberation and resolution.6
On December 4, 2017, this Court resolved to deny the Motion with finality, ruling that it has already passed upon the basic issues raised.7
On February 9, 2018, respondent filed both its Urgent Motion for Leave to File and Admit Attached Second Motion for Reconsideration with Reiterative Motion to Refer the Case to the Court En Banc8
and Second Motion for Reconsideration.9
On February 14, 2018, it also moved10
for the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio from this case.
Respondent continues to insist that its Motion for Reconsideration should be elevated to the En Banc
in the interest of substantial justice and stability of jurisprudence.11
It clarifies that it does not wish to elevate its case to this Court En Banc
as an appeal, but only to raise the issue of Spouses Yu
modifying or reversing a doctrine or principle of law, which requires the En Banc's
It cites Rule 2, Section 3(h) of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court, which provides:
SECTION 3. Court En Banc Matters and Cases. — The Court en banc shall act on the following matters and cases:
. . . .
cases where a doctrine or principle laid down by the Court en banc or by a Division may be modified or reversed[.] (Emphasis in the original)
Respondent stresses that Spouses Yu:
[A]lters or abrogates long-standing doctrines or precedents in land registration cases (i.e., the one-year prescriptive period to review or reopen a decree of registration, the indefeasibility or incontrovertible nature of a torrens title after the lapse of such prescriptive period, the superiority of an earlier issued torrens title in case of conflicting claims over the same property, survey plans as not adjudicative of issue of ownership, etc.). 13
Respondent also points out that the elevation of a second motion for reconsideration to the En Banc
falls under the recognized exceptions to the rule.14
Rule 15, Section 3 of the Internal Rules provides:
SECTION 3. Second Motion for Reconsideration. — The Court shall not entertain a second motion for reconsideration, and any exception to this rule can only be granted in the higher interest of justice by the Court en banc upon a vote of at least two-thirds of its actual membership. There is reconsideration "in the higher interest of justice" when the assailed decision is not only legally erroneous, but is likewise patently unjust and potentially capable of causing unwarranted and irremediable injury or damage to the parties. A second motion for reconsideration can only be entertained before the ruling sought to be reconsidered becomes final by operation of law or by the Court's declaration.
In the Division, a vote of three Members shall be required to elevate a second motion for reconsideration to the Court En Banc. (Emphasis in the original)
The sole issue for this Court's resolution is whether or not the Second Motion for Reconsideration should be elevated to this Court En Banc.
The Motion should be granted.ISpouses Yu
overturned the established precedents on indefeasibility and incontrovertibility of titles protected under the Torrens System, and illegally enlarges the coverage of the remedy of reconveyance.
The established doctrine is that a Torrens title becomes indefeasible after one (1) year from the date of its issuance. This was reiterated in Francisco v. Rojas,15Sampaco v. Lantud,16
and Heirs of Labanon v. Heirs of Labanon,
Here, the petitions directly attacked the validity of Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242,18
However, these certificates of title were issued on May 9, 1950, May 11, 1950, and May 21, 1958, respectively. On the other hand, petitioners Spouses Yu filed their Petition on December 4, 1996. Clearly, the one (1)-year prescriptive period within which a certificate of title may be assailed had long lapsed.
However, Heirs of Labanon
clarified that the indefeasibility of a title a year after its registration merely precludes the reopening of the registration proceedings. It does not foreclose other remedies for the reconveyance of the property to its rightful owner.21Spouses Yu
stated that petitioners' action for reconveyance was imprescriptible, as it was based on a void deed or contract as provided for by Article 141022
of the New Civil Code:
Moreover, a reading of Spouses Yu's complaint reveals that they are seeking to declare void ab initio the titles of ALI and their predecessors-in-interest as these were based on spurious, manipulated and void surveys. If successful, the original titles of ALI's predecessors-in-interest shall be declared void and, hence, they had no valid object to convey. It would result to a void contract or deed because the subject properties did not belong to the said predecessors-in-interest. Accordingly, the Yu case involves an action for reconveyance based on a void deed or contract which is imprescriptible under Article 1410 of the New Civil Code.23
Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609 were awarded to Alberto Yaptinchay (Yaptinchay) and Dominador Mayuga (Mayuga), respondent's predecessors-in-interest, via judicial registration. There was no contract, void or otherwise, that could be the basis of an imprescriptible action. The survey plans that petitioners assail as fraudulent are not contracts.Spouses Yu
erred in implying that since the deed of sale between Ayala Land and its predecessors-in-interest turned out to be void, an action for reconveyance based on that void deed of sale will be imprescriptible even as to third parties to the transfer, such as petitioners.24
An imprescriptible action for reconveyance based on a void deed of sale is limited to the parties of the void transfer. To hold otherwise will lead to an absurdity where any person on the street, who is neither a party to the transfer nor can claim any interest in it, can file an action against a certificate of title even decades after its registration because a void contract exists somewhere along the line of transfer.IISpouses Yu
went against the established doctrine of primus tempore, portior jure,
or "first in time, stronger in right."
The mother title of petitioners Spouses Yu's predecessors-in-interest was issued more than two (2) decades after respondent's predecessors-in-interest were issued their own certificates of title. This, however, did not prevent this Court in Spouses Yu
from upholding the later issued title over the one earlier issued, which outright contravenes the first in time, stronger in right doctrine.Spouses Carpo v. Ayala Land, Inc.
citing Realty Sales Enterprises, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court,26
pointed out that the issue of which between two (2) titles covering the same property deserves priority was not novel:
Indubitably, in view of the CA's Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 44243, this controversy has been reduced to the sole substantive issue of which between the two titles, purporting to cover the same property, deserves priority. This is hardly a novel issue. As petitioners themselves are aware, in Realty, it was held that:Spouses Laburada v. Land Registration Authority28
In this jurisdiction, it is settled that "(t)he general rule is that in the case of two certificates of title, purporting 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 that 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 . . . .”. . .
In Degollacion v. Register of Deeds of Cavite, we held that "[w]here two certificates of title purport to include the same land, whether wholly or partly, the better approach is to trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title were derived."
In all, we find that the CA committed no reversible error when it applied the principle "Primus Tempore, Portior Jure" (First in Time, Stronger in Right) in this case and found that ALI's title was the valid title having been derived from the earlier OCT.27
held that a land registration court has no authority to order the registration of land that has already been decreed to another in an earlier case. "A second decree for the same land would be null and void, since the principle behind original registration is to register a parcel of land only once."29
Here, although petitioners Spouses Yu's predecessors-in-interest, petitioners Spouses Andres Diaz and Josefa Mia (Spouses Diaz), were the first to submit a survey plan on March 17, 1921, they only filed a petition for registration on February 16, 1968. Original Certificate of Title No. 8510 was then issued in their name on May 19, 1970.30
On the other hand, respondent's predecessors-in-interest, Mayuga and Yaptinchay, submitted their survey plans on October 21, 1925 and March 6, 1931, and had their titles issued through judicial declaration in 1950 and 1958.31
Respondent's predecessors-in-interest had their titles issued 20 and 12 years ahead those of petitioners.' Hence, it is their titles that should have been recognized over petitioners.'IIISpouses Yu
destroys the reliance on the Torrens System, which is critical in maintaining stability in our registration system.Spouses Yu
held that respondent was not an innocent purchaser for value since it was aware of the notices in its predecessors' titles, as well as the notices of lis pendens
on its own titles and exhibit markings on survey plan Psu-80886.32
However, none of the notices on the titles of respondent's predecessors pertained to any claim by petitioners Spouses Yu, since their complaint was filed eight (8) years after respondent purchased the properties from Goldenrod, Inc.33
and Philippine Airlines Employees Savings and Loan Association, Inc.34
There was no notice that should have put respondent on guard for any defect in the title they intended to purchase.
Furthermore, respondent was not duty bound to look beyond the face of the title, let alone inspect the documents submitted for the original title's registration such as the survey plan. It is well-established that a person dealing with a registered parcel of land only needs to peruse the face of the title.35
The Torrens title guarantees that "[a] person is only charged with notice of the burdens and claims that are annotated on the title."36
Nonetheless, whether there was wrongful registration based on the supposedly fraudulent survey plans, respondent could not have taken part in the allegedly fraudulent act as it was too far removed from the original registrant. It was, after all, the third or fourth transferee in a series of transfers and purchases of the property more than 50 years after the survey plan's execution and submission. Thus, respondent was an innocent purchaser for value.Rabaja Ranch Development Corporation v. AFP Retirement and Separation Benefits System37
stated that innocent third persons should be able to rely on the guarantees of the Torrens system to maintain public confidence in our registration system:
Where innocent third persons, relying on the correctness of the certificate of title thus issued, acquire rights over the property, this Court cannot disregard such rights and order the cancellation of the certificate. The effect of such outright cancellation will be to impair public confidence in the certificate of title. The sanctity of the Torrens system must be preserved; otherwise, everyone dealing with the property registered under the system will have to inquire in every instance as to whether the title had been regularly or irregularly issued, contrary to the evident purpose of the law. Every person dealing with the registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor, and the law will, in no way, oblige him to go behind the certificate to determine the condition of the property.38 (Citation omitted)IVSpouses Yu
condoned the forum shopping done by petitioners Spouses Yu and their predecessors-in-interest, Spouses Diaz.
Spouses Diaz had earlier opposed the original land registration case of respondent's predecessors-in-interest, but lost. Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609 were, thus, issued in favor of Mayuga and Yaptinchay, respondent's predecessors-in-interest.39
Notwithstanding, Spouses Diaz filed their own application for land registration on February 16, 1968,40
even if the parts of the area covered by their application were already in Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609 that were all issued to respondent's predecessors-in-interest.
On May 19, 1970, Original Certificate of Title No. 8510 was issued in favor of Spouses Diaz. This, however, was timely contested by CPJ Corporation, Yaptinchay's transferee, before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig on the ground of fraud. It argued that Spouses Diaz did not indicate in their application that CPJ Corporation had an adverse interest over the land subject of the application, being the transferee of Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242 and 244.41
On December 13, 1995, the Regional Trial Court of Pasig found that Spouses Diaz committed fraud in applying for original registration of land and, thus, nullified Original Certificate of Title No. 8510.42
About a year after, petitioners Spouses Yu filed before the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas a similar complaint against respondent, assailing Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609 for having a defective survey plan.43
This time, however, the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas found that the applications for land registration, which preceded the issuance of Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609, were backed by a fraudulent survey plan. Thus, it nullified the certificates of title.44
Forum shopping is committed when, as a result of an adverse judgment in one (1) forum, a party gambles by seeking a possibly favorable judgment in another forum.45
As Municipality of Taguig v. Court of Appeals46
instructs, it exists when a party asks different courts or administrative agencies for substantially similar reliefs, creating the possibility of the different forums issuing conflicting decisions on these same issues.47
Here, Spouses Diaz submitted an application for original land registration sometime in 1968 despite participating and losing about 20 years earlier in another application for original land registration.
Despite their loss with the issuance of Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242 and 244 in Yaptinchay's favor in 1950, Spouses Diaz filed their own application for original land registration. In so doing, they deliberately omitted that CPJ Corporation, Yaptinchay's transferee, possessed an interest in the land for which they were applying.
Their fraudulent application led to the issuance of Original Certificate of Title No. 8510 in 1970, which overlapped with portions of land covered by Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609.
When Original Certificate of Title No. 8510 was canceled, petitioners Spouses Yu, who were by then its transferees, filed before the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas an action to nullify respondent's titles, which originated from Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609.
Petitioners are guilty of forum shopping. Their multiple suits all have the same purpose: that Original Certificate of Title No. 8510 be declared superior over Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242, 244, and 1609, along with their derivatives.VSpouses Carpo
and Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court48
upheld the validity of Original Certificate of Title Nos. 242 and 1609.Spouses Carpo
involved one (1) of the three (3) original certificates of title subject of this case, but with another set of parties against respondent. There, the land area covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 242 of respondent's predecessors was said to have overlapped with the land area covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 8575 of Spouses Carpo's predecessors.49
In Spouses Carpo,
this Court upheld the validity of Original Certificate of Title No. 242. It explained that the presumption of regularity accorded to a certificate of title meant that the trial court's pronouncement—that Original Certificate of Title No. 242 was issued without an approved survey plan—was unwarranted.50
Nonetheless, Spouses Carpo
held that the trial court's finding of a defect in the survey plan for Original Certificate of Title No. 242 lacked basis:
To begin with, a perusal of the defendant's answer or amended answer would show that, contrary to the trial court's allusions thereto, there is no admission on the part of ALI that OCT No. 242 was issued without a survey plan that was duly approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands. There is likewise no evidence on record to support the trial court's finding that the survey plan submitted to support the issuance of OCT No. 242 in the 1950 land registration proceedings was approved only by the Land Registration Commissioner and not by the Director of the Bureau of Lands.Spouses Carpo
It would appear the trial court came to the conclusion that OCT No. 242 was issued without a duly approved survey plan simply because the notation "SWO" appeared in the technical description of the said title which was attached to the answer and due to ALI's failure to allege in its pleadings that the survey plan submitted in support of the issuance of OCT No. 242 was approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands.
It is incomprehensible how the trial court could conclude that the survey plan mentioned in OCT No. 242 was unapproved by the appropriate authority all from the notation "SWO" which appeared beside the survey plan number on the face of the title or from a failure to allege on the part of ALI that a duly approved survey plan exists. We quote with approval the discussion of the CA on this point:
Pursuant to the foregoing, the court a quo erred when, in ruling that the validity of OCT No. 242 is dubious, it gave emphasis to defendant-appellant's failure to allege that the survey plan of OCT No. 242 was duly approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands. It is admitted that a survey plan is one of the requirements for the issuance of decrees of registration. but upon the issuance of such decree, it can most certainly be assumed that said requirement was complied with by ALI's original predecessor-in-interest at the time the latter sought original registration of the subject property. Moreover, the land registration court must be assumed to have carefully ascertained the propriety of issuing a decree in favor of ALI's predecessor-in-interest, under the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions by public officers. The court upon which the law has conferred jurisdiction, is deemed to have all the necessary powers to exercise such jurisdiction, and to have exercised it effectively. This is as it should be, because once a decree of registration is made under the Torrens system, and the time has passed within which that decree may be questioned the title is perfect and cannot later on be questioned. There would be no end to litigation if every litigant could, by repeated actions, compel a court to review a decree previously issued by another court forty-five (45) years ago. The very purpose of the Torrens system would be destroyed if the same land may be subsequently brought under a second action for registration, as what the court a quo did when it faulted ALI's failure to allege that its predecessor-in-interest submitted a survey plan approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands in the original land registration case.
The Court need not emphasize that it is not for ALI to allege in its pleadings, much less prove, that its predecessor-in-interest complied with the requirements for the original registration of the subject property. A party dealing with a registered land need not go beyond the Certificate of Title to determine the true owner thereof so as to guard or protect his or her interest. Hence, ALI was not required to go beyond what appeared in the transfer certificate of title in the name of its immediate transferor. It may rely solely, as it did, on the correctness of the certificate of title issued for the subject property and the law will in no way oblige it to go behind the certificate of title to determine the condition of the property. This is the fundamental nature of the Torrens System of land registration, to give the public the right to rely upon the face of a Torrens certificate of title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further.51 (Emphasis in the original, citation omitted)
further held that between two (2) titles that purportedly cover the same property, the title earlier issued prevails. Here, Original Certificate of Title No. 242 was issued on May 7, 195052
while Original Certificate of Title No:8575 was issued sometime in 1970.53Spouses Carpo
also ruled that the action was barred not only by prescription, but also by laches. This was because the complaint was filed 45 years after the issuance of Original Certificate of Title No. 242.54
On the other hand, in Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc.,55
two (2) adjacent lots in Almanza, Las Piñas with an aggregate area of 373,868 square meters were covered by three (3) separate transfer certificates of titles:
Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc.
TCT No. 20408, issued on May 29, 1975 in the name of Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc., which was derived from OCT No. 1609, issued on May 21, 1958, . . .
TCT No. 303961 issued on October 13, 1970 in the name of Morris G. Carpo, which was derived from OCT No. 8629, issued on October 13, 1970 . . .
TCTs Nos. 333982 and 333985, issued on July 27, 1971 in the name of Quezon City Development and Financing Corporation, derived from OCT No. 8931 which was issued on July 27, 1971[.]56
ruled that Transfer Certificate of Title No. 2048, which was derived from Original Certificate of Title No. 1609, prevailed over Transfer Certificate of Title No. 303961. The former, it explained, was a derivative of an original title issued earlier:
Moreover, it is not disputed that the title in the name of Dominador Mayuga, from whom Realty derived its title, was issued in 1958, or twelve years before the issuance of the title in the name of the Baltazars in 1970.ACCORDINGLY,
In this jurisdiction, it is settled that "(t)he general rule is that in the case of two certificates of title, purporting 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 that 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 . . ." . . .
TCT No. 20408, derived from OCT 1609, is therefore superior to TCT No. 303961, derived from OCT 8629. 57 (Citation omitted)
I vote to GRANT
the Second Motion for Reconsideration. I also vote to DENY
the petitions and REINSTATE
the Court of Appeals June 19, 2006 Decision.
1 G.R. Nos. 173120 and 173141, July 26, 2017, 832 SCRA 427 [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].
2Rollo (G.R. No. 173120), pp. 9-128. Spouses Yu Hwa Ping and Mary Gaw substituted the Heirs of Spouses Andres Diaz and Jose Mia as petitioners in G.R. No. 173141. Please see pp. 23-28 of G.R. No. 173141.
3Rollo (G.R. No. 173120). pp. 2215-2310.
4 Id. at 2216.
5 Id. at 2217.
7 Id. at 2311.
8 Id. at 2326-2354.
9 Id. at 2355-2458.
10 Id. at 2459-2482.
11 Id. at 2307-2308.
12 Id. at 2338-2346.
13 Id. at 2338-2339.
14 Id. at 2326-2338.
15 734 Phil 122 (2014) [Per J. Peralta, Third Division].
16 669 Phil 304 (2011) [Per J. Peralta, Third Division].
17 556 Phil 750 (2007) [Per J. Velasco, Jr., Second Division].
18Rollo (G.R. No. 173120), pp. 255-256.
19 Id. at 517-520.
20 Id. at 253-254.
21 556 Phil 750, 759-760 (2007) [Per J. Velasco, Second Division].
22 CIVIL CODE, art. 1410 provides:
ARTICLE 1410. The action or defense for the declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe.
23Yu Hwa Ping v. Ayala Land, Inc., G.R. Nos. 173120 and 173141, 832 SCRA 427, 445-446 (2017) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].
24 Id. at 444-447.
25 625 Phil. 277 (2010) [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division].
26 254 Phil. 719 (1989) [Per Curiam, En Banc].
27 625 Phil 277, 299-300 (2010) [Per J. Leonardo De Castro, First Division].
28 350 Phil 779 (1998) [Per J. Panganiban, First Division].
29Spouses Laburada v. Land Registration Authority, 350 Phil 779, 790-791 (1998) [Per J. Panganiban, First Division] (citations omitted).
30Yu Hwa Ping v. Ayala Land, Inc., G.R. Nos. 173120 and 173141, 832 SCRA 427, 431-432 (2017) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].
31 Id. at 431-432.
32 Id. at 446.
33Rollo (G.R. No. 173120), pp. 524-528.
34 Id. at 530-539.
35Spouses Peralta v. Heirs of Abalon, 737 Phil 310, 324 (2014) [Per C.J. Sereno, First Division].
37 609 Phil. 660 (2009) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division].
38 Id. at 677.
39Rollo (G.R. No. 173120), pp. 2329 and 2417-2418.
40Yu Hwa Ping v. Ayala Land, Inc., G.R. Nos. 173120 and 173141, 832 SCRA 427, 432 (2017) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].
42 Id. at 434.
43 Id. at 434-435.
44 Id. at 435-436.
45Municipality of Taguig v. Court of Appeals, 506 Phil 567, 575 (2005) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Second Division].
46 506 Phil 567 (2005) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Second Division).
47 Id. at 576.
48 254 Phil. 719 (1989) [Per Curiam, En Banc].
49 625 Phil 277, 289 (2010) [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division].
50 Id. at 297-298.
51 Id. at 295-297.
52 Id. at 300.
53 Id. at 299-302.
54 Id. at 300-301.
55 238 Phil 317 (1987) [Per J. Cortes, Third Division).
56 Id. at 320-321.
57 Id. at 335-336.