Home of ChanRobles Virtual Law Library

 

Home of Chan Robles Virtual Law Library

www.chanrobles.com

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 130768. March 21, 2002.]

CRISANTO L. FRANCISCO, Petitioner, v. THE COURT OF APPEALS and REGINO B. RELOVA, JR., Respondents.

D E C I S I O N


YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:


Before us is a petition for review of the decision 1 dated June 11, 1997 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 50104, affirming the decision 2 dated January 25, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, Branch 73, in Land Registration Case No. 91-1016, LRA Record No. N-62367.

On October 2, 1991, respondent Regino G. Relova filed a petition 3 with the trial court for the registration of two parcels of land described as Lots Nos. 1834 and 1832, Cad-688-D of the Cainta-Taytay Cadastre, situated in Barangay San Juan, Taytay, Rizal. He alleged that he has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the said parcels of land since 1958 and, therefore, has acquired the same by prescription.

The Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, registered its written opposition to the petition. 4

At the initial hearing of the petition on February 28, 1992, nobody appeared to oppose the petition. After respondent Relova presented evidence to establish the jurisdictional facts, the trial court ordered that a general default be entered against the whole world except the Republic of the Philippines. The trial court designated a hearing commissioner to receive evidence ex-parte in support of the petition. 5

During the course of the proceedings, the Land Registration Authority (LRA) submitted its report 6 stating that discrepancies were found after plotting the plans pertaining to the land applied for. Thus, the LRA recommended that the appropriate government agencies be ordered to submit their reports to determine whether the land or any portion thereof are covered by land patents are within the forest zone.

After the reception of evidence before the trial commissioner, and based on its report, 7 the trial court rendered its decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby confirms the title of herein petitioner Regino B. Relova, Jr. to the parcels Lot No. 1834 Cad-688-D covered by Plan Ap-04-006273 and Lot No. 1832 Cad-688-D covered by Plan Ap-006183 situated in Barangay San Juan, Municipality of Taytay, Province of Rizal containing an area of three hundred thirty nine (339) square meters and seventeen thousand four hundred nine (17,409) square meters respectively and orders their registration in the name of herein applicant Regino B. Relova, Jr. who is married to Lourdes S. Guino with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.

Let an order for issuance of a Decree be issued upon finality of this decision and payment of taxes and fees due on the subject parcels of land.

SO ORDERED. 8

Subsequently, the LRA filed with the trial court a Supplementary Report, submitting the corrected technical boundaries of the technical descriptions for Lots 1832 and 1834. The report further states:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE, the foregoing report is respectfully submitted to the Honorable Court for its information and guidance with the recommendation that (a) the corrected technical description of lot 1832, Cad 688-D, Cainta-Taytay Cadastre (Annex J) be approved and (b) the applicant be ordered to publish in the Official Gazette the corrected technical description of Lot 1834, Cad 688-D, Cainta-Taytay Cadastre (Annex K), and thereafter, an order be issued approving the said technical description to be utilized in the issuance of the corresponding decree of registration pursuant to the decision dated January 25, 1993 and Order for the issuance of the Decree dated April 1, 1993. 9

On October 28, 1993, the trial court issued the following Order:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Considering the Report of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) dated September 20, 1993 as well as the "Urgent Ex-Parte Motion" of the applicant through counsel, the court hereby approves the corrected technical description of Lot 1832, Cad-688-D, Cainta Taytay Cadastre. Moreover, the recommendation that the corrected technical description of lot 1834, Cad-688-D Cainta-Taytay Cadastre be published in the Official Gazette is hereby DENIED for the reason that the correction (amendment) does not appear to be substantial inasmuch as the boundaries affected are both owned by the applicant in the above-entitled case.

SO ORDERED. 10

Upon motion of respondent Relova, the trial court ordered the issuance of a writ of possession on December 7, 1993. 11

On January 14, 1994, petitioner Crisanto L. Francisco entered his appearance as oppositor and filed a Motion to Quash Writ of Possession. 12 He alleged that he has been in actual possession of Lot 1832; that no notice of the motion for writ of possession was furnished to him; and that the land registration court has no authority to issue a writ of possession.

Subsequently, petitioner filed a Petition for Reopening and Review 13 of the decree of registration pursuant to Article 32 of P.D. 1529 and a Supplemental Petition and Reply. 14 He reiterated the grounds alleged in his motion to quash the writ of possession and further alleged that respondent failed to republish the notice of initial hearing containing the corrections in the technical description of Lot 1832 made by the Bureau of Land Management; that respondent falsely and fraudulently testified that the disputed lot was part of the land purchased by his predecessor, Francisco Santana, from Maximo Cruz; that it is not true that respondent’s possession was undisturbed; that respondent declared the land for taxation purposes only in March 1991; that petitioner’s claim of ownership over the disputed land was annotated on the said tax declaration; and that even respondent’s predecessor-in-interest and other adjacent lot owners recognized petitioner as the owner of the dispute land.

In its order dated February 27, 1995, the trial court ruled as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

It appears that the Decree of Registration in the above-entitled case with No. N-205474 was issued on February 28, 1994 while oppositor’s "Petition for Reopening and Review" and "Supplemental Petition" were filed on March 2, 1994 and on August 9, 1994, respectively. It appears also, that the applicant has not yet transferred the subject land to an innocent purchaser for value, hence the court is of the considered view that the oppositor may avail himself of the remedy provided under article 32 of PD 1529 otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree which grants to "any person, including the government and the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by such adjudication or confirmation of title obtained by actual fraud, to file in the proper Regional Trial Court a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and after the date of entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest thereon, whose rights may be prejudiced . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

The allegations of the oppositor as to the actual fraud allegedly committed by the applicant in the latter’s application for registration of title of lot 1832 necessarily requires proof which can only be adduced in a proper hearing or trial. Corollary, thereto, is the requirement of the law for the oppositor, to prove his real or dominical right over the lot in question.

In view thereof, the Motion for Leave to File and Admission of Supplemental Petition is hereby GRANTED.

The above-entitled case is therefore, re-opened insofar as Lot 1832 is concerned.

In the meantime, the execution of the writ of possession issued in the above-entitled case is hereby held in abeyance insofar as lot 1832 is concerned, pending resolution of the petition for review of herein oppositor.

Let this case be set for reception of evidence for oppositor Crisanto Francisco on April 6, 1995 at 9:00 A.M.

SO ORDERED. 15

Upon a motion for reconsideration of respondent, 16 the trial court reversed its previous order, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Wherefore, premises considered, the court therefore reconsiders its order of February 27, 1995 and hereby reiterates its decision in this case for the registration of lots applied for by the applicants.

The court also approves the motion for issuance of the writ of possession as prayed for by the applicants and hereby orders the issuance of said writ.

SO ORDERED. 17

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, 18 arguing that he was denied due process of law when he was deprived the opportunity to prove the allegation of fraud committed by the applicant in securing a decree of registration on the land in dispute. The motion for reconsideration was, however, denied. 19

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals, where the same was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 50104. On June 11, 1997, the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the trial court denying the petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration. 20 Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied on September 16, 1997. 21

Hence, this petition raising the following issues:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Whether a court can refuse to receive evidence on allegations of fraud, in a petition for review of an application for registration, committed by the applicant in his application and in the proceedings, legally sufficient to nullify and set aside such decision approving registration and the decree and certificate of title subsequently issued, and then reiterate its original decision and decree without trying and resolving if the alleged frauds were committed or not?

Whether such refusal to hear and receive evidence on the petition for review is a denial of due process that renders the court’s orders, decisions and proceedings void and annullable for lack, excess, or abuse of jurisdiction?

Whether an appellate court that affirms such void decision and orders of the trial court and refuse to remand below the appealed case for trial on the merits, equally commits a violation of due process and acts without, in excess or with abuse of jurisdiction?

Whether lack of jurisdiction on the part of the trial court for applicant’s failure to prove jurisdictional requirement of publication in a newspaper of general circulation of the application and date of initial hearing, because the evidence or affidavit of publication presented as proof thereof is a falsified one and, therefore, null and void, can be raised in any stage of the proceedings, and cause the dismissal of the application or the nullification or setting aside of the decision granting registration for lack of jurisdiction?

The core issue in this appeal is whether or not petitioner was denied due process when the trial court denied the petition for the reopening and review of the decree of registration, thereby depriving petitioner of the opportunity to substantiate the allegations of fraud.

In reversing its earlier order granting the petition to reopen, the trial court ruled:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The issue to be resolved in the instant motion for reconsideration is whether or not there was fraud committed by the applicant in this case. To the mind of the court there is no fraud committed. It should be noted that the Report of the LRA that was submitted to the court states that there are some corrections in the technical descriptions of the property but the area of the property has remained the same as applied for. That is why this court in its order dated October 28, 1993 granted the motion of counsel for the applicant to approve the technical corrections for the reason that the correction without need for the republication amendment does not appear to be substantial. It should be noted also that the order of the Land Registration Authority recommended the corrected technical description of Lot 1832 Cad-688-D Cainta-Taytay Cadastre be approved and the applicant be ordered to publish in the Official Gazette the corrected technical description of Lot 1834 Cad-688-D Cainta-Taytay Cadastre. Thereafter, an order be issued approving the said technical description to be utilized in the issuance of the corresponding decree of registration. So it is clear that with respect to Lot 1832, which is the subject matter of the opposition in this case, the LRA merely stated that the corrected technical description of Lot 1832 be approved. This court approved the said corrected technical description of Lot 1832 as recommended by LRA. There is therefore no fraud upon a review by the court of the motion for reconsideration and the opposition thereto as well as taking into account the oral arguments of both counsels for the applicant and the oppositor on the matter of a legal fraud committed in this case. The court merely complied with the recommendation of the LRA for the approval of the corrected technical description of Lot 1832. The court did not order to republish in the Official Gazette the corrected technical description therein as it is not substantial for the area of the land still remains the same.

Wherefore, premises considered, the court therefore reconsiders its order of February 27, 1995 and hereby reiterates its decision in this case for the registration of lots applied for by the applicants.

The court also approves the motion for issuance of the writ of’ possession as prayed for by the applicants and hereby orders the issuance of said writ. 22

A careful scrutiny of the assailed order reveals that the trial court did not entirely consider the allegations of fraud or falsity in the petition to reopen and review the decree of registration. The trial court only resolved the issue of republication of the corrected technical description of Lot 1832 and found that the area of the property was the same as that applied for. It summarily dismissed the petition to review the decree of registration.

In the petition to reopen and review the decree of registration, petitioner alleged that the first publication of the hearing of respondent’s application contained an erroneous technical description of Lot 1832, which was later corrected; that application with the corrected technical description was not republished; that respondent falsely represented that Lot 1832 was part of the land which his predecessors-in-interest, Francisco Santana, purchased from Maximo Cruz, but the same was omitted in the original registration proceeding in LRC Case No. N-2710 of the Court of First Instance of Pasig, Rizal, Branch VI; and that it is petitioner, by himself and through his predecessors-in-interest, who has been in actual possession and use of said Lot 1832 as owner, openly, continuously and exclusively, for more than fifty years before the filing of respondent’s application. Furthermore, petitioner alleged that respondent is guilty of fraud in making it appear in Tax Declaration No. 04-13781, which was obtained only in March 1991, that he paid the arrears for the past ten years. Petitioner also argues that the notation "Ownership of this property is also claimed by CRISANTO L. FRANCISCO," is inscribed on the tax declaration. Thus, respondent undeniably had notice of petitioner’s claim of ownership and possession of said Lot 1832 long before he actually declared it for taxation and applied for registration. Other documents also prove petitioner’s prior right and possession, namely, the tax receipts for 1936 and 1937 both in the name of Miguel Francisco, petitioner’s grandfather and predecessor-in-interest, Tax Declaration No. 13296 (1945-1974), Tax Declaration No. 03-2348 (1980-1984), and Tax Declaration No. 03-3127 (1985 to date), all of which indicate petitioner’s possession of Lot 1832 as owner thereof. 23

The foregoing are serious allegations which should have necessitated a reopening of the application if only to ensure that the claims of respondent of acquisitive prescription were valid. This was done by the trial court in its order dated February 27, 1995 granting the reopening of the case, wherein it stated that "the allegations of the oppositor as to the actual fraud allegedly committed by the applicant in the latter’s application for registration of title of lot 1832 necessarily requires proof which can only be adduced in a proper hearing or trial." 24 Subsequently, however, it reversed its order and denied the petition to reopen and review the decree of registration, thereby depriving petitioner the opportunity to substantiate his allegations and protect his claims over the property. In this regard, the trial court’s act was reversible error and an unwarranted deviation from both substantive and procedural norms. In the early case of Minlay v. Sandoval, 25 we held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Perhaps the trial judge had reasons to doubt the veracity of the supposed fraudulent acts, attributed to respondents. This doubt, however, should not have been made the basis of dismissal, because if a court doubts the veracity of the allegations in the petition, the best thing it could do would have been to deny the motion to dismiss and proceed with hearing on the merits, of the petition.

A person deprived of land or any estate or interest therein by adjudication or confirmation of title obtained by actual fraud may seek the reopening and review of a decree of registration. The Torrens System is intended to guarantee the integrity and conclusiveness of the certificate of registration but it cannot be used for the perpetuation of fraud against the real owner of the registered land. 26

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 11, 1997 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, Branch 73 is ordered to reopen Land Registration Case No. 91-1016 and afford petitioner and respondent full opportunity to substantiate their respective claims.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J. and Kapunan, J., concur.

Puno, J., is on official leave.

Endnotes:



1. Associate Justice Pedro A. Ramirez, ponente, and Associate Justices Eduardo G. Montenegro and Maximiano C. Asuncion, concurring; Annex "A", Rollo, pp. 37-45.

2. Penned by Judge Mauricio M. Rivera.

3. Records, pp. 1-4.

4. Ibid., pp. 20-21.

5. Id., pp. 49-50.

6. Id., pp. 53-54.

7. Id., pp. 64-65.

8. Id., pp. 66-68.

9. Id., pp. 79-81.

10. Id., p. 99.

11. Id., p. 106.

12. Id., pp. 107-111.

13. Id., pp. 125-133.

14. Id., pp. 172-180.

15. Id., pp. 205-206.

16. Id., pp. 207-210.

17. Id., pp. 226-229.

18. Id., pp. 230-235.

19. Id., p. 260.

20. Rollo, pp. 37-45.

21. Ibid., p. 47.

22. Record, pp. 228-229.

23. See Petition for Reopening and Review, Annex "D", Rollo, pp. 54-62.

24. Op. cit., note 15.

25. 53 SCRA 9 [1973].

26. Bayoca v. Nogales, 340 SCRA 169 [2000].

Top of Page