[G.R. No. 28151. October 3, 1927. ]
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and AMBROSIO CRISTAL and twenty others, Petitioners, v. EDUARDO GUTIERREZ DAVID, Judge of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, VICENTE LOPEZ and CARMEN GONZALEZ, Respondents.
Jose S. Galang, for Petitioners.
Isidoro Gonzalez for Respondents.
1. LAND, REGISTRATION OF, UNDER TORRENS SYSTEM; FINALITY OF DECREE. — No rule is better settled in this jurisdiction than the one which prohibits the changing, altering or modification of a decree in a land registration proceeding under the Torrens system after the lapse of one year.
D E C I S I O N
This is an original petition presented in the Supreme Court, praying for the writ of certiorari.
The important question presented by said petition is : Has a judge of the Court of Land Registration jurisdiction to change, alter, modify or amend a decree in a land registration case after said decree has become final and unappealable?
The undisputed facts of record may be stated as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(a) That sometime prior to the 3d day of August, 1918, a petition was presented in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Nueva Ecija for the registration of a piece or parcel of land alleged to contain about 400 hectares;
(b) That after a consideration of said petition and the trial of said cause, the Honorable V. Nepomuceno, judge, on the 3d day of August, 1918, rendered a judgment ordering and directing (1) that 200 of the said 400 hectares be registered under the Torrens system in the name of the petitioners in that action; (2) that the other 200 hectares be declared to be public lands and (3) that the petitioners present a new plan, segregating the said 200 hectares, to which they were entitled to have registered, from the mass of land described in their petition;
(c) That no motion for revision of said judgment was ever made nor any appeal taken from the said judgment or decree of the 3d day of August, 1918;
(d) That on the 26th day of May, 1923, and nearly five years after the rendition of said original judgment of August 3, 1918, the then owners of said land, composed of 200 hectares included in said original decree, presented a motion in the court of First Instance, praying that they be declared to be the owners of the other portion of the land which had been excluded;
(e) That on the 9th day of July, 1923, the Honorable Angel Roco, auxiliary judge, without notice and without giving the then occupants of said land an opportunity to be heard, amended the said decree of August 3, 1918, and ordered and directed that the said parcel which had theretofore been excluded as public land, be included and registered.
In said amended decree a certificate of title was issued to the petitioners on the 18th day of December, 1923, and included not the 400 hectares described in the original petition upon which the decree of August 3, 1918, was based, but a tract or parcel of land containing 692 hectares, 87 ares and 74 centares. Thus, it will be noted that the original petitioners obtained the decree for the registration of 200 hectares, while under the amended decree, without notice, without a hearing and without an opportunity for anybody to be heard, they had obtained a decree for 692 hectares, 87 ares and 74 centares. If the last decree is valid then the twenty-one homesteaders, petitioners herein, will have lost their homestead rights without notice, without a hearing and without an opportunity to present their claims;
(f) That by reference to Exhibit 10, dated February 15, 1924, which is a report of Jose Nava, special attorney and acting district land officer of the Bureau of Lands, it will be seen that the petitioners herein, together with many others, outside of the Director of Lands, had, some of them before, and some of them after the decree of August 3, 1918, made application for homesteads upon the land which had theretofore been excluded from the original petition for registration;
(g) That none of said homesteaders received notice of the motion of May 26, 1923, for the revision of the decree of the 3d day of August, 1918, and of course had no opportunity to be heard nor to defend their right;
(h) That on the 21st day of March, 1927, and without notice to the petitioners herein the lower court issued a writ of possession and ejectment against them, which writ was temporarily suspended on the 26th day of April, 1927.
The order of suspension was made, due to objections presented on April 25, 1927, by the petitioners herein;
(i) That upon the 7th day of May, 1927, the petitioners herein presented a motion in the court a quo for reconsideration of the said decree of July 9, 1923, praying that said decree be declared null and void, which motion was denied upon the 18th day of July, 1927;
(j) That on the 18th day of July, 1927, the lower court again put in full force the writ of possession and ejectment dated March 21, 1927 and, in pursuance of said order (July 18, 1927), the sheriff ordered the herein petitioners on the 27th day of July, 1927 to deliver the possession of their respective lots within a period of five days in accordance with the decision of the 9th day of July, 1923; and
(k) That the record fully demonstrates that the petitioners herein, with the exception of the Director of Lands, are homesteaders and have been in possession of their respective lots for a period of years, and that at the present time are actually cultivating the same and have planted crops thereon.
From all of the foregoing facts, we have the following conclusions of fact:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(1) That on the 3rd day of August, 1918, a decree was entered for the registration of a piece or parcel of land containing 200 hectares;
(2) That on the 9th day of July, 1923, or nearly five years after the original decree, that decree was amended and a new certificate of title was issued on the 18th day of December, 1923, to a piece or parcel of land containing 692 hectares, 87 ares and 74 centares, without notice, without a hearing and without an opportunity to defend the rights of the homesteaders, the petitioners herein, who had, prior to the 9th day of July, 1923, acquired an interest as homesteaders in the land included in the last decree.
No rule is better established in law and sound jurisprudence than the one which prohibits the deprivation of property without having been given an opportunity to be heard. The registration of land under the Torrens system is no exception to that rule. Unless the provisions of the law providing for the registration of land under the Torrens system have been followed, the decree finally entered for the registration will be null and void as to all persons who have been detrimentally affected by such failure to comply with the mandates of the law. The law providing for the registration of land under the Torrens system expressly provides that a hearing must be given. An opportunity to be heard is as essential under the Land Registration Law as in any other class of actions. The law provides a general method of giving notice to all interested parties, and unless that method of giving notice is followed, the decree issued will be null and void.
In the present case the decree of the 3d day of August, 1918, was amended upon the mere motion of the parties interested, long after said decree had become final. The petitioners herein were homesteaders upon a portion of the land included in the amended decree. No claim even is made now that they were notified or that they had notice or knowledge of the pendency of said action. The record further shows that the first notice they had of the modification of the original decree was, when they were served with notice by a writ of possession and ejectment against them. Even in the face of the writ of execution the petitioners herein were bold enough to ask for reconsideration of its decree of the 9th day of July, 1923. That motion was denied and the sheriff was ordered to carry into effect the said writ of possession. It was, then, after exhausting their remedy in the court a quo that they appealed to this court for relief.
Courts are seldom called upon to afford a remedy for an injustice which is more manifest than the one presented by the present petition.
From all of the foregoing facts, it is held that the court a quo was without jurisdiction or authority to change, alter, modify or amend the decree of the 3d day of August, 1918, and for that reason, and for the further reason that the petitioners have been deprived of their rights without a hearing, which the law guarantees to them, the said decree of July 9, 1923, is hereby declared to be null and void and of no effect; it is further ordered and decreed that the certificate of title issued to the respondents Vicente Lopez and Carmen Gonzalez on the 18th day of December, 1923, be cancelled, and that the decree of August 3, 1918 be declared to be in full force and effect, with costs against the respondents. So ordered.
Avanceña, C.J., Street, Malcolm, Villamor, Johns, Romualdez, and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.