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Property rules

Crime does not pay

The marriage of Ed and Veron was headed to splitsville. Ed, a seafarer, and Veron, a housewife, agreed to sell their house and lot in the amount of not less than P4 million. The price shall be increased by P100,000 for every succeeding year until the same is finally sold. They would thereafter equally divide the proceeds from the sale.

Unknown to Ed, who was then aboard a ship, Veron was rushed to the hospital. Veron joined her Creator due to cardio-respiratory arrest. Aside from Ed, she left a grieving son and a mother.

When Ed’s brother, Jun, advised him of Veron’s untimely demise, Ed instructed Jun to ask Verona’s relatives to wait for his arrival. It took a while before Ed’s employer finally permitted him to go home. Veron was already buried before Ed’s arrival.

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After the tears dried up, Yolly, a person who Ed had never met, presented him a copy of a Deed of Absolute Sale. Its subject was the disputed property conveyed to Yolly for P1.5 million.

Aghast, Ed denounced the Deed as falsified, and that his and Veron’s signatures thereat were forgeries. Soon thereafter, Ed filed two complaints against Yolly. One was a civil case for nullification of the Deed, and for payment of damages and attorney’s fees. The other was a criminal complaint for falsification of public document.

Ed had also caused the annotation of a notice of lis pendens upon TCT No. T-351707.  In the meantime, Ed also found out that a new title was issued in the name of Yolly.

While Ed’s cases were pending, Yolly filed before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) an action for unlawful detainer against Ed, his son with Veron, and his mother-in-law residing in the disputed property.

Naturally, in her unlawful detainer complaint, Yolly alleged that she is the registered owner of the disputed property, and that Ed pre-signed the same before he left to work abroad. She further alleged that she merely tolerated the said family to stay in the disputed property, and that she sent a formal letter requiring petitioners to vacate, but to no avail.

MTCC ruled in favor of Yolly.

Ed and his co-defendants admit that they posted the supersedeas bond beyond the period to perfect an appeal, but claimed that it was the MTCC, which belatedly fixed the amount. Pending the appeal they had filed before the RTC, they promptly posted the bond after the amount was determined by the MTCC.

Be that as it may, Yolly moved for execution of the decision in the unlawful detainer pending appeal.

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Meanwhile, the Office of the Public Prosecutor ruled that no expert eye is needed to ascertain that the signatures appearing in the Deed of Absolute were different from the standard signatures of Ed and Veron. Consequently, a criminal information was filed against Yolly.

Thereafter, MTCC issued a Warrant of Arrest against Yolly.

Q: What is a supersedeas bond?

A: Supersedeas bond is equivalent to the amount of rentals, damages and cost stated in the judgment.

Q: Who is supposed to fix the amount of the supersedeas bond?

A:  The general rule is the defendant need not require the MTCC to fix the amount of the supersedeas bond. He (Ed) could have computed this himself.

Q: Is Yolly entitled to a writ of execution pending appeal for failure to file a supersedeas bond?

A: As a rule, the defendant’s failure to post the supersedeas bond within the allowable period shall result in the immediate execution of the MTCC judgment.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has carved exceptions to immediate execution of judgment in ejectment cases, viz., (a) where supervening events (occurring subsequent to the judgment) bring about a material change in the situation of the parties which makes the execution inequitable, or (b) where there is no compelling urgency for the execution because it is not justified by the prevailing circumstances, the court may stay immediate execution of the judgment.

Here, Ed was originally a co-owner of the disputed property, and he remains in possession thereof. Yolly, on the other, is not even a resident of the place where the disputed property is located.

Moreover, prior to Yolly’s filing of the unlawful detainer case, Ed had already instituted actions for nullification of the Deed and falsification of public documents. The Office of the City Prosecutor had likewise made a preliminary determination of probable cause that forgery was committed.

Ed, thus, insists that no valid conveyance was made by Veron to Yolly. The above foregoing are persuasive reasons justifying the non-immediate execution of the MTCC judgment despite the petitioners’ belated posting of the supersedeas bond. Hence, Yolly is not entitled to the issuance of a writ of execution pending appeal.

Q: Does Yolly have a cause of action for unlawful detainer against Ed and his family considering that the Deed she relied upon in filing her complaint was falsified?

A: She does not have.  Insofar as a person who fraudulently obtained a property is concerned, the registration of the property in said person’s name would not be sufficient to vest in him or her the title to the property. A certificate of title merely confirms or records title already existing and vested.

The indefeasibility of the 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.

Here, Yolly impliedly admits the irregularity of the Deed’s notarization as both of the vendors were not personally present. Consequently, due execution can no longer be presumed. Besides, the extant circumstances surrounding the controversy constitute preponderant evidence suggesting that forgery was committed.

Ed promptly filed a criminal case for falsification of documents and a civil case to nullify the Deed. Later, the Office of the City Prosecutor found probable cause to indict Yolly for falsification. Consequently, the issue of ownership cannot be disregarded in the unlawful detainer case.

It bears stressing though that while the RTC aptly resolved the issue of ownership, it is at best preliminary and shall not be determinative of the outcome of the two other cases filed by Ed against Yolly.

(Source: Dizon vs. Beltran, G.R. No. 221071, January 18, 2017)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is currently the Dean for the Lyceum of the Philippines University; chairperson of the Philippines Association of Law Schools; and Senior Partner at the  Gatchalian Castro & Mawis Law Office

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