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PROPERTY RULES

The value of registration

Fely was granted a registered Free Patent covering a parcel of land in Cavite.

Much to her surprise, a certain Josie demanded that she vacate a portion of the said lot. Josie thereafter presented a Deed of Absolute Sale bearing Fely’s signature. This infuriated Fely, who claimed that her signature was forged.

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Josie then filed an application for the Original Registration of the said lot before the Regional Trial Court.

In the application, Josie claimed that she is the owner of the said unregistered land by virtue of a deed of absolute sale.

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Naturally, Fely opposed Josie’s application. She maintained her position that she is the true and lawful owner of the parcel of land, which is the subject of the amended application; and that Josie’s deed of absolute sale is an absolute fake.

While the case was pending, Fely managed to have the land registered in her name. Consequently, an Original Certificate of Title was issued in Fely’s name.

This development prompted Josie to file a notice of lis pendens with the Registry of Deeds of Cavite, which was annotated on the title. Moreover, in the application for Original Registration Josie filed, she challenged the validity of the OCT that was issued in favor Fely’s name.

Josie argued that the rule on indefeasibility of title does not attach to titles secured by fraud and misrepresentation. Josie reiterated that Fely fraudulently registered the subject property under her name after she had already sold a portion thereof to Josie. By virtue of the deed of sale, Josie insists that she is considered to be the real owner of the subject parcel of land.

Q: What are the conditions that must be complied before an unregistered land can be registered?

A: P.D. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, governs the original registration proceedings of unregistered land. The subject application for the original registration was filed pursuant to Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529, which provides the condition necessary for registration. Thus:

Sec. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.

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Based on these legal parameters, applicants for registration of title under Section 14(1) must sufficiently establish that the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain; that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same; and that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.

Q: Was Josie able to comply with the above conditions?

A: No. Josie’s application must be denied on the issue of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land.

She was not able to comply with the requirement of possession and occupation under Sec. 14 (1) of P.D. No. 1529, considering that she had admitted that it was not physically turned over to her.

As she was not in actual and physical possession, she could not have exercised any acts of dominion over the subject property which was essential to the requirement of possession and occupation contemplated under Sec. 14 (1) of P.D. No. 1529.

Q: What is the effect of the registration of the land to Fely’s name?

A: Once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title is issued, the land ceases to be part of public domain and becomes private property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction. A public land patent, when registered in the corresponding Register of Deeds, is a veritable Torrens title, and becomes as indefeasible upon the expiration of one year from the date of issuance thereof.

Said title, like one issued pursuant to a judicial decree, is subject to review within one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. This rule is embodied in Section 103 of PD 1529, which provides that:

Section 103. Certificates of title pursuant to patents. Whenever public land is by the Government alienated, granted or conveyed to any person, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Decree. x x x After due registration and issuance of the certificate of title, such land shall be deemed to be registered land to all intents and purposes under this Decree. (Emphasis supplied)

Accordingly, Fely’s registered patent in the corresponding Registry of Deeds is a veritable Torrens title and becomes as indefeasible as a Torrens title upon the expiration of one year from the date of its issuance.

Q: Can the adverse, open and notorious possession of the property or prescription defeat a certificate of title?

A: No. As provided under Sec. 47 of PD 1529, no title to registered land in derogation of the title of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession.

Q: Can Josie challenge the validity of the certificate of title that was issued in favor of Fely in the Application for Original Registration Lot 8348-B which she filed against the latter?

A: No, the issue of the validity of title can only be assailed in an action expressly instituted for such purpose.

A certificate of title cannot be attacked collaterally. The issue as to whether title was procured by falsification or fraud as advanced by petitioner can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for the purpose.

Q: Is ownership the same as a certificate of title?

A: 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 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.

Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real prope1iy 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. (Source: Wee vs. Mardo, G.R. No. 202414, June 4, 2014)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is the Dean of Lyceum of the Philippines University; and chairperson of Philippine Association of Law Schools

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