On securing title to unregistered land
(First of two parts)
PROPERTY is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty,” said John Adams, Founding Father and second United States President.
In our country, the Torrens system was adopted to ultimately protect one’s right as a property owner. Thus, the Supreme Court held in Spouses Peralta v. Heirs of Abalon that the Torrens system was believed to be the most effective measure to guarantee the integrity of land titles and to protect their indefeasibility once the claim of ownership is established and recognized.
Moreover, the main purpose of the Torrens system is to avoid possible conflicts of title to real estate and to facilitate transactions relative thereto by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of a Torrens certificate of title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further, except when the party concerned has actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a reasonably cautious man to make such further inquiry.
A Torrens certificate of title to unregistered land may be applied for through ordinary registration proceedings before the proper Regional Trial Court (RTC). Under the Property Registration Decree (“Decree”), the following persons may file said application, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: (a) 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; (b) those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws; (c) those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under existing laws; or (d) those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided by law.
Where the land is owned in common, all co-owners shall jointly file the application. Meanwhile, where the land has been sold under pacto de retro—that is, sale with right of repurchase, the vendor may file said application. Should the period for redemption expire during the pendency of the registration proceedings and ownership to the property be consolidated in the vendee, he shall be substituted for the vendor and may continue the proceedings.
The application for land registration shall be in writing, signed by the applicant, and sworn to before any officer authorized to administer oaths for the province or city where it was actually signed. It shall state: (a) a description of the land; (b) applicant’s citizenship and civil status; (c) if married, the spouse’s name; (d) if the marriage was dissolved, when and how the marriage relation was terminated; (e) full names and addresses of all occupants of the land and those of adjoining owners, if known, and if not known, the extent of the search made to find them.
The application shall be filed with the RTC of the province or city where the land is situated, and a copy thereof furnished to the Director of Lands. Furthermore, original muniments of titles or copies thereof and Bureau of Lands-approved survey plan shall be attached to the application.
An application may contain two or more parcels of land belonging to the applicant, provided they are situated within the same province or city.
If the application describes the land as bounded by a public or private way or road, it shall state whether the applicant claims any and what portion of the land within the limits of the way or road, and whether the applicant desires to have the line of the way or road determined.
The RTC may require additional facts to be stated in the application, not inconsistent with those prescribed in the Decree, or direct an ocular inspection of the land, if necessary.
After the filing of the application and before the RTC issues the decree of registration, the land applied for may still be the subject of dealings in whole or in part. In this case, the interested party shall present to the RTC the pertinent instruments together with a subdivision plan approved by the Director of Lands in case of transfer of portions thereof. After notice to the parties, the RTC shall order such land registered, subject to the conveyance or encumbrance created by said instruments, or order that decree of registration be issued in the name of the person to whom the property has been conveyed by said instruments.
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