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Ssshhhhh… Quiet please…

Spouses Del and Mary filed a complaint for Quieting of Title, Recovery of Possession and Damages against Jose, Henri and Vic. The subject of the complaint is a parcel of land located in the City of Golden Friendship.

In their complaint, the spouses alleged that they are the registered owners of the lot in question as evidenced by an original certificate of title that was issued by virtue of a free patent. Del claimed that he inherited the lot from his father, Enzo. The spouses further claimed that both Del and his father were in open, continuous, notorious, exclusive possession of the lot since time immemorial.

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By way of defense, Jose and company claimed that the original owner of Lot No. 3341 was Gene who had two children, Enzo and Irin. Upon Gene’s death, the property was passed on to Enzo and Irin by operation of law; and they became ipso facto co-owners of the property. Enzo and Irin co-owned the property. Enzo had children namely, plaintiff Del, Prima and Fermi. Upon the death of Irin, her share in turn passed to her heirs, Demet, Juana, Leon and defendant Jose.

Jose, Henri and Vic presented before the court a 1963 joint affidavit signed by Del, his sisters, and their mother. In the said affidavit, they acknowledged that the property was owned by Enzo only for taxation purposes.

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Henri also claimed that he became the owner of a portion of the suited land by virtue of two Deeds of Sale executed in his favor, executed by Demet and Juana. Since then, he has been in possession if the property and paid real taxes.

As for Vic, he claimed that he became the owner of a portion of the lot by virtue of a Deed of Sale executed in his favor. After the sale, Vic entered into possession of his portion of property and paid the real property taxes. Jose justified his ownership over a portion of the lot in his own right as heir of Irin.

Q: What is an action for quieting of title?

A: An action for quieting of title is essentially a common law remedy grounded on equity. In said action, the court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant and other claimants, “… not only to place things in their proper place, to make the one who has no rights to said immovable respect and not disturb the other, but also for the benefit of both, so that he who has the right would see every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he could afterwards without fear introduce the improvements he may desire, to use, and even to abuse the property as he deems best.”

For an action to quiet title to prosper, two indispensable requisites must concur, namely: the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and the deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.

Q: Did the complaint for quieting of title brought by spouses Del and Mary meet these two requisites mentioned above?

A: No. First, the spouses’ claim of legal title by virtue of the free patent and the certificate of title issued in their name cannot stand. At the time of the application for free patent, the lot in question had already become private land by virtue of the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession by Jose, Henri and Vic. Hence, the lot had been removed from the coverage of the Public Land Act, which governs public patent applications.

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The second requisite for an action to quiet title is likewise wanting. Although an instrument the 1963 Affidavit exists, and which allegedly casts cloud on spouses Del and Mary’s title, it was not shown to be in fact invalid or ineffective against the said spouses’ rights to the property.

A cloud on a title exists when (1) there is an instrument (deed, or contract) or record or claim or encumbrance or proceeding; (2) which is apparently valid or effective; (3) but is, in truth and in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable or unenforceable or extinguished (or terminated) or barred by extinctive prescription; and (4) and may be prejudicial to the title.

The 1963 Affidavit it is no doubt an instrument, which appears to be valid. It is dated and appears to be executed and signed by Del, his mother and sisters. It is also notarized by a public notary. It states who originally owns the land described, and that one-half of which is actually owned by Irin as a co-heir. This is contrary to the claim of the spouses that the property was solely Enzo’s.

The 1963 Affidavit however, was not proven to be, in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable or unenforceable, or extinguished (or terminated) or barred by extinctive prescription. The 1963 Affidavit was duly notarized and, as such, is considered a public document, and enjoys the presumption of validity as to its authenticity and due execution. (Source: Heirs of Tappa vs. Heris of Bacud, G.R. No. 187633, April 4, 2016)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is Dean, Lyceum of the Philippines University; Board of Trustee, Philippine Association of Law Schools; Founder of Mawis Law Office

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