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EN BANC


MANOTOK REALTY, INC. and                     G.R. No. 123346

MANOTOK ESTATE CORPORATION,

Petitioners,

Present:

PUNO, C.J.,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

-  versus  -                                       SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CLT REALTY DEVELOPMENT                    CARPIO-MORALES,

CORPORATION,                                                     AZCUNA,

Respondent.                              TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

REYES, and

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.

Promulgated:

December 14, 2007

x------------------------------------------------- x

ARANETA INSTITUTE OF AGRI-            G.R. No.  134385

CULTURE, INC.,

Petitioner,

- versus  -

HEIRS OF JOSE B. DIMSON, REPRESENTED BY

HIS COMPULSORY HEIRS:  HIS SURVIVING

SPOUSE, ROQUETA R. DIMSON AND THEIR

CHILDREN, NORMA AND CELSA TIRADO, ALSON

AND VIRGINIA DIMSON, LINDA AND CARLOS

LAGMAN, LERMA AND RENE POLICAR, AND

ESPERANZA R. DIMSON; REGISTER OF DEES OF

MALABON,

Respondents.

x-------------------------------------------------------------x

R E S O L U T I O N

Tinga, J.:

The stability of the country’s Torrens system is menaced by the infestation of fake land titles and deeds. Any decision of this Court that breathes life into spurious or inexistent titles all but contributes to the blight. On the contrary, the judicial devotion is towards purging the system of illicit titles, concomitant to our base task as the ultimate citadel of justice and legitimacy.

These two petitions[1] involve properties covered by Original Certificate  of  Title (OCT) No. 994 which in turn encompasses 1,342 hectares of the Maysilo Estate.[2] The vast tract of land stretches over three (3) cities, comprising an area larger than the sovereign states  of  Monaco  and  the  Vatican.[3] Despite   their   prime  location  within Metropolitan Manila, the properties included in

OCT No. 994 have been beset by controversy and sullied by apparent fraud, cloudy titles and shady transfers. It may as well be renamed the “Land of Caveat Emptor.”

The controversy attending the lands of OCT No. 994 has not eluded this Court. Since 1992, our findings and ruling in MWSS v. Court of Appeals[4] have stood as the Rosetta Stone in deciphering claims emanating from OCT No. 994, as was done in Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals,[5] and in the Court’s Decision dated 29 November 2005 (2005 Decision) in these cases.[6] Yet in the course of resolving these motions for reconsideration came the revelation that OCT No. 994 was lost in translation following MWSS. Certain immutable truths reflected on the face of OCT No. 994 must emerge and gain vitality, even if we ruffle feathers in the process.

I.

A recapitulation of the facts, which have already been extensively narrated in the 2005 Decision, is in order. For clarity, we narrate separately the antecedent facts in G.R. Nos. 123346 and 134385.

A. G.R. No. 123346, Manotok Realty, Inc.

and Manotok Estate Corporation, vs.

CLT Realty Development Corporation

On 10 August 1992, CLT Realty Development Corporation (CLT) sought to recover from Manotok Realty, Inc. and Manotok Estate Corporation (Manotoks) the possession of Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate in an action filed before the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 129.[7]

CLT’s claim was anchored on Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-177013 issued in its name by the Caloocan City Register of Deeds, which title in turn was derived from Estelita Hipolito (Hipolito) by virtue of a Deed of Sale with Real Estate Mortgage dated 10 December 1988.  Hipolito’s title emanated from Jose Dimson’s (Dimson) TCT No. R-15169, a title issued pursuant to an order of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Caloocan City, Branch 33.  Dimson’s title appears to have been sourced from OCT No. 994.[8]

For their part, the Manotoks challenged the validity of the title relied on by CLT, claiming that Dimson’s title, the proximate source of  CLT’s title, was irregularly issued and, hence, the same and subsequent titles flowing therefrom are likewise void. The Manotoks asserted their ownership over Lot 26 and claimed that they derived it from several awardees and/or vendees of the National Housing Authority.[9] The Manotok title likewise traced as its primary source OCT No. 994 which, on 9 September 1918, was transferred to Alejandro  Ruiz  and  Mariano  Leuterio  who had previously acquired


the property on 21 August 1918 by virtue of an “Escritura de Venta” executed by Don Tomas Arguelles and Don Enrique Llopis.[10] On 3 March 1920, Ruiz and Leuterio sold the property to Francisco Gonzalez who held title thereto until 22 August 1938 when the property was transferred to Jose Leon Gonzalez, Consuelo Susana Gonzalez, Juana Francisca Gonzalez, Maria Clara Gonzalez, Francisco Felipe Gonzalez and Concepcion Maria Gonzalez under TCT No. 35486. The lot was then, per annotation dated 21 November 1946, subdivided into seven (7) parcels each in the name of each of the Gonzalezes.[11]

The trial court, ruling for CLT, adopted the factual findings and conclusions arrived at by the majority commissioners appointed to resolve the conflict of titles.  It was established that the entire Maysilo Estate was registered under Act No. 496 by virtue of which OCT No. 994 was issued by the Register of Deeds of Rizal;[12] that Lot 26 was transferred to CLT by Hipolito whose title was derived from the  Dimson title and that on the basis of the technical descriptions of the property appearing in the Manotok titles, the latter’s property indeed encroached on the property described in CLT’s title.[13]

The Manotoks appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the trial court.[14] Their motion for reconsideration having been denied,[15] they filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court, ascribing error to the appellate court in upholding the trial court’s decision which decided the case on the basis of the majority commissioners’ report and overlooked relevant facts in the minority commissioner’s report.[16]

B. G.R. No. 134385, Araneta Institute

of Agriculture, Inc. v. Heirs of

Jose B. Dimson, et. al.

On 18 December 1979, Dimson filed with the then CFI of Rizal, Branch 33, Caloocan City a complaint for recovery of possession and damages against Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc. (Araneta). Dimson alleged that he was the absolute owner of part of the Maysilo Estate in Malabon covered by TCT No.  R-15169 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City. Alleging that Araneta had been illegally occupying the land and that the latter refused to vacate the same despite repeated demands, he prayed that Araneta be ordered to vacate the same and remove all improvements thereon and to return full possession thereof to him.  Araneta for its part admitted occupancy of the disputed land by constructing  some buildings thereon and subdividing portions thereof in the exercise of its right as absolute owner. He alleged that Dimson’s title to the subject land was void and hence he had no cause of action.[17]

The trial court ruled for Dimson in its Decision dated 28 May 1993 with these findings: first, there were inherent technical infirmities or defects in the titles that formed each link in the chain of ownership that culminated in the Manotok title, i.e., that the technical descriptions in the titles were written in Spanish whereas those in the alleged mother title, OCT No. 994, were in English, which, an abnormal state that deviated from the usual practice in the issuance of titles; and second, it was established procedure to indicate in the certificate of title, whether original or transfer certificate, the date of the original survey of the mother title together with the succeeding date of subdivision or consolidation.  Thus, the absence of the original survey dates of OCT No. 994 on Manotok’s chain of titles, the trial court added, should mean that OCT No.  994 was not the mother title not only because the original survey dates were different but also because the original survey date must always be earlier than the issue date of the original title.  OCT No. 994 was issued on May 3, 1917 which was much ahead of the survey date indicated in the succeeding titles, which is December 22, 1917.[18]

Undaunted, Araneta  interposed  an  appeal  to  the  Court  of Appeals   which,   on   30   May   1997,   affirmed   the   lower  court’s


decision.[19] In so holding, the appellate court declared that the title of Araneta to the disputed land is a nullity.  It noted that Dimson’s TCT No. R-15169 was derived from “OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917” and that the same was obtained by Dimson simultaneously with other titles, viz: TCT Nos. 15166, 15167, and 15168 by virtue of the Decision dated October 13, 1977 and Order dated October 18, 1977, in Special Proceedings No. C-732.  It was also pointed out that Araneta’s TCT No. 13574 and 21343 were both derived from “OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917” which was previously “declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System v. Court of Appeals.”[20]

Araneta then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court attributing error to the Court of Appeals in failing to recognize that it had a better right of possession over the property than did Dimson.[21]

As both petitions involved interrelated challenges against the validity of the parties’ separate titles to portions of the greater Maysilo Estate, they, along with G.R. No. 148767[22], were consolidated per Resolutions dated 21 April 1999 and 6 March 2002. Also in 2002, the Republic of the Philippines sought and was allowed intervention in these cases.

On 29 November 2005, the Third Division of the Court rendered the 2005 Decision,[23] the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the instant petitions are DENIED and the assailed Decisions and Resolution of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.[24]

The Court acknowledged that the paramount question raised in the petitions is whether the titles issued in the name of Dimson and of CLT are valid.  Noting that this question is one purely of fact, the Court held that the same was beyond its power to determine and so, the factual findings of the trial courts in these cases as affirmed by the Court of Appeals must be accorded the highest degree of respect and not disturbed at all.

Nonetheless, the Court proceeded to discuss the absence of merit in the petitions.  First, particularly with  respect to G.R. No. 123346, the Court upheld the validity of the trial court’s adoption of the commissioners’ majority report as part of the decision inasmuch as the same is allowed by Section 11, Rule 32 of the Rules of Court and that a case of overlapping titles absolutely necessitates the assistance of experts in the field of geodetic engineering who, on account of their experience and expertise, are in a better position to determine which of the contending titles is valid.  For this reason, the Court emphasized,   the   trial   court  may  well  rely  on  their  findings  and conclusions. Second, the Court pointed out that the titles of respondents in all three cases were derived from OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City registered on 19 April 1917.   However, because the validity of said mother title was upheld by the Court itself in MWSS and reiterated in Heirs of Gonzaga, the Court chose not to delve anymore into the correctness of the said decisions which had already attained finality and immutability.

The Manotoks and Araneta duly filed their respective motions for reconsideration. On 5 June 2006, the cases were elevated to the Court en banc, which heard oral arguments on 1 August 2006. The Court formulated the issues for oral argument, thus:

From the above petitions, the following principal issues are gathered:

I.

Which of the Certificates of Title of the contending parties are valid:

A.     Petitioner’s titles:

1.      Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos. 7528, 7762, 8012, 9866, C-17272, 21107, 21485, 26405, 26406, 26407, 33904, 34255, C-35267, 41956, 63268, 55896, T-1214528, 163902 and 165119 in the name of Manotok Realty, Inc., and TCT No.  T-232568 in the name of Manotok Estate Corporation;

2.      TCT Nos. 737 and 13574 in the name of Araneta Institute of Agriculture; and

3.      TCT Nos. T-158373 and T-158374 in the name of Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc.

All these titles were derived from Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917 in the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City covering Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate, same city.


B.     Respondents’ Title:

1.      TCT No. T-177013 in the name of CLT Realty Development Corporation;

2.      TCT No. R-15169 in the name of Jose B. Dimson; and

3.      TCT No. T-1770 in the name of CLT Realty Development Corporation/

All  these titles were derived from OCT No. 994 registered earlier, or on April 19, 1917, covering the same Lot No. 26 of the Maysilo Estate.

II.

Can this Court still overturn at this point its Decision in Metropolitan Water Works and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 103558, November 17, 1992) and Heirs of Luis J. Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 96259, September 3, 1996) sustaining the validity of OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917 and nullify the same OCT No. 994 registered later, or on May 3, 1917?

III.

How will the Reports of the Department of Justice and the Senate Fact-Finding Committee, not presented in evidence before the trial courts concluding that the valid title is OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917, affect the disposition of these cases?

Will it be necessary to remand these cases to the trial courts to determine which of the Certificates of Title are valid? If so, which trial court?[25]


A crucial fact emerged during the oral arguments. The Republic, through the Solicitor General,[26] strenuously argued that contrary to the supposition reflected in the Advisory, there was, in fact, only one OCT No. 994.

x x x In this particular case, it appears that on December 3, 1912, the Court of Land Registration, the Judge Norberto Romualdez presiding, acting on Land Registration Case No.  4429 rendered judgment ordering the GLRO to issue a decree.  Pursuant to this order, the GLRO prepared Decree No.  36455 and issued the same on April 19, 1917 at 9:00 o’clock in the morning, at Manila, Philippines. It may be observed that at the face of the OCT 994 which was then on file at the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan and now kept in the LRA, the following entry can be seen.  Received for transcription at the Office of the Register of Deeds  for the province of Rizal this 3rd day of May 1917 at 7:30 a.m.  Obviously, April 19, 1917 is not the date of inscription or the date of transcription of the decree into the Original Certificate of Title.  It appears that the transcription of the decree was done on the date it was received by the Register of Deeds of Rizal on May 3, 1917.  There is no other date to speak of. In the records of the Land Registration Authority, there is  only one OCT 994, on its face appears the date of transcript, May 3, 1917. The validity then of all subsequent titles tracing their origin from OCT 994 should be tested in the light of these set of facts. x x x[27]


On the other hand, the counsel for CLT stated during the same oral argument that he had seen a photocopy of an OCT No. 994 that was dated 19 April 1917,[28] and manifested that he could attach the same to CLT’s memorandum.[29] At the same time, on even date, the Court directed the Solicitor General and counsel for CLT to submit to the Court “certified true copies of the Original Certificate of Title No. 994 dated May 3 1917 and April 19, 1917, respectively, on or before Friday, August 4, 2006.”[30]

In response to this directive, both the Solicitor General and the counsel for CLT submitted their separate “Compliance” to this Court, with their respective copies of OCT No. 994 attached thereto. Both copies of OCT No. 994 submitted by the Solicitor General and CLT indicate on their face that the decree of registration issued on 19 April 1917 was received for transcription at the office of the Register of Deeds for the Province of Rizal on 3 May 1917. Indeed, there is no evident variance between the copies of OCT No. 994 submitted by the OSG and CLT, and CLT admits just as much in its Memorandum dated 3 September 2006.[31]

The claim of the Solicitor General that there is only one OCT No. 994 was duly confirmed though belatedly by CLT itself. Even the ponente of the 2005 Decision has recognized this fact, as indicated in her present Dissenting Opinion. The emergence of such fact, contrary as it is to the crucial predicate underlying the issues presented in the Court’s Advisory, has changed the essence and complexion of the controversy.  The key to grant or deny the motions for reconsideration is the answer to the question:  which is the true date of OCT No. 994, 17 April 1917 or 3 May 1917?

II.

We turn to the date of OCT No. 994 as reflected in the quoted portion of the certified true copy thereof submitted by the Republic of the Philippines:[32]

Therefore, it is ordered by the Court that said land be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Land Registration Act in the name of said xxx

‘Witness: the Honorable Norberto Romualdez, Associate Judge of said Court, the 3rd day of December, A.D. nineteen hundred and twelve.

‘Issued at Manila, P.I., the 19th day of April A.D. 1917 at 9:00 A.M.

ATTEST: ENRIQUE ALTAVAS

Chief of the Land Registration Office of Justice

Received for transcription at the office of the Register of Deeds for the Province of P.I. this third day of May, nineteen hundred and seventeen at 7:30 A.M. (emphasis supplied)

As evident on the face of OCT No. 994, the decree of registration was issued on 19 April 1917, and actually “received for transcription” by the Register of Deeds on 3 May 1917.  Interestingly,  even  as  CLT  admits that there is only one OCT No. 994, that which the Solicitor General had presented to the Court,[33] it maintains that the OCT should be deemed registered as of the date of issuance of the decree of registration, 19 April 1917, instead of the date it was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on 3 May 1917. The argument is based on the theory that it is “the decree of registration [that] produces legal effects,” though it “is entered before the transmittal of the same for transcription at the Register of Deeds.”[34]

This argument marks a radical departure from CLT’s earlier theory that there were two OCTs No. 994, one dated 19 April 1917 and the other 3 May 2007, a theory which was likewise reflected in the Court’s earlier Advisory on the issues prior to the oral argument.[35] Yet the argument smacks of plain sophistry.

The process involved is what this Court called “the method of giving a paper title.”[36] It is spelled out in detail in Sections 41 and 42 of Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act:

SEC. 41. Immediately upon the entry of the decree of registration the clerk shall send a certified copy thereof, under the seal of the court, to the register of deeds for the province, or provinces, or city in which the land lies, and the register of deeds shall transcribe the decree in a book to be- called the 'registration book,' in which a leaf, or leaves, in consecutive order, shall be devoted exclusively to each title. The entry made by the register of deeds in this book in each case shall be the original certificate of title, and shall be signed by him and sealed


with the seal of the court. All certificates of title shall be numbered consecutively, beginning with number one. The register of deeds shall in each case make an exact duplicate of the original certificate, including the seal, but putting on it the words 'Owner's duplicate certificate,' and deliver the same to the owner or to his attorney duly authorized. In case of a variance between the owner's duplicate certificate and the original certificate the original shall prevail. The certified copy of the decree of registration shall be filed and numbered by the register of deeds with a reference noted on it to the place of record of the original certificate of title: Provided, however, That when an application includes land lying in more than one province, or one province and the city of Manila, the court shall cause the part lying in each province or in the city of Manila to be described separately by metes and bounds in the decree of registration, and the clerk shall send to the register of deeds for each province, or the city of Manila, as the case may be, a copy of the decree containing a description of the land within that province or city, and the register of deeds shall register the same and issue an owner's duplicate therefor, and thereafter for all matters pertaining to registration under this Act the portion in each province or city shall be treated as a separate parcel of land.

SEC. 42. The certificate first registered in pursuance of the decree of registration in regard to any parcel of land shall be entitled in the registration book 'Original certificate of title, entered pursuant to decree of the Court of Land Registration, dated at' (stating time and place of entry of decree and the number of case). This certificate shall take effect upon the date of the transcription of the decree. Subsequent certificates relating to the same land shall be in like form, but shall be entitled 'Transfer from number' (the number of the next previous certificate relating to the same land), and also the words 'Originally registered' (date, volume, and page of registration.")

With the plain language of the law as mooring, this Court in two vintage and sound rulings made it plain that the original certificate of title is issued on the date the decree of registration is transcribed.  In the first ruling, it was held that there is a marked distinction between the entry of the decree and the entry of the certificate of title; the entry of the decree is made by the chief clerk of the land registration and the entry of the certificate of title is made by the register of deeds.[37] Such difference is highlighted by Sec. 31 of Act No. 496 as it provides that the certificate of title is issued in pursuance of the decree of registration.  In the second, it was stressed that what stands as the certificate of the title is the transcript of the decree of registration made by the registrar of deeds in the registry.[38]

Otherwise stated, what is actually issued by the register of deeds is the certificate of title itself, not the decree of registration, as he is precisely the recipient from the land registration office of the decree for transcription to the certificate as well as the transcriber no less. Since what is now acknowledged as the authentic OCT No. 994 indicates that it was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds of Rizal on 3 May 1917, it is that date that is the date of registration since that was when he was able to transcribe the decree in the registration book, such entry made in the book being the original certificate of title.[39] Moreover, it is only after the transcription of the decree by the register of deeds that the certificate of title is to take effect.

The textbook writers and authorities on Land Registration are unanimous on the matter. The late Commissioner Antonio Noblejas, widely acknowledged as the leading authority on the subject during his time, wrote, thus:

Immediately upon the issuance and entry of the decree of registration, the Registrar of Land Titles transcribes the same in the registry book called the “Registration Book” and issues an owner’s duplicate certificate of title to the applicant upon payment by him of the necessary registration fees. The entry made by the Registrar of Land Titles in his registry book is actually the original copy of the original certificate of title and shall be signed by him and sealed with the seal of the Court and of his office. Pursuant to Rep. Act No. 113, the Registrar of Land Titles may now use only the seal of his office, dispensing with the court seal.[40]

Professor Florencio Ponce, who was also once Register of Deeds of Quezon City and Deputy Register of Deeds of Manila, was of the same conviction:

A decree of registration is an order issued under the signature of the Commissioner of Land Registration (formerly Chief, G.L.R.O.) in the name of the Judge to the fact that the land described therein is registered in the name of the applicant or oppositor or claimant as the case maybe. When this is transcribed or spread in toto in the registration book and signed by the register of deeds, the page on which the transcription is made become the “original certificate of title,” more commonly called the Torrens title.

xxx

The land becomes a registered land only upon the transcription of the decree in the original registration book by the register of deeds, the date and time of such transcription being set forth in the process and certified to at the foot of each entry or certificate of title.

xxx

The issuance of the original and owner’s duplicate certificates are basic for the valid existence of the title. Issuance of additional copies are permissive and their non-existence does not affect the status of title. A certificate of title is deemed as regularly issued with the issuance of the original copy and owner’s duplicate.[41]

So was Professor Francisco Ventura:

Immediately upon the issuance and entry of the decree of registration, the Commissioner of Land Registration sends a certified copy thereof, under seal of the said office, to the Register of Deeds of the province where the land lies, and the register of Deeds transcribes the decree in a book, called the Registration Book,” in which a leaf, or leaves, in consecutive order should be devoted exclusively to each title. The entry made by the Register of Deeds in said book constitutes the original certificate of title and is signed by him and sealed with the seal of his office.[42]

The same view came from Professor Narciso Peña, also a former Assistant Commissioner of the Land Registration Commission and Acting Register of Deeds of Manila, as he wrote, thus:

Thus, Section 42 of Act No. 496 provides that the certificate first registered in pursuance of the decree of registration in regard to any parcel of land shall be entitled in the registration book “Original Certificate of Title, entered pursuant to decree of the Court of Land Registration, dated at (stating time and place of entry of decree and the number of the case).  This certificate shall take effect upon the date of the transcription of the decree.  Subsequent certificates relating to the same land shall be in like form, but shall be entitled.  “Transfer from number (the number of the next previous certificate relating to the same land),” and also the words “Originally registered (date, volume, and page of registration).[43]


The dissent has likewise suggested that the variance between these two dates is ultimately inconsequential. It cannot be so for otherwise, the recent decision of the Court in Alfonso v. Office of the President[44]Alfonso, the Court precisely penalized Alfonso, the former register of deeds of Caloocan because she acquiesced to the change of the date of registration of OCT No. 994, as reflected in several subsequent titles purportedly derived from that mother title, from 3 May 1917 to 19 April 1917. If indeed the difference in dates were “inconsequential,” then it should not have really mattered that Mrs. Alfonso, as found by the Court, had invariably issued certificates of title, reflecting either the 19 April or 3 May date, a circumstance which, the Court concluded, was irregular. But if the Court were to accede to the dissent and agree that it did not really matter whether the date of registration of OCT No. 994 was 3 May or 19 April, then poor Mrs. Alfonso should be spared of the penalty of dismissal from the service which the Court had already affirmed. would simply be wrong. In

III.

Even the dissent does not insist, as the 2005 Decision did, that there is an  OCT No. 994 registered or dated 19 April 1917. This new stance squarely contravenes or deviates from the following unequivocal pronouncement in the 2005 Decision:

We noted in the beginning of this Decision that the issue in all these three (3) cases involves the validity of the parties' overlapping titles. The titles of the respondents in these cases were derived from OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City registered on April 19, 1917. The validity of such mother title has already been upheld by this Court in G.R. No. 103558, MWSS v. Court of Appeals, et al. dated November 17, 1992 earlier cited in the assailed Decisions. Significantly, the ruling in MWSS was reiterated in G.R. No. 96259, Heirs of Luis J. Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals dated September 3, 1996.

We cannot delve anymore into the correctness of the Decision of this Court in MWSS. The said Decision, confirming the validity of OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917 from which the titles of the respondents in the cases at bar were derived, has long become final and executory. Nothing is more settled in law than that once a judgment attains finality it becomes immutable and unalterable.  It  may  no longer be modified in any respect, even if the  modification  is  meant  to  correct  what  is  perceived to be   an


erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest court of the land.[45]

This new conclusion likewise differs from what the Court had to say regarding OCT No. 994 “dated April 19, 1917” in the adverted MWSS v. Court of Appeals[46] decision:

It must be observed that the title of petitioner MWSS was a transfer from TCT No. 36957 which was derived from OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. Upon the other hand, private respondents' title was derived from the same OCT No. 994 but dated April 19, 1917. Where two certificates (of title) purport to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails . . . In successive registrations, where more than one certificate is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is entitled to the estate or interest; and the person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate issued in respect thereof. Hence, in point of priority of issuance, private respondents' title prevails over that of petitioner MWSS.[47]

Four years later, the Court promulgated the Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals[48] decision, which essentially reaffirmed foregoing factual pronouncements made in MWSS.

Notwithstanding the emerging error in fact that informed the MWSS and Gonzaga decisions, the dissent now claims that said decisions confirmed “the validity of the OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917. But if we examine MWSS closely, it appears to be beset with semantic confusion. We make the following relevant references from that decision, presented sequentially:

(1) “Jose B. Dimson was the registered owner of a parcel land situated in Balintawak, Kalookan City with an area of 213,012 square meters, more or less, and covered by TCT No. C-15167 which was registered on June 8, 1978. Said parcel of land was originally Lot 28 of the Maysilo Estate (OCT) No. 994 which was registered on April 19, 1917 pursuant to Decree No. 36455 issued in Land Registration Case No. 4429.”[49]

(2) Although petitioner's title was issued in 1940, it will be noted that petitioner's title over Lots 2693 and 2695 both with an area of 599 square meters was based on the Cadastral Survey of Caloocan City, Cadastral Case No. 34, while private respondents' title was derived from OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917;[50]

(3) “It must be observed that the title of petitioner MWSS was a transfer from TCT No. 36957 which was derived from OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. Upon the other hand, private respondent's title was derived from the same OCT No. 994 but dated April 19, 1917;”[51]

(4) “Lastly, a certificate is not conclusive evidence of title if it is shown that the same land had already been registered and an earlier certificate for the same is in existence. 5 Since the land in question has already been registered under OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917, the subsequent registration of the same land on May 3, 1917 is null and void;”[52]

In one (1) out of the four (4) times that reference was made to the mother title of Dimson in MWSS, it was “OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917” which is the language preferred by the dissent since it hews to the date of issuance of the decree of registration in the authentic OCT No. 994. However, the same decision inconsistently refers to it also as OCT No. 994 “registered on April 19, 1917”, “dated April 19, 1917,” and “registered under OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917.” Notably, the context of MWSS in making the final citation, “registered under OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917,” was to point out that as a result “the subsequent registration of the same land on May 3, 1917 is null and void;” hence, no other conclusion can be reached than that the Court deemed Dimson’s mother title as having been registered on a date earlier than 3 May 1917.

Since the dissent and even CLT now acknowledge that there is only one OCT No. 994 which was registered by the Registry of Deeds of Rizal on 3 May 1917, the earlier factual finding in MWSS is indefensible. MWSS recognized an OCT No. 994 registered on 19 April 1917, a title that never existed and, even assuming that it did exist, is now acknowledged as spurious.

Gonzaga primarily relied on the ruling of the Court in MWSS upon a finding that the case involved “facts that are exactly the same as those that we have passed and ruled upon in the [MWSS case].”  The title which was affirmed by the Court in Gonzaga, TCT No. C-26806 in the name of Lilia Sevilla, was “a transfer from Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 which was registered on April 19, 1917 pursuant to Decree No. 36455.”[53] It was further observed by the Court that “on the one hand, [therein] petitioners’ titles indicate original registration to have been made on May 3, 1917, but on the other hand, private respondents’ title indicates original registration to have been made on April 19, 1917.”[54]

It was the title originally registered on 19 April 1917 which was made to prevail in Gonzaga, following MWSS. Since there is no OCT No. 994 originally registered on 19 April 1917, as now acknowledged, it follows that Gonzaga, like MWSS, is no longer reliable as well.

The argument has been raised by the ponente of the 2005 Decision that the 3 May 1917 OCT No. 994 must be distinguished from “OCT No. 994 dated May 3, 1917 involved in the MWSS and Gonzaga cases” because the former title was “based on the Cadastral Survey of Kalookan City under Cadastral Case No. 34, also covering the Maysilo Estate.” It is elemental to note that assuming said 3 May OCT was somehow flawed because it was based on Cadastral Case No. 34, it does not mean that the so-called 17 April 1917 OCT No. 994 is valid or had existed in the first place. Since even the dissent now discounts the existence of the so-called 17 April 1917 OCT No. 994, it should necessarily follow that any title that is sourced from the 17 April 1917 OCT is void. Such conclusion is inescapable whatever questions there may be about the veracity of the 3 May 1917 OCT based on Cadastral Case No. 34.

It would be especially incoherent for the Court to reiterate MWSS and Gonzaga when they effectuated the OCT No. 994 registered on 19 April 1917 and acknowledge at the same time that the same  OCT never existed, the genuine OCT No. 994 being that which was registered on 3 May 1917. We need not go as far as to revive the MWSS or Gonzaga decisions, but certainly we can decline to infuse further validity to their erroneous basic premise that there was an OCT No. 994 registered on 19 April 1917. The dissent proposes that we perpetuate the erroneous premise even as the error is plainly acknowledged, a stance that will not serve the Court well should it prevail.

Moreover, the two cases should not bind the parties in the petitions now before us. Undisputedly, the two cases involved different parcels of land. The present petitioners could not be bound by the decisions in the two cases, as they were not parties thereto and and their properties were not involved therein. As we very recently reaffirmed, it is basic that no man shall be affected by any proceeding to which he is a stranger, and strangers to a case are not bound by judgment rendered by the court.[55]

We can take instruction from the tack previously taken by this Court in dealing with municipalities created by executive orders. Beginning with Pelaez v. Auditor General,[56] the Court declared as a general principle that the President had no power to create municipalities through executive orders. However, instead of nullifying the creation of all municipalities created in the same manner, the Court only annulled those municipalities whose creation was  specifically  attacked  in the petition filed by then-Vice President

Pelaez.[57] With  respect  to  the  other municipalities which were not

annulled in Pelaez, the Court would, in the next few decades, annul only the municipalities which were specifically challenged in petitions raised before the Court.[58] However, after the adoption of the Local Government Code of 1991 that gave statutory recognition to the de facto municipalities which had not yet been annulled, the Court started to affirm the legal existence of such municipalities.[59]

As in Pelaez, the operative effect of the “doctrines” pronounced in MWSS and Gonzaga can extend only to the parties and properties involved in said cases, even if it can be argued that the rights involving other parties and properties are afflicted with inconsistency as regards the legal rulings therein, similar to the municipalities created which though created by void executive orders were not however annulled. Yet with the emergence of a new fact–the enactment of the Local Government Code vis-à-vis Pelaez, or the present acknowledgment that only the 3 May 1917 OCT No. 994 exists vis-à-vis MWSS and Gonzaga–subsequent rulings would be informed primarily by the new developments, rather than by the previous precedents that were not able to take into account the true or new factual premises.

IV.

The determinative test to resolve whether the prior decision of this Court should be affirmed or set aside is whether or not the titles invoked by the respondents are valid. If these titles are sourced from the so-called OCT No. 994 dated 17 April 1917, then such titles are void or otherwise should not be recognized by this Court. Since the true basic factual predicate concerning OCT No. 994 which is that there is only one such OCT differs from that expressed in the MWSS and Gonzaga decisions, said rulings have become virtually functus officio except on the basis of the “law of the case” doctrine, and can no longer be relied upon as precedents.

This approach immensely differs from that preferred by the 2005 Decision and the dissenting view, which dwells in the main on the alleged flaws in the titles held by the Manotoks and Araneta, without making a similar inquiry into  the titles held by CLT and the Heirs of Dimson. Since the decision in favor of CLT and the Heirs of Dimson was ultimately grounded on a factual predicate now acknowledged as erroneous, it follows that the primary focus should have been whether the titles held by CLT and the Dimsons are valid and with force and effect.  To that end, we need only examine the titles relied upon by CLT and the Dimsons.

In the Manotok petition, CLT had originally filed a complaint for annulment of the titles in the name of the Manotoks, alleging that it was the registered owner of Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate covered by TCT No. T-177013 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City.  Reproduced below is what appears on the face of TCT No. T-177013:[60]

IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the 19th day of April, in the year, nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Volume 36455, page ____, as Original Certificate of Title No. 994, pursuant to Decree No.  36455 issued in L.R.C. ____ Record No. _____in the name of ___________.

This certificate is a transfer from Trans. Certificate of Title No. R-17994/T-89, which is cancelled by virtue hereof in so far as the above-described land is concerned.

Entered at City of Kalookan

Philippines, on the 15th day of March

In the year nineteen hundred and

eighty-nine at 19:48 a.m.

CLT further alleged that it derived TCT No. T-177013 on 10 December 1988 from Estelita Hipolito whose title, TCT No. R-17994, is depicted, thus:[61]

IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the 19th day of April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Volume NA, page  NA, as Original Certificate of Title No. 994, pursuant to Decree No.  36455 issued in L.R.C. Case No. 4429, Record No. ________.

This certificate is a transfer from Transfer Certificate of Title No.  R-15166/T-75, which is cancelled by virtue hereof in so far as the above-described land is concerned.

Entered at the City of Caloocan

Philippines, on the 12th day of December

in the year nineteen hundred and seventy-

eight at 3:30 p.m.

Dimson’s original complaint for recovery of possession against Araneta was founded on the claim that he was the absolute owner of a parcel of land located at Malabon, comprising fifty (50) hectares of the Maysilo Estate covered by TCT No. R-15169 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City. Said TCT No. R-15169 is reproduced below:[62]

IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the 19th day of April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen, in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Volume NA, page___ , Original Certificate of Title No.  994, pursuant to Decree No. 36455, issued in LRC Case No.  4429, Record No. __

This Certificate is a transfer from Original Certificate of Title No. [illegible] which is cancelled by virtue hereof in so far as the above-described land is concerned.

Entered at Caloocan City

Philippines, on the 8th day of June

in the year nineteen hundred and

seventy-eight at 10:34 a.m.

It is evident from all three titles?CLT’s, Hipolito’s and Dimson’s—that the properties they purport to cover were “originally registered on the 19th day April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal.” Note, as earlier established, there is no such OCT No. 994 originally registered on 19 April 1917.

The conclusion is really simple. On their faces, none of these three titles can be accorded recognition simply because the original title commonly referred to therein never existed. To conclude otherwise would constitute deliberate disregard of the truth. These titles could be affirmed only if it can be proven that OCT No. 994 registered on 19 April 1917 had actually existed. CLT and the Dimsons were given the opportunity to submit such proof before this Court, but they did not. In fact, CLT has specifically manifested that the OCT No. 994 they concede as true is also the one which the Office of Solicitor General submitted as true, and that is OCT No. 994 issued on 3 May 1917.

Given this essential clarification, there is no sense in affirming the 2005 Decision which sustained the complaints for annulment of title and/or recovery of possession filed by CLT and the Dimson when their causes of action are both founded on an inexistent mother title. How can such actions prosper at all even to the extent of dispossessing the present possessors with title?

The dissent is hard-pressed in defending the so-called 19 April 1917 OCT from which the Dimson and CLT titles are sourced. As earlier mentioned, the focus is instead placed on the purported flaws of  the  titles held by the Manotoks and Araneta notwithstanding that  said  parties swere the defendants before the lower court and,


therefore, the burden of proof did not lie on them. The established legal principle in actions for annulment or reconveyance of title is that a party seeking it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his.[63] In an action to recover, the property must be identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the defendant's claim.[64]

V.

The dissenting view perceives a material difference between the present acknowledgment of the validity of OCT No. 994 dated 3 May 1917 and the titles involved in the Gonzaga and MWSS cases. It dwells on the fact that the titles debunked in the MWSS and Gonzaga cases, which find origination from OCT No. 994 dated 3 May 1917, seem to have been derived from Cadastral Case No. 34 also covering the Maysilo Estate. It is in fact the theory of the dissent that there are, in effect, two competing sources of title – the OCT No. 994 dated 3 May 1917 arising from the issuance of Decree No. 36455 in Land Registration Case No. 4429; and OCT No. 994 dated 3 May 1917 based on the Cadastral Survey of Caloocan City in Cadastral Case No. 34. It is further opined that the registration of lands pursuant to Cadastral Case No. 34, even if the date of such registration is 3 May 1917, is void since such registration could not supplant the earlier decision of the land registration court.

The supposition blatantly runs counter to long-established principles in land cases. Had it been adopted by the Court, the effect would have been to precipitate the utter astonishment of legal scholars, professionals and students alike.

The reality that cadastral courts may have jurisdiction over lands already registered in ordinary land registration cases was acknowledged by this Court in Pamintuan v. San Agustin.[65] Such jurisdiction is “limited to the necessary correction of technical errors in the description of the lands, provided such corrections do not impair the substantial rights of the registered owner, and that such jurisdiction cannot operate to deprive a registered owner of his title.”[66] It was further clarified in Timbol v. Diaz[67] that the limited jurisdiction of the cadastral court over such lands  even extends to the determination of “which one of the several conflicting registered titles shall prevail[, as such] power would seem to be necessary for a complete settlement of the title to the land, the express purpose of cadastral proceedings, and must therefore be considered to be within the jurisdiction of the court in such proceedings.”[68]

The question raised in Sideco v. Aznar[69] concerned the validity of an order of a cadastral court directing the issuance of new certificates of title  in the name of Sideco and his children, at Sideco’s own  prayer, over   land  previously registered in the name of Crispulo

Sideco. This Court ruled that such order was valid and did not amount to a readjudication of the title. After the cadastral proceedings therein had been initiated, the chief surveyor had reported to the cadastral court that the land was covered by a decree in a land registration proceeding and registered in the name of Sideco; the surveyor recommended that the title be cancelled and a new one issued in the names of such persons as the court may determine. In ruling that the new titles were valid, the Court stated that “[t]he proceedings did not in any way purport to reexamine the title already issued, or to readjudicate the title of the land. They were precisely predicated on the finality of the title already issued, because it was the registered owner who was asked to express his desire with respect thereto, and the court’s order precisely followed the petition of the registered owner.”[70]

The eminent U.P. law professor Francisco Ventura, himself a former Register of Deeds, explains why cadastral courts have jurisdiction to order the issuance of new titles in place of the title issued under voluntary registration proceedings:

“Inasmuch as the land is identified in the plan by cadastral number, it is necessary that a new title be issued, giving the lot its cadastral number in accordance with the cadastral survey. This does not mean that the court has the power to alter the decree entered in the previous registration proceeding. The court cannot change or modify the said decree. It does not adjudicate the title anew.  It  simply  deals  with  the  certificate  of title. This is for the

convenience of the landowner because it is easier for him to identify his property inasmuch as all the lands brought under the cadastral survey are designated by cadastral numbers.”[71]

What is prohibited in a cadastral proceeding is the registration of land, already issued in the name of a person, in the name of another, divesting the registered owner of the title already issued in his favor, or the making of such changes in the title as to impair his substantial rights.[72] Yet such prohibition does not mean that the cadastral court will not have jurisdiction over the action involving the previously registered land, as explained in Pamintuan and Timbol, or that the cadastral court may not issue a new title at all even if it would not impair the rights of the previously registered owner, as emphasized in Sideco. The dissent contents itself with the simplistic conclusion that because there was a cadastral case covering the Maysilo Estate from which the titles emanated, such titles could not have been valid. It is clear that there could be such titles issued, and they would be valid for so long as they do not impair the rights of the original registrant to whom OCT No. 994 dated 3 May 1917 was issued.

VI.

From these premises, the Court is able to make the following binding conclusions. First, there is only one OCT No. 994. As it appears on the record, that mother title was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on 3 May 1917, and that should be the date which should be reckoned as the date of registration of the title. It may also be acknowledged, as appears on the title, that OCT No. 994 resulted from the issuance of the decree of registration on 17 April 1917, although such date cannot be considered as the date of the title or the date when the title took effect.

Second. Any title that traces its source to OCT No. 994 dated 17 April 1917 is void, for such mother title is inexistent. The fact that the Dimson and CLT titles made specific reference to an OCT No. 994 dated 17 April 1917 casts doubt on the validity of such titles since they refer to an inexistent OCT. This error alone is, in fact, sufficient to invalidate the Dimson and CLT claims over the subject property if singular reliance is placed by them on the dates appearing on their respective titles.

Third. The decisions of this Court in MWSS v. Court of Appeals and Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals cannot apply to the cases at bar, especially in regard to their recognition of an OCT No. 994 dated 19 April 1917, a title which we now acknowledge as inexistent. Neither could the conclusions in MWSS or Gonzaga with respect to an OCT No. 994 dated 19 April 1917 bind any other case operating under the  factual setting the same as or similar to that at bar.

With these conclusions, what then is the proper course of action to take with respect to the pending motions for reconsideration? Considering that CLT and the Dimsons clearly failed to meet the burden of proof reposed in them as plaintiffs in the action for annulment of title and recovery of possession, there is a case to be made for ordering the dismissal of their original complaints before the trial court. However, such solution may not satisfactorily put to rest the controversy surrounding the Maysilo Estate.

More pertinently, after the instant petitions were filed with this Court, the Republic of the Philippines, through the OSG, had sought to intervene. The Republic did not participate as a party when these cases were still before the trial courts and the Court of Appeals. While the Republic had originally prayed for the grant of the petitions filed by all the petitioners in these consolidated cases, instead it presently seeks of the Court the promulgation of a new ruling upholding the validity of OCT No. 994 issued[73] or registered[74][75] on May 3, 1917.  Rather than suggest whether the petitions be granted or denied, the OSG argues that after a declaration from this Court that it is the 3 May 1917 mother title that is valid, “a remand of this case to the Court of Appeals, to settle which among the private parties derived their titles from the existing OCT 994, is proper”

Notably, both the Manotoks and Araneta are amenable to the remand of the petition, albeit under differing qualifications. The Manotoks submit that there should be a remand to the court of origin, consolidating all the present petitions, and that a full trial be conducted by the trial court.[76] On the other hand, Araneta proposes four (4) options for the Court to consider: (1) the dismissal of the original complaint filed by Dimson; (2) a ruling granting Araneta’s appeal and dismissing Dimson’s complaint, but at the same time remanding the case to a new division of the Court of Appeals for factual determination pursuant to Section 6, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court; (3) the suspension of the resolution of the present motion for reconsideration while the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals for factual determination; or (4) the remand of the proceedings to the Court of Appeals for the reception of further evidence, particularly the Senate and DOJ Reports, pursuant to Section 6, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court, and the consequent resolution by the appellate court of the instant petitions.

The OSG observes that during the oral arguments on the motion for reconsideration, then Chief Justice Panganiban suggested that a remand may be required to determine the status of the original title.[77][78] as well as not capacitated to appreciate evidence at the first instance. On the other hand, the Court of Appeals has the competence to engage in that undertaking. Considering that the genuine OCT No. 994 is that issued on/ registered on/dated 3 May 1917, a remand would be appropriate to determine which of the parties, if any, derived valid title from the said genuine OCT No. 994. On the one hand, the appreciation of facts is beyond the province of this Court, since it is not a trier of fact

Under Section 6 of Rule 46, which is applicable to original cases for certiorari,[79] the Court may, whenever necessary to resolve factual issues, delegate the reception of the evidence on such issues to any of its members or to an appropriate court, agency or office.[80] The delegate need not be the body that rendered the assailed decision.

The Court of Appeals generally has the authority to review findings of fact.[81] Its conclusions as to findings of fact are generally accorded great respect by this Court. It is a body that is fully capacitated and has a surfeit of experience in appreciating factual matters, including documentary evidence.

In fact, the Court had actually resorted to referring a factual matter pending before it to the Court of Appeals. In  Republic v. Court

of Appeals,[82] this Court commissioned the former Thirteenth Division

of the Court of Appeals to hear and receive evidence on the controversy, more particularly to determine “the actual area reclaimed by the Republic Real Estate Corporation, and the areas of the Cultural Center Complex which are ‘open spaces’ and/or ‘areas reserved for certain purposes,’ determining in the process the validity of such postulates and the respective measurements of the areas referred to.”[83] The Court of Appeals therein received the evidence of the parties and rendered a “Commissioner’s Report” shortly thereafter.[84] Thus, resort to the Court of Appeals is not a deviant procedure.

The provisions of Rule 32 should also be considered as governing the grant of authority to the Court of Appeals to receive evidence in the present case. Under Section 2, Rule 32 of the Rules of Court, a court may, motu proprio, direct a reference to a commissioner  when a question of fact, other than upon the pleadings, arises upon motion or otherwise, in any stage of a case, or for carrying a judgment or order into effect.[85] The order of reference can be limited exclusively to receive and report evidence only, and the commissioner may likewise rule upon the admissibility of evidence.[86] The commissioner is likewise mandated to submit a report in writing to the court upon the matters submitted to him by the order of reference.[87] In Republic, the commissioner’s report formed the basis of the final adjudication by the Court on the matter. The same result can obtain herein.

VII.

The OSG likewise adverts to the findings reached in the respective investigations and reports by the Department of Justice and the Philippine Senate, components of the two other co-equal branches of the government. Both the DOJ Report dated 28 August 1997 and the Senate Report dated 25 May 1998 conclude that there is only one (1) OCT No. 994 issued or registered on 3 May 1997. The OSG argues that the contents of both of these reports may be considered as evidence. It also points out, with basis, that these reports may be taken judicial notice of by this Court, following Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court. Indeed, it cannot be disputed that these reports fall within the ambit of “the official acts of the legislative [and] executive… departments.”[88]

It bears noting that the DOJ and Senate Reports were rendered on 28 August 1997 and 25 May 1998 respectively. They were issued some years after the trial courts had promulgated their respective decisions in the Manotok and Araneta cases, and even after the   Court of Appeals  handed  down  its  decision  against the Manotoks which is assailed in its present petition.[89] In Araneta’s case, the Court of Appeals had first ruled against Araneta in its Decision dated 30 May 1997, or just shortly before the rendition of the DOJ and Senate Reports.

Since this Court is not a trier of fact, we are not prepared to adopt the findings made by the DOJ and the Senate, or even consider whether these are admissible as evidence, though such questions may be considered by the Court of Appeals upon the initiative of the parties.  The  Court, in the 2005 Decision, refused to take into account

the reports on the regrettable premise that they could somehow “override” the judicial decisions earlier arrived at.[90] The reports cannot conclusively supersede or overturn judicial decisions, but if admissible they may be taken into account as evidence on the same level as the other pieces of evidence submitted by the parties. The fact that they were rendered by the DOJ and the Senate should not, in itself, persuade the courts to accept them without inquiry. The facts and arguments presented in the reports must still undergo judicial scrutiny and analysis, and certainly the courts will have the discretion to accept or reject them.


There are many factual questions looming over the properties that could only be threshed out in the remand to the Court of Appeals. The Manotoks and Araneta advert to certain factual allegations relating to their titles and backstories to advance their respective positions. Still, if it indeed emerges from the determination of the Court of Appeals on remand that notwithstanding the clear flaws of the title of respondents the titles of petitioners are cut from the same counterfeit cloth, then the Republic of the Philippines, an intervenor in these cases, is armed anyway with any and all appropriate remedies to safeguard the legitimate owners of the properties in question.

VIII.

The definitive conclusions reached by the Court thus far in these cases are spelled out in Part VI of this Resolution. Said conclusions serve to guide the Court of Appeals in hearing these cases on remand.

The Court hereby constitutes a Special Division of the Court of Appeals to hear these cases on remand. The Special Division shall be composed of three Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals, namely; Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga as Chairperson; Justice Lucas Bersamin as Senior Member; and Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao as Junior Member.

The Special Division is tasked to hear and receive evidence, conclude the proceedings and submit to this Court a report on its findings and recommended conclusions within three (3) months from finality of this Resolution.

In ascertaining which of the conflicting claims of title  should prevail, the Special Division is directed to make the following determinations based on the evidence already on record and such other evidence as may be presented at the proceedings before it, to wit:

i.        Which of the contending parties are able to trace back their claims of title to OCT No. 994 dated  3 May 1917?

ii. Whether the imputed flaws in the titles of the Manotoks and Araneta, as recounted in the 2005 Decision, are borne by the evidence? Assuming they are, are such flaws sufficient to defeat the claims of title of the Manotoks and Araneta?

iii. Whether the factual and legal bases of 1966 Order of Judge Muñoz-Palma and the 1970 Order of Judge Sayo are true and valid. Assuming they are, do these orders establish a superior right to the subject properties in favor of the Dimsons and CLT as opposed to the claims of Araneta and the Manotoks?

iv. Whether any of the subject properties had been the subject of expropriation proceedings at any point since the issuance of OCT No. 994 on 3 May 1917, and if so what are those proceedings, what are the titles acquired by the Government and whether any of the parties is able to trace its title to the title acquired by the Government through expropriation.

v. Such other matters necessary and proper in ascertaining which of the conflicting claims of title should prevail.

WHEREFORE, the instant cases are hereby REMANDED to the Special Division of the Court of Appeals for further proceedings in accordance with Parts VI, VII and VIII of this Resolution.

SO ORDERED.

Sgd.

DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

No part due to relationship to one of the counsels

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

Sgd.

(No Part)

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

See my Dissenting Opinion

(No Part – On Leave)

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Sgd.

See concurring and dissenting opinion:

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

Sgd.

Sgd.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

ADOLFO J. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

Sgd.

I join the dissent of J. A. Gutierrez

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

No part. As SolGen appeared in the oral arguments

I join the dissent of J. A.S. Gutierrez

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

RUBEN T. REYES

Associate Justice

Sgd.

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTO

Associate Justice

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

Sgd.

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice



[1]The present motions for reconsideration seek reversal of the  Decision dated 29 November 2005 (see 476 SCRA 305) promulgated in the consolidated cases of Manotok Realty v. CLT Realty (G.R. No. 123346), Araneta Institute v. Heirs of Jose B. Dimson (G.R. No. 13485) and Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association v. CLT Realty (G.R. No. 148767). However, the losing party in G.R. No. 148767 failed to file any motion for reconsideration within the reglementary period.

[2]See Memorandum filed by the Office of the Solicitor General dated 25 August 2006, p. 6.

[3]The total land areas of Monaco and the Vatican are 1.95 sq km and .44 sq. km . respectively. The New York Times 2008 Almanac (2007 ed.), p. 632.

[4]G.R. No. 103558, 17 November 1992, 215 SCRA 783.

[5]330 Phil. 8 (1996).

[6]Supra note 1.

[7]Rollo, G.R. No.  123346, p. 2081.

[8]Id. at 2081-2082.

[9]Id. at 2082.

[10]Id. at 2087.

[11]Id. at 2088.

[12]Id. at 2087.

[13]Rollo, G.R. No.  123456, p. 2088.

[14]Id. at 131.

[15]Id. at 134.

[16]Id. at 25-26.

[17]Id. at 2093-2094.

[18]Rollo, G.R. No.  123346, p. 2097.

[19]Id. at 2094-2095.

[20]Id. at 2095-2096.

[21]Rollo, G.R. No. 134385, pp. 25-28.

[22]Supra  note 1.

[23]Supra note 1.  Decision penned by Associate Justice Angelita Sandoval Gutierrez, and concurred by then Associate Justice (later Chief Justice) Artemio Panganiban, Associate Justices Renato Corona and Conchita Carpio Morales.

[24]Id., at 339.

[25]Per the Advisory furnished to the parties prior to oral arguments.

[26]Then Antonio E. Nachura, now an Associate Justice of this Court. Justice Nachura took no part in the present cases.

[27]TSN dated 1 August 2006, 353-354.

[28]Id. at 323

[29]Id. at 324.

[30]Resolution dated 1 August 2006.  See also id. at 379-380.

[31]Memorandum of CLT dated 3 September 2006, p. 9.

[32]See Attachment to Compliance dated 11 August 2006 filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.

[33]See note 31.

[34]Supra note 31 at 11-12.

[35]See note 25.

[36]See City of Manila v. Lack, 19 Phil. 324, 331 (1911).

[37]Antiporda v. Mapa, 55 Phil. 89, 91 (1930).

[38]PNB v. Tan, 51 Phil. 317, 321 (1927).

[39]See Act No. 496, Sec. 41.

[40]Noblejas and Noblejas, Land Titles and Deeds at 127.  Emphasis supplied.

[41]Ponce, The Philippines Torrens System, at 202, 205, 242. Emphasis supplied.

[42]Ventura, Land Titles and Deeds (1955 ed.) at 168.  Emphasis supplied.

[43]Peña, Peña and Peña, Registration of Land Titles and Deeds (1988 ed.) at 141.  Emphasis supplied.

[44]G.R. No. 150091, 2 April 2007, 520 SCRA 64.

[45]Supra note 1 at 336-337.

[46]Supra note 4.

[47]Id. at 788.

[48]Supra note 5.

[49]MWSS v. Court of Appeals, supra note 4 at 784.  Emphasis supplied.

[50]Id. at 787-788.  Emphasis supplied.

[51]Id. at 788. Emphasis supplied.

[52]Id.  Emphasis supplied.

[53]Supra note 5 at 12.

[54]Id. at 13.

[55]Galicia v. Manliquez, G.R. No. 155785, 13 April  2007, 521 SCRA 85, 95; citing National Housing Authority v. Evangelista, G.R. No. 140945, 16 May  2005, 458 SCRA 469, 478 (2005). See also, e.g., Mabayo Farms v. Court of Appeals,  435 Phil. 112, 118 (2002).

[56]122 Phil. 963 (1965).

[57]As was later observed in Camid v. Office of the President, G.R. No. 161414, 448 SCRA 711, 17 January 2005.

The eminent legal doctrine enunciated in Pelaez was that the President was then, and still is, not empowered to create municipalities through executive issuances. The Court therein recognized “that the President has, for many years, issued executive orders creating municipal corporations, and that the same have been organized and in actual operation . . .  .” However, the Court ultimately nullified only those thirty-three (33) municipalities, including Andong, created during the period from 4 September to 29 October 1964 whose existence petitioner Vice-President Pelaez had specifically assailed before this Court. No pronouncement was made as to the other municipalities which had been previously created by the President in the exercise of power the Court deemed unlawful.  (Id., at 724, citations omitted)

[58]See e.g., Municipality of San Joaquin v. Siva, 125 Phil. 1004 (1967); Municipality of Malabang v. Benito, 137 Phil. 358 (1969) and Municipality of Kapalong v. Moya, G.R. No. L-41322, 29 September 1988, 166 SCRA 70.

[59]See Municipality of San Narciso v. Mendez, G.R. No. 103702, 6 December 1994, 239 SCRA 11; Municipality of Candijay v. Court of Appeals, 321 Phil. 922 (1995); Municipality of Jimenez v. Baz, 333 Phil. 1 (1996).

[60]RTC records in G.R. No. 123346, Vol. 1, p. 14.

[61]Id. at 19-23.

[62]Rollo, G.R. No. 134385, p. 155.

[63]See Civil Code, Art. 364,. See also Silvestre v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. L-32694 & L-33119, 16 July  1982, 115 SCRA 63, 68. “The trial court correctly applied the established legal principle that in cases of annulment and/or reconveyance of title, a party seeking it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his. In the case at bar, respondent [Rufino] Dimson not only failed to establish by a preponderance of evidence that he has a better right over the land in dispute but even failed to establish private ownership of his alleged predecessor in interest. Although it is alleged that a decision was rendered in a cadastral case in favor of the spouses Mariano Batungbakal and Hilaria Vergara, respondent failed to produce a copy thereof, (certificate or reconstituted) or to show when the alleged decision was rendered, but merely asserts that it was before the war.” Silvestre v. Court of Appeals, id.

[64]Pisalbon v. Balmoja, 122 Phil. 289, 292 (1965); citing Civil Code, Art. 364. See also Misamis Lumber v. Director of Lands, 57 Phil. 881, 883 (1933); Sanchez Mellado v. Municipality of Tacloban, 9 Phil. 92, 93-94 (1907). “In an action to recover possession of real estate, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that he has a better right to the possession than the defendant; and the universal rule in actions of ejectment, where plaintiff seeks to recover possession and establish title to the land in controversy; is that he must rely on the strength of his own and not on the weakness of defendant's title.” Nolan v. Jalandoni, 23 Phil. 292, 298 (1912).

[65]43 Phil. 558 (1922).

[66]Id. at 561.

[67]44 Phil. 587 (1923).

[68]Id. at 590.

[69]92 Phil. 952 (1953).

[70]Id. at 960.

[71]Ventura, supra note 42 at 232; citing Government of Philippine Islands v. Arias, 36 Phil. 194 (1917).

[72]Peña, supra note 42 at 491.

[73]Supra note 2 at 35.

[74]Id. at 31.

[75]Id.

[76]See Memorandum for Manotok Realty Inc. and Manotok Estate Corp. dated 3 September 2006, p. 26.

[77]Id. at 34.

[78]See St. Martin Funeral Home v. NLRC, et al, 356 Phil. 811, 824 (1998), People v. Go, G.R. Nos. 116001 & 123943, 14 March 2001, 354 SCRA 338, 346.

[79]See Revised Rules of Court, Rule 56, Sec. 2. “The procedure in original cases for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus shall be in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Constitution, laws, and Rules 46, 48, 49, 51, and 52.

[80]Revised Rules of Court, Rule 46, Sec. 6.

[81]See Revised Rules of Court, Rule 43, Sec. 6.

[82]359 Phil. 530 (1998).

[83]J. Puno (now Chief Justice), concurring, Republic v. Court of Appeals, 359 Phil. 530, 598.

[84]Id.

[85]Reference to a commissioner may also be directed in cases when the trial of an issue of fact requires the examination of a long account on either side; or when the taking of an account is necessary for the information of the court before judgment, or for carrying a judgment or order into effect. See Revised Rules of Court, Rule 32, Sec. 2.

[86]Revised Rules of Court, Rule 32, Sec. 3.

[87]Revised Rules of Court, Rule 32, Sec. 9.

[88]See Rule 129, Sec. 1, which details when judicial notice is mandatory.

[89]In the Manotok petition, the Court of Appeals had first ruled against Manotok in September of 1995, and subsequently affirmed its decision on motion for reconsideration in January of 1996.

[90]“Finally, we cannot consider the alleged newly-discovered evidence consisting of the DOJ and Senate Fact-Finding Committee Reports invoked by petitioners herein.   Certainly, such committee reports cannot override the Decisions of the trial courts and the Court of Appeals upholding the validity of respondents’ titles in these cases.   The said Decisions were rendered after the opposing parties have been accorded due process.  It bears stressing that the courts have the constitutional duty to adjudicate legal disputes properly brought before them.  The DOJ and Senate, or any other agencies of the Government for that matter, have clearly distinguishable roles from that of the Judiciary.   Just as overlapping of titles of lands is abhorred, so is the overlapping of findings of facts among the different branches and agencies of the Government.” Supra note 1 at 338.