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[G.R. No. 101387.

March 11, 1998] D E C I S I O N SPOUSES MARIANO and ERLINDA LABURADA, represented by their attorney-in-fact, MANUEL SANTOS, JR., petitioners, vs. LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY, respondent. PANGANIBAN, J: In an original land registration proceeding in which applicants have been adjudged to have a registrable title, may the Land Registration Authority (LRA) refuse to issue a decree of registration if it has evidence that the subject land may already be included in an existing Torrens certificate of title? Under this circumstance, may the LRA be compelled by mandamus to issue such decree? The Case These are the questions confronting this Court in this special civil action for mandamusi[1] under Rule 65 which asks this Court to direct the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue the corresponding decree of registration in Land Registration Case (LRC) No. N-11022.ii[2] The Facts Petitioners were the applicants in LRC Case No. N-11022 for the registration of Lot 3-A, Psd-1372, located in Mandaluyong City. On January 8, 1991, the trial court, acting as a land registration court, rendered its decision disposing thus:iii[3] WHEREFORE, finding the application meritorious and it appearing that the applicants, Spouses Marciano [sic] and Erlinda Laburada, have a registrable title over the parcel of land described as Lot 3A, Psd-1372, the Court declares, confirms and orders the registration of their title thereto. As soon as this decision shall become final, let the corresponding decree be issued in the name of spouses Marciano [sic] and Erlinda Laburada, both of legal age, married, with residence and postal address at No. 880 Rizal Ave., Manila. After the finality of the decision, the trial court, upon motion of petitioners, issued an order iv[4] dated March 15, 1991 requiring the LRA to issue the corresponding decree of registration. However, the LRA refused. Hence, petitioners filed this action for mandamus.v[5] Attached to the LRAs comment on the petition is a report dated April 29, 1992 signed by Silverio G. Perez, director of the LRA Department of Registration, which explained public respondents refusal to issue the said decree:vi[6] In connection with the Petition for Mandamus filed by Petitioners through counsel, dated August 27, 1991 relative to the above-noted case/record, the following comments are respectfully submitted: On March 6, 1990, an application for registration of title of a parcel of land, Lot 3-A of the subdivision plan Psd-1372, a portion of Lot 3, Block No. 159, Swo-7237, situated in the Municipality of San Felipe Neri, Province of Rizal was filed by Spouses Marciano [sic] Laburada and Erlinda Laburada; After plotting the aforesaid plan sought to be registered in our Municipal Index Sheet, it was found that it might be a portion of the parcels of land decreed in Court of Land Registration (CLR) Case Nos. 699, 875 and 817, as per plotting of the subdivision plan (LRC) Psd-319932, a copy of said subdivision plan is Annex A hereof; The records on file in this Authority show that CLR Case Nos. 699, 875 & 917 were issued Decree Nos. 240, 696 and 1425 on August 25, 1904, September 14, 1905 and April 26, 1905, respectively; On May 23, 1991, a letter of this Authority was sent to the Register of Deeds, Pasig, Metro Manila, a copy is Annex B hereof, requesting for a certified true copy of the Original Certificate of Title No. 355, issued in the name of Compania Agricola de Ultramar; On May 20, 1991, a certified true copy of the Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 355 was received by this Authority, a copy is Annex C hereof, per unsigned letter of the Register of Deeds of Pasig, Metro Manila, a copy is Annex D hereof;

After examining the furnished OCT NO. 355, it was found that the technical description of the parcel of land described therein is not readable, that prompted this Authority to send another letter dated April 15, 1992 to the Register of Deeds of Pasig, Metro Manila, a copy is Annex E hereof, requesting for a certified typewritten copy of OCT No. 355, or in lieu thereof a certified copy of the subsisting certificate of title with complete technical description of the parcel of land involved therein. To date, however, no reply to our letter has as yet been received by this Authority; After verification of the records on file in the Register of Deeds for the Province of Rizal, it was found that Lot 3-B of the subdivision plan Psd-1372 being a portion of Lot No. 3, Block No. 159, Plan S.W.O. -7237, is covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 29337 issued in the name of Pura Escurdia Vda. de Buenaflor, a copy is attached as Annex F hereof. Said TCT No. 29337 is a transfer from Transfer Certificate of Title No. 6595. However, the title issued for Lot 3-A of the subdivision plan Psd-1372 cannot be located because TCT No. 6595 consisting of several sheets are [sic] incomplete. For this Authority to issue the corresponding decree of registration sought by the petitioners pursuant to the Decision dated January 8, 1991 and Order dated March 15, 1991, it would result in the duplication of titles over the same parcel of land, and thus contravene the policy and purpose of the Torrens registration system, and destroy the integrity of the same (G.R. No. 63189, Pedro E. San Jose vs. Hon. Eutropio Migrio, et al.,); x x x. In view of the foregoing explanation, the solicitor general prays that the petition be dismissed for being premature. After the filing of memoranda by the parties, petitioners filed an urgent motion, dated September 4, 1995,vii[7] for an early resolution of the case. To this motion, the Court responded with a Resolution, dated October 23, 1995, which ordered:viii[8] x x x Acting on the urgent motion for early resolution of the case dated 04 September 1995 filed by petitioner Erlinda Laburada herself, the Court resolved to require the Solicitor General to report to the Court in detail, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of this Resolution, what concrete and specific steps, if any, have been taken by respondent since 19 May 1993 (the date of respondents Memorandum) to actually verify whether the lot subject of LRC Case No. N-11022 (Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch 68), described as Lot 3A, Psd-1372 and situated in Mandaluyong City, might be a portion of the parcels of land decreed in Court of Land Registration Case (CLR) Nos. 699, 875 and 917. On December 29, 1995, the solicitor general submitted his compliance with the above resolution, to which was attached a letter dated November 27, 1997 of Felino M. Cortez, chief of the LRA Ordinary and Cadastral Decree Division, which states:ix[9] With reference to your letter dated November 13, 1995, enclosed herewith is a copy of our letter dated 29 April 1992 addressed to Hon. Ramon S. Desuasido stating among others that Lot 3-B, of the subdivision plan Psd-1372, a portion of Lot 3, Blk. 159, Swo-7237 is really covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 29337 issued in the name of Pura Escurdia Vda. de Bunaflor [sic] which was transfer[ed] from Transfer Certificate of Title No. 6395, per verification of the records on file in the Register of Deeds of Rizal. However, the title issued for the subject lot, Lot 3-A of the subdivision plan Psd-1372, cannot be located because TCT #6595 is incomplete. It was also informed [sic] that for this Authority to issue the corresponding decree of registration sought by the petitioners pursuant to the decision dated January 9, 1991 and order dated March 15, 1991, would result in the duplication of [the] title over the same parcel of land, and thus contravene the policy and purposes of the torrens registration system, and destroy the integrity of the same (O.R. No. 63189 Pedro K. San Jose vs. Hon. Eutropio Migrio, et. al.). Hence, this case will be submitted to the Court for dismissal to avoid duplication of title over the same parcel of land. Issue Petitioners submit this lone issue:Whether or not Respondent Land Registration Authority can be compelled to issue the corresponding decree in LRC Case No. N-11022 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch LXVIII (68).

The Courts Ruling

The petition is not meritorious.

Sole Issue: Is Mandamus the Right Remedy? Petitioners contend that mandamus is available in this case, for the LRA unlawfully neglect[ed] the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office x x x. They cite four reasons why the writ should be issued. First, petitioners claim that they have a clear legal right to the act being prayed for and the LRA has the imperative duty to perform because, as land registration is an in rem proceeding, the jurisdictional requirement of notices and publication should be complied with.x[11] Since there was no showing that the LRA filed an opposition in this proceeding, it cannot refuse to issue the corresponding decree. Second, it is not the duty of the LRA to take the cudgels for the private persons in possession of OCT No. 355, TCT No. 29337 snf [sic] TCT No. 6595. Rather, it is the sole concern of said private person-holders of said titles to institute in a separate but proper action whatever claim they may have against the property subject of petitioners application for registration. Third, petitioners contend that they suffered from the delay in the issuance of their title, because of the failure of the Register of Deeds of Pasig, Metro Manila to furnish LRA of [sic] the certified copies of TCT No. 29337 and TCT No. 6595 notwithstanding the lack of opposition from the holders of said titles.xi[12] Fourth, the State consented to its being sued in this case[;] thus, the legislature must recognize any judgment that may be rendered in this case as final and make provision for its satisfaction.xii[13] On the other hand, the LRA, represented by the solicitor general, contends that the decision of the trial court is not valid, considering that [the] Court of First Instance has no jurisdiction to decree again the registration of land already decreed in an earlier land registration case and [so] a second decree for the same land is null and void.xiii[14] On the question of whether the LRA can be compelled to issue a decree of registration, the solicitor general cites Ramos vs. Rodriguezxiv[15] which held:xv[16] Nevertheless, even granting that procedural lapses have been committed in the proceedings below, these may be ignored by the Court in the interest of substantive justice. This is especially true when, as in this case, a strict adherence to the rules would result in a situation where the LRA would be compelled to issue a decree of registration over land which has already been decreed to and titled in the name of another. It must be noted that petitioners failed to rebut the LRA report and only alleged that the title of the Payatas Estate was spurious, without offering any proof to substantiate this claim. TCT No. 8816, however, having been issued under the Torrens system, enjoys the conclusive presumption of validity. As we declared in an early case, (t)he very purpose of the Torrens system would be destroyed if the same land may be subsequently brought under a second action for registration. The application for registration of the petitioners in this case would, under the circumstances, appear to be a collateral attack of TCT No. 8816 which is not allowed under Section 48 of P.D. 1529. (Underscoring supplied.) We agree with the solicitor general. We hold that mandamus is not the proper remedy for three reasons. First: Judgment Is Not Yet Executory Contrary to the petitioners allegations, the judgment they seek to enforce in this petition is not yet executory and incontrovertible under the Land Registration Law. That is, they do not have any clear legal right to implement it. We have unambiguously ruled that a judgment of registration does not become executory until after the expiration of one year after the entry of the final decree of registration. We explained this in Gomez vs. Court of Appeals:xvi[17] It is not disputed that the decision dated 5 August 1981 had become final and executory. Petitioners vigorously maintain that said decision having become final, it may no longer be reopened, reviewed, much less, set aside. They anchor this claim on section 30 of P.D. No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree) which provides that, after judgment has become final and executory, the court shall forthwith issue an order to the Commissioner of Land Registration for the issuance of the decree of registration and certificate of title. Petitioners contend that section 30 should be read in relation to section 32 of P.D. 1529 in that, once the judgment becomes final and executory under section 30, the decree of registration must issue as a matter of course. This being the law, petitioners assert, when respondent

Judge set aside in his decision, dated 25 March 1985, the decision of 5 August 1981 and the order of 6 October 1981, he clearly acted without jurisdiction. Petitioners contention is not correct. Unlike ordinary civil actions, the adjudication of land in a cadastral or land registration proceeding does not become final, in the sense of incontrovertibility until after the expiration of one (1) year after the entry of the final decree of registration. This Court, in several decisions, has held that as long as a final decree has not been entered by the Land Registration Commission (now NLTDRA) and the period of one (1) year has not elapsed from date of entry of such decree, the title is not finally adjudicated and the decision in the registration proceeding continues to be under the control and sound discretion of the court rendering it. Second: A Void Judgment Is Possible That the LRA hesitates in issuing a decree of registration is understandable. Rather than a sign of negligence or nonfeasance in the performance of its duty, the LRAs reaction is reasonable, even imperative. Considering the probable duplication of titles over the same parcel of land, such issuance may contravene the policy and the purpose, and thereby destroy the integrity, of the Torrens system of registration. In Ramos vs. Rodriguez,xvii[18] this Court ruled that the LRA is mandated to refer to the trial court any doubt it may have in regard to the preparation and the issuance of a decree of registration. In this respect, LRA officials act not as administrative officials but as officers of said court, and their act is the act of the court. They are specifically called upon to extend assistance to courts in ordinary and cadastral land registration proceedings. True, land registration is an in rem proceeding and, therefore, the decree of registration is binding upon and conclusive against all persons including the government and its branches, irrespective of whether they were personally notified of the application for registration, and whether they filed an answer to said application. This stance of petitioners finds support in Sec. 38 of Act 496 which provides: SEC. 38. If the court after hearing finds that the applicant or adverse claimant has title as stated in his application or adverse claim and proper for registration, a decree of confirmation and registration shall be entered. Every decree of registration shall bind the land, and quiet title thereto, subject only to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the Insular Government and all the branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application, notice, or citation, or included in the general description To all whom it may concern. Such decree shall not be opened by reason of the absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments or decrees; subject, however, to the right of any person deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by decree of registration obtained by fraud to file in the competent Court of First Instance a petition for review within one year after entry of the decree, provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired an interest. Upon the expiration of said term of one year, every decree or certificate of title issued in accordance with this section shall be incontrovertible. If there is any such purchaser, the decree of registration shall not be opened, but shall remain in full force and effect forever, subject only to the right of appeal herein before provided: Provided, however, That no decree or certificate of title issued to persons not parties to the appeal shall be cancelled or annulled. But any person aggrieved by such decree in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other person for fraud in procuring the decree. Whenever the phrase innocent purchaser for value or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Act, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value. (As amended by Sec. 3, Act No. 3621; and Sec. 1, Act No. 3630, and PD 1529, Sec. 39). However, we must point out that the letters of Silverio G. Perez and Felino M. Cortez, dated April 29, 1992 and November 27, 1995, respectively, clearly stated that, after verification from the records submitted by the Registry of Deeds of Rizal, the property which petitioners are seeking to register -- Lot 3-A of Subdivision Plan Psd-1372 -- is a portion of Lot No. 3, Block 159, Plan S.W.O.-7237, over which TCT No. 6595 has already been issued. Upon the other hand, in regard to Lot 3-B of said Lot 3, TCT No. 29337 was issued in lieu of TCT No. 6595. Thus, the LRAs refusal to issue a decree of registration is based on documents which, if verified, may render the judgment of the trial court void.

It is settled that a land registration court has no jurisdiction to order the registration of land already decreed in the name of another in an earlier land registration case. A second decree for the same land would be null and void,xviii[19] since the principle behind original registration is to register a parcel of land only once.xix[20] Thus, if it is proven that the land which petitioners are seeking to register has already been registered in 1904 and 1905, the issuance of a decree of registration to petitioners will run counter to said principle. As ruled in Duran vs. Olivia:xx[21] As the title of the respondents, who hold certificates of title under the Land Registration Act becomes indefeasible, it follows that the Court of First Instance has no power or jurisdiction to entertain proceedings for the registration of the same parcels of land covered by the certificates of title of the respondents. Such has been our express ruling in the case of Rojas, et al. v. The City of Tagaytay, et al., G.R. No. L-13333, prom. November 24, 1959, in which this Court, through Mr. Justice Barrera, said: As thus viewed, the pivotal issue is one of jurisdiction on the part of the lower court. All the other contentions of respondent regarding possession in good faith, laches or claims of better right, while perhaps valid in an appropriate ordinary action, as to which we here express no opinion, can not avail in the case at bar if the court a quo, sitting as land registration court, had no jurisdiction over the subject matter in decreeing on June 30, 1957, the registration, in favor of respondent city, of a lot already previously decreed and registered in favor of the petitioners. In a quite impressive line of decisions, it has been well-settled that a Court of First Instance has no jurisdiction to decree again the registration of land already decreed in an earlier land registration case and a second decree for the same land is null and void. This is so, because when once decreed by a court of competent jurisdiction, the title to the land thus determined is already a res judicata binding on the whole world, the proceedings being in rem. The court has no power in a subsequent proceeding (not based on fraud and within the statutory period) to adjudicate the same title in favor of another person. Furthermore, the registration of the property in the name of first registered owner in the Registration Book is a standing notice to the world that said property is already registered in his name. Hence, the latter applicant is chargeable with notice that the land he applied for is already covered by a title so that he has no right whatsoever to apply for it. To declare the later title valid would defeat the very purpose of the Torrens system which is to quiet title to the property and guarantee its indefeasibility. It would undermine the faith and confidence of the people in the efficacy of the registration law. Third: Issuance of a Decree Is Not a Ministerial Act The issuance of a decree of registration is part of the judicial function of courts and is not a mere ministerial act which may be compelled through mandamus. Thus, this Court held in Valmonte and Jacinto vs. Nable: xxi[22] Moreover, after the rendition of a decision by a registration or cadastral court, there remain many things to be done before the final decree can be issued, such as the preparation of amended plans and amended descriptions, especially where the decision orders a subdivision of a lot, the segregation therefrom of a portion being adjudicated to another party, to fit the said decision. As said by this Court in the case of De los Reyes vs. De Villa, 48 Phil., 227, 234: Examining section 40, we find that the decrees of registration must be stated in convenient form for transcription upon the certificate of title and must contain an accurate technical description of the land. This requires trained technical men. Moreover, it frequently occurs that only portions of a parcel of land included in an application are ordered registered and that the limits of such portions can only be roughly indicated in the decision of the court. In such cases amendments of the plans and sometimes additional surveys become necessary before the final decree can be entered. That can hardly be done by the court itself; the law very wisely charges the chief surveyor of the General Land Registration Office with such duties (Administrative Code, section 177). Furthermore, although the final decree is actually prepared by the Chief of the General Land Registration Office, the administrative officer, the issuance of the final decree can hardly be considered a ministerial act for the reason that said Chief of the General Land Registration Office acts not as an administrative officer but as an officer of the court and so the issuance of a final decree is a judicial

function and not an administrative one (De los Reyes vs. De Villa, supra). x x x (Underscoring supplied.) Indeed, it is well-settled that the issuance of such decree is not compellable by mandamus because it is a judicial act involving the exercise of discretion.xxii[23] Likewise, the writ of mandamus can be awarded only when the petitioners legal right to the performance of the particular act which is sought to be compelled is clear and complete.xxiii[24] Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, a clear legal right is a right which is indubitably granted by law or is inferable as a matter of law. If the right is clear and the case is meritorious, objections raising merely technical questions will be disregarded.xxiv[25] But where the right sought to be enforced is in substantial doubt or dispute, as in this case, mandamus cannot issue. A court may be compelled by mandamus to pass and act upon a question submitted to it for decision, but it cannot be enjoined to decide for or against one of the parties.xxv[26] As stated earlier, a judicial act is not compellable by mandamus.xxvi[27] The court has to decide a question according to its own judgment and understanding of the law.xxvii[28] In view of the foregoing, it is not legally proper to require the LRA to issue a decree of registration. However, to avoid multiplicity of suits and needless delay, this Court deems it more appropriate to direct the LRA to expedite its study, to determine with finality whether Lot 3-A is included in the property described in TCT No. 6595, and to submit a report thereon to the court of origin within sixty (60) days from receipt of this Decision, after which the said court shall act with deliberate speed according to the facts and the law, as herein discussed. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED but the case is REMANDED to the court of origin in Pasig City. The Land Registration Authority, on the other hand, is ORDERED to submit to the court a quo a report determining with finality whether Lot 3-A is included in the property described in TCT No. 6595, within sixty (60) days from notice. After receipt of such report, the land registration court, in turn, is ordered to ACT, with deliberate and judicious speed, to settle the issue of whether the LRA may issue the decree of registration, according to the facts and the law as herein discussed. [G.R. No. 153691. July 19, 2006] DR. EDUARDO RELLIN versus MIGUEL C. BELARMINO RESOLUTION This is an appeal from the Decision cralaw dated October 17, 2001 and the Resolution[2]cralaw dated May 20, 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 55923. The appellate court had affirmed the Decision dated October 25, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court of Kidapawan City, Cotabato, Branch 17.[3]cralaw The facts, as found by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:[4]cralaw On March 10, 1947, one Florita Sembria executed a Transfer of Homestead Rights in favor of herein respondent, Miguel Belarmino. The property subject of the transfer was Lot No. 51, Block 23, Pls-59 in the Kidapawan Subdivision. On August 16, 1952, the same property was the subject of a Deed of Mortgage between Miguel Belarmino as mortgagor and petitioner, Dr. Eduardo Rellin, as mortgagee. The deed mortgaged only the improvements introduced and at that time existing on the property. The consideration for the mortgage was eight thousand pesos (P8,000), payable within two (2) years from the date of execution of the deed, or until May 16, 1954. Petitioner Rellin alleges, however, that what transpired was a sale of the subject parcel of land entered into by him and Ananias Belarmino, father of respondent Miguel Belarmino. On April 14, 1955, Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. V-9163 was issued in favor of Miguel Belarmino. This was recorded in the Registration Book for the province of Cotabato on June 6, 1956. The OCT covered the property mentioned in the Deed of Mortgage.[5]cralaw On July 29, 1974, respondent, through counsel, sent a demand letter to petitioner for the return of the property as well as the title thereto. The respondent waited more than a year for a reply which did not come. On February 4, 1976, the respondent filed a complaint[6]cralaw with the then Court of First
[1]

Instance, Third Branch of Kidapawan, North Cotabato (now Branch 17, Regional Trial Court of Kidapawan, Cotabato) for recovery of property and possession with accounting and damages against petitioner. After trial, the lower court rendered the assailed decision against the defendant, now herein petitioner. It held as follows: WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered: a) Ordering the defendant Dr. Eduardo Rellin to vacate the premises and peacefully turn over the property to the plaintiff; b) Ordering defendant to return the Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. V-9163 to the plaintiff; c) Ordering the defendant to account for the produce of the land from 1952 until he vacates the premises; d) Ordering defendant to pay [a]ttorney's fees in the sum of P7,000.00; e) And to pay the costs of the suit. It is so ordered.[7] Petitioner's appeal was denied by the Court of Appeals which affirmed the decision of the trial court.[8]cralaw It also denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration. Now, petitioner submits to us the following issues for resolution: I. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT THE ACTION WAS BARRED BY ACQUISITIVE OR EXTINCTIVE PRESCRIPTION AS WELL AS LACHES; II. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THAT THE PROPERTY WAS VALIDLY SOLD; III. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE GOOD FAITH OF THE PETITIONER IS IMMATERIAL;[9]cralaw On the first issue: Has prescription set in? Petitioner contends that prescription had set in considering that he had been in possession of the subject property since 1952.[10]cralaw Respondent counters that prescription was inapplicable since his land is covered by the Torrens system under Original Certificate of Title No. V-9163 in his name.[11]cralaw We agree with respondent. Prescription could not arise in the instant case.[12]cralaw Respondent has in his favor the law that protects holders of title under the Torrens System of land registration. [13]cralaw Once a title is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting in the "mirador de su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land.[14]cralaw In Vencilao,[15]cralaw a case with analogous facts, the Court held: In awarding the disputed land to petitioners, the trial court erroneously found that petitioners had been in possession and enjoyment of the property for more than thirty (30) years. It should be noted that the land in dispute is a registered land placed under the operation of the Torrens system way back in 1959, or more than thirty (30) years before petitioners instituted the present action in the court a quo, and for which Original Certificate of Title No. 400 was issued. The rule is well-settled that prescription does not run against registered land. Thus, under Sec. 47 of PD 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, it is specifically provided that "no title to registered land in derogation of that of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession." A title, once registered, cannot be defeated even by adverse, open and notorious possession. The certificate of title issued is an absolute and indefeasible evidence of ownership of the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein. It is binding and conclusive upon the whole world. All persons must take notice and no one can plead ignorance of the registration. Has laches set in? We observe that the petitioner did not exercise his alleged rights of ownership of the property when he did not foreclose the mortgage, despite having all the opportunity to do so from the time the right to foreclose arose. He could not now claim that respondent is barred by time to recover

the property. Impuris minibus nemo accedat curiam. Let no one come to court with unclean hands.[16]cralaw Also, well-entrenched is the rule in our jurisdiction that the law aids the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights. Vigilantis sed non dormientibus jura in re subveniunt.[17]cralaw Moreover, a collateral attack on the title of Miguel Belarmino is out of the question. The issue of the validity of title, i.e. whether or not it was fraudulently issued, can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for that purpose.[18]cralaw In Ybaez v. Intermediate Appellate Court,[19]cralaw we have emphatically ruled: It was erroneous for petitioners to question the Torrens Original Certificate of Title issued to private respondent over Lot No. 986 in Civil Case No. 671, an ordinary civil action for recovery of possession filed by the registered owner of the said lot, by invoking as affirmative defense in their answer the Order of the Bureau of Lands, dated July 19, 1978, issued pursuant to the investigatory power of the Director of Lands under Section 91 of Public Land Law (C.A. 141 as amended). Such a defense partakes of the nature of a collateral attack against a certificate of title brought under the operation of the Torrens system of registration pursuant to Section 122 of the Land Registration Act, now Section 103 of P.D. 1259 (sic). The case law on the matter does not allow collateral attack on the Torrens certificate of title on the ground of actual fraud. The rule now finds expression in Section 48 of P.D. 1529 otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. Another case, Bolisay v. Alcid,[20]cralaw cited in the recent case of Pacioles, Jr. v. ChuatocoChing,[21]cralaw held: . . . In regard to such incident of inclusion or exclusion, We hold that if a property covered by Torrens Title is involved, the presumptive conclusiveness of such title should be given due weight, and in the absence of strong compelling evidence to the contrary, the holder thereof should be considered as the owner of the property in controversy until his title is nullified or modified in an appropriate ordinary action, particularly, when as in the case at bar, possession of the property itself is in the persons named in the title . . . Corollarily, P.D. 1529, otherwise known as, "The Property Registration Decree," proscribes collateral attack against Torrens Title, hence: Section 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law. In the present petition, petitioner seeks from respondent the recovery of the subject property. It is evident that the objective of such claim is to nullify the title of respondent to the property in question, which thereby challenges the judgment pursuant to which the title was decreed. This is in reality a collateral attack, which is not permitted under the principle of indefeasibility of a Torrens Title. It is well settled that a Torrens Title cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue on the validity of title can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for that purpose. Hence, whether or not petitioners have the right to claim ownership of the land in question is beyond the province of the instant proceeding.[22]cralaw Was there a valid sale to petitioner? Petitioner avers that there was transfer of title by sale.[23]cralaw Ananias Belarmino, the father of the respondent, allegedly executed a document entitled Confirmation of Sale acknowledging and confirming the sale of property to the petitioner.[24]cralaw Respondent replies that such sale was void, having been made during the prohibited five (5) year period and no confirmation of sale made by Ananias Belarmino even after the lapse of the five-year period can ratify the sale.[25]cralaw Section 118 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, provides: Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, or legally constituted banking corporation, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant nor shall become liable to the satisfaction of any

debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period; but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified associations, or corporations. Conformably with the foregoing provision, the alleged sale of the disputed land did not produce any effect because such is prohibited. That sale is void, inexistent and could not be ratified and a mere lapse of time cannot give efficacy to it.[26]cralaw In Saltiga de Romero v. Court of Appeals,[27]cralaw the Court held: As for the alleged sale of three portions of the lot for a consideration of P3,000.00 each evidenced by the three affidavits of sale executed by LUTERO in favor of GLORIOSA, PRESENTACION and LUCITA, the Court of Appeals correctly declared the three conveyances void. CA 141 prohibits the alienation of a homestead within five years from the issuance of the patent and grant under Section 118, which states: Sec. 118. Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent and grant, nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period, but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified persons, associations, or corporations. No alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before twenty-five years after the issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds. The conveyance of a homestead before the expiration of the five-year prohibitory period following the issuance of the homestead patent is null and void and cannot be enforced, for 'it is not within the competence of any citizen to barter away what public policy by law seeks to preserve. ( Ortega v. Tan, 181 SCRA 350 at p. 356 [1990]). In the present case, since the sales were made on January 17, 1969 or less than two years after the issuance of LUTERO's title to the homestead on April 7, 1967, the sales are clearly void. Furthermore, Ananias Belarmino cannot claim ownership of the land in question nor could he validly transfer ownership of said lot to the petitioner since he is not the registered owner. As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, it is only the respondent, Miguel Belarmino, who could validly dispose of or alienate his property. On the third issue, petitioner states that he cannot be ordered to account for the fruits that he derived from the subject land.[28]cralaw Respondent answers that there was bad faith on the part of petitioner, when the latter insisted on using the land.[29]cralaw Indeed, we find bad faith on the part of the petitioner, when he refused to return the land to the respondent, despite several demands made by Miguel Belarmino for its return. As such, he is not entitled to the benefits the law bestows on individuals acting in good faith. Moreover, the issue of good faith on the part of the petitioner has not been raised by him before the Court of Appeals. Issues not raised or ventilated in the court a quo cannot be raised for the first time on appeal as to do so would be offensive to the basic rules of fair play and justice.[30]cralaw WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision dated October 17, 2001 of the Court of Appeals and its Resolution dated May 20, 2002 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner. [G.R. No. 125375. June 17, 2004] D E C I S I O N SPOUSES ELPIDIO APOSTOL and AMELIA APOSTOL, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and SPOUSES EMMANUEL CHUA and EDNA L. CHUA, respondents. CALLEJO, SR., J.:

This is a petition for review of the Decisionxxviii[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 38333 reversing the Decision,xxix[2] on appeal, of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 215, in Civil Case No. Q-94-21698. The Antecedents On September 3, 1993, the respondents, Spouses Emmanuel and Edna Chua, filed a complaint for unlawful detainer against the petitioners, Spouses Elpidio and Amelia Apostol, in the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Metro Manila, docketed as Civil Case No. 7660. The respondents alleged, inter alia, that they had contracted with the Spouses Paulo and Georgina Pascua for the purchase of a parcel of land. The petitioners, who were present during the negotiations, verbally assured the respondents that they would vacate the property within ten (10) days from the execution of the sale. The petitioners then acknowledged that their stay in the property was only upon the tolerance of its former owners. On June 7, 1993, the Spouses Pascua executed a Deed of Absolute Sale over the property and the improvements thereon in favor of the respondents for P1,000,000. On the basis of the said deed, the respondents were issued Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 87610 over the property on June 8, 1993. Despite demands, however, the petitioners refused to vacate the property. The respondents prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in their favor, thus: WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that after a summary hearing, judgment be rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants, as follows: 1.Ordering the defendants and all persons claiming under them to immediately vacate the abovementioned parcel of land; 2.Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the sum of P5,000.00 per month from the filing of the complaint until they finally vacate and turn over completely the above-mentioned parcel of land representing the reasonable compensation for the use and occupancy of the above-mentioned parcel of land; 3.Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the sum of P10,000.00 for and as attorneys fees, plus the sum of P1,000.00 appearance fee for every court attendance of plaintiffs counsel; and 4.Ordering defendants to pay plaintiffs the costs of suit. PLAINTIFFS further pray for such other reliefs and remedies as may be deemed just and equitable in the premises.xxx[3] In their answer with special and affirmative defenses and compulsory counterclaim, the respondents alleged, inter alia, that Luz B. Pascua was the owner of the parcel of land located in Quezon City covered by TCT No. 198936 with an area of 315 square meters. She sold a portion of the property, an area of 285.32 square meters, to the respondents on July 8, 1976 for P45,548 of which P15,548 was paid. On the same day, the parties executed a memorandum agreement covering the property, in which the respondents agreed that the balance of the purchase price would be paid in installments. Thereafter, a deed of absolute sale was executed in favor of the respondents over an unsegregated portion of the property, with an area of 29.68 square meters, for P7,350 and, later, a deed of confirmation of deed of absolute sale with waiver over the said property. On June 20, 1979, the respondents executed an Affidavit of Adverse Claim over the property, stating, inter alia, that they could not cause the registration of the said deeds because the owners duplicate of TCT No. 198936 was in the possession of Teresita B. Jimenez, a former co-owner of the property. The respondents further alleged that Luz Pascua, in her letter to the Register of Deeds dated August 6, 1979, confirmed that she failed to turn over the owners duplicate of TCT No. 198936 because the same was in the possession of Jimenez, who, in turn, gave it to Jose J. Burgos. Thereafter, on May 15, 1980, Luz Pascua filed a Complaint against the petitioners in the RTC of Quezon City for rescission and damages docketed as Civil Case No. 29895 but the same was dismissed on December 19, 1983 for lack of interest to prosecute. Paulo Pascua filed a similar complaint against the petitioners in the RTC, docketed as Civil Case No. 88-523, but the same was, likewise, dismissed. Finally, the petitioners

alleged that the Spouses Pascuas possession of the property after the sale thereof to the respondents was by mere tolerance. In the meantime, the petitioners filed a complaint against the respondents, the Spouses Chua, the Spouses Pascua, and the Register of Deeds in the RTC of Quezon City, for annulment of deed of sale and TCT No. 86338, and for reconveyance with damages. The petitioners alleged, inter alia, that they had been in possession of the property since 1973; their adverse claim over the property was annotated on June 20, 1979 as Entry No. PE 8812; Luz Pascua died on December 2, 1984 but Paulo Pascua did not inherit the property from her because the same had already been sold to the respondents; Paulo Pascua executed a falsified affidavit for self-adjudication over the property on the basis of which he was able to secure, on May 20, 1993, TCT No. 86338. The petitioners prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in their favor, thus: WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed that judgment be rendered as follows: 1. Nullifying the deed of sale executed by Paulo Pascua in favor of Edna Chua, marked as Annex G hereof and TCT No. 87610 (Annex H) in the name of Edna L. Chua; including TCT No. 86338 RT-432 (Annex F) in the name of Paulo Pascua; and in the alternative to reconvey the aforesaid property to herein plaintiffs; 2. 3. Ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel TCT Nos. 87610 and 86338; Sentencing defendants to pay plaintiffs: a) P100,000 as actual and consequential damages; b) P50,000 as moral damages; c) Exemplary damages, P50,000; d) P15,000 as attorneys fee; e) Cost; and, f) Praying for other reliefs and remedies, equitable and just under the premises.xxxi[4]

4) Defendants to pay the costs of this suit. SO ORDERED.xxxiii[6] The MeTC ruled that having acquired the property from the Spouses Pascua, and being the registered owners of the property, the respondents are entitled to the possession thereof: The Court holds that plaintiffs are the ones entitled to the material or physical possession of the subject property. This is so because they have sufficiently established their title over the premises in question. They have shown that they are the registered owners of the subject premises located at No. 39 Visayas Avenue, Project 6, Diliman, Quezon City, as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 87610 issued in their name by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City, which property they acquired from its former registered owners, the Sps. Paulo and Georgiana (sic) Pascua. Hence, as an incident to their ownership over said property, plaintiffs are entitled to its possession.xxxiv[7] The court also ruled that the proceedings were not suspended by the pendency of Civil Case No. Q-9419352. The respondents appealed the decision to the RTC, which rendered judgment on April 15, 1996 in their favor, reversing the decision of the MeTC and ordering the dismissal of the complaint. The RTC anchored its decision on the following findings: It is the contention of the plaintiff that as registered owners of the subject lot, they have the right to take possession thereof and eject defendants from the premises. On the other hand, it is the contention of the defendants that they are the rightful owners of the land and have been in possession thereon from the time they acquired the land from the real owner Luz B. Pascua. In ejectment cases, the only issue to be determined by the Court is the fact of prior physical and material possession over the subject property. Under Article 538 of the New Civil Code (NCC), it is provided that: Article 538. Possession as a fact cannot be recognized at the same time in two different personalities except in cases of co-possession. Should a question arise regarding the fact of possession, the present possessor shall be preferred, if there are two possessors, the one longer in possession; if the dates of the possession are the same, the one who presents a title; and if all these conditions are equal, the thing shall be placed in judicial deposit pending determination of its possession or ownership through proper proceedings. In this case, defendants were able to establish the fact that they have been in physical and material possession of the subject premises from the time they purchased the same from Luz B. Pascua on July 8, 1976. Defendants, therefore, are in possession of the property in the concept of an owner, and under the law, a possessor in the concept of an owner has in his favor the legal presumption that he possesses with a just title and he cannot be obliged to show or prove it (Art. 541, NCC). Moreover, it is important to note that defendants purchased the subject premises from Luz B. Pascua on July 8, 1976 while plaintiffs purchased the same from Paulo Pascua only on June 4, 1993, a much later date. This is shown by the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Luz B. Pascua in favor of defendants on July 8, 1976 (Annex 1); Deed of Absolute Sale of Unsegregated Portion of Land executed by Luz B. Pascua and Paulo Pascua in favor of the defendants on July 14, 1977 (Annex 2) and a Deed of Confirmation of Deed of Absolute Sale of a Parcel of Land with Waiver dated July 14, 1977 executed by Paulo Pascua (Annex 3). These documents put in doubtful validity the subsequent sale of the same land by Paulo Pascua in favor of the plaintiffs. Paulo Pascua had no right, therefore, to transfer ownership of the subject land to plaintiffs because, Luz B. Pascua, the original owner, had already sold the same land to defendants during her lifetime. And upon the death of Luz B. Pascua, Paulo Pascua had no right to adjudicate the subject lot to himself because he even confirmed such sale and waived any rights, interest and participation over the subject residential house and lot in a Deed of Confirmation of Absolute Sale with Waiver dated July 14, 1977 (Annex 3). It bears emphasis, however, that the validity of the respective titles of the parties is now the subject of controversy in Civil Case No. Q-94-19352 pending before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 102.

On February 17, 1994, the MeTC issued an Order in Civil Case No. 7660 defining the issues, thus: 1.Whether or not the complaint is for Forcible Entry or Unlawful Detainer; 2.Who is entitled to the lawful possession of the subject property; 3.Whether this case has to be suspended in view of the filing of an action for Annulment of Title in the RTC of Quezon City; and 4.Whether the plaintiffs can lawfully eject the defendants from the premises.xxxii[5] The MeTC rendered judgment in favor of the respondents on August 11, 1994. The decretal portion of the decision reads: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court hereby renders judgment in favor of plaintiffs and against defendants by ordering as follows: 1) Defendants and all persons claiming rights under them to vacate the premises denominated as No. 39, Visayas Ave., Project 6, Diliman, Quezon City, and to surrender the peaceful possession thereof to plaintiffs; 2) Defendants to pay plaintiffs the sum of P5,000.00 per month representing the reasonable compensation for the use and occupancy of the premises from the time of formal demand until the possession of the premises shall have been fully restored to plaintiffs; 3) Defendants to pay plaintiffs the sum of P5,000.00 as attorneys fees; and

From the foregoing, it is clear that defendants have priority of right and possession over the subject property and have, therefore, the right to be respected in their present possession thereon.xxxv[8] The petitioners filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals, which later rendered judgment reversing the decision of the RTC and reinstated the decision of the MeTC. The CA held that in ruling against the petitioners, who were the registered owners of the property, the RTC thereby violated the prescription against the collateral attack of a torrens title. The Present Petition In the present recourse, the petitioners, the Spouses Apostol, assert the following: (a) their possession of the property since 1976 preceded the sale of the property to the private respondents; (b) the respondents were purchasers of the property in bad faith; and, (c) in declaring that the petitioners had priority of possession of the property on the sale thereof by Luz Pascua and Paulo Pascua way back in 1976 and 1977, the RTC did not thereby collaterally attack the title of the respondents over the property. According to the petitioners, an inflexible adherence to the proscription against a collateral attack of a torrens title may result to gross injustice. In their comment on the petition, the respondents assert that contrary to the petitioners claim, the petition raises questions of facts. The respondents also aver that the CA did not commit any error in its decision. The petitioners contend that the respondents themselves admitted in their complaint before the MeTC that they knew that the petitioners were in actual possession of the property even before they purchased the same. Hence, the petitioners argue, the respondents were purchasers in bad faith. The petitioners also point out that since they purchased the property before the respondents, they cannot be ejected therefrom. Under Article 1544 of the Civil Code which, according to Justice Jose C. Vitug, is self-operating, the sale of the property to them prevails over the sale in favor of the respondents. Thus, the sale in favor of the respondents is null and void; consequently, TCT No. 87610 issued in favor of the respondents is, likewise, null and void. Finally, the petitioners aver that they may very well have become the owners of the property by prescription under Article 1134 of the New Civil Code. For its part, the CA held as follows: The respondent court erred in dismissing the action for unlawful detainer on the sole ground that the private respondents are possessors in the concept of an owner of the subject premises and cannot, thus, be dispossessed of the same. The subject property is registered under the Torrens System in the names of the petitioners whose title to the property is presumed legal and cannot be collaterally attacked, much less in an action for unlawful detainer. No title to registered land in derogation of the title of the registered owner may be acquired by prescription or adverse possession (Caina vs. Court of Appeals, 239 SCRA 256; Odsigue vs. Court of Appeals, 233 SCRA 615; Calang vs. Register of Deeds of Quezon City, 231 SCRA 257). The presumption of ownership granted by law to a possessor in the concept of an owner under Article 541 is only prima facie and cannot prevail over a valid title registered under the Torrens System.xxxvi[9] The Ruling of the Court We agree with the Court of Appeals. In Pangilinan v. Aguilar,xxxvii[10] we held that it is an accepted rule that a person who has a torrens title over the property, such as the respondents, is entitled to the possession thereof. We reiterated our ruling in the Pangilinan Case in Javelosa v. Court of Appeals,xxxviii [11] and declared that the registered owners are entitled to the possession of the property covered by the said title from the time such title was issued in their favor. Moreover, the fact that the respondents were never in prior physical possession of the subject land is of no moment, as prior physical possession is necessary only in forcible entry cases. The petitioners claim that, as alleged in their answer to the complaint for unlawful detainer, the respondents title over the property is a nullity; hence, the complaint for unlawful detainer against the petitioners should be dismissed for lack of merit. Such allegation does not help their present recourse.

Under Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified or cancelled, except in a direct proceeding for that purpose in accordance with law. The issue of the validity of the title of the respondents can only be assailed in an action expressly instituted for that purpose.xxxix[12] Whether or not the petitioners have the right to claim ownership over the property is beyond the power of the court a quo to determine in an action for unlawful detainer.xl[13] The following issues are now the subject of Civil Case No. Q-94-19352 before the RTC of Quezon City: (1) whether the respondents were buyers in bad faith; (2) the validity of the deed of absolute sale over the property executed by the Spouses Pascua in favor of the respondents; and (3) the validity of the title issued to and in the names of the respondents. Hence, the Court shall no longer delve into such issues. IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 38333 is AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioners.

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