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Republic of the Philippines of Title No.

of Title No. 78633 was issued on August 10, 1960 private respondent, the court a quo in its order dated May
SUPREME COURT accordingly (Exhibit "8", pp. 81 and 82, Ibid.). 25, 1979, allowed the presentation of evidence ex-parte. A
Manila judgment by default was rendered on June 15, 1979, the
By virtue of a sale to Ching Leng with postal address at No. decretal portion of which reads:
SECOND DIVISION 44 Libertad Street, Pasay City, Transfer Certificate of Title
No. 91137 was issued on September 18, 1961 and T.C.T. WHEREFORE, finding plaintiffs causes of action in the
No. 78633 was deemed cancelled. (Exhibit "5-2", pp. 76-77 complaint to be duly substantiated by the evidence,
and 83, Ibid.). judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and
G.R. No. L-59731 January 11, 1990 against the defendant declaring the former (Pedro Asedillo)
On October 19, 1965, Ching Leng died in Boston, to be the true and absolute owner of the property covered
ALFREDO CHING, petitioner, Massachusetts, United States of America. His legitimate by T.C.T. No. 91137; ordering the defendant to reconvey
vs. son Alfredo Ching filed with the Court of First Instance of the said property in favor of the plaintiff; sentencing the
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS & PEDRO Rizal (now RTC) Branch III, Pasay City a petition for defendant Ching Leng and/or the administrator of his estate
ASEDILLO, respondents. administration of the estate of deceased Ching Leng to surrender to the Register of Deeds of the Province of
docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 1956-P. Notice of hearing on the Rizal the owner's copy of T.C.T. No. 91137 so that the
Joaquin E. Chipeco & Lorenzo D. Fuggan for petitioners. petition was duly published in the "Daily Mirror", a same may be cancelled failing in which the said T.C.T. No.
newspaper of general circulation on November 23 and 30 91137 is hereby cancelled and the Register of Deeds of the
Edgardo Salandanan for private respondent. and December 7, 1965. No oppositors appeared at the Province of Rizal is hereby ordered to issue, in lieu thereof,
hearing on December 16, 1965, consequently after a new transfer certificate of title over the said property in
presentation of evidence petitioner Alfredo Ching was the name of the plaintiff Pedro Asedillo of legal age, and a
appointed administrator of Ching Leng's estate on resident of Estrella Street, Makati, Metro Manila, upon
PARAS, J.: December 28, 1965 and letters of administration issued on payment of the fees that may be required therefor,
January 3, 1966 (pp. 51-53, Rollo). The land covered by including the realty taxes due the Government.
This is a petition for review on certiorari which seeks to T.C.T. No. 91137 was among those included in the
nullify the decision of respondent Court of Appeals inventory submitted to the court (p. 75, Ibid.). IT IS SO ORDERED. (pp. 42-44, Ibid.)
(penned by Hon. Rodolfo A. Nocon with the concurrence
of Hon. Crisolito Pascual and Juan A. Sison) in CA-G.R. Thirteen (13) years after Ching Leng's death, a suit against Said decision was likewise served by publication on July 2,
No. 12358-SP entitled Alfredo Ching v. Hon. M. V. him was commenced on December 27, 1978 by private 9 and 16, 1979 pursuant to Section 7 of Rule 13 of the
Romillo, et al. which in effect affirmed the decision of the respondent Pedro Asedillo with the Court of First Instance Revised Rules of Court (CA Decision, pp. 83-84, Ibid.).
Court of First Instance of Rizal, now Regional Trial Court of Rizal (now RTC), Branch XXVII, Pasay City docketed The title over the property in the name of Ching Leng was
(penned by Judge Manuel V. Romillo, Jr. then District as Civil Case No. 6888-P for reconveyance of the cancelled and a new Transfer Certificate of Title was issued
Judge, Branch XXVII Pasay City) granting ex-parte the abovesaid property and cancellation of T.C.T. No. 91137 in in favor of Pedro Asedillo (p. 77, CA Rollo) who
cancellation of title registered in the name of Ching Leng in his favor based on possession (p. 33, Ibid.). Ching Leng's subsequently sold the property to Villa Esperanza
favor of Pedro Asedillo in Civil Case No. 6888-P entitled last known address is No. 44 Libertad Street, Pasay City Development, Inc. on September 3, 1979 (pp. 125-126,
Pedro Asedillo v. Ching Leng and/or Estate of Ching Leng. which appears on the face of T.C.T. No. 91137 (not No. Ibid.).
441 Libertad Street, Pasay City, as alleged in private
The facts as culled from the records disclose that: respondent's complaint). (Order dated May 29, 1980, p. 55, On October 29, 1979 petitioner Alfredo Ching learned of
Ibid.). An amended complaint was filed by private the abovestated decision. He filed a verified petition on
In May 1960, Decree No. N-78716 was issued to spouses respondent against Ching Leng and/or Estate of Ching November 10, 1979 to set it aside as null and void for lack
Maximo Nofuente and Dominga Lumandan in Land Leng on January 30, 1979 alleging "That on account of the of jurisdiction which was granted by the court on May 29,
Registration Case No. N-2579 of the Court of First Instance fact that the defendant has been residing abroad up to the 1980 (penned by Hon. Florentino de la Pena, Vacation
of Rizal and Original Certificate of Title No. 2433 present, and it is not known whether the defendant is still Judge, pp. 54-59, Rollo).
correspondingly given by the Register of Deeds for the alive or dead, he or his estate may be served by summons
Province of Rizal covering a parcel of land situated at Sitio and other processes only by publication;" (p. 38, Ibid.). On motion of counsel for private respondent the said order
of Kay-Biga Barrio of San Dionisio, Municipality of Summons by publication to Ching Leng and/or his estate of May 29, 1980 was reconsidered and set aside, the
Paranaque, Province of Rizal, with an area of 51,852 square was directed by the trial court in its order dated February 7, decision dated June 15, 1979 aforequoted reinstated in the
meters (Exhibit "7", p. 80, CA, Rollo). 1979. The summons and the complaint were published in order dated September 2, 1980. (pp. 60-63, Ibid.)
the "Economic Monitor", a newspaper of general
In August 1960, 5/6 portion of the property was reconveyed circulation in the province of Rizal including Pasay City on On October 30, 1980, petitioner filed a motion for
by said spouses to Francisco, Regina, Perfects, Constancio March 5, 12 and 19, 1979. Despite the lapse of the sixty reconsideration of the said latter order but the same was
and Matilde all surnamed Nofuente and Transfer Certificate (60) day period within which to answer defendant failed to denied by the trial court on April 12, 1981 (pp. 77-79,
file a responsive pleading and on motion of counsel for the Ibid.)
action was commenced thirteen (13) years after the latter's
Petitioner filed an original petition for certiorari with the WHETHER OR NOT PRIVATE RESPONDENT IS death. As ruled by this Court in Dumlao v. Quality Plastic
Court of Appeals but the same was dismissed on September GUILTY OF LACHES IN INSTITUTING THE ACTION Products, Inc. (70 SCRA 475 [1976]) the decision of the
30, 1981. His motion for reconsideration was likewise FOR RECONVEYANCE AFTER THE LAPSE OF 19 lower court insofar as the deceased is concerned, is void for
denied on February 10, 1982 (pp. 81-90, Ibid.) YEARS FROM THE TIME THE DECREE OF lack of jurisdiction over his person. He was not, and he
REGISTRATION WAS ISSUED. could not have been validly served with summons. He had
Private respondent Pedro Asedillo died on June 7, 1981 at no more civil personality. His juridical personality, that is
Makati, Metro Manila during the pendency of the case with Petitioner's appeal hinges on whether or not the Court of fitness to be subject of legal relations, was lost through
the Court of Appeals (p. 106, CA Rollo). Appeals has decided a question of substance in a way death (Arts. 37 and 42 Civil Code).
probably not in accord with law or with the applicable
Hence, the instant petition. decisions of the Supreme Court. The same conclusion would still inevitably be reached
notwithstanding joinder of Ching Leng's estate as co-
Private respondent's comment was filed on June 1, 1982 (p. Petitioner avers that an action for reconveyance and defendant. it is a well-settled rule that an estate can sue or
117, Ibid.) in compliance with the resolution dated April cancellation of title is in personam and the court a quo be sued through an executor or administrator in his
26, 1982 (p. 109, Ibid.) Petitioner filed a reply to comment never acquired jurisdiction over the deceased Ching Leng representative capacity (21 Am. Jr. 872). Contrary to
on June 18, 1982 (p. 159, Ibid ), and the Court gave due and/or his estate by means of service of summons by private respondent's claims, deceased Ching Leng is a
course to the petition in the resolution of June 28, 1982 (p. publication in accordance with the ruling laid down in Ang resident of 44 Libertad Street, Pasay City as shown in his
191, Ibid.) Lam v. Rosillosa et al., 86 Phil. 448 [1950]. death certificate and T. C. T. No. 91137 and there is an on-
going intestate proceedings in the same court, Branch III
Petitioner raised the following: On the other hand, private respondent argues that an action commenced in 1965, and notice of hearing thereof duly
for cancellation of title is quasi in rem, for while the published in the same year. Such misleading and
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR judgment that may be rendered therein is not strictly a misstatement of facts demonstrate lack of candor on the
judgment in in rem, it fixes and settles the title to the part of private respondent and his counsel, which is
I property in controversy and to that extent partakes of the censurable.
nature of the judgment in rem, hence, service of summons
WHETHER OR NOT A DEAD MAN CHING LENG by publication may be allowed unto Ching Leng who on The complaint for cancellation of Ching Leng's Torrens
AND/OR HIS ESTATE MAY BE VALIDLY SERVED the face of the complaint was a non-resident of the Title must be filed in the original land registration case,
WITH SUMMONS AND DECISION BY Philippines in line with the doctrine enunciated in Perkins RTC, Pasig, Rizal, sitting as a land registration court in
PUBLICATION. v. Dizon, 69 Phil. 186 [1939]. accordance with Section 112 of the Land Registration Act
(Act No. 496, as amended) not in CFI Pasay City in
II The petition is impressed with merit. connection with, or as a mere incident in Civil Case No.
6888-P (Estanislao v. Honrado, 114 SCRA 748 [1982]).
WHETHER OR NOT AN ACTION FOR An action to redeem, or to recover title to or possession of,
RECONVEYANCE OF PROPERTY AND real property is not an action in rem or an action against the Section 112 of the same law requires "notice to all parties
CANCELLATION OF TITLE IS IN PERSONAM, AND whole world, like a land registration proceeding or the in interest." Since Ching Leng was already in the other
IF SO, WOULD A DEAD MAN AND/OR HIS ESTATE probate of a will; it is an action in personam, so much so world when the summons was published he could not have
BE BOUND BY SERVICE OF SUMMONS AND that a judgment therein is binding only upon the parties been notified at all and the trial court never acquired
DECISION BY PUBLICATION. properly impleaded and duly heard or given an opportunity jurisdiction over his person. The ex-parte proceedings for
to be heard. Actions in personam and actions in rem differ cancellation of title could not have been held (Estanislao v.
III in that the former are directed against specific persons and Honrado, supra).
seek personal judgments, while the latter are directed
WHETHER OR NOT THE PROCEEDINGS FOR against the thing or property or status of a person and seek The cited case of Perkins v. Dizon, supra is inapplicable to
RECONVEYANCE AND CANCELLATION OF TITLE judgments with respect thereto as against the whole world. the case at bar since petitioner Perkins was a non-resident
CAN BE HELD EX-PARTE. An action to recover a parcel of land is a real action but it is defendant sued in Philippine courts and sought to be
an action in personam, for it binds a particular individual excluded from whatever interest she has in 52,874 shares of
IV only although it concerns the right to a tangible thing (Ang stocks with Benguet Consolidated Mining Company. The
Lam v. Rosillosa, supra). action being a quasi in rem summons by publication
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ACQUIRED satisfied the constitutional requirement of due process.
JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER AND Private respondent's action for reconveyance and
THE PARTIES. cancellation of title being in personam, the judgment in The petition to set aside the judgment for lack of
question is null and void for lack of jurisdiction over the jurisdiction should have been granted and the amended
V person of the deceased defendant Ching Leng. Verily, the complaint of private respondent based on possession and
filed only in 1978 dismissed outrightly. Ching Leng is an declared NULL and VOID for lack of jurisdiction and (4)
innocent purchaser for value as shown by the evidence the complaint in Civil Case No. 6888-P is hereby
adduced in his behalf by petitioner herein, tracing back the DISMISSED.
roots of his title since 1960, from the time the decree of
registration was issued. SO ORDERED.

The sole remedy of the landowner whose property has been


wrongfully or erroneously registered in another's name—
after one year from the date of the decree—is not to set
aside the decree, but respecting the decree as
incontrovertible and no longer open to review, to bring an
ordinary action in the ordinary court of justice for damages
if the property has passed unto the hands of an innocent
purchaser for value (Sy, Sr. v. Intermediate Appellate
Court, G.R. No. 66742; Teoville Development Corporation
v. IAC, et al., G.R. No. 75011, June 16, 1988).

Failure to take steps to assert any rights over a disputed


land for 19 years from the date of registration of title is
fatal to the private respondent's cause of action on the
ground of laches. Laches is the failure or neglect, for an
unreasonable length of time to do that which by exercising
due diligence could or should have been done, earlier; it is
negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable
time warranting a presumption that the party entitled to
assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it
(Bailon-Casilao v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 78178, April
15, 1988; Villamor v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 41508,
June 27, 1988).

The real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to


land and to stop forever any question as to its legality. Once
a title is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the
necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting on
the "mirador su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his
land (National Grains Authority v. IAC, 157 SCRA 388
[1988]).

A Torrens title is generally a conclusive evidence of the


ownership of the land referred to therein (Section 49, Act
496). A strong presumption exists that Torrens titles are
regularly issued and that they are valid. A Torrens title is
incontrovertible against any "information possessoria" or
title existing prior to the issuance thereof not annotated on
the title (Salamat Vda. de Medina v. Cruz, G.R. No. 39272,
May 4, 1988).

PREMISES CONSIDERED, (1) the instant petition is


hereby GRANTED; (2) the appealed decision of the Court
of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE; (3) the
trial court's decision dated June 15, 1979 and the Order
dated September 2, 1980 reinstating the same are hereby
Republic of the Philippines First Instance of Zamboanga del Norte based in Dipolog in personam, i.e., any judgment therein is binding only
SUPREME COURT City. 5 Petitioner, a resident of Ozamiz City, moved for its upon the parties properly impleaded. 9 However, this does
Manila dismissal contending that the action was a real action which not automatically mean that the action for damages and to
should have been filed with the Court of First Instance of fix the period of the lease contract is also a personal action.
FIRST DIVISION Misamis Occidental stationed in Ozamiz City where the For, a personal action may not at the same time be an
property in question was situated. action in rem. In Hernandez v. Rural Bank of Lucena, Inc.,
10 we held thus —
On 6 November 1978, respondent Judge Dimalanes B.
G.R. No. L-49475 September 28, 1993 Buissan denied the Motion to Dismiss and held that Civil In a personal action, the plaintiff seeks the recovery of
Case No. 2901 merely involved the enforcement of the personal property, the enforcement of a contract or the
JORGE C. PADERANGA, petitioner, contract of lease, and while affecting a portion of real recovery of damages. In a real action, the plaintiff seeks the
vs. property, there was no question of ownership raised. 6 recovery of real property, or, as indicated in section 2(a) of
Hon. DIMALANES B. BUISSAN, Presiding Judge, Court Hence, venue was properly laid. Rule 4, a real action is an action affecting title to real
of First Instance of Zamboanga del Norte, Branch III and property or for the recovery of possession, or for partition
ELUMBA INDUSTRIES COMPANY, represented by its Petitioner pleaded for reconsideration of the order denying or condemnation of, or foreclosure of a mortgage on, real
General Manager, JOSE J. ELUMBA, respondents. his Motion to Dismiss. He contended that while the action property.
did not involve a question of ownership, it was nevertheless
A.E. Dacanay for petitioner. seeking recovery of possession; thus, it was a real action An action in personam is an action against a person on the
which, consequently, must be filed in Ozamiz City. 7 basis of his personal liability, while an action in rem is an
Uldarico Mejorada & Associates for private respondent. action against the thing itself, instead of against the person.
On 4 December 1978, respondent judge denied Hence, a real action may at the same time be an action in
reconsideration. 8 While admitting that Civil Case No. personam and not necessarily an action in rem.
2901 did pray for recovery of possession, he nonetheless
BELLOSILLO, J.: ruled that this matter was not the main issue at hand; Consequently, the distinction between an action in
neither was the question of ownership raised. Not satisfied, personam and an action in rem for purposes of determining
We are called upon in this case to determine the proper petitioner instituted the present recourse. venue is irrelevant. Instead, it is imperative to find out if
venue of an action to fix the period of a contract of lease the action filed is a personal action or real action. After all,
which, in the main, also prays for damages. PADERANGA argues that inasmuch as ELUMBA seeks to personal actions may be instituted in the Regional Trial
recover possession of the portion surrendered to him by the Court (then Court of First Instance) where the defendant or
Sometime in 1973, petitioner JORGE C. PADERANGA local manager of private respondent, as well as to fix the any of the defendants resides or may be found, or where the
and private respondent ELUMBA INDUSTRIES period of lease at five (5) years, Dipolog City could not be plaintiff or any of the plaintiffs resides, at the election of
COMPANY, a partnership represented by its General the proper venue of the action. it being a real action, venue the plaintiff. 11 On the other hand, real actions should be
Manager JOSE J. ELUMBA, entered into an oral contract is laid in the court having jurisdiction over the territory in brought before the Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction
of lease for the use of a commercial space within a building which the property lies. over the territory in which the subject property or part
owned by petition in Ozamiz City. 1 The lease was for an thereof lies. 12
indefinite period although the rent of P150.00 per month ELUMBA counters that the present action is chiefly for
was paid on a month-to-month basis. ELUMBA damages arising from an alleged breach in the lease While the instant action is for damages arising from alleged
INDUSTRIES COMPANY utilized the area under lease as contract; hence, the issue of recovery of possession is breach of the lease contract, it likewise prays for the fixing
the Sales Office of Allied Air Freight in Ozamiz City. merely incidental. ELUMBA further argues that the action of the period of lease at five (5) years. If found meritorious,
is one in personam and not in rem. Therefore venue may be private respondent will be entitled to remain not only as
On 4 April 1977, PADERANGA subdivided the leased laid in the place where plaintiff or defendant resides at the lessee for another five (5) years but also to the recovery of
premises into two (2) by constructing a partition wall in option of plaintiff. the portion earlier taken from him as well. This is because
between. He then took possession of the other half, which the leased premises under the original contract was the
repossession was said to have been undertaken with the Private respondent appears to be confused over the whole commercial space itself and not just the subdivided
acquiescence of the local manager of ELUMBA, 2 difference between personal and real actions vis-a-vis portion thereof.
although private respondent maintains that this is not the actions in personam and in rem. The former determines
case. 3 At any rate, the validity of the repossession is not venue; the latter, the binding effect of a decision the court While it may be that the instant complaint does not
here in issue. may render over the party, whether impleaded or not. explicitly pray for recovery of possession, such is the
necessary consequence thereof. 13 The instant action
On 18 July 1977, private respondent instituted an action for In the case before us, it is indubitable that the action therefore does not operate to efface the fundamental and
damages 4 which, at the same time, prayed for the fixing of instituted by private respondent against petitioner affects prime objective of the nature of the case which is to recover
the period of lease at five (5) years, before the then court of the parties alone, not the whole world. Hence, it is an action the one-half portion repossessed by the lessor, herein
petitioner. 14 Indeed, where the ultimate purpose of an
action involves title to or seeks recovery of possession,
partition or condemnation of, or foreclosure of mortgage
on, real property, 15 such an action must be deemed a real
action and must perforce be commenced and tried in the
province where the property or any part thereof lies.

Respondent judge, therefore, in denying petitioner's Motion


to Dismiss gravely abused his discretion amounting to lack
or excess of jurisdiction.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Prohibition is GRANTED.


The Orders of 6 November 1978 and 4 December 1978 of
respondent Judge Dimalanes B. Buissan are SET ASIDE.
The branch of the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City
where Civil Case No. 2901 may be presently assigned is
DIRECTED to DISMISS the case for improper venue. This
decision is immediately executory.

Costs against private respondent ELUMBA INDUSTRIES


COMPANY.

SO ORDERED.