CASE BrieF NO. 2019-0020

CASE: Virgilia T. Aquino, Nazaria T. Aquino, Avelina A. Ronquillo, Patrocinio T. Aquino, and Ramoncito T. Nepomuceno vs. Estate of Tomas B. Aguirre [G.R. No. 232060, January 14, 2019]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo

SUBJECT:

  1. Land Titles and Deeds:
    i. Reconstitution of the lost copy of TCT under R.A. 26

The service of notice of the petition for reconstitution filed under R.A. 26 to the occupants of the property, owners of the adjoining properties, and all persons who may have any interest in the property is not required if the petition is based on the owner’s duplicate certificate of title”


FACTS:
In 2009, Virgilia Aquino, Nazaria Aquino, Avelina Ronquillo, Patrocinio Aquino, Manuela Aquino, Lucita Bamba, Ramoncito Nepomuceno, and Domingo Manimbao (Aquino et. al.) filed for reconstitution of the lost copy of Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-3269 registered in the name of their deceased parents. TCT No. T-3269 was entered on March 21, 1956.

The RTC issued an Order, granting the petition for reconstitution filed by Aquino et.al.

Estate of Tomas B. Aguirre (Estate of Aguirre) filed an Urgent Motion to Lift Order of General Default with Motion to Admit Attached Opposition claiming that the property subject of the petition for reconstitution is covered by another existing title – TCT No. T-6874 which was entered on March 21, 1963. The RTC denied the same. The Estate of Aguirre file a Motion for Reconsideration.

However, before the above motion for reconsideration could be resolved, Estate of Aguirre filed a Petition for Annulment of Judgmentwith prayer for injunctive relief before the CA. It asserts that there was extrinsic fraud committed in obtaining the assailed trial court’s order in the reconstitution proceedings because it never had knowledge of the same or that it was kept ignorant of the suit. Thus, it was deprived of its day in court to oppose the petition.

The Court of Appeals annulled the RTC’s order to reconstitute the original copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-3269.

The CA held that there are badges of fraud present in the case at bar which are committed by Aquino et. al., which warrant the annulment of the RTC’s order, such as: they never made the Estate of Aguirre a party to the reconstitution proceedings; and that they never stated that there are other persons claiming rights over the property subject of their reconstitution proceedings.

Thus, Aquino et. al. filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before the Supreme Court.

Aquino et. al. contend, among others, that that in petitions for reconstitution of title where the source is the owner’s duplicate copy – such as in this case – there is no need for them to notify the occupant and/or the adjoining landowners of the petition.

ISSUE:
A.       Whose TCT will prevail where two TCTs have been issued, on different dates, to two different persons, for the same parcel of land?
B.       Whether the CA committed an error in holding that the Estate of Aguirre was denied its day in court as it was not notified of the petition for reconstitution filed by Aquino et. al.

RULING:
A.       The TCT of Aquino et. al. should prevail.

In the Estate of Aguirre’s Urgent Motion to Lift Order of General Default with Motion to Admit Attached Opposition it filed before the RTC, it alleged and admitted that its title – TCT No. T-6874 – was derived from the same Original Certificate of Title No. 1002 and was issued from the same LRC Record No. 8843 as Aquino et. al.’s title, TCT No. T-3269. The only difference is that its TCT No. T-6874 was entered only on March 21, 1963, while Aquino et. al.’s TCT No. T-3269 was entered on March 21, 1956, or much earlier.

On its face, therefore, Estate of Aguirre’s title – TCT No. T-6874 – is null and void, for it was issued upon land that had been earlier titled in the name of Aquino et. al.’s supposed predecessor-in-interest.

In this jurisdiction, it is settled that in the case of two certificates of title purporting to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails.

In Degollacion v. Register of Deeds of Cavite the Court held that if two certificates of title purport to include the same land, whether wholly or partly, the better approach is to trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title were derived. Citing an earlier ruling in Mathay v. Court of Appeals the Court declared:

x x x where two transfer certificates of title have been issued on different dates, to two different persons, for the same parcel of land even if both are presumed to be title holders in good faith, it does not necessarily follow that he who holds the earlier title should prevail. On the assumption that there was regularity in the registration leading to the eventual issuance of subject transfer certificates of title, the better approach is to trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title in dispute were derived. Should there be only one common original certificate of title, x x x, the transfer certificate issued on an earlier date along the line must prevail, absent any anomaly or irregularity tainting the process of registration.

By Estate of Aguirre’s own admission, its title is subordinate to Aquino et. al’s. In fact, it is patently null and void on its face, because it could not have acquired title upon land already earlier registered in the name of another. Primus tempore, potior jure – first in time, stronger in right. For this reason, Estate of Aguirre has no right – and no personality – to intervene in the reconstitution proceedings instituted by the Aquino et. al.

B.       The CA committed an error in annulling the Order of the RTC on the ground that the Estate of Aguirre was not notified of the Petition for Reconstitution filed by Aquino et. al.

Since the source of reconstitution is the owner’s duplicate copy, there is no need to give notice to other parties. The service of notice of the petition for reconstitution filed under R.A. 26 to the occupants of the property, owners of the adjoining properties, and all persons who may have any interest in the property is not required if the petition is based on the owner’s duplicate certificate of title or on that of the co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s.

Estate of Aguirre and the CA contend that notices to owners of adjoining lots are mandatory in the judicial reconstitution of a title. They cite as authority Section 13 of Republic Act No. 26, which provides:

“SEC. 13. The Court shall cause a notice of the petition, filed under the preceding section, to be published at the expense of the petitioner, twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette, and to be posted on the main entrance of the provincial building and of the municipal building of the municipality or city in which the land is situated, at least thirty days prior to the date of hearing. The court shall likewise cause a copy of the notice to be sent, by registered mail or otherwise, at the expense of the petitioner, to every person named therein whose address is known, at least thirty days prior to the date of hearing. Said notice shall state, among other things, the number of the lost or destroyed certificate of title, if known, the name of the registered owner, the names of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, the owners of the adjoining properties and all other interested parties, the location, area and boundaries of the property, and the date on which all persons having any interest therein must appear and file their claim or objections to the petition. The petitioner shall, at the hearing, submit proof of the publication, posting and service of the notice as directed by the court.”

The clear language of the law militates against the interpretation of the Estate of Aguirre and the appellate court. The first sentence of Section 13 provides that the requirements therein pertain only to petitions for reconstitution filed under ‘the preceding section,’ Section 12, which in tum governs those petitions based on specified sources. Section 12 states:

“SEC. 12. Petition for reconstitution from sources enumerated in Section 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(t), 3(c), 3(d), 3(e), and/or 3(f) of this Act, shall be filed with the proper Court of First Instance, by the registered owner, his assigns, or any person having an interest in the property. The petition shall state or contain, among other things, the following: (a) that the owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title had been lost or destroyed; (b) that no co-owner’s, mortgagee’s[,] or lessee’s duplicate had been issued, or, if any had been issued, the same had been lost or destroyed; (c) the location area and boundaries of the property; (d) the nature and description of the buildings or improvements, if any, which do not belong to the owner of the land, and the names and addresses of the owners of such buildings or improvements; (e) the name and addresses of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, of the owners of the adjoining properties and of all persons who may have interest in the property; and (g) a statement that no deeds or other instruments affecting the property have been presented for registration, or, if there be any, the registration thereof has not been accomplished, as yet. All the documents, or authenticated copies thereof, to be introduced in evidence in support to the petition for reconstitution shall be attached thereto and filed with the same: Provided, That in case the reconstitution is to be made exclusively from sources enumerated in Section 2(f) or 3(f) of this Act, the petition shall be further accompanied with a plan and technical description of the property duly approved by the Commissioner of Land Registration, or with a certified copy of the description taken from a prior certificate of title covering the same property.”

In other words, the requirements under Sections 12 and 13 do not apply to all petitions for judicial reconstitution, but only to those based on any of the sources specified in Section 12; that is, ‘sources enumerated in Section 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(f), 3(c), 3(d), 3(e), and/or 3(f) of this Act.

Sections 2 and 3 of RA 26 provide as follows:

‘SEC. 2. Original certificates of title shall be reconstituted from such of the sources hereunder enumerated as may be available, in the following order:

(a) The owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title;
(b) The co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s duplicate of the certificate of title;
(c) A certified copy of the certificate of title, previously issued by the register of deeds or by a legal custodian thereof;
(d) An authenticated copy of the decree of registration or patent, as the case may be, pursuant to which the original certificate of title was issued;
(e) A document, on file in the registry of deeds, by which the property, the description of which is given in said document, is mortgaged, leased or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of said document showing that its original had been registered; and
(f) Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is sufficient and proper basis for reconstituting the lost or destroyed certificate of title.

‘SEC. 3. Transfer certificates of title shall be reconstituted from such of the sources hereunder enumerated as may be available, in the following order:

(a) The owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title;
(b) The co-owner’s, mortgagee’s or lessee’s duplicate of the certificate of title;
(c) A certified copy of the certificate of title, previously issued by the register of deeds or by a legal custodian thereof;
(d) The deed of transfer or other document on file in the registry of deeds, containing the description of the property, or an authenticated copy thereof, showing that its original had been registered, and pursuant to which the lost or destroyed transfer certificate of title was issued;
(e) A document, on file in the registry of deeds, by which the property the description of which is given in said document, is mortgaged, leased or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of said document showing that its original had been registered; and
(f) Any other documents which, in the judgment of the court, is sufficient and proper basis for reconstituting the lost or destroyed certificate of title.’

In the present case, the source of the Petition for the reconstitution of title was Aquino et. al.’s duplicate copies of the two TCTs mentioned in Section 3(a). Clearly, the Petition is governed, not by Sections 12 and 13, but by Section 10 of RA 26. Section 10 in full provides:

‘SEC. 10. Nothing hereinabove provided shall prevent any registered owner or person in interest from filing the petition mentioned in Section Five of this Act directly with the proper Court of First Instance, based on sources enumerated in Section 2(a), 2(b), 3(a), 3(b), and/or 4(a) of this Act: Provided, however, That the Court shall cause a notice of the petition, before hearing and granting the same, to be published in the manner stated in Section Nine hereof: And provided, further, That certificates of title reconstituted pursuant to this section shall not be subject to the encumbrance referred to in Section Seven of this Act.’

Nothing in this provision requires that notices be sent to owners of adjoining lots. Verily, that requirement is found in Section 13, which does not apply to petitions based on an existing owner’s duplicate TCT.
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THINGS DECIDED:

A) Where two transfer certificates of title have been issued on different dates, to two different persons, for the same parcel of land even if both are presumed to be title holders in good faith, it does not necessarily follow that he who holds the earlier title should prevail. On the assumption that there was regularity in the registration leading to the eventual issuance of subject transfer certificates of title, the better approach is to trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title in dispute were derived. Should there be only one common original certificate of title, x x x, the transfer certificate issued on an earlier date along the line must prevail, absent any anomaly or irregularity tainting the process of registration.

B) The service of notice of the petition for reconstitution filed under R.A. 26 to the occupants of the property, owners of the adjoining properties, and all persons who may have any interest in the property is not required if the petition is based on the owner’s duplicate certificate of title.

 ‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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