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565 Phil. 59

EN BANC

[ G.R. No.123346, December 14, 2007 ]

MANOTOK REALTY, INC. AND MANOTOK ESTATE CORPORATION, PETITIONERS, VS. CLT REALTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.

[G.R. NO. 134385]

ARANETA INSTITUTE OF AGRI-CULTURE, INC., PETITIONER, VS. HEIRS OF JOSE B. DIMSON, REPRESENTED BY HIS COMPULSORY HEIRS: HIS SURVIVING SPOUSE, ROQUETA R. DIMSON AND THEIR CHILDREN, NORMA AND CELSA TIRADO, ALSON AND VIRGINIA DIMSON, LINDA AND CARLOS LAGMAN, LERMA AND RENE POLICAR, AND ESPERANZA R. DIMSON; REGISTER OF DEES OF MALABON, RESPONDENTS.

R E S O L U T I O N

TINGA, J,:

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

These two petitions[1] involve properties covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 which in turn encompasses 1,342 hectares of the Maysilo Estate.[2] The vast tract of land stretches over three (3) cities, comprising an area larger than the sovereign states of Monaco and the Vatican.[3] Despite their prime location within Metropolitan Manila, the properties included in OCT No. 994 have been beset by controversy and sullied by apparent fraud, cloudy titles and shady transfers. It may as well be renamed the “Land of Caveat Emptor.

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

I.

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

A. G.R. No. 123346, Manotok Realty, Inc.
and Manotok Estate Corporation, vs.
CLT Realty Development Corporation


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

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

For their part, the Manotoks challenged the validity of the title relied on by CLT, claiming that Dimson’s title, the proximate source of CLT’s title, was irregularly issued and, hence, the same and subsequent titles flowing therefrom are likewise void. The Manotoks asserted their ownership over Lot 26 and claimed that they derived it from several awardees and/or vendees of the National Housing Authority.[9] The Manotok title likewise traced as its primary source OCT No. 994 which, on 9 September 1918, was transferred to Alejandro Ruiz and Mariano Leuterio who had previously acquired the property on 21 August 1918 by virtue of an “Escritura de Venta” executed by Don Tomas Arguelles and Don Enrique Llopis.[10] On 3 March 1920, Ruiz and Leuterio sold the property to Francisco Gonzalez who held title thereto until 22 August 1938 when the property was transferred to Jose Leon Gonzalez, Consuelo Susana Gonzalez, Juana Francisca Gonzalez, Maria Clara Gonzalez, Francisco Felipe Gonzalez and Concepcion Maria Gonzalez under TCT No. 35486. The lot was then, per annotation dated 21 November 1946, subdivided into seven (7) parcels each in the name of each of the Gonzalezes. [11]

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

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

B. G.R. No. 134385, Araneta Institute
of Agriculture, Inc. v. Heirs of
Jose B. Dimson, et. al.


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

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

Undaunted, Araneta interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals which, on 30 May 1997, affirmed the lower court’s decision.[19] In so holding, the appellate court declared that the title of Araneta to the disputed land is a nullity. It noted that Dimson’s TCT No. R-15169 was derived from “OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917” and that the same was obtained by Dimson simultaneously with other titles, viz: TCT Nos. 15166, 15167, and 15168 by virtue of the Decision dated October 13, 1977 and Order dated October 18, 1977, in Special Proceedings No. C-732. It was also pointed out that Araneta’s TCT No. 13574 and 21343 were both derived from “OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917” which was previously “declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System v. Court of Appeals.[20]

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

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

On 29 November 2005, the Third Division of the Court rendered the 2005 Decision,[23] the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant petitions are DENIED and the assailed Decisions and Resolution of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.[24]
The Court acknowledged that the paramount question raised in the petitions is whether the titles issued in the name of Dimson and of CLT are valid. Noting that this question is one purely of fact, the Court held that the same was beyond its power to determine and so, the factual findings of the trial courts in these cases as affirmed by the Court of Appeals must be accorded the highest degree of respect and not disturbed at all.

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

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

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

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

A. Petitioner’s titles:
  1. Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos. 7528, 7762, 8012, 9866, C-17272, 21107, 21485, 26405, 26406, 26407, 33904, 34255, C-35267, 41956, 63268, 55896, T-1214528, 163902 and 165119 in the name of Manotok Realty, Inc., and TCT No. T-232568 in the name of Manotok Estate Corporation;
  2. TCT Nos. 737 and 13574 in the name of Araneta Institute of Agriculture; and
  3. TCT Nos. T-158373 and T-158374 in the name of Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc.
All these titles were derived from Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917 in the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City covering Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate, same city.

B. Respondents’ Title:
  1. TCT No. T-177013 in the name of CLT Realty Development Corporation;
  2. TCT No. R-15169 in the name of Jose B. Dimson; and
  3. TCT No. T-1770 in the name of CLT Realty Development Corporation/
All these titles were derived from OCT No. 994 registered earlier, or on April 19, 1917, covering the same Lot No. 26 of the Maysilo Estate.

II.

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

III.


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

Will it be necessary to remand these cases to the trial courts to determine which of the Certificates of Title are valid? If so, which trial court?[25]
A crucial fact emerged during the oral arguments. The Republic, through the Solicitor General,[26] strenuously argued that contrary to the supposition reflected in the Advisory, there was, in fact, only one OCT No. 994.
x x x In this particular case, it appears that on December 3, 1912, the Court of Land Registration, the Judge Norberto Romualdez presiding, acting on Land Registration Case No. 4429 rendered judgment ordering the GLRO to issue a decree. Pursuant to this order, the GLRO prepared Decree No. 36455 and issued the same on April 19, 1917 at 9:00 o’clock in the morning, at Manila, Philippines. It may be observed that at the face of the OCT 994 which was then on file at the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan and now kept in the LRA, the following entry can be seen. Received for transcription at the Office of the Register of Deeds for the province of Rizal this 3rd day of May 1917 at 7:30 a.m. Obviously, April 19, 1917 is not the date of inscription or the date of transcription of the decree into the Original Certificate of Title. It appears that the transcription of the decree was done on the date it was received by the Register of Deeds of Rizal on May 3, 1917. There is no other date to speak of. In the records of the Land Registration Authority, there is only one OCT 994, on its face appears the date of transcript, May 3, 1917. The validity then of all subsequent titles tracing their origin from OCT 994 should be tested in the light of these set of facts. x x x[27]
On the other hand, the counsel for CLT stated during the same oral argument that he had seen a photocopy of an OCT No. 994 that was dated 19 April 1917,[28] and manifested that he could attach the same to CLT’s memorandum.[29] At the same time, on even date, the Court directed the Solicitor General and counsel for CLT to submit to the Court “certified true copies of the Original Certificate of Title No. 994 dated May 3 1917 and April 19, 1917, respectively, on or before Friday, August 4, 2006.”[30]

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

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

II.

We turn to the date of OCT No. 994 as reflected in the quoted portion of the certified true copy thereof submitted by the Republic of the Philippines:[32]
Therefore, it is ordered by the Court that said land be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Land Registration Act in the name of said xxx

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

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

ATTEST: ENRIQUE ALTAVAS
Chief of the Land Registration Office of Justice

Received for transcription at the office of the Register of Deeds for the Province of P.I. this third day of May, nineteen hundred and seventeen at 7:30 A.M. (emphasis supplied)
As evident on the face of OCT No. 994, the decree of registration was issued on 19 April 1917, and actually “received for transcription” by the Register of Deeds on 3 May 1917. Interestingly, even as CLT admits that there is only one OCT No. 994, that which the Solicitor General had presented to the Court, [33] it maintains that the OCT should be deemed registered as of the date of issuance of the decree of registration, 19 April 1917, instead of the date it was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on 3 May 1917. The argument is based on the theory that it is “the decree of registration [that] produces legal effects,” though it “is entered before the transmittal of the same for transcription at the Register of Deeds.”[34]

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

The process involved is what this Court called “the method of giving a paper title.”[36] It is spelled out in detail in Sections 41 and 42 of Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act:
SEC. 41. Immediately upon the entry of the decree of registration the clerk shall send a certified copy thereof, under the seal of the court, to the register of deeds for the province, or provinces, or city in which the land lies, and the register of deeds shall transcribe the decree in a book to be- called the 'registration book,' in which a leaf, or leaves, in consecutive order, shall be devoted exclusively to each title. The entry made by the register of deeds in this book in each case shall be the original certificate of title, and shall be signed by him and sealed with the seal of the court. All certificates of title shall be numbered consecutively, beginning with number one. The register of deeds shall in each case make an exact duplicate of the original certificate, including the seal, but putting on it the words 'Owner's duplicate certificate,' and deliver the same to the owner or to his attorney duly authorized. In case of a variance between the owner's duplicate certificate and the original certificate the original shall prevail. The certified copy of the decree of registration shall be filed and numbered by the register of deeds with a reference noted on it to the place of record of the original certificate of title: Provided, however, That when an application includes land lying in more than one province, or one province and the city of Manila, the court shall cause the part lying in each province or in the city of Manila to be described separately by metes and bounds in the decree of registration, and the clerk shall send to the register of deeds for each province, or the city of Manila, as the case may be, a copy of the decree containing a description of the land within that province or city, and the register of deeds shall register the same and issue an owner's duplicate therefor, and thereafter for all matters pertaining to registration under this Act the portion in each province or city shall be treated as a separate parcel of land.

SEC. 42. The certificate first registered in pursuance of the decree of registration in regard to any parcel of land shall be entitled in the registration book 'Original certificate of title, entered pursuant to decree of the Court of Land Registration, dated at' (stating time and place of entry of decree and the number of case). This certificate shall take effect upon the date of the transcription of the decree. Subsequent certificates relating to the same land shall be in like form, but shall be entitled 'Transfer from number' (the number of the next previous certificate relating to the same land), and also the words 'Originally registered' (date, volume, and page of registration.")
With the plain language of the law as mooring, this Court in two vintage and sound rulings made it plain that the original certificate of title is issued on the date the decree of registration is transcribed. In the first ruling, it was held that there is a marked distinction between the entry of the decree and the entry of the certificate of title; the entry of the decree is made by the chief clerk of the land registration and the entry of the certificate of title is made by the register of deeds.[37] Such difference is highlighted by Sec. 31 of Act No. 496 as it provides that the certificate of title is issued in pursuance of the decree of registration. In the second, it was stressed that what stands as the certificate of the title is the transcript of the decree of registration made by the registrar of deeds in the registry.[38]

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

The textbook writers and authorities on Land Registration are unanimous on the matter. The late Commissioner Antonio Noblejas, widely acknowledged as the leading authority on the subject during his time, wrote, thus:
Immediately upon the issuance and entry of the decree of registration, the Registrar of Land Titles transcribes the same in the registry book called the “Registration Book” and issues an owner’s duplicate certificate of title to the applicant upon payment by him of the necessary registration fees. The entry made by the Registrar of Land Titles in his registry book is actually the original copy of the original certificate of title and shall be signed by him and sealed with the seal of the Court and of his office. Pursuant to Rep. Act No. 113, the Registrar of Land Titles may now use only the seal of his office, dispensing with the court seal.[40]
Professor Florencio Ponce, who was also once Register of Deeds of Quezon City and Deputy Register of Deeds of Manila, was of the same conviction:
A decree of registration is an order issued under the signature of the Commissioner of Land Registration (formerly Chief, G.L.R.O.) in the name of the Judge to the fact that the land described therein is registered in the name of the applicant or oppositor or claimant as the case maybe. When this is transcribed or spread in toto in the registration book and signed by the register of deeds, the page on which the transcription is made become the “original certificate of title,” more commonly called the Torrens title.
xxx

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

The issuance of the original and owner’s duplicate certificates are basic for the valid existence of the title. Issuance of additional copies are permissive and their non-existence does not affect the status of title. A certificate of title is deemed as regularly issued with the issuance of the original copy and owner’s duplicate.[41]
So was Professor Francisco Ventura:
Immediately upon the issuance and entry of the decree of registration, the Commissioner of Land Registration sends a certified copy thereof, under seal of the said office, to the Register of Deeds of the province where the land lies, and the register of Deeds transcribes the decree in a book, called the Registration Book,” in which a leaf, or leaves, in consecutive order should be devoted exclusively to each title. The entry made by the Register of Deeds in said book constitutes the original certificate of title and is signed by him and sealed with the seal of his office.[42]
The same view came from Professor Narciso Peña, also a former Assistant Commissioner of the Land Registration Commission and Acting Register of Deeds of Manila, as he wrote, thus:
Thus, Section 42 of Act No. 496 provides that the certificate first registered in pursuance of the decree of registration in regard to any parcel of land shall be entitled in the registration book “Original Certificate of Title, entered pursuant to decree of the Court of Land Registration, dated at (stating time and place of entry of decree and the number of the case). This certificate shall take effect upon the date of the transcription of the decree. Subsequent certificates relating to the same land shall be in like form, but shall be entitled. “Transfer from number (the number of the next previous certificate relating to the same land),” and also the words “Originally registered (date, volume, and page of registration).[43]
The dissent has likewise suggested that the variance between these two dates is ultimately inconsequential. It cannot be so for otherwise, the recent decision of the Court in Alfonso v. Office of the President[44] would simply be wrong. In Alfonso, the Court precisely penalized Alfonso, the former register of deeds of Caloocan because she acquiesced to the change of the date of registration of OCT No. 994, as reflected in several subsequent titles purportedly derived from that mother title, from 3 May 1917 to 19 April 1917. If indeed the difference in dates were “inconsequential,” then it should not have really mattered that Mrs. Alfonso, as found by the Court, had invariably issued certificates of title, reflecting either the 19 April or 3 May date, a circumstance which, the Court concluded, was irregular. But if the Court were to accede to the dissent and agree that it did not really matter whether the date of registration of OCT No. 994 was 3 May or 19 April, then poor Mrs. Alfonso should be spared of the penalty of dismissal from the service which the Court had already affirmed.
III.

Even the dissent does not insist, as the 2005 Decision did, that there is an OCT No. 994 registered or dated 19 April 1917. This new stance squarely contravenes or deviates from the following unequivocal pronouncement in the 2005 Decision:
We noted in the beginning of this Decision that the issue in all these three (3) cases involves the validity of the parties' overlapping titles. The titles of the respondents in these cases were derived from OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City registered on April 19, 1917. The validity of such mother title has already been upheld by this Court in G.R. No. 103558, MWSS v. Court of Appeals, et al. dated November 17, 1992 earlier cited in the assailed Decisions. Significantly, the ruling in MWSS was reiterated in G.R. No. 96259, Heirs of Luis J. Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals dated September 3, 1996.

We cannot delve anymore into the correctness of the Decision of this Court in MWSS. The said Decision, confirming the validity of OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917 from which the titles of the respondents in the cases at bar were derived, has long become final and executory. Nothing is more settled in law than that once a judgment attains finality it becomes immutable and unalterable. It may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest court of the land.[45]
This new conclusion likewise differs from what the Court had to say regarding OCT No. 994 “dated April 19, 1917” in the adverted MWSS v. Court of Appeals[46] decision:
It must be observed that the title of petitioner MWSS was a transfer from TCT No. 36957 which was derived from OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. Upon the other hand, private respondents' title was derived from the same OCT No. 994 but dated April 19, 1917. Where two certificates (of title) purport to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails . . . In successive registrations, where more than one certificate is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is entitled to the estate or interest; and the person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate issued in respect thereof. Hence, in point of priority of issuance, private respondents' title prevails over that of petitioner MWSS.[47]
Four years later, the Court promulgated the Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals[48] decision, which essentially reaffirmed foregoing factual pronouncements made in MWSS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can take instruction from the tack previously taken by this Court in dealing with municipalities created by executive orders. Beginning with Pelaez v. Auditor General,[56] the Court declared as a general principle that the President had no power to create municipalities through executive orders. However, instead of nullifying the creation of all municipalities created in the same manner, the Court only annulled those municipalities whose creation was specifically attacked in the petition filed by then-Vice President Pelaez.[57] With respect to the other municipalities which were not annulled in Pelaez, the Court would, in the next few decades, annul only the municipalities which were specifically challenged in petitions raised before the Court.[58] However, after the adoption of the Local Government Code of 1991 that gave statutory recognition to the de facto municipalities which had not yet been annulled, the Court started to affirm the legal existence of such municipalities.[59]

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

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

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

In the Manotok petition, CLT had originally filed a complaint for annulment of the titles in the name of the Manotoks, alleging that it was the registered owner of Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate covered by TCT No. T-177013 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City. Reproduced below is what appears on the face of TCT No. T-177013: [60]
IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the 19th day of April, in the year, nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Volume 36455, page ____, as Original Certificate of Title No. 994, pursuant to Decree No. 36455 issued in L.R.C. ____ Record No. _____in the name of ___________.

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

Entered at City of Kalookan
Philippines, on the 15th day of March
In the year nineteen hundred and
eighty-nine at 19:48 a.m.
CLT further alleged that it derived TCT No. T-177013 on 10 December 1988 from Estelita Hipolito whose title, TCT No. R-17994, is depicted, thus:[61]
IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the 19th day of April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Volume NA, page NA, as Original Certificate of Title No. 994, pursuant to Decree No. 36455 issued in L.R.C. Case No. 4429, Record No. ________.

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

Entered at the City of Caloocan
Philippines, on the 12th day of December
in the year nineteen hundred and seventy-
eight at 3:30 p.m.
Dimson’s original complaint for recovery of possession against Araneta was founded on the claim that he was the absolute owner of a parcel of land located at Malabon, comprising fifty (50) hectares of the Maysilo Estate covered by TCT No. R-15169 of the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City. Said TCT No. R-15169 is reproduced below: [62]
IT IS FURTHER CERTIFIED that said land was originally registered on the 19th day of April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen, in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Volume NA, page___ , Original Certificate of Title No. 994, pursuant to Decree No. 36455, issued in LRC Case No. 4429, Record No. __

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

Entered at Caloocan City
Philippines, on the 8th day of June
in the year nineteen hundred and
seventy-
eight at 10:34 a.m.
It is evident from all three titles─CLT’s, Hipolito’s and Dimson’s—that the properties they purport to cover were “originally registered on the 19th day April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal.” Note, as earlier established, there is no such OCT No. 994 originally registered on 19 April 1917.

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

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

The dissent is hard-pressed in defending the so-called 19 April 1917 OCT from which the Dimson and CLT titles are sourced. As earlier mentioned, the focus is instead placed on the purported flaws of the titles held by the Manotoks and Araneta notwithstanding that said parties swere the defendants before the lower court and, therefore, the burden of proof did not lie on them. The established legal principle in actions for annulment or reconveyance of title is that a party seeking it should establish not merely by a preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing evidence that the land sought to be reconveyed is his.[63] In an action to recover, the property must be identified, and the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his title and not on the weakness of the defendant's claim.[64]

V.

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

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

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

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

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

The eminent U.P. law professor Francisco Ventura, himself a former Register of Deeds, explains why cadastral courts have jurisdiction to order the issuance of new titles in place of the title issued under voluntary registration proceedings:
“Inasmuch as the land is identified in the plan by cadastral number, it is necessary that a new title be issued, giving the lot its cadastral number in accordance with the cadastral survey. This does not mean that the court has the power to alter the decree entered in the previous registration proceeding. The court cannot change or modify the said decree. It does not adjudicate the title anew. It simply deals with the certificate of title. This is for the
convenience of the landowner because it is easier for him to identify his property inasmuch as all the lands brought under the cadastral survey are designated by cadastral numbers.”[71]

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

VI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, the Court had actually resorted to referring a factual matter pending before it to the Court of Appeals. In Republic v. Court of Appeals,[82] this Court commissioned the former Thirteenth Division of the Court of Appeals to hear and receive evidence on the controversy, more particularly to determine “the actual area reclaimed by the Republic Real Estate Corporation, and the areas of the Cultural Center Complex which are ‘open spaces’ and/or ‘areas reserved for certain purposes,’ determining in the process the validity of such postulates and the respective measurements of the areas referred to.”[83] The Court of Appeals therein received the evidence of the parties and rendered a “Commissioner’s Report” shortly thereafter.[84] Thus, resort to the Court of Appeals is not a deviant procedure.

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

VII.

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

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

Since this Court is not a trier of fact, we are not prepared to adopt the findings made by the DOJ and the Senate, or even consider whether these are admissible as evidence, though such questions may be considered by the Court of Appeals upon the initiative of the parties. The Court, in the 2005 Decision, refused to take into account the reports on the regrettable premise that they could somehow “override” the judicial decisions earlier arrived at.[90] The reports cannot conclusively supersede or overturn judicial decisions, but if admissible they may be taken into account as evidence on the same level as the other pieces of evidence submitted by the parties. The fact that they were rendered by the DOJ and the Senate should not, in itself, persuade the courts to accept them without inquiry. The facts and arguments presented in the reports must still undergo judicial scrutiny and analysis, and certainly the courts will have the discretion to accept or reject them.

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

VIII.

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

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

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

In ascertaining which of the conflicting claims of title should prevail, the Special Division is directed to make the following determinations based on the evidence already on record and such other evidence as may be presented at the proceedings before it, to wit:
  1. Which of the contending parties are able to trace back their claims of title to OCT No. 994 dated 3 May 1917?

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

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

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

  5. Such other matters necessary and proper in ascertaining which of the conflicting claims of title should prevail.
WHEREFORE, the instant cases are hereby REMANDED to the Special Division of the Court of Appeals for further proceedings in accordance with Parts VI, VII and VIII of this Resolution.

SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales, Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, and Leonardo-De Castro, JJ., concur.
Puno, C.J.,
No part due to relationship to one of the counsels.
Ynares-Santiago, J., No part.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., See my Dissenting Opinion.
Carpio, J.,
On leave.
Corona, J., See concurring and dissenting opinion.
Velasco, Jr., J., and Reyes,
Joins the dissent of J. A. Gutierrez.
Nachura, J.,
No part, As Sol Gen appeared in the oral argument.



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

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

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

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

[5] 330 Phil. 8 (1996).

[6] Supra note 1.

[7] Rollo, G.R. No. 123346, p. 2081.

[8] Id. at 2081-2082.

[9] Id. at 2082.

[10] Id. at 2087.

[11] Id. at 2088.

[12] Id. at 2087.

[13] Rollo, G.R. No. 123456, p. 2088.

[14] Id. at 131.

[15] Id. at 134.

[16] Id. at 25-26.

[17] Id. at 2093-2094.

[18] Rollo, G.R. No. 123346, p. 2097.

[19] Id. at 2094-2095.

[20] Id. at 2095-2096.

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

[22]Supra note 1.

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

[24] Id., at 339.

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

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

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

[28] Id. at 323

[29] Id. at 324.

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

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

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

[33] See note 31.

[34] Supra note 31 at 11-12.

[35] See note 25.

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

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

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

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

[40] NOBLEJAS AND NOBLEJAS, LAND TITLES AND DEEDS at 127. Emphasis supplied.

[41] PONCE, THE PHILIPPINES TORRENS SYSTEM, at 202, 205, 242. Emphasis supplied.

[42] VENTURA, LAND TITLES AND DEEDS (1955 ed.) at 168. Emphasis supplied.

[43] PEÑA, PEÑA AND PEÑA, REGISTRATION OF LAND TITLES AND DEEDS (1988 ed.) at 141. Emphasis supplied.

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

[45] Supra note 1 at 336-337.

[46] Supra note 4.

[47] Id. at 788.

[48] Supra note 5.

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

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

[51] Id. at 788. Emphasis supplied.

[52] Id. Emphasis supplied.

[53] Supra note 5 at 12.

[54] Id. at 13.

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

[56] 122 Phil. 963 (1965).

[57] As was later observed in Camid v. Office of the President, G.R. No. 161414, 448 SCRA 711, 17 January 2005.
The eminent legal doctrine enunciated in Pelaez was that the President was then, and still is, not empowered to create municipalities through executive issuances. The Court therein recognized “that the President has, for many years, issued executive orders creating municipal corporations, and that the same have been organized and in actual operation . . . .” However, the Court ultimately nullified only those thirty-three (33) municipalities, including Andong, created during the period from 4 September to 29 October 1964 whose existence petitioner Vice-President Pelaez had specifically assailed before this Court. No pronouncement was made as to the other municipalities which had been previously created by the President in the exercise of power the Court deemed unlawful. (Id., at 724, citations omitted)
[58] See e.g., Municipality of San Joaquin v. Siva, 125 Phil. 1004 (1967); Municipality of Malabang v. Benito, 137 Phil. 358 (1969) and Municipality of Kapalong v. Moya, G.R. No. L-41322, 29 September 1988, 166 SCRA 70.

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

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

[61] Id. at 19-23.

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

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

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

[65] 43 Phil. 558 (1922).

[66] Id. at 561.

[67] 44 Phil. 587 (1923).

[68] Id. at 590.

[69] 92 Phil. 952 (1953).

[70] Id. at 960.

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

[72] PEÑA, supra note 42 at 491.

[73] Supra note 2 at 35.

[74] Id. at 31.

[75] Id.

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

[77] Id. at 34.

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

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

[80] REVISED RULES OF COURT, Rule 46, Sec. 6.

[81] See REVISED RULES OF COURT, Rule 43, Sec. 6.

[82] 359 Phil. 530 (1998).

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

[84] Id.

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

[86] REVISED RULES OF COURT, Rule 32, Sec. 3.

[87] REVISED RULES OF COURT, Rule 32, Sec. 9.

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

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

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





DISSENTING OPINION


SANDOVAL–GUTIERREZ, J.:
“Justice delayed is justice denied.” Let this
Court be the shining example of speedy justice
for the lower courts to emulate.
At the outset, I must stress that the final resolution of these cases has been delayed unnecessarily and has dragged on far too long, thereby causing prejudice to the parties. The oldest[1] of these three consolidated cases was instituted in the trial court way back on December 18, 1979. It is now nearly thirty (30) long years since then and the Court En Banc has just resolved petitioners’ motions for reconsideration[2] of the Decision dated November 29, 2005 rendered by the Third Division.

Petitioners utterly failed to show any reversible error committed by the Court of Appeals in its assailed Decisions affirming the trial courts’ judgments. Therefore, why should these cases be remanded to the same court?

I dread the day when the aggrieved parties herein would bewail the delay of the resolution of their cases and lay the blame on this Court as the perpetrator of the awful dictum that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Let us give sense to the constitutional mandate that “all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies.”[3] This constitutional guarantee is intended to stem the tide of “disenchantment among the people in the administration of justice by our judicial and quasi-judicial tribunals.”[4] In Matias v. Plan,[5] this Court, through then Justice (now Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno, expressed grave concern if such constitutional guarantee is ignored, thus:
The Constitution guarantees the right of persons against unreasonable delay in the disposition of cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies. Judges play an active role in ensuring that cases are resolved with speed and dispatch so as not to defeat the cause of the litigants.

x x x

The need for speedy administration of justice cannot be ignored. Excessive delay in the disposition of cases renders the rights of people guaranteed by various legislations inutile. x x x. (Underscoring supplied)
In the same vein, Justice Isagani A. Cruz (retired) stated that the constitutional provision on speedy disposition of cases “deserves support” and its “implementation depends ultimately upon the Supreme Court, which unfortunately is no paragon of speedy justice either, x x x.”[6]

Indeed, the aphorism “justice delayed is justice denied” is by no means a trivial or meaningless concept that can be taken for granted by those who are tasked with the dispensation of justice,[7] including this Court of last resort. The adjudication of cases must not only be done in an orderly manner that is in accord with our established rules of procedure, but must also be promptly decided to better serve the ends of justice. The essence of the judicial function is that “justice shall be impartially administered without unnecessary delay.”[8]

This Court has incessantly admonished and dealt with severely members of the bench for undue delay in the disposition of cases, for such amounts to a denial of justice which, in turn, brings the courts into disrepute and erodes the faith and confidence of the public in the Judiciary and the justice system.[9] The integrity and honor of the Judiciary is measured not only by the impartiality, fairness, and correctness of the decisions rendered, but also by the efficiency with which disputes are speedily resolved.[10]

Let this Court be the shining example of speedy justice for the lower courts to emulate.

It is on the basis of the above doctrine that I strongly DISSENT to the Resolution of the Majority remanding the entire record of these cases to the Court of Appeals for the purpose of determining:
“(i) Which of the contending parties are able to trace back their claims of title to OCT. No. 994 dated 3 May 1917?

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

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

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

(v) Such other matters necessry and proper in ascertaining which of the conflicting claims of title should prevail.”
At the outset, I must stress that the cases at bar have been heard and decided by the three (3) RTC Branches of Caloocan City. Their Decisions have been reviewed closely and AFFIRMED by the three (3) Divisions of the Court of Appeals, not to mention by this Court’s Third Division in its Decision dated November 29, 2005. Indeed, all the factual and legal issues have been fully determined. Furthermore, during the oral arguments, then Solicitor General, now Justice Eduardo Antonio B. Nachura, presented before the Court En Banc the original copy of OCT 994. Every Justice came to know that this OCT No. 994 bears two (2) dates: April 19, 1917 – the issuance of Decree No. 36455 and May 3, 1917 – the date the Decree was forwarded to the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City for transcription. Thus, it became clear to all the Justices that there is only one OCT 994 from which the titles of the Dimson’s heirs and CLT originated. So why should we remand these cases to the Court of Appeals to determine again whether there are two (2) OCT No. 994? I repeat, the evidence to prove there is only one (1) OCT 994 had been presented before all the Justices of this Court. Why should we close our eyes and disregard completely the truth that there is only one OCT NO. 994? By remanding these cases to the appellate court to determine the issue of whether there are indeed two (2) OCT No. 994, we are all deceiving ourselves. We are all scared to face the truth! But why?

A brief restatement of the facts is imperative.

These three (3) consolidated cases involve Lots 25-A-2 and 26 of the Maysilo Estate covered by OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal (later transferred to the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan).

I- G.R. No. 123346

G.R. No. 123346 stemmed from a complaint[11] for recovery of ownership filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 129, Caloocan City, presided by Judge Bayani Rivera, by CLT Realty Development Corporation (CLT Realty) against the Manotok Corporations. CLT Realty alleged that its title is being overlapped by those of the Manotok Corporations. This was specifically denied by the latter.

During the proceedings, the trial court, upon agreement of the parties, appointed three Commissioners, namely: Engr. Avelino L. San Buenaventura (nominated by CLT Realty), Engr. Teodoro I. Victorino (nominated by the Manotok Corporations), and Engr. Ernesto S. Erive, Chief of the Surveys Division, Land Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Quezon City (nominated by the two Commissioners and the parties).

Commissioners Ernesto Erive and Avelino San Buenaventura submitted a Majority Report finding that CLT Realty’s title is valid, while those of the Manotok Corporations are spurious.

The trial court, on the basis of the Majority Report, decided in favor of CLT Realty. Its Decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a Decision penned by Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria and concurred in by then Presiding Justice Nathanael P. de Pano, Jr. (both retired) and Justice Cancio C. Garcia, a member of this Court who retired recently.

The Manotok Corporations filed with this Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari. The Third Division, in its Decision dated November 29, 2005, affirmed the Decision of the Court of Appeals. I was the ponente of the Decision, concurred in by Justice Artemio Panganiban (who later became Chief Justice), Justice Renato Corona, now a Dissenter, and Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales. Justice Cancio Garcia inhibited himself, having participated in and signed the appealed Decision of the Court of Appeals.

II – G.R. No. 134385

The second case is G.R. No. 134385. The Heirs of Jose B. Dimson filed with the RTC, Branch 33, Caloocan City, presided by Judge B.A. Adefuin-De La Cruz, a complaint[12] for annulment of titles of the Araneta Institute.

The trial court’s findings are similar to those of the Majority Report of the Commissioners stated earlier. It rendered a Decision in favor of the Heirs of Jose Dimson which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a Decision penned by Justice Eduardo G. Montenegro, concurred in by Justice Pedro A. Ramirez (both retired) and Justice Maximiano C. Asuncion (deceased).

The Third Division of this Court, in its same Decision, upheld the Court of Appeals judgment.

III - G.R. No. 148767

The third case, G.R. No. 148767, originated from a complaint[13] for annulment of title and recovery of ownership filed with the RTC, Branch 121, Caloocan City, presided by Judge Adoracion G. Angeles. The complaint was filed by CLT Realty against Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc. (Sto. Niño Association). The trial court decided in favor of CLT Realty. Its Decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a Decision penned by Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos and concurred in by Justice Fermin A. Martin, Jr. (retired) and Justice Mercedes Gozo-Dadole (also retired).

Again, the Third Division sustained the Court of Appeals Decision.

Notably, the instant petitions for review on certiorari filed by herein petitioners were denied by the Third Division basically on the ground that they raised questions of fact, over which this Court has no power to determine as it is not a trier of facts.[14] Besides, considering that the trial courts’ findings of fact have been affirmed by the Court of Appeals, and there is no showing that their Decisions are contrary to the evidence and the law, such factual findings are binding and conclusive on this Court.[15]

The Manotok Corporations and Araneta Institute filed their respective motions for reconsideration. Petitioner Sto. Niño Association did not file a motion for reconsideration, hence, the Decision of the Third Division has become final and executory as against it.

These consolidated cases were later elevated to the Court En Banc. The parties (except for Sto. Niño Association who no longer participated) were then heard in oral arguments. I wrote a draft Resolution denying the Motions for Reconsideration. Justice Dante Tinga dissented.

Now, Justice Tinga, in his ponencia, concluded that: first, there is only one (1) OCT No. 994 dated May 3, 1917, it appearing on the record that OCT No. 994 was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on May 3, 1917, the date which should be reckoned as the date of registration of the title; second, any title that traces its source to OCT No. 994 dated April 17, 1917 is void for such title is inexistent; and third, the Decisions of this Court in MWSS vs. Court of Appeals and Gonzaga v. Court of Appeals cannot apply to the cases at bar, “especially in regard to their recognition of an OCT No. 994 dated April 17, 1917, a title which we now acknowledge as inexistent.”

I cannot give my concurrence to such conclusions due to the following grounds:
A

There is only ONE existing OCT No. 994, with Decree (of registration) No. 36455, “issued” on April 19, 1917 by the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal acting as Court of Land Registration, then presided by Judge Norberto Romualdez, and was “received for transcription” by the Registry of Deeds, same province, on May 3, 1917.
During the oral arguments, then Solicitor General Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura (now a member of this Court) representing herein intervenor Republic of the Philippines, maintained that there is only one OCT No. 994 existing in the books of the Land Registration Authority (LRA). The Decree was issued on April 19, 1917 and received for transcription on May 3, 1917.[16] He then presented to the Court the original copy of OCT No. 994. On its first page, the following entries appear:
ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
NO. 994


OFFICE OF THE REGISTER OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF RIZAL
Entered pursuant to the following Decree:

Decree No. 36455

United States of America
Philippine Islands

COURT OF LAND REGISTRATION
Case No. 4429, having been duly and regularly heard, in accordance with the provisions of law, it is hereby decreed that in the undivided interests hereinafter stated, x x x.

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

Witness: The Honorable Norberto Romualdez, Associate Judge of said Court, the 3rd day of December, A.D. nineteen hundred and twelve.
Issued at Manila, P.I., the 19th day of April, A.D. 1917 at 9:00 A.M.

ATTEST: ENRIQUE ALTAVAS
Chief of the Land Registration Office

Received for transcription at the Office of the Register of Deeds for the Province of Rizal, this third day of May, nineteen hundred and seventeen at 7:30 A.M. (Underscoring supplied)
When asked by Associate Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna on the above-quoted entries, the Solicitor General admitted that the original OCT No. 994 refers also to Decree No. 36455, “issued” on April 19, 1917, and was “received for transcription” by the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal on May 3, 1917, thus:
JUSTICE AZCUNA:

Mr. Solicitor General, I have here the original OCT 994, but it says here that it refers to the Decree also. And it says that it was issued at Manila, i.e. the nineteenth day of April 1917. So the date April 19, 1917 is also reflected in this title?

SOLICITOR GENERAL NACHURA:
Yes, Your Honor. It’s the date of the Decree.

JUSTICE AZCUNA:
In reference to the date the Decree was issued.

SOLICITOR GENERAL NACHURA:
Yes, Your Honor.

JUSTICE AZCUNA:
In fact, the date of the decision is also here, December 3, 1912?

SOLICITOR GENERAL NACHURA:
Yes, Your Honor.

JUSTICE AZCUNA:
And then it says at the bottom, received for transcription [on] May 3, 1917.

SOLICITOR GENERAL NACHURA:
Yes, Your Honor. [17] (Underscoring supplied)
In light of the Solicitor General’s declaration, the Court, upon termination of the oral arguments, required respondent CLT Realty to submit its own copy of OCT No. 994. The parties were also directed to submit their respective memoranda in support of their motions for reconsideration, which they did.

Respondent CLT Realty later submitted a certified copy of the same OCT No. 994 and manifested that it forms part of the records in the Sto. Niño Association case (G.R. No. 148767) offered in evidence as Exhibit “D” before the trial court in Civil Case No. C-15491.

Significantly, a perusal of the copies of OCT No. 994 submitted by the Solicitor General and respondent CLT Realty shows that they are identical. There is no dispute that they are one and the same.

It is now clear that there is only one OCT No. 994 at the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal. This mother title, as shown on its face, was issued by virtue of the Decision dated December 3, 1912 of the Court of First Instance, acting as Land Registration Court, then presided by Judge Norberto Romualdez, in Land Registration Case (LRC) No. 4429. The Decision ordered the registration of the land described therein in accordance with the provisions of the Land Registration Act. Thus, pursuant to the said Decision, Decree (of registration) No. 36455 was issued on April 19, 1917 and on May 3, 1917, was “received for transcription” by the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal.

Now, why does Justice Tinga maintain there are two OCT No. 994 and that the one dated April 19, 1917 is non- existent and void?

The crucial issue is -- which of the
Certificates of Titles Certificates of
Title of the contending parties validly
emanated
from the sole OCT No. 994
of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal?


Now, considering that there is only one OCT No. 994 of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal pursuant to Decree No. 36455 issued on April 19, 1917 and received for transcription at the said Office on May 3, 1917, the confusion or disagreement over the date of its issuance (whether April 19, 1917 or May 3, 1917) becomes inconsequential in the resolution of the merits of the instant cases since both dates appear on the mother title itself. The real crucial issue here is:
Which of the Certificates of Title of the contending parties validly emanated from the sole OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal?
Let me trace the titles of the contending parties in these two (2) cases, subject of the motions for reconsideration .
I -G.R. No. 123346

(Manotok Realty, Inc. and Manotok Estate Corporation, petitioners, v. CLT Realty Development Corporation, respondents)
Here, the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the titles of Jose B. Dimson and CLT Realty have been validly derived from OCT No. 994 issued pursuant to Decree (of registration) No. 36455 on April 19, 1917 in Land Registration Case No. 4429.

The evidence shows that the titles of CLT Realty and Dimson were derivatives of OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal, which was originally issued to Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, married to Pioquinto Rivera. This mother title was issued pursuant to the Decision dated December 3, 1912 of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, acting as Court of Land Registration, presided by Judge Norberto Romualdez (who later became a member of the Supreme Court) in Land Registration Case No. 4429. Pursuant to the said Decision, the Decree (of registration) No. 36455 was issued on April 19, 1917 by the CFI of Rizal. On May 3, 1917, the Decree was “received for transcription” by the Registry of Deeds, same province.

Maria de la Concepcion Vidal and Pioquinto Rivera had four children, but three died, leaving Bartolome Rivera as the surviving sibling.

Bartolome and his co-heirs (his nephews and nieces) filed with the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal an action for partition and accounting, docketed as Civil Case No. C-424.

On December 29, 1965, the CFI rendered a Decision ordering the partition of the properties left by Maria de la Concepcion Vidal among Bartolome and his co-heirs.

Bartolome and his co-heirs filed with the CFI of Rizal, presided by then Judge Cecilia Muñoz Palma (who later became a member of the Supreme Court), a petition for substitution of their names in lieu of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, docketed as Civil Case No. 4557. Judge Palma issued an Order granting the petition.

Lots 25 and 26, among others, covered by OCT No. 994, were allotted to Bartolome.

Bartolome then executed a Deed of Transfer and Conveyance in favor of Jose B. Dimson, herein respondent in G.R. No. 134385 represented by his heirs. Among the lots conveyed were Lots 25-A-2 and 26. This Deed of Transfer and Conveyance was approved by Judge Palma in an Order dated June 13, 1966.

Consequently, Jose Dimson filed with the CFI of Rizal, Branch 33, Caloocan City, a petition entitled “In the matter of the Petition for Confirmation of the Order, Jose B. Dimson, represented by Roqueta Rodriguez Dimson, petitioner,” docketed as Special Proceedings No. C-732. On October 18, 1977, Judge Marcelino N. Sayo issued an Order directing the Register of Deeds for Caloocan City to segregate and issue separate certificates of title over Lots 25-A-2 and 26, among others, in favor of Jose Dimson. Thus, TCT No. R-15166 and TCT No. R-15169 were issued in his name.

Estelita I. Hipolito purchased Lot 26 from Dimson. Hence, TCT No. 15166 was cancelled and in lieu thereof, TCT No. R-17994 was issued in her name.

CLT Realty, on the other hand, acquired Lot 26 from Estelita on December 10, 1988 by virtue of a Deed of Sale with Real Estate Mortgage. Consequently, TCT No. R-17994 in her name was cancelled and in lieu thereof, TCT No. 177013 was issued in CLT Realty’s name.

CLT Realty’s TCT No. 177013 is what is involved in both G.R. Nos. 123346 and 148767, while Jose Dimson’s TCT No. R-15169 is the subject in G.R. No. 134385.

The trial courts found that the titles
of the Manotok Corporations were
not derived from OCT No. 994,
hence, spurious.


As culled from the Commissioners’ Majority Report and the findings of the trial courts, the titles of the Manotok Corporations were not derived from OCT No. 994 and are therefore spurious:

This is the chronology of transfer of the Manotok Corporation’s title. Lot 26 was subdivided leading to the issuance of TCTs Nos. 4210 and 4211 registered on September 9, 1918 in the names of Alejandro Ruiz and Mariano Leuterio, respectively. The titles of the Manotok Corporations were derived from TCT No. 4211.

TCT No. 4211 was later cancelled by TCT No. 5261 in the name of Francisco Gonzales, which was later cancelled by TCT No. 35486 in the names of his six children.

The land covered by TCT No. 35486 in the names of Francisco’s six children was subdivided under Plan Psu 21154. But this plan could not be traced at the depository plans – the Bureau of Lands. The alleged Subdivision Plan had seven resultant lots covered by individual titles – TCTs Nos. 1368 to 1374 – six of which are in the individual names of Francisco’s children.

These seven lots were expropriated by the government thru the Homesite and Housing Corporation, after which they were subdivided into 77 lots acquired by the tenants. The Manotok Corporations purchased 20 lots from the tenants covered by 20 separate TCTs.

The issuance of the Manotok
Corporations’ titles suffer fatal
irregularities.


The Commissioners’ Majority Report and the trial court found numerous irregularities – fatal in character – in the issuance of the Manotok Corporations’ titles, namely:
  1. The technical descriptions on the titles, TCTs Nos. 4210 and 4211 in the names of Ruiz and Leuterio; and TCTs Nos. 5261 and 35480 in the names of Francisco Gonzales and his 7 children, from where the titles of the Manotok Corporations originated, were inscribed in Spanish. However, their alleged mother title, OCT No. 994, is in English.

  2. The date of survey appearing on the said titles (TCTs Nos. 4210, 4211, 5261 and 35486) was December 12, 1917, instead of “September 8-27, October 4-21, November 12-18, 1911” as appearing on OCT no. 994.

  3. The lots covered by the same titles are not identified by lot numbers. There is no mention therein of Lot 26, Maysilo Estate.

  4. There is no Subdivision Survey Plan No. indicated on TCTs Nos. 4210, 4211, 5261 and 35486 covering the purported subdivision of Lot 26.

  5. No survey plan could be found in the Bureau of Lands or LRA.

  6. Subdivision Plan No. Psd – 21154, the alleged subdivision plan of TCT No. 35486 in the names of Francisco Gonzalez’s 6 children, could not be found in the Bureau of Lands.

  7. The tie lines stated in the technical descriptions of TCTs Nos. 1368-1374 embracing the lots expropriated, deviated from the mother lot’s tie point (the Bureau of Lands Location Monument No. 1, Caloocan City). This resulted in the shifting of the position of the 7 lots which do not fall inside the boundary of the mother lot.
Based on these concrete facts, the commissioners’ Majority Report concluded that petitioners Manotok Corporations’ titles overlap that of respondent CLT Realty. The overlapping is caused by the inherent technical defects on TCT No. 4211 (from which the Manotok Corporations derived their titles) and the questionable circumstances of its issuance, thus:
  1. In the light of the foregoing facts, the undersigned Commissioners have come to the following conclusions:

    1. There are inherent technical infirmities or defects on the face of TCT Nos. 4211 (also on TCT No. 4210), 5261 and 35486. The fact that the technical descriptions in TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486 are written in Spanish while those on the alleged mother title, OCT-994, were already in English, is abnormal and contrary to the usual practice in the issuance of titles. If OCT-994 is the mother title of TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486, then said titles should also be written in English because OCT-994 is already in English. It is possible that an ascendant title be written in Spanish and the descendant title in English, the language now officially used, but the reverse is highly improbable and irregular.

    2. Also, the fact that the original survey dates of OCT-994 (September 8-27, October 4-21 and November 17-18, 1911) are not indicated on the technical descriptions on TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486, but an entirely different date, December 22, 1917, is instead indicated, likewise leads to the conclusion that TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486 could not have been derived from OCT-994. It is the established procedure to always indicate in the certificate of title, whether original or transfer certificates, the date of the original survey of the mother title together with the succeeding date of subdivision or consolidation. Thus, in the absence of the original survey dates of OCT-994 on TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486, then OCT-994 is not the mother title of TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486, not only because the original survey dates are different but because the date of original survey is always earlier than the date of the issuance of the original title. OCT-994 was issued on May 3, 1917 and this is much ahead of the date of survey indicated on TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 which is December 22, 1917;

    3. Granting that the date December 22, 1917 is the date of a subdivision survey leading to the issuance of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211, there are, however, no indications on the face of the titles themselves which show that a verified and approved subdivision of Lot 26 took place. In subdividing a lot, the resulting parcels are always designated by the lot number of the subdivided lot followed by letters of the alphabet starting from the letter “A” to designate the first resultant lot, etc., for example, if Lot 26 is subdivided into three (3) lots, these lots will be referred to as Lot 26-A, Lot 26- N and Lot 26-C followed by a survey number such as “Psd-_____” or “(LRC) Psd-_____.” However, the lots on TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 do not contain such descriptions. In fact, the parcels of land covered by TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 are not even described by lot number, and this is again technically irregular and defective because the designation of lots by Lot Number was already a practice at that time as exemplified by the technical descriptions of some sub-lots covered by OCT-994, i.e., 23-A, 25-A, 25-D, etc.;

    4. That TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 which allegedly was the result of a subdivision of Lot 26 should not have been issued without a subdivision plan approved by the Director of Lands or the Chief of the General Land Registration Office. Republic Act No. 496 which took effect on November 6, 1902, particularly Section 58 thereof, provided that the Registry of Deeds shall not enter the transfer certificate to the grantee until a plan of such land showing all the portions or lots into which it has been subdivided, and the technical description of each portion or lot, have been verified and approved by the Director of Lands…’ and as corroborated by Section 44, Paragraph 2, and that the plan has been approved by the Chief of the General Land Registration Office, or by the Director of Lands as provided in Section fifty-eight of this Act, the Registry of Deeds may issue new certificates of title for any lot in accordance with said subdivision plan;’

    5. The absence of a lot number and survey plan number in the technical description inscribed on TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211, and the absence of a subdivision survey plan for Lot 26 at the records of the Bureau of Lands or the Land Registration Authority lead to the conclusion that there was no verified and approved subdivision survey plan of Lot 26, which is a compulsory requirement needed in the issuance of said titles;

    6. Similarly, the absence of plan Psd-21154 from the files of the Bureau of Lands, the official depository of survey plans, is another indication that the titles covered by TCT Nos. 1368 thru 1374 which were derived from TCT No. 4211 are again doubtful and questionable;

    7. Moreover, the changing of the tie points in the technical descriptions on TCT Nos. 1368 thru 1374 from that of the mother lot’s tie point which is BLLM No. 1, Caloocan City to different location monuments of adjoining Piedad Estate which resulted in the shifting of the position of the seven (7) lots in relation to the mother lot defeats the very purpose of tie points and tie lines since the accepted practice is to adopt the mother lot’s tie point in order to fix the location of the parcels of land being surveyed on the earth’s surface.

    8. Based on the foregoing, it is the conclusion of the undersigned Commissioners that defendants’ (Manotok Realty, Inc. and Manotok Estate Corporation) titles overlap portions of plaintiff’s (CLT Realty Development Corporation’s) title, which overlapping is due to the irregular and questionable issuance of TCT Nos. 4211 (also of TCT No. 4210), 5261, 35486, 1368 to 1374. The inherent technical defects on TCT No. 4211 (from where defendants derived their titles) and TCT No. 4210 which were exhaustively elucidated above, point to the fact that there was no approved subdivision of Lot 26 which served as legal basis for the regular issuance of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211. Thus, as between plaintiff’s title, which was derived from regularly issued titles, and defendants’ titles, which were derived from irregularly issued titles, plaintiff’s title which pertains to the entire Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate should prevail over defendants’ titles.[18] (Underscoring supplied)
Significantly, the above findings and conclusions in the Commissioners’ Majority Report are similar to the findings of the trial court[19] in Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc. v. CLT Realty Development Corporation (G.R. No. 148767) wherein the titles of CLT Realty, and those of the Manotok Corporations (G.R. No. 123346) and Sto. Niño Association are involved. These findings and conclusions are discussed lengthily by the trial court in its February 12, 1996 Amended Decision, later affirmed by the Court of Appeals in its Decision dated May 23, 2001 in CA-G.R. CV No. 52549,[20] thus:
The conflict stems from the fact that the plaintiff’s (CLT Realty Development Corporation’s) and defendant’s (Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc.’s) titles overlap each other, hence, a determination of the respective origins of such titles is of utmost importance.

TCT No. T-177013 in the name of the plaintiff was derived from R-17994 T-89 in the name of Estelita Hipolito, which title can trace its origin from OCT 994. The boundaries of OCT 994 known as Lot No. 26 of the Maysilo Estate are the same as that of the plaintiff’s titles.

On the other hand, TCT Nos. T-158373 and T-158374, both in the name of the defendants, are the latest in a series of titles which descend from TCT No. 4211. A trace of the history of TCT No. 4211 reveals that it was succeeded by TCT No. 5261 which was in turn succeeded by TCT No. 35486. TCT No. 35486 was allegedly subdivided into seven lots covered by TCT Nos. 1368 to 1374. One or two of these subdivided lots were the predecessors of the defendants’ titles.

It behooves this court to address the issue of whether or not TCT No. 4211 from which the defendants’ titles were originally derived can validly trace its origin from OCT 994.

There is pervasive evidence that TCT No. 4211 could not have been a true derivative of OCT No. 994.

Firstly, the survey dates indicated in OCT No. 994 are September 8-27, October 8-21 and November 17-18, all in the year 1911. On the other hand, these dates of original survey are conspicuously missing in TCT No. 4211 contrary to established procedure that the original survey dates of the mother title should be indicated in succeeding titles. Instead, an examination of TCT No. 4211 reveals a different date on its face. This date, December 22, 1917, could not be an original survey date because it differs from those indicated in the mother title. Of equal importance is the fact that the date of original survey always comes earlier than the date of the issuance of the mother title. Since OCT No. 994 was issued on April 19, 1917, it is highly irregular that the original survey was made several months later or only on December 22, 1917.

Neither is the Court inclined to consider this date as the date a subdivision survey was made. The regular procedure is to identify the subdivided lots by their respective survey or lot numbers; on the contrary, no such lot number is found in TCT No. 4211, pointing to the inevitable conclusion that OCT No. 994 was never validly subdivided into smaller lots, of which one of them is covered by TCT No. 4211.

Secondly, the assertion that TCT Nos. 1368 to 1374 which preceded the defendants’ titles were issued pursuant to subdivision plan PSD 21154 is not supported by the evidence. The Land Management Bureau which handles survey plans has no records of the said PSD 21154. The Registry of Deeds of Rizal has a copy of the plan but the court finds such possession questionable since the Land Registration Authority which supervises the Registry of Deeds does not have a copy of the same. The court therefore believes that the issuance of TCT Nos. 1368 to 1374 is attended by a serious irregularity which cannot be ignored as it affects the very validity of the alleged subdivisions of the land covered by TCT No. 35486.

Thirdly, the language of the technical descriptions of the land covered by OCT No. 994 is already in English, while its alleged derivative titles TCT Nos. 4211, 5261 and 35486 are still in Spanish. This is in direct violation of the practice that the language used in the mother title is adopted by all its derivative titles. The reversion to Spanish in the derivative titles is highly intriguing and casts a cloud of doubt to the genuineness of such titles.

Fourthly, the tie points used in the mother lot were not adopted by the alleged derivative titles particularly TCT Nos. 1368 to 1374, the immediate predecessors of the defendants’ titles. The pivotal role of tie points cannot be brushed aside as a change thereof could result to the shifting of positions of the derivative lots in relation to the mother lot. Consequently, overlapping could take place as in fact it did when the defendants’ titles overlapped that of CLT at the northwestern portion of the latter’s property.

Fifthly, the results of laboratory analysis conducted by a Forensic Chemist of the NBI revealed that TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 were estimated to be fifty (50) years old as of March 1993 when the examination was conducted. Hence, the documents could have been prepared only in 1940 and not in 1918 as appearing on the face of TCT No. 4211.

Based on the foregoing patent irregularities, the court finds the attendance of fraud in the issuance of TCT No. 4211 and all its derivative titles which preceded the defendants’ titles. Evidently, TCT No. 4211 cannot be validly traced from OCT No. 994. Being void ab initio, it did not give rise to any transmissible rights with respect to the land purportedly invalid, and resultantly, the defendants, being the holders of the latest derivatives, cannot assert any right of ownership over the lands in question. ‘The void ab initio land titles issued cannot ripen into private ownership.’ (Republic vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 209 SCRA 90)

x x x

The court’s findings are consistent with a ruling of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR No. 45255 entitled ‘CLT Realty Development Corp. vs. Manotok Realty, Inc., et al.’ promulgated on September 28, 1995, affirming the decision of the other branch of this court ordering the cancellation of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 which encroached on a specific area of Lot No. 26 of the Maysilo Estate, Caloocan City. This court is also aware that on January 8, 1996, the Court of Appeals denied the Motion for Reconsideration of the defendants in the aforementioned case for lack of merit.[21] (Underscoring supplied)
It is clear from the foregoing findings of the trial court and the appellate court that petitioners Manotok Corporations’ titles were derived from questionable and irregularly issued titles whose origin cannot be validly traced to OCT No. 994.
2. G.R. No. 134385


(Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc., petitioner, v. Heirs of Jose B. Dimson, Represented by His Compulsory Heirs: His Surviving Spouse, Roqueta R. Dimson and Their Children, Norma and Celso Tirado, Alson and Virginia Dimson, Linda and Carlos Lagman, Lerma and Rene Policar, and Esperanza R. Dimson; and the Registry of Deeds of Malabon, Respondents)
In this case, the trial court likewise found that the titles of the Araneta Institute are not derived from OCT No. 994 and are spurious. In upholding the title of the Heirs of Dimson, it ruled:
x x x, [T]racing back the title of the plaintiffs’ (Heirs of Jose B. Dimson’s) TCT No. R-15169, the record will show that:
1) On May 25, 1962, then Judge Cecilia Munoz-Palma of the Court of First Instance, 7th Judicial District, Pasig, Rizal, issued an Order in Case No. 4557 (In re: petition for substitution of names of Bartolome P. Rivera, Eleuteria Rivera, Pelagia R. Angeles, Modesta R. Angeles, Venancia R. Aquino and Rosauro R. Aquino, as petitioners) judicially declaring said petitioners Bartolome Rivera, et al. as the surviving heirs of Maria dela Concepcion Vidal and directing the cancellation of the name of said Maria dela Concepcion Vidal, 9 years of age, among the registered owners, and to substitute in lieu thereof the aforesaid petitioners Bartolome Rivera et al., (Exhibit 3-David & Santos).

This Order of May 25, 1962 (Exhibit B-David Santos) was duly annotated on the Original Certificate of Title No. 994 (Exhibit J) on June 3, 1962 and under Entry No. 48542 File T-104230, which reads:
Entry No. 43542 File T-104230 – ORDER In compliance with an Order of the Court of First Instance of Rizal in Case No. 4557, the name Maria dela Concepcion Vidal, 9 years old is hereby cancelled and in lieu thereof the following is substituted: 1. Bartolome Rivera, widower 1/3 of 1/189/1000 percent; 2. Eleuteria Rivera, married to Hermogenes Bonifacio 1/6 of 1-89/1000 percent xxx Fidela R. Angeles – 1/3 of 1-1897/1000

Date of Instrument – May 25, 1962
Date of Inscription – June 1962
2) On June 13, 1966, said Judge Cecilia Munoz-Palma of the Court of First Instance, 7th Judicial District, Pasig, Rizal issued an Order in the same case No. 4557 wherein the deed of transfer and conveyance executed by Bartolome Rivera in favor of Jose B. Dimson of whatever property said Bartolome Rivera is entitled to as one of the heirs of Maria dela Concepcion Vidal to be taken from lots 25, 26, 27, 28-B and 29 of OCT No. 994 of Rizal was approved (Exhibit 1- David Santos).

3) Plaintiff applied for the segregation of the 25% agreed upon on September 30, 1960 to the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch XXXIII, Caloocan City docketed as Special Proceedings No. C-732, entitled “In the Matter of the Petition for Confirmation of the Order, Jose B. Dimson, represented by Roqueta Rodriguez Dimson, petitioner (Exhibit A) for which a favorable Decision dated October 13, 1977 was rendered by Judge Marcelino N. Sayo (Exhibit 2- David and Santos).

4) On October 11, 1977, an Order was issued by Judge Marcelino N. Sayo in Special Proceedings No. C-732 ordering the Register of Deeds for Caloocan City the segregation and issuance of separate certificates of titles, which Order reads:
WHEREFORE, it having been duly established that Bartolome Rivera was the owner of the lots mentioned in Exhibit E, which are Lots Nos. 25, 26, 27, 28-B and 29; that Jose B. Dimson, per Exhibit B, is entitled to 25% of the total area of the said lots contained in Exhibit B; that the areas to which Jose B. Dimson is entitled and sought to be segregated either in whole or in part are portions of the lots mentioned in Exhibit “B”; that per Exhibit “D”, the segregation of the said lots necessitates approval by the Court, upon certification by the Land Registration Commission that the subdivision Plan of the lot on lots sought to be segregated are correct: that the plans, LRC (GLRO) Rec. No. 4419 – SWO – 5268 (Exhibit “F”) covering Lots 15, 26, 27, 28-B and 29 and plan are certified correct and approved by the Land Registration Commission on March 20, 1964; that plans of portion of Lot 25-A which is Lot 25-a-1 (Exhibit “H”), plan of portion of Lot 25-A which is Lot 25-A-2 (Exhibit “I”), and plan of portion of Lot 28 (Exhibit “J”) are based from the technical descriptions appearing on the approved LRC SWO-5268 on file with the Land Registration Commission as correct; that Bartolome Rivera can legally dispose the lands covered by and mentioned in Exhibit “E”, the segregation and issuance of separate certificates of title over Lots 25-A-1, 25-A-2, 26 and portion of Lot 29 is hereby APPROVED. The Register of Deeds for Caloocan City is hereby directed to issue in the name of herein movant JOSE B. DIMSON, of legal age, Filipino, married to Roqueta Rodriguez Dimson, with residence and postal address at No. 10 Magalang Street, East Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, after payment of the necessary fees, separate transfer certificates of titles for the lot covered by plan (LRC) SWO-5268 (Exhibit “G”) AND for the lots covered by the PLANS Exhibits “H”, “I” and “J”.

SO ORDERED.[22] (Underscoring supplied)
Obviously, the chronology of the transfer of the title of the Heirs of Dimson is consistent with that of CLT Realty in G.R. No. 123346, the same title which the trial court and Court of Appeals found to be valid.

On the other hand, it appears from the documentary evidence that TCTs Nos. 7784 and 13574 in the name of the Araneta Institute were derived from TCTs Nos. 26538 and 26539, respectively, both in the name of Jose Rato. Rato’s titles, however, were issued pursuant to Decree No. 4429, which is entirely different from Decree No. 36455 upon which OCT No. 994 was issued. Moreover, Decree No. 4429 was issued by the CFI of Isabela, but with Record No. 4429 in Laguna. This means that the properties of Araneta Institute are either in Isabela or Laguna, not in Maysilo Estate, Caloocan City.

The issuance of the Araneta
Institute’s titles suffer fatal
irregularities.


Similarly, the trial court also found the following fatal irregularities in the issuance of the Araneta Institute’s titles, to wit:
  1. Rato’s titles from where the Araneta Institute’s titles originated were not annotated on OCT No. 994.

  2. When TCT No. 13574 was issued in the name of the Araneta Institute, what was cancelled was TCT No. 6169, not TCT No. 26539 in the name of Jose Rato.

  3. When the other TCT No. 7784 was issued in the name of the Araneta Institute, the corresponding document (Deed of Sale and Mortgage) was not annotated thereon, and the previous title supposed to be cancelled was not received by the Register of Deeds.
In affirming the trial court’s nullification of Araneta Institute’s titles for being spurious, the Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated May 30, 1997, held:
“Upon the other hand, defendant-appellant Araneta Institute of Agriculture’s TCT No. 13574 was derived from TCT No. 26539, while TCT No. 7784 (now TCT No. 21343) was derived from TCT No. 26538. TCT No. 26538 and TCT No. 26539 were both issued in the name of Jose Rato. TCT No. 26538 and TCT No. 26539 both show Decree No. 4429 and Record No. 4429.

Decree No. 4429 was issued by the Court of First Instance of Isabela. On the other hand, Record No. 4429 was issued for ordinary Land Registration Case on March 31, 1911 in CLR No. 5898, Laguna (Exhs. 8, 8-A Rivera). The trial court ruled defendant-appellant Araneta Institute of Agriculture’s TCT No. 13574 spurious because this title refers to a property in the Province of Isabela (RTC Decision, p. 19).

Another point, Araneta’s TCT Nos. 13574 (Exh. 6) and 21343 are both derived from OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917 which was declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System vs. Court of Appeals, 215 SCRA 783 (1992). The Supreme Court ruled: ‘Where two certificates of title purport to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails x x x. Since the land in question has already been registered under OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917, the subsequent registration of the same land on May 3, 1917 is null and void.’

In sum, the foregoing discussions unmistakably show two independent reasons why the title of defendant-appellant Araneta Institute of Agriculture is a nullity, to wit: the factual finding that the property is in Isabela, and the decision of the Supreme Court in the MWSS case.[23] (Underscoring supplied)
Furthermore, the Court of Appeals sustained the trial court’s findings that there exist questionable circumstances “which create serious doubts in the mind of the Court as to the genuineness and validity of the titles of defendant Araneta (TCT Nos. 7784 and 13574) over the land in question,” to wit:
Thus, as correctly found by the trial court:

The records will show that defendant Araneta’s claim of ownership over the 500,000 square meters of land covered by TCT R-15169 (Exhibit D also marked Exhs. 5, 5-A, 5-B and 20, 20-A, and 20-B David & Santos) in the name of plaintiff Jose B. Dimson, is based on TCT 13574 (Exh. 6-defendant) and TCT 7784 (now TCT 12343) (Exhibit M). And these said TCT 13574 and TCT 7784 (now TCT 21343) which were found to be overlapping TCT R-15169 (Exh. D) were based on two (2) deeds of conveyances:

1) Deed of Sale and Mortgage dated August 23, 1947 (Exh. 5 def.) with TCT 26539 with a land area of 581,872 square meters as the subject matter thereof. Said deed was the basis of issuance of TCT 13574 (Exh. 6 def.) entered in the name of defendant Araneta Institute of Agriculture on May 20, 1949 with the same area of 581,872 square meters. TCT 26539 was consequently cancelled. The Court observes that the said Deed of Sale and Mortgage was between Jose Ma. Rato and Victoneta Incorporated as vendee, and Don Salvador Araneta as guarantor, but TCT 13574 was issued in the name of defendant Araneta Institute of Agriculture.

2) Novation of Contract, Deed of Sale and Mortgage dated November 13, 1947 (Exh. M) covering 390,282 square meters, was made the basis for the issuance on March 4, 1948 of TCT 7784 (now TCT 21343) issued February 19, 1951 with an area of 333,377 square meters. As to why defendant Araneta did not present in evidence TCT 21343 was never explained. The Novation of Contract, Deed of Sale and Mortgage did not indicate therein the title of the land subject matter of the said document, but the Court noted in TCT 7784 that it cancelled TCT 26538 (Exhibit 8-A defendant) which consists of 593,606.90 square meters. No explanation was made as to the differences in the area in the Novation of Contract, Deed of Sale and Mortgage (390,282 sq.m.) in the TCT 7784 (333,377 sq.m.) and in TCT 26538 (593,606.90 sq.m.).

According to witnesses Zacarias Quinto, real estate officer of defendant Araneta, the land where Araneta Institute of Agriculture is located is within the area of 97.2 hectares. If the area of TCT 13574 (390,282 sq.m.) will be added, the same will give a total area of 972,154 sq.m. or 97.2 hectares.

Let us now examine TCT 26538 and TCT 26539 both in the name of Jose Ma. Rato from where defendant was said to have acquired TCT 13574 and TCT 7784 (now TCT 21343) in the name of Araneta and the other documents related thereto:

1) Perusal of TCT 26538 shows that its Decree No. and Record No. are both 4429. In the same vein, TCT 26539 also shows that it has Decree No. 4429 and Record No. 4429.

However, Decree No. 4429 was issued by the Court of First Instance, Province of Isabela (Exhibit I) and Record No. 4429, issued for Ordinary Land Registration Case, was issued on March 31, 1911 in CLR No. 5898, Laguna (Exhibit 8, 8-A Bartolome Rivera et al.).

How then could TCT 26538 and TCT 26539 both have Decree No. 4429 and Record No. 4429, which were issued in the Court of First Instance, Province of Isabela and issued in Laguna, respectively.

2) TCT 26538 and 26539 in the name of Jose Ma. Rato are not annotated in the original Certificate of Title 994 where they were said to have originated.

3) The Escritura de Incorporacion de Philippine Land Improvement Company (Exhibit I) executed on April 8, 1925 was only registered and was stamped received by the Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission only April 29, 1953 when the Deed of Sale & Mortgage was executed on August 23, 1947 (Exh. 5 defendant) and the Novation of Contract, Deed of Sale & Mortgage executed on November 13, 1947 (Exh. M). So that when the Philippine Land Improvement was allegedly given a special power of attorney by Jose Ma. Rato to represent him in the execution of the said two (2) documents, the said Philippine Land Improvement Company has not yet been duly registered.

4) TCT 26538 and TCT 26539 both in the name of Jose Ma. Rato both cancel TCT 21857 which was never presented in Court if only to have a clear tracing back of the titles of defendant Araneta.

5) If the subject matter of the Deed of Sale & Mortgage (Exhibit 5 defendant) is TCT 26539, why is it that TCT 13574 of defendant Araneta cancels TCT 6196 instead of TCT 26539. That was never explained. TCT 6196 was not even presented in Court.

6) How come TCT 26538 of Jose Ma. Rato with an area of 593,606.90 was cancelled by TCT 7784 with an area of only 390,282 sq.m.

7) How was defendant Araneta able to have TCT 7784 issued in its name, when the registration of the document entitled Novation of Contract, Deed of Sale & Mortgage (Exhibit M) was suspended/denied (Exhibit N) and no title was received by the Register of Deeds of Pasig at the time the said document was filed in the said Office on March 4, 1948 (Exhibit N and N-1).

Under Sec. 55 of Land Registration Act (Act No. 496) now Sec. 53 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, no new certificate of title shall be entered no memorandum shall be made upon any certificate of title by the register of deeds, in pursuance of any deed or other voluntary instrument, unless the owner’s duplicate certificate is presented for such endorsement.

8) The sale by Jose Ma. Rato in favor of defendant Araneta is not reflected on the Memorandum of Encumbrances of TCT 26538 (Exhibit 7-defendant) meaning that TCT 26538 still exists and intact except for the encumbrances annotated in the Memorandum of Encumbrances affecting the said title (Exhibit 16-A and 16-N David & Santos).

9) In the encumbrance annotated at the back of TCT 26539 (Exhibit 4-defendant) there appears under entry NO. 450 T 6196 Victoneta, Incorporated covering parcel of land canceling said title (TCT 26539) and TCT 6196 was issued (Doc. No. 208, page 96, Book 17 of Notary Public of Manila Rodolfo A. Scheerer, Date of Instrument: 8-23-47 Date of Inscription: 10-18-47 (Exh. 4-A defendant) which could have referred to the Deed of Sale and Mortgage of 8-23-47 (Exhibit 5-defendant) entered before Entry 5170 T-8692 Convenio Philippine Land Improvement Company, with date of Instrument: 1-10-29, and Date of Inscription: 9-21-29.

In TCT 26838 (sic – 26538), this Entry 5170 T-8692 Convenio Philippine Land Improvement Company (Exhibit 16-J-1) appears, but the document, Novation of Contract, Deed of Sale & Mortgage dated November 13, 1947 (Exhibit M) does not appear.

Entry marked Exhibit 16-J-1 on TCT 26538 shows only the extent of the value of P42,000.00 invested by Jose Ma. Rato in the Philippine Land Improvement Company. Said entry was also entered on TCT 26539.

The Court also wonders why it would seem that all the documents presented by defendant Araneta are not in possession of said defendant, for according to witness Zacarias Quintan, the real estate officer of the said defendant Araneta since 1970, his knowledge of the land now in possession of defendant Araneta was acquired by him from all its documents marked in evidence which were obtained only lately when they were needed for presentation before this Court (t.s.n. 6-24-47, p. 34)
All the foregoing are matters which create serious doubts in the mind of the Court as to the genuineness and validity of the titles of defendant Araneta over the land in question.[24] (Underscoring supplied)
Clearly, the findings and conclusions of the trial courts and the Court of Appeals that petitioners’ titles are spurious are based on hard facts fully supported by the records and thoroughly discussed in their respective Decisions. They cannot simply be brushed aside without running afoul to settled principles of law.

It is appalling to note that, as observed by the Court of Appeals, the Araneta Institute “never raised a single argument or assignment of error disputing these factual findings of the trial court.” Its failure to refute not only indicates the frailty or emptiness of its cause, but also validates the correcness of the rulings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals.

The recent ruling in G.R. No.
150091, Yolanda O. Alfonso,
petitioner, vs. Office of the President
is inconsequential to the present
cases.


Justice Tinga capitalizes on the Alfonso Decision upholding the dismissal from the service of Yolanda O. Alfonso, former register of deeds of Caloocan City, for grave misconduct and dishonesty after having been found administratively liable for changing the date of the registration of OCT No. 994 from May 3, 1917 to April 19, 1917. This only reinforces the fact that there is only one OCT No. 994 and that it was Alfonso who made it appear that there are two OCT No. 994. In fact, Justice Tinga concurred in this Decision.

Notably, the Alfonso Decision categorically held that “in deciding this administrative case, this Court deems it fit, though, to steer clear from discussing or passing judgment on the validity of the derivative titles of OCT No. 994, x x x.” It stated that: “Reference to OCT No. 994 is made only to determine the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of petitioner.” It cannot therefore provide support to Justice Tinga’s position.
B

This Court should no longer review the trial courts’ findings of fact which have been affirmed by the Court of Appeals, as there is no showing that such findings are not supported by evidence. Such findings are binding and conclusive on this Court.
Section 1, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, strictly forbids this Court from resolving questions of fact as it is not a trier of facts. Thus, it is not our function to review factual issues and evaluate or weigh the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties already considered in the proceedings below.[25] Since there is no specific showing that the trial courts and the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error, we cannot disregard the elementary and well-established rule that where the findings of fact of the trial courts are affirmed by the Court of Appeals, as in these cases, the same are accorded the highest degree of respect and, generally, will not be disturbed on appeal. Such findings are binding and conclusive on this Court.[26]

In the ponencia, Justice Tinga also ruled that should there be a remand, the validity of Dimson’s and CLT’s claims should further be explored since the ultimate question would pertain to the validity of the Orders rendered in Dimson’s favor by then-Judge Muñoz Palma of the Rizal CFI and Judge Sayo of the Caloocan CFI. Allegedly, the Order of Judge Sayo was recalled. I wonder why Justice Tinga, at this late stage, still assail the validity of those Orders. Does he understand that to do so violates basic procedural law?

Also, where in the records of the trial courts is the alleged “Recall Order” by Judge Sayo? This “Recall Order” was not presented as evidence before the trial courts. Hence, there can be no other conclusion than that the same is INEXISTENT.

In his ponencia, Justice Tinga made reference to the DOJ Committee Report dated August 28, 1997 and the Senate Committee Report dated May 25, 1998. I submit that these Reports have no probative value as they are not recognized as evidence under our Rules of Court; and that such Reports cannot override or supplant the consistent findings and conclusions of the trial courts because judicial proceedings had already been terminated before these courts where the parties were accorded due process and evidence were presented in accordance with the rigid observance of the Rules of Court. Significantly, those findings were affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Third Division of this Court.

The Senate Committee, it must be stressed, has a different role from that of the Judiciary. The courts of law have the constitutional duty to adjudicate legal disputes properly brought before them. A congressional investigation, however, is conducted in aid of legislation. As aptly held by this Court, through then Justice (now Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno, in Agan, Jr., et al. vs. Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc., et al.: [27]
Finally, the respondent Congressmen assert that at least two (2) committee reports by the House of Representatives found the PIATCO contracts valid and contend that this Court, by taking cognizance of the cases at bar, reviewed an action of a co-equal body. They insist that the Court must respect the findings of the said committees of the House of Representatives. With due respect, we cannot subscribe to their submission. There is a fundamental difference between a case in court and an investigation of a congressional committee. The purpose of a judicial proceeding is to settle the dispute in controversy by adjudicating the legal rights and obligations of the parties to the case. On the other hand, a congressional investigation is conducted in aid of legislation (Arnault v. Nazareno, G.R. No. L-3820, July 18, 1950). Its aim is to assist and recommend to the legislature a possible action that the body may take with regard to a particular issue, specifically as to whether or not to enact a new law or amend an existing one. Consequently, this Court cannot treat the findings in a congressional committee report as binding because the facts elicited in congressional hearings are not subject to the rigors of the Rules of Court on admissibility of evidence. The Court in assuming jurisdiction over the petitions at bar simply performed its constitutional duty as the arbiter of legal disputes properly brought before it, especially in this instance when public interest requires nothing less. (Underscoring supplied)
Moreover, the vehement objections of the CLT Realty and the Heirs of Jose B. Dimson against any reliance on the said Reports are reasonable. They contended that:
  1. The Committee Reports “were treacherously secured ex-parte by petitioners Manotok Corporations and Araneta Institute and their allies after they lost before the trial courts.”[28]

  2. The said Reports are unreliable because they “emanate from ex-parte self-serving proceedings.” They (CLT Realty and the Heirs of Jose B. Dimson) were never notified of the hearings conducted in the Senate and DOJ, and that the same were prepared without their knowledge, consent or participation – hence, “a violation of their constitutional right to due process.”[29]

  3. The Senate Committee Report is “long in recommendation, but short in duration of hearing, for it took only one day for the Senate to conduct the aforesaid hearing on November 12, 1997. This is incredible.[30]

  4. The Reports “were practically solicited for the purpose of subverting the judicial process. This attempt continues today under the guise of persuading the Court to remand.”[31]

  5. This Court, not being a trier of facts, cannot be unduly burdened with the task of reexamining, reviewing, reevaluating, and re-weighing each and every piece of evidence already adduced presented, evaluated and considered below. Indeed, the Manotok Corporations and Araneta Institute, after being faced with consistent and unanimous unfavorable rulings by the trial courts, cannot now induce this Court to take a first look and a fresh crack at alleged new factual issues in the alleged DOJ and Senate Committee Reports which were never raised before the trial courts.[32]

  6. The Committee Reports cannot be considered because the factual findings and conclusions reached therein were apparently based on inadmissible hearsay evidence and documents that were never authenticated in the manner provided under the Rules of Court on evidence.[33]

  7. The “scheming introduction of the Committee Reports is an attempt to influence judicial proceedings and the judiciary itself, by interjecting the findings of the different branches of the government, in the hope that said findings will influence the Honorable Court, in petitioners’ favor, after they lost in the trial courts. This is a crude attempt to sabotage the orderly administration of justice x x x, obviously to obtain a reversal of the trial courts’ decisions. This violates the time-honored principle of separation of powers and thereby undermines the independence of the judiciary. [34]

  8. The Reports cannot overturn the factual findings made by courts of justice after judiciously weighing and evaluating the evidence presented by the parties. Worse, these alleged reports are now being utilized to review the rulings of the Honorable Court in the MWSS and Gonzaga.

  9. The Committee Reports are in the nature of a collateral attack against the titles of CLT Realty and Jose B. Dimson, which is proscribed under Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529.[35]

  10. Considering the well-settled rule that a court is not authorized to take judicial notice in the adjudication of cases pending before it of the contents of the records of other cases, and even when such cases have been tried or are pending in the same court,[36] with more reason that this Court should not take judicial notice of findings in non-judicial proceedings in the adjudication of cases. At best, what may be taken judicial notice is only the existence of these Reports, but not the findings and conclusions therein which cannot supplant pervasive evidence, as found by the trial courts and the Court of Appeals, independently establishing that petitioners’ titles are
spurious.[37] Hence, these Reports may not even be conveniently utilized as basis for a re-trial. Moreover, a court cannot take judicial notice of a factual matter in controversy.[38]

Thus, to reiterate, there is absolutely no basis to remand these cases to the Court of Appeals. To repeat, the trial courts had already received, evaluated, and appreciated the respective evidence of the contending parties in support of their contrasting claims on the validity of their respective titles. The Court of Appeals has affirmed the uniform findings of the trial courts. Significantly, all the courts below have consistent findings that the titles of the Manotok Corporations and the Araneta Institute are spurious, and that those of the CLT Realty and Jose B. Dimson are valid, having originated from OCT No. 994 of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal, based on the Decree No. 36455 issued on April 19, 1917 in Land Registration Case No. 4429.

C

Petitioners are bound by the Court’s Decisions in
MWSS
and Gonzaga.

Petitioners Manotok Corporations’ contend that they are not bound by this Court’s pronouncement in MWSS and Gonzaga, they being “strangers” in those cases. Petitioners have ignored the unique nature of land registration proceedings under the Torrens system, upon which OCT No. 994 was issued pursuant to Decree (of registration) No. 36455 in Land Registration Case No. 4429. Section 2 of Act No. 496 (otherwise known as “The Land Registration Act”), as amended, provides that the land registration proceedings under the said Act “shall be proceedings in rem.” [39] Section 38, same Act, also provides that “(e)very decree of registration shall bind the land, and quiet title thereto,” and “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 whom it may concern.’” Section 38 further declares that upon the expiration of one year from entry of the decree of registration within which the said decree may be questioned, “every decree or certificate of title issued x x x shall be incontrovertible,” meaning, it can no longer be changed, altered or modified.[40]

This has to be the rule so as not to defeat the objective of the Torrens system, which is to guarantee the indefeasibility of the title to the property.[41] Thus, we have invariably ruled that since the proceedings for the registration of land titles under the Torrens system is an action in rem, not in personam, personal notice to all claimants of the res is not necessary to give the land registration court jurisdiction to deal with and dispose of the res; and neither may lack of such personal notice vitiate or invalidate the decree or title issued in a registration proceeding. This rule is founded on the principle that the State, as sovereign over the land situated within it, may provide for the adjudication of title in a proceeding in rem, which shall be binding upon all persons, known or unknown,[42] herein petitioners included.

The MWSS and Gonzaga Decisions,
confirming the validity of OCT
No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917
from which the titles of respondents
herein emanated, had long become
final and executory.


The correctness of the MWSS and Gonzaga Decisions of this Court are now beyond question. These Decisions confirming the validity of OCT No. 994 issued on April 19, 1917 from which the titles of the respondents in the cases at bar originated had long become final and executory. Final judgments – like those of MWSS and Gonzaga, adjudicated by this Court 15 and 11 years ago, respectively – deserve respect and should no longer be disturbed. At any rate, there is no question that this date appears on the face of OCT 994 as the date of the issuance of Decree No. 36455.

Stare decisis et non quieta movere. Stand by the decision and disturb not what is settled.[43] This established doctrine simply means that a conclusion reached in one case should be applied to those that follow if the facts are substantially the same, even though the parties may be different, as in these cases. It comes from the basic principle of justice that like cases ought to be decided alike. Thus, where the same question relating to the same event is brought by parties similarly situated as in a previous case already litigated and decided by a competent court, the rule of stare decisis is a bar to any attempt to relitigate the same issue.[44]

D


Petitioners were fully afforded due process.

Petitioners Manotok Corporations allege they were denied due process and that the commissioners’ Majority Report are flawed.

Even if these matters can be raised for the first time before this Court, petitioners’ allegations are utterly baseless.

The proceedings before the
commissioners and the trial court
were properly conducted.


Records show that petitioners have been fully accorded due process during the proceedings before the commissioners and before the trial court. It is unfortunate that petitioners ignored the fact that the trial court, before it rendered its Decision, set the hearing of the commissioners’ Majority and Minority Reports on December 9, 1993. However, during that hearing, petitioners did not ask that they be allowed to present witnesses or additional evidence, if any. Instead, they submitted their comment on the Majority Report praying that the said report be rejected and that TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 (from which their titles emanated) be upheld.

Then, after respondent CLT Realty submitted its own comment on the Minority Report, the trial court, on February 8, 1994, issued an Order directing the parties to file their respective memoranda. Again, petitioners did not object to this Order. Instead, they complied by filing their memorandum praying that the trial court approve the Minority Report of a lone commissioner and render judgment in their favor, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed that this Honorable Court approves the [Minority] Report dated October 23, 1993 of Commissioner Reodoro I. Victorino. Defendants [Manotok Corporations] further pray that their ownership of the land in question be upheld and the validity and effectiveness of their certificates of title thereto be similarly sustained.
Also, when the trial court issued its Order dated April 22, 1994 resolving respondent CLT Realty’s Motion for Clarification and stating that the case was considered submitted for decision, [45] still petitioners did not question or seek a reconsideration of this Order.

Certainly, this is not the actuation of a litigant who feels aggrieved by such actions of the trial court. Simply put, had petitioners believed that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion in considering the case submitted for decision on the basis of the commissioners’ Reports, the parties’ respective comments thereon, and their memoranda, they could have, right then and there, asked the trial court for reconsideration and, if the same was denied, elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals through a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. That they did not do so only shows that their belated allegation of denial of due process is a mere afterthought, obviously because the trial court’s Decision was adverse to them.

It bears stressing that it is well within the power of the trial court to adopt the commissioners’ Majority Report as the basis of its judgment. The very reason why the commissioners were appointed by the trial court, upon agreement of the parties, was to determine whether there is overlapping of the parties’ titles. By appointing them based on their background, expertise and experience in the field of geodetic engineering, the contending parties and the trial court concede that their chosen commissioners are in a better position to determine which of the titles were regularly issued. Consequently, the trial court may rely on their findings and conclusions. Under Section 11, Rule 32 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, the trial court is clearly authorized to “render judgment by adopting, modifying, or rejecting the report (by the commissioners) in whole or in part or it may receive further evidence or may recommit it with instructions.”

Furthermore, the trial court did not conduct further reception of evidence before deciding the case since not one of the parties asked for it. The parties themselves opted to submit the case for decision on the bases, among others, of their respective comments on the commissioners’ Reports. By doing so, they unmistakably impressed upon the trial court that their respective evidence they submitted to the commissioners were complete and ripe for adjudication. In fact, petitioners themselves specifically prayed that the trial court adopt in its Decision the Minority Report of a single Commissioner, which is favorable to them. Certainly, under the doctrine of estoppel, petitioners are barred from assailing the trial court’s judgment for being premature since they themselves had asked the said court that it should already decide the case. They cannot now espouse a posture inconsistent with their conduct below as this is anathema to the orderly administration of justice.

As aptly stated by the Court of Appeals in its Decision dated September 28, 1995 in CA-G.R. CV No. 45255:
Had defendants-appellants (herein petitioners Manotok Corporations) seriously believed that the trial court acted erroneously and with grave abuse of discretion in considering the case submitted for resolution and in deciding the same solely on the basis of the Commissioners' Report and the memoranda submitted by the parties without conducting hearings for the reception of evidence, they could have immediately brought this matter up before this Court through a special civil action for certiorari. However, they did not do so.

Instead, it was only after the trial court had rendered an adverse decision against them that defendants-appellants raised for the first time in their Brief, the alleged procedural error committed by the trial court in rendering its Decision based on the Majority Report.[46] (Underscoring supplied)
The Commissioners’ Majority Report
is duly supported by evidence.


Contrary to their claim, the findings of fact and conclusions contained in the commissioners’ Majority Report (as well as the Minority Report) are based on the documentary evidence of the parties. In fact, petitioners admitted that the commissioners verified the certificates of title and related documents with the proper government agencies and “examined the title records.”[47] It bears stressing that these certificates are the core documents upon which the commissioners based their findings because they contain the necessary facts showing the data of the land in question, namely: the registered owner/s and the person/s to whom the titles were issued or transferred; the technical description and the metes and bounds of the land; the approved survey plans; the date of the original survey of the mother title; voluntary transaction affecting the whole land or part thereof or interest therein; the number of the previous certificate/s of title covering the same land and the fact that it was originally registered; the record number; the number of the original certificate of title; the volume page of the registration book in which the latter is found; and annotation of encumbrances in the certificates.[48]

Moreover, it is noteworthy that the findings in the commissioners’ Majority Report are based substantially on the very documents submitted by petitioners themselves in the course of the proceedings. Clearly, their allegations that they were denied due process and that the Majority Report is defective because it does not cite any “specific evidence” are without merit.

The commissioners who rendered the
Majority Report did not exceed their
authority.


The commissioners acted within the scope of their authority. In their Comment on the Majority Report, petitioners did not complain that the commissioners exceeded their mandate. Likewise, petitioners did not raise such objection in their Memorandum. Instead, they asked the trial court to approve the Minority Report and render judgment in their favor. And since petitioners did not present before the trial court the alleged error of the commissioners, the same is deemed waived.[49]

In De la Rama Steamship Co. v. National Development Co.,[50] this Court held that where, as here, a party fails to file opportunely his objections to the Report of the commissioner or referee, questions relating to the Report cannot be reviewed and he cannot dispute the findings therein or escape the legal consequences flowing therefrom.  In the same vein, we ruled in Santos v. De Guzman and Martinez[51] that:
By way of emphasis, we now desire to add that if a party desires to challenge the findings of a referee, he must do so by timely and specific exceptions to the referee’s report. If he fails to make such exceptions and the report is confirmed by the trial judge, he is bound by the findings and cannot be heard to dispute their truthfulness or escape the legal consequences flowing therefrom. Questions relating to the report of a referee can be reviewed only where the record discloses the exceptions taken thereto. (Underscoring supplied)
We reiterate that the commissioners who submitted the Majority Report did not exceed their authority. They verified and examined the numerous documents and certificates of title of the parties and their predecessors, as well as the corresponding transfer documents and surveys. Upon examination, these commissioners found “inherent technical defects on TCT No. 4211 (from which petitioners Manotok Corporations derived their titles) and TCT No. 4210.” The said defects, they explained, “point to the fact that there was no approved subdivision of Lot 26 which served as legal basis for the regular issuance of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211.” They further found that petitioners’ titles overlap with portions of respondent CLT Realty’s title, explaining that the overlapping “is due to the irregular and questionable issuance of TCT Nos. 4211 (also of TCT No. 4210), 5261, 35486, 1368 to 1374.” They thus concluded that respondent’s title (pertaining to the entire Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate), which was derived from regularly issued titles, should prevail over petitioners’ titles, which were derived from those irregularly issued.

The Commissioners explained their findings and stated their conclusions in their Majority Report pursuant to their mandate to resolve the issue of whether petitioners Manotok Corporations’ titles overlap that of CLT Realty. Intrinsically intertwined with such mandate is the commissioners’ duty to state the basis of their findings and conclusions. This is obviously necessary to enable the trial court, as well as the appellate court in case of appeal, to fully understand the commissioners’ findings and to make proper judgment. Petitioners very well know that the commissioners’ Reports are still subject to approval by the trial court which has the final say on the matter. Clearly, the commissioners acted within their authority.

Considering that petitioners Manotok Corporations were fully accorded due process, their plea that this case be remanded to the trial court for hearing and reception of evidence is unwarranted.

E

The magnitude of the land area involved in these
cases, as alleged by petitioners, is exaggerated.

In their motion for reconsideration, the Manotok Corporations alleged that the Maysilo Estate consists of 1,660 hectares of land located in Malabon, Caloocan City and Quezon City, 1,342 hectares of which are covered by OCT No. 994; and that considering the magnitude of the land area involved, our Decision will prejudice many landowners.

Likewise, Araneta Institute claimed in its motion for reconsideration that the Decision involves 1,660 hectares of land in Malabon, Caloocan City and Quezon City; and that this case has utmost significance, affecting national interest. Hence, our Decision should be reconsidered.

The allegations of the Manotok Corporations and Araneta Institute that our ruling involves 1,660 hectares of land in Malabon, Caloocan City and Quezon City are exaggerated, to say the least. The controversy between the Manotok Corporations and CLT Realty involves only 201,288 square meters, or more than 20 hectares only.

In Araneta Institute v. Heirs of Jose B. Dimson, the area involved is only 50 hectares, not 1,660 hectares.

The case between Sto. Niño Association and CLT Realty only covers 30,152 square meters, or more than three hectares only.

CONCLUSION

Finally, I cannot fathom why the majority of my colleagues gave full credence to the allegations of Justice Tinga which have no bearing whatsoever to respondents’ claim. Worse, they have not been raised and passed upon by the trial courts and the three (3) Divisions of the Court of Appeals. To be sure, they have not been proved by evidence. Justice Tinga’s posture grossly violates the settled rule that no new issues shall be raised for the first time on appeal. The remand of these cases to the appellate court is an attempt on his part to prolong the litigation and disturb the findings of the said courts sustained by overwhelming evidence. I reiterate that the titles of Dimson and his heirs and that of the CLT are valid. On the other hand, the titles of the Manotok Corporations and Araneta Institute are spurious. These are the findings of the three trial courts and affirmed by the three Divisions of the Court of Appeals. To litigate these findings once again will entirely change the settled jurisprudence of this Court. The doctrine that there should be an end to litigation has been seriously disturbed. This is a sad day for the Court.

WHEREFORE, I vote to DENY the Motions for Reconsideration of the Decision dated November 29, 2005.



[1] G.R. No. 134385 (Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc. v. Heirs of Jose B. Dimson, et al.); the complaint in G.R. No. 123346 (Manotok Realty, Inc. and Manotok Estate Corporation v. CLT Realty Development Corporation) was filed with the trial court on August 10, 1992; and the complaint in G.R. No. 148767 (Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc. v. CLT Realty Development Corporation) was filed with the trail court on July 9, 1992.

[2] Only the petitioners in G.R. Nos. 123346 and 134385 have filed separate motions for reconsideration of the November 29, 2005 Decision.

[3] Section 16, Article III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution; underscoring supplied.

[4] Cruz, Constitutional Law, 2007 Edition, p. 295.

[5] A.M. No. MTJ-98-1159, August 3, 1998, 293 SCRA 532.

[6] Cruz, Constitutional Law, supra.

[7] Licaros v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 145851, November 22, 2001, 370 SCRA 394.

[8] Section 1, Rule 135.

[9] Re: Cases Left Undecided by Retired Judge Benjamin A. Bongolan of the RTC, Br. 2, Bangued, Abra, A.M. No. 98-12-394-RTC, October 20, 2005, 473 SCRA 428.

[10] Tan v. Estoconing, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1554, June 29, 2005, 462 SCRA 10.

[11] Docketed as Civil Case No. C-15539.

[12] Docketed as Civil Case No. C-8050.

[13] Docketed as Civil Case No. C-15491.

[14] Section 1, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.

[15] Asia Trust Development Bank v. Concepts Trading Corporation, G.R. No. 130759, June 20, 2003, 404 SCRA 449; Omandam v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128750, January 18, 2001, 349 SCRA 483.

[16] Solicitor General’s Memorandum dated August 25, 2006, p. 19.

[17] Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), August 1, 2006, pp. 369-372.

[18] Rollo of G.R. No. 123346, pp. 268-275.

[19] Civil Case No. C-15491 of the RTC, Branch 121, Caloocan City.

[20] Rollo of G.R. No. 148767, pp. 33-45.

[21] Amended Decision dated February 12, 1996, Rollo of G.R. No. 148767, pp. 11-13.

[22] Decision, pp. 21-22.

[23] Annex “A,” Petition in G.R. No. 134385, Rollo, pp. 108, 122-124.

[24] Id., pp. 124-128.

[25] Asia Trust Development Bank v. Concepts Trading Corporation, G.R. No. 130759, June 20, 2003, 404 SCRA 449; Omandam v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128750, January 18, 2001, 349 SCRA 483.

[26] Duremdes v. Duremdes, G.R. No. 138256, November 12, 2003, 415 SCRA 684.

[27] G.R. Nos. 155001, 155547 and 155661, January 21, 2004, 420 SCRA 575.

[28] Memorandum for respondent CLT Realty Development Corporation, Inc. dated September 3, 2006, p. 61.

[29] Id., p. 65; see also Memorandum for the respondent Heirs of Jose B. Dimson, dated September 4, 2006, p. 35.

[30] Memorandum for the respondent Heirs of Jose B. Dimson, id., pp. 34-35.

[31] Memorandum for respondent CLT Realty Development Corporation, Inc. dated September 3, 2006, p. 61.

[32] Id., p. 66, citing Boneng v. People, 394 SCRA 252 (1999); Alicbusan v. Court of Appeals, 269 SCRA 336 (1997); Ysmael v. Court of Appeals, 318 SCRA 215 (1999); Sumbad v. Court of Appeals, 308 SCRA 575 (1999); Medida v. Court of Appeals, 208 SCRA 887 (1992).

[33] Memorandum for respondent CLT Realty Development Corporation, Inc. dated September 3, 2006, pp. 66-67.

[34] Id.

[35] "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."

[36] It was held that:
"x x x As a general rule, courts are not authorized to take judicial notice, in the adjudication of cases pending before them, of the contents of the records of other cases, even when such cases have been tried or are pending in the same court, and notwithstanding the fact that both cases may have been heard or are actually pending before the same judge.'

x x x

It is clear though, that this exception is applicable only when, 'in the absence of objection,' 'with the know edge of the opposing party,' or ' at the request or with the consent of the parties,' the case is clearly referred to or 'the original or part of the records of the case are actually withdrawn from the archives' and' admitted as part of the record of the case then pending.' These conditions have not been established here. On the contrary, the petitioner was completely unaware that his testimony in Civil Case No. 1327 was being considered by the trial court in the case then pending before it. As the petitioner puts it, the matter was never taken up at the trial and was 'unfairly sprung' upon him, leaving him no opportunity to counteract." [Tabuena v. Court of Appeals, 196 SCRA 650, 655 (1991)]
[37] The Honorable Court in State Prosecutors v. Judge Muro, 236 SCRA 505 (1994), enumerated the requisites for a court to take judicial notice of a certain fact:
"Generally speaking, matters of judicial notice have three material requisites: (1) the matter must be one of common and general knowledge; (2) it must be well and authoritatively settled and not doubtful or uncertain; and (3) it must be known to be within the limits of the jurisdiction of the court. The principal guide in determining what facts may be assumed to be judicially known is that of notoriety. Hence, it can be said that judicial notice is limited to facts evidenced by public records and facts of genera notoriety.

To say that a court will take judicial notice of a fact is merely another way of saying that the usual form of evidence will be dispensed with if knowledge of the fact can be otherwise acquired. This is because of the court assumes that the matter is so notorious that it will not be disputed. But judicial notice is not judicial knowledge. The mere personal knowledge of the judge is not the judicial knowledge of the court, and he IS not authorized to make his individual knowledge of a fact, not generally or professionally known, the basis of his action. Judicial cognizance is taken only of those matters which are 'commonly' known.

Things of 'common knowledge' of which courts take judicial notice, may be matters coming to the knowledge of men generally In the course of the orcl1nary experiences of life or they may be matters which are generally accepted by mankind as true and are capable of ready and unquestioned demonstration. Thus, facts which are universally known, and which may be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries or other publications, are judicially noticed, provided they are of such universal notoriety and so generally understood that they may be regarded as forming part of the common knowledge of every person." [Emphasis supplied]
[38] In Spouses Badillo v. Tayag, 400 SCRA 494 (2003), the Honorable Court, quoting other cases, held that the trial court cannot take judicial notice of factual matter in controversy, thus:
"In Herrera v. Bollos, the trial court awarded rent to the defendants in a forcible entry case. Reversing the RTC, this Court declared that the reasonable amount of rent could be determined not by mere judicial notice, but by supporting evidence:

. . . A court cannot take judicial notice of a factual matter in controversy. The court may take judicial notice of matters of public knowledge, or which are capable of unquestionable demonstration, or ought to be known to judges because of their judicial functions. Before taking such judicial notice, the court must 'allow the parties to be heard thereon.' Hence, there can be no judicial notice on the rental value of the premises in question without supporting evidence."
[39] In the same vein, Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (otherwise known as “The Property Registration Decree,” which amended and codified the laws relative to registration of property) provides: “Judicial proceedings for the registration of lands throughout the Philippines shall be in rem, and shall be based on the generally accepted principles underlying the Torrens system.” Section 26 of the same law also states that such proceedings are binding on the whole world because “by the description in the notice (of initial hearing of the application for registration) ‘To All Whom It May Concern,’ all the world are made parties defendant.”

[40] Aguilar et al. v. Caoagdan et al., No. L-12580, April 30, 1959, 105 Phil. 661, 666, citing Director of Lands v. Gutierrez David, No. 28151, October 3, 1927, 50 Phil. 797; Roxas v. Enriquez, No. 8539, December 24, 1914, 29 Phil. 31; Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, No. 5246, September 16, 1910, 17 Phil. 49.

[41] Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, id.; Gestosani v. Insular Development Co., Inc., No. L-21166, September 15, 1967, 21 SCRA 114, citing Director of Lands v. Gutierrez David, id.; Cabaños v. Register of Deeds, 40 Phil. 620; Francisco v. Court of Appeals, No. L-35787, April 11, 1980, 97 SCRA 22, 33.

[42] Moscoso v. Court of Appeals, No. L-46439, April 24, 1984, 128 SCRA 705, 718-719, citing City of Manila v. Lack et al., 19 Phil. 324, 337; Roxas v. Enriquez, supra; Director of Lands v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, 41 Phil. 120; Aguilar v. Caogdan, supra; Garcia v. Bello, No. L-21355, April 30, 1965, 13 SCRA 769; Esconde v. Barlongay, No. L-67583, July 31, 1987, 152 SCRA 603, 610.

[43] Pepsico, Inc. v. Lacanilao, G.R. No. 146007. June 15, 2006

[44] Ty v. Banco Filipino Savings & Mortgage Bank, G.R. No. 144705, November 15, 2005, 475 SCRA 65, 75-76.

[45] Annex “H,” Petition in Manotok; Decision dated May 10, 1994 of the Regional Trial Court (Annex “C,” id.), p. 5.

[46] CA Decision in the Manotok Case, pp. 16-17.

[47] Rollo of G.R. No. 123346, p. 2136.

[48] Sections 41, 43 and 44, Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, approved on June 11, 1978. This Decree has substantially incorporated the substantive and procedural requirements of its precursor, the Land Registration Act of 1902.

[49] CCC Insurance Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 31 SCRA 264, 270 (1970).

[50] No. L-26966, October 30, 1970, 35 SCRA 567, 581.

[51] No. 21113, January 23, 1924, 45 Phil. 646, 649.





CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINION


CORONA, J.:

The integrity of the Torrens system of land registration should be zealously guarded at all costs. Otherwise, the value of certificates of titles will be seriously impaired. This is the fundamental principle that should guide this Court in resolving the motions for reconsideration in these consolidated petitions. And the reason why I respectfully submit that the decision dated November 29, 2005 should be reconsidered.

THERE IS ONLY ONE OCT NO. 994:
THAT REGISTERED ON MAY 3, 1917


The issue involving OCT No. 994 is not whether the true date of its registration was April 19, 1917 or May 3, 1917 but which of these dates exists in the books of the Land Registration Authority (LRA).

While it appears at first glance that there were two different dates of registration of OCT No. 994 — April 19, 1917 and May 3, 1917 — only one OCT No. 994 appears in the books of the LRA. This was OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. There was only one OCT No. 994. And it was registered on May 3, 1917, not on April 19, 1917.

The voluminous records of these cases show the following material antecedent facts relative to the issuance of OCT No. 994:
  1. on December 3, 1912, the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal presided by Judge Norberto Romualdez, rendered judgment in Land Registration Case No. 4429 ordering the issuance of a decree of registration;

  2. pursuant thereto, the General Land Registration Office prepared decree no. 36455 and issued the same on April 19, 1917 at 9:00 in the morning in Manila, Philippine Islands and

  3. on May 3, 1917, the Register of Deeds of the Province of Rizal received decree no. 36455 and had it transcribed. Thus, the following entries appeared on the first page of OCT No. 994:

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

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

ATTEST: ENRIQUE ALTAVAS
Chief of the Land Registration Office

Received for transcription at the Office of the Register of Deeds for the Province of Rizal, this third day of May nineteen hundred and seventeen at 7:30 A.M.

Clearly then, May 3, 1917, the date of transcription of the decree of registration, was the date OCT No. 994 was registered and became effective. This was in accordance with Sections 41 and 42 of Act No. 496 (The Land Registration Act), the applicable law at the time OCT No. 994 was issued:
Section 41. Immediately after final decision by the court directing the registration of any property, the clerk shall send a certified true copy of such decision to the Chief of the General Land Registration Office, who shall prepare the decree in accordance with Section forty of Act Numbered Four Hundred and Ninety Six, and he shall forward a certified copy of said decree to the register of deeds of the province or city in which the property is situated. The register of deeds shall transcribe the decree in a book to be called the “Registration Book,” in which a leaf, or leaves, in consecutive order shall be devoted exclusively to each title. The entry made by the register of deeds in this book in each case shall be the original certificate of title, and shall be signed by him and sealed with the seal of the court. All certificates of title shall be signed by him and sealed with the seal of the court. All certificates of title shall be numbered consecutively, beginning with number one. The register of deeds shall in each case make an exact duplicate of the original certificate, including the seal, but putting on it the words “owner’s duplicate certificate,” and deliver the same to the owner, or to his attorney duly authorized. In case of a variance between the owner’s duplicate certificate and the original certificate, the original shall prevail. The certified copy of the decree of registration shall be filed and numbered by the register of deeds with reference noted on it to the place of record of the original certificate of title: Provided, however, That when an application includes land lying in more than one province, or one province and the city of Manila, the court shall cause the part lying in each province or in the city of manila to be described separately by metes and bounds in the decree of registration, and the clerk shall send to the register of deeds for each province, or the city of Manila, as the case may be, a copy of the decree containing the description of the land within that province or city, and the register of deeds shall register the same and issue an owner’s duplicate thereof, and thereafter for all matters pertaining to registration under this Act the portion in each province or city shall be treated as a separate parcel of land.

Section 42. The certificate first registered in pursuance of the decree of registration in regard to any parcel of land shall be entitled in the registration book, “Original certificate of title, entered pursuant to decree of the Court of Land Registration, dated at” (stating the time and place of entry of decree and the number of case). This certificate shall take effect upon the date of the transcription of the decree. Subsequent certificates relating to the same land shall be in like form, but shall be entitled “Transfer from number” (the number of the next previous certificate relating to the same land), and also the words “Originally registered” (date, volume, and page of registration). (emphasis supplied)
April 19, 1917 was the date of issuance or forwarding of the decree of registration (decree no. 36455) to the registrar of deeds. It was not the date of transcription of said decree. The transcription in the registry book by the registrar of deeds was made on May 3, 1917, the day it was received by the Registrar of Deeds of the Province of Rizal. There could thus be no other date of registration but May 3, 1917.

Registration means “recording; inserting in an official register; enrollment, as registration of voters; the act of making a list, catalogue, schedule, or register, particularly of an official character, or of making entries therein.”[1] In general, it means any entry made in the books of registry, including both registration in its ordinary and strict senses, and cancellation, annotation and even the marginal notes.[2] In its strict sense, it is the entry made in the registry which records solemnly and permanently the right of ownership and other real rights.[3] In its juridical aspect, it is the entry made in a book or public registry of deeds.[4] Therefore, the transcription or entry of the decree of registration in the registration book was what constituted registration, in this case, on May 3, 1917.

SINCE THE “TWO OCT NO. 994
THEORY” IS FALSE, THE RULING THAT
UPHELD THE RESPECTIVE TITLES OF
RESPONDENTS HAS NO BASIS


The “two OCT No. 994 theory” (that is, there were two OCT No. 994s, one registered on April 19, 1917 which was superior to the other OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917) was the foundation of the November 29, 2005 decision. On that theory rested the ruling that the respective titles of respondents CLT Realty Development Corporation (CLT) and the heirs of Jose B. Dimson (heirs of Dimson) as derivatives of OCT No. 994 registered on April 17, 1917[5] should be upheld over that of petitioners. The theory has been proven false as no OCT No. 994 registered on April 17, 1917 ever existed.

The difference between the “two OCT No. 994 theory” and the fact that only one OCT No. 994 existed is critical and crucial. In judicial decision-making, theory must give way to reality because a decision should always be based on facts to which the relevant law shall be applied.

Moreover, in these cases, the difference between theory and reality and the dates April 19, 1917 and May 3, 1917 are significant as well as decisive. On them hang the conflicting claims and rights of the contending parties. Indeed, the Court formulated the Advisory on the issues for oral arguments of these cases on the premise that there were two OCT No. 994s:
I.

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

A. Petitioners’ titles:
  1. Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) Nos. 7528, 7762, 8012, 9866, C-17272, 21107, 21485, 26405, 26406, 26407, 33904, 34255, C-35267, 41956, 53268, 55896, T-1214528, 163902 and 165119 in the name of Manotok Realty, Inc., and TCT No. T-232568 in the name of Manotok Estate Corporation;

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

  3. TCT Nos. T-158373 and 13574 in the name of Sto. Niño Kapitbahayan Association, Inc.
All these titles were derived from Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917 in the Registry of Deeds of Caloocan City covering Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate, same city.

B. Respondents’ titles:
  1. TCT No. T-177013 in the name of CLT Realty Development Corporation; and

  2. TCT No. R-15169 in the name of Jose B. Dimson.
All these titles were derived from OCT No. 994 registered earlier, or on April 19, 1917, covering the same Lot No. 26 of the Maysilo Estate. (emphasis supplied)

TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
(TCT) NOS. T-177013 AND R-
151669 COULD NOT HAVE BEEN
VALIDLY DERIVED FROM OCT NO.
994 REGISTERED ON MAY 3, 1917


I submit that the respective certificates of title of respondents (TCT No. T-177013 of CLT and TCT No. R-15166 of the heirs of Dimson) could not have been valid derivative titles of OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917.

First, CLT and the heirs of Dimson have consistently claimed that the mother title of their respective certificates of title was OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917. However, OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917 never existed. It was a fruit of fraud and falsification.[6] Thus, the certificates of title of CLT and the heirs of Dimson had no valid source.

Neither CLT nor the heirs of Dimson presented a certified copy (or even any copy) of the mother title of TCT Nos. T-177013 and TCT No. R-15166. CLT submitted OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917 and admitted that there was only one OCT No. 994. It, however, argued that OCT No. 994’s registration date should be April 19, 1917, the date of issuance of the decree of registration. This is a complete turnaround from its original contention that there were two OCT No. 994s, one registered on April 19, 1917 and another registered on May 3, 1917. The Court should not allow this.

In the trial courts, CLT and the heirs of Dimson traced their titles to the spurious OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917. They even underscored this point to show that their mother title was issued earlier than, and prevailed over, OCT No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917. They are therefore estopped from claiming otherwise.[7]

Respondents cannot change horses in midstream. A party cannot adopt a new theory or argument, specially one that is inconsistent with its previous contention. The Court should not countenance CLT’s act of adopting inconsistent postures as this would be a mockery of justice.[8] This rule applies more strictly in case of appeal. As this Court declared in Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue:[9]
The rule is well-settled that points of law, theories, issues and arguments not adequately brought to the attention of the lower court need not be considered by the reviewing court as they cannot be raised for the first time on appeal, much more in a motion for reconsideration as in this case, because this would be offensive to the basic rules of fair play, justice and due process.
Second, in upholding the validity of the titles of CLT, heavy reliance is made on the observations of the trial court and the Court of Appeals focusing on the alleged technical defects of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 (from where petitioner Manotok Realty, Inc.’s titles originated). To my mind, however, there are compelling reasons to annul respondent CLT’s title.

True, this Court is not a trier of facts, specially if the factual findings of the trial court are affirmed by the appellate court. But it is not without exceptions.[10] The Court may review the findings of fact of the trial and appellate courts when such findings are manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible. [11] Moreover, to lay the matter to rest and in the interest of justice, this Court can set aside the procedural barrier to a re-examination of the facts to resolve the legal issues.[12]

In these cases, the trial and appellate courts found (and this Court adopted the finding in its November 29, 2005 decision) that there are two OCT No. 994s, registered on April 19, 1917 and May 3, 1917, respectively. However, such finding has been shown to be manifestly erroneous.

TCT No. T-177013 covers Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate with an area of 891,547.43 sq. m. It was a transfer from TCT No. R-17994 issued in the name of Estelita I. Hipolito. On the other hand, TCT No. R-17994 was a transfer from TCT No. R-15166 in the name of Jose B. Dimson which, in turn, was supposedly a direct transfer from OCT No. 994 registered on April 19, 1917.

Annotations at the back of Hipolito’s title revealed that Hipolito acquired ownership by virtue of a court order dated October 18, 1977 approving the compromise agreement which admitted the sale made by Dimson in her favor on September 2, 1976. Dimson supposedly acquired ownership by virtue of the order dated June 13, 1966 of the CFI of Rizal, Branch 1 in Civil Case No. 4557 awarding him, as his attorney’s fees, 25% of whatever remained of Lots 25-A, 26, 27, 28 and 29 that were undisposed of in the intestate estate of the decedent Maria de la Concepcion Vidal, one of the registered owners of the properties covered by OCT No. 994. This order was confirmed by the CFI of Caloocan in a decision dated October 13, 1977 and order dated October 18, 1977 in SP Case No. C-732.

However, an examination of the annotation on OCT No. 994, particularly the following entries, showed:
AP-6665/0-994 – Venta: Queda cancelado el presente Certificado en cuanto a una extencion superficial de 3,052.93 metros cuadrados y 16,512.50 metros cuadrados, y descrita en el lote no. 26, vendida a favor de Alejandro Ruiz y Mariano P Leuterio, el primer casado con Deogracias Quinones el Segundo con Josefa Garcia y se ha expedido el certificado de Titulo No; 4210, pagina 163 Libro T-22.

Fecha del instrumento – Agosto 29, 1918

Fecha de la inscripcion – September 9, 1918
10.50 AM

AP-6665/0-994 – Venta: – Queda cancelado el presente Certficado el cuanto a una extencion superficial de 871,982.00 metros cuadrados, descrita en el lote no. 26, vendida a favor de Alejandro Ruiz y Mariano P. Leuterio, el primer casado con Deogracias Quinones el segundo con Josefa Garcia y se ha expedido el certificado de Titulo No 4211, pagina 164, Libro T-22.

Fecha del instrumento – Agosto 25, 1918

Fecha de la inscripcion – September 9, 1918
10:50- AM
Based on the description of Lot No. 26 in OCT No. 994, it has an area of 891,547.43 sq. m. which corresponds to the total area sold in 1918 pursuant to the above-cited entries. Inasmuch as, at the time the order of the CFI of Rizal was made on June 13, 1966, no portion of Lot No. 26 remained undisposed of, there was nothing for the heirs of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal to convey to Dimson. Consequently, Dimson had nothing to convey to Hipolito who, by logic, could not transmit anything to CLT.

Moreover, subdivision plan Psd-288152 covering Lot No. 26 of the Maysilo Estate described in Hipolito’s certificate of title was not approved by the chief of the Registered Land Division as it appeared to be entirely within Pcs-1828, Psd-5079, Psd-5080 and Psd-15345 of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211. How Hipolito was able to secure TCT No. R-17994 was therefore perplexing, to say the least.

All these significant facts were conveniently brushed aside by the trial and appellate courts. The circumstances called for the need to preserve and protect the integrity of the Torrens system. However, the trial and appellate courts simply disregarded them.

CLT’S AND THE HEIRS OF DIMSON’S
PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST HAD
NOTHING TO TRANSFER


As early as 1918, the entire Lot No. 26 had already been disposed of and title thereto was transferred to the predecessors-in-interest of Manotok Realty, Inc. as evidenced by the issuance of TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211. This fact was reflected in the following annotations on OCT No. 994:
  1. Ap 6665/0-994 stating that TCT 4210 was issued on September 9, 1918 in favor of Alejandro Ruiz and Mariano P. Leuterio canceling OCT No. 994 insofar as portions of Lot No. 26 with areas of 3,052.93 sq. m. and 16,512.50 sq. m., respectively, by virtue of a deed of sale dated August 29, 1918 and

  2. Ap 6665/0-994 stating that TCT No. 4211 was issued on September 9, 1918 in favor of Alejandro Ruiz and Mariano P. Leuterio totally canceling OCT No. 994 with regard to Lot 26 by virtue of a sale dated August 25, 1918 covering the remaining 871,982 sq. m. of the said lot.
Clearly, Dimson’s TCT No. R-15166 had no basis because the property it was supposed to cover was already covered by TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211. Moreover, Dimson anchored his right to Lot No. 26 by virtue of the order dated June 13, 1966 of the CFI of Rizal, Branch 1. He presented the said order dated June 13, 1966 to the CFI of Caloocan City for confirmation only after the lapse of 11 years from its issuance.[13]

The order dated June 13, 1966 was recalled by the CFI of Rizal on August 16, 1966. Thus, his petition for confirmation was invalid on two grounds: (1) his right to file it had already prescribed and (2) with the recall of the order dated June 13, 1966, there was no longer anything to confirm. These fatal defects likewise tainted the heirs of Dimson’s TCT No. R-15169 because it was issued on the basis of the same decision dated October 13, 1977 and order dated October 18, 1977 of the CFI of Caloocan (the same bases for the issuance of TCT No. R-15166).

The river cannot rise higher than its source. To reiterate, Dimson’s TCT Nos. R-15166 and R-15169 had no basis. Since Dimson’s title was the source of Hipolito’s title and, subsequently, of CLT’s TCT No. 177013, then CLT’s certificate of title also had no basis. Dimson did not acquire any portion of Lot Nos. 26 or 25-A (covered by the titles of Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc. [Araneta]). As such, he could not transfer any portion thereof to Hipolito. In the same vein, having acquired nothing from Dimson, Hipolito transmitted nothing to CLT.

Moreover, the rule is that where two certificates of title are issued to different persons covering the same parcel of land in whole or in part, the earlier in date must prevail as between the original parties and, in case of successive registration where more than one certificate is issued over the land, the person holding title under the prior certificate is entitled to the property as against the person who relies on the second certificate.[14] In other words, where more than one certificate is issued in respect of a particular estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificate is entitled to the estate or interest; and that person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from, the person who was the holder of the earliest certificate.[15]

TCT Nos. 4210 and 4211 preceded Dimson’s TCT No. R-15166 by almost 50 years while TCT Nos. 737 and 13574 of Araneta were issued 30 years earlier than Dimson’s TCT No. R-15169. As between the source of Manotok Realty, Inc. and Manotok Estate Corporation’s titles and that of CLT’s, therefore, that of the latter prevails. In the same vein, Araneta’s titles prevail over that of the heirs of Dimson.

THE ALLEGED DEFECTS IN CONNECTION
WITH THE ISSUANCE OF TCT NO. 4211
WERE INSUFFICIENT TO NULLIFY THE
TITLE


The trial and appellate courts ruled that fraud attended the issuance of TCT No. 4211 from which petitioner Manotok Realty, Inc. derived its titles. According to the trial and appellate courts: (1) the dates of original survey appearing on TCT No. 4211 were different from those indicated in OCT No. 994; (2) the Bureau of Lands had no copy of Psd-2115 which was the basis for the issuance of TCTs Nos. 1368 to 1374 which preceded petitioner Manotok Realty, Inc.’s titles and (3) the technical description of the land appearing on OCT No. 994 was in English while the derivative titles were still in Spanish and the tie points in the mother lot were not adopted in the derivative titles.

However, the alleged irregularities are not sufficient to nullify TCT No. 4211. They were mere technical defects which may have been committed in the preparation thereof. The more important consideration should be whether or not there was a deviation or change in the area of Lot No. 26 as described in OCT No. 994 and those described in the derivative TCTs. In the case of TCT No. 4211, there was no such deviation or change.

Moreover, since the titles of respondents CLT and the heirs of Dimson are invalid for having a non-existent source, the respective titles of petitioners enjoy the presumption of valid and regular issuance. A review of the purported defects of these titles should await a proper action, that is, one that directly attacks their validity.

THE COMMITTEE REPORTS OF THE
SENATE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE HAVE PROBATIVE VALUE


This Court already recognized the evidentiary value of the report of the Senate in Alfonso v. Office of the President [16] when it included relevant portions of the report in its factual findings. While Alfonso involved a disciplinary issue distinct from the issues in these cases, the facts there were intimately and extensively related to the facts here as Alfonso showed how OCT No. 994 allegedly registered on April 19, 1917 came about as a product of fraud and falsification.

Moreover, the reports of the Senate and the Department of Justice are official acts of co-equal branches of the government. Under Section 9, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court, it is mandatory for courts to take judicial notice of these reports.

THERE IS NO NEED TO
REMAND THESE CASES


The discussion on the venue of these cases (should these cases be remanded to the CA) and the reasons why such venue is the proper one ought to be commended for its comprehensiveness. However, I submit it is actually academic and unnecessary. There is no need to remand these cases.

The discussion is unequivocal:
[The existence of the so-called 17 April OCT having been discounted], it should necessarily follow that any title that is sourced from the 17 April 1917 OCT is void. Such conclusion is inescapable whatever questions there may be about the veracity of the 3 May 1917 OCT….

The determinative test to resolve whether the prior decision of this Court should be affirmed or set aside [is] whether or not the titles invoked by the respondents are valid. If these titles are sourced from the so-called OCT No. 994 dated 17 April 1917, then such titles are void or otherwise should not be recognized by this Court.

As emphasis, the following point is made:
The conclusion is really simple. On their faces, none of these three titles can be accorded recognition simply because the original title commonly referred to therein never existed. To conclude otherwise would constitute deliberate disregard of the truth. These titles could be affirmed only if it can be proven that OCT No. 994 registered on 19 April 1917 had actually existed. CLT and the [Dimsons] were given the opportunity to submit such proof before this Court, but they did not. In fact, CLT has specifically manifested that the OCT No. 994 they concede as true is also the one which the Office of the Solicitor General submitted as true and that is OCT No. 994 issued on 3 May 1917.
The certificates of title of CLT and the heirs of Dimson have no valid source. They are the bastard offsprings of the “mother of all land titling scams.”[17] This Court has the duty to snuff them out, not to perpetuate them. They should be ordered expunged from the registry books of the Office of the Registrar of Deeds. Furthermore, the respective complaints filed by CLT and the heirs of Dimson in the trial courts should be dismissed.

To reiterate, the logical consequence of declaring the respective certificates of title of CLT and the heirs of Dimson void and unworthy of legal recognition is to order the dismissal of Civil Case Nos. C-15539 and C-15491 instituted by CLT and Civil Case No. C-8050 filed by the heirs of Dimson.

With the dismissal of the complaints, no controversy remains to be decided and no case need be remanded. Nonetheless, the ponencia is still not satisfied but asks further:
xxx what then is the proper course of action to take with respect to these pending motions for reconsideration?
The esteemed ponente further argues that:
Considering that CLT and [the heirs of Dimson] clearly had failed to meet the burden of proof reposed in them as the plaintiffs in the action for annulment of title and recovery of possession, there is a case to be made for ordering the dismissal of their original complaints before the trial court.
Yet, more is desired:
However, such solution may not satisfactorily put to rest the controversy surrounding the Maysilo Estate.
The ponencia’s allusion to “the controversy surrounding the Maysilo Estate” is misleading and without factual and legal basis. After the respective complaints of CLT and the heirs of Dimson are dismissed, the controversy surrounding the portions of the Maysilo Estate involved in these cases will be resolved and terminated. Thus, there will be no more controversy to speak of.

Judicial power “includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable.”[18] Courts resolve only cases that involve actual controversies. They are mandated to settle disputes between real conflicting parties through the application of the law.[19] Until it can be shown that an actual controversy exists, courts have no jurisdiction to render a binding decision. [20]

A justiciable controversy refers to an existing case or controversy that is appropriate or ripe for judicial determination, not one that is conjectural or merely anticipatory.[21] There will be no more justiciable controversy in these cases after the Court declares that the respective certificates of title of CLT and the heirs of Dimson are void and unworthy of legal recognition. Thus, there will be nothing more to remand.

NO DIRECT CHALLENGE TO
PETITIONERS’ TITLES REMAINS


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

Notably, both the Manotok group and Araneta are amenable to the remand of the petition[s], albeit under differing qualifications.
And the ponencia concludes:
Considering the reality that the genuine OCT No. 994 is that issued/registered/dated 3 May 1917, remand would be appropriate to determine which of the parties, if any, derived valid title from the genuine OCT No. 994.
There is no factual and legal basis therefor. The annulment of the respective certificates of title of respondents CLT and the heirs of Dimson terminated the controversies subject of these cases. It removed the direct challenge raised by respondents to the respective titles of petitioners.

Notably, nowhere did the Republic assail the validity of the respective certificates of titles of petitioners. It never prayed for the annulment of their titles.[22] Otherwise, it would have gone against one of the fundamental principles of the Torrens system of land registration: a Torrens title is not subject to collateral attack.

A certificate of title cannot be changed, altered, modified enlarged or diminished in a collateral proceeding.[23] As a rule, it is irrevocable and indefeasible. A strong presumption exists that it was validly and regularly issued.[24] The duty of courts is to see to it that this title is maintained and respected unless assailed in a direct proceeding.[25] A Torrens title cannot be attacked collaterally. [26] The efficacy and integrity of the Torrens system must be protected at all costs.

With the annulment of the respective titles of respondents CLT and the heirs of Dimson, no direct challenge to the respective titles of petitioners subsists. The strong presumption of valid and regular issuance of petitioners’ titles remains. Unless and until directly attacked by a party that has an actual and direct interest on the annulment of said titles, that presumption will stand.

The Court does not have the panacea for any and all ills allegedly surrounding the Maysilo Estate. It should be constantly reminded of its own pronouncement in Vera v. Avelino:[27]
Let us not be overly influenced by the plea that for every wrong there is a remedy, and that the judiciary should stand ready to afford relief. There are undoubtedly many wrongs the judicature may not correct….

Let us likewise disabuse our minds from the notion that the judiciary is the repository of remedies for all political or social ills….[28]
The duty of this Court is to ensure and preserve the integrity of the Torrens system. That duty must be performed with all due fidelity to the fundamental principles governing that system.

Resolving all controversies, perceived or real, surrounding the Maysilo Estate is a desirable objective. However, it is simply not within the Court’s powers to do in these cases. The Court is not enjoined, empowered or equipped to clean the Augean stables, nor to accomplish the task in a single day.

Accordingly, I vote to GRANT the motion for reconsideration of the intervenor Republic of the Philippines.



[1] Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th edition, p. 1449.

[2] Po Sun Tun v. Price and Provincial Government of Leyte, 54 Phil. 192 (1929).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Both their titles state that they were “originally registered on the 19th day April, in the year nineteen hundred and seventeen in the Registration Book of the Register of Deeds of Rizal.”

[6] See Alfonso v. Office of the President, G.R. No. 150091, 02 April 2007.

[7] Estoppel is a bar which precludes a person from denying the truth of a fact which has, in contemplation of law, become settled by the acts and proceedings of judicial or legislative officers. Or by the act of the party himself, either by conventional writing or by representations, express or implied. “Estoppel” is also defined as a preclusion of a person from asserting a fact, by previous conduct inconsistent therewith, conduct on his own part or on the part of those under whom he claims, or by adjudication on his rights, which he cannot be allowed to call in question. It is a rule of equity as well as a conclusion of law. The purpose of estoppel is to prevent inconsistency and fraud resulting in injustice. While estoppel does not make valid the thing complained of, it closes the mouth of the complainant. It is a doctrine for the prevention of injustice and is for the protection of those who have been misled by that which on its face was fair and whose character, as represented, parties to the deception will not, in the interest of justice, be heard to deny. (31 C.J.S. 288-290).

[8] November 29, 2005 decision in this case.

[9] G.R. No. 168498, 24 April 2007.

[10] MEA Builders, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121484, 31 January 2005, 450 SCRA 155.

[11] Id.

[12] Alfonso v. Office of the President, supra note 6.

[13] The action should have been filed within ten years from the date the order became final.

[14] Iglesia ni Cristo v. CFI of Nueva Ecija, 208 Phil. 441 (1983); Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-45168, 27 January 1981, 102 SCRA 370.

[15] Realty Sales Enterprise, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. L-67451, 28 September 1987, 154 SCRA 328.

[16] Supra note 6.

[17] See Alfonso v. Office of the President, supra note 6.

[18] Section 1, Article VIII, Constitution.

[19] Guingona v. Court of Appeals, 354 Phil. 415 (1998).

[20] Id.

[21] Velarde v. Social Justice Society, G.R. No. 159357, 28 April 2004, 428 SCRA 283.

[22] The Republic consistently prayed in its motion for reconsideration dated January 4, 2006 and memorandum dated August 25, 2006 that “the decision dated November 29, 2005 be reconsidered, and a new one be issued upholding the validity of OCT No. 994 issued on May 3, 1917.”

[23] Section 48, PD 1529 (Property Registration Decree).

[24] Ching v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 59731, 11 January 1990, 181 SCRA 9; Vda. De Medina v. Cruz, G.R. No. 39272, 04 May 1988, 161 SCRA 36.

[25] Director of Lands v. Gan Tan, 89 Phil. 184 (1951).

[26] Id.

[27] 77 Phil. 365 (1946).

[28] Id.

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