G.R. No. 162335 / G.R. No. 162605 - G.R. No. 162335 and G.R. No. 162605 - YNARES-SANTIAGO - DISSENTING OPINION
[G.R. NOS. 162335 & 162605 : December 18, 2008]
SEVERINO M. MANOTOK IV, FROILAN M. MANOTOK, FERNANDO M. MANOTOK III, MA.MAMERTA M. MANOTOK, PATRICIA L. TIONGSON, PACITA L. GO, ROBERTO LAPERAL III, MICHAELMARSHALL V. MANOTOK, MARY ANN MANOTOK, FELISA MYLENE V. MANOTOK, IGNACIO MANOTOK, JR., MILAGROS V. MANOTOK, SEVERINO MANOTOK III, ROSA R. MANOTOK, MIGUEL A.B. SISON, GEORGE M. BOCANEGRA, CRISTINA E. SISON, PHILIPP L. MANOTOK, JOSE CLEMENTE L. MANOTOK, RAMON SEVERINO L. MANOTOK, THELMA R. MANOTOK, JOSE MARIA MANOTOK, JESUS JUDE MANOTOK, JR., and MA. THERESA L. MANOTOK, represented by their Attorney-in-fact, Rosa R. Manotok, Petitioners, v. HEIRS OF HOMER L. BARQUE, Represented by TERESITA BARQUE HERNANDEZ, Respondents.
I maintain that the December 12, 2005 Decision1 of the Court's First Division in G.R. NOS. 162335 & 162605 became final and executory. The same had been recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgments in a Resolution dated May 2, 2006.
Despite the Entry of Judgment, the Court en banc took cognizance of the cases when counsel for petitioners, Ret. Justice Florentino P. Feliciano wrote the Court and prayed for the suspension of the effects of the Entry of Judgment. Thereafter, the cases were set for Oral Argument.
From the presentations made by the parties and the questions propounded by the members of the Court during the oral argument held on July 24, 2007, two main factual issues emerged, to wit: 1) Whether or not Plan Fls-3168-D which is reflected in the technical description of respondents' TCT No. 210177 duly exists in the official records of the Lands Management Bureau (LMB); and 2) Whether or not Barrio Payong, which is indicated in petitioners' various documentary exhibits as location of the property allegedly covered by their TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) exists as a barrio in Quezon City or Caloocan City.
Re Plan Fls-3168-D:
During the Oral Argument, the following discussion took place on the issue of whether Plan Fls-3168-D duly exists, to wit:
When the Barques filed their petition for reconstitution, on 22 October 1996, they attached a copy of their TCT, TCT 210177 and in TCT 210177 it says there that property is subdivided into two lots, lot 823A and lot 823B per subdivision plan FLS-3168-D approved by the Bureau of Lands on 10 January 1941. Okay, so Atty. Bustos of course he knows how to verify whether this approved plan is genuine or not because there are two agencies in the government that would possibly have files of this approved plans and one of that is the National Office, the Land Management Bureau, National Office where all approved plans are stored. It is a repository of all approved plans all over the country. When the Land Management Bureau decentralized for NCR they transmitted to the NCR all the approved plans covering NCR.
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
Yes, Your Honor.
So, Atty. Bustos wrote the two offices, the national office and the regional office asking for their comment on whether this FLS-3168D exist in their files. Now, it looks like Atty. Bustos was zeroing in on the authenticity of FLS-3168D. Of course, the national office said, we don't have this on file. The regional office said, we have this on file but they could not give a copy to Atty. Bustos and they refused to answer Atty. Bustos despite several demands or request for the copy. They never replied to Atty. Bustos. My question is this, why did Atty. Bustos think or consider the authenticity of FLS-3168D important for the purposes of the reconstitution of the Barques title.
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
Yes, Your Honor. If the division or subdivision of lot 823 were genuinely and truly, honestly undertaken they should have applied for two certificates of title, they applied only for one certificate of title and it is for that reason that Atty. Bustos wanted to determine the correctness or authenticity of that subdivision plan because the same piece of land or substantially the same piece of land was covered only, constituted only one lot per the title already reconstituted of the Manotoks. So the '
Atty. Bustos was of the mind that if FLS-3168-D is not authentic, is not on file, then there could have been no subdivision of lot 823 and therefore the title of the Manotoks specifying only one lot 823 would seem to be in order.
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
But if there is on file FLS-3168-D then it will be the title of Barque that would seem to be in order rather than the title of the Manotok because the approved subdivision is on file, is that correct?
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
I would think so, sir. I would think so.
JUSTICE CARPIO: Okay, thank you.2
Thereafter, the Court required counsel for respondents to submit a certified copy of plan Fls-3168-D from the LMB, National Office. This is in addition to the certified photocopy of the Tracing Cloth plan3 and certified photocopy (microfilm) of Plan Fls-3168-D4 which respondents obtained from the LMB, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) and already submitted before the Court.
In compliance with the directive, respondents submitted a copy of a letter5 furnished them by the LMB, National Office, explaining why it could not issue a certified copy of Fls-3168-D, thus:
In reply to your letter dated April 24, 2006, please be informed that according to the verification made by the Survey Records Section, Records Management Division from their Lists of Transmittal of Survey Records, plan FLS-3168-D covering parcel/s of land situated in Caloocan, Rizal was among those survey records already turned-over/decentralized to DENR-National Capital Region (NCR), Roxas Boulevard, Manila on April 5, 1979 as recorded in our file no. NCR-199, for their reference/file purposes.
It is therefore suggested that you address your letter-request to the Chief, Surveys Division, DENR-National Capital Region (NCR), L & S Bldg., 1515 Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila, relative to the said plan.
Thus, as expressly mentioned in the above-quoted letter, "plan FLS-3168-D covering parcel/s of land situated in Caloocan, Rizal was among those survey records already turned-over/decentralized to DENR-National Capital Region."
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 1926 dated June 10, 1987, DENR was reorganized and regional offices of the Bureau of Lands were established in each of the country's 13 administrative regions.7 The functions of a unit in the national office were transferred to the newly established regional office, which likewise include the transfer of records to said regional office. Hence, the reason why respondents could not be furnished by the LMB Head Office with a certified copy of Plan Fls-3168-D.
However, they were able to obtain a Certification dated June 19, 2007 from the Records Management Division of DENR Head Office that its Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Listing includes plan Fls-3168-D, Lot 823 in the name of Emiliano Setosta.8 The Certification reads, thus:
This is to certify that according to the verification of the Records Management Division, Lands Management Bureau, Binondo, Manila, EDP's Listing has available record with Fls-3168-D, Lot 823, xerox copy of which is herewith attached, situated in Caloocan, Rizal (now Quezon City), in the name of Survey Claimant Emiliano Setosta.
x x x
The certification by the Records Management Division of the DENR-Head Office also confirmed the authenticity of the other computer print-outs submitted by respondents showing Fls-3168-D as among those listed, namely:
1. A certified true photocopy of a computer print out earlier issued by the Land Management Bureau, Head Office, showing that Plan Fls-3168-D is listed in its EDP listing of approved plans and Official Receipt #8994774 issued in payment for the Certification.9
2. The same computer print out, as that attached as Annex F, which shows Fls-3168-D of E. Setosta as one of those listed therein duly certified by Melchor Magsanoc, Asst. Regional Exec. Director for Operation, LMB, DENR-NCR.10
The computer print-outs show that Plan Fls-3168-D is the second plan in said list, followed by Fls-3169-D of Chua, then Fls-3170-D of Loyola. Said official list is a credible piece of evidence proving the existence of Setosta's Plan Fls-3168-D.
Respondents also furnished the Court photo copies of Plan Fls-3168-D issued by the Land Management Bureau-National Capital Region (LMB-NCR) and certified by different officials:
1. A photo copy of Plan Fls-3168-D (microfilm) issued on September 23, 1996 and duly certified by Carmelito A. Soriano for Ernesto S. Erive, Chief, Regional Technical Director, NCR.11
2. A photocopy of a File Copy of the Tracing Cloth Plan of Fls-3168-D, duly certified on July 9, 1999 by Teofilo R. Laguardia, Chief, Technical Records and Statistics Section, LMB, Regional Office, NCR.
Notwithstanding the above certifications which clearly show the existence of Plan Fls-3168-D, the Majority Opinion chose to lend credence to petitioners' claim that Fls-3168-D does not exist in the government files based solely on Engr. Dalire's allegations in his February 19, 1997 letter. This is unfortunate considering that Dalire's credibility was completely repudiated by the LRA. Dalire's claim that the documents presented by the respondents were forgeries was disregarded as frivolous and baseless, thus:
Based on the documents presented, petitioners (Barques) have established by clear and convincing evidence that TCT NO. 210177 was, at the time of the destruction thereof, valid, genuine, authentic and effective. Petitioners duly presented the original of the owner's duplicate copy of TCT No. 210177 .... The logbook of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City lists TCT No. 210177 as among the titles lost .... The Register of Deeds of Quezon City himself acknowledged the existence and authenticity of TCT No. 210177 when he issued a certification to the effect that TCT No. 210177 was one of the titles destroyed and not salvaged from the fire that gutted the Quezon City Hall on 11 June 1988 ....
It is likewise noteworthy that the technical description and boundaries of the lot reflected in TCT No. 210177 absolutely conform to the technical description and boundaries of Lot 823 Piedad Estate ... as indicated in the B. L. Form No. 28-37-R dated 11-8-94 and B. L. Form No. 31-10 duly issued by the Bureau of Lands ....
It therefore becomes evident that the existence, validity, authenticity and effectivity of TCT No. 210177 was established indubitably and irrefutably by the petitioners. Under such circumstances, the reconstitution thereof should be given due course and the same is mandatory.
It would be necessary to underscore that the certified copy of Plan FLS 3168 D was duly issued by the office of Engr. Ernesto Erive, Chief, Surveys Division LMS-DENR-NCR whose office is the lawful repository of survey plans for lots situated within the National Capital Region including the property in question. Said plan was duly signed by the custodian thereof, Carmelito Soriano, Chief Technical Records and Statistics Section, DENR-NCR. Said plan is likewise duly supported by Republic of the Philippines Official Receipt No. 2513818 Q dated 9-23-96 .... Engr. Erive in his letter dated 28 November 1996 addressed to Atty. Bustos - confirmed that a microfilm copy of Plan FLS 3168D is on file in the Technical Records and Statistics Section of his office. Engr. Dalire, in his letter dated 2 January 1997 addressed to Atty. Bustos even confirmed the existence and authenticity of said plan. '
The claim of Engr. Dalire in his letter dated 19 February 1997 that his office has no records or information about Plan FLS 3168-D is belied by the certified copy of the computer print-out duly issued by the Bureau of Lands indicating therein that FLS 3168D is duly entered into the microfilm records of the Bureau of Lands and has been assigned Accession Number 410436 appearing on Page 79, Preliminary Report No. 1, List of Locator Cards and Box Number 0400 and said computer print-out is duly supported by an Offical Receipt '.
The said Plan FLS 3168D is indeed authentic and valid coming as it does from the legal repository and duly signed by the custodian thereof. The documentary evidence presented is much too overwhelming to be simply brushed aside and be defeated by the fabricated statements and concoctions made by Engr. Dalire in his 19 February 1997 letter. '12
In his letter dated January 31, 1997, Dalire alleged that plan Fls-3168-D was not included in the inventory of approved plans enrolled in their file. However, this allegation was belied upon presentation of a photocopy of the tracing cloth plan of Fls-3168-D duly certified by Teofilo R. Laguardia, Chief of the Technical Records and Statistics Section of the LMB-NCR.
Dalire next claimed that plan Fls-3168-D was not included in their computer list of plans available for decentralization. However, this claim was categorically debunked by the LRA, thus:
The claim of Engr. Dalire in his letter dated 19 February 1997 that his office has no records or information about Plan FLS 3168-D is belied by a certified copy of the computer print-out issued by the Bureau of Lands indicating therein that FLS 3168D is duly entered in the microfilm records of the Bureau of Lands and has been assigned Accession Number 410436 appearing on Page 79, Preliminary Report No. 1, List of Locator Cards and Box Number 0400 x x x.
In light of the evidence on record, I completely agree with the conclusion reached by the LRA that the "evidence presented is much too overwhelming to be simply brushed aside and be defeated by the fabricated statements and concoctions made by Engr. Dalire in his February 19, 1997 letter."
Therefore, on the issue of due existence of Fls-3168-D, I find no justifiable basis to disturb the LRA finding that Plan FLS-3168-D indeed exists in the official files of LMB, DENR. Accordingly, I find respondents' title, TCT No. 210177, which describes Lot 823 as subdivided into Lots 823-A and 823-B in accordance with Fls-3168-D, in order.
Moreover, the LRA correctly found that petitioners' reconstituted title TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) is spurious, considering petitioners' failure to prove facts contrary to the LRA findings. The long-settled rule is that factual findings of an administrative agency which are not shown to be unsupported by substantial evidence can be validly sustained and, in fact, are oftentimes binding on the court,13 especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals,14 as in this case.
Re Location of the Property:
Petitioners' documentary exhibits simultaneously and/or alternately referred to Barrio Payong and Barrio Culiat as the location of the property covered by their title. However, as noted by the LRA, after the fire that burned the records of the Quezon City Register of Deeds on June 11, 1988, the receipts for realty taxes of the property covered by petitioners' title already indicated the location of the property as Barrio Matandang Balara. However, no basis or explanation, whether in the form of official documents or otherwise, was shown or presented by the petitioners before the LRA, the Court of Appeals and this Court, why the location of the property supposedly covered by their title was transferred from Barrio Payong and Barrio Culiat to Barrio Matandang Balara. Significantly, petitioners' reconstituted title, TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) does not state the barrio where the property described therein is located.
Petitioners' counsel failed to give any explanation for this seemingly anomalous situation. However, he readily agreed with the possible rationalization provided during the Oral Argument:
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE CARPIO:
Counsel, can you flash on the screen again the 1940 Tax Declaration of the Manotoks? It says there, what barrio is that now?
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
Payong, that's 1933, Sir.
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE CARPIO:
That's 1933. The 1940. 1941 is okay. What is the barrio there?
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE CARPIO:
So, it started as Barrio Payong became Barrio Culiat later on it became Matandang Balara the present name.
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE CARPIO:
Because the themes15 of barrios changed overtime and we re talking of eighty-five (85) years, is that correct?
RET. JUSTICE FELICIANO:
That's right, Sir.16
This is pure speculation which deserves no credence at all, especially in the light of evidence in the form of official certifications from relevant government offices in Quezon City17 and Caloocan City18 that Payong had not existed as a barrio in Quezon City or in Caloocan City before the property became a part of Quezon City.
The map of Quezon City,19 as prepared by NAMRIA, the official mapping agency of the government, also shows that both Barangay Culiat and Barangay Matandang Balara are existing Barangays of Quezon City but are clearly far away from each other. Payong does not exist in the map.
Moreover, Barangays Culiat and Matandang Balara were almost simultaneously created as barangays. Culiat was created on March 26, 1962 while Matandang Balara was created as a barangay on May 10, 1962. The simultaneous creation of Culiat and Matandang Balara as barangays thus showed the fallacy of petitioners' claim during the Oral Argument that the disputed property was originally located in Payong, but was later converted into Barangay Culiat and finally as Barangay Matandang Balara.
Significantly, it also appears from Intervenors Manahans' Memorandum that the property covered by their alleged Deed of Conveyance dated October 30, 2000 is likewise located in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City. The relevant portion of the technical description of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate in Manahans' Memorandum20 which shows Barrio Culiat as the location of the property is quoted below:
A parcel of land (Lot 823, Piedad Estate, LRC Record No. 5975), situated in the Barrio of Culiat, Municipality of Caloocan, Metro Manila.21
Intervenors Manahan also alleged that petitioners Manotoks' TCT No. RT-22481 is fake and spurious for not being based on authentic documents.22
I do not agree with the claim that Spouses Tiongson v. Court of Appeals23 which mentioned the Agrarian Court's order to its clerk of court to conduct an ocular inspection of the landholding in question situated at Payong, Quezon City, constitutes credible evidence as to the location of the property. There was no mention at all as to how the said court made the determination of the location of the property. Moreover, there was nothing in the Agrarian Court's Order stating exactly where, in Quezon City, Barrio Payong was located, which indicates that petitioners themselves may have brought the inspecting parties to the property they were occupying.
Similarly, the Court in the case of People v. Siguin,24 did not make a finding as to the existence and location of Sitio Payong but merely referred to the Information filed which alleged that the crime was committed in Sitio Payong, Matandang Balara.
In any event, petitioners are bound by their own documentary evidence and verbal admission during the Oral Argument that the property is located in Payong, Culiat or simply Barrio Payong or Barrio Culiat. Since petitioners presented the said documentary evidence to prove their ownership of the property and the source of their title, they have thereby judicially admitted that the location of the property covered by their title, as shown in said exhibits, is Payong, Culiat, or Barrio Payong, or simply Barrio Culiat, Quezon City. They are, therefore, bound by said admissions,25 especially since they have neither alleged nor proven that said admissions were made through palpable mistake.26
It is also important to note that, except for Tax Declarations and realty tax payments that were issued after the fire that gutted the records of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, petitioners did not present any credible evidence showing that the property they are occupying and covered by their reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) is located in Barrio Matandang Balara.
Consequently, since the property covered by petitioners' reconstituted title is not the property in Matandang Balara that they are occupying as clearly shown by their own documentary evidence, it necessarily follows that they are not the owners of such property. The Court's ruling in Santiago v. Court of Appeals,27 is pertinent. Thus:
Documents proving ownership such as transfer and original certificates of title are the legs on which petitioners' case stands. Premised on the relevance of these documents, the trial court ruled in favor of petitioners. However, the proverbial legs of evidence are broken. While the titles presented by petitioners show ownership, such ownership is not of the land claimed, but over the adjoining parcels of land. The technical descriptions in the titles presented by petitioners betray them as adjacent and adjoining owners of the land claimed by MWSS for registration. x x x
The Deed of Sale between Emiliano Setosta and Homer Barque, Sr.:
Petitioners alleged that the deed of sale between Emiliano Setosta and Homer Barque, Sr. was not a public document because the document does not appear to be recorded in the Notarial Register Records of Atty. Eliseo Razon.
Granting that the Notarial Register of Atty. Eliseo Razon does not reflect the said Deed of Sale executed by Emiliano Setosta in favor of Homer Barque, Sr., nonetheless, applying the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed, I find that the Deed of Sale was duly notarized as otherwise the instrument would not have been registrable and the Register of Deeds of Quezon City would not have issued TCT No. 210177 to Homer Barque, Sr. on the basis of said Deed of Sale.
Such presumption cannot be overcome by the mere failure, even if true, of Atty. Razon to record the deed in his Notarial Register since said failure does not make the notarization less genuine. Neither could the respondents be faulted for said failure. In any event, respondents submitted a Certification under oath of Mr. Gregorio B. Faraon28 attesting to the existence of said Deed of Sale in the records of the Clerk of Court of the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to cancel petitioners' TCT No. RT-22481.
The Decisions of the two Divisions of the Court of Appeals both affirmed the LRA findings that petitioners' reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 was spurious and a sham and that respondents' TCT No. 210177 sought to be reconstituted is genuine, valid and existing.
The Court of Appeals, being the tribunal to which the appeal was elevated pursuant to Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, which provides that final Orders or Resolutions of the LRA may be appealed to the Court of Appeals, has the corresponding authority and jurisdiction to decide the appealed case on the basis of the uncontroverted facts and admissions contained in the petition, comment, reply, rejoinder, and memoranda, filed by the parties,29 and to apply the law applicable in administrative reconstitution proceeding which is Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6732.30
Section 10, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court specifically mandates that "the findings of fact of the court or agency concerned, when supported by substantial evidence, shall be binding on the Court of Appeals." Since petitioners were not able to show that the LRA findings of fact were unsupported by evidence,31 the Court of Appeals committed no error of jurisdiction when it confirmed such findings.
Moreover, Section 11 of R.A. No. 6732 provides that:
SEC. 11. A reconstituted title obtained by means of fraud, deceit or other machination is void ab intio as against the party obtaining the same and all persons having knowledge thereof.
Thus, the Court of Appeals had the authority to order the cancellation of petitioners' reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 after it affirmed the findings of the LRA that petitioners' TCT No. RT-22481 is spurious and void ab initio. Having also affirmed the LRA finding that respondents' title, TCT No. 210177, is genuine, valid and existing, the Court of Appeals likewise had the authority to order its reconstitution since this was the final step in the administrative reconstitution process.
It must be noted that Section 48 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 (or The Property Registration Decree) does not expressly provide for the specific court that can order the cancellation of a certificate of title. On the other hand, Section 108 thereof clearly provides that only the Court of First Instance (now RTC) can order an erasure, alteration or amendment in a certificate of title.
The variance is a clear indication of the intent to distinguish between these two actions. Thus, under Section 48, courts other than the Regional Trial Court, such as the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, are possessed with authority and jurisdiction to order the cancellation of a Torrens title which they confirmed to be spurious, as in this case, when this is necessary in the disposition of a case elevated before them on appeal.
Moreover, there has been a change in the traditional concept of "original jurisdiction" on account of Rule 43, Rules of Court, where the Court of Appeals has the power to take judicial cognizance of a case for the first time through its review powers. Thus, this Court said in Yamane v. BA Lepanto Condominium Corporation32 that:
Original jurisdiction is the power of the Court to take judicial cognizance of a case instituted for judicial action for the first time under conditions provided by law. Appellate jurisdiction is the authority of a Court higher in rank to re-examine the final order or judgment of a lower court which tried the case now elevated for review.
x x x
The stringent concept of original jurisdiction may seemingly be neutered by Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, Section 1 of which lists a slew of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial tribunals or their officers whose decisions may be reviewed by the Court of Appeals in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. However, the basic law of jurisdiction, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (B.P. 129), ineluctably confers appellate jurisdiction on the Court of Appeals over final rulings of quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, boards or commission, by explicitly using the phrase "appellate jurisdiction." x x x
Consequently, when an administrative reconstitution proceeding is appealed to the Court of Appeals under Rule 43, the Court of Appeals would be acting as a court of original jurisdiction with regard to said appealed cases, hence, BP 129 would not apply.
In view of the foregoing, the Court of Appeals correctly acted within its jurisdiction when it ordered the cancellation of TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) of petitioners after it confirmed the LRA finding that said title is fake and spurious.
Significantly, the Court has ruled in Rexlon Realty Group, Inc. v. Court of Appeals33 that it has jurisdiction to declare the title void even if the appealed case was not originally filed with the Regional Trial Court for nullification of title. We held that the Court can rule on the validity or nullity of the title issued in the name of Paramount in the light of the facts of this case, and that:
[I]n order for a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of the case, we must decide on the effect of void duplicate copies of a certificate of title that served as a basis for the sale of the property it represents and the eventual issuance of title in the name of respondent Paramount. To require another proceeding only for the purpose of annulling the said new titles when the same could be decided in this very petition would promote judicial bureaucracy, a practice abhorred by our legal system. As we have ruled in Gayos v. Gayos, it is a cherished rule of procedure that a court should always strive to settle the entire controversy in a single proceeding leaving no root or branch to bear the seeds of future litigation.34
More pertinently, the Court ruled in Rexlon, thus:
On whether this Court can rule on the validity or nullity of the titles issued in the name of respondent Paramount in the light of the facts of this case, we rule in the affirmative.
x x x
Secondly, respondent Paramount has duly consented to put in issue the validity of its titles by invoking in this appeal the reasons espoused by the appellate court and respondent David for the dismissal of the petition to annul the decision of the trial court. In its Memorandum and respondent David's comment that it adopted, respondent Paramount has not made any jurisdictional objection as regards its inclusion in the appeal to the petition for annulment of judgment, and even participated in the discussion of the merits of the case. Based on the principle of estoppel, respondent Paramount is barred from raising any objection over the power of this Court to nullify its titles.35
Jurisdiction of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to administratively reconstitute the allegedly lost TCT No. 210177 in the name of respondents despite the previously reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 of the petitioners over the same property.
To resolve this issue, it is relevant to first consider whether petitioners' TCT No. RT-22481, in fact, covers the same property identified and described in respondents' TCT No. 210177.
Respondents' title, TCT No. 210177, indicates Barrio Matandang Balara as location of the property. On the other hand, the reconstituted title of petitioners, TCT No. RT-22481, does not indicate the barrio where the property described therein is located. As shown by petitioners' documentary evidence, the property which they claim to be covered by their TCT No. RT-22481 is located in Barrio Payong, or Barrio Culiat, Quezon City.
More importantly, the technical description in respondents' title, TCT No. 210177, indicates boundaries totally different from those stated in petitioners' title, TCT No. RT-22481. Furthermore, the technical description of respondents' title shows that it covers two lots while petitioners' title covers only one lot.
The claim that the LRA has no authority to pass upon the genuineness of a certificate of title in an administrative reconstitution proceeding is an absurdity. Will the LRA just accept any title and order its reconstitution although it is facially void? Such an absurd interpretation would necessarily result in the reconstitution of a patently fake and spurious title and the consequent proliferation of fake titles, a situation that the legislature could not have contemplated when it enacted R.A. No. 6732 authorizing the administrative reconstitution of titles.
It is, therefore, misleading and baseless for petitioners to assert that their previously reconstituted title, TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) covers the same property as that identified and described in respondents' TCT No. 210177 so as to deprive the LRA of jurisdiction over respondents' petition for reconstitution.
However, even assuming that both petitioners' and respondents' titles cover the same property, the LRA would still have jurisdiction over respondents' petition for reconstitution.
As petitioners themselves admit, they caused the administrative reconstitution of their TCT No. RT 22481 in 1991 under R.A. No. 6732. On the other hand, respondents' TCT No. 210177 shows that it was issued on September 24, 1975 by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. Its existence was likewise confirmed by the LRA in its Resolution of June 24, 1998 based on the logbook of the Register of Deeds, which contains the list of titles lost during the fire that destroyed its records in 1988.
Respondents' TCT No. 210177 was, therefore, in existence at the time petitioners filed their petition for reconstitution. In Alipoon v. Court of Appeals,36 the Court ruled that:
[I]nasmuch as TCT No. T-17224 has been in existence as early as March 16, 1933, the issuance in 1989 of a reconstituted original certificate of title bearing the number OCT No. RO 12890 (N.A.) over Lot No. 663 in the name of petitioners' parents Fausto Alipoon and Silveria Duria is rendered legally doubtful, and the reconstituted title is void.
It, therefore, follows that petitioners' reconstituted title, even assuming the same to have been duly reconstituted, was deemed nullified by the mere existence of respondents' title at the time of the administrative reconstitution of petitioners' title.37 Pertinently, the Court held in Alabang Development Corp. v. Hon. Valenzuela38 that:
The Court stresses once more that lands already covered by duly issued existing Torrens Titles (which become incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from their issuance under Section 38 of the Land Registration Act) cannot be the subject of petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost or destroyed titles filed by third parties without first securing by final judgment the cancellation of such existing titles. x x x
Moreover, since petitioners recognized the jurisdiction of the LRA when they filed their opposition to respondents' petition for reconstitution and submitting evidence therein, they cannot thereafter turn around and impugn such jurisdiction after the LRA ruled against their prayer for the denial of the petition for reconstitution. We ruled in Salva v. Court of Appeals:39
In a long line of decisions, this Court has consistently held that while an order or decision rendered without jurisdiction is a total nullity and may be assailed at any stage, a party's active participation in the proceedings in the tribunal which rendered the order or decision will bar such party from attacking its jurisdiction. x x x
In the instant cases, it is undisputed that petitioners actively participated in the proceedings and submitted evidence in support of their claim. Estoppel does not apply only as against plaintiffs who sought affirmative reliefs. It equally applies to defendants who actively participate in the proceedings, thus:
Public policy dictates that this Court must strongly condemn any double-dealing by parties who are disposed to trifle with the courts by taking inconsistent positions, in utter disregard of elementary principles of right dealing and good faith. This applies not only to parties who are plaintiffs, complainants or others who initiated the case by actually filing the action, but also to parties who are defendants or respondents, if the latter fail to timely raise the jurisdictional issue and instead actively participate in the proceedings.40
There is, therefore, no further need to require another proceeding for the cancellation of petitioners' reconstituted title before the LRA can proceed to reconstitute respondents' TCT No. 210177.
Jurisdiction of the LRA to adjudicate on the validity of petitioners' reconstituted TCT No. RT-22481 (372302) in the administrative reconstitution case filed by respondents.
In its comment dated March 30, 2007, the Office of the Solicitor General categorically declared that:
While it is true that the Register of Deeds and the Administrator of the LRA, in the exercise of their quasi-judicial powers over petitions for administrative reconstitution, have the authority to receive evidence, it is limited for the purpose of determining whether or not the certificates of title sought to be reconstituted are valid, authentic, genuine and in force at the time they were lost or destroyed, and to the end of either granting or denying the prayer of the petition. Also, their jurisdiction to hear administrative petitions for reconstitution does not encompass any other title except that which is the subject matter of the petition. Otherwise, they exceed their jurisdiction.41
Furthermore, the technical expertise of the LRA with regard to reconstitution of titles is such that the Court has long directed the lower courts to strictly observe the LRA circulars on reconstitution and land registration cases. It said:
In recognition of these developments that have placed under a cloud the integrity of the once unassailable Torrens Title, spawned the proliferation of fake land titles and encouraged the mushrooming of land grabbers and squatters on legitimately-titled lands, Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa issued on July 15, this year, Administrative Circular No. 7-96 addressed to all judges of all court levels and their Clerks of Court enjoining the strict observance of Land Registration Authority (LRA) circulars on reconstitution and land registration cases.42
Since the LRA had the duty to resolve the petition for reconstitution as well as petitioners' opposition thereto, it necessarily had to examine the title of the parties, using its technical expertise, to determine if the petition for reconstitution should be given due course, or denied as prayed for by the petitioners. Thus:
[W]hen an administrative agency or body is conferred quasi-judicial functions, all controversies relating to the subject matter pertaining to its specialization are deemed to be included within the jurisdiction of said administrative agency or body. Split jurisdiction is not favored.43
Moreover, even assuming that petitioners are correct in claiming that the LRA had no jurisdiction to resolve the issue of validity of title in a petition for reconstitution, nonetheless, since petitioners opposed respondents' petition for reconstitution and, in fact, ventilated before the LRA the issue of validity or genuineness of their title and submitted evidence in support thereof, instead of going to the courts to enjoin the LRA proceedings on account of their possession of a purported reconstituted title over the same property covered by respondents' TCT No. 210177, petitioners are estopped from raising the issue of jurisdiction. We ruled in Laxina, Sr. v. Office of the Ombudsman,44 that:
Petitioner is also estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. A perusal of the records shows that he participated in the proceedings by filing his counter-affidavit with supporting evidence. x x x Thus, it has been held that participation in the administrative proceedings without raising any objection thereto bars the parties from raising any jurisdictional infirmity after an adverse decision is rendered against them.45
Again, even assuming that the Regional Trial Court should have had a first chance at resolving the issue of validity of the title, nonetheless, under the circumstances, this Court, upon elevation of the issue before it, had the unquestionable jurisdiction to declare petitioners' reconstituted title void and order its cancellation, under the same rationale relied upon by this Court in Board of Commissioners (CID) v. Dela Rosa:46
Ordinarily, the case would then be remanded to the Regional Trial Court. But not in the case at bar. Considering the voluminous pleadings submitted by the parties and the evidence presented, We deem it proper to decide the controversy right at this instance. And this course of action is not without precedent for "it is a cherished rule of procedure for this Court to always strive to settle the entire controversy in a single proceeding leaving no root or branch to bear the seeds of future litigation. No useful purpose will be served if this case is remanded to the trial court only to have its decision raised again to the Court of Appeals and from there to this Court x x x.
The ruling in Islamic Directorate of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals47 is likewise applicable, to wit:
The resolution of the question as to whether or not the SEC had jurisdiction to declare the subject sale null and void is rendered moot and academic by the inherent nullity of the highly dubious sale due to lack of consent of the IDP, owner of the subject property. No end of substantial justice will be served if we reverse the SEC's conclusion on the matter, and remand the case to the regular courts for further litigation over an issue which is already determinable based on what we have in the records.
Beyond all that, however, is the unalterable fact that this Court's First Division had already resolved in its Decision of December 12, 2005, the jurisdictional issues raised by petitioners.
Jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals or the LRA to decide the ownership of the disputed property in the administrative reconstitution of title filed by respondents.
Petitioners raised the issue of ownership before the LRA when they presented evidence in the form of a Deed of Sale, five (5) Unilateral Deeds of Conveyance, tax declarations, and realty tax receipts to prove their ownership of the property allegedly covered by their reconstituted TCT RT No. 22481. Petitioners supported their claim of genuineness of their reconstituted title with documentary evidence showing their supposed acquisition of ownership of the land.
However, the LRA gave no credence to the evidence of ownership submitted by the petitioners, mainly because the property described therein appears to be located in a barrio different and far from the barrio where the property in dispute is actually located.
In their appeal to the Court of Appeals, petitioners again adverted to the same documentary evidence they presented before the LRA in support of their claim of ownership of the property covered by their TCT No. RT 22481 and to buttress their contention that their title is genuine and authentic.
However, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the Resolution of the LRA which found their reconstituted title a sham and spurious and respondents' title, genuine, authentic and existing. In addition, the Court of Appeals also ordered the cancellation of petitioners' TCT No. RT22481 and the reconstitution of respondents' TCT No. 210177.
In short, since petitioners themselves laid before the LRA and the Court of Appeals all their evidence to prove the genuineness of their reconstituted title and their ownership of the property in dispute, the Court of Appeals had the corresponding authority and jurisdiction to pass upon these issues.
In Yusingco v. Ong Hing Lian,48 the Court ruled, thus:
Therefore, it appearing from the records that in the previous petition for reconstitution of certificates of title, the parties acquiesced in submitting the issue of ownership for determination in the said petition, that they were given the full opportunity to present their respective sides of the issues and evidence in support thereof, and that the evidence presented was sufficient and adequate for rendering a proper decision upon the issue, the adjudication of the issue of ownership was valid and binding. It being a valid judgment, res judicata applies.
Indeed, petitioners are barred from thereafter impugning the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to rule on these issues. In the leading case of Tijam v. Sibonghanoy,49 it was stressed that:
It has been held that a party can not invoke the jurisdiction of a court to secure affirmative relief against his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question the same jurisdiction x x x.
Furthermore, it has also been held that after voluntarily submitting a cause and encountering an adverse decision on the merits, it is too late for the loser to question the jurisdiction or the power of the court. x x x [I]t is not right for a party who has affirmed and invoked the jurisdiction of a court in a particular matter to secure an affirmative relief, to afterwards deny that same jurisdiction to escape a penalty.
x x x [W]e frown upon the "undesirable practice" of a party submitting his case for decision and then accepting the judgment, only if favorable, and attacking it for lack of jurisdiction when adverse x x x.
In the light of all the foregoing, I find no compelling reason or overriding consideration to further require the referral of these cases to the Regional Trial Court or the Court of Appeals for a re-litigation of the issues already raised and resolved by the two divisions of the Court of Appeals and affirmed by the Court's First Division in its final and executory Decision dated December 12, 2005.
More importantly, the doctrine of immutability of final and executory decisions which became part of our legal system almost a century ago and reiterated time and again by this Court precludes the Court from taking this unprecedented action.
As held in Anuran v. Aquino and Ortiz,50 every consideration of expediency and justice is opposed to the uncontrolled exercise of discretion by the courts in opening up cases after judgments entered therein have become final.51 The interest of the individual, as well as of the community, demands there should be a definite end to every litigation; and nothing could be more impolitic than to leave it to the discretion of every court to revise and review and reconsider its judgments without limit.52
Furthermore, the question of whether the Court can reopen a final and executory judgment has constitutional implications since a reopening of the final and executory December 12, 2005 Decision would violate the prevailing parties' right to due process. As the Court said in Insular Bank of Asia and America Employees' Union (IBAAEU) v. Inciong:53
A final judgment vests in the prevailing party a right recognized and protected by law under the due process clause of the Constitution. x x x.
Thereafter, in Fortich v. Corona,54 the Court ruled against a reopening of a final and executory judgment since this is not a mere question of technicality but that of substance and merit, thus:
It should be stressed that when the March 2, 1996 OP Decision was declared final and executory, vested rights were acquired by the herein petitioners x x x. Thus, we repeat, the issue here is not a question of technicality but that of substance and merit. x x x
Considering all the foregoing and the fact that these cases do not involve an issue of transcendental importance, such as life, liberty or the security of the state, no compelling reason exists to depart from this well-settled doctrine, nor to ignore the fundamental public policy behind it.
ACCORDINGLY, I vote that these cases be referred back to the Court's Special First Division for final disposition in accordance with its Decision of December 12, 2005.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago and concurred in by Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., and Associate Justices Leonardo A. Quisumbing and Adolfo S. Azcuna; Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio dissented.
2 TSN, July 24, 2007, pp. 68-71; Emphasis supplied.
3 Annex G, Respondents' Memorandum.
4 Annex H, Respondents' Memorandum.
5 Annex J, Respondents' Memorandum.
6 EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 192. PROVIDING FOR THE REORGANIZATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES; RENAMING IT AS THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
7 See Sec. 24 (c).
8 Annex I-1, Respondents' Memorandum.
9 Annexes F and F-1, respectively, Respondents' Memorandum.
10 Annex I, Respondents' Memorandum.
11 Annex H, Respondents' Memorandum.
12 Manotok IV v. Heirs of Homer L. Barque, G.R. NOS. 162335 & 162605, December 12, 2005, 477 SCRA 339, 346-348.
13 Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation v. Factoran, Jr., No. L-75501, September 15, 1987, 154 SCRA 49, 57-58.
14 Miralles v. Go, G.R. No. 139943, January 18, 2001, 349 SCRA 596, 604.
15 Should be names.
16 TSN, July 24, 2007, pp. 146-148.
17 Annex D, Respondents' Memorandum.
18 Annex E, Respondents' Memorandum.
19 Annex B of Respondents' Memorandum.
20 Page 4.
21 Annex B, Intervenor Manahans' Memorandum.
22 Intervenors Manahans' Memorandum, p. 9.
23 215 Phil. 430 (1984).
24 G.R. No. 126517, November 24, 1998, 299 SCRA 124.
25 RULES OF COURT, Rule 129, Sec. 4.
27 G.R. No. 109111, June 28, 2000, 334 SCRA 454, 462.
28 Annex N, Respondents' Memorandum.
29 See Torres, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120138, September 5, 1997, 278 SCRA 793, 809.
30 AN ACT ALLOWING ADMINISTRATIVE RECONSTITUTION OF ORIGINAL COPIES OF CERTIFICATES OF TITLES LOST OR DESTROYED DUE TO FIRE, FLOOD AND OTHER FORCE MAJEURE, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE SECTION ONE HUNDRED TEN OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NUMBERED FIFTEEN TWENTY-NINE AND SECTION FIVE OF REPUBLIC ACT NUMBERED TWENTY-SIX.
31 Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation v. Factoran, Jr., supra note 17.
32 G.R. No. 154993, October 25, 2005, 474 SCRA 258, 268.
33 G.R. No. 128412, March 15, 2002, 379 SCRA 306.
34 Id. at 320.
35 Id. at 319, 320.
36 364 Phil. 591 (1999).
37 See also Republic v. Court of Appeals, Nos. L-46626-27, December 27, 1979, 94 SCRA 865.
38 201 Phil. 727, 744 (1982).
39 G.R. No. 132250, March 11, 1999, 304 SCRA 632, 652-653.
40 Id. at 654.
41 Comment, Office of the Solicitor General, pp. 21-22; Temporary rollo, no. 3.
42 Sandoval v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 106657, August 1, 1996, 260 SCRA 283, 287.
43 Tejada v. Homestead Property Corporation, G.R. No. 79622, September 29, 1989, 178 SCRA 164, 168.
44 G.R. No. 153155, September 30, 2005, 471 SCRA 542.
45 Id. at 554-555.
46 G.R. NOS. 95612-13, May 31, 1991, 197 SCRA 854, 875-876.
47 G.R. No. 117897, May 14, 1997, 272 SCRA 454, 472-473.
48 No. L-26523, December 24, 1971, 42 SCRA 589, 607.
49 No. L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29, 35-36.
50 38 Phil. 29 (1918).
51 Id. at 37.
53 No. L-52415, October 23, 1984, 132 SCRA 663, 681.
54 G.R. No. 131457, November 17, 1998, 298 SCRA 679, 693.
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