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Republic of the Philippines
G. R. No. 109645 July 25, 1994
ORTIGAS & COMPANY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP,Petitioners, vs. JUDGE TIRSO VELASCO and DOLORES V. MOLINA, Respondents.
G. R. No. 112564 July 25, 1994
DOLORES V. MOLINA,Petitioner, vs. HON. PRESIDING JUDGE OF RTC, QUEZON CITY, BR. 105 and MANILA BANKING CORPORATION, Respondents.
NARVASA, C.J.:chanrobles virtual law library
I. Scope of Decision; Chief Issue
This decision deals with two (2) special civil actions, separately filed and docketed as G. R. No. 109645 and G. R. No. 112564. 1They have been consolidated and are here jointly decided because they involve one and the same Torrens title: Transfer Certificate of Title No. 124088, reconstituted in the name of Dolores V. Molina. The land covered by said title overlaps that embraced in other titles issued to Ortigas and Company, Ltd. and subsequently transferred by it to other persons. More specifically, the property covered by Molina's reconstituted title is described by the petitioner as "a 13-hectare prime residential land, within (its) fully developed Greenmeadows Subdivision, . . . situated between the plush residential subdivisions of Corinthian Gardens and the Millionaires' Row of the Greenmeadows subdivision in Quezon City . . ."
II. G. R. No. 109645
A. Origin: Reconstitution Proceeding (LRC Case No. Q-5404)
G. R. No. 109645 originated from a petition filed on November 14, 1991 with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City by Dolores V. Molina, praying for the reconstitution of her Transfer Certificate of Title No. 124088. The case was docketed as LRC Case No. Q-5404. In the petition, she alleged that the original copy of the title on file with the Quezon City Register of Deeds was lost during the fire that gutted said Office on June 11, 1988; that she was however in actual custody of the owner's duplicate copy of the title (i.e., the title "has been and still is in . . . (her) possession"); and that the title is not subject of any document or contract creating a lien or encumbrance on the land therein described. 2 chanrobles virtual law library
B. Withdrawal, and Reinstatement of Case
On November 29, 1991 Molina moved for permission to withdraw her petition, stating that it had become necessary for her to go to the United States for some ten (10) months, to attend to her property in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The respondent Judge, Hon. Tirso Velasco, forthwith issued an order granting the motion; the case was dismissed, the petition being considered withdrawn. 3 chanrobles virtual law library
Four months later, however, or on or about April 3, 1992, Molina filed an ex parte motion for "revival" of LRC Case No. Q-5404 and admission of an amended petition for reconstitution of her title. In the "affidavit of loss" appended to her amended petition, dated March 31, 1992, Dolores Molina averred that the owner's duplicate copy of TCT No. 124088 which, in her original petition of November 14, 1991, she claimed "has been and still is in . . . (her) possession, "was missing - a fact she discovered in "the middle part of September, 1991" - and that, since said owner's duplicate could no longer be found despite diligent efforts to locate it, she had secured a certification from the Land Management Bureau to the effect that there is "a record of . . . (her) property in a microfilm negative. 4 chanrobles virtual law library
By Order dated April 3, 1992, Judge Velasco reinstated the (original, withdrawn) petition and admitted the amended petition, giving it "due course." In a separate Order of the same date, His Honor declared the amended petition sufficient in form and substance, and set it for hearing on June 29, 1992. He also directed that the Bureau of Land Management and the Land Registration Authority be given copies of the amended petition for their verification, comment, report and recommendation; that the amended petition be published in the Official Gazette; and that the Solicitor General and the Register of Deeds of Quezon City be furnished with copies of the order. 5 chanrobles virtual law library
C. Objection to Petition by Office of Solicitor General
The Solicitor General's Office objected to the petition on the ground among others that no actual notice had been given to the adjacent owners. This resulted in the Court's acknowledgment, in its Order of July 3, 1992, of its inability to "declare as of now that it had already acquired jurisdiction over . . . (the) case considering the manifestation of . . . (Solicitor) Ma. Eloisa Castro that the requirement of notice to the other adjacent owners has not as yet been submitted to the Court altho (sic) apparently the land in question is being bounded by roads. 6 chanrobles virtual law library
Molina thereupon filed an ex parte motion dated July 13, 1992, praying that notices be served on the (a) "subject owners" of specified lots in the corresponding "Technical Description of the subject land;" (b) the "President of the Corinthian Neighborhood Association or Corinthian Homeowners Association thru the Barangay Chairman of Barangay Corinthian because the adjoining property designated as Vicente Madrigal is now part of this Barangay Corinthian; " (c) the "Director, Bureau of Land, Plaza Cervantes Manila as adjoining owner designated as Public Land;" and (d) the "City Engineer of Quezon City for the adjoining boundaries designated as Roads or Road Lot." 7The motion was granted by Order of respondent Judge Velasco dated July 16, 1992, which also set the hearing of the case on July 20, 1992 at 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon. 8 chanrobles virtual law library
D. Notice of Hearing
The notice of hearing, issued by the Clerk of Court under date of July 16, 1992, was addressed to only the last three (3) parties above named, to wit: the "President of the Corinthian Neighborhood Association or Corinthian Homeowners Association thru the Barangay Chairman of Barangay Corinthian because the adjoining property designated as Vicente Madrigal is now part of this Barangay Corinthian;" the "Director, Bureau of Lands, Plaza Cervantes Manila as adjoining owner designated as Public Land;" and the "City Engineer of Quezon City for the adjoining boundaries designated as Roads or Road
E. Opposition by Ortigas & Co. Ltd.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Ortigas & Co., Ltd. allegedly learned of Molina's petition for reconstitution by accident and filed a formal opposition thereto. In a supplemental pleading dated July 21, 1992, 10it adverted to "a proliferation of syndicates taking advantage of the destruction by fire of land titles kept by the Quezon City Register of Deeds," and described Dolores Molina as "a well-known land speculator (who) . . . has filed several petitions which are glaringly contradictory to one another (and) therefore . . . perjurious." It pointed out that in Land Registration Case No. Q-336 entitled "Windows and Orphans Association, Inc. (WIDORA) - Applicant, LRC Record No. N-50589," for instance, Molina had filed an Opposition on August 25, 1978 claiming ownership over the property subject of the reconstitution case on the basis of "open public, adverse against the whole world, continuous and uninterrupted possession (thereof) for more than thirty (30) years or since time immemorial thru herself, her tenants or predecessors-in-interest under claim of ownership;" said claim of Molina, of dominion gained through acquisitive prescription, was contradictory of her claim in a complaint earlier filed by her on February 22, 1990 - with the same Quezon City RTC branch (No. 88) having cognizance of the reconstitution case - docketed as Civil Case No. 90-4749 entitled "Dolores V. Molina v. Ortigas & Company, Limited Partnership, et al.," in which complaint, she alleged that sometime in 1939 she acquired the property by purchase from Eusebia Molina and her heirs, Avelino P. Ramos and Felix P. Micael; the deed of conveyance that was entrusted for safekeeping to her late husband, Pio Q. Molina, having been lost during World War II; and she had been unable to have the property titled because "she was so preoccupied as the sole breadwinner of the family . . . ;" (and that in the meanwhile Ortigas succeeded in having the land "titled in its name through deceit, fraud and misrepresentation and scheme . . . ," and thereafter subdivided the same and sold the individual lots to other persons, including Interpublic Development Corporation and Breeders Feeds Incorporated). 11These contradictory assertions, according to Ortigas, betrayed the "highly suspicious and irregular" character of the Molina petition.
Ortigas' opposition also cited a report of the Land Registration Authority to the Court a quo drawing attention to irregularities in the petition, among these being: that the plan relied upon by Molina, Psd-16740 "appears to be derived from two different surveys, numbered Psu-1148 & Psu-20191, neither of which appear(s) to have been the subject of original registration; thus it is presumed that no original title had been issued from which TCT-124088 could have emanated;" that said plan "is a portion of (LRC) SWO-15352 which is being applied for registration of title in Land Reg. Case No. Q-336, LRC Rec. No. N-50589," etc.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
F. Opposition by Mormons (Manila Mission)
Molina's petition for reconstitution was also opposed by the Manila Mission of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Inc. (Mormons), 12which had been apprised of LRC Case No. Q-5404 by Ortigas' counsel. The Mormon Mission referred to the pendency of Civil Case No. 90-4749 ("Dolores V. Molina vs. Ortigas et al.") wherein it (the Mission) is one of the defendants, and to the "contradictory circumstances" asserted by Molina in that case and in the reconstitution proceeding, and alleged that a portion of the property claimed by Molina was covered by its own Transfer Certificate of Title No. 348048, involving land acquired by it in good faith and for value.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
On the issues thus raised, hearing of the petition for reconstitution proceeded in due course.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
G. Testimony of Dolores Molina
As might be expected, Molina testified at the hearing. Her testimony is summarized in the Velasco decision of September 23, 1992. 13She made no reference whatever in her testimony to the theory of prescription as her mode of acquisition of the land in dispute. She deposed that she and her late husband had acquired the two (2) parcels of land in question from the latter's relatives in 1939; that she had in truth seen the deed of sale and the titles in her husband's possession; that her husband was killed by the Japanese in 1944; that it was only in the 1960's that she attempted to obtain titles to the property in her name, and sought the help of President Marcos, who "became her boyfriend;" that Marcos had, in turn, referred her for legal assistance to former Judge Echeverri; that she had subsequently left for the United States where she stayed until her return during the martial law regime at which time, however, she could no longer get in touch with either Judge Echeverri or President Marcos; that sometime in 1990 she met Gen. Fabian Ver in Singapore, and she was then told that Marcos had given instructions for the delivery to her of the title to the disputed lands, to be accomplished back in Manila; that the title (TCT 124088) was actually delivered to her by Col. Balbino Diego in November, 1990 at her house in Philam Life Homes Subdivision in Quezon City; that she learned that the title had been entrusted to Col. Diego in 1986, when Gen. Ver and President Marcos fled the country, but Diego had been unable to give her the title earlier because he was placed under house arrest shortly after Marcos' deposal and remained under such restraint until May 11, 1988.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
H. Trial Court's Judgment, September 23, 1992
Respondent Judge Velasco rendered judgment in Molina's favor on September 23, 1992, directing the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to reconstitute the original copy of TCT No. 124088 in her name.
On September 30, 1992, the day following its receipt of Judge Velasco's decision, Ortigas filed its notice of appeal therefrom. 14On October 6, 1992, Molina filed a motion to strike the notice of appeal or in the alternative, to allow execution of the decision pending appeal. This motion Ortigas opposed in writing. The Mormons, for their part, filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision. The Solicitor General also filed a notice of appeal in the Republic's behalf. 15
In an Order dated October 14, 1992, 16Judge Velasco passed upon these remedial steps taken by Ortigas and the Mormons.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
His Honor declared that "Ortigas is . . . not vested with any justiciable interest to be a party in (the) case" because it had admittedly "already sold all the subdivision lots which it claims to overlap the disputed two lots (of Molina)," and Ortigas' pleadings "failed to disclose . . . any allegation about its ownership of road lots that may overlap the land covered by the certificate of title of petitioner sought to be reconstituted;" it was not therefore a real party in interest since it would neither derive benefit nor suffer injury from the decision; hence, its opposition could not be entertained and, "by force of law," it could not also appeal the decision. The lower court thus declared Ortigas' notice of appeal to be "a mere scrap of paper." chanrobles virtual law library
Said court also granted Molina's motion for immediate execution, opining on the ostensible basis of case law, that Ortigas' appeal was "frivolous and interposed only for purposes of delay," preclusion thereof was justified by the need "to prevent wastage of income," or "avoid the possibility of . . . judgment becoming illusory or to minimize damage unduly suffered by the prevailing party or to prevent further damage," as well as by Molina's advanced age.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
In the same Order, Judge Velasco declared the Mormons' motion for reconsideration - premised on the failure of the court to acquire jurisdiction over the case due to lack of notice - a mere pro forma one, since it posed issues already raised and considered, and any defect of notice had been cured by the actual participation of the Mormons in the proceedings.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
K. Molina's New (Reconstituted) Title
Pursuant to this Order, Molina succeeded in having her title (TCT No. 124088) reconstituted; and it was assigned a new number: TCT No. RT-58287. Molina caused the land thereby covered to be subdivided into five (5) parcels and obtained separate titles for them (the reconstituted title being, of course, consequently cancelled in the process). These titles over the five (5) subdivided lots, TCT's Numbered 83163, 83164, 83165, 83166 and 83167, were all issued in the name of Dolores V. Molina. Later, TCT No. 83164 was cancelled and replaced by TCT No. 83869 in the name of Gateway Enterprises Co., Inc. to which Molina had apparently sold the land therein described for P24,408,000.00. 17 chanrobles virtual law library
On November 23, 1992 the Solicitor General filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated October 14, 1992. The Mormons, for their part, filed a notice of appeal in respect of which Molina filed a "Motion to Strike Out Notice of Appeal" on December 10, 1992.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
L. Order, February 10, 1992, Striking Out Solicitor General's Appeal
The motions were resolved by Judge Velasco in an order dated February 10, 1993. He denied the Mormons' plea for reconsideration on the ground that as to them the case had become moot and academic in light of Molina's "uncontested manifestation dated December 22, 1992 that she has already executed QUIT-CLAIM AND WAIVER in favor of the Mormons and . . . the Mormons had already filed a motion withdrawing its notice of appeal." chanrobles virtual law library
It appears that the Mormons Manila Mission did indeed file a "Withdrawal of Appeal" dated December 11, 1992 because Molina had "already recognized . . . (its [the Mormons']) ownership and possession . . . over the portion covered by RT-58287 (124088) with an area of 8,860 sq. m. and covered by TCT No. 348048 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City," a copy of Molina's "Quitclaim and Waiver" to this effect, dated December 18, 1992, being appended to said "Withdrawal of Appeal." 18 chanrobles virtual law library
The Judge also granted Molina's motion to strike out the Solicitor General's notice of appeal, holding that since the Solicitor General "has not filed any formal opposition to the petition and neither has it introduced and/or formally offered any evidence to warrant its dismissal," it appearing on the contrary, that "the Land Management Bureau, the DENR, the Register of Deeds and the City Engineer's Office of Quezon City, which are the government agencies . . . directly involved in this kind of proceeding has not registered any opposition to the petition," the notice of appeal filed by him was "sham" aside from being ten (10) days late. 19 chanrobles virtual law library
M. The Present Petition
Ortigas thus instituted in this Court on April 20, 1993 the special civil action of certiorari and mandamus, now docketed as G. R. No. 109645, praying that Judge Velasco's Orders of October 14, 1992 and February 10, 1993, be invalidated; that "all Transfer Certificates of Title, including owner's duplicate and mortgagees' copies, if any, arising out of the reconstituted Transfer Certificates of Title of the disputed order of respondent Judge dated October 14, 1992 . . . . be declared void ab initio;" and that, alternatively, respondent Judge be ordered "to act on the notices of appeal seasonably filed by forwarding the records of LRC Case No. Q-5404 to the Court of Appeals." It also prayed for a temporary restraining order - which this Court granted upon a bond of P50,000.00, in a Resolution dated May 12, 1993 - prohibiting respondent Judge from further acting upon the case and enjoining Molina from selling, encumbering or otherwise transacting over the land covered by her reconstituted Torrens title issued on the basis of the questioned order of October 14, 1992. 20After pleadings had been submitted by the parties on the Court's instructions (i.e., comment, reply thereto, and rejoinder to the reply), the petition was given due course. The parties were required to file memoranda, which they have done.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
III. G. R. No. 112564
G. R. No. 112564, on the other hand, 21originated from an action commenced in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court by the Manila Banking Corporation against Dolores V. Molina and Gateway Enterprises Company,
Molina filed a motion to dismiss this complaint, dated May 18, 1993. She alleged several grounds: litis pendentia, lack of jurisdiction, bar by prior judgment, plaintiff's lack of status as a real party in interest, and failure of the complaint to state a cause of action. She adverted to G. R. No. 109645 entitled "Ortigas & Co. Partnership Limited v. Judge Tirso Velasco and Dolores Molina," in which the same relief is sought, i.e., "the declaration of nullity of the same Orders that ordered the reconstitution of Title No. 124088 of . . . defendant Molina . . . ," and in which had been issued "a restraining Order/writ of Injunction against selling/encumbering the property covered by the said title and those derived therefrom." It alleged that the Trial Court had no jurisdiction to annul the judgment of a coordinate Court (reconstituting Molina's title); that the latter orders constituted a bar to the action; and that plaintiff Manilabank was not a party to the agreements in question. A similar motion was filed by Molina's co-defendant, Gateway Enterprises Co.
The motions were denied for lack of merit, by Order dated September 17, 1993. The Court pointed out inter alia that -
After the filing by Molina of supplemental pleadings in support of her original motion to dismiss, the Court reaffirmed its denial of Molina's attempts to summarily terminate the action, by another Order dated November 25, 1993.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
C. The Present Recourse
Molina then filed in this Court on December 1, 1993, through counsel, Atty. Eufracio T. Layag, a petition for certiorari dated November 29, 1993, seeking annulment of said Orders of November 25, 1993 and September 17, 1993 and the dismissal of the action before the Court a quo upon the grounds set out in her motions to dismiss. This was docketed as G. R. No. 112564. At the Court's direction, comment on the petition was filed by the respondents. Molina's cause in this case is in essence dependent on the validity and efficacy of the reconstituted title she asserts over the land in dispute, TCT No. 124088, which is the precise matter in issue in G. R. No. 109645. Hence, as announced in the opening paragraph of this opinion, the two cases are hereby resolved jointly.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
On December 9, 1993, through the same lawyer, Atty. Eufracio T. Layag, Molina filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, also dated November 29, 1993, which is identical in every respect, in content, allegation and prayer, to that filed in this Court on December 1, 1993. Except for addressing itself to the Court of Appeals, said petition is identical, page by page from page 1 to page 11, to the petition before this Court. 24 chanrobles virtual law library
IV. Other Relevant Antecedents
Other facts, of judicial notice, or either admitted or uncontested, need be mentioned so that the issues may be placed in proper perspective and thoroughly understood.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The cases just described - G. R. No. 109645 (QC RTC LRC Case No. Q-5404) and G. R. No. 112564 (QC RTC Case No. Q93-15926) - are not the only ones which involve the parcels of land covered by Molina's reconstituted title (TCT RT-58287 [formerly TCT No. 124088]), on the one hand, and Ortigas' titles (TCT's No. 77652 and 77653), on the other. There are others which, considered conjointly with the cases at bench, reveal Molina's disparate efforts to assert ownership over the property and nullify Ortigas' titles over them.
One such case is that which also originated in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, docketed as LRC No. Q-336 and assigned by raffle to Branch 83. The case was one for registration of land, instituted sometime in August of 1974 by an entity calling itself "Widows and Orphans Association, Inc.," or "WIDORA."
In that case, Dolores Molina filed a document entitled "Motion, Manifestations and Notice of Claim" dated August 24, 1978 as well as a separate opposition to the application for registration. Molina claimed ownership of 12 hectares of the land applied for - the same property later made subject of her reconstitution petition - alleging that WIDORA had executed a Deed of Quitclaim and Assignment dated August 10, 1978 in her favor, and that in that deed, a certain Flaviana V. Vda. de Leon, "for herself and as President of the . . . (WIDORA)" "acknowledged and recognized" the ownership of Dolores Molina - by acquisitive prescription, no mention being made of any purchase by the latter - over an unspecified portion of the land sought to be registered with an area of twelve hectares, more or less. 25The deed also assented to Molina's intervention "as a party in Registration Case No. Q-336 . . . in order to protect her interest or claim in the above-described property." chanrobles virtual law library
Ortigas also opposed WIDORA's application. It filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding on October 24, 1978 on the ground that the land applied for was already titled in its name, its muniments of ownership being TCT's Numbered 77652 and 77653.
However, the Regional Trial Court eventually rejected Ortigas' claim by Order dated March 30, 1988, holding that said TCT's Numbered 77652 and 77653 were null and void because not derived from any decree of registration; and that Molina was the lawful owner of the area of 12 to 14 hectares claimed by her.
Its motion for reconsideration having been denied by Order May 19, 1989, Ortigas went up to the Court of Appeals on certiorari, its action being docketed as CA G. R. SP No. 18085, praying for the setting aside of the Orders of March 30, 1988 and May 19, 1989, and for the dismissal of the registration case. The Appellate Court granted the writ prayed for. In its decision promulgated on November 27, 1989, it declared that the decree recognizing Ortigas' ownership of the lands embraced in its titles (TCT's No. 77652 and 77653) was binding against the whole world and constituted res judicata. It categorically ruled that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas."
WIDORA appealed to the Supreme Court. Molina did not, and consequently the judgment in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 became final and executory as to her.
WIDORA's appeal was docketed in this Court as G. R. No. 91797 and initially met with success. In a Decision rendered by the Third Division on August 28, 1991, 26the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed. But WIDORA's success was short-lived.
Acting on Ortigas' motion for reconsideration, and after hearing the parties in oral argument, considering their memoranda in amplification of said oral argument, and re-examining the evidence of record, including the records of previously decided cases - cases involving the titles of Ortigas which had gone through the whole range of ventilation before the Court of First Instance, then the Court of Appeals, and finally the Supreme Court - the Court reconsidered its Decision of August 28, 1991, in an extended Resolution promulgated on August 7, 1992. 27It ruled that Ortigas' titles had already been upheld and affirmed in three (3) other cases determined in 1906, 1985 and 1987, and that WIDORA's claim had already been rejected by this Court.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The points stressed in the Resolution of August 7, 1992 and the precedents relied upon, may be summarized as follows:
WIDORA's motion for reconsideration of the Resolution of August 7, 1992 was denied with finality by the Court in its Resolution dated October 28, 1992. It bears emphasizing that this Court's Resolution of August 7, 1992, which affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G. R. SP No. 18085, is binding not only on WIDORA but also on Dolores V. Molina who, as already mentioned, did not appeal from that decision of the Court of Appeals.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
B. CA G. R. SP No. 23588
On February 22, 1990 - two (2) months or so after the judgment of the Court of Appeals in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 became final and executory as to her, declaring inter alia that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas" - Molina launched another attempt to litigate the same cause. She commenced in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City an action for reconveyance against Ortigas, Interpublic Development Corporation, Breeders Feeds, Inc., 29Atty. Renan V. Santos (Receiver of Manilabank and Interpublic and Breeders), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Manila Philippines Temple), City Treasurer of Quezon City, City Assessor of Quezon City and Register of Deeds of Quezon City. The action was docketed as Case No. Q-90-4749 and raffled to Branch 88. This time Molina based her claim to the twelve hectares of land at Ugong Norte (indicated more precisely as measuring 126,278 sq. m.) on an alleged transfer - not from WIDORA but from Eusebia Molina and her heirs Avelino P. Ramos and Felix P. Micael sometime in 1939 - and further averred that she had been unable to attend to the titling of the property in her name because her time and efforts were entirely occupied with being her family's breadwinner.
Ortigas filed a motion to dismiss Molina's complaint, dated April 6, 1990. This the Court denied, by Order issued on August 9, 1990. Ortigas' motion for reconsideration was also denied, by Order dated November 14, 1990.
Again, Ortigas went up to the Court of Appeals on certiorari (docketed as CA G. R. SP No. 23588), and again succeeded in reversing the Trial Court's judgment. In a Decision promulgated on July 23, 1991, the Court of Appeals directed the dismissal of the reconveyance case instituted by Molina.
The Court of Appeals however subsequently modified its decision. By Resolution dated December 4, 1991, 30said Court ordered the remand of the reconveyance case to Branch 88 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, there to be consolidated with the registration case of WIDORA, LRC Case No. Q-336.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The Appellate Court evidently placed reliance on the original Decision of this Court (Third Division) in G. R. No. 91797 dated August 28, 1991 (directing remand "to the trial court [of the proceedings] for trial and adjudication on the merits"), which had not attained finality at that time and, what is worse, was later completely reversed and set aside. As already stated, this Court reconsidered the decision of August 28, 1991 and eventually affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, commanding the dismissal of WIDORA's application for registration. 31Consolidation of Molina's reconveyance case with said LRC Case No. Q-336 was therefore no longer possible.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
It is germane to point out that on November 11, 1991 - about a year after the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 became final and executory as to her, holding inter alia that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas," and barely two (2) months after the Court of Appeals had resolved (albeit erroneously) to remand her reconveyance case (No. Q-90-4749) to Branch 88 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for consolidation with LRC Case No. Q-336 - Molina initiated still another attempt to litigate exactly the same claim. She filed the petition for reconstitution (LRC Case No. Q-5405) which has given rise to one of the present proceedings (G. R. No. 109645).
A painstaking analysis of the record of the cases at bar in relation to the relevant antecedents convinces the Court that the proceedings in the sala of respondent Judge Velasco, LRC Case No. Q-5404, which resulted in the reconstitution of Molina's title, are tainted with serious, even invalidating, defects and must consequently be nullified and set aside.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
A. Lack of Jurisdiction for Failure of Notice
The respondent Court heard and decided the reconstitution case without having acquired jurisdiction of the nature or subject matter. Republic Act No. 26, entitled "An Act Providing A Special Procedure For the Reconstitution of Torrens Certificate of Title Lost or Destroyed," specifies the requisites to be met in order that the court may acquire competence to act on a petition for reconstitution of title and grant the appropriate remedy. These requisites, which this Court has repeatedly held to be mandatory and jurisdictional, are set forth in Section 13 of the statute. 32Said section provides as follows: 33
As the law makes quite clear, it is essential in reconstitution cases that:
The controlling doctrine as regards the indispensability of notice on the parties named in the statute is set out in Manila Railroad Company v. Hon. Jose M. Moya, et al., 34viz:
Judge Velasco's attention was drawn to the defects in the notice required by law. In point of fact, neither the petition for reconstitution nor the Trial Court's Order requiring publication in the Official Gazette indicated the names and addresses of any occupant or person in possession of the property covered by the reconstitution case, or any owner of the adjoining properties. It was clear, too, that no notice had been given to Ortigas which, as owner of road lots within the area in question, should be deemed an "interested party" in legal contemplation (although this latter defect was cured by Ortigas' subsequent intervention and participation in the reconstitution case).chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Yet the Judge did not require Molina to give notice of the petition to the adjoining owners and interested parties; this, despite expressly acknowledging in his Order dated July 3, 1992, that his court had not as of that time indeed acquired jurisdiction over the reconstitution case "considering the manifestation of . . . (Solicitor) Ma. Eloisa Castro that the requirement of notice to the other adjacent owners has not as yet been submitted to the Court altho apparently the land in question is being bounded by roads." 35Instead, at Molina's instance, he authorized her to send notices of the petition to the President of the Corinthian Homeowners Association, the Director of the Bureau of Lands and the City Engineer of Quezon City. Now, obviously these three, whatever interest they may have in the case, or in the property involved, are not the adjoining owners contemplated by law, on whom notice of the reconstitution proceedings must be served. Nor did they, by their receipt of notice of the petition, incur the legal obligation to transmit such notice to the actual owners of the adjoining lots, assuming they had knowledge of the latter's identities. There was thus, as a matter of actual fact, no notice of the petition ever given to the owner(s) of the adjoining properties and all other interested parties. . There was, therefore, through a faulty reading of the statute, or due to a desire to end the proceedings quickly, or because of some covert purpose, a failure to comply with the law and a resultant failure on the part of the court to acquire jurisdiction over the nature or subject-matter of the case.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
B. Lack of Authority to Reinstate Withdrawn Case
Another serious error was the "revival" or reinstatement by His Honor of the case, some four months after it had been dismissed pursuant to Rule 17 of the Rules of Court, upon an ex parte motion of Dolores V. Molina.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
As above stated, on November 14, 1991 Molina filed with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City her application for the reconstitution of her Transfer Certificate of Title No. 124088, which was docketed as LRC Case No. Q-5404. Fifteen days later, she moved for permission to withdraw the petition, stating that she had to go to the United States on business for some ten (10) months. The case was dismissed, or deemed withdrawn, by order of the Court. 36 chanrobles virtual law library
Four months later, however, or on or about April 2, 1992, Molina filed an ex parte motion to "revive" LRC Case No. Q-5404 and for admission of an amended petition for reconstitution of her title. The motion was granted in one or two days and the petition set for hearing. This is manifest error.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The dismissal of the case, and the lapse of the reglementary period to reconsider or set aside the dismissal, effectively operated to remove the case from the Court's docket. Even assuming the dismissal to be without prejudice, the case could no longer be reinstated or "revived" by mere motion in the original docketed action, but only by the filing of another complaint accompanied, of course, by the payment of the corresponding filing fees prescribed by law. The situation is not at all altered by the circumstance that the dismissal of the action was effected by the plaintiff as a matter of right, without order of the court, in accordance with Rule 17 of the Rules of Court. There having been a dismissal or withdrawal of the action, albeit without prejudice, and the order considering the action withdrawn having become final, revival of the case could not be done except through the commencement of a new action, i.e., by the filing of another complaint and the payment of the concomitant docketing fees.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Section 1 of Rule 17 provides that an action "may be dismissed by the plaintiff without order of court by filing a notice of dismissal at any time before service of the answer or of a motion for summary judgment." Such a dismissal (or withdrawal) "is without prejudice" (i.e., without prejudice to its re-institution) unless "otherwise stated in the notice" (e.g., the notice actually declares the dismissal to be with prejudice [to its re-filing] or states some fact barring subsequent re-litigation, e.g., that the plaintiff has in truth no right of action against the defendant, or his right of action had prescribed, etc.). However, even if not so stated expressly or impliedly, the notice of dismissal would nonetheless operate "as an adjudication upon the merits when filed by a plaintiff who has once dismissed in a competent court an action based on or including the same claim" (in other words, a plaintiff may not dismiss his action as a matter of right, by mere notice, more than once).chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
To be sure, a plaintiff who has dismissed his action by notice under this provision may later change his mind and decide to continue with it. In that event, since theoretically every final disposition of an action does not attain finality until after fifteen (15) days therefrom, and consequently within that time the action still remains within the control of the Court, the plaintiff may move to withdraw and set aside his notice of dismissal and revive his action, before that period lapses. But after the dismissal has become final through the lapse of the fifteen-day reglementary period, the only way by which the action may be resuscitated or "revived," is by the institution of a subsequent action through the filing of another complaint and the payment of the fees prescribed by law. This is so because upon attainment of finality of the dismissal through the lapse of said reglementary period, the Court loses jurisdiction and control over it and can no longer make any disposition in respect thereof inconsistent with such dismissal.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The order of Judge Velasco reviving the reconstitution case was therefore legally inefficacious. It could not and did not operate to reinstate the proceeding. And even assuming that the amended petition submitted by Molina together with her motion to revive the case may be deemed a new petition, the non-payment of the requisite docketing fees precluded the acquisition of jurisdiction by the Trial Court over the second proceeding. 37 chanrobles virtual law library
C. Molina's Self-Contradictions
The record moreover discloses contradictions in the sworn asseverations of Dolores V. Molina relative to the manner of her acquisition of ownership over the land in question and her possession of the documents of title over it, of so serious and irreconcilable a character as to render it well nigh impossible to accord any credence to her claims.
Perhaps the most decisive factors in the resolution of this controversy are the final dispositions already made by this Court relative to the titles of Ortigas, which Molina would invalidate and overthrow, and to which the attention of the respondent Judge had been insistently drawn. These dispositions are matters of public record, are indeed facts of judicial notice which it is not possible for the Court to ignore.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
There is no debate about the fact that the land being claimed by Molina lies within that titled in the name of Ortigas and its predecessor-in-interest. Now, the latter's documents of ownership have been passed upon, and sanctioned and sustained by this Court more than once. These dispositions and adjudgments now operate to put its title to the lands thereby covered and embraced beyond the pale of further judicial inquiry. No court in the country now has competence to take cognizance of applications for the registration anew of said lands in the name of persons other than Ortigas or its predecessor-in-interest, or successors and assigns, or entertain further challenges to the validity and efficacy of the latter's titles. These matters have long since been laid to rest by this Court's decisions, already described earlier, 45and hereunder again cited: 46 chanrobles virtual law library
1. The Court's judgment in Cia. Agricola de Ultramar v. Domingo, 6 Phil. 146 (1906) affirmed on appeal the validity of Original Decree of Registration No. 1425, duly issued in G.L.R.O. Record No. 917 on April 26, 1905 by the Land Registration Court of Manila, in relation to the Hacienda de Mandaloyon, a large tract of land situated in what is now the cities of Manila and Quezon City, and the Municipality of Pasig, in favor of the Compañia Agricola de Ultramar, predecessor-in-interest of Ortigas. Ortigas' titles, TCT's No. 77652 and 77653 are genuine derivatives thereof of the title of the Cia. Agricola de Ultramar.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
2. Ortigas v. Hon. Ruiz, 148 SCRA 326, 331 (1987) is additional affirmation of the confirmation by Decree No. 1425 of the ownership of the Compañia Agricola de Ultramar of the Hacienda de Mandaloyon.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
3. The Court's Minute Resolution dated 16 February 1985 in Del Rosario v. Ortigas, G. R. No. 66110, refusing to review on certiorari the judgment of the Court of Appeals therein challenged, in effect sustained the latter. Said judgment of the Court of Appeals pertinently ruled that the extant documentary sources of the boundaries of the Hacienda de Mandalayon are the technical descriptions thereof appearing in the initial notice of hearing in G.L.R.O. Record No. 917, which was published in two (2) newspapers of general circulation in 1904: the "Manila American" and "La Democracia" and that copies of the pertinent issues of these newspapers were found in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. and certified copies thereof were presented in the trial court proceedings. The technical descriptions of the land covered by the two titles above mentioned, No. 77652 and 77653, demonstrate that the land lies within the boundaries of the Hacienda, as defined in those extant sources.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
4. These fact were also upheld by this Court through a minute resolution in Navarro v. Ortigas, G. R. No. 50156, May 7, 1979 (affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G. R. No. 53125-R 66110, 16 February 16, 1985 (sustaining the judgment of the Court of Appeals in AC-G. R. CV No. 61456 dated December 29, 1983). 47The judgments were rendered in proceedings in rem.
5. Both Navarro and del Rosario sustained the judicial pronouncement that Transfer Certificates of Title Numbered 77652 and 77653 of Ortigas had become indefeasible and incontrovertible - a circumstance that precluded cognizance by the Trial Court of WIDORA's subsequent application for registration in its name of the same land, docketed as LRC No. Q-336, considering that "the land covered by Widora's application forms part of that vast tract of land adjudicated to Ortigas' predecessor-in-interest in the 1906 decision." chanrobles virtual law library
6. This Court's Resolution of August 7, 1992, which affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 (rendered on November 27, 1989), is binding not only on WIDORA but also on Dolores V. Molina who did not appeal from said decision of the Court of Appeals. In that decision of November 27, 1989, it will be recalled, the Court of Appeals declared that the decree recognizing Ortigas' titles to the lands embraced in its titles (TCT's No. 77652 and 77653) was binding against the whole world and constituted res judicata. It categorically ruled that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas."
7. Judge Velasco's awareness of the existence of decades-old Torrens titles covering the land subject of the reconstitution case commenced by Dolores Molina, should have deterred him from proceeding therewith; or impelled to him to proceed with the utmost caution, in line with this Court's pronouncements in Alabang Development Corporation, et al. v. Valenzuela, 48and other precedents. 49In said rulings, this Court has cautioned "courts . . . (to) exercise the greatest caution in entertaining . . . petitions for reconstitution of allegedly lost certificates of title, particularly where the petitions are filed . . . after an inexplicable delay . . . after the alleged loss. . . . . We can take judicial notice of innumerable litigations and controversies that have been spawned by the reckless and hasty grant of such reconstitution of alleged lost or destroyed titles as well as of the numerous purchasers who have been victimized by forged or fake titles or their areas simply "expanded" through "table surveys" with the cooperation of unscrupulous officials." 50So, too, this Court has stressed "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. (And as the Court reiterated in the recent case of Silvestre vs. Court of Appeals [G. R. Nos. L-32694 and L-33119, July 16, 1982], "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") . . . . ("considering the ease and facility with which documents are made to appear as official and authentic" e.g., "from mere xerox copies and certifications of officials supposedly signed with the seals of their office affixed therein. " 51)
Yet another serious error was the disallowance by His Honor of Ortigas' appeal from the judgment in the reconstitution case, declaring its notice of appeal to be nothing but "a mere scrap of paper." 52His Honor opined that "Ortigas is . . not vested with any justiciable interest to be a party in (the) case" because it had admittedly "already sold all the subdivision lots which it claims to overlap the disputed two lots (of Molina)," and Ortigas' pleadings "failed to disclose . . . any allegation about its ownership of road lots that may overlap the land covered by the certificate of title of petitioner sought to be reconstituted;" and that therefore Ortigas was not a real party in interest since it would neither derive benefit nor suffer injury from the decision; hence, its opposition could not be entertained and, "by force of law," it could not also appeal the decision.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
His Honor was apparently incognizant of the principle that dismissals of appeals from the judgment of a Regional Trial Court by the latter are authorized only in the instances specifically set forth in Section 13, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. The succeeding provision, Section 14 of said Rule 41, provides that "(a) motion to dismiss an appeal may be filed in the (Regional Trial) Court . . . prior to the transmittal of the record to the appellate court;" and the grounds are limited to those "mentioned in the preceding section," i.e., Section 13, to wit: where "the notice of appeal, appeal bond, or record on appeal is not filed within the period of time herein provided . . . " chanrobles virtual law library
These two (2) sections clearly establish "that unless the appeal is abandoned, the only ground for dismissing an appeal in the trial court is the failure of the appellant to file on time the notice of appeal, appeal bond, or record on appeal. . . . (A) trial court may not dismiss an appeal as frivolous, or on the ground that the case has become moot and academic, such step devolving upon the appellate courts. Otherwise, the way would be opened for (regional trial) courts . . . to forestall review or reversal of their decisions by higher courts, no matter how erroneous or improper such decisions should be." 53 chanrobles virtual law library
Note, however, that since the requirement of an appeal bond or a record on appeal has been eliminated, dismissal of the appeal on the ground of a failure to file said bond or record within the prescribed period is no longer possible. Exceptionally, a record on appeal is still required in special proceedings and cases where multiple appeals are allowed; hence, a failure in these instances to file a record on appeal within the reglementary period is still a ground for dismissal of an appeal.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Dismissals of appeal may also be had upon the grounds specified by Rule 50 of the Rules of Court; but it is the Court of Appeals, not the trial court, which is explicitly authorized to dismiss appeals on said grounds. Generally, these grounds do not include matters which go into the merits of the cause or to the right of the plaintiff or defendant to recover. 54Case law has come to recognize other grounds for dismissal, by way of exception, e.g., that the cause has become moot, 55or the appeal is frivolous or manifestly dilatory. 56But, to repeat, authority to dismiss an appeal on the ground that it is frivolous or taken manifestly for delay "is not certainly with the court a quo whose decision is in issue, but with the appellate court." 57 chanrobles virtual law library
Moreover, the trial Judge's conclusion that Ortigas had no material interest in the litigation and therefore no standing to appeal from the decision therein is incorrect.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
There is in the first place, the conceded fact that Ortigas still retained title to a considerable number of street lots within the land in question, which it would lose if the entire area were declared to belong to Molina. Again, the respondent Judge's acknowledgment of Ortigas' status of vendor of all the subdivision lots covered by Molina's adverse claim, was implicit recognition of its right and obligation to defend its vendees' titles being impugned by Molina precisely on the theory that Ortigas' titles were void, a right and obligation arising from the warranty against eviction imposed on it by law. 58The avoidance of liability for eviction is certainly an interest of sufficient substance to concede to Ortigas capacity to litigate as party in interest in the reconstitution proceeding, prescinding from its stated intention of preventing the perpetration of fraud by Molina upon Ortigas' vendees and successors-in-interest and upon the public at large.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
The doctrines and legal considerations just set out also demonstrate the error of the Trial Judge's striking out of the appeal sought to be taken by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) from the adverse Orders in LRC Case No. Q-5404 on the theory that its appeal was "sham" because it had "not filed any formal opposition to the petition and neither has it introduced and/or formally offered any evidence to warrant its dismissal, etc. 59 chanrobles virtual law library
Prescinding from the patent fact that the records do contain (1) the formal objection of the OSG to Molina's petition for reconstitution on the ground inter alia that no actual notice had been given to the adjacent owners, an omission that the Trial Judge had precisely acknowledged; 60(2) the report of the Land Registration Authority drawing the Court's attention to irregularities in the petition, e.g., that the plan relied upon by Molina, Psd-16740 "appears to be derived from two different surveys, numbered Psu-1148 & Psu-20191, neither of which appear(s) to have been the subject of original registration; thus it is presumed that no original title had been issued from which TCT-124088 could have emanated;" that said plan "is a portion of (LRC) SWO-15352 which is being applied for registration of title in Land Reg. Case No. Q-336, LRC Rec. No. N-50589," etc.; 61(3) the notice of appeal of the OSG from the judgment of September 23, 1992; 62(4) the motion of the OSG for reconsideration of the Order of October 14, 1992 63 - unmistakably indicating the active opposition of the OSG to the Molina petition for reconstitution - the rule, as already explained, is that Trial Courts have no competence to dismiss appeals on the stated ground or any other going to the merits thereof. While it may be assumed that Trial Courts are morally convinced of the correctness of the judgments and orders that they may promulgate, and hence, in most cases, they honestly believe that appeals from their judgments or final orders are inutile, frivolous, dilatory, this gives them no warrant to reject appeals on these grounds; otherwise, the right of appeal would be rendered largely illusory.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Now, as regards the other ground cited by the Trial Judge for dismissal of the Solicitor General's appeal: tardiness. The record shows that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) received notice of the judgment of September 23, 1992 on September 24, 1992. The OSG posted its notice of appeal at the Ermita Post Office on October 9, 1992, i.e., on the fifteenth day after its receipt of notice of the judgment. 64The timeliness of the appeal is thus beyond dispute.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
F. Trial Court's Lack of Authority to Order Immediate Execution
The grant of Molina's motion for immediate execution of the judgment for reconstitution of her title, pursuant to Section 2 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, constitutes yet another serious error. Insofar as it is premised on the theory that Ortigas' appeal was "frivolous and interposed only for purposes of delay," such grant is indefensible for the reasons already stated relative to the Judge's disallowance of the Ortigas appeal.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
It is also attempted to justify immediate execution as necessary in order "to prevent wastage of income," or "avoid the possibility of . . . judgment becoming illusory or to minimize damage unduly suffered by the prevailing party or to prevent further damage," as well as by Molina's "advanced age." In the context of the circumstances obtaining in the case at bar, these grounds are meaningless. The Trial Judge could not be unaware that Ortigas' titles had existed for many, many years. Granting that His Honor had been made to believe by Molina's evidence that those titles should be invalidated, and decreed this in his judgment, he may not, ascribing such infallibility to his judgment as to preclude the possibility of its being overturned on appeal, condemn any appeal sought to be taken therefrom as idle and merely generative of needless injury to the prevailing party. Otherwise, the exception would become the general rule; judgments such as that rendered in this case could be routinely executed on the assertion that the prevailing party would suffer injury because his income would be wasted, or he would be caused further damage, or, that he is of advanced age, absent any competent and persuasive showing that precisely because of his age, he would not survive an appeal.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
G. Forum-Shopping by Molina
Finally, the relevant records expose Molina's forum-shopping, warranting imposition of the sanctions prescribed by established rule.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
1. As earlier narrated, in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 - treating of an attack against Ortigas' titles by Widows and Orphans Association, Inc. (WIDORA) and Dolores Molina - the Court of Appeals granted the writ of certiorari prayed for, annulling and setting aside the Orders of the Trial Court which had sustained WIDORA's and Molina's assaults against said titles. In its decision promulgated on November 27, 1989, the Court of Appeals declared that the decades-old decree recognizing Ortigas' ownership of the lands embraced in its titles (TCT's No. 77652 and 77653) was binding against the whole world and constituted res judicata., and categorically ruled that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas." This judgment became final and executory as to Molina, for while WIDORA appealed to the Supreme Court, Molina did not.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
2. This notwithstanding, on February 22, 1990 - about two (2) months after said judgment in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 became final and executory as to Molina, said judgment, to repeat, having held inter alia that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas" - Molina initiated another attempt to litigate the same cause. She instituted in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court an action for reconveyance against Ortigas, Interpublic Development Corporation, Breeders Feeds, Inc., 65Atty. Renan V. Santos (Receiver of Manilabank and Interpublic and Breeders), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Manila Philippines Temple), City Treasurer of Quezon City, City Assessor of Quezon City and Register of Deeds of Quezon City. This time she imputed her claim to the same land at Ugong Norte (with an area of 126,278 sq. m.) to an alleged transfer - not by assignment from WIDORA but by purchase from Eusebia Molina and her heirs Avelino P. Ramos and Felix P. Micael sometime in 1939.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Again this action ultimately resulted in a judgment adverse to Molina. In another certiorari action (CA G. R. SP NO. 23588), the Court of Appeals, by decision dated July 23, 1991, set aside the Trial Court's judgment and directed the dismissal of Molina's action. 66 chanrobles virtual law library
3. Then on November 11, 1991 - a year or so after the above-mentioned decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G. R. SP No. 18085 became final and executory (holding inter alia that "Widora and Molina had no more right to apply for the same lands which had already been titled in the name of Ortigas,") and some two (2) months after the Court of Appeals had directed the dismissal of Molina's second action (No. Q-90-4749, Branch 88 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court) - Molina again launched yet another attempt, a third, to litigate exactly the same claim. She filed the petition for reconstitution (LRC Case No. Q-5405) which has given rise to one of the present proceedings, G. R. No. 109645.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
4. In Case No. Q-93-15920 of Branch 105 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, instituted in 1993 by the Manila Banking Corporation (Manilabank) for annulment of the titles of Dolores Molina and her vendee, Gateway Enterprises Company, Inc., Molina asserted substantially the same claims made in the actions above mentioned. This she did by way of a motion to dismiss which was however denied. On December 1, 1993, she filed through her counsel, Atty. Eufracio T. Layag, a petition for certiorari with this Court (docketed as G. R. No. 112564) - to annul the Regional Trial Court's Order dated September 17, 1993 denying her motion to dismiss, and that dated November 25, 1993, denying reconsideration. Eight (8) days later, on December 9, 1993, through the same lawyer, Atty. Eufracio T. Layag, Molina filed another petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, also dated November 29, 1993 (docketed as CA-G. R. No. 32778) which, as heretofore stated, is identical to that filed in this Court on December 1, 1993, the only difference being that instead of the Supreme Court as the tribunal where the same was filed, it is the Court of Appeals that is indicated. 67Except for this, to repeat, each page, from page 1 to page 11 of the Molina petition in this Court, is exactly the same as each page, from page 1 to page 11, of her petition in the Court of Appeals.
These facts plainly and amply demonstrate Molina's guilt of forum-shopping, i.e., the act of a party against whom an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum, of seeking another (and possibly favorable) opinion in another forum other than by appeal or the special civil action of certiorari, 68or the institution of two (2) or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition. Forum-shopping is contumacious, as well as an act of malpractice that is proscribed and condemned as trifling with the courts and abusive of their processes. A violation of the rule against forum-shopping warrants prosecution for contempt of court and constitutes ground for summary dismissal of the actions involved, without prejudice to appropriate administrative action against the counsel. 69 chanrobles virtual law library
H. No Need for Remand of Case to Court A Quo
Ordinarily, the relief indicated by the material facts would be the remand of the reconstitution case (LRC No. Q-5405) to the Court of origin with instructions that Ortigas' and the Solicitor General's appeals from the judgment rendered therein, which were wrongly disallowed, be given due course and the records forthwith transmitted to the appellate tribunal. This, in fact, is a relief alternatively prayed for by petitioner Ortigas. Considering however the fatal infirmities afflicting Molina's theory or cause of action, evident from the records before this Court, such a remand and subsequent appeal proceedings would be pointless and unduly circuitous. Upon the facts, it is not possible for Molina's cause to prosper. To defer adjudication thereon would be unwarranted and unjust.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
VI Final Disposition
WHEREFORE, the petition in G. R. No. 109645 is GRANTED; and that in G. R. No. 112564, DENIED for lack of merit.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
In G. R. No. 109645, the Decision dated September 23, 1992 of Respondent Judge Tirso Velasco, Presiding Judge of Branch 88 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, in LRC Case No. Q-5404, as well as his Orders dated April 3, 1992, October 14, 1992, and February 10, 1993, are NULLIFIED AND SET ASIDE; the titles of Dolores Molina upheld and reconstituted by said decision and orders - namely, Transfer Certificates of Title Numbered 124088 and RT-58287 - and those derived therefrom and subsequently issued - namely, Transfer Certificates of Title Numbered 83163, 83164, 83165, 83166 and 83167 - are all Declared NULL AND VOID and are hereby CANCELLED; said LRC Case No. Q-5404 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City is DISMISSED; and the temporary restraining order of this Court of May 12, 1993 is MADE PERMANENT.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
In G. R. No. 112564, the Orders of respondent Presiding Judge of Branch 105 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City in Case No. Q-93-15920 dated September 17, 1993 and November 25, 1993 are AFFIRMED; and said Judge is DIRECTED to proceed to dispose of said Case No. Q-93-15920 with all deliberate dispatch conformably with this decision.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library
Dolores Molina and her counsel, Atty. Eufracio T. Layag, and Dr. Jose Teodorico V. Molina, are ORDERED to SHOW CAUSE, within ten (10) days from notice of this judgment, why they should not be pronounced liable, and correspondingly dealt with, for violation of the rule against forum-shopping.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library