May 2004 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
Sps Del Rosario v. Montaa : 134433 : May 28, 2004 : J. Austria-Martinez : Second Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 134433.May 28, 2004]
SPS. WILFREDO DEL ROSARIO and FE LUMOTAN DEL ROSARIO, Petitioners, v. VIRGILIO MONTAA and GENEROSO CARLOBOS, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assailing the decision dated February 9, 1998 rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City (Branch 121) dismissing petitioners complaint for quieting of title with recovery of possession de jure.
The facts of this case are undisputed.
On September 14, 1973, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 293, canceling certain sales certificates and/or transfer certificates of title in the name of Carmel Farms, Inc. which cover the Tala Estate in Caloocan City, and declaring these properties open for disposition to the Malacanang Homeowners Association, Inc. (MHAI) .Consequently, on October 25, 1983, petitioner Fe Lumotan***, a member of the MHAI, filed an application to purchase Lot No. 18, Blk-19, Pangarap Village, Caloocan City, which is part of the Tala Estate.1 Meanwhile, respondent Virgilio Montaas father, Margarito Montaa, filed a claim against the application of petitioner but was rejected by the Bureau of Lands in its Order dated November 2, 1983.2 Eventually, the property was awarded to petitioner per Bureau of Lands Decision dated December 10, 19843 and TCT No. 120788 was issued in the name of petitioner.4 Although not in actual possession of the disputed property, petitioner has been paying the taxes thereon.5 cralawred
Four years after, or on January 29, 1988, this Court in Tuason v. Register of Deeds, Caloocan City,6 declared P.D. No. 293 unconstitutional.The decretal portion of the decision reads:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, Presidential Decree No. 293 is declared to be unconstitutional and void ab initio in all its parts.The public respondents are commanded to cancel the inscription on the titles of the petitioners and the petitioners in intervention of the memorandum declaring their titles null and void and declaring the property therein respectively described open for disposition and sale to the members of the Malacanang Homeowners Association, Inc.; to do whatever else is needful to restore the titles to full effect and efficacy; and henceforth to refrain, cease and desist from implementing any provision or part of said Presidential Decree No. 293.No pronouncement as to costs.7 cralawred
Thus, on September 23, 1988, the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City inscribed Entry No. 218192 on petitioners title, invalidating the certificate of title pursuant to the pronouncement of the Court in the above-entitled case.8 cralawred
Petitioner then visited the property some time in 1995 and discovered that respondent Montaa had already constructed a house thereon.Respondent claimed that petitioner Fe had already lost her rights over the property.Consequently, on January 17, 1997, Petitioner, joined by her husband Wilfredo del Rosario, filed a complaint for Quieting of Title with Recovery of Possession de jure.9 cralawred
Respondent filed his Answer alleging that he is the true and lawful owner of the property as his father bought the property from the Bureau of Lands, and TCT No. T-120788 in the name of petitioner had already been invalidated.10 cralawred
During pre-trial, the parties agreed on the following stipulation of facts:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
2.Both parties admit that the defendants are in actual possession of the property in question;
5.Both parties admit that the annotation at the dorsal portion of TCT No. 127088 was the result of the declaration of the Supreme Court citing PD 293 as unconstitutional.11 cralawred
Thereafter, the trial court, in its decision dated February 9, 1998, dismissed the complaint finding that, inasmuch as petitioners title to the property was included in those covered by P.D. No. 293, she cannot assert any right thereon because her title springs from a null and void source.12 cralawred
Hence, the petition for certiorari filed by spouses del Rosario.
Petitioners believe that their title to the property is indefeasible for the reason that prior to the declaration of nullity of P.D. No. 293, its actual existence was an operative fact that may have consequences that cannot be ignored.Petitioners also cite Clarita Aben v. Sps. Wilfredo Abella, et al. (CA-G.R. CV No. 31544) decided by the Court of Appeals in February 19, 1993 upholding Abens ownership of Lot 21, Block 80 of the Tala Estate which was awarded to her by the Bureau of Lands pursuant to P.D. No. 293, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
While it is true that P.D. 293 had been declared null and void by the Supreme Court, it did not declare herein plaintiff-appellees title null and void.Instead, said court commanded the Register of Deeds, Kalookan City, the then Ministry of Justice and the National Treasurer to do whatever else is needful to restore the titles to full effect and efficacy of the Tuasons and the members of the Consuelo Homeowners Association who were also divested of their lands by the same P.D. 293.But as the evidence reveal, plaintiff-appellees title has not yet been cancelled (Exhibit L). 13 cralawred
On the other hand, respondents contend that the petition was filed out of time as petitioners received a copy of the RTCs Decision on May 25, 1998, and the petition was filed only on July 22, 1998 which is beyond the 15-day reglementary period provided for in Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
Thus, the Court is now confronted with two issues:First, the procedural issue of whether or not the instant petition was timely filed; and Second, whether or not petitioners title to the property is deemed invalidated when this Court declared P.D. No. 293 unconstitutional in Tuason v. Register of Deeds, Caloocan City.
As regards the procedural issue, petitioners refute respondents allegation that the petition was filed out of time, asserting that the present action is one for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, hence, the sixty-day reglementary period is applicable.14 cralawred
What is being assailed in the present petition is the decision of the Regional Trial Court dismissing their complaint for Quieting of Title with Recovery of Possession de jure, which is a final order.
An order is deemed final when it finally disposes of the pending action so that nothing more can be done with it in the lower court (Mejia v. Alimorong, 4 Phil. 572; Insular Government v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Nueva Segovia, 17 Phil. 487; People v. Macaraig, 54 Phil. 904) .In other words, a final order is that which gives an end to the litigation (Olsen & Co. v. Olsen, 48 Phil. 238) .The test to ascertain whether an order is interlocutory or final is: does it leave something to be done in the trial court with respect to the merits of the case?If it does, it is interlocutory; if it does not, it is final (Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 1, 3rd ed. pp. 806-807) .A final order is that which disposes of the whole subject-matter or terminates the particular proceedings or action, leaving nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined (2 Am. Jur., section 22, pp. 861-862). (Reyes v. De Leon, G.R. No. L-3720, June 24, 1952). 15 cralawred
Therefore, the proper mode of appeal should be a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, and not a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65.As such, it should have been filed within the 15-day reglementary period.16 Clearly, on the basis of such ground alone, the petition should be dismissed.
Moreover, petitioners clearly disregarded the doctrine of hierarchy of courts which serves as a general determinant of the proper forum for the availment of the extraordinary remedies of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.17 As held in People v. Court of Appeals:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
There is after all a hierarchy of courts.That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and should also serve as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs.A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level (inferior) courts should be filled with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals.A direct invocation of the Supreme Courts original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition.This is established policy.It is a policy that us necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Courts time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Courts docket.18 cralawred
While the doctrine admits of certain exceptions, i.e., special and important reasons or for exceptional and compelling circumstances,19 the circumstances of this case do not permit the application of such exceptions.
Considering, therefore, that the present special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 is within the concurrent original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, the petition should have been initially filed in the Court of Appeals in strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts.
However, the Court may brush aside the procedural barrier and take cognizance of the petition as it raises an issue of paramount importance and constitutional significance.20 Thus, in order to set matters at rest, the Court shall resolve the second issue or the merits for future guidance of the bench and bar.
In the Tuason case, the Court declared P.D. No. 239 as unconstitutional and void ab initio in all its parts.21 It becomes imperative to determine the effect of such declaration on Torrens titles that have been issued to persons who in good faith, had availed of the benefits under P.D. No. 239 before it was declared void ab initio for being unconstitutional.We have consistently held that the Torrens system is not a means of acquiring titles to lands; it is merely a system of registration of titles to lands.22 cralawred
At this point, a brief discourse on the decision of the Court in Tuason v. Register of Deeds, Caloocan City is in order.
In 1965, petitioners Tuason spouses bought from Carmel Farms, Inc. (Carmel for brevity) a parcel of land in the subdivision of Carmel by virtue of which Carmels Torrens title over said lot was cancelled and a new title issued in the name of the Tuason spouses.Eight years thereafter, or in September 14, 1973, the then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 293, portions of which read as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
.. . according to the records of the Bureau of Lands, neither the original purchasers nor their subsequent transferees have made full payment of all installments of the purchase money and interest on the lots claimed by the Carmel Farms, Inc., including those on which the dwellings of the members of said Association stand.Hence, title to said land has remained with the Government, and the land now occupied by the members of said association has never ceased to form part of the property of the Republic of the Philippines, any and all acts affecting said land and purporting to segregate it from the said property of the Republic of the Philippines being therefore null and void ab initio as against the law and public policy.
NOW THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution as Commander-in-chief of all the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and pursuant to Proclamation 1081, dated September 21, 1972, and General Order No. 1, dated September 22, 1972, do hereby order and decree that any and all sales contracts between the government and the original purchasers, are hereby cancelled, and those between the latter and the subsequent transferees, and any and all transfers thereafter, covering lots 979, 981, 982, 985, 988, 989, 990, 991-new, 1226, 1228, 1230, and 980-C-2 (LRC PSD-1730), all of Tala Estate, Caloocan City, are hereby declared invalid and null and void ab initio as against the Government; that Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 62603, 62604, 62605, covering lots 1, 2 and 3, PCS-4383, all in the name of Carmel Farms, Inc., which are a consolidation and subdivision survey of the lots hereinbefore enumerated, are declared invalid and considered cancelled as against the Government; and that said lots are declared open for disposition and sale to themembers of the Malacanang Homeowners Association, Inc., the present bona fide occupants thereof, pursuant to Commonwealth Act No. 32, as amended.23 cralawred
Thereupon, the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City inscribed the following in TCT No. 8314 of the Tuason spouses:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
MEMORANDUM. Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 293, this certificate of title is declared invalid and null and void ab initio and considered cancelled as against the Government and the property described herein is declared open for disposition and sale to the members of the Malacanang Homeowners Association, Inc.24 cralawred
Aggrieved, the Tuason spouses filed with this Court a petition for certiorari assailing P.D. No. 293 as arbitrary, depriving them of their property in favor of a selected group and violating constitutional provisions on due process and eminent domain as well as the Land Registration Act on the indefeasibility of Torrens titles.The Solicitor General opposed the petition.The Court en banc resolved:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The procedural issue is quite easily disposed of.It is true that the extrodinary writ of certiorari may properly issue to nullify only judicial or quasi-judicial acts, unlike the writ of prohibition which may be directed against acts either judicial or ministerial.Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court deals with the writ of certiorari in relation to any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial functions, while Section 2 of the same Rule treats of the writ of prohibition in relation to proceedings of any tribunal, corporation, board, or person x x exercising functions judicial or ministerial.But the petition will be shown upon analysis to be in reality directed against an unlawful exercise of judicial power.
The decree reveals that Mr. Marcos exercised an obviously judicial function.He made a determination of facts, and applied the law to those facts, declaring what the legal rights of the parties were in the premises.These acts essentially constitute a judicial function, or an exercise of jurisdiction which is the power and authority to hear or try and decide or determine a cause.He adjudged it to be an established fact that neither the original purchasers nor their subsequent transferees have made full payment of all installments of the purchase money and interest on the lots claimed by Carmel Farms, Inc., including those on which the dwellings of the members of x x (the) Association (of homeowners) stand.And applying the law to that situation, he made the adjudication that title of said land has remained with the Government, and the land now occupied by the members of said association has never ceased to form part of the property of the Republic of the Philippines, and that any and all acts affecting said land and purporting to segregate it from the said property of the Republic x x (were) null and void ab initio as against the law and public policy.
These acts may thus be properly struck down by the writ of certiorari , because done by an officer in the performance of what in essence is a judicial function, if it be shown that the acts were done without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion.Since Mr. Marcos was never vested with judicial power such power, as everyone knows, being vested in the Supreme Court and such inferior courts as my be established by law the judicial acts done by him were in the circumstances indisputably perpetrated without jurisdiction.The acts were completely alien to his office as chief executive, and utterly beyond the permissible scope of the legislative power that he had assumed as head of the martial law regime.
Moreover, he had assumed to exercise power i.e., determined the relevant facts and applied the law thereto without a trial at which all interested parties were accorded the opportunity to adduce evidence to furnish the basis for a determination of the facts material to the controversy.He made the finding ostensibly on the basis of the records of the Bureau of Lands.Prescinding from the fact that there is no indication whatever the nature and reliability of these records and that they are in no sense conclusive, it is undeniable that the petitioners Tuasons (and the petitioners in intervention) were never confronted with those records and afforded a chance to dispute their trustworthiness and present countervailing evidence.This is yet another fatal defect.The adjudication was patently and grossly violative of the right to due process to which the petitioners are entitled in virtue of the Constitution.Mr. Marcos, in other words, not only arrogated unto himself a power never granted to him by the Constitution or the laws but had in addition exercised it unconstitutionally.
In any event, this Court has it in its power to treat the Petition for Certiorari as one for prohibition if the averments of the former sufficiently made out a case for the latter.Considered in this wise, it will also appear that an executive officer had acted without jurisdiction exercised judicial power not granted to him by the Constitution or the laws and had furthermore performed the act in violation of the constitutional rights of the parties thereby affected.The Court will grant such relief as may be proper and efficacious in the premises even if not specifically sought or set out in the prayer of the appropriate pleading, the permissible relief being determined after all not by the prayer but by the basic averments of the parties pleadings.
There is no dispute about the fact that title to the land purchased by Carmel was actually issued to it by the Government.This of course gives rise to the strong presumption that official duty has been regularly performed, that official duty being in this case the ascertainment by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Lands of the fulfillment of the condition prescribed by law for such issuance, i.e., the payment in full of the price, together with all accrued interest.Against this presumption there is no evidence.It must hence be accorded full sway in these proceedings.Furthermore, the title having been duly issued to Carmel, it became effective in the manner provided in section one hundred and twenty-two of the Land Registration Act.
It may well be the fact that Carmel really did fail to make full payment of the price of the land purchased by it from the Government pursuant to the provisions of Act 1120.This is a possibility that cannot be totally discounted.If this be the fact, the Government may bring suit to recover the unpaid installments and interest, invalidate any sale or encumbrance involving the land subject of the sale, and enforce the lien of the Government against the land by selling the same in the manner provided by Act Numbered One Hundred and Ninety for the foreclosure of mortgages.This it can do despite the lapse of considerable period of time.Prescription does not lie against the Government.But until and unless such a suit is brought and results in a judgment favorable to the Government, the acquisition of title by Carmel and the purchases by the petitioners and the petitioners-intervenors from it of portions of the land covered by its original title must be respected.At any rate, the eventuation of that contingency will not and cannot in any manner affect this Courts conclusion, herein affirmed, of the unconstitutionality and invalidity of Presidential Decree No. 293, and the absolute lack of any right to the land or any portion thereof on the part of the members of the so-called Malacanang Homeowners Association, Inc.The decree was not as claimed a licit instance of the application of social justice principles or the exercise of police power.It was in truth a disguised, vile stratagem deliberately resorted to favor a few individuals, in callous and disdainful disregard of the rights of others.It was in reality a taking of private property without due process and without compensation whatever, from persons relying on the indefeasibility of their titles in accordance with and as explicitly guaranteed by law.25 cralawred
Nevertheless, certain factors must likewise be taken into account.One is that the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City has already invalidated petitioners title over the property, TCT No. 120788,26 pursuant to the decree of this Court in Tuason v. Register of Deeds, Caloocan City, and as it stands now, petitioners are holders of a canceled transfer certificate of title.Another is that Petitioners, while paying the real estate taxes due on the property, are not in actual physical possession thereof.27 These circumstances work against petitioners interest and confirm their lack of cause of action.The court a quo, therefore, did not err in dismissing petitioners complaint.
Petitioners cannot rely on the ruling of the Court of Appeals in the Aben case.Unlike in the present case, the certificate of title of the plaintiff in the Aben case was not canceled by the Register of Deeds.28 Also, the defendants therein admitted that the plaintiff was in actual possession of the property even prior to the issuance of the certificate of title.29 cralawred
In fine, the Court finds the petition to be without merit.
WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed for lack of merit and the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City (Branch 121) in Civil Case No. C-489 is AFFIRMED.
Quisumbing, Callejo, Sr., and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), on official leave.
*** Also referred to as Fe Lomutan or Fe Lumutan in the records of this case.
1 RTC Records, Folder of Exhibits, Exhibit M.
2 RTC Records, Exhibit G.
3 RTC Records, Exhibit J.
4 RTC Records, Exhibit B.
5 RTC Records, Exhibits C to E-13.
6 157 SCRA 613 (1988).
7 Ibid., at p. 623.
8 RTC Records, p. 18.
9 Entitled, Sps. Wilfredo del Rosario & Fe Lumotan del Rosario v. Virgilio Montana and John Doe.
10 RTC Records, Answer with Counterclaim, pp. 37-41.
11 RTC Records, Pre-trial Order, pp. 52-55.
12 RTC Records, RTC Decision, p. 110.
13 Petition, p. 5; Rollo, p. 7.
14 Rollo, p. 33; Reply, p. 1.
15 Diesel Construction Co., Inc. v. Jollibee Foods Corp., G.R. No. 136805, January 28, 2000.
16 Rule 45, Section 2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
18 Ibid., citing People v. Cuaresma, 172 SCRA 415, 424.
21 Supra, Tuason case, note 6.
23 Supra, Tuason case, note 6, pp. 617-618.
24 Ibid., p. 618.
25 Ibid., pp. 619-623.
26 RTC Records, p. 18.
27 Supra., Pre-trial Order, pp. 52-55.
28 CA Decision, p. 5.