I bought a parcel of land last year. Before I bought the property, I checked the Original Certificate of Title on file with the Register of Deeds, and the same is free from any encumbrances or claim. After the sale, the seller gave me his owner’s duplicate title and vacated the property. I have caused the registration of the Deed of Sale; hence, a Transfer Certificate of Title was issued in my name.
Last month, Edgar appeared and filed a civil case for nullification of title issued in my name, claiming that he had bought the same property 11 years ago. He presented a Deed of Sale executed sometime in 1995. I fear that the title in my name might be canceled. Who has a better right over the property, is it Edgar or me?
You have a better right over the property because you are a buyer in good faith. The property is free from encumbrances or any claim when you bought it, because nothing was recorded at the back of the title and you have no knowledge of any sale involving the same property.
Supreme Court Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro stated in the case of Rufloe et. al. vs. Burgos et al. (G.R. No. 143573, January 30, 2009):
“As a general rule, every person dealing with registered land, as in this case, may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor and will in no way oblige him to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the property. However, this rule admits of an unchallenged exception: a person dealing with registered land has a right to rely on the Torrens certificate of title and to dispense with the need of inquiring further except when the party has actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that would impel a reasonably cautious man to make such inquiry or when the purchaser has knowledge of a defect or the lack of title in his vendor or of sufficient facts to induce a reasonably prudent man to inquire into the status of the title of the property in litigation. The presence of anything which excites or arouses suspicion should then prompt the vendee to look beyond the certificate and investigate the title of the vendor appearing on the face of said certificate. One who falls within the exception can neither be denominated an innocent purchaser for value nor a purchaser in good faith and, hence, does not merit the protection of the law.”
Based on the above-mentioned jurisprudence, the only exemption that your title could be taken away from you is when Edgar could prove that you bought the property in bad faith, such that, you have caused the registration of the Deed of Sale despite your knowledge that the same property was sold to him. In your case, no such fact was mentioned in your letter.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com