• Buyer’s remedy when land is still registered in seller’s name


    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    Adrian was granted a free patent covering a ten-hectare land in Mindoro in 1995. I bought from him a portion (500 square meters) of the land in 2003. He, however, refused to vacate that portion even though we had executed a deed of absolute sale, and I already paid the agreed purchase price. The 500 square meters I bought from him were still included in the registration of the whole ten-hectare land in 2005. Hence, a certificate of title is now in Adrian’s name. What is my legal remedy in this situation?

    Dear Cyril,
    The second paragraph of Section 31, Presidential Decree (PD) 1529 or the Property Registration Decree specifically states:

    “The decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto, subject only to such exceptions or liens as may be provided by law. It shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the National Government and all branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application or notice, the same being included in the general description “To all whom it may concern.”

    Relative thereto, Section 32 of the law provides:

    The decree of registration shall not be reopened or revised by reason of absence, minority or other disability of any person adversely affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court for reversing judgments, subject, however, to the right of any person, including the government and the branches thereof, deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by such adjudication or confirmation of title obtained by actual fraud, to file in the proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and after the date of the entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein, whose rights may be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase “innocent purchaser for value” or an equivalent phrase occurs in this decree, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee or other encumbrancer for value.

    Upon the expiration of the period of one year, the decree of registration and the certificate of title issued shall become incontrovertible. Any person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other persons responsible for the fraud.”

    The above-mentioned law clearly provides the legal remedy of reopening or revision of the decree of registration on the ground of fraud within one year from its issuance. This legal remedy, however, is no longer applicable to your situation, considering that the certificate of title of Adrian was issued in 2005. You failed to question the decree of registration within the reglamentary period of one (1) year.

    In the case of Wee vs. Mardo (G.R. No. 202414, June 4, 2014), the Supreme Court through Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza stated:

    “The remedy of the petitioner is to file a separate proceeding or action to protect her alleged interest. As she claimed that she bought the subject property for value from the respondent as evidenced by a deed of sale, she can file an action for specific performance to compel the respondent to comply with her obligation in the alleged deed of sale and/or an action for reconveyance of the property. She can also file an action for rescission. Xxx xxx xxx.”

    Applying the above-quoted decision to your situation, the proper remedy available for you is to file any of the following civil actions to protect your interest: action for specific performance to compel Adrian to deliver to you the property, action for recission of contract of sale or action for reconveyance.

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.


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