• Court determines who has better right to property

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    dearpao

    Dear PAO,
    I found out during the examination of my Transfer Certificate of Property Title that another Title overlaps with my TCT. This has severely affected my faith in the Torrens Title, which is supposed to be the best evidence of land ownership. I am afraid I will lose my property to a fraudulent and spurious land grabber. I have a complete file of the technical description of the lot, and the decision of the Court of First Instance ordering the issuance of the decree to my grandfather in 1958. The spurious title was registered in 1978 as a free patent without any Original Certificate of Title. The said title was entered in the records of the Registry of Deeds in 1984. My title, on the other hand, was registered in March 1958 at the Register of Deeds. What should I do? Help me.

    Thank you for whatever assistance you will give us.
    Tessie

    Dear Tessie,
    It is unfortunate that you discovered this discrepancy with your title and another title. However, you need not worry, because you have a remedy in our laws to correct the said inconsistency. In your letter, you said that this other title overlaps with your TCT. You did not mention the extent of the overlap. For the purpose of this discussion, we will assume that the overlap is complete and not a mere boundary dispute between your property and the property of the owner of the “spurious” TCT. In addition, we will also assume for the sake of this discussion that neither your grandfather nor any of his descendants sold or mortgaged the said property to anyone. This means that the property continues to be the property of your grandfather’s family, and that there was really double registration on the same property.

    Since according to your letter, your grandfather was able to register this property in his name in 1958, this means that the second title, registered in 1984 should never have been issued and registered.

    Once a title has been issued, this is conclusive and binding against the entire world. No one can acquire any right to the registered property unless they acquire such right through and from the registered owner. Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree states that:

    “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’.”

    Under our laws, when a titled property is discovered to have another existing title, there exists a cloud on one’s title to real property by reason of an instrument or record. In this case, Article 476 of the Civil Code applies and states:

    “Whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein, by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title, an action may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title.”

    In order to remove such cloud, you may file a Petition for Quieting of Title under Rule 63 of our Rules of Court, particularly Declaratory Relief and Other Similar Remedies. The second paragraph of Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court states:

    “An action for the reformation of an instrument, to quiet title to real property or remove clouds therefrom, or to consolidate ownership under Article 1607 of the Civil Code, may be brought under this Rule.”

    This action may be filed in the court having jurisdiction of the area where the property is located. The court, once it finds that there is indeed a cloud on the title, meaning there is another title claiming ownership over your titled property, it will determine who has the better right to the property and order the cloud to be removed. In your case, if the court finds your title to be in order, it will order the annulment of the title issued in 1984.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. 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.

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