I have an aunt who was able to transfer a piece of land, which belonged to my deceased father, in her name. My aunt stole the original land title and transferred it in her name, through a deed of sale, forging my father’s signature. Immediately, after knowing this, we filed an adverse claim over the subject land in 2008. We want to know the action we can take in order to revert the property’s ownership to us.
The legal provisions which can address your situation are Articles 1409 and 1410 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, in relation to the case of Spouses Patricio and Myrna Bernales vs. Heirs of Julian Sambaan (G.R No. 163271, January 15, 2010), penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, wherein the Supreme Court held:
“Art. 1409. The following contracts are inexistent and void from the beginning:
(1) Those whose cause, object or purpose is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy;
(2) Those which are absolutely simulated or fictitious;
(3) Those whose cause or object did not exist at the time of the transaction;
(4) Those whose object is outside the commerce of men;
(5) Those which contemplate an impossible service;
(6) Those where the intention of the parties relative to the principal object of the contract cannot be ascertained;
(7) Those expressly prohibited or declared void by law.
These contracts cannot be ratified. Neither can the right to set up the defense of illegality be waived.” (Emphasis supplied)
“Art. 1410. The action or defense for the declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe.”
Furthermore, the above-mentioned jurisprudence elucidated the following:
“The forged Deed of Absolute Sale is null and conveys no title.
In Sps. Solivel v. Judge Francisco, we held that:
“x x x in order that the holder of a certificate for value issued by virtue of the registration of a voluntary instrument may be considered a holder in good faith for value, the instrument registered should not be forged. When the instrument presented is forged, even if accompanied by the owner’s duplicate certificate of title, the registered owner does not thereby lose his title, and neither does the assignee in the forged deed acquire any right or title to the property.
x x x The innocent purchaser for value protected by law is one who purchases a titled land by virtue of a deed executed by the registered owner himself, not by a forged deed, as the law expressly states. x x x
The supposed vendor’s signature having been proved to be a forgery, the instrument is totally void or inexistent as “absolutely simulated or fictitious” under Article 1409 of the Civil Code. According to Article 1410, “the action or defense for the declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe. The inexistence of a contract is permanent and incurable which cannot be cured either by ratification or by prescription.” (Emphasis supplied)
Hence, since you alleged that the deed of sale executed was forged, then, if the same is proven to be true, it conveyed no title or any right to your aunt.
Therefore, in your situation, filing a complaint for the “Declaration of Nullity of the Deed of Absolute Sale” is the action you need to take. The ground on which the action shall rest is your allegation that the contract is simulated or fictitious in accord with the above-stated provisions of law (Article 1409 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines). The complaint shall then be filed in the Regional Trial Court where the subject land is situated.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.