My father bought a parcel of land in the province sometime in 1978. The notarized Deed of Sale was not registered with the Register of Deeds, because the land was not covered by a title. The seller had applied for the titling of this land before the court without our knowledge. We discovered sometime in August 2015 that the application for the titling of this land in the name of the seller was granted by the court, and a certificate of title was already issued in the name of the seller. Someone from the court told us that we can no longer file an opposition to the registration of this land, because the judgment issued by the court is already final. The problem now is the seller denied the existence of the Deed of Sale in 1978. What shall we do?
You failed to mention in your letter whether the discovery of registration of the land happened within a year from the issuance of the certificate of title (decree of registration) in favor of the seller.
If the discovery of the registration happened within a year from the issuance of the decree of registration, your remedy could be the filing of the reopening and review of the decree of registration. This procedure is found under Section 32 of Presidential Decree (PD) 1529, which states:
“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 encumbrance for value.
“Upon the expiration of said 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.”
If the discovery of the decree of registration, however, happened beyond one year from the issuance, then the proper remedy is to file an action for damages against the seller or any other persons responsible for the fraud or action for specific performance considering that your father and the seller had executed a notarized Deed of Sale sometime in 1978.
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