My family has been in possession of 30,000 square meters of rice land in our province since 1968. Last month, I was informed that a certain Ramon appeared claiming that he owned the land and was asking that we pay him a monthly rent for tilling his land. He allegedly presented a Decree of Registration, which was issued by the courts sometime in February 2016. My family disputed his claim but he said we should have opposed his application for the registration of the subject land. I must admit that we do not have any title to this land, except several tax declarations issued in 1969 and 1970. Is there any remedy for us, so that we can assert our rights or contradict such Decree of Registration?
It appears from what you have stated in your letter that Ramon had caused the registration of the land in your possession by means of ordinary registration proceedings in court. Since the Decree of Registration was already issued by the court, the available remedy is provided 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 encumbrancer 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.”
In order to assert your rights, you may file a Petition to Reopen and Review the Decree of Registration with the Regional Trial Court where the decree was issued, within one year from February 2016. The ground that you can raise in your petition is actual fraud. The petition must be filed within the reglamentary period of one (1) year; otherwise, your remedy is an action for damages against Ramon or other persons responsible for the fraud.
You can allege in your petition that you have been in possession of the property since 1968, and that you were in open and continuous possession of the same until Ramon had it registered in his name by means of fraud.
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