• Transfer Certificate of Title not conclusive evidence of ownership

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I wanted to buy a certain property owned by my neighbor. He presented to me a Transfer Certificate of Title or TCT of this property under his name. Is this TCT sufficient evidence for me to believe that he owns the property?

    Sincerely yours,

    Dear DJ,
    For your information, the case of Luz Nicolas v. Leonora Mariano (G.R. No. 201070, August 1, 2016), touched on the differentiation of the legal meaning of Title and Certificate of Title. In this case, the Honorable Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said:

    “By title, the law refers to ownership which is represented by that document. Petitioner apparently confuses certificate with title. Placing a parcel of land under the mantle of the Torrens system does not mean that ownership thereof can no longer be disputed. Ownership is different from a certificate of title. The TCT is only the best proof of ownership of a piece of land. Besides, the certificate cannot always be considered as conclusive evidence of ownership.”(Emphasis supplied, citing Lee Tek Sheng v. CA. 354, Phil. 556 [1998])

    For emphasis, the Honorable Supreme Court Associate Justice del Castillo further stated:

    “Torrens system of land registration ‘merely confirms ownership and does not create it. It cannot be used to divest lawful owners of their title for the purpose of transferring it to another one who has not acquired it by any of the modes allowed or recognized by law.’” (Emphasis supplied, citing Peralta v. Heirs of Abalon, G.R. Nos. 83448/183464, 30 June 2014)

    Similarly, in the case of Dinah Castillo v. Antonio Escutin (G.R. No. 171056, 12 March 2009), the former associate justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable Minita Chico-Nazario, emphasized that “Title” may be defined briefly as that which constitutes a just cause of exclusive possession, or which is the foundation of ownership of property. “Certificate of Title,” on the other hand, is a mere evidence of ownership; it is not the title to the land itself.

    Hence, even if the TCT of a property is named after a certain person, the true ownership of the same may have already been vested to another through the execution of a certain deed (like: deed of sale, deed of donation, etc.), which necessarily gives the title. Considering this, it would be best for you to first check on the appropriate Registry of Deeds, whether the said property had already been transferred to another person and/or an annotation regarding any transaction/proceeding involving the said property is being undertaken, for your security.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net


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