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Land Titles and Deeds

Ciro P. dela Cruz JD2


1450038
HEIRS OF PEDRO LOPEZ ET. AL. V HONESTO C. DE CASTRO, ET. AL.
GR No. 112905, February 3, 2000
Facts:
On July 25, 1956, an application for registration for a parcel of land located in Tagaytay City was filed by the petitioners with
the then Court of First Instance in Cavite. On July 24, 1957, the Municipality of Silang, Cavite filed an opposition alleging that the
subject land belongs to its patrimonial property. Petitioners assert that the land is a part of the whole tract of land as their inheritance
sought to be registered in Cavite but was excluded from their application upon recommendation of the chief surveyor of the Land Reg.
Office since the land is located in Laguna. Subsequently on February 7, 1969, the motion to dismiss by the Municipality of Silang was
denied by the court due to lack of merit. It was anchored on ground that the lot was outside its territorial limits, hence the municipality
has no personality to intervene. Even if it is a communal property of both municipalities, the incorporation to the city of Tagaytay
makes it a property of the latter. Thus, the municipality of Tagaytay has the right of action. After deliberation on April 15, 1971, the
Clerk of Court recommended to grant the application. In its report, it was disclosed that since time immemorial, the De Los Reyes
family owned and possessed the land and sold it to the father of the applicant, Pedro Lopez who later took over the ownership and
possession. His heirs succeeded over the property upon his death and subsequently partitioned it. The court thus approved
the application and ordered the registration of the land in favor of the petitioner.
While examining the records in the course of granting the registration to the petitioners, it was found out that the land
was already registered in favor of the respondents Honesto de Castro in 1967. Apparently, de Castro filed the registration of land in the
CFI of Cavite in its Branch IV in Tagaytay City and a decision was promulgated to issue the decree of registration in his favor. The
said land was allegedly owned by Hermogenes Orte who sold it to the father of the respondent by virtue of a deed of sale that was
destroyed during Japanese occupation. His father continued possession and occupation of the land until his death and his wife and
children continued the possession thereof and finally registered it in their name. The cause of the conflicting claims over the same land
was never explained because the head of the geodetic engineers of the Land Registration Commission did not appear in court in Land
Registration Case No. 299. Hence, on August 19, 1981, the CFI of Cavite, Branch III issued an order declaring that the court had lost
jurisdiction to hear the case, without, however, dismissing the case.
On June 28, 1988, the petitioners filed an action before the RTC of Cavite for the execution of the judgment rendered in their
favor by the court and cancellation of title of the respondents and order the respondents to vacate the property. The respondents
interpose the defense of latches, prescription and estoppel against the petitioners and asserting the indefeasibility of their title under
the Torrens System. They averred that they were no longer the owners of the property as it had been sold "absolutely and
unconditionally to innocent third parties for valuable consideration and in good faith." The lower court held that it could not enforce
the judgment against the respondents considering they were not made parties to the case. Nor can it order the register of deeds
of Tagaytay City to cancel the title of respondents since it was not also made a party to the case thus the court does not acquire
jurisdiction over it. Furthermore, the court held that the action brought by the petitioners would be tantamount to the nature of
collaterally attacking the validity of the title of the respondents. Unsatisfied with the RTCs judgment, petitioners appealed to CA.
Upon appeal to the CA, it re-affirmed the lower courts decision with emphasis on the indefeasibility of the Torrens Title while citing
the Civil Code provisions on Article 1544 on sale of property to different vendees where in case the land has been registered in the
name of two different persons, the earlier in date of registration shall prevail.

Issue:
Whether or not the petitioners can question the validity of the title of the respondents over the property in dispute?
Ruling and Rationale:
No. The court held that a land registration is an in rem proceeding which involves a constructive notice against all persons
including the state which is effective through the publication of the application for land registration. The court held that when more
than one certificate of title is issued over the land, the person holding the prior certificate of title is entitled to a better right against the
person who relies on the subsequent certificate. This rule refers to the date of the certificate of title and not on the date of filing
the application for registration of title. In land registration proceedings, all interested parties are obliged to take care of their interests
and to zealously pursue their objective of registration on account of the rule that whoever first acquires title to a piece of land shall
prevail. The publication made with respect to the application of the respondents served as a constructive notice against the whole
world thus the court upheld the validity of their title and its indefeasibility against collateral attack from the petitioners. The record
does not show why petitioners did not have actual knowledge of the registration proceedings instituted by private respondents.
However, the lack of such knowledge in fact raises a doubt as to the veracity of their claim that they were in possession of the land. If
indeed they possessed the property, even if through an administrator, as diligent owners, the threat to their ownership could not have
escaped them considering that the property is in a rural community where news travels fast.
Granting that the petitioners did not have actual knowledge about the respondents application to the land, they waited for 7
more years after knowing that the property was already registered in the name of the respondents to demand for the execution of
judgment and cancellation of the respondents title. Therefore the SC finds them guilty of latches. Petitioners petition was denied.
Doctrine
In land registration proceedings, an in rem proceeding, all interested parties are obliged to take care of their interest and to
zealously pursue their objective of registration on account of the rule that whoever first acquires title to a piece of land shall prevail.
Where more than one certificate of title is issued over the land, the person holding a prior certificate is entitled to the land, as against a
person who relies on a subsequent certificate. This rule refers to the date of the certificate of title, not the date of filing.
The doctrine of stale demands or laches is based on grounds of public policy which requires, for the peace of society, the
discouragement of stale claims and is principally a question of the inequity or unfairness of permitting a right or claim to be enforced

or asserted. Land registration proceedings entails a race against time and non-observance of time constraints imposed by law exposes
an applicant to the loss of registration rights if not to the deleterious effects of the application of the doctrine of laches. An applicant
for registration has but a one-year period from the issuance of the decree of registration in favor of another applicant, within which to
question the validity of the certificate of title issued pursuant to such decree. Once the one-year period has lapsed, the title to the land
becomes indefeasible