Republic v. Lorenzo (G.R. No. 172338; December 10, 2012)


FACTS: Herein respondents Concepcion Lorenzo and Orlando, Samuel, Juliet, Elizabeth, Rosela, Renato, Evelyn, all surnamed Fontanilla, filed a petition for reconstitution of Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 3980 before the RTC covering a parcel of land in Echague, Isabela. They claimed that during his lifetime, Pedro Fontanilla and his spouse Concepcion Lorenzo bought a parcel of land from Antonia Pascua and that a deed of sale was executed for the said transaction. Hence, an Owners Duplicate Copy of OCT No. 3980 was delivered unto the spouses Pedro Fontanilla and Concepcion Lorenzo. They also averred that the owner's copy of the said title was eaten by termites while the original copy of the title filed before the Register of Deeds of Isabela was burned when the latter was razed by fire. The RTC granted the petition.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the RTCs decision. Thus, the Republic sought the relief before the Supreme Court.

ISSUE: Did the Court of Appeals err when it affirmed the RTC's Order of reconstitution of OCT No. 3980?

HELD: The relevant law that governs the reconstitution of a lost or destroyed Torrens certificate of title is Republic Act No. 26. Section 2 of said statute enumerates the following as valid sources for judicial reconstitution of title:

Original certificates of title shall be reconstituted from such of the sources hereunder enumerated as may be available, in the following order:

(a) The owners duplicate of the certificate of title;
(b) The co-owners, mortgagees, or lessees duplicate of the certificate of title;
(c) A certified copy of the certificate of title, previously issued by the register of deeds or by a legal custodian thereof;
(d) An authenticated copy of the decree of registration or patent, as the case may be, pursuant to which the original certificate of title was issued;
(e) A document, on file in the Registry of Deeds, by which the property, the description of which is given in said document, is mortgaged, leased or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of said document showing that its original had been registered; and
(f) Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is sufficient and proper basis for reconstituting the lost or destroyed certificate of title.
As borne out by the records of this case, Lorenzo et al. were unable to present any of the documents mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (e) above. Thus, the only documentary evidence the respondents were able to present as possible sources for the reconstitution of OCT No. 3980 are those that they believed to fall under the class of any other document described in paragraph (f).
As correctly pointed out by Republic, we had emphasized in Republic v. Holazo that the term any other document in paragraph (f) refers to reliable documents of the kind described in the preceding enumerations and that the documents referred to in Section 2(f) may be resorted to only in the absence of the preceding documents in the list. Therefore, the party praying for the reconstitution of a title must show that he had, in fact, sought to secure such documents and failed to find them before presentation of other documents as evidence in substitution is allowed.

Furthermore, in a more recent case, this Court enumerated what should be shown before an order for reconstitution can validly issue, namely: (a) that the certificate of title had been lost or destroyed; (b) that the documents presented by petitioner are sufficient and proper to warrant reconstitution of the lost or destroyed certificate of title; (c) that the petitioner is the registered owner of the property or had an interest therein; (d) that the certificate of title was in force at the time it was lost or destroyed; and (e) that the description, area and boundaries of the property are substantially the same and those contained in the lost or destroyed certificate of title.

In the case at bar, Lorenzo, et al. were unable to discharge the burden of proof prescribed by law and jurisprudence for the reconstitution of lost or destroyed Torrens certificate of title.

Likewise, the deed of sale purportedly between Antonia Pascua, as seller, and Pedro Fontanilla, as buyer, which involves OCT No. 3980 cannot be relied upon as basis for reconstitution of Torrens certificate of title. An examination of the deed of sale would reveal that the number of the OCT allegedly covering the subject parcel of land is clearly indicated, however, the date when said OCT was issued does not appear in the document. This circumstance is fatal to Lorenzo etal.s cause as we have reiterated in Republic v. El Gobierno de las Islas Filipinas that the absence of any document, private or official, mentioning the number of the certificate of title and the date when the certificate of title was issued, does not warrant the granting of a petition for reconstitution. DENIED.