CASE DIGEST: Top v. Fajardo (G.R. No. 150462)


FACTS: On December 31, 1964, Emilio Gregorio (Gregorio) filed an application for registration of title over Lots 1 to 4 of Plan Psu-204785 situated at Mag-asawang Mangga, Las Pis, Rizal, before the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, Branch II (LRC Case No. N-5053, LRC Rec. No. N-27523). On January 4, 1966, said court issued an order declaring as abandoned the reserved oppositions of Jose T. Velasquez and Pablo Velasquez.Thereafter, the case proceeded to trial.Meanwhile, on July 29, 1965, Jose T. Velasquez (Velasquez) filed an application for registration of title over six lots denominated as Lots 7 and 9 of Psu-80886, Ap-5538, and Lots 1, 7, 9 and 11 of Psu-56007 Amd., Ap-11135, situated at Almanza, Las Pis, Rizal, in LRC Case No. N-5416, LRC Rec. No. N-28735, before the same court.

On January 31, 1966, the CFI rendered a decision in LRC Case No. N-5053 declaring Gregorio to be the absolute owner of Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 described in Plan Psu-204785.On March 9, 1966, an order was issued by said court for the issuance of the decree of registration, stating that the January 31, 1966 had become final.

On March 30, 1966, the same court promulgated a decision in LRC Case No. N-5416 adjudicating Lots 1, 7, 9 and 11 of Psu-56007-Amd, plan Ap-11135, and Lots 7 and 9 of Psu-80886 (Ap-5538) to Jose T. Velasquez.On May 3, 1966, said court ordered the issuance of a decree of registration in view of the finality of the March 30, 1966 decision.

Decree No. N-141990 over Lots 1, 3 and 4 of Plan Psu-204785 were issued by the LRA and the corresponding OCT No. 9587 in the name of Gregorio, was subsequently issued on November 21, 1972.

Lots 1, 3 and 4, Plan Psu-204785 covered by OCT No. 9587 also became the subject of Civil Case No. 16977 of the CFI of Rizal.Gregorio sought the annulment of the deed of sale over the said lots in favor of Luciana Parami.The CFI dismissed the complaint of Gregorio in a decision rendered on May 8, 1974.Gregorio appealed to the CA (CA-G.R. No. 56015-R, entitled"Emilio Gregorio v. Spouses Luciana and Corpus Parami and the Register of Deeds of Rizal") which reversed the CFI.In its decision dated February 7, 1978, the CA declared the aforesaid deed of sale null and void, and ordered the cancellation of certificate of title (No. 38433) in the name of the Paramis and issuance of an OCT in favor of Gregorio covering Lots 1, 3 and 4, Plan Pasu-204785.On November 20, 1979, the court in the same case issued an order declaring the children (Ana, Paz, Carmen, Remedios and Rolando, all surnamed Gregorio) of the deceased Emilio Gregorio "as his compulsory heirs to substitute the said plaintiff."Pursuant to the said decision, OCT No. 9587 in the name of Emilio Gregorio was cancelled and a new certificate of title, TCT No. S-91911 in favor of his heirs was issued.

On April 29, 1986,TCT Nos.107727, 107728 and 107729(covering Lot 1) was issued by the Register of Deeds of Pasay City in the name of the Heirs of Emilio Gregorio.Subsequently, by virtue of a Partition Agreement with Herminia Galman, the property was subdivided into two lots between the heirs of Gregorio (Lot 1-A consisting of 20,000 sq. ms.) and Galman (Lot 1-B consisting of 27,536 sq. ms.).Consequently, TCT No. 107729 was cancelled and in lieu thereof TCT No. 4635 in the name of the heirs of Gregorio and TCT No. 4636 in the name of Herminia Galman, were issued by the Register of Deeds of Las Pis.

Undeniably, the duplication of titles over Lot 1, Psu-204785 with the issuance of TCT No. S-91911(transfer from OCT No. 9587) and TCT No. 107729 and its derivative title, TCT No. 4635, both in the name of the same owners, gave rise to the present controversy.

ISSUE: Is petitioner entitled to the OCT of the Land?

HELD: Quieting of title is a common lawremedyfor the removal of any cloud, doubt, or uncertainty affecting title to real property.In an action for quieting of title, the plaintiffs must show not only that there is a cloud or contrary interest over the subject real property, but that they have a valid title to it. The Court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant and the other claimants, not only to place things in their proper places, and to make the claimant, who has no rights to said immovable, respect and not disturb the one so entitled, but also for the benefit of both, so that whoever has the right will see every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he can thereafter fearlessly introduce the improvements he may desire, as well as use, and even abuse the property as he deems fit.

Petitioner anchors its claim over the disputed lot on TCT No. T-8129 issued on February 20, 1989 which is a transfer from TCT No. 107729 in the name of the Heirs of Emilio Gregorio, from whom it bought the property in January 1989.On the other hand, private respondent acquired the same land by virtue of the Officers Deed of Conveyance dated August 15, 1989 executed in their favor pursuant to the final judgment in Civil Case No. 35305 of the RTC of Pasig, Branch 164 and was issued TCT No. T-27380 in his name on December 12, 1991.

In Degollacion v. Register of Deeds of Cavite we held that if two certificates of title purport to include the same land, whether wholly or partly, the better approach is to trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title were derived.Citing our earlier ruling inMathay v. Court of Appeals we declared:

x x x where two transfer certificates of title have been issued on different dates, to two different persons, for the same parcel of land even if both are presumed to be title holders in good faith,it does not necessarily follow that he who holds the earlier title should prevail.On the assumption that there was regularity in the registration leading to the eventual issuance of subject transfer certificates of title,the better approach isto trace the original certificates from which the certificates of title in dispute were derived.Should there be only one common original certificate of title, x x x, the transfer certificate issued on an earlier date along the line must prevail, absent any anomaly or irregularity tainting the process of registration.

From the recitals in the transfer certificates of title respectively held by petitioner and private respondent, as well as the records of the LRA, there appears not just one but two different original certificates.TCT No. T-8129 on its face shows that the land covered was originally registered as OCT No. 5678 under Decree No. N-111862 (Velasquez), while TCT No. T-27380 indicates the original registration as OCT No. 9587 under Decree No. N-141990 (Gregorio).Both the LRC and CA found TCT No. 107729 and its derivative titles TCT Nos. 4635 and T-8129 as void and inexistent since OCT No. 5678 in the name of Velasquez had been nullified under the order for execution of the final judgment in LRC Case Nos. N-5053 and N-5416 in which Gregorio prevailed.Consequently, the lower courts upheld the title of private respondent which alone can be traced to the original certificate in the name of Emilio Gregorio (OCT No. 9578). DENIED.