CASE DIGEST: Leovares vs. Valdez

G.R. No. 169985: June 15, 2011

MODESTO LEOVERAS, Petitioner, v. CASIMERO VALDEZ,., Respondent.



Maria Sta. Maria and Dominga Manangan were the registered owners - three-fourths () and one-fourth ()pro-indiviso, respectively - of a parcel of land located in Poblacion, Manaoag, Pangasinan, covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 24695, with an area of 28,171 square meters.

In September 1932, Sta. Maria sold her three-fourths () share to Benigna Llamas. The sale was duly annotated at the back of OCT No. 24695. When Benigna died in 1944,she willed her three-fourths () share equally to her sisters Alejandra Llamas and Josefa Llamas. Thus, Alejandra and Josefa each owned one-half () of Benignas three-fourths () share.

On June 14, 1969, Alejandras heirs sold their predecessors one-half () share (roughly equivalent to 10,564 square meters) to the respondent,as evidenced by a Deed of Absolute Sale.

Also onJune 14, 1969, Josefa sold her own one-half () share (subject property) to the respondent and the petitioner, as evidenced by another Deed of Absolute Sale. On even date, the respondent and the petitioner executed an Agreement,allotting their portions of the subject property.

On June 8, 1977, the petitioner and the respondent executed an Affidavit of Adverse Claim over the subject property. The parties took possession of their respective portions of the subject property and declared it in their name for taxation purposes.

In 1996, the respondent asked the Register of Deeds of Lingayen, Pangasinan on the requirements for the transfer of title over the portion allotted to him on the subject property. To his surprise, the respondent learned that the petitioner had already obtained in his name two transfer certificates of title (TCTs):one, TCT No. 195812 - covering an area of 3,020 square meters; and two, TCT No. 195813 - covering an area of 1,004 square meters (or a total of 4,024 square meters).

The Register of Deeds informed the respondent that they could not find the record of OCT No. 24695;

On June 21, 1996, the respondent filed a complaint for Annulment of Title, Reconveyance and Damages against the petitioner, seeking the reconveyance of the 1,004-square meter portion (disputed property) covered by TCT No. 195813, on the ground that the petitioner is entitled only to the 3,020 square meters identified in the parties Agreement.

The respondent sought the nullification of the petitioners titles by contesting the authenticity of the petitioners documents.

ISSUE: Whether the action for reconveyance should prosper


CIVIL LAW: Land Titles , Reconveyance

An action for reconveyance is a legal and equitable remedy granted to the rightful landowner, whose land was wrongfully or erroneously registered in the name of another, to compel the registered owner to transfer or reconvey the land to him.The plaintiff in this action must allege and prove his ownership of the land in dispute and the defendants erroneous, fraudulent or wrongful registration of the property.

We rule that the respondent adequately proved his ownership of the disputed property by virtue of the (i) Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Josefa in favor of the parties; (ii) the parties Affidavit of Adverse Claim; and (iii) the parties Agreement, which cover the subject property.

The petitioner does not dispute the due execution and the authenticity
of these documents, particularly the Agreement. However, he claims that since the Agreement does not reflect the true intention of the parties, the Affidavit was subsequently executed in order to reflect the parties true intention.

In the present petition, however, the petitioner made a damaging admission that the Benigna Deeds Fabricated, thereby completely bolstering the respondents cause of action for reconveyance of the disputed property on the ground of fraudulent registration of title. Since the Affidavit merely reflects what is embodied in the Benigna Deed, the petitioners admission, coupled with the respondents denial of his purported signature in the Affidavit, placed in serious doubt the reliability of this document, supposedly the bedrock of the petitioners defense.

Curiously, if the parties truly intended to include in the petitioners share the disputed property, the petitioner obviously need not go at length of fabricating a deed of sale to support his application for the transfer of title of his rightful portion of the subject property. Notably, there is nothing in the Affidavit (that supposedly corrected the mistake in the earlier Agreement) that supports the petitioners claim that the partition of the subject property is based on the parties actual possession.

Note that the RTC dismissed the complaint based on the respondents alleged failure to prove the spuriousness of the documents submitted by the petitioner to the Register of Deeds. However, by admitting the presentation of a false deed in securing his title, the petitioner rendered moot the issue of authenticity of the Benigna Deed and relieved the respondent of the burden of proving its falsity as a ground to nullify the petitioners titles.

By fraudulently causing the transfer of the registration of title over the disputed property in his name, the petitioner holds the title to this disputed property in trust for the benefit of the respondent as the true owner;registration does not vest title but merely confirms or records title already existing and vested. The Torrens system of registration cannot be used to protect a usurper from the true owner, nor can it be used as a shield for the commission of fraud, or to permit one to enrich oneself at the expense of others.Hence,the CA correctly ordered the reconveyance of the disputed property, covered by TCT No. 195813, to the respondent.