CASE DIGEST: Republic vs. Millado

G.R. No. 194066 : June 4, 2014




Respondent filed a petition for reconstitution of Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 2108 issued in favor of the following, in undivided equal shares: Isabel Bautista, single; Sixto Bautista, married to Elena Ela; and Apolonia Bautista, single. Respondent alleged that he and his wife are the vendees of the property covered by the said title, by virtue of a Deed of Extra-Judicial Settlement of Estate with Sale executed by the heirs of spouses Sixto and Elena Bautista on December 29, 2006. He further averred that the owner's duplicate of OCT No. 2108 was in his possession while he was securing clearances for the transfer of title in their names but he either left or misplaced the same.

Respondent claimed that despite efforts he exerted to locate the owners duplicate of OCT No. 2108, he was unable to find it. Upon verification with the Registry of Deeds, the original copy of OCT No. 2108 was likewise not found in the files of said office, as per the certification issued by the Register of Deeds for the Province of Zambales stating that said title was "declared missing as per Inventory dated Dec. 17, 1981 and that despite diligent effort to locate it, the same could not be found."

The trial court ordered respondent to submit the names and addresses of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, the owners of the adjoining properties and all persons who may have any interest in the property. In compliance, respondent submitted only the names and addresses of the owners/actual occupants of the adjoining lots. Thereupon, the trial court issued an Order setting the hearing of the petition on September 11, 2007.

Considering that the National Printing Office could no longer accommodate the publication of the notice for the scheduled hearing date, the trial court issued an Amended Order setting a new hearing date for the petition, December 13, 2007, and directing that (a) the notice/order be published twice in the successive issues of the Official Gazette, posted in the premises of the subject property, the main entrance of the Provincial Capitol and at the entrance of the municipal building of San Narciso, Zambales; (b) copies of the notice/order together with the petition be sent to the proper parties; (c) the LRA thruits Records Section submit its report within 30 days from receipt of the order/notice, pursuant to Sections 10 and 12 of LRC Circular No. 35; and (d) the Register of Deeds to submit her verification in accordance with the aforesaid rule, within 30 days from receipt of notice/order.

At the hearing, JovitoCalimlim, Jr., Records Officer of the Registry of Deeds of Zambales, testified that based on the inventory files of titles in their office, OCT No. 2108 was declared missing as of December 17, 1981, with no pending transaction, per verification from the Primary Entry Book. Upon being notified that the owners duplicate copy of said title was likewise lost, they advised respondent to file a petition for reconstitution with the court.

Respondent also confirmed the loss of the owners duplicate copy of OCT No. 2108 sometime in February or March 2007 while he was securing clearances from the Bureau of Internal Revenue for the payment of capital gains tax. He said that at that time he had a bunch of documents in an envelope but he forgot about it. He went back to the said office looking for the envelope but there were many people going in and out of said office. He secured a certification from the Register of Deeds on the lost or missing original OCT No. 2108 in their files, and also a certification from the LRA regarding the issuance of the decree of registration.

After the formal offer of documentary evidence showing compliance with publication and posting of notice requirements, and receipt of the Report from the LRA, the case was submitted for decision.

The trial court rendered its decision granting the petition for reconstitution.

The Republic of the Philippines (petitioner) thru the Solicitor General, appealed to the CA, arguing that the trial court gravely erred in granting the petition for reconstitution despite non-compliance with all the jurisdictional requisites. It pointed out that respondent failed to notify all the interested parties, particularly the heirs of the registered owners.

By Decision dated October 13, 2010,the CA dismissed petitioners appeal and affirmed the trial courts ruling. It held that the respondent had satisfactorily complied with the statutory notice requirements so that the adjoining owners and any other persons who may have an interest in the property may be duly notified of the proceedings and given the opportunity to oppose the petition.

ISSUE: Whether the Court of Appeals erred in not ruling that respondent failed to comply with all the jurisdictional requisites for reconstitution of title.

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is overruled.

CIVIL LAW: reconstitution proceedings

The nature of judicial reconstitution proceedings is the restoration of an instrument which is supposed to have been lost or destroyed in its original form and condition. The purpose of the reconstitution of title or any document is to have the same reproduced, after proper proceedings in the same form they were when the loss or destruction occurred.

The registered owners appearing in the title sought to be reconstituted, or in this case, their surviving heirs, are certainly interested parties who should be notified of reconstitution proceeding under Section 12 in relation to Section 13 of R.A. 26. Indeed, for petitions based on sources enumerated in Sections 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(f), 3(c), 3(d), 3(e) and 3(f), Section 13 adds another requirement aside from publication and posting of notice of hearing: that the notice be mailed to occupants, owners of adjoining lots, and all other persons who may have an interest in the property. Notwithstanding the sale supposedly effected by vendors claiming to be heirs of the registered owners, they remain as interested parties entitled to notice of judicial reconstitution proceedings.

It is settled that the actual notice requirement in Section 13 in relation to Section 12 of R.A. 26 is mandatory and jurisdictional.

As such, the court upon which the petition for reconstitution of title is filed is duty-bound to examine thoroughly the petition for reconstitution of title and review the record and the legal provisions laying down the germane jurisdictional requirements. Thus, we have held that notwithstanding compliance with the notice publication, the requirement of actual notice to the occupants and the owners of the adjoining property under Sections 12 and 13 of R.A. 26 is itself mandatory to vest jurisdiction upon the court in a petition for reconstitution of title and essential in order to allow said court to take the case on its merits. The non-observance of the requirement invalidates the whole reconstitution proceedings in the trial court. Republic of the Phil. v. Court of Appeals, 368 Phil. 412

For non-compliance with the actual notice requirement to all other persons who may have interest in the property, in this case the registered owners and/or their heirs, in accordance with Section 13 in relation to Section 12 of RA 26, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over L.R.A. Case No. RTC-237-I. The proceedings therein were therefore a nullity and the January 14, 2009 Decision was void.