Saturday, July 2, 2011

Land titles; reconstitution of titles; proper procedure; evidence required.

G.R. No. 182980


BIENVENIDO CASTILLO,


G.R. No. 182980

Petitioner,





Present:

- versus -


CARPIO,

DE CASTRO,

ABAD,

MENDOZA,

SERENO,

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Respondent.


Promulgated:

June 22, 2011

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

x x x.

Issues

The following were assigned as errors of the appellate court:

I. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in holding that the documentary evidence presented by petitioner in the lower court are insufficient to support the reconstitution prayed for.

II. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in finding that petitioner failed to establish the circumstances which led to the loss of his duplicate owner’s copy of TCT No. T-16755.

III. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in finding that there is no merit in the motion for new trial filed by petitioner.26

The Court’s Ruling

The petition must fail. There can be no reconstitution as the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over the present case.

Process of Reconstitution of

Transfer Certificates of Title under R.A. No. 26

Section 3 of R.A. No. 26 enumerates the sources from which transfer certificates of title shall be reconstituted. Section 3 reads:

Sec. 3. Transfer certificates of title shall be reconstituted from such of the sources hereunder enumerated as may be available, in the following order:

(a) The owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title;

(b) The co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s 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) The deed of transfer or other document, on file in the registry of deeds, containing the description of the property, or an authenticated copy thereof, showing that its original had been registered, and pursuant to which the lost or destroyed transfer 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.

Bienvenido already admitted that he cannot comply with Section 3(a) to 3(e), and that 3(f) is his last recourse. Bienvenido, through Fernando’s testimony, presented a photocopy of TCT No. T-16755 before the trial court. The owner’s original duplicate copy was lost, while the original title on file with the Register of Deeds of Malolos, Bulacan was burned in a fire on 7 March 1987. The property was neither mortgaged nor leased at the time of Bienvenido’s loss of the owner’s original duplicate copy.

Section 12 of R.A. No. 26 describes the requirements for a petition for reconstitution. Section 12 reads:

Sec. 12. Petitions for reconstitution from sources enumerated in Sections 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(f), 3(c), 3(d), and/or 3(f) of this Act, shall be filed with the proper Court of First Instance, by the registered owner, his assigns, or any person having an interest in the property. The petition shall state or contain, among other things, the following: (a) that the owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title had been lost or destroyed; (b) that no co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s duplicate had been issued, or, if any had been issued, the same had been lost or destroyed; (c) the location and boundaries of the property; (d) the nature and description of the building or improvements, if any, which do not belong to the owner of the land, and the names and addresses of the owners of such buildings or improvements; (e) the names and addresses of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, of the owners of the adjoining properties and of all persons who may have any interest in the property; (f) a detailed description of the encumbrances, if any, affecting the property; and (g) a statement that no deeds or other instruments affecting the property have been presented for registration, or if there be any, the registration thereof has not been accomplished, as yet. All the documents, or authenticated copies thereof, to be introduced in evidence in support to the petition for reconstitution shall be attached thereto and filed with the same: Provided, That in case the reconstitution is to be made exclusively from sources enumerated in Section 2(f) or 3(f) of this Act, the petition shall be further accompanied with a plan and technical description of the property duly approved by the Chief of the General Land Registration office (now Commission of Land Registration) or with a certified copy of the description taken from a prior certificate of title covering the same property.

We compared the requirements of Section 12 to the allegations in Bienvenido’s petition. Bienvenido’s petition complied with items (a), (b), (f) and (g): in paragraph 5 of the petition, he alleged the loss of his copy of TCT No. T-16755; paragraph 6 declared that no co-owner’s copy of the duplicate title has been issued; paragraph 10 stated that the property covered by the lost TCT is free from liens and encumbrances; and paragraph 11 stated that there are no deeds or instruments presented for or pending registration with the Register of Deeds. There was substantial compliance as to item (c): the location of the property is mentioned in paragraph 2; while the boundaries of the property, although not specified in the petition, refer to an annex attached to the petition. The petition did not mention anything pertaining to item (d). There was a failure to fully comply with item (e). By Fernando’s admission, there exist two other co-owners of the property covered by TCT No. T-16755. Fernando’s siblings Emma and Elpidio were not mentioned anywhere in the petition.

Section 13 of R.A. No. 26 prescribes the requirements for a notice of hearing of the petition:

Sec. 13. The court shall cause a notice of the petition, filed under the preceding section, to be published, at the expense of the petitioner, twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette, and to be posted on the main entrance of the provincial building and of the municipal building of the municipality or city in which the land is situated, at least thirty days prior to the date of hearing. The court shall likewise cause a copy of the notice to be sent, by registered mail or otherwise, at the expense of the petitioner, to every person named therein whose address is known, at least thirty days prior to the date of the hearing. Said notice shall state, among other things, the number of the lost or destroyed certificate of title, if known, the name of the registered owner, the names of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, the owners of the adjoining properties and all other interested parties, the location area and boundaries of the property, and the date on which all persons having any interest therein must appear and file their claim or objections to the petition. The petitioner shall, at the hearing, submit proof of the publication, posting and service of the notice as directed by the court.

The trial court’s 4 October 2002 Order was indeed posted in the places mentioned in Section 13, and published twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette: Volume 99, Number 2 dated 13 January 2003 and Volume 99, Number 3 dated 20 January 2003. The last issue was released by the National Printing Office on 21 January 2003.27 The notice, however, did not state Felisa as a registered co-owner. Neither did the notice identify Fernando’s siblings Emma and Elpidio as interested parties.

The non-compliance with the requirements prescribed in Sections 12 and 13 of R.A. No. 26 is fatal. Hence, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the petition for reconstitution. We cannot stress enough that our jurisprudence is replete with rulings regarding the mandatory character of the requirements of R.A. No. 26. As early as 1982, we ruled:

Republic Act No. 26 entitled “An act providing a special procedure for the reconstitution of Torrens Certificates of Title lost or destroyed” approved on September 25, 1946 confers jurisdiction or authority to the Court of First Instance to hear and decide petitions for judicial reconstitution. The Act specifically provides the special requirements and mode of procedure that must be followed before the court can properly act, assume and acquire jurisdiction or authority over the petition and grant the reconstitution prayed for. These requirements and procedure are mandatory. The Petition for Reconstitution must allege certain specific jurisdictional facts; the notice of hearing must be published in the Official Gazette and posted in particular places and the same sent or notified to specified persons. Sections 12 and 13 of the Act provide specifically the mandatory requirements and procedure to be followed.28

We cannot simply dismiss these defects as “technical.” Liberal construction of the Rules of Court does not apply to land registration cases.29 Indeed, to further underscore the mandatory character of these jurisdictional requirements, the Rules of Court do not apply to land registration cases.30 In all cases where the authority of the courts to proceed is conferred by a statute, and when the manner of obtaining jurisdiction is prescribed by a statute, the mode of proceeding is mandatory, and must be strictly complied with, or the proceeding will be utterly void.31 When the trial court lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of a case, it lacks authority over the whole case and all its aspects.32 All the proceedings before the trial court, including its order granting the petition for reconstitution, are void for lack of jurisdiction.33

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the Decision dated 23 October 2007 and the Resolution dated 7 May 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 81916.

SO ORDERED.

* Designated additional member per Special Order No. 1006 dated 10 June 2011.

** Designated additional member per Raffle dated 15 June 2011.

1 Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Rollo, pp. 9-32.

2 Rollo, pp. 34-38. Penned by Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe with Justices Portia AliƱo- Hormachuelos and Lucas P. Bersamin, concurring.

3 Id. at 44-45.

4 Id. at 40-42.

5 Records, pp. 3-5.

6 Id. at 15.

7 Id. at 16.

8 Id. at 18.

9 Id. at 19-27.

10 Id. at 28.

11 Id. at 32.

12 Id. at 34-36.

13 Id. at 39.

14 Id. at 41-42.

15 Id. at 46-48.

16 TSN, 12 March 2003, p. 2.

17 Id. at 3-15.

18 Records, p. 69.

19 Rollo, p. 42.

20 Rollo, p. 38.

21 CA rollo, pp. 111-119.

22 Id. at 124-125.

23 Id. at 126.

24 Id. at 127-130.

25 Id. at 158-159.

26 Rollo, pp. 16-17.

27 Records, p. 41. Certified by Director IV Melanio S. Torio.

28 Tahanan Development Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 203 Phil. 652, 681 (1982).

29 Section 6, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

30 Section 4, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

31 Caltex Filipino Managers & Supervisors Ass’n. v. CIR, 131 Phil. 1022, 1030 (1968).

32 Register of Deeds of Malabon v. RTC, Malabon, MM, Br. 170, G.R. No. 88623, 5 February 1990, 181 SCRA 788, citing Pinza v. Aldovino, 134 Phil. 217 (1968).

33 Allama v. Republic, G.R. No. 88226, 26 February 1992, 206 SCRA 600.

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