RODOLFO V. FRANCISCO vs. EMILIANA M. ROJAS, and the legitimate heirs of JOSE A. ROJAS, namely: JOSE FERDINAND M. ROJAS II, ROLANDO M. ROJAS, JOSE M. ROJAS, JR., CARMELITA ROJAS-JOSE, VICTOR M. ROJAS, and LOURDES M. ROJAS, all represented by JOSE FERDINAND M. ROJAS II, G.R. No. 167120, April 23, 2014
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In Our November 21, 1991 Decision, We upheld the findings of the courts below that Decreto No. 6145 and TCT No. 23377 are authentic. However, the effects of laches and waiver were applied, thus:
Anent the alternative prayer of the petitioner, We find no legal basis for the declaration of the questioned documents as valid only with respect to such portions of the property not possessed and owned by [bona fide] occupants with indefeasible registered titles of ownership or with lengths of possession which had ripened to ownership. Having been found valid and genuine, Decreto No. 6145 therefore, possessed all the attributes of a decree of registration. Section 31 of the Property Registration Decree (P.D. 1529), second paragraph provides:
The decree of registration shall bind the land and quiet title thereto, subject only to such exceptions or liens as may be provided by law. It shall be conclusive upon and against all persons, including the National Government and all branches thereof, whether mentioned by name in the application or notice, the same being included in the general description "To all whom it may concern".
Likewise, TCT No. 23377, having been found true and authentic also possessed all the attributes of a torrens certificate of title. By express provision of Section 47 of P.D 1529, no title to registered land in derogation to that of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse possession. To declare that the decree and its derivative titles is valid but only with respect to the extent of the area described in the decree not possessed by occupants with indefeasible registered titles or to possessors with such lengths of possession which had ripened to ownership is to undermine the people's faith in the torrens titles being conclusive as to all matters contained therein. The certificate serves as evidence of an indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person whose names appear therein. After the expiration of the one year period from the issuance of the decree of registration upon which it is based, it becomes incontrovertible (see case of Pamintuan v. San Agustin, 43 Phil. 558; Reyes and Nadres v. Borbon and Director of Lands, 50 Phil. 791, Sy Juco v. Francisco, O.G. p. 2186, April 15, 1957, Brizuela v. de Vargas, 53 O.G. 2822, May 15, 1957), unless subsequent to the issuance of the decree a third party may be able to show that he acquired title thereto by any of the means recognized by law.
It should be noted however, that prior to the reconstruction of TCT No. 23377 on March 29, 1976, [there was] no record in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal show of the existence of any registered title covering the land area subject of this case. The Court takes judicial notice of the fact that prior to said date, certain portions of the area were in the possession of occupants who successfully obtained certificates of titles over the area occupied by them. There were also occupants who had not obtained certificates of titles over the area possessed by them but the lengths of their possession were long enough to amount to ownership, had the land been in fact unregistered. This fact is admitted by the parties.
Although prescription is unavailing against private respondents because they are holders of a valid certificate of title, the equitable presumption of laches may be applied against them for failure to assert their ownership for such an unreasonable length of time (only in 1976) against subsequent occupants. The records showed that it was only in 1974 when they tried to obtain an original certificate of title. When rebuffed by the LRC, they applied for a reconstitution of a TCT only in 1976.
In the recent case of Lola v. CA, G.R. No. L-46573, Nov. 13, 1986, 145 SCRA 439, citing the cases of Pabalete v. Echarri, Jr., G.R. No. L-24357, 37 SCRA 518, 521, 522 quoting Mejia de Lucas v. Gamponia, 100 Phil. 277, it was held that "although the defense of prescription is unavailing to the petitioners (Pablo and Maxima Lola) because, admittedly, the title to Lot No. 5517 is still registered in the name of the respondent (Dolores Zabala), still the petitioners have acquired title to it by virtue of the equitable principle of laches due to the respondent's failure to assert her claim and ownership for thirty two (32) years."
Moreover, conscious of the resulting "largescale dispossession and social displacement of several hundreds of bona fide occupants and their families" which the Solicitor General pointed out, the private respondent agreed unanimously to accept the alternative prayer of the petitioner in their joint memorandum (pp. 624-636, Rollo). This agreement by private respondents takes the form of a waiver. Though a valid and clear right over the property exists in their favors, they seemingly have voluntarily abandoned the same favor of: 1) those who possessed and actually occupied specific portions and obtained torrens certificates of titles, and 2) those who possessed certain specific portions for such lengths of time as to amount to full ownership. The waiver, not being contrary to law, morals, good customs and good policy, is valid and binding on the private respondents.
However, with respect to the second set of possessors, whose alleged bona fide occupancy of specific portions of the property is not evidenced by Torrens Titles, it is imperative that their claims/occupancy be duly proven in an appropriate proceeding.
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