"x x x.
Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches. According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.
In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CAs finding that:
As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALIs predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45) years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995. As such, it is the Courts firmly held view that plaintiffs-appellees claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches.
Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also barred. Although plaintiffs-appellees complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALIs predecessor-in-interest. It is now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in anothers name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice.Since ALIs title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.
By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. It does not involve mere lapse or passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit. In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALIs title was derived, for forty-five (45) years. To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by the precise provisions of P.D. 1529, thus:
SECTION 32. Review of decree of registration; Innocent purchaser for value The decree of registration shall not be reopened or revised xxx subject, however, to the right of any person xxx to file in the proper Court of First Instance a petition for reopening and review of the decree of registration not later than one year from and after the date of entry of such decree of registration, but in no case shall such petition be entertained by the court where an innocent purchaser for value has acquired the land or an interest therein, whose rights may be prejudiced. Whenever the phrase innocent purchaser for value or an equivalent phrase occurs in this Decree, it shall be deemed to include and innocent lessee, mortgagee or other encumbrances for value.
x x x."
SPOUSES MORRIS CARPO and SOCORRO CARPO,
- versus -
AYALA LAND, INCORPORATED,
G.R. No. 166577
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.
February 3, 2010