SC affirms resolution on land titles

http://www.mb.com.ph/node/202335

By REY G. PANALIGAN

The Supreme Court (SC) declared final Tuesday its March 31, 2009 resolution that affirmed the validity of the titles of the Manotok Realty, Inc., the Manotok Estate Corp., and the Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc. over about 100 hectares of prime land in Malabon City.

In a full court resolution, the SC ruled to deny with finality the motion for partial reconsideration filed by Manotok Estate Corp. “as the basic issues raised therein have been passed upon by this court and no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned resolution.”

It further ruled that “no further pleadings will be entertained” on the case.

In a resolution written by the now retired Justice Dante O. Tinga, the SC adopted the findings of the Court of Appeals (CA) that established the right of ownership of the school and the Manotok firms over the 100 hectares of land covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 994 that was registered on May 3, 1917 and not on April 19, 1917.

With the ruling, the SC nullified the certificates of title over the property in the names of the late Jose Dimson and his successors in interest, and CLT Realty Development Corp. whose titles over OCT No. 994 were traced back to April 19, 1917.

“In view of the established rights of ownership of both the Manotoks and Araneta over the contested properties, we find that the imputed flaws on their titles cannot defeat the valid claims of the Manotoks and Araneta over the disputed portions of the Maysilo Estate,” the SC said.

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Court upholds Araneta, Manotok claims

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news2_april6_2009

Court upholds Araneta, Manotok claims

By Rey E. Requejo

THE Supreme Court ended more than 30 years of litigation as it declared valid the land titles held by the Araneta and Manotok clans over 70 percent of the 1,342-hectare Maysilo Estate.

The high court upheld the findings of the Court of Appeals’ Special Division in an en banc resolution written by Associate Justice Dante Tinga.

The appellate court had established the rights of ownership of the Araneta Institute of Agriculture Inc., Manotok Realty Inc., and Manotok Estate Corp. over the pieces of property that were registered on May 3, 1917.

Eight justices concurred with the ruling, while Chief Justice Renato Puno, Associate Justices Consuelo Ynarez-Santiago, Antonio Carpio and Eduardo Nachura did not participate in the deliberations. Associate Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez was on leave.

The Court rejected the titles to the pieces of property held by the deceased Jose Dimson, his successors, and CLT Realty Development Corp.

“In view of the established rights of ownership of both the Manotoks and Araneta over the contested properties, we find that the imputed flaws on their titles cannot defeat the valid claims of the Manotoks and Araneta over the disputed portions of the Maysilo Estate,” the high court said as it quoted the appellate court’s report on Nov. 26, 2008.

The appellate court had said that the titles being held by Dimson had all been derived from the May 3, 1917 registered title.

It said that the Aranetas’ claim had been “well substantiated and proven to be superior to that of Dimson’s

One transfer certificate on the property covers a parcel of land measuring 581,872 square meters, while another covers four parcels of land with a total land area of 390,383 square meters.

The appellate court also noted that portions of the lot being disputed by the Manotoks and CLT Realty were expropriated in 1947. And because those were for resale to tenants, the Manotoks were able to establish some of their titles derived from those that had been expropriated.

“The Court has verified that the titles [of the Manotoks], as stated by the Special Division, sufficiently indicate that they could be traced back to the titles acquired by the Republic when it expropriated portions of the Maysilo Estate in the 1940s,” the Court said.

‘‘On the other hand, the Manotok titles that were affirmed by the Special Division are traceable to the titles of the Republic and thus have benefited, as they should, from the cleansing effect the expropriation had on whatever flaws that attached to the previous titles.”

On Dec. 14, 2007, the high court affirmed the validity of the May 3, 1917 registered title as the only genuine title of the disputed property stretching over the cities of Malabon, Caloocan and Quezon.

That decision set aside the Nov. 29, 2005 decision of the Court’s Third Division upholding the Court of Appeals, which in turn affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial Court that declared as valid the title 994 issued on April 19, 1917.

The high court ruled that “there is only one title No. 994: the mother title that was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on May 3, 1917, and that should be the date that should be reckoned as the date of registration of the title.”

The Court of Appeals had been mandated to determine, among other things, which of the contending parties were able to trace back their claims of title to title 994 dated May 3, 1917, and whether the imputed flaws in the titles of Manotok Realty Inc. and Manotok Estate Corp., and the Araneta Institute of Agriculture Inc. were borne by the evidence.

The Manotoks and Aranetas had sought a reversal of the Nov. 29, 2005 high court decision that effectively nullified the land titles in their names.

The questioned appelate court rulings affirmed the lower court’s decisions awarding to CLT Realty and the late Jose Dimson the properties being claimed by the Manotoks and Aranetas.

Dimson had claimed that he was the absolute owner of 50-hectares of land at the Maysilo Estate in Potrero, Malabon. The lower court then ruled in his favor, prompting the Aranetas to appeal to the appelate court, which in turn affirmed the lower court’s decision.

The Aranetas appealed to the high court when the appelate court also denied its motion for reconsideration.

On Aug. 10, 1992, CLT sought to recover from Manotok Realty Inc. and Manotok Estate Corp. Lot 26 of the Maysilo Estate in an action filed before the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court, Branch 129. The court granted its petition, prompting the Manotoks to appeal to the Court of Appeals, which turned them down.

The Manotoks then elevated the case to the high court, which then consolidated the two cases.

Manotoks fighting two land battles

AS I SEE IT
Manotoks fighting two land battles
By Neal Cruz
Inquirer
Last updated 00:16am (Mla time) 11/16/2007

Most Read

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view_article.php?article_id=101192

    Now I am ready to believe that the Batasan blast was caused by methane gas.

    Why? Because of three things:

    1. Methane is produced by rotting garbage. The Batasan is full of dirt and trash, di ba?

    2. Methane is produced by shit, and members of the Batasan are full of shit.

    3. Methane is produced in a septic tank. The Batasan is one big septic tank.

    * * *

    Congressmen can now say they earned the “cash gifts” (translation: bribes) distributed in Malacañang.

    Malacañang can say the “distribution” was worth it.

    * * *

    The Manotok family is fighting land battles on two fronts: in the case involving the Maysilo Estate in Malabon-Caloocan-Valenzuela-Quezon City; and in the case involving the Manotok-Barque in Matandang Balara, Quezon City. Being prime property, the two land areas are worth billions of pesos. The portion of Maysilo Estate being contested is 300 hectares; the Matandang Balara property, beside the Ayala Heights subdivision and the Capitol Golf Course, is 34 hectares.

    The Supreme Court has already ruled on the two cases — against the Manotoks. But the family has successfully made the tribunal reopen the cases. The final Supreme Court decision will have a big impact on the country’s Torrens titling system.

    The Manotoks have sent me two letters explaining their side on the cases after I devoted two columns on them. This is their version of the cases:

    The Maysilo Estate case — More than 300 hectares of the 1,660-hectare estate are being claimed by Jose B. Dimson, a lawyer who filed his claim several years ago. Dimson says that Original Certificate of Title (OCT) 994, the mother title of 25 percent of the property he is claiming, (the bigger portion is being claimed by the so-called Rivera heirs of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal) was issued on April 19, 1917. On the other hand, the Manotoks and Aranetas have OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917. The Supreme Court has ruled that since the Rivera title antedates that of the Manotok-Araneta title, then the earlier title is superior.

    The Land Registration Authority (LRA), however, has said the Dimson OCT is spurious, that it is non-existent and that it could have been “an elaborate scam perpetrated at the Caloocan City Register of Deeds.” The register of deeds, lawyer Yolanda Alfonso, and her deputy, Norberto Vasquez Jr., admitted during a Senate investigation that they changed the date of the Rivera title to April 19, 1917 for unexplained reasons, for which reason both of them have been charged criminally.

    Testimonies in previous court cases also established that Vidal was only 9 years old when Decree 36455 over the land was issued on Dec. 3, 1912, while her supposed grandson, Bartolome Rivera, was already 65 years old when he testified in a Pasig court in 1963. “This is a fantastic case of the grandson being older than the grandmother,” said a report of the Land Registration Commission (now the LRA) in 1981.

    Bartolome was the only surviving son of Severo Rivera, a son of Vidal who died in 1907. The mother was only 4 years old when she gave birth to Severo!

    * * *

    The other case, Manotok vs Barque, also concerns two conflicting certificates of titles to 34 hectares of prime land in Quezon City, known as the Manotok Compound. The Monotoks, who actually live on the property, claim that they acquired the land from the government in 1920. The other title is held by the heirs of Homer Barque who is said to have bought the land in 1975.

    After the 1988 fire that destroyed the Quezon City Register of Deeds records, the Manotoks applied for reconstitution and obtained the reconstituted title in 1991. The Barques applied for reconstitution of their own title in 1996. This started the case that is now with the Supreme Court en banc.

    The LRA ordered the reconstitution of the Barque title. The Manotoks appealed to the Court of Appeals who sustained the LRA and ordered the cancellation of the Manotok title. The Manotoks went to the Supreme Court, raising a number of issues:

    1. Whether the LRA has jurisdiction to rule on the validity of the Manotok title.

    2. Whether the Court of Appeals may assume jurisdiction over the cases.

    3. Whether the Court of Appeals may order the cancellation of the Manotok title and the reconstitution of the Barque title.

    In a majority decision penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, the Supreme Court’s First Division:

    1. Upheld the LRA decision declaring the Barque title as genuine (based on the owner’s duplicate certificate of title) and the Manotok title as spurious. It added that the LRA has jurisdiction to act on petitions for administrative reconstitution. Logically, the Court said, the LRA can declare a title sham or valid on its face.

    2. Ruled that the Court of Appeals properly exercised its appellate jurisdiction over the judgment of the LRA. “No useful purpose will be served if the determination of an issue is remanded to the trial court only to have its decision raised again to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court,” it said.

    3. Said that the Manotoks were not deprived of “their property” without due process when the Court of Appeals ordered the cancellation of their title even without a direct proceeding in the Regional Trial Court. By opposing the petition for reconstitution and by submitting their reconstituted title, the Manotoks acquiesced to the authority of the reconstituting officer, the LRA, and the Court of Appeals, and recognized their authority to pass judgment on their title.

    Although the Supreme Court decision has become final and executory, the Manotoks were able to have the Court en banc reopen the case. This is now the case that the Supreme Court has to resolve.

    MAYSILO: LANDMARK DECISION

    LANDMARK DECISON

    By Adrian E. Cristobal

    Manila Bulletin

    IN the next few days, the Supreme Court will decide once and for all the Maysilo land dispute, which has been going on in the past 47 years. Affected are thousands of individuals who have been in peaceful possession of their property within the Maysilo estate, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, government lands (450 hectares) covering the Bonifacio Memorial Circle, portions of the North Expressway up to EDSA and McArthur Highway, private institutions such as the Manila Central University, De La Salle Araneta University, and University of the East, and private commercial establishments such as the Ever Grand Central, Araneta Square, Bonifacio Market, Eternal Garden Memorial Park, including 64 barangays in Caloocan.

    Immediately affected are the Manotok family and the Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc., whose possession of the Maysilo property since the 1940s was challenged by Jose Dimson, a lawyer, in the 1960s. According to records, Dimson and his assignee, the CLT Development Corporation, in a series of legal actions, were able to get a favorable decision against the Manotok realty and ALA – until the case was elevated to the Supreme Court.

    The Manotok family and ALA believe that a Supreme Court dismissal of the former Caloocan register of deeds, Yolanda Alfonso, for allowing the change of registration date of Maysilo Original Certificate of Title to make it appear that there were two titles, will determine the coming SC decision.

    The Supreme Court rebuked Alfonso for “wreaking havoc on our land titling system.” Indeed, “havoc” has been with the titling system since this country’s commonwealth period.

    MAYSILO: “Mother of all land titling scandals” part 2

    AS I SEE IT
    ‘Mother of all land titling scandals’ (2)
    By Neal Cruz
    Inquirer
    Last updated 02:43am (Mla time) 09/14/2007
    (Continued from last Wednesday)

    MANILA, Philippines — Claimant Jose Dimson was also able to get a favorable but highly questionable decision from the Court of First Instance of Rizal which awarded “whatever remains of Lots 25-A, 26, 27, 28 and 29 of the Maysilo Estate” to him.

    Subsequently, Lot 26 found its way into the hands of CLT Realty Development Corp. But as Lot 26 is owned by the Manotoks through expropriation proceedings, they have questioned the awarding of the lot to Dimson and subsequently to CLT.

    Instituting civil cases for recovery of possession of his property against AIA and the Manotoks, Dimson was able to get the Caloocan RTC, in 1993, to order AIA and the Manotoks to vacate the property. The basis of the order was the presentation by Dimson of a copy of OCT 994 with an earlier date than the OCT 994 submitted by AIA. Dimson’s copy of OCT 994 was dated April 19, 1917 while AIA’s was dated May 3, 1917.

    Following a decision in MWSS vs CA, in which the Supreme Court said that where there are two TCTs over the same land the earlier date prevails, the Caloocan RTC upheld Dimson’s title.

    The Court of Appeals sustained the lower court’s decision, and even the Supreme Court, on a petition for review, upheld the Court of Appeals saying it is bound by the findings of fact of the lower court because it is not a trier of facts. But what if the facts are wrong, as in this case? OCT 994 dated April 19, 1917, which was upheld by the lower court, was found out later to be fake.

    The Manotoks have also raised the following arguments:

    (1) OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917 is the real OCT as it has been upheld by the LRA, the DOJ, the Senate and the Caloocan Register of Deeds. And now with the Supreme Court itself dismissing the two registrars of deeds who illegally changed the date of registration of Dimson’s title to April 19, 1917, it is clear which claimant really owns the land.

    (2) The Manotoks have a superior right of ownership because their title emanates from the Republic of the Philippines itself in whom paramount title to the land has been vested by expropriation. And even if the title by expropriation is discounted, the Manotok title can still be traced to OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917.

    (3) The issue of whether or not only one valid OCT 994 was issued is of transcendental importance of which the Supreme Court should take cognizance because it involves a total of 1,660 hectares of prime land in Caloocan, Malabon and Quezon City where now stand various commercial buildings, high-rise condos, residential houses, schools and public buildings.

    (4) The MWSS case does not apply to the present case because no pronouncement on the validity of Dimson’s petition before the Caloocan CFI was made by the Court because AIA was not a party in the MWSS case and the issues raised in the MWSS case are different.

    (5) Dimson’s title was irregularly issued because it was made without the presentation of the owner’s duplicate TCT of the transferor (Section 55, Land Registration Act) and corresponding subdivision plan approved by the Bureau of Lands or the LRA.

    (6) It is highly improbable that Dimson’s title came from OCT 994 because as early as 1920, the Maysilo Estate had already been partitioned and distributed to the different owners as shown in the cases of Bustamante vs Tuazon (47 PR 433), Dizon vs Rivera (48 PR 996), Republic vs Gonzales (94 PR 696) and Garcia vs CA (35 SCRA 380).

    (7) In at least three cases pending in different courts, two in the Supreme Court and one in the Court of Appeals, the title of Dimson has been established to be spurious, nonexistent, fraudulent and of impossible origin (Phil-Ville Development and Housing Corp. vs CLT Realty Development Corp.-CA-GR CV 52606, Feb. 27, 2003; Alfonso vs Office of the President and Phil-Ville Development and Housing Corp.-GR 150091; and Republic of the Philippines vs Lilia Sevilla and Jose Seelin-CA GR CV 68299).

    The Supreme Court will decide on the fate of some 300,000 individuals who have been in peaceful possession of their properties within the Maysilo Estate as well as major government institutions that have certain legal rights over the estate. The major institutions affected include government lands (450 hectares) from the Bonifacio Monument to portions of the North Expressway up to Edsa and MacArthur Highway; private institutions like the Manila Central University, De La-Salle Araneta University, and University of the East, private commercial buildings like the Ever Grand Central, Araneta Square, Bonifacio Market, Eternal Gardens Memorial Park and at least 64 barangays in Caloocan alone.

    Already, unscrupulous groups have been threatening and harassing legitimate dwellers, property owners and taxpayers within the estate.

    But the Supreme Court decision on the registrars of deeds should be enough basis for the tribunal to put an end once and for all to the legal battle and uncertainties over the Maysilo Estate. It is easy to determine which of the two claimants have a better right to the property. Dimson’s claim has no legal standing whatsoever, as the Supreme Court itself has declared that the OCT from which he is basing his claim to ownership is a spurious, falsified document.

    It is now obvious that Dimson and those claiming under him have no legal basis to claim ownership of the Maysilo Estate. They should not be allowed to wreak havoc on our land titling system.

    Maysilo: “Mother of all land titling scandals”

    AS I SEE IT
    ‘Mother of all land titling scandals’
    By Neal Cruz
    Inquirer
    Last updated 10:53pm (Mla time) 09/11/2007
    THE SUPREME COURT EN BANC HEARD oral arguments for and against claimants to large tracts of prime land spanning four Metro Manila cities: Quezon, Caloocan, Malabon and Valenzuela. The Court will have to decide which of two original certificates of titles (OCTs) dating back to 1917, both numbered 994, and from which hundreds of transfer certificates of titles have emanated is authentic. The decision will finally settle what the late Chief Justice and Senate President Marcelo Fernan described as “the mother of all land title scandals in the country.” With Fernan as chair, the Senate justice and human rights committee, together with the committee on urban planning and housing resettlement, investigated this Maysilo Estate case.

    The scandal started in 1962 when Caloocan City registrar of deeds Yolanda Alfonso, together with assistant registrar of deeds Norberto Vazquez Jr., allowed the change of registration date of an original certificate of title (OCT) of Maysilo Estate, making it appear that there were two such titles to the same huge track of land spanning portions of the four cities and affecting hundreds of thousands of residents and businessmen from Sangandaan all the way to Monumento in Caloocan, up to Balintawak in Quezon City, including portions of the North Luzon Expressway and Araneta Subdivision in Malabon. Now, two OCTs— OCT 994 issued on April 19, 1917 and OCT 994 issued on May 3, 1917—cover the same parcel of land. Ironically, it was the Supreme Court itself that made the confusion worse by accepting, in a 1992 decision, the existence of two OCTs and ruling that the OCT dated April 19, 1917, being issued earlier than the OCT dated May 3, 1917 was the superior and valid title. Thus, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) lost its huge compound in Caloocan under a three-decade-old TCT originating from OCT 994 of May 3, 1917, to a claimant whose title originated from OCT 994 dated April 1917. But a technical plotting by the Land Registration Authority (LRA) showed that the claimant’s “lot” was located more than 12,000 meters away from the MWSS property. This decision wreaked havoc on the country’s land titling system.

    Then Justice Secretary Teofisto Guingona formed a fact-finding inter-agency committee chaired by Undersecretary Ricardo Nepomuceno Jr. The investigation found that OCT 994 dated April 19, 1917 was non-existent for being “a fabrication” by Alfonso and Vazquez who “acted maliciously, fraudulently and in bad faith” when they signed a TCT in the name of a person bearing a wrong date of registration.

    The investigation report said Alfonso’s “acquiescence in the alteration of the date of registration of OCT 994 in the titles” of a person as well as her act of deliberately ignoring the legal safeguards, especially her failure to require the presentation of a subdivision plan duly approved by the LRA or by the Land Management Bureau, for the titles of the applicant, are sufficient basis to find her guilty of grave misconduct. President Joseph Estrada dismissed Alfonso and Vazquez for grave misconduct and dishonesty.

    The dismissals were affirmed by the Supreme Court. Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, who wrote the decision for the second division, stressed: “By failing to prevent the irregularity that she (Alfonso) had reason to suspect all along or to take immediate steps to rectify it, petitioner had tolerated the same and allowed it to wreak havoc on our land titling system. Sadly that condition continues to rear its ugly head today.”

    This fabrication of OCT 994 dated April 19, 1917 has a bearing on the awarding by the Court of the vast Maysilo Estate to its rightful owners. The estate is being contested by claimants using the two OCTs: Manotok Realty and Real Estate Corp. and Araneta Institute of Agriculture Inc., which use OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917 as basis for their claim of ownership, and the heirs of Jose Dimson and his assignee, CLT Development Corp., who use OCT 994 dated April 19, 1917 as their legal basis.

    An adverse decision based on the fake OCT would set a precedent that would endanger the rights of the rest of the country’s legitimate land title holders and the integrity of the country’s land titles.

    The Manotoks and AIA have been in peaceful, continuous and legal possession of the Maysilo Estate since the 1940s. But some time in the 1960s, Dimson filed a case to claim ownership of the vast estate, using as basis the spurious OCT 994 dated April 19, 1917. Dimson was said to be a lawyer of Ma. Conception Vidal’s grandchild, Bernardino Rivera, and as payment for legal services rendered, the latter gave him a deed of conveyance of 25 percent of his share of the Maysilo Estate.

    Then Pasig Judge Cecilia Muñoz Palma confirmed the conveyance but disallowed the actual awarding of property and title to Dimson in 1966 because his 25 percent share had already been properly adjudicated by Bernardino Rivera to his heirs and assignees. This meant there was no more available land to be given to Dimson.

    In 1977, or 11 years later, Dimson moved to execute the deed of conveyance issued by the Pasig judge before a Caloocan court. Despite the irregularity and without the presentation of the original of OCT 994 and the subdivision plan approved by the LRA or the Bureau of Lands, Caloocan Judge Marcelino Sayo granted Dimson’s motion and issued in his favor TCT 15169 covering 500,000 sq m of Lot 25-A-2 of the Maysilo Estate. This lot is the property covered by the TCT of the AIA.

    MAYSILO: Save the titling system

    THE LONG VIEW
    Save the titling system
    By Manuel L. Quezon III
    Inquirer
    Last updated 01:04am (Mla time) 09/10/2007
    MANILA, Philippines – You may recall that on Feb. 20, 2006, I wrote about a legal fight (“The value of a title”), just one of many cases in Caloocan where land-grabbing threatens to seriously undermine the credibility of the land titling system in our country. Property owners who acquired their properties in good faith, developed them, paid taxes on them, suddenly faced a claim by a lawyer that he, in fact, owned their properties.

    That lawyer, Jose B. Dimson, claimed ownership of a very large property on the basis of a land title of doubtful authenticity but which, he claimed, predated the (up to that point) original title on which the subsequent titles of the property owners were based. Thus one claim affected dozens of properties. Despite evidence to invalidate that claim, Dimson’s case kept winning in the courts. Property owners doggedly fought the spurious claim. One such group is composed of the Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Manotok Realty, Inc., Sto. Niño Kapitbahay Association, Inc. and CLT Realty Corp.

    The legal fight between the group I mentioned above, and the person claiming their land, has revealed some interesting details since I last wrote about it.

    The lawyers of the claimant, Dimson, besides admitting he’d never actually possessed the lands he claimed, said he had never paid taxes on them either (which is a way of asserting responsible ownership). What’s more, Dimson’s own lawyers admitted their client had never been a lawyer at all. So how could he have obtained ownership of the properties he said he earned by way of lawyers’ fees?

    Not to mention the impossibility of Dimson’s claims as to the person who transferred the land to him being entitled to do so. Dimson said he got his title to the land as attorney’s fees from a certain Bartolome Rivera. Rivera alleged in turn that he inherited his title as an heir of Ma. Concepcion Vidal. The courts, in the case of Republic v. Lilia Sevilla and Jose Seelin, held that “[t]hus, it is physically and genetically impossible for him [Bartolome Rivera] to be the grandson of Maria de la Concepcion Vidal.” The Land Registration Commission, in a report dated August 3, 1981, pointed out that “[i]f Bartolome Rivera was 65 years old in 1963 or thereabouts, he was born on or before 1898. If Maria de la Concepcion Vidal was 9 years old on or before December 3, 1912, she was born on or before 1903. Could a grandson be older than his grandmother?”

    Not to mention Dimson basing his claim on a title that, he claimed, predated the title of the Araneta Institute of Agriculture group. He said his OCT was dated Apr. 19, 1917. Those whose lands he wanted to take away could only point to an OCT dated May 3, 1917. But when Dimson’s people were asked to produce their title, they could produce none. On the other hand, the aggrieved property owners demonstrated to the Supreme Court recently that only one OCT No. 994 existed: issued on May 3, 1917. No less than the Solicitor General then, Antonio Nachura, personally and formally presented to the Supreme Court en banc the original OCT No. 994 issued on May 3, 1917 (the original copy itself taken from the Land Registration Authority vault).

    Reports of the Department of Justice and the Senate Fact-Finding Committee had also previously pointed out that Dimson’s (alleged) OCT was fraudulent. The Senate, upon investigating the matter, said Dimson’s so-called title was “a fabrication perpetrated by Mr. Norberto Vasquez, Jr., former Deputy Registrar of Deeds of Caloocan City” and by Atty. Yolanda Alfonso, Registrar of Deeds of Caloocan City, who “consented to the acquisition of the property by … her children adopting 19 April 1917 as the date of registration of OCT 994 knowing the same to be erroneous … is a clear case of dishonesty, malice and bad faith.” We know Alfonso did these things, because the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal ordered by the Office of the President. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals.

    The Department of Justice then issued a report stating that the two contested OCTs (Dimson’s fake and the one present property owners derived their titles from) were never actually presented to the Supreme Court. What the Supreme Court used as the basis for saying there were two OCT Nos. 994 were the certifications appearing on the faces of the TCTs submitted by the two sides: but in truth, only one OCT No. 994 existed, issued on May 3, 1917.

    However, complicating matters is that the Supreme Court issued a decision in another case, which upheld a Court of Appeals decision that there were two OCTs and which then upheld Dimson’s as the original one. In a sense, the Supreme Court ended up trapped by the Court of Appeals’ refusal to take judicial notice of the findings of the Senate and Department of Justice. If a court, however, took these reports into evidence, it would shatter some of the previous assumptions made by the courts.

    These details, and many more, are now before the Supreme Court. It has embarked on reviewing a decision by one of its own divisions. This review presents a last chance for it to reverse the court’s upholding of the Dimson fraud. With evidence aplenty to help rectify assumptions originally made by the courts, evidence gathered by the Senate and the Department of Justice, decades of lawful property owners being harassed and imperiled can come to an end.

    The Supreme Court, acting as a whole, holds the preservation of the rule of law as it pertains to the ownership of land, in its hands. It can stem the tide of chaos in our titling system. Or it can open the floodgates to an epidemic of Dimson-style land-grabbing. A title can either mean something, or mean nothing: it can either be maintained by the rule of law or the law of the jungle.