SC can quiet titles or make a mess

October 15, 2009

AMADO P. MACASAET

http://www.malaya.com.ph/09012010/columnbusi1.html

‘What the decision – my guess, not the Court’s – will create is utter confusion and leave useless and meaningless all titles to those lands. Torrens titles from which transfer certificates of titles were drawn and have been quieted by operation of law and for lack of any adverse claims will be questionable as a result of the possible ruling.’

WE have no information on how the Supreme Court will decide the long-drawn land dispute among the Manotoks, the Manahans and the heirs of Homer Barque.

We can make two guesses. One, the Court may award the 34-hectare property to the Manotoks who have proven they have all it takes to own the land or to either the Barques or the Manahans.

The other possibility, remote as I see it, is the return of the land to the state. Which means that in the judgment of the Court the documents that justified the issuance of the titles of the three claimants are all forgeries.

I am personally scared of the third possibility in the sense that it creates a jurisprudence over all friar lands sold by the state.

More than 145,000 hectares of such land were former friar lands. They are scattered in at least eight provinces.

I am not saying that Court will rule that way. I am merely making a guess.

The effects can paralyze the economy. Business operates through borrowings from banks. In most cases, the collateral offered is real property.

Because of the decision – if that indeed will be the decision as I guess – the lending bank will have to first determine whether or not the offered collateral was formerly friar land.

If it happens to be, the bank will not give the loan for a very simple sensible reason. The land might be seized by the state.

Nearly all of the lands in Laguna and Cavite were former friar lands. They could be subject to forfeiture by the state if the Supreme Court rules that the Manotok property, originally part of the Piedad Estate which was friar land, must revert back to the government.

Having said that, I believe that the Supreme Court will look deeply and dispassionately into the documents presented to the Court of Appeals by the contending parties.

I said earlier that the Barques admitted that they submitted fake documents. The Manahans, on the other hand, presented documents that cannot be verified and, logically, must be presumed spurious. They do not exist.

At this point, it may be helpful to the Court and to all owners of former friar lands to know that the Manotoks, maybe like other owners of former friar lands, have in their possession documents which have never been doubted although a division decision in the same Court awarded the Manotok property to the heirs of Homer Barque.

The first step in acquiring friar lands bought or ceded to the state is to have a certificate of sale. This cannot be issued without proof of payment although such payment may be made in installments.

The certificate of sale may be assigned to just about anybody the holder wants to assign it to.

The next step is the issuance of a deed of conveyance by the director of the bureau of lands, now the Land Management Bureau under the Land Registration Administration.

The deed shall be issued only upon full payment of the value of the land. The document must be notarized.

From what I can figure out the documents are transmitted to the register of deeds in the locality where the land is located. The register of deeds issues a Torrens title.

That makes the title unassailable. So are the original certificates of title or transfer certificates of title drawn from the Torrens title. They are unassailable only if the documents that led to the issuance of the Torrens title are beyond question. Such is the case of the Manotoks as proven by official records.

In the dispute now under deliberation by the Supreme Court, it appears that only the Manotoks have proofs that their documents are genuine as proven by the existence of copies in the files of the National Archive.

I heard that there is this argument that the deed of conveyance issued to Severino Manotok is void because it does not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture and natural resources.

If that is the case, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of deeds of conveyance that do not have the signature of the secretary of agriculture and natural resources.

They are as void as the deed of conveyance issued to Severino Manotok. Therefore, these lands must likewise revert to the state. Their owners will not surrender their land without a separate order from the Supreme Court.

Or is the jurisprudence that the Court could establish equivalent to an order to surrender the land?

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Is Manahan dead? Wife remarried

October 15, 2009

AMADO P. MACASAET

http://www.malaya.com.ph/08312010/columnbusi1.html

‘There is a proof that Rosendo is dead but the Manahans claim it was Clodualdo who died. Where is the death certificate of Clodualdo Manahan? The lawyer of the Manahans never bothered to produce it to disprove the genuineness of the death of Rosendo.’

THE Manotoks produced a document that Rosendo Manahan died on July 30, 1963.

But he and his wife Felicitas appeared in Court for the Manahans.

The Manahans claimed that it was Clodualdo, a younger brother of Rosendo, who actually died. How can the person who reported a death to the municipality mistake the identity of the deceased?

It now appears that the name Clodualdo Manahan is one among five in a tombstone.

Milagros Manahan asked a tombstone maker whether he asks for a death certificate before doing one. She was told that he does not do that. All he does is get the name. It is not his duty to verify.

Who will now verify that the bones of Clodualdo supposedly mixed with those of four others in a common tomb are his or those of Rosendo of Clodualdo? The Court of Appeals never asked. The Manahan lawyer never volunteered.

Did the Court of Appeals try to verify the genuineness of a document that after the death of Rosendo, his widow, Felicitas married again, in fact twice? One of the Manotoks told me she is of the impression that the CA did not.

Worse, the Manahan never presented to the CA a document or marriage certificate that Rosendo is married to Felicitas.

The CA may not have entertained any doubt that Rosendo is flesh and blood although there is a document showing his death. There are documents showing that his widow Felicitas married Librado Calunia.

How did it happen that Rosendo presents himself as husband of Felicitas when there is a certificate that he died of pulmonary tuberculosis?

What does Felicitas’ marriage to Librado Calunia prove? That she has two husbands?

Or is somebody standing for Rosendo who is dead as proven by his own death certificate belied by the claim that the person who died was his younger brother Clodualdo?

There is a proof that Rosendo is dead but the Manahans claim it was Clodualdo who died. Where is the death certificate of Clodualdo Manahan? The lawyer of the Manahans never bothered to produce it to disprove the genuineness of the death of Rosendo.

There is no document civil registry, in the Church or in the National Statistics Office, that Clodualdo is dead.

Neither did the lawyer of the Manahans produce the marriage certificate of Rosendo to Felicitas.

And now Rosendo is with his wife Felicitas claiming they are the real owners of a 34-hectare property long awarded to Severino Manotok whose heirs introduced improvement on the land having been in possession for longer than 70 years.

The Manotoks have contract for sale, a deed of conveyance certified as in existence by the National Archives.

They also have a Torrens title.

Given the fact that the heirs of Homer Barque, the original adverse claimants to the property, have reportedly admitted that they submitted fake documents to prove their claim and given the fact that the documents presented by the Manahans cannot be verified, it may be proper for the Supreme Court to ask the Court of Appeals to make a review of the genuine and fake documents.

It is also of extreme value to the decision-making process of the Supreme Court to ask the Court of Appeals to verify whether Rosendo Manahan is really dead as proven by a death certificate.

It is also of extreme value in the decision making process of the Supreme Court to verify whether or not Felicitas is married to Librado Calunia as proven by a marriage certificate.

Verifying the genuineness of these documents is important for the Court so that it will not to be misled into believing that Rosendo Manahan is flesh and blood but there is a certified document proving his death.

None of this, it must be stressed, is relevant to the fact that the Manahans submitted to the Court documents they cannot prove exist. But the Court must have the certainty that it is not deciding a case where a litigant does not exist because he died a long time ago.

It is worth reiterating that this case started as administrative in the Land Registration Administration. In its first decision the LRA certified or ruled that the land indeed belongs to the Manotoks as proven by the uncontested documents in their possession.

The LRA later reversed its decision saying that the title of the Manotoks is “sham and spurious.”

The Manotoks appealed to the Court of Appeals. The CA’s first decision was also in favor of the Manotoks. But a later consolidated decision by two divisions threw out the first ruling.

In word, the Manotoks initially won twice but lost twice. The third “loss” was the decision of the Supreme Court awarding the property to the heirs of Homer Barque.

The Supreme Court is now deliberating on the report of the CA to which the case was remanded after former SC Associate Justice Florentino Feleciano was granted oral arguments by the Highest Tribunal.

Hundreds of thousands of landowners who bought friar lands are now eagerly awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court that finally might put all questions on friar lands on ice.

In the end, it becomes the clear duty of the Aquino administration to clean up the Augean stables in the Land Registration Commission.

I remember the World Bank made a grant to the government precisely for this purpose. I have no knowledge how the money was spent.

I am reasonably certain, however, that disputes over land ownership continue to pile up in Court.

The Supreme Court may find wisdom in coming up with a ruling that will end all disputes. But, unfortunately, it may also have the capability to encourage more disputes.

Let us wait for the ruling.

The law and the facts on Manotok stand up

The law and the facts on Manotok stand up
AMADO P. MACASAET
http://www.malaya.com.ph/08172010/columnbusi1.html

‘How the Land Management Bureau made the conclusion that the title of the Manotoks is “spurious and fake” and how the Court, including the Supreme Court, accepted this baseless conclusions cannot escape the public suspicion that there could be unseen hands manipulating the case.’

WITHOUT saying that the adverse claimants to the property of the heirs of Severino Manotok woke up rather late to assert their rights, it is worth noting and repeating that the facts presented to the courts by the Manotoks have not been discredited as products of a fertile imagination. It is also worth noting that the earlier findings of the Land Registration Administration, the Court of Appeals and lastly the Supreme Court itself that the title of the Manotok is “sham and spurious” do not have any basis in fact.

According to the lawyers of the Manotoks, the NBI examined the sale and assignment by the Manotoks on the questioned Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate.

The NBI chemist opined that the documents “could not be as sold as it (sic) purports to be.”

At the request of the Manotoks, the Land Management Bureau (formerly bureau of lands) issued at least six certified copies of sales certificate covering the disputed land.

The request was made on Feb. 29, 2000.

Little or no attention at all is paid to the fact that LMB issued these certificates, effectively rendering useless the findings of the NBI chemist that the same documents were received in July 1999, a good seven months earlier.

Surprisingly, the dates appear to have been the basis for the LMB to make the conclusion that the documents of the Manotoks are “spurious and fake.”

It is clear that the NBI chemist’s opinion that the “Manotok” documents “could not be as sold as it (sic) purports to be” was completely disregarded by the LMB.

What is in dispute is the basis of making the conclusion that the title of the Manotoks is “spurious or fake.”

The most telling was the report of the chemist saying she found handwritten entries and signatures on the documents that were written in ballpoint pen and sign pen.

She consequently opined that these writing implements came into use only in the fifties and sixties, the LMB documents did not exist in the years from 1919 to 1923 when the Bureau of Lands issued a deed of conveyance to Severino Manotok.

The Manahans which intervened in the case as another adverse claimant must have theorized that, in the words of the lawyers of Manotok, “if those documents were only created in the 50’s and 60’s, then the Manotoks did not acquire Lot 823 in 1919-1923 as represented.”

Critical to what appears to be a design to have a circuitous and dizzying chain of events and documents is the tell-all deed of assignment issued to Severino Manotok in 1923.

This document has never been assailed. This document is the origin of a Torrens title which has not been subjected to any question either.

Plain sense would tell anyone that the resolution of the dispute should start from the date the Manotok allegedly acquired the property.

Next question should be whether or not the acquisition was contrary to law. The deed of conveyance has never been assailed by either Manahans or the heirs of Homer Barque.

How the Land Management Bureau made the conclusion that the title of the Manotoks is “spurious and fake” and how the Court, including the Supreme Court, accepted this baseless conclusions cannot escape the public suspicion that there could be unseen hands manipulating the case.

It is important to note that the genuine versions of a sale certificate and three assignment documents existed on their respective dates of execution in 1919 to 1923.

These documents were obtained from official sources other than the Land Management Bureau.

Their validity has not been questioned. Yet the LMB came up with the baseless conclusion that the title of the Manotok is “spurious and fake.”

And the courts believed it.

The case becomes even more curious because the Supreme Court refuses to furnish a copy of the report of the Court of Appeals to which the dispute was remanded for review and recommendation.

The Supreme Court also denied a motion of the Manotoks for an open oral argument over the report.

In a word, it is possible that the Supreme Court will make a ruling on the report of the CA without informing the litigants of the contents of the report.

This denial borders on denial of due process.

A very interesting case.

SC acts quickly and then sleeps

SC acts quickly and then sleeps
AMADO P. MACASAET
http://www.malaya.com.ph/08112010/columnbusi1.html

‘It cannot happen that the Court acts quickly when it so pleases and does not move at all when doing so does not please the magistrates.’

IT did not take the Supreme Court that much time to deny for “lack of merit” the motion of the heirs of Severino Manotok to require the Court of Appeals to furnish the Manotoks a copy of the 219-page report of its findings on the land case with the heirs of Homer Barque.

The resolution was passed on May 4.

The lawyers of the Manotoks filed a second motion for reconsideration within the 15-day reglamentary period. Up to this time, the motion has not been acted upon.

In insisting that the litigants in the case are entitled to a copy of the CA report, former Supreme Court Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, counsel of the Manotoks, told the High Court there is a law that states that “upon filing of the report, the parties shall be notified by the clerk, and they shall be allowed ten days within which to signify grounds of objections to the findings of the report, if they so desire.

“Objections to the report based upon grounds which were available to the parties during the proceedings before the commissioner, other than objections to the findings and conclusions therein set forth, shall not be considered by the Court unless they were made before the commissioner.”

The decision to deny the motion for lack of merit does not seem to sit well with this provision of the law.

But the Supreme Court saw it another way.

Now, a second motion has not been acted upon and appears to be sleeping the sleep of the dead.

It cannot happen that the Court acts quickly when it so pleases and does not move at all when doing so does not please the magistrates.

The judicial reconstitution case was earlier decided in favor of the heirs of Severino Manotok by the Land Registration Commission. The LRA reversed its ruling on appeal by the heirs of Homer Barque.

The Manotoks elevated the case to the Court of Appeals which initially ruled in favor of the Manotoks. But in a joint resolution by two divisions, the CA reversed its earlier decision in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque.

The Manotoks went to the Supreme Court on Appeal. The High Court ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque and denied with finality a second motion for reconsideration.

However, retired Justice Feliciano convinced the Court to act en banc.

After brief orals, the Supreme Court decided to remand case to the Court of Appeals for investigation of facts and presumably applicable laws.

Subsequently, the CA submitted its 219-page report which the Supreme Court must now consider or resolve.

The first mistake in this case was the violation of a law that states that judicial reconstitution is an original and exclusive function of the Regional Trial Court.

It started with the Land Registration Commission which rendered a decision in favor of the heirs of Severino Manotok. The decision was reversed on appeal.

The Manotoks filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals which also sustained the Manotoks in a joint resolution by two of its divisions.

The Supreme Court reversed the decision and declared that the title(s) of the Manotoks are “sham and spurious”.

This has been the subject of an intense battle of documents between the Manotoks and the heirs of Homer Barque represented by Teresita Barque.

Apart from asking the Supreme Court to require the CA to furnish the litigants a copy of the report, the heirs of Severino Manotok are also asking the High Tribunal for a hearing on oral argument which they say “will best ensure an interactive deliberation upon the novel issues and legal implications arising from the ‘remand’ proceedings at the Court of Appeals many of which were neither pleaded nor addressed in the original administrative reconstitution proceedings that were the only subject of this case on review.”

Yet, the Supreme Court dismissed the motion to require the CA to furnish copies of its report to the litigants “for lack of merit.”

What else could have more merit than the very meat of the controversy? That is not the way the Supreme Court sees it.

The case has horrendous ramifications in reconstituting land titles in terms of facts and applicable laws.

It will be recalled that the heirs of Homer Barque moved for reconstitution of the 34-hectare prime property in Quezon City, long in possession of the heirs of Severino Manotok, only some years after the records, particularly original copies of land titles, burned in a fire hit the office of the Register of Deeds in Quezon City.

The Manotoks have submitted in evidence a copy of the deed of conveyance certified as true and correct by the National Archives.

The deed, issued by the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources on December 7, 1932, states “I, acting director of the bureau of lands, acting for and on behalf of the Government of the Philippine Islands, in consideration of TWO THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED SIXTY THREE PESOS (P2,363.00), receipt hereof is acknowledged, do hereby grant and convey to Severino Manotok, Filipino, of legal age, married to Maria Ramos … and his heirs and assigns, Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Friar Lands estate…”

The document was signed by Jose P. Dans, acting director of the bureau of lands.

How the courts accepted the claim of the heirs of Homer Barque that the title of the Manotoks is “sham and spurious” without destroying or rendering invalid the deed of conveyance is a subject of unkind speculations in many quarters, particularly those who have who have reconstitution cases pending in the Courts.

And now comes the Supreme Court denying the request of the Manotoks to have copies of the report of the Court of Appeals to which the case was remanded “for lack of merit.”

The Court has no obligation to explain its decision since right or wrong, the ruling becomes part of the law of the land. But in this case, it would benefit the Court in terms of enhancing its reputation if this case can be resolved with transparency and fairness which is always assumed of the Court but does not always happen.

There is more than meets the eye in the Manotok case in terms of its ramifications over judicial reconstitution of titles.

Two false claims on Manotok land

Two false claims on Manotok land
AMADO P. MACASAET
http://www.malaya.com.ph/08232010/columnbusi1.html

‘It is worth noting that the heirs of Homer Barque, represented by Teresita Barque Hernandez, filed their petition for reconstitution eight years after the original title of the Manotoks was burned in a fire that destroyed the records of the register of deeds of Quezon City.’

IT is on record that the heirs of Homer Barque and the Manahans both tried to obtain reconstituted titles over a 34-hectare property in Quezon City long awarded to, and paid for, by Severino Manotok.

According to the lawyers of the heirs of Manotok, the Barques failed in their reconstitution efforts while the Manahans abandoned their application.

It is worth noting that the heirs of Homer Barque, represented by Teresita Barque Hernandez, filed their petition for reconstitution eight years after the original title of the Manotoks was burned in a fire that destroyed the records of the register of deeds of Quezon City.

The lawyers told the Supreme Court “they (the Barques) knew or should have known that the lot was already long titled to the Manotoks, to whom a reconstituted certificate had in fact been issued five years before, in 1991.”

The application of the Barquez was denied “and this denial was eventually finally affirmed in the Supreme Court’s en banc resolution …of Dec. 8, 2008.”

Sometime in 1998, the Manahans also applied for administrative reconstitution of a title over the disputed land. This piece of land, with TCT No. 2502113, is part of Lot No. 823 bought and paid for and awarded to Severino Manotok in a deed of conveyance in 1923.

On the other hand, the Manahans told the court that the title they wanted reconstituted was a transfer from TCT No. 149683/T-752.

Strangely, the Manahans, according to the lawyers of the Manotoks, “deny” they ever had a title to Lot 823.

The Manotok lawyers explained to the Supreme Court “that is a forced move, because it would confess the Manahans’ fraud if they were to admit that they had claimed to be the holders of a transfer certificate of title to Lot. 823.”

“It would also immediately contradict and falsify their claims here that they have a direct purchase from the government that entitles them to a transfer certificate of title to Lot 823.”

In effect, the lawyers said, the Manahans are “still seeking to obtain a transfer certificate of title to Lot. 823, direct from the Government’s Original Certificate of Title 614.

The confusion has gone that far. Ignored first by the Land Registration Administration is the uncontested deed of conveyance to Severino Manotok as early as1923.

This genuineness and validity of the deed has never been assailed either by the heirs of Homer Barque or the Manahans.

It should be noted that before the Manahans filed an intervention, they earlier applied for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 250215 in the name of Felicitas Manahan.

The LRA issued a certification that states “as per available records of the Reconstitution Division … there is no record of any order for the reconstitution of said TCT No. 250215 … the petition and other documents transmitted therewith could not be located.”

The other more curious part of the land dispute is the allegation of the lawyers of Manotok that the Barques presented “two versions of a deed of conveyance in the name of Emiliano Setosta. One was admitted by Teresita Barque Hernandez to be fake.”

The other version, according to the lawyers, “was disowned by a witness from the Land Management Bureau as contained in an unofficial certification on it.”

The Manahans produced an alleged deed of conveyance claimed to have been issued on Oct. 30, 2000 by LMB Director Ernesto Adobo, or more than 70 years after the Bureau of Lands announced that it had fully disposed of the entire Piedad Estate to private parties.”

What was the basis of Adobo in issuing a deed of conveyance as late as October 2000? This question has been asked. But no satisfactory answer was ever given.

Saddest of all is the early decision of the Supreme Court awarding the Manotok property to the heirs of Homer Barque.

It is to the eternal credit of then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno that he granted an en banc hearing on the case on the petition of former SC Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano.

The Highest Tribunal remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for review. The CA has submitted its voluminous report to the Supreme Court for final disposition.

Unfortunately, the request of the lawyers to require the CA to furnish the Manotoks a copy of the report was denied by the Supreme Court.

A motion for reconsideration has been filed but the SC has not acted on it although it moved with dispatch dismissing the first motion for reconsideration.

Law and facts on Manotok

http://www.malaya.com.ph/oct07/busi8.htm

Law and facts on Manotok

In his dissent which happens to be longer than the ponencia, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio stressed points of law and fact over the affirmation by the Supreme Court of a Court of Appeals decision ordering the cancellation of the Manotok land title and transferring it to the heirs of Homer Barque.

On the question of law, Carpio pointedly told the majority of the First Division that their opinion was wrong because it “patently violates… the Property Registration Decree which expressly states that a Torrens title ‘cannot be cancelled except in direct proceeding in accordance with law.”

What is in accordance with law in this case is a provision of BP 129 which provides “regional trial courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction…in all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property or any interest therein.”

By ignoring this vital provision, Carpio claims that the heirs of Severino Manotok were denied due process.

The majority opinion penned by Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares, stressed that requiring the court of Appeals to remand the case to the RTC is a waste of time. That is saying that the facts, which should have been established by the regional trial court have already been determined by the Land Registration Commission and the Court of Appeals.

Speaking of dura lex sed lex.

Spurious plan

It has been established beyond doubt that the survey plan – Fls3168 – said to be have been issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and submitted by the heirs of Homer Barque “is a spurious plan which may have been inserted in the file.”

The plan is supposed to be authenticated by the DENR but it was never submitted to the department’s NCR office for that purpose.

Privadi Dalire, chief of the geodetic surveys division of the land management bureau, was asked by Benjamin M. Bustos, chief of the reconstitution division of the LRA for a certified copy of the said subdivision plan.

He replied that his office does not have a record of the Fls-3168-D.

However, presumably without being asked, Ernesto S. Erive, chief of the surveys division, told Bustos that a microfilm copy of the plan “is on file in technical records and statistical section.”

Thus ensued the question of who is telling the truth between Dalire and Erive. The letter told the LRA administrator on Jan. 2 1997, in a hand-carried letter that “the copy of the subject plan was forwarded to this office”, and after verification and comparison “made in our microfilm records, it was found out that they are identical and bore the same stamps and initials used in this office.”

Who is lying?

Dalire stood pat on his report that his office does not have records of the subdivision plan. But he explained that the “LRA, however, furnished us with a machine copy of Fls-3168-D…and we found out that the copy of the plan did not originate from this office. Dalire forthwith requested that copy of Fls-3168-D be forwarded to him for evaluation and comment.”

Dalire wrote two more letters to the LRA on the same question but up to the time the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque, he never got a reply.

In one of his letters to the LRA, Dalire said “our inventory of approved plans enrolled in our file, our microfilm computer list of plans do not have this plan Fls-3168-D; logically we cannot issue any copy.”

So, there was, in the words of Dalire, a syndicate operating in the LRA. The CA and the Court of Appeals failed to take notice of the import of Dalire’s claim of a syndicate. The SC, in the pen of justice Santiago, merely affirmed the findings of the CA.

Forged letter, spurious plan

It appears that on Feb. 13, 1997, Dalire told the LRA administrator that the letter he purportedly wrote on Jan. 2, 1997 is a forgery. The letter is presumably a testimony to the existence and genuineness of the subdivision plan Fls-3168-D.

He pointed out that “the statement that the subject plan was forwarded to us by the chief, technical records statistics section of the NCR is not true..

He said that as of Feb. 13, 1997, “the NCR has not turned over the plan they reproduced in compliance with your (LRA administrator) urgent letter requests.

Dalire found himself left with no option except to tell the LRA administrator to disregard Fls-3168-D as being spurious. He explained that “there are many markings on the copy to prove it did not come from the LMB (Land Management Bureau).

Dalire said “we have no copy of Fls-3168-D on file so how can we issue a copy of plan that is non-existing?” He went on to say “the plan shows only initials. I sign in full copies of plans with the initials of my action officers and their codings below my signature. These are not present in the spurious copy of plan.”

He also told the LRA administrator that “the letter size of the rubber stamp ‘NOT FOR REGISTRATION/TITLING. FOR REFERENCE ONLY is smaller than our rubber stamp.”

Sustained!

He said “the submitted plan Fls-3168-D is a spurious document as categorically stated by Engr. Privadi J. G. Dalire…”

Expectedly, the heirs of Barque moved for reconsideration of the order after being informed that Bustos denied the request of reconstitution “for lack of merit.”

The Manotoks must have celebrated a well and hard-earned victory. The celebration was too early.

The LRA administrator gave due course to the motion for reconsideration and reversed his first order in favor of Manotoks saying that only the owner’s copy or co-owner’s duplicate of an original or transfer certificate of title could be used as a source of administrative reconstitution.

The reversed order practically suggests that Dalire went beyond his duty in helping insure the genuineness of a title sought to be reconstituted. It was his fault. That fault may have violated simple sense of law and common sense.

Spring can’t rise higher than source

http://www.malaya.com.ph/oct06/busi8.htm

Spring can’t rise higher than source

In pointing out that the First Division of the Supreme Court erred in ordering the cancellation of the land title of the heirs of Severino Manotok and a new one issued in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque, retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino P. Feliciano cited a long string of precedents to prove that the Supreme Court was wrong in affirming the findings of the Court of Appeals.

In Caraan v Court of Appeals, Justice Feliciano declared that the “later reconstitution (would have) no legal effect and validity because (of the) prior reconstitution.”

Citing this particular precedent, Feliciano said in his memorandum to the Court en banc “the fact that there already existed a perfectly valid reconstituted title … will make subsequent petition (by the heirs of Homer Barque) for reconstitution void and without any force and effect.”

He added that “all subsequent certificates of title (derived from the latter reconstituted title) are also void because of the legal truism that the spring cannot rise higher than its source.”

The former justice was trying to clarify to the Court that the Manotoks had a reconstituted title long before the heirs of Barque filed a petition for reconstitution.

He pointed out that granting the heirs of Barque a petition for reconstitution would have the effect of a collateral attack on a valid title.

Wrong doctrine

The heirs of Homer Barque told the Supreme Court it acted correctly in affirming the CA ruling “because a remand to the RTC will be “circuitous and purely dilatory” following the doctrine enunciated in Ortigas v. Velasco. Feliciano declared that the Court applied the wrong doctrine.

He explained in his memorandum that in Ortigas, “the Court nullified (Molina’s) reconstituted title because the Ortigas Torrens title (both titles covering the same property) has been the subject of, and consistently upheld by the Court in several cases for nullification of title that were originally lodged before the appropriate forum which had the jurisdiction to sustain the validity of the Ortigas title.

Pursuing the Ortigas precedent, Justice Feliciano quoted the ruling of the Court:

“There is no debate about the fact that the land being claimed by Molina lies within that titled in the name of Ortigas and its predecessor in interest. Now, the latter’s documents of ownership have been passed upon, and sanctioned and sustained by this Court more than once.

“These dispositions and adjudgments now operate to put its title to the lands thereby covered and embraced beyond the pale of further judiciary inquiry.”

The Manotok case is remarkably dissimilar to Ortigas, according to Justice Feliciano.

Not estopped

Justice Consuelo Y. Santiago sustained the claim of the heirs of Homer Barque that the Manotoks are estopped from assailing the order of the LRA and the CA because they actively participated in the proceedings.

Wrong, says Justice Feliciano, who said in his memorandum that “the estopped argument makes no sense as to the LRA proceedings, because the LRA did not purport to exercise jurisdiction to cancel title. On the contrary, it claimed it had no jurisdiction.”

Neither can estoppel be applied with the Court of Appeals, explains Justice Feliciano. He said that “since the Manotoks have from the outset explicitly questioned the idea of having the validity of their title ruled upon in an administrative reconstitution case and which the CA in fact sustained in its original decision.”

Justice Feliciano, now close to 80 years old, declared that “from the reconstitution officer to the LRA, the Manotoks never conceded that the LRA had authority to adjudge the validity of their title; instead, they insisted that it is the regional trial court in a direct proceeding which had the authority and jurisdiction to rule on the validity of their certificate of title.”

Based on opinion

Justice Feliciano rants at the fact that the judgment of the Court of Appeals is “worse for having relied, not on any LRA finding, but merely on (LRA) administrator Maulit’s personal opinion that the Manotoks’ title was ‘sham and spurious” which he gratuitously based on alleged deficiencies in the information reflected in the Manotok officially-issued title.”

The alleged deficiencies do not, Feliciano said, “prove either that the property … had not been conveyed to them (Manotoks) or that their certificate of title is fake.

The point, the retired jurist said, is that the genuineness of the title of the Manotoks, having been issued by the LRA, is conclusively proved by the LRA records.

How it became sham and spurious based on deficiencies and how the First Division of the Supreme Court bought it hook, line and sinker, has been a constant source of curiosity on how the Court could be so negligent of the background of the case, none of which argues for the heirs of Homer Barque.

This and many other omissions probably convinced the Chief Justice to grant Feliciano’s request for oral arguments.

We can expect Justice Santiago who has more than 35 years experience in the bench, to argue her case with intensity.

We just have to wait and see how the en banc will look at her ponencia.

The anomaly

The decision is blatantly wrong for violating a provision of law that all judicial reconstitution of titles belong exclusively to the regional trial court.

Inferior courts like RTCs try and test facts submitted by the litigants. Because this provision was skipped, in fact ignored and violated, the Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeals ruling which was not based on any trial of facts or results of judicial hearings.

We feel we have to repeat that the LRA initially issued a decision favoring the Manotoks. It changed its mind and ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque.

After both parties appealed, the two divisions of the Court of Appeals first ruled again in favor of the Manotoks. Like the LRA, it changed its mind. The Supreme Court approved the turn-around.

Even if the Manotoks had won the case every step of the way that the Barques went through, the decision would still be questionable for one reason.

It failed to comply with the requirement that judicial reconstitution is a sole function and exclusive jurisdiction of the regional trial courts.

It is presumed that the RTC will examine the facts and make a decision. The aggrieved party can appeal to the Court of Appeals.

This case is curious because what was appealed to the CA which is a judicial body was an administrative decision made the LRA.