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.

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SC Rules on Maysilo Land Case

SC rules on Maysilo land case

Reverses decisions of trial court, CA, own 3rd division; SC ruling affects 1,342 hectares in Metro Manila

Rey G. Panaligan

The Supreme Court (SC) has reversed the decisions of the trial court, the Court of Appeals (CA), and its own third division with a ruling that the original mother title over 1,342 hectares of prime land — known as the Maysilo Estate — in the cities of Quezon, Malabon, and Caloocan was Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 994 registered on May 3, 1917, and not “OCT 994” issued on April 19, 1917.

In resolution written by Justice Dante O. Tinga, the SC ruled that there is only one OCT No. 994 that was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on May 3, 1917, and “that should be the date which should be reckoned as the date of registration of the title.”

“Any title that traces its source to OCT 994 dated April 17, 1917, is void, for such mother title is inexistent,” the SC said.

Senior Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing and Justices Ma. Alicia Austria Martinez, Conchita Carpio Morales, Adolfo S. Azcuna, Minita V. Chico Nazario, and Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro concurred with the resolution.

Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez, who wrote the Nov. 29, 2005 decision of the SC’s third division, dissented together with Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. and Ruben T. Reyes.

Justice Renato C. Corona voted to grant the motions for reconsideration filed by Manotok Realty, Inc., and Manotok Estate Corporation, and the Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc., and to annul the titles issued in the names of CLT Realty and the heirs of Jose Dimson.

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno did not take part due to his relationship with one of the counsel, while Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura did not take part as he had appeared in the oral arguments in the case as then Solicitor General.

Justices Consuelo Ynares Santiago and Antonio T. Carpio also did not take part.

With the ruling, the SC, in effect, invalidated the titles over portions of the vast tracts of land in the three cities of Metro Manila registered in the names of CLT Realty Development Corporation and the heirs of Jose B. Dimson based on OCT 994 issued on April 19, 1917.

The Caloocan City court of first instance (now regional trial court) had validated the land titles of the Dimsons and CLT over portions of the Maysilo Estate. The trial court ruling was affirmed by the CA whose decision was upheld by the SC’s third division on Nov. 29, 2005.

But the SC said that while it is sufficient to invalidate the Dimson and CLT claims over the subject property merely on the basis of the inexistence of OCT 994 dated April 17, 1917, it decided to remand the case to the “Special Division of the Court of Appeals” for reception of further evidence. It named Associates Justice Josefina Guevara Salonga, Lucas Bersamin, Jaapar Dimaampao as members of the special division.

“Considering that the genuine OCT No. 994 is that issued on/registered on 3 May 1917, a remand would be appropriate to determine which of the parties, if any, derived valid title from the said genuine OCT No. 994,” the SC said.

It directed the CA’s special division to determine, among others, which of the contending parties are able to trace back their claims of title to OCT 994 dated May 3, 1917, and whether the imputed flaws in the titles of the Manotok Realty, Inc. and Manotok Estate Corporation, and the Araneta Institute of Agriculture, Inc., are borne by the evidence.

The remand was an offshoot of motions for reconsiderations filed by the Manotoks and the Araneta school which had asked the SC to reverse its third division decision on Nov. 29, 2005.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Gutierrez said the majority resolution written by Justice Tinga to remand the case to the CA “grossly violates the settled rule that no new issues shall be raised for the first time on appeal.”

“The remand of these cases to the appellate court is an attempt on his part to prolong the litigation and disturb the findings of the said courts sustained by overwhelming evidence,” she said.

Justice Gutierrez stressed that the titles of Dimson and his heirs and those of CLT Realty are valid, while “the titles of the Manotok Corporations and Araneta Institute are spurious.”

“These are the findings of the three trial courts and affirmed by the three divisions of the Court of Appeals. To litigate these findings once again will entirely change the settled jurisprudence of this Court. The doctrine that there should be an end to litigation has been seriously disturbed. This is a sad day for the Court,” she lamented