Colonial official Sir Robert Torrens devised the land titling system in Australia in 1858 to resolve disputes arising from speculation.

Taken from the August 30, 2010 article written by Jarius Bondoc with the Title “Does P-Noy have to do everything?”

Does P-Noy have to do everything?
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) Updated August 30, 2010 12:00 AM

Colonial official Sir Robert Torrens devised the land titling system in Australia in 1858 to resolve disputes arising from speculation. The method suited property ownership in the Philippines when the Americans applied it to friar lands in the early 1900s. Still scholars and jurists deem Torrens’ system imperfect. More so since it is open to fraud, in original registration or later transactions. Trouble sparks when land registries, consisting of bound volumes kept by municipios, are lost during wars or, more often, fires. In such cases property owners’ need to have titles reconstituted. The way to do it is via the court or the Land Registration Authority. Judicial or administrative re-titling suffices in uncontroversial losses. But some cases challenge the supposedly “indefeasible” Torrens titles.

Strife followed the 1988 fire at the Quezon City Hall that gutted the Register of Deeds. Great grief befell families that have owned land in the area even before Quezon City was born. Land-grabbers saw a chance to become overnight billionaires. Hucksters brandishing titles purportedly dating to the Spanish era laid claim to land that Malacañang had bestowed to the University of the Philippines. It was only settled since records existed that the property was part of friar lands seized during the American rule and sold to citizens before World War II.

One of the titles burned in the 1988 fire was to a 34-hectare segment of a friar land called Piedad Estate. It had been in uncontested possession of the family of Severino Manotok since the 1920s. The property is located in Old Balara, behind what is now Ayala Heights. The Manotoks were able to reconstitute the title three years after the blaze. Seven years later realtor Teresita Barque asked the LRA to reissue the title to a piece of land allegedly owned by her father Homer. Aside from a copy of a supposed title, she presented real estate tax receipts, tax declarations dated in the 1990s, and a subdivision plan. The LRA rejected the re-titling because the property covered by Barque’s claim was already in the Manotoks’ name. The LRA ruled that Barque’s Plan FLS 3168-D was spurious.

Barque appealed the LRA ruling, starting a string of lawsuits about the power of the LRA and the Court of Appeals to cancel land titles. The Barques admitted in CA hearings that the deed of sale that transferred the land from the government to their family was bogus. A third family intervened, claiming that papers dated 2000 made them the owners.

There was no attempt to have the Manotok title cancelled in the regional trial court. A court proceeding would have involved presenting papers, such as the chain of titles, the very thing that the Torrens system aims to replace. Averting disturbance of RP property law, the Supreme Court set aside previous rulings in 2008. It said that neither the LRA nor CA had jurisdiction to annul titles. Yet it also remanded the case to the CA instead of the RTC, thus confusing lawyers, academics and judges.

Two years after the SC returned the case to the CA and 22 years after the fire that caused it, the matter remains unsettled. Meanwhile, the LRA is struggling to computerize land registries for stability.

Suppression of Evidence

Suppression of evidence

We claimed in an earlier item that there are curious circumstances attending the land dispute among the heirs of Severino Manotok, Homer Barque and Vicente Manahan.

We will now prove our claim. It is on record that the Manotoks continue to be given the run-around in the Land Registration Administration. In fact, the LRA openly and flagrantly violates an order of the Court of Appeals, made in open court requiring the Land Management Bureau to provide the Manotoks with copies of documents pertaining to the property in question, the LMB refused to budge.

This refusal is a direct indication of bias against the Manotoks.

However, the Manotoks were able to secure a copy of their deed of conveyance in favor of Severino Manotok from the National Archives.

Thus, the Manotoks were able to give the lie to the claim of the Manahans that they have no right to own the property in spite of 90 years of continued possession.

There are no records that either the Barques or the Manahans ever set foot on what is now a multi-billion asset consisting of 34 hectares of prime land in Quezon City.

The submission to the CA of the deed of conveyance left the claim of the Manahans worthless. Moot and academic, as lawyers love to say.

I find it funny that the CA did not make sure that the LMB comply with its own open court order. If it did, the Manotoks would not have had to go to the trouble of getting the document from the National Archives.

What does one make out of that? Just asking.

The Supreme Court erred

The lawyer of the Manotoks, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, acknowledged legal scholar and a man who commands the respect of friends and enemies, filed a partial motion for reconsideration assailing the remand of the case to the Court of Appeals.

The CA was told that the remand to the CA violates the Supreme Court’s own findings that the regional trial court has the exclusive and original jurisdiction to resolve questions related to land titles.

More important, Justice Feliciano alleged that the SC decision contradicts a provision in the Civil Code which he said states that “a possessor in the concept of an owner (as is the case of the Manotoks) has in its favor the legal presumption that he possesses legal title over the property.”

If this law had been complied with by the SC, the Manotoks cannot be required to prove their ownership of the property.

My way of saying it is the burden of proof of ownership belongs to the adverse claimant, not to the presumed owner or a possessor in the concept of an owner.

The burden of proof, in ordinary cases, is always on the complainant. Never on the respondent.

The motion for partial reconsideration was denied.

Not a vital document

The other reason Justice Feliciano filed a partial motion for reconsideration was to remind the Supreme Court that it knows only too well, or should know it that well, that the only basis for the claim of the Manahans is the Deed of Conveyance which they claimed the Manotoks did not have, but turned out it had.

The document was simply denied to the Manotoks by the LRA.

According to Justice Feliciano, the High Court has previously and repeatedly ruled that “the absence of a deed of conveyance does not render the title of purchases of friar land void.”

“In short,” he said, “the SC only needs to be guided by its previous decisions.”

Just the same the High Court denied the partial motion for reconsideration.

Under the remand ruling, the CA shall hear and receive evidence on the “Manotoks’ chain of title and ownership claim over the property.

After that is done, the CA proceeds to report its findings and recommended conclusions to the Supreme Court.

But how can they proceed to present evidence when the LRA flagrantly violates the open court order of the CA to provide the Manotoks with copies of the documents related to their alleged title?

It appears that many hurdles have been thrown in the way of the Manotoks.

Confusing, maybe wrong

What is seen as another mistake in the remand of the case to the Court of Appeals is that the Supreme Court may have assigned or proposed to itself “adjudicate final relief” on “who the proper claimant of the property is.”

Presumably the Supreme Court is to be guided by the findings and recommendations of the Court of Appeals. The CA is an inferior court. It can be reversed by the SC. In fact, whenever it feels necessary, the High Tribunal reverses itself.

In the event that the SC makes a ruling that does not sit with the findings and recommendations of the CA, what should be the High Court’s source of facts?

It should have been the regional trial court from the very start because there is a law that states that judicial reconstitution of land titles is an original and exclusive function of the RTC.

Since the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and may, theoretically, not abide by the findings of the CA, will the facts of the case be determined by the regional trial court as required by law?

After all, the RTC’s decision can be appealed to the CA and the CA’s ruling may be appealed to the Supreme Court.


I have long heard that a powerful man is interested in the Manotok land dispute. In fact, he is rumored to have started exerting pressure on the Land Registration Administration.

The circumstances attending the case, principally the refusal of the LMB to provide copies of documents to the Manotoks may be interpreted as an indication of the existence of the alleged pressure.

I have also been told that the wife of a powerful official in the Arroyo regime is brokering the sale of the land, assuming it will be taken away by the Supreme Court from the Manotoks, to another influential person who presents himself as a savior of sinners.

We have to rely on the integrity of the Supreme Court. However, it can make a fatal mistake. The mistake becomes part of the law of the land.

The mistake is always claimed to have been made in the best lights of the majority of the magistrates.

That is why the Court is right even when it is wrong. There are no two ways of looking at it.

For as long as the mistake is not deliberately made in consideration of some pieces of silver, I continue to feel at ease with the Court. But such may not always be the case.

Torrens title vs. deed of conveyance

The government agency that deals with land, land-management, land-titles and everything else land-related should be investigated. Someone or some people within that agency is doing dishonest, anomalous, destructive forgeries and certifications without thinking of the consequences of their actions. Again, we can see the outrageous and unbelievable claims being made by Rosendo Manahan & Felicitas Manahan. They should really be investigated and all those involved in this land-grabbing scam should be exposed and put to justice. This is not good for the honest investing public and honest landowners.

Torrens title vs. deed of conveyance

The Court of Appeals is faced with a choice between a Torrens title of the heirs of Severino Manotok over a 34-hectare prime land they have been in possession of since 1919 and a deed of conveyance claimed to have been issued to the heirs of Vicente Manahan on April 17, 2000.

The Manahans are now saying that their deed was issued by the Land Management Bureau over lot No. 823 of the vast Piedad Estate.

How the LMB issued the deed in spite of the existence of a Torrens title in the name of Severino Manotok is another question that the Court should find an answer to after examining the evidence presented by the contending parties.

The Manahans filed an intervention in September 2006 claiming that on the basis of a deed of conveyance Vicente Manahan allegedly purchased the property from the Republic of the Philippines which issued sales certificate No. 511.

I failed to notice the dates of the purchase of the property by Vicente Manahan and the dates of issuance of the certificate of sale which was the basis of the deed of conveyance.

I also failed to see the date of the issuance of deed of conveyance.


The land dispute was originally and still is between the heirs of Severino Manotok and the heirs of Homer Barque.

The dispute started with the Land Registration Commission, on to the Court of Appeals and finally to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld the claim of the heirs of Homer Barque. Two motions for reconsideration were denied leaving the Barques with what they thought was their right to file a petition for the cancellation of the title of the Manotoks and for the issuance of a new title in favor of the Barques.

In fairness to the Court, it granted a petition for en banc orals by the Manotoks.

The Court finally decided to remand the case to the Court of Appeals where it originated although there is a law that states that judicial reconstitution is an original and exclusive function of the Regional Trial Court.

From what I can understand from this decision, the Manotoks have to prove the genuineness of their title.

The appellate court has the duty to submit to the Supreme Court its finding of facts and the applicable laws.

The establishment of the facts is a function of the Regional Trial Court but the Court of Appeals can also review finding of facts which it already did when, after initially denying the petitions for review of the heirs of Homer Barque, two of its divisions made an identical ruling upholding the claim of the Barques.

Unusual behavior

It is on record that Severino Manotok and later his successors in interest or heirs have been occupying the property and paying taxes on it since he was granted the Torrens title to the land in 1919.

The Manotok family has introduced improvements on the land. On the other hand, neither the Manahans nor the Barques and their heirs ever questioned the possession of the land by the Manotoks. Not until the records of the register of deeds of Quezon City went up in smoke sometime in 1988. It took the Barques several years until 1996 after the fire to file a petition for reconstitution with the Land Registration Administration.

Again at the risk of being cited for contempt, I dare say it is beyond me and many others to understand why the heirs of Barque and Manahan allowed the Manotoks to be in continued possession of the property from the time Severino Manotok was issued a Torrens title in 1919.

Didn’t either the Barques or the Manahans know that they in effect allowed the Manotoks to possess their property for almost a hundred years and benefiting immensely from it?

Realtors estimate that the 34-hectare prime property in Quezon City now commands a price of at least P5 billion.

Torrens title vs. deed of conveyance

The land dispute among the Manotoks, Barques and Manahans is clearly a question of which documents the Court of Appeals shall consider authentic and superior over the others.

The Manotoks maintain that they have Torrens title issued to Severino Manotok as early as 1919 and have been in possession of and paying taxes on the land since then.

On the other hand, the Manahans are basically relying on the Deed of Conveyance which they said is derived from a Certificate of Sale. The Certificate is made to appear that Vicente Manahan bought the 34-hectare property, known as lot No. 823 from the Republic of the Philippines.

On the other hand, the Barques who never set foot on the land occupied and improved by the Manotoks since 1919 and paying taxes on it, suddenly came from nowhere in the 1990s and filed a petition for the reconstitution of their alleged title which they claimed was lost to a fire in 1988.

Initially, the LRA denied the Barques petition but later turned around and approved it. The same turning around happened in the Court of Appeals acting on the separate petitions for review of the Manotoks and the Barques. These acts, initially administrative since these originated from IRA and later judicial when the CA took over acting on petitions for review, directly assaulted the Torrens title of the Manotoks without giving weighty evidence except some tax payments which were made only in the 1990’s.

Reconstituted title

It must be explained very clearly that the Manotoks knew that their original title of the 34-hectare property was lost in a 1988 fire that gutted the office of the register of deeds of Quezon City.

They acted more quickly than the heirs of Home Bargue in the sense that three years after the fire they were issued a reconstituted title in 1991 without the Barques and the Manahans raising a question.

On the other hand, the Barques who, it must be repeatedly said, never knew the terrain of the land because they had never set foot on it, filed a petition for reconstitution on what they claimed was their original title lost to the same fire, only in 1996.

The petition of the Barques was filed with the Land Registration Commission five years after the Manahans secured a similar reconstituted title over the same property.

How the LRA first denied the petition of the Barques and later approved it after the Manotoks were issued a similar reconstituted title five years before is another question that the Court of Appeals must answer.

There are curious matters that continue to attend this case such that back in the LRA, there were suggestions that powerful people were interceding for the Manahans.

Ownership since 1919

The lawful authorities should really go after these land-grabbing scammers. The Barque family have obviously forged their title to the land and therefore have forged a public document. And who are Rosendo Manahan and Felicitas Manahan? They should also be investigated for they claim to own the land which they have never set foot upon and therefore have forged land titles too.

Ownership since 1919

The controversy over the 34-hectare prime property owned and occupied by the heirs of Severino Manotok since 1919 is far from over.

After the heirs of Homer Barque sought reconstitution on the ground that the original title was lost in a fire that hit the register of deeds office in the Quezon City hall, came the Manahans who have a similar claim but for a different reason.

If official records must be the basis for final awarding of ownership, it is clear that the land – formerly friar land and later identified as the Piedad Estate – belongs to the Manotoks.

Records submitted to the courts show that the Manotoks have been in possession of the land since 1919. They have been paying taxes on the property. They have introduced improvements and had been left alone in peace until the records of the register of deeds were burned.

That’s when the heirs of Barque claimed they own the land but they never set foot on the property. Least of all, had it guarded to prevent an invasion by squatters.

The original title of the Manotoks lost to the fire in 1988 was reconstituted in 1991. The title is identified as RT-22481.

Can another reconstituted title sought by the heirs of Homer Barque and the Manahans be issued on the same property? Only the Court of Appeals can answer the question. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the CA for fact-finding although the law is clear that judicial reconstitution is a sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court.

Weird case

The heirs of Barque first sought reconstitution of title with the Land Registration Administration. The petition was denied but later approved. The LRA claimed that title of the Manotoks as “sham and spurious.”

The Manotoks filed a motion for reconsideration. Denied.

Based on the LRA’s denial of the MR, the Manotoks and the Barques separately went to the Court of Appeals on petitions for review.

The petitions were dismissed separately by the CA.

On motion for reconsideration of the heirs of Homer Barque, the two divisions of the CA rendered identical amended decisions ordering the cancellation of the title of the Manotoks and directing the LRA to reconstitute the title in favor of the Barques.

I had thought that the CA would consolidate the two petitions. It did not. But it rendered identical decisions.

First time I ever heard two divisions of the Court of Appeals making identical rulings. The justices in two separate divisions happened to have the same mind.

The Manahans’ cause

The Manahans filed an intervention in September 2006. They claimed that they are the owners of Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate, the same property occupied by the Manotoks since 1919.

They claimed that their successors in interest, Vicente Manahan, bought the property from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and were issued Sales Certificate 511 covering Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate. They fortified their argument with the claim that the Land Management Bureau issued a Deed of Conveyance based on Assignment of Sales Certificate 511.

The Manotoks told the Court of Appeals that the Deed of Conveyance could not be issued because there is an existing certificate in the name of the Manotoks.

Their lawyer, a respected former member of the Supreme Court and considered a legal scholar, told the Court of Appeals that the title of the Manotoks can be traced – as there are records so proving – from the purchase of Zacarias Modesto, Regina Moreno, and Feliciano Villanueva of the same Lot 823 from the Philippine Government.

Are we now saying there were two buyers of the same lot 823? The Manahans claim their title is based on a Deed of Conveyance issued on April 17, 2000. On the other hand the title of the Manotoks came from a purchase of the same land by Zacarias Modesto, Regina Moreno, and Feliciano Villanueva from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in 1919.

The Deed of Conveyance was issued 81 years after Modesto, Moreno and Villanueva bought the property from the government. This is mind boggling.

Is conveyance vital?

The Manahans claim that the title of the Manotoks is fictitious and spurious because, unlike them, they were not issued a deed of conveyance.

The lawyer of the Manotoks dispute this claim. He cited a long series of jurisprudence “that in the sale of friar lands, the purchaser, even before payment of the full price and before execution of the final deed of conveyance, is considered by law as the actual owner of the lot purchased under the obligation to pay in full the purchase price, the role or position of the government being that of a mere lien holder of mortgage.”

Following this jurisprudence, it is not the deed of conveyance that entitles one to ownership.

The lawyer explained to the Court that “while it is true that the government reserves title to any parcel sold until full payment, this must refer to the bare naked title.

“The equitable and beneficial title is transferred to the purchaser the moment he paid the first installment and was given a certificate of sale. Indeed, it is well-settled a deed of conveyance is not necessary given that ownership over the land vests upon the issuance of a certificate of sale.”

The fatal mistake

What to many lawyers was a fatal mistake in this case is the acceptance by the Court of Appeals of the appeal of the Manotoks and the heirs of Homer Barque.
Such acceptance denied the regional trial court its original and exclusive jurisdiction over judicial reconstitution.

At the risk of being cited for contempt, I dare say that it might have been more prudent for the appellate court to rule that it had no jurisdiction over the dispute to precisely because of a law that provides the RTC the exclusive and original jurisdiction over judicial reconstitution of land titles.

In the end, the Supreme Court en banc remanded the case to the CA, not for a ruling but to determine the facts of the case and submit a recommendation to the Highest Tribunal.

In effect, the case landed in the CA twice. First on appeal from the LRA which was first denied and later affirmed.

Now we have the same CA ordered by the Supreme Court to determine the facts. In effect, the CA took over – in fact, usurped the functions of the regional trial court which, it must be repeated, has exclusive and original jurisdiction.

Dispute over Piedad estate continues

Again, the scammer Teresita Barque-Hernandez is still trying to get away with land-grabbing and not even paying the court for any filing-fees. Only stupid people would believe her outrageous lies that she only knew about a multi-billion peso property when her father died and therefore she has never ever set foot on the property which she claims she owns. Again, it is outrageous that Teresita Barque-Hernandez’s sister burned the tax-receipts which are the only proof that they are paying taxes on the property. What a scam! What is the connection of businessman Cedric Lee to this land scam?

Dispute over Piedad estate continues


By Peter J.G. Tabingo

–>A DAUGHTER of the late businessman Homer Barque testified over the weekend at the Court of Appeals that the disputed 34-hectare parcel of land in Rizal, known as the Piedad estate, has been with their family since 1975.

Lot 823, nestled in Culiat, Capitol Hills, Old Balara and the posh Ayala Heights in Quezon City, is covered by TCT No. 210177 issued to Barque. The lot’s value is now pegged at P3.4-billion.

Aside from the Barques, the heirs of Severino Manotok are also claiming the land.

The dispute between the two claimants was spawned by a fire in June 1988 that gutted the office of the Register of Deeds in Quezon City, which prompted the Manotoks to apply for the administrative reconstitution of the titles. The heirs of Barque did not oppose the application for administrative reconstitution and a reconstituted title was issued in 1991.

During cross examination last Friday, Teresita Barque-Hernandez told justices that the subject property was purchased by her father from a business associate named Emiliano Setosta out of his retirement funds and proceeds from their bus line business.

Hernandez admitted to Manotok counsel Roberto San Juan that she had no personal knowledge about the details of the property or its existence until 1991 when the Barque patriarch requested her shortly before he died to redeem the title from her grandmother Felicia Ventura.

San Juan who alleged that the certificate of title in Hernandez’s possession was spurious questioned why the Barque children never learned of or cared about the property until that time. He pointed out that Hernandez never visited the place even after her father’s death in 1991.

He also got Hernandez to admit that the Barques had no copies of any tax declaration receipts for the property. Hernandez said her younger sister Estrellita “who is already at the age of reason,” had burned the tax receipts.

The Manotoks, on the other hand, claimed that they have been religiously paying real estate taxes on the property from 1933 until the present.

The Manotoks’ lawyer claimed Hernandez’s failure to provide copies of the tax payments only proved that the Barques’ title is a forgery and that their proof of ownership is a sham.

The CA’s Special 15th Division is hearing the case after the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Dec. 18, 2008 restoring ownership of the parcel of land to the Manotoks.

In its December 2008 ruling, the SC remanded the 20-year-old land cases to the CA for further proceedings and reception of evidence, and turned down the arguments of the Barque heirs that raised factual issues in determining whether the Land Registration Administration had the authority to conduct administrative reconstitution proceedings.

The controversy in the Manotok-Barque land dispute is whether judicial reconstitution of title may be made administratively that ignores, if not violates, the law giving the RTC exclusive jurisdiction.

With this new ruling, the SC abandoned its First Division’s own Dec. 12, 2005 decision affirming the two rulings of the CA directing the Quezon City Register of Deeds to cancel the Manotok title, and ordering LRA to reconstitute the Barque title.–Evangeline C. de Vera

Twice reversed

‘No cause is hopeless if it is just. Errors, no matter how popular, carry the seeds of their own destruction.’ – John W. Scoville

*  *  *

Twice reversed

Maybe it is a not-too-sudden twist of fate. Maybe, it is the law taking its course.

Whatever it is, the records show that Supreme Court Associate Justice Consuelo Y. Santiago of the Fifth Division had three of her peers agreeing with her earlier ponencia that heirs of Homer Barque are the real owners of a 34-hectare property occupied for many decades by the heirs of Severino Manotok. The reverse is now true.

The learned lady justice stood pat on her interpretation of the law. She denied two motions for reconsideration filed by the Manotoks. The ruling was about to become final. In fact there was an entry of judgment.

In her ruling Justice Santiago ordered the register of deeds of Quezon City to transfer the title of the multi-billion property in the name of the heirs of Homer Barque. The heirs of Severino Manotok were to lose the property said to be covered by a Torrens title.

But like they say, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Up to the time, the second motion for reconsideration was denied by the 5th Division, the fat lady had not sung.

In time, rather unexpectedly, she finally sang. In the end, it was over and the heirs of Homer Barque were not to set foot on the property. It did not belong to them, after all.

The fat lady sings

The “fat lady” in this case came in the person of respected and retired Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, who at this time, must be in his eighties, if not older.

It was he who sought an en banc hearing about the decision of Justice Consuelo Santiago.

There was an open debate, exchange of interpretation of what law is applicable on the case and how the facts were to be appreciated.

Procedurally, the court en banc had Justice Santiago defending her ruling. She would have been the ponente if majority of the en banc agreed with her. But the court overruled her ponencia, voting 8-6.

The ponente became the dissenter. She could have been two-time ponente in the same case had she been supported by her peers in her original ponencia in the Fifth Division.

In my interpretation, it was a simple case of illustrating the old Latin legal maxim “dura lex, sed lex.” The law is hard but it is the law.

Majority of the justices in the fifth division ruled in favor of the heirs of Homer Barque. The lone dissenter was Justice Antonio T. Carpio.

But in he en banc, eight minds are better than six.

Final ponencia

After the Court en banc voted against the original ponencia of Justice Santiago, Justice Dante Tinga was assigned to pen the decision of the majority in the en banc vote.

That left Justice Santiago a dissenter. A ponente in a division decision becoming a dissenter in the en banc ruling does not happen that often in the Supreme Court.

When it does, we get the feeling that the law, wrongly interpreted in the division decision, is set aright in the en banc.

The law takes its course in the right direction. The division ponencia was wrong. The denial by the First Division of two motions for reconsideration did not bring the ruling of Justice Santiago remotely close to what the majority believed was right.

One way of looking or interpreting this situation is that the en banc or collective minds of majority of the 15 magistrates are more correct than the mind of one justice in a division supported by three peers.

The rule of the majority becomes more significant and credible when the number increases from five to 15. In the en banc vote, it is not incorrect to say that eight minds against six including the four in the First Division, are better.

Denied with finality

The law allows the losing litigant to file a motion for reconsideration. The lawyers of the heirs of Homer Barque did just that.

But again, the Barques could not change the ruling of the eight magistrates in the en banc. To write finis to the case, the en banc denied the motion for reconsideration with finality. The ruling is now part of the law of the land after some procedural matters are complied with.

The decision is to remand the case to the Court of Appeals.

It might be said that Justice Santiago lost again. My presumption is that, being a dissenter in the en banc, she had wished to grant the motion for reconsideration. The minority she led was out-voted.

Maybe there is a lesson to learn from this case. Maybe the Court should draw up guidelines on what to accept for orals by the en banc or what to support at the division level.

The grant of en banc orals depend on the weakness or errors of the questioned decision and the strength of the new arguments.

En banc orals are on exclusive authority of the Chief Justice but the final decision belongs to the majority in the Court.

In other words, a ponencia made at the division level, can be reversed by the en banc if the division refused, as in the case of Manotok vs Barque, to reverse itself.

Third case

A lawyer friend told me that a division ruling as in case of Manotok being reversed by the en banc is only the third such case in the history of the Supreme Court.

The ultimate meaning and interpretation of the final ruling by the en banc is that justice prevailed in the end.

Let it not be said that the en banc shamed Justice Santiago. Let it be said that her peers by a vote of 8-6 loudly told her that she was wrong although she insisted four times that she was right.

The first was her ponencia.

Then Justice Santiago and her division denied two motions for reconsideration by the heirs of Severino Manotok. That was the second.

The third was the reversal by the en banc of her ponencia.

The final blow or we might say death knell was the resolution denying the Barque motion for reconsideration with finality.

It is said that the Court is powerful because it is right even when it is wrong. In the Manotok case, the Court set aright what the en banc had seen was wrong.

The final decision is a triumph of justice. Justice Santiago herself should be happy about it.

The Ponente becomes the dissenter

The ponente becomes dissenter

It was not a sudden twist of fate that Supreme Court Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago became a dissenter in the aftermath of a land title case where she was the ponente.

It was just that the Court en banc found her earlier decision so peppered with holes that it had to be reversed.

The reversal, promulgated on Dec. 18, forced Justice Santiago to stick by her guns and even improve a defense of her decision, this time as a dissenter. The Court junked her ruling 8-6.

The unkind way of looking at the reversal is that Justice Santiago and three of her colleagues in the First Division, did not know the facts and the laws applicable in the land dispute between the heirs of Severino Manotok and the heirs of Homer Barque. They felt comfortable in their decision such that two motions for reconsideration were denied by Justice Santiago.

In fact, Justice Santiago had insisted that her ruling had become final and executory. It was not to be since the en banc took over the case.

A dizzying land case

The land dispute between the heirs of Severino Manotok and the heirs of Homer Barque is dizzying.

In the first stage, the Land Registration Administration sustained the position of the Manotoks. On appeal by the heirs of Homer Barque, the LRA reversed its decision.

The Manotoks elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. Again, as in the LRA, they won the appeal.

The CA, for reasons which are very difficult to understand, reversed itself and declared that the 34-hectare disputed land in Quezon City should be titled in the name of the heirs of Homer Barque.

Naturally, the Manotoks appealed to the Supreme Court. The case landed in the First Division.

Justice Santiago ruled that the register of deeds should reconstitute the title for the Barques.

We all thought that was the end of the case although we have maintained that the lone dissent of Justice Antonio Carpio was the correct interpretation of the laws and appreciation of the facts. It turned out in the en banc that his dissent was right and the ponencia or ruling of Justice Santiago was wrong.


Associate Justice Dante Tinga, the en banc ponente, acknowledged the petition of the Manotoks “are attended by a few procedural unorthodoxies, such as, for example, the Court en banc’s move on the Special First Division’s referral to these petitions when an entry of judgment had already been made in favor of the Barques.”

“Yet,” Justice Tinga opined, “the prevailing consensus within the Court en banc was to proceed with the reevaluation of these cases pro hac vice (“for this time only”).

“There are good reasons for the Court to act in such rare manner in these cases. Most urgently, the Court had felt that the previous rulings by the First Division and the special First Division warranted either affirmation or modification by the Court acting en banc.”

This case is the only one I know where an entry of judgment had been made but the decision was reversed in the en banc.

The act of re-evaluation alone is a clear suggestion that Justice Santiago erred in affirming the findings of the LRA and Court of Appeals.

The ruling on this case maybe considered a landmark in the sense that the Supreme Court made it clear that judicial reconstitution is a sole and exclusive function of the regional trial court. Therefore, neither the LRA, the Court of Appeals nor even the Supreme Court may tinker with the law.

Justice is done when majority of the jurists overturn a division which was supposed to be final and executory.

The Torrens system

In this ponencia, Justice Tinga observed:

“The office of the Solicitor General correctly pointed out that this Court has sanctioned the recall entries of judgment. The power to suspend or even disregard rules of procedure can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself has already declared to be final.

“The militating concern for the Court en banc in accepting these cases is not so much the particular fate of the parties, but the stability of the Torrens system of registration by ensuring clarity of jurisprudence on the field.”

Of utmost significance and importance is the en banc decision that raised the question of whether or not the Court of Appeals was empowered to direct the annulment of the Manotok title through petitions…by the Barques and the Manotoks. It could not. The lesson to be learned by those who will try claiming other people’s land without proof of ownership is that the law provides that “a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified or cancelled except in direct proceeding in according with law.”

The direct proceeding referred to was the original and exclusive jurisdiction of judicial reconstitution by the Regional Trial Court.

Justice Santiago trivialized it and declared in her overturned decision that allowing the RTC to exercise jurisdiction is a waste of time since the facts had already been established by the LRA and the Court of Appeals.

The controversy

The controversy in the Manotok-Barque land dispute is whether judicial reconstitution of title may be made administratively that ignores, if not violates the law giving the RTC exclusive jurisdiction.

Justice Tinga ruled:

“Reconstitution of Torrens title is intended for non-controversial cases, or especially where the subject property is not covered by an existing title in favor of a person other than the applicant.

“Such an implication is consonant with the rule that the reconstitution proceedings are not the venue for confirmation or adjudication of title, but merely a means by which a previously adjudicated title whose original has been lost or destroyed may be re-issued to its owner.”

The problem with this case is that it seems to be both administrative and judicial. The claim of the Barques was first denied by the LRA but later sustained. The same with the Court of Appeals.

The point is it hardly matters whether the findings of facts by the LRA may be upheld. The LRA has no authority to determine facts in judicial reconstitution. Justice Santiago and the three members of the First Division never saw it that way.

Manotok case remanded to appellate court

There is justice indeed. The land-grabbing scam of the “Heirs of Homer Barque” has lost this round. It is really hard to believe that the “Heirs of Homer Barque” found titles to a property that is worth a huge amount of money bu their deceased father Homer Barque never ever mentioned about.


Manotok case remanded to appellate court

By Rey E. Requejo

The Supreme Court has remanded to the Court of Appeals for reception of further evidence the land dispute case involving the Manotok clan and heirs of Homer Barque, who both claimed ownership over the Lot 823 of the Piedad Estate situated in Quezon City, covering 342,945 square meters of prime property.

Voting 8-6, the SC en banc through Associate Justice Dante Tinga set aside the Dec. 12, 2005 decision of the Court’s First Division, which affirmed the two CA rulings both directing the QC Register of Deeds to cancel the Manotok title, while ordering Land Registration Authority (LRA) to reconstitute the Barque title.

“The Court recognizes that there is not yet any sufficient evidence for us to warrant the annulment of the Manotok title. All that the record indicates thus far is evidence not yet refuted by clear and convincing proof that the Manotoks’ claim to title is flawed. To arrive at an ultimate determination, the formal reception of evidence is in order,” the SC said in its resolution noting that the tribunal was not a trier of facts.

“The primary focus for the Court of Appeals, as an agent of this Court, in receiving and evaluating evidence should be whether the Manotoks can trace their claim of title to a valid alienation by the government of Lot no. 823 of the Piedad Estate, which was a Friar Land. On that evidence, this Court may ultimately decide whether annulment of the Manotok title is warranted…”

The SC said the CA should hear and receive evidence, conclude the proceedings and submit to the Court a report on its findings and recommended conclusions within three months from notice of the resolution.

In its ruling, the SC admitted the Court’s First Division erred in its 2005 decision, affirming the CA ruling that cancelled the land title of the Manotok clan over the prime lot, which is part of the Piedad Estate in then Caloocan town of Rizal province at the same time declaring the Barque heirs as real owners.

According to the SC, neither the LRA nor the CA has jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title over the property valued at more than P5 billion.

Under the law, the CA’s jurisdiction covers only special civil actions and actions for annulment of judgments of the regional trial court, the high court said, sustaining the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its position that the LRA had no jurisdiction to cancel the Manotok title nor rule on the validity of a certificate of title.

It cited paragraph 2, Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which mandated the regional trial court the exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions involving the title or possession of real property.

Based on the provisions of the Presidential Decree 1529 or the Property Registration Decree, the LRA had no power to cancel titles, the SC noted.

“The 2005 decision accepted the findings of the LRA and the Court of Appeals that the Manotok title was spurious and accordingly sanctioned its cancellation, even though no direct attack on the title had been initiated before a trial court,” the SC said.

“That the 2005 decision erred in that regard is a necessary consequence following our earlier explanation of why the mere existence of the Manotok title necessarily barred the LRA from inquiring into the validity of that title.”

The row over the Piedad Estate came after a fire struck Quezon City Hall, destroying, among others, numerous certificates of land title at the Register of Deeds office.

Records showed that Barque title actually involved two parcels as part of Piedad Estate Lot 823, measuring 342,945 square meters, while the Manotok title referred to a parcel, but with a similar area.

The Barques filed a petition with the LRA for administrative reconstitution of the original transfer certificate of title 210177 issued in the name of Homer Barque, claiming their title was among the records destroyed by the 1988 fire.

They submitted copies of the alleged owner’s duplicate of the Barque title, real estate tax receipts, tax declarations and a plan covering the said property.

The Manotoks, led by Severino Manotok IV, filed an opposition, claiming that the lot covered by the Barque title formed part of the land covered by their reconstituted title TCT RT-22481 (372302) in the name of Severino, et al.

The LRA denied Barques’ petition but later reversed its ruling and declared that Manotoks’ title was fraudulently reconstituted.

But the LRA noted that only the regional trial court could cancel the Manotoks’ title as a Torrens title.

The LRA later denied the Manotoks motion for reconsideration as well as the motion of Barques prayer for the immediate reconstitution of their title.

This prompted the two parties to separately elevate the case before the CA through a petition for review.

During the pendency of their petitions, a certain Felicitas Manahan filed a motion for leave to intervene, claiming ownership over the subject property.

The CA Second Division issued an amended decision on Nov.7, 2003 granting Barques’ immediate reconstitution of their title being valid and genuine.

The CA Third Division, where the Manotoks’ appeal was raffled off, also upheld the right of the Barques over the Piedad Estate.

On Dec. 12, 2005, the SC’s First Division issued a decision penned by Associate Justice Consuelo-Ynares Santiago and concurred in by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., and Associate Justices Leonardo Quisumbing and Adolfo Azcuna affirming the CA ruling.

The ruling became final after it denied the motion for reconsideration of the Manotoks on June 19, 2006.

The Barques filed multiple motions with the First Division seeking the execution of the judgment, including the issuance of a writ of possession or for execution.

The Manotoks filed an urgent motion to refer motion for possession to the SC en banc and to set the issue for oral argument.

On July 26, the court en banc promulgated a resolution accepting the cases.

In ordering that the case returned to the CA, the SC admitted that it had before sanctioned the recall of entries of judgment due to compelling reason—to provide “clarity of jurisprudence on the field” in connection with the Torrens system of registration.

The SC also observed that on its review of the records, the Barques’ claim was also weak—if the property was bought from a certain Setosta, the title should have been registered under the name of Setosta.

It said the title was registered under the name of Manotok Realty, Inc., which contradicted Barques’ claim that the Manotoks had no title to the property.

“These discrepancies highlight the error of the LRA and the Court of Appeals in acknowledging the right of the Barques to seek reconstitution of their purported Barque title. Even assuming that the petition for reconstitution should not have been dismissed due to the Manotok title, it is apparent that the Barques’ claim of ownership is exceedingly weak,” the SC said.

Law and facts on Manotok

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.”


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

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.