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.