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anotok v. Barque, the Lot No.

823, Piedad Estate Ownership Controversy Part I : The December 12, 2005 Decision
Last March 6, 2012, the Supreme Court en banc promulgated its resolution in Manotok vs. Barque, G.R. Nos. 162335 & 162605, the case involving Lot No. 823 of the Piedad Estate (a former friar land) located in Quezon City. Voting 9-6, the High Tribunal DENIED WITH FINALITY the motions for reconsideration filed by all parties in this case. It REITERATED its August 24, 2012 decision declaring that the subject lot legally belongs to the national government of the Republic of the Philippines, and denying the respective claims of the opposing parties (the Manotoks as petitioners, the Barques as respondents, and the Manahans as intervenors) over Lot No. 823. In this four-part series, I will endeavour to sequentially summarize the series of opinions rendered by the Supreme Court in this case, to wit: Part I (this entry) The December 12, 2005 decision of the 1stDivision (4-1 vote, Ynares-Santiago, J., ponente), which denied the Manotoks consolidated petitions and sustained the order for the cancellation of the Manotoks title and for the reconstitution of the Barques title; Part II The December 18, 2008 en banc resolution (8-6-1 vote,Tinga, J., ponente), which reversed the decision of the 1stDivision and remanded the petitions to the CA for further proceedings; Part III The August 24, 2010 en banc decision (9-5-1 vote,Villarama, J., ponente), which denied the Manotoks consolidated petitions and declared their title null and void, but als o denied the petition for reconstitution of the Barques and declared that the subject lot legally belongs to the national government of the Republic of the Philippines; Part IV The March 6, 2012 en banc resolution (9-6 vote,Villarama, J., ponente) denying with finality the motions for reconsideration of the parties. What went before : The facts The Barques filed a petition for administrative reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 issued in the name of their predecessor, Homer L. Barque, which was allegedly destroyed in the fire that gutted the Quezon City Hall, including the Office of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City, sometime in 1988. The Manotoks filed their opposition to the Barques petition, claiming that the lot covered by the title sought to be reconstituted by the latter forms part of the land covered by the formers own reconstituted title, TCT No. RT-22481, and alleging that TCT No. 210177 in the name of Homer L. Barque is spurious. On June 30, 1997, the reconstituting officer denied the reconstitution of TCT No. 210177 on grounds that the two lots covered by the Barques title appear to duplicate the lot covered by the Manotoks own reconstituted title; and that the Barques plan, Fls-3168-D, is a spurious document. On appeal by the Barques, the LRA reversed the reconstituting officer and ordered that reconstitution of the Barques title be given due course, but only after the Manotoks own title has been cancelled upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction. The parties separately appealed to the CA. The two divisions of the CA where the cases landed similarly modified the LRA decision, ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel the Manotoks title without a direct proceeding with the RTC, and directing the LRA to reconstitute the Barques' title.

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Thus, the Manotoks filed these petitions to the SC. The December 12, 2005 decision of the SC 1st Division The consolidated petitions were DENIED by the Supreme Court 1stDivision, which AFFIRMED the appealed CA resolutions. Justice Ynares-Santiago, wrote the opinion for the 1st Division, reasoning that [t]he LRA properly ruled that the reconstituting officer shoul d have confined himself to the owner's duplicate certificate of title prior to the reconstitution. She went on to state:
The factual finding of the LRA that [the Barques] title is authentic, genuine, valid, and existing, while [the Manotoks] title is sham and spurious, as affirmed by the two divisions of the Court of Appeals, is conclusive before this Court. It should remain undisturbed since only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. xxx xxx xxx

There is no basis in the allegation that petitioners were deprived of their property without due process of law when the Court of Appeals ordered the cancellation of their Torrens title, even without a direct proceeding in the RTC . . .[T]here is no need to remand the case to the RTC for a re-determination on the validity of the titles of [the Barques] and [the Manotoks] as the same has been squarely passed upon by the LRA and affirmed by the appellate court. By opposing the petition for reconstitution and submitting their administratively reconstituted title, petitioners acquiesced to the authority and jurisdiction of the reconstituting officer, the LRA and the Court of Appeals, and recognized their authority to pass judgment on their title. All the evidence presented was duly considered by these tribunals. There is thus no basis to petitioners' claim that they were deprived of their right to be heard and present evidence, which is the essence of due process. xxx xxx xxx

The reconstitution would not constitute a collateral attack on petitioners' title which was irregularly and illegally issued in the first place. xxx.

Only Chief Justice Davide fully concurred with Justice Ynares-Santiago. Quisumbing and Azcuna wrote separate opinions concurring in the result.

Justices

The fifth member of the 1st Division, Justice Carpio, dissented and voted to REVERSE the appealed CA resolutions. He summarized his opinion thus:
[T]he Heirs of Barque filed before the Register of Deeds an administrative petition to reconstitute their allegedly destroyed TCT. The Register of Deeds, as reconstituting officer, denied the petition of the Heirs of Barque because, based on official records, the property involved is already registered under the Torrens system in the name of Manotok, et al. The LRA affirmed the Register of Deeds, stating that only the proper trial court could cancel the TCT of Manotok, et al. although the LRA believed that the TCT of Manotok, et al. was a sham. The LRA recognized that in an administrative reconstitution, the decision of the reconstituting body is either to deny or approve the reconstitution of the applicant's title, never to cancel the Torrens title of a third party. However, on appeal, the Court of Appeals declared the TCT of Manotok, et al. void and the TCT of the Heirs of Barque valid. Clearly, the Court of Appeals deprived Manotok, et al. of their property without due process of law. The Court of Appeals blatantly disregarded Section 48 of PD 1529 and Section 19 of BP Blg. 129 which confer on the proper trial court exclusive original jurisdiction to cancel a Torrens title in an action directly attacking the validity of the Torrens title. The Court should not countenance this gross injustice and patent violation of the law.

[You may also refer to Part II, Part III, and Part IV of this series of posts for the succeeding opinions of the Supreme Court en banc.]