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PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO.

1529
AMENDING AND CODIFYING THE LAWS RELATIVE
TO REGISTRATION OF PROPERTY
AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
WHEREAS, there is a need to update the Land Registration Act
and to codify the various laws relative to registration of property, in
order to facilitate effective implementation of said laws;
WHEREAS, to strengthen the Torrens system, it is deemed
necessary to adopt safeguards to prevent anomalous titling of real
property, and to streamline and simplify registration proceedings and
the issuance of certificates of title;
WHEREAS, the decrees promulgated relative to the registration
of certificates of land transfer and emancipation patents issued
pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 27 to hasten the implementation of
the land reform program of the country form an integral part of the
property registration laws;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of
the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me
by the Constitution, do hereby order and decree the following:

CHAPTER I
GENERAL PROVISIONS
SECTION 1. Title of Decree. This Decree shall be known as
the PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE.
SEC. 2. Nature of registration proceedings; jurisdiction of
courts. Judicial proceedings for the registration of lands throughout
the Philippines shall be in rem and shall be based on the generally
accepted principles underlying the Torrens system.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

Courts of First Instance1 shall have exclusive jurisdiction over


all applications for original registration of title to lands, including
improvements and interests therein, and over all petitions filed after
original registration of title, with power to hear and determine all
questions arising upon such applications or petitions. The court
through its clerk of court shall furnish the Land Registration
Commission2 with two certified copies of all pleadings, exhibits,
orders, and decisions filed or issued in applications or petitions for
land registration, with the exception of stenographic notes, within five
days from the filing or issuance thereof.

1. Concept of jura regalia.


Generally, under the concept of jura regalia, private title to land must be
traced to some grant, express or implied, from the Spanish Crown or its successors,
the American Colonial government, and thereafter, the Philippine Republic. The
belief that the Spanish Crown is the origin of all land titles in the Philippines has
persisted because title to land must emanate from some source for it cannot issue
forth from nowhere. In its broad sense, the term jura regalia refers to royal rights,
or those rights which the King has by virtue of his prerogatives. In Spanish law, it
refers to a right which the sovereign has over anything in which a subject has a right
of property or propriedad. These were rights enjoyed during feudal times by the
King as the sovereign.
The theory of the feudal system was that title to all lands was originally
held by the King, and while the use of lands was granted out to others who were
permitted to hold them under certain conditions, the King theoretically retained the
title. By fiction of law, the King was regarded as the original proprietor of all lands,
and the true and only source of title, and from him all lands were held. The theory of
jura regalia was therefore nothing more than a natural fruit of conquest.3
The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the States power of
dominium. This was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the
feudal theory of jura regalia. The Regalian Doctrine or jura regalia is a Western
1
2

Should read Regional Trial Courts.


Should read Land Registration Authority.

Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, GR No. 135385, Dec. 6, 2000,
347 SCRA 128, per Justice Kapunan.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

legal concept that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the
Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas. The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue
of discovery and conquest. Consequently, all lands became the exclusive
patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish government took
charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to
Spaniards, both military and civilian. Private land titles could only be acquired from
the government either by purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the
Crown.
The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the
Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic
registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. The law sought to
register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of
1894, or the Maura Law, was partly an amendment of the Mortgage Law as well
as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by previous orders and decrees. This
was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required the
adjustment or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert
to the state. Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain
ceded to the government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the
national territory of the Philippine Islands.4

2. The Regalian doctrine is enshrined in the present and previous


Constitutions.
The 1987 Constitution, like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, embodies the
principle of State ownership of lands and all other natural resources in Section 2 of
Article XII on National Economy and Patrimony, to wit:
SEC. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters,
minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of
potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and
fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With
the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources
shall not be alienated. The exploration, development and
utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control
and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake
such activities or it may enter into co-production, joint venture,
or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or
4

Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, supra, per Justice Puno.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose


capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a
period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more
than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as
may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation,
water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the
development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure
and limit of the grant.
The principle had its roots in the 1935 Constitution which expressed the
overwhelming sentiment in the Convention in favor of the principle of State
ownership of natural resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine as
articulated in Section 1 of Article XIII on Conservation and Utilization of Natural
Resources as follows:
SEC. 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of
the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
mineral oils, all-forces of potential energy, and other natural
resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their
disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall be
limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or
associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is
owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant,
lease, or concession at the time of the inauguration of the
Government established under this Constitution. Natural
resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall
not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the
exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural
resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five
years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply,
fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water
power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and
the limit of the grant.
Thus, after expressly declaring that all lands of the public domain, waters,
minerals, all forces of energy and other natural resources belonged to the State, the
Commonwealth absolutely prohibited the alienation of these natural resources. Their
disposition, exploitation, development and utilization were further restricted only to
Filipino citizens and entities that were 60 percent Filipino-owned.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine in Section 8, Article


XIV on the National Economy and the Patrimony of the Nation, to wit:
SEC. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters,
minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of
potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources
of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of
agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, and
resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall
not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the
exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of
the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding
twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five
years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply,
fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water
power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and
the limit of the grant.
The present Constitution provides that, except for agricultural lands of the
public domain which alone may be alienated, forest or timber, and mineral lands, as
well as all other natural resources must remain with the State, the exploration,
development and utilization of which shall be subject to its full control and
supervision albeit allowing it to enter into co-production, joint venture or production
sharing agreements, or into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving
technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development and
utilization.5

03. The doctrine does not negate native title.


In Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, 6 petitioners
challenged the constitutionality of RA No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous
Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), on the ground that it amounts to an unlawful
deprivation of the States ownership over lands of the public domain and all other
natural resources therein, by recognizing the right of ownership of Indigenous
Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) to their ancestral domains
and ancestral lands on the basis of native title. After due deliberation on the petition,
the Supreme Court voted as follows: seven (7) Justices voted to dismiss the petition
5
6

Secs. 2 and 3, Art. XII.


Supra

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

while seven (7) others voted to grant the petition. As the votes were equally divided
(7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated
upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly,
pursuant to Section 7, Rule 56 of the Rules of Court, the petition was dismissed, and
the validity of the law, deemed upheld. Justice Kapunan, voting to dismiss the
petition, stated that the Regalian theory does not negate native title to lands held in
private ownership since time immemorial, adverting to the landmark case of Cario
v. Insular Government,7 where the United States Supreme Court, through Justice
Holmes, declared:
It might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that
when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has
been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it
will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before
the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land.
The above ruling institutionalized the recognition of the existence of native
title to land, or ownership of land by Filipinos by virtue of possession under a claim
of ownership since time immemorial and independent of any grant from the Spanish
Crown, as an exception to the theory of jura regalia.
Describing the IPRA as a novel piece of legislation, Justice Puno stated that
Cario firmly established a concept of private land title that existed irrespective of
any royal grant from the State and was based on the strong mandate extended to the
Islands via the Philippine Bill of 1902 that No law shall be enacted in said islands
which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of
law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws. The IPRA
recognizes the existence of ICCs/IPs as a distinct sector in Philippine society. It
grants these people the ownership and possession of their ancestral domains and
ancestral lands, and defines the extent of these lands and domains. The ownership
given is the indigenous concept of ownership under customary law which traces its
origin to native title.
On the other hand, Justice Vitug would grant the petition, saying that
Cario cannot override the collective will of the people expressed in the
Constitution. It is in them that sovereignty resides and from them that all
government authority emanates. It is not then for a court ruling or any piece of
legislation to be conformed to by the fundamental law, but it is for the former to
7

212 U.S., 449; 53 Law Ed., 594.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

adapt to the latter, and it is the sovereign act that must, between them, stand
inviolate.
Justice Panganiban was more forthright when he stated that all Filipinos,
whether indigenous or not, are subject to the Constitution, and that no one is exempt
from its all-encompassing provisions.

04. Background of the Torrens system of registration.


The boldest effort to grapple with the problem of simplification of title to
land was made by Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Torrens, a layman, in South Australia
in 1857. In the Torrens system, title by registration takes the place of title by deeds
of the system under the general law. A sale of land, for example, is effected by a
registered transfer, upon which a certificate of title is issued. The certificate is
guaranteed by statute, and, with certain exceptions, constitutes indefeasible title to
the land mentioned therein. Under the old system the same sale would be effected by
a conveyance, depending for its validity, apart from intrinsic flaws, on the
correctness of a long series of prior deeds, wills, etc. The object of the Torrens
system then is to do away with the delay, uncertainty, and expense of the old
conveyancing system.
By Torrens systems generally are meant those systems of registration of
transactions with interest in land whose declared object is, under governmental
authority, to establish and certify to the ownership of an absolute and indefeasible
title to realty, and to simplify its transfer.8
Grants of public land were brought under the operation of the Torrens
system under Act No. 496, or the Land Registration Act of 1903. Enacted by the
Philippine Commission, said Act placed all public and private lands in the
Philippines under the Torrens system. The law is said to be almost a verbatim copy
of the Massachusetts Land Registration Act of 1898, which, in turn, followed the
principles and procedure of the Torrens system of registration formulated by Sir
Robert Torrens who patterned it after the Merchant Shipping Acts in South Australia.
The Torrens system requires that the government issue an official certificate of title
attesting to the fact that the person named is the owner of the property described
therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or the law warrants
or reserves. The certificate of title is indefeasible and imprescriptible and all claims

Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, GR No. L-5246, Sept. 16, 1910, 17 SCRA 49.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

to the parcel of land are quieted upon issuance of said certificate. This system highly
facilitates land conveyance and negotiation.9
Otherwise stated, the dominant principle of the Torrens system of land
registration is that the titles registered thereunder are indefeasible or as nearly so as
it is possible to make them. This principle is recognized to the fullest extent in our
registration laws,10 the Land Registration Act, and now the 1978 Property
Registration Decree which codifies all laws relative to registration of lands.
The validity of some of the provisions of the statutes adopting the Torrens
system has been upheld by the courts of the United States.11

05. Purpose of the Torrens system.


The real purpose of the Torrens system of registration, as expressed in
Legarda v. Saleeby,12 a 1915 decision, is to quiet title to land; to put a stop forever to
any question of the legality of the title, except claims which were noted at the time
of registration, in the certificate, or which may arise subsequent thereto. That being
the purpose of the law, once a title is registered the owner may rest secure, without
the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting in the mirador de su
casa, to avoid the possibility of losing his land. While the proceeding is judicial, it
involves more in its consequences than does an ordinary action. All the world are
parties, including the government. After the registration is complete and final and
there exists no fraud, there are no innocent third parties who may claim an interest.
The rights of all the world are foreclosed by the decree of registration. The
certificate of registration accumulates in one document a precise and correct
statement of the exact status of the fee held by its owner. The certificate, in the
absence of fraud, is the evidence of title and shows exactly the real interest of its
owner. The title once registered, with very few exceptions, should not thereafter be
impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged, or diminished, except in some
direct proceeding permitted by law.

Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, supra, per Justice Puno.
Sotto v. Sotto, GR No. L-17768, Sept. 1, 1922, 4 Phil. 688.
11
GR No. 8936, Oct. 2, 1915, 31 Phil. 590, 31 Phil. 590; see also Ching v. Court of Appeals, GR
No. 59731, Jan. 11, 1990, 181 SCRA 9; National Grains Authority v. Intermediate Appellate Court, GR
No. L-68741, Jan. 28, 1988, 157 SCRA 388.
10

12

GR No. 8936, Oct. 2, 1915, 31 Phil. 590, 31 Phil. 590; see also Ching v. Court of Appeals, GR
No. 59731, Jan. 11, 1990, 181 SCRA 9; National Grains Authority v. Intermediate Appellate Court, GR
No. L-68741, Jan. 28, 1988, 157 SCRA 388.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

Put a little differently, the Torrens system aims to decree land titles that
shall be final, irrevocable, and indisputable,13 and to relieve the land of the burden of
known as well as unknown claims. If there exists known and just claims against the
title of the applicant for the registration of his land under the Torrens systems, he
gains nothing in effect by his registration, except in the simplicity of subsequent
transfers of his title. The registration either relieves the land of all known as well as
unknown claims absolutely, or it compels the claimants to come into court and to
make there a record, so that thereafter there may be no uncertainty concerning either
the character or the extent of such claims.14

06. Registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership.


Registration does not vest title. It is merely evidence of such title over a
particular property. Our land registration laws do not give the holder any better title
than what he actually has.15 Registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership but is
merely a procedure to establish evidence of title over realty. It has been held that
where petitioners registration of their deed of sale was done in bad faith, it is as if
no registration was made at all insofar as private respondent is concerned.
Conversely, actual knowledge of petitioners of the sale to private respondent
amounted to registration thereof. 16 Knowledge of a prior transfer of a registered
property by a subsequent purchaser makes him a purchaser in bad faith and his
knowledge of such transfer vitiates his title acquired by virtue of the latter
instrument of conveyance with creates no right as against the first purchaser. 17
Registration of land under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 does not vest in the
registrant private or public ownership of the land. Registration is not a mode of
acquiring ownership but is merely evidence of ownership previously conferred by
any of the recognized modes of acquiring ownership. Registration does not give the
registrant a better right than what the registrant had prior to the registration. The
registration of lands of the public domain under the Torrens system, by itself, cannot
convert public lands into private lands.18

07. Advantages of the Torrens system.


13
14

Government of the Philippine Islands v. Abural, GR No. 14167, Aug. 14, 1919, 39 Phil. 996.
Roxas v. Enriquez, GR No. 8539, Dec. 24, 1914, 29 Phil. 31.

15
Solid State Multi-Products Corporation v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 83383, May 6, 1991, 196
SCRA 630.
16
Guzman v. Court of Appeals, GR No. L-46935, Dec. 21, 1987, 156 SCRA 701.
17
Cruz v. Cabana, GR No. 56232, June 22, 1984, 129 SCRA 656.
18
Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, GR No. 133250, July 9, 2002, 384 SCRA 152.

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(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

10

Sir Robert Torrens summarized the benefits of the system of registration of


titles, to wit:
(a) It has substituted security for insecurity;
(b) It has reduced the cost of conveyances from pounds to shillings, and the
time occupied from months to days;
(c) It has exchanged brevity and clearness for obscurity and verbiage;
(d) It has so simplified ordinary dealings that he who has mastered the
three Rs can transact his own conveyancing;
(e) It affords protection against fraud;
(f) It has restored to their just value many estates, held under good holding
titles, but depreciated in consequence of some blur or technical defect, and has
barred the reoccurrence of any similar faults.19
Worth reiterating is that the main purpose of the Torrens system is to avoid
possible conflicts of title to real estate and to facilitate transactions relative thereto
by giving the public the right to rely upon the face of a Torrens certificate of title and
to dispense with the need of inquiring further, except when the party concerned has
actual knowledge of facts and circumstances that should impel a reasonably cautious
man to make such further inquiry. Where innocent third persons, relying on the
correctness of the certificate of title thus issued, acquire rights over the property, the
court cannot disregard such rights and order the total cancellation of the certificate.
The effect of such an outright cancellation would be to impair public confidence in
the certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the
Torrens system would have to inquire in every instance as to whether the title has
been regularly or irregularly issued by the court. Every person dealing with
registered land may safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued
therefor and the law will in no way oblige him to go beyond the certificate to
determine the condition of the property.20

08. A view of past and present legislation on land registration.

19

20

Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, supra, citing Sheldon on Land Registration.

Traders Royal Bank v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 114299, Sept. 24, 1999, 315 SCRA 190.

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(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

11

The State has the power and right to provide a procedure for the
adjudication of title to real estate. It has control over the real property within its
limits. The conditions of ownership of real estate within the State is subject to its
rules, concerning the holding, transfer, liability to obligations, private or public, and
the modes of establishing title thereto, and for the purpose of determining these
questions, the State may provide any reasonable rules or procedure. The State
possesses not only the right to determine how title to real estate may be acquired and
proved, but it is also within its legislative capacity to establish the method of
procedure.21
The case of Oh Cho v. Director of Lands,22 decided in 1946, reiterated that
all lands that were not acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant,
under the laws, orders and decrees promulgated by the Spanish Government in the
Philippines, or by possessory information under the Mortgage Law (Sec. 19, Act No.
496),23 belong to the public domain. Significantly, Oh Cho reiterated the exception
to the rule enunciated in Cario, which is any land that has been in the possession of
an occupant and of his predecessors-in-interest since time immemorial, as to which
such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of
the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish
conquest.
It then becomes important to look at previous and current legislation
governing acquisition of private lands or lands of the public domain leading to their
registration under the Torrens system.

(1) The Public Land Act (CA No. 141)


In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the Philippine
Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act. The Act was passed in
pursuance of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the
disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the
homesteading, selling, and leasing of portions of the public domain of the Philippine
21

Legarda v. Saleeby, supra.


GR No. 482321, Aug. 31, 1946, 75 Phil. 890.
23
Sec. 19 [third], Act No. 496, provides that application for registration of title may be made by the
person or persons claiming, singly or collectively, to own or hold any land under a possessory
information title, acquired under the provisions of the Mortgage Law.
22

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(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

12

Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their
titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the issuance of patents to
certain native settlers upon public lands, for the establishment of townsites and sale
of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or
confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands. In short, the Public
Land Act operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine
Islands remained in the government; and that the governments title to public land
sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the
United States. The term public land referred to all lands of the public domain
whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private
appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the
government and the friar lands.
Act No. 926 was superseded in 1919 by Act No. 2874, the second Public
Land Act. This new law was passed under the Jones Law. It was more
comprehensive in scope but limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos
and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same
privileges. After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, Act No. 2874 was amended in
1936 by CA No. 141, the present Public Land Act, which is essentially the same as
Act No. 2874. The main difference between the two relates to the transitory
provisions on the rights of American citizens and corporations during the
Commonwealth period at par with Filipino citizens and corporations. 24
CA No. 141, approved November 7, 1936, applies to lands of the public
domain which have been declared open to disposition or concession and officially
delimited and classified. It contains provisions on the different modes of government
grant, e.g., homesteads,25 sale,26 free patents (administrative legalization), 27 and
reservations for public and semi-public purpose. 28 Under Section 103 of PD No.
1529, or the Property Registration Decree, it is provided that whenever public land
is alienated, granted or conveyed to any person by the government, the same shall be
brought forthwith under the operation of the Decree. The corresponding patent or
instrument of conveyance shall be filed with the Register of Deeds of the province
or city were the land lies and registered, whereupon a certificate of title shall be
entered as in other cases of registered land, and owners duplicate issued to the
24

Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, supra, per Justice Puno.

25

Chapter IV, CA No. 141.


Chapter V, ibid
27
Chapter VII, ibid.
28
Chapter XII, ibid.
26

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(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

13

grantee. A certificate of title issued pursuant to a public land patent has the same
validity and efficacy as a certificate of title issued through ordinary registration
proceedings.
The Public Land Act has a chapter on judicial confirmation of imperfect or
incomplete titles based on acquisitive prescription. Section 48(b), Chapter VIII,
declares who may apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles,
to wit:
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the
Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not
been perfected or completed, may apply to the Regional Trial Court
of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the
Property Registration Decree, to wit:
xxx

xxx

xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors


in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership,
since June 12, 1945, except when prevented by war or force
majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed
all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by
themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain,
under a bona fide claim of ownership, since June 12, 1945. (As
amended by PD No. 1073, dated Jan. 25, 1977)
Section 51 of the Act provides that applications for judicial confirmation of
imperfect of incomplete titles shall be subject to the same procedure as established
under the Property Registration Decree, except that notice of all such applications,
together with the plan of the land claimed, shall be immediately forwarded to the
Director of Lands who may appear as a party in such cases.

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(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

14

(2) The Land Registration Act (Act No. 496)


The original Land Registration Act (Act No. 496) was approved on
November 6, 1902, but became effective on January 1, 1903. It established the
Torrens system of registration in the country. 29 It created a court called the Court of
Land Registration which had exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for
registration, with power to hear and determine all questions arising upon such
applications. The sole purpose of the Legislature in its creation was to bring the
land titles in the Philippines under one comprehensive and harmonious system, the
cardinal features of which are indefeasibility of title and the intervention of the
State as a prerequisite to the creation and transfer of titles and interests, with the
resultant increase in the use of land as a business asset by reason of the greater
certainty and security of title. It does not create a title nor vest one. It simply
confirms a title already created and already vested, rendering it forever indefeasible.
The office of the court is solely to register title. The effects and results of that
registration are determined by the statute. It determines, adjudicates says the title,
whether or not, upon the facts presented, the petitioner is entitled to have an
indefeasible title. If he is, it is given to him; if not, he is driven from court by a
dismissal of the petition with the resultant loss of jurisdiction over the whole
proceeding. This is its sole function to confirm and register. It is, therefore, a court
with jurisdiction over a particular subject matter, which subject matter is to be dealt
with to a special end. While the power of the court over its subject matter is plenary,
it is so only for certain clearly specified purposes and to effectuate only clearly
specified ends.
Before the creation of the Court of Land Registration, the jurisdiction to
determine the nature, quality, and extent of land titles, the rival claims of
contending parties, and the legality and effect thereof was vested in the Courts of
First Instance. By the passage of Act No. 496, two things occurred worthy of note:
first, a court of limited jurisdiction, with special subject matter, and with only one
purpose, was created, and second, by reason thereof, courts, theretofore of general,
original, and exclusive jurisdiction, were shorn of some of their attributes; in other
words, their powers were restricted. 30 After land has been finally registered, the

29

Sotto v. Sotto, GR No. L-17768, Sept. 1, 1922, 43 Phil. 688.

30

City of Manila v. Lack, GR No. 5987, April 7, 1911, 19 Phil. 324.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


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15

Court of Land Registration ceased to have jurisdiction. The only authority


remaining in the court was that conferred by Section 112 of Act No. 496.31
Judicial proceedings for the registration of lands under the Act are in rem
and based on the generally accepted principles underlying the Torrens system. 32 The
decrees operate directly on the land and the buildings and improvements thereon,
and vest and establish title thereto.33
The final decrees are always regarded as indefeasible and could not be
reopened except under the circumstances and in the manner mentioned in Section
38 of the Act, to wit:
If the court after hearing finds that the applicant has title
as stated in his application, and proper for registration, a decree of
confirmation and registration shall be entered. Every decree of
registration shall bind the land, and quiet title thereto, subject only
to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be
conclusive upon and against all persons, including the Insular
Government and all the branches thereof, whether mentioned by
name in the application, notice, or citation, or included in the
general description To all whom it may concern. Such decree shall
not be opened by reason of the absence, infancy, or other disability
of any person affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in any court
for reversing judgments or decrees; subject, however, to the right of
any person deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by
decree of registration obtained by fraud to file in the Court of Land
Registration a petition for review within one year after entry of the
decree, provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired an
interest. x x x
Act No. 496 provides for an Assurance Fund to pay for the loss or damage
sustained by any person who, without negligence on his part, is wrongfully
deprived of any land or interest therein on account of the bringing of the same under
the Act or registration of any other persons as owner of the land.

31

Cuyugan v. Sy Quia, GR No. 7857, March 27, 1913, 24 Phil. 567.


Sec. 2, ibid.
33
Sec. 2, Act No. 496.
32

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


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16

(3) The Cadastral Act (Act No. 2259)


The cadastral system of registration took effect with the enactment on
February 11, 1913 of Act No. 2259.34 When, in the opinion of the President, the
public interest requires that title to any lands be settled and adjudicated, he shall
order the Director of Lands to make a survey thereof, with notice to all persons
claiming an interest therein. Thereafter, the Director of Lands, represented by the
Solicitor General, shall institute registration proceedings by filing a petition in the
proper court against the holders, claimants, possessors or occupants of such lands,
stating that the public interest requires that the titles to such lands be settled and
adjudicated.35 Notice of the filing of the petition is published twice in successive
issues of the Official Gazette.36 All conflicting interests shall be adjudicated by the
court and decree awarded to the person entitled to the lands or parts thereof. The
decree shall be the basis for the issuance of the certificate of title which shall have
the same effect as a certificate of title granted under the Property Registration
Decree.
Like ordinary registration proceedings, a cadastral proceeding is in rem,
hence, binding generally upon the whole world, inclusive of persons not parties
thereto, and particularly upon those who had actually taken part in the proceeding
and their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the
action.37
The provisions of the Cadastral Act have been substantially incorporated in
the Property Registration Decree, particularly in Sections 35 to 38 thereof, under
the title: Cadastral Registration Proceedings. Section 53 of the Public Land Act also
refers to cadastral proceedings, but all cadastral proceedings may well be
considered as governed by the aforesaid sections of the Property Registration
Decree.

(4) The Property Registration Decree (PD No. 1529)


34
35

36

37

Sec. 1, Act No. 2259.


Sec. 5, ibid.
Sec. 7, ibid.

Barroga v. Albano, GR No. L-43445, Jan. 20, 1988, 157 SCRA 131.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


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17

On June 11, 1978, PD No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property


Registration Decree, was approved. The Decree was issued in order to update the
Land Registration Act and to codify the various laws relative to registration of
property and to facilitate effective implementation of said laws. As expressed in
Director of Lands v. Santiago, 38 the Decree supersedes all other laws relative to
registration of property. Regional Trial Courts of the city or province where the
land lies exercise jurisdiction over applications for registration and all subsequent
proceedings relative thereto, subject to judicial review.
PD No. 1529 has substantially incorporated the substantive and procedural
requirements of its precursor, the Land Registration Act of 1902. But it has
expanded its coverage to include judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete
titles in its Section 14(1),39 cadastral registration proceedings in Sections 35 to 38,
voluntary proceedings in Sections 51 to 68, involuntary proceedings in Sections 69
to 77, certificates of land transfer and emancipation patents issued pursuant to PD
No. 27 in Sections 104 to 106, and reconstitution of lost or destroyed original
Torrens titles in Section 110.
Judicial proceedings under the Property Registration Decree, like the old
Land Registration Act, are in rem, and are based on the generally accepted
principles underlying the Torrens system. 40 Jurisdiction over the res is acquired by
giving the public notice of initial hearing by means of: (a) publication, (b) mailing
and (c) notice.41 The Decree has created the Land Registration Commission, now
renamed Land Registration Authority, under the Department of Justice, as the
central repository of records relative to original registration, including subdivision
and consolidation plans of titled lands.42
Section 14, pars. (1) to (4) of PD No. 1529 enumerates the persons who
may apply for registration, and the conditions necessary for registration, to wit:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
38

GR No. L41278, April 15, 1988, 160 SCRA 186.


Similar to Sec. 48(b) of the Public Land Act.
40
Sec. 2, PD No. 1529.
41
Sec. 23, ibid.
42
Secs. 4 and 6(c), ibid.
39

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


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18

(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by


prescription under the provisions of existing laws.
(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or
abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion under the
existing laws.
(4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any
other manner provided for by law.
The application for registration shall be filed with the Regional Trial Court
of the province or city where the land is situated. 43 The court shall issue an order
setting the date and hour of initial hearing, and the public shall be given notice
thereof by means of publication, mailing and posting. 44 Any person claiming an
interest in the land may appear and file an opposition, stating all his objections to
the application.45 The case shall be heard and all conflicting claims of ownership
shall be determined by the court.46 Once the judgment becomes final, the court shall
issue an order for the issuance of a decree and the corresponding certificate of title
in favor of the person adjudged as entitled to registration. 47 Thereupon, the Land
Registration Authority (LRA) shall prepare the corresponding decree of registration
as well as the original and duplicate certificate of title which shall be sent to the
Register of Deeds of the city or province where the land lies for registration. 48
The decree of registration binds the land and quiets title thereto, subject
only to such exceptions or liens as may be provided by law.49 A certificate of title
shall not be subject to collateral attack, nor shall it be altered, modified, or cancelled
except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.50 Every registered owner
receiving a certificate of title, and every subsequent purchaser for value and in good
faith, shall hold the same free from all encumbrances except those noted in sad
certificate and any subsisting encumbrances enumerated in the law. 51 An Assurance
Fund is provided for the loss, damage or deprivation of any interest sustained by
43

Sec. 17, PD No. 1529


Sec. 23, ibid.
45
Sec. 25, ibid.
46
Sec. 29, ibid.
47
Sec. 30, ibid.
48
Sec. 39, ibid.
49
Sec. 30, ibid.
50
Sec. 48, ibid.
51
Sec. 44, ibid.
44

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19

any person, without negligence on his part, as a consequence of the bringing of the
land under the operation of the Torrens system. 52 The Decree likewise contains a
provision governing petitions and actions after original registration. 53

09. Registration under the Torrens system is a proceeding in rem.


The main principle of registration is to make registered titles indefeasible.
Upon the presentation in court of an application for the registration of the title to
lands, the theory under the Torrens system is that all occupants, adjoining owners,
adverse claimants, and other interested persons are notified of the proceedings, and
have a right to appear in opposition to such application. In other words, the
proceeding is against the whole world. This system was evidently considered by the
Legislature to be a public project when it passed Act No. 496 and later, PD No.
1529. The interest of the community at large was considered to be preferred to that
of private individuals.54
Section 2, PD No. 1529, expressly states that judicial proceedings for the
registration of lands shall be in rem and shall be based on the generally accepted
principles underlying the Torrens system.
A proceeding is in rem when the object of the action is to bar indifferently
all who might be minded to make an objection of any sort against the right sought
to be established, and if anyone in the world has a right to be heard on the strength
of alleging facts which, if true, show an inconsistent interest. But if the technical
object of the suit is to establish a claim against some particular person, with a
judgment which generally, in theory at least, binds his body, or to bar some
individual claim or objection, so that only certain persons are entitled to be heard in
defense, then the action is in personam.55 Applying the in rem character of land
registration proceedings, it was declared in Grey Alba v. De la Cruz:56
(A) proceeding in rem dealing with a tangible res may be
instituted and carried to judgment without personal service upon
claimants within the State or notice by name to those outside of it,
52

Sec. 95, ibid.


Sec. 108, ibid.
54
Grey Alba v. De la Cruz, supra.
55
Ibid.
56
Supra.
53

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20

and not encounter any provision of either constitution. Jurisdiction


is secured by the power of the court over the res. As we have said,
such a proceeding would be impossible, were this not so, for it
hardly would do to make a distinction between the constitutional
rights of claimants who were known and those who were not known
to the plaintiff, when the proceeding is to bar all.
The principle was reiterated in Moscoso v. Court of Appeals,57 thus:
The proceedings for the registration of title to land under
the Torrens system is an action in rem, not in personam, hence,
personal notice to all claimants of the res is not necessary to give
the court jurisdiction to deal with and dispose of the res, and neither
may lack of such personal notice vitiate or invalidate the decree or
title issued in a registration proceeding, for the State, as sovereign
over the land situated within it, may provide for the adjudication of
title in a proceeding in rem or in the nature of a proceeding in rem,
which shall be binding upon all persons, known or unknown.
The in rem character of the proceeding is perhaps best appreciated by
citing a paragraph in Roxas v. Enriquez 58 which recounts the history of the rule:
This rule was first established in admiralty proceedings. It was established out of
the very necessities of the case. The owner of a ship, for instance, lived in London.
His ship was found in the most distant ports of the earth. Its operation necessarily
required supplies, such as men, coal, and food. The very nature of its business
necessitated the making of contracts. The continuance of its voyage depended upon
its capacity to make contracts and to get credit. It might also, perchance, cause
damage to other craft, in like conditions. To be able to secure all such necessities, to
satisfy all possible obligations, to continue its voyage and its business on the high
seas, merchants and courts came to regard the ship as a person, with whom or with
which they were dealing, and not its real owner. Consequently there came into
existence this action in rem. For the purpose of carrying into effect the broader
purposes of the Torrens land law, it has been universally considered that the action
should be considered as one in rem.

57

58

GR No. L-46439, April 24, 1984, 128 SCRA 719.

GR No. 8539, Dec. 24, 1914, 29 Phil. 31.

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21

10. Regional Trial Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over land


registration cases.
The jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts over matters involving the
registration of lands and lands registered under the Torrens system is conferred by
Section 2 of PD No. 1529, while jurisdiction over petitions for amendments of
certificates of title is provided for by Section 108 of the Decree.59
Section 2 provides that Courts of First Instance (now Regional Trial
Courts) shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all applications for original
registration of titles to lands, including improvements and interest therein and over
all petitions filed after original registration of title, with power to hear and
determine all questions arising upon such applications or petitions. Before the
enactment of PD No. 1529, and as ruled in a long line of decisions dealing with
proceedings under Section 112 of the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496),
summary reliefs, such as an action to compel the surrender of owners duplicate
certificate of title to the Register of Deeds, could only be filed with the Regional
Trial Court, sitting as a land registration court, if there is unanimity among the
parties, or there is no adverse claim or serious objection on the part of any party in
interest; otherwise, the case becomes contentious and controversial which should be
threshed out in an ordinary action or in the case where the incident property
belonged.60

(1) Jurisdiction in civil cases involving title to property


Pursuant to Section 19(2) of BP Blg. 129, as amended, 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, where the
assessed value of the property exceeds P20,000.00, or for civil actions in
Metropolitan Manila, where such value exceeds P50,000.00, except actions for
forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction
over which is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts,
and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

59
Rudolf Lietz Holdings v. Registry of Deeds of Paraaque City, GR No. 133240, Nov. 15, 2000,
344 SCRA 680.
60
Fojas v. Grey, GR No. L-29613, Sept. 18, 1984, 132 SCRA 76.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

22

It bears reiterating that what determines jurisdiction are the allegations in


the complaint and the reliefs prayed for. Where the ultimate objective of the
plaintiff is to obtain title to property, it should be filed in the proper court having
jurisdiction over the assessed value of the property.61 61 An action for reconveyance
or for the annulment of a deed of sale and partition is one involving the title to or
interest in property. Thus, in an action for reconveyance, the complaint should
allege the assessed value of the property to determine what court has jurisdiction.
But if the complaint simply alleges the market value of the property as, say,
P15,000.00, it is the inferior court, not the Regional Trial Court, which has
jurisdiction over the case.62

(2) Distinction between the courts general and limited


jurisdiction eliminated
Section 2 has eliminated the distinction between the general jurisdiction
vested in the regional trial court and the limited jurisdiction conferred upon it by the
former law when acting merely as a land registration or cadastral court. Aimed at
avoiding multiplicity of suits, the change has simplified registration proceedings by
conferring upon Regional Trial Courts the authority to act not only on applications
for original registration but also over all petitions filed after original registration of
title, with power to hear and determine all questions arising upon such applications
or petitions.63 In other words, the court is no longer fettered by its former limited
jurisdiction. It is now authorized to hear and decide not only non-controversial
cases but even the contentious and substantial issues which were beyond its
competence before.64 As held in Junio v. De los Santos:65
Although the grounds relied upon by petitioner for
cancellation of the adverse claim were unmeritorious, it behooved
the lower Court to have conducted a speedy hearing upon the
question of validity of the adverse claim pursuant to the second
paragraph of Section 110 of the Land Registration Act, reading x x
x.

61

Huguete v. Embudo, GR No. 149554, July 1, 2003, 405 SCRA 273.


Barangay Piapi v. Talip, GR No. 138248, Sept. 7, 2005.
63
Concepcion v. Concepcion, GR No. 147928, Jan. 11, 2005, 448 SCRA 31; Ligon v. Court of
Appeals, GR No. 107751, June 1, 1995, 244 SCRA 693.
64
Averia v. Caguioa, GR No. L-65129, Dec. 29, 1986, 146 SCRA 459.
65
GR No. L-35744, Sept. 28, 1984, 128 SCRA 705.
62

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


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23

In fact, the lower Court, instead of confining itself to the


propriety of the registration of the adverse claim should already
have decided the controversy between the parties on the merits
thereof. Doctrinal jurisprudence holds that the Court of First
Instance (now the Regional Trial Court), as a Land Registration
Court, can hear cases otherwise litigable only in ordinary civil
actions, since the Courts of First Instance are at the same time,
Courts of general jurisdiction and could entertain and dispose of the
validity or invalidity of respondents adverse claim, with a view to
determining whether petitioner is entitled or not to the relief that he
seeks. That doctrine is based on expediency.
Similarly, it was held in Arceo v. Court of Appeals66 that under Section 2 of
the Property Registration Decree, the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court, sitting
as a land registration court, is no longer as circumscribed as it was under Act No.
496, the former land registration law. The Decree has eliminated the distinction
between the general jurisdiction vested in the Regional Trial Court and the limited
jurisdiction conferred upon it by the former law when acting merely as a cadastral
court. The amendment was aimed at avoiding multiplicity of suits and the change
has simplified registration proceedings by conferring upon trial courts the authority
to act not only on applications for original registration but also over all petitions
filed after original registration of title, with power to hear and determine all
questions arising from such applications or petitions. Where the issue, say, of
ownership, is ineluctably tied up with the question of right of registration, the
cadastral court commits no error in assuming jurisdiction over it, as, for instance,
where both parties rely on their respective exhibits to defeat one anothers claims
over the parcels sought to be registered, in which case, registration would not be
possible or would be unduly prolonged unless the court first decided it.
In any event, whether a particular matter should be resolved by the
Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its general jurisdiction or of its limited
jurisdiction as a special court is in reality not a jurisdictional question. It is in
essence a procedural question involving a mode of practice which may be waived.67

(3) Delegated jurisdiction of inferior courts in cadastral and


land registration cases
66

GR No. 81401, May 18, 1990, 185 SCRA 489.


Moscoso v. Court of Appeals, supra.

67

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24

As amended by RA No. 7691, approved March 25, 1994, Section 34 of BP


Blg. 129, known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, grants Metropolitan
Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts the
delegated jurisdiction to hear and determine cadastral or land registration cases in
the following instances:
(a) Where the lot sought to be registered is not the subject of controversy
or opposition; or
(b) Where the lot is contested but the value thereof does not exceed
P100,000.00, such value to be ascertained by the affidavit of the claimant or by the
agreement of the respective claimants, if there be more than one, or from the
corresponding tax declaration of the real property.
The decisions of said courts shall be appealable in the same manner as
decisions of the Regional Trial Courts.

(4) SC Administrative Circular No. 6-93-A


On November 15, 1995, the Supreme Court issued Administrative Circular
No. 6-93-A, providing that:
1. Cadastral or land registration cases filed before the effectivity of this
Administrative Circular but where hearing has not yet commenced shall be
transferred by the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction
over the cases to the Executive Judge of the appropriate Metropolitan Trial Court,
Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court or Municipal Circuit Trial
Court for the required raffle among the branches of the Court under his
administrative supervision; and
2. Cadastral or land registration cases pending in the Regional Trial
Courts where trial had already been commenced as of the date of the effectivity of
the Administrative Circular shall remain with said courts. However, by agreement
of the parties, these cases may be transferred to the appropriate Metropolitan Trial
Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court or Municipal Circuit
Trial Courts.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


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25

(5) Registration court is not divested of its jurisdiction by


administrative act for the issuance of patent
It has been held that a land registration court which has validly acquired
jurisdiction over a parcel of land for registration of title cannot be divested of said
jurisdiction by a subsequent administrative act consisting in the issuance by the
Director of Lands of a homestead patent covering the same parcel of land. As held
in De los Angeles v. Santos,68 the Director of Lands jurisdiction, administrative
supervision and executive control extend only to lands of the public domain and not
to lands already of private ownership. Accordingly, a homestead patent issued over
land not of the public domain is a nullity, devoid of force and effect against the
owner.
In De los Angeles, the applicants for registration contended that as of the
date they filed their application for registration, they were already owners proindiviso and in fee simple of the aforesaid land. If applicants were to successfully
prove this averment, and thereby show their alleged registrable title to the land, it
could only result in the finding that when the homestead patent was issued over Lot
No. 11, said lot was no longer public. The land registration court, in that event,
would have to order a decree of title issued in applicants favor and declare the
homestead patent a nullity which vested no title in the patentee as against the real
owners. Since the existence or nonexistence of applicants registrable title to Lot 11
is decisive of the validity or nullity of the homestead patent, the court a quos
jurisdiction in the land registration proceedings could not have been divested by the
homestead patents issuance. Proceedings for land registration are in rem, whereas
proceedings for acquisition of homestead patent are not. A homestead patent,
therefore, does not finally dispose of the public or private character of the land as
far as courts acting upon proceedings in rem are concerned. Consequently, the
Court held that applicants should be given opportunity to prove their registrable title
to Lot 11 in the registration case.

SEC. 3. Status of other pre-existing land registration system.


The system of registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law is hereby
discontinued and all lands recorded under said system which are not
yet covered by Torrens title shall be considered as unregistered lands.

68

GR No. L-19615, Dec. 24, 1964, 12 SCRA 622.

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26

Hereafter, all instruments affecting lands originally registered


under the Spanish Mortgage Law may be recorded under Section 113
of this Decree, until the land shall have been brought under the
operation of the Torrens system.
The books of registration for unregistered lands provided
under Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by
Act No. 3344, shall continue to remain in force; Provided, That all
instruments dealing with unregistered lands shall henceforth be
registered under Section 113 of this Decree.

1. Registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law discontinued.


On February 16, 1976, PD No. 892 was issued decreeing the discontinuance of
the system of registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law and the use of Spanish
titles as evidence in land registration proceedings. The Decree provides:
SEC. 1. The system of registration under the Spanish Mortgage
Law is discontinued, and all lands recorded under said system which are not
yet covered by Torrens title shall be considered as unregistered lands.
All holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration
of their lands under Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration
Act, within six (6) months from the effectivity of this decree. Thereafter,
Spanish titles cannot be used as evidence of land ownership in any
registration proceedings under the Torrens system.
Hereafter, all instruments affecting lands originally registered under
the Spanish Mortgage Law may be recorded under Section 194 of the
Revised Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344.
SEC. 2. All laws, executive orders, administrative orders, rules and
regulations inconsistent with the foregoing provisions are hereby repealed or
accordingly modified.
It became necessary to discontinue the system of registration under the
Spanish Mortgage Law since recording under this system was practically nil and
has become obsolete. Even so, it may be useful to recall that the registration of

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

27

instruments affecting unregistered land was previously governed by Section 194 of


the Administrative Code. Section 194 was amended by Act No. 2837 and later by
Act No. 3344. Rights acquired under the system were not absolute as they must
yield to better rights.
Section 3 of PD No. 1529 reiterates the discontinuance of the system of
registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law. It also provides that the books of
registration for unregistered lands under Section 194 of the Revised Administrative
Code, as amended by Act No. 3344, shall continue to be in force, but all instruments
dealing with unregistered lands shall henceforth be registered under Section 113 of
the Decree which reads:
SEC. 113. Recording of instruments relating to unregistered lands. No
deed, conveyance, mortgage, lease, or other voluntary instrument affecting land not
registered under the Torrens system shall be valid, except as between the parties
thereto, unless such instrument shall have been recorded in the manner herein
prescribed in the office of the Register of Deeds for the province or city where the
land lies.
(a) The Register of Deeds for each province or city shall
keep a Primary Entry Book and a Registration Book. The Primary
Entry Book shall contain, among other particulars, the entry
number, the names of the parties, the nature of the document, the
date, hour and minute it was presented and received. The recording
of the deed and other instruments relating to unregistered lands shall
be effected by way of annotation on the space provided therefor in
the Registration Book, after the same shall have been entered in the
Primary Entry Book.
(b) If, on the face of the instrument, it appears that it is
sufficient in law, the Register of Deeds shall forthwith record the
instrument in the manner provided herein. In case the Register of
Deeds refuses its admission to record, said official shall advise the
party in interest in writing of the ground or grounds for his refusal,
and the latter may appeal the matter to the Commissioner of Land
Registration in accordance with the provisions of Section 117 of this
Decree. It shall be understood that any recording made under this
section shall be without prejudice to a third party with a better right.

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(c) After recording on the Record Book, the Register of


Deeds shall endorse, among other things, upon the original of the
recorded instruments, the file number and the date as well as the
hour and minute when the document was received for recording as
shown in the Primary Entry Book, returning to the registrant or
person in interest the duplicate of the instrument, with appropriate
annotation, certifying that he has recorded the instrument after
reserving one copy thereof to be furnished the provincial or city
assessor as required by existing law.
(d) Tax sale, attachment and levy, notice of lis pendens,
adverse claim and other instruments in the nature of involuntary
dealings with respect to unregistered lands, if made in the form
sufficient in law, shall likewise be admissible to record under this
section.
(e) For the services to be rendered by the Register of Deeds
under this section, he shall collect the same amount of fees
prescribed for similar services for the registration of deeds or
instruments concerning registered lands.
Significantly, any recording under the section shall be without prejudice
to a third party with a better right.69
The inscription under Act No. 3344 of a transaction relating to
unregistered land was held not effective for purposes of Article 1544 of the Civil
Code, the law on double sale of the same property. The registration should be made
in the property registry70 to be binding upon third persons. 71 However, in one case, it
was held that where the owner of a parcel of unregistered land sold it to two
different parties, assuming that both sales are valid, the vendee whose deed of sale
was first registered under the provisions of Act No. 3344 would have a better
right.72
A title duly registered during the Spanish regime under the system of registration
then in vogue must yield to a title to the same lands duly registered under Act No.
69

Sec. 113(b), PD No. 1529.


See Secs. 50 and 51, Act No. 496, now Secs. 51 and 52, PD No. 1529.
71
Soriano v. Magali, GR No. L-15133, July 31, 1953, 118 Phil. 505; Rivera v. Moran, GR No.
24568, March 2, 1926, 48 Phil. 836.
72
Espiritu v. Valerio, GR No. L-18018, Dec. 26, 1963, 119 Phil. 69.
70

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29

496. Under the provisions of said Act, every decree of registration shall bind the
land, and quiet title thereto, and shall be conclusive upon and against all persons,
including the Insular Government and all the branches thereof. The title having
been registered by proper decree, it was good, after it became final, as to everybody,
and cannot be attacked by any person claiming the same land under title anterior to
the decree of registration.73

2.

Spanish titles no longer used as evidence of land


ownership.

Spanish titles are quite dissimilar to administrative and judicial titles under
the present system. Although evidences of ownership, these Spanish titles may be
lost through prescription. They are, therefore, neither indefeasible nor
imprescriptible.74
By express provision of PD No. 892, dated February 16, 1976, Spanish
titles may no longer be used as evidence of land ownership in all registration
proceedings.74a The reason for this is the proliferation of dubious Spanish titles
which have raised conflicting claims of ownership and tended to destabilize the
Torrens system of registration. Specifically, the Decree noted that fraudulent sales,
transfers, and other forms of conveyances of large tracts of public and private lands
to unsuspecting and unwary buyers appear to have been perpetrated by
unscrupulous persons claiming ownership under Spanish titles or grants of dubious
origin, and that these fraudulent transactions have often resulted in conflicting
claims and litigations between legitimate title holders, bona fide occupants or
applicants of public lands, on the one hand, and the holders of, or persons claiming
rights under, the said Spanish titles or grants, on the other, thus creating confusion
and instability in property ownership and threatening the peace and order conditions
in the areas affected.
The foundation for the early Spanish decrees on land grants embraced the
feudal theory of jura regalia. Consequently, all lands of any kind, technically
speaking, were under the exclusive dominion of the Spanish crown. The Spanish
government distributed lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to settlers and
73

Manila Railroad Co. v. Rodriguez, GR No. 9440, Jan. 27, 1915, 29 Phil. 336.

74

Director of Forestry v. Muoz, GR No. L-24796, June 28, 1968, 23 SCRA

1183.
a

Evangelista v. Santiago, GR No. 157447, April 29, 2005.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

30

other people in various forms. Such forms included the following: (a) the titulo
real or royal grant; (b) the concession especial or special grant; (c) the
composicion con el estado title or adjustment title; (d) the titulo de compra or
title by purchase; (e) the informacion possessoria or possessory information title;
and (f) the titulo gratuito or a gratuitous title.75 However, as already pointed out,
Spanish titles are no longer efficacious as proof of ownership in land registration
proceedings.

(1)

The case of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136; declared of


doubtful validity in Director of Forestry v. Muoz

In Director of Forestry v. Muoz,76 a purported Spanish title, Titulo de


Propriedad No. 4136, was the high point of controversy in a land claim involving
several hectares of land. In this case, private respondent, Pinagcamaligan Indo-Agro
Development Corporation, Inc. (PIADECO), claimed to be the owner of some
72,000 hectares of land located in the municipalities of Angat, Norzagaray and San
Jose del Monte, province of Bulacan, and in Antipolo and Montalban, province of
Rizal. To buttress its claim, PIADECO relied on Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136
dated April 28, 1894 as incontrovertible evidence of its ownership. The Supreme
Court was unswayed and declared, through Justice Sanchez, that the Titulo is at the
very least of doubtful validity, thus:
But an important moiety here is the deeply disturbing
intertwine of two undisputed facts. First. The title embraces land
located in the Provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, and Quezon
City. Second. The title was signed only by the provincial officials
of Bulacan, and inscribed only in the Land Registry of Bulacan.
Why? The situation, indeed, cries desperately for a plausible
answer.
To be underscored at this point is the well-embedded
principle that private ownership of land must be proved not only
through the genuineness of title but also with a clear identity of the
land claimed. This Court ruled in a case involving a Spanish title
acquired by purchase that the land must be concretely measured per
hectare or per quion, not in mass (cuerpos ciertos). The fact that
75
Director of Lands v. Buyco, GR No. 91189, Nov. 27, 1992, 216 SCRA 78; Director of Forestry v.
Muoz, supra.
76
GR No. L-24796, June 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 1183.

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

the Royal Decree of August 31, 1888 used 30 hectares as a basis for
classifying lands strongly suggests that the land applied for must be
measured per hectare.
Here, no definite area seems to have been mentioned in the
title. In PIADECOs Rejoinder to Opposition dated April 28, 1964
filed in Civil Case 3035-M, it specified the area covered by its
Titulo de Propiedad as 74,000 hectares. In its Opposition of May
13, 1964 in the same case, it described the land as containing 72,000
hectares. Which is which? This but accentuates the nebulous
identity of PIADECOs land. PIADECOs ownership thereof then
equally suffers from vagueness, fatal at least in these proceedings.
PIADECO asserts that Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban,
the original owner appearing on the title, acquired his rights over the
property by prescription under Articles 4 and 5 of the Royal Decree
of June 25, 1880, the basic decree that authorized adjustment of
lands. By this decree, applications for adjustment showing the
location, boundaries and area of land applied for were to be filed
with the Direccion General de Administracin Civil, which then
ordered the classification and survey of the land with the assistance
of the interested party or his legal representative.
The Royal Decree of June 25, 1880 also fixed the period
for filing applications for adjustment at one year from the date of
the publication of the decree in the Gaceta de Manila on September
10, 1880, extended for another year by the Royal Order of July 15,
1881. If Don Mariano sought adjustment within the time prescribed,
as he should have, then, seriously to be considered here are the
Royal Orders of November 25, 1880 and of October 26, 1881,
which limited adjustment to 1,000 hectares of arid lands, 500
hectares of land with trees and 100 hectares of irrigable lands. And,
at the risk of repetition, it should be stated again that PIADECOs
Titulo is held out to embrace 72,000 or 74,000 hectares of land. But
if more were needed, we have the Maura Law (Royal Decree of
February 13, 1894), published in the Gaceta de Manila on April 17,
1894. That decree required a second petition for adjustment within
six months from publication, for those who had not yet secured their
titles at the time of the publication of the law. Said law also

31

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

abolished the provincial boards for the adjustment of lands


established by Royal Decree of December 26, 1884, and confirmed
by Royal Decree of August 31, 1888, which boards were directed to
deliver to their successors, the provincial boards established by
Decree of Municipal Organization issued on May 19, 1893, all
records and documents which they may hold in their possession.
Doubt on PIADECOs title here supervenes when we come
to consider that that title was either dated April 29 or April 25, 1894,
twelve or eight days after the publication of the Maura Law. Let us
now take a look, as near as the record allows, at how PIADECO
exactly acquired its rights under the Titulo. The original owner
appearing thereon was Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban. From
PIADECOs explanation not its evidence we cull the
following: On December 3, 1894, Don Mariano mortgaged the land
under pacto de retro, redeemable within 10 years, for P8,000.00 to
one Don Ignacio Conrado. This transaction was said to have been
registered or inscribed on December 4, 1894. Don Mariano failed to
redeem within the stipulated period. When Don Ignacio died, his
daughter, Maria Socorro Conrado, his only heir, adjudicated the
land to herself. At about the same time, PIADECO was organized.
Its certificate of registration was issued by the Securities and
Exchange Commission on June 27, 1962. Later, Maria Socorro, heir
of Don Ignacio, became a shareholder of PIADECO when she
conveyed the land to PIADECOs treasurer and an incorporator,
Trinidad B. Estrada, in consideration of a certain amount of
PIADECO shares. Thereafter, Trinidad B. Estrada assigned the land
to PIADECO. Then came to the scene a certain Fabian Castillo,
appearing as sole heir of Don Mariano, the original owner of the
land. Castillo also executed an affidavit of adjudication to himself
over the same land, and then sold the same to PIADECO.
Consideration therefor was paid partially by PIADECO, pending the
registration of the land under Act 496.
The question may well be asked: Why was full payment of
the consideration to Fabian Castillo made to depend on the
registration of the land under the Torrens system, if PIADECO was
sure of the validity of Titulo de Propiedad No. 4136? This, and other

32

PROPERTY REGISTRATION DECREE AND RELATED LAWS


(LAND TITLES AND DEEDS)

33

factors herein pointed out, cast great clouds of doubt that hang most
conspicuously over PIADECOs title.
The case of Director of Forestry v. Muoz would soon be the core of
subsequent decisions declaring the infamous Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 as a
forgery foisted upon the courts and bereft of any validity and efficacy as evidence
of ownership.